Wednesday, September 16, 2009

State of the Team for September 15, 2009

This one's going to be brief. Edgar Gonzalez took the mount and we finally took advantage of a non-terrible outing from the guy. Every time he does alright it seems like the A's go out of their way to not score...kind of like the way Jack Cust seems to go out of his way to lead the league in strikeouts...does he know Carlos Pena's done for the year? He doesn't have to go on a strikeout rampage just to take the honors of AL whiff-leader. Anyway, A's are playing great, this could be (I'm crossing my fingers for no jinx) the A's first winning month since last June. Very unlikely to finish .500 (they'd have to go 15-3) like some had hoped this time last month, but there's a good chance they improve on last year. Sadly, Vin Mazzaro looks to be done for the year and, while I know he wasn't doing that well, I say it's sad because we have to keep Edgar Gonzalez in our rotation. And to make matters worse, some other pitcher who'd be an adequate mid-rotation guy in triple-A will have to take the mound because Brett Tomko has a pinched nerve...who thought anyone would be disappointed to not see Brett Tomko? The A's starting pitchers seem to be dropping like flies...Outman, Braden, Mazzaro and now Tomko are all down, which leaves Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill as the only ones remaining from the rotation that started the year. I guess that's why they're Olympians. It's funny that with Mazzaro out now, all these extra arms have seemingly been thrown in with the sole purpose to protect Cahill and Anderson. Obviously it's still interesting to see how Gio does, as well as the rest of the team, but so much is being done to preserve these young arms that it almost seems as though Billy Beane thinks the two Olympians are the Holy Grail he's desired for so long. It's too bad they can't hit...

But the Riverkitties lost their first game in the PCL finals to Memphis, maybe we'll get to see some guys who can hit once their seasons done..
.Both Anderson...

AND Cahill are Bronze Medal-winning Olympians, and the only two members of Oakland's opening day rotation that still pitch every 5...I mean 6 days...

Good win! Some of the better baseball this year is being played right now. It's too bad the games are so achingly long with all the reinforcements for the pitchers...

Trevor Cahill looks to bounce back from his most recent eye-blink of an outing...Go A's.

Monday, September 14, 2009

State of the Team for September 14 and a RE-Reflection On the A's Offense

Today was quite a game. Coming into today, if I'd known the final score was 9-0, I wouldn't have even bothered listening...I would've assumed Brett Tomko was shelled for 4 or 5 of the runs within his first 4-5 frames and the A's were held scoreless by the solid Burlingame native, and CSM alum, Scott Feldman, who likely pitched at least 7 solid innings before getting pulled to preserve his arm...but that's not what happened...Instead, Brett Tomko tallied his 100th win in brilliant fashion, as the A's were the victors of the 9-0 final. Brett Tomko continues to pitch well, in fact tonight that can be upgraded to"very well," for the A's, tossing his 14th career complete game, and just the second shutout of his twelve year career. Ryan Sweeney was undoubtedly the offensive star tonight, (though he's also honored with the A's defensive highlight of the game) bashing 3 doubles that earned him 3 RBI. Adam Kennedy, Daric Barton, and Cliff Pennington also had solid games with 2 base-hits each.

11:3 strikeout to walk ratio, 1.01 WHIP, 2.95 ERA, and a 4-1 record are the accolades that complement Tomko's tenure with the A's. His 100th win and 2nd shutout are two career marks he added today.

It will be interesting to see how Tomko performs in his next three starts, which will conclude his 2009 with Oakland. If he continues to perform, I don't see why the A's can't give him a shot in the spring. On the other hand, this is Brett Tomko. He's been pretty average his entire career, and unless whatever adjustment he made some part of the way through Sacramento (I'd heard he changed his arm angle, or changed something...I couldn't find where I heard or saw that though when I searched online so it may have been in an interview on the radio or television) then nobody should really expect much more than average. That's also something that needs to be remembered about Tomko...even with all these solid performances, he's always been average. Average pitchers can have good outings...even great outings. Average pitchers also have bad outings...even horrible outings. Guys like Tomko can ride a roller-coaster of solid outings and bad outings, but in the end the ups and downs amount to not a whole lot more than mediocrity. As for the apparent adjustment that was made to Tomko, (apologies for not remembering or providing a source) who knows if that's the cause of his excellent performance? Most of the time things like that aren't much more credible than the spring training cliche's we hear every March that explain why every player out there is a potential Cy Young or MVP because they gained 20 pounds of muscle and started doing pilates in the offseason. But sometimes they are performance changing adjustments, (for better or for worse).

