Monday, November 23, 2009
2009 Final A'ssessment: Catcher & DH
Kurt Suzuki – C (.274/.313/.421)
2009 Grade: B
The Good: Everyone who writes about Suzuki is obligated to mention un-measureable, anecdotal attributes like "he calls a good game" and "he's good with Oakland's young pitchers". And, he IS fun to watch behind the plate as he's solid on defense without the shortcomings of recent A's catchers like Jason Kendall (threw like a girl) and Ramon Hernandez (the next time he blocks the plate and takes a home plate collision will be the first time). On offense, he doubled his HR output and added 50 points to his SLG.
The Not-So-Good: I didn't realize how mediocre Suzuki was at the plate for most of the season – especially considering that on May 1 he was hitting .352/.397/.463. For the next 4 ½ months (through September 15), he hit only .253/.285/.386. His OBP dropped more than 30 points from 2008, as he expanded the strike zone and swung at pretty much everything (just 28 walks in 614 PAs). For the second straight year, Suzuki led the AL in games started behind the plate and – following a maddening recent pattern – the A's seem perfectly fine with their starting catcher going two weeks without a day off.
Jack Cust – DH (.240/.356/.417)
2009 Grade: D+
The Good: Led the A's in home runs for the third straight season – and almost half of his 25 were with runners on base! Cust wisely ditched his more aggressive approach at the plate (he was hitting .224/.316/.407 on June 30) and posted a .256/.395/.428 line from July 1 through the end of the season. Graciously signed a ball for my son during Spring Training AND he lists Jay-Z as his favorite musician. You're OK by me, ya big lug.
The Not-So-Good: Cust's OPS in each of the past three seasons has dropped precipitously (.912, .857, .773). He's an ill fit for the 3-4-5 hole, but the A's simply don't have anyone better to put there. Cust's defense is the sports equivalent to the comedy with a sad ending…and when your team's best power hitter evokes a Terms of Endearment reference, it's time to reassess your roster. He pulled down $2.8M in 2009, with an arbitration raise for 2010 an absolute certainty. The early word is that our boy-genius GM wants him back.