Can Billy Burns be a Game-Changer?

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Mar 4, 2014; Mesa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics outfielder Billy Burns (19) safely advances to third base on a hit by Athletics Josh Reddick (not pictured) in the first inning of their spring training baseball game at Cubs Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports.

Small ball has never been the Oakland way. Perhaps it’s time for that to change.

The Kansas City Royals stole their way past the A’s in the wild card game, and since the A’s have already borrowed Billy Butler from that Royals team, why can’t we take this concept too?

We all know what Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry can bring to the lineup. They are nice guys, speedy, like Burns, and good defenders. Actually Gentry is a fantastic defender. Still, neither has the on-base skills or base stealing prowess of Burns.

Across four minor league seasons Burns has walked as often as he has struck out, stolen 179 bases, and his on-base percentage dipped below .333 for just 28 games in triple-A last season.

His runs-created totals are well above average in the minor leagues.

My argument is for Beane and manager Bob Melvin to do away with Fuld and let Burns and Gentry have their day in the sun.

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Burns is a switch hitter, so he can fit into a platoon with virtually any of Oakland’s other outfield options, and he’s a capable defender at any position.

Even in Crisp’s career best 2013 (If you haven’t already read about how great Coco is), he did not hit lefties well. Is it out of the question to pair him and Burns together in a left field platoon? With Gentry in center full-time, and Josh Reddick in right field would a baseball even touch the ground?

Our outfield defense would be stellar. Add that to the list of take-aways from the 2014 American League champion Royals.

When the Athletics offense stalled out in the second half it was due to power outages from Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, and Stephen Vogt.

Using the speed they have in Crisp, Gentry and Burns could perhaps stave off a prolonged scoring drought.

Whoops, one more note on the 2014 Royals. The great Bill James uses a cumulative base running statistic to measure total bases gained. This takes into account extra bases taken, outs made while advancing, being doubled off, grounding into double-plays and net stolen bases. were only the tenth best base running team in baseball.  The Royals were tenth in baseball in net bases gained largely due to Butler’s -31 bases rating.

Burns’ inevitable positive score would certainly more than balance out another negative rating from Butler.

Beane is known for his faith in young players to contribute ahead of schedule, and has been rewarded with three straight playoff berths.

Burns should be given his chance to contribute like Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Sean Doolittle, Norris, Reddick before him.

I’m confident Burns could help spark another surprising Athletics run in 2015.

 

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