Oakland Athletics: Five Factors for a Successful 2016 Season

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1. Revamp the relief corps and hope for a miracle:

Jun 18, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Sean Doolittle (62) throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the ninth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Texas Rangers 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 18, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Sean Doolittle (62) throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the ninth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Texas Rangers 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports /

When Sean Doolittle was placed on the disabled list with a slight rotator cuff tear in his left shoulder, the closer’s role was then past down to right-handed pitcher Tyler Clippard, who subsequently had not been in this position since 2012 when he recorded 32 out of 37 save opportunities with the Washington Nationals.

Instead of thriving under the pressure, the vast majority of the A’s bullpen experienced the Domino Effect and ventured into unchartered waters when placed into unfamiliar roles during the late-innings. It didn’t matter who Bob Melvin threw out there on the mound. Whether Oakland had an eight-run lead or not, the opposition always seemed to capitalize.

Fast-forward to 2016, and now you’ll see a series of new faces in the Athletics bullpen — headlined by Hendriks from the right-side and Rzepczynski as the green and gold’s left-handed specialist. The biggest concern from the relief corps, was the fact that they lacked several hard-throwers they could rely on come the 7th, 8th, or 9th innings. That is no longer an issue with a relief revamp.

Ryan Dull and Fernando Rodriguez are likely to return, and Doolittle looks stronger than ever after touching the late-90s on his fastball in several rehab appearances for each of Oakland’s Minor League affiliates in 2015. Should Doolittle be sidelined for an extended period of time, newly-acquired free-agents Axford and Madson have no problem slotting into the closer role during the regular and postseason.

Next: A's Need A Strong Everyday Left Fielder

For the A’s to have a successful 2016 season, they need to welcome the youth movement with open arms — while locking up their two game-changers in Gray and Reddick for the foreseeable future. Oakland also needs to make a decision with Butler, and to not be afraid to cut ties as several top-prospects are waiting to thrive on baseball’s biggest stage. Should someone hit the shelf, the A’s have several more arms they can rely on — however, until April rolls around, all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope for an improve 2016 campaign.

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