"I think under difficult circumstances he's done a good job," Beane told FanHouse. "Having the youngest team with the lowest payroll in the league is a difficult challenge for any manager, and given the amount of injuries that makes it that much more difficult. I think you have to be realistic with what you are given to start and ultimately what you have to work with, and quite frankly, he hasn't had a whole lot to work with."
The A's 3-6 hitters have a combined OPS of .701, which is second-worst in the American League. (Not surprisingly, the only team worse, Seattle, is the only team below the A's in the AL West standings.) The 21 homers the A's have gotten out of those spots are the fewest in the league.
"We are getting some hits, but the Achilles' heel, even coming in for us, was the lack of power and slugging," Beane said. "In this league it's very difficult to compete day in and day out when you don't hit more homers. That's not something we were unaware of, but there's not a whole lot we can do about it."
Chris Carter, the A's top power-hitting prospect, has 15 homers at Triple-A Sacramento, but he's also hitting .238 and he's struck out 82 times in 260 at-bats.
"He's doing some good things down there, but he still needs some time," Beane said.
On a related note, this recently showed up in the mailbag:
Yesterday, you mentioned Billy Beane's error regarding Andre Ethier. What you failed to mention is that Beane apparently cannot evaluate young power hitters like Ryan Ludwick, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Pena, and Nelson Cruz, each of whom (like Ethier) would be leading the A's in home runs today if they were still A's.
Let's see who the A's got in exchange for all those guys:
Ethier: Milton Bradley
Cruz: Keith Ginter
Continuing the chains, the A's traded Matt Holliday for Brett Wallace, who was traded for Michael Taylor (Wallace is younger than Taylor, and has played better this season); they traded Ted Lilly for Bobby Kielty.
I've left out some details -- payroll considerations, pennant-race machinations, minor leaguers who never made it, etc. -- but I think you get the general gist of the thing: Beane has had his hands on some talented hitters with power, and he's let practically all of them get away without much in return. Does this mean Beane "cannot evaluate young power hitters"?
I wouldn't go that far. This is a selective grouping; how many young power hitters has Beane traded, who never reached the heights of these fellows? Still, this will probably mark the fifth straight season in which the A's don't rank in the upper half of the American League in run production. And it's mostly because they continue to people their lineups with hitters who are both power-starved and injury-prone. And with Taylor and Carter both struggling in Triple-A, this doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon.