The Oakland A's have played 21 games, which isn't enough time to draw any serious conclusions about anything. However, small-sample April stats are super-fun to play with -- sometimes because they're clearly ridiculous, and sometimes because you hope they aren't and that they are a sign of big things to come. Let's walk through the 13 position players on the current active roster and find an interesting stat for each guy. (Sorry, Ben Zobrist, get well soon!) Click here to see the pitchers.
Stephen Vogt | 1.060
That's his OPS through his first 72 plate appearances, good for seventh in MLB. He got off to a hot start last year too, but this time he's added more walks and power to his ridiculously high batting average. He won't hit .355 all year, but he's shown he can maintain a hot streak for a long time and we still don't know what he can achieve in a full healthy season; we don't have to expect him to immediately regress and drop down to .270 next week like we might with other players. He still hits everything hard and puts a lot of line drives out there, so he's not a complete fluke. You never know who the stars of the A's will be every year, and right now Vogt is unexpectedly the best hitter on the team and he looks every bit the part. I believe.
Josh Phegley | 0
That's the number of extra-base hits he has so far. Granted, he's only gotten 20 plate appearances, so it's not fair to judge him yet. But his calling card on offense is supposed to be his power, and he's 5-for-20 with five singles and only two strikeouts. That batting line is just about the opposite of what I was expecting from him, which makes me think it'll probably change quite a bit over time. He also hasn't drawn a walk in the Majors since 2013. But he threw out a baserunner already!
Billy Butler | .175
That's his isolated slugging percentage (SLG% minus BA), and it's completely solid, a notch above his career average but a notch below his career-high, 29-homer 2012 campaign. Last year, when his power disappeared and he had the worst full year of his career, his ISO fell all the way to .107; to put that in perspective, Daric Barton has a career .118 ISO. Butler is hitting .313, and we know he's capable of maintaining that kind of average all season. But he needs to be more than a singles hitter here, especially to make up for all the double plays he's guaranteed to hit into (5 already), and it's encouraging to see him come through on that front. Now he's hitting for a high average with the power of Reddick (career .180 ISO). The A's took a risk on him bouncing back, and so far he's rewarded them. He looks like himself again, smoking the ball all over the field, and I don't think anyone is still disappointed that he was signed.
Ike Davis | 4
That's his number of plate appearances against left-handed pitching, compared with 66 PAs against righties. He only got 35 all of last year, with nearly 400 against righties, so hiding him against southpaws isn't a new strategy. But he's still the perfect example of a platoon guy, and on the days when he's not starting he's a career .283 pinch-hitter just waiting for the best time to strike. Ike is playing out of his mind right now, with a .328 average, an .859 OPS, a knack for coming through in big moments, and sterling (if occasionally overambitious) defense at first base. He's probably not this good, but there's no reason he can't end up better than he's ever been before.
Eric Sogard | 14
That's the number of games he's started, which is two-thirds of all the team's games. With all love and respect to Sogard, he isn't supposed to be starting two-thirds of the team's games. But plans were made to be ruined, and you could do worse than Sogey as your fallback. He's never going to be great at the plate, but he's starting to come on a bit lately and has hit safely in six of his last eight starts. He's even got a clutch ninth-inning two-out game-tying single on his resume already, off obnoxious rival Fernando Rodney no less. More importantly, he's the top-rated defender on the team so far according to Defensive Runs Saved (+3), and that's made him worth a third of a win already. As is not uncommon, Sogard has been a productive player without anyone really noticing.
Marcus Semien | 3
That's his number of homers and his number of stolen bases. Quick, who had Semien leading the A's in steals in the office pool? Not me. Now that he's displayed power and speed as part of his above-average offensive profile, is a 20-20 year out of the question? It's asking a lot, but he's on pace for it and that's where I'll be setting my bar for his "realistic best-case scenario." I could have picked Semien's six errors as his number, but he doesn't even lead the league in that department -- fellow shortstops Ian Desmond (9), Jean Segura (7), and Danny Santana (6) are all right there with him, but Semien is comfortably out-hitting each of them. He's also looking up at a half dozen everyday shortstops with worse marks in Defensive Runs Saved. His hitting has been better than his defense has been bad.
