The A's pretty much did everything tonight. They hit singles, they had extra-base hits, they ran and they scored, they played some mean defense. But enough about Milton Bradley. OK, it wasn't just Bradley, it was also Ellis and his 5 RBIs, Kotsay and his 3 hits, and so on. But while we obviously can't expect Bradley to get 4 hits, and steal HRs, every game, tonight we saw what his presence means to the A's in the lineup and in the field. Milton is a legitimate "5-tool" player who almost had a hit tonight for each tool. And so the A's, who couldn't beat the reeling Diamondbacks in three tries at home, are now 5-0 this season at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park combined.
How to explain this sudden offensive surge, in the hopes it might continue? At a glance, different reasons for different folks...
- For Kotsay, I think it's playing at 100% vs. playing at 80%. Just noting to myself when his bat looks slow and when it looks fast I would say that in his A's tenure Kotsay has hit about .290 when his back feels good and about .190 when it doesn't. Most of 2004, it felt good. About 2/3 of 2005, it felt good. Only about 1/2 of this year, I'd say his back has felt good and I think the All-Star Break was the answer for Kotsay's needs.
- For Ellis, I think it's regression to the mean. Ellis is not as good as his 2005 career year, nor is he as bad as his 2006 first half. He is capable of hitting .280 and so he is not likely to continue at .220. We will enjoy the benefit of Ellis moving toward his actual norm.
- For Thomas, I think it's timing. He needed 100+ at bats to get his timing down and got most of them in regular season games. Remember those AN conversations in May that went, "I'd give Thomas two more weeks to get locked in before giving up on him"? Timing is everything, and The Big Hurt simply didn't have it for two months--but now that he has it, look out.
- For Bradley, I think he epitomizes the A's as a collective: Capable of getting the job done, but not capable of staying in the lineup. He's back and so there is hope--no guarantees, but hope.