The Oakland Athletics entered the season with high hopes and a hunger for a division crown, but fast-forward 82 games into the season, and you’ll find the A’s in last place in the AL West and on the fringe of playoff contention.
GM Billy Beane set out last winter to upgrade an A’s offense that ranked 23rd in runs scored (663), 17th in batting average (.256), 16th in on-base percentage (.324), 26th in slugging percentage (.378), and 28th in home runs (109).
So far, the results of Beane’s efforts have not been good.
The A’s rank 29th in runs scored (281), 28th in batting average (.234), 27th in on-base percentage (.302), 30th in slugging percentage (.338), and 30th in home runs (41). So in a way, the A’s haven’t gotten any better with the additions of Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham, and David DeJesus, but rather have actually gotten worse.
Now, injuries have played a big part in Oakland’s sluggish first-half performance too. The A’s have been hit with injuries to some of their starting pitchers like Dallas Braden (out for season), Brett Anderson, Rich Harden, Brandon McCarthy, and Tyson Ross.
Harden, McCarthy, and Ross are all nearing a return to Oakland, but their returns mean nothing if Oakland’s offense can’t generate enough run support in order for the rotation to succeed.
The A’s sent veteran 2B Mark Ellis to Colorado on Thursday, and the deal made all the sense in the world. Ellis, 34, was underperforming like the rest of Oakland’s hitters, batting just .217 prior to the trade. The A’s opted to go with the younger, and better performing Jemile Weeks.
Upon his call-up, Weeks provided a spark for a lifeless Oakland offense. Through his first 21 games, Weeks is hitting .309/.349/.469 with six RBIs.
Aside from Weeks, however, the A’s offense has little to smile about. According to a recent post by FOXSports.com, every, yes every team leader in plate appearances has a below-league average OPS.
Billy Beane faces a very crucial month of July, as he and the rest of the team’s front office will need to evaluate the team’s direction going forward. Will the A’s, who play in a seemingly wide-open division, become buyers to fix the problems on offense? Or will the team begin unloading pieces by the deadline this month a la Mark Ellis?
Oakland’s pitching staff ranks 3rd in the majors in ERA (3.10) and 5th in quality starts (50). Led by the likes ofTrevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, the A’s starting rotation has been the only bright spot this season for the organization.
Despite the loses of Anderson, Braden, Harden, Ross, and McCarthy, the A’s pitching staff has performed consistently this season. Oakland’s bullpen has also performed well this year, too.
So the A’s definitely have the pitching to contend in the second-half, but in order to supplement that remarkable pitching, the A’s will need to address a few things offensively.
Below are the grades handed out to the A’s for their mid-season performance of 2011…
OFFENSE: D-, The A’s offense has been sluggish all season, and that’s one way the team has wasted the talented pitching staff the organization has assembled. If only Beane & Co. could assemble a more formidable lineup to go with that incredible rotation. Matsui is hitting .215/.287/.342 with 6 HR and 30 RBIs through his first 67 games as an Athletic. DeJesus, also brought on board this past winter, is hitting a measly .226 this season. I’m sure Oakland’s front office is growing tired of waiting around for two of their offensive additions to start heating up this season. The A’s could very well unload pieces this trade deadline if these two can’t find a way to produce offensively. The team’s receiving a grade of “D-” just because I’m a very easy grader. This team really deserves a grade of “F.”
- Biggest Disappointments: Kurt Suzuki’s .222/.292/.339 line this season; Oakland’s team mark of 41 home runs; Coco Crisp’s .269 team leading batting average…
DEFENSE: D-, The A’s entered the season with a stellar starting rotation, and a very formidable defensive unit behind that rotation. But like Bob Geren, the A’s defense has been a major fail this season. Oakland’s 61 errors are 2nd most in the majors, and the team has been sloppy all season long. On Thursday against the visiting Marlins, the A’s committed several errors. It’s gotten to the point where Oakland needs to hold fielding practice before each and every game now. Going back to the basics isn’t a bad idea, considering how poorly the A’s have been playing defensively.
PITCHING: A-, What’s not to like about the A’s pitching staff? The A’s, while hit hard by the injuries to Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Tyson Ross, Brandon McCarthy, and Rich Harden, have seen a young staff emerge as one of baseball’s best rotations. The A’s have received help from their bullpen, but Oakland’s pitching depth has played a larger role in Oakland’s pitching success this season. Josh Outman, Graham Godfrey, and Guillermo Moscoso have helped fill the voids in the rotation. I applaud the way Oakland’s scouting seemingly always finds pitchers, but I’d like to see them find a few hitters to help those pitchers win ball-games.
Billy Beane has a lot of thinking to do in the coming weeks, but I’m going to say that Oakland will likely turn into sellers at some point during the month of July. The team’s offense is still struggling, and unless Beane has a few hidden gems to give away in trades, I don’t see Oakland landing a bat or two this trade deadline to fix those problems on offense. But then again, with Moneyball coming out this fall, maybe Beane takes a gamble and decides to go big this month. Who knows?
*What are your thoughts? Does Billy Beane need to go out and upgrade the offense, or is this season a wash? What grades do you give the A’s? Sound off below!
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Topics: 2011 A's, A's Offense, AL West, Anaheim Angels, Billy Beane, David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui, Home Runs, Josh Willingham, MLB 2011 Statistics, MLB Stats, Oakland, Oakland A's, Oakland A's Baseball, Oakland Athletics, On Base, On Base Percentage, Promotions, Runs, Runs Scored, Score, Seattle Mariners, Slugging, Slugging Percentage, Texas Rangers