Let me preface this by saying that I am fully aware that it is no fun at all to own a position player on the A’s. Other than a couple months of Rajai and 400 underwhelming at-bats from Matt Holliday last season, Oakland hasn’t had an offensive player of fantasy relevance since Frank Thomas was reborn in 2006 (yea, that happened). Now, Jack Cust
isn’t likely to make anyone forget The Big Hurt, but his performance over the last couple weeks certainly qualifies as relevant to the fantasy world, and even mixed-leaguers should begin taking notice.
It hasn’t been an easy ride for Cust this season. He went unclaimed after Oakland designated him for assignment on April 4, then spent the next month-and-a-half in Triple-A before getting recalled on May 15. He batted a solid .286 through sporadic playing time in May and June, swallowing his pride and waiting for a shot behind a washed-up Eric Chavez and a series of equally inept designated hitters.
After the team’s DHs embarrassingly struggled to a combined .231-2-29 line over the season’s first three months, the offensively starved A’s finally figured it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to slot a guy who averaged 28 homers and a .840 OPS from 2007-2009 in the lineup on the regular. Brilliant! So while it must have been tough for manager Bob Geren not to write names like Chavez, Jake Fox and Gabe Gross on the scorecard every day, his pain was eased as Cust produced like a champ and embarked on a beastly tear beginning on July 9.
In 10 games since that day, the powerful 31-year-old has gone 11-for-32 with six homers, 14 ribbies and 11 runs scored. That includes a two-homer game this past Saturday where he reached base five times. Reaching base has become a specialty for Cust, whose .327 average and 15 walks have culminated in an eye-popping .465 OBP for the month. Throw in a .782 slugging percentage and you get a 1.247 OPS which leads all Major League outfielders with at least 60 plate appearances in July.
To get all Sabermetrical on you, only two American Leaguers with 50 plate appearances this month — Miguel Cabrera and Mark Teixeira — have created more runs per 27 outs than Cust. In other words, a lineup made up of nine Jack Custs would overcome being the slowest and most entertaining group of baserunners in history to average a robust 12.31 runs per game. **RC/27 is definitely the coolest Sabermetric stat that hasn’t gotten much love yet.
Having mentioned Sabermetrics, it feels necessary to include that Cust’s .388 Batting Average on Balls in Play this season signals that his current .300 overall average has virtually no chance to last. That being said, the guy has somehow managed an impressive .332 career BABIP, so don’t expect too much of a drop-off.
Cust’s power isn’t likely to let up much either down the stretch. He has a history of heating up as the season winds down, going deep every 14.2 at-bats in the August and September months from 08-09. To offer a frame of reference, Cabrera has averaged a homer every 14.8 at-bats this season and Josh Hamilton sits at 16.7.
Again, Cust probably won’t be anything near the force that the aforementioned sluggers will be going forward. But if you’ve learned anything from this barrage of statistics — and here’s another — he’s definitely better than a guy owned in just 11 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Coming up next: Position Battles – Week 2