It’s no secret that the A’s offense was a mess during the month of August. The team suffered its first losing month out of the last 15, and the inept offense can be largely to blame for that. After hitting .253 through July, the team hit just .231 in August.
Donaldson hit .295 for the month and most of his at-bats came out of the three-hole in the lineup. However, nobody around him as been hitting, causing the offense to struggle as a whole.
Having your best hitter bat second is considered a “new-school” mentality, but the idea behind it is pretty simple. Basically, the second hitter gets about 20 more at-bats per year than the third hitter, and wouldn’t you want those extra at bats going to your best hitter rather than your seventh or eighth best?
The old-school lineup has a speedy guy who can get on base bat leadoff, followed by someone who can put the ball in play. The idea is that those guys create a scenario for the heart of the order to drive one or both of them in. The problem is many teams don’t have a quality two-hitter, causing a hole between their best hitters.
Currently, with John Jaso out, the second spot has been shared by Sam Fuld, Alberto Callaspo and Craig Gentry, and none of those players are particularly strong hitters. Although sometimes it’s nice to have speed at the top of the lineup, that doesn’t mean much if those guys can’t get on base. Simply put, I’d rather have Donaldson hit right behind Coco Crisp instead of having him hit behind Coco and a weak hitter.
Even with Jaso healthy this year, the second spot in the order has been a problem for the A’s. For the year, the team’s two-hitters have has hit .226/.303/.353 from the two spot. The only spot in the order that is worse than that is the ninth spot.
Managers around the big leagues are for the most part split on this “modern” lineup. Mike Sciosica and the Angels have bought into it, hitting Mike Trout second for all of this year and most of last year. Other teams continue to have weak hitters bat second, like the St. Louis Cardinals, who have batted Kolten Wong and his 297 on-base percentage second for most of the year.
Protecting Donaldson may be an issue, but it’s also an issue when he hits third. Protecting him with Stephen Vogt and a functioning Moss should create a strong top half of the order down the stretch, with no weak hitters mixed in.
The A’s also have some middle of the order bats on the way. Adam Dunn was acquired this morning and Jed Lowrie should come off of the DL in a few days. Both of those players should be able to provide some decent protection for Donaldson as well, with Lowrie hitting third followed by some combination of Vogt, Dunn and Moss.
This batting order functions best when Coco and Lowrie are healthy, but even when he’s out it still works. Fuld or Gentry will slide into the leadoff spot, and the heart of the order will follow. The health of those players is extremely important, but the lineup still should be able to function with them out.
Bob Melvin tends to be very set in his ways, but this one slight tweak might just be the spark that the offense needs.