Athletics Making Their Move
The Oakland Athletics showed signs of improvement over the weekend taking two out of three from the AL champion Tampa Bay Rays and winning by 5-2 and 7-1 scores on Saturday and Sunday. The Athletics were 16-10 on this date last season but are 7-10 this season with a later start this season.
Kurt Suzuki leads the Athletics in batting average with a .333 mark and Jack Cust is second hitting .288. No other Athletics player is hitting higher than .250. To give an example of how bad things are going offensively for the Athletics the infielders are all hitting for a low average:
First Base: Jason Giambi .213
Second Base: Mark Ellis .210
Shortstop: Orlando Cabrera .209
Third Base: Eric Chavez .100
Nomar Garciaparra .237
Bobby Crosby .120
Landon Powell .125
The seven infielders have combined for two homers this season. Veterans like Giambi, Garciaparra, Ellis and Cabrera should improve on those numbers soon but Chavez and his injury history has to be a major concern. He has missed half the games this season and hasn’t played in more than 90 games since 2006.
He had hit 22 or more homers every season from 2000 to 2006 but in the three years since then including this season he has hit only hit 17 homers. Chavez will be earning $11 million this season and $12 million in 2010 and the Athletics have a $12.5 million club option in 2011 and a $3 million buyout. So the Athletics owe him $26 million at the least.
The outfield situation is not much better with Matt Holliday leading the team in runs batted in with 11 but is hitting only .242 and hasn’t homered in the first 17 games, has an OBP of .296 and is slugging .333. These are not typical Holliday numbers and the Athletics need some production from him before July when he might be traded before the trading deadline.
Ryan Sweeney has a seven game hitting streak but his average has only improved from .227 to .243. Sweeney is a better hitter than this so should improve and needs to have some better games if he extends his hitting streak. It didn’t improve his average much when he had one for five and one for six games included in his hitting streak.
The Athletics are 30th in the majors in home runs with seven and the Giants and Mets are next worst with 11 each. The Athletics are 29th in batting average with a .231 mark with only the Diamondbacks having a worse average of .225.
The Athletics have scored 71 runs this season which is second fewest in the AL with the Royals scoring 70 runs. However their pitching has allowed the second fewest runs to score against them being tied with the Mariners for second in the AL allowing 75 runs. Only the Royals who have allowed 64 runs have allowed less runs.
Surprisingly the Athletics have four of their five starters with an ERA over 5.00. Dallas Braden 2-2 and Dana Eveland 1-1 have posted the only wins among the five Athletics starters. Braden is the only starter with a decent ERA of 2.52. The other four starters have ERA’s of 5.23 and higher.
Rookie Andrew Bailey 2-0, 0.71 leads a bullpen which has five pitchers with ERA’s from 0.71 to 1.74 and the bullpen has registered four of the seven wins this season for the Athletics. Bailey in particular has been very effective so far this season. He has pitched 12 2/3 innings and given up only one run and two hits and struck out 15 which leads the team in strikeouts and has walked only three.
Trevor Cahill has experienced problems with his control having 15 walks but only seven strikeouts. Manager Bob Geren may not keep Cahill in the rotation much longer unless he can improve on the 15 walks in 20 innings. The starting rotation should improve as the season goes on because it is doubtful they will have four starters with ERA’s over 5.00 at the end of the season.
Future Athletics In the Minors
Sacramento River Cats
The Athletics could have help on the way from the Sacramento River Cats of the Pacific Coast League. Jack Hannahan has been promoted to the Athletics recently from Sacramento despite only hitting .157 with the River Cats. Sean Doolittle is hitting .273 with two homers and 10 RBI’s so could help if the A’s were to send down a struggling Rajai Davis who is hitting .222 with no homer or RBI’s in 18 at bats.
The latest update on Daric Barton is a good news and bad news situation. He is leading the River Cats in RBI’s with 11 but is hitting only .138.
Vin Mazzaro and Gio Gonzalez have started four games and three games respectively for the River Cats but have no decisions. However they both have very low ERA’s of 1.35 for Mazzaro and 1.54 for Gonzalez who has struck out 15 in 11 2/3 innings.
Chris Carter is leading the Rockhounds in RBI’s with 18 which is second in the Texas League. However he has hit only one homer after hitting 39 last season for Stockton of the California league in 2008. Carter has hit 64 homers and driven in 197 runs in his last two seasons. The best thing is that he will be 22 all season and won’t be 23 until December.
Danny Putnam an outfielder for the Rockhounds leads the team in homers with five and has driven in 13 runs while hitting hitting .250. He will be 27 in September so time may be running out on his chance to reach the majors. In 2007 he played at five levels including a 28 at bat stint with the Athletics and his only major league exposure.
Travis Banwart is the only starter at Midland to keep an eye on right now. He has posted a 2-0 record and a 1.84 ERA for the Rockhounds.
The Athletics have too much talent for this team to finish under .500. I look for the infield which is slumping badly to start hitting very soon. When Giambi and Holliday start hitting the way they have in the past the Athletics should start moving up in the standings.
Cabrera is a much better hitter than what he has showed and Jack Cust should be ready to break loose soon. It may not seem like it right now but the Athletics may be making a move very soon. They travel to Texas to play the Rangers on Tuesday for their next game.
Brett Anderson 0-2 will be facing Kevin Millwood 1-2. Anderson who leads the Athletics in home runs allowed with four will be facing the Rangers who are leading the majors in homers with 38.
The two game winning streak over a good Tampa Bay team may be the boost the Athletics needed to start playing better. If Seattle and Texas lose their games today the Athletics could move to 3 1/2 games back of the first place Mariners in the AL West and tie the Rangers for second place with the Rangers being ahead in winning percentage with a .421 mark.
Once the Athletics offense become untracked there will less pressure on the starters and they will start winning more games. If their bullpen continues to dominate the way they have they should be on their way soon to a very good 2009 season.