This past season the Oakland Athletics boasted an incredible record, their young talent performed very well, the American League Manager of the Year was at the helm and they were also the team with the lowest payroll coming into the 2018 season. The Athletics barely got publicity for their winning, all everyone heard about was how the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros were winning and winning, and it seems as if the Athletics had such amazing success in the shadows of these other teams. Bob Melvin got some recognition this week when he was presented the American League Manager of the Year award.
— Oakland Athletics ???? (@Athletics) November 13, 2018
The Athletics finished the season 97-65 losing the wildcard game to the New York Yankees. Between the 2017 season and the 2018 season, this was a 22 win improvement for the Athletics. Besides increasing the number of wins they had, the Athletics also had some finalists for awards and other great achievements with the 2018 season.
Manager Bob Melvin won manager of the year in the American League this year, Both Matt Chapman and Matt Olson took home Gold Gloves for their defensive play and Chapman took home a platinum glove along with Nolan Arenado in the National League. Overall, the team was recognized for a few awards, but they may not have gotten the most recognition compared to some of the other teams who had multiple players who all took home a ton of awards like the Red Sox and all their award winners.
Besides the awards, Chapman entered his second year in the big leagues and took off with some major success for the Athletics. He hit .278 with 24 home runs and 68 RBI’s however, there’s a deeper look at Chapman’s 2018 output that needs to be acknowledged. Chapman came in third in the American League in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) behind Mookie Betts and Mike Trout, which is impressive and really shows how much Chapman helped the team get to 97 wins. Chapman also led the American League in defensive WAR which paints an even bigger picture of how valuable his defense was to the team and shows why he won the Gold and Platinum Glove awards.
Khris Davis also very quietly led the league in home runs hitting 48 and coming in second to JD Martinez in RBI’s driving in 123 batters this year. Davis was also in top five in the American league in Slugging with a .549 slugging percentage. There is also an interesting statistic that Khris Davis led the league with the fewest amount of at-bats between each home run at 12 at-bats.
On the other side of the baseball, the only player that received notable credit in league leader type statistics would be Blake Treinen. It is important to note that because it shows how people may have let the Athletics success fall under the radar since none of their starters were in the top grouping for things like ERA, WHIP, and Strikeouts. Treinen, however, had 38 saves throughout the 2018 season pitching in 80.1 innings and striking out 100 batters. One of the more uncommon statistics that Treinen actually led the league is, was Win Probability Added (WPA) which essentially measures the number of wins that the player contributed to the team based on his success.
The Athletics rotation was put together with Sean Manaea who threw a no-hitter early on in the season and ended up getting injured having to have shoulder surgery which sidelined him at the end of the year, however, he did have the most games started with 27, posting a record of 12-9, ERA of 3.59, and WHIP of 1.08 for the Athletics. Besides Manaea, Trevor Cahill started 20 games with a 6-4 record and 3.91 ERA. Daniel Mengden was 6-6 for the Athletics, posting an ERA of 4.50 which is not great. Edwing Jackson was 6-3 with an ERA of 3.33 for the Athletics in the 2018 season. Brett Anderson struggled, putting up a 4-5 record with an ERA of 4.48 which shows that the Athletics pitching staff had to rely on their bullpen which shows the value of Blake Treinen to this team.
Looking at the overall uses of the Athletics bullpen, besides Treinen in the closing role, they also had Lou Trivino who really helped contribute to the team in his first year in the majors, he appeared in 68 games pitching in 72 games and most notably striking out 82 batters. Seasoned veteran Yusmeiro Petit appeared in 74 games, throwing 93 innings for the Athletics with a 1.01 WHIP and providing 16 holds this season. The Athletics also acquired reliever Jeurys Familia from the New York Mets this year in a quiet deal that allowed the Athletics to get a reliever who would step in and pitch 31.1 innings and struck out 40 in his shortened stint with them.
One of the most notable things about the Oakland Athletics is simply the way that they win ballgames. They are a small ball club. Overall they didn’t have that all-star pitching staff, Manaea was good until the injury but they aren’t like the Astros who have a star-studded rotation. I think that’s important because they’re rotation found ways to get them into situations where they could hand the game over to their bullpen and ultimately let Trivino, Petit, and Treinen to close out the game. On the offensive side of things, they did not really have a super team full of all-stars or superstar caliber players. Chapman rose to the occasion and had an incredible second year in the big league for the Athletics which really allowed them to win more ballgames behind Davis’s incredible offensive output.
Jed Lowrie also came through big for the Athletics by being that older veteran who was able to provide good leadership and he provided a great output, hitting .267 with 23 home runs and 99 RBI’s with a .353 on-base percentage. Lowrie also only made four errors during the 2018 season which really also helps the “small ball” club type which thrived on great defense behind them. The Athletics infield made 57 errors on the year and had two Gold Glove winners within the infield. The Athletics brought on catcher Jonathan Lucroy this year who also provides a defensive advantage by throwing out 30% of the runners who tried to steal on him.
Baseball is moving towards a superteam type league, if you look at teams like the Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, and others that buy their needs like bringing in Machado and Dozier in Los Angeles to help the playoff push. These are “superteams”, now the MLB is not the NBA… yet… but they are moving to an era where there are a few dominant teams and the rest of the teams just pack which is what we are seeing right now. The unique thing about the Athletics is that they have this success, and get to 97 wins even though they had the lowest payroll in the league coming into this past season which proves something. This really shows that the Athletics are not a “superteam” but they are going to do what they need to do to compete and be able to compete with the super teams like the Astros and Red Sox where some teams are packing it in because they fear those teams will be good for years.
The Oakland Athletics produced 97 wins in the 2018 season which was a 22 win increase from the year before and sent them to an AL wildcard game. It is very realistic to say that the Athletics can continue to be a threat in the American League West and maintain the same level of competitiveness with the young talent they possess and a solid bullpen to back them up finished out by Treinen.