As you have no doubt heard, the Oakland Athletics promoted pitching prospect Dan Straily from Sacramento today. If you hadn't heard that yet, then scroll a few inches down the page, because it is literally the next story below this one. Straily will make his Major League debut tomorrow against some team who will probably get shut out.
The A's made another move today, though. It is kind of flying under the radar, but that's only because it isn't very important. Adam Rosales was recalled as well, because Straily gets lonely on long car rides, and fellow infielder Brandon Hicks was sent packing to make room. Hicks has options, so he's still in the picture moving forward. He's just not going to play in a Major League game for awhile.
Most of you probably don't care about this move. I, however, am a bit bummed. Don't get me wrong; Hicks is a bad hitter. He had struck out 29 times in only 65 plate appearances. To put that in a percentage, Hicks was striking out 44.6% of the time. His strikeout rate made Adam Dunn look like a contact hitter. Dunn is striking out in 34.3% of his plate appearances this year, and he's on pace to shatter the all-time single-season record. Hicks was striking out nearly 30% more often than the guy who is probably going to set the all-time record. Holy Louisville Slugger, Batman! No, seriously, I mean that I think his bat has holes in it.
When he wasn't striking out, though, Hicks was usually helping the team win games. A couple of days ago, we discussed WPA (Win Probability Added) as it related to Coco Crisp. The stat measures how the things you do within the game affect the team's chances of winning that game at that moment. The higher your WPA, the more "clutch" you have been. Guys who maintain high WPA marks are usually just really good hitters who are good all the time: Joey Votto, David Wright, and Andrew McCutchen are among the MLB leaders this year, which shouldn't surprise you. They're good, regardless of the situation. Their career numbers back that up. Josh Willingham and Melky Cabrera are up there too, but just because they've been extra clutch this year; their career marks aren't consistently positive like those of the first three guys. Mike Trout is 4th in all of MLB, because WPA is a baseball stat and Trout therefore excels at it.
In only 65 plate appearances this year, Hicks ranks 6th on the team in WPA. Names he is immediately ahead of: Seth Smith, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick. Now, the stat works both ways. If you do something clutch, WPA goes up. If you blow it (say, strike out with the bases loaded), WPA goes down. Part of Hicks' high mark was just a small sample size; he'd hit a couple of big homers (one to walk off against the Rangers, and one in the 7th to tie Monday's game against the Rays), and hadn't had enough time to also fail a bunch of times and bring that artificially high WPA back down. But, let me play devil's advocate here: In 65 plate appearances, he hit two hugely clutch home runs in the power-suppressing Coliseum to win or tie those games. Obviously, he wasn't going to keep hitting crucial, game-changing home runs, but he was probably going to keep hitting homers now and then. The rest is just timing. When you don't have any shortstops who can do anything with a bat, having a guy who can pop one out now and then isn't such a bad thing.
There is good news, though. Rosales is also a guy who can pop one out now and then. Even last season, when he was interning for Criss Angel and therefore wore a blindfold for all of his plate appearances (resulting in an .098 batting average, which sadly isn't a joke), he still knocked two homers in 68 plate appearances. He hasn't homered in the Majors this year, but here's a neat stat: In 33 plate appearances with Oakland, he's walked 9 times against 3 strikeouts. So, there's that.
Rosales also brings versatility. He's been in the organization for several years, so you are surely familiar with him already: he can play anywhere in the infield, and can cover left field in a pinch as well. He probably won't hit much, but he'll at least make contact with regularity.
Rosales is in the lineup tonight, playing shortstop. The Rosales Era has begun. My prediction: He fields the final out of Straily's no-hitter tomorrow, while also homering for the game's only run. That sounds about par for the course for the 2012 A's.