It’s been a hot topic throughout much of the first month for the Oakland Athletics, the enigmatic struggles that we have all witnessed Josh Reddick endure. Many will look at his .159/.253/.275 slash line through 79 plate appearances and simply declare that Reddick is just off to a slow start in 2013. But this isn’t a new development, Reddick has been slumping for the better part of the last 3 months of regular season play dating back to August of 2012. But, I’m not here to talk about his bat.
I wrote recently about the fact that Josh Reddick needed to distance himself from the many off the field distractions that seemed to be interrupting his focus and do everything in his power to get right. His actions over the last week indicate that perhaps he is aware that he needs to cut out the noise and just focus on his game. He cut his hair, shaved just about all of the beard he claimed he never would shave, but it hasn’t helped. His numbers have crept up slightly though, but not anywhere near the level they need to be. What’s most distressing is the fact that his struggles at the plate may be having an adverse effect on his play in right field. There’s certainly no way to prove that there is any correlation between what happens at bat and what happens in the field, unless Josh Reddick himself tells us it’s happening. But what I see is a series of mistakes that indicate there is some truth to this notion.
Defensive metrics are very difficult to measure, and at this point there is not a perfect measurement for a player’s defensive value. But two defensive stats lend credence to the theory that his defense is slipping this year. His fielding percentage last year in right field was a very nice .983 in 136 games (131 starts), this year it is .947 in 19 games started there. When you look at his UZR, the numbers are even more striking, 17.4 in 2012 all the way down to 0.3 in 2013. Small sample sizes aside, that’s pretty rough.
I don’t expect him to post defensive numbers quite that low all season, even if his bat never picks up steam, but posting numbers this low will not help him in his quest to repeat as a Gold Glove winner. He’s made mental errors as well in the field that the numbers won’t show. Whether it’s listening to the fans telling opposing players “Don’t Run on Reddick!” as he overthrows the cutoff man trying to cut down a runner going from first to third on a base hit, allowing the batter to advance to second; or if he’s diving into foul territory for a fly ball, and crashing into the wall injuring his wrist in an 8-0 game, there seems to be a pattern developing. I’m not one to want to tell players not to give their all, but you need to be smart about it, Reddick was lucky he didn’t break his wrist and put himself out for months instead of a few days.
It’s hard to figure out what is going on in Josh Reddick’s head, and with that comes the impossible task of figuring out what needs to be done to fix him. Only Josh Reddick is able to fix his own problems. It’s up to him to decide if, when, and how he’s going to accomplish that. The success of the Athletics may very well depend on it.