Oakland bats leaving team in a hole

Updated: June 9, 2003, 8:10 AM ET
By Jim Baker
Gary Peterson sums up the A's predicament pretty succinctly when he writes in today's Contra Costa Times that it's going to take another one of their patented second-half pushes to catch the Mariners for the division crown. After dropping a doubleheader to the Phillies yesterday, the A's find themselves eight games out of first place.

Do they really need to go 72-29 the rest of the way (as they did last year and the year before) to win the division? No, but they're probably going to have to get close to that figure with the Mariners destroying teams on the road as they are. As Peterson writes, they have arrived at this point in the season in similar fashion in each of the last three years and then put it into high gear to make the postseason. With the Mariners channeling their 2001 selves and the other main wildcard contender coming from the loser of the Yankees-Red Sox spendfest, the A's have gotten themselves into their usual predicament: they're going to have to win more than two out of every three remaining game to get into the playoffs.

If this is to come about, how will it come about? Since the A's pitching is already the most unforgiving in the league, we'll have to assume that any mid-season changes are going to have to come in the lineup. The A's could call up super prospect Rich Harden and lower their ERA a little more, but it is hard to improve on being number one when their offense is so very much in the middle of the horde. It's not very reassuring to look at your team's stats and see that Eric Byrnes is leading the club in OPS. Key players Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez are underperforming while Scott Hatteberg, Terrence Long and Mark Ellis aren't improving on their legacies either. Jermaine Dye has been a complete washout in his injury-restricted playing time as well. The biggest surprise has been Chris Singleton but it comes with an asterisk. While he is posting his best OPS since his rookie year, it is important to remember that a large percentage of that comes from a 50-point increase in last year's batting average. That is the one aspect of OPS that is the most volatile. Erubiel Durazo is doing about what is expected of him at first base, albeit with fewer homers than one might have anticipated.
Jim Baker is an author at Baseball Prospectus and a frequent contributor to Page 2. You can e-mail Jim at bottlebat@gmail.com.

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