Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Grading the Team

Grading the Team

I know it's long in coming, but here are my grades for the 2006 Oakland Athletics. The basis of my analysis is the regular 2006 season. I will add a small blurb about their post-season performance (or lack thereof) and also give my thoughts on where they will be headed in 2007. Without further ado:


Frank Thomas – DH – BA 0.270 / OBP 0.381 / SLG 0.545 / OPS 0.926
39 HR / 11 2B / 114 RBI / 81 BB / 81 K
How The Big Hurt failed to make comeback player of the year is beyond me. Here is a guy who was turning 38 and had been cut loose from his former team after 2 injury plagued seasons limited him to a handful of games, despite playing for the same team his entire career. The fact that the A's were able to pick him up for a measly $500k + incentives says something about the lack of interest in Thomas from other teams. I clearly remember at the time numerous "experts" expressing skepticism in the deal, although most admitted that a healthy Thomas could provide the A's offense with some much needed pop, but nobody thought he would be healthy enough to do any damage. Even I have to admit that while I was excited about this move I thought we would be lucky to get 300+ at bats out of Thomas with 15 HR or so. Thomas started off slowly but once he got back into the swing of things he was back to his old self again and was a big reason the A's made the playoffs.
Pre-All Star : BA 0.238 / OBP 0.367 / SLG 0.523 / OPS 0.890 / 19 HR
Post-All Star : BA 0.298 / OBP 0.393 / SLG 0.563 / OPS 0.956 / 20 HR

Overall grade : A+

Post-Season Notes: After going 5-for-10 with 2 HR in the ALDS against Minnesota, The Big Hurt went hitless against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.

Where will he be in 2007: My guess is he will be returning as the A's DH with a 2-year contract and club option for 2009.

Nick Swisher – 1B/OF – BA 0.254 / OBP 0.372 / SLG 0.493 / OPS 0.865
35 HR / 24 2B / 2 3B / 95 RBI / 97 BB / 152 K
Nick Swisher improved on his rookie season numbers and started hot out of the gate only to revert to the norm. Actually, in looking at his season numbers, he pretty much did what I projected him to do. Take a look at his career minor league numbers:
BA 0.261 / OBP 0.381 / SLG 0.476 / OPS 0.857 – 222 BB vs 300 K
Swisher, to me, projects as a 0.250-0.260 hitter with some pop who manages to get on base at an above average rate thanks to his walk totals.
As in last year he showed a propensity for striking out but at the same time also improved his walk total from 55 to 97. I don't like strikeouts any more than the next guy but if you can also rack up a fair number of walks it takes away some of the negativity. Swisher was all over the place offensively and can thank an incredible April and strong May for boosting his overall season numbers:
April – 0.313 / 0.404 / 0.738 – 10 HR
May – 0.299 / 0.409 / 0.551 – 6 HR
June – 0.204 / 0.342 / 0.337 – 3 HR
July – 0.188 / 0.310 / 0.306 – 3 HR
Aug – 0.237 / 0.321 / 0.464 – 6 HR
Sep – 0.294 / 0.450 / 0.612 – 7 HR
June and July he was just terrible while in Aug he played close to his career numbers and then he took off again in Sep. One thing I noted though is that his OBP never suffered – at no time did his OBP fall below 0.300, even when batting only 0.188 in July, and in most cases his OBP was about 100 points higher than his BA. If Swisher can cut back on the strikeouts while maintaining his patience and power, he could be a truly fearsome hitter. But he will have to improve his BA with RISP : 0.190. Swisher split time between the OF and 1B and did a fair job defensively at both, although he seemed a better fit at 1B.

Overall grade : B+

Post-Season Notes: Swisher didn't do much, going 4-for-20 with a couple of 2B and no HR. He did manage 7 BB though.

Where will he be in 2007: Splitting time again between 1B and the OF, Swisher may get a long term contract signed during the winter that will lock him in through his arbitration years.

