Tag: Jack Cust

Seattle Mariners: 5 Reasons Jack Cust Is an Upgrade Over Russell Branyan

Felix Hernandez took the Cy Young last year after going 13-12 for Seattle. He went 1-9 when the Mariners scored two runs or less, and had the lowest run support of any pitcher in baseball.

Seattle needs some help in the bat department.

In homers, RBI’s, batting average, runs scored, on base, slugging and OPS, the Mariners were the major’s worst offensive team in every department.

The 513 runs that the Mariners managed to score were the lowest in the designated hitter era.

This off season the Mariners added Jack Cust and parted ways with Russell Branyan.

Seattle brought in Branyan back in 2009, and the organization believed that he could be a run producer in the middle of the lineup. He was productive when he played, jacking 31 homers in just 116 games back in 2009; but that was the problem. Branyan often found himself on the disabled list.

The Mariners hope Cust can come in and an anchor an offense that is so very desperate for some power.

Cust and Branyan look very similar on paper, but the Mariners made a major upgrade when they added Jack Cust to their lineup.

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Free Agents Miguel Olivo and Jack Cust to the Seattle Mariners

On December 8th the Seattle Mariners signed free-agent catcher Miguel Olivo to a two-year contract worth $7 million with a club option for a third year.  Just a few days prior to the agreement with Olivo, Seattle signed free-agent DH Jack Cust to a one-year $2.5 million deal.  Personally I am in favor of neither deal. 

Jack Cust is a prototypical DH.  He is a hack anywhere in the field and the only value he can generate is with his left-handed bat.  The defensive metric UZR, which measures defense in the extra runs saved (or cost) by having the player in the field rates Cust poorly.  Cust cost’s his team over 20 runs a season when in the outfield. 

At the plate Cust is a “three true outcomes” hitter.  The three true outcomes are walks, strikeouts and home runs.  The last two years Russell Branyan has been the team’s resident “three true outcomes” player.  In 112 games in 2010 for the Oakland Athletics, Jack Cust hit 13 home runs, walked 68 times and struck out a 127 times. 

On the outside of the deal, Cust looks like a solid addition; he walks a lot, he batted .272 last year and he is only a few years removed from a season in which he hit 33 home runs.  Additionally, he was worth a decent 2.4 WAR, which measures the wins a player provides over a replacement-level player.  Despite these factors, Cust has all the signs of being terrible next year.  Even though he is only 31 years old, Cust may be on the rapid decline in much the same way Richie Sexson was his last two years here.

The last four years Cust has seen his HR/FB drop, the statistic (in form of a percent) is used to measure how many of the hitter’s fly balls resulted in home runs.  In 2007, 31.7 percent of Jack Cust’s fly balls left the yard, however last season only 14.9 percent did.  This is quite alarming for a guy who gets most of his value from smashing long balls.  In Sexson’s time with the Mariners he faced a similar fate, going from 24.5 percent HR/FB down to a lowly 17.4 percent. 

One other alarming thing about Cust: He hits most of his home runs to left field, which is especially bad when it comes to hitting in Safeco.  In 2010, Cust hit seven of his 13 home runs to left, one to center and five to right field.  His slugging percentage backed this up because he slugged .679 when he pulled the ball (to right field) and he slugged .787 when he hit the ball to left field.  You can look at his home run chart for 2010 here

The other free agent Seattle added also seems to be a bad move, although this time it is a player who has spent time in a Mariners uniform before.  Miguel Olivo, a catcher, came to Seattle in 2004 with two other players as part of the trade that sent Freddy Garcia to the Chicago White Sox.  Olivo was jettisoned by Seattle during the 2005 season and has played in Florida, Kansas City and Colorado since then. 

He is exactly the type of hitter who fails in Seattle, a right-handed hitter who doesn’t walk or hit for average, and can only pull the ball to left field.  Safeco is particularly hard on right-handed hitters, and Olivo’s only offensive upside is from pulling a few home runs every now and then.  Olivo hit 14 home runs in 2010, and topped out at 23 in 2009.  Olivo is a career .246 hitter as well, which is not very good.  There is reason to believe he will be worse in 2011 too. 

In 2010 he played in the very hitter-friendly Coors field and hit .318 with 10 of his 14 home runs.  Away from the high altitude he only managed to hit .211 with four home runs in almost as many games.  So, Olivo could really fall off the map as a hitter for the Mariners.  Especially since he hit every home run last year to left field or center.

