Athletics

Where A's MVP finalist Marcus Semien wants to improve next season

Where A's MVP finalist Marcus Semien wants to improve next season

OAKLAND -- Marcus Semien enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, in just about every area. The Oakland shortstop became the first A's player to register a top-three finish in the AL MVP race since Miguel Tejada in 2002.

"It means a lot," Semien told NBC Sports California. "It was a very competitive field this year. I think that the game is changing. There are so many players who can do everything on the field -- fielding, base running, scoring runs, producing runs. I'm trying to work on every part of my game to get better, and in the second half, I really made some improvements."  

Semien, 29, set career-highs in runs, hits, home runs, doubles, RBI, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and just about any other stat you can think of. The Bay Area native might have been even better defensively, where he was a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight year.

But despite all of his accomplishments, Semien believes he still has room to improve in 2020.

"I think baserunning is a big one, just getting in scoring position more for our big hitters," Semien said. "We've got great hitters in the middle of the lineup, so walking and getting hits, you want to just make sure you run the bases right. Defensively, turn more double plays, help our pitchers. We're going to have some young pitchers, so we want to make them feel as comfortable as possible."

Last offseason, Semien's most significant development involved plate discipline. He reduced his strikeout total from 131 to 102 and drew a career-high 87 walks, 26 more than the year before.

Semien also matched an A's single-season record by scoring 123 runs, fourth-most in the majors.

"Scoring runs was a big one for me," Semien said. "Solidifying myself in the leadoff spot. I've been moving around the lineup for a couple of years now and just to solidify the leadoff spot and score runs and get in a routine was great."

[RELATED: A's star Semien tells mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

While he appreciates the individual recognition, Semien's main focus is team success. After experiencing back-to-back Wild Card Game losses, he is optimistic that the A's can make a deeper run next season.

"I think we're going to be good," he said. "We want to start off better than we did last year. I think that our rotation will be more solidified. These last two years, we've added at the (trade) deadline to get our rotation where we want it to be, where this coming season, we'll hopefully start the rotation that we like. Position players are ready. I think that we'll have everybody healthy and it'll be fun."

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in walk-off win over Astros

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in walk-off win over Astros

BOX SCORE

It’s a series the A’s and their fans have been looking forward to since November, and the first game lived up to the hype.

The A's hosted the Houston Astros on Friday for the first time since a sign-stealing scandal was revealed, and Oakland won 3-2 on a walk-off single Marcus Semien in the 13th inning.

Austin Allen’s single to left field tied the game ahead of Semien’s game-winning hit. 

Despite no fans being in attendance, the A’s faithful made their presence known. 

An A's fan created a GoFundMe account to have a plane flyover the Coliseum with a "Houston Asterisk" sign being towed behind it to troll the Astros.

Astros starter Zack Greinke made himself comfortable in the stands among the cardboard cutouts in between innings, something you’re only allowed to get away with in 2020.

Here’s what you might have missed on Friday night: 

Typical Laureano

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Laureano hit a ball to center fielder Myles Straw, who fell onto his back which caused the ball to roll all the way to the wall. Laureano ended up with a triple, but would stay there as Matt Olson and Matt Chapman struck out, and Mark Canha flew out.

Laureano has been on a roll all season long. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Bassitt’s back

Facing Jose Altuve in the fifth inning, Bassitt unleashed his long, slow curve ball on the fifth pitch of the at-bat to get the Astros second baseman to fly out to right field.

It’s a pitch manager Bob Melvin has discussed before and it’s perfect to throw to keep batters off balance, which is exactly what Altuve did landing on his knee after he swung at it. That pitch averaged around 71.4 mph on the night. The velocity, of course, doesn’t matter, but it made its presence known.

Bassitt went seven innings and allowed three hits, one earned run while walking three and striking out three.

[RELATED: Don't expect A's to retaliate against Astros]

Grossman’s adjustment pays off

Robbie Grossman hit a solo shot, his first homer of the season. in the bottom of the seventh inning. He had been working on an adjustment since spring training and while he wasn’t specific as to what it was, it’s been working.

It was a game-changing home run, so whatever it was, it’s paying off. 

Still, once again, the A’s continue to depend on the home runs. This ended up being the reason why the game went into extras.

A's fan created GoFundMe to troll Astros with 'Asterisks' aerial banner

A's fan created GoFundMe to troll Astros with 'Asterisks' aerial banner

Is it a bird? A plane? Well, yes it’s a plane, but it’s a plane that’s towing a message behind it. What does it say? That’s right, “Houston Asterisks.”

The message was being flown above the Oakland Coliseum prior to the A’s three-game series against the Houston Astros that began Friday night:

It had originated with the idea from Jon Wilson of Brentwood, Calif. who is active on A’s Reddit and admitted he was getting worked up with how the Astros would not hear the booing from fans since patrons are not allowed to be in ballparks this season.

“As it got closer and closer to them coming here, I wanted to do something,” Wilson told NBC Sports California on Friday. “I put a post up saying ‘Hey everybody, is there anything we can do to protest?’”

The protest stems from Mike Fiers unearthing the Astros’ cheating ways when it was revealed they would steal signs electronically during their 2017 World Series run. 

Wilson figured perhaps he and fans simply could show up to the stadium and yell. But one person suggested maybe a banner being towed by a plane. After thinking about it for a bit, Wilson decided to turn this idea into a reality. He started a GoFundMe to make this happen.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

“I just promoted it on Reddit and Twitter and within 24 hours we had the $1200 and we’re at $1700 now,” Wilson said.

Wilson said if they doubled that original $1200, he told followers he would do another flyover for a game. And if not, he would donate the extra money to the A’s community fund.

The viral Twitter account, 2020 Houston Astros Shame Tour, that has been trolling the Astros since the cheating scandal surfaced, reached out to Wilson and asked if he could get more behind-the-scenes footage of the actual progress of the setup. The company that was behind the aerial banners let him film everything.

“Apparently it’s gotten a lot of publicity,” Wilson said. “I just really hope this motivates other teams’ towns to do something of their own, just don’t let this go quietly by. The fans need to feel that they have some part of giving feedback to the Astros since they can’t boo them in person.”

But Wilson, who will be sitting out the Coliseum on Friday, has more in store for the Astros.

“Oh, I have a megaphone and when the Astros players come up to bat, I’m going to boo them through the megaphone,” he said. “They probably won’t hear me, but this is more symbolic than anything.”

[RELATED: A's-Astros animosity exists, don't expect retaliation]

Wilson will be following on his phone to see who’s up at bat and when to boo that player, but made sure to note he would only boo players that were on the 2017 team.

“Specifically the ones like [Alex] Bregman, [George] Springer … ” Wilson said. “They probably won’t hear me, but I’m not going to do it the whole game, not going to stand on this bridge by myself the whole game, but I’ll do it like the first inning or two, just giving my little effort to it.”