Did they go from sweethearts to sweet tarts in the matter of a spring?
The Oakland A’s, who became a very trendy pick to unseat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009, had a very interesting spring.
The team’s strengths seem to be obvious. They are going to grind pitchers down, and ultimately ware into your bullpen. In 1,231 official at bats, the A’s generated 366 hits to bat .297 for the spring.
But this is a Billy Beane team so on top of getting 366 hits, they generated an additional 132 walks and throw in 28 batter hit by pitches, and you can see where this is going.
So you are looking at a team that not only put together a .297 batting average for the spring, but an on base percentage of .373.
Jason Giambi is a perfect example. He couldn’t seem to find his stroke this spring, but even with a .157 batting average, he managed to get on base at a .328 clip.
The outfield looks to be a definite strength of this team. Defensively they are a huge upgrade over a year ago and if Buck and Sweeney keep swinging the hot sticks that they had in March, they should be able to do some really special things.
Jason Giambi would be a concern but he’s an old veteran and as awful as his batting average was, his on base percentage shows that he still has very good command of the strike zone. With that I would expect the slump is due to bat speed (or lack thereof because of his age), and as he warms up, we should see that number improve.
Matt Holliday looks to be having very little trouble adjusting to his new uniform. He went .306/.380/.339. The slugging percentage is obviously down, but I don’t think we need to get too concerned about how many spring training home runs he manages.
The other surprise of the spring was Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar was signed late and managed to hit .455 in his time in camp. If he can stay healthy he looks to be a big contributor to this team, especially with the uncertain health of Eric Chavez.
The pitching on the other hand has shown reason for concern. Brett Anderson was their spring time stand out. Who is Brett Andersen? Great question, he was one of the many young players Billy Beane managed to extract from the Arizona Diamondback in the Dan Haren trade. At 21, Andersen managed a 3-1 record with 2.83 ERA and a WHIP of 1.19.
Unfortunately for Oakland, the reason that a youngster like Andersen is making the opening day lineup is because of yet another trip to the DL by their “Ace” Justin Duchscherer. The Duke only managed 22 starts in 2008 and it doesn’t look to be getting any better in 2009.
In the spring, Dana Eveland went 0–4 and was once again haunted by a gross number of walks. Eveland lead the A’s in walks in the spring allowing 11 free passes along with 26 hits in 27.1 innings of work.
Opponents OBP vs. Eveland was .322 this spring. Eveland does strikeout his fair share for a group-ball pitcher, but his career walks per nine innings average is right around four for his career and in the spring he managed approx 3.6 free passes per complete game.
The other young arm is Trevor Cahill, the 21-year-old that Oakland selected with its second round pick in 2006. He has no big league experience and gave up the second most walks (10) in the spring. The A’s are going to ask a lot out of this very young pitching staff.
On the back end of the bullpen, yours truly predicted that Brad Zeigler and not Joey Devine would be closing games before the end of 2009. I didn’t think it would come to fruition this quick. The injury to Devine really hurts the depth of what was looking to be a solid unit.
After a long spring, the Boys of Summer are ready to take the field, and in Oakland, some questions were answered in February and March, unfortunately I think a lot more arose.
If this young pitching staff comes together the A’s should win the West handily. That being said, the oldest starter on the opening day roster is Dallas Braden at 25 years old. The five man rotation has made a combined 63 starts. Eveland has made 35 of them, and Braden 24, two of the opening day starts have never pitched in the big leagues before.
The key is for the A’s to pitch well out off the shoot and give this young rotation some confidence, because the offense is definitely going to be able to score it’s share of runs.