If this is the case, our journey inside Small Sample Theater tells us that so far the A's have a lot of what they hoped and a lot of what they feared. Here's what we know so far - or rather don't know because it's only been 9 games:
- Andrew Bailey looks like a closer, dominating major league hitters with a 93+MPH fastball, a solid cutter and curve, very good command and most importantly, the fearlessness to come right after hitters early and often. Now it's too early to move Bailey, barely graduated from AA, into the closer's role but in Devine's absence, if he is still dealing come June 1st Bailey should leapfrog over Ziegler in order to put both in their optimal roles.
- Jack Cust's two-strike approach, designed to cut down on strikeouts with runners on base, has been a success. Sure, Cust has struck out 10 times in 11 games, and sure Cust has fanned at least once in 8 of the 9 games, but when you go inside the numbers (that is, when you take a small sample from within a small sample), you see that 8 of Cust's 10 strikeouts have come with the bases empty.
- In fact, Cust has struck out in 8 of his 25 plate appearances with the bases empty, which is 32% of the time. With runners on, he has fanned twice in 27 plate appearances, which is 7.4% of the time. And since he is batting .333/.487/.567 overall, one can hardly complain. As a staunch proponent of the "Bat Cust 2nd!!!" group, Geren's best answer to batting Cust in more of an RBI spot is that so far the 2009 version of Jack Cust actually does warrant him batting 5th.
- Ryan Sweeney is batting .244/.295/.268. What's most meaningful from all that? 1 extra base hit (a double) in 44 plate appearances. So far, we have still yet to see the power promised to us by Sweeney's physique and by peer projection ("Oh he'll hit for power"). It remains to be seen whether Sweeney can provide enough offensive punch to play RF; on the plus side, Sweeney's CF defense so far has been solid, so it's still unclear how much power Sweeney will need to provide in order to justify a starting job. My guess, though, is that no matter what position he plays, he'll need to slug more than .268.
- Eric Chavez and Nomar Garciaparra out with random nagging problems??? Plus ça change...The A's have already needed a backup backup 3rd baseman, and they don't have one. They have Crosby, who is being asked to play positions he has never played before and is playing them like...he has never played them before. Jack Hannahan and Jeff Baisley would serve as better 5th infielders than Crosby, and I don't say that as a Crosby-maligner. I say that as someone with 20/20 vision.
So...45 games from now, what changes do you see the A's making after the first 1/3 of the season is over, and it's time to stop assessing the team and time to start reacting to the team?