Overt the last five seasons, the A’s have ranked near the bottom of the league in slugging percentage.
2009: Last in the AL, 25th in MLB with a .397 slugging percentage.
2008: Dead last in all of MLB with a .369 slugging percentage.
2007: 11th in the AL, 23rd in MLB with a .407 slugging percentage.
2006: 13th in the AL, 27th in MLB with a .412 slugging percentage.
2005: Tied for 10th in the AL, 22nd in MLB with a .407 slugging percentage.
You have to go back to 2004 to find the A’s ranking in the middle of the pack in power numbers, when the team had healthy Eric Chavez and Jermaine Dye, Eric Byrnes at his peak, Bobby Crosby in his Rookie of the Year campaign, and Erubiel “Holy Grail” Durazo slugging at .573 in the DH position.
What’s been wrong lately? It isn’t that we haven’t had power players. In 2005, Nick Swisher hit 21 home runs as a rookie, and he only put up bigger numbers until Billy shipped him to Chicago. In 2006, we had the Big Hurt, Frank Thomas, in an MVP-caliber season (.270/.381/.585). And two of the last five seasons were winning seasons – including the most successful season of the decade!
But then you look at the stadium. No one hits in Oakland. Or at least, everyone hits better before they come to Oakland or after they leave Oakland. Look at Jermaine Dye helping the White Sox win the World Series in 2005, and the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez making A’s fans kick themselves, or want to kick Billy Beane for that Matt Holliday trade. Oh yeah, and that guy too.
The problem, it appears to me, is not developing power players in one of the worst hitting ballparks in the majors. Oh sure, we can sign a Frank Thomas and catch lightening in a bottle on a one-year deal. But look at the guys we brought in in 2009 to power up this team. It didn’t work, and it hasn’t really worked since we developed those guys ourselves – like Miguel Tejada and once-upon-a-time Eric Chavez – and kept them for a number of years.
It’s easy to get excited about the big bats in the minors, like the monster Chris Carter, Grant Desme, and Corey Brown. But what will they translate too on the “big stage” in Oakland?
Cater is currently playing winter ball in Mexico while Desme is taking his hacks in the Arizona Fall League. Both are putting up impressive home run numbers, as well as unimpressive high numbers of strikeouts. They’re both going to need to adjust to higher levels of pitching and are in the right places to work on it this winter.
We’ve done it before – can we do it again?