The 2015 Oakland Athletics currently have a six-game losing streak, mostly because the bullpen is faulty. This isn’t news: The A’s relievers have been a joke for most of the season. Some of us predicted this in the first week of the season, and the reality is that the Oakland brass just haven’t addressed the problem with any sort of focus that management should have—and if management did focus on it, the failure has been catastrophic. We’ve come to expect more from this front office that has often done so much with so little.
When reliever Dan Otero was left in Sunday’s game against Baltimore to give up eight runs in just 1 1/3 innings, we have to wonder why Otero is even on the roster at this point in the season—when it was very clear in mid-April that the guy has no ability to get out major-league hitters with any reliability. General Manager Billy Beane doesn’t have anyone better than that in the A’s farm system? That is hard to believe. Toss in more bullpen losses for Oakland this week, and it’s just mystifying that the best GM in MLB can’t put together a quality bullpen.
The A’s relievers are 12-24 this year with a 4.55 ERA overall and 20 saves. Let’s break these numbers down, succinctly, to examine just how self-destructive the bullpen has been for Oakland in 2015:
- The bullpen win percentage (.333) is the worst in MLB;
- The ERA is 28th in MLB, out of 30 teams;
- The 20 saves are the worst in MLB;
- The 18 blown saves are the second-worst number in MLB;
- The save percentage (52.63%) is the worst in MLB;
- The 45 home runs surrendered are the fourth-worst mark in MLB.
We could go on, but what’s the point? Time and time again, this bullpen has killed the A’s in 2015. Beane has left his field manager hanging out to dry this year with a pathetic collection of arms that have proven repeatedly they don’t belong in the majors. Poor Bob Melvin has tried, and almost everything he has tried to do with the bullpen has gone wrong. Sure, some of this results from the absence of nominal closer Sean Doolittle, who has pitched in one game this year,
However, again, we expect a guy like Beane to procure talent where no one else can find it, and he’s failed in 2015 to do that. All he did really was trade for Edward Mujica—a guy who used to be good but has fallen off a cliff, performance-wise, since saving 37 games for the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals in 2013. Even so, Mujica is probably “better” than the other guys the A’s have thrown out there this season. Here’s a fun sampling of the Oakland relievers this season:
- The aforementioned Otero: 34 innings, 7.68 ERA. The veteran righty gave up 50 hits in those 34 innings while being sent back and forth to the minors all season. He should have stayed down in the minors or been given his outright release;
- The aforementioned Mujica: Boston traded him and his 4.61 ERA to the A’s, and he’s just been worse in Oakland (5.64 ERA in 22 innings, including six HRs allowed). His ERA in St. Louis two years ago registered at just 2.78 overall. Thus, the only significant move Beane made to improve the bullpen actually made the problem more drastic;
- Veteran lefty Eric O’Flaherty: The A’s signed him for 2014 coming off Tommy John surgery, and he just never made the comeback to return to his pre-surgery levels (1.99 ERA in five years with the Atlanta Braves). In 21 1/3 innings with Oakland, he posted a 5.91 ERA. O’Flaherty is now pitching for the New York Mets;
- Arnold Leon: Like Otero, he’s been shuttled up and down all season, for no purpose. He’s terrible. In 12 2/3 innings, Leon gave the A’s a 5.68 ERA.
Admittedly, the top-five group of Oakland relievers doesn’t look so bad on paper: Tyler Clippard (2.79 ERA), Drew Pomeranz (2.33 ERA as a reliever), Evan Scribner (3.81 ERA), Fernando Rodriguez (3.76 ERA) and Fernando Abad (3.51 ERA). Of course, Clippard has been traded to the Mets, but the other four remain. The ERAs aren’t bad, but the group has had strange meltdowns all season which have contributed to that piss-poor save percentage noted above.
To wit, Scribner has coughed up 11 HRs in just 54 1/3 innings, while Abad has given up seven dingers in just 33 1/3 innings: The long ball has killed this group. Rodriguez has the best numbers, by far, but he’s been really unlucky: He gives up just 6.6 hits per nine innings while striking out 11.5 batters per nine. Yes, he walks guys (3.3 per nine), and it seems they’ve all scored on him to saddle him with that 3.76 ERA. Even Pomeranz has had his meltdowns—see July 29 against the Los Angeles Dodgers when he couldn’t get anyone out and gave up three runs in a 10-7 loss. The lefty has talent, and he has been very flexible for Melvin’s needs this year.
Long-term, you’d think these four have potential, and they might improve enough for 2016 to give the A’s a stellar back end if Doolittle can return to close effectively. However, they’ve been very frustrating in 2015, and Beane just hasn’t been able to get Melvin any more help—and Melvin’s staff hasn’t been able to work effectively enough with this core group to get them to improve this season, either.
All in all, it’s been a disaster for the A’s this year, and it’s a bloody mystery why the braintrust of Beane & Melvin couldn’t figure it out. We’ve come to expect more from these guys after three straight American League postseason appearances, and they let us down this year, thoroughly.