Colon shined in July. He did not have much company
The A's ended the month of July with a 63-45 record and a four-game lead over the Texas Rangers as a huge three-game series is set to begin in the East Bay Friday night. While the A's did post a 15-10 mark in July, a couple of winnable games got away that could have stretched their lead even further.
What is even more amazing is that the A's managed to post at least 15 wins for the fourth straight month despite hitting just .224 as a team and getting limited to no production from many key cogs.
Then again, the pitching was great, as usual, as the staff posted a collective 3.04 ERA. Since I like to start on a positive note when I can, the grades for the team for the month of July will begin with the pitchers.
Gray showed plenty of promise in a brief stint.
July stats: 2 appearances, 4 IP, 2 hits, 0 ER, 6 K's, 0.00 ERA
Gray looked every bit the promising stud in a couple of very good relief appearances for the A's. The obvious would be to just give him an A. But the reality is, the sample size is much too small to say anything other than the sooner he is back with the big club, the better.
Neshek's appearances have been fewer and far between lately.
July stats: 4 appearances, 4 IP, 3 hits, 2 ER, 2 K's, 4.50 ERA
The crafty Pat Neshek has been a feast-or-famine guy for the A's since being acquired during the 2012 season. Largely used in matchups against right-handed hitters or in non-competitive situations, Neshek was OK but not great in July. Expect more of the same in terms of when manager Bob Melvin will use him out of the bullpen.
Blevins hopes to rebound from a bad month of July.
July stats: 9 appearances, 4.2 IP, 5 hits, 5 BB, 4 ER, 7 K's, 7.71 ERA
The man known as "Everyday Jerry" seriously struggled in July, posting his highest ERA in a month since well...June (6.30). Truth be told, Blevins has been bad for a couple of months after a fantastic April/May that had him on the fringe of All-Star discussion. The A's need a second left-handed arm out of the bullpen, so Blevins must get it together soon.
Otero is this year's Jim Miller. I don't mean that in a bad way.
July stats: 5 appearances, 1-0, 8.1 IP, 5 hits, 0 ER, 5 K's, 0.00 ERA
Dan Otero is the 12th guy out of the bullpen. That's not a knock on him, just the reality of what his role is. He usually enters when the game is out of hand, winning or losing. So you have to take his numbers with a grain of salt.
However, he did make five appearances and did not allow a single run. So any way you slice it, the 2013 version of Jim Miller is having a solid year. And he had a great month of July.
Hopefully the last outing by Chavez was an aberration.
July stats: 8 appearances, 1-1, 10.2 IP, 13 hits, 6 BB, 6 ER, 8 K's, 5.06 ERA
Until his final appearance of the month, Jesse Chavez was doing pretty good for himself. But all 31 days must be counted, so his performance against the Toronto Blue Jays diminished what was largely a solid job by Chavez for the A's.
Cook was very good in July.
July stats: 11 appearances, 2-1, 12 IP, 8 hits, 4 BB. 11 K's, 0.00 ERA (one unearned run)
One of the nice developments of the month was the improved pitching of Ryan Cook. July saw the 2012 All-Star look more like the player who was deserving of that honor last season. In spite of not allowing an earned run, he still managed to be on the bad end of a tough luck loss on July 6th in Kansas City.
Beyond that, he was mostly lights out for the month.
Doolittle improved after a rough patch.
July stats: 12 appearances, 11 IP, 5 hits, 2 BB, 3 ER, 9 K's, 2.45 ERA
July saw numbers more in line with Sean Doolittle's production as compared to a rough month of June (6.57 ERA). Other than a loss against Boston on the 12th, he was mostly clean throughout the month. Definitely a positive sign for the A's heading toward the stretch run.
Balfour continues to look like an elite closer in 2013.
July stats: 12 appearances, 0-1, 11 IP, 8 hits, 2 BB, 2 ER, 15 K's, 1.64 ERA
The inevitable finally happened: Grant Balfour blew a save in 2013. It was his first in 45 tries, so don't consider me a homer if I give the 2013 All-Star a pass. Oh yeah, he's gone three scoreless innings since, collecting a pair of saves and five strikeouts in the process. I think he got over it.
Parker's improved July was soured with a poor final start.
July stats: 4 starts, 25.1 IP, 18 hits, 12 BB, 11 ER, 14 K's, 1.18 WHIP, 3.91 ERA
The first of the starters is Jarrod Parker. Heading in to his final start against the L.A. Angels on the 28th, he had put a nice month together. Ironically, the A's lost all three of his starts, though Parker did not figure in any of those decisions.
Then against the Angels, Parker allowed seven walks, five hits and six runs in five innings. And the A's won 10-6. Sometimes, you just can't explain the game. Hopefully the A's see more of the better Parker and can put wins behind his performances.
