Who Surprised and Who Disappointed for Oakland Athletics in 2013?
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It's no surprise the Oakland Athletics are playing well as a unit; it's just a bit surprising who's leading the charge. Likewise, guys who were originally expected to propel the A's toward the postseason haven't quite gotten the job done.
The team has a bit of everything.
There's guys like Grant Balfour who have dominated, but it isn't a surprise. There's men like Jarrod Parker and Yoenis Cespedes who've had some ups and down but overall they've had decent years. Players like A.J. Griffin aren't having the best of years, but it's neither a surprise nor a disappointment.
To make it on this list, one of two things has happened.
The player entered the season with fairly big expectations and he hasn't met them. But not just that, he hasn't even come close. Or there's the opposite. A player had little expectations and wildly overshot them.
There are eight players on this list: four in each category.
Disappointing: Josh Reddick's Lack of Hitting
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In Josh Reddick's first full year, he played in 156 games, hitting .241 with 32 home runs and 85 RBI. He won a Gold Glove and placed 16th in MVP voting.
The production surprised many.
But it also had unintended consequences for Reddick. Last season created loftier expectations for 2013. I can't say if fans realistically expected Reddick to hit 30 home runs again, but it's plausible the expectation he hits higher than .240 was there.
Hence, the disappointment in a .218 average.
Just 12 home runs doesn't help. And though it's not his fault, the amount of time he missed does not help either.
Again, no one could have possibly thought Reddick would become the second-coming of Reggie Jackson. But the hope was that he'd produce around the same amount if not a little more. So far, he hasn't come very close.
Even Reddick had doubts about staying in the lineup.
Back in August, John Hickey of San Jose Mercury News said "his production this year has been so off that he (Reddick) was concerned that manager Bob Melvin might be find someone else to play right field."
Surprising: Eric Sogard an Everyday Guy
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I'm not sure many would have guessed Eric Sogard would pretty much be the everyday starter at second base. I know I didn't.
This offseason, the A's signed Hiroyuki Nakajima and traded for Jed Lowrie. Many thought Nakajima to be the everyday shortstop and Lowrie a utility infielder. However, the A's also had Scott Sizemore, Jemile Weeks, Grant Green, Adam Rosales and Andy Parrino as options.
Nakajima failed and opened the door at short for Lowrie to slide over. Sizemore injured himself and went on the disabled list for the year. The moves lessened the competition for Sogard, who ultimately beat out the rest.
It's been fairly smooth sailing since.
In 120 games to date this year, Sogard holds a .265 average with a .320 on-base percentage. His stats aren't much to look at on paper, but he's contributing. According to MLB.com, when his team is behind, his average rises to .275. When the A's are tied with an opponent, Sogard gets even hotter, hitting .293.
His contributions go even further than that. He's had eight opportunities with the bases loaded, and he hasn't disappointed. In those situations, Sogard hits .375.
He's even been slick on defense. Sogard committed just seven errors on the season and has a .986 fielding percentage at second, where he's also turned 67 double plays.
Fangraphs.com's definition of WAR (wins above replacement) lists a "solid starter" as having a 2-3 in the category. Sogard's WAR is 2.3
Clearly the A's believe in him.
The team let both the trade and waiver deadlines pass by without a major move. They acquired Alberto Callaspo from the Los Angeles Angels on July 31, yet Sogard has still played in the majority of games (34 to be exact).
In quotes obtained by John Shea of San Francisco Chronicle, Sogard appreciates the support:
"It's nice they feel confident in me and I can go out there and give them what they want. I'm having fun."
Disappointing: Grant Green Fails, Gets Traded
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For four years, Grant Green was one of Oakland's top prospects. In fact, he was ranked in Baseball America's Top 100 twice according to his Baseball-reference.com page. As a minor leaguer, Green holds a .306 average.
It's no wonder A's fans were itching to see him at the next level.
But when he finally arrived in 2013, he disappointed. In a short stint—16 at-bats—Green went hitless, striking out six times. Perhaps even more disappointing, the A's traded him shortly after he came up.
But it gets worse.
