Oakland A's: Grades for Every Player in August
A month that began with the A's scuffling and ultimately losing their lead in the American League West ended with a 5-1 flourish that enabled the team to record its ninth straight winning month at 14-13. And don't be fooled, that record is indicative of how the A's played in the month of August: up and down and all around.
Even the nice finish was dulled a bit by the three-run lead lost in Detroit on the 29th as the A's let a chance at a rare four-game sweep against the Tigers slip away. But as of this writing, the A's have put themselves in prime position for another fantastic September finish by pulling back to within two games of the front-running Texas Rangers.
So like the month of July, the grades for the club will begin with the pitching staff.
August stats: 10 appearances, 15 IP, 12 H, 1 ER, 10 K's, 1.07 WHIP, 0.60 ERA
Starting with the bullpen, there is Dan Otero. I referred to Otero as the 12th man of the A's bullpen last month. While that has not changed, neither has Otero's production. He continues to get outs when called upon and has seen his role slightly increase with that production.
August stats: 11 appearances, 13 IP, 8 H, 3 HR allowed, 0.77 WHIP, 3.46 ERA
"Everyday" Jerry Blevins saw better numbers in August after a horrific July that saw him post a 7.71 ERA. Blevins would have been really good in August if it was not for three home runs allowed in the month. On the whole, it is nice to see the lanky lefty looking more like he was in 2012 and early in 2013.
August stats: 5 appearances, 12 IP, 5 ER, 15 K's, 1.33 WHIP, 3.75 ERA
Long man Jesse Chavez did not have many opportunities in August. You can look at that as a good thing considering his role is that of a reliever that enters when a starter has been shelled early in a game. For the month, Chavez had a respectable 3.75 ERA and struck out 1.25 batters per inning. When it comes to a player of Chavez's role, less is more.
August stats: 6 appearances, 5.2 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 4 home runs allowed, 1.76 WHIP, 9.53 ERA
Sadly, August may have been the end of the road for funky submarine pitcher Pat Neshek. The roof caved in on him in August, with a 9.53 ERA and four home runs allowed in just six appearances. After being unclaimed when put on waivers on the 26th, Neshek reported to Triple-A Sacramento. Even with expanded rosters, he might not have a spot on the roster when the season ends for the RiverCats.
August stats: 11 appearances, 1-2 record, 9.1 IP, 12 H, 7 ER, 1.82 WHIP, 6.75 ERA
Sean Doolittle did not have a good month of August. It got to the point where I began to expect damage to happen. Some of it was a bit of bad luck, but much of it was a lack of Doolittle making quality pitches in key situations. The hope is that September brings back the stability Doolittle provided as the lefty in the A's Big Three out of the bullpen.
August stats: 12 appearances, 3-1 record, 11 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 1.45 WHIP, 2.45 ERA
Ryan Cook is expected to be the A's setup man most of the time. In August, his appearances had a frequent hand in deciding who would win and who would lose. Going 3-1, Cook's 2.45 ERA was a bit deceiving, as he frequently wriggled his way out of jams and was not as overpowering as normal. But ultimately, Cook got the outs enough of the time to help the A's win.
August stats: 11 appearances, 10.2 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 13 K's, one blown save, 1.59 WHIP, 5.06 ERA
If there was ever a case to put an asterisk by stats, it would be Grant Balfour in the month of August. On their face, his numbers look like he was bad, when the truth is, he was bad in one game. If you take away the game against Detroit on the 29th, Balfour was perfect in save opportunities (7-for-7) and had a 1.80 ERA for the month in 10 appearances. But the Motown meltdown does count and while it balloons Balfour's numbers, I for one am not going to punish the A's closer as a result.
August stats: 3 starts, 0-2 record, 11.2 IP, 21 H, 11 ER, 2.14 WHIP, 8.49 ERA
Yeah, so Bartolo Colon crashed to earth in the month, getting shelled in a couple of starts and going to the disabled list. It took an encouraging start in Detroit (5 IP, 1 ER, ND) to salvage what was a pretty awful stretch for the 40-year-old veteran.
August stats: 3 starts, 13.1 IP, 1-1 record, 18 H, 9 ER, 1.65 WHIP, 6.08 ERA
Tom Milone's 2013 odyssey has led him to Single-A Stockton to begin working his way back to the A's rotation. Needless to say, he was not very sharp in August, earning an initial demotion at the beginning of the month. The crafty left-hander faces a tough trek back to the East Bay.
