Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
With so many position changes, in addition to the revolving platoons at other spots, it's amazing that Oakland hasn't been terrible on the field.
But against Houston, the A's were.
The A's received straight F's for their defensive play, as they committed three errors in each of the first two games of the series. In the opener, Oakland was fortunate to eke out a victory, while Tuesday ended in a 5-4 defeat, a direct result of two ninth-inning throwing errors (and a passed ball).
Much of the focus has been on the terribly porous defensive play of shortstop Jed Lowrie, whose .955 fielding percentage ranks as the lowest at his position in the American League. In addition to his 12 errors at shortstop, Lowrie has two more while playing second base. He's obviously a huge liability up the middle, and the Athletics did make attempts to mask his insufficiencies in certain games by using Adam Rosales at short with Lowrie at second.
That experiment did not work. Rosales made six errors of his own at shortstop. The A's feel as if they've run out of options in their mix-and-match middle-infield approach, and now Lowrie is currently slated as the permanent shortstop, with a second-base platoon of Eric Sogard and, for the time being, Grant Green, who has three errors in a mere five career games.
Yes, Oakland's defense is terrible up the middle. Especially when you add six combined errors and five passed balls at the catcher position. But as ugly as the defense has been, and as bad as they played against the Astros this week, there is no need to panic, no need for sweeping defensive upgrades or adjustments. No need to clamor for Cliff Pennington's amazing glovework. While Oakland ranks 10th in the AL in team fielding, defense will not be a major problem for the A's, despite recent struggles.
Why? Because of their pitchers.
That's right: Oakland's pitching style will not allow for the team's weakest link (infield defense) to be an issue. The A's have allowed the second-fewest ground-ball outs in the AL. And their league-leading 1,121 fly-ball outs are a whopping 150 more than Baltimore's total. With Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes in the outfield, every fly ball is catchable.
So, while most teams preach keeping the ball down in the strike zone to induce groundballs, A's pitchers should continue trusting their defense by lofting outfield flies.