Friday, May 1, 2009

YOUR Oakland A'ssessment - April 2009

Record: 8-11

Offense: The A's finished April last in the league in batting average (.237), slugging percentage (.322), OPS (.634) and next to last in on-base percentage (.313). The HUGE upgrades to the lineup – all of which were lavishly praised by the Billy Beane-loving local media – performed well below their over-inflated expectations. 1B Jason Giambi (.303 SLG) spent the month hitting balls ten feet in front of the warning track. SS Orlando Cabrera (.611 OPS) tried to break out of his slump by…bunting?! And, Matt Holliday (.648 OPS) – two weeks into the season – inexplicably stopped trying to drive the ball and seemed content with going the other way and settling for dink-n-dunk singles.

Incumbents Kurt Suzuki (.343/.392/.463) and Jack Cust (.415 OBP, team-leading TWO(??) home runs) have been very good. Cust, especially, should be singled out for shortening up on two strikes and being more aggressive on borderline pitches.

Defense: Giambi has somehow started eleven games at first base. In the 2009 Baseball Prospectus book, there's a line comparing Giambi's range to that of a "kneecapped fire hydrant". After watching him this season, I think we should sign the fire hydrant for late-inning defense. Eric Chavez look just about done, too. When he wasn't hitting, his glovework (and ginormous contract) kept him in the lineup. Now, he's part of a three-headed third base hydra of defensive liability with Nomar Garciaparra and Bobby Crosby. Cabrera, at least, has been terrific at times.

Starting Pitching: As of this writing, only one starting pitcher is sporting an ERA under 5.00. Dallas Braden (3-2, 2.10 ERA) hasn't been lights out, as the early returns on his pedestrian K/9 rate (5.4) show. But, I love his mound presence and still believe his cockiness is just what this callow staff needs to see every fifth day. The kids – Brett Anderson (5.01 ERA) and Trevor Cahill (5.40 ERA) – have taken their lumps, but have had their moments. Cahill took a no-hitter into the seventh vs. Seattle and Anderson held the mighty Texas offense to one earned run over five-plus innings earlier this week, before the bullpen crapped the bed. Dana Eveland (2.085(!) WHIP) has been abominable and Josh Outman is crazy miscast as a starter.

Relief Pitching: In 2008, Jerry Blevins was terrific out of the pen, pitching in 36 games with an ERA of 3.11. This year, he failed to retire the one batter he faced on April 10 and then gave up four runs in less than an inning on April 15. He was summarily banished to Triple-A solely for making the rest of the relievers looks bad. Can't ask too much more of these guys. Erstwhile Cub Michael Wuertz (2.13 ERA), former Senior League standout Russ Springer (1.74 ERA) and if-he-was-pitching-on-the-east-coast-you'd-have-heard-of-this-rookie Andrew Bailey (3 hits in 15.2 innings) have been ab-fab. Brad Ziegler is still NOT a closer, but he's pitched well enough (1.74 ERA, 4 saves).

Defining Moment of the Month: April 28 vs. Rangers…the A's lost FOUR players to injury in one game (Garciaparra, Ellis, Anderson, Casilla) and then lost the game, 5-4.

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