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Athletics 2014 season review: Josh Reddick gets back on track

Strong like bull. Reddick Bull, perhaps?
Strong like bull. Reddick Bull, perhaps?
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

For the last three seasons, No. 16 has belonged to Josh Reddick. However, if he survives the offseason re-tooling then he'll be wearing No. 22 next year after swinging a trade with Billy Butler to acquire a winch. For the time being, though, Reddick is next on our season review list.

Player profile

Name: Josh Reddick, aka Shreddick
Position: RF (and one game in CF)
Stats: .264/.316/.446, 115 OPS+, 109 games, 12 HR, 7 3B, plus-13 DRS
WAR: 3.5 bWAR, 2.3 fWAR
How he got here: Acquired from Boston Red Sox prior to 2012
2014 Salary: $2.7 million
2015 Status: 2nd-year arbitration, under team control
2015 Salary: Estimated $3.7 million

Season summary

The 2014 season was a make-or-break year for Josh Reddick. He exploded in 2012, but he couldn't keep up the pace all year. Then he spent most of 2013 injured and he under-performed accordingly, meaning that he had a streak of three straight poor half-seasons following his only good half in Oakland. His elite defense promised to keep him in the lineup long enough to get healthy and work things out, but that leash would only last so long. He needed to show something at the plate as soon as possible if he wanted to continue starting for the A's.

The year didn't begin well. Reddick started out 4-for-41 in his first 11 games, with no extra-base hits and 15 strikeouts. He finally found his groove and went 15-for-35 over his next 10 starts, with fewer Ks and more power, but he finished April with a .653 OPS (86 OPS+). Things got even worse in May, as he bopped a few homers but posted a .583 OPS (63 OPS+) for the month. Then, on May 31, he hyperextended his knee, and a few days later he went on the DL. All of his worst-case scenarios were coming true.

When Reddick came back, though, things started to look up ... briefly. He returned to the field on June 24, and he went 5-for-11 with two walks and a triple in four games. But then, he re-aggravated the knee and went right back on the DL.

The third time was the charm. Reddick came back for good on July 22. The next day, he made his first start and went 2-for-4 with a double and a walk. The day after that, he went 2-for-4 with two doubles. A few days later, he went 3-for-5. A couple days later, he went 2-for-4 with a double and a homer. He ultimately posted a .978 OPS in July, then an .804 in August, then a .904 in September. He hit eight homers in 200 plate appearances in the second half, and his .869 OPS in that time was good for an OPS+ of 149. He hadn't just recovered; he was thriving. Truth be told, Reddick was arguably Oakland's best hitter during the second half, just a tick better than Josh Donaldson (according to OPS+, wRC+, and wOBA) and far above everyone else.

The improved hitting didn't just come out of nowhere, either. Reddick cut his strikeout rate by a significant amount for the second straight year:

2012 K%: 22.4% of plate appearances
2013 K%: 19.5%
2014 K%: 15.9%

* Meanwhile, the league-average rate is creeping upward, to 20.4 percent last year. The gains came mostly in the second half, when he whiffed under 10 percent of the time.

Surprisingly, Reddick is now a guy who doesn't strike out that much. One reason for that might be a more aggressive approach. He saw around four pitches per plate appearance in 2012-13, but last year that number dropped to 3.61. He swung more, both inside and outside of the zone, and he made contact at a higher rate too. His walk rate dropped to its lowest level since he arrived in Oakland.

It appears to me that, after experimenting with increased patience in 2013, Reddick went back to his roots -- that means an aggressive approach, in which he attacks early in the count and doesn't hesitate when he sees a pitch he thinks he can drive. It's not an approach that will ever lead him to a high OBP, but it looks like maybe Reddick can't have it all -- in order to be the guy with a solid average who hits homers and triples all over, he has to swing early and often, and if he tries to force himself into taking pitches and working counts then he can be more easily retired. If he can also keep the strikeouts down while swinging freely, then he truly will become a dangerous hitter -- and the kind who is particularly in vogue right now thanks to the Royals. Only time will tell if this new approach is a real thing or just a short-term fluke, but it's something to keep an eye on.

Naturally, Reddick's glove (and arm) remained as good as ever while he searched for his bat. His 13 Defensive Runs Saved ranked him 13th among all MLB outfielders and fourth among right fielders, despite the fact that he played fewer than 900 innings in the field. It's basically a conversation between Jason Heyward, Kevin Kiermaier, Lorenzo Cain and Reddick for the title of best defensive right fielder in baseball. UZR wasn't as bullish on our boy as DRS was, but take that for what you will in a partial-season sample.

Reddick took his resurgence a step further with his performance in the Wild Card game. He entered with a 6-for-34 career line in the postseason with 15 strikeouts, but he came through against the Royals. He came to the plate six times and reached base in four of those trips, with two singles and two walks; he also scored two runs. Although the A's lost, Reddick's big game was the cherry on top of his personal second-half comeback.

It was a make-or-break year, and Reddick made it. He's teased us before with hot streaks that turned out to be mirages, with Sept. 2013 a prime example, and he'll probably always be a bit inconsistent. But it's not hard to believe that being further removed from his wrist problems of yesteryear could have made a serious -- and more importantly, sustainable -- difference in his production. We'll still go into 2015 wondering which Reddick will show up at the plate, but at least we've seen that the good version still exists.

2014 season grade, relative to expectations: B+ ... I didn't really know what to expect out of Reddick this year, and I got a mixed bag. There were slumps, but the good times outweighed the bad. There were injuries, but he still played over 100 games and when he came back he seemed fully recovered. I'd say he met and moderately exceeded expectations, and he sealed the plus on his B with his performance in the Wild Card game. He could have earned an A by playing another 30-40 games and hitting well in them, or by hitting another half dozen homers in the games he did play.

2014 season grade, overall: B- ... Moderately above-average bat and elite glove? Sounds like a solid B/B+ player. Gets docked down to a minus for missing 53 games, though.

Video highlights

Obviously, we must start the highlight reel the same way that Reddick starts his at-bats: with his walk-up music. This song was surely a major factor in his success. And if you stick around til the 20-25 second mark, you can see me sitting in the bleachers in my silly straw hat! (Screen shot at the bottom of the post.)

First up is a majestic homer to right.

He hit two homers off of James Shields in a game in August.

This two-homer game included a grand slam.

Even when Reddick's hits stay in the park, he's still dangerous. He led the team this year with seven triples. Here's one of the stand-up variety.

He came up with a walk-off hit against the Astros in August.

And what the heck, a game-tying double from September to complete the cycle. This is the play that led to the pose in the main photo at the top of the article.

His arm in right is still one of the best in the sport, though he only picked up five outfield assists this year.

Of course, he's known for his arm, but he also has incredible range and can run down anything. He made that clear right from the beginning of spring training.

Here's one from the regular season.

Here we combine both elements: the crazy catch at the wall, and the perfect throw to double up the runner.

He can also come in to snag shallow hits.

But hey, pobody's nerfect.

And of course, Reddick was responsible for one of my favorite moments of the season.


Reddick is settling in as a quality player on both sides of the ball who has a flare for making highlight plays. However, at age 28 next season and with only two more years of team control, there's no telling how much longer Billy Beane will stick with him before potentially trading him off. Let's all hope Reddick is around next year, because he proved again in 2014 that, despite his flaws, he's one of the most exciting players you can hope to watch.

Alex bleachers
Proof that I do in fact go to A's games.