THIS JUST IN: IT’S A LONG SEASON
The numbers are not pretty. Josh Donaldson, .120….Coco Crisp, .146….Daric Barton, .190….Kurt Suzuki, .194….Jemile Weeks, .196…only two A’s hitters on the roster batting .250 or higher (Kila Ka’aihue and Seth Smith)…and a lineup that has been shut out three times in the season’s first 11 games. Go ahead, A’s fans, let out a collective scream! But don’t jump ship quite yet.
As we all know, baseball is a streaky game. Every team in the majors experiences a two-week period like A’s hitters are having. Of course, normally that sample size happens in June or August, not the opening 11 games of the season. I think all of us—fans, media and yes, even front office types like me—tend to be a little too over analytical in the early season. Same thing when one of your star players goes 1-for-11 to open the post-season. “He looks terrible! They better bench him!” That said, I think the old sports axiom is still true: You’re never as bad as when you’re playing your worst, and you’re never as good when you’re playing your best. Most likely, you’re somewhere in between.
So where do A’s hitters go from here? Well, quite literally, they go from Jered Weaver last night, to Dan Haren this evening, to Ervin Santana and C.J. Wilson to complete the Angels series in Anaheim. That’s not exactly the tonic to break a slump. But the beauty of baseball is nothing is certain. It’s why you play the games. And at some point, whether it be this week on the road, or during our next homestand against the Indians and White Sox (April 20-25), the cream will rise to the top. Coco Crisp is a .275 lifetime hitter in 10 big league seasons. Jemile Weeks batted .303 last year. Kurt Suzuki has hit above .270 in two of his four full seasons in the majors. Josh Reddick batted .280 for the Red Sox last year, and has already hit enough line-drive outs to last a season. Seth Smith is a .275 lifetime hitter who has pounded out batting averages of .284 or higher in three of his last five years in Colorado. And Cuban rookie Yoenis Céspedes, while still learning pitchers and his foreign surroundings, has shown flashes of the power and athleticism that made him so attractive on the free agent market this year. Something here tells me better days are ahead for this group.
Meanwhile, our overall pitching to date has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise. The staff ERA of 3.25 ranks third best in the American League—this, despite the loss of three All-Star pitchers in offseason trades. Veteran starters Brandon McCarthy (0-2, 3.60 ERA) and Bartolo Colón (2-1. 3.72 ERA) have been solid in the rotation, while Tommy Milone (1-1, 2.57 ERA) has been an early-season revelation. In the bullpen, new closer Grant Balfour (0.00 ERA, 2-for-2 in saves) and setup men Ryan Cook (0.00 ERA) and Brian Fuentes (2.45 ERA) have been stingy in their brief appearances.
As we entered this season, I think everyone knew that a heavy dose of patience would be required to allow our young-but-talented players to develop. I would hope all A’s fans would tap into that patience during this offensive drought. Eleven games does not make a season. One breakout game at the plate will do wonders for this group. Let’s hope that game is tonight.