Now that all the dust has settled and the trading deadline has passed we can get back to focusing our complete attention to what is happening on the field. Unfortunately for the A’s, the last two games of the current three-game losing streak have been particularly frustrating. After failing to take advantage of four Toronto errors in a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday, the A’s came back out last night and laid an egg against the Texas Rangers in a 8-3 defeat.
Continuing some of the themes of the season we’ve become all too familiar with, the team struggled with RISP (going 1-for-7) and Tommy Milone had another rough outing, giving up six earned runs in 3.2 innings. Surprisingly, Milone’s up-and-down ways earned him a demotion to Sacramento, with Evan Scribner getting the call to take his place.
Seeing as how the A’s have done plenty of shuffling with starting pitchers and have gone with a four-man rotation at times, this move certainly isn’t anything out of the norm, but I had gotten pretty accustomed to sending Dan Straily up north. Milone has stuck with the big club since his A’s debut last year, but he’s having a considerably tougher go this season than last. He’s shown flashes of his talent, so he should be able to straighten some things out before we see him back in Oakland sooner rather than later.
Seeing as how the A’s are currently on a three-game skid during this crucial point in the season, I thought it would be proper for me to delve into three ideas the A’s should explore during the last two months of the season.
- Outright release Chris Young – Somehow, someway, there’s a contingent of A’s fans who truly believe Young is only scuffling because he spent his career as a starter and is now the fourth outfielder, preventing him from getting into a rhythm. However, no matter how you slice it, CY has just been plain bad this season. His supporters point to the fact he’s a former All-Star, but that feat loses some of its luster when you remember each team needs at least one representative each year and the Diamondbacks weren’t very good in 2010. In 240 at-bats Young has produced an anemic .192/.270/.379 slash line. Those kind of numbers are only acceptable from elite defensive shortstops who can put up 3+ dWAR with their glove. For an outfielder making $8.5 million (whose defense has also declined sharply) those numbers are a complete and utter embarrassment. Jason Giambi got the axe back in 2009, and he was making less than half the money ($4 million) and wasn’t as shitty. At this point, I’d rather call up Michael Choice, or even Michael Taylor (yeah, it’s that bad) because they simply can’t be worse than Young. It’s time for Billy Beane to cut his losses and move on.
- Play more small ball – Anybody who has watched or listened to the A’s over the past six or seven years is all too familiar with hearing Ken Korach or Glen Kuiper send us into a commercial break by declaring, “The A’s threaten but fail to score.” Right now the team ranks just below league average in sacrifice flies (30) and slightly above league average in batting average with RISP (.257), but they’re dead last in sacrifice hits with just 10. They’re also tied for last in productive out percentage at 0.247%. While I know Billy isn’t a fan giving outs away, there comes a point where the tactic of sacrificing does more good than harm. Batters must start getting runners to move up more. Furthermore, the A’s are running less this season, having swiped just 55 bags so far after four straight seasons with at least 117 thefts. While the offense hasn’t been horrible, eventually the A’s need to force the issue a bit and pressure defenses into making plays, especially sine they’re hitting .243 as a team.
- Insert Brett Anderson into the rotation when healthy – Although Brett is perpetually locked in competition with Darren McFadden for the Oakland title of “Mr. Glass” there’s no denying his talent when he actually manages to get on the field. There’s been speculation that he’ll be shifted to the bullpen when he returns, partly fueled by the struggles of Jerry Blevins this season. Blevins has looked better in his recent appearances and with Sean Doolittle in the bullpen the A’s aren’t pressed for left-handed relievers. With the constant ups-and-downs the rotation has been having this season, the A’s would likely benefit more from having Brett return as a starter.
Even with the recent struggles, the A’s are still 17 games above .500 and 2.5 games ahead of Texas in the division. But complacency doesn’t win championships, especially with a pesky Rangers team nipping at the heels. If the A’s expect to make some noise in October, they need to start doing some things differently.