The Oakland Athletics stunned the baseball world in 2018 by winning 97 games. So, when the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) announced that manger Bob Melvin won the American League Manager of the Year Award it wasn’t surprising.
It was the third time in Melvin’s career he was won Manager of the Year and second time doing so with the A’s. Oakland became the first team in Major League Baseball history to make the postseason while having the lowest opening day payroll.
Yet, Melvin and the A’s dealt with adversity the entire season. With a young team it easily could have gone the other way. The entire starting rotation wound up on the disabled list and during the season that meant bringing in several new starters that included Mike Fiers, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson both who wound up injured as well and Edwin Jackson. Opening day starter Sean Manaea arguably had the best moment of the season when he pitched a no-hitter versus the Boston Red Sox.
He also started the season off strong before a noticeable difference in velocity. Manaea will now end up missing the 2019 season due to shoulder surgery.
With the injuries to the starters, Melvin late in the season borrowed an approach from the Tampa Bay Rays with mixed results. Usually Liam Hendriks threw an inning or two and a starter either Chris Bassitt or Daniel Mengden came on in relief.
Due to injuries and the inability to go deep in games a weakness in 2017 became its strength in 2018. The bullpen. Blake Treinen made history by becoming the first closer in MLB history to record over 30 saves, strike out over 100 batters with an era under 1.
To bulster the pen and make a push towards the playoffs Jeurys Familia and Fernando Rodney were acquired. With Lou Trivino’s dominant season as setup man the move meant that the starters only needed to go five for six innings.
For Melvin and the A’s offense there weren’t as many issues when it came to injuries. Though Matt Chapman did miss some time and Jed Lowrie did struggle a bit after a strong beginning to the season. Dustin Fowler a key piece of the Sonny Gray trade couldn’t find consistency at the plate and got sent down, yet Ramon Laureano cemented himself as the A’s center fielder with a number of highlight reel catches and throws.
Left field was solidified with Nick Martini who showed solid patience at the plate and ended the season with a .397 obp and a batting average of .296. Designated hitter Khris Davis led the American League in home runs with 48 and he drove in 123. Those who watched A’s games marveled at how in some at-bats he looked overmatched and then crush a pitch in his next at-bat.
The only question marks on offense in 2018. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy and shortstop Marcus Semien.
Lucroy ended the season with a .241 average with four home runs and 51 rbi. Yet, his ability to handle the pitching staff that was decimated by injury made up for his lack of production at the plate. Semien although even with improved defense still led the American League in errors at shortstop. Offensively he did drive in 70 with 15 home runs and 35 doubles, set a career-high in walks with 61, yet his obp was .318.
During Melvin’s tenure as A’s manager the defense has never been great. 2018 changed that, as Matt Olson and Chapman won gold gloves. Lowrie and Semien were also candidates for the gold glove at their positions.
An improved defense, a stellar bullpen and offense while overcoming numerous injuries to their starters proves that Melvin did an outstanding job in 2018 and was the only on deserving of the Manager of the Year Award.