Oakland Athletics Update: Self Evaluation

Bryce WillifordContributor IMay 25, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 23:  Jason Giambi #16 of the Oakland Athletics hits his 400th career home run in the fourth inning of their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Oakland Coliseum on May 23, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

This article is the first in a series of weekly articles that will chronicle the Oakland Athletics' season, organization, and future. If you have a topic you would like to hear about, please feel free to post your request on my message board.

May 25, 2009

For the first time in more than a decade, the Oakland Athletics entered the season with more questions about their starting rotation than their lineup.

Having added Matt Holiday in an offseason trade and veterans Nomar Garciaparra, Orlando Cabrera, and Jason Giambi via free agency, the Oakland lineup looked like a sure bet to increase their meager run production of 2008 (they finished last in the American League in runs scored in 2008). 

Questions surrounded the pitching staff. With Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito a distant memory, and Rich Harden and Dan Haren gone as well, Oakland looked to Justin Duchscherer and a group of young starters to serve as the backbone to the new-look Athletics.

By Memorial Day the A's would find that injuries, slow starts, and inconsistency would be the hallmarks of the first quarter of the 2009 season.

Through 41 games, the Athletics sit in last place in the American League West with a record of 16-25. 

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Offensively, Oakland has scored 183 runs, good for 12th in the American League. Their team batting average of .243 is the worst in the American League. 

Their pitching staff, however, has the fifth best ERA in the American League. This is due to their surprisingly stout bullpen. Oakland starters have posted just 17 quality starts, better only than the Baltimore Orioles in the American League.

Their bullpen, however, has posted a 3.81 ERA (good for third in the American League) while holding opposing hitters to a stingy .240 batting average, tops in the AL.

2009 Player Update

Bright Spots

Dallas Braden (SP)

Thrust into the staff ace role after injuries sidelined Justin Duchscherer, Braden has put together a solid 2009 campaign. Braden's 3-5 record is an indication of his poor run support.

His glittering 3.67 ERA and six quality starts lead all A's starters. With the exception of a May 18 start in Detroit, Braden has given up three runs or fewer in all nine of his starts.

Jack Cust (OF)

Entering the season, Cust was labeled the classic Three Outcomes type of hitter (walk, strikeout, or home run). Cust's seven home runs lead the A's, but he's also posted a respectable .262 batting average. His .362 on-base percentage leads all Oakland regulars.

Andrew Bailey (RP)

You can read more about Bailey in my 2009 Athletics Bullpen Update. Through 20 appearances, Bailey has notched a 2.20 ERA and 35 strikeouts, both of which are second on the team.

His strikeout total is higher than all starters except Braden and the entire bullpen. Bailey has also thrown himself into the closer conversation, securing a save on May 8 while Brad Ziegler was sidelined with the flu.

Kurt Suzuki (C)

Overshadowed by some of the bigger names in the Oakland lineup, Suzuki has quietly posted a .300 batting average while catching 37 of Oakland's 41 games thus far in 2009. His run total (20), hit total (45), and RBI total (17) put him on pace to easily surpass last year's mini-breakout campaign.

Help Is on the Way

There are a number of reasons to get excited about the remainder of the Athletics' season.

Matt Holliday (OF)

After scuffling through April, Holliday has turned it on in May. The Athletics' prized offseason acquisition has hit .296 thus far in May, to go along with 17 runs scored, five home runs, 15 RBI, and a .900 OPS. This is the Matt Holliday Billy Beane traded for. 

Adam Kennedy (2B)

Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays, Kennedy has hit .400 through 14 games filling in for the injured Mark Ellis. He has hit safely in all but three games while posting a ridiculous 1.05 OPS.

His presence could allow Oakland manager Bob Geren to move Mark Ellis to third base when he returns from the disabled list, addressing a major weakness in the Oakland lineup.

Trevor Cahill (SP)

One of three members of the Athletics' next Big Three, Cahill has quietly turned in a very solid rookie campaign. He has allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his nine starts. If you remove the two seven-run outings (in Detroit and home against Tampa Bay), Cahill has thrown 23.2 innings while giving up only 11 runs.