Whether it was by design or by happenstance, we saw an awful lot of Eric Sogard in 2013. The one-time mostly River Cat, occasional Athletic had suddenly found himself as the left handed side of one of Bob Melvin‘s platoons, splitting time at second base with a gaggle of right handed hitters over the course of the season. While his spectacles took on a life of their own, even inspiring one of those gestures you see players make towards the dugout after a basehit. ”Nerd Power” was coined to represent the relative unlikelihood of a person looking like Sogard succeeding at baseball. It was all in good fun.
So with just about a full season of playing time now under his belt, where does Sogard fit in with the A’s moving forward?
My observation of Sogard during the course of the season was that he was able to hit just well enough to stay in the lineup, but not well enough to make any major impact. In 410 plate appearances, Sogard posted a .266/.322/.364 line. He homered just twice, which brought his career total to six. His very nice .985 fielding percentage also likely played a big role in the maintenance of his playing time over the course of the season.
Sogard was a curious case though, just when his numbers would start to slip, and perhaps he was about to slide into a major funk that would mark his end as an every day player, he would tally just enough hits to prop his numbers back up for the time being, and keep him in the lineup and off the bench. He was exposed though during the playoffs, and the Detroit Tigers pitching staff was able to completely neutralize him during the ALDS. His performance, while it was a very small sample size, showed a big weakness on the A’s roster. With the right handed heavy pitching staff, Sogard was forced to play despite his cold bat. I’m not holding those five games against him, but nevertheless it exposed a weakness.
Sogard has proven that there is some level of talent in there, and he does hold value. But I have serious doubts as to whether a team with not only visions of contention, but hopes of making a postseason run one of these years, can do so with Eric Sogard in the starting lineup. Barring a marked improvement in his production, the A’s would be well served to seek an upgrade at the position. Who that might be is an entirely different question to be addressed later. Sogard would represent an extremely useful utility player, which likely fits much more in line with what his career trajectory was in the first place. His above average defensive skills and versatility make him really perfect for a role like that.