Times are tough for the Oakland A's. The starting rotation is falling apart with each passing day, the bullpen is already tired in early May, and two starting infielders left Monday's game with injuries. So, let's talk about the outfield instead.
Except for Mark Canha, because he just went on the disabled list as well. I told you times were tough. Therefore, our outfielders for today's post will include Josh Reddick, Billy Burns, Coco Crisp, and Khris Davis.
Josh Reddick, RF | 8
That's the number of consecutive at-bats in which he recorded a hit last weekend, which tied an A's franchise record. The entire streak came in the three-game series against the Orioles, which included a doubleheader Saturday and a finale on Sunday. It began when Reddick singled in his final at-bat of the opening game, and in the nightcap of the doubleheader he went 4-for-4, all singles. On Sunday he racked up three more singles and a walk in four trips to the plate, bringing his total to eight straight hits (the walk doesn't count as an at-bat). Heck, even when he broke the streak in his first at-bat against the Red Sox on Monday, he still drove in a run with a productive groundout.
Amazingly, that streak sells short all that Reddick accomplished last weekend. He also picked up a pair of hits earlier in Saturday's opener, followed by a groundout and then the hit that started his historic run. His seven total hits on Saturday were an Oakland record for a single day, and his overall 10-for-12 weekend made him the third player in Oakland history with 10 hits in a three-game series (h/t A's info manager Mike Selleck for both of those facts). He's now riding a five-game hitting streak in which he's 13-for-21 with just one strikeout. What I'm trying to say is that Reddick is so hot right now.
Billy Burns, CF | 8-for-10
That's 8 stolen bases in 10 attempts, which ties him for fifth in MLB with our old friend Rajai Davis. But how about some context? Burns has played 27 games this year, and in his 27th game last year he stole his eighth and ninth bases, in a similar number of PAs and with a similar total of hits/walks/HBP. Most of us thought he didn't run enough last year, so is that the case again?
For this, I turn to SBO, or Stolen Base Opportunities (available at Baseball-Reference). Not every plate appearance ends with the hitter on base, and not every time on base can lead to a steal -- for example, if you draw a walk to load the bases then you are blocked from running anywhere. SBO counts up the number of plate appearances during which the runner was on first or second with the next base open, and if we divide steal attempts (SB + CS) by that number we can see how often a runner truly goes. Burns has run in 24.4% of his SBOs, up from 14.8% last year. Of the 28 players with at least five steals this year, the only ones with a higher rate are:
- Danny Santana (56.3%)
- Billy Hamilton (42.9%)
- Rajai Davis (42.3%)
- Jarrod Dyson (31.6%)
- Jacoby Ellsbury (30.0%)
- Jonathan Villar (26.7%)
- Jose Altuve (25.9%)
- ... and only four more at 20% or higher, meaning 16 are below that mark.
Santana surely won't maintain that pace, and anyway it's not working for him as he's been thrown out nearly as much as he's succeeded. But Hamilton really does run that much, and Rajai has sometimes done this in the past as well. Burns doesn't always show the best instincts or Baseball IQ, so maybe it's too much to ask him to keep up with some of these professional thieves, but with his speed he should really be able to crack 30% on this metric without hurting his effectiveness. In the meantime, though, at least it's nice to see him running more than he did last season.
Coco Crisp, LF/CF | 7
That's the number of games he's started in center field this year. It hasn't always been pretty -- he doesn't make incredible diving catches anymore, he hasn't climbed any walls to bring back a homer, and the advanced metrics are already furiously preparing their cases against him. But he can hold his own out there on a backup basis, and that's all the A's need with Burns manning the mostly everyday role. Coco is doing plenty at the plate and actually ranks as one of the team's top hitters, between his 117 OPS+, three homers (.188 isolated slugging), four steals, and nearly a walk for every strikeout (11 BB, 12 Ks). He makes sense in the lineup as the LF or even as a DH, so the fact that he's still capable of occasionally filling in at CF means that the A's don't need to spend another roster spot carrying an extra utility outfielder to back up Burns.
The lesson I have learned over the last several years is to never, ever count out Coco Crisp until the day he retires. And then maybe not for another week or so after that, just to be safe.
Khris Davis, LF | 20.4%
That's his MLB-leading swinging strike rate, or the percentage of pitches he sees that result in him swinging and missing. Leading the league's 194 qualified hitters in this metric is a bad thing. But there is good news! Davis has begun to make more contact and his lead in this category is shrinking, with Eddie Rosario (Twins) and Carlos Gomez (Astros) hot on his heels. Furthermore, although he's always whiffed a lot with his all-or-nothing swing, this is still significantly above his career-high from last year (15.4%), so there is every reason to hope for further regression toward normalcy. And finally, when he does make contact he's khrushing it, as he makes hard contact 40.7% of the time (tied for 21st in MLB).
One potential problem? He's swinging far more than ever, as his swing rate of 55.4% is top-10 in baseball (up from a career-high of 50.3%, which would barely rank top-40 right now). Perhaps a bit more selectivity would help him increase his 2.5% walk rate and his .254 OBP.
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