The Oakland Athletics’ ability to find inefficiencies in baseball is well-documented. There was a Hollywood film featuring Brad Pitt about the Athletics’ ingenuity, their shrewd decisions allowing them to become competitive against all expectations. They continue to overperform, and while they’re not the only team who punch above their financial weight, it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
At the time of writing, Oakland are 1.5 games back of the American League wildcard. It was a surprise to see them put together a brilliant run in 2018. Last season’s exploits – which resulted in a wildcard loss to the Yankees – have seen this term’s achievements go under the radar.
While Mat Olson and Matt Chapman remain their two stars, the 2019 Athletics are actually very different to the 2018 iteration.
Sean Manaea, who threw 160 innings and a no-hitter in 2018, hasn’t pitched in 2019. Trevor Cahill and Edwin Jackson aren’t on the roster – both were crucial down the stretch last season. Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty have underperformed.
Frankie Montas was very good at the start of this season, but he’s been unavailable because of a suspension. Marco Estrada has been on the injured list long-term. Daniel Gossett is missing the whole campaign. Offseason acquisition Jurickson Profar has struggled mightily at the plate. Blake Treinen was unhittable in 2018 – he’s been poor in 2019.
A competitive 2019 hasn’t been a case of running it back. The Athletics have been tussling with adversity all season.
In true Oakland style, though, they have found a way.
Liam Hendriks has stepped up as Treinen has struggled. Yusmeiro Petit has had another nice year.
While this has been long-winded, the point is that the Athletics haven’t had an easy time of it. It’s not as simple as a good core being good again. Players who shone in 2018 have been picked up by new key men in 2019 both on the mound and at the plate.
The front office was busy in July, too.
Jake Diekman and Homer Bailey were acquired from the Royals in separate trades. Neither have started brilliantly, but they provide vital pitching depth through August and September. Tanner Roark was brought in from the Cincinnati Reds for Jameson Hannah. Roark is having a very nice year – he’s given up just three earned runs in 11.2 innings for Oakland.
The red-hot New York Mets and Cleveland Indians are attracting much of baseball’s attention right now. They deserve it, of course, but let’s not forget about the Athletics, who continue to be in the playoff hunt despite numerous challenges this year.