Much has been written about the Yoenis Cespedes trade for Jon Lester and some of those writings were quite brilliant (HERE). In the wake of his sudden departure there was much speculation and analysis on the impact his missing bat would have on the Athletics’ lineup. It is easy to point to the slumping offense and corolate this weakness to a Cespeless lineup but some of these players were slumping before La Potencia was traded and have since rebounded to their old form.
What is most surprising, however, is the sudden surge we’re witnessing from two of the most hate/loved members of the A’s team; Josh Reddick and Eric Sogard are fan favorites for their personality and defensive genius but first on the fan chopping block when it comes to offensive numbers. To say that Sogard and Reddick were doing just fine this year would be laughable but to say that they’re doing remarkable since the all star break would be pretty accurate.
Since the break, Reddick has the highest average (.329) and ranks third in OBP (.350) and second in slugging (.579) if you take Cespedes out of the equation. With 25 hits and 14 runs in 21 games, Reddick has proven that he is still capable of performing at a major league level. Will he ever knock out 30 home runs again? Well, if he had maintained his current numbers from the start of the season, he’d be on track for 32 home runs and 200 hits. That’s pretty good by any standard and coupled with his gold glove defense, he’d be an All-Star candidate, no doubt.
Eric Sogard, who saw his average dip below .200 this year, has also proven to be an asset in the post-Cespedes era of this team. Since the break he has the fourth best average (.294) and second best OBP (.419) which was raised this week when he walked for four out of his five at-bats. He has tied Reddick’s 14 runs, having played three fewer games, and driven in 7 and, in the midst of it all, hit his first homer of the season. His defense also shines, often making plays that seem so fast and impossible that you’d swear he sees things in slow motion.
That these two players under-performed in the first half of the year is an understatement but does it matter? We had the luxury of Cespedes in our lineup when these two players were least effective. We managed to stay in first place and maintain a ridiculous run differential without much help from Spiderman and the Nerd but with the luxury of Cespedes gone, these two players have stepped up to the plate and are playing the best baseball they’ve played all year. At the end of the day, isn’t that exactly what this team needs? Don’t we need the guys at the bottom of our order stepping up and contributing more now than ever? The A’s, by many analysists opinion, are the front runner to represent the American League in the World Series and many of those same analysists pick them to win it all. While we may not have a lineup with a home run derby winner anymore, we now (post all star break) possess a lineup that can do serious damage from 1-9.
You can’t walk a batter in front of Reddick anymore because not only is he hitting better (and for more extra bases) but he’s almost never striking out and Sogard, who is fast on the base path, is a threat if he gets on and has Coco Crisp coming up right behind him. Having bats at the bottom of the lineup, even if they’re not hitting homers four times a week, is critical in these last few weeks and going into the post season.
I, for one, have always been a fan of Reddick and Sogard. They have great personalities and bring a lot to the character of this team and I’m happy that over the last few weeks I don’t need to defend my fandom with the old “but they play such great defense” argument. If these two can maintain their current play and the rest of the lineup wakes up (which they have in the past week) I have no doubt that this will be the year we remember for a long long time.