Thursday, July 16, 2009

2009 Mid-Term A'ssessment: Outfield, Catcher, Etc.

Matt Holliday - LF: .276/.373/.419

What I Said in March: "I just can't shake this feeling that most of the 'he's gonna be fine [outside of Colorado]' talk is coming from the usual lemmings who think GM/messiah Billy Beane can do no wrong."

What I Say Now: Holliday has his defenders amongst the 800 or so A's fans left, so I'll happily concede that the numbers say he's been our best player at the plate this season. Those numbers DON'T explain why he's so obviously dialed back his effort in '09. He's content to flick pitches the other way, instead of driving them. He plays LF like everyone in New York said Bobby Abreu played RF. The kamikaze who nearly killed himself on that home plate slide in the one-game playoff in 2007 would rather go at 80% and preserve himself for free agency. He's our own
Roger Dorn.

Mid-Term Grade: C-...The "he's our best hitter" position is damning with faint praise on a team so embarrassingly inept at the plate. He's miserable in Oakland and his '09 performance has probably cost him millions this offseason. He is, however, my son's favorite player. Hope a little emotional currency can make up the difference in your 2010 paycheck, Holliday.

Ryan Sweeney - CF: .271/.320/.357

What I Said in March: "Sweeney's a little overrated by A's fans who fixated on his kinda-sorta empty .286 BA last year and it looks like the White Sox were right about his power game never developing."

What I Say Now: Sweeney has become VERY overrated by A's fans. Credit where it's due: he's made huge strides on defense and covers all kind of ground out there. Offensively, his .677 OPS ranks 22nd out of the 24 everyday centerfielders who qualify. Twenty-second! The
long-term deal given to Toronto CF Vernon Wells is considered one of the worst in the game, yet his OPS is almost 50 points higher!

Mid-Term Grade: C+...Sweeney is what he is: a starting outfielder for a team that has no better internal options. He's proven he can't hit lefties (.221/.299/.273 in his career) and refuses to take a walk. His offensive shortcomings will really be exposed with his move to RF.

Travis Buck - RF: .226/.287/.355

What I Said in March: "[T]his'll be Buck's last season in Oakland."

What I Say Now: The exact same thing. Buck committed the ultimate, unforgivable sin when he publicly questioned the organization after he was placed on the disabled list in late May. A few weeks later, the A's acquired OF Scott Hairston and demoted Buck to Triple-A for the umpteenth time in his A's tenure.

Mid-Term Grade: D...Let's be clear: Buck has NOT hit when given the opportunity for playing time. That said, his appearances have been so sporadic that it almost appears he's being set up to fail. Way to ensure that return on investment when Buck's eventually traded, GM Beane.

Jack Cust - DH: .232/.322/.411

What I Said in March: "I like Cust more than a lot of A's fans, but I've got a feeling that there'll be more valleys than peaks for him this year."

What I Say Now: In Cust's first 10 games of the season, he was hitting .333/.488/.545. Since then – in 72 games and nearly 300 plate appearances – he's hitting .220/.297/.394. If Jack Cust isn't taking walks AND is hitting home runs with glaringly less frequency, it's time to cut bait. He's making $2.8 million this year and won't get any cheaper.

Mid-Term Grade: D+...The things that Jack Cust did to make himself a cost-effective (and just plain ol' effective) ballplayer have begun to erode. And, we haven't even touched on his glove, which turned to dust long ago. I still like Cust – he was my son's first autograph, what can I say? – but I no longer want him on my team.

Kurt Suzuki - C: .293/.336/.417

What I Said in March: "Suzuki's [2009] projection is virtually indistinguishable from his 2008 stats, but I think he takes a step forward."

What I Say Now: His slight decline in OBP has been offset by a nearly 40 point leap in SLG. Suzuki is only two doubles and two home runs off of his respective totals from all of last season. He's not quite All-Star worthy – despite the protestations from the more
myopic members of the A's fanbase – but he's well on his way.

Mid-Term Grade: B+...I'm the first to say that a catcher's influence on a pitching staff is often overrated, but Suzuki's been done some fine work with the kids in our rotation. His defense is already top-notch and with another season or two under his belt, Suzuki has the chance to blossom into the best all-around catcher in the game. This assumes Joe Mauer retires at the end of this season.

And, the rest…: Reserve OF Rajai Davis (.257/.333/.354) might've assured himself a roster spot for the rest of the season by shaking off a miserable start to hit .319/.402/.472 in his last 72 at-bats. Landon Powell (.225/.291/.380) has been playing with an injured hamstring since mid-May. Thankfully, he's only had to play in 13 games since mid-May.

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