Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland A's Series Preview Q&A: Athletics Nation

Ezra Shaw

Time for another batch of questions, this time with our friends at Athletics Nation.

Time for another series against the A's, and I've got Alan Torres from Athletics Nation to answer some questions for this preview. You can follow him on Twitter at @cuppingmaster.

Scott: What got into Josh Donaldson? Is there a change that you saw in his stance or approach that caused this breakout season?

Alan: He definitely has had a change of approach. It's best we use his own words:

"I was trying to hit everything - fastballs inside, sliders away, and it wasn't working," he said. "I decided to cut the plate in half, and look either inside or outside. That gave me the ability to home in on the zone, and I think that's ultimately been the biggest part of the success I had last year and this."

ESPN Stats and Info also wrote a great article that showed on which plate zones Donaldson gets his hits. As you can see, he's deadly anywhere in the zone horizontally.

Also, I believe not being a catcher (combined with now being comfortable at 3B), has allowed him to concentrate on hitting. To me, his swing can get loopy when he's being too aggressive, but so far that's worked out well for him anyway.

Finally, I'd say he's always been somewhat of a late bloomer. He was drafted at 22, worked his way slowly through the Cubs and A's system, and really figured out AAA by age 26 last year. Combine that with bringing him out from behind the plate, and that confluence of events has made him an outside MVP contender.

Scott: How worried are you about Josh Reddick? He's fallen off a cliff this season, and been hurt a bit too. Anything you've seen that can explain this disaster of a year for him?

Alan: I'm worried enough that I thought it might not be the worst idea to trade him at the end of last year while his value may never have been higher. He had an excellent first half and then dropped off the cliff significantly in the second half. That said, his defense was and is so good, that he would have netted a fine haul to restock what is now a bottom half farm system (maybe worse depending on what you think of Michael Choice and Sonny Gray).

His injury was a frustrating one, as the A's were up big in Houston and he dove towards the stands and jammed his wrist into the concrete lip. It was unnecessary and dumb, and only complicated his struggles with a touchy rehab. With a .188/.286/.293 line I'm pretty confident saying he won't repeat last year's performance. The funny thing is, though, that his plate discipline stats are better by the naked eye. He's swinging at fewer pitches in general, and his overall Contact% is the same with a lower SwStr%. In light of that and a .221 BABIP, I have hope he can recover to something around what his average talent level should be, probably about a 3-win player going forward.

Scott: Billy Beane is often lauded as being one of, if not the game's best GM. Do you think that praise is justified, or do his missteps from the late 2000s still weigh heavily in your mind?

Alan: Even if I wasn't an A's fan, it's hard to say that things like the Holliday trade are much more than a slight blemish. In fact today, Dave Cameron detailed just how Beane assembled the current team out of other team's scraps. Just look at Thursday's lineup:

Jaso: acquired for A.J. Cole. Potentially an overpay but certainly defensible in light of the A's surprise window of contention.
Moss: signed from waivers
Sogard/Rosales: ... Okay so second base hasn't worked out well. Nakajima? Who's that?
Lowrie: acquired for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, and Max Stassi, all expendable farm pieces and players with holes in their game
Donaldson: throw-in in the first Harden trade to the Cubs
Smith: acquired for two flyball pitchers from the Rockies
Young: acquired for Cliff Pennington
Reddick: acquired for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney.
Norris: throw-in catcher in the Gio Gonzalez trade.
Parker: shrewd trade from AZ for Trevor Cahill.

This isn't even counting gambling on Cespedes and signing Crisp to below-market deals twice.

Yes, the A's have given up talent, but as Beane himself has said, you have to give up talent to get some back. Given the payroll limitations, I don't see how Beane can be regarded as anything but an elite GM. He may end up in the Hall of Fame one day.

Scott: Sean Doolittle is throwing nearly 90% fastballs this year, and hasn't been as effective this year as he was in 2012. Do you think his reliance on one singular pitch is starting to become a problem as hitters adjust? What can he do to regain his 2012 form?

Alan: Surely, it's no secret what Doolittle throws. He comes at hitters with fastballs and some behind-the-head deception on his release point. He can mix in a slider or change now and then, but those are mostly show-me pitches at this point. His numbers have suffered a little from some recent subpar outings, but there is no one whose stuff I trust more down there than Doolittle's.

Further developing those offspeed pitches will be key to him remaining an elite reliever. That said, his fastball does have significant velocity and even if those don't pan out, it seems he could be reasonably effective as a fastball only guy.
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