As the absolute worst park in the big leagues in which to hit flyballs, Oakland Coliseum features cavernous power alleys and broad expanses of foul territory that keep nearly everything in play. As Matt Holliday's pre- and post-trade splits in 2009 can attest, power hitters struggle in the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.
The good news for fantasy owners is that Oakland is composed mainly of speed-oriented players, and utilizes them. Only the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Texas Rangers attempted more than Oakland's 181 steals, continuing a shift from recent club approaches.
Perhaps that's this is the tradeoff, but, stunningly, the A's were poor adherents to their own organizational philosophy: They finished 10th in the AL in walks and saw only 3.82 pitches per plate appearance as a team, slighty less than league average. The players who did draw walks - Jack Cust, Jason Giambi and Holliday - were no real threats to steal; two of them are gone.
In the last couple of seasons, the A's have allowed their starters to exceed 100 pitches only about one-third of the time. That is the most conservative starter usage in the league, no doubt largely a byproduct of their recent dependence on young arms. As a result, the bullpen was more than any other in baseball last year.
In 2009 Oakland pitchers relied on inducing groundballs a little more than usual. Of course, because of the ballpark, those who coax flyballs can easily succeed. Witness Andrew Bailey.
Coco Crisp brings sparkling defense, although his rating isn't as strong in center field. His acquisition allows both Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney to move to the corners. Sweeney projects to be sensational.
On the infield, the outlook is slightly less rosy. Daric Barton, if he keeps hold of the job, can hold down first base. Kevin Kouzmanoff has improved his D at third but is still not an asset. The middle infield is less exciting with Cliff Pennington, if he remains starter, lacking range, but Mark Ellis is serviceable.
Kurt Suzuki isn't a weak link in the Oakland defense, however. The young backstop caught more innings than any other catcher in baseball for the second year in a row. He caught 25 percent of base-stealers, a noticeable drop-off from 2008's 37 percent.
About Matt Trueblood
Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.
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