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A's and B's of the A's

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So much for rebuilding, the Oakland Athletics weren’t supposed to be competing this year, but a month into the season they sit in second place behind some stellar pitching. Did Billy Beane pull a fast one on the masses with the trades, or are they simply streaking up early before fading back?

 

 

The A’s have lived and died thus far based on their pitching staff. The rotation has seen seven different starters, including Joe Blanton, Chad Gaudin, Justin Duchscherer, Lenny DiNardo, and Rich Harden from previous years’ teams, and the difference makers thus far; Dana Eveland and Greg Smith; both acquired in the Dan Haren trade.  The bullpen hasn’t been bad either; in fact the worst of the reliever corps may just be closer

Huston Street
. Santiago Casilla (aka Jairo Garcia), Alan Embree, Andrew Brown, Joey Devine, Kirk Sarloos, and Keith Foulke have all done well in relief roles, with Dallas Braden and Fernando Hernandez being only iffy at best.

Despite Dan Haren’s season thus far (37.3 IP, 29 K, 7 BB, 3.13 ERA) the Athletics have actually done quite well on their returns in Smith and Eveland who have combined for 67.3 IP, 47 K, 25 BB, and an ERA of 3.20. Consider that in reality Beane got a few seasons of Haren, Smith and Eveland for Haren, Daric Barton, Kiko Calero, and others basically for Mark Mulder and you realize how impressive that trade has been.

Smith’s BABIP (.226) and xBABIP (.292) don’t agree with each other nor does his 1.91 K/BB rate spell well for when those extra hits do come back to bite him. Eveland however looks quite legit, with a small margin between his BABIP and xBABIP and therefore a K/BB rate which shouldn’t kill him even if the small margin is made up.

 

The more pressing concern for the A’s is their anemic offense. As pointed out on Lookout Landing yesterday five players in the lineup had on-base percentages higher than their slugging percentages which, in a word, is nuts. This isn’t your conventional lineup whatsoever, with catcher Kurt Suzuki leading off the past few days with a Daric Barton appearance at the top of the lineup on Friday. Jack Hannahan isn’t Eric Chavez – he’s actually playing – and despite sloppy “scoreboard” stats .211/2/9 (BA/HR/RBI) Hannahan has an OBA of .356 and has batted near the bottom of the lineup most of the year, giving the Athletics two “leadoff” hitters so to speak.

 

Frank Thomas took his .167/.306/.333 act from Toronto and has turned it into a .235/.381/.324 effort for the A’s, the power is still missing, but that a 8:6 BB:K ratio is awfully nice to have from a waiver wire pickup. Emil Brown wasn’t the prototypical on-base player the A’s usually acquire, but he added some power and thus far is second on the team in slugging behind Mike Sweeney, another addition during the off-season who is hitting .311/.373/.459.  

 

Speaking of power, Jack Cust has yet to amp his slugging up, but his AL leading .419  OBA helps to avoid some eyebrow raising at his .380 slugging percentage, particularly after the steroid accusations of the off-season. Cust’s power will likely return in some capacity, but do remember that his HR/FB rate last year was 31.7%, quite a bit higher than his 23.5% previous career high.

Good starting pitching with an unusual offense has worked thus far, it’ll be interesting to see if things can continue for the A’s.