The Oakland Athletics started the 2018 MLB season in the midst of a rebuild. By the end of May, Oakland was 29-28 and struggling to stay above .500. But, by the All-Star break, Oakland had turned things around and had improved to 55-42. They are currently 82-56 and are in the driver’s seat with the second wild card spot. Oakland is three games behind the Yankees for the first wild card and three games behind the reigning World Series Champs, Houston, for first place in the division.
While Boston has the best overall record, Oakland has been one of the hottest teams in baseball since June. It would not be a surprise if Oakland faces off against Boston in either the ALDS or ALCS. The teams’ surge has come from various factors all coming together at once.
Oakland acquired relief pitcher Blake Treinen in a trade with the Washington Nationals during the 2017 season. Washington received pitchers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to bolster their bullpen. It was a clear no brainier for the Nationals, who at the time had a bullpen that was full of holes.
A year later Oakland has come out the winner in the trade. Madson has already been traded away to the Dodgers and Doolittle who made the All-Star team this year, has been on the DL since the break. Treinen also made the All-Star game this year, and has been having a stellar season. The 30-year-old reliever has a .92 ERA and 35 saves out of 39 attempts. Treinen has provided stability to the back end of the A’s bullpen and has proved that he can successfully pitch multiple-inning games. In the midst of a career year, Treinen has set career highs in WAR, opponents batting average, opponents OPS, era, k/9 and strikeouts. Oakland’s trade in 2017 has landed them a new top reliever in the League as well as a pitcher with some playoff experience under his belt.
A main reason Oakland was able to make up ground and put themselves in great positioning to make the playoffs is due to their offense. In the American League, Oakland’s offense ranks sixth in runs scored, second in home runs, fifth in RBIs, seventh in batting average, third in slugging percentage, and fifth in OPS. The offense has been led by Matt Chapman, Stephen Piscotty, Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis.
Chapman is in his first full season in the Majors and has not disappointed. The 25-year-old leads the team in batting average, runs scored, on base percentage and WAR. Chapman has helped ignite the offense and is a key element in Oakland’s improbable season turn-around. Teammates have obviously been taking notice in what the 25-year-old is capable of. In a recent interview with NBC Sports, Chapman’s teammate, Matt Olsen said. “It’s awesome.” “The guy is obviously incredible in the field, but he can swing it too.”
Khris Davis leads the majors in home runs with 40 and has reached this milestone three years in a row. The slugger leads the team in RBIs and slugging percentage and is on track for 47 home runs. Davis will need to keep his bat hot heading into the playoffs as he will have the chance to face off against sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Ramirez and J.D. Martinez.
The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder Stephen Piscotty to Oakland in the winter for two prospects. The veteran is hitting .264, with 21 home runs and 68 RBIs. Piscotty also brings over playoff experience from his time with the Cardinals, which will be very valuable for the stretch run. As of now the teams that are in playoff spots all have been there before. Oakland lacks the experience due to rebuilding the last few years. Piscotty will be able to use his veteran leadership to help the younger players and let them know what to expect.
Jed Lowrie is hitting .276 with 21 home runs and 86 RBis. The 34-year-old veteran made his first All-Star game this year and is having arguably the best year of his career. Lowrie is serving his second stint with the team and is one of the last players remaining from when they last made the playoffs in 2013. Like Piscotty, Lowrie is a veteran that will be looked up to in the last stretch of the season as well as the playoffs. Lowrie has been to the playoffs with Boston, Oakland and Houston, but he is still looking for his first title.
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