Another problem with the Olivo deal is that it is for two years even though the Mariners have a young catcher in Adam Moore who does have some potential left despite a bad first year in the majors.  The Mariners are obviously saying that they have no faith in Moore by giving Olivo two years, which is sad because Moore never really got a chance to prove himself.  He was once considered a pretty good prospect with the chance to be a catcher who hit above average for the position at the MLB level.

The only attribute Olivo has that is a plus would be his arm.  Last year he threw out 42 percent of people attempting to steal bases, which is very good.  Olivo will certainly be a better defender than any of the Mariners catchers last season.

To me, both of these deals look bad.  Cust despite being a useful DH over the last few seasons may be on the decline and has a very real possibility to struggle hitting next year because his tendency to hit the ball to left field, and the fact that over the years his home runs have been coming less and less frequently due to a drop in his FB/HR rate.  In fact, Cust is a worse player than former Mariner Russell Branyan, because he should hit fewer home runs, and strike out more. 

Olivo, on the other hand, is a bad move because he is taking the spot of a promising young player, and the fact that he is likely to completely fall off the map with the bat while hitting at Safeco.  Both of these contracts also seem like the type of players that get signed right before spring training traditionally because of their obvious flaws.  However, Jack Zduriencik chose to sign these guys early in the game when better options were still on the market, making me wonder if the Mariners have less money to spend than the reported $16-plus million.  Whatever the reason, it would be wise not to draft either of these guys for your fantasy baseball team.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

There’s No Light at the End of the Tunnel for the Oakland A’s

When Billy Beane made no moves at the All-Star break to improve the Oakland A’s lineup, it was only a matter of time before the overachieving A’s squad started to crumble, and now that time has come. 

Over the last 10 games the A’s have gone 4-6 and went from second place in the American League West division, to third place, with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim now one and a half games ahead of the A’s. 

In that span, the A’s offense has averaged 2.5 runs per game. Looking further at just how miserable the offense has been, the A’s have been shutout twice and have scored two or less runs three times. 

Meaning that in five of the 10 games, the A’s have either been shutout or scored two or less runs. Luckily for the A’s, and why the record in the last 10 games isn’t even worse, is because of the A’s pitching. 

When looking over the 10 game span, the A’s pitchers have allowed 28 runs. It’s not hard to see why the A’s have the best ERA in the American League, but it’s also easy to see why the A’s have struggled so much. 

Today the A’s nearly got no hit by the Minnesota Twins and yet when the dust settled and the game was over, all the A’s could manage was two hits and two runs, which nearly was enough to win, but a three-run home run by Jim Thome made it virtually impossible for the A’s to comeback from a 4-0 deficit. 

Yet, the score could have been different in the game. In fact, the A’s could have come out with a 2-1 victory over the Twins, but another fine example of the fine managing of Bob Geren came into play. 

Jerry Blevins relieved Vin Mazzaro in the bottom of the seventh inning after Chris Carter misplayed a flyball off the bat of Orlando Hudson. Blevins came in to face Joe Mauer who he proceeded to walk. Jason Kubel struck out on a nasty off-speed pitch from Blevins. 

Michael Cuddyer then was robbed of extra bases on a tremendous diving stop by Daric Barton at first base, a play that saved the A’s at least two runs at the time. So, it looked like the A’s were out of the woods right? 

As Thome strolled to the plate, Brad Ziegler began to get himself ready in the bullpen. The first three pitches from Blevins were not even close to the strike zone and with two outs there was no reason to give in to Thome with a base open and Danny Valencia coming to the plate. 

Instead of doing what most managers would have done in the situation and that is put Thome on base, the A’s chose to go after Thome. That was a bad move on the A’s part as Thome took Blevins’ next pitch out of the ballpark. 

At the time of the home run, the A’s were trailing 1-0, that home run brought the score to 4-0. That at-bat by Thome is just another example of why the A’s need to fire Geren. 

Another reason is what happened in the top of the ninth inning. With Kevin Kouzmanoff opening the inning off with a single, he wasn’t pinch run for. In that situation, with the way the A’s offense has been going, Kouzmanoff should have been ran for. 

