Most preseason discussions tend to be optimistic; after all, everybody wants to rule the world. But before the season started, we had an internal Toaster discussion about our worries. Unfortunately, most of my fears have turned into tears.
I didn't mention injuries in our discussion, because they're not really worth mentioning unless you have some players who are particularly injury prone. Obviously, these are things I could do without. But it's hard to turn your back on mother nature. The A's have six players on the DL right now (Crosby, Swisher, Harden, Calero, Dotel and Bradford), seven if you count Dan Meyer, who was expected to make the team but couldn't get his arm into shape, and one more, Justin Duchscherer, who hasn't pitched in a week and could be joining them retroactively.
Mike thought there was a good chance the new A's pitching staff might implode. The pitching hasn't been great, but it hasn't been a total nightmare either. But making up for the loss of Hudson and Mulder wasn't my biggest fear, anyway. That's just one headline, why believe it? Nothing ever lasts forever. Here's what I replied to Mike:
I'm more worried about the hitting imploding than the pitching. The Coliseum is a tough place to hit .300. Oakland has only had twenty .300 seasons in 37 years. Yet Kotsay, Durazo, and Kendall (elsewhere) all hit .300 last year. What happens to the offense if they all hit .280-.290? If Byrnes falls back to earth? If Crosby and Swisher are young strikeout machines? The A's offense should improve at C and 2B, but I can imagine a scenario where none of the other 7 positions do.
Indeed, the A's are still walking a lot, but they've suffered a huge collapse in batting average, which has hurt the offense overall. I was considering .290 a disaster scenario for Kotsay, Durazo and Kendall; now it's wishful thinking. Kotsay is hitting .289, Durazo .250, and Kendall only .226. Chavez is only hitting .211, while Crosby and Swisher have been hurt. It's a very, very mad world.
I keep looking at the A's PECOTA projections in disbelief. Right now, only Bobby Kielty is well above his 50% projection for OPS, and only Eric Byrnes and Mark Ellis are near it. Eight hitters are at or below their 10% projections. I find it kind of funny. I find it kind of sad.
Joe Sheehan deconstructed the A's disappointing season yesterday in a Baseball Prospectus Premium article yesterday. There wasn't really much to disagree with, really. Here's the crux of it:
The A's don't hit for average and they don't hit for power. I mean, they really don't hit for power. Since offense ticked up in 1993, just one team--the '93 expansion Marlins--have posted an isolated power mark (SLG - BA) of less than .100. The A's are at .106 through a quarter of the season; the second-lowest figure since 1992 is .120, held by a handful of teams. We can talk about park effects and changes to the run environment all day, but if you slug .350, you can't compete.
Who could have imagined the A's offense would be laid so low? Man, you guys, I wish you were my enemy.
I don't think you have to look to the skies for some kind of divine intervention. This can be fixed. You'd probably have to sacrifice some defense, but to fix an historically bad offense, I'm sure it would be worth it. I love power. I believe in love power. We need a change, before it's all too late. I could be quite naive, and I can't actually operate on this failure, but all I want to be is completely in command, so I'm going to shout and let it all out, and I hope we live to tell the tale. This is my four-leaf clover:
Replace Scutaro and Ellis with Crosby and Ginter. Ginter homered last night against the Giants; perhaps he can find the stroke that hit 19 homers last year. Crosby begins his rehab assignment today in Stockton.
Give Scott Hatteberg at-bats to Dan Johnson. Both PECOTA and ZiPS project Johnson and Hatteberg to produce similar offensive numbers this year, around a .760-.790 OPS. So why not try the guy with the power and the upside instead of the player on the decline? With one foot in the past now, just how long will it last?
Keep playing Bobby Kielty. He's always swung well right-handed, but his left-handed swing this year is night-and-day from last year. Last year, he had an ugly, noisy and powerless stroke from the left side. This year, it's short and smooth. Sometimes your eyes do tell the story.
Ride the hot hand between Swisher and Byrnes. Like Hatteberg and Johnson, Swisher and Byrnes are projected to produce similar numbers. The difference is that Byrnes is still in his peak years, while Hatteberg looks very close to falling off the proverbial cliff.
Free Eric Chavez! What has happened to the friend that I once knew? Has he gone away?