Athletics

Why A's Marcus Semien attributes his breakout season to switching bat

Why A's Marcus Semien attributes his breakout season to switching bat

Who knew a few ounces could make such a difference?

Marcus Semien has been having his best season as a pro, on pace to set career-highs in batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.359), and wins above replacement (5.7).

What has been the key to Semien’s breakout season? He made a switch in the weight of the bat he uses at the plate. He recently explained the changes to Marcus Thompson of The Athletic: 

Part of Semien’s improvement at the plate is credited to a bat switch. Last season, Semien used a 34-inch bat. But this spring, he switched to 33.5 inches. He said the smaller bat made his hands feel quicker.

Then, on June 7 in Arlington, Texas, he got a lighter version of the new bat, dropping down to 31.5 ounces. That night, Semien went 4 for 5 with two home runs and drove in four of the A’s runs in a 5-4 win over Texas.

Since that day in early-June, Semien is hitting .287 with 15 home runs and 33 runs batted in. 

“The first game I used it,” Semien told Thompson. “I was like, ‘I’m sticking with this bat.'”

The former Cal baseball standout also has focused on his launch angle and exit velocity, allowing him to improve his power numbers.

“If you’re pulling it down the line,” he explained, “all you’ve got to do is hit it 95 (miles per hour) with a 27 (degree launch angle) and it’s a home run. Because I don’t hit the ball like (Aaron) Judge or them dudes that hit it 115 (mph)."

“I can’t hit it that hard. But if you hit it at the right angle, a home run is a home run.”

Semien’s defense also has dramatically improved. After playing the majority of his career at third base with the White Sox, Semien took over as primarily a shortstop in 2015 after being included in the Jeff Samardzija trade. 

Semien proceeded to lead the league in errors with 35 in 2015, posting a fielding percentage of just .947. He’s made major strides since then -- posting a career-high of .980 so far in 2019 -- placing him above the league-average of .970 for shortstops.

[RELATED: Tanner Roark continues to pay off for A's, stymies Yankees in 5-3 win]

“This is a self-made guy,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Once he took off with (former third base coach) Ron Washington and found the work ethic and fundamentals of the position, it’s been him. He’s had quite a few guys working with him. But his understanding of what he needs to do and how he can better is unlike anybody I’ve ever been around.”

The A’s are hoping those fundamentals can help them secure a playoff spot in the AL, where they currently sit in a tie for the second wild-card spot. 

A's top pick Logan Davidson among spring training non-roster invitees

A's top pick Logan Davidson among spring training non-roster invitees

The A's aren't playing it safe with 2019 first-round draft pick Logan Davidson.

The No. 29 overall pick is among 10 non-roster players the A's invited to spring training Friday.

Davidson, a shortstop, isn't on the A's 40-man roster, but the invite will give him a chance to compete in big league camp. Barring an incredible showing in the Cactus League, the A's No. 7 prospect won't break camp with the A's. But this opportunity allows him to try to impress A's coaches.

In 54 games with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters, Davidson slashed .239/.345/.332 with seven doubles, four homers and 12 RBI.

[RELATED: A's compare Davidson to Corey Seager]

The other invitee to keep an eye on in camp is A's No. 6 prospect Nick Allen. While small in stature, the middle infielder is an incredible defensive player and could find himself playing for the A's at some point in 2020. While Marcus Semien is blocking Allen's path at shortstop, the 21-year-old could get a look at second base if none of the other in-house options pan out for Oakland.

Three other top-30 prospects were invited to spring training: Outfielder Greg Deichmann (No. 17), right-handed pitcher Brian Howard (No. 22) and right-handed pitcher Parker Dunshee (No. 24).

MLB rumors: A's 'showing interest' in free-agent reliever Sergio Romo

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AP

MLB rumors: A's 'showing interest' in free-agent reliever Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo might be headed back to the Bay Area -- just to the opposite side.

The former Giants relief pitcher is a free agent, and according to MLB Network's Jon Morosi, the A's reportedly are interested in acquiring his services.

Romo, 36, is a 12-year veteran who spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Giants, playing a major role in helping San Francisco win three World Series titles in a span of five years. Over 60 1/3 combined innings with the Marlins and Twins last season, he posted a 3.43 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 60 strikeouts and 20 saves.

[RELATED: How Forst thinks state of free-agent market will impact A's]

Liam Hendricks has Oakland's closer spot locked down, but with Blake Treinen being non-tendered, there could be one or more openings in the A's bullpen. Given that Romo has filled just about every possible role within a major league bullpen over the course of his career, he could be an ideal fit if the price is right.