4 takeaways from the first month of the Oakland Athletics' season

We're officially into the month of May and we have a few thoughts about the Athletics season so far
Apr 30, 2024; Oakland, California, USA;  Oakland Athletics pitcher Mason Miller (19) celebrates
Apr 30, 2024; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Mason Miller (19) celebrates / Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

It's May 1 and we're officially through the first month of the MLB season. The Oakland Athletics aren't a great baseball team but they have been interesting so far. Let's dive into a few of the things that have stood out the most through the first month of play.

Mason Miller is a monster

The bullpen as a whole has been surprisingly good but Miller has been a rock star. A 1.35 ERA to go with an unreal -0.14 FIP (not a typo) and he's struck out 54.9% of batters so far. It's admittedly a small sample size, just 13.1 innings, but what Miller has done is nothing short of incredible.

The A's held him back a bit last year and shifted him to the bullpen full time to try to limit the potential for injury and it's clearly paying off right now. The stuff is playing up to the highest degree and he doesn't have to worry about throwing 100+ pitches and putting extra stress on his elbow.

Pitchers break all the time and there will always be the risk of him getting hurt but getting to see this guy operate at full capacity, for any stretch of time, is absolute must-see TV. He'll be an integral piece of the A's bullpen indefinitely.

The offense is bad - really bad

We should have expected this one but the offense so far is dismal. Their 94 runs scored are 29th in the league, ahead of only the White Sox. They have the second most strikeouts, worst batting average, third worst OBP.

There are four hitters on the IL, with JD Davis currently on a rehab stint, and not much of anything coming up through the minor league system to give respite to an offense struggling to tread water. Mark Kotsay is trying to platoon his way through the spring but these guys just aren't hitting.

Only Tyler Nevin and Kyle McCann have batting averages over .300 and just 6 players have an OBP over .300, with three of those six under .305. At some point you just have to hope that things will turn around and the team will see some positive regression but there's not a ton of evidence that they're getting unlucky. So we're left holding our breath and hoping for the best when the reality of the situation is that it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.

The bullpen is inspiring hope for the pitching staff as a whole

As mentioned above, it's not just Mason Miller who's pitching well out of the bullpen. Lucas Erceg has a 1.42 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12.2 innings. Pretty good for a guy who was drafted as a third base prospect.

Austin Adams has looked outstanding in limited work. Rule 5 pick Mitch Spence looks to have secured a roster spot for the remainder of the summer. Kyle Muller looks like the prospect the A's traded for rather than the worst pitcher in baseball that showed up last summer.

With Scott Alexander, Luis Medina, Ken Waldichuk, and Freddy Tarnok all working their way back from injuries at their respective paces, there are enough reinforcements on the way that the A's bullpen should be able to carry the weight of the struggling rotation for the next few months.

If the A's do need to shift one of Muller or Spence to the rotation, or call up Joey Estes or Osvaldo Bido due to performance or injury, you at least have a bit of confidence in the pitching staff to get the job done, even if the offense isn't doing their share.

Joe Boyle needs to go back to the minor leagues

Boyle has a sky-high ceiling but his flaws are holding him back big time. He can't control his pitches in the zone and currently has a 16.4% walk rate. His league-average 23% K rate isn't doing enough to mitigate the poor control.

He had a solid start against the Pirates a few days ago that lowered his ERA to 6.08 but still walked 4 in that appearance in just 5 innings. Boyle's fastball averages 97 mph but if he doesn't know where it's going, he can't be an effective starter.

If he's looking to fix the issue, Boyle could try to take a little off the velocity and try to focus on commanding his pitches in the zone. Most guys don't take this approach as hitters will take advantage of all but the best pitches they see. However, if Boyle can't throw strikes, he won't have much of a career.

Either way, something needs to give. Either a shift to the bullpen to let him focus on throwing as hard as he can with no regard to stamina, or a trip back to Triple-A Las Vegas to get him to work on mechanics and keeping the ball over the plate. Boyle won't last all year in the A's rotation if he keeps pitching this poorly.