Monday, November 17, 2008

2008 Final A'ssessment – Catcher n' Designated Hitter

Kurt Suzuki – C

.279 BA .346 OBP .370 SLG

The Good News: After the A's 50th game of the season, Suzuki's OPS bottomed out at .601. From there until the end of the season, he hit .298/.368/.404 – numbers that would've been better if Suzuki hadn't ran out of gas in September. As with most recent A's catchers, Suzuki caught a ton of games (141) and frequently showed off his solid arm, plate blocking and agility behind the plate. Not nearly the clutch hitter he's made out to be, but he did seem to get his share of timely hits.

The Bad News: Despite having a capable back-up in Rob Bowen on the roster, the A's opted to run the 24-year-old Suzuki day after day. There were two separate nearly two-week stretches when Suzuki caught every inning of every game. I love my A's, but this is f***** lunacy and he paid for it at the plate down the stretch. Suzuki continues to be Major League Baseball's answer to Vlade Divac, as he flops to the ground at pitches that aren't anywhere close to hitting him, each time rising with a look of shock and awe in his eyes.

2009 Outlook: Suzuki is close, kids. He won't ever be Jason Varitek or Jorge Posada at their respective peaks, but he's good enough to set up shop a couple of notches below Joe Mauer and Dionner Navarro. Suzuki may be super-two arbitration eligible after next season, but I'm betting ownership locks him up long-term before then.

Frank Thomas – DH

.263 BA .364 OBP .387 SLG (with Oakland only)

The Good News: Earlier this year, some broad famously quipped "Hope is not a strategy". Well, the signing of Thomas in late April, combined with a surprisingly strong start for the A's had some of us suckered into thinking the team would be scuttling the rebuilding project for a 2008 run. It took a handful of games for Thomas to get his groove back and from April 28 through May 27 he hit an astounding .346/.429/.577.

The Bad News: Thomas shredded his quad while sliding (picture an elephant falling over after suffering a stroke) into home plate. He missed two months and his absence arguably charted the team's direction as sellers at the All Star Break. Big Hurt returned on August 1 – hit .211/.312/.263(!) for the month – then mercifully went down for the season with the same injury on August 29.

2009 Outlook: No one amongst the apologist A's media who covered the team would come out and say it, but Thomas was pretty obviously in it for himself last season. Between his leg injury and an aging bat, Thomas spent '08 cheating a little early on every swing and looking like an overmatched rookie when he guessed wrong. The quad injury should've kept him out the rest of the year, but when the A's opted to just play out the string after the ASB, Thomas' self-described "30% tear" in his quad suddenly had healed enough for him to play every day – for next year's contract. Worth a 2009 Spring Training invitation, but it won't be with Oakland.

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