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A’s lineup getting back to full strength after early injuries

Can they start scoring again?

Oakland Athletics v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Through the first 10 games of the season, the Oakland A’s led MLB in scoring. Their 53 runs topped the charts, ahead of the Dodgers and Mets in second place.

Since then, the A’s offense has cooled off. Over their next nine games they put up just 19 runs, dumping their daily output from five per contest down to two, the lowest mark in the majors during that span. They still won five of those nine games, but it was thanks to their pitching staff stepping up.

Nobody expected Oakland to do a lot of scoring this year, not after starting a new rebuild and losing several star hitters to trades and free agency, so the quick dropoff wasn’t a surprise. From far away, the opening hot streak probably looked like a fluke, and the slump probably looked like inevitable regression.

That might still be the case, perhaps even the most likely outcome. But the past nine games didn’t really tell us anything about the 2022 lineup, because the 2022 lineup wasn’t really playing.

The A’s began the year on a 10-game road trip, during which they scored a bunch. But when they returned home, several hitters had to sit out for various reasons.

  • C Austin Allen (COVID list)
  • C Stephen Vogt (10-day IL)
  • 3B Kevin Smith (10-day IL)
  • LF Chad Pinder (COVID list)
  • RF Stephen Piscotty (COVID list)
  • DH Jed Lowrie (COVID list)

Note: Allen and Piscotty both missed the Toronto road series too

That’s half the lineup. Three trusty veterans all off to good starts, one of the new rookie acquisitions, and both backup catchers, all gone at once. Sure, there were still some stars remaining, like Kemp, Murphy, Brown, and the breakout Neuse, but that’s a lot of losses to account for simultaneously.

In their places, we got to see a slew of rookies and non-roster flyers, and that’s fun in its own way during a rebuilding summer. From prospects Nick Allen and Mickey McDonald, to scrap-heap signings Christian Bethancourt, Christian Lopes, and Drew Jackson, everybody who came up had earned their tryout. However, the reality is that they went a combined 9-for-68 (.132), with Bethancourt getting most of the hits and the rest going 2-for-31.

In other words, half the lineup went down at once, and they were mostly replaced with inexperienced auto-outs, three of whom were making their MLB debuts (Allen, Lopes, McDonald). That helps explain at least part of the recent slump.

On top of those absences, there’s also the matter of locale. The early hot streak came on the East Coast in the opening days of the new season, whereas the bats shut down upon a return home to the unseasonably chilly Bay Area — seven games in Oakland, and two more in San Francisco, both pitcher’s parks even before factoring in the weird weather. Their opponents were quiet too during that span, totaling only 25 runs themselves.

The A’s were never going to lead the majors in scoring this year, no matter what the first 10 games looked like. But their subsequent downturn wasn’t as bad as it looked, because it wasn’t actually their real lineup playing. Now the band is back together, with all but Vogt having returned to action, and they can get back to business moving forward.

In fact, we’ve already seen signs of improvement. Piscotty came back last Saturday, and on Sunday he homered for the only runs in a 2-0 victory over the Rays. Pinder returned Wednesday, and that night he homered for the only run in a 1-0 win over the Giants. Lowrie and Smith were activated this afternoon.

How much will Oakland score this year? It’ll take a long time to answer that, but we can resume finding out tonight!