The MVP of the Oakland A’s has undoubtedly been third baseman Josh Donaldson. There were points during the season where players like Bartolo Colon and Jed Lowrie had cases worth arguing, but as the season has played out Donaldson’s case has been solidified. His numbers may be slowing down which could be cause for some concern come September and possibly October. The one part of Donaldson’s game that has stayed the course all season is his defense. Donaldson’s numbers offensively have been a roller coaster paralleling the A’s team success throughout the season. There are some reasons to his recent offensive struggles, but there is room for optimism for A’s fans. Here are the reasons why he has struggled and what he is doing to break the funk.
Donaldson dominated the end of last season. He went on a tear for the last two months of 2012, which led to expectations that he could replicate that success this season. For a player who finally put it together for only two months those expectations were unrealistic to say the least. Even with that, Donaldson started off the season amazingly hot. In fact, he started off so hot he was mentioned alongside Miguel Cabrera in All Star starting third baseman and potential MVP discussions. He was batting well over .300 his on base percentage was near .400 and his RBI total was on pace to break 100.
Those were the numbers before the All Star break. It has now been a month and a half since the All Star break and those numbers have slowed down quite a bit. Donaldson is now hitting .291 with a .370 on base percentage and 75 RBI’s. Those are still great numbers especially considering the amount of production lost from the down seasons of Yoenis Céspedes and Josh Reddick. It again was not realistic to expect Donaldson to continue to produce at the rate he was so to still have relatively All Star like numbers has been a huge bonus for the A’s.
One thing that has not faltered and has even improved over the course of the season has been Donaldson’s defense. His defense was what led many to consider him starting over Cabrera in the All Star game. Unfortunately for Donaldson he was left off the roster for the game. Donaldson began his transition to third base last season and under the tutoring and tutelage of Brandon Inge he has become one of the best to man the hot corner this year.
Donaldson has done some things this year that are very impressive. Adjustments, which seem to be escaping Céspedes, have made Donaldson a much better hitter. Earlier this year he noticed teams beginning to throw first pitch fastballs for strikes every at bat. He decided to start looking dead red on first pitches and was tearing the cover off the ball. Pitchers have now begun to throw more off speed pitches for strikes on first pitches and Donaldson hasn’t quite adjusted to them yet, but he will. His swing is getting a little long again so if he can shorten up a little bit Donaldson will continue to carry the team in the absence of Céspedes and Reddick’s production.
Donaldson’s season has been somewhat up and down. He has, even in his slumps, produced enough to carry the team in its rough patches. His defense has been steady at times spectacular at others. It may be a roller coaster season for Donaldson. But A’s fans are surely enjoying the ride.