A's First Baseman Daric Barton Earns Demotion

OAKLAND, CA : Daric Barton #10 of the Oakland Athletics fields a ball hit by Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

With Mark Ellis coming off the DL Wednesday, an Athletic had to be excised from the 25-man roster.

Hmmm, let's see ... Hey about the first baseman who's been hitting like a triple-A shortstop?

Joe Stiglich (via MercuryNews.com) on the demotion of Daric Barton:

"I've talked to him. He's changed his attitude, he's been positive," Melvin said after a 7-3 victory over the New York Mets. "It's a chance to go down and clear his head. I think he's going to be a big piece for us down the road - this season."

Barton hadn't homered in 65 games as a first baseman, the longest season-opening homerless streak by a major league first baseman since Al Oliver went 101 games for the Giants and Phillies in 1984.

"It is what it is," Barton said. "I didn't produce."

There's a missing piece of information here ... What did Barton change his attitude from, and was there some problem with his attitude that contributed to his horrible statistics this season?

According to FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement (fWar), Barton was the second-best first baseman in the American League last season. This season he's been the worst, right down there with Derrek Lee and Justin Morneau.

After a rough 2008, Barton was exceptionally consistent and moderately effective in 2009 and '10, posting a composite .272/.388/.406 line that benefited greatly from a ton of walks. Barton didn't hit with the power you'd like to see from your first baseman, but the walks -- plus his outstanding defense, last season anyway -- compensated nicely.

This season, though? The walks are still there, but the power has utterly disappeared and there's little statistical evidence that Barton's having a good year with the glove, either. He's only 25, was coming off two good seasons, and before that was annually considered one of the better prospects in the minors. There was simply no reason to expect anything like the disastrous campaign Barton's endured, so far.

Of course, there wasn't any reason to expect Kevin Kouzmanoff's steep decline to continue this season, either. There are plenty of reasons for the Athletics' inability to score, but the inexplicable failures of their Opening Day corner infielders has to rank near the very top of the list.

Predictions: Kouzmanoff's finished, and won't do enough in triple-A to earn his job back. Barton, unless he's badly injured, will start popping some occasional home runs with Sacramento, and will resume his first-base duties with the big club not long after the All-Star break. In Kouzmanoff's absence, Scott Sizemore has been tearing things up at third base. But at first base, Conor Jackson's not likely to do the same. Management is desperate for a reason to reinstall Barton at his old spot. He just needs to get back to where he was, just last summer.

For much more about the Athletics, please visit Athletics Nation.

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