The A's open a three-game series in Boston tonight with Justin Duchscherer facing Tim Wakefield.
The A's hope to begin August on a better note than they ended July, as the team has lost 10 of 12 games since the All-Star break to fall a game under .500. If the A's win today, they'll be 54-54 at the 2/3 mark of the season, with exactly 54 games to play.
Perhaps the passing of the non-waiver trading deadline with no additional moves for the A's will help the team to re-focus and play better then they did at the end of July.
The A's offense will receive a much-needed shot in the arm today with the return of Frank Thomas from the DL. Big Hurt had posted a .933 OPS in 106 plate appearances for the A's before injuring himself on May 27. Although Big Frank isn't at 100% yet, he's absolutely owned tonight's starter Tim Wakefield over the course of his career with 7 homers in 53 at-bats, good for a whopping .717 slugging percentage.
Frank's return also has the effect of bumping Jack Cust out to left field, which might not be as bad you think...
Stat(s) of the Day - notice how much better Cust has hit in LF than as a DH:
|2008 - Jack Cust as DH
|2008 - Jack Cust as LF
Cust has an .890 OPS in left field and a .691 OPS as a DH in '08. That's a difference of .200 OPS points. Now, obviously that sample is small, and the true gap in Cust's hitting when playing the field vs. DH'ing isn't nearly that far apart. But his OPS was 40 points greater when he was playing the field vs. DHing last year, too, and it's common for players to hit worse when they DH than when they get to play the field.
Frank Thomas, practically a career DH, is the rare exception. He's one of the few guys who can be projected to hit exactly the same as a DH at this point in his career because heck, that's all he's done for years.
So, perhaps having Cust in left field isn't such a bad thing, if it's the difference between having two .800 OPS hitters in the lineup (Cust and Thomas) versus none (Cust at DH). It's even more tolerable with the outstanding defense of Gonzalez in center and Sweeney in right. If we retain only one of our free agents, I'd hope that it's Thomas, for exactly that ripple effect he creates.
Here's tonight's lineup, L-R-L all the way through. It's amazing how much better Big Frank makes it look, just by pushing everyone else into a better spot. Barton was activated today, too:
08/01/08 4:05 PM PDT
|Oakland Athletics||Boston Red Sox|
|Ryan Sweeney - RF||Dustin Pedroia - 2B|
|Kurt Suzuki - C||Kevin Youkilis - 1B|
|Jack Cust - LF||David Ortiz - DH|
|Frank Thomas - DH||Mike Lowell - 3B|
|Carlos Gonzalez - CF||Jason Bay - LF|
|Mark Ellis - 2B||J.D. Drew - RF|
|Jack Hannahan - 3B||Jed Lowrie - SS|
|Bobby Crosby - SS||Kevin Cash - C|
|Daric Barton - 1B||Jacoby Ellsbury - CF|