It's hard to imagine a 12-year veteran just figured out the secret to good pitching at the age of 36...but things like that do happen...rarely. I'm not sure how many people know Justin Duchscherer's story too well. I know plenty of A's fans do, but if everyone else knew I'd assume it's a story that would be talked about a lot more. Though it's a feel good story that's somewhat soured by Duchscherer's current situation, it's nonetheless remarkable. Duke was an 8th round pick by the Red Sox in 96' and showed a lot of promise early on, but scouts were never thrilled about his inability to throw hard. Scouts lack of faith in Duke prompted his trade from Boston to Texas for career backup Doug Mirabelli in 2001. Later that season, he made his debut for the Rangers, and it appeared as though the scouts who doubted Duchscherer's ability to pitch to big-league hitters were vindicated. In 14 2/3 IP for the 2001 Rangers, Duke went 1-1 with a 12.28 ERA while he gave up 24 hits. This performance influenced another trade that, at the time, was quite under-the-radar. In the middle of the 2002 spring training, the A's traded reliever Luis Vascaino to Texas for Duke. This was only a move to add minor league starting pitching depth, as Duke was an inconsistent quadruple-A'er so far, at best. In his first 6 seasons of professional baseball, Duchscherer had stints with 18 different minor league teams, posting five sub-3 ERA's, four over 4 (including 2 over 5), and 9 more between 3 and 4. Those who follow minor league baseball know that guys like these are a dime a's also not a mystery that minor leaguers lose value with every year they age. Duchscherer's first year in the A's organization was quite unimpressive, as he racked up a 5.57 ERA in 63 IP for Sacramento. The next year, however, was when he made people take notice. Going 12-2 with a 3.13 ERA is pretty solid in the Pacific Coast League, but having a 1.06 WHIP in 138 1/3 IP is fantastic. In all those innings, Duke allowed just 15 bases on balls, earning a call up to make a spot start for an injured Mark Mulder on September 9, 2003 against the Angels. He pitched 7 shutout innings (for dramatic effect, his wife-of-that-time gave birth to his son, Evan on that day) and he really never looked back...well kind of, with all the injuries. Duke would go on to earn 2 AL All-Star selections and is recognized as one of most efficient pitchers in baseball. He was 26 in his first full season with the A's (a little younger then Tomko) but 30 years old in his first and only season as a starter. That season, Duchscherer was the only pitcher in baseball with at least 20 starts to retire the side in order in more than half of the innings he pitched...While that story isn't exactly the same as Tomko's, it's proof guys can learn to pitch little later. Tomko's game's a bit different than Duchscherer's as he throws harder and walks a few more. However, Tomko does have good-lookin' 11:3 K-BB ratio, and a Duchscherer-like 1.01 WHIP with the A's. I also think it's noteworthy that with his last 5 teams, Tomko, who yields a career 1.37 WHIP, has had a 1.13, 1.53, 0.86, 1.26, and 1.01 WHIP, respectively.

Now all of that banter probably makes it look like I'm in favor of Tomko being apart of the 2010 rotation. What I'm in favor of is the A's having the best 5 pitchers they can possibly and realisticly have in the 2010 rotation that doesn't negatively effect any long-term plans. If Tomko goes 3-10 with a 5 ERA next year with another team, I'll be happy we didn't keep him...if he does that with the Athletics, I'll be upset we kept him. If he goes 13-4 with a 3 ERA with someone else, I'll be sad we let him go...if it's with us, I'll be happy. I honestly can't say whether or not it would be good to keep Tomko. While I presented a decent side in favor of keeping him, I completely acknowledge the other side of the fact I'd say I'm more in favor of letting him walk rather than bringing him back (that ideas tentative and weighs a little on how his final three outings go). My reason being, the A's rotation is a full 5 without Tomko. I don't know how much Mazzaro and Gonzalez will mature in 1 season, but either way, having a 36 year old in the rotation takes innings away from those guys that could be developing. Even without Tomko, looking at next years rotation is tricky. Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, and Gio Gonzalez...yeah that's 5, but what about Josh Outman? He's apparently recovering well and while he probably won't be ready by spring, he's certainly going to be ready at some point in the first half of the season. Obviously the picture should be a lot clearer by then, and we'll be able to see if anyone of the young pitchers may benefit by more seasoning in the minor leagues or maybe they'll all be ready next year. Odds are it's incorrect to assume they'll all be ready by next season...and there is even a good chance one or more of them will never be true big league pitchers...but it's also more than likely a couple of them are going to be really good...And it's not impossible for that to happen by next season.

