The Oakland A’s haven’t had a very productive designated hitter in years. You have to go back to 2006, which happens to be the last season the A’s made the playoffs, to find a productive DH in an Oakland uniform. The ’06 A’s were carried, quite impressively, by a guy named Frank Thomas. Remember him?
Thomas put the A’s on his back and led the team to an appearance in the ’06 ALCS. The A’s were swept in four games by the Detroit Tigers that year, but at least the team advanced past the first-round for a change. Thomas, who hit .270/.381/.545 with 39 HR and 114 RBIs that season, was the main reason why Oakland managed to actually win a playoff series under GM Billy Beane. The A’s never made it past the first round before that during Beane’s leadership.
Since then, however, the A’s haven’t been able to find a productive DH to feature in their everyday lineup. The A’s did bring Thomas back in 2008, but he spent most of the year on the DL. Oakland went through the whole Jack Cust experiment, and while he provided some much needed power during his stint in Oakland, Cust struck out way too much for the A’s liking. The A’s gave the once promising 3B Eric Chavez a shot at redemption in 2010 as the team’s primary DH, but all the team got in return from Chavy was 33 games and a .234/.276/.333 slash line. Oh yeah, and just one home run.
The A’s, as you might expect from a team in dire need of power, made a conscious effort to address their problems on offense before the 2011 season. They added guys like OF Josh Willingham, OF David DeJesus, and DH Hideki Matsui as a way to help bolster the lineup.
Oakland handed Matsui the starting DH role this season, only to have manager Bob Geren sit Matsui against left-handed pitching. Matsui would end up collecting 8 of his 12 home runs against left-handers in 2011. After the A’s fired Geren mid-season, interim manager Bob Melvin instilled a renewed sense of confidence in his DH, and as a result, Matsui played exceptionally well under Melvin.
While he struggled mightily during the first half of the season, Matsui quickly turned the page in the second half. After the All-Star break, Matsui put together a .295/.353/.425 slash line with 6 HR and 38 RBIs. He finished the season with 12 home runs, 9 fewer than 2010’s total of 21, and 72 RBIs. Overall, Matsui put together a .251/.321/.375 slash line.
Despite his second half surge, however, the A’s, in my opinion, at least, should not bring back the aging Matsui. Melvin seems to have an interest in bringing Matsui back for another go in 2012, and with the team opening the season in Japan, the possibility that Matsui will be back in Oakland seems likely. Keep in mind, while Matsui put together a nice second half, his overall numbers continued to dip in 2011. He posted a .696 OPS, the lowest total of his eight year career, and at 37, Matsui’s numbers will likely continue to decline.
He made things interesting in the second half, but other than that, Matsui failed like those before him to provide production in Oakland’s DH spot.