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Reaching for bats: an Oakland Athletics preview

The White Sox finally get to play the A's and dear lord Hawk will not stop talking about Moneyball.


Offense: Coco Crisp-CF, John Jaso-C, Jed Lowrie-SS, Yoenis Cespedes-LF, Seth Smith-DH, Josh Donaldson-3B, Brandon Moss-1B, Chris Young-RF, Eric Sogard-2B. Bench: Derek Norris-C, Luke Montz-C/1B, Nathan Freiman-1B, Adam Rosales-INF.

Some players just feel like they belong on certain teams. For me, Coco Crisp is a prime example of that. This just wouldn't look right in a different uniform. Crisp has been having himself quite the season so far with what would be career highs in OBP and SLG if the season ended today. But it doesn't. Which is good. I'm not ready to stop watching baseball yet. UZR doesn't seem to like his defense, though I don't remember him being a bad center fielder. He's still deadly effective on the basepaths and can steal with impunity. He will wear us out. John Jaso platoons with Derek Norris at catcher, but he should see the lion's share of AB this season. Jaso was the Mariners best hitter last season. Seattle is awful. Jaso is very good at drawing walks, a talent that has kept him employed and appreciated by teams that like scoring runs. This explains why Seattle traded him away this winter. He's a bit below average as a receiver, but you take what you can get.

Jed Lowrie had to be thrilled when he was told the Astros were trading him. He's not the smoothest of short stops, but he can play every infield position and is a pretty damn useful player to have on a roster when he's not injured. Which is rare as his 97 games played for Houston last season represent a career high. Jed's plate discipline is pretty good and he has decent pop for a middle infielder. The baseball gods are not being very kind to Yoenis Cespedes. The Cuban had a pretty fantastic rookie year last season with his 23 homeruns and his .368 wOBA. But this year? He's in a bit of a funk. His .230 BABIP isn't helping things. He's striking out a bit more but his power is up so that's really not much of a problem. His baserunning is a little off, but his defense has been better. He should be fine once the luck plague works itself out, but maybe he's just going to be a slightly above average hitter and not some sort of titan, which is a little disheartening.

But that's okay because guys like Seth Smith are picking up his slack. While he likely won't manage to keep his wOBA above .350 the entire season, Smith has done so before so it wouldn't be unprecedented. He's not a big power guy, but he draws walks and hits the ball into the gaps which is far more useful than what our DH does so I wouldn't hate on the man. You can, but I think he's an okay dude and you're just being a bully (said the man who continues picking a picture of a fat child to represent the Oakland A's). Josh Donaldson is quietly having an MVP caliber season yet is still batting sixth in the lineup. Just look at those numbers! .410 wOBA! .224 ISO! And he can actually play good defense! Is it all a mirage? Probably to a degree but I'm enjoying the randomness while it lasts. He's managed to hit like this in AAA before so maybe Oakland finally found a post-Eric Chavez third baseman.

Brandon Moss was Oakland's magic man last season, but someone who strikes out in over 30% of their plate appearances is going to have a hard time continuing to be a character from a Heart song for a prolonged amount of time. Moss has good power and draws enough walks that you can tolerate that elevated K rate. If used properly, he should continue to be an above league average hitter. Chris Young has been kind of terrible since coming over in the bizarre trade with the Diamondbacks this year. His .200 BABIP has his OPS below .650 which isn't acceptable even with good defense. He's still fast and the ball still flies off his bat. He just doesn't seem to make contact like he used to. Eric Sogard plays like a man who wears glasses on a baseball field, which is cool because Eric Sogard is a man who wears glasses on a baseball field.

Pitching: Jarrod Parker-RHP, Tommy Milone-LHP, A.J. Griffin-RHP, Bartolo Colon-RHP, Dan Straily-RHP, Grant Balfour-CL.

Things are not going particularly well for Jarrod Parker this season. His strikeout numbers are a bit down and his walks are a bit up, which is never a good combo but an especially dangerous one when it drops the pitcher below the 2 K:BB threshold. What's been killing him though has been the longball. Last season Parker allowed only 11 homeruns. It's not yet June and he's already matched that total in one third the innings. That's ... bad. He uses two fastballs that sit in the lower-90s, a changeup, a slider, and the odd curveball. His changeup is pretty nasty. Baseball is a weird sport in that grown men will continue to use names that only children and terrible Power Rangers should. I know one Tommy in the real world but baseball has multiple and that is strange to me. Like Parker, Milone has had some issues with giving up homeruns this year. He doesn't walk as many hitters though and actually gets a decent amount of strikeouts, so unlike Jarrod this hasn't completely bitten him in the ass. If Milone can stay healthy, he should have a pretty nice career ahead of him being a lefty with good control and all. His fastball sits in the upper-80s and he mixes it up with a changeup, a strong curveball, and a cutter.

Why are so many A's starters giving up homeruns? They play in a cavern! Griffin pitches more or less like an orthodox version of Milone, right down to fairly similar peripherals, thought Milone has better control. Griffin should end up being the better strikeout artist of the two. He's a flyball pitcher, which is dangerous and my least favorite type of pitcher to have in the rotation. He makes it work, but I'm not one for tightrope walking. Griffin throws a fastball in the upper-80s-to-lower-90s, a curveball, a cutter, and a changeup. Bartolo Colon is somehow still rolling around, collecting paychecks, and generally disgusting anyone who has to look at him for a prolonged amount of time. He can't get strikeouts anymore, but when you've somehow only walked four hitters over 61.1 innings that really doesn't matter very much. Look at that number again. That's insane. He's given up three more homeruns than free trips to first base. He's a cheap source of around 150 IP that will somehow manage to be worth ~2 WAR or so and it puzzles me to no end. He's going to pitch forever just like Livan Hernandez. I will be dead and rotted away and Bartolo Colon will still be pitching in the majors. He pretty much only throws his low-90s fastball, which could explain the lack of walks.

Dan Straily refuses to give into peer pressure and give up numerous homeruns like his rotation mates. He's his own man and you can't make him do things just to fit in. Straily's numbers in the minors have been pretty damn sexy and he could develop into a pretty solid mid-rotation starter. His fastball sits in the low-90s but he can crank it up to 95. He also has a good slider, a changeup, and a curveball. Grant Balfour is still very much a person that throws baseballs for a living that happens to have been born in Australia, or as I like to call it "the place where good scores in go to die". He's big on strikeouts and not on command or control, so he will give hitters the opportunity to beat him. They just have to not swing at the junk. So basically our entire lineup is doomed if he enters the game. Balfour's fastball sits in the low-90s and he also uses a slider and a curveball.

Outlook: We actually haven't had a horrible season series record against Oakland in quite a few years, so that is neat. If the Sox can get to the A's starters, they'll be fine. If not that bullpen is going to literally decimate the lineup. 2.5 of our players will be beaten to death by the other 22.5. They have weird laws out there in Alameda county. Sox lose the season series 3-4.