It's Patterson ... it's Patterson time

By Jason Wojciechowski on July 14, 2008 at 5:28 PM

Let's just call up Eric Patterson now and move Mark Ellis over to shortstop. Or put Patterson at third. Or at short. Or put Kurt Suzuki at third and let Patterson catch. I don't care, because he's on fire at AAA and the A's can't hit. Patterson had three more hits yesterday, including another double and another homer. In his four games in the A's system, he's got an OPS of 1.576. (This is after putting up a robust .875 for the Cubs' AAA squad.) I'm pretty sure the man can hit. He's stolen 12 bases at AAA this year, and has been caught exactly zero times. This brings his career minor league rate to 79%, which isn't Carlos Beltran, but it is the kind of rate that can help the A's if he can keep it up in the majors.

I'm getting a little too excited about this, I know, because it's been four games with Sacramento. That said, the general statement you can make about Patterson ("he can hit") remains true whether you're looking at these four games or his nearly 2000-PA minor league career: .303/.367/.475 is an excellent line if he can stick at second base (and based on the fact that he's played second base in all four of his games at Sacramento, it looks like the A's will give him every chance to prove that he can stick there).

We all love Mark Ellis, partly because he's one of those "best defensive players never to win a Gold Glove" guys, partly because he's gritty and awesome, partly because he's said he wants to stay with the A's, and partly because he's the career leader in homers hit by players born in South Dakota (although watch out for Jason Kubel -- he's coming hard). But you have to ask about the warts as well, and here's the major one: Mark Ellis cannot be counted on to consistently hit the baseball. He had an excellent 2005, with an .861 OPS, and a good 2007, with a .777 OPS. But in those two years, his batting averages were .316 and .276. In 2003 (he was hurt in 2004) and 2006, he batted .248 and .249. This year, he's at .238. His OPS is in the low .700's. Is that the kind of performance you want to pay free agent money for, from a guy who'll be 32 next year? Patterson's PECOTA weighted mean for this year is basically what Ellis hit last season (and that doesn't take into account how well he's hit and stolen bases this season) -- isn't it worth it to get Mark Ellis's peak offensive performance out of a much younger and cheaper Eric Patterson, rather than paying Ellis himself to hit below his peak? And to be a constant declining presence in the 8th spot of the order for the next three years?

Fortunately, I have faith that the A's understand this, and that they're perfectly willing to let a fan favorite walk (they traded Rich Harden!) to replace him with a guy who will bring about the same value (just in a different shape -- more offense, less defense) for much cheaper.