Oakland A's Hitting Comes From Unlikely Sources
Three weeks into the season, the Oakland A's possess the best record in the American League. Their 96 runs are more than any other team in the majors and their .354 OBP is tops in the AL.
Sure, it's a small sample size of only 16 games, and six of those have come against the Astros, who hardly represent fierce competition. But despite that, I'll ask anyway: what's behind the great start?
Missing Sluggers Report
Cespedes has been on the DL since injuring his hand last Friday, but even before he landed there, his production at the plate was hardly spectacular. True, he has belted three home runs and drew six walks in just 47 plate appearances, but he is still hitting a weak .200 with an unimpressive .298 OBP. His rather ugly 27.7 strikeout percentage and .111 average with runners in scoring position are not exactly positive features on his stat line either.
If Cespedes is off to a slow start, Reddick is off to a dismal one. Reddick has an OPS of just .493 right now, almost exclusively on the merits of drawing seven walks. A year removed from a season in which 22.4 percent of his plate appearances ended in strikeouts and he struck out 2.75 times for every walk he drew, Reddick has reduced those numbers significantly to a 17.7 strikeout percentage and 1.29 SO/BB ratio. But it has come at a steep price. His extra base hit percentage has dropped from 9.8 percent to a career low 5.9 percent, while his ground ball to fly ball ratio spiked from .42 last year to .89 this year.
If Reddick had changed his approach at the plate to reduce strikeouts and get on more often, it would be one thing. But his .255 OBP is much lower than his .305 mark in 2012. What makes his start even more concerning is that it isn't just this April as it is for Cespedes. His production tanked last September when he hit .164 with a .214 OBP. The only difference was that he still hit four homers that month, to only one so far this April.
Production from Unlikely Places
Despite the struggles of last year's offensive leaders, the A's have had little trouble scoring thanks to some unlikely contributors. Coco Crisp, Seth Smith, Jed Lowrie, and Derek Norris all have OPS marks above 1.000.
That's great news, but at the same time it's unreasonable to expect those guys to hit that well all year. If the A's want to keep scoring runs at a strong pace, they're eventually going to need Cespedes to get healthy and return to last year's form and hope that Reddick snaps out of his funk that is now stretching back to last September.
Oakland got several easy games to start the year, and took advantage of the opportunity for a superb start. Now, things get tough with a difficult East Coast road trip. As we see this team play more games against better competition, we'll learn a lot more about what to take away from these early and mid-April games.