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Stephen Piscotty: Oakland’s Unlikely “Mid-Season” Acquisition

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians
Stephen Piscotty has homered in four-straight games, including this game-winner in Cleveland.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In case you somehow missed it, on Monday night the Oakland A’s played their most impressive overall game. Sean Manaea’s no-hitter is undoubtedly the most impressive single performance of the year. However the combination of stellar starting pitching, timely defense, clutch hitting, and a shutdown bullpen in the series-opening 2-0 win over the defending world champs have put the A’s on the league’s radar - and it’s about time.

The common theme among those who have taken note of the team’s current hot streak is that it dates back to sometime in June, although we know it goes back even further. Still, there is no arguing against the fact that the A’s have been among MLB’s elite teams since the middle of June. Perhaps one of the largest factors has been the play of outfielder Stephen Piscotty.

Many of us had mixed feelings about the acquisition of Piscotty, mostly centered around the cost of his services - two quality minor league infielders Max Schrock and Yairo Munoz as well as the risky guaranteed contract tied to Piscotty. Since the trade Munoz has spent considerable amount of time in the big leagues with St. Louis, although with mixed results, and Schrock has been enduring the worst season of his career.

Piscotty, on the other hand, has played like a star for whom teams typically need to pay a premium. However, since he was dealt following a disastrous career-worst season Piscotty was had for pennies compared to other similar hitters.

Take Marcell Ozuna, for example. Ozuna was acquired for a much more expensive package, including two players who were top-100 prospects entering 2018 (Magneuris Sierra #56 by Baseball Prospectus and Sandy Alcantara #70 by Baseball Prospectus and baseball America).

Ozuna is a fine player, and someone I’ve coveted for a couple of seasons. He’s a quality defender, even in center, and has a middle-of-the-order bat. Marcell Ozuna has been only as good as Piscotty this season.

Piscotty vs. Ozuna: 2018 Season

Name PA BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Name PA BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Marcell Ozuna 362 5.8 % 19.6 % 0.122 0.318 0.274 0.316 0.396 0.310 94 0.8
Stephen Piscotty 323 7.1 % 19.8 % 0.188 0.291 0.257 0.319 0.445 0.329 111 0.7
Fangraphs.com

Ozuna has the advantage on defense and has been a better base runner so far, but Piscotty has the edge offensively. And since June 1st Piscotty has been the superior hitter by far.

Piscotty vs. Ozuna: Since June

Name PA BB% K% BB/K OPS ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% BB/K OPS ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+
Marcell Ozuna 150 4.70% 19.30% 0.2 0.805 0.186 0.321 0.344 117
Stephen Piscotty 134 8.20% 18.70% 0.4 0.949 0.283 0.318 0.401 160
Fangraphs.com

After the first month or so of 2018 the Piscotty deal looked like another botched trade by Billy Beane and co. Even if you weren’t so quick to write-of Piscotty’ dismal 2018 campaign you likely were skeptical of the value he’d bring moving forward. His batted-ball results all suggested he should have been having a fine season, but the on-field performance just wasn’t there. Then the calendar turned to May and heartbreak set in with the loss of his mother. I can’t begin to analyze what was happening with Piscotty then. Like a page turning, however, in eucatastrophic form Piscotty has turned into the hitter the A’s hoped they had taken a chance on.

Like the Diamondbacks acquiring JD Martinez at the deadline last season or Carlos Beltran to the Rangers and Jay Bruce to the Mets in 2016 the A’s have experienced a mid-season boost of offense, only for them it’s from a familiar face.

Piscotty’s 2018 by Month

Month BB% K% BB/K AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BABIP wRC wRAA wOBA wRC+
Month BB% K% BB/K AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BABIP wRC wRAA wOBA wRC+
Mar/Apr 7.3 % 18.2 % 0.4 0.278 0.345 0.381 0.727 0.103 0.333 13 0.5 0.32 104
May 5.1 % 24.1 % 0.21 0.16 0.203 0.307 0.509 0.147 0.185 3 -5.9 0.221 36
Jun 9.8 % 17.6 % 0.56 0.303 0.382 0.517 0.899 0.213 0.338 18 5.9 0.385 150
Jul 3.1 % 21.9 % 0.14 0.29 0.313 0.774 1.087 0.484 0.25 7 3.5 0.449 193
Fangraphs.com

The A’s already had a potent offense, but inserting the Piscotty of 2015-2016 into the lineup adds an element of depth the team has lacked for a few seasons. His ability to hit for a high average and drive the ball to all fields with power is just another in the long line of Oakland’s offensive threats. Not only that, but we’ve seen Piscotty make quite a few highlight reel plays in right field, suggesting he’s closer to the fielder who totaled 12 DRS from 2015-2017 than the one who’s been good for -12 so far this year.

We can’t wipe away Piscotty’s poor performance from the early part of the season, but with his summer surge he’s become a whole new ballplayer and someone the A’s can count on to produce. He has had so many key hits recently, such as his home run off Padres closer brad Hand back on June 19th and the tie-breaking dingers he blasted in each of the past two games in Houston.

Much like a deadline deal, the Piscotty trade has yielded fruit in the middle of the season which hopefully will lead to meaningful A’s baseball this fall.