August 1, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics first baseman Brandon Moss returns to the dugout after striking out during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Beck Diefenbach-USA TODAY Sports
Last year the A’s clinched the AL West in part because of their strong pitching depth, but also because their manager Bob Melvin was a master when it came to the art of player platooning. The A’s have not had a true presence at first-base in years, but last year the A’s, thanks to Billy Beane and the front office, had Brandon Moss, an outfielder, come in and help fill the void at first.With the help of Chris Carter, Moss helped anchor a position the A’s were trying to improve in for years. With the Moss-Carter platoon, Melvin got a lot of production from first-base and as a result, the A’s were a more versatile team offensively.
Moss, who spent most of his career stuck in the minors before bursting onto the scene with the A’s, hit .291/.358/.596 with 21 HR and 52 RBI in just 84 games last year. Carter complimented his platoon-mate by hitting .239/.350/.514 with 16 HR and 39 RBI in 67 games. So, the A’s essentially got 37 HR and 91 RBI from Moss and Carter combined. Not bad for the two-headed moster that was Moss and Carter.
With Carter now in Houston, however, the A’s are left with just a one-headed monster in Moss. Now, the A’s have been very supportive of Moss and are eager to see what he can do with a whole season at first-base, but without a platoon-mate Moss could easily become exposed and a decline in production could be possible.
Here are three reasons why the A’s should be worried about Moss in 2013:
- Moss strikes out a lot: The A’s have given the keys to first-base to Moss, but they should be concerned with the slugger’s strikeouts. Moss had a K% of 30.4% compared to a 8.8% BB%. Not an encouraging sight to behold by any means, especially for a guy who is looking to build upon his .291 average and .359 BABIP from a year ago. Moss was quite the breakout story last year for the A’s, but during the post-season he seemed to crumble under the enormous pressure that comes with playing in the post-season; the A’s slugger went just 2-for-15 (.133) with seven strikeouts in the post-season.
- He Doesn’t Crush Left-Handed Pitchers: The A’s were the masters of position platoons, as the combination of Moss-Carter helped the A’s at first-base a great deal last year. With Carter out of the picture, however, and Moss now stepping in as Oakland’s everyday starter at first, the A’s will have to hope Moss’ power carries over against left-handed pitching. Last year, Moss collected 21 HR, but only two of those homers came against southpaw opponents. He did, however, get most of his playing time against righties (207 at-bats against RHP compared to just 58 at-bats against LHP), so the sample size against lefties could be a bit small. Still, it is quite apparent that Moss didn’t have the same type of power when it came against left handed pitching. It will be interesting to watch how Moss adjusts to left-handed pitching this year and whether or not he can produce.
- Not Much Contact: Okay, this one kind of ties into the whole strikeout thing. Moss made contact on just 66.7% of his swings according to FanGraphs, which was well below the league average of 79.7%. To expect Moss will maintain the high average he posted last season is a little too optimistic, especially when you take into account that he plays in the cavernous Coliseum, a pitcher’s park. The swing-and-miss approach doesn’t bode well for Moss, either. The A’s are giving Moss a chance at starting this year as the team’s primary first-baseman following a breakout season that helped the team reach the post-season for the first time since 2006, but expecting Moss to replicate his impressive numbers last year is, well, a bit too much to expect. His average should take a dip in 2013.
The A’s are giving Moss a shot at starting this year and that is a moved well-deserved. Moss was one of the most interesting stories in baseball and he seemed to have finally reached his potential at the age of 29.
The A’s do have plenty of infield depth going into this year, but the team seems to have a lot of faith in Moss’ ability to succeed without the whole platooning crutch.
He’ll be exposed to a lot more left-handed pitching and it will be interesting to see if his strikeouts will finally catch up with him.
While there are obvious reasons to worry whether or not Moss will successfully anchor first-base this year, the A’s remain hopeful, as they should, that Moss can not only handle the responsibilities of starting, but continue to build upon his 2012 campaign. If anything, Moss should remain a solid source of power for the homer-happy Athletics in ’13.
For now, it’s In Moss We Trust.
What do you think? Can the A’s trust Brandon Moss this year?