A’s should bail on Kouzmanoff, start LaRoche

9 Comments

Now even his glove is letting him down: Kevin Kouzmanoff committed his fourth error in four games Tuesday, eclipsing his total from 2009 when he set a record for fielding percentage by a third baseman with three errors in 311 chances.

But while that’s probably a fluke, Kouzmanoff’s atrocious hitting likely isn’t.  He’s opened this season at .267/.250/.333 with one RBI in four games. In 147 games since joining the A’s, he’s hit .247/.282/.394 with a dreadful 99/24 K/BB ratio in 566 at-bats. He entered last year as Oakland’s cleanup hitter, only to get dropped steadily as the year went on. This season, he’s batting eighth.

The next move is to simply pull him from the lineup. After an excellent spring in which he hit .333/.388/.583 with four homers and 13 RBI in 60 at-bats, Andy LaRoche made his first start of the season last night. Playing shortstop, he went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. The A’s might as well give him a shot.

Of course, it’s no given than LaRoche would be an upgrade.  The 27-year-old has hit .226/.305/.339 in 1,090 at-bats as a major leaguer.  Even Kouzmanoff, who also excelled with the bat this spring, has that beat. LaRoche, though, probably has the greater offensive upside, and he does offer more range at third base. He wouldn’t be the first hitter to break through after getting the boot from the Pirates.

Kouzmanoff isn’t worthless.  But we do know what he is: he offers just enough power and defense to justify a spot in a starting lineup, but he clearly ranks in the 20-30 range among major league third basemen. LaRoche may not be any better, but it’s worth a shot and the A’s would still have the insurance policy to fall back on.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

Getty Images
Leave a comment

To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.