Brett Lawrie | 25
That's his strikeout total, against only two walks. That's 30.1% of all his plate appearances. This isn't breaking news, as his early-season flailing has been well-documented, but it's something that needs to be fixed. His career strikeout rate is only 17.1% and he's never even reached 20% before, so there's no history here and this is probably just a small-sample issue ... for now. The good news is that he has driven in three runs in each of his last two games, and while RBI may not mean much to us on the blogosphere they probably mean a whole lot to the psyche of a struggling hitter. Lawrie was advertised as streaky, so I'm waiting until I see one of the hot streaks before I form any permanent opinions of him. That monster home run last night was a good start, though.
Max Muncy | 5
That's his number of MLB plate appearances, which is five more than I thought he'd have in April of 2015. I don't even think he'd have been getting at-bats in Triple-A if Rangel Ravelo hadn't gotten hurt in the spring, so his arrival was much earlier than anticipated or designed, but that doesn't mean he didn't earn it. He'll likely be one of the first out the door when space is needed for an injury returner (Coco?) or another promotion (Billy Burns?), but he's here because he can back up Lawrie at third base. He's not as necessary if Canha starts hitting again, or once Zobrist returns, but his defensive position might mean that Cody Ross is the next to go before Muncy. Here's a video of his first MLB hit!
Josh Reddick | 7.3%
That's his strikeout rate, with only 4 Ks in 55 PAs. For perspective, Fangraphs' scale only goes down to 10%, which is labelled "Excellent." Only Victor Martinez, Jose Altuve and Ben Revere were below 8% last year. This is best-in-the-league territory if he keeps it up all year ... so how likely is he to do that? Well, he significantly cut his strikeouts each of the last two years after his swing-happy 2012, so this is part of a larger trend. I don't think this specific improvement is a coincidence, and in fact it's one thing I was specifically looking for this season. However, this is probably also a bit too good to be true, and setting your hopes on a 10% K rate might be more realistic. Don't worry, that would still have been a top-10 mark in MLB last year. Oh, and did I mention he's hitting .360/.418/.580 now that he decided not to whiff anymore? Honestly, this is probably a topic I'll do a whole post on soon, so please don't strike out three times tonight and ruin it Josh.
Sam Fuld | 8
That's the number of extra-base hits he has already (five double and three triples), good for a share of the team lead with Vogt and Butler. Sam Fuld leads the team in extra-base hits, and not in a bad way. Regression kicked in and he's not hitting .350 anymore (.257 now), but it's hard to find a part of his game to really dislike. He's got enough patience to draw some walks, he makes enough contact to keep the strikeouts down, his power is minimal but he's got the speed to manufacture extra-base hits, and he's been putting on a defensive clinic in center field. Not a star, but not a liability, just like the rest of the lineup, which is exactly how it was designed -- no glaring weaknesses. No Callaspos.
Cody Ross | 2-for-15
That's his batting line against left-handers so far. Is that enough to condemn him? No, of course not. But he's not here to spend a full season averaging out into a solid player. He's here to make an immediate impact right now in a short-term injury-replacement role, so we need to hold him to a different standard than other players. Coco could be back in a week, and if Ross isn't doing anything by that point then there's no reason to keep him because there will be better, more permanent options available. There's no room for a short-end platoon guy who isn't hitting his favored matchup, especially when he brings nothing of value on defense. I mean, I just said no Callaspos, jeez man.
Craig Gentry | -28
That's his OPS+, or his OPS relative to league average and adjusted for ballpark. A mark of 100 is average. A mark of 50 is 50% worse than average. A mark of 0 is comically bad, and Gentry is subzero on account of his 2-for-30 start (with three walks and a HBP). Of course he'll get better, but this is just an interesting way to illustrate how bad his start at the plate has been, without even mentioning his dozen strikeouts. He's been 128% worse than average. But on the bright side, he's also made two fielding errors already, upping his career total to seven. Meow.
Mark Canha | 3
That's how many consecutive games he's been out of the lineup since his last start on April 24. He's been left out thrice in a row, after starting 15 of the previous 16 contests. The league adjusted to his season-opening hot streak, which means it's our turn to adjust our expectations back to realistic levels. His power is real, and that alone could be enough to make him a solid platoon bat who can cover multiple corner positions -- a better, younger version of Cody Ross, in other words. He's still a bit raw on defense, but it mostly seems to show up on the really tough plays. He's been able to handle the routine ones, and that's an easy thing to take for granted until you don't have it. Canha will likely stick on the roster no matter what for Rule V Draft reasons unless he utterly tanks, so there will plenty of opportunities to find a niche for him. That's what Bob Melvin is best at.