Oakland Athletics: Pitching staff shows vulnerability

gmilner
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 11: Daniel Mengden
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 11: Daniel Mengden /
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The Oakland Athletics took a blow on the chin from the defending World Series champions last night in Houston.

It was an 11-4 thumping for the Oakland Athletics who saw their win streak snapped at three and fell to 2.5 games back of Houston for the division lead.

It’s only one game, right? One game means very little over a 162-game season… unless of course we happen to be discussing the single elimination Wild Card game the Athletics may find themselves in come October.

Make no mistake about it. This was a playoff game in August.  It was an opportunity for the A’s to march into Minute Maid Park and make a statement. Instead, it was the Astros who delivered a message.

For the first time since June 25th, the Astros had their Big Four (Springer, Altuve, Correa, Bregman) healthy and in the same lineup. The result was more offense than the Oakland Athletics pitching staff could handle.

Full disclaimer. There’s no need to overreact or to read too much into one performance… but what fun would that be? What would we write about if not for over-analyzing one game?

If we didn’t care about the ups and downs of the baseball season, we’d simply fast forward to October and see if the A’s are in the playoffs. It doesn’t work that way. We do care. About all of it.

Who knows… maybe we’ll even stumble over a trend or two in the process of running this game through the TSA scanner so let’s get to it.

The good

It’s not difficult to find the bright spot in yesterday’s performance. Matt Chapman’s application for superstar has been approved. His performance yesterday during a pressure filled match-up certainly shows he’s worthy of the title.

Chapman, facing Gerrit Cole, dumped a hanging breaking ball into the left field stands giving the A’s a 4-0 lead in the third inning. He would also add a double later in the game.

We’ve all watched Chappy flash the leather, but what I didn’t expect this season was his progression with the bat. After the All-Star break, Matt Chapman has been ridiculously good at the plate.  Take a look at the numbers.

Average .352

OBP        .419

OPS      1.151

As a fan, I knew his offense would take a leap this year, but no one saw this coming.  Chapman is tied for the major league lead in hits after the break with 50, and he leads all of baseball post-break in both doubles and extra-base hits.

Chapman is dialed in at the plate and refuses to swing at bad pitches.  I’m not sure I’ve seen an A’s player in his first full season demonstrate better plate recognition and discipline than Chapman has exhibited during this stretch. And if his prowess at the plate isn’t enough to grab your attention, check out this index courtesy of SABR.

The bat more than plays and Chapman is also leading the league in SDI, an index used to select the Gold Glove award. Everyone in the Bay Area knows the Oakland Athletics have a future MVP candidate playing third base… it won’t be long until the rest of the country knows it as well.

The bad

Oh, Sweet Lou. What happened out there last night? Daniel Mengden impressively kept the A’s close after being thrown into the fire in the third inning. Lou Trivino came on in relief of Mengden in the 8th inning with the A’s down 5-4.

I was breathing a sigh of relief at this point. Mengden reliably bridged the gap from Brett Anderson to the bullpen. We took Houston’s best shot and it was time for our bullpen to lock things down.

Trivino had other ideas. He’s been in somewhat of a funk lately and tonight was no exception as he struggled with his control. Alex Bregman would send a 3-run homer over the wall giving the Astros an 8-5 lead and that was all she wrote.

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For the month of August Trivino has a 6.39 ERA and a 1.658 WHIP.  His BAA (batting average against) comes in at an eye popping .304.

Relievers stats tend to get inflated in a hurry with one or two poor outings, but this is the first month Trivino has had an ERA over 2.45 so it’s cause for concern.

Trivino has stated his recent lack of control isn’t due to fatigue. I believe him. The pitch Bregman took over Piscotty’s outstretched glove for a home run last night was a 99 mph 2-seamer.

If it isn’t fatigue, then we need to look toward either mechanics or confidence as the culprit.  Trivino says he is rushing his delivery. Or maybe the pressure of the playoff race is exacting its toll as it does on even the most experienced of players.

Whichever the reason, I’d prefer to see Bob Melvin give Sweet Lou a couple of days off to clear his head.  Then bring him back slowly in some low-leverage situations to build his confidence back up. We are going to need Trivino hitting on all cylinders for the stretch run in September.

The ugly

Sorry Brett Anderson. You delivered a stinker. On the road, in a pressure cooker at Minute Maid, with a four run lead, and you allow the Astros to score five runs in two-thirds of an inning?

The Astros man-handled Anderson delivering five consecutive hits at one point (3 doubles, 2 singles) before Mengden was called upon. Where was the fight?

Anderson was working on some impressive August totals, but this is the exact kind of performance I was expecting to rear its ugly head at some point. His first half performance (6.08 ERA, 1.85 WHIP) didn’t instill much confidence and most fans have been holding their breath each time he takes the mound.

The Oakland Athletics don’t have a true staff Ace. This means it’s imperative the arms we do throw in the rotation are consistent and not susceptible to these kinds of blow-ups. Our path to winning is built on manageable starts from our rotation until our bullpen can take over.

Brett Anderson, allowing five runs over two and two-thirds of an inning on the road in a preview of a possible playoff game is not manageable. It’s the exact type of performance that sends the A’s home empty handed.

Each time I write something with an opinion, I’m accused of being too negative. Or that I “just complain and don’t offer any solutions”. Guys, I’m a fan. I bleed green and gold. I want this team to succeed. But our team isn’t without faults.

In this case, there’s no immediate fix. Brett Anderson pitched extremely well in August prior to last night.  We need him to rebound. If not, maybe Mengden or Montas become options down the road but that is further complicated by the Sean Manaea injury.  For now, we keep our fingers crossed and hope Anderson doesn’t slide back too far.

30 games left

It’s amazing how much can change in 48 hours. We left Minnesota on the high of winning the last three games to take yet another series. Then we’re met with our de facto Ace, Sean Manaea, hitting the DL. He’s scheduled for a second opinion today with specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

The only information available is that there’s an issue with his pitching shoulder but getting a second opinion in baseball circles is rarely a good thing.

Then Anderson, Trivino, and Pagan get decimated by a healthy Houston offense and all of a sudden we’re showing some chinks in the armor.

dark. Next. New stadium plans should feel all too familiar

No need to worry. The apocalypse hasn’t arrived. There is nothing more going on here than the usual trials and tribulations of a baseball fan. Check back in 48 hours after we’ve taken the next two from the ‘Stros.

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