Series Preview: For Whom The Schedule Tolls
Image courtesy of © Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY SportsBrief Overview:
The A’s came into the season fresh off a wild card loss and as usual, had a somewhat quiet off-season that was more shuffling cards than anything. Because they play in the AL West with the Astros, many wrote off a division title as impossible, but they currently are in striking distance of first place and now actually have a better run differential than the Astros (this could change if the Astros blow out the Angels this Wednesday night but you get the point). They are hot and they are ready to play any team in baseball.
What They Do Well:
This is an offense that refuses to strike out as their team K% is the third lowest in baseball at 20.0%. Legendary tweeter, Trevor Plouffe, struck out 20.0% of the time with the Twins for reference. As a whole, their offense is ninth in baseball with a Shannon Stewart wRC+ of 105 that has been a Michael Cuddyer 110 since the beginning of June. So this is an offense that does not strike out easily and will hit well.
They also hold the second-best bullpen fWAR in baseball with a 4.4 mark. This comes from a 3.93 FIP that suggest that everything is fine but a 4.82 xFIP says otherwise. The difference is that xFIP is adjusted for home run per fly ball rate and Oakland’s bullpen’s HR/FB rate is at an astonishing low 9.3% (which is also Scott Baker’s HR/FB %). No other team in baseball has a number lower than 12.2% so either the Oakland relievers have found the secret for not giving up homers (unlikely) or there should be some regression coming in that field (oh, hell yes).
What They Do Not Do Well:
In an era of strikeouts, the Oakland A’s have been hipsters as their starting rotation holds the lowest team K/9 at a hilariously low 6.85 K/9. Freaking Jose Mijares had a higher K/9, what in the world. They also lost their best starter and strikeout artist in Frankie Montas thanks to an 80-game PED suspension, so expect their starting pitchers to be a rarely used frozen yogurt card and not punch out much. This also comes with the second lowest starting rotation BABIP and a FIP higher than their ERA, so there could be some regression ready for the Twins offense to take advantage of.
That’s actually pretty much it, their rotation is a bit sketchy but they have a great offense and a (currently) pretty damn good bullpen, a well-rounded team indeed.
Individuals Of Note:
The best star who is not talked about enough, Matt Chapman, is on his way to having another elite season. Dating back to the beginning of 2018, only one 3rd baseman has more fWAR (Alex Bregman) and he ranks fifth in all of baseball with a 10.7 mark. This year, he has improved even more as he has struck out less, walked more, hit for a higher average, raised his OBP, and is hitting for a higher slugging %. Oh, and he still has elite defense, good lord what a player.
Marcus Semien has quietly been one of the best shortstops in all of baseball this year as his 3.5 fWAR mark is only behind Xander Bogaerts for all full-time shortstops in baseball. Much like Chapman, Semien has improved in basically every facet of his offensive game while also putting up great defensive numbers, making the left side of Oakland’s infield pretty good.
Now, you know there is a giant elephant in the room as I move to the pitching side of things. I don’t want to talk about it as much as you don’t want to read about it but they pay me the big bucks here at Twins Daily to deliver what needs to be heard. So with a heavy heart, I must talk about the fact that Liam “literally Liam Hendriks” Hendriks is having a great season where he participated in the All-Star game. He is second in all of baseball in reliever fWAR and his average fastball velocity is 95.8 (it never was above 92 for the Twins). He has been the best reliever in the Oakland pen which can only prove that we all know nothing and are frauds (but you already knew this).
If you held a gun to my head and asked me to name three or more starters from the A’s, well first I would wonder why you are demanding such a specific thing from me, but ultimately I would probably accidentally say “Mark Mulder” and then not survive. So to aid you, the reader, in case you find yourself in this situation, let’s get to know Chris Bassitt. Bassitt is currently throwing harder than ever with an average fastball velo of 93.4 MPH and the result has been almost a full jump in K/9 (7.74 in 2018, 8.71 in 2019). His 3.98 ERA reflects his other positive movements but his FIP of 4.42 does suggest some regression. Bassitt is set to start one of the games this series so you can use this knowledge when he is on the mound.
The Twins played a three-game series in Oakland starting on July 2 and lost two of three. The lone win came in extra innings and Oakland solidly outplayed them then.
The Twins are just 6-8 over their last five series while the A’s are 12-3 over their last five series.
The Twins haven’t played well recently which I’m going to assume is something that everyone here knows, while the A’s have been absolutely on fire. Throw in the recent hot streak from the Indians, and this now becomes an important and difficult series for the Twins. They’ll need a split at the very worst to tread water and anything worse will put them in immediate danger of dropping out of first. I predict that they will split the series and I have been a perfect 4-for-4 in my predictions so far so you can take this to the bank.
- Mike Frasier Law, mikelink45, Dave The Dastardly and 1 other like this