No I don’t think it will be great, but I do think it will be fine (with the usual “health permitting” disclaimer). Today, I’m here to tell you several reasons why.
- Jason Kendall and Shannon Stewart may not progress their batting average to their career mean (which happens to be .300), but even if their batting averages do not begin with a 3, their averages are not going to begin with a 1. Those two are simply going to hit a LOT better in the last 90% of the season than they are hitting in the season’s first 8%. Do nothing and two of our hitters will jump their batting averages over 100 points each.
- Failure begets failure while success begets success. The hitters are pressing right now, the failures are in their individual and collective heads, and once the offense starts to come around, it will continue to come around as the players start swinging more freely without those monkeys on their shoulders. We saw it in 2005 and we’ll see it again in 2007.
- The A’s have a solid nucleus in Swisher, Bradley, Chavez, and Piazza, plus Kielty against LHP. That’s a perfectly good middle-of-the-order for OBP, slugging percentage, and HR production. Meanwhile, from among Kendall, Stewart, Ellis, Buck, and eventually Kotsay, there will be enough options to find #1 and #2 hitters who are swinging the bat well and who make sense in that slot in the batting order. Right now, Geren is in the fiddling stage, trying to decide the best roles for the hitters. He can’t win with any combination right now because not enough players are swinging the bat well. Eventually, the slumps will separate themselves from the “can’t hits” and the “progression to the means” will separate themselves from the “down years,” but right now Geren and the fans are just in a holding pattern. We won’t be for long.
- I can’t emphasize enough how thrilled I have been with Geren’s in-game managerial decisions around the offense, and in the long run his philosophy is going to pay off in a lot of extra runs. The A’s are not running into a lot of outs but they are stealing bases as opportunities present themselves—in the form of Kendall reading the pitcher’s high leg kick, or a forgotten Chavez. Geren has utilized Kendall’s excellent bat control to put on hit-and-runs with someone reliable to make contact. He has bunted at appropriate times with Ellis and Kendall, rather than allowing rally-killing DPs, yet he has also let guys hit away (Walker vs. Bruney on Friday night comes to mind) when a bunt would just give away an out while taking the bat out of a decent hitter’s hands. Geren’s instincts seem outstanding and it is not paying off because the players aren’t executing—many of the bunts have been “right call, wrong bunt,” Kendall has fouled off most of the hit-and-run efforts, and the stolen bases have led mostly to RISP failures. But if Geren keeps setting up the offense to succeed, the offense, as it progresses to the mean, will succeed.
The offense will be fine.