The Oakland Athletics did not have a memorable year. There were many different factors that contributed to their downfall. However, the main issue was the number of injuries that were incurred throughout the season. Without these injuries, the Athletics could have had a chance at making a run at the postseason.
First, there were the injuries to the starting rotation. Oakland had hoped that they would get Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin back in the rotation at some point this season after both underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014. Unfortunately, Parker fractured his elbow during his rehab assignment while Griffin completed his rehab assignment in June, but shortly incurred a right shoulder strain shortly after.
With these two veterans missing, the Athletics had to rely on their rookie pitchers – most of whom had never pitched a full year in the MLB. Because of their inexperience and lack of full season stamina, most struggled at some point and now the majority of them have ended up on the disabled list with injuries including Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman, and Chris Bassitt. If Parker and Griffin could have come back and taken over for one of the rookies mid-season, perhaps these other injuries now plaguing the starting rotation could have been avoided.
Then there was Sean Doolittle’s rotator cuff tear during spring training. He did not have to undergo surgery, but he did miss the majority of the season as he rested and recovered until his return in late August. In the meantime, Tyler Clippard took over as closer while the relief pitchers descended into chaos. Without Doolittle anchoring the bullpen, the relievers did not have defined roles, which caused instability, and Clippard, who is usually an eighth inning setup man, did not handle the pressure of closing pitcher very well.
Additionally, despite Doolittle’s injury negatively affecting the relief staff, the bullpen also incurred numerous injuries of their own. Edward Mujica landed on the disabled list in May and he went down with another injury earlier this week. Before Eric O’Flaherty was traded, he also spent some time on the disabled list. Switch pitcher Pat Venditte landed on the DL for a short time even though he only pitched in relief for the Athletics for a couple of weeks. Most recently, Evan Scribner was placed on the disabled list with a torn right lat muscle.
When it comes to the position players, there have not been as many injuries, but the absence of players who have spent time on the DL has affected the team negatively. Even though Billy Burns has done an amazing job taking over Coco Crisp’s spot in the lineup as the lead off hitter, Crisp’s veteran experience was definitely missed. With so many young players on the team, it would have been nice to have an experienced ballplayer at the top of the lineup to show the rookies the ropes. Burns did make a few base running errors throughout the season due to his lack of experience. If the lineup had started with Crisp first and then Burns second, those base running errors could have been reduced.
When it comes to first base, Ike Davis had a strained left quad back in May. Additionally, even though he never went on the DL, Mark Canha dealt with a respiratory illness toward the end of spring training that ultimately intensified as the season began. This caused him to have a very unsuccessful start to 2015. With these two true first baseman not playing their best, other Oakland Athletics players that do not normally field at first had to take over from time to time. This included Stephen Vogt and Billy Butler. Although they are adequate at first base, they did not provide the same high quality defense as Davis and Canha.
This team has been plagued with injuries. Ultimately, these injuries hurt the Oakland Athletics’ success overall. The A’s can only hope that everyone will be healthy come 2016.