A’s new plate approach is paying dividends thus far in spring training

As they gear up for a competitive 2024 season, the Oakland A’s aim to maintain their newfound offensive prowess and translate it into success. (Photo by Josh Amick/Cronkite News)

MESA – After finishing last season with the lowest runs per game in all of baseball, the Oakland A’s are using spring training to take more of a team-first approach at the plate.

So far it’s working.

Oakland finished last season with 3.61 runs per game and through 20 spring training games in the Cactus League, they are averaging 5.8. According to manager Mark Kotsay, they are controlling the zone better and using the next-man-up strategy to grind out every at-bat.

“Offensively, we have done a lot better job with two strikes and our mentality is set where we aren’t going to just give away the at-bat,” Kotsay said. “Our approach with runners in scoring position has improved. Last season, we had a challenging time with that process and so far this spring, we have made some improvements.”

The A’s don’t have much star power or pop in the lineup. Brent Rooker led the team with 30 home runs and 69 RBIs in 2023. Those home runs put him inside the top 11 in the American League, but the RBIs were ranked 40th.

They will need to produce more as a team and will rely on their former top prospects, including Shea Langeliers and Zach Gelof, as well as veterans such as Seth Brown, who hit 25 home runs in his last full season in 2022.

“As an offensive staff we are trying to buy into what we do as a ballclub and that’s move runners and do your job,” Gelof said. “When you can get on base, get on base, whatever it takes to score runs and I think early on we have done a good job of that as a ballclub.”

Embracing a team-first approach at the plate, the A’s have surged in the Cactus League, averaging 5.8 runs per game. (Photo by Josh Amick/Cronkite News)

The A’s scored 11 runs Wednesday against the San Diego Padres. This marks the third time the team has scored double digits in spring training. They are being led by players like Lawrence Butler and Gelof, who made their major league debuts last season and newcomer Miguel Andujar, who leads the team with 13 RBIs.

“It’s kind of the focus for us this year, get the next guy up and sacrifice at-bats for the team and just all stay on the same page,” Brown said. “It is starting to show a little bit in the spring. Guys are getting excited about moving runners and that’s the start of something. You have to have those team at-bats and we are all coming together as a group and it’s just committing to that approach.”

Brown was part of the last A’s playoff run in 2020, when they lost the divisional series 3-1 against the division rivals Houston Astros. As one of the team’s longest-tenured players, Brown knows what a winning team looks like.

“These young guys, the hunger is there,” Brown said. “They all want to win. They come in ready to work and that’s the biggest cornerstone you can have is guys that want to work and want to get after it. Now it’s just getting everyone on the same page and committing to the approach we have as a team.”

The A’s will have their hands full in a division with the reigning World Series champion Texas Rangers, perennial playoff team Houston Astros and a Seattle Mariners team that finished with 38 more wins than the A’s and just two games fewer than the division champ Astros.

With uncertainty surrounding their future home, the A’s are only worried about things they can control, like the zone and the team-first approach. If they continue the success they have shown in spring training, this A’s team might look drastically different from the 50-win team last season.

“Sometimes you just get off to a good start. We had a couple of games where we didn’t score very many runs,” Kotsay said.

“It’s good to see the at-bats consistent and everyone is having a good two-strike approach and we are hoping to continue that throughout the season.”

Josh Amick jaw-sh ey-mick (he/ him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Josh Amick expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Amick has written and interned for AZPreps365 and is working toward a job as a beat writer or sideline reporter.