2023 Season Review: Oakland Athletics

Zack Gelof, Esteury Ruiz and Lawrence Butler sitting in the A's dugout together.

Last night saw the end of the 2023 regular season, and so, now is as good a time as any to review the performance of those teams that have not made the playoffs.

Over the next few days, several Bat Flips & Nerds team contributors will be giving an overview of how their team’s season went, starting today with this review of my team – the Oakland A’s.

The A’s are the team that brought sabermetrics to the fore. By any statistical measure, the 2023 season did not go well – the team’s batting average was the lowest and the team scored the fewest runs, and so, also had the fewest RBIs. In short, the A’s had the worst offence in Major League Baseball in 2023. Defensively, it was a similar story – our pitchers hit the most batsmen and allowed the most walks, and were second-worst only to the Rockies in Earned Run Average (ERA), Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP), runs allowed and earned runs.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the A’s had the worst win-loss record in all of MLB, losing 112 games.

This was the year that the A’s front office also finally publicly told us all what we already know; the organisation is moving to Las Vegas, with a ballpark to be built on the site of The Tropicana. There are many reasons to be unhappy about this. Given how long it rumbled on, I’ve probably already detailed them all already in my previous articles. Here’s one more reason though; they’ll be uprooting the team and moving to Vegas into a brand-new stadium that will be the smallest stadium in Major League Baseball. Go figure.

The more annoying thing is that, even now the announcement has been made, the issue still continues to rumble on given there still hasn’t been confirmation of where the team will play after next season – the team’s lease on the Oakland Coliseum expires at the end of the 2024 season, and it is estimated that the stadium that will be built in Las Vegas won’t be ready to use until the start of the 2027 season at the earliest. Yet more ineptitude from Dave Kaval and the rest of the Oakland A’s front office.

There have been some reasons to be cheerful this season though. The seven-game winning streak in June being chief among them, particularly as that streak included a sweep and a series win respectively against two playoff-bound teams in the Brewers and the Rays. Bringing the Bay Bridge Trophy back home was also pretty sweet – given the San Francisco Giants are the A’s only rivals, and that rivalry may be lost with the move to Vegas, we have to be glad about that while we still can.

The rookie Ryan Noda was a rare bright spot this season (Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle)

The emergence of several rookies this season has also been a joy. In particular, Zack Gelof was a revelation, becoming the first player in A’s history to have 20 extra-base hits and score 20 runs through his first 28 career games in the major leagues, while also being named the AL Rookie of the Month for August. Esteury Ruiz was also solid – his batting average wasn’t spectacular (.254), but, when he did get on-base, he then stole another one, setting an American League rookie record in the process with 67 stolen bases this season, which meant he was second only to Ronald Acuna in all of MLB for stolen bases. If Ruiz hadn’t missed around a month of the season through injury, I’m confident he would have led the league in that category. Ryan Noda was also a bright spot – he was in the top-five for walks for a large portion of the season before getting injured, eventually finishing with 77 walks, along with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs. Together, those three could form the basis of a strong starting line-up for the A’s in future seasons, be it in Oakland or Las Vegas.

This being the Oakland Athletics, I would not be surprised if one of more of those three have been traded for more ‘prospects’ before the start of next season though.

Otherwise, there were not a lot of reasons to be joyful about the player personnel. It was good to see Tony Kemp make some great defensive plays again, Brent Rooker’s 30 home runs were a highlight, and Shea Langeliers had some moments where it looked like he could become a good power-hitter, hitting 22 home runs in total with 63 RBIs.

However, Shea’s failure to build up good chemistry and communication with his pitchers all too often led to him failing to secure pitches at the plate, meaning the opposition were able to bring in another run on far too many occasions. It may be then that Shea’s future lies more as a designated hitter. However, there has also been a lack of cohesion on the mound for the A’s this season, as the A’s have had 24 starting pitchers this season; an all-time record in MLB.

On this point, I may begin to sound like a broken record, but the A’s committed far too many defensive errors this season, leading to otherwise avoidable losses, just as there were far too many games decided last season by defensive errors by the A’s. In fact, the A’s have also been the worst this season in defensive runs saved.

The game against the Washington Nationals on 13 August is a prime example of the A’s failings this season; we entered the bottom of the ninth with a five-run lead and then…

If John Fisher, Dave Kaval and the rest of the A’s front office are serious about putting a competitive team on the field ahead of the move to Las Vegas (so residents and visitors actually want to attend a game in a city that certainly has plenty of other entertainment options…), then they need to attend to the current roster’s deficiencies. Yes, there is certainly talent on the current roster, and it is good, young, up-and-coming talent that I am very much rooting for, but the current roster is not consistently performing at the MLB level. If the organisation wants the move to Sin City to succeed then, it needs to address what is becoming a widening gap between the level of the A’s roster and the rosters of the rest of the teams in the MLB.

I always try to be positive about the A’s, find reasons to be cheerful and hope for better days ahead. ‘Hope springs eternal’ and all that.

I’m just having trouble finding the spring currently.

Brett Walker is the Oakland Athletics team contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds, and can be found on Twitter @BrettChatsSport.

Featured image – Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

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