For some, 2016 Spring Training marks the start of a brand new Major League Baseball season. For others, this time of year marks the height of the presidential primary elections. While many pontificate over who is best suited to lead the country, The Sports Fan Journal fam decided to take a look at which player, manager, or front office member is the best candidate to lead their team to the top of the baseball mountain.
With the long hair, the beard of varying lengths, the Spiderman costume that is accompanied by pies in faces following walk-off wins and the Careless Whisper walk up song, Josh Reddick has become the face and resident bad ass of the Oakland Athletics.
On the heels of a disappointing campaign in 2015, the A’s will need to rekindle some of the Moneyball magic that got them to the postseason in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Despite being a season and a half removed from the Yoenis Cespedes trade, the A’s are still looking for a consistent offensive threat in the middle of the lineup. Reddick, after regaining his health and being one of Oakland’s most productive hitters last season, will be the player they will turn to in that role.
In 2013 and 2014, Reddick’s number’s suffered as he battled multiple injuries, playing in 114 and 109 games respectively. It was clear frustration was setting in as not only was he not hitting, but his at-bats were lackluster. His numbers dropped drastically in 2013 and while the rose some in 2014, the consistency wasn’t where it needed to be for a contending team’s starting right fielder.
However, in 2015, Reddick came back strong. He smacked 20 home runs, his most since 2012, and he posted career highs in batting average and on-base percentage. Along with that, his strikeout rate dropped to a career-low 11.2 percent. The increase in average and OBP and diminished strikeouts are what make the right fielder’s 2016 campaign so crucial for Oakland.
Given the current state of the A’s pitching rotation, they’re going to need to score in bunches. Armed with a new approach, Reddick will be given the responsibility of driving Oakland’s offense.
There’s a tendency to dismiss one season as an anomaly, but there is optimism that Reddick will be able to build on his strong 2015. The improved numbers can be explained with a quick look at Reddick’s approach last season. A new middle/away mindset saw Reddick hit more balls up the middle and to the opposite field than he ever has.
With a crowded outfield, Reddick is the only one that figures to start every day for the Green and Gold. That’s why the lefty is so important to Oakland as they try to find regular production within their roster of misfit toys. An opposite field approach makes Reddick a much tougher out, and allows him to still drive the ball while also getting on base. He’s no longer only clearing the table, but he’s also going to be able to set it.
Couple an increased level of production at the plate with his typical outstanding defense and Reddick will land on the All-Star team come July. An All-Star right fielder in the heart of their order could be vital to Oakland altering their fortunes from last season.
In the first half, Oakland was nine games under .500 despite a +44 run differential. That trend tailed off as the A’s fell further out of contention, but a 19-35 record in one-run games was arguably the biggest reason for the Oakland’s record being as bad as it was.
While a revamped, healthy bullpen should help the A’s turn some close losses into wins, an All-Star right fielder in the heart of the order will have a similar impact. Despite a slew of new faces on the roster, it will be a familiar face in Reddick that will help lead the A’s back to the postseason for a shot at their first championship since 1989.
Experiment 626. Coffee drinker and cat enthusiast. Pro-avocado. Anti-sac bunt. Habitual bat flipper. Alex Smith apologist. Yoenis Cespedes fanboy.