Sunday, July 18, 2010
2010 Mid-Term A'ssessment: Catcher and DH
Kurt Suzuki – C: .252/.306/.411
What I Said in March: "However, he'll have to turn around his OBP [from 2009], which dropped more than 30 points from 2008 as he lengthened his swing to increase his power."
What I Say Now: That swing's still long. Despite missing three weeks with an intercostal strain, Suzuki's 10 first-half home runs were just five shy of the career-high 15 bombs he hit last season. Before the injury, though, Suzuki's OBP was .343 and his SLG was .508. Since he returned on May 16 through the end of the first half, his OBP and SLG were .293 and .380, respectively. In his defense, he's spent most of the season as Oakland's cleanup hitter and – in an admittedly small sample size – he's hit .281/.331/.469 in 172 plate appearances when batting fourth.
Mid-Term Grade: B...We're halfway through 2010 and Suzuki's on a similar pace to several of his 2009 numbers. He was fairly unlucky on balls in play (.251 BABIP) during the first half and his 14% line drive rate is likely to trend upward, closer to normalization. Over his career, however, Suzuki's OPS is about 25 points lower after the All Star Break. The last two sentences are the statistical equivalent of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.
Eric Chavez – DH: .234/.276/.333
What I Said in March: "Eric Chavez will announce his retirement before season's end."
What I Say Now: I'm one of the few A's fans who appreciates how great Chavez was at his apex (.280/.357/.513 from 2000-2004 with an average of 30 home runs per year). I'm also one of the many A's fans who predicted disaster when Chavez was handed the everyday DH job out of Spring Training. The assortment of significant injuries (back, neck, shoulder) that Chavez has endured over the past several seasons has eroded his beautifully lethal swing into a soft breeze. Watching Chavez tentatively flick at pitches – as if his bat were a porcelain fly swatter – is not how I want to remember him.
Mid-Term Grade: INC... On May 22, Chavez was placed on the disabled list with two bulging discs in his neck. The move came after Chavez spent February, March, April and most of May proclaiming his good health to anyone with a tape recorder. There's no point kicking the guy when he's down. Chavez was either playing hurt all season (his ret-conned version of the events) or he stepped aside on his own in late May and sought to save face when it was unbearably obvious that the end was here.
And, the rest…: After putting together 100 solid at-bats vs. RHP as a rookie last season, back-up catcher Landon Powell has been inexplicably jerked around in 2010. He spent the first half yo-yoing between Oakland and AAA-Sacramento. Why? Because Jake Fox was out of minor league options. Fox was around for one reason: annihilate LHPs. It's his only offensive attribute. He failed. Miserably. M'man Jack Cust spent the season's first six weeks in the minor leagues (after our boy-genius GM signed him to a one-year, $2.65M deal last offseason). The A's team leader in home runs since 2007 was recalled in mid-May…and suddenly stopped hitting home runs. His .294 BA and .398 OBP are impressive, but his ungodly .404 BABIP isn't going to last.