2016 Record: 69-93
2016 Finish: 25th in the MLB, 13th in AL
2016 in Review
The Oakland A’s have now finished last in the AL West two years in a row. This is not an easy task considering how much of a disappointment the AL West has been in past years. The Athletics have become famous for their low payroll and lack of star power. Known for their ability to find players for specific needs as well as specific skill sets, the Athletics always seem to be teetering on the edge of an AAAA team and well-constructed ball club. This year was no different. What we saw from Oakland was the opposite of their usual “look at how well these guys are doing!” years, it was more of the “this is what I should have expected” kind of year.
Scoring the AL lowest 4.03 runs a game, the A’s found themselves struggling on the field and getting on the field. Injuries everywhere hampered the performance of Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn, Sam Fuld, Mark Canha, JedLowrie, Josh Phegley, Sean Manea, etc. You get the idea. Oakland was suffering. When the trade deadline came around even Sonny Gray’s name was tossed around, that’s how dire things were for the A’s.
Things just didn’t go Oakland’s way in 2016, but if there’s any team where that wouldn’t be a terrible thing, it’s the A’s. Lots of things went right for Oakland! They got some great prospects at the deadline and they seem to be setting themselves up for a success in the future. Also in the Athletics future is a new ballpark. The new A’s ownership put forth the search for a new area to build a ballpark, this news also coming on the heels of the Raiders rumors that they would like to move to Las Vegas. Big things are happening in Oakland, and with this new ownership renewing their desire to see a winning team in Oakland the bumpy ride of 2016 will smooth over soon.
When the A’s finalized a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers for Khris Davis this past offseason, no one thought much of it. It seemed like a roster move, considering that the Brewers have a log jam of Outfielders in their minor league system. So Davis comes to Oakland, and he explodes offensively. Khris Davis launched 41 home runs into orbit this past season, after only hitting 27 last year. Davis also drove in 103 RBIs, 27 more than the next A’s player. Khris Davis wasn’t supposed to put up those kinds of numbers and if he was he’d still be in Milwaukee. Ryan Braun didn’t even reach the 100 RBI threshold, so why did the Brewers give him up for two prospects? I’m gonna guess that they didn’t know what they had, or else why would Kirk Nieuwenhuis start 125 games this year? Oakland just happened to fall into having a Ryan Braun type hitter, and all it took was 2 prospects.
Sonny Gray. Flat out. All day. Sonny Gray. First things first, Gray spent a lot of the year on the DL. So that’s disappointing by itself. Missing a third of the season is the worst, but when it’s a young pitcher who succumbs to injury it’s disappointing to everyone involved. What’s even more disappointing is what Gray managed to do while he wasn’t on the DL. Sonny Gray started 22 games in 2016, winning only 5. Even with his fewest starts since 2013, hitters took advantage of Gray off year. More home runs were hit off him in 2016 than any other year, and hitters put up similar numbers to his previous seasons. Remember, Sonny Gray only pitched 22 games, and still had the same offensive totals as a full season. That’s not great.
The number that stands out to me when looking at Sonny Gray’s 2016 is his Walks per 9 innings. In 2016, there’s a spike and it jumps up higher than it’s ever been, from 2.6 to 3.2. Now, this may seem small, but this the key to defining Gray’s 2016. Sonny Gray has been known for his control and has relied on his four-seam fastball, his curveball, and his slider to fool hitters. If you lose that touch needed to throw a fastball, or a slider that really moves, you’re throwing batting practice. In his final start of last season, Gray lasted 18 pitches in an outing against the Angels. 13 of his 18 pitches were strikes and he mainly threw his two-seam and his four-seam, showing a lack of reliance on his pitches that move. That’s what Sonny lacked all year, movement, both from his pitchers and movement off the DL.
Rajai Davis, Trevor Plouffe, Santiago Casilla, and Matt Joyce have all been signed on for the 2017 and while 3/4 of those guys seem like they need baseball rehab, Plouffe may be an excellent fit for Oakland. The interesting about Oakland is that while they are still playing for a playoff spot, a player could treat a season with Oakland as a season-long showcase. If Trevor Plouffe has a good year or two in Oakland, he’ll get traded or sign a big contract. It’s that simple. Rich Hill was making $2,000 a month a year and a half ago, since signing with Oakland he’s signed a 3-year, $48 million dollar deal with Los Angeles. Quite a long way from $2K a month. That’s the Oakland magic touch at work.
Regardless of what happens with the new arrivals, the A’s have to stay healthy. The way the A’s build their rosters, you need guys to exceed expectations year in and year out. The potential rotation for 2017 has the potential to be like the young gun rotations of the Mets and Cubs. The trade of Rich Hill and Josh Reddick brought the A’s three pitching prospects the most intriguing being Jharel Cotton. This guy is no joke. Kendall Graveman was on point in 2017, and Sean Manea showed a lot of potential for a first-year player. There’s potential in Oakland, but there always seems to be.