Oakland Athletics: The correct answer is “Not this season”

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 07: Matt Chapman
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 07: Matt Chapman /

The Oakland Athletics can’t possibly continue this routine of late inning heroics, can they?

I was in the bedroom last night watching my Oakland Athletics serve up six runs to the Texas Rangers in the 6th inning when my wife walked in. She took a look at the score and asked if I was ready to watch a movie as she continued to her side of the room. She’s not an avid baseball watcher, but even she knows the drill.  You don’t come back from a 10-2 deficit.

I pretended not to hear her, instead continuing to work on my laptop in front of me. Now, I’m not one of those people who becomes overly emotional when my team is losing (OK, I am), so the direction this game was taking had no bearing on my mood. Wink wink.

That’s when my wife made a serious error in judgement. She reached for the Roku remote sitting next to me on the bed. With the precision of a ninja, my right hand shot out and in one motion managed to snatch the remote from her while also bringing it back safely to my side.

My wife began muttering something about me being a child and that this game was clearly over. I turned to her and said “NOT THIS SEASON.”

Not this season and not with this team. We’ve seen them comeback time and time again this summer, so much so, that we have almost grown to expect it.

Now, my wife loves me dearly, or at the very least, decided to indulge me and left the game on. You know the rest of the story. The Oakland Athletics would go on, in historic fashion, to score eleven more runs winning the game 13-10 in extra innings.

Yes, you caught me, the title is misleading and borderline clickbaity, but it is for good reason! The Oakland Athletics are clearly undaunted by any deficit as evidenced by what has become routine comeback wins over the last month.

What does it all mean?

I’m going to sing Susan Slusser’s praises once again for the purposes of this blog. When it comes to the Oakland Athletics, she consistently puts forth the information that fans tend to find most interesting. This particular tweet references her A’s comeback story for the San Francisco Chronicle which you can access here.

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I’ve been very active in my interaction with fans on social media and most tend to point towards our bullpen when they try to assess why we are having such success in the later innings of games. Certainly during the 16 comeback wins since June 16th that Slusser refers to, the bullpen hasn’t hurt us, but what about the offense?

When looking at the underlying statistics for the Oakland Athletics as a team, OPS is the stat that stood out the most to me. OPS (On-base plus Slugging) certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all in terms of gauging our offensive prowess; however, it does do a fair job of demonstrating our ability to get on base along with how well our team is hitting for power and average.

Inside Edge, provided the following tweet on July 23rd.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t surprised to see our team sitting at #1 on this list and why not? Our offense, while highly underrated by most of those out on the East Coast, have been world beaters. It’s not a secret to us. Top offensive team after the 5th inning.  Better than the Astros and Red Sox. Got it.

What was more surprising was a further look into OPS using statistical information from Inside Edge. The Oakland Athletics are the 5th worst team from the 1st to the 5th inning with an OPS of .690. The 5th worst. The only teams in the league with an OPS worse than ours over the first five innings are the Tigers, Orioles, Mets, and Padres.

Cool as a cucumber

We could dig into the statistical reasons for this being the case and turn this blog into several pages. We could speculate that relievers pitch the later innings and typically toss more fastballs than starters. We know how much our lineup loves to feast on heaters.

Maybe it’s Bob Melvin working his magic with late inning offensive substitutions. OK, probably not. I had some trouble keeping a straight face as I wrote that one.

I am convinced that this OPS disparity from the 1st to the 5th inning and then the 5th inning on is because our team is C-L-U-T-C-H. You’ve been watching.  You’ve put in the work. You know what I’m talking about. Cool as a cucumber. Ice water running through their veins. This team is unflappable in their approach during late inning games.

The true measure of any team is how they perform under extreme pressure. There are few greater pressures in major league baseball than being down consistently late in games, when at-bats are scarce, and you need a few runs to come out on top.

This team has demonstrated they can do just that 16 times since June 16th! It’s become part of the Oakland Athletics SOP’s at this point. Throw in our ability to win on the road (33-21 as of this evening), and you not only have a team worthy of making the postseason, but one that is set up for a deep run as well.

For those of you considering buying a ticket for the bandwagon, you don’t have to take my word for it. Watch a few games. Take a close look at the businesslike poise of this team. They are having fun certainly, but they are also hyperfocused on the task at hand.

Athletics looking at Mike Fiers?. dark. Next

It’s impossible to discern from their demeanors whether this team is up or down five runs in the 9th. They play it all the same.  The same level of effort and the same level of heart. As a fan, you can’t ask for anything more.