Middle-of-the-Order Hitters Will Be the A’s First Order of Business

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No matter what your
preseason expectations were, I suppose our 72-73 A’s could be viewed as either
a glass half empty or one half full. 
Certainly, the 2010 edition represents a measurable upgrade from the
past three Oakland
teams that could only squeeze out 76, 75 and 75 wins.  While I cannot speak for Billy or his inner
baseball circle, I can say this.  Entering
this offseason, it should be easy to crystallize on our burning need:  middle-of-the-order hitters.  As I was remarking to no one in particular in
the press box last homestand, lineup sheet in hand:  “We’ve got one thing over everyone in
baseball. Name me another team whose corner outfielders and corner infielders in
the starting lineup today have combined for
only 15 home runs.  And that doesn’t even
count our fifth-place hitter (
Mark Ellis)
who has only three homers this season!”

Okay, okay, the point has
been made.  But I think a more
significant point to make is the A’s head into the offseason with only one
glaring weakness–power.  In my many years
in baseball, I have been involved with sorry teams that needed major
reconstruction from one season to the next. 
There were so many holes, you didn’t know where to start.  When a GM faces that kind of task, often
times you will see them trade their star player (or players) to get perhaps
three or four serviceable major leaguers who can plug gaps at multiple
positions.

That is not the daunting
challenge for Mr. Beane and Mr. Forst. 
Their task is to find a way to acquire legitimate RBI bats via trades or
free agency. Even though we apparently will have significant money coming off
the payroll due to expired contracts, it is no guarantee that we can out-bid
larger market teams which will pursue the top free agents available this
winter.  It would seem more likely that
we might secure some big thumpers through trades, which of course, means we
might have to part with one or two of our young pitchers. 

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While that is not a pleasurable
thought, it does seem doable with our current depth of arms and also seems
practical considering it takes two to tango. Other teams are certain to ask
about our promising young pitchers.  And,
of course, we’re all hopeful that
Chris Carter
can make the transition from Triple-A to the bigs next season as well, as he
has exceptional power to add to the mix (Note to fans–and maybe even
Chris: don’t lose too much sleep about his current 0 for 24 tailspin.  There was this young, powerful hitter with
great promise who broke into baseball in 1951. He started out hitless in his
first 12 at-bats and opened his career going 1 for 25.  So if Carter can get a hit tomorrow night in Minnesota, he can tie the great
Willie Mays for a less-than-memorable career start).

Of course, if we can fortify
our lineup with some RBI men in the middle, it has so many positive residual
effects.  When
Coco Crisp or Daric Barton
get on base, the odds of them scoring become better.  And to place bona fide hitters like
Kurt Suzuki, Mark
Ellis
or Kevin Kouzmanoff down lower in the order would return them to their
proper–and more comfortable–place. 
They’re more apt to see better pitches to hit in the six, seven or
eighth holes.  Just stands to
reason.  And, of course, if the A’s begin
to plate more runs on a consistent basis, and you combine that with one of the
American League’s best pitching staffs and defense, you may not see me writing
a blog in the middle of September next year. 
I’ll be too busy getting ready for us to host the playoffs.  So, stay glued to
oaklandathletics.com and our Facebook page this offseason.  Hopefully, we’ll have some good news to share
from time to time.

2 Comments

While I think everyone will agree with the need for some power hitters, the question is which position players are we going to sacrifice. I guess losing Jack Cust at DH is a pretty easy choice — love that his average is up, but he seems to have sacrificed his power to do that. Are Rajai and Ryan going back to bench to make room for power at the corner outfield spots? His Rajai runs might give him a reprieve but I Ryan might have to make way. And what about the infield? It was nice having a gold-glove third baseman who could hit 30 homers a year, but we haven’t had that in a while. Do we sacrfice some defence at the hot corner for some pop in the lineup? Over the course of the season, what’s the real difference between a .900 fielding percentage and .960? And then there’s first base, another normal power position that has been sorely underperforming for the A’s the last few years. Is it worth sacrificing Barton’s glove and walks? It will be interesting seeing how it all works out.

I just received an out-of-office email response from someone there in the Oakland office saying that they’ll be out until Oct 11 due to getting married. Obviously, someone wasn’t expecting post-season this year.

Congrats on the marriage, Zach.

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