Athletics

A by-the-numbers look at Matt Olson's home run tear

olson-matt-green-swing-phillies.jpg
USATI

A by-the-numbers look at Matt Olson's home run tear

When it comes to power hitting, rookie first baseman Matt Olson has enjoyed one of the most impressive career-opening stretches in A’s history.

He went deep again in Monday night’s 8-3 victory over Detroit. Although he’s only played in roughly one-third of Oakland’s games this year, Olson has vaulted into a tie for fourth on the team with 22 homers this season.

Here’s a glance inside some of the numbers behind the rookie’s home run tear:

22 — Olson’s 2017 —and career — home run total. Those 22 homers tie Mark McGwire for most in franchise history over a player’s first 65 games.

18: The number of times Olson has gone deep since Aug. 11, which leads the American League.

19 — The number of major league games Olson appeared in before connecting for his first homer. That came June 24. Since then, he hasn’t gone more than eight games in the majors without clearing the fence.

47 — Olson was the 47th overall pick of the 2012 draft, a compensation choice between the first and second rounds. He was one of a trio of high school infielders Oakland took with its first three picks that year. The others were two shortstops — Addison Russell (11th overall) and Daniel Robertson (34th).

At the time the A’s said perhaps they had drafted three-fourths of their future infield. But Russell and Robertson eventually got dealt. Now, Olson is part of a different young infield core that could include third baseman Matt Chapman and second baseman Franklin Barreto along with veteran shortstop Marcus Semien.

2: The number of players in the past 30 years to hit 20 homers in both the minors and majors in the same season. Olson has done it this year. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, who’s generating his share of headlines with his own power hitting, did it back in 2010.

103 The number of homers Olson hit over five minor league seasons leading into this year. That included a whopping 37 for Single-A Stockton in the homer-happy California League in 2014. In comparison, the 17 homers he hit each of the next two seasons at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville looked paltry. Olson says he struggled for a while to trust his natural power stroke and not try to alter his approach too much to boost those power numbers.

4: The total number of major leaguers produced by Olson’s alma mater of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga. The others were outfielder Jeff Francoeur, infielder Jeff Keppinger and catcher Clint Sammons.

4 (Part II): Number of consecutive games Olson has homered in. That ties the Oakland rookie record for most games in a row with a homer. Dan Johnson also homered in four straight from Aug. 3-6, 2005. Extend it out farther, and Olson has gone deep 14 times over his past 20 games. And speaking of that …

14: Olson is tied with a couple of legends when it comes to most homers in a 20-game span in Oakland history. McGwire (1987) and Reggie Jackson (1969) also had 14 over their own 20-game stretches, and Jackson did it twice that season. (Hat tip to A’s P.R. stats guru Mike Selleck for several of these factoids, by the way).

23: Remember that Olson is just 23 years old. His 22 homers are the most in a single season by an Athletic 23 or younger since Eric Chavez swatted 32 back in 2001. Chavez also was 23 at the time.

Ryan Christenson named bench coach as A's solidify 2018 staff

ryan-christenson.jpg

Ryan Christenson named bench coach as A's solidify 2018 staff

Ryan Christenson has worked his way up the coaching ladder in the A’s farm system, and on Thursday he was named the team’s new major league bench coach.

The announcement makes Christenson, 43, the right-hand man for manager Bob Melvin and essentially the No. 2 man in the dugout. It also settles a position that was in flux over the course of the 2017 season. Mark Kotsay began this past season as bench coach but stepped away from the team in June to be with his family after his daughter, Sienna, suffered a serious eye injury.

Kotsay is expected to remain with the big league club in some form of non-everyday role. Chip Hale finished the season as bench coach but will now switch back to third base coach, a position he originally was hired for leading into the 2017 season. Hale also coaches Oakland’s infielders.

“At some point in time we knew Ryan was going to be here,” Melvin said. “He went through all the classifications (managing in the minors). He did well with a young group. It’s a good fit bringing him in, and he’s ready for the bench coach role. He’s done a lot of managing.”

Though the bench coach works in closest tandem with a manager throughout the game, Melvin also noted the importance of having a third-base coach that thinks right along with him and is on the same page. From that standpoint, he said having Hale in that role is important.

“Chip’s so good at third, that even though I’m used to having him on the bench, it’s tough not to use him (at third),” Melvin said. “Certainly this isn’t a demotion for Chip.”

It’s the first appointment on a major league staff for Christenson, who has spent the past five seasons managing in Oakland’s farm system, starting with low Single-A and working his way up to Triple-A Nashville this season. He led Double-A Midland to back-to-back Texas League titles in 2015-16, and his teams went 391-307 (.561) over those five seasons.

The rest of Melvin’s coaching staff will return intact in 2018. That includes pitching coach Scott Emerson, who took over that role midseason after the firing of Curt Young, and hitting coach Darren Bush. Like Christenson, Emerson and Bush both were promoted from within the farm system to their eventual spots on the big league staff.

All three men have extensive history coaching the large group of young players that are establishing themselves as the A’s core, and that’s a factor worth keeping in mind when evaluating the makeup of this staff.

Emerson, who assumed Young’s duties in June, will return as pitching coach despite the A’s staff posting a 4.67 ERA, highest by an Oakland staff since 1999. A’s pitchers also surrendered an Oakland-record 210 home runs.

“Similar to Ryan, he knows everybody, what we have here and in the minor leagues,” Melvin said of Emerson. “He’s been a good fit here and continues to be a good fit.”

Bush oversaw a group of hitters that showed improvement as the season wore on, scoring the fifth-most runs in the American League after the All-Star break. The A’s set a franchise record for strikeouts – in line with the rise in whiffs throughout the majors -- but also hit the fourth-most homers in franchise history.

Melvin’s staff is rounded out by first base coach Mike Aldrete, bullpen coach Garvin Alston and assistant hitting coach/catching coach Marcus Jensen. Steve Scarsone, who filled in as interim third base coach from June through the rest of the season, will resume his duties as a traveling instructor throughout the farm system.

Young A’s fan writes letter to team after fires take home, beloved memorabilia

asletter-2.jpg
Twitter @KatieUtehs

Young A’s fan writes letter to team after fires take home, beloved memorabilia

Young Athletics fan Loren Jade Smith is among the thousands of people affected by the Northern California wildfires. Along with his family's home, the fire storm took his most valued possession -- his A's memorabilia collection. 

In his disappointment, Smith wrote a letter to the A's that has since gone viral. 

After the letter was shared throughout the Twitterverse, A's President Dave Kaval said the team would reach out to Jade and his family to replace his memorabilia. 

And since Kaval's announcement, the A's community of fans has responded with offers to send the young fan some memorabilia. The A's have even set up an address where fans can send Smith their gifts.