Eric Chavez – 3B/Walking Wounded – BA 0.241 / OBP 0.351 / SLG 0.435 / OPS 0.786
22 HR / 24 2B / 2 3B / 72 RBI / 84 BB / 100 K
This was supposed to be the year that Chavez proved all the skeptics wrong after his hot start in April when he clubbed 9 HR with a 0.301 BA. Unfortunately a multitude of injuries hobbled Chavez throughout the season, severely depleting his offensive abilities and ending up overshadowed by Swisher and Thomas. Luckily his defense was top notch, despite the injuries, and he should be a strong choice for yet another gold glove. However, the injuries and weak offensive numbers troubled a number of impatient fans still waiting for that so-called "breakout season" that will make Chavez's expense worthwhile. Personally I am perfectly content just to have a healthy Chavez with top-notch defense at the corner with 25-30 HR along with a 0.270 BA and a decent OBP. Which is exactly what we have been getting and what I think we can count on getting in the future, except possibly for the healthy part. Is that worth $11 million dollars a year? That's for you to decide, personally I am ok with it hoping that the occasional plus offensive year will get thrown into the mix of normal years for Chavez.
While at times Chavez looked lost at the plate, I really don't think it was nearly as bad a year as some people thought – definitely he could and should do better healthy, but considering he played injured almost the entire season I thought he did quite well. Thanks to higher walk totals (84 compared to 58) his OPS was only 9 points lower than in 2005. Sure, his BA was way off, but OPS is a much better indicator of a player's offensive impact than simply looking at BA. It makes me wonder what the year would have looked like had he been healthy. To get a possible glimpse of what that could have been like, take a look at his April and Sep months:
April – BA 0.301 / OBP 0.392 / SLG 0.687 – 9 HR
Sep - BA 0.243 / OBP 0.352 / SLG 0.568 – 6 HR
While his Sep BA was still low, it was a marked improvement from the previous 3 months. April and Sep accounted for 15 of his 22 HR – he hit only 1 HR in both July and Aug and only 2 in June. Had he remained healthy this could have been his best year yet.

Overall grade : B (he gets a boost for effort)

Post-Season Notes: While he only hit 0.217 with 5 hits, 4 of those hits were for extra bases (2 doubles and 2 HR). However, his defense at times was troubling, very un-Chavez like, and most likely could be attributed to injuries.

Where will he be in 2007: Chavez of course is under contract and the gold glover will be back at 3B. However, look for some 3B relief to join the A's in case Chavez once again is saddled with injury. Even Chavez admitted he probably should have gone on the DL at some point earlier in the season. Barring injury, he should bounce back nicely.

Milton Bradley – OF/Firecracker – BA 0.276 / OBP 0.370 / SLG 0.447 / OPS 0.817
14 HR / 14 2B / 2 3B / 52 RBI / 51 BB / 65 K
Milton Bradley was a great pick up by Beane. Sure, we gave up a good prospect, but as I remarked at the time getting 2 solid major league players (well, 1 and ¼ considering Perez's horrid year) for a minor league prospect was well worth it. Once again this was a risky move by Beane considering Bradley's penchant for getting injured and Perez's relative youth and inexperience. Still, when healthy, Bradley was a real middle-of-the-order threat with excellent defense. Having 5 OF to back up in case of injuries made the risk that much easier to take. Bradley also had a reputation for a fiery temper and for getting into trouble with umpires and teammates, but except for one instance where Macha had to physically restrain him, Bradley behaved comparatively well.
Once again Bradley landed on the DL for part of the season but came back with a bang in July, had a weak Aug, and finished the season strongly in Sep. Bradley showed patience and a good knowledge of the strike zone along with some pop and heck, even stole 10 bases, almost unheard of for an A's player. His fiery emotion was a welcome addition to the clubhouse, in my opinion, something unseen since the days of Miggy.

Overall grade : B+

Post-Season Notes: Milton carried the team in the post-season with a 0.323 BA, 2 doubles, and 3 HR. Alas, it wasn't enough as the rest of the team sucked just enough to get swept by the Tigers.

To be continued…..


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