Gotta Be Their Pitching

The A’s hitting is bad, very bad as the past two games and four of the past four attest. But look at whom they’ve been hitting against, and while you still won’t be happy, you may resist hitting the panic button.

A full one third of Oakland’s games against American League opponents (14 of 42) have come against pitchers among the top 10 starters in the league. For the purposes of this conversation, let’s put the three games against the Giants at AT&T Park aside in a separate category.

Here’s how I arrived at the top 10 pitchers. I averaged their ranking among qualifying starters among ERA, WHIP and OPS. The top 10 through Wednesday’s games were1. Justin Verlander, 2. Jared Weaver, 3. Jake Peavy, 4. Chris Sale, 5. Brendan Morrow, 6. the delightful C.J. Wilson, 7. Felix Hernandez, 8. Jason Hammel of the Orioles, 9. Jason Vargas and 10. David Price.

The A’s are 4-10 in games against these starters, who posted a 1.90 ERA over 99 2/3 innings and went a combined 8-2.

Having so many of their games against the so-called aces of the league may in part explain the putrid offense. Of course, with the weather warming up for summer, the averages should go up, but so likely will the effectiveness of opposing hitters against the A’s pitching, pitching which is a big part of why the A’s have been able to hang in there at 22-23.

Still, I have caught myself saying often so far this season, if only the A’s could just hit within 10 points of their career averages. So I had to ask how accurate is that assumption. After some analysis, it turns out to be pretty close, although there are some exceptions among the 10 A's hitters, excluding the first-year Yeonis Cespedes, who have gotten the great majority of the plate appearances.

Seven of the 10 are hitting below their career OPS numbers, led by Coco Crisp who at .420 is 309 points below his career average, followed by Kurt Suzuki (.531 -165), Jemile Weeks (.598 -116), Daric Barton (.617 -115), Cliff Pennington (.570 -111), Seth Smith (.725 -99) and Kila Ka’aihue (.665 -14).

Of the three who are improved, Josh Reddick (.864) at 109 points above his career average appears to be a blooming star in his second full season. Jonny Gomes (.800) is up slightly (plus 19), and veteran Brandon Inge, currently on the DL, has an .845 OPS with the A’s, a 152-point increase on his career average that can be largely attributed to an initial hot streak with the club.

The others' triangle numbers are down big-time. Crisp’s OB is down 95 and average 98; Suzuki is off 62 OB and 45 AVG; Pennington 47 OB and 38 AVG; Weeks minus 38 OB and 74 AVG; Barton is down only 24 in OB despite his .198 AVG being down 51 from his .249 career norm.

Reddick is the only one improved across the board (plus 22 OB, plus 16 AVG), while Weeks is in a big sophomore slump. Ka’aihue is down a little in OB but up plus 26 to a .250 AVG in his bid to stick in the majors this time.

In any case, you gotta figure most of them have to rise to much closer to their career norm. The danger is they get frustrated, lose faith and as a result prolong their slumps. That seems to have happened to the young Weeks already. Stay the course, A’s, and a turn for the better may be just around the corner. Come back, Polyanna, wherever you are.

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