The Oakland Athletics are 12-18, but the good news is that only half of the team is broken. The lineup is in the top five in scoring in all of MLB, buoyed in large part by Stephen Vogt and Josh Reddick. The series in Minnesota was kind of a bummer to watch, so let's look for some happy thoughts among the hitters. Here is one key stat for each of the 13 position players on the current 25-man roster.
Stephen Vogt | 1.8
That's his bWAR, the version of Wins Above Replacement used by Baseball-Reference. That mark is good for 5th in the AL and 8th in MLB, behind Dallas Keuchel, Lorenzo Cain, Dee Gordon, Sonny, Felix, Paul Goldschmidt, and Adrian Gonzalez. He's also third in MLB in OPS, 3rd in fWAR, and 4th in RBI. Toss in a high walk rate and a low strikeout rate, positive pitch-framing metrics, and 6-of-17 runners caught stealing, and Vogt is about as perfect of a player as exists right now -- a patient, high-contact, slugging catcher with above-average defense. Oh, and he has monster numbers in every "clutch" stat on Baseball-Ref, like hitting with runners in scoring position or in high-leverage situations, so all that production is coming at the best possible times. Let's see how long he can keep this up.
Josh Phegley | 2.97
That's the number of pitches he sees per plate appearance, through 31 trips to the plate. That makes his at-bats the quickest on the team, just beating out Billy Burns. Phegley was always aggressive in the minors, with low rates of strikeouts and walks, and he's become even more so in the bigs. He has only struck out twice so far, and he just drew his first walk on Thursday. He's only hitting .250 and he still doesn't have an extra-base hit, but at least you can rest assured that he will make contact when he comes up. (And because you might now be wondering, the A's are tied for 10th among the 30 teams in most pitches per plate appearance.)
Billy Butler | .125/.176/.167
That's his batting line (AVG/OBP/SLG) in his last dozen games, spanning 51 plate appearances. He's struck out nine times in that span, and he's racked up more GIDPs (3) than doubles, walks or RBI (2 each). The good news is that he's still making contact at his normal rate, but the bad news is that too much of the contact is on the ground. I'm not worried about him long-term, but he's most definitely in a slump. It appears that breakfast hours have ended for the time being, and we'll have to wait until the gravy starts flowing once more. (Note: He's 4-for-12 in his last three games, with a double and only 1 strikeout, so it appears the stove may already have been lit.)
Ike Davis | 118
That's his OPS+ through 105 plate appearances, putting him 18% above league average. I chose this stat because it highlights the whole of Ike's parts. He's only hitting .287, which is good but not great. His plate discipline has been solid, with 10 walks to 14 strikeouts, but he doesn't have an enormous walk rate or a notably minuscule K rate. He just hit his second homer of the year, and the 10-15 range is a realistic goal for him in that department. He's not doing any one thing well enough to jump off the page at you, but he's not doing anything poorly either -- a microcosm of the entire team's strategy, really. When you add it all together, his OPS+ ranks No. 70 out of 189 qualified MLB hitters. I'm never sure what Ike is going to do, but I'm usually pretty confident when he's at the plate.
Brett Lawrie | 11
That's the length of his current hitting streak, which is the longest current streak in baseball. It's also the second-longest streak of the young season so far, behind a pair of players who each had 12-game runs: teammates Josh Reddick and Billy Butler. Lawrie is 16-for-41 during his streak, for a line of .390/.395/.537 with 10 RBI (including a clutch eighth-inning go-ahead hit that eventually won a game). Granted, he's struck out 11 times in those 43 plate appearances with only 1 walk, so he's still beatable, but he's no longer having the embarrassing, flailing, auto-out at-bats he had in early April. He seems to be settling in and making a lot of hard contact, and that's a good first step.
Marcus Semien | 4/21
That's the date of his last fielding error, April 21 (today is May 8). He has a streak of 14 straight starts without an error, spanning 125 innings and 54 chances. Until he got a day off on Thursday, he had played every inning of the team's first 29 games at short. We're still figuring out what his ceiling, floor, and true talent might be on defense, but he's becoming more reliable on routine plays, he's starting to make some occasional impressive plays, and he's getting comfortable working with his teammates (especially double-play partner Eric Sogard). Oh, and he's also one of only two everyday AL shortstops with an OPS+ above 100 (Jose Iglesias 144, Semien 111, Xander Bogaerts 100).
