When Matt Chapman was lost for the season the Oakland Athletics should have been in trouble. Heck, they may still be in trouble, losing an elite player at a premium position is usually not a recipe for success in the postseason. It’s certainly not expected that a player will be picked up off the scrap heap and not just contribute but contribute in a big way. Yet, so far the A’s have plucked Jake Lamb from the throes of despair and he has helped to assuage the loss of Chapman, somewhat.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Lamb. He’s only a couple of seasons removed from a 2.5 fWAR season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lamb was supposed to be the third baseman of the future for the Dbacks. He wasn’t going to be confused with the elites at the position but his 2016-2017 had proven that he had what it took to be a well-above-average everyday player at the hot corner. Then in 2018, he suffered a shoulder injury, a serious shoulder injury at that. He missed most of the season due to his bum shoulder.
When he returned Lamb was never the same and he was oft-injured. His fast bat had now become rather pedestrian and his baserunning took a nosedive. Pretty much the only area of his game not affected was his glovework, but that wasn’t affected because by most metrics Lamb was just as bad of a fielder before his injuries as he has been after said injuries. This season continued the wrong trend for the once-promising Lamb. He put up some scarily bad numbers for Arizona. A .023 ISO, a 34% K rate, and a 15 WRC+ on the back of a .116/.240/.140 slash line. An fWAR of -0.5 told the tale of the now completely fallen slugger.
Early in September Lamb saw his time with Arizona come to an end as he was designated for assignment. The A’s had just lost their star third baseman and with a fairly secure playoff spot risked nothing in giving the forlorn Lamb a shot. It’s very early in Lamb-mania, but he has turned everything around in a big way. Through 28 at-bats with the A’s, he’s slashing .346/.393/.692 with an ISO of .346 and a massively improved 17.9% K rate. A 196 WRC+ combined with slightly improved fielding and baserunning has garnered Lamb 0.4 fWAR in his limited time with the A’s.
There’s no deep dive into Lamb’s renewed success. This could be a two-week fluke, by the time this is published Lamb could already have begun his trek to pumpkinhood. There’s not very much data to work off of and the eye test doesn’t reveal anything different about Lamb’s approach with the A’s versus his approach with the Diamondbacks. The moral of the story is simple, who cares? Lamb is on a nice run right now, likely an unsustainable run, but an unexpected run that should be enjoyed for what it likely is while it is taking place. If he keeps up these monster numbers through the playoffs then we’d need to revisit Lamb and see where exactly he has made adjustments. If he reverts back to his Arizona form, then we know that for a few weeks Lamb was on top of the baseball world again. It’s fun to watch guys like Lamb succeed, bask in it while you can.