One more thing I wanted to add...I was thinking about how the A's have been scoring a lot more as of the All Star Break, and I thought I'd see what those averages I looked at in my previous article have been since then.

While I should mention Matt Holliday and Orlando Cabrera have OPS' of 1.235 and .903 in their brief time in green and gold after the break, it's actually a lot more encouraging when you look at the rest of the teams performance too.

Here's everyone above the .751 OPS average post All-Star...

Landon Powell's post All-Star OPS is .889, highest on the team.

Rajai Davis' is .867, the highest of the every day players.

This one's quite the shocker...Bobby Crosby has an .831 OPS after the break.

Jack Cust, one of the three whose full-season OPS is above the Major League Baseball average has an .828 OPS, .064 points higher than his full-season OPS.

Mark Ellis, whose slightly-below-average OPS I excused because of his superior defense, has a very productive .816 post-break he's contributing from both sides!

Ryan Sweeney is at .812...those three 2-baggers from tonight helped I'm sure. There's no doubt he's been hitting a lot better lately though.

...And finally, Cliff Pennington at .765. We can't expect this to last, as Pennington's just a .263 career minor league hitter with his career minors OPS at .720. Plus he's got 4 bombs in just 130 AB's with the A's, when he had just 3 home runs in Sacramento with 360 AB's. I will say he's plus on defense and I'll take him over Crosby.

Daric Barton's on the cusp at .749...If he can just be that guy we all heard about before the 2008 season...He always walks more than he k's and he's hit at every level...except the Major Leagues. The downside is that Barton's consistent good hitting in the minors has only been succeeded by consistent bad hitting in the Majors. Maybe a battle with Chris Carter and/or Sean Doolittle for first base in the Spring will do him least we know it will probably do the A's better.

That's all for now...excuse any spelling or grammar mistakes, this took a lot longer than I expected and I don't feel like reading it again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

You Can't Win if You Can't Score

Talking about Scott Hairston's career above-average-ness sparked my curiosity into seeing how the A's have performed this year in comparison to the league averages. This 2009 season, the average percentage-stats for MLB hitters are (I'm going to keep this simple, so I apologize to any sabermatricians) a .262 BA, .332 OBP, .419 SLG, adding up to a .751 OPS (this is pretty typical, last year was .749). Now most importantly it should be noted that the .262 BA is there to show how deceptive a decent batting average can be. Obviously .262 is average, so anything above that would be considered decent. But the OPS is what many people ultimately value as the tell-tale statistic of a hitters performance and worth. The OPS statistic does hold a fault in one respect (or two or three if you choose to separate the facts from being an individual fault). Mathematically it has been proven that the On-Base% is more conducive to run production than Slugging%, and the fact the average SLG% is higher than the average OBP doesn't help, especially when they're weighted the same. With that said, it's plenty of smart guys stat of choice, so it's mine too...time to see how bad the A's offense is...

How many above-average hitters do(did) the 2009 A's have? (In other words, how many guys who played for the 2009 A's have an OPS above .751)
Well if I answer like a robot...6...

Not named Matt Holliday?
5...(it gets sadder)

That aren't pitchers who got lucky in their 2 inter league AB's?

That actually play every day?
2 (and only 1 has played every day all year)

Who are they?
Well...the two every day players are Rajai Davis (.795) and Jack Cust (.764)...the other non-every day player is Landon Powell (.791)...the two pitchers are Edgar Gonzalez ( 2.000...2 at-bats) and Trevor Cahill (1.000...same as Gonzalez)...and of course Matt Holliday. It should be noted that for the entire season, Scott Hairston has a .785 OPS but that includes his time with San Diego, with the A's it's a dismal .679.

While Mark Ellis makes up for his lack of offense in the field...Jack Cust makes up for his offensive production with a lack of defense.

