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A’s Worrymeter

April 14, 2011

As many here will know, I am a big fan of Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated. In his latest column, he has what he calls the “worrymeter”. The worrymeter is a simple scale of 1-to-10, with one being the least level of concern and ten being the highest level of concern. Of course this time of year we have big problems with (everybody!): Sample Size – so the worrymeter attempts to unscientifically figure out what we really should be worried with, and what is merely indicative of sampling error. So let’s look at the first two weeks of the A’s and what we should and should not be worried about:

Hideki Matsui: Matsui is a historic slow starter, but already he has shown signs of life as of late. He is up to two home runs on the year, and his batting average climbed from 1-something up to .262 – gotta love April where a good day brings your average up a hundred points. While his walk rate (4.5%)  is far below his career average (11.0%) that ought to bounce back up to a more normal level and that in turn should help his wOBA (.334) and wRC+ (117) bounce back up to normal (.366 and 124). Worrymeter: 2

Cliff Pennington: A sweat gland infection did not stop Pennington from driving in the tying runs yesterday, but he has been disappointing thus far. Yesterday marked his first walk, that great twelve-pitch at bat he had, but aside from that it isn’t like he is hitting the cover off the ball either (.214/.233/.214). I have to think that most of this is due to Pennington not being at 100% health. If he gets more days off I think these numbers will rebound a bit, but overall I don’t expect much out of Pennington offensively. Worrymeter: 4.

David DeJesus: DeJesus seemed like the new Athletic who would best adjust to playing in Oakland. Not really a home run hitter (13 in 2009 was his career high) but more of a speedy gap guy, he seemed as though he’d fit better into the Coliseum than most. Granted he has only played in three games at the Coliseum this year, but through the first two weeks of the season, the offseason addition sports a .195/.244/.220 slash line and a team worst -0.3 WAR. DeJesus really has suffered through an abnormally low .229 BABIP (his career mark is a very high .321) so once these balls start dropping in front of outfielders instead of finding their gloves these numbers should rise. DeJesus is a very good ballplayer and even not playing in full seasons he has still managed 2.5 WAR with consistency. Worrymeter: 1.

Kurt Suzuki: Zook had a down year last year, but when do we start calling these down years a trend? It is still early but his WAR has gone from 3.0 in 2008 to 2.6 in 2009 to 1.6 in 2010, he thus far at 0.0 right now. Then there is his wRC+ which has precipitously fallen year after year:

Year

wRC+

2007

95

2008

95

2009

94

2010

83

2011

65

The other catching options we have aren’t great in Landon Powell, an unproven Josh Donaldson and a guy who is an aging career minor-leaguer in Anthony Recker, and Suzuki’s contact ensures he is in Oakland for the short-term at least. Suzuki’s value of blocking pitches and keeping people loose, is getting to a point where it no longer can offset his diminished offensive contributions. I love Kurt Suzuki, but the question has to be asked is this a permanent change in his production? Worrymeter: 8.

Kevin Kouzmanoff: Kouz had a great Cactus League where he hit .413/.449/.571 but that hasn’t carried over into the regular season where he is now at .171/.182/.293. While Kouzmanoff’s K rate is down this year (14.6% in 2011, 19.8% career mark) his already anemic walk rate (4.5%) is down to 0% thus far in 2011. Defensively he has been a major liability as well thus far, his RZR which for his career has been at .722 is currently at .643. Kouzmanoff really hasn’t progressed as we’d hope in his second year, and the time is nearing where we decide that this relationship simply isn’t working anymore. The strong play of Andy LaRoche could force this issue. Worrymeter: 10.

Craig Breslow: Breslow had a strong outing yesterday – his first of the season. His other outings were all meltdowns. Presently he sports a 10.80 ERA and a 7.59 FIP. His HR/FB rate is a staggering 14.3% and his strand rate is a pathetic 52.6%. I do not expect that Brelsow will continue to give up 2.7 HR/9, or have a 1.0 K/BB ratio. Breslow however has been injured, he got off to a late start in spring training and seems to be working out his kinks in games that actually matter. That said yesterday’s outing in Chicago was encouraging, and we need to see a few more of them. Worrymeter: 5.

Bob Geren: Yesterday he seemed to fail to understand pinch-hitting moves trying to be sneaky on everyone else he ended up instead out maneuvering himself. His bullpen usage, particularly earlier in the season though less so as of late, was mystifying. His pinch hitting selections have at times been confusing too. He is a pretty low-key guy so I don’t know the energy level he brings to the club, but with all these late inning comebacks and rallies I have to assume he is energizing them enough. Worrymeter: 5.

All in all the biggest worries clearly lie on the offensive side. To have no worries in the pitching rotation and only one legitimate worry in the bullpen is a good sign. Basically all of the worrying is fairly equal, everyone’s role is comparable – but one exceeds the others – the worry over Geren. Geren oversees everything and has a big influence on how this team plays so that concern may be a five for him but is a bit more overarching in nature. The A’s are at .500 at 6-6, which given that 75% of the games have been on the road that is a decent mark. The Rangers are off to an amazing start at 9-3 and the Angels aren’t too shabby either at 7-5 so that is of concern as well, but for now the goal is to just take care of our own business.

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