Athletics

A's Matt Olson's has long history of power surges in 60-game stretches

A's Matt Olson's has long history of power surges in 60-game stretches

Matt Olson broke the hamate bone in his right hand early in the second game of the 2019 season during an international series with the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo.

The injury was expected to bring about a power outage, even in Olson’s sweet swing. Others returning from the injury saw home run decreases in the short term at least, so the A’s first baseman wasn’t expected to be his typical mashing self after more than six weeks out of the lineup.

He defied expectations, hitting with as much power he has in his career. Olson believed having to keep his hands relaxed allowed him to connect regularly and go on quite a run.

Olson was awesome during the 60 games after his return, with 60 hits, 20 home runs and 40 RBIs during that span.

It wasn’t his first 60 game surge. He played just 59 games in 2017 but hit 24 home runs and 45 RBIs in that run.

The reason for seeking out 60 game hot streaks is obvious. That’s how many opportunities players will have in a shortened season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

He isn’t the only A’s position player capable of getting scalding hot over a relatively short span. Designated hitter Khris Davis finished the 2018 season strong, with an unreal stat line over 60 games in a stretch that ended with the A’s second-to-last game.

He had 26 home runs and 57 RBIs in that run, hitting multiple home runs several times in that span. That’s the type of output that could carry a team, as Davis has done several times during his A’s career.

[RELATED: Olson most underrated player entering 2020 season]

While position players can have a greater impact while working every day, pitchers can come out strong at the start. Frankie Montas was in a great groove to start the year, with a 7-2 record over 12 starts in a 60-game window – he remained hot in two starts after that -- with a 2.83 ERA and 69 strikeouts to 19 walks over 70 innings pitched.

A positive test for performance-enhancing drugs spoiled that campaign, but a dominant pitcher can prevent prolonged losing streaks and be responsible for a huge chunk of wins in a season where each one comes at a premium.

Dontrelle Willis joins A's broadcast team on NBC Sports California

Dontrelle Willis joins A's broadcast team on NBC Sports California

Editor's note: This story originally was published on July 20.

NBC Sports California is adding a high-energy and charismatic presence to their studio crew for the 2020 season with former MLB pitcher-turned-analyst Dontrelle Willis joining the team.

Willis, a two-time MLB All-Star, spent nine seasons playing in the big leagues, and found himself with a knack for an on-air presence.

“As far as the staff, you, Brodie [Brazil], Dallas [Braden], [Dave Stewart] -- it’s a well-rounded cast that just truly enjoys covering the team,” Willis told NBC Sports California. 

“So, I think it shows in your guys’ work so I just want to be the big-little brother and go out there and showcase my talents and my joy as well, but I’ve always been a fan of the way you’ve covered the team and I think fans love the way you cover the team so I’m just trying to get on board and hop on and get a title like everybody else.”

Willis, 38, is a Bay Area native who attended Encinal High School in Alameda. He looked up to Stewart and looks forward to working with him. He's also excited to see some of the young stars the A’s have with a bit of a closer eye.

“Obviously Frankie Montas and Jesús Luzardo is a kid that come to find out, I was one of his favorite players growing up,” Willis said.

“It’s really cool to hear those stories because you never know how far what you do reaches, but I heard at Fan Fest someone asked him who was his favorite player and he said ‘Dontrelle Willis,’ and I’m like, ‘Well hell, I’m more of a fan of him than anything,’ you know what I mean?”

“You can’t be a fan of mine when you throw harder than me,” Willis said.

For Willis, this job of covering the A’s is more than just commentating on the game. 

“I’m truly honored, I mean the whole ball club -- the Oakland A’s saved my life, so I’m truly honored to be a part of this staff and continue to watch them play baseball because they’re one of the better teams in baseball,” Willis said.

Willis spent some time beginning in 2015 working with FOX Sports as a regular studio analyst on the network’s “MLB Whiparound” where he brought his energy and knowledge with an infectious smile.  

[RELATED: Montas revels in opportunity to be A's Opening Day starter]

For his work covering the A's this season, Willis sees all the positives the team has to offer in addition to their pitching. He complimented their hitting and mentioned Marcus Semien, but wanted to give a warning.

