Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2008 Final A'ssessment – Infielders

Daric Barton – 1B

.226 BA .327 OBP .348 SLG

The Good News: After bottoming out offensively with a .595 OPS on August 21, Barton hit .307/.418/.525 over his final 124 plate appearances (31 games). His defense noticeably improved throughout the year – in fact the relatively esoteric stat RZR ranked him as one of the top gloves at first base in all of baseball.

The Bad News: Though purely coincidental, the A's nosedive immediately after the All-Star break coincided with Barton's face-dive into the shallow end of a swimming pool during the All-Star Break. As a hitter, Barton spent long stretches of the season muscling up and trying to pull the ball. His ceiling is probably more Mark Grace than Mark McGwire, but the A's coaches either failed to convey this message to Barton or he ain't listening.

2009 Outlook: A's upper management can be gloriously vindictive when their players say/do stupid things. So, the fact that Barton wasn't punished beyond a mild reprimand for his dumb-ass Aquaman impression says that he's (1) still in the team's long-term plans or (2) was brought back (after a 15-day DL stint) to build up his trade value. He's only 23-years-old, so he'll at least be the starter on Opening Day.

Mark Ellis – 2B

.233 BA .321 OBP .373 SLG

The Good News: Pretty much every fielding metric – from basic to sophisticated – has Ellis as the best defensive second baseman in the Majors. That, combined with the memory of his fluke-tastic 2005 season (.316/.384/.477) has ensured that he'll be forever overrated to some extent by A's fans. Ellis was named to the A's 40th Anniversary team which, as a "highlight", sums up his season nicely.

The Bad News: From the middle of June until the end of Ellis' injury-shortened season in late August, he hit .196/.287/.289. He also was tremendously unlucky in 2008, as his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was under .250. The A's became a steaming heap of unwatchability down the stretch and Ellis often set the tone with his 325 mediocre plate appearances in the leadoff and #2 spot, combined.

2009 Outlook: Ellis re-signed with the A's for two years and $11 million after the season. The deal's been panned by a lot of A's fans, but I'm OK with it. He'll be perfectly league-average at the plate next season when his BABIP returns to a semblance of normalcy, while his defense remains ridiculously underrated. Likely to remain completely devoid of personality, though.

Bobby Crosby – SS

.237 BA .296 OBP .349 SLG

The Good News: Inexplicably named the A's MVP of the first half by the team's mlb.com beat writer due to a hot three weeks to start the season (.312/.368/.475). Those 20 games bought him a season-long pass from uninformed fans and media who continue to couch their denial of his awfulness with clichés like "…if only he could stay healthy…".

The Bad News: 2008 was Crosby's healthiest season since his rookie campaign in 2004. After his first 20 games, he hit .225/.284/.328. He finished the year as the worst hitting shortstop (.645 OPS) in all of baseball and the third worst hitter – position be damned – in the Majors. Worse than Jeff Francoeur. Worse than Jason Kendall! Willy Taveras and Michael Bourn should forfeit their salaries for finishing behind Crosby.

2009 Outlook: For all of the accolades that have been heaped upon GM Billy Beane - Boy Genius, it's a damning indictment of the A's player development that they have NO ONE in the system whom they trust with the everyday shortstop job more than Crosby. No way my favorite frugal franchise eats the $5.25M he's due in the final year of his idiotic contract, so I'm hoping they give him away this winter.

Jack Hannahan – 3B

.218 BA .305 OBP .342 SLG

The Good News: Finished two points ahead of Bobby Crosby in OPS last season. A career minor-leaguer, Hannahan got his first everyday job in the Majors in 2008 at the age of 28. Consequently, his 501 plate appearances is about 250 more than he should ever, ever see in any single season for the rest of his career.

The Bad News: Meh. I can't be too snarky here. Hannahan is a quadruple-A talent who was forced into a regular role at a level that's too high for his softball-league swing. Once the league stopped throwing him fastballs, he was exposed on a nightly basis by even below-average breaking stuff.

2009 Outlook: Hannahan's ceiling is that of a spare part on an also-ran squad. He can play the infield corners and take the occasional walk in what should be one or two starts per week. If his '09 involves anything more than that, here's hoping it's with another team.

And, the Rest… Oakland's annual AARP roster spot went to 34-year-old DH/1B Mike Sweeney. He hit a little in April, missed most of the season due to injury and then caused a minor stink when he was released in September. Eric Patterson came over in the Rich Harden trade. His two claims to fame: he's Corey Patterson's brother and he weighs 86 lbs. Eric Chavez only played in 23 games and, for the first time in five years, we can't blame him for this sh*t.

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