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Elephant Rumblings: Takeaways from first 2023 homestand

MLB news roundup

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Cleveland Guardians v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Happy Friday, Athletics Nation!

The A’s have completed their first homestand of the 2023 season and are sitting at 2-4 after winning just one game per three-game series, first against the Angels, then against the Guardians. Both series came down to the third game, and the A’s offense showed positive momentum. After scoring just three runs in as many games against the Angels, the bats came alive and produced 19 runs in the series against Cleveland.

If you infer from those results that the pitching has been bad, you are onto something: the A’s have allowed 41 runs in their first six games. Yes, some defensive miscues contributed, but the pitching staff has posted a 5.79 ERA in aggregate. That is not going to win the A’s a lot of games.

Yesterday, Melissa Lockard at the Athletic shared four takeaways from the A’s first homestand. She leads off with the aforementioned ERA stat as an indicator of “command issues plaguing A’s pitching.” The A’s staff has the fifth most walks in MLB so far this season. Lockard notes that the A’s best starters in terms of command—Paul Blackburn and Drew Rucinski—are out. Their return should bring some welcome stability, but we might be in for a wild year all around from the bullpen.

Lockard also mentions the need for a comeback season from Ramon Laureano. His difficulties over the past few seasons are well known, but he’s already homered twice and is averaging a career-best 5.17 pitches per at-bat. Hopefully, this is indicative of things to come.

Another positive sign is that some of the A’s rookie newcomers are making a “strong first impression.” Kyle Muller was inconsistent in Spring Training, but the Opening Day starter looks like he deserved being afforded those honors based on his first two outings. Speedy Esteury Ruiz has been all we could hope for so far with strong defense in center field and improved exit velocities off the bat. He’s also shown good plate discipline with three walks to just one strikeout.

Lockard cites the Guardians as a good team model for the A’s to pursue. Cleveland manager Terry Francona lauded the increased athleticism among the A’s position players. But there’s a lot of work to do on the pitching side of things. There are some promising arms in the minors, and we’ve seen the A’s cobble together some surprisingly effective rotations and bullpens as seasons have progressed in recent years, including their contending 2018-2020 campaigns. Let’s hope they can make some successful in-season adjustments this year.

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