Straily posted good numbers for the month.
July stats: 5 starts, 2-3, 29.1 IP, 24 hits, 10 BB, 10 ER, 24 K's, 1.16 WHIP, 3.07 ERA
Another interesting study is Dan Straily. The A's rookie posted a very nice 3.07 record in July but went 2-3. His first two starts were great against NL Central foes Pittsburgh and Chicago (13.1 IP, 1 ER, 2-0 record).
But in his last three starts, he was uneven and lost all three, failing to make it out of the fifth inning in the last two. If Straily has hit the proverbial wall, the good news is, help might soon be on the way.
Griffin is good when he keeps the ball in the park.
July stats: 6 starts, 4-1, 37 IP, 37 hits, 6 BB, 20 ER, 30 K's, 1.16 WHIP, 4.86 ERA
A.J. Griffin has benefited from an offense that seems to generate runs when he is on the mound. In spite of posting the highest ERA of any of the five starters in the rotation for the month, Griffin had the most wins with four.
The story of the year has been Griffin's inability to keep the ball in the park. He has allowed a team-high 26 home runs, including 11 in July. The one game he did not allow a long ball was his best start of the month, an eight-inning gem against the Boston Red Sox on the 13th.
Milone was steady, if unspectacular, in July.
July stats: 4 starts, 2-1, 24 IP, 23 hits, 7 BB, 10 ER, 17 K's, 1.25 WHIP, 3.75 ERA
Tom Milone is similar to Griffin in that he gets in trouble when he gives up the long ball. While he has allowed 20 in 2013, only one of those came in the month of July.
By and large, Milone was solid, keeping the A's in three of his four starts. The exception was a short stint in Pittsburgh that saw him removed after just 2.2 innings and 80 pitches in a 5-0 loss to the Pirates. Milone is never going to overpower, so as long as he continues to locate, the A's will be in his starts.
Colon's July only strengthened his case for AL Cy Young honors in 2013.
July stats: 6 starts, 3-1, 41.1 IP, 42 hits, 8 BB, 8 ER, 17 K's, 1.21 WHIP, 1.74 ERA
The only thing bigger than Bartolo Colon's waistline has been his contribution to the A's in 2013. The numbers speak for themselves overall. And the month of July was a microcosm of his year on the whole.
For all the bluster about Colon's PED use in 2012, the reality is, he beats opponents with guile more than gas at this stage of his career. Colon gives up hits and frequently faces men on base. But his ability to make key pitches in stressful situations and doing so consistently has put him in elite company. It is not a fluke and the A's will continue to depend on the big man down the stretch. So far, so good.
Norris found his swing in July.
July stats: .367 avg, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 1.253 OPS; two errors
Offensively, we begin with Derek Norris, who was fantastic at the plate in July, slugging .767 and walking more than he struck out (seven to six) in 16 games.
The flip side is, Norris committed two errors, both of which happened to cost the A's a game. However, the offensive production could not be ignored, especially given Norris' struggles up until this past month.
Jaso has been what the A's expected thus far.
July stats: .242 average, .432 OBP, 1 HR, 2 RBI, .826 OPS; two errors
Much like his fellow catcher Derek Norris, John Jaso had a pretty quality offensive month muted by miscues behind the plate. Jaso committed two errors, which offset his typical high on-base percentage and miscellaneous contributions offensively (two steals, seven runs scored).
When he returns from his concussion-mandated absence, it will be interesting to see how well he picks up at the plate. That has been Jaso's best contribution in 2013.
Freiman's lack of power is disconcerting.
July stats: .243 average, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 4 K, .514 slugging percentage
Is Nate Freiman a 6'8" singles hitter? It seems like a dumb question, but considering the big rookie has just 10 extra-base hits this year and only had one in July, the lack of power is disturbing.
To be fair, Freiman does not get a lot of at-bats or consistent playing time. But the numbers don't lie. After a great May that saw him earn AL Rookie of the Month honors, Freiman has looked like a guy that the Houston Astros gave up on.
July was a month Seth Smith would love to forget.
July stats: .125 average, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 17 K's, .357 OPS
Any way you try to spin it, Seth Smith was awful in July. Enduring an 0-for-30 stretch, Smith went 7-for-56 on the month and saw his average plummet 28 points to .250 on the year.
The only hope is that the worst is over and the early season Smith re-emerges for the A's at the designated hitter spot. He can't possibly do much worse than July.
Young was his usual self in July. That is not a compliment.
July stats: .196 average, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 19 K's, .411 slugging pct, .673 OPS
Chris Young did what Chris Young has done in 2013. He hit decently against the Angels and Astros, going 6-for-27 (.222, 1 HR, 2 RBI). Against everyone else, he was 5-for-29 (.172) with a single home run.
