Don’t Panic, Panic, Don’t Bogart My Roach, Ayee! Panic!
When your team is setting records for most consecutive losses ever, maybe it’s time to put down the blunt…um…dosage you bought at the Healthy Tymzzz medical marijuana dispensary, grab a paper bag and have a full-blown panic attack.
Such is life for fans of the Oakland Athletics. The 2016 season started off well enough, especially considering last year’s abysmal 68-94 record.
This year, the team won four-of-seven games to start.
The hitting was adequate.
The starting pitching was uneven, but Sonny Gray began the year with one earned run in seven innings. And that’s all you need, right?
The defense was improved -great at times with new third baseman Danny Valencia and shortstop Marcus Semien.
The relief corps was also much better. Kudos to General Manager Billy Beane for the additions of Ryan Madson, Marc Rzepczynski, John Axford, and Ryan Dull. The team that led the big leagues in one-run losses last year was suddenly winning some of those games.
Also, Josh Reddick learned how to beat the defensive shift employed against him and lit up the league. Valencia also hit. Catcher Stephen Vogt hit a little. Centerfielder Billy Burns ran down balls, beat out infield hits and stole bases. Second baseman Jed Lowrie was killing it.
Alas, “things” started to go badly. And, by, “things,” I mean everything not related to middle relief.
Hitting, starting pitching, defense -it all went skunky, bro. In fact, every single stat available through MLB that I could muster up the energy to go through shows the A’s in the bottom half or bottom third of the league. Every one!
Injuries didn’t help. Lowrie gave himself a “shin contusion” that put him on crutches. Valencia tweaked a hamstring. Outfielder Marc Canha had a left hip impingement that might require surgery. Pitcher Chris Bassitt went in for Tommy John surgery on his elbow.
Besides the four guys who did hit better than .270 -five if you count the backup catcher, Josh Phegley- the other half of the starting lineup couldn’t hit the ball with any part of a bat if they stood on home plate.
And, on the mound, Gray -who was expected to carry the staff, has been carted off the field every fifth night after a fresh bludgeoning. He’s given up 18 earned runs in his last 12.2 innings, his ERA for the season is 6.00, and the names surrounding him in the rotation: Graveman, Bassitt, Surkamp, Manaea aren’t any better. in fact they’re worse and in some cases way worse.
A’s fans can only hope the slump, also known as the, “rapidly-disappearing season-causer, dude” may have hit its low point -nine losses in ten games through the second week of May and a three-game beat-down at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. Not only did the Sox score 13 runs in three-straight games for the first time in their history, it was the first time any team had done that in 17 years.
But, maybe there are a couple of bright spots? Through the flames, flying serpents, and exploding vials of acid, sure, there are a couple, but they are more than offset by a negative elsewhere. Yonder Alonso is hitting .360 for his last seven games, which lifts is average to .227 for the year. Yikes!
Semien’s made only two errors in 99 chances and increased his fielding percentage by an astonishing 40 points over his final numbers last year. But, his batting average has dropped by 100 points. Oh.
New leftfielder Khris Davis got a big contract, tried to prove he deserved it, failed, re-discovered the opposite field, began to hit, then stopped -two hits in 18 at-bats, then started again -five hits in 13 at-bats against Boston.
And Rich Hill! Who? Why, Rich Hill of course: 2.39 ERA, 46 strikeouts in seven starts. You know, Rich Hill!
Maybe Hill should hit, too. Because designated hitter Billy Butler isn’t. Anybody who thought Butler was going to hit home runs was self-medicating with too much Sticky Purple Kush Daddy Wombat. Butler’s hitting like a butler -or a pudgy, right-handed, Final-Season Wade Boggs -five doubles, .212 batting average, 0 home runs.
Thank God for Burns. He’s solid and looks like a cornerstone for the franchise…until he gets traded.
As for the fourth outfield position, Coco Crisp continues to take bats away from…um…oh, wait, there aren’t any better options!?!
Not really. Chris Coghlan’s hitting .180 and Mark Canha’s out. So is Sam Fuld -not that Fuld is an answer to any question requiring a positive, long-term answer.
Reddick’s fantastic. He’s raised his game another level. We’ll see how long before he gets traded.
Regardless, he won’t stay this hot forever. However, his improvement, along with Valencia and Hill and a solid up-the-middle defense and the middle relief corps give hardcore A’s fans reason to hope this team can still turn things around.
Oh yeah, and the Angels and Astros suck even worse and they’re in the same division! Woooooo!
So, maybe there’s still hope. I guess panic never solved anything, but solutions did -duh- and we need some of those now. We need a plan. Now.
Let’s start with pitching coach Curt Young. “Wait!” You puff. “Your plan starts with Curt Young? Oh, God.”
It does and get a hold of yourself. He needs to get the pitching staff and catchers Vogt and Phegley to do a better job calling pitches and attacking hitters and pitching off the previous pitch. They’re not doing it now, or the starters’ stuff is so awful it just doesn’t look like they are.
We need Semien and Butler to shorten their strokes and Davis to be just a little selective at the plate…just a little. Three walks vs 34 strikeouts? C’mon, man.
Oh, and we need Reddick and Valencia to go on hitting .320 for the rest of the year. Oh, and middle relief has to stay really good.
That wasn’t so hard, right? That’s a good plan, man. Now, let’s go out and execute. OK, maybe a bad choice of words. Let’s go to it! That’s better.
No reason to panic. Honest. Now, take a big, deep breath…and exhale.