[EDITOR'S NOTE: I originally put this thread up yesterday right before the game, so I wanted to give everyone the chance to comment on it. Huge win today to take a series from the team with the best record in baseball. The A's are a puzzling team...lose a series to the Royals and get swept at home by the Diamondbacks, and they sweep the Yankees in New York and take the first two against two of the best pitchers statistically in baseball. They'll really be puzzling if they can somehow beat Coliseum Kenny tomorrow. You can use this thread to continue your celebration or critique my first half grades. Your choice. - Blez]
The first half of the season is already over and the A's have ended the first 81 games in first place in the AL West. Yes, that's good news, but the bad news is that they have all three teams nipping at their heels. Seattle and Texas are right there and Anaheim is definitely within striking distance. If the A's offense doesn't wake up, they could potentially find themselves in a world of problems by the All Star break, seven games away. If they can manage remaining in first place at the All Star break, the team will be in a better position than its been in many seasons at that point, and that's a very key fact to remember.
Any way, here are my first half grades for the A's:
Eric Chavez: Chavez has injury issues, but he is still the face of the franchise right now, so the bar is very high. An .819 OPS through the first 81 games isn't where the A's need him to be.
Nick Swisher: Swisher started out blazing and could've been the A's rep for the All Star game had he not tanked in June. Still, his overall .894 OPS is very good for a second year player and he pretty much singlehandedly won the A's quite a few games in the first half.
Frank Thomas: Thomas has been everything the A's have wanted. The A's needed someone to provide power from the right side and he's done just that with 18 home runs in the first 81 games. That's pretty impressive if he can crank 36 for the year and a pretty sweet bargain even if the A's have to pay out all the bonuses.
Mark Kotsay: Kotsay's offense has been up and down this year. But a .669 overall OPS is pretty bad for someone hitting in the top four spots in the lineup, which is often where Macha puts Kotsay. His defense is great, but that can only make up for so much.
Dan Johnson: DJ has been even more of a yo-yo than Kotsay. He was basically in the depths of Hades before he woke up and went on fire in June. But if you take the overall .707 OPS and six home runs for the first half, the A's absolutely need to get more out of a traditional power position.
Mark Ellis: Ellis has had injury problems once again and when he's been in the lineup, his offense hasn't lived up to the lofty expectations set last year. No one expected him to top last year's numbers, but getting close would've been nice. His .307 OBP for all the time they've had him hit leadoff just hurts.
Milton Bradley: I'd like to say Bradley should be an incomplete considering the lack of playing time, but he was acquired to play on the field, not chill on the DL. At the beginning of the season, he contributed to a few wins with some key at-bats. Seattle comes to mind. But it isn't enough with a .678 OPS and tons of time in the trainer's room.
Bobby Crosby: This was supposed to be the year that Crosby broke out. Some folks even predicted that he was destined for an MVP-like season. But he's been hurt, again and hasn't taken that giant leap forward many expected. He may still do it in the second half, but not yet. At least he's been more healthy than last year...but that's small consolation with his .682 OPS.
Jason Kendall: Kendall has been better than expected this year, and he actually has a home run that many said was the catalyst to the A's great play in June. Course, expectations were not great after Kendall's 2005 season. Even though his batting average is a respectable .272 and his OBP is .349, his OPS still sits at .667.
Marco Scutaro: Scutaro hasn't been great offensively this year with a .592 OPS, but he's filled in on defense when asked. Yes, Scoot is one of those players who comes to mind when you mention intangibles, but the truth is that the team is probably wishing that he hadn't already had 159 ABs.
Jay Payton: Payton probably falls into Scutaro category in that the A's wish that he would've been their fourth outfielder this year instead of having the fourth most ABs on the team behind Swisher, Kotsay and Crosby. His .707 OPS is OK, but the A's are hoping to get Milton Bradley healthy in the second half to take away some of those ABs.
Bobby Kielty: Kielty has been one of the few surprises in the A's lineup. He has a near .800 OPS and has actually been hitting well while batting lefty. Of course, he has to go and get hurt like every other Athletic and makes himself unavailable. Ugh. But he's been a good to very good bench player this season, performing above expecations. One of the few who has.
Adam Melhuse: Melhuse has been really good off the bench considering how often he has to sit. Yes, his sample size is small, but that makes his performance even more impressive. To sit as long as he does and then come in and post a .712 OPS is just fantastic.
Antonio Perez: Ugh, Antonio. You were supposed to be a hitter who could supply some help and fill in for Chavez if and when he missed some time. Granted, you've been Ginterized, but still, an .091 batting average? This could be one of Macha's bigger mistakes in sitting Perez and not getting him regular playing time when injuries arise. Remember, he hit close to .300 last season with the Dodgers.
