The Oakland A’s pitching staff led the American League in ERA with a 3.56 team mark, and led all of baseball with the most quality starts with 103. Safe to say, the A’s will enter the 2011 season with a pretty starting rotation, especially since they’ll have catcher Kurt Suzuki behind the plate.
Suzuki, 27, has been Oakland’s backstop since 2007, after the team traded Jason Kendall to the Cubs. Since taking over, Suzuki has become one of the main reasons behind Oakland’s pitching success.
In 2009, Suzuki was given the daunting task of handling a rotation that included the likes of rookies Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Gio Gonzalez. Each pitcher had their share of up’s and down’s in 2009, as the A’s ultimately finished fourth in the American League West 22.0 games behind the Angels.
The A’s rebounded last season, however, as the team secured a second-place finish behind the Texas Rangers, with an 81-81 record. Guys like Cahill and Gonzalez showed tremendous growth and maturation in their second-full season, and Suzuki definitely played a part in that.
Cahill won 18 games for the A’s last year, and Gonzalez notched 15 wins of his own as well. Suzuki leadership behind the plate is phenomenal, and Oakland’s rotation should not have any problems shutting down opposing offenses in 2011.
Offensively, however, Suzuki experienced a bit of down year in 2010. Suzuki played in 123 games last year as a catcher, and 131 total for the year. In fact, Suzuki has played in a ton of games since taking over for Kendall in 2007, as the backstop has appeared in 494 games in his four-year career.
Perhaps Suzuki experienced a little bit of wear and tear last season, which would explain the drops in his batting average and other offensive categories across the board.
In 2009, Suzuki hit .274/.313/.421 with a career-high 15 HR and 88 RBIs. Last season, however, Suzuki’s average dropped to .242, and he drove in less runs too with 71 RBIs.
We all know what kind of defensive player Suzuki can be, as he’s done a stellar job behind the plate, but I’m still curious as to what kind of player he’ll be offensively in 2011.
What kind of numbers can we expect to see from him?
I’d say Suzuki’s average should rebound a bit in 2011, as he’s more of a .270-.280 kind of hitter. The home runs should stay relatively the same, as he should hit 10-15 this year. And now that the A’s have added pieces like Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, and Josh Willinghman to the mix, Suzuki’s RBIs total should rise due to the fact that he’s got a better lineup hitting around him.
It’s very early in the season, but I’d expect Suzuki to hit about .274 with 13 HRs and about 80 RBIs in 2011. Making him a very solid catcher in the American League right behind superstar Joe Mauer.