A reason for that is to keep the A’s from hitting into a double play, which is exactly what happened. Rajai Davis ended the game by grounding out to shortstop. 

Further proof of just how bad the A’s offense has been can be seen by each hitter that’s been in the lineup.

1. Coco Crisp: .394 average, three doubles, 15 hits, a homer, and five RBI

2. Daric Barton: .267 average, two triples, a double, eight hits, no homers, and one RBI

3. Kurt Suzuki: .162 average, two doubles, six hits, no homers, and three RBI

4. Jack Cust: .178  average, a double, five hits, no homers, and one RBI

5. Kevin Kouzmanoff: .114 average, two doubles, four hits, no homers, and three RBI

6. Mark Ellis: .294 average, four doubles, 10 hits, no homers, and four RBI

7. Rajai Davis: .243 average, three doubles, nine hits, no homers, and two RBI

8. Chris Carter: .000 average, zero doubles, zero hits, zero homers, and zero RBI

9. Cliff Pennington: .333 average, two doubles, a triple, zero homers, and zero RBI

Totals: 18 doubles, three triples, one home run, and 19 RBI

That’s the lineup the A’s have put out a majority of the time in the last 10 games. The question is, will the A’s snap out of the offensive funk the team is in? Not very likely because of the upcoming games the A’s have. 

The next few series the A’s play are against the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians (only winnable series for the A’s), Texas Rangers, and New York Yankees. 

With the way the A’s offense has been playing it wouldn’t be a surprise to find the team hovering around 10 games under .500 rather than at or above .500, the reason being is there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the A’s offense. 

Conor Jackson is scheduled to come off the disabled list. It may mean that Chris Carter gets sent down or one of the relievers. Even with Jackson’s bat in the lineup, it still doesn’t give the A’s much more offensively. 

What is the light at the end of the tunnel for the A’s? The answer is when September begins and the rosters expand, the A’s have a few call ups to make. 

First will be Michael Taylor since Carter is already up. Since Taylor started the season so slowly he’s done a much better job. He’s now hitting a respectable .264 after being in the .220s at the beginning of the year. 

Jeff Larish who’s already up will get a look he can play first, third, or be the designated hitter. 

Dallas McPherson is another option as he can play third base, first base, or be the designated hitter as well.

Corey Brown, an outfielder, could be called up, he’s got excellent speed and a good eye at the plate. 

Displaying these hitters will show what the A’s can look forward to the 2011 season. The pitching staff has been great all year. If the A’s are to make a run at the playoffs, the A’s need hitters. 

Regardless of where the players are in their development either at Sacramento or Midland, something needs to be done to ignite the A’s offense and give A’s fans some hope for the 2011 season.

The pitching is already there but the hitting is nowhere close. 

Besides the offense the question becomes when does it stop being the players fault and instead becomes the coaches fault? If a managers not able to get the best effort out of his players game in and game out doesn’t that mean it’s time for a change as well? 

If a manager refuses to go 100 percent into a different offensive philosophy based on the team’s roster? Is it fair to say that the manager should be gone? 

The answer is yes and until the A’s replace Geren, bring up some bats either from the minor leagues or trades in the offseason, and buy 100 percent into the offensive philosophy the A’s are going to continue to struggle. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Oakland A’s Shoddy Effort Proves Why Bob Geren Will Be Gone

The Oakland A’s played the biggest game of the season tonight against the Seattle Mariners. Now, some would say it’s way too soon to talk about big game especially since it’s only August 9, but with a young team like the A’s, any time the team has a chance to make ground on the division-leading Texas Rangers, it’s a big game. 

What were A’s fans treated to tonight? An absolute disgraceful performance offensively. Pitching-wise, Vin Mazzaro pitched extremely well after a shaky first inning. He ended the night going seven innings, giving up three runs, two earned, while striking out five and walking two. 

Not a bad start for Mazzaro, although the one complaint could be after getting Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman is, what was he doing pitching around Russell Branyan in the first inning? 

As a result, it led to two runs because the next batter, Jose Lopez, followed with a RBI single scoring Ichiro, who opened the game up with a single. Franklin Guttierez was able to take a hanging slider to right field for a RBI single scoring Branyan. 

It looked bad when Mazzaro got behind in the count to Ryan Langerhans, but Mazzaro was able to get out of further trouble by striking Langerhans out on a 3-2 pitch. 

