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Oakland A's lead the AL in these 3 stats

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Khris Davis strains for a glimpse at the runner-up.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s have played 11 games this season, which means they are nearly 7% of the way through the 2017 campaign. We know basically nothing about what will happen this year. But we do have a bunch of stats already, nearly two weeks’ worth, just sitting there laughing at us. Just one or two quick calculations couldn’t hurt, right? Just to tide us over until the sample sizes are bigger?

Besides, this is the perfect moment to take a snapshot in time. You see, three different Oakland A’s lead the league in different stats, and not just weird ones like NRD% or SLARP. These are real stats that you’ve heard of, and an A’s player leads the AL.

Khris Davis | 5 homers

Last year, Khrush hit 42 homers, which tied him for third place in both the AL and MLB overall. He’s off to an even better start this year, as he’s tied with George Springer and Salvador Perez for the AL lead in the early going. (Yoenis Cespedes has the MLB lead with six, because we aren’t allowed to have a fully happy article.)

Not only is Khris looking good compared with the rest of the league, he’s also destroying his own standard from last season. In 2016, he didn’t hit his fifth homer until May 2, his 27th game of the campaign. He reached that point this year on April 15, his 11th contest. That doesn’t mean he’ll keep up his pace for six months, but I mean, if you were going to create a 50-homer hitter then one good way would be to take a 42-homer guy and get him started a month earlier.

Perhaps just as important is the thing Khris is not leading the league in anymore: swings and misses. His rate of swinging strikes was tops in the sport last year at 16.6%, but for now it’s down to 11.3% — more in line with what you’d expect from a slugger, and not even high enough to register on the first two pages of the leaderboard (68th overall). He’s achieving this favorable result by chasing out of the zone less often, which in turn means he’s swinging less often overall and saving those rips for more hittable pitches.

Marcus Semien | 10 walks

Something else happened on May 2, 2016, in addition to Khrush driving his fifth homer. Marcus Semien also drew his 10th walk of the season in that game. And then last night, on April 14, 2017, he drew his 10th walk of this season. It took him 27 games last year, and only 11 this year.

Semien shares his AL lead with some big names: Lorenzo Cain, Matt Holliday, and Miguel Sano. In the NL, Bryce Harper also has 10, but the MLB lead is held by ... Ryan Schimpf of the Padres, with 11? Welp, there’s your reminder that none of these stats mean anything yet.

And indeed, we need to wait before we take Semien’s newfound patience too seriously. This is the same guy who posted a .305 OBP in over 1,200 plate appearances the last two years, and who’s gone from walking 7.8% of the time (career) to 21.7% (this year), so it’ll take more than two weeks to move the needle on that baseline.

What’s more, I can’t find a good reason why he’s walking more — he’s not swinging that much less, and in fact he’s chasing out of the zone more and has slightly increased his swinging strikes. The main difference so far is that pitchers just aren’t giving him as many strikes as they used to. I doubt that’s sustainable, so we’ll have to see how he adjusts when his opponents start finding the zone more often. (That said, could moving to the leadoff spot have helped a little bit?)

Andrew Triggs | 0.00 ERA

Sports are funny. We spend all winter wondering if Triggs has what it takes to start, and then he turns out to be so good that he doesn’t allow an earned run in his first two games. Obviously the zeroes won’t last because everyone gives up runs eventually, but what more could you ask for from your veteran bullpen-convert experiment?

Obviously Triggs leads both AL and MLB overall, since you literally can’t be lower than 0.00. Only one other starter has him matched so far, and that’s James Paxton of the Mariners. Paxton has the edge, too — he’s recorded a few extra outs, he’s got much better peripherals than Triggs (including a strikeout per inning), and Triggs does have an unearned run on his ledger thanks to the A’s awful defense.

But on the flip side, Triggs has managed zeroes despite playing in front of the worst fielders in the sport and striking out basically no one, and that’s truly an incredible feat. Unsustainable, but incredible. He could fall a long way down from his current height and still be a totally decent starting pitcher.

* * *

Here are three more bonus stats, on the more advanced side of the aisle. The A’s almost have the leaders in these, but not quite.

  • Kendall Graveman: 1.0 bWAR (2nd among AL/MLB pitchers) ... OK, this is partly because he’s made three starts in a world where most guys have only made two. Case in point, he’s behind Dallas Keuchel, who also just made his third start. But Graveman also has a low ERA, which is mostly what bWAR is looking at, so he had to pitch well in addition to frequently. Do note, though, that process-based fWAR is less impressed, rating him at replacement level (0.0) so far due to his low strikeout rate and high HR rate. At this point in the year, fWAR is more meaningful, but it’s also being a jerk right now to poor Kendall so let’s move on. (Bonus: Triggs is tied for 7th in MLB, at 0.8 bWAR.)
  • Sean Manaea: 64.3 GB% (3rd in AL) ... Manaea was not a ground ball pitcher last year, so I assume this is partly a fluke. After all, he’s only faced 49 batters, and he’s struck out 14 of them along with four walks. There simply haven’t been many batted balls at all. But to me, this stat screams that I can completely ignore his 7.15 ERA — nearly every batter is either striking out or hitting a grounder, and the one homer he’s allowed was a three-run shot to a guy with elite power (Joey Gallo), so he’s probably pitching better than the traditional numbers suggest. (Note: Manaea is behind Keuchel and Lance McCullers in GB%, as well as Clayton Richard in the NL.)
  • Sean Doolittle: -1.19 FIP (2nd in AL) ... That’s a negative number, which makes no logical sense because FIP is meant to be read like an ERA. But that’s what can happen in the small sample of 2⅔ innings, as Doolittle as broken the scale so far by striking out 7-of-11 batters faced. (The other results: 2 singles, 1 BB, 1 popout.) The moral of this short story is that Doo is not only back but possibly even better than before — he still has his velocity, he’s regained his command, and he might even have finally added an effective breaking ball. (For FIP, Doo is behind only Cody Allen in the AL, and Trevor Rosenthal in the NL.)