Oakland Athletics Take Two from White Sox

Tyler Wade 07022023
(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

In their first matchup of the season, the Oakland Athletics (23–63) took two of three from the Chicago White Sox (37–49). They will meet again in August for a four-game series in Chicago, Illinois. This was a battle of two of the worst pitching staffs in baseball this year, and it did not disappoint. The two teams combined to score 39 runs. As the weather heats up, the Coliseum will turn into a much more offensive ballpark. An already struggling starting pitching staff continued to labor through the weekend. Without any help in sight, the starters need to start working deeper into games. The bullpen has been better as of late, but they will soon be overworked, and are starting to show signs already. After taking two from the White Sox, the Athletics travel to Comerica Park to play the Detroit Tigers in a three-game series.

Starting Pitching Continues to Struggle

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Luis Medina, Kyle Muller, and Paul Blackburn struggled to keep the White Sox off the board. The three combined to throw 15 innings, allowing nine runs on 13 walks and 13 strike outs. Working ahead in the count has been a big issue for A’s pitching all season. When you are constantly putting opposing hitters in advantageous counts, you become very easy to hit. The White Sox totaled 16 hits in the three game series to go alone with the 13 walks. Failing to throw strikes makes you very predictable, and the White Sox had runners on base all series long. This added additional stress to relievers when they come in the game.

Paul Blackburn

Since his return from the IL in May, Blackburn’s biggest contribution on the field had been mentorship.  The 2023 All Star set a great example for a very young, and inexperienced pitching staff. His work ethic and preparation sets him apart as a professional, and it has rubbed off on the staff instantly. Internal competition from the staff is normal and celebrated, but was certainly lacking without his consistency. In 31 innings this season, Blackburn has a 3.77 ERA, 1.387 WHIP, and is the only A’s pitcher with a ERA+ above 100 at 107.

Kyle Muller

Kyle Muller was the Opening Day starter for the A’s, and hopes were very high for him this season. The Athletics acquired him in the offseason as part of the deal that sent All-Star catcher Sean Murphy to the Atlanta Braves. After heavy difficulties through his first 10 starts, he was sent down to Triple-A to work through his control issues. After a slew of injuries this week, Muller was recalled from Las Vegas, and got the start in the second game of the series. He threw five innings, allowed three runs, on four hits. Working behind in the count put he A’s at a disadvantage all game long, but luckily Muller was bailed out by an over turned home run, and a fielding error in extra innings by former Athletic Elvis Andrus.

Luis Medina

Another young pitcher who has struggled with command is Luis Medina. Throughout the minors, Medina’s achilles heel was his control issues. It kept him from a call up in New York, and followed him to Las Vegas. His BB/9 currently sits at 5.8, to go along with a 9.6 H/9. Medina has shown more potential than any of the other young starter, but if he isn’t able to learn to control his pitches, he’s always going to be a middle of the road guy. Medina worked out of trouble multiple times in his start in game one, loading the bases in the first and second inning. He was able to turn it around and get to five innings, but not being able to make it to a third time around the order puts extra stress on an overused bullpen.

A Change Needs to be Made

The Athletics signed Aledmys Diaz to a two-year, $13 million dollar deal in the off season, and he has been a big disappointment. There were rumors that the Boston Red Sox were interested in him. If this is the case, take him for what ever you’d like. Its not his numbers, .206/.262/.286, that have disappointed fans. It’s not even his .548 OPS or 58 OPS+. It is his attitude, which has been the most difficult to watch all season. Similar to Matt Holliday, Diaz clearly doesn’t want to be here, and he shows it in his effort.

The stat which is most telling to me is his OAA, from Baseball Savant. OAA is a defensive metric which takes into account plays made vs plays not made, and also the difficulty of the play. According to Baseball Savant, in 2021, Aledmys ranked in the top 5% of all fielders in OAA. in 2022 he ranked in the top 15% of all fielders in OAA. in 2023, his first season in Oakland. He is in the bottom 3% in all of baseball. A statistic that is almost 100% based on effort, which he has been elite at in previous years, is laughably low in Oakland.

Tyler Wade

Although many in the Athletics’ world would like to see Nick Allen get more reps at shortstop, this writer would rather watch paint dry. He has shown great effort defensively when on the 25-man roster. But, his bat is non-existent, slashing .196/.241/.235. Giving him a .476 OPS and a 38 OPS+, all are team worst. For a long time, there were hopes he could be the next David Eckstein, but maybe their only similarity is their size.

Tyler Wade is the player who many would like to see get a bigger role moving forward. Although he has seen limited action so far this season, he is slashing .256/.310/.333 in 20 games. He has a good glove at shortstop and has shown he can make all the routine plays. What stands out is the speed he plays the game, and the effort he brings. He was the game winning run in game two of this series. Scoring from second base on a ground ball to second baseman Elvis Andrus.

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