2011 Oakland Athletics preview

Part I: Projected Starting Lineup

  • RF – David DeJesus (S)
  • CF – Coco Crisp (L)
  • C – Kurt Suzuki (R)
  • DH – Hideki Matsui (L)
  • LF – Josh Willingham (R)
  • 1B – Daric Barton (L)
  • 3B – Kevin Kouzmanoff (R)
  • 2B – Mark Ellis (R)
  • SS – Cliff Pennington (S)

– DeJesus batted a career-high .318 for the Kansas City Royals in an injury-shorten 2010 season. Some will expect Crisp to leadoff. In his career, DeJesus bats .294 when he is in the leadoff spot and .245 in the second spot. Also has a higher career on-base percentage (.360) than Crisp (.332).

– Crisp will provide speed at the top of the lineup. He stole a career-high 32 bases in 2010 in just 75 games, while batting .279 with eight home runs.

– Suzuki struggled in 2010 with a .242 batting average and is not your typical third-place hitter. He did have 13 home runs and drove in 71 runs. In 2009, he hit 15 home runs and drove in 88 runs, while batted .274. One positive for Suzuki is that he doesn’t strike out, 49 strike outs in 131 games in 2010. In 2009, Suzuki struck out 59 times in 147 games. Suzuki threw out 22 percent of base stealers in 2010.

– Matsui had 21 homers and 84 RBIs for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2010. How will he fare at the Oakland Coliseum? In 31 career games at the Oakland Coliseum, Matsui batted .294 with four home runs. Expect him to improve on his 24 doubles from 2010.

– Willingham played in 114 games for the Washington Nationals in 2010 and batted .268 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. Willingham did not play after Aug. 15 and had to undergo left knee surgery. If Willingham can stay healthy, he is a threat to hit 20 home runs. In seasons where he played 142, 144 and 133 games, Willingham hit 26, 21 and 24 homers, respectively.

– Barton led the American League with career-high 110 walks in 2010 and was fifth in on-base percentage.  In 26 career games (small sample) batting sixth in the order, Barton’s batting average is .351.

– In 2010, Kouzmanoff led the A’s with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs (tied with Suzuki). However, he struggled with a .247 batting average and walked only 24 times in 143 games. Kouzmanoff also committed 12 errors in 2010, after committing only three in 2009.

– Ellis batted .291 and was strong defensively in 2010. He committed only three errors and his fielding percentage was .995. Hit safely in 30 of his last 34 games (.394) and will bring a 13-game hitting streak into 2011.

– Pennington stole 29 bases and scored 64 runs in 2010. Defense will be a priority for Pennington, as he committed AL-worst 25 errors in 2010.

Staying healthy has been a problem for the A’s in the past few years and 2011 won’t be any different. In the starting lineup, only Matsui, Barton and Pennington played in more than 145 games in 2010.

Matsui and Willingham will provide some needed power to the lineup. However, how will they deal with the pitching-friendly Oakland Coliseum?

The lineup has the potential to give opposing managers late-innings fits with its left-right hitting alignment. It is a balanced lineup.

In 2010, the A’s was a surprising third in the majors in stolen bases. That will most likely change with the offseason trade of Rajai Davis (50 SBs) to the Toronto Blue Jays. Crisp and Pennington will provide most of the steals. We’ll see if manager Bob Geren continues to green light the running game.

Still to come…

  • Part II: Projected Starting Rotation
  • Part III: Projected Bench and Bullpen
  • Part IV: Projections and Predictions

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