Thursday, March 3, 2011
30 A's in 30 Days: Josh Willingham
Acquired: Traded from Washington for RP Henry Rodriguez and OF Corey Brown (December 16, 2010).
Contract: Signed through 2011 (eligible for free agency after 2011).
Position: Starting left fielder; born without lips.
2011 Projected BA/OBP/SLG: .251/.364/.442
2010 Season: In mid-August, Willingham had season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Before the injury, he enjoyed the kind of first half (.281/.411/.502) that hinted at a career year and inspired the usual "He Should Be An All-Star!" cheerleading media pieces. (The latter territory has been ably covered by Oakland's local media in each of the past two seasons.) Willingham's gaudy numbers dropped immediately after the break -- probably due to his barking knee. His 114 games played brought his overall average from 2008-2010 down to 116 per season. Welcome!
2011 Over/Under: Willingham's career slugging percentage of .475 is encouraging, but even with his 12-week hot streak in 2010, he lost ground in "muscle metrics" such as ISO and line drive percentage from 2009. Though this is his contract year, it's hard to envision zero decline when factoring in the usual "new league" and "new ballpark" caveats. Take the UNDER.
By the Numbers: 16 -- The jersey number Willingham will wear this year. Over the past 25 years, five other Athletics have worn this number. Jason Giambi won an MVP award with 16 on his back in 2000 and should've won it again the following season. Mike Davis had an anonymously productive run in the mid-1980s and drew the walk ahead of Kirk Gibson's eviscerating home run in the 1988 World Series. Darren Lewis only wore it during a September call-up with the A's in 1990, but he'd last 13 years in the bigs despite a career .323 OBP and .322 SLG. Troy Neel wore it while hitting 34 home runs as a regular injury replacement for Mark McGwire in 1993-94 and Jay Payton was the starting LF on the 2006 AL West champs. Impress your friends with this paragraph when Willingham comes to bat.
Surefire 2011 Prediction: Willingham's ready-made nickname ("Hammer") and the A's uncanny knack for finding the worst, most obvious theme music for their players (former 1B Dan Johnson was accompanied to the plate by Lil' Wayne) guarantees that this song will make its return to the Oakland airwaves.
Old School Rap Track for the Season: Here Comes the Hammer, MC Hammer (oh, YOU comes up with a different MC Hammer track...)