The A's offense has been admittedly abysmal. That's not something that really anyone can argue. The team has scored only 41 runs, averaging a smidge over 3 runs a game. If you subtract the 9-0 whitewashing of the Mariners, it's more like 2.7 runs per game. That puts quite a lot of pressure on your pitching to be perfect and for the most part, the A's pitching has been just that so far, having a 3.03 ERA through the first 13 games, good for second in the AL. The A's starters have a 2.35 ERA and yet they are sporting a 2-4 record collectively. Ouch.
But one of the things I discussed with Bob Geren during our offseason interview was what he'd like to see the team do better in 2007. He specifically mentioned hitting with runners in scoring position. Now, I'm not willing to say that this is a continuing problem this year as the A's hitting in general has been bad, not merely with RISP. The team is 23rd in MLB with batting average with runners in scoring position and only three AL teams have been worse with RISP, the Angels, Royals and Indians.
Part of me wonders if the A's by emphasizing hitting with RISP have now made the team so conscious of the issue that it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I know that the A's players have to be aware of the issue and that Geren and Van Burkleo have made a point of preaching a good approach regardless of the situation (so it isn't their fault that A's players have struggled). Yes, I know many of you will point out the fact that the A's overall OPS right now is lowest in baseball and the team should just worry about hitting in general rather than concern themselves with the situation, but I do think it's become a huge psychological monkey for the team.
It's like if someone keeps telling you over and over again that you're too shy or too sensitive. After a while, it starts to become something you believe about yourself. Granted, in this case people are telling the offense that it stinks over and over again, but the A's players are also aware of the fact that they've had many issues hitting with RISP. I'm just not convinced that it will be something that will be easy to turn around. And yeah, the sample size is still tiny, but it is just continuing a trend.
Is it too early to jump off a cliff and make assumptions? Probably. Pitching is almost always ahead of hitting around this time of year. The A's have had to deal with missing their best hitter (Bradley) for several games already and they always seem to start slowly. But it would appear that the years are almost overlapping unfortunately for us.
As for the good news, I wrote about that for my most recent FSN Bay Area column. I'm betting you can all guess what that is.
And finally, I've been torn on the concept of clutch hitting. I'm not so sure anymore. After watching Scutaro over the past several years in green and gold, I think I've come all the way around. That ending could not have been better. But the A's games are starting to resemble basketball games. You only have to watch the first and ninth inning to know what happened during the entire game.