That is quite sad...two's also surprising. I can say that I'm happy to know that Jack Cust has produced more positively than I thought he goes to show that Joe Morgan's theory of watching the game gives him knowledge of the game is a bit of a sham...I say this because I've either watched or listened to every game and I feel like Jack Cust strikes out every at-bat. I'm not surprised with Rajai really, he's been producing ridiculously since he became the every day CF. The sad part is, while I don't doubt Rajai has the ability to be a good player, his current production exceeds what he averaged in the minor leagues (a career .782 OPS in the minors) and it's exceptionally rare to underachieve at the minor league level and succeed in the majors (but it happens...Matt Holliday...Dan Uggla...). If Rajai Davis can keep an OPS above .750, I'll be satisfied because he steals second after a base hit so often that his SLG% won't reflect how often he reached second base following a single or a walk.

Landon Powell? He deserves plenty of props. Every time he starts it seems like he drives in a run or two...but he was a first round pick, so being a decent back-up falls just short of being a bust in my opinion. We couldn't play him every day if we wanted to, another reason to think "what could have been." Then again, if you look at the 2004 first rounders, the only standout so far has been Justin Verlander, though Jeff Niemann and Stephan Drew are both very good players...thing is, they were all taken in front of Powell. Of those following Landon which Oakland likely considered are: 1.) Eric Hurley, so far a career minor leaguer but has a sub-2 ERA in double-A this year...but he was drafted 5 years ago...and he's in double-A now...kind of sad...(1.5: Richie Robnett. He's 1.5 because the A's did draft him...the 26th pick belonged to Oakland and they received Powell's pick (24th) from Boston for signing Keith Foulke. Robnett came out of Fresno State, and was promising at first. "At first" is key. He's in the Cubs organization now and was part of what helped bring Michael Wuertz to Oakland. I forgot to mention, he hasn't hit better than .236 at the triple-A level in quite a few at-bats.) 2.) Taylor Tankersley, a decent middle relief option for the Marlins. Can't say better, can't say worse. 3.) Blake Dewitt, backup infielder for the Dodgers. Probably Powell's equivalent at third base. And finally, 4.) Eric Hurley, a pitcher for the Rangers with an ERA in the mid 5's. Seen too many of thanks. I guess acknowledging Landon Powell's mediocrity, it should be considered how mediocre the draft class he was selected in was. What's Matt Bush doing nowadays?

So how about those guys we seem to celebrate with the decent batting averages?
Ryan Sweeney, hitting .284, has a .738 OPS. Not too bad, but the solid average would make you think otherwise. Sweeney definitely walks enough, his .338 OBP mark is actually down from last years .350. What Sweeney doesn't do is hit extra base hits. The 24 doubles are fine but just 6 home runs? His 6'4 frame gives some scouts the impression he'll develop power but he's been too consistent since last season (11 home runs; 5 last year, 6 this year). One potentially positive aberration to consider is while his OBP has gone down, his SLG has gone up. Perhaps next season we can see the .350 OBP from last year along with another modest 13 point incline in slugging. I have plenty of hope for Sweeney. His youth makes an optimistic .285/ .350/ .409 clip for 2010 quite a realistic desire as well.

Surprisingly, Adam Kennedy is a below average hitter. At least to me it's surprising. It seemed as though extra base hits were fairly common, and walks were average at the very least. The truth is, his polished .282 batting average is complimented by a solid .340 OBP and an underwhelming .400 SLG. I can't criticize Kennedy too much, he's filled in admirably, and it's surprising to me that he's somebody that's below average.

Not too surprisngly, Mark Ellis is slightly below average. His .280 average is quite solid, but just 19 walks has him halfway to being Yuniesky no no that was too harsh. His SLG% currently sits at a very satisfying .423. While the .321 On-Base leaves something to be desired, much has been made of Ellis making up for his offense in the field, so despite a .744 OPS you can't be too hard on the guy.

And for the vastly celebrated, and greatly beloved Kurt Suzuki...a bite-sized .703 OPS. For as much as A's fans like to go nuts for Kurt, that's rather ghastly. He's a couple of first-pitch-pop ups away from being what Bill James would call "fair" (Bill James says this of an OPS under .700 all the way down to about .634). I'm not saying Suzuki isn't a good player, and I do believe he is...maybe catching 150 games a year is a bit much. I know Jason Kendall was his mentor but it seems like catching every day's the only Kendall-like trait Suzuki has. Yeah the SLG% is a meager .399...but the OBP% is borderline disturbing at .304. Suzuki seems scared of going deep into counts at times, and his 21 walks show it. Whether the .042 point drop in OBP% should be a cause for concern or a sign of a slump remains to be seen, but it's no mystery that in 2009 Kurt Suzuki has walked less than an old man in a wheelchair.

