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June 20, 2012

What You Need to Know

Wednesday, June 20

by Daniel Rathman

The Tuesday Takeaway
The Athletics began the month of June by getting blanked twice in a three-game series against the Royals. Bob Melvin’s offense was described as “historically bad.” Oakland had lost 10 of 11, falling behind the Mariners and into the AL West cellar.

After last night’s 3-0 shutout over the Dodgers, though, the A’s have now won six of seven, improving to 32-36 on the year and jumping back into third place. Brandon McCarthy, on the mound for the first time since June 9, led the way for Oakland in the series opener, tossing seven scoreless innings before Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook finished off Los Angeles. But the offense, not the pitching staff, has actually done much of the heavy lifting of late.

Seventeen games into June, the A’s—not the surging Yankees or the Mike Trout-led Angels—lead the AL in runs scored for the month. Though Oakland plated 19 of its 93 June runs in two games against the Rangers, its recent success has come primarily in interleague play.

After getting swept by the Diamondbacks on June 8-10, the A’s have bounced back to sweep the Rockies, take two of three from the Padres, and grab the first game of their set with the Dodgers. Coco Crisp—who began the year in a dreadful slump and went just 5-for-38 in May—is suddenly the hottest hitter in baseball, amid a 10-for-21 stretch with five walks, five stolen bases, and only one strikeout over the last week.

It’s too bad that only five games against NL foes—two more with Los Angeles, then three versus San Francisco—are left on Oakland’s schedule. Instead of pushing for a new ballpark in San Jose, perhaps the A’s should campaign for a move to the senior circuit.

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • Only the Reds (95) have scored more runs than the A’s in June, and Joey Votto has had plenty of help from his fellow infielders in getting them there. Three of the seven major leaguers batting better than .400 over the past week play for Dusty Baker—Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Zack Cozart—and they will try to help Cincinnati bounce back from yesterday’s extra-inning defeat. Justin Masterson, who has allowed only one run in his last 14 frames, will be tasked with slowing them down tonight (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • Thanks to his eligibility at three infield positions in most fantasy leagues, Trevor Plouffe has been gold for players who snatched him off waivers earlier this month. Plouffe has not homered in the Twins’ last three games—an eternity for him, these days—but he has gone 4-for-9 with six walks, providing plenty of value nonetheless. The right-handed-hitting Plouffe has killed southpaws to the tune of eight extra-base hits and 10 walks in 54 plate appearances this year, and he’ll face another in Pirates lefty Erik Bedard tonight (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • There are many mysteries in baseball, and Ricky Nolasco’s disappearing strikeout rate is one of them. The righty fanned more than a batter per inning in 2009 (24.8 percent K/PA), but has seen his whiffs drop precipitously, all the way down to just 49 in 80 1/3 innings in 2012. That was fine until Nolasco’s walk rate bloated to 6.7 percent BB/PA this year, from a career rate of 5.5 percent. He allowed three runs in six innings to the Red Sox on June 13 and will look to do better in tonight’s rematch (7:10 p.m. ET).
  • Tommy Milone is now 13 starts into the season, and he’s still up to his old tricks. The crafty lefty has held opposing batters to a .186 average and surrendered only one home run in 36 2/3 innings at the Coliseum, while getting bashed to the tune of a .317 average and 12 homers in 43 2/3 innings away from Oakland. After three straight road outings—during which he was taken deep six times—Milone will look to get back on track at home against the Dodgers tonight (10:05 p.m. ET).

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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