It has been a couple weeks now since the Athletics season abruptly ended in a decisive Game 5 versus the Detroit Tigers, for the second year in a row. That series has been covered end to end, and we all know how and why the A’s lost. So, with that in mind I wanted to take a look at two players in particular that proved immensely valuable to the A’s throughout the 2013 season.
They both reside in positions that were very much in flux throughout much of the 2012 season, they’re neighbors on the left side of the infield. One is easy to guess, Josh Donaldson, the other is the shortstop Jed Lowrie.
Declaring Josh Donaldson as the A’s MVP for 2013 isn’t exactly a bold one, and I have no delusions to make me think otherwise. With the struggles endured by Josh Reddick, and Yoenis Cespedes, the offensive punch that Donaldson brought to the team did wonders in filling the void left by their cold bats. Of course Cespedes did start to hit during the month of September, and there’s no doubt that his rise helped lead the A’s to the AL West title. But, Donaldson was consistently good throughout the season, and delivered a number of timely hits that came exactly when the A’s needed them. In 668 plate appearances Donaldson posted an impressive .301/.384/.499 line with 24 home runs. He also played a very good third base, making a number of flashy plays that brought back memories of Eric Chavez; if he can just cut down on some of the errors he can absolutely be a Gold Glove third baseman.
You may recall that as Spring Training drew near, the A’s were planning to start Hiro Nakajima at shortstop. It wasn’t until a surprising deal that brought Jed Lowrie over from the new division rival Houston Astros that things changed. Lowrie tore up the Cactus League as Nakajima faltered, and forced his way into the everyday shortstop position. The decision to make the oft-injured Lowrie the everyday shortstop was a risky one, but he rewarded the team’s faith. Lowrie played in a career high 154 games (his previous high was 97), and provided a nice offensive punch from the shortstop position. In 662 plate appearances, Lowrie hit .290/.344/.446 with 15 home runs and 45 doubles. The stability of a player like Lowrie in the middle of the lineup as well as at the shortstop position was crucial to the success of the 2013 A’s.
The singling out of these two players is not meant to discount the contributions of players like Coco Crisp, or Brandon Moss, each of whom had good offensive seasons. The success of the team depended on contributions from all throughout the lineup, and they delivered time and time again as the team won its second straight division title. But without Donaldson and Lowrie, their contributions would not have meant nearly as much.