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A's Offensive Problems

I noticed on Athletic's Nation that the lack of Swisher and Crosby in the lineup has basically ruined the A's offense. In a way I believe this, but I don't think it bears the brunt of the blame. Granted, Crosby's absence leaves quite the void:

Bobby Crosby (2005 PECOTA 60th percentile)
VORP: 31.9
WARP: 6.2
MLVr: 0.025

That's a Jay Bell-esque season that the A's are missing from the lineup, which is a big deal. Swisher was not very impressive before his injury; granted, young Nicholas will turn himself into a good hitter, but he was as much a part of the problem as everyone else, homeruns aside:

Nick Swisher
VORP: -1.4
WARP: -0.1
MLVr: -0.157

Even with his 3 bombs prior to injury his presence was as a replacement level player. That is not where his destiny in an A's uniform lies, but as far as the 2005 season goes to this point, it is the level he was at. Prior to the season, I mentioned how Mark Ellis and Keith Ginter would give the A's a big boost at second base over Marco Scutaro; so far, I'm wrong.

Team with Keith Ginter (weighted mean projection): 846 runs, 5.2230 per game (-.0028 from League Team).

Team with Mark Ellis (weighted mean projection): 833 runs, 5.1420 per game (-.1018 from League Team)

It was known Ginter was the better bat, but now we see by exactly how much over the course of a season: 13 runs if they both play to their weighted mean projection. How about their gloves though? Ginter projects to -8 Runs Above Average at second base, while Ellis projects to -1 Runs Above Average. That would make Ginter's run contribution over Ellis 6; a slim margin. Now to make things more confusing, the Oakland Athletics defensive ratings are different than BP's, and they view Ellis as a superior defensive second basemen. So now it depends on who you believe: BP or Billy Beane. Ginter is only 6 runs better than Ellis total if you use the BP method, so maybe trying Ellis out and hoping for increased plate production and the A's defensive ratings is worth a shot. If the A's are right, the slim 6 run margin disapears quickly and Ellis is clearly the superior player. This is how the Athletics are thinking at the moment, and they also like Ginter's ability to play third base (he's no Eric Chavez over there defensively, but he was at -1 Runs Above Average in 40 games from 04'). So after doing this, I guess I would take Ellis even though Ginter seems to provide more to the lineup based on his positional flexibility, power coming off the bench, and the fact that Ellis very well maybe an excellent defender depending on who you listen to.

Ginter (.152/.250/.304; -.313 MLVr, -2.3 VORP) and Ellis (.261/.323/.330; -.103 MLVr, 0.8 VORP) have not been the answers I hoped for as of yet. Ellis has been the clearly superior player though, so atleast something is going right.

Here is the main problem with the A's offense, and this has nothing to do with Crosby missing or Swisher getting hurt, or even which second basemen has more value:

  1. Jason Kendall
  2. Eric Byrnes
  3. Eric Chavez
  4. Erubiel Durazo
  5. Mark Kotsay
  6. Bobby Crosby
  7. Scott Hatteberg
  8. Nick Swisher
  9. Mark Ellis/Keith Ginter
Jason Kendall gives them a real leadoff hitter and OBP threat out of the leadoff spot, even if Oakland's park will dampen his numbers a tad. Eric Byrnes might be Mike Cameron in a month or by the trading deadline, but Byrnes is good as well. Eric Chavez just might win an MVP soon since he can finally hit lefties (Hovering near the Mendoza line against them the past few seasons, he hit over .300 against southpaws in 04'...oddly enough he hit worse against righties, but that is probably a neglible fluke). Durazo is still quietly extremely productive, and Kotsay's offense blossomed as well as his defense. Bobby Crosby will be better than last year, and Hatteberg will probably be worse. The difference between Mark Ellis and Marco Scutaro last season at second base probably cost the A's the division; nevermind the second half disaster that was Mulder or the injury to Eric Chavez, simply having Ellis there with those other occurences may have brought them a playoff berth. Maybe Charles Thomas isn't the greatest starting outfielder in baseball, but he still isn't Terrence Long (I don't care if he's now two years removed, it still hurts to think about the Neifi Perez of corner outfielders). As for Nick Swisher, in his official rookie campaign, I expect him to put up performance that should make up for Jermaine Dye's absence this a rookie that is good...for $11 million when you've been in the league awhile, not so good.

I think this looks like a pretty good offense, but just for kicks I am going to figure their run total for the 05' season, just to see if my head is up my ass or not. I figure they score somewhere in the vicinity of 782 runs this season., but that could go as high as 800 if Crosby really improves and Chavez brings his numbers against righties up a tad.

And here is the problem; notice the things like Kendall bringing the team a good leadoff hitter to increase production, the continued evolution of Eric Chavez as an MVP candidate, and Durazo finishing out his productivity most likely this year.




I only see one issue there; the averages. The rate the three are walking at (Chavez is on pace for 63 BB, Kendall for 66, and Durazo for 65). Chavez's is the only alarming rate, since he was as high as 95 BB in 577 PA in 2004. This could just be because no one is working around Chavez and his struggles. My point with the walk rates is that all three are seeing the ball well, they are all just struggling at the same time. I'm not so sure there is more to this A's offensive struggle than the fact that 3/4 of the team is colder than ice at the same time. I've seen it happen before as a Red Sox fan, when the whole team would go quiet for weeks at a time and then heat up for weeks on end. Of course, we did not make the playoffs those years, so it is not an example you want to hear. Just know that the A's offense in its current form is not what they are going to finish at. I can still see the A's offense being above league average, and who knows, maybe they will get to tear the cover off the ball for a few weeks later in the season and make up for this slower than slow start. As Axl Rose would say, all we need is a little patience (I'm not so sure I want to take advice on managing feelings from Axl Rose though.) Be patient A's fans, Billy Beane surely has the answer up his sleeve in the form of trading Octavio Dotel. Maybe you do not all want to win-now with the trades of Mulder and Hudson, but Beane's plan is to compete while rebuilding. A trade for a player who won't be around in 2007 or even 2006 might be in the works solely to attempt to save this season and rejuvenate the lineup. Here's an idea though, that may just be part of the future as well:

VORP: 2.2
MLVr: -0.014
WARP: 0.5

Who is that? Why, Austin Kearns it be. Kearns needs a change of scenery, and Cincinnati needs to stop the bleeding from the rotation. One of the A's extra starters (or maybe even a swap of struggling players in a Zito/Kearns deal) might be the answer to quelling some of these offensive issues. The longer the seasons goes on, the farther Kearns stock is going to drop, and the cheaper he will come. I'm sure the last thing the A's want is another struggling outfielder, but honestly, the positives outweight the negatives here.

Kearns 2005 PECOTA Projection (50th percentile)
VORP: 22.5
WARP: 4.1
MLVr: .159

Shiny, pretty, and a piece that needs to be moved in Cincinnati. Intriguing to the say the least.