Power Up, OBP Down, and Pitching Average for A's
With four games in the books, the Aâ€™s seem to have conquered an anemic start to the season, at least temporarily. After losing the first two games to the Mariners by a total of 9-1, Oakland split the series by winning the next two games with a total of 14 runs to just four for Seattle.
Obviously, it is still ridiculously early in the season, but there are already a few trends emerging. On the offensive side, the story already looks very similar to last yearâ€™s for the Aâ€™s with power hitting compensating for a low on-base-percentage. The pitching staff has been solid in limiting runs, but has a minor concern of its own.
Power, More Power, and Nothing Else
The Aâ€™s lineup opened the year with a thud. There was no shame in getting shut down by King Felix on Opening Day (okay, maybe a little shame), but driving in only one run in game two against Hisashi Iwakuma was embarrassing. But even in that three hit debacle, there was a glimmer of hope that the power would return thanks to a line drive homer from Yoenis Cespedes.
The glimmer turned into a blinding light over the next two outings in exploding for a plethora of extra base hits. Oakland has played one more game than every team except the Mariners, so the fact that they lead the majors with 11 doubles and are tied for fourth with five home runs is fairly inconsequential at this early stage. What is telling, however, is that the teamâ€™s slugging percentage of .442 is superb.
The bulk of that production has come from the top of the order. In the two wins, the top four hitters in the lineup had an OBP of .516 and drove in 11 runners with four home runs and six doubles. Sure, those were a couple of exceptional performances, but at the end of the day the raw power that the team lived on last year appears to be alive and well in 2013.
The team OBP is likely going to settle well north of its current .284 mark, but will still likely be below the AL average. In other words, do not expect Oakland to string out innings through single after single and walk after walk. But if they continue to hit a lot of doubles and bombs, the club will not need to string those hits together and can instead rely on above average power to score base runners.
Live Arms for Oakland
Unlike the lineup which has turned in two great and two hideous performances, the pitching has been superb in three of the four games, and struggled only once. At least in the category of run production. Although the Aâ€™s have allowed 13 earned runs in 4 games, they also benefited from inept Mariners hitting with runners on base to keep the score low.
Seattle stranded eight guys on base on Thursday while scoring only 2 runs. The loss on Monday could have been worse than 2-0, as the Mariners left six runners on that day. Other teams are not going to do the same. Houston should not present much of a challenge, but if the Aâ€™s continue to allow men on base in every inning, they should not expect better teams to drive in only a couple of those runners.
The pitchers certainly deserve credit for working out of tough spots, but eventually that will catch up to them (particularly if they continue to allow hitters the caliber of Mike Morse to post stats the caliber of Hank Aaronâ€™s).
The Aâ€™s get the Astros next and have no excuses not to pick up where they left off against the Mariners. It might be early in the season, but in a brutal division, Oakland cannot give away many easy games and hope to contend even in April.
On a side note, Oakland-Houston might not sound like the most compelling matchup in the world, but tonightâ€™s game will have some intrigue. The Aâ€™s and Astros have exchanged quite a few players over the past several months, including Houstonâ€™s starter for tonight, 25 year old Brad Peacock. A few short months ago, Peacock was considered one of the top starting pitchers in the Aâ€™s minor league system, and now he will make just his third big league start against the team. And his first two starts (in 2011 with Washington) went very well (2-0, 0.75 ERA).