The Oakland Athletics’ final record of 68-94 gave them a winning percentage of just .420 – the worst in the American League by far. While there were five National League clubs that finished at or below the A’s winning percentage, the team still found themselve unable to compete within their own division or league.
So what led to such a miserable record? Let’s break it down and see where the wins and losses came from.
First, let’s adjust for the ballpark. There actually isn’t much to say here, as the A’s had identical home and away records. They went 34-47 both at the o.Co and away from it, and while they scored just a few more runs at home, it wasn’t a noticeable difference. The biggest gap was between runs allowed at home (340) and runs allowed on the road (389).
Oakland is a pitcher’s park. It has extensive foul ground to produce extra outs, and the marine layer that keeps the ball in the park at night. That means that there will always be fewer runs allowed in Oakland than in, say, Yankee Stadium. And yet, the team couldn’t pick up a single extra win at home, despite the fact that their ballpark should have kept the bullpen in check.
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By the months, the A’s worst time was September. They went just 8-19, posting a winning percentage below .300 and scoring just 132 runs compared to the 188 they gave up. What went wrong? Mostly, ace Sonny Gray. Sure, the bullpen was easy to blame, but Gray posted an ERA near seven before being shut down during the final week of the season. The result? One of the worst all-time months in A’s history.
That was vastly different from June, when the team went 15-12 on their way to the best month of the season. In that month, they scored 134 runs – just two more than they did in September. However, they allowed just 90 runs to opposing teams. Not surprisingly, Gray posted a 2.67 ERA and went 3-1 that month. As Gray goes, so does the team, apparently.
Everyone knows that the Oakland Athletics’ demise came in one run games. A 19-35 record in close situations proved that holding leads was not an area that this club excelled at. They also couldn’t handle extra innings, dropping ten of their 17 chances. The bullpen routinely struggled, and it showed. With a more reliable relief crew, the team would have been able to salvage a much better record – perhaps even a winning one. It’s easy to say that in retrospect, but heading into next season, the bullpen needs to become a strength, not a weakness.
What did we learn from the 2015 A’s? Pitching matters. Defense matters. And scoring a lot of runs doesn’t necessarily make you a winner. If the A’s want to contend next season, both the rotation and the bullpen will need to step up in a big way.