Overall, the A’s had excellent opportunities to score runs. The biggest moment of the game was in the top of the fourth inning and further proves why Bob Geren is not the manager that will lead the A’s to the playoffs. 

Jack Cust opened the inning up with a single and Kevin Kouzmanoff walked, putting runners on first and second with no outs. The A’s hadn’t been hitting well with runners in scoring  position; in fact, when Kurt Suzuki came up in the top of the third, the A’s had been 0-for-30 with runners in scoring position. 

What the issue is that Geren decided to push the envelope instead of playing it safe. Mark Ellis had been the A’s best hitter with runners in scoring position, but knowing that the A’s had been struggling to get runs in with runners on base it would have been a much better decision to bunt. 

Instead Geren chooses to let Ellis swing away. What does Ellis do? He grounds into the inning-ending triple play! Let me restate that: He grounds into the inning-ending triple play! 

Now, in reality, the call was missed. Ellis definitely beat the throw from Chone Figgins to first, but either way two runners were out and the A’s were now 0-for-31 with runners in scoring position. 

The A’s only scoring came on a double by Rajai Davis. Coco Crisp opened up the sixth inning with a leadoff single. Davis then pulled the ball down the left field line, scoring Crisp from first. 

Suzuki again came up with a runner in scoring position and he grounded out to second base moving Davis to third with one out. Make it 0-for-32 for the A’s with runners in scoring position. 

Next up for the A’s was Cust, who had two hits previously, but he ended up striking out making it 0-for-33 for the A’s with runners in scoring position. Kevin Kouzmanoff couldn’t come up with a big two out hit making the string with runners in scoring position. Oh-for-34. 

There’s not much to say about the rest of the game for the A’s offensively since that point in the game as they went 0-for-12, not even making a dent off struggling closer David Aardsma. 

What a disgraceful way to start a series for the A’s. The Mariners are one of the worst teams in baseball and the A’s can’t even gain ground on the Rangers, who were idle today, and in fact lost positioning in the standings because of tonight’s game. 

Even worse, though, for the A’s is that Felix Hernandez is starting tomorrow night’s game. So, instead of sweeping a team that came into tonight with only 42 wins, the A’s could be the team that gets swept—not a good sign when the A’s had a chance of gaining ground on the Rangers. 

The reason why the A’s had an excellent chance to make up some some substantial ground on the Rangers is because the Rangers are facing the New York Yankees the next two games.

Tonight, though, is just another example of the long list of reasons why Geren should be fired at the end of season regardless of where the A’s finish. The only way he saves his job is if the A’s make the playoffs, and under his direction that doesn’t seem very likely.  

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Looking Ahead To The Offseason: Who Stays and Who Goes For The A’s?

It’s a little too soon to think about the offseason, but with the injuries mounting for the Oakland A’s it’s only a matter of time before the rosters expand. Then the A’s will be  looking at what the roster maybe like for the 2011 season. 

With that being said what players are likely to stay? What players are likely going to be gone? I’ll start with the infielders and finish with the relief pitchers. 

The catcher position is the most stable position for the A’s with Kurt Suzuki signing a four year contract extension. Landon Powell is a solid backup behind Suzuki, he was behind the plate when Dallas Braden’s threw his perfect game. 

At first base this is where it gets interesting especially if the A’s aren’t in striking distance of the Texas Rangers. It’s almost certain that Chris Carter will be called up when the rosters expand to 40. 

Carter is the future of the A’s and is the power bat the A’s have been desperately seeking since Frank Thomas left as a free agent after the 2006 season. The problem is that the A’s have Daric Barton at first base. 

Which, could mean that Barton’s expendable or that he’s going to be asked to switch positions either to third base which he has some experience playing when he was in the minors or to the outfield. 

Second base Ellis should remain the starter, he doesn’t strike out much, can hit for power and is outstanding on defense. 

For shortstop the job still remains Cliff Pennington as the A’s really don’t have much depth at the position. 

Kevin Kouzmanoff’s at third base is a great defensive third basemen, but isn’t truly a middle of the order hitter which the A’s need. The A’s could certainly send him in a package deal in the offseason. 

A player that will likely remain on the A’s roster for his versatility and his hustle is Adam Rosales who played in the outfield and all four infield spots.