August stats: 5 starts, 1-2 record, 26.1 IP, 30 H, 13 ER, 21 K's, 1.52 WHIP, 4.44 ERA
Dan Straily is maddening. On some nights, he looks like a dominant, top-of-the-order quality starter. On others, he looks like he should be in the minors. The extremes are rough because when you don't know what you're going to get from a starter, it is typically wise to avoid them in the postseason.
Straily's 4.44 ERA in the month of August included a very good win in Toronto on the 12th (7.1 IP, 1 ER) and a bad loss in Baltimore (3.1 IP, 6 ER). Oakland needs consistency from Straily to finish the month out with a championship flourish.
August stats: 5 starts, 1-2 record, 28.1 IP, 26 H, 6 HR allowed, 1.52 WHIP, 4.03 ERA
It really is a simple formula for A's starter A.J. Griffin: When he keeps the ball in the park, he does well. In five August starts, he allowed six home runs, bringing his MLB-leading tally to 32. And in spite of all those long balls, Griffin had a respectable 4.03 ERA for the month. His initial start of September was encouraging, even as he allowed yet another long ball.
August stats: 5 starts, 2-2 record, 31 IP, 23 H, 10 ER, 31 K's, 1.03 WHIP, 2.90 ERA
When Sonny Gray is good, he can be electric, as his 31 strikeouts in as many innings demonstrates. But his youth was exposed in a rough start in Baltimore. Beyond that, though, the top pick for the A's in the 2011 draft was very good last month and should have won three games.
I said it before and I'll say it again: Gray is a tipping point kind of player. I truly thing he is good enough to elevate the A's from a playoff team to a legitimate title contender.
August stats: 6 starts, 4-0 record, 44.1 IP, 39 H, 34 K's, 1.11 WHIP, 2.23 ERA
Jarrod Parker, for the first time since his arrival in Oakland last spring, looked like the ace of a staff over an extended stretch. The month of August elevated not only Parker's numbers but maybe the expectations the A's can have from him going into the home stretch of the 2013 season.
A 2.23 ERA, a current 18-start unbeaten streak, four wins for the month and moxie he hasn't shown. Yeah, there's no doubt Parker is the player of the month for the A's in August.
August stats: .346 average, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1.053 OPS in 26 at-bats
Nate Freiman does not get ample opportunity to showcase his abilities. But the 6'8" rookie from Duke has managed to show what he can do. After a July that had me asking if he was an oversized singles hitter, Freiman's power returned with a .615 slugging percentage in spot duty.
Freiman will get at-bats in September, and the A's can only hope he plays like he did in August as opposed to July.
August stats: .320 average, 1 HR, 2 RBI, .913 OPS in 25 at-bats
Derek Norris continued what was an impressive, albeit truncated, turnaround in August. That is, before injuries sidelined the incumbent catcher. His last two months at the plate have been especially encouraging. Now the A's can only hope he returns strong from rehabilitation and can provide a boost for the offense.
August stats: .167 average, 1 HR, 1 RBI, .574 OPS, 9 K's in 36 at-bats
Seth Smith continued to be flat-out bad in August. The reality is that Smith is a pinch hitter and part-time designated hitter at this point, and he's suffered a precipitous fall from the production the A's received from him in 2012 and the first part of 2013.
August stats: .268 average, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .649 OPS in 56 at-bats
Vogt was alright for the A's, who were down to him at the catcher's spot before dealing for Kurt Suzuki on the 23rd. The numbers dipped a bit, but Vogt was steady for the A's at the plate. His less-than-average ability in blocking the plate hurt Oakland in a few instances.
August stats: .175 average, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 14 K's, .652 OPS in 40 at-bats
Chris Young, the anti-Moneyball player. Yes, it's a little unfair, but Young is the A's highest-paid player and he is basically the fourth outfielder and would've been the fifth had it not been for Seth Smith's abysmal last two months. True, $8.5 million can't buy you everything, but it should get you a .200 hitter in the majors.
August stats: .304 average, 5 HR, 9 RBI, .910 OPS in 21 games
The burst put on by Coco Crisp over the final week of August coincided with the A's rallying to get over .500 for the month. It is not a coincidence. For all the talk about how Yoenis Cespedes was the harbinger of this team, it can be made no more clear: As Coco goes, so go the Oakland A's.
