Ryon Healy and the Oakland A's disproportionately rely on power to win games. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Kings of the longball: Rebuilding Athletics live, die by the home run

Bob Melvin couldn’t tell you why his Oakland Athletics have been such a bizarre club in the opening months of 2017. Neither could Rajai Davis, the team’s most seasoned position player, who’s appeared in more than 1,200 big league games across 12 seasons.

The center and sometimes left fielder doesn’t know the exact numbers of the A’s home and away splits. He doesn’t need to. He lives those numbers. He’s well aware that the club is good — at times great — at the Coliseum and awful away from it.

“We don’t come in the clubhouse and celebrate when we’re on the road,” Davis explained. “And we do that a lot when we’re at home.

“That’s not going to help you in your quest to go to the postseason,” Davis added when advised of the exact road record — 9-25 — heading into the weekend trip to Chicago. “You’ve got to play well on the road.”

That 9-25 mark is the second worst in baseball, the worst in the American League. The club has dropped nine road series in a row — the third-longest streak in Oakland history and the lengthiest since 1986.

Home has been much kinder to the club. Even after losing four in a row to the Houston Astros, the A’s boast a respectable 22-17 mark in Oakland. Melvin attributes that success, at least partially, to the crowd.

“You know what, I think, at times, we get home after a really rough trip and certainly our fans are a big part of when we succeed here,” Melvin said. “Certainly the [New York] Yankee series it was, too. They were pretty excited and they gave us a bit of a lift.”

It’s possible Melvin is onto something when it comes to the Coliseum support, but the biggest lift has been all the big flies.

Digging through the numbers, two conclusions are apparent: The A’s win when they hit home runs, and the A’s hit more home runs in Oakland than they do on the road.

After nearly three months of baseball, the A’s have won just three times when they don’t leave the park.

The numbers, as supplied by the team’s PR department, are staggering.

The A’s are 28-16 when they homer — 3-16 when they don’t. The team has scored 48.2 percent of its runs via the longball, which is on pace to break the Oakland record of 46.3 percent set back in 1996.

Delving deeper into the numbers, the A’s are 23-9 when they out-homer the opposition — 8-33 when they don’t.

Unsurprisingly, considerably more of the club’s home runs are coming at their home digs — no small feat since the Coliseum is a famously pitcher-friendly yard.

Of Oakland’s 99 home runs, 61 have come at home. That breakdown leaves the A’s tied for second in the AL in that department at home and tied for second-to-last on the road.

Davis, one of the few A’s who doesn’t hit many home runs regardless of where the team is playing, struggles to explain those strange numbers.

The veteran starts talking about the difficulty of hitting against the backdrop of unfamiliar batter’s eyes at road stadiums before finally floating a theory that is more compelling — especially for such a youthful club.

“I don’t think it’s one thing,” Davis said. “But I think, as a player, you hope those things turn around and now because we’ve got a lot of younger players. And I know when I was younger, I struggled on the road. So you have to sometimes get used to playing in a different environment that you’re not familiar with.”

No player better embodies the two-faced nature of the A’s than second-year slugger Ryon Healy. The 25-year-old has been MVPish at home and downright lousy on the road:

Home: .304 AVG, .340 OBP, .630 SLG, 12 HR

Road: .243 AVG, .269 OBP, .414 SLG, 5 HR

Those splits are a microcosm of 2017 for the A’s. They’re part of a worrying road trend that Melvin is aiming to stamp out.

“I think once you have a couple of bad road series in a row you maybe get a little bit tight,” Melvin explained. “You start thinking about it a little bit. We need to put that in the rearview mirror because it shouldn’t be two completely different teams like we’re seeing. So ho hopefully this road trip we can do something about that.”


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