OAKLAND — A's fans again were served the Jack Cust sampler platter Saturday afternoon at McAfee Coliseum, consisting of one-third walk, one-third strikeout and one-third home run.
True, he also flied out to center, but we'll set that aside since it screws up the math.
Point being, the entire offensive package that Cust offers was on display in the A's 7-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.
There will be no shortage of statistics from which to evaluate Cust's 2008 season, but what conclusions to draw from those numbers is a head-scratcher.
His opposite-field, two-run shot off Scott Feldman in the fourth inning put the A's in front for good. That was his team-high 29th homer to go with a team-best 68 RBI. He also leads the American League with 98 walks.
But those figures sit alongside a .230 average and an Oakland-record 178 strikeouts. With 14 games left, Cust is just eight strikeouts away from Rob Deer's AL record of 186, set with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1987.
"I'm going to strike out," said Cust, well-versed in addressing the topic with reporters. "Obviously I'd like to decrease them. But I think my selectiveness at the plate helps me hit home runs. It goes hand-in-hand. I'm not a contact hitter."
It's a reality he's come to grips with, as have the A's.
Whenever Cust's strikeout totals are brought up, manager Bob Geren is quick to counter with Cust's high walk total and other numbers that benefit the
"He's led every league he's been in in walks and homers, and has the strikeouts to go along with it," Geren said. "He goes deep in counts. His pitches per plate appearance is one of the highest in baseball."
What's noteworthy over the past several weeks is Cust has taken fewer called third strikes, even as his overall strikeout numbers pile up. He jumped on a 1-0 fastball from Feldman on Saturday.
"Jack's a dangerous hitter, and if he gets his pitch, you want him to take a good swing at it," A's hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo said recently. "You've got to take the good with the bad with a hitter because he does walk a lot and he is pitched to very carefully because of his power. Sometimes he takes pitches that he knows he should have swung at."
Cust's penchant for striking out may drive fans up a wall, but on this year's power-starved team, he's been a necessary fixture in the middle of the lineup.
After him, the A's next best power source has been Emil Brown with 13 homers.
To put their offense in context, the A's have struck out an AL-high 1,122 times and have hit just 114 homers. Only two teams in AL history have compiled 1,100 strikeouts with fewer than 125 homers: the Tampa Bay Devil Rays teams of 1998 and 2001.
On Saturday, however, Cust wasn't the only hitter doing damage.
The A's broke open a 2-1 game in the fifth as Aaron Cunningham blooped a two-run single to right and Bobby Crosby cleared the bases with a three-run double.
"It's always nice when you're hitting in a lineup that's got a lot of guys that can hurt you," Cust said. "You can't zone in on one guy. We've got some good hitters in our lineup. Maybe not power guys, but (Ryan) Sweeney and (Kurt) Suzuki have been swinging the bat good all year."
Contact Joe Stiglich at email@example.com.