For Oakland Athletics, Little Things Make A Difference: Fundamentals Key to Success in 2016


Suggestions for the 2016 Season

When looking back at the 2015 season and its downfalls, Oakland Athletics’ fans will definitely point to the lack of an effective bullpen and the amount of errors the team made that cost them any hope for a post-season run. Injuries, especially to key players such as Sean Doolittle and Coco Crisp may have also played a part, but injuries are a part of every team’s season and this one has been no different.

One factor this season that appears to stand out more than in prior years is the lack of basic fundamentals, which has led to opposing runs and lost chances for the Athletics to score when up at bat.

"“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.”—Jim Rohn"

There have been countless times this season, especially early on, when the A’s had runners in scoring position and left the runners stranded. In reality, having a runner at third with less than two outs is practically a give-me scoring situation. Scoring these runs would have avoided putting the ineffective bullpen in pressure situations, avoided extra innings ( where the A’s have a record of 6-10) in some cases, and severely diminished a 16-32 one-run record.

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Another common problem was having a runner at second base with no outs and not advancing him, not to mention getting the first two lead off runners on base and getting no runs as a result. This may be a manager’s call, but when you put runners on first and second with no outs, most managers would bunt in that situation to put two runners in scoring position. Often times this season the result was even a double play, which can really kill a [potential] rally. Having your big bats swing away may be a viable option, but when your $11 million DH has twice as many GIDPs (23) than he does HRs (11) and only 54 RBIs, you have a problem.

It may be obvious to some, but the basic goal of a hitter is to get on base and/or move himself and others around the bases. It’s a point that’s often lost when people look at metrics like batting average and RBI to evaluate players. On-base and slugging percentages do a better job of measuring whether a hitter is helping his team score runs. The hitter with the better skills (power, speed, plate discipline, contact rate, etc.) is the one to play, regardless of platoon splits or recent performance. Managers can’t determine when slumps and streaks begin and end. My advice: go with the best guys and ignore short-term fluctuations or lefty-righty match-ups.

With the A’s leading the majors in errors, giving the opposition more outs than necessary, they also aren’t keeping opponents from taking additional bases. How many times have we seen an unneeded throw home, allowing the batter to take an additional base?  Not every throw from the outfield needs to go to home plate or to a cutoff man; instead the throw should go to second base to try to prevent an unnecessary advance into scoring position by a base runner. Play smart. Think. Know when to throw and when to hold the ball. Don’t get caught up in the action of the play – know WHERE to throw.

A’s former A’s  Hall of Fame Manager Dick Williams once told a group of young A’s at the start of the 1971 season, “Fundamentals are the most valuable tools a player can possess. Bunt the ball into the ground. Hit the cutoff man. Take the extra base. Learn the fundamentals.”

Just look at what happened to that team over their next few years.

Next: What is Semien's Future With the Athletics?