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First Half Grades for the Oakland A’s

Posted By Josh Muller On Jul 12 2011 @ 6:26 pm In Oakland A's | 5 Comments

I usually like to save these little side notes until the end of the article, but there is something serious that I need to address. On Thursday, the A’s [1] played a game against the Texas Rangers [2] in Arlington. During the game, Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, tossed a ball into the stands to Shannon Stone, a fan, who fell 20 feet trying to reach for the ball. Stone, a firefighter, died from the injuries he suffered on the fall.

This is an incredibly tragic accident that you hope to never see anywhere, let alone at the ballpark. Nobody is at fault, it’s just one of those freak accidents that seems to affect just about every family and my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Shannon Stone.

It just shows how careful you need to be even in a seemingly harmless activity. Please, everyone be careful.

Now on to my criticism of the Oakland A’s:

 

The first half of the season is over, and it has been rocky to say the least. At the beginning of the year, the A’s were the sexy pick among baseball analysts to win the AL west due to their dominant pitching and their (seemingly) improved offense, but the actual product turned out to be anything but sexy. So without further delay, here is my first half report card for the Oakland A’s:

 

Pitching: B-. This may seem like a bit of a tough grade given that the A’s have the third best ERA in all of baseball, and has remained elite this year despite a barrage of significant injuries. Unfortunately, this has led me to believe that the performance is much more smoke and mirrors than the statistics dictate.

Rich Harden, Tyson Ross, Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson are all very talented starters and have all spent time on the disabled list, along with closer Andrew Bailey. It’s actually pretty remarkable that the A’s pitching staff is fairing as well as it is with all the injuries.

So why the B-? The replacements for all those pitchers have pitched extremely well, and I think that has as much to do with luck than anything else. I’m not saying guys like Guillermo Moscoso, Graham Godfrey, and Josh Outman aren’t talented pitchers, but I will say that if they pitched a whole year in the big leagues, their impressive numbers would probably level out.

The reason I’m being a bit harsh with the grades is because of the “New Big Three.” Quite frankly Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Gio Gonzales (the consensus top three in the A’s rotation) did not really take the next step this year that I was hoping they would. At the end of last year, they were all dominating on all cylinders and I though that they would take their talents to the next level. This year, they’ve all had games where they looked brilliant, but at other times they just haven’t shown up, and that is the main thing I’m talking about. Everyone knows that these three guys have the stuff to be elite pitchers, but they need to be more consistent to go from very good to great.

The numbers still look great as a whole, but a few bad starts from all three of them taints the numbers a little. They haven’t passed the “eye test” yet but if they can show more consistency in the second half this grade will rise significantly.

 

Defense: D. The defense was supposed to be one of the strengths of this team. Boy were we all wrong.  The A’s have committed 71 errors already this year (99 all of last year) good for third worst in the league. Errors aren’t the best way to judge a team’s or a given player’s defensive effectiveness because it doesn’t tell the whole story, but in this case it tells enough of the story.

I haven’t talked about the offense yet today, but it’s no secret that the offense isn’t the best (we’ll get to that). With that in mind, runs are going to be scarce; therefore preventing the other team from scoring runs is extremely important. A team with such meager hitting like Oakland can’t afford to make mistakes and give the opposing team extra chances at scoring runs. That just can’t happen and has really cost the A’s this year.

 

Offense: F—–. I wish I could assign a lower grade. Maybe an E or even a Z if anyone would allow it.

I’m not sure any of us expected stellar offensive numbers when we looked at the projected lineup at the beginning of the season, but a serviceable one didn’t seem out of reach. Unfortunately the A’s rank in the bottom three in just about every major offensive category.

During the offseason, the A’s added Hideki Matsui via free agency and Josh Willingham and David Dejesus via trade. I, for one, thought that those additions plus bounce back seasons from guys like Kurt Suzuki and Kevin Kouzmanoff and maybe a step forward in development for Daric Barton would put a solid offense on the field. Kurt Suzuki instead had a worse year, Barton and Kouzmanoff have been sent to AAA and the only offseason addition that has looked like even half the player we all thought he’d be is Willingham and he’s only hitting .241 with 11 homers. Not terrible, but best hitter on a team material.

The worst part about all this is the fact that Suzuki and Barton took a step back instead of taking a step forward. Chris Carter, the A’s best power hitting prospect has been called up and hasn’t figured out the big leagues yet, and Michael Taylor still isn’t living up to the expectation in the minor leagues when the A’s traded for him. With Willingham, Matsui, Dejesus and even center fielder Coco Crisp all going to free agency next year, these young players need to be improving not regressing, or the A’s will be in trouble for a while.

 

Prospect report: There isn’t a lot going on in the A’s minor league system, but two guys are doing their part. A’s top prospect and first round pick in 2009, SS Grant Green, played in the Futures Game, a sort of All Star game for the minors, and went 2-2 with 2 doubles and won the MVP honors. He’s hitting .288/.350/.401 with four homers.

 

Michael Choice, A’s first rounder in 2010, is the only other guy in the minors making serious noise. He’s improved numbers in each month and has really been hot in July hitting over .400. With 23 home runs already this year, the A’s are praying he will pan out and progress through the minors quickly.

 

I’d also like to say congratulations to Gio Gonzales, the A’s lone representative of the Oakland Athletics. He’s 8-6 with a 2.45 ERA and 111 strikeouts. He’s put together a solid season which I hope he will build off in the second half. I also hope that he’s the next guy the A’s lock up long term.

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