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Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss Have Become One of MLB's Best Hitting Duos

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Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss Have Become One of MLB's Best Hitting Duos
USA Today

Forget Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. There's a new pair of Bash Brothers in Oakland these days. Some 25 years after those two sluggers teamed up to torture pitchers and garnered all sorts of attention for doing so, the 2014 Athletics feature their own version of a damage-doing duo.

While McGwire and Canseco were household names back in the late 1980s and early 1990s for their homer-hitting exploits in the Bay Area, it's safe to say that Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss are anything but.

For being arguably the two best players on the top team in the American League, Donaldson and Moss don't get much in the way of attention and hype, despite the fact that they've already combined for 33 home runs and 103 RBI through the first 66 games.

In case you're wondering, no two other teammates in all of Major League Baseball have pulled off both 30 and 100 together yet. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays come the closest with 35 homers and 98 RBI through Wednesday.

Al Behrman/Associated Press
The original Bash Brothers: Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.

And by the way, that's with Donaldson and Moss going through a simultaneous—and rare—"cold" stretch recently. Over their past 15 games, Donaldson has a .197 average and .269 on-base percentage, albeit with a still-robust .459 slugging, while Moss' average and on-base percentage are at .182 and .297, respectively, despite a .455 slugging.

In other words, even when they're not at their best, Donaldson and Moss still are more than capable of power production. Even during this relative downtime, that was on display when Donaldson and Moss combined to go 4-for-6 with three homers and eight RBI in a victory over the Los Angeles Angels on May 30:

A big part of what makes this pair so potent is that they tend to hit next to each other in the order. Aside from the first week of this season, when he batted in the two-hole, the 28-year-old Donaldson has hit third in the Athletics lineup in all but four games and in every single one of his starts since April 27.

Moss, meanwhile, gets moved around the order a bit more, mainly depending on what arm the opposing pitcher throws with. But the 30-year-old has hit cleanup in 43 of his 63 contests, and he's indeed been cleaning up the bases:

Beyond the back-to-back factor, there's also the righty-lefty dynamic, which is a bonus. Especially since the righty Donaldson destroys southpaws (1.095 OPS, 7 HR in 76 PA), while Moss, who bats lefty, mashes righties (.901 OPS, 13 HR in 203 PA). Whether a pitcher is right- or left-handed, that makes facing the middle of the A's lineup—which has scored the most runs in the majors—extremely tough.

It's worth pointing out here, too, that Moss actually has hit same-side throwers better so far in 2014 (.311/.404/.556 compared to .256/.348/558), which signals he's starting to overcome his bugaboo (.738 OPS, 29.2 percent strikeout rate for his career), figure lefties out and make this duo that much more dangerous.

"I've been seeing some pretty decent pitching for a while now," Donaldson told Jane Lee of MLB.com in late May. "It's just a matter of squaring it up or not. And Moss has had a great year. It's kind of one of those ordeals where you have to pick your poison I feel like."

So where does Oakland's underrated twosome rank in the majors this year? Consider this: There are only five teams whose No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the batting order both rank in the top 10 in OPS+, and the Athletics are one of them—thanks to Donaldson and Moss.

Teams with Both No. 3/No. 4 Lineup Spots in Top 10 in OPS+
TEAM NO. 3 OPS+ MLB RANK NO. 4 OPS+ MLB RANK
Rockies 132 4 157 1
Blue Jays 141 1 130 5
Tigers 130 5 153 2
Athletics 124 7 135 4
White Sox 114 9 108 9

Baseball Reference

The tandems who rank in the top three consist of big-time stars: Troy Tulowitzki and now-injured Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado Rockies), Encarnacion and Bautista (Blue Jays), and Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez (Detroit Tigers).

Meanwhile, Donaldson and Moss are hitting just about as well, and yet they remain unknowns by comparison.

That might be changing, though, as fans have taken to lumping in fellow A's slugger Yoenis Cespedes (who has 12 homers and 42 RBI himself) and calling the trio "Runs DMC."

That's kinda catchy. But focusing just on the "D" and the "M" part for a cool nickname could bring Donaldson and Moss some much-deserved pub, like the kind Cespedes has been getting lately, not for his bat but for his arm.

Obviously, Bash Brothers already is taken and is old-school anyway. Alas, there's almost no way to turn their last names into one of those awkward celeb-couple monikers (Donaldsoss?).

If Moss doesn't mind being considered the second-class citizen in his own tandem nickname, then stealing from a well-known marketing research firm might work: J.D. Power and Associates.

Then again, part of the under-the-radar charm of Donaldson and Moss is that they don't need a kitschy tag—they just let their bats do the talking.

 

Statistics are accurate through June 11 and come from MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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