The Oakland Athletics Are Not the Disaster We Expected

Is this Moneyball 2.0? Here is what's behind the Oakland Athletics' mini-turnaround and their hot start to the 2024 season.

Mason Miller of the Oakland Athletics in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 22: Mason Miller #19 of the Oakland Athletics in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on April 22, 2024 in New York City. Oakland Athletics defeated the New York Yankees 2-0. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Are we about to get a Moneyball sequel?

The second month of the 2024 Major League Baseball season has kicked off, and the Oakland Athletics might be the most surprising story of the young year.

After their disastrous 50-112 (.309 winning percentage) record in 2023 and the official decision to relocate the team to Las Vegas, it was easy to cast off the A’s as 2024 losers.

But, the A’s have not been the disaster many baseball fans expected to start the season.

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The team has defied expectations and is playing competitive baseball, currently sitting four games back of first place in the American League West and a Wild Card spot.

What’s Different About the Oakland Athletics in 2024?

It’s not like the A’s had an easy April.

Mark Kotsay’s club split a four-game series with the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium from April 22-25. They took two out of three in Baltimore the next series, one of which was in heart-stopping fashion. They rallied back to tie the first game of the series in the ninth inning, ultimately clinching a nail-biter win in the 10th.

The A’s ended April with a sweep over the Pittsburgh Pirates before taking a home series against the Miami Marlins in early May. That series victory included a 20-4 pummelling on May 4.

Breakout Players Are Making a Big-Time Impact

Mason Miller

It’s no secret that the Athletics don’t have a lot of money to move around. They have the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball, but several of their low-key moves have been paying off so far in 2024.

No A’s player has been more electric than reliever Mason Miller, who’s been dominant on the mound in 2024 after going 0-3 and walking 16 batters over 10 games (six starts) in 2023.

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The 25-year-old flamethrower has emerged as arguably the most fearsome reliever in the game. Miller can chuck. His fastball averages 100.7 mph, the highest velocity in the majors. He has thrown 97 pitches of at least 100 mph this season, 40 more than Michael Kopech, the pitcher in second place. In fact, Miller has thrown 19 pitches of at least 102 mph. 

What’s more, Miller also throws one of baseball’s best sliders—it ranks 12th in the majors in average vertical drop. The pitch has helped him to rank second in the bigs in whiff rate.

Brent Rooker

Designated hitter Brent Rooker is also enjoying a productive start to the season. He sits in a tie for eighth in the American League with eight home runs, to go along with his 21 RBIs.

Rooker led the charge in the 20-run route over the Marlins, cranking a pair of homers in the same inning — one of which traveled a projected 447 feet, the club’s longest the season. The former first-round pick became the first A’s player to go deep twice in the same inning since Mark McGwire on Sept. 22, 1996.

Third baseman Brett Harris, one of the Athletics’ top hitting prospects, also left the yard twice that day. He launched a solo homer for his first career hit in the fourth inning and went deep again for a two-run shot in the sixth.

Tyler Nevin

Another productive roster addition has been Tyler Nevin, who was designated for assignment by the Orioles on Opening Day.

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Nevin, the son of 12-year MLB vet (and former Angels skipper) Phil Nevin, has enjoyed his time in Oakland to the tune of a .277 average with 10 RBIs and a .775 OPS.

It’s been a good start for the 26-year-old, who was selected 38th overall by the Colorado Rockies in the 2015 MLB draft, then traded to the Orioles before making his MLB debut. He has already surpassed his previous career-high with four home runs.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” starter Paul Blackburn told the San Francisco Chronicle‘s John Shea. Blackburn is leading the team with three wins and 31 strikeouts in 37.1 innings pitched. “It’s fun to win, especially with what a lot of us have been through the last couple of years and being able to put that behind us and believe in one another.”

The Oakland A’s will be moving around a lot over the next few years, including playing their 2025 home games in Sacramento and a planned relocation to Las Vegas in 2028.

But one thing is for sure: They’re fun to watch right now.