Last season, the Oakland A’s faded out of the American League West picture by September largely because of their offense’s inability to score runs. The A’s ranked 23rd in the majors with just 663 runs, 17th in batting average with a .256 team mark, and 26th in slugging percent with the team slugging just .378. The team placed second in the division at 81-81, and finished 9.0 games behind the eventual AL Pennant winners Texas Rangers.
This season, however, the A’s are banking on their revamped offense to score more runs. General Manager Billy Beane and the rest of the A’s front office added guys like DH Hideki Matsui, and outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham to the mix in the hopes of scoring more runs in 2011.
Last season, the A’s opened the season with long-time star Eric Chavez as their primary DH, but he proved largely ineffective, hitting just .236 with one homer and 10 RBI’s through 33 games. This year, Matsui will step in as Oakland’s DH.
And while it’s true that Matsui is no spring chicken, the A’s are hopeful that “Godzilla” still has some power in his bat. Last year with the Angels, Matsui belted 21 HR and drove in 84 RBIs while hittin .274. If Matsui can replicate those type of numbers again this year, then the A’s should be in good shape.
DeJesus and Willingham are two nice additions to the A’s, and both outfielders possess the ability to make things happen on offense. DeJesus is a guy who is expected to hit near the top of the order, and Willingham is expected to hit somewhere in the middle of the order.
Both players have had their share of injury problems, but both are seemingly healthy heading into the season.
DeJesus missed half of last season due to a thumb injury, but in the 91 games he did appear in, he hit .318 with 5 HR and 37 RBIs. He won’t provide the A’s with a ton of power, but the team is hopeful that he’ll stay healthy enough to contribute. Willingham, meanwhile, possesses 15-20 HR power and that’s exactly what the A’s need from their new outfielder.
In 114 games last year for Washington, Willingham hit .268/.389/.459 with 16 HR and 56 RBIs. He’s coming to the cavernous Oakland Coliseum, so his numbers might take a hit this year, but Willingham is still a nice addition to a rather punchless Oakland outfield.
Other key players like catcher Kurt Suzuki, 1B Daric Barton, and longtime 2B Mark Ellis will also need to step up this year on offense. Suzuki, who had a career year in 2009 hitting .274 with 15 HR and driving in 88 runs, did not live up to expectations last season.
Suzuki’s average dropped to .242, and his RBI total was 71. His 13 homers were about right for him, but other than that it was a down year for Suzuki, who was considered the next best catcher behind Joe Mauer in the AL.
The A’s would like nothing more than to see Suzuki’s number improve this year, especially since not all the pressure will be on him to deliver on offense. Matsui, DeJesus, and Willingham will hopefully help take some of the load off Suzuki’s shoulders this year.
Barton, meanwhile, will need to have another solid season in 2011. Last year he proved to be a good defensive first-baseman, but his power still was way too low for his position. When you think of first-baseman, you think of guys like Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and other 30 HR hitters.
With Barton, however, the A’s did not see much power production from him. Instead, they got sound defense, something they value. He still proved to be a solid hitter, but ranked 29th among all first-basemen with just 10 HR, and ranked 21st in slugging (.405). He did get on-base, however, and ranked 5th among first-basemen in OBP (393).
Ellis, who is likely in his last season with the green-and-gold, is by-far the best defensive second-baseman without a gold glove. The guy can play defense. Offensively, he hit .291 last season with 5 HR and 49 RBIs. He’s usually a safe bet for hitting at least 10 HRs in a season, but that’s assuming he stays healthy all year long. Ellis has had his share of injuries in his career with Oakland, but his veteran leadership is an important intangible he brings to the table. If he’s healthy, he’ll be productive.
Another player who needs to step up is 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, who had a pretty forgettable season in his first year with Oakland. The A’s made several attempts at signing free-agent Adrian Beltre, but when they came up short, Kouzmanoff was announced Oakland’s starting third-baseman.
In 143 games, Kouzmanoff hit just .247/.283/.396 with 16 HR and 71 RBIs. The home runs led the team, as did the RBI total, but Kouzmanoff’s numbers were still lower than expected in 2010. Granted it was his first year in the American League, but Kouzmanoff ranked 21st among active third-basemen in on-base percentage (.283). The A’s would love to see Kouzmanoff get on-base more in 2011.
Overall, the A’s offense is much better…on paper that is. For the team to make serious strides at a postseaon appearance, the offense will need to score more runs in 2011. It is as simple as that. The pitching is there. The offense just needs to step up this year.
What are your thoughts? Do the A’s have enough offense to compete and win in the AL West? Sound off below in the comments!!
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