Reddick proving to be irreplaceable for the A's
Young outfielder has been among AL's best during first season in Oakland
According to Baseball-Reference.com, here is your current WAR (wins above replacement players) leader board among American League position players:
1. Mike Trout, 7.6
2. Robinson Cano, 5.5
3. Miguel Cabrera, 5.0
4. Josh Reddick, 4.3
5. Austin Jackson, 4.1
No, that's not a clerical mistake. It's the right Josh -- Reddick, not Hamilton.
What this category of statistical analysis, evaluating both offense and defense, informs us is that only three position players in the AL are more irreplaceable than the right fielder of the Oakland Athletics.
If Reddick's extraordinarily high ranking -- ahead of the celebrated Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, among others -- comes as a surprise, there are several obvious explanations.
One, Reddick left Boston. Two, he came to Oakland. And, three, Reddick is still relatively new to the Major League scene, this being his second full season.
In other words, national exposure to the explosive native Georgian with the flowing locks and glowing talent hasn't been what you'd call Trout-like.
Exciting rivals in the AL West, where the A's have brashly invaded the turf of the high-profile Rangers and Angels, Trout and Reddick had a memorable moment last Friday night at the Oakland Coliseum.
Lashing a line drive to right-center against Jarrod Parker, Trout turned on the jets, certain of a double. Blasting into second, the Angels' wunderkind was stunned to find the ball reaching the glove of shortstop Eric Sogard as he made his headfirst dive. Reddick had put it there with a laser of a throw. The call was out, and Trout objected, with good reason as the replay showed. But the point had been made yet again.
Run on Reddick at your own risk -- even if you're arguably the fastest guy in a baseball uniform.
Reddick's 13 assists underscore just one of his gifts. His powerful, accurate arm and quick release keep runners anchored or erases them. He also has the instincts and athleticism of a Rawlings Gold Glove candidate and has shown no fear of crashing against walls to make run-saving catches.
Fast, if not Trout fast, Reddick has 10 steals without getting caught, carrying his natural aggression to the basepaths.
A left-handed hitter with a classic power stroke, Reddick gets remarkable carry on his drives for a guy with the frame of a marathon runner. Using his 6-foot-2, 180-pound body as a whip, he has launched 25 home runs and owns a .500 slugging percentage.
A .184 August has dropped Reddicks' average to .253, and his .325 on-base percentage can stand improvement. But WAR doesn't seem to mind, and neither does manager Bob Melvin, who favors athletes who play from the heart and appreciates Reddick's presence as his No. 3 hitter.
"We knew he had some power for a slight guy," Melvin said. "He extends and uses his lower half. The power was always there. I knew that talking to [A's hitting coach] Chili [Davis], who had him last year in Boston.
"He's getting the opportunity to play every day and the confidence of us putting him in the No. 3 spot. He's really been a stabilizing force in the middle of the lineup from that spot."
Reddick was the centerpiece from general manager Billy Beane's end in the winter deal that sent closer Andrew Bailey and veteran outfielder Ryan Sweeney to Boston. Along with Reddick, the A's acquired a pair of highly regarded prospects in pitcher Raul Alcantara and first baseman Miles Head.
In his return to Fenway Park in an A's uniform April 30 to May 2, Reddick was 4-for-12 with a homer and double, driving in three runs. Oakland took two of three, developing a chemistry that has carried the club well beyond all expectations into the postseason hunt.
Players respond to the sense of rejection that can come with an early-career trade in different ways. Reddick doesn't deny the presence of a chip on his shoulder with respect to the Red Sox.
"When a team doesn't really show faith in you and goes out to get another person to replace you, it always feels good to show people what you can do," said Reddick. "I've always been someone not expected to do things."
The Red Sox didn't project Reddick developing this brand of power. In 375 at-bats in parts of three seasons in Boston, he had 10 homers and 37 RBIs. But you never know when a guy is going to reach maturity as a hitter, something that clearly has happened with Reddick at 25.
"Early in my career, when I was about 170 pounds, it was a big thing," he said. "Boston preached walks, plate discipline. I was getting myself out a lot.
"Playing every day here has helped a lot. I feel comfortable here. We seem to do everything right. The biggest thing for us is everybody's on the same page. One through nine [in the lineup] and with the pitching we have, we feel we have what it takes to stay on that path we're on. No doubt in my mind we can do this."
Reddick's power surge is especially notable given Oakland's reputation as a pitcher-friendly park. Only Kansas City was a tougher place for left-handed hitters to go deep in the AL in 2011.
"I don't want to get too pull happy," Reddick said. "I want to stay inside the ball. I have to connect perfectly to be able to backspin a baseball. I have strong wrists and good hand-eye coordination.
"I had confidence in my ability to drive the ball. I always felt I was a 20-home run guy. But I didn't think that was going to come this fast."
Reddick had offseason surgery on the left wrist and has worked diligently to keep it strong.
Born in Savannah, Ga., Reddick showed off enough raw talent at South Effingham High School and then at Middle Georgia College to be taken in the 17th round by Boston in 2006. He grew up with the typical kid's joy of swinging from the heels and watching the ball fly.
"My dad brought me up to see ball, hit ball and not really worry about walks," he said.
Here's a guy the A's are happy to take into WAR.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.