It's early in the season (the A's have played a league low 29 games) but it's never too early to asess the team and it's individual components. I think we can all agree that the A's have not played at the level that we expected so far, and at 11-18 they are at the bottom of the division and have MLB's third worst record.
The reasons for the slow start are a little disconcerting being that they are the same problems that plagued the team last season, namely injuries and lousy hitting. Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis, Nomar Garciaparra, and Santiago Casilla all figured to be key components to the team and all have spent a good portion of the season on the DL.
Ace Justin Duchscerer has yet to throw one pitch and reliever Joey Devine, who last season had MLB's lowest ERA, will miss the entire season.
But injuries are a part of baseball and one thing that separates the good teams from the bad ones is the ability to replace injured players with productive reserves. The bigger problem than the injury bug for this team is its inability to score runs consistently.
Oakland is dead last in the AL in most offensive categories, and their embarrassing batting average (.236) is a full .016 below the next worst team (Chicago White Sox).
On the bright side, they are only 5.5 games out of first place in the weak AL West and the pitching has been good, they have the AL's third best ERA (3.88), thanks mainly to the bullpen, the strength of the team so far. So without further ado, here are the early season report cards for each player that has played so far this season.
Andrew Bailey - A+ (3-0, 1.27, 1 sv)
Bailey has had an incredibly successful rookie campaign out of the bullpen so far, providing Geren with the most reliable arm on the squad. He has pitched an impressive 21.1 innings, going two innings in six of 15 appearances.
Kurt Suzuki - A (.318-2-14-.356)
Nobody on the team has been more consistent at the plate this season than Suzuki. He has shown a great eye, and had a knack for the big hit, as well as playing extremely well behind the dish. Kurt is also a workhorse, having appeared in all but two games this season.
Michael Wuertz - A (2-1, 1.53, 2 sv)
Wuertz, acquired as a free agent from the Cubs, has been every bit as good as advertised and then some. Along with Springer, he has given the A's a much needed veteran presence in the bullpen.
Jack Cust - A- (.284-4-14-.402)
Cust has been very good this season, and continues to excel at what he does best (get on base) and struggle in what he has always struggled with (striking out). Expect more of the same from Cust all season long.
Russ Springer - A- (0-1, 2.57)
Springer has been very good so far. He's a true competitor and backs down to nobody, even at 40 years of age.
Dallas Braden - B+ (3-4, 2.79)
Braden has taken over as the team's ace and handled the job admirably. He's probably more suited to be a number two or number three guy, but with a little more run support this season he could easily have six or seven wins already, so I'd say he's doing just fine.
Bobby Crosby - B (.262-0-8-.387)
Crosby has been a pleasant surprise so far. His numbers don't exactly jump off the page but consider the A's released him in the off season, nobody picked him up, he demanded to be traded to no avail, and has been forced out of the position he has played his entire life to become a utility man against his will.
He has played four different positions this season and not one of them is the one he knows best, and handled each one remarkably well.
Trevor Cahill - B- (1-2, 3.82)
The 21-year-old has performed well considering his inexperience and youth. He's only had one bad start and has shown the stuff that could make him a star.
Josh Outman - C+ (0-0, 4.79)
Outman has proven to be a decent back-end starter who can also lend a hand in long relief. Though he does not posses dominating stuff, his location has been solid and has shown signs of improvement. He needs to work on getting deeper into game to start earning Ws.
Dan Giese - C+ (0-3, 3.93)
Giese has been solid as a long relief guy and spot starter.
Jason Giambi - C (.208-3-13-.345)
Nobody expected Giambi to perform like he did last time he was in Oakland, but I think it's safe to say we all hoped he'd be as good as he was last season for the Yankees. So far he has been pretty bad, with only three home runs and four doubles.
If he's not producing at the plate, he's a liability on the field. All of that said, he is 38, and did have a two home run game just the other night, so I'm not going to call his season a failure yet.
Brad Ziegler - C (0-0, 4.05, 4 sv)
Ziegler was to start the year as the co-closer along with Joey Devine, but the season ending injury to Devine left the door open for Ziegler to grab the closer's role and own it solo.
