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Oakland A’s Series Preview: They’ve torn it down and their record shows it

They are in full rebuild mode and likely only going to get worse once they sell off the rest of their good players.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Guardians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s finished under .500 every year from 1993 to 1998. Leading into the final year of that stretch, Billy Beane was promoted to become the team’s general manager and they had a winning season in 1999. They didn’t have another losing season until 2007 and from that year through 2011, their best season was an 81-81 finish. Then they had three winning seasons in a row before the greatest game I’ve personally ever attended, the 2014 Wild Card Game, knocked them out of the playoffs and then they had three losing seasons in a row before winning posting two straight 97-65 seasons and then a 36-24 season that prorated to 97-65. Last year, they went 86-76. Instead of trying to squeeze one last hurrah out of a group that could have easily competed for the postseason in an expanded field, the A’s opted to restock the cupboards and made some moves. They traded Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea. They made no effort to resign Mark Canha, Starling Marte and a few others. They went into full rebuild. Though they do still have Frankie Montas, but I’d imagine he’s gone in the next two months as well.

And what they’re left with is kind of a ragtag bunch. Offensively, they aren’t young. They’re playing five or six guys who are 30 or older pretty regularly. The only truly young player on the offensive side is Cristian Pache, who looks the part but just hasn’t hit yet. They skew a little younger on the pitching staff, but not much. And their top three starters have been generally quite good. As I mentioned, one is almost assuredly gone by the deadline and the other two might be as well given their proclivity for selling high. The bullpen has had its struggles. So this is a team that can’t really hit much, gets good starts in three out of every five games but struggles a bit to close the door. But they’ve got a plan, and that’s admirable because we’re here watching a team that doesn’t seem to know their direction.

Royals vs. A’s Matchup Stats

Category Royals A's
Category Royals A's
Winning % .339 .338
Team wRC+ 90 79
Team xFIP 4.73 4.24
Run Differential -93 -91
Highest fWAR Bobby Witt Jr., 1.6 Paul Blackburn, 1.7

A’s Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Tony Kemp 2B 234 .234 .313 .283 9.0% 13.2% 81 0.4
Ramon Laureano CF 139 .250 .331 .371 8.6% 18.7% 110 0.9
Christian Bethancourt 1B 139 .260 .297 .427 4.3% 22.3% 111 0.9
Seth Brown RF 208 .205 .269 .411 7.7% 27.4% 95 0.5
Chad Pinder LF 170 .248 .278 .304 4.1% 33.5% 95 0.1
Elvis Andrus SS 219 .224 .288 .348 7.8% 14.2% 88 0.3
Stephen Vogt DH 35 .167 .286 .467 11.4% 28.6% 120 0.1
Sean Murphy C 238 .208 .286 .387 8.0% 25.2% 96 1.5
Jonah Bride 3B 10 .300 .300 .300 0.0% 0.0% 76 0.0

A’s Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Jed Lowrie INF 151 .207 .278 .304 9.3% 19.9% 73 -0.4
Matt Davidson 1B/3B 35 .156 .229 .344 8.6% 31.4% 63 0.0
Luis Barrera OF 77 .217 .286 .319 7.8% 18.2% 80 0.0
Cristian Pache OF 188 .164 .209 .232 5.3% 25.0% 29 -0.8

A’s Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Dany Jimenez 25 24.1 2 4 21.2% 11.5% 4.44 4.54 0.3
A.J. Puk 23 27.1 1 0 23.1% 4.6% 1.65 3.14 0.3
Zach Jackson 27 25.1 1 1 33.6% 16.8% 3.55 3.64 0.5

Royals vs. A’s Probable Pitchers

June 17 - LHP Daniel Lynch vs. RHP Frankie Montas, 8:40pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Daniel Lynch 11 54.0 2 6 20.2% 9.3% 5.50 4.78 0.2
Frankie Montas 13 76.2 3 6 26.1% 5.6% 3.40 2.95 1.7

Note: This might end up being Zack Greinke, but we just don’t know yet. I’ll update this if it ends up being him.

There was a time when Daniel Lynch was the guy Royals fans could pin hopes on. You might recall Dayton Moore adamantly proclaiming him as the success story for Cal Eldred. Since then, he’s made five starts spanning 24 innings. He has an ERA of 8.25 in those starts. That’s not good. He’s been hit hard with a .340/.393/.553 line against him. His slider, which is a swing and miss pitch for him, has been a huge problem in that time. He’s allowed a .297 average and .568 SLG on it, which is pretty unexpected. His fastball, which was kind of his problem pitch last year and even earlier this year when he’s struggled has been hit a fair amount with a .324 average against it, but he’s only allowed a .351 SLG on it since his downturn. He’s also had his changeup hit around, so I guess I’m not entirely sure where he should turn. Looking at his heat maps on his slider, he just isn’t commanding it like he did. Prior to this, his slider ended up on the lower glove-side corner of the plate so often. Now, it’s all over the place, including spending way too much time in the middle. If he can get his slider in order, his changeup will likely follow suit and maybe the increased ability to hold off extra base hits on the fastball will help him to take that next step, but it’s tough to see right now.

Career vs. A’s: 1 GS, 2.0 IP, 0-1, 4.50 ERA

There was a moment in time when Montas seemed destined to become a member of the Royals rotation. It didn’t last long, but the Royals were reported to be in on him around the time they signed Zack Greinke. Obviously it didn’t happen as the A’s asking price for him was pretty high (and rightfully so). And now he’s having a very nice season for a bad team, just biding his time until he ends up somewhere like LA or maybe even Cleveland. His pitch mix is generally the same as last year, but he’s made some small changes. He threw his sinker about 29 percent of the time last year. That’s down to 23 percent this year. He’s thrown his four-seamer and his splitter an equal amount of the time and both have been super effective for him. While he’s still been good against lefties, he’s handled righties even better. The one big split difference you can see is that he’s been outstanding at home and actually pretty well below average on the road. Of course, this is at home for him, so the Royals aren’t so lucky.

