The Oakland A’s lineup is hot in the second half of the season so far. No, seriously. Through the first couple weeks, their 107 wRC+ ranks fifth in baseball (Angels, Astros, Red Sox, Reds), not to mention standing as a huge improvement over their mark of 89 from the first half.
In particular, the outfield has been khrushing the ball. Their four outfielders (Khris Davis, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, and Jake Smolinski) have combined to put up the best Isolated Slugging mark of any outfield in the second half, with a mark of .300 (the runner-up is close but third place is .238). They’ve also launched a league-leading 12 homers -- six for Davis, and two each for the others — while racking up the second-lowest strikeout rate (13.9%).
Let’s have a closer look at one key stat for each of these guys. They’re listed in order of their full-season wRC+ marks.
Jake Smolinski | 1.161
That’s his OPS against left-handed pitchers this year. He’s 20-for-56 with 5 HR, 6 BB, and 4 Ks. He’s been sub-par against righties and has broken platoon lines to face them even more than lefties, but he still has a 132 wRC+ overall in 137 PAs. He’ll be best as a platoon guy, but he can play every day in spurts when needed and he’s skyrocketed his defensive value by showing some competency in CF.
Josh Reddick | 0.85
That’s his walk-to-strikeout ratio, with 28 BB and 33 Ks. That ranks 10th-best in baseball (min. 250 PAs), behind mostly superstars. Reddick’s 10.8% walk rate is enough to make him a strength in the OBP department, while his modest 12.7% strikeout rate means most of his at-bats end in contact. It’s no surprise, then, that he’s been able to maintain a .300 average, helping him to a 121 wRC+ even though he doesn’t hit for that much power anymore. Reddick took a minute to get going after returning from his fractured thumb, but since the All-Star break he’s got a .925 OPS and a couple homers in a dozen games. Oh, and this vintage catch:
Khris Davis | 4th
That’s his AL rank in home runs, entering Friday. His total of 25 trails only Mark Trumbo (30), Todd Frazier (29), and Edwin Encarnacion (27). He’s tied with David Ortiz, Nelson Cruz, and Josh Donaldson. Most of those guys are superstar sluggers, and there is our very own Khrush right there in the middle of them. Most importantly, Khris Davis has three more homers than Chris Davis (22). One thing that has helped has been his most recent power binge, with six homers since the break (trails only Matt Kemp and Jay Bruce with seven). He’s also whiffing way less lately — his 12.6% swinging strike rate since the break is still a high number for a normal hitter, but it’s way down from his season average of 18.2%, and that’s helped him strike out far less (and therefore make contact more often).
Coco Crisp | 49, or 208
That’s how many games (49) or plate appearances (208) it will take for Coco’s $13 million contract option to automatically vest for 2017. (At his current rate, 49 games is virtually identical to 208 PAs.) The A’s have 60 games left. Will he reach one of his thresholds? The games played seems more likely, since more outfield options have emerged to share the starting duties (and the bulk of the PAs) but Coco is still an attractive late-inning option when savvy and IQ are sometimes just as important as pure physical ability.
Coco is nearing the end but there’s still some fight left in there. He keeps responding to every slump with a mini hot streak that returns his numbers to around league average (now 95 wRC+) and keys an A’s victory or two along the way. I’m happy he’s still on this team, but if he’s here in 2017 then I hope it’s because the A’s bought out his unvested option and re-signed him cheaper. There are realities to trying to build a winning roster on a minimal budget and one of them is that you can’t keep spending that kind of dough on a former star who is now replacement-level in a good week.