After a solid start (1.59, 4 sv) in his first nine appearances, he has been hit pretty hard his last two outings while fighting through sickness and has possibly surrendered the closer's role to Bailey.
Rajai Davis - C (.200-0-0-.286)
Rajai is not on the roster to hit. He's there to play dependable defense when called upon and to run with reckless abandon when pinch running. He has done a little of both but has been caught stealing twice (with three successful swipes).
Brett Anderson - C (0-3, 5.79)
The other 21-year-old in the rotation has had a little rougher go at it so far. He has had a few good starts (against Boston and at Texas nonetheless) but has been way too inconsistent to earn a better grade.
Matt Holliday - C- (.226-4-20-.282)
Matt was supposed to be the pillar of the A's batting order and the main run producer for this team. Although he has driven in an impressive 20 runs, his ridiculously low on base percentage cannot make Billy Beane or Bob Geren happy men.
We shouldn't expect him to put up numbers like he did in Colorado (he went from one of the friedliest hitting parks to one of the unfriendliest), but a batting average closer to .280 should not be too much to ask with his talent.
Ryan Sweeney - C- (.254-2-8-.313)
After such a promising rookie season in '08, and an opening day start in the lead-off role, it's safe to say that Sweeney has been disappointing at the plate so far.
Hopefully his recent move out of the lead-off role will take some pressure off of Ryan and he can just go out and perform like we all know he can. He'd receive a worse grade if it wasn't for his stellar play in the outfield already producing numerous web gems.
Sean Gallagher - C- (1-1, 4.50)
Gallagher has had a couple of stints in Oakland this season as well as having spent some time in AAA. He has good enough stuff to be a reliable back-end starter or a long relief guy but he needs to remain consistent in order to get any type of regular playing time.
Nomar Garciaparra - C- (.231-1-7-.262)
Nomar's season has gone about how many thought it would: little production and long stints on the DL. He definitely still has some pop left in the bat, but it appears as though his injury problems will never fully go away again. If he gets 200 ABs consider it a victory.
Orlando Cabrera - D+ (.223-0-6-.278)
The off season acquisititon has had a tough time adjusting to his new team in the Bay. With his struggles at the plate and his high placement in the batting order, Orlando has really hurt the team so far with his lack of production.
Nobody expects him to carry the team, but something nearer his career averages (about .275-8-60-.325) would go a long way in reviving this offense.
Landon Powell - D+ (.172-0-6-.242)
In all fairness to Landon, he has not received many chances thanks to the iron man Suzuki so he should probably get an 'incomplete.' Despite the numbers, he has shown some brief flashes of being a big league catcher.
Mark Ellis - D- (.206-0-9-.265)
Ellis did not play well when he was healthy and then went down with a strained calf. He should be back some time this month, but will have to fight for playing time now with recently acquired Adam Kennedy.
Dana Eveland - D- (1-2, 7.40)
The lefty has had a rocky start to '09, only getting to the sixth inning one time in five starts. He's supposed to be the veteran of the rotation but has not shown any signs of leading the young guys by example as the coaching staff had hoped.
Travis Buck - F (.211-1-5-.286)
Travis has really struggled at the plate the last two seasons and his chances of proving himself at the big league level may be running out. How long can you afford to keep him on the roster when he hits the way he has the last couple of years?
Eric Chavez - F- (.100-0-1-.129)
Count me as one of the thousands of A's fans who are just about at the end of the rope with Chavez and his injury issues. Yes he still has great talent, and yes, even if he's not hitting (he's 3 for 30), he's preventing runs from scoring with his defense.
But even to do that he has to be on the field. Once again, the spring training reports of a healthy Chavez were wrong again; Eric hasn't had an injury free season since 2005!
Incomplete Grades: Gregorio Petit, Jack Hannahan, Eric Patterson, Adam Kennedy, Santiago Casilla, Kevin Cameron, Gio Gonzalez, Jerry Blevins, Jeff Gray
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