When he hits, they're an elite team. When he struggles, this is a mediocre team at best.
August stats: .283 average, 3 HR, 16 RBI, .822 OPS in 27 games
OK, defensively, Josh Donaldson is no Manny Machado. But I would plausibly argue that offensively, Machado is no Josh Donaldson. The A's third baseman (and 2013 All-Star snub) has continued his very good two-way play with a solid overall month of August.
The move to the second spot in the order has been good, as Donaldson leads the team in on-base percentage (.370) and helps put runners on base for the heart of the order, even if it can be somewhat unconventional.
August stats: .287 average, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 13 doubles, .825 OPS
Steady as he goes. That's Jed Lowrie, who has been a revelation in his first year with the Oakland A's. Always highly touted, the oft-injured Lowrie has stayed healthy enough to post very good numbers in the East Bay.
Most notable has been his 41 (and counting) total doubles, including an MLB-high 13 for the month. Hitting now in the third spot has been ideal for the slash-hitting infielder.
August stats: .288 average, 8 HR, 19 RBI, 21 K's, 1.015 OPS
The end was definitely more than a make-up for the beginning of August with Brandon Moss. Slamming five home runs over the last eight games, including four in a big series in Detroit, Moss re-emerged as the clean-up man in Oakland's attack. He still strikes out a bunch and is not going to hit .290 like he did in 2012, but the power is a key component the last 25-plus games for the A's.
August stats: .216 average, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 28 K's, .635 OPS
The harsh reality is that Yoenis Cespedes has not played up to expectations. He has not always run out plays, strikes out a ton and has not had the sustained excellence he had in the middle months of the 2012. One more month to snap out of the sophomore slump for the Cuban Missile.
August stats: .209 average, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 23 K's, .745 OPS in 67 at-bats
Josh Reddick's bat has had a wiffle ball-type quality to it in 2013: lots of holes in it. With the exception of two games in Toronto when he slammed five home runs, Reddick was mostly silent at the plate in the month. The defense remains rock solid, but without being a threat at the plate, Reddick becomes a liability down the stretch.
August stats: .301 average, 1 HR, 9 RBI, .813 OPS in 73 at-bats
If this was strictly about offense, Alberto Callaspo would fare very well. But since you have factor in bad defense, the utility infielder does deserve to be docked a bit. On the whole, though, it is hard to complain about production overall because having a .300 hitter playing with Jed Lowrie gives the A's a chance to score in October.
August stats: .237 average, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 7 XBH, .607 OPS in 76 at-bats
Eric Sogard is not going to have value that shows itself in tangible numbers. His August was not the most productive, but at the same time, his defense and ability to either move runners along or get them in without needing power helped the A's. He is the best example of the kind of small ball that could be more vital in October.
That said, it would be nice to see Sogard sting the ball a bit closer to the .260 area.
There are a few other players who did not get individual mention because they either were acquired late, called up without much of an opportunity to play on the whole or are no longer with the club.
Daric Barton: .235 average, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .535 OPS
Adam Rosales: 0-for-1 before being released from team
Kurt Suzuki: .400, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1.133 OPS in 15 at-bats
Brett Anderson: 1 appearance, 3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 K, 9.00 ERA, 1 save
Evan Scribner: 1 appearance, 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
So there's the month of August. While it was nice to see the A's rally to finish above .500 with their 5-1 finish, the reality is, 14-13 likely won't be good enough to win the AL West. And considering that the wild card brings a one-game, all-or-nothing format, finishing strong means more than ever.
I predicted the A's would finish with 97 wins at the beginning of the year. To get to that point, the A's have to go 20-7 in September. Considering 11 of the 27 games are against the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros, it is not that far-fetched.
At the same time, this recent stretch against Detroit and Tampa Bay means nothing if the A's don't continue to play well, most notably in the six games with the Texas Rangers. Winning 97 games is not the end all, be all—winning the World Series is. I think the A's have to win 17 games in the month to win the division.
That would match the 94 wins from 2012. It would also set up a very interesting rematch with the Tigers or a likely date with the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox. Which is really all you can ask for: a shot in October to win the whole thing. The ending of August shows the A's have that capacity.