On the heel of an unexpected 97-73, 2nd place in the AL West, the Oakland Athletics are facing a starting staff that needs depth and talent; and an offense that was one of the most explosive in the league last season.
Last season the Athletics’ offensive attack hit .252/.325/.439 with a wRC+ of 110 while scoring an average of five runs per game. Oakland’s offense was led by Matt Chapman last season as he earned a wRC+ of 137 in 616 plate appearances while being worth 6.5 wins. There were three other qualified position players that had a wRC+ north of 120 last season for the A’s (Jed Lowrie, Stephen Piscotty, and Khris Davis), while a whopping three others — for a total of eight qualified batters — that earned one north of 100. It was a potent, and young, offensive attack that fueled the Athletics in 2018 and that was a major reason that they raced unexpectedly into a playoff berth.
The biggest move that Oakland made during the off season was to get shortstop Jurickson Profar from division rival Texas in a three-team trade. Profar has struggled at the plate during his brief stints at the major league level in hitter friendly Arlington — his best season was last year when he earned a wRC+ of 108. But what he has been consistent at is defense, the 26-year old has posted a UZR of 1.4 so far during his career. He adds depth to the middle of the Athletics’ infield, as there is very little behind Lowrie and Marcus Semien that would have the fans down in Oakland to be optimistic about if either of them miss significant time.
While the offense was outright dominant last season, the Athletics’ pitching was decidedly mediocre last season and there wasn’t a lot done to address that during the hot stove.
Oakland had a worse pitching starting staff than 89-win Seattle — the Mariners’ staff was worth 11.7 wins last season, the Athletics’ staff had a fWAR of 7.8. The A’s struggled across the board last year as the staff that didn’t have a ton of success in getting runners off of the bases when they reached. There wasn’t a lot of joy to be had with the starting pitchers outside of Trevor Cahill and Sean Manaea; as Brett Anderson, Frankie Montas, Edwin Jackson, etc, were inconsistent at best.
Despite the starting staff’s struggle, the bullpen was absolutely dominant last year. Led by Blake Treinen (3.6 fWAR), the pen pitched 3.37/3.91/4.12 while collectively being worth 5.7 wins last year — Treinen was the dominating force at the back end of it. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of depth behind 30-year old so Oakland is going to be counting on its younger bullpen members to continue to develop as the season gets going.
As the A’s move into 2019 it’s clear that they’re going to need to rely on the offense to carry them through. With mashers like Davis and Chapman on the roster, Oakland won’t struggle to score runs during the upcoming season; but that starting staff is going to cause all sorts of problems and could get the team in a hole early if the pitcher is having an off day.