While second base in 2015 was a tale of three guys for the Oakland Athletics, there was just one primary shortstop for the A’s last season—and Marcus Semien was quite a polarizing figure. Fans either hated him or they put up with him, and very few loved him. The former Cal standout struggling a bit in his first full MLB season at the position, but he got better as the year went on.
The first part of looking forward to 2016 is assessing the season that just ended, and we’re now going over the team’s results, position by position. That’s 11 articles in the 11 days, finishing before the end of the World Series and by the opening of free agency. By Halloween, you’ll know exactly what the A’s need for 2016. We promise. We’ve looked at catcher, first base and second already this week, and now we move on to the toughest position in the infield.
Remember, Billy Beane is no longer the Oakland general manager: That role is now David Forst’s to fill, as Beane was promoted to Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations at the end of the team’s worst season since 1997. It will be up to Forst now to see if he can get the A’s that elusive 10th World Series title that has haunted the team over its last 10 playoffs appearances since the 1989 MLB championship.
A’s shortstops finished ninth in runs scored among American League teams in 2015 and eighth in OPS. However, Oakland shortstops hit 16 home runs, which was third best in the AL. Defense was another story, though, as the A’s were dead last in the position, committing 36 errors and posting a disastrous .950 fielding percentage.
Semien was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Jeff Samardzija last winter, and he was immediately asked to play a position he had never played regularly in the majors. He struggled from Opening Day on. Semien’s errors may have cost the A’s some runs and some ball games, but he wasn’t alone in terms of his defensive shortcomings on the 2015 Oakland roster, obviously.
He played 151 games at the position last year, and surprising to most, Semien posted a 2.7 Wins Above Replacement value in 2015, which was eighth best in the majors among shortstops—and sixth best on the A’s roster as a whole. In fact, his defensive WAR was actually among the best in the AL, despite the errors! In addition, Semien made only three errors in September, which is a significantly better rate than we would expect from someone who finished dead last in fielding. Better yet, Semien committed only seven errors after the All-Star break—an even better rate than his September one.
Going forward, Semien should continue to improve with the added guidance of Ron Washington on staff, and the A’s have an affordable and productive shortstop solution for a few years to come. All the fans have to do is forget the first half of 2015 and realize just how good Semien might become in 2016 and beyond. That may take some time, of course.