Thursday, September 10, 2009

You Can't Win if You Can't Score

Talking about Scott Hairston's career above-average-ness sparked my curiosity into seeing how the A's have performed this year in comparison to the league averages. This 2009 season, the average percentage-stats for MLB hitters are (I'm going to keep this simple, so I apologize to any sabermatricians) a .262 BA, .332 OBP, .419 SLG, adding up to a .751 OPS (this is pretty typical, last year was .749). Now most importantly it should be noted that the .262 BA is there to show how deceptive a decent batting average can be. Obviously .262 is average, so anything above that would be considered decent. But the OPS is what many people ultimately value as the tell-tale statistic of a hitters performance and worth. The OPS statistic does hold a fault in one respect (or two or three if you choose to separate the facts from being an individual fault). Mathematically it has been proven that the On-Base% is more conducive to run production than Slugging%, and the fact the average SLG% is higher than the average OBP doesn't help, especially when they're weighted the same. With that said, it's plenty of smart guys stat of choice, so it's mine too...time to see how bad the A's offense is...

How many above-average hitters do(did) the 2009 A's have? (In other words, how many guys who played for the 2009 A's have an OPS above .751)
Well if I answer like a robot...6...

Not named Matt Holliday?
5...(it gets sadder)

That aren't pitchers who got lucky in their 2 inter league AB's?

That actually play every day?
2 (and only 1 has played every day all year)

Who are they?
Well...the two every day players are Rajai Davis (.795) and Jack Cust (.764)...the other non-every day player is Landon Powell (.791)...the two pitchers are Edgar Gonzalez ( 2.000...2 at-bats) and Trevor Cahill (1.000...same as Gonzalez)...and of course Matt Holliday. It should be noted that for the entire season, Scott Hairston has a .785 OPS but that includes his time with San Diego, with the A's it's a dismal .679.

While Mark Ellis makes up for his lack of offense in the field...Jack Cust makes up for his offensive production with a lack of defense.

That is quite sad...two's also surprising. I can say that I'm happy to know that Jack Cust has produced more positively than I thought he goes to show that Joe Morgan's theory of watching the game gives him knowledge of the game is a bit of a sham...I say this because I've either watched or listened to every game and I feel like Jack Cust strikes out every at-bat. I'm not surprised with Rajai really, he's been producing ridiculously since he became the every day CF. The sad part is, while I don't doubt Rajai has the ability to be a good player, his current production exceeds what he averaged in the minor leagues (a career .782 OPS in the minors) and it's exceptionally rare to underachieve at the minor league level and succeed in the majors (but it happens...Matt Holliday...Dan Uggla...). If Rajai Davis can keep an OPS above .750, I'll be satisfied because he steals second after a base hit so often that his SLG% won't reflect how often he reached second base following a single or a walk.

Landon Powell? He deserves plenty of props. Every time he starts it seems like he drives in a run or two...but he was a first round pick, so being a decent back-up falls just short of being a bust in my opinion. We couldn't play him every day if we wanted to, another reason to think "what could have been." Then again, if you look at the 2004 first rounders, the only standout so far has been Justin Verlander, though Jeff Niemann and Stephan Drew are both very good players...thing is, they were all taken in front of Powell. Of those following Landon which Oakland likely considered are: 1.) Eric Hurley, so far a career minor leaguer but has a sub-2 ERA in double-A this year...but he was drafted 5 years ago...and he's in double-A now...kind of sad...(1.5: Richie Robnett. He's 1.5 because the A's did draft him...the 26th pick belonged to Oakland and they received Powell's pick (24th) from Boston for signing Keith Foulke. Robnett came out of Fresno State, and was promising at first. "At first" is key. He's in the Cubs organization now and was part of what helped bring Michael Wuertz to Oakland. I forgot to mention, he hasn't hit better than .236 at the triple-A level in quite a few at-bats.) 2.) Taylor Tankersley, a decent middle relief option for the Marlins. Can't say better, can't say worse. 3.) Blake Dewitt, backup infielder for the Dodgers. Probably Powell's equivalent at third base. And finally, 4.) Eric Hurley, a pitcher for the Rangers with an ERA in the mid 5's. Seen too many of thanks. I guess acknowledging Landon Powell's mediocrity, it should be considered how mediocre the draft class he was selected in was. What's Matt Bush doing nowadays?

So how about those guys we seem to celebrate with the decent batting averages?
Ryan Sweeney, hitting .284, has a .738 OPS. Not too bad, but the solid average would make you think otherwise. Sweeney definitely walks enough, his .338 OBP mark is actually down from last years .350. What Sweeney doesn't do is hit extra base hits. The 24 doubles are fine but just 6 home runs? His 6'4 frame gives some scouts the impression he'll develop power but he's been too consistent since last season (11 home runs; 5 last year, 6 this year). One potentially positive aberration to consider is while his OBP has gone down, his SLG has gone up. Perhaps next season we can see the .350 OBP from last year along with another modest 13 point incline in slugging. I have plenty of hope for Sweeney. His youth makes an optimistic .285/ .350/ .409 clip for 2010 quite a realistic desire as well.

Surprisingly, Adam Kennedy is a below average hitter. At least to me it's surprising. It seemed as though extra base hits were fairly common, and walks were average at the very least. The truth is, his polished .282 batting average is complimented by a solid .340 OBP and an underwhelming .400 SLG. I can't criticize Kennedy too much, he's filled in admirably, and it's surprising to me that he's somebody that's below average.

Not too surprisngly, Mark Ellis is slightly below average. His .280 average is quite solid, but just 19 walks has him halfway to being Yuniesky no no that was too harsh. His SLG% currently sits at a very satisfying .423. While the .321 On-Base leaves something to be desired, much has been made of Ellis making up for his offense in the field, so despite a .744 OPS you can't be too hard on the guy.

And for the vastly celebrated, and greatly beloved Kurt Suzuki...a bite-sized .703 OPS. For as much as A's fans like to go nuts for Kurt, that's rather ghastly. He's a couple of first-pitch-pop ups away from being what Bill James would call "fair" (Bill James says this of an OPS under .700 all the way down to about .634). I'm not saying Suzuki isn't a good player, and I do believe he is...maybe catching 150 games a year is a bit much. I know Jason Kendall was his mentor but it seems like catching every day's the only Kendall-like trait Suzuki has. Yeah the SLG% is a meager .399...but the OBP% is borderline disturbing at .304. Suzuki seems scared of going deep into counts at times, and his 21 walks show it. Whether the .042 point drop in OBP% should be a cause for concern or a sign of a slump remains to be seen, but it's no mystery that in 2009 Kurt Suzuki has walked less than an old man in a wheelchair.

This article started off as much more a rant than what it became...which also contributed to my lack of desire to write about anyone else...nobody else should be written about though because I don't think an explanation is needed as to why everyone who swings a piece of wood on the A's can't do it as good as everyone else...that answers pretty clear. Farewell...

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