New Year's Resolutions for the Oakland A's in 2015
You can bet, like most people, the players on the Oakland A's have New Year's resolutions for 2015.
During the week of Christmas, I asked A's fans what would be on their wish list. This week I'll keep the holiday spirit alive and venture a guess as to what many of the A's starters' New Year's resolutions might be, specifically pertaining to the 2015 baseball season.
Of course there are a few disclaimers to mention.
First, the following list is made up by me. The resolutions on this list were not provided by the player unless otherwise specifically stated. As such, take them lightly and enjoy.
Lastly, because many resolutions could be similar for a few guys, I combined them to save you a slide.
You're welcome. And Happy New Year!
Multiple Starting Pitchers
New Year's Resolution: Earn a spot in the rotation and keep it the whole year.
There are so many guys competing for a spot in the rotation they wouldn't even fit in the headline. They include: Chris Bassitt, Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz, Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin.
Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir are at the top. Three of these guys will start until Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin return. That leaves one spot.
Six guys are competing for three spots. Then those three will compete for the one remaining spot.
The competition is steep.
I'd bet four of these young men would be happy just to make the team, period, no matter what role they play. But deep down, if they're starting pitchers they want to be in the rotation. They want the ball, guaranteed, every fifth day (my assumption).
So for all of these guys, it's simple: earn the spot, keep the spot.
A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker
New Year's Resolution: A successful return from Tommy John surgery.
Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, two of the five projected starters heading into the 2014 season, suffered injuries that required Tommy John surgery. The injury and surgery put both men out the entire year.
Now the hope is that one or both can return before the All-Star break.
Directly after Griffin's surgery, Susan Slusser of SFGate.com said it was a success and the article implied Griffin had a (slim) shot at returning by March 2015. March seems optimistic; But if his return is in July, we should assume something went wrong.
So the goal for Griffin is set at May 1.
Parker's case is a bit trickier. He's returning from his second Tommy John. However, in August Slusser said Parker was ahead of Griffin in terms of the throwing schedule. She did say "he is still not expected back until the first half of next season," though.
He may be ahead of Griffin, but because this is his second, I'm going to set the goal further back, say, to May 15.
Is this an expectation? No. It's simply a goal.
The next, or extended goal is to not just return, but to return without complications and return to the Parker and Griffin we remember—or even better versions.
Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir
New Year's Resolution: Sustain success into the second half.
Sonny Gray's first half: 10-3, 2.79 ERA, 39 earned runs in 19 starts
Gray's second half: 4-7, 3.47 ERA, 36 earned runs in 14 starts
Scott Kazmir's first half: 11-3, 2.38 ERA, 31 earned runs in 19 starts
Kazmir's second half: 4-6, 5.42 ERA, 44 earned runs in 13 starts
Both men were phenomenal in the first half with low ERAs and fantastic records. Had both guys kept the same win percentage in the second half, it would be an additional 12 wins (six from each). That would equal 100 wins.
However, fatigue in the second half is to be expected. So we can't blame Gray and Kazmir for the A's collapse.
Gray is young and can learn from the experience.
He should now have a better idea of how to counter the fatigue, whether that be adding conditioning or removing superfluous activities. Kazmir is a veteran, so his body is naturally more inclined to fatigue more than Gray's. But the jump from a 2.38 ERA to a 5.42 ERA is huge.
Perhaps these two will need help from Bob Melvin in order to achieve their goals.
Whatever the solution, if these two at the top of the rotation start as strong as they did in 2014 (10-plus wins) and then keep it rolling into the second half (say six or seven additional wins), they'll put the A's in great position to remain competitive.
Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry
New Year's Resolution: Earn the starting left fielder role.
As of now, the A's depth chart lists Sam Fuld as the starting left fielder and Craig Gentry as the fourth outfielder. However, that could flip flop, a Triple-A guy could sneak in, the A's could trade for someone or a free agent could be signed.
Is anyone really OK with being the fourth guy? Who doesn't want to be a starter?
Fuld and Gentry will, in all likelihood, use spring training to fight for a starting role.
Let's look at a guy like Matt Joyce, now of the Los Angeles Angels. He played in 140 games in 2014, so we'll use him as our baseline standard. He hit .254 with an on-base percentage of .349 and drove in 52 runs.
Interestingly, Gentry hit .254 in 94 games. But his on-base percentage finished at .319 and he only knocked in 12 runs. If Gentry hits around the same in terms of batting average and increases his on-base percentage and perhaps power, he can win the starting role. Then he'll need to greatly increase his RBI production.
Of all three outfield spots, Gentry makes the most errors in left field. That could potentially be another concern he would need to somehow address in spring training and early into the season.
Fuld has a little more work to do.
His career average is .236 to Gentry's .273. He hit considerably lower in 2014 as well. But defensively, Fuld plays an outstanding left field.
For now, Fuld's goal is to keep the spot. Gentry's is to win it. Both men will need to do enough to stave off any other candidate.
Ike Davis, Marcus Semien and Stephen Vogt
New Year's Resolution: Make fans forget about that last guy.
All three guys have the same resolution because all three guys are taking over for a 2014 starter.
Ike Davis starts at first base after Oakland traded Brandon Moss. Jed Lowrie left in free agency, so it's Marcus Semien at shortstop. Stephen Vogt will take the majority of the catching duties Derek Norris once owned.
