Analysis

The MVP candidate you never saw coming

For the second year in a row, the Oakland A’s went on a tear following a slow start to the year and tallied 97 wins, thanks to several key contributors. The biggest has been one you most likely weren’t expecting; 29-year-old shortstop Marcus Semien.

Semien, who’s been with the A’s longer than any other player on the team, has had a terrific season both offensively and defensively to lead his ball club to another outstanding season. Playing in all 162 of Oakland’s games this season, Semien has posted career highs across the board offensively while maintaining a stellar glove at shortstop. With all of this combined, Semien posted an 8.1 WAR in 2019, the fourth best in all of baseball.

At the plate, the Oakland shortstop hit .286 with 33 HR, 92 RBI, .369 OBP, .891 OPS and 137 wRC+. As the team’s leadoff hitter for just about every game this season, Semien’s 92 RBI led the club while his 33 dingers sat third behind Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. Nearly all of Semien’s numbers are career-highs, including an impressive 11.6 BB%, 13.7 K%, .237 ISO and 41.9% rate of hard contact.

Semien has shown plenty of offensive potential throughout his seven-year career, the last five in Oakland, but this season has been the first where it’s been kept up consistently. He swatted 27 HR over 159 games in 2016, then hit 10 in an injury-shortened ’17 campaign and just 15 while playing in 159 games again last season. Now with his first 30 HR campaign, Semien has given the A’s a powerful bat with the ability to get on base at the top of the lineup.

While Semien’s bat has been terrific in 2019, his glove deserves as much, if not more recognition. Once a struggling young shortstop having trouble with even the routine plays, he’s developed into a consistent and reliable defender to go along with a pair of Gold Glovers in the Oakland infield, Chapman and Olson. With much of his success coming from the mentoring of Ron Washington, who spent countless hours working with Semien on a daily basis while part of the A’s coaching staff, it’s certainly not out of the question the A’s have another Gold Glover in their infield in Marcus Semien.

After being dealt to Oakland prior to the 2015 season, Semien was put in charge as the club’s everyday shortstop after playing 85 total games across his first two seasons in the majors with the White Sox. Manning shortstop for all but seven of the club’s games throughout his first year with the A’s, Semien led the majors with a total of 35 errors. He did, however, tie Didi Gregorius and Troy Tulowitzki for the fifth best DRS in the majors with 5, but ranked towards the bottom of shortstops in nearly all other defensive stat categories.

Semien remained Oakland’s everyday shortstop the following season by playing in 159 games, committing 14 less errors for a total of 21, which was still tied for the fourth most in the majors. Semien did not show much improvement from his previous campaign, ranking towards the bottom of the league’s shortstops, including a -6 DRS. His 2017 season was shortened due to a wrist injury, committing nine errors in 85 games. Then the next year, helping lead a surging A’s team to a playoff appearance, Semien put together a strong defensive season at shortstop to finish as a Gold Glove finalist. Missing only three games throughout the course of the season, Semien posted the seventh most DRS among shortstops with 9, along with the third best UZR of 8.3. Despite committing 20 errors, it was a strong campaign in the field for one who’d struggled severely at the same position not too long ago.

Semien’s solid 2018 season at shortstop led to more success this season, as he’s progressed into one of the top defensive shortstops in the American League. He committed just 12 errors this year, an impressive feat for a shortstop and his career low mark, to go along with a .981 FP, 6.5 UZR and 4 DRS. Semien was a Gold Glove finalist last season, and has been arguably the best defensive shortstop in the A.L. this year, at the top of the list with Francisco Lindor.

With a powerful and consistent bat, along with a stellar and reliable glove, the Oakland shortstop has emerged as one of the league’s most valuable all-around ballplayers, posting the fourth best WAR in baseball. Leading the A’s to their second consecutive season with 97 wins and a Wild Card appearance, Semien has entered his name into American League MVP talks after a campaign that no one had predicted.

Photo Source: Getty Images

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Austin Paull

Austin Paull is a 17-year-old writer from Sonoma County, California. Austin loves baseball and the Oakland A’s, and is also a published author. In June 2017, his first book “Comeback Cody” was released and is currently available in various online stores, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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