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2010 Oakland A’s

Posted By Cliff Corcoran On April 20, 2010 @ 8:00 pm In Cliff Corcoran,Series Preview | Comments Disabled

The A’s team the Yankees will face over the next three days is currently in first place in the American League West. That doesn’t mean they’re any good.  The A’s are 9-5, with six of those wins having come at home. Thus far they have gone 4-3 against the Mariners, 3-1 against the Orioles, and taken two of three from the Angels. That’s a solid intra-division showing, but the Mariners are missing Cliff Lee, and one of the A’s wins against the Halos came against replacement starter Matt Palmer.I’d say the A’s are headed for a fall, but they haven’t really climbed to any great height just yet. The Angels and Rangers, the real cream of their division, are just two games behind them in the standings, and with the Yankees coming to town, things are about to get serious.

The A’s have some pitching. Justin Duchscherer and Ben Sheets are currently healthy. Twenty-two-year-old lefty Brett Anderson is an emerging ace. Twenty-six-year-old lefty Dallas Braden, who will face CC Sabathia on Thursday, is emerging as a nice, team-controlled mid-rotation innings eater, and tonight’s starter, 24-year-old lefty Gio Gonzalez, is a prospect with good stuff, a nice high-upside option for the fifth spot. That rotation has posted a 2.70 ERA thus far, second only to the Cardinals in the majors, and home-grown arms such as Trevor Cahill (currently rehabbing an injury to his non-throwing shoulder) and Rutherford, New Jersey’s Vin Mazzaro provide depth with major league experience at Triple-A. The A’s bullpen, headed by 2009 Rookie of the Year closer Andrew Bailey, has been solid as well and should continue to be so.

That the A’s have been the stingiest team in the American League in the early going is particularly impressive given that they’re nothing special on defense. That their pitching has carried them to the top of their division is similarly impressive given that they can’t hit. In terms of runs scored per game, the A’s have been roughly league average in the early going, but their component performances, especially their .362 team slugging percentage (third worst in the AL and sixth-worst in baseball), are unimpressive. There is worse to come.

Here’s a question: who is the A’s best hitter? Is it Daric Barton, the first base prospect who finally seems to be clicking? Barton is an on-base machine, but he doesn’t have much power. His ceiling seems to be something like a healthy Nick Johnson. Is that their best hitter? Is it Kevin Kouzmanoff, the power-hitting third baseman acquired from the Padres? The right-handed Kouzmanoff has finally escaped Petco Park only to find himself playing his home games in a stadium that had a 77 park factor for right-handed home runs over the past three years per The Bill James Handbook (Petco’s was 86). Kouzmanoff has hit .284/.328/.477 on the road in his career. Is he their best hitter? Is it Eric Chavez, the man once tagged as the A’s franchise player whose bad back limited him to 31 games over the past two years and who, having returned as a designated hitter, has yet to start hitting again? Chavez has hit .249/.323/.439 over the last six seasons. Is he their best hitter? Their third-place hitter is Ryan Sweeney, a righty-swinging outfielder with a career .286/.343/.388 line in 1,109 plate appearances in the major leagues. Is he their best hitter?

The A’s have two monster hitting prospects on the way in first baseman Chris Carter and outfielder Michael Taylor, but neither is here yet, and Carter will bounce Barton, who likely is the A’s best hitter right now. Curiously, Barton, Carter, and Taylor, as well as Brett Anderson, were all eventual products of the Mark Mulder trade. Barton came over with Dan Haren in that deal. Carter and Anderson came over with Carlos Gonzalez when Haren was traded to Arizona, and after Gonzalez was traded to the Rockies in the Matt Holliday deal, and Holliday was traded to the Cardinals for Brett Wallace, Taylor (who had just been dealt from the Phillies to the Blue Jays in the Roy Halladay trade) was acquired for Wallace.

Provided Carter and Taylor deliver on their promise, that’s all pretty impressive, particularly given how quickly Mulder’s career was ended by injury, but it also draws attention to how little else has gone right for the A’s in the five years since the Mulder deal (the same period that encapsulates Chavez’s poor hitting line above). From the Tim Hudson trade, to the collapse of Bobby Crosby’s career, to burning a first-round pick on signing Estaban Loaiza, to recent top prospect Grant Desme (a compensation pick for Barry Zito) retiring at age 23 to enter the ministry, Billy Beane has gone from Midas to Medusa, and the A’s have gone from a model franchise to a perennial 75-win team in a fairly weak division. I don’t expect much to change this year. I do look forward to Carter and Taylor’s arrival, but I’m learning not to get my hopes up when it comes to A’s prospects, and this team is more than a pair of thumpers away from real contention.

Oakland A’s

2009 Record: 75-87 (.463)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 81-81 (.500)

Manager: Bob Geren
General Manager: Billy Beane

Home Ballpark: Oakland Coliseum

Bill James Park Indexes (2007-2009):
LH Avg-94, LH HR-106
RH Avg-94, RH HR-77

25-man roster:

1B – Daric Barton (L)
2B – Mark Ellis (R)
SS – Cliff Pennington (S)
3B – Kevin Kouzmanoff (R)
C – Kurt Suzuki (R)
RF – Ryan Sweeney (L)
CF – Rajai Davis (R)
LF – Travis Buck (L)
DH – Eric Chavez (L)

Bench:

R – Jake Fox (C/UT)
L – Gabe Gross (OF)
L – Eric Patterson (OF/2B)
R – Adam Rosales (IF)

Rotation:

R- Ben Sheets
L – Dallas Braden
R – Justin Duchscherer
L – Brett Anderson
L – Gio Gonzalez

Bullpen:

R – Andrew Bailey
R – Brad Ziegler
L – Craig Breslow
L – Jerry Blevins
R – Edwar Ramirez
R – Tyson Ross
R – Chad Gaudin

15-day DL:

CF – Coco Crisp (fractured left pinkie)
RHP – Trevor Cahill (left scapula stress reaction)
RHP – Michael Wuertz (shoulder tendonitis)
RHP – Joey Devine (Tommy John surgery)

60-day DL:

LHP – Josh Outman (Tommy John surgery)
RHP – Jon Meloan (elbow ligament tear)

Typical Lineup:

R – Rajai Davis (CF)
L – Daric Barton (1B)
L – Ryan Sweeney (RF)
R – Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B)
R – Kurt Suzuki (C)
L – Eric Chavez (DH)
R – Mark Ellis (2B)
L – Travis Buck (LF)
S – Cliff Pennington (SS)


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