Athletics

Liam Hendriks rebounds, breaks Rollie Fingers' A's strikeout record

Liam Hendriks rebounds, breaks Rollie Fingers' A's strikeout record

OAKLAND -- One of baseball's most common clichés is that relief pitchers need to have a short memory. A's closer Liam Hendriks has a slightly different variation of that rule.

"I don't know if it's a short memory or just have a really bad memory," he joked Tuesday.

Hendriks suffered a rare blown save in Monday's loss to the Kansas City Royals but bounced back with a dominant ninth inning Tuesday night, as the A's picked up a 2-1 win. 

"I spoke to my wife about it last night," Hendriks told NBC Sports California. "Everything felt good, but it didn't feel good, if that makes any sense. My ball felt light, and that's abnormal for me when I'm going out there.

"But I worked on it a little bit today, made sure I got my legs under me a little bit, and the results were there. I was able to throw some good breaking balls when I needed to and kept them off balance enough where, if I left a fastball in a bad spot, they were able to miss it because I had set them up."

Added A's manager Bob Melvin: "It's very rare when Liam blows a save. He's been great for us all year. So it was good to get him right back in there."

Hendriks set the Royals down in order in the ninth, recording a pair of strikeouts to give him 118 for the season, with 116 coming as a reliever. That broke the A's record for strikeouts by a relief pitcher, previously held by Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, who had 115 in 1975.

"It was cool," Hendriks said. "It's not something I started the year out after, but as it kept getting closer, I was a little bit aware of it. ... Anytime you get talked about in the same sentence as Rollie Fingers, it's a pretty big deal. I'm just happy to bounce back from last night. Obviously, last night wasn't the best situation for me, but I came back and had that vigor again and was able to put it to bed."

[RELATED: How A's Wendelken has earned Melvin's trust in big spots]

Hendriks has enjoyed a breakout season at the age of 30. The right-hander is 4-3 with 23 saves and a 1.66 ERA with those 118 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings.

"(The strikeout) is his biggest weapon," Melvin said. "It gets him out of jams with guys on base. He's got a much better slider to keep them off his fastball. His fastball (velocity) is the best it's been in his career. But I think that the command of his breaking ball allows his fastball to play up and he's been striking guys out all year."

With all of the bullpen struggles Oakland has experienced this season, Hendriks has been a godsend. His ninth-inning dominance has allowed the A's to remain in the driver's seat for a second straight postseason berth.

Why A's should bring back catcher Josh Phegley in final arbitration year

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Why A's should bring back catcher Josh Phegley in final arbitration year

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.

Josh Phegley, C

Contract: Final year of arbitration (projected to get $2.2 million after earning $1.075 million this season)

Reasons to bring him back

Phegley put together the best season of his career in 2019. The 31-year-old slashed .239/.282/.411 with 12 home runs, 18 doubles and 62 RBI in 106 games, spending most of the year as Oakland's starting catcher.

Even with top prospect Sean Murphy poised to take over the starting job in 2020, Phegley still could provide significant value as a backup. He knows the A's pitching staff well, having been with the team since 2015, and he has displayed some pop with the bat.

Reasons to let him go

Murphy long has been considered the A's catcher of the future, and the future is now. The 25-year-old is a better defensive catcher than Phegley and more productive offensively as well. Oakland could decide that $2.2 million is too much to spend on a backup catcher, or they could choose to fill that role in free agency (anyone up for a Stephen Vogt reunion?).

[RELATED: Why A's should  non-tender Blake Treinen]

Final verdict

For $2.2 million, Phegley is a bargain and should return to Oakland. He has proven to be a serviceable starting catcher, in case Murphy goes down, and he fits in well with the rest of the clubhouse. Sure, the A's could find a slightly cheaper backup catcher if they really wanted, but Phegley's intangibles, including his veteran leadership, and his production make him well worth the money.

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

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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.