Looking at the A’s and seeing Sam Fuld

Six wins in a row.  Melvin Magic.  Seemingly unbeatable gold jerseys.

Gotta love it.

The A’s have clearly been on a roll since general manager Billy Beane kicked his best friend Bob Geren out of the manager’s office.  Back when the cries to fire Geren were reaching a deafening level baseball writer Joe Sheehan made the comment on Twitter that “down his best reliever and #4-#6 starters with an offense that collectively hits like E. Andrus.  He ain’t the problem.”

That got me to thinking about how the team was performing overall and whether Oakland’s hitters were really as punchless as light hitting Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus.

It took a couple of weeks but I finally got around to taking a casual look at the numbers through June 20 to see how the A’s are performing as a team vs. comparable players from around the league.

You’ll be relieved to know that the A’s do not hit like Andrus.  They actually hit like outfielder Sam Fuld of the Tampa Rays.

Ugh.

In a nutshell the 2011 A’s pitch like Seattle’s ace Felix Hernandez, hit like Fuld and field like Royals infielder Mike Aviles did before he was banished to Omaha.  That’s not exactly a winning combination.   In fact it’s about as ill-advised as mixing your booze during a long night of drinking with your buddies.  I think the Hernandez/Fuld/Aviles comparison is basically the baseball equivalent of downing lots of Silver Oak, Natural Light and Popov vodka in the same evening.

Ugh redux.

Of course, if there was some way to find sortable stats showing how the A’s pitch, hit and field while wearing the gold jerseys I’m sure we’d find that they actually play like a bunch of Hall of Famers when they ditch the standard home whites and road grays.  But until I can find that feature on Baseball Reference or some other site I’ll just work with what I have.

So here come the numbers.  I know it ain’t Fangraphs or Baseball Prospectus but for the sake of conversation it’ll do.

HITTING

According to Yahoo A’s hitters were collectively boasting the following slash line through June 20: .239 batting average/.306 on-base percentage/.347 slugging percentage.

According to MLB.com, Fuld comes in as a close match at .236/.291/.352

In case you’re curious some other close matches were Koyie Hill of the Cubs at .233/.305/.342 and Brad Hawpe of the Padres at .231/.301/.344

Not exactly elite company.

PITCHING

Oakland’s pitchers were delivering a slash line of 3.27 ERA/1.29 WHIP/.249 batting average against coming into Tuesday’s game.

A relatively close match is the reigning American League Cy Young winner Hernandez at 3.34/1.21/.236

Another close match is Giants ace Tim Lincecum at 3.39/1.22/.233

Considering how impressive A’s pitchers have been this year I’d say that feels about right.

DEFENSE

The A’s carried a .980 fielding percentage into June 21.

Aviles has the same fielding percentage and so does Pirates backup outfielder Matt Diaz.

I have to admit that there have been times when the A’s seem to field the ball a lot worse than that but defensive stats are far from perfect.

Overall I’d say the players who have similar slash lines to what the A’s have posted as a team seems halfway accurate to my gut feeling about this club.  Let’s face it, I knew the A’s had great pitching coming into this season but they clearly didn’t enter 2011 with a bunch of Babe Ruths in the lineup and Ozzie Smiths in the field.

If a team full of Fuld and Hernandez clones were allowed to do nothing but hit and pitch for one season while the likes of Aviles and Diaz trudged all over the field trying to make every play my guess is that bizarre little team would end up firmly planted in the basement.

Guess where the A’s happen to be right now?  In the basement of the AL West.   I don’t think that’s a coincidence even though Geren would probably make a half-hearted argument that it is.

The silver lining to all this is that almost all of those stats were put up before the strikingly handsome, charming, brilliant and divine Saint Melvin (can you tell I’m kind of enjoying this win streak?) came along  and there’s clearly more life to the team now that he’s running the show from the dugout.  Is there a last place team with more going for it right now than the A’s?

I don’t think so.

I believe Oakland’s pitching should be able to keep chugging along at its outstanding pace.  The offense and defense can’t help but improve over the next few months because almost everyone has been playing below their career standards so far.

Will that be enough to earn the A’s a trip to the playoffs?  Maybe … maybe not.   But it’s finally looking like it’ll be a lot of fun watching this club the rest of the season to find out and until Melvin’s boys are mathematically eliminated I’ll keep dreaming about seeing gold jerseys on the field in October.

I will now go back to drinking my cold, refreshing green and gold Kool-Aid.  There’s nothing better on a hot day during an A’s winning streak.

Topics: A's

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