Despite a sluggish start to the season, the A's have bounced back to put themselves in a solid position to reach the postseason for the second straight year.
After winning just 19 of their first 44 games, the A's have gone 31-16 since May 15 to enter the All-Star break at 50-41, just 1 1/2 games out of the second American League wild-card spot.
Oakland's starting pitching, thought to be the team's weakness coming into the season, has actually performed quite well. A's starters currently rank fourth in the AL with a 4.17 ERA and second with 43 quality starts.
Surprisingly, the unit that has underperformed has been the bullpen. Last season, the A's had 18 blown saves the whole year, tied for the fifth-fewest in the majors. Oakland converted 71 percent of its save opportunities, also fifth-best in the big leagues. Even more impressive, the A's were 70-2 when leading after seven innings.
This season has been a completely different story. Oakland has already blown 16 saves, tied for sixth-most in MLB, converting only 57 percent of save opportunities, the eighth-worst rate in the league. The A's have already lost six times when leading after seven innings.
The main cause of Oakland's bullpen troubles can be traced to hard-throwing right-handers Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino, both of whom were phenomenal last season but have been underwhelming this year. The tandem has already combined for eight losses after a total of just five last season.
On the other hand, Liam Hendriks, Yusmeiro Petit, and Wei-Chung Wang have all been pleasant surprises. Hendriks has taken over the closer role from Treinen and even earned his first career All-Star selection.
[RELATED: Five A's bold predictions for second half]
Still, if the A's are going to reach the postseason, they will need Treinen, Trivino, and newcomer Joakim Soria to get back on track in a hurry. Oakland's roster is built to rely heavily on its bullpen and it will require strong performances from everyone, not just three relievers.
If the A's can stop surrendering late-inning leads, they will have a great chance to head back to the playoffs.