The 2015 Oakland Athletics have been betrayed by a bad bullpen, and with a 54-71 record heading into the last week of August, the team has 37 games left on its schedule. The A’s have the worst record in the American League, although there are six National League teams playing worse baseball than Oakland. Most individual players on bad teams are thinking about 2016 already, trying to make an impression with what little time left they have this season.
Where does that leave the A’s as a team? They are 15 games out of first in the AL West and 11 games out of a playoff spot. Barring a miraculous 37-0 finish to the season, Oakland will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011. A 14-25 record with a 4.58 ERA from the relief corps have seen to that. The bullpen was at it again on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays (and Sunday, too, actually), blowing a potential win in the late innings. Even when the A’s put their “best” out there, no opponent fears the Oakland relievers.
Tampa Bay was 0-49 this year when trailing after eight innings entering Saturday’s game: Leave it to Oakland to give a game like that away. If it wasn’t for a seven-run seventh inning by the A’s on Sunday, the bullpen would have another loss on its slate.
As the A’s prepare to face the Seattle Mariners tonight on the road, there are only two award candidates on the roster: potential Cy Young Award winner Sonny Gray and potential Rookie of the Year Award winner Billy Burns. Both will be long shots due to Oakland’s also-ran status in 2015. Gray leads all AL pitchers in Wins Above Replacement currently, with Houston Astros starter Dallas Keuchel close behind. Meanwhile, Burns is the only rookie hitter in the league currently with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title; his 24 stolen bases are a nice example of his impact on the game, too.
Everyone else, as noted, is just trying to make sure they impress enough to be on the 2016 roster come Opening Day next April. For Kendall Graveman, however, his season may be done: the 24-year-old righty finished his rookie season with a 6-9 record and a 4.05 ERA after being put on the disabled list today with an oblique strain. Others—like Mark Canha—are just getting started: the first baseman/outfielder has a .746 OPS (and climbing) in 89 games this year, and he has flashed a potent bat at times in 2015.
The A’s trail the Mariners in the AL West by 3.5 games, somehow, despite having a run-scoring differential that is 103 runs better. Blame the bullpen again, of course. With that “worst record in the AL” label, Oakland would be in line for a better draft position next year, but that’s not a team’s motivation: The A’s still want to win games. They are just 3-7 against the Mariners in 2015 despite outscoring them, 43-39, in those 10 games.