OP-ED: A’s bullpen the strength of the team

The 2018 season has begun, and there is little hope that the Oakland Athletics will make the playoffs, but there is one place where they have improved: the bullpen.

Over the offseason, the A’s made pitching a priority, and relief pitching was at the top of that list. They added veteran long man Yusmeiro Petit, left hander Ryan Buchter and Chris Hatcher and Blake Treinen in trades late last season.

The additions, along with rookie Emilio Pagan, leaves only three relievers from last season still working out of the pen for Bob Melvin.

It has only been five games so far, but this bullpen already appears far superior than its predecessor.

In five games this season, the bullpen has already pitched 19.2 innings and given up six runs, five of them earned, for a solid bullpen ERA of 2.29. Two of those came in Pagan’s debut in a game that was already out of hand.

The only issue with this early success is that it is unlikely to be sustainable because they are pitching an average of just under four innings a game. Use like that will burn out arms fast no matter how good they are.

For now, though, they are the saving grace for a team that has gotten limited innings from their starting pitchers, not played well on defense and hasn’t been the offensive powerhouse that was expected.

Opening Day for the A’s has been the best example of this bullpen’s success so far.

Trailing by one after five innings manager Melvin turned to Buchter who pitched a clean inning. Then Petit came in and pitched two, followed by Treinen with another two and then Hatcher with a scoreless inning. Six innings with no runs saved the game and allowed the A’s to get the walk-off win in extra innings.

It may not be sustainable.

They may get burned out.

They may not be as good as they’ve looked so far.

For now, though, they look much improved and have been the most valuable part of the team. Now if the rest of the team can just step up to their level of success.