A few weeks ago, I chatted with Marty Lurie, Shooty Babbitt and Bruce McGowan on Marty's Inside Baseball show.
Marty posed a very interesting question which I brought up on a thread earlier, but I want to discuss it with AN more prominently. The question as the A's approach a possible playoff appearance in 2006 is, what happens to the A's offense in the playoffs if the opposition wises up and just avoids pitching to Frank Thomas? Especially in crucial situations.
Eric Chavez has been following up the Big Hurt in the lineup against righties, Jay Payton against lefties. Payton has been holding up his end of the bargain, Chavy hasn't. But my take on the situation is this...if opposition pitchers pitch around Frank Thomas, which would be a prudent decision considering his ridiculous numbers in September (an .844 slugging percentage in 16 games, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?), I believe that Chavez and Bradley would have to step up. Especially Chavez since he would need to be the one who did something once Frank got aboard.
I'm not sure if Chavez would be up for it, but a great way to atone for possibly his worst year offensively at the plate would be to get red hot. The chances of it happening? Well, against the better pitching, it's doubtful. But those would need to be the guys to step it up. I'm optimistic that the clean sheet that the postseason represents to some players can be viewed as a clear opportunity for redemption. One huge hit to help win a playoff series can go a long way towards making a fanbase forget about 162 mediocre offensive games.
Shooty replied that he felt like the A's would do it as a collective and I do agree that in order for the A's to be successful, they need the unexpected Scutaro double or the out-of-nowhere Ellis home run. But if the A's are going to go deep into October, the strategy of avoiding Big Hurt will most definitely be a factor. The question is, will the A's have some to reply to it? And frankly, no one knows.