Tonight marks the 87th annual All-Star Game between the American League and the National League. It also is the unofficial sign of the middle of the baseball season. For some teams, they go into the break looking at a bright future and getting some well needed rest before attempting to make a late season run to the playoffs. For others, it’s a well needed break from the poor start. Unfortunately, the A’s fall into the latter category this season.
Stephen Vogt is the only player Oakland will send to the Midsummer Classic, and it’s probably only because every team is required to send at least one participant.
The A’s take a 38-51 record into the break. They are not last in their division, but the Angels are only a game behind them and the A’s are 15.5 behind the Rangers already. They are also 12 back in the Wild Card at the break. If Oakland was to make the playoffs this season, they would need to go on a run that makes the 20 game winning streak of 2002 seem like child’s play, while having half of the American League fall off the wagon.
A lot of the A’s problems can be explained through injuries the first half of the season (although their cross bay rivals are kind of putting that argument to rest). The A’s currently have 11 players on the disabled list, 4 of which won’t be back this year at all and 4 others that are out indefinitely. Although Josh Reddick is back and healthy finally, another player that was supposed to come back had a setback.
Henderson Alvarez was finally cleared to start throwing from a shoulder surgery he had in July of last year, but was set down after suffering a setback in June. He met with Dr. James Andrews at the end of June to see how to proceed. Anyone that follows sports knows that when Dr. James Andrews’ name comes up it’s never a good thing.
To add on to that, the A’s haven’t played great defense this season. For the past two seasons the A’s have led the league in errors (Donaldson and Semien). This year, Semien has improved, but Danny Valencia is currently tied with three others for the lead in the American League. In one of the games before the All Star Break against the Astros the A’s committed four errors, allowing Houston to walk off.
Even when the A’s play okay defense, the pitching hasn’t been there this season. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson have both struggled in the closer role, Sonny Gray has looked nothing like his 2015 All-Star season, and the A’s have yet to pitch a complete game in 2016. They rank near last in the American League in every pitching category, save earned runs, but that again shines the light on their poor defense.
When the A’s pitching and defense finally gets them into the dugout, things haven’t gone much better. They rank near the bottom in every offensive category as well. Some of this can be attributed to the stadium they play in, which has large dimensions and a huge foul territory that cause a lot of outs that would be foul balls into the stands in every other ballpark in the big leagues. Oakland is 12th in the American League in home runs with 90, 18 below the league average this season. They’re also 12th in average at .251. At least that is only 9 points under the average of .260. And since the A’s are the most sabermetrically driven team in sports, let’s take a look at their OPS. They are dead last in the American League in that category. So a team built just for sabermetrics is failing in one of the most important categories.
It hasn’t been one thing, but a combination of a bunch of things going wrong for Oakland this season. It will be hard to make a second half push when they need so many things to turn around. It may be time to throw in the towel and let the kids play while the A’s try to regain relevance in 2017. The silver lining here is there’s pretty much only one way to go.