The reality is, Young is a fourth outfielder because he has a hole in his swing and simply does not have enough productive at-bats. His slightly above-average defense does not offset that.
Baseball's Harry Potter cast a spell at the plate in July.
July stats: .295 average, 2 HR, 10 RBI, .508 slugging pct, .806 OPS
How upside down was the previous month? The two best hitters for the A's were Derek Norris and Eric Sogard. And it wasn't even close.
Let's not use that as a knock against Sogard, though. He was very good and Oakland needed all of his unexpected pop. The question lingers if he will be able to give the A's some semblance of this production over the last 50-plus games.
Moss has proven his power is no fluke.
July stats: .258 average, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 16 K's, .717 OPS
Brandon Moss is not a .290 hitter like his 2012 stats would indicate. That was never the goal. The goal was to have a functional first baseman that could provide power. Moss has delivered that.
On pace to hit 26 home runs, Moss had a solid July that lacked a bit in power, but a better batting average helped to somewhat offset that deficiency. That said, the A's need power from Moss, and three extra-base hits for the month will not be enough.
It has just been a lost year at the plate for Reddick.
July stats: .205 average, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 18 K's, 2 steals, .661 OPS
The sophomore slump of Josh Reddick has continued into the summer and seems to be something the Gold Glove right fielder will endure the remainder of the season. Though he drove in a team-high 12 runs, Reddick still lacked the form of a 32-home run power threat in July.
That said, the A's will trade a low batting average for 12-15 RBI in August and September. The hope is that Reddick's swing will get straightened out before that compromise is necessary.
The Cuban Missile has been set to cruise too often in 2013.
July stats: .237, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 14 K's, 4 steals, .668 OPS
Like Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes had big expectations going into this 2013 season. On the whole, he has not delivered, hitting just .229 on the season and on pace for 24 HR and 75 RBI.
And while he put on an epic show in winning the 2013 Home Run Derby, Cespedes has not been nearly as effective in the games that count. Even worse, he has had a tendency to go less than 100 percent on plays. That is a habit A's management needs to break and quickly.
Donaldson's second-half slump is a bit alarming.
July stats: .233, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 21 K's, .695 OPS
The A's offensive MVP of the first half, Josh Donaldson has come tumbling to earth in the month of July. The player who looked locked in and able to take pitches to all fields has been flailing and frustrated trying to get his swing back after the All-Star break.
Some of this is adjustments made to Donaldson, whose production merited extra attention. But much of it is Donaldson clearly pressing to try and duplicate what he was doing. After an 0-for-16 slump, Donaldson has responded with a modest three-game hit streak and a .333 batting average (4-for-12) in the past three games.
Lowrie's shaky glove is only offset when he's hitting.
July stats: .245 average, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 5 doubles, 16 K's, .669 OPS
Jed Lowrie's July numbers are a bit deceiving considering he might be the hottest A's hitter right now, having gone .414 over the past week (12-for-29).
You could also make the case that until the past week, Lowrie's July was awful with a .173 batting average (12-for-69). I am choosing the former in this case because Lowrie appears to have righted the ship and might have to carry the offense a bit while his teammates figure out how to do the same.
The A's need first-half Coco Crisp to return.
July stats: .186 average, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 3 steals, 17 K's, .469 OPS
The last player on this list is Coco Crisp. The A's catalyst was stuck in neutral in July, hitting under .200 and striking out almost as much (17 times) as he had the three months previous (28 times).
Without Crisp's production, the A's often struggled scoring runs. And yet Crisp still managed to drive in 10 runs and steal three bases even as he had his worst month at the plate since May 2012. The A's desperately need a more consistent leadoff presence from Crisp.
Time will tell if the A's gave up on Grant Green too soon.
I would be remiss if I failed to include the numbers of three players who did not play as much as those on this list but did contribute (or at least play) in July:
- Grant Green: 0-for-15, 1 RBI, 6 K's; three errors in five games (traded to L.A. Angels)
- Adam Rosales: 2-for-11 (.182 avg), 0 HR, 0 RBI (designated for assignment)
- Stephen Vogt: 4-for-17 (.235 avg), 1 HR, 4 RBI, .786 OPS (A's 8-1 in games Vogt has started in 2013)
And there you have it. This is the core of the team that will make a run at a championship, with recently acquired infielder Alberto Callaspo (for Green) being the only omission. Considering he went 0-for-2 as a member of the A's in the month of July, I'll go ahead and give him an incomplete grade as well.
It is a testament to this club that in spite of so many guys scuffling at the plate, their record was still 15-10 when it was all said and done. The formula might be enough to get back in to the playoffs. But the A's still lack another hitter. Based on the numbers, if that does not get addressed in the waiver period of the trade season, the A's might find themselves short again when the games really matter.