3 important things we've learned about the Athletics at the season's 30% mark

Here's what we know, and what we don't, about the Oakland Athletics right now
Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics
Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

We're now 30% of the way through the 2024 season and we're able to get a more clear picture of what's real and what's not. Some statistics take a while to stabilize and two months into the season, we're able to discern quite a bit about whether a team's performance is just smoke, or if it's legitimate fire.

When it comes to the Oakland A's, there's been little to hang our hats on this year. Despite winning a barn burner in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon, the A's remain 10 games out of a wild card spot and no baseball fan in their right mind thinks this team is going to seriously compete down the stretch.

To that point, it looks like we can confirm the expectation that the A's aren't a good team. There just isn't enough talent on the major league roster, nor enough depth in the upper minors to fill in for the vast number of injured players.

One thing we know for sure is that despite the bad injury luck, the Athletics should have done a better job building the rotation over the winter.

The Athletics' failure to properly address the rotation is a major issue

Technically, the A's added two starting pitchers this offseason, bringing Alex Wood and Ross Stripling on board on one-year contracts. Unfortunately, those moves look pretty bad in hindsight. Neither Wood nor Stripling pitched well over the first six weeks of the season and both are currently on the IL with serious injuries.

In total, the Athletics have 9 pitchers on the IL at the moment. To be fair, it's nearly impossible to prepare for that level of injury depth. But David Forst's decision to go into the season with so many question marks on the pitching staff is coming back to haunt them.

A's starters have posted a 4.95 ERA, good for 28th in MLB. They also have the second worst strikeout rate league-wide and their .264 batting average allowed is good for third worst.

The return of Luis Medina should provide a small boost but they're still relying on Rule 5 pick Mitch Spence and Triple-A arms Joey Estes and Hogan Harris for innings. Aaron Brooks was fine in three of his four starts but got shelled by the Braves over the weekend and was DFA'd in order to make room for Medina.

The Athletics have a couple upside arms in the minors right now but the talent level in the majors just isn't good enough. This rotation is a long way from being competitive again.

Brent Rooker is a legitimately good hitter

There were certainly some question marks surrounding Rooker coming into this year. In his first three seasons, Rooker hit .200/.289/.379 with just 10 homers in 279 plate appearances. The righty broke out in 2023, slashing .246/.329/.488 with 30 bombs and earned his first career All-Star appearance.

Rooker has silenced any opposition by taking another major step forward in 2024. He's up to .280/.367/.554 and his 165 wRC+ is 9th among all qualified hitters.

The Statcast data suggests that performance is all legitimate, as well. Rooker has a 97th percentile expected slugging percentage, as well as a 93rd percentile barrel rate. He's hitting the ball about as well as anyone and he's getting the results to match.

The Athletics might choose to move Rooker at the trade deadline. It'll be a shame to see him go, as he's on the short list of guys propping up the offense right now. However, he's probably better off playing for a team with serious aspirations of playoff success rather than smashing baseballs into the void in Oakland.

Mason Miller might be the best reliever in baseball

Miller has finally given up some runs and has even blown the first save of his career, but the performance thus far has been astounding. His ability to consistently throw 100+ mph fastballs with a slider that makes everyone look silly is second to none.

Miller leads all relievers in FanGraphs WAR and is lapping the field with his 51.5% strikeout rate. He's unlikely to challenge any all-time ERA records but he could challenge Aroldis Chapman's strikeout record.

Back in 2014, Chapman struck out 52.5% of batters in 54 innings. Devin Williams posted a 53% strikeout rate in the shortened 2020 season but that was in 27 innings, just one more than Miller has thrown in 2024.

Regardless of whether he sticks on this torrid pace all year, the Athletics have to be thrilled with this guy. There are major concerns about his long-term elbow health and the likelihood that he sticks around in Oakland for the duration of his contract is exceedingly slim.

Whether or not he gets traded, he's been one of the most entertaining relievers to watch in recent A's history. It's unfortunate he isn't this dominant on a good team because a guy pitching at this level deserves to play in October. If the Athletics trade him this summer, he might get that chance earlier than expected.