Athletics: Dauntless Defense is Poised to be Key Part of Future

(Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /

Four different Oakland Athletics – Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Marcus Semien and Robbie Grossman – were nominated for Gold Gloves on Thursday. Much like with the Astros, the A’s defense should play a part in their future success.

The single biggest play of the Houston Astros’ season came in the seventh inning of game six of the ALCS against the New York Yankees. Up 4-2 with one out and Aaron Judge at first, Aaron Hicks put up a blooper in shallow left field, a no-man’s land for fielders.

Aaron Judge quickly made his way to second base, revving up enough to get to third on the hit. But Michael Brantley had other plans, laying out and rapidly rising and firing back to first to record a double play to catch Judge and end the inning, a play that will live on in Houston forever.

That play itself did not win the game for the Astros. Jose Altuve launched a two-run home run into left-center to officially send the Astros to their third World Series, but Brantley’s play set the table for that home run.

Their stellar defense has been a major component for the Astros this season and postseason, and a lack of it has been a part of why they have fallen behind 0-2 to the Washington Nationals.

The Astros success in all three phases – and especially on defense – is a blueprint for the young and promising Oakland Athletics to follow to their own potential pennant chases.

When Rawlings announced the 2019 MLB Gold Glove Finalists, four different Oakland Athletics were named. That number is tied for first in the AL with the Astros, Red Sox and Angels, and is only one behind the Cardinals for first in baseball. It’s no shocker that of those five teams, three made the playoffs this season, two made an LCS, one won the World Series last year and one is little more than an ace away from being a contender.

Matt Chapman (third base), Matt Olson (first), Marcus Semien (shortstop) and Robbie Grossman (left field) each had great seasons, but represent just the beginning of the defensive prowess for the team that finished in the top-five in MLB in errors committedultimate zone rating and Fangraphs defensive rating, finishing first in both UZR and defensive rating.

Sean Murphy flashed his dead-eye rifle arm and ability to block the plate in 20 games this year, a major part of why the A’s are so high on him.

Mark Canha and Chad Pinder were consistent wherever Bob Melvin put them, with Pinder posting a 1.0 defensive War in 124 games and Canha committing only four errors in 103 games at four different positions.

Ramon Laureano has the most explosive promise of any A’s defender, putting together a highlight reel of home run robberies, diving catches and outfield assists, while also putting out plenty of low-lights.

He had eight outfield assists, good for third in MLB, but seven errors, good for first in baseball, all while missing 39 games. We have seen him play on both sides of the spectrum, and if he can fine-tune his hair-on-fire approach he could become one of the best outfielders in the game.

The A’s have become one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball and may put out one of the best starting rotations (barring injuries) in 2020, but like the Houston Astros, their defense may be the side that pushes them over the top as a true dangerous contender.