Oakland Athletics

Brandon Moss Repeating His Breakout Season Is Key for Oakland A's

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 08: Brandon Moss #37 of the Oakland Athletics hits a two RBI double against the Houston Astros during the third inning at O.co Coliseum on September 8, 2013 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
Jasper SchererAnalyst IIDecember 31, 2013

The Oakland A's have several position players whose performances will decisively dictate the overall success of the team in 2014.

One of those key players is first baseman Brandon Moss. In 2013, Moss played a full season for the first time in his career, and he performed exceptionally. He blasted 30 home runs, drove in 87 runs and slugged .522, the latter of which was good for sixth in the American League.

Those totals came one year after Moss compiled a .954 OPS with 21 home runs in only 265 at-bats in 2012. In total, Moss hit 51 home runs in 711 at-bats between 2012 and 2013.

Moss' breakout year in 2013 came during a season in which the A's ranked third in the majors in home runs. However, the high total is a bit misleading.

Yoenis Cespedes hit 26 home runs, but he performed so poorly in every other hitting category (.294 OBP, 137 strikeouts) that his relatively high homer total didn't mean a whole lot.

Josh Donaldson also added 24 home runs, but his role was clearly not that of a slugger. He was a fantastic middle-of-the-lineup hitter, but the A's certainly didn't expect him to hit home runs with regularity when he stepped to the plate. His .384 OBP, 93 RBI and 89 runs showed his true value: driving in runs when given the opportunity and getting on base. (He hit .336 with runners in scoring position.)

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Josh Donaldson #20 of the Oakland Athletics hits an RBI wallk-off single scoring Jemile Weeks #19 in the bottom of the ninth innings to defeat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2-1. at O.co Coliseum on September 17, 2013 in Oa
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

In short, Moss was the Athletics' de facto power hitter in 2013. And they'll be looking for him to play that same role in 2014.

History has shown that successful teams almost always have a true slugger in the lineup. In fact, since 2000, only the 2012 and 2010 World Series-winning San Francisco Giants have lacked a 30-home run hitter among title-winning teams.

In each of those years, the Giants featured exceptional pitching, even for World Series-winning standards. Also, their World Series counterparts each year featured teams with 30-plus home run hitters. The trend speaks for itself.

TeamYearPlayer(s) with 30+ Home Runs
Red Sox2013David Ortiz
Cardinals2011Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman
Yankees2009Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez
Phillies 2008 Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell
Red Sox2007David Ortiz
Cardinals2006Albert Pujols
White Sox2005Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye
Red Sox 2004 Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz
Marlins2003Derrek Lee, Mike Lowell
Angels2002Troy Glaus
Diamondbacks2001Luis Gonzalez, Reggie Sanders
Yankees2000Bernie Williams


Clearly, the absence of a reliable power bat on a team means they will have trouble going far in the playoffs.

That's not to say that if Brandon Moss hits, say, 27 home runs, the A's automatically can't win the World Series. There is no "golden rule" that a team must have a 30-home run hitter to win the title. But it certainly makes it easier to have a hitter who can drive in runs in a hurry, and when scoring is at a premium in the postseason, that ability becomes especially valuable. As the late, great Earl Weaver once said, "The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers."

Furthermore, a power-hitting bat forces pitchers to sometimes pitch around that hitter, creating more RBI opportunities for other batters. For example, on the 2013 Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia saw many additional good pitches to hit because teams were wary of walking him in front of David Ortiz's power bat. Also, when teams pitched around Ortiz, that gave Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava and all the other succeeding hitters additional RBI opportunities.

The bottom line is that almost all successful teams have at least one big power hitter. Most even have two. For the A's, Cespedes has shown he isn't necessarily a reliable threat at the plate. That means Brandon Moss will have to step up this year. Again.

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 10:  Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the Oakland Athletics looks on in frustation after striking out in the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at O.co Coliseum on April 10, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Luckily, a power outage won't necessarily spell doom for the A's. They have a solid rotation that is capable of dominating teams when the offense goes stagnant.

Yet, that rotation doesn't quite stack up to that of the title-winning Giants. It is filled with question marks, including the performance of free-agent signee Scott Kazmir. There's no telling whether the left-hander will have a year akin to his 2013 performance, when he was a respectable 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA, or to his time with the Angels, when he had a 5.31 ERA in 188 innings.

The lack of a dominant rotation and the historical precedent that title-winning teams almost always have power hitters means the A's need Moss to step up this year. If his last two seasons are any indication, he should be more than up to the challenge.


All statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices