2011 pre-season preview: AL West – Oakland Athletics
Continue Reading - Pages: 1 2
Athletics staff ace, Brett Anderson
Oakland Athletics (2010 record: 81-81)
The Oakland Athletics finished last season with a .500 record after three consecutive losing seasons. They were able to do so thanks largely to an excellent young rotation, a good bullpen and a solid defense. Little of what they accomplished was owing to their offense – which finished 11th in the league in runs scored.
In an effort to improve the offensive attack, the front office bid adieu to DH Jack Cust and outfielder Rajai Davis and replaced them with DH Hideki Matsui and outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham. I’m not sure I would have cut ties with Davis, who is just starting to reach his potential, but Beane & Company probably saw him as redundant due to the presence of Coco Crisp. Willingham and Matsui should provide quite a bit more power to a lineup devoid of power bats.
Catcher: Kurt Suzuki
Designated Hitter: Hideki Matsui
The A’s offense averaged a little more than four runs per game last year (663 runs scored on the season)… and while the starting rotation often compensated for the team’s dismal run production, it wasn’t always able to do so. Thus, the team finished at just .500.
The front office went into the off-season needing to construct a lineup that is worthy of the pitching staff, and it seems to believe it accomplished the task. Time will answer the question as to whether or not it succeeded. The organization subtracted LF Rajai Davis and DH Jack Cust from the offensive equation, and added outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham, and DH Hideki Matsui. The totality of these moves will render Ryan Sweeney to the bench, and should help improve the lineup. The three displaced players hit .283, with 19 HR and 140 RBI last season… the new players combined to hit .285, with 42 HR and 177 RBI.
Over at the hot corner, the torch has been passed with the departure of Eric Chavez (who is currently rostered with the NY Yankees). Kouzmanoff is an adequate third baseman, but neither he nor Daric Barton will provide the power customarily associated with corner infielders.
2B Mark Ellis had a rough 2010 campaign in the batter’s box but was nonetheless typically outstanding in the field, posting a .995 fielding percentage (making it five consecutive seasons in which he has posted a .990 or better fielding percentage at second base). It seems remarkable that he has never been rewarded with a Gold Glove. Prior to last season, he had accumulated five straight seasons of double-digit home run totals… and his 85 HR are the most ever by an Athletics second baseman.
Cliff Pennington has not received much respect for the effort he exerted last year, but he managed to hit .250, drive in 46 runs and steal 29 bases in his first year as a regular in the big leagues. Some pundits have conjectured that he will need to improve his performance this season or lose his status to Grant Green, but others believe the USC alum needs at least another full season in the minor leagues. Look for him to improve in his second full season as the team’s starter.
Catcher Kurt Suzuki is a horse behind the plate, appearing in 426 games over the last three seasons. He posted a career-worst .242 batting average last year, but still managed to drive home 71 runs in 495 at-bats. His performance suffered after the passing of his grandfather in June (.234 with just 3 HR in the second half)… some pundits believe there was a cause-and-effect relationship between the two and believe his offense will rebound in 2011.
All three outfielders have had health issues in the past and will need to demonstrate their durability over the course of an entire campaign.
The pitching staff:
Share and Enjoy
Continue Reading - Pages: 1 2