Getting to know the Cleveland Indians’ adversary
The Cleveland Indians open a series against the Oakland A’s tonight. Both teams have underperformed to this point, and this series is more or less one of broken dreams, as both teams have been pushed to sell at the trade deadline. With both teams beginning to dismantle expiring contracts and struggling of late, it will be interesting to see which team emerges victorious.
To help us get to know the Tribe’s adversary a little better, Katrina Putnam of Swingin’ A’s answered five questions about the Oakland A’s.
Entering the season, many fans had high expectations for the Athletics despite the fact that the team traded away several assets. Many of the players acquired for Jeff Samardzija and Josh Donaldson have disappointed so far, and the offseason signing of Billy Butler has appeared to be a wash so far. Who would you say has been the biggest disappointment?
KP: From shortstop Marcus Semien‘s defensive woes to a litany of bullpen disappointments, there are plenty of players to choose from. But the biggest disappointment has to be Coco Crisp. The former Indian has been largely absent from the team this season due to injuries. The A’s are paying Crisp $11 million to do absolutely nothing, and when he has been on the field, he’s been even more unhelpful. In 13 games, he has just two hits in 45 at-bats. Crisp actually began a rehab assignment on Tuesday, but it’s hard to tell what impact he’ll have when he returns. In his first game for Double-A Stockton, he slugged two home runs. Hopefully, that’s a good omen for the future.
As the antithesis to the first question, the A’s also field several players who have vastly exceeded all expectations. From rookie Billy Burns to veteran Jesse Chavez, the A’s have managed to find talent in unexpected places. Who has been the most impressive breakout player this season?
KP: It’s definitely Burns. Chavez had a similarly impressive first half in 2014, but he’s already started his second-half slide. Burns, on the other hand, hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down. Over 15 percent of his ground balls turn out to be infield hits, he reaches base 50 percent of the time when he bunts, and he’s swiped 20 bags. Unlike, say, the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, Burns isn’t just a one-tool player. His speed is accompanied by a .304/.339/.395 line, making him an unexpected star in the lead-off spot.
Even after dealing Scott Kazmir, the A’s have an imposing pitching rotation that boasts the lowest ERA in the American League. Which starting pitcher should the Cleveland Indians fear the most?
KP: The Tribe should be having flashback nightmares to their game against Sonny Gray earlier this month. Gray has a 2.87 FIP, but a 2.16 ERA, and he’s striking out nearly 22 percent of batters. When Gray faced Cleveland last time, he shut out the Tribe in a 2-0 victory, allowing just two hits and a walk in nine innings. Perhaps most astonishingly, only three of the 27 outs ever made it to the outfield, but that’s par for the course with Gray. Over 55 percent of the contact batters make against him goes for ground balls. It would be no surprise to A’s fans if he takes home this year’s Cy Young Award.
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After already trading Kazmir, Ben Zobrist, and Tyler Clippard, do you think that the A’s will trade any more players during this trade deadline series?
KP: The A’s have said that they won’t trade any players with extended time left on their contracts, but I’d advocate a trade of anyone who will be leaving after next season. Players like Josh Reddick and Ike Davis won’t be around in two years, when the players the A’s traded for this week will be ready to make an impact with the big league club. Why not pick up as many prospects as possible now, since it’s obvious that Billy Beane doesn’t plan to contend next season? Plenty of clubs would pay well for Reddick, so it seems like more trades are definitely possible.
What is the biggest weakness on which the Cleveland Indians need to capitalize in order to win the series?
KP: The best thing the Indians can do to help themselves is to get into the Oakland bullpen early. Closer Sean Doolittle has spent the entire season on the DL, and the rest of the relief crew is comprised of disappointments. Fernando Abad and Evan Scribner are both pitching terribly compared to last season. Former Indians’ prospect Drew Pomeranz has had Zach McAllister-like success after being moved to the pen, and Fernando Rodriguez has been acceptable, but the loss of Clippard takes away their only other reliable option. The bullpen has a 4.13 ERA and has allowed 36 home runs and 101 walks in under 300 innings. The soon the Tribe gets the A’s starters out of there, the better off they are.