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  • Nathan Rogers

Amidst Ballpark Politics, A's Win Their 40th Game of the Season Led by Red-Hot Matt Olson and Co.

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

By: Nathan Rogers

The Oakland Athletics have won forty games this season (40-27 record), a feat only three other teams so far have achieved—the A's having a greater strength of schedule (-.05) than all but one of those teams. Despite being in recent heightened discussions about moving the location of its controversial ballpark in Oakland, California, the club has exceeded expectations with their fantastic offense, reliable pitching on the mound and from the bullpen, consistent fielding, and even historic coaching.

Chriss Bassitt

Barring the scary incident in the second inning when Chris Bassitt — the ace on the hill today — wore a screaming line drive from Kansas City's Nicky Lopez to his back, the A's pitcher looked strong. After the incident, a run would be scored, tying the game with the bases loaded. Shortly thereafter, Bassitt laid down on his stomach with his hands over his head in apparent pain. The coaches and trainers checked on the scene, and the A's pitcher was cleared to throw for the rest of the afternoon. Bassitt, after the game, noted how lucky the location of the hit was on his body saying it "didn't affect me at all".

Bassitt finished his outing with six innings pitched, five hits and two runs allowed, and five hitters retired. Bassitt, this season, has pitched 86 innings (12th most in the league), and has only allowed eighteen walks, eight homers, and ranks in the top twenty for WHIP (1.01). Per Fan Graphs, the A's ace leaves 75% of his base runners stranded on base, as well as having 48.6% of all his pitches being in the strike zone (3rd best in the league), while the other of his pitches outside the zone are swung at a rate of nearly 30%. It's no secret why Bassitt has been effective for the A's as the club is been 10-3 (.769) when he starts. In Oakland, he's referred to as the holder of the trident, or the apparent captain of the Ride the Wave campaign, rightfully so.

Matt Olson

Although Bassitt had a solid game, Matt Olson had an even greater outing. The Gold Glove first baseman finished the afternoon 2/4 with two RBIs coming from two solo shots — one homer going 427 feet — which, of course, lit up the famous Holy Toledo sign in center field. I'm sure the classic baseball saying, "have a day, kid" was echoed throughout the dugout during the game and in the clubhouse postgame.

This season, as a whole, Matt Olson has quietly been having the best hitting season of his career. The A's first baseman brought his season batting average up to .289, the 15th-best average in the American League. Olson has also hit eighteen home runs, the second-best number in the AL and third best in the league. For perspective, that is one less home run than the highly-touted Fernando Tatis, who many predict will raise the MVP award at the end of the year for the National League. In the AL, the A's first baseman also has racked in the 5th-most RBIs, 5th-best OPS, 2nd-best slugging percentage (better than players like Ohtani and Bogaerts), and the 2nd-highest OPS.

Along with getting on base consistently, hitting the ball at a league-high rate, and being extremely reliable in the infield, Olson's also developed such a great plate discipline that it is overwhelmingly difficult for pitchers to find success against him. According to Fan Graphs, Olson makes contact on nearly 77% of all pitches thrown at him, earning him a top-20 place in the AL, and he makes contact on 82% of pitches thrown in the strike zone. If his efficiency with pitches thrown in the zone wasn't impressive enough, Olson makes contact on pitches thrown outside the zone at a rate of 65%, 18th-highest in the AL.

Olson is also a quality player in different situations in the count. Through counts when the batter's ahead (3-0, 3-1, 2-0, 2-1), Olson's batting average is .303 with 10 home runs through 156 at bats.

Through counts when the batter's behind (0-1, 1-2, 0-2), his batting average is .278. Specifically, one of Olson's best batting averages is through 0-2 counts. He hits .300 on 0-2 counts with six homers and twelve RBIs on forty ABs. That is absurd.

These stats are great, but one may be asking, how much are these stats independently affecting the success of the A's?

Well, Matt Olson has the second-greatest batting value in the AL, along with being top ten in both RAR (runs above replacement) and WAR (wins above replacement).

Albeit it is June and the MLB schedule isn't even halfway finished, but Matt Olson is, without a doubt, creating a more-than-strong résumé for American League MVP.

If I didn't persuade you enough that Matt Olson is a great player, consider filling out an All Star Ballot for this year's All Star Game and select Olson for AL first baseman.

The Other Matt

Matt Chapman, a two-time Gold Glove third baseman, has undeniably been one of the best up-and-coming defensive players in the league for a while now. His ability to elegantly field ground balls, make acrobatic catches near the foul line, flaunt his missile of an arm, and make off-balance flashy throws to his friend on the other side of the diamond, Matt Olson, has rarely gone under the radar. The question with Chapman, though, has been his hitting.

Since entering the league in 2017, Chapman has been a consistent .200 hitter. Other than one of his best years in 2018, he hasn't hit over .250 in his career. He strikes out a ton, in fact, he is second in the MLB for most strikeouts with 83. His current .220 average ranks in the bottom ten in the league, and he also has a bottom-twenty batting value in the league, per Fan Graphs.

In the last week, though, he's taken his critics to heart and had great offensive outings, partnering well with Matt Olson's.

Matt Chapman, in the last seven days (according to ESPN), has been hitting .364 with 5 RBIs and a homer, while earning an OPS of 1.053.

He's starting to heat up at around the right time as the Athletics' schedule intensifies over the next month or so. Teams like the Yankees, Giants, Red Sox, and Astros all appear before the All Star break.

As both Matt's add more fuel to the fire as of late, Bob Melvin commented on their paired success saying, "When these guys are both are hitting and doing well at the same time, we feel better about ourselves because they're both premier players" (video).

Bob Melvin

On June 1st, Bob Melvin earned his 799th win as the Athletics' skipper, passing Tony La Russa for the most in A's history. With today's 40th win in A's history, Melvin earns his 807th win as an A's manager.

Although those numbers are great alone, they call for more attention and analysis.

In the 2000s, the Oakland Athletics have always been far from a big-market, glamorous, charming franchise to the rest of the MLB. The Coliseum is outdated and ugly, the team has been on a low payroll for what seems like ages, and the franchise has lacked proper leadership for years. But, despite all of that, Bob Melvin still produces wins, develops players, and takes the team to the playoffs, regardless of later outcome. He's loved by players, the front office, and the media. As an A's fan my whole life, I'm glad and appreciative to see Melvin create such a great team from the lackluster resources given from the front office.

Even among controversial and heated discussions between the A's, the MLB, and the Oakland City Council regarding a ballpark location, Melvin's leadership, intelligence, and loyalty keep the roster as his first priority and show a testament to his legacy as one of baseball's greatest managers.

Up Next

Sean Manaea takes the mound for the A's as Ohtani and the Angels come to the Coliseum. Manaea, 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA, hasn't allowed a run in the last two outings and aims to continue that tomorrow as the Angels come in on a 6-game win streak. They'll be without Trout this whole series, though, as he has been injured since May 18th with a strained calf. He won't be back until at least July, from what I've overheard from an Angels coach at a Giants game a couple weeks ago. The Angels, as expected, will be conservative with the best player in baseball.

The A's wish to maintain their lead in the AL West division, as the Astros are creeping up gradually behind by two games.

The A's play the first game of the series against the Angels Monday at 6:40pm PST.

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