Oakland A's Key Issue Is Struggling Starting Rotation

Jarrod Parker recently pitched a gem... and it brought his ERA down to 8.10.

The Oakland A's have come crashing back to earth. A team that just one week ago was riding a sizzling 12-4 start has lost six of the seven games it has since played. Undoubtedly, the A's were not going to continue to win 75 percent of their games, but they better figure out a way to avoid wilting in the face of good competition.

Inconsistent Hitting?

The gut reaction of many is to blame a lineup which has been up and down the past week. After all, hitting is typically Oakland's weakness. And the series against the Rays seemed to confirm that.

The A's scored a paltry four runs in three games, that a first glance should be blamed on a miserable .179 batting average for the series. But the lineup still had its chances, twice stranding nine runners and hitting only 3-25 with runners in scoring position.

That's a good sign that the team was close to much better run production, and it did in fact score quite well in Boston. Against the Red Sox, Oakland scored 24 runs in three games that included an abbreviated 7 inning game called due to weather. They also hit 12-31 with runners in scoring position. That production slowed in last night's home loss to Baltimore, but clearly offensive scoring woes are not a trend at this point.

When Starting Pitching Fails

One emerging trend I've seen from examining the stats is is awful pitching from the rotation.

In fairness, the rotation threw two gems in the seven game slide, one from Bartolo Colon resulting in the only win, and another from Jarrod Parker that was a 1-0 loss.

But throw those two games out for a second and you have a nightmare in which Oakland allowed 41 runs in five losses, with the starting pitchers as the biggest culprits. Of the 41 runs, starters gave up 31 (27 earned) in just 21 innings. The bullpen hasn't been terrific either with 10 runs allowed in 20 innings, but in comparison with the starters, the bullpen pitchers are All-Stars.

The reality is that the A's have given up too many runs by the time a reliever gets to the mound, and that has been a problem in more than just the past week. Colon is the only starting pitcher with a sub-4.25 ERA at 2.42. A.J. Griffin and Tommy Milone haven't been awful, with ERAs of 4.50 and 4.26 respectively, but that's not good either. Brett Anderson's 7.23 ERA and Parker's 8.10 ERA are more than a little alarming.

Even after a rough week, the A's have still scored nine more runs than the next closest team in the Majors. They still have the best OBP of any team in the game. Consistency has been a problem the past week, but they're losing even when they have good offensive games thanks to struggling pitching. Even worse, the team is facing big deficits early in games. That is putting undue pressure on the lineup.

Maybe a month or two from now, these early season trends will prove to be outliers, and the A's will be back to their typical ways of strong pitching and weaker hitting. For now, however, it's not the lineup that's at fault. It's a struggling starting rotation.