Barry Zito: Zito has officially returned to 2002 form. He's having an all-star season with a 3.28 ERA through his first 18 starts. Course, this will likely be Zito's last season with the A's. It's a shame they'll be losing someone so darn durable.
Danny Haren: Haren gets attacked quite a bit and I'm not really sure why. He's got a 3.53 ERA and the lowest WHIP of any starter on the team. He's tied for the team lead in strikeouts in one less start than Zito and he could be a genuine number one starter on most teams. He does need to cut down on the home runs though with 15 allowed.
Rich Harden: Oh, Rich, will we ever really know you? I mean really know you. You've had a grand total of six starts through the first 81 games. And they were good starts, but the A's need you for more than that. It's a scary thought thinking of this rotation without Zito because of just how fragile Harden is.
Grade: D+ (only because of injuries)
Esteban Loaiza: Loaiza's first half has to be seen as a failure, despite his scattered good performances in June. He was injured and hid the injury, he got a DUI causing the team some negative press off the field and his on-the-field performance has been just bad. Hopefully, he's driven (both literally and figuratively) in the second half.
Joe Blanton: Blanton has been erratic at best, working his way to a 4.85 ERA in the first half. He was arguably the A's best pitcher in the second half last season though, so let's hope Joe really gets smokin'.
Kirk Saarloos: Saarloos has been invaluable to the A's because of his ability to do many roles. But the drop off between he and what Harden could provide is obscene. His 1.61 WHIP is kind of ugly and his ERA is 4.61. I love Los Kirk, but he isn't replicating his 2005 year. The A's would be much better off if they could get him in the pen.
Brad Halsey: Halsey has had a good half of the year, considering the variety of roles the A's have asked him to fill. He's been a short reliever at points, a long reliever and a starter. He's sporting a 4.00 ERA, but his WHIP is also a little high at 1.56.
Huston Street: Street has had his bumps in his sophomore season. He's been up and down. Maybe there is something to people's theories that Street can't handle coming in in the eighth inning. But if that's the case, that's a significant problem considering the way the A's like to use their relievers, going back to Koch, Foulke and Isringhausen. He's already blown more saves this season than he did all last year in about 40 less innings.
Justin Duchscherer: Duke has been injured for much of the second quarter of the year. That's really hurt the A's because they've had to rely on a lot of inexperienced relievers like Chad Gaudin in places they've never been before. When Duke was healthy earlier in the year, he was great, but he needs to stay healthy the rest of the season for the A's to take the division.
Grade: C- (mostly because of injuries)
Kiko Calero: Calero has been the A's workhorse in the pen and he's been good, but not great. I imagine a lot of that has to do with overwork at times. You can tell when he's tired because the slider just doesn't bite like it usually does. He's got a 3.62 ERA, but a stat that tells a lot is his K/9 which is highest on the team at 10.86. That's pretty impressive.
Joe Kennedy: Kennedy has been another injury problem. Who knows if the A's will get him back anytime in the near future? When he was around, he posted a 2.19 ERA despite a WHIP that was 1.70. That could've started to go the other way and shortly.
Grade: C- (because of his injury issues)
Chad Gaudin: Gaudin has been thrust into a position of prominence with the injuries to Duchscherer. He's performed well, except his tendency to walk people, 21 in 29.2 innings. He needs to cut that down.
Ron Flores: Flores has been good in his brief time with the A's. Granted, he hasn't had a lot of high leverage innings until the recent extra inning game, but his WHIP is 1.02 and his ERA is 2.70. If he keeps this up, the A's will have to give him more opportunities.
Jay Witasick: Witasick hasn't really had enough of a body of work to judge. But that's a negative. If a player is injured constantly, they aren't contributing.
Randy Keisler: Keisler was put in the uneviable position of having to take some high leverage innings because of the A's injury problems. It was a small sample size, but he had a 4.60 ERA in his appearances.
Scott Sauerbeck: Sauerbeck has had a limited time with the A's, so it's tough to judge what the A's have, but they should make sure and use him strictly as a LOOGY whenever possible.
So, what grades would you give the A's for this half season? Should players be dinged for their injury issues?
The funny thing is that so many of the grades are poor, yet this team is still a first place club. Probably more of a commentary on the weakness of the AL West, but if the team gets Harden back and Chavez comes back hitting like he does in typical second halfs, they could potentially run away with it. It's just a shame they haven't managed to do it yet.