Sometimes you wonder if the 2015 Oakland Athletics should have conducted open tryouts for their bullpen (and the rotation in the final two months of the season). After all, surely anyone could be better than the bums the A’s have been running out on the mound to lose game after game this year, right? This reality was once again on display this weekend at the O.co Coliseum as Oakland finished its 2015 home schedule with a thud.
Sonny Gray provided the only bright spot in the final three games for the A’s as he won his 14th game of the season on Friday night in a 5-4 victory. The Oakland bullpen had blown six wins for Gray already this year, and it looked like they would blow another. But Sean Doolittle got the final four testy outs to preserve the win for the A’s and Gray. That would be the highlight of the weekend for the Oakland pitching staff.
On Saturday, the A’s fell behind 4-0 early as Barry Zito got a ceremonial final MLB start in an Oakland uniform. The team battled back to take an 8-4 lead by the third inning, but the bullpen coughed up 10 runs combined in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to lose the game, 14-10. Like so many games this season, it didn’t matter who Manager Bob Melvin brought into the game: They stunk. This is why the A’s are dead last this season in save conversions.
Today, the A’s fell behind 5-0 by the third inning. When the team starts so many games in so many deep holes, it truly impacts the offense’s ability to come back. Alas, Oakland suffered its 33rd one-run loss of the year to close the home schedule out on a down note. Overall, the A’s finished 34-47 at home this year, the worst home record in the major leagues (currently).
Looking at the Oakland season, the team has lost 22 games it led at the start of the sixth inning, and while that kind of lead is by no means automatic, 22 blown leads is a lot. In games the A’s led entering the seventh inning, they’ve lost 12 games. What’s worse is that the repeated bullpen failures have impacted the offense’s psyche: Oakland has just five wins in games it trailed entering the seventh.
Oakland was sixth in the majors prior to the All-Star break in terms of team ERA (3.37), but since then, the A’s have sunk themselves with a 5.17 ERA (before today’s game). Some of that came from trading away starter Scott Kazmir and closer Tyler Clippard in late July, creating holes in the staff that have since been filled by very bad pitchers. However, a lot of it has just been poor coaching, effort and management. It’s hard for any team to be motivated when your general manager sells players out from underneath you.
Billy Beane was right to do so, but the aftermath has been ugly as the A’s are having their worst season in almost 20 years—coming off three straight American League playoff appearances, no less. Going from first to worst, so to speak, is crushing for any team and its fan base. That’s what 2015 has been all about for Oakland.
Will it get better in 2016? Only time will tell, but we all know it can’t get much worse than it was this year at the Coliseum. Good riddance!