What do Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista have in common?
Probably many things. But for our purposes right here, they are American League All-Star sluggers who play every day and who have fewer RBIs than Brandon Moss, who can only count on playing when a right-handed pitcher faces the A’s.
The difference? Those three are right-handed and seldom get benched against right-handed starting pitchers. Moss is left-handed and it’s a coin flip if he’s going to start when the A’s face a left-handed starter like, say, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez, who faces the A’s on Sunday.
Moss came into the weekend with 28 RBIs in 134 plate trips, the AL’s fifth-best RBI total heading into Saturday. Bautista has 23 in 164 trips, Pujols 26 in 153 and Cabrera 25 in 133. Those three have not missed a game for their teams. Moss has played in 35 of the A’s 36 games, which seems to be in the same terrain, but he’s only started 29 of the 35.
We bring this up only to highlight what a good beginning to the season it’s been for Moss, who has started in left and right, at first base and as the DH. As versatile as he is, he is somewhat stigmatized by being a left-handed hitter. The A’s have faced lefty starters 11 times, and he’s started just four times.
In those four games, he’s 3-for-9 (.333) with a walk, a hit by pitch and a home run while the left-handed starter is in the game. That should earn him more playing time, but the A’s are wedded to the platoon for now. Moss credits his numbers against left-handed starters with getting more than one chance to see a pitcher in the game.
“I hate left-handed relievers,’’ he said. “You only get one look at them, and then it’s over. It’s harder to figure them out. Against the starters, you see them for a few at-bats and you get an idea of what they’re trying to do and how their pitches move.’’
For all of that, Moss is making the most of what opportunities he has. In addition to the 28 RBIs – he didn’t have his 28th RBI last year until June 5 – he has six homers, a dozen walks and has been hit by five pitches, giving him an on-base percentage of .474.
More than anything, he isn’t flummoxed by the month of May. Last year May “just about killed me,’’ he said.
“I was trying to hit the ball over the fence, and it wasn’t working,’’ he said. “So Chili (batting coach Chili Davis) and I made it a goal this year to not do that. The idea is to just get my hits, take the hits I get know that when I hit the ball go the home runs will come. I got myself all out of shape last May.’’
Moss already has seven May RBIs, equaling his total for all of last May. He had three homers last May and has two this time around with two-thirds of the month to go.
“I just don’t want to go through another month like last May again,’’ he said.