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Kurt Suzuki’s Struggles

Posted By Josh Muller On Aug 18 2011 @ 4:06 pm In Oakland A's | 6 Comments

Something has been worrying me lately which seems to be taboo – or maybe even unnoticed - by A’s [1] fans and Oakland media alike. Now, I’m going to tread gently through this topic because I know it is something most A’s fans don’t want to hear, but someone needs to say it. Kurt Suzuki’s [2] production has seriously dropped off for two straight years and it might not be a slump.

Just like it is this year, last year’s offense was atrocious, which could be the main reason we sort of overlooked Suzuki’s down year. There were plenty of reasonable explanations: He had no protection around him in the lineup; he wasn’t accustomed to batting third; he had too much of a burden worrying about the pitching staff as well as being a main RBI guy…

For a while I bought into it and thought that 2009 was “the norm” when he hit .274/.313/.421 with 15 HR. Back then, I would argue that Suzuki had the second most value of any catcher in the AL behind Joe Mauer. Now after two straight seasons of decline (.230/.292/.385 this year), I’m starting to think 2009 was the fluke and the norm is the Suzuki we see presently. I mean a .292 on base percentage is terrible, well below the league average of .322.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Kurt Suzuki as much as the next guy, but his recent production is troubling. If the A’s had the luxury of a good offense, they could probably overlook the lack of production at the catcher position. But since no one else on the team can hit, everyone must be held accountable, including Suzuki, a fan favorite.

It also might be a bit easier to swallow if Suzuki’s defense was a little more sterling. He can block the plate with the best of them with agility but he seems to be getting worse by the day at throwing out base stealers. He’s only 2% below the league average (25%) at throwing out base stealers. Much of that is the pitchers’ responsibility, but any astute observer can see that the throws aren’t close. Many sail into the outfield or bounce three feet short. Maybe I’m watching the wrong games but his throwing isn’t passing “the eye test”.

I also think that all this is something he can remedy. The throwing problem seems to be mechanical. Suzuki has plenty of athleticism so one would think he should be able to correct it. The power certainly hasn’t gone anywhere (of course as I’m writing this article Suzuki hits two home runs on Wednesday) as 12 HR on the season is respectable. It’s clear that his skill set is still present but his inability to get on base at a decent clip is seriously hindering his value.

The A’s do have some depth at catcher in the minor leagues, but nobody that would seriously contend with Kurt Suzuki even if he doesn’t return to form. I’m still holding out hope that he can bounce back. Perhaps it’s just a matter of giving him some more days off.  Suzuki has tallied the most appearances as a catcher the last three years, but the longer this extended slump continues, the less it looks like a slump.

THE WAIVER WIRE: The A’s have placed outfielder Coco Crisp and pitchers Craig Breslow and Rich Harden on waivers and DH Hideki Matsui has already cleared waivers himself. In short, it means that these guys can still technically be traded until the end of August. However, because the waiver process is so long and difficult, trades are still unlikely.

If a player is to be traded he must pass through waivers meaning every team (starting with the worst record and ending with the best) has a chance to claim him and try to make a deal. So if the A’s were to revisit the near trade of Rich Harden at the deadline that would have sent Harden to the Red Sox [3]. Now, Harden would have to be turned down by every team with a worse record than the Red Sox (so about 25 teams). In fact, if the Yankees [4] (ranked a hair below the Red Sox) were smart, they would claim any player the Red Sox were even remotely interested in just so they couldn’t have them.

So, with the process being more difficult, trades are less likely. So we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.

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URLs in this post:

[1] A’s: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/sports/mlb-baseball/oakland-as/

[2] Kurt Suzuki’s: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/suzukku01.shtml

[3] Red Sox: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/sports/mlb-baseball/boston-red-sox/

[4] Yankees: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/sports/mlb-baseball/new-york-yankees/

[5] Subscribe to author's RSS feed: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/author/josh-muller/feed/

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