The Oakland Athletics can attribute a poor 2015 season to many factors. Among the things that the ownership looked to improve upon during the offseason was the MLB’s No. 14 scoring offense.
Despite being forced to feature youngsters in pivotal positions of the lineup, Oakland’s offense ranked in the middle of the pack. With the growth of those youngsters, along with the return of infielder Jed Lowrie and acquisition of first baseman Yonder Alonso, that offense is sure to be much improved.
Last year’s A’s scored 694 runs with a team batting average of .251 (No. 18 in MLB). A major league worst 19-35 record in one-run games is proof that the offense was just a swing or two per game from completely altering the season’s outcome. The additions and growth could prove to be just the remedy.
At A’s FanFest on Jan. 24, manager Bob Melvin spoke about the roster with which he will head to camp:
“I like it. Offensively we’re going to have some great cards, with the emergence of Danny Valencia last year. You look at what Billy Butler did, and Mark Canha, (Josh Reddick) doing his thing and (Stephen Vogt). You look up and down our lineup… I think we’ll have a good offensive lineup.”
Though it was the last name out of the mouth of the skipper, the offense in 2016 will likely be predicated, as it was in 2015, on the success of the all-star catcher Vogt. The longtime minor leaguer became an all-star after posting a .287/.374/.498 slash with 14 homeruns and 56 RBIs in the first half.
He was a different hitter in the second half, though, as is the case with most who wear the tools of ignorance on a daily basis seeing drop offs in all measurables including a .217 batting average post-All-Star game.
Avoiding a repeat of that drop-off was on his mind during his offseason workouts, as he told SFBay:
“I’ve been working on being healthy. It’s the first winter I’ve had where I haven’t been injured in a couple years. … With the injury last winter, I missed out on a winter of strengthening and working out, so really just focusing on being ready to go and trying to stay healthy.”
Even with his second half struggles with health and, in turn, production Vogt proved to be an intricate working in the offensive machine of the A’s. The backstop belted a healthy .339 in Oakland wins (.203 in losses).
While he will certainly oblige in providing the wood work once again for his squad, his lineup mates will need to provide more assistance to the 31 year-old in 2016. That is precisely what he is expecting after one key addition in particular:
“I think bringing Jed back was a big move for us, that’s a stable bat that can hit in the top of the order, the middle of the order, anywhere really. He’s just a consistent hitter.”
Lowrie, who had a down year as a Houston Astro in 2015, produced a .271/.334/.405 slash with a combined 21 homeruns and 125 RBIs in the 2013-14 seasons as an Athletic. The switch-hitting utility infielder, if he is able to recapture his Oakland success, would provide a significant upgrade in reliability over Brett Lawrie (now with the Chicago White Sox), whom he is replacing.
While Lowrie will provide dependable on-base ability, Vogt and the offense will have to look in other spots of the lineup for speed and power.
Among the potential providers is fleet-of-foot Billy Burns, slugging Mark Canha offensive minded shortstop Marcus Semien, all youngsters looking to return better from productive years.
The A’s ownership, however, did not stand pat with the existing roster. With one key addition, Melvin was provided a proven extra-base threat in the form of former Padres first baseman Alonso.
About the trade that brought Alonso north from San Diego, Burns told SFBay:
“We played against him last year, and I’m excited to have him on our team and swinging for us.”
Closer Sean Doolittle added:
“He has a proven bat. He’s just a professional hitter. Maybe he kind of has flown under the radar so far because he’s a first baseman but doesn’t have prolific power numbers, but if you look at his on-base percentage and hi slugging percentage he’s doing damage… He puts together quality at-bats.”
While the power may increase for the 28 year-old playing away from the spacious Petco Park, it is his extra base affinity that will land him a spot in the middle of the order. Averaging 30 doubles per every 162 games adds legitimacy to his mere 10 homer average, and leads to his .273/.340/.392 career slash.
An offseason of strengthening and condition for their best hitter. A year of growth for the young core. A pair of significant additions. A healthy Coco Crisp. Added into the mix with veterans Josh Reddick, Billy Butler and Valencia, and the A’s are very much poised to increased on their Seventh worst offense and its 4.3 runs per game.