SLOTH LOVE CHUNK! (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Dates we play them: 7/23-7/25 @ Oakland, 7/30-8/1 at home, 9/20-9/22 @ Oakland
Offense: A potential lineup: Coco Crisp-CF, Daric Barton-1B, Kurt Suzuki-C, Jack Cust-DH, Kevin Kouzmanoff-3B, Mark Ellis-2B, Gabe Gross-RF, Rajai Davis-LF, Cliff Pennington-SS. Bench: Adam Rosales-UTIL, Landon Powell-C.
I do find it humorous that a team called the Athletics seem to have such a problem staying healthy. On that note, I'll try not to make an easy sportswriter jokes for the rest of this article (I'd bet against me). Coco Crisp hasn't played much this season, or any season since 2007 really, but has been pretty much exactly what you remember him being. He never lived up to the promise he showed as a young centerfielder for the Indians, but one has to think injuries are the main culprit. He has very little power and doesn't walk much, but runs fast and plays excellent defense. Daric Barton was one of the pieces that came over with Dan Haren in the ill-fated (for the Cardinals) Mark Mulder trade. He hits for a lot less power than most corner infielders (think of an even weaker James Loney). He does draw a lot of walks (13.2% career BB%) and plays above-average defense. Kurt Suzuki has started to reach the point where pundits can no longer say he is quietly one of the best catchers in the game. The Zooker (no, not that Zooker) was on track to set a new career-high in homers, but a mid-season trip to the disabled list may have derailed those plans. The only negative thing I see with his numbers is an alarming decrease in OBP due to drawing fewer walks. If he can get his BB% back up to around 7-7.5, he'll be annually battling Mike Napoli for the title of best catcher in the AL West. Jack Cust is the king of the Three True Outcomes hitters. That being said, he crushes the ball. Calling him Adam Dunn-light is only semi-fair, as he out Adam Dunn's Adam Dunn. He just does it with less homers and equally atrocious defense.
The Kouz (I'm hoping he actually gets called this) will never be very much more than an average player, due mostly to his cripplingly low OBP (.307 career). He was, however, the first player to hit a grand slam on the first major league pitch they saw though. He's got some pop, though it has been missing this season. He also plays somewhat above-average defense. Mark Ellis has begun to feel like one of the constants of life to me. There will always be death and taxes, but it also seems like number 14 will always be playing the middle infield in Oakland. I will be sad when he leaves or retires. His glory days were never very glorious, but they have now fallen by the wayside. As long as he can keep playing good defense, he'll stay in the bigs. If not for his 2008 season, Gabe Gross may have been out of baseball by now. His almost league-average OBP and good defense are all that keep him afloat. Rajai Davis had a nice breakout season last year, to the tune of 3.3 WAR. This season, not so much. Turns out it can be hard to maintain a .361 BABIP. When he gets on, he can steal with the best of them. Putting him in left gives the A's a very good defensive outfield, but a very weak-hitting one. Cliff Pennington has already been worth 2.1 WAR. What? He can draw walks and steal, so having him hit ninth is kind of nice.
According to the current depth chart on Oakland's site, they will be using a four-man rotation. Ben Sheets is a shadow of the pitcher he used to be. This will happen when you lose velocity off your fastball and lose the feel for your curve. Unsurprisingly, his strikeouts have been down and his walks have been up. If you expected him not to be showing rust, you aren't very bright. He has a low-90s fastball, a formerly amazing curveball, a changeup, and a slider. Our old friend Gio continues to improve by the Bay. He still needs to work on cutting his BB/9 down (4.26 this season). He throws a low-90s fastball, a fantastic curve, and a changeup. Until Brett Anderson comes back from the DL, he is the only southpaw in the rotation. Trevor Cahill is the best right-handed starter the A's have. The future looks bright with him, Anderson, and Gonzalez headlining the staff. Cahill won't get the strikeouts like the other two, but should get the most groundballs. He throws a low-90s fastball, a slider, a curve, and a change. Clayton Mortenson was a part of the Matt Holliday trade from last season. I know very little about him other than his high-80s fastball, a slider, and a change. Last season's RotY, Andrew Bailey, has picked up right where he left off for the most part. He is getting less strikeouts, which could be cause for concern. He throws a mid-90s fastball, a cutter, a curve, and a change.
Outlook: Oakland is a .500 team this season. We don't play well out in McAfee usually. I'm Feeling optimistic. 5-4 record for the series.