Oakland A's Leave Too Many Runners Stranded
Another week, another pair of lost series for the Oakland A's, whose free fall down the standings continues. Now two games under .500, the A's can't seem to do anything right these days. Sure, having more than 40 percent of the payroll on the disabled list for most of the past two weeks hasn't helped, but the players on the field haven't come close to picking up the slack.
Not Playing the Power Ball
Thanks to an incredible start to the season at the plate, the A's still have averaged 4.74 runs per game, a mark above the AL average of 4.48 runs per game. But the production has declined dramatically during May, with the club averaging only 2.93 runs per contest in 14 games this month.
Getting base runners hasn't been the biggest problem (the team's .329 OBP is solidly above average). The primary issue that the A's have faced offensively is driving home the runners who do get on base. Oakland's slugging percentage of .395 is fourth worst in the American League.
The problem hasn't been extra base hits in general, as the team's extra base hit percentage of 8.2 percent is above the AL average of 8.0 percent, thanks in large part to 90 doubles. However, the A's simply aren't hitting homers. Their 2.4 percent home run percentage is the third worst in the AL. That's bad news for a team that relied heavily upon the home run last year to win the AL West.
The good news for Oakland is that Chris Young, should soon return from the DL, and he was hitting home runs in 4.0 percent of his plate appearances when he got hurt. Coco Crisp, just returned to the lineup, and if Josh Reddick's, stint on the DL can get him healthy and back to the form he had last year in hitting 32 homers, the team should have a chance to improve on the poor power numbers.
One problem that continues to plague the A's is pitching. The performances on the mound have been up and down all year, leading to below average numbers across the board. The team ERA is 4.35. Its WHIP of 1.298 isn't terrible, but opponents haven't needed a lot of base runners to score. Oakland gives up home runs in 3.2 percent of all plate appearances, a higher number than average. It also has the worst double play percentage in the AL at nine percent.
Ultimately, the high home run percentage and low double play percentage means that single base runners are of greater concern to the A's than they should be. That negates the decent WHIP and contributes to the high ERA.
The weekend series for Oakland should be an interesting one. The A's host the resurgent Royals who boast one of the better pitching staffs in baseball, which could give the banged up lineup fits. However, it should also be a great chance for the A's pitching staff to string together three solid outings and get back on track against a struggling Kansas City lineup that hits for even less power than Oakland does (the Royals homer in only 1.9 percent of PAs).
Injured or not, the A's have to end their skid quickly. They're falling out of the division race, and though they dug their way out of the basement in the second half of last season, they shouldn't bank on repeating that unlikely scenario again. A six game stretch against Kansas City and Texas will be tough, but the sense of urgency should be heightened given the recent struggles.