Oakland A's 2013 Statistical Preview: Hitting

They surprised last year, but the numbers say Josh Reddick and Co. might be more of an F-150 than a Prius.

The Oakland A’s have long been baseball’s Prius. Designed to maximize efficiency at a relatively affordable rate, both became trendy in the early 2000s in a nerdy sort of way. Still, the lack of broader appeal and obvious geek-factor led to derision and ridicule from many non-fans.

However, in 2012, Oakland morphed into an F-150. The A’s OBP of .310 was the franchise’s worst since 1982 (when Billy Beane was a struggling minor leaguer), but the slugging percentage of .404 was the best for the team since 2007. That added horsepower was largely a result of 195 homers, up from just 114 in 2011.

The A’s would love to get that kind of power again in 2013, and quite frankly, they need to in order to compete.

But just as with Oakland's rotation, uncertainty abounds in the lineup. The outfield looks pretty solid, but the rest of the lineup has questions with varying degrees of concern.

Stable Outfield

Josh Reddick611.242.305.463324.82
Yoenis Cespedes487.292.356.505233.72
Coco Crisp455.259.325.418113.00
Chris Young325.231.311.434141.96

Three of the first four hitters in the lineup are going to come from the outfielders, and this group has high upside with little risk. Not much need be said about Cespedes’ sky high ceiling, but the A’s believe that Reddick’s power numbers were not an accident either. In 2011 as a backup with the Red Sox, Reddick turned 10.1 percent of his 278 plate appearances into extra base hits, which was very similar to the 9.8 percent he posted last season as a regular starter.

Crisp is steady veteran presence whose OBP has never dipped below .314 or spiked above .345 since 2004. That hardly makes him a great leadoff man, but he is a known commodity (who stole 39 bases in 43 attempts last year).

Young, currently slated to play the role of the fourth outfielder, is also steady if below average in his OBP, but has consistently good power as he has never averaged more than 29 at bats per home run in a full season.

Questionable Corners, DH

Brandon Moss265.291.358.596212.05
Josh Donaldson274.241.289.39891.45
Seth Smith383.240.333.420141.68

What could be questionable about the numbers for Moss, who has the first base job well in hand following an excellent spring? They do not exactly follow the pattern that Moss established from 2008-2011, in which a poor OBP and declining power numbers relegated the once highly regarded prospect to the minors. He seemed to finally carve out his place last season, but will it last?

Likewise, at third, Donaldson struggled to stick in the majors his first few times up, and aside from his home run totals, none of his numbers were terribly impressive.

Finally, Smith (the likely designated hitter), though adept at getting on base against righties, is an automatic out in the lineup when facing a southpaw. Melvin platooned him with Jonny Gomes last season, and might do the same thing with Young this year.

Infield Malaise

Jed Lowrie387.244.331.438162.23
Eric Sogard102.167.206.2752-0.14
Scott Sizemore*305.249.345.433111.21
John Jaso294.267.394.456103.46
Derek Norris209.201.276.34970.71

*2011 stats

There is really not a whole lot that the stats do not tell. Lowrie is the most consistent of the group with Sizemore missing all of last season due to injury and Sogard seeing only limited time as a backup. Japanese shortstop Hiro Nakajima could theoretically get thrown into the mix as well for his first Major League action once he recovers from a hamstring injury.

At the catcher spot, Norris was handed the starting job last season following Kurt Suzuki’s trade, but struggled so mightily that the team brought in Jaso in the offseason, who promptly struggled to hit anything he saw all spring.

For the A’s offense, there are a few bright spots, some decidedly ugly holes and several positions with players who still have something to prove. The lineup usually plays second fiddle to the pitching staff in Oakland, but for the A’s to make another playoff push, the lineup will have to carry its weight again and repeat 2012’s newfound production.