Athletics

Is nightmare eighth one bad day for A's bullpen or cause for concern?

Is nightmare eighth one bad day for A's bullpen or cause for concern?

OAKLAND -- After allowing just six runs in the first six games of the homestand, the A's bullpen imploded Saturday night in a 10-5 loss to the rival Giants.

Oakland's pen surrendered eight runs in a nightmare eighth inning, the most the A's have given up in a single inning all season long, as they watched a 4-2 lead turn into a 10-4 deficit.

After Jake Diekman retired the first batter in the eighth, Yusmeiro Petit, A.J. Puk, and Lou Trivino combined to allow seven straight batters to reach base on six hits and a walk.

"We just couldn't get an out," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Yusi (Petit) is usually really reliable for us -- not that they hit really hard balls off him -- but three straight hits, which is a little abnormal with him. ... Lou has been pitching really well. Give them credit. They went the other way. They didn't try to do too much. They shot the ball the other way on the sinker and put some really good at-bats together. It felt like we didn't get an out for about an hour."

Melvin did consider turning to closer Liam Hendriks in that eighth inning but ultimately didn't want to use him for a five-out save.

"I had him up," Melvin said. "If we got one more out, I was going to use him for four (outs). I wasn't comfortable with five, especially because we're in a tie game at that point in time too when we bring in Lou, so it just didn't make any sense to do that."

Of course, any major-league bullpen needs more than one pitcher a manager can rely on. While Oakland's pen has obviously had its share of struggles this season, it appeared to be returning to form in the last few weeks. The question now is whether this was just one bad night or a cause for deeper concern.

"It's just one game," said A's starter Chris Bassitt, who allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings. "We can try to make this a huge deal kind of thing, but it's just one game. Lick your wounds, come in tomorrow and do your job."

Melvin echoed that sentiment.

"I think we just have to move on," he said. "Now it was pretty extreme. What did they get, seven or eight hits in a row or something like that? Maybe a walk mixed in there too. (That) doesn't happen often, so you've got to give them some credit too. I think we've just got to move on from this one. We've played pretty well up to this point. We just had basically a bad inning today."

[RELATED: Manaea dominates in rehab outing]

The A's have now blown 23 saves this season, tied for the most in the American League. Oakland has also lost seven games when leading after seven innings, compared to just two all of last year.

Still, as Melvin noted, the team has played excellent baseball on this homestand, entering Sunday's finale with a 6-2 record against some of the league's best teams. But you have to wonder if and when all of these blown leads will start to take a toll on the bullpen's confidence.
 

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.

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.