The Oakland A's activated Danny Valencia from the disabled list on Friday, which means they now have all of their infielders available once again. With the band back together, let's take a look at the members and pick out a key stat for each one through the first month of the season.
Of course, in Oakland your defensive position is more of a guideline than an actual rule, and it's tough to say who exactly constitutes the infield. I am therefore going to gerrymander the cutoff so that we get about half the position players in here. That means no catchers (Vogt and Phegs are out), but Butler is in. I'm including Coghlan, who has played 87% of his defensive innings at 2B/3B, but not Canha, who has played just 62% of the time in the infield and feels to me further up the depth chart in the outfield. Don't look for logic in that distinction; I just want to keep this relatively brief.
Here we go!
Yonder Alonso, 1B | 37
That's his OPS+, which is the worst on the team. In an odd coincidence, his platoon partner, Canha, has an identical mark of 37, so at least the A's first basemen are consistent. The good news is that Alonso is slooooowly heating up, between his walk-off homer last Friday and an .807 OPS over his last six games. But for a team that needs a boost on offense, the A's could sure use some more production from first base. On the bright side, I'm still in love with Alonso's defense, which truly is game-changing as much as 1B defense can be -- Susan Slusser notes that Alonso has racked up 240 chances without an error this year, tops in the AL.
Jed Lowrie, 2B | 15
That's 15 RBI, good for the team lead. I repeat: It's May 6, and Jed Lowrie leads the team in RBI. There are several reasons for that. The A's are 24th in MLB in scoring, so no one in Oakland has a lot of ribbies. The power has still been ill-timed, as 23 of the team's 31 homers have been solo shots. And finally, Lowrie has been ridiculous with runners in scoring position, going 12-for-23 with two sac flies, four walks and only four strikeouts (his average is .313 for the season overall). All of his ribs have come on singles or sac flies, as opposed to extra-base hits. The dude is just clutching it up whenever he gets the chance with RISP, which is really helping to make up for all the other things he's not doing well (basically everything). Step aside Emil Brown, we have a new RBI Machine!
Chris Coghlan, 2B | 26.1%
That's his strikeout rate, calculated as strikeouts per plate appearance. It's the highest on the team among qualified hitters, even edging out Khris Davis. If you're wondering why Coghlan is only hitting .155 despite showing good power and being hidden against lefty pitchers, this is the reason. In his resurgence with the Cubs the last two years he sat just under 19% strikeouts, and in particular his rate of swinging strikes has skyrocketed to a career-high. He's chasing out of the zone more, and he's swinging at strikes less often than normal. Even his walk rate is down. I don't know what needs to change, but one way or other he'll have to start swinging at better pitches and making more contact if he wants to climb out of this slump. He's a cerebral hitter and I have no doubt he'll figure it out.
Marcus Semien, SS | 4.34
That's his number of pitches per plate appearance (P/PA). It's tops on the A's, and ranks 14th in MLB among qualified hitters. This stat doesn't necessarily mean anything on its own, as a longer at-bat doesn't always have a better outcome, but it gives an idea of a hitter's approach. I always think of Semien as a free-swinger, but that simply isn't the case and I don't know if it ever was. His 10 walks lead the team, and his frequency of chasing out of the zone (and of swinging at all) is toward the bottom of the club rankings. He does still swing and miss a lot and his strikeout rate is fairly high, which is probably where I got the perception of him as a hacker, but in reality he works long, selective at-bats en route to those team-leading seven dingers. Once that .197 BABIP comes up a bit, which it will, the breakout season that he's already having will become more apparent to the naked eye.
Danny Valencia, 3B | 7
That's how many plate appearances it took Valencia to homer after arriving in Oakland last year. It's also how many PAs he got in his rehab stint with the High-A Stockton Ports this week, where he homered once. However, he's still dinger-free in 55 PA's in the bigs this year. That's not enough at-bats to freak out about, but like with Alonso it just shows what needs to happen for this group of A's to get out of their offensive doldrums. It's May now and the guy who began the year as the cleanup hitter needs to go yard at least once at some point.
Billy Butler, DH | 38
That's the number of plate appearances he's gotten this season. For context, Josh Reddick leads the team with 115. It would have been really cool if Butler had bounced back this year, and maybe the flame isn't fully extinguished on that pipe dream, but in the meantime I applaud Bob Melvin for giving that playing time to ... really anyone else instead. The next step is to just admit the mistake, accept the sunk cost and cut Butler to open up a roster spot for someone who can provide value to the club. Due diligence has been done and it's time to move on. Max Muncy and Renato Nunez are both ready for looks in Oakland.
Best of luck to Tyler Ladendorf back in Triple-A Nashville! Stay healthy, and I'm sure we'll be seeing you again soon. His stats in his first MLB stint this year: 0-for-2, 1 steal, 1 run, 1 strikeout.
Click here to try out FanDuel daily fantasy baseball! New players win cash in their first league or get their entry fee refunded. The A's are facing Ubaldo Jimenez on Friday, so they will score somewhere between zero and 10 runs depending on how the inconsistent righty is feeling tonight. If there was ever a time to start Butler as a low-cost, against-the-grain sleeper pick, it would be this game, as he's 10-for-29 career with a homer and six walks against Ubaldo.