Last season, no one expected the A's to reach the postseason, much less win nearly 100 games. Yet somehow, all of the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly and Oakland emerged as one of the best teams in baseball.
This season has been a completely different story. Yes, it's still early, but the A's entered Monday with the fifth-worst record in the majors at 15-21, marking the first time they've been six games under .500 since 2017.
So what exactly has gone wrong this season?
Here are five reasons why the A's have been unable to match last year's success:
Last season, the A's bullpen was arguably the best in all of baseball. The pen's 3.37 ERA was the third-best in the majors and the group's .220 opponents' batting average ranked second in the league. This season, the Oakland bullpen has taken a huge step backward, ranking 20th in MLB with a 4.40 ERA and .247 opponents' batting average.
Even worse, the A's have already blown seven saves in 13 opportunities, the third-worst percentage in the majors. Compare that to last year when Oakland converted 71 percent of its save opportunities, fifth-best in the league.
Last season, the A's found a way to win the vast majority of their close games. Oakland's 31-14 record in one-run contests was the best in the majors. This year, the A's are just 4-6 in one-run games and 0-3 in extra-inning affairs.
Part of that can certainly be chalked up to the bullpen's poor performance, but another factor has been a lack of clutch hitting. Oakland has failed to drive in runs in key situations and the club's situational hitting has been subpar.
Love it or hate it, this A's offense relies heavily on the long ball. When they hit home runs, they tend to win. When they don't, they usually lose.
Last season, Oakland belted 227 homers, third-most in MLB. Through 36 games this year, they have only hit 45, tied for 13th in the league. On the A's recent 1-8 road trip, they totaled just four home runs in nine games.
Last season, all four A's infielders were named Gold Glove Award finalists, with corner infielders Matt Chapman and Matt Olson taking home hardware. While Chapman and Marcus Semien still patrol the left side of the infield, the right side has been a mess.
Jurickson Profar's defensive struggles have been well-documented at second base. His eight errors are twice as many as any other second baseman in the league. Meanwhile, Olson has missed all but two games this season with a hand injury, and while Kendrys Morales and Mark Canha have filled in admirably, neither one of them is anywhere near the level of Olson.
Second base dropoff
Not to pile on Profar, but he hasn't come close to filling the void left by Jed Lowrie's departure to the New York Mets. Lowrie had the best year of his career last season, slashing .267/.353/.448 with 23 home runs, 37 doubles, and 99 RBI. Profar is hitting just .171/.231/.270 with two homers, three doubles, and 14 RBI.
Of course, Lowrie has yet to play a game this season as he recovers from a knee sprain. But he was a critical part of the A's lineup last year and they have not figured out how to replace that production.