“I tell you this much: If you don’t respect the A’s, they’re going to roll over on you," Willis said.

A's mailbag: Expectations, concerns one-third of way through season

A's mailbag: Expectations, concerns one-third of way through season

After Friday, the A’s will have completed one-third of their 60-game regular season for 2020.
 
Even with an early cushion atop the AL West, there are still a lot of compelling questions and observations coming from Oakland fans.
 
Here are just a few from Twitter and Instagram:
 
Joe Morgan @V3RNALp00ls

Really like @tonykemp. Great clubhouse guy, loves the game, terror on the basepaths.
 
Fortunately, the A’s didn’t have or need a lot of turnover from 2019, but it’s pretty clear that Tony Kemp is a frontrunner for the best offseason addition. His OBP (.429) and solid defense at second base stand out, but I’m glad you mentioned the energy and chemistry he clearly exudes with teammates. Kemp is the kind of asset that pushes Oakland past being a good team, to potentially a great one.
 
A’s 4 Days @SealDaRealDeal

Trading for another arm in the rotation wouldn’t be bad in my opinion. So you do you think would fit in with the A’s rotation?
 
I understand there have been a few recent starts that didn’t go well for Oakland, in the midst of some others which were downright exceptional. By now, we know what every starter is capable of, and to jettison any member of the group after just a few outings into this abnormal season would be a mistake in my opinion. Trades deemed “necessary” in a season like this need to be clear-cut, mandatory ones, and I don’t see that being the case for the A’s. There are 17 days left until the Aug. 31 trade deadline, which many are predicting won’t be anywhere near as busy as normal -- from the logistical standpoint of importing somebody new into a team’s bubble, but also to upset any group chemistry without time to spare.
 
Instagram: @roof.dylan 
What’s one thing you’re excited to see this season that you haven’t yet?

 
Really looking forward to the first Khris Davis burst of homers. For that to happen, he’ll need more consistent appearances in the lineup, and for that to happen, he just needs to keep the current momentum building. The at-bats are producing less strikeouts, louder contact, and more opposite-field direction. Positive signs. The A’s have plenty of capable names to DH, but make no mistake, when KD’s bat edges toward a normal clip, he’ll be penciled in every day.
 
Instagram: @ronalddatz
What overall record would you say the A’s finish with?

 
It’s important to remember that 36 wins is equivalent to the 97 Oakland recorded each of the last two seasons. That established, I think they can even get to 38 victories in a 60-game season. If there’s a healthy lead gained on the division by Aug. 31, I believe there could be some extra wins for the taking in September against teams who already are sunk.
 
Instagram: @eric_ohh
If we win it all ... will there be an asterisk or no?

 
Whoever wins a World Series in 2020 ultimately will be looked at differently 10 years down the road. But different doesn’t have to mean less impressive. Yes, it’s a short season, and more than half the teams will qualify for the playoffs. But knowing the additional physical and mental weight of playing through a pandemic, I don’t believe any athlete in the league currently would consider winning this World Series any less of an accomplishment. 
 
Instagram: @brooke_mullkin
What do you think is the Athletics’ strongest aspect of their team?

 
To steal from Dallas Braden, Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse who all mentioned this recently on A's Pregame Live, it’s their depth. Lose a starter or two? Lose a center fielder to suspension? Need a pinch hitter for the 10th inning? The A’s have somebody capable for nearly every role, and behind that usually is someone else primed for the opportunity. This team is one of the most impressive recent versions of the A’s on paper. Now it’s their turn to prove that on the field.

[RELATED: Report: Laureano suspension reduced from A's-Astros brawl]
 
Instagram: @martinm_2019
What’s the chance (Matt Olson) gets a splash hit this weekend?

 
Matt Olson is on a recent streak of homering every third game -- for whatever that's worth -- and the Giants are expected to start three right-handers in a row. We know the towering moonshots Olson is capable of, especially pulling to right field. But more than anything individual, the A’s need to at least win the series against a Giants team that shouldn’t be able to match up.