The good, the bad, and the Oakland Athletics

The Athletics aren't good, but they probably aren't as bad as they look
Apr 28, 2024; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Oakland Athletics catcher Kyle McCann (52) reacts after
Apr 28, 2024; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Oakland Athletics catcher Kyle McCann (52) reacts after / James A. Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletics have looked surprisingly competent over the last few weeks. They return home after going 4-6 on their most recent road trip during which they were swept by the Guardians but split a four-game set with the Yankees and took two out of three against the Orioles.

Thankfully the A's won't have to face the Guardians again this year. They struggled heavily against them, going 1-7 and getting outscored by 33 runs. Outside of those series with Cleveland, the A's are 11-10 with a -10 run differential. That's quite a bit better than the disaster that was 2023, even if they're not a serious playoff contender.

What's gone right?

The bullpen has been on fire. Even in Sunday's game in which Paul Blackburn gave up 6 runs in 4 innings, the bullpen came in and fired off 6 scoreless innings and the A's held on to clinch the series victory.

Mason Miller has been the star of the show, leading the league in pitches thrown over 100 mph and sporting a 1.46 ERA because of it. In addition to Miller, everyone in the bullpen has been pulling their weight. Lucas Erceg looks like a legit elite setup guy, pitching to a 1.54 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 11.2 innings. The recently added Austin Adams has a 1.93 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 9.1 innings.

Kyle Muller looks like a normal pitcher again after imploding in 2023. Rule 5 pick Mitch Spence looks like a major league pitcher, which isn't always the case with those younger guys. None of the relievers have an ERA over 4.00 and their combined 2.73 ERA is good for 7th in the league.

What's gone wrong?

On the hitting side, third baseman JD Davis started a rehab stint with Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon and should return to Oakland at some point this week. The offense needs all the help it can get. For all the good the bullpen has done, the bats have held this team back.

If the A's want to make any kind of serious push toward being a .500 club, the offense needs to find a way to get the job done. At the moment, there just doesn't seem to be enough talent in the lineup for that to happen.

Nick Allen is spinning his wheels at the plate. He's currently hitting .179/.236/.254 with just three extra base hits in 67 plate appearances. Unfortunately, Darell Hernaiz doesn't look like he's ready to take Allen's job so the A's are running a dead spot out at shortstop every night.

Max Schuemann has gotten plenty of opportunities since his call up but has looked like a better defender than a hitter thus far. Abraham Toro has cooled off and is now running a .289 OBP. Ryan Noda is collapsing, posting a .221 SLG through his first 90 plate appearances.

The A's need help at the plate and it's not clear that the returns of Davis, Zack Gelof, and Miguel Andujar will do enough to move the needle. There have been some bright spots for the A's so far but there are also more than a few glaring holes that need to be addressed.

Will the A's front office do anything to fix those issues this year? With the team destined for Sacramento after the end of 2024, probably not. They'll get a small respite with a 10-game homestand starting this afternoon. They'll take on the Pirates, Marlins, and Rangers during that stretch.

The Pirates are frisky but not good, and the Marlins are one of the worst teams in baseball. The A's just need to take the wins where they can get them and see how the summer plays out.