The Oakland Athletics gave their fans all they could handle over the last few days including a second consecutive series sweep and not one, but two post deadline trades.
Holy smokes Oakland Athletics. That weekend had it all.
A walk-off win delivered by a rookie (Ramon Laureano) making his Major League debut? Check.
A series sweep over the Tigers? Check.
A pitching staff that gave up zero earned runs over three games? Check.
Home runs from Matt Olson, Khris Davis, and Matt Chapman? Check, check, and check-check (Chapman hit two).
A post non-waiver trade deadline acquisition for Shawn Kelley? Also, check.
Throw in a mid-day, just happened this afternoon, trade for Mike Fiers and Monday may be my new favorite day of the week.
It was the type of performance we’ve come to expect from our Oakland A’s as we have now won 12 of our last 14 series. After sweeping the Blue Jays earlier in the week, the A’s turned right around and did the same to the Tigers, running our winning streak up to 6 games in the process.
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Now, before we get too excited, this was the Detroit Tigers. They’ve scored more runs than the Mets and the Royals. That’s it. The Tigers lineup is also a big fan of striking out so our starting rotation wasn’t up against an offensive juggernaut here.
Nevertheless, it was an impressive showing for a starting rotation that many point to as a liability when assessing the Athletics’ chances of making the playoffs. If I’m being honest, it’s not a performance I saw coming.
It’s no secret that I’ve openly questioned whether our starting rotation, as is, could sustain a playoff run. I believed it was an area that we needed to improve upon as the MLB trade deadline approached if we were to challenge for a Wild Card spot or possibly even the division.
This weekend didn’t completely change my feelings, but it did open my eyes to the possibility our starting rotation hasn’t put their best foot forward yet. The trio of Anderson, Jackson, and Cahill dominated and that’s not a statement I’ve been able to make so far this season.
Maybe this performance by our starting rotation is evidence that winning truly does breed winning. With the offense and bullpen hitting on all cylinders, perhaps the starting rotation is starting to find their top gear as well.
The glove slammer
Welcome aboard Shawn Kelley! The Athletics’ bullpen was already arguably one of the best in baseball… and now we’ve added to our strength? Is this what it feels like to be a Yankees fan? Your team clearly has a strength and then the front office adds to it? Someone pinch me.
Let’s get this out of the way. I don’t care that he threw his glove. Yes, it was unprofessional. No, you don’t want to show up your manager. Yes, it’s more about the name on the front of the jersey than the one on the back.
If you’re on the fence about his behavior and haven’t personally witnessed the events as they unfolded, I urge you to have a look.
This game was out of hand. Several touchdowns out of hand. It’s clearly a circus by the time Kelley goes in to pitch. Normally these spots are reserved for a young guy to get some experience under his belt but for whatever reason, Nationals coach Dave Martinez sent out Kelley.
Perhaps that decision is where the frustration started for Kelley. If you watch the video, you then see the umps yelling at Kelley about “quick” pitching which only adds more fuel to the fire. Throw an Austin Jackson home run into that moment and you can begin to see why Kelley exploded.
First and foremost, Kelley needed to be a professional in that moment. I get it. He’s human though and his emotions got the better of him. It happens, especially in competitive sports. He paid the price and was removed from the Nationals. Forgive and move on.
This is simply the Athletics giving a second chance to a player who exhibited poor sportsmanship in one moment. This isn’t the Astros zero tolerance domestic violence policy unless of course you need a closer for a World Series run drill.
This one incident is not indicative of a player who is bringing baggage to Oakland with him.
What we are getting in Shawn Kelley is a reliable veteran arm who will further the bullpen’s ability to step in early should a starting pitcher deliver a short outing. Kelley has a 3.34 ERA/.959 WHIP over 32.1 innings this season.
Admittedly, it isn’t all roses with the numbers. Kelley’s FIP of 4.55 is a little high and he’s shown a propensity for giving up home runs (1.9 HR/9), but maybe the extra real estate at the Coliseum will help bring those numbers down.
Improvement coming or not, his cost was an undisclosed amount of international slot money which is so arbitrary to fans it may as well have been a bag of coconuts we shipped off to the Nationals.
We traded for Mike Fiers, again.
Just as I started writing this afternoon about Kelley being added to the fold, it was announced the Oakland Athletics had traded for Mike Fiers. Again. This time, for real… I think.
The deal that fell through on July 31st materialized again. Mike Fiers is now pitching for the Oakland Athletics at a price I can only imagine is less than what the Tigers may have asked for on deadline day.
In this trade the Athletics lose either cash or two players to be named later (not top prospects). What the A’s receive in return is a depth starter who is on a consistent run of quality starts over the last several weeks.
From June 27th to July 27th, Fiers posted 5 straight quality starts. A check of the July split shows Fiers tossed 32.1 innings with an ERA of 2.23 and a WHIP of 1.11. This type of consistency is exactly what the Athletics need for the stretch run.
Fiers’ presence will also take some heat off of the bullpen. Even with the addition of Familia, we’ve seen the bullpen taxed on occasion due to a lack of innings from our starting rotation.
Fiers can erase those concerns by continuing to deliver consistent quality innings so that our bullpen can stay fresh and perform at a high level as the summer wears on.
For those who know a bit about Fiers’ past, the unconfirmed rumor from an unnamed source is that Fiers was added strictly for our upcoming Wild Card matchup against the Yankees. We need someone to make Giancarlo Stanton feel uneasy in the box!
My hat is off to you Billy Beane. You consistently perform. Year after year. It’s truly impressive. The Athletics have added Jeurys Familia, Shawn Kelley, and now Mike Fiers, all with the intent of making a deep playoff run. All without mortgaging our chance at contending in the future.
As an Athletics fan, I’ll be watching your contract situation closely over the next few months. Oakland baseball just won’t be Oakland baseball if you aren’t pulling levers back behind the curtain.