Fans knew Moss as a power hitter. Hopefully Davis comes close.
In three seasons with Oakland, Moss hit 21, 30 and 25 home runs, respectively. That's a total of 76 and an average of 25 per season. In that same span, Davis hit 52 total for an average of 17. However, the numbers are skewed because Davis actually hit 32 home runs in 2012, nine in 2013 and 11 in 2014.
If Davis returns to the 20s, he and fans should be thrilled.
Semien really just has to outplay super low expectations to succeed.
Lowrie was pretty average all around—.249 batting average, 50 RBI and a .974 fielding percentage. If Semien can just about match those numbers in his first year in Oakland and his first year as a full-time starter, his resolution is met.
Fans already believe in Vogt.
He'll have the easiest time completing his resolution. Basically all he has to do is stay healthy and not flop completely—don't do anything to make people question the Norris trade.
Coco Crisp and Brett Lawrie
New Year's Resolution: Stay healthy for the majority of the season.
Both Coco Crisp and Brett Lawrie could easily be the biggest producers in Oakland's lineup. Crisp starts things off at the top; Lawrie adds power in the middle of the lineup.
But they have to stay healthy.
In five seasons with the A's, the most games Crisp has played in is 136. He averages 118 games a season. In four seasons in Major League Baseball, the most games Lawrie has played in is 125. He averages 86 games per season.
It goes without saying, for maximum production, these two need to be on the field as much as possible—obviously.
But let's temper expectations.
Crisp is 35 and coming off a season in which he sustained neck injuries. Lawrie has had a slew of issues like broken fingers, banged up legs and strained obliques.
The goal for both may be as low as 140 games. Crisp's done that once in his career. Lawrie's never gotten there. But it shouldn't be unrealistic. Of 162 games in a season, 140 is only 86 percent. The team needs its stars to be healthy for as close to 100 percent as possible.
New Year's resolution: Find the power!
Billy Butler is known as a designated hitter with power. Although, his average home run total isn't really all that crazy.
Throw out his first two seasons (we'll call it "finding it" years) and his 2014 season (we'll call that "lost it temporarily") and his average is 20 home runs per season. Of course that comes with an average of 91 RBI per season in those years.
In 2014, he hit nine home runs and knocked in 66 runs.
Hopefully it was an off year or two, and Butler returns to a closer to normal version of himself.
Where did this regression come from? It's not age. He'll be 29—that should be his prime. And it's not injuries. He only missed 11 games in 2014. Between 2009-2013, he missed a total of 11 games. He also doesn't play the field regularly anymore, so it can't possibly be fatigue or defensive distractions.
Ultimately, you have to believe Butler can return to form with some kind of tweak.
Maybe a change of scenery or a new hitting coach is just the trick.
Let's set the resolution at 20 home runs, 80 RBI and 160 games.
New Year's Resolution: Be the best defensive outfielder in Major League Baseball.
Win a Gold Glove in right field? Been there, done that. Would Josh Reddick like to win a second Gold Glove? I'm sure he would.
But why not reach a bit higher?
Reddick's resolution could be to play defense better than any other right fielder in the league, not just the American League. He could play so well there would be no denying him of that Gold Glove. In fact, he could play defense so well it could put him in the discussion as the best defensive outfielder in all of baseball.
He's already in the discussion for right fielders. It's time to push to the next level.
New Year's Resolution: Prove the doubters wrong.
Look on other sites, blogs, Twitter, fan forums and comment sections of any analyst's article and you'll see fans begging for an upgrade at second base.
For now, Eric Sogard remains the incumbent starter.
Now, I can't say whether Sogard sees the comments about upgrades, but you'd have to believe any player wants to be better, if not the best, no matter how good they already are. So let's look at how good Sogard is now.
In five seasons, he's a career .235 hitter.
Throwing out the first three seasons in which he never played more than 37 games, he's a .247 hitter the last two seasons. In that span, he's hit three home runs, knocked in 57 runs and held an on-base percentage of .311.
Though I'm sure he'd love to hit .300, no one else is expecting Sogard to do so.
But hitting, say, .280 might calm people down. Not just that, but pumping the on-base percentage up to .330, hitting at least five home runs and knocking in 55 RBI would make 2015 a career year for Sogard and put his numbers near Asdrubal Cabrera's 2014 numbers.
Add that to his already above-average defense and the "we need a new second baseman" talk would go away for at least a season.
New Year's Resolution: Leave no doubt about his closing ability.
Sean Doolittle is the only reliever I'm including here because for all others the goal is simple: shut the opposition down when called upon to do so.
As for Doolittle, he has an extra resolution.
He has pitched at the major league level for three seasons. It wasn't until Jim Johnson imploded in April and May that manager Bob Melvin gave Doolittle a shot.
Since earning the designation, he's hammered down 22 saves and finished with an amazing 89 strikeouts to eight walks.
Still, there may be some doubters.
"It's only been one year."
"He's left handed."
"He only has two pitches and he just added the second."
"It's a fluke."
In 2015, Doolittle will ignore all of that, assuming he's even heard any of it in the first place, and close out games with authority once again.
Said another way, "Doo" should simply "do what he do" best.
Don't change a thing—not even the beard.