Offspeed success has A's in fast lane

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Yoenis Cespdes has been leading the offensive charge for the A's during their July surge.The American League’s two Cinderella wild card contenders face off this weekend as the red-hot Oakland Athletics continue their six-game road trip with a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Oakland had their seven-game win streak snapped on Thursday in a 10-4 loss at Toronto, but still own the league’s best record in July at 16-3 (.842).

Best Win Pct in July
Since 1900 (min. 10 Games)

This series with the Orioles is the third of five straight series against AL East teams for Oakland. So far, they are 6-1 against the division on this trip and 15-9 overall against them this season, the only division they have a winning record against.

The A’s July surge has been fueled by a pitching staff that owns the lowest ERA in the league during the month, and a power-hitting lineup that is averaging the most home runs per game in the majors during July.

Tonight’s starter Jarrod Parker is coming off one of the best outings of his rookie campaign, when he held the New York Yankees to one run in eight innings. He pounded the bottom of the zone in that game, getting a career-high 13 groundouts.

Leading the offensive charge for the A’s has been Yoenis Cespedes. Since the All-Star break, Cespedes is hitting .458, which ranks third in the majors. More notable than the hot streak itself is how Cespedes is getting his hits.

In his last 12 games, he has nearly as many hits versus offspeed stuff as he did in the entire first half. He’s hitting .500 (16-32) in at-bats ending with an offspeed pitch since the break. He hit .194 (19-98) against offspeed pitches in the first half.

Yoenis Cespedes vs Offspeed Pitches
This Season

When Cespedes signed with Oakland, scouting reports – such as this one by ESPN’s Keith Law – noted how Cespedes could be vulnerable to offspeed stuff, especially on the outer half with his pull-happy approach.

In the first half, that’s exactly what happened. He hit .330 against fastballs but under .200 against offspeed stuff.

Teams began to catch on. Since the All-Star break, 55 percent of the pitches Cespedes has seen have been offspeed, the highest rate in baseball. Pitchers adjusted to Cespedes, but he adjusted back. He has an MLB-best 16 hits versus offspeed stuff since the break, including six for extra bases.

He has also started to use the whole field, relying less on his pull-heavy approach. He has five opposite-field hits on offspeed pitches since the All-Star break; he had one in the entire first half.

Cespedes’ presence in the lineup has been key for the A’s. He missed 22 games in May and nine more games in June with various injuries. The A’s are 41-25 this season when he’s in the lineup and 12-20 when he’s not. If he can stay in the lineup, the upstart A’s might just find themselves in the postseason.