OAKLAND -- After trading away a core of stars in Spring Training, the A’s entered the 2022 season knowing they were going to take a step back from contention as they entered a rebuild.
The high expectations established from previous seasons were lowered, but that doesn’t lessen the frustration of what was just the second 100-loss season in Oakland history and first since 1979.
“There were definitely some growing pains, that’s for sure,” A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said. “Nobody wants to lose 100 games. It’s the first one I’ve been a part of in this position, so that’s disappointing.”
The A’s offense was historically bad, ranking last in several categories, including a .627 team OPS that now stands as the club’s lowest mark in a single season since moving to Oakland in 1968. Pitching wasn’t much better, as Oakland's starters combined to post the second-highest ERA (4.69) in the American League.
Despite the struggles, there were glimmers of hope with the arrival of several top prospects to the big leagues such as Shea Langeliers, Nick Allen, Jordan Diaz and Ken Waldichuk. The A’s were also pleased with the leadership shown by first-year manager Mark Kotsay as he navigated a young club through a difficult season.
“I will say one of the most positive things to come out of this year was Mark’s first year as manager,” said A’s general manager David Forst. “He and the [coaching] staff got something out of every day. Mark and I talked a lot during the season about what positives we can take away from each night, win or loss. We never had difficulty finding a positive, whether it was a player, coach, or his process. I feel great about Mark as the manager and the staff that he put together. We learned a lot about a certain number of players who may or may not be here for the long run.”
Here’s a review of 2022:
Following an encouraging start to the season that saw the A’s go 10-11 in April, the expected struggles typical of an inexperienced team soon kicked in. In May and June, the A’s went 15-42. A 5-21 record for the month of June marked their second-lowest winning percentage (.192) in a month of five or more games played in Oakland history, sinking them further down the bottom of the AL West standings.
What we learned
Having used a franchise-record 64 players, including 34 rookies, it’s clear the A’s utilized 2022 as an opportunity to identify which players fit into their future. That assessment will continue into 2023, but Oakland discovered some pieces this season that earned bigger roles for next year, such as Dermis Garcia, Zach Jackson, Tyler Cyr and Dany Jiménez.
Seth Brown took advantage of his first real shot at a full-time role by establishing himself as a regular in the middle of the lineup, leading the A’s in home runs (25) and RBIs (73), both of which were also career highs for the first baseman/outfielder.
Cole Irvin emerged as a workhorse in Oakland’s rotation, tossing a career-high 181 innings and posting a 3.98 ERA in 30 starts. For a staff that will likely continue to feature promising young left-handers in Waldichuk and JP Sears next season, Irvin will also be counted on as a leader of the rotation.
Area for improvement
As mentioned earlier, hitting was a major problem for the A’s. Help isn’t likely to come through free agency, given Oakland’s recent offseason history, so the A’s will likely need to look within for more production at the plate.
On the rise
Perhaps the offensive woes can be aided by top prospects who debuted in 2022 such as Allen, Langeliers and Diaz. Though each went through struggles at times, the three ended the season getting regular playing time. Other top prospects with elite hitting profiles in Tyler Soderstrom and Zack Gelof finished the year in Triple-A and could find themselves in Oakland at some point in 2023.
Sean Murphy led all Major League catchers in doubles (37) and extra-base hits (57) this season. Of course, that’s only a small part of the impact he brought to the A’s. The reigning AL Gold Glove Award winner stands a strong chance at making it two in a row after turning in another elite season behind the plate. Murphy also displayed a strong ability to handle the many new faces on a young pitching staff.