In left field for the A’s Rajai Davis will continue to split time at all three positions, his speed is a definite boost to the club and he’s been rather durable since arriving in Oakland. 

Coco Crisp in center signed only a one year contract with a club option, but the A’s will more than likely buy out his contract and hope to sign him for less or if he decides to go somewhere else Davis could return to his more natural position of center field. 

In right field is Ryan Sweeney who should be recovered from his knee injury could still be out of a job. With Michael Taylor starting to hit in Sacramento, Sweeney could be traded in the offseason depending on his health. 

Backup outfielders include Matt Watson, Matt Carson, Gabe Gross, and Jack Cust. Out of the four only Cust should remain with the A’s especially if Carter and Taylor can show they can hit at the Major League level once they are called up. 

The starting rotation will be interesting thanks to a plethora of young talent for the A’s. 

Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill will be at the top of the rotation, Dallas Braden will be third, Gio Gonzalez fourth, and Vin Mazzaro fifth. Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some trades involving the A’s young pitching. 

In my opinion Gonzalez and Mazarro are expendable and either one could be used in a trade involving Barton, Sweeney, or Kouzmanoff. For the A’s in Sacramento there’s Clayton Mortenson and Tyson Ross, but more importantly coming back from injury is Josh Outman. 

What was supposed to be the strength of the A’s in 2010 was the bullpen, but instead it was a weakness. Michael Wuertz struggled and I could see him being traded during the offseason. Jerry Blevins had been struggling but has been better as of late, Brad Ziegler continues to struggle and could be moved as well. 

Relievers like Cedric Bowers, Henry Rodriguez, and Ross Wolf need to start being used a little bit more as the season progresses to build up their confidence and show what they can do at the big league level. 

Bowers is 32 years of age but since he’s left handed he has a fit in the Majors, Rodriguez is the youngest he has a dominating fastball he needs to work on locating his offspeed pitches, and Wolf is 27 with not much experience yet. 

Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow have been the only consistent relievers the A’s have had all year. 

Rodriguez should be a setup man in 2011 if he can find his command, Bowers will more than likely begin the year in Sacramento, same can be said for Wolf. Coming back from injury Joey Devine who will find a spot in the bullpen. 

Looking at the players currently on the disabled list. Eric Chavez should retire, Travis Buck will either be released or find his way back to the minors, Conor Jackson should be with the A’s in 2011 as a fourth outfielder and backup first basemen, John Meloan will begin in Sacramento, Justin Duchscherer will be released, and Ben Sheets will not be resigned either. 

So, the players likely staying for the A’s are Suzuki, Powell, Ellis, Pennington, Rosales, Davis, Jackson, Bowers, Rodriguez, Wolf, Bailey, and Breslow. 

Likely out include: Barton, Crisp, Gonzalez, Mazarro, Wuertz, Ziegler, Buck, Chavez, Duchscherer, and Sheets.

Coming back from injuries: Devine, Outman, and Sweney.

What will be interesting is if the A’s do make any trades during the offseason and what kind of players will they get in return.

Here’s what a possible lineup for the A’s could look like for next year:

1. Davis, CF

2. Jackson, LF

3. Taylor, RF

4. Carter, 1B

5. Suzuki, C

6. Cust, DH

7. Barton, 3B

8. Ellis, 2B

9. Pennington, SS


1. Rosales

2. Powell

3. Corey Wimberly

4. Carson

The Starting rotation would look like this:

1. Anderson

2. Cahill

3. Braden

4. Mortenson

5. Outman/Ross


1. Bowers

2. Blevins

3. Jon Hunton

4. Devine

5. Rodriguez

6. Breslow

7. Bailey 

This lineup doesn’t take into account free agency or who the A’s could possibly get in a trade, so the offseason for the A’s could be big because they have plenty of young pitching talent and a few players that could attract some interest. 

But, the biggest fix of all for A’s fans should be the firing of Bob Geren and hitting coach Jim Skaalen. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Grading the Oakland A’s at the All-Star Break

The Oakland A’s have had an up-and-down season so far.

They were in first place in the American League West at the beginning of June.

At the All-Star Break the A’s are now 43-46 and seven-and-a-half games out of first place and three games out of second.

Now is time to take a look at the grades for each player the A’s have had at the break. I’ll start with the infield, then outfielders, relievers, and then the starters for the A’s.

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