So it all started when someone suggested that Bengie Molina was a better hitter than Jack Cust, and I set out to show otherwise. Showing otherwise, it turned out, consisted of mentioning that in almost every meaningful category (OBP, SLG, HRs, OPS), Jack Cust's worst season was better than Bengie Molina's best season.
That's when a statistic jumped out and caught my eye: Bengie Molina has 3 career stolen bases. How is this possible? They've done some rather extensive studies on Bengie Molina's speed, including one study in which Molina was observed in a race with a one-legged blind nun, a 93 year old with a walker, a snail on ice skates, Betty White, and continental drift, and came in only fourth.
One stolen base I could understand -- that would mean that one day, Molina broke for second base and the catcher was unable to contain his fits of laughter long enough to make a throw. But 3? How could this be?
My theory is that one day, somehow Molina woke up with an extra burst of energy and just knew he could do something special, so he "seized the day," and after singling, he promptly stole 2B, 3B, and home. Now some of you will point out that Molina's 3 career stolen bases did not all come in the same season, but really that still makes sense as you can't expect Bengie to get from 1B all the way around the bases in one year.
Anyway, Cust has 4 career stolen bases, so there.
But the player I really want to talk about right now is Jamey Carroll. Join me after the jump.
It seems unlikely that a team would sign Jamey Carroll on purpose, so when the A's went after him I was reduced to one of two conclusions:
One is that the A's mistakenly thought he was J. B. Carroll, that they were running a basketball team, and that they should evaluate talent about as well as the Warriors do.
The other is that the A's have finally come around to one of my pet ideas for gaining a competitive advantage in the art of winning an unfair game. Some players have exceptional bat control to go with excellent strike zone judgment and can swat strikes foul pretty much at will (or at sam or at louie). Why not send such a player up to poke strike after strike foul until he (likely) walks or perhaps finally puts a ball into play accidentally around the 12th-15th pitch? Such a player, if the skill were developed sufficiently, might consistently be able to significantly mess up the pitch count for the opposing starter. Give him 2 ABs to sabotage around 25%-30% of the pitcher's pitch count before leaving for a pinch hitter if need be. He might even have a .350 OBP along the way, which would just be gravy, or groovy (and actually somewhat grievey if it were .367).
Mind you, I'm not suggesting that very many hitters could pull this off -- I'm suggesting that it's a very specific skill set that a Jamey Carroll type (hmm...Is Cliff Pennington that type?) might be able to develop in order to make himself uniquely valuable. I mean, how much more valuable would Pennington be if he could just average 14 pitches per plate appearance to go with his current ability?
Cliff Pennington: Foul Machine. Get Skaaaaaaaaaaaaalan on it.
Also, in away games the A's should make Jake Fox or Eric Chavez their first inning "pinch hitted." A pinch hitted is the guy who "pre pinch hits" for the guy who's really going to play. Say one of them leads off at SS while Pennington doesn't start. In the bottom of the 1st, Pennington is the defensive replacement and the rest of the lineup is set so that the 2-9 is a good 1-8 when the lineup rolls over, e.g.:
Chavez/Fox --> Pennington - SS
Barton - 1B
Sweeney - RF
Kouzmanoff - 3B
Cust - DH
Davis - LF
Suzuki - C
Ellis - 2B
Crisp - CF
The idea is that by hitting in the 1st inning, Chavez/Fox won't suffer the penalty that pinch hitters face when the come into the game cold in the 8th or 9th inning, and this isn't a player you are planning on using as a defensive replacement late in the game -- instead his role is to turn Pennington into a better hitter by weighting about 20% of his stats to his superior ones. Maybe he turns a .240/.320/.380 hitter into a .260/.330/.420 hitter with 9 innings of Pennington's defense. The amazing Cliff Pennington v2.0: 50 more points of OPS and all the defense!
Of course I'm making up the numbers and it's a stupid idea, but I still like it. And you will too, when Pennington comes up in the 3rd inning for his first at bat -- and fights off 16 pitches before drawing a walk.