Now with the rival Los Angeles Angels, Green holds a .295 average with one home run and 13 RBI. That's great for him, but not so much for A's fans who held their breath for him for years.
Surprising: Jed Lowrie's Success
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Perhaps some are not actually surprised by Jed Lowrie's success. Before joining Oakland, Lowrie was a .250 hitter who flashed potential in the few opportunities he had year to year.
The first surprise stems from the fact that helike Eric Sogard—became the everyday starter. Oakland expected to use Lowrie in a variety of roles due to his versatility.
John Hickey of San Jose Mercury News quoted manager Bob Melvin before the season:
"He can be a very versatile piece in the lineup. He could be a real nice fit, a switch hitter at the top of the lineup. I envision moving him around like a lot of the other pieces we have."
Well, his versatility hasn't been required much.
Lowrie has manned shortstop for 110 games this season. He's played second an additional 24 games and DHed 12 games. And at 29 years old in his first year with the Athletics, he's having a career year.
That's the second portion of this year's surprise.
Not only did he earn the starting role at shortstop and maintain health throughout the year, he's one of the most consistent hitters on the team. Lowrie's .284 average is second-best on the team of everyday players.
As of this writing, Lowrie has doubled 43 times, the second-most in the American League and an Oakland A's franchise record for switch hitters.
Disappointing: Brett Anderson's Health
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By no fault of his own, Brett Anderson has been disappointing this year. But it's not because of a lack of talent or effort. It's because of an inability to stay healthy.
Again, it's not his fault.
Whether he's "injury-prone" or they've all been freak accidents, unfortunately it's not relevant to make this list. The fact that Anderson is supposed to be the most talented pitcher on the roster but hasn't been able to start more than five games is disheartening.
It's a "woulda-coulda-shoulda" thing to predict, but if Anderson was healthy, the A's might have at least five more wins than they do right now.
To be fair, even Anderson is frustrated.
Via Twitter, Anderson posted a (NSFW) tweet to express the frustration.
Surprising: Josh Donaldson Doing THIS Well
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If you watch the A's closely, you're not all that surprised by Josh Donaldson's 2013 season.
He started last season really slow, hitting .153 in the first half before being sent down to Triple-A. Upon his return, Donaldson hit .290 in the second half. So I suppose his .301 average in 2013 isn't all that surprising.
But not many could have predicted he'd be the most consistent hitter all season and lead the team in many categories including hits and RBI in addition to average.
You wouldn't have been alone if you viewed Donaldson as "a pretty good player" at the beginning of the season. Fast forward through five full months of baseball and he's an All-Star snub and team leader with a 7.4 WAR.
Disappointing: Tommy Milone's Pitching
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Last season as a rookie, Tommy Milone fought to make the 25-man roster. He not only made it, but he made his way into the middle of the starting rotation.
Milone finished 2012 with a 13-10 record and a 3.74 ERA. His 13 wins led the team. He also kept a very nice 3.81 K/BB ratio. Because of that, progression was expected.
Unfortunately, he regressed instead.
As of this writing, Milone is 11-9 with a 4.23 ERA. He's already matched his home runs allowed mark from 2012 in 41 less innings. The A's have sent him down to the minors and pushed him into the bullpen upon his September return.
Many expected him to be the No. 2 starter. Instead, he's a mid reliever who is giving up too many home runs.
Surprising: Bartolo Colon's Pitching
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In his career before Oakland, Bartolo Colon averaged a 12-8 record with a 4.09 ERA. In his first year with Oakland, he continued near his typical win-loss record at 10-9. But his 3.43 ERA impressed many.
Then the unfortunate happened.
Major League Baseball suspended Colon for using banned substances.
Still, after missing the last third of the season in 2012 and presumably being clean in 2013 (you'd have to believe he's been tested a ton), Colon is having an insane year. Especially for a 40-year-old.
At this point, he's 16-6 with a 2.73 ERA. That's the fifth-best in MLB and second-best in the American League. His company is Anibal Sanchez, Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez and Clayton Kershaw. And again, Colon is 40!
Three shutouts matches his career-high too.