In 2011, American League teams were shut out 11 times on average. That’s roughly one every 15 games. The Oakland Athletics were slightly above the median, however—15 times the team could not muster a single run.
This season, the Oakland Athletics are in pursuit of eclipsing that mark—by the All-Star break. By putting up another bagel in yesterday’s 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins, the A’s have now been shut out an amazing nine times through 51 games. Oakland’s offense is on pace to put up 28 bagels for the entire season.
The MLB record for most games being shut out in a season belongs to the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals, who remarkably did not score a run 33 different times in a 154-game schedule. If the A’s can keep up their more recent pace—five shutouts in their past 15 games—they might have a chance at sniffing that mark. Fingers crossed.
As a result of the team’s offensive ineptitude, the Athletics are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak and have tailspun to the bottom of the American League West. And there is only one thing to blame for their woes: their batting. Or, rather, the lack thereof. They might as well be stepping into the batter’s box with a drinking straw in their hands. It certainly seems as though they haven’t any chance at being productive at the plate.
It is quite embarrassing to see such putridity at a professional level. One can only scratch their head and question how this team of “major league” talent can put up such abysmal numbers.
The team as a whole is sporting a league-worst .210 batting average, .288 on-base percentage and .332 slugging percentage. Oakland is last in runs scored by a very w i d e margin. Good thing the A’s are in the AL so that they can take advantage of the designated hitter.
As astonishing as it is to see the Athletics not score a run once a week, it’s not exactly that unexpected, is it? With the players they have, the players they’ve lost to injury and the players they let go of last season, it’s actually not surprising at all to see them turn into a bagel factory.
Let’s consider the makeup of their Triple-A roster.
Their Opening Day roster consisted of three position players who had played at least four full seasons worth of games in their careers: Coco Crisp, Jonny Gomes and Kurt Suzuki. Infielders Cliff Pennington and Daric Barton have both been in the majors for over five years but only have two seasons under their belts in which they played more than 140 games.
The rest of the squad consists of players whose MLB experiences mostly consist of platoon or utility and backup roles. Additionally, two of the team’s offseason acquisitions played in National League last year, while the other played in Cuba, so their acclimation to the AL is still a work in progress.
The greenness of these inexperienced, minor-league-worthy Athletics is a major factor to the team’s overall hitting woes. Obviously, some of them are thrust into starting roles out of sheer desperate necessity. Then there’s the missed playing time, which, in a 162-game season, will play a factor for any team’s long-term success.
Key players Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Inge each have visited the disabled list with injuries. Meanwhile, the team’s most accomplished hitter, Manny Ramirez, has missed 50 games serving a suspension for a failed drug test. One would assume that even his tired old bat would give the team a boost of energy.
But through the first two months of the season, the Athletics could almost use anybody’s bat to improve their offensive production. Though they improved their power hitting—through the unlikely source of Josh Reddick and his 14 home runs—the team still ranks 11th in league in home runs. The A’s have fallen, however, to last place in extra-base hits.
As would be expected from young hitters, they strike out a lot. To compensate for their lack of power and strikeout rate, they have an above-average walk percentage, and they steal a lot of bases. But ultimately, they can’t score runs if they can’t hit—especially when it matters.
Ironically, their .212 batting average with runners in scoring position is higher than their overall mark of .210. Which only goes to show that it could be worse.
Actually, worse is seeing one of their offseason free agents beat them. The A’s could have used Josh Willingham’s bat. He instead signed with the Minnesota Twins, and on Wednesday, he clobbered a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to beat the A’s, 3-2.
A’s fans wonder about his marginal asking price of $21 million for three years. Maybe Oakland could have re-signed Willingham and not Crisp, who is plopping a .178 batting average this season and probably won’t even be on the team by the end of June. Still, even with Willingham, it’s hard to say the Athletics would dramatically be better.
After all, it takes a confluence of pitifulness to achieve such atrocity. Records of woe are not caused by one specific variable. The A’s have the imperfect storm of young, injured, misplaced and lost talent to thank for their inadequacies at the plate.
Until Cespedes returns from injury and Ramirez is called up by the team, Oakland will continue to flounder. Thus, fans can only tip their hats at the inglorious inefficiency. Because, seriously, this terribleness is about what we all expected.
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