Career vs. Royals: 5 G, 4 GS, 26.1 IP, 2-1, 3.08 ERA

June 18 - RHP Brad Keller vs. LHP Cole Irvin, 3:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 8 22.2 0 3 16.1% 14.3% 9.13 5.19 -0.4
Cole Irvin 10 56.2 2 3 15.7% 5.5% 3.34 4.32 0.4

Another one-time Eldred success story, Brad Keller has fallen on hard times recently with none harder than his last outing against the Orioles where he couldn’t get out of the second inning. After a great start against the Cardinals in early May, the wheels have kind of fallen off for him, though generally pretty slowly. He has a 7.23 ERA in his last seven starts, but up until Sunday, he was at least giving the Royals some innings. His walks aren’t out of control, but his strikeouts, or lack of them, has been a problem. That was what was kind of weird about his game against Baltimore because he got five outs and four strikeouts. He’s just being hit and hit hard, which is sort of what has set him apart from the rest when he’s going good. He just doesn’t get hit hard. From my perspective, his slider is kind of the issue, similar to Lynch. It’s just not right because when it’s right, it can be a very effective pitch, but opponents are hitting .296 with a .500 SLG on it. If he can get that back to where it was earlier in the year, he can get back on track.

Career vs. A’s: 2 GS, 6.2 IP, 0-1, 9.45 ERA

Sometimes pitchers like Cole Irvin just take a little extra time. He throws a sinker, four-seam fastball, changeup and curve and nothing is harder than roughly 93 with his fastballs actually sitting 89-92 generally. He was purchased by the A’s prior to the 2021 season and was solid for them last year while he’s put up very good numbers this season, though the peripherals indicate maybe he’s in for some regression. His fastball has to be extremely maddening for hitters because there’s nothing terribly fancy about it. He throws it in the zone and challenges them. But even though he has a .463 xSLG allowed, hitters only have a .377 SLG. The discrepancy on his sinker is similar and actually has an even bigger gap with a .521 xSLG and a .328 actual SLG. The pitch hitters have done actual damage on is his curve, so the Royals should be on the lookout for that. That curve is why righties have done damage on him compared to lefties. Like Montas, he has been much better at home, which, again, doesn’t bode especially well for the Royals.

Career vs. Royals: 2 GS, 13.0 IP, 1-0, 1.38 ERA

June 19 - RHP Brady Singer vs. LHP Jared Koenig, 3:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brady Singer 9 40.1 3 1 24.1% 5.4% 4.24 3.13 0.4
Jared Koenig 2 8.0 0 2 14.3% 9.5% 11.25 5.89 -0.2

Brady Singer is coming off one of the weirder starts I think I’ve seen. He was dominant for 2.2 innings against the Giants, looking like he had no-hit stuff. Then he gave up an excuse-me double to the number nine hitter and walked the next four hitters, throwing just three called strikes in the process. But then he came back in the fourth and fifth and threw 29 pitches with just one hit allowed and that one hit was a weird double. I have no clue what happened. The bad news for the Royals is they will never know either due to their incompetence on the coaching staff, but the good news is that he got himself back on track and ended up having a decent and bizarre start. He did get back to throwing his changeup against a lefty heavy lineup, and I’m convinced that if he didn’t completely lose the zone in the third that he would have had another six or seven great innings similar to those first couple starts he had when he returned to the big leagues.

Career vs. A’s: 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 0-0, 4.50 ERA

Jared Koenig was a 35th round pick of the Chicago White Sox way back in 2014 and was signed as a minor league free agent by the A’s in January of 2020. He never signed with the White Sox because the bonus they gave to Carlos Rodon made it so they couldn’t sign many of their later-round picks. His entire professional career before signing with the A’s was actually in Independent League ball where he was generally fine. But he was good in AA last year and then in AAA this year to start the season, so here is, getting starts for one of the worst teams in baseball. But the time off in 2020 led him to develop a new cutter that’s helped him get to this spot. He throws a sinker, curve, that cutter and a changeup. He can run his velocity up 93 or so, but he generally lives in the upper-80s, though he is adept at changing speeds on that sinker to make it look like some different pitches. This is the type of pitcher who has historically dominated the Royals, even when they were good. He does have a reverse platoon split, so maybe MJ Melendez can do some damage against him and help reverse that trend.

Career vs. Royals: First Appearance

Royals vs. A’s Prediction

I honestly have no idea. When two terrible teams get together, it can be some of the most entertainingly bad baseball you’ll ever see. But the games can truly go either way. I think I’m going to be optimistic and say the Royals can take two of three, but I have no basis at all for this.

SB Nation has partnered with DraftKings to sponsor select series previews this season. Here are the betting odds for this series.


In a battle of garbage baseball teams, how many games can the Royals win?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Oakland is TERRIBLE. The Royals will win all three.
    (9 votes)
  • 36%
    Oakland may be TERRIBLE, but the Royals are only slightly less so. They’ll win two of three.
    (55 votes)
  • 49%
    Oakland is TERRIBLE, but the Royals are worse. They’ll take one of three.
    (74 votes)
  • 8%
    Oakland is TERRIBLE, but the Royals are SUB-TERRIBLE and will get swept.
    (12 votes)
150 votes total Vote Now