Oakland A’s: The Sean Manaea problem

Sean Manaea just has not looked right at all this year. How much longer can the Oakland A’s stick with him while he tries to figure things out?

There was plenty of optimism for Sean Manaea heading into the 2020 season. He came back from shoulder surgery faster than expected, returning for five starts in September last year. Manaea looked like his previous self in those outings, allowing just four runs on 16 hits and seven walks in 29.2 innings, striking out 30 batters. If anything, Manaea looked better than ever.

Given that performance, and the extra time off, there was plenty of optimism surrounding Manaea this year. Although Frankie Montas was tabbed for Opening Day, Manaea was still an important piece of the puzzle for this season.

Instead, 2020 has been a disaster for Manaea. He has allowed 17 runs, 15 earned, on 24 hits and four walks in his 15 innings. Opponents are battering him at a .364/.394/.591 clip, with three homers and six doubles in 71 plate appearances. Manaea just is not fooling anyone.

In looking at Manaea’s pitching so far this year, there are changes. His fastball usage has decreased by nearly nine percent, and he has increased the use of hic change by nearly five percent. He has also begun throwing a curve, a pitch that had not been a part of his repertoire before this season.

These changes have not been for the best. His curve has not fooled anyone, as he has not had anyone miss it thus far. While he has decreased the usage of his fastball, possibly due to decreased velocity on the pitch, opponents have a .327 batting average on the offering. On the positive side, his slider and change have been somewhat effective, but will that remain the case if he uses those offerings more frequently?

The velocity on his fastball may return in time. But in the interim, there are other options to take. The first would be to scrap the curve since that offering just is not working. Then he may want to pitch backwards, building off his change instead of his fastball. One can be certain that the A’s are already crunching the numbers and looking for a path back to success for Manaea.

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When that happens, Sean Manaea may be a very different pitcher than what we are seeing today. If those changes do not work, the Oakland A’s may need to consider other options in that spot.