Overall: 22-21 (2nd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 3-4 (1-3 vs. Royals, 2-1 vs. Giants)
First Quarter Grades
Jason Kendall – C: Has TWO extra base hits in 144 at bats. He's hitting .188 with a .234 OBP and .201 SLG. By any metric, he's the absolute worst hitter in baseball. 15 years ago, a music video was made in honor of his swing. Anyone that tells you Kendall has "value" because he's "good with the pitchers" is an idiot. Grade: F-
Dan Johnson – 1B: Missed most of the season's first month with a torn labrum in his hip. He's put up a .358/.476/.617 line since his April 25 return. Finally producing like his promising 2005 campaign showed he was capable of. Currently the best AL first baseman none of you have ever heard of. Occasionally sports "Teen Wolf" beard. Grade: A
Mark Ellis – 2B: Finally starting to heat up after a slow start. Ellis had a fluky career year in 2005 (.316/.384/.477) that most A's fans don't realize he'll never, ever repeat, but he's well on his way to approaching his career OBP/SLG numbers. He's one of those gritty little midgets that everyone tends to overrate. Grade: C
Bobby Crosby – SS: He's been healthy all season, which is about "all season" longer than anyone expected. At 27, he pretty much is what he is: decent pop and lots of strikeouts. He's been hitting well over the last week or two and building up just enough momentum for his inevitable __________ (body part) injury that'll keep him out _______ (a number between 4 and 6) months. Grade: B-
Eric Chavez – 3B: You know why you think you hate Alex Rodriguez? All those imaginary faults you've come up with for one of the greatest players of this era? Save 'em for Chavez. Still swings at everything. Still looks like he couldn't care less. Still collecting on the ONE long-term, market-value contract the A's have handed out. Still a Gold Glove defender, too. Grade: C-
Shannon Stewart – LF: For the last two years, the A's employed OF Jay Payton and played him too much. Stewart is this year's inexplicable everyday player. OK, the explanation is "injuries to everyone else", but Stewart is clearly a 4th outfielder at this point whose defense has eroded to the point of either "awful" or "glacial". Your choice. Grade: C+
Nick Swisher – CF: Despite losing a week to a hamstring injury, he's been the A's best player in the early going. His "pretty boy redneck" schtick drives the squealing teenagers to distraction and the front office is positioning him as the face of the franchise when/if the team ever moves into a new stadium. Just 26 years old and currently hitting .275/.407/.473, he had a hot first two months of 2006, too, before struggling for the next four months. Grade: A
Travis Buck – RF: Injuries forced the A's hand with their top prospect. Buck's been up all year and contributed to several early season highlights, including a game-tying home run off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning earlier this month. He's been ripped by A's fans who still think batting average means anything by itself. .364 OBP and .510 SLG hint that he's ready for the show. Grade: B
Mike Piazza – DH: Last year, Frank Thomas really skewed the appearance of the A's recent (shaky) record with veteran free agent signings. Piazza isn't quite Eric Karros (2004) awful, but the supposed "DH revitalization" that many thought Piazza would experience hadn't happened before an f'd up shoulder sent him to the DL. There's talk of him going back behind the plate when he's ready to go. Grade: C-
…And the Rest: All Jack Cust does is hit home runs…or take a walk…or strike out. If he was doing this (.283/.468/.848) on the EastcoastSPN, Tom Daniels would go back to writing weekly columns. Milton Bradley has nursed a sore hamstring for several weeks. He's very good when healthy, but his last full season played was in 2004. Marco Scutaro hit a walk-off home run off of Mariano Rivera, thus buying the Lilliputian Venezuelan another full season in the sun. Deserved or not.
Danny Haren – SP: That's a 1.74 ERA next to his name and an obscene 0.932 WHIP to go with it. Just 26 years old, Haren is already better than the (chuckle) "ace" he replaced in Barry Zito and the one he was traded for in Mark Mulder. Not sure why any grown man wants to be called "Danny", but whatever, kid. You just keep on winnin'. Grade: A
Joe Blanton – SP: I can't lie…I've never been a fan. His 16 wins in 2006 were due in large (pun intended) part to an insane amount of run support. His K rate was also nothing to write home about and his conditioning was what I'd call "half past Hurley". But, if I can't lie, then I've got to admit that Blanton's been solid this season in improving almost every aspect of his game. He's still fat, though. Grade: B+
Chad Gaudin – SP: 3-1 record…2.94 ERA…just 2 HRs allowed in 52 innings. He works a lot of deep counts, a la Zito, so he'll be susceptible to the occasional long inning, but he's been sent from Allah so far this season. He'll likely fade as his innings pitched count climbs, but he's averaging less than six innings per start, so they'll ride this horse until he "Barbaros Up" on us. Grade: A-
Joe Kennedy – SP: Once again, this time with feeling: spring training stats don't mean sh*t, kids. Kennedy's ERA was about a billion in March and now it's 2.70. Sure, he's not that good. His BB/K numbers are almost equal and he's always pitching with men on base, but for a fifth starter he's better than whatever corpse the Yankees are exhuming this evening. Ooh, and you can do that "Kennedy…Kennedy" thing with his name. Grade: B
Huston Street – RP: Was off to another strong start (9 saves, 2.50 ERA) before a potentially serious elbow injury shut him down. One account speculated that he could be out anywhere from two weeks to 12 months. The A's bullpen has imploded in his absence, but I'm OK with this squad getting a little uglier. All these pretty boys bring out too many girly fans in pink hats. Grade: B+
…And the Rest: Here's a good sign for a healthy, productive life after baseball: Justin Duchscherer is 29 and suffering from an arthritic hip. Fans are suffering from his 4.96 ERA. Rich Harden is hurt again. He looked good in three starts, but this is getting ridiculous. He was accused of having no heart by an anonymous teammate in ESPN The Magazine and I'm inclined to concur. Kiko Calero can turn a 1-run game into a 5-run blowout like nobody's business.
Overall: With all the injuries this team has endured, they'll have to continue to tread water against some of the AL's weaker teams this month. Still, the A's are in a surprisingly strong position to keep winning while getting healthy. A closer look at the schedule shows that the A's will avoid any sustained rough spots until a June 22-July 1 run at New York(N), at Cleveland and at New York(A). I'll be in New York to see them on June 30. I will give them strength.
This Week: at White Sox (3), at Orioles (3)