The Oakland A's hit what we all hope was rock bottom last week, losing five straight to the Orioles and Red Sox and allowing double-digit runs in each of the final four games. But a trip to sunny Florida seems to have kicked them back into gear -- they took two of three from the Rays, including a dramatic 9th-inning comeback in the finale.
Now the A's return to the Coliseum for a seven-game homestand against the Rangers and Yankees, hoping to build on that successful weekend in Tampa. For whatever momentum might be worth in baseball (my opinion: little to none), it's sure nice to have some of it built up as you prepare to face your division leader. Meanwhile, did you know that the Yankees are actually in last place in the AL East, with a 16-20 record that only betters Oakland's (16-22) by two in the loss column?
While we wait for tonight's game to start, here's one key stat for each infielder. I'm leaving out Jed Lowrie and Mark Canha, who are on the DL, as well as the catchers.
Yonder Alonso | .886
That's his OPS over his last 15 games, consisting of a .327/.386/.500 batting line. This streak dates back to April 29, the day he hit a walk-off homer against the Astros, and it includes seven extra-base hits, five walks, and 10 Ks. Alonso was never supposed to hit like a star, but he was supposed to be average if not slightly better and he is finally on the path toward reaching that level. When we last looked at the infielders 10 days ago, Alonso's OPS+ was at 37. It's now at 71, meaning it's nearly doubled in under two weeks. (Unfortunately, the A's are scheduled to face lefties in four of their next five games, so Alonso might need to put his hot streak on hold and let someone else get a couple starts at 1B.)
Chris Coghlan | -1.25
That's his wCH/C, which reflects his performance against changeups. Specifically, it's the number of runs he's been worth above (or rather, below) average against changes, extrapolated out as a rate per 100 changes. If that seems like a mouthful, then here's the short version: He's been bad against offspeed stuff. This is relevant because, back in March, we published an article titled "Chris Coghlan, murderer of changeups." The idea behind that post was that Coghlan had destroyed that particular pitch in 2015, ranking as one of the five best hitters in MLB against it. Granted, these pitch value stats don't really hold predictive power and are only meant to show what happened in the past, but fans are not in the business of ignoring happy stats. To complete the current picture, he's been even worse against sliders and the only things he's been even slightly positive against have been fastballs and cutters, so who knows if he's having trouble with any specific type of pitch or if he's just struggling in general.
Marcus Semien | 7th
That's been his position in the batting order the last two days, after hitting ninth in 30 of his first 36 games. Semien leads the A's in both home runs and pitches per plate appearance, so slotting him at the bottom of the lineup made little sense -- power and patience are exactly the two things you want higher up in the order, an opinion Joseph DeClercq agrees with. Even if the logic is that he does better in low-pressure situations, which frankly I don't buy and also would see as a fundamental flaw that might border on being a deal-breaker for a pro athlete, then you can still retain that low pressure by hitting him sixth or seventh instead of ninth. So, good on the A's for finally moving him up a couple slots. He's batting seventh again on Monday against the Rangers, though I can't help but wonder if that's only because emergency backups McBride and Ladendorf are the ones hitting below him.
Danny Valencia | 228
That's how many points his slugging percentage increased in just three games against the Rays. That'll happen when you hit five homers in 12 plate appearances this early in the season, when rate stats are their most malleable. Valencia's .589 slugging mark is by far the best on the team now, with Josh Reddick's .451 ranking second and Semien's .450 third. If you do it by isolated slugging (SLG minus batting average) Valencia still ranks first (.247) ahead of Semien (.233) and Khris Davis (.210). The hope was that the third baseman would continue to be a masher in the middle of the order like he was last summer, and suddenly we have our first glimpse of what that could look like if it comes true. Sure is nice to have Danny back.
Tyler Ladendorf | 6
That's the number of plate appearances he's gotten for the A's so far, with four of them ending in strikeouts. It sounds mean to say, but that's good news for the A's because it means they haven't had to rely too hard on their emergency utilityman, which in turn means that their top guys are doing their jobs. Indeed, Semien has played every day at SS and has arguably been the second-best player on the team, Valencia has ranged from decent to great at 3B, and Lowrie was meeting expectations at 2B (decent bat, poor glove) before getting hurt, all while CF was suitably manned by Burns and Coco. But now there is a stretch of southpaws on the schedule, with Lowrie out and the lefty Coghlan hopefully riding the pine due to his platoon disadvantage. This is Ladendorf's chance to make some noise in Oakland. (Note: Ladendorf's Triple-A batting line this year is .239/.261/.328 with 13 Ks in 71 PAs.)
Billy Butler | 0
That's the number of words I feel like writing about him at this point. Why is this player still on the team? As Jeremy Koo pointed out, Butler has one more shot to show us anything this week against a bunch of lefty starters before there is really, truly, no reason in the world to keep him around.
First pitch against Derek Holland and the Rangers is at 7:05 p.m. The right side of the infield will be manned by Butler and Ladendorf, so, we'll see how that goes.
Click here to try out FanDuel daily fantasy baseball! New players win cash in their first league or get their entry fee refunded. Do I need to tell you to start Valencia against the lefty? You should do that. In fact, Holland has a 6.09 ERA, including 16 total runs in his last two starts, so don't be shy about getting a couple more A's in there (like Semien or even Butler).