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Musing As Itchers and Scratchers Report

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers
The ball is the wild card and it’s in our grasp.
Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

This past off-season has been so instructive in so many ways. I have learned that if someone shows up at my front door with food and I don’t remember ordering any food, I probably did order the food. And I have learned that when nobody is willing to pay mediocre workers millions of dollars a year for many, many years, that’s called “collusion”.

Spring training brings with it more questions than answers. If the “free agent” minor league camp played exhibition games against the actual teams, could it win the championship? Or would the team just have too many players? (“Players” is a crude term more technically known as “Scott Boras clients”.) If a preposition dangles in the forest and no one is there to correct it, who does it make a sound at?

Anyhoo...Pitchers and catchers have reported (or in the case of the free agent camp, bitchers and kvetchers), and Opening Day is a mere 40 days away. One of the reasons I’ve been anxious for the A’s to use remaining payroll flexibility to add a veteran RH batting catcher and shore up the rotation with a SP is that I think the lineup is poised to surprise people with its capabilities.

Oakland has recently fallen into an OBP abyss, barely exceeding the dreaded .300 mark, but in 2018 the A’s will feature lineups able to provide potentially strong OBP and SLG up and down the lineup. Here’s a snapshot, cherry-picking the type of stat because cherries are quite delicious:

vs. RHPs

Joyce - LF (career .352 OBP vs. RHP)
Lowrie - 2B (.363 OBP vs. RHP in 2017)
K. Davis - DH (career .511 SLG, virtually no platoon splits)
Olson - 1B (career .367 OBP so far against RHPs)
Chapman - 3B (career .472 SLG so far)
Fowler - CF (.450 career SLG in the minors)
Piscotty - RF (.346 career OBP so far)
Semien - SS (9.8% BB rate in 2017)
Maxwell - C (currently not in jail)

vs. LHPs

Piscotty - RF (.287/.390/.493 career so far against LHPs)
Lowrie - 2B (career .346 OBP against LHPs)
Chapman - 3B (career .472 SLG so far)
K. Davis - DH (career .511 SLG, virtually no platoon splits)
Pinder - LF (career .257/.323/.434 so far against LHPs, solid 8.7% BB rate)
Semien - SS (career .275/.323/.468 so far against LHPs)
Olson - 1B (has at least maintained a promising 8.9% BB rate against LHPs so far)
Phegley - C (seems like a nice guy)
Fowler - CF (hit .286/.350/.549 vs. LHPs in AAA in 2017, .305/.340/.580 in AA in 2016)

* This does not even include Smolinski, who is .299/.371/.507 career against LHPs.

I really do think this team will score its fair share of runs in 2018 — and really all they need to do is to pick up where they left off the second half of 2017, when they were among the elite in the AL. Defensively, it looks to be around average in most places and elite on the infield corners.

All of which is to say, add a solid SP for depth, and a RH catcher to take pressure off of Maxwell on the depth chart, to this currently <$60M crew and I don’t see why the wild card is out of reach even in this transitional year. Amirite?