Athletics

How the A's are earning and rediscovering their home run prowess

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AP

How the A's are earning and rediscovering their home run prowess

OAKLAND -- Last year, the A's launched an incredible 227 home runs, the third-most of any team in baseball. However, Oakland experienced a bit of a power outage early this season.

Between April 15 and May 12, a span of 23 games, the A's hit just 15 homers, the second-fewest in the majors over that stretch. But on their most recent road trip, Oakland found its power once again, belting 21 home runs in nine games.

So what changed?

"We started to have more competitive at-bats," said A's hitting coach Darren Bush. "We were driving them up starters' pitch counts. Guys were fouling off pitches and getting better pitches to hit, one through nine. Once you start doing that, they have to make more pitches and they're going to make mistakes, and we were taking advantage of them."

Catcher Josh Phegley agreed with Bush's assessment, reiterating the importance of patience at the plate.

"I think you see those power numbers start to go up when we're a little more patient and make pitchers work," he said. "I felt like we saw some guys who threw some breakers, but we laid off of them off the plate and made them come to us in hitter's counts and got some fastballs to hit."

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the A's road power surge was that they did it with an injured Khris Davis. Oakland's top slugger did account for two of the 21 home runs while battling a left hip/oblique contusion, but it was Mark Canha who led the way with five.

"Canha basically did what KD does for us," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "It kind of felt like having KD there, even though we're obviously going to miss him. But we've seen Mark Canha do this in the past where he gets an opportunity and he produces, and you get him consistent at-bats and he hits home runs."

Canha has caught fire since returning from a sprained right wrist, tallying five homers and 10 RBI in just eight games.

"It's nice to see the results and the homers," he said. "It's a fun way to play. It's kind of counterintuitive, I think. I think that you have to approach it backward. We got back to having good approaches, swinging at strikes, working counts and stuff like that, and the home runs just showed up."

[RELATED: Davis land on IL, Bolt recalled]

Oakland now has nine different players with at least five home runs, and that doesn't even include Matt Olson, who has four since returning from a hand injury. Clearly, there are no easy outs in the A's lineup, something Bush takes great pride in.

"You've got to get in there and fight for every pitch," he said. "If they make pitches, you have to find a way to battle and fight them off because they will make mistakes. But they're not just going to give in. You have to earn it."

Why A's should either trade or non-tender All-Star Blake Treinen

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USATSI

Why A's should either trade or non-tender All-Star Blake Treinen

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who may or may not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Blake Treinen, RHP

Contract: Final year of arbitration (projected to get $7.8 million after earning $6.4 million this season)

Reasons to bring him back

In 2018, Blake Treinen enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in MLB history. The right-hander went 9-2 with 38 saves and a 0.78 ERA, notching 100 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings.

Unfortunately, Treinen followed that up with the worst season of his career, going 6-5 with a 4.91 ERA in 2019, ultimately losing the closer job to Liam Hendriks. Still, Treinen's stuff looked dominant at times and he could certainly bounce back in 2020.

Treinen is still just 31 years old and should have some productive years ahead of him. His fastball averaged 97 mph this season with explosive movement. If he can improve his command, Treinen could still be a productive reliever moving forward.

Reasons to let him go

Treinen is coming off an incredibly disappointing season. He entered the year as one of the top closers in baseball, but quickly lost his closer job due to injury and poor performance.

Treinen's 4.91 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, and 5.14 FIP were all career worsts, as were his 37 walks in just 58 2/3 innings. He saw his season come to a premature end when an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his back. And pitchers and back injuries don't mix well (see: Marco Estrada). Tendering Treinen a contract would be a major risk.

Final verdict

Treinen could very well return to being an effective relief pitcher, but the A's can't afford to take that chance for nearly $8 million. That money would be better spent on multiple relievers to help shore up the team's shaky bullpen.

[RELATED: A's stay or go candidate for 2020 season: Jake Diekman]

Between Treinen's on-field struggles and the injury concerns, Oakland would be better off seeking an offseason trade of its former All-Star closer. If the A's can't get a deal done, look for a non-tender.

Why Jake Diekman's command issues could mean A's move on in offseason

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USATSI

Why Jake Diekman's command issues could mean A's move on in offseason

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who might or might not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Jake Diekman, LHP

Contract: $5.75 million mutual option for 2020 ($500,000 buyout)

Reasons to bring him back

Diekman's stuff is undeniable. The 32-year-old left-hander boasts a 96-mph fastball along with a wicked slider, making him a tricky at-bat for right-handed and left-handed hitters alike.

Despite a 1-7 record and 4.65 ERA this season, Diekman notched 84 strikeouts in just 62 innings. For his career, he has averaged 11.2 punchouts per nine innings.

Another reason to keep Diekman is Oakland's lack of left-handed relievers. Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk both figure to move to the starting rotation next year and Ryan Buchter's return is far from certain. As a result, Diekman could be the only southpaw in the A's bullpen.

Reasons to let him go

While Diekman's strikeout numbers were highly impressive, his lack of command became a major issue down the stretch. He walked 39 batters this season, including 16 in 20 1/3 innings with the A's.

That contributed significantly to Diekman's disappointing 1.42 WHIP and 4.65 ERA. For $5.75 million, you'd have to think the A's would want someone more consistent and reliable in the late innings.

[RELATED: A's 3B coach Williams will manage in Korea next season]

Final verdict

Oakland is unlikely to bring Diekman back next season for a couple of reasons. Far too often, he just doesn't know where his pitches are going. Throughout his career, Diekman has averaged five walks per nine innings. That's a serious problem for a setup man.

The other factor is Diekman's $5.75 million price tag. That is a high figure for any non-closer, but particularly worrisome for a setup man who has proven to be inconsistent.

The A's would probably be wise to spend that money elsewhere.