Obviously it is not time to panic. No, it’s only been seven scheduled ballgames. At this point the Oakland Athletics have won two out of the five games that they have actually played, out of the six that have been scheduled and with their ace 24-year old Sonny Gray on the mound there’s a decent chance they can emerge out of the first seven days of play with three wins and three losses. In a week, I’d call that unscathed. There was a rain out that turned into a double header and the next day a 12-inning marathon that ended in a 3-2 win. Then another game was canceled due to weather. So, like I said, no time to panic …
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Ok, so why is everyone panicking and what can be done to quell the nervousness that is surrounding what should be a strong team? Problem number one: closer Jim Johnson who was acquired from the Orioles this off season. There are lots of issues with this. The A’s gave up relatively nothing in Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later, who ended up being catcher David Freitas. They did, however, take on the $10 million a year that Johnson makes and with a budget like Oakland’s he’s a player they are going to have to work with. So far he is responsible for two of the A’s losses. Letting what should have been an easy 9th inning where the A’s had the lead turn into a complete nightmare. And it’s not the type of nightmare where he gave up home runs. There were hits, there were walks and both blown saves were far from pretty. The fans are already up in arms with two arguments or complaints for Oakland’s general manager Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin. The first is why didn’t the club keep their closer of the last two years who was let go to free agency when they could have afforded him? The second is why don’t they demote Johnson from closer and demote him now? As I mentioned panic has begun to set in in Oakland.
The other major is a HUGE lack of offense. When Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin both went down, Parker to season ending Tommy John surgery, everyone suspected that the A’s problem would be their starting pitching. Personally, I barely even flinched. I put more stock in Gray, Dan Straily and now that I have seen him pitch Scott Kazmir than either Parker or Griffin. Parker can be effective, so can Griffin but neither are entirely as consistent as I’d like and Griffin’s propensity for giving up home runs is quite staggering. Not shockingly, at least to me, is that the starting pitching and relief pitching by every pitcher but Johnson has been great. Collectively the A’s entire staff has an ERA of 2.44 which is pretty good considering Johnson’s alone is 22.00. The collective batting average of the team? .214. They aren’t letting teams score runs they are just not scoring any and the deficits in their lineup are not the ones you’d expect.
There are already some easy changes that could be made that would benefit the club. They have enough depth at almost every positions to correct these issues. Some may find them my suggestion bold, others may see them as obvious. However you see them, here is my take on five ways the A’s can easily improve their two key issues: offense and the closer situation.