The A’s bullpen has earned a well-deserved reputation over the last couple of seasons. Leading the league with a collective 2.78 ERA this past season will do that.
Despite it being a "wonky" season, as he put it, J.B. Wendelken impressed with a 1.80 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and .243 WOBA. He believes his success was partly the product of his experience having gone through Tommy John surgery in 2016.
“The conversations are never dull,” Wendelken said on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM. “It seems like when everyone is having a good time and having fun, everything seems to be a little bit easier, it’s more fluid. I feel like after my surgery, that’s really what set me apart. A lot of maturing came along with that process.”
It showed. Even though Wendelken says he has essentially been doing the same thing since 2012, his numbers cannot be ignored. He limited batters to a .187 X batting average and ranked above average in most pitching categories this season. The horizontal and vertical movement on some of his pitches alone stood out in particular.
Naturally, for the 2021 season, Wendelken hopes the A’s will go deeper in the playoffs. Oakland took the AL West title in 2020 and defeated the Chicago White Sox in three games in the AL Wild Card Series, but was eliminated by the rival Houston Astros in four games in the ALDS.
“Bouncing right into it and getting into things I thought we were very productive in all aspects,” Wendelken added. “We’ve seen some ups and some downs and all we can do is critique, in hopefully a full season next year.”
While we don’t know how many games next season will consist of, we do know that Wendelken put on a show and was an integral part of the bullpen’s strong numbers in 2020. It appears he’s still learning about the game, which means perhaps even more improvement is on the horizon.
“The saying goes, ‘You learn something new every day,’ and that’s the dog’s-honest truth when it comes to baseball,” Wendelken said.