Lucky Number 7 - Hitting 7th for the 2022 A's

The 2022 Oakland A’s were very poor, to say the least, particularly the offense. The offense were last in Hits, Batting Average, OBP, Slugging, OPS+, and so on and so on and so on. The A's did lead the league with the fewest runners left on base, but only because very few hitters actually made it that far.

In order to find some positives amongst the slash lines, I was browsing through Baseball Reference’s Batting Splits. In a year when most of the line-up did absolutely no hitting, hitters in the 7th position of the line-up were doing peculiarly well. Weirdly, the Oakland 7 hitters were slashing .247/.307/.395 compared to the league average 7 spot slash line of .234/.299/.372. This was the only line-up spot that was putting up above-league-average OPS numbers, with only 9 teams getting better OPS production out of the 7 spot (109 sOPS+). Moreover, Oakland 7 hitters ranked first in the league in tOPS+, putting up 123 tOPS+ which indicates that Oakland hitters batting 7th were performing much better than they usually would when batting in this spot. So, I looked at who these miracle workers might be, and found that 26 different players hit 7th for A’s in 2022 (excluding pinch-hitters).

The 5 who appeared the most were:

  • Elvis Andrus – 21 GS (Games Started)
  • Sheldon Neuse – 16 GS
  • Jonah Bride – 13 GS
  • Shea Langeliers – 10 GS
  • Kevin Smith – 10 GS

Okay, so maybe not miracle workers seeing as they slashed a combined .216/.278/.331 across the season. Neuse and Smith were both woeful batting at 7 despite making up 16% of the appearances that made up the Athletics' above-league average production, with Neuse putting up a .160 average and 13 sOPS+, and Smith hitting only marginally better .171 and 64 sOPS+. Elvis Andrus appeared most frequently for the A’s at the 7 spot and his slash line (.247/.304/.397) almost perfectly matches the overall A’s 7 spot slash line of .247/.307/.395, and hence so does his 109 sOPS+. However, as he only put up 96 tOPS+ he wasn’t really batting out of his skin in this position and was likely not greatly contributing to the 23% average additional OPS production that the 7 spot was extracting out of A’s hitters. Therefore, it is pretty clear that this above-average production from the spot likely stems from the multiple different hitters they used batting 7th. Additionally, due to the variation is also most likely that the A’s 7th spot doesn’t have anything special about it, it was simply swayed by multiple small sample sizes. Despite this, it’s fun to look at some of the insane stat lines put up by 2022 A’s batting 7th:

(Even though we are just looking at fun outliers, I’ve only included the garish stats of hitters who got at least 25 PAs at the position)

In 13 Games and 33 plate appearances, Stephen Vogt hit 4 home runs, with a 1.042 OPS which was 104% better than the league average at the position and 163% better than his season OPS. The A’s should be coaxing him out of retirement to bat 7th!

Vimael Machin slashed .360/.429/.480 in 28 PAs, looking like prime Ichiro.

With more extra-base hits than singles, Shea Langeliers slashed .297/.333/.595, 71% better than league average for the 7 spot (Although not as impressive as the 228 sOPS+ he put up batting 6th).

Despite all this fun likely being down to luck and not some new sabermetric technique, a line-up of just last year’s 7th hitters would be pretty formidable. Seeing as 16 different hitters put up better-than-average OPS batting 7th last year, maybe the best way to unlock the 2023 A’s offense is to tell them they are batting 7th. The A’s are always looking to make marginal gains after all. However, the most important conclusion, is that Chevron should stop sponsoring the 4 spot on the radio coverage and switch to the 7 spot for 2023, because clearly, that’s where the excitement happens.