By Jason Wojciechowski on August 19, 2004 at 4:45 PM
Erubiel Durazo blew up against the Orioles yesterday, providing the A's all five runs they needed on three homers, the last a tie-breaking solo shot in the eighth inning that Mark Mulder and Octavio Dotel made stand up.
This is what A's fans have been waiting for from Durazo since the beginning of last year, but, while his 2003 season was disappointing, he's back to normal this year, quietly putting up an excellent season. He's top-10 in the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging, and he's well on his way to a career-high in homers (he's got 18, compared to 21 last year) doubles (25 this year, 29 last), and hits (123 to 139).
One worrisome thing about his performance is that his walk rate has tanked. His BB/PA this year is .088, compared to a previous low of .135, in 2001. Also, while his slugging percentage is good, his Isolated Power is still well down from his huge Arizona years. There's probably a lot to be said for park effects, though.
What do BP's metrics say about this performance? Durazo is 20th in the AL in EqA, though he's actually down the list a bit among full time DH's. Travis Hafner, David Ortiz, and Frank Thomas are all quite a bit ahead of him, and among guys who haven't been around all year, David Newhan and Bucky Jacobsen are also outperforming him.
There's some big disagreement between RARP and VORP on this, though, since Durazo is sixteenth in the AL in VORP, despite his position, but finds himself about five runs out of 20th by RARP. I suspect this may be due to different handling of the DH position.
Mark Mulder continued his rather unimpressive ways, giving up four early runs, though he held the Orioles down after the third. Let's continue in that vein: Mulder gave up just six hits, and only one for extra bases (a double by Miguel Tejada), but he also walked three batters and threw a wild pitch. He threw just 91 pitches to get through eight innings, but he didn't strike out a single Oriole.
Actually, I think I've found all the bad. Two runs scored on ground ball outs, one on a Jay Gibbons ground out to second with BJ Surhoff on third, and one the next inning on a double play where Scott Hatteberg stepped on first base before throwing to second for the tag. Since the last out wasn't a force out, if Melvin Mora came home and touched the plate before Tejada was tagged at second, the run would count, and, indeed, that's what happened. Let's be clear: I'm not disparaging Hatteberg here or saying he made a bad play. I'm just saying that the A's needed a ground ball double play to get out of the inning, and that's exactly what Mulder got them, though it would've helped his cause more if the ball had gone to someone other than Hatteberg.
As those two ground balls attest, Mulder was, as usual, giving balls to his infielders like they were kids in a cancer ward: an 18/5 GB/FB ratio will win you a lot of games.
With all the recently discovered need for an emphasis on pitcher strikeouts, though, Mulder's plumbing the depths of his strikeout rate while trying to maintain his success could turn into an alarming situation rather quickly.
That's one of the striking things about Brandon Webb: he's an absolute ground ball maniac, getting 3.38 wormballs for every flyout, but he's still striking out 6.6 guys per nine innings (though it ought to be said that his walk total is also a little high).