By Jason Wojciechowski on June 9, 2004 at 7:27 PM
Far too long a time, no write. It's too bad, because the A's have been inspired lately, perhaps realizing that they've got to pick it up if they're going to stay with the Angels while they wait for Eric Chavez to come back. Gloom and doomer that I am, I figured the A's were done as soon as I found out about Chavez's hand. Of course, with the A's pitching, you can't ever really call them done. Look how far the Cubs got last year, after all.
Sometimes I wonder if Billy Beane isn't involved in some sick experiment where he's trying to see just how far pitching and defense alone can carry a team. Scott Hatteberg at first, Damian Miller behind the plate, Esteban German at third ... it's starting to get ugly for the offense. On the other hand, Hatteberg's been handy this year, and German's probably better than a lot of teams have for backup middle infielders. The Yankees, for instance.
Anyway, the A's offense has been particularly good the last two nights, breaking out against the Reds for 23 runs over two games. Of course, it is the Reds, with their not-so-hot pitching staff, but still. They didn't bust out like this against Texas, and 23 runs against anybody is more than you'd expect, so it's a nice thing.
A particularly happy note for the offense, at least for me, is that Bobby Crosby has really been turning it up lately. He had a slow start, as you might expect, being a newbie to MLB, trying to play a tough defensive position on a contending team, but he's raised his batting average to .258, which has brough his OBP to .316 and his nine homers and eleven doubles add up to a .472 slugging percentage. How many major league shortstops, 24-years old or not, have a .214 ISO? He's still not walking nearly as much as his minor-league records indicated he would, but maybe that'll come now that the other aspects of his offense are coming around.
This offensive performance puts Crosby just in the top ten of major league shortstops by RARP. Some of the guys he's behind are probably products of his cold streak with their hot streaks: Royce Clayton, Cesar Izturis, and Jack Wilson don't seem likely to finish ahead of Crosby in this category next year, and for the first two, I'd even say Crosby should finish ahead of them this year.
By the way, guess who the top offensive shortstop in the AL is this year? That's right, the Bavasi-discarded Carlos Guillen, for Detroit. A .320 EqA and all the playing time he can ask for has led to 25.4 RARP, good for fourth in all of the American League. His replacement at short, Rich Aurilia, is only 23.6 runs behind. This is yet another reason to think that the A's should contend in the West for a long time: Seattle's likely to go into a management-induced funk for the next three to four years, making them the automatic last-place finisher that Texas had been previously. Of course, Texas is looking like a tough team as some pitchers start to emerge and their offensive players mature as expected, so perhaps we're just trading a doormat for a contender, and things aren't actually going to get any easier for the A's.
Speaking of contending, the A's win last night coupled with Anaheim's lost (their fourth in a row) pushed Oakland back into a tie for first place. The A's haven't been in first since their nose-dive at the end of April saw them go from three above .500 to four below. Oakland's been steadily climbing since then, with a few interruptions here and there (a sweep by Cleveland being one of them), but with Texas and Anaheim performing erratically of late, the A's are back where they want to be. Of course, there's a long road ahead, and six or seven weeks of that road are going to be Chavez-less, so we can't get too giddy yet.