OAKLAND -- The A's launched a franchise-record 257 home runs this season, fifth-most in all of baseball.
Oakland's lineup featured power threats from one through nine, including three players with at least 30 round-trippers and another four with at least 20.
But when the homers dried up, so too did the offense. The A's went just 7-31 in games where they failed to homer, including Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Oakland manager Bob Melvin knows that his team has to find other ways to produce runs next season.
"Yeah, it becomes apparent in games like that when you know with a guy like (Rays starter Charlie) Morton, if he's pitching well, and the bullpen that those guys have, that you may run into one or so, but you have to be able to score differently," Melvin said. "We are a home run hitting team, but I think when we come to spring (training) next year, we'll start to work on a little bit more situational stuff -- not that we don't, but maybe a little bit more of an emphasis on it from the start of spring training that we have to win some games differently.
"It can be just talked about too and seeds planted for the overall thinking and outlook," Melvin continued. "Then you try to do some things fundamentally to enhance that. But I think our guys know next year too, based on the way the season went, that we have to find some different ways to win games."
Late in the year, the A's biggest problem was their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. In their final five games, they went 0-for-31 in that situation, leaving 40 runners on base, including nine in the loss to the Rays. For the season, Oakland hit .252 with runners in scoring position, ranking 22nd in the league. With two outs, that average dipped all the way to .221, tied for 24th.
Still, A's executive vice president Billy Beane is not overly concerned, maintaining that home runs trump all other forms of offense.
"Well, if you saw the game last night, the team that hit the homers won," he said, referencing the Rays' four home runs. "Situational hitting is certainly an important part of every team, but I think the situational hitting that we really struggled with at the end of the year was more just pure hitting with runners in scoring position. That’s going to come and go. Teams are going to go through streaks.
"But situational hitting -- getting guys over and things like that -- certainly those things are important, but usually if you out-homer your opponent, you’re going to win that game. That’s what happened to us last night. We got beat. If you look at the top teams in baseball in home runs, those are all the playoff teams. So it’s still a great, efficient way to conduct an offensive game."
Ideally, the A's would like to maintain their power-hitting prowess while also improving their ability to manufacture runs with situational hitting. Far too often, Oakland has advanced a runner to third base with less than two outs, only to leave him stranded. That's where simply making contact can make a huge difference.
If the A's can correct these issues, they will enter 2019 as one of the top offenses in all of baseball.