Ryan Sweeney: Does Size Really Matter?

Does Size Really Matter?

Why does Ryan Sweeney get a bad rap?

His size.

As fans, we’ve been conditioned to expect larger hitters to hit home runs and doubles. But standing at 6-foot-4, Sweeney is an oddity. Since he made his big-league debut with the White Sox in 2006, he’s never given us any indication that home runs will be a part of his game. Hell, he’s never hit more than six in a season. Those are clues as to what type of hitter he is and will be, people. Don’t expect him to morph into Mark McGwire over an offseason. Throughout his career, 74% of Sweeney’s 358 hits have been singles, and 20% of them have been doubles. Still, he’s a career .286 hitter and gets on base about 34% of the time.

He is what he is.

The problem is he’s been playing on a team full of other Ryan Sweeneys. None of the A’s hit more than 16 home runs last season, and their entire infield hit only 37. Power was a monumental deficiency on the team, and when a player like Sweeney, a good hitter, can only muster a homer in 303 at-bats, fans grumble over his shortcomings as a player. So his inability to hit the long-ball is magnified and he’s not appreciated. Instead of embracing his ability to get hits, we rag on him for his lack of power.

In many ways, for Sweeney’s game to shine, he needs to be surrounded by the perfect supporting cast. For example, if you insert him in another lineup like, say, the Red Sox or Rangers, teams with multiple sluggers, he’d be much more valued for his game as a table-setter; a player who can get on base before a three-run homer. HIS power wouldn’t be needed. But since the A’s lacked a legitimate power hitter last season, he’s just another singles hitter in a power-challenged lineup. Big deal. They had plenty of them.

Perhaps the additions of Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham can take pressure off Sweeney and empower him to do what he does best: hit singles, get on base, and flag down long drives in right field. If their lineup can score some runs and garner some wins, fans would overlook Sweeney’s season total of six home runs and prize his .290 batting average. If not, he’ll continue to be considered a waste of size.

Either way, A’s fans, we need to change our expectations of him: he’s not a base-clearer; he’s a table-setter. So instead of holding his size against him, value his game for what it is, and the next time you see him march to the plate, close your eyes and imagine it’s Luis Polonia.

6 Responses, Leave a Reply

  1. Wesway

    Finally….. a positive column on Ryan Sweeny. I am sick and tired of the Sweeny bashing, it’s unfair and undeserved. He’s a solid all around player that hits lots of singles and doubles. A number of other teams would love to have him. Thanks Dale, for providing some much needed perspective on Sweeny.

  2. tony martin

    thank you for your positive post. A career .290 hitter and gold glove capability gets most players their due. Not Ryan. Instead they (experts who never played the game, let alone face a 95 mph fastball) deem him worthy of playing. Get a grip and enjoy him while you can because many teams are in need of a .290-.300 hitter

  3. Lisa Hoffert

    I love Sweeney. I had written a blog about him in 2009. It’s funny because I will hear people say negative things or at least not completely positive things about A’s players or the organization and I’ll let them know the reality and I’ll give the facts and I commonly get an “oh really?!” “I didn’t know that” … People who “report” on the A’s who aren’t Urban or Lee etc don’t have a clue what they are talking about. Most of the time I don’t think sports reporters do their research and don’t think A’s fans will care. I have loved this team since I was a little kid, pretty much since birth so don’t bash my team and the players without something to back it up. Ryan Sweeney can be a star if he stays healthy.

  4. Henry

    you tell me if he can hit home runs…

  1. - Jan 15th, 2011

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