One result of the Oakland Athletics' sudden team-wide funk at the plate was the addition of some new hitters. On top of that, before the slump even began, a couple of new hitters were added to the mix to make up some of the lost offense from the trade-that-shall-not-be-named. Overall, four new bats have joined the club, not including catcher Bryan Anderson and his one plate appearance. Let's have a look at how they're all doing. (All numbers are from before the game Tuesday.)
Let's split Fuld's season into three segments:
Oakland, Part 1: .200/.273/.433, 3 BB, 6 K, 7 games
Minnesota Twins: .274/.379/.354, 26 BB, 29 K, 53 games
Oakland, Part 2: .211/.270/.320, 12 BB, 27 K, 48 games
There is only one logical conclusion here, and it's that Fuld derives his power from something that is found in the state of Minnesota (lakes? gophers?). Not only did he collect more hits there, he also displayed better plate discipline. Still, it's hard to be disappointed with what he's brought to the team overall. If you like to go by the numbers, his defense and baserunning are good enough that he's still got positive value in terms of WAR. If you prefer the eyeball test, he's exactly the kind of gritty hustle player who just seems to make things happen. You know how the A's can never score a runner from third? Fuld will grit the absolute hell out of it without even swinging the bat:
And then he'll go out and rob a homer in the outfield:
I'm usually a numbers guy, and by all rights I should not like Fuld. But he's fun to watch and he often finds himself in the middle of big plays on both sides of the ball. I generally want him on the field, and by definition that probably makes him a good addition (notwithstanding how you feel about the price it cost to acquire him).
It hasn't felt like Gomes has done much since his return, and the numbers bear that feeling out.
Boston: .234/.329/.354, 6 homers, 246 plate appearances
Oakland: .220/.304/.237, 0 homers, 69 plate appearances
Gomes wasn't doing much back east, and he's doing even less here. At least he was good for an occasional homer on the Red Sox, but he's yet to go yard here and he only has one double in 30 games. It's actually even worse than it looks -- five of his 13 hits have been infield singles, and that's not exactly a ... sustainable aspect of his game. In other words, his .542 OPS (57 OPS+) actually represents a bit of good luck. At negative 0.6 bWAR in around a fifth of a season, Gomes has been a disaster in his encore tour of the East Bay.
However, he hit a three-run homer in the World Series last year that essentially won a game for the Red Sox, and even when he's struggling it's hard not to imagine that sweet, short swing happening upon the trajectory of a mistake pitch and sending it to orbit at a crucial moment. We clearly saw the very best of him in 2012, and we probably won't see that same guy emerge again in the next couple weeks, but maybe there's still one more big highlight left in his bat before he moves on into free agency this winter.
Before I even look at the numbers, it's been nice to have another big presence in the middle of the lineup. The loss of you-know-who obviously removed a good bat from the heart of the order, and Dunn serves as a guy you at least have to be careful with if you value your ERA.
Chicago: .220/.340/.433, 20 homers, 435 PAs
Oakland: .240/.356/.360, 2 homers, 59 PAs
Both of the Oakland homers came early in his tenure with the team, so they left a positive first impression. However, he hasn't chipped in much since; strangely, he hasn't hit a double yet in the green and gold. Still, he's getting on base and that's at least worth something. There's definitely still power left in his bat when he can make contact, and I like seeing him in the lineup enough that I'd even be interested in starting him against a lefty depending on the matchup. Besides, anyone who can do this to King Felix is a guy the A's need to be utilizing right now:
The big man has never been to the postseason in his 14-year career, and he might be retiring at the end of the season. Here's hoping he realizes that dream before he hangs 'em up.
I like this guy.
Texas, 2013: .245/.328/.466, 22 RBI, 184 PAs (9 homers)
Texas: .237/.237/.368, 3 RBI, 38 PAs
Oakland: .207/.343/.310, 7 RBI, 38 PAs
I'm shocked that his percentages are so low in Oakland, because it seems like he often gets a hit when it counts. As you can see from his RBI total, his few hits have come at particularly good times since he came to the A's. I also like his plate discipline, as he's already walked six times in his 38 plate appearances.
Of course, he's only actually played 20 games this year. For a better idea of what we're working with, you can see his 2013 numbers above. Note that the batting average was probably a best-case scenario, as he hit .228 and .198 in the two seasons before that, but the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year has shown that when he's going right he is capable of some serious power (career-high 23 homers) and a solid OBP. I'm not sure how much of the power we'll see, but I'll take some doubles and walks in a world without John Jaso or Stephen Vogt as options behind the plate.
Furthermore, Soto has looked like a pretty good defensive backstop. He can block pitches and all the rest, and seeing him throw out four out of nine would-be base stealers (44%) is a welcome sight after watching the relative noodle arms of Jaso (11%) and Derek Norris (16%).
Check out his frame job on this called strike three to Mike Trout.
Soto is the catcher who currently instills the most confidence in me on the defensive end, and with the way Norris has been hitting lately I don't mind taking my chances with Soto on that side of the ball either. He's been a bit of a hidden gem for the A's, and I'd even be interested in bringing him back next year if he needs a one-year deal to build his value back up.