It seemed like an eternity since the 2003 season of baseball concluded, and the 2004 season began. However that's not to say the offseason was completely void of action. Of course all across the league many moves were made, and "blockbuster" deals were forged. Big name free agents were signed, and all we could do was speculate and wonder about how all these moves would pan out. We will now take a mid-May look into how some of the A's roster moves have worked out thus far.
Although trading Ramon Hernandez had nothing to do with the aquisition of Damian Miller who came over in a seperate trade, the A's replaced
their former backstop for a new one in the offseason, and that warrants comparison of the two. Through their statistics thus far I will attempt to find out if the A's are better or worse off than before. Damian Miller has appeared in 35 games so far this season. When he was picked up it was well documented that it was with the intention of providing defense and veteran leadership of the pitching staff. After a horrible offensive season for Miller last year, in which he hit for a .233 batting average, not much was expected from the new A's catcher. In fact most A's fans were rather worried about what kind of offensive production he would bring to the plate in 2004. However, Miller has actually turned out to be a pleasant surprise offensively, and, as was expected, Miller has been spectacular behind the plate.
Under Miller's guidance the A's have the fewest passed balls in the Major League and a staff ERA of 3.87, which ranks in the top 5 in the American League. As of today Damian Miller is currently hitting .282 which is the 5th highest average out of all of the A's batters. He has knocked in 11 RBIs drawn 10 walks and posts an OBP of .346. If he can stay on this pace he will prove to be a very
Ramon Hernandez, the recently departed A's catcher who layed down the memorable 2-out extra innings "bunt heard round the nation" to win Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Red Sox, is now working with the staff of the San Diego Padres. He left as part of the deal which washed the A's hands of the vocal Terrance Long. As a Padre, Ramon Hernandez has appeared in 40 games. Also known for his great game calling skills and defensive prowess, Hernandez has helped the Padres and their pitchers get off to a respectable start. The Padres currently have a team ERA of 3.90, which is a huge testament to Ramon's abilities to bring out the best in his staff. Although Hernandez had a break out year in
2003, his offensive numbers are back down. Hernandez is hitting for a .244 average with 19 RBI and 3 home runs while posting a .329 OBP. One explanation for Ramon's poor average could be the fact that Petco Park has turned out the be quite a pitchers park, as he is hitting just .167 at home, and .299 on the road.
All in all, it's pretty much a wash between the two. Miller is posting a much better batting average and a higher on base percentage, while
Hernandez has the edge in power numbers with more home runs and runs batted in. Defensively both have been excellent and recieved great reviews from their pitchers.
The Hernandez deal also involved Mark Kotsay being shipped to the A's and Terrance Long heading south to the Padres. Mark Kotsay has been used as the leadoff man all season, while making all of his starts in centerfield. Kotsay brought with him amazing defense and a great mind for the game, with exceptional plate discipline and speed. While the departing Terrence Long took with him subpar defense and bad attitude to San Diego, where he appeared to make a miraculous transformation. Long seems to be happy with his limited role for the Padres, pinch hitting and getting starts every now and then. Long's numbers in limited play look fairly
good. He is hitting for a .310 average in his 84 at bats, while Kotsay is currently hitting .280 in 164 at bats. Long has only 4 RBIs, 6 walks and 2 stolen bases on the season. Kotsay currently has 13 RBIs, 13 walks and 3 stolen bases. The main advantage Kotsay has over Long is his defense and speed, which in comparison makes Kotsay the far more valuable player.
Perhaps the best move the A's have made in years came as a surprise to many A's fans. The A's sent rule 5 draft pick Micheal Neu to the World Champion Marlins for starting pitcher Mark Redman. The Marlins needed to free up some payroll and this was one way in which they were able to do so. Since joining the A's Redman has not disappointed. He has started 9 games, winning 3 and losing 3 while pitching 55.2 innings and allowing only 25 earned runs, 6 home runs, 18 walks and recording an ERA of 4.04. Micheal Neu has yet to pitch at the big league level this year, so it is pretty apparent that the A's made a huge upgrade here. In addition, Redman outshines Ted Lilly, the previous number 4 starter. Redman has posted better numbers this season than Lilly in all categories except strike outs and WHIP. They are currently tied in wins and Lilly has one less loss.
Ted Lilly was traded to the Blue Jays for Bobby Kielty, a hitter Billy Beane had been keeping his eye on for awhile. Although Kielty has shown some flashes of great potential, (for example he
had a multi homerun game last month) he has also struggled quite a bit. The Blue Jays got the better end of the Lilly for Kielty trade,
but reciprocated by doing the A's a favor by taking super-sub and wannabe comedian Frank Menechino off of their hands.
After two months of baseball, the A's are currently in third place in the A.L. West, but as the weather heats up generally so do the A's. The new players are meshing well with the existing team memebers, and the pitching
staff is starting to come into their All Star form. The bullpen woes that have resulted in 7 blown saves seemed to be a thing of the past as the pen had gotten their act together pitching an exceptional 14 scoreless innings in a row. However, the pen faltered again on the last road trip and issued way too many walks. Arthur Rhodes has had a rough season and has blown his last 2 save attempts. If this persists, look for him to be moving back to the set-up man role where he has been productive in the past.
All in all, the offseason moves appear to have kept the A's in contention after losing former MVP Miguel Tejada and All-Star Keith Foulke to free agency. Only time will tell if the A's, who own the best post-All-Star break record in the Major Leagues over the last 4 seasons, have in them another one of their now expected second half surges toward the playoffs.
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