Poor starting pitching performances could help Ryan Dull land Opening Day roster spot
Oakland Athletics Roundup – Monday, March 28
With only a week left in Spring Training, it’s time to start taking a hard look at the Oakland Athletics’ actual results. So far, the front office and coaching staff doesn’t particularly like what they see from their rotation. A’s pitchers collectively have the 26th best ERA in Major League Baseball, and the only American League team to throw the ball worse has been the Baltimore Orioles.
Partly, this can be attributed to a defense that leads the league in errors, as well as a general lack of experience on the part of minor league players. Many of the big league starters are also working on certain pitches, so they may not be concentrating on getting outs as much as they are on adjusting their slider to make it more effective in the regular season. But excluding the errors, other teams are dealing with the same circumstances, and yet the Athletics are still trailing most of the league in ERA – despite a revamped bullpen that has been very good this spring.
The idea that it’s time for the Athletics’ starting rotation to shape up and get into regular season form has led to speculation that some of the “guaranteed” spots may not be so guaranteed after all. San Francisco Chronicle writer Susan Slusser reported over the weekend that right-hander Jesse Hahn may end up in Triple-A Nashville’s rotation, rather than on the Opening Day roster.
Hahn lost the second half of his season in 2015 to elbow soreness, a typical precursor to Tommy John surgery, so it’s probable that the A’s would be interested in limiting his innings this year. He hasn’t pitched well in spring, posting a 10.97 ERA and struggling with his command. Meanwhile, lefty Felix Doubront – long assumed to be the swing-man in the A’s bullpen – has only had one poor outing during camp. Doubront doesn’t have any options remaining, so he has to make the roster in some way, and this could give the Athletics the excuse they need to move him out of a bullpen slot and into the rotation.
That would open the door for right-hander Ryan Dull, who has been lights-out this spring. Between himself and Doubront, Dull is absolutely the more deserving of a bullpen job – but given the A’s lack of flexibility on the roster in terms of relievers, he was likely to be left behind in previous scenarios. Dull will certainly owe the starters a debt of gratitude for their poor performances this spring, if things shake out the way they seem to be headed right now. It seems likely that he’ll be in Oakland when the team takes the field on Opening Day.
In Case You Missed It
Will Coco Crisp Make the Roster? – Will veteran Coco Crisp make the Athletics’ roster? Last week, Rich Paloma argued that there was no way the A’s should create a roster spot for Crisp. Here, Melson Varsovia makes a different case: Crisp will be on the Opening Day roster, even if he’s probably not the most effective player, because the A’s have other plans for him.
The Lesson of the Jim Johnson Deal – Andrew Dambrauskas explains why Rich Hill‘s struggles this spring should remind fans and the front office of former closer Jim Johnson‘s rough stay in Oakland. Should the A’s give Hill a lengthy chance to prove himself, or should he be on a short leash?
A’s Option Smolinski, Reassign Blair – A quick look at the Spring Training results of outfielder Jake Smolinski and catcher Carson Blair. Both were sent back to minor league camp on Sunday, despite a hot performance from Smolinski. What can be expected from them in 2016?
Best Second Baseman in A’s History – Mark Sigmon continues in his trip down memory lane, this time taking a look at the best second basemen – and best moments at second base – in the history of the Oakland Athletics.
Around the Web
Which Teams Will Overachieve or Underachieve This Season? – Bleacher Report recently released this article, which discusses the expectations for every team in the majors and whether they are likely to exceed those predictions, or fall short. Take a look if you’re interested in the other 29 teams, but they have little faith in the Athletics, who were simply listed as “non-contenders”. It seems like that may be a bit harsh. The Athletics are unlikely to contend, but they have some good pieces – most notably, their revamped bullpen and several excellent young starters – that may make them competitive for much of the season.
A lot will depend on what kind of start the team gets off to, and setting expectations low is certainly a good idea, but to write them off as “non-contenders” in March seems a bit drastic. The Angels and Mariners didn’t exactly set the world on fire with their off-season moves, and they’re still considered potential contenders. (Although, for the Angels, it’s probably a byproduct of having Mike Trout.) The 2016 season could be trainwreck for Oakland, but the A’s did a lot to improve over the winter, and giving them at least a few weeks to see whether it will make a difference isn’t unreasonable.