Eric Sogard 16-of-23
That's the number of games he's started in which he's reached base at least once via hit or walk. I have no idea if that's impressive, poor, or totally average, since that's not a metric anyone uses. But there are always complaints that Sogard can't hit, and while that's literally true (66 OPS+) the fact is that he's probably going to reach base in any given game. And hey, once you remove his 0-for-10 against lefties, he has a 90 OPS+ against righties. Factor in his defense and he's still a positive contributor (0.2 bWAR so far).
Max Muncy 37.5%
That's the percentage of pitches he's swung at, according to Baseball Info Solutions. For context, note that it would have been the fifth-lowest swing rate in all of MLB last year (behind Carpenter, Gardner, Werth, A.J. Ellis, Andrus). That's probably not very meaningful in only 14 plate appearances, but if you watch him hit you'll see that the low swing rate is not a fluke. Muncy possess bartonian patience, though the jury is out on whether he'll use his selective eye for good (picking great pitches to hit) or evil (trolling for walks). From what I've seen, it looks like he's putting together great at-bats in which he works the count in his favor, but then when he gets his pitch and offers at it he's not making good contact often enough. But hey, he's 3-for-10 so far, and he notched his first RBI in the bigs with a sac fly on Thursday. Let's see where this goes until Ben Zobrist can return.
Josh Reddick | 11:6
That's his BB:K ratio, which is unbelievable. He decided to simply stop swinging and missing at pitches, which has proven to be a fantastic strategy. Note that it only took him four games to rack up six strikeouts in 2014, whereas he needed 40 games to get to 11 walks (he's played 23 this year). The thing I find most amazing is that he is leading the team in pitches per plate appearance; he's usually an aggressive grip-it-and-rip-it hacker, and long at-bats are not supposed to be his strength. He tried getting patient in 2013 and it didn't work, but he's figured something out so far this year. Reddick is a completely different hitter than before, fundamentally, down to his core. In virtually every at-bat, he takes a pitcher's pitch that he used to wave at in previous years. If he stays healthy, he's gonna have a career year (in everything other than homers).
Coco Crisp | 2
That's the number of thumbs up I give to the decision to demote Craig Gentry and keep Billy Burns upon Coco's return. It's tough to send down an established guy like Gentry, but he clearly needed to go (temporarily). He can benefit from some time in Triple-A to get his swing right, and meanwhile the team still has three other players with similar skills (Coco, Burns, Fuld). There's no reason not to ride out Burns' hot streak, and no reason why he can't go back down in favor of Gentry when the situation dictates.
Mark Canha | 113
That's his OPS+ through 95 plate appearances in the bigs -- not too shabby! The league adjusted to Canha after his initial introduction, but he has adjusted right back. He's still raw, and you can see that in some awkward maneuvers he makes in left field as well as some pitcher's pitches that fool him at the plate, but he's figuring things out quickly. He's beatable, but if you make a mistake you'll regret it. And for all the worry that he might need to hide in a platoon role, note that all four of his homers have come against right-handers. Canha might not quite have an everyday role on this team now that Coco is back, but hopefully he'll be in the lineup more often than not.
Sam Fuld | 2-for-38
That's his offensive performance since April 23. Note that the word "offensive" has a double meaning in that last sentence. On April 22, Fuld was hitting .315 and we were wondering if he might have finally turned a corner and become a competent hitter. Now he's hitting .207 with a 66 OPS+, and he's lost his starting job to a rookie. The good news is that he's still making a ton of contact, and he's had his share of bad luck in the last couple weeks as well. Fuld was never supposed to be an everyday starter, but rather the bench guy who can be a sparkplug now and then when you need one. He filled that role in the opening weeks, and now he's gone dormant again. But don't close the book on him, because nothing has changed and he can step in and have a hot week at a crucial time right when you least expect it.
Billy Burns | 8.6%
That's the percentage of all the pitches he's seen that have resulted in swings and misses, or Swinging Strike Percentage (SwStr%). The league average this year is 9.3%, so Burns is better than average in that regard. Given that his noodle bat is his biggest weakness, it's nice to see that he's at least making contact rather than getting blown away. The plot thickens, though, when you realize that he's swinging at 62.3% of all the pitches he sees. To put that absurd number into context, Pablo Sandoval led MLB last year at 59.5%, while A.J. Pierzynski's 60.7% from the year before is the highest single-season swing rate since 2009. So, Burns is swinging as much as anybody in the last six years, and he's also making contact at an above-average rate. For a guy who has no power and relies entirely on his blazing speed, I really can't think of a better offensive strategy.
Ben Zobrist | 24
That's the number of days until his potential return to the lineup. Jane Lee reports that Zobrist hopes to be back on June 1.
Note: I'll do a key stat for each pitcher this weekend.