This article started off as much more a rant than what it became...which also contributed to my lack of desire to write about anyone else...nobody else should be written about though because I don't think an explanation is needed as to why everyone who swings a piece of wood on the A's can't do it as good as everyone else...that answers pretty clear. Farewell...

State of the Team for September 10, 2009 (plus some other stuff)

Wow, six days since my last post, that's definitely a record for the brief history of Les' A's. Anyway, to get down to business...I still haven't finished my top prospects article. It's taking longer than I expected because there's quite a bit to write about all of them. Today the A's have an off day and are traveling to Minneapolis for take on the Twins. Hopefully it's not the most enjoyable of days off in the Twins Cities since so many opportunities were blown in the game to the White Sox last night. I was really pushing for them yesterday because a win last night would have been the first time the A's had won more than three in a row since they won 7 straight back in June. With that said, it's a mild testament to the team that they have not lost more than 3 in a row since June either.

Coming up this weekend in the A's and Twins series will be Clay Mortensen vs Nick Blackburn, Brett Anderson and Jeff Manship, and Gio Gonzalez vs Brian Duensing . Nothing here truely screams Cy vs Cy but it will be nice to see Orlando Cabrera again, plus the Twins are still trying to hang in the race for the AL Central. There a ways back but they have quite a few head to head match ups with the Tigers down the stretch that could make or break them.

I read the quote from an anonymous scout regarding the Hairston trade on a couple of websites. Apparently he said the A's "got smoked" on the trade. It's odd this guy is probably paid pretty well by a major league team who takes his opinions of talent evaluation very seriously. I'm not saying the A's did better than the Padres, but I'd say it was a fairly even trade. Maybe Gallagher was a bit much to throw in but the guy has an ERA near 6 in his MLB career. Ryan Webb could be a decent reliever, but he's probably going to average 50-70 innings at best, which isn't enough to put this trade over the top for San Diego. Craig Italiano throws 95 MPH...WHO CARES. His career minor league ERA is 5 with a WHIP of nearly 1.6. The only thing impressive about him was going 7-0 at Kane Kounty with a 1.16 ERA until he was promoted to Stockton and that ERA promptly ballooned to 9.90 Scott Hairston's been a part time player his entire MLB career while posting a .764 OPS over that time (that's .013 above the 2009 MLB average) . Now if this scout thinks Gallagher is something special because of his success in the minors, then it would only be fair to point out what Hairstons in the minors too: .320/ .400/ .568 in over 1800 AB's. Yeah he's 29 but there's always potential for development when somebody becomes an everyday player for the first time.

After a tremendous amount of success in the minor leagues for the Diamondbacks, as well as success off the bench for the San Diego Padres, Scott Hairston is a starting outfielder for the first time.

So the River Cats, Rock Hounds, and Cougars all made the playoffs...last night each playing game 1 of their first round match ups. The Cats and Hounds got W's while Kane County took the loss. Interesting points from each game...Kenneth Smalley, the organization leader in ERA through much of the year, gave up 6 runs in 1.1 IP, while Tyler Ladendorf (player received for Orlando Cabrera) went 2/4 with a double in Kane County's 12-7 loss to the Burlington Bees. Midland took down the San Antonio Missions in 11 innings as Graham Godfrey, combined with the bullpen, held the Missions to just 2 hits until Josh Donaldson drove in the Hounds lone run in the top of the 11th. The River Cats beat the Tacoma Rainiers (Triple A affiliate of the M's) to the tune of an 8-2 final. Both Brett Wallace and Chris Carter connected for home runs while Adrian Cardenas was on base 3 times (scoring twice) and Tommy Everidge pounded out 3 hits with 3 RBI.

Well that's about it....oh yeah, I hate the AM/PM commercial on the MLB web sites before the team highlights play. Comments?

Friday, September 4, 2009

State of the Team for September 4, 2009

On the 7 year anniversary of the Athletics American League record 20th consecutive win, the Athletics once again lost to the Seattle Mariners by the final score of 6-3. The A's are now 3-11 against the Mariners this year...maybe they're trying to rekindle Seattle's playoff hopes only to steal them away in their penultimate series in the Emerald City...but that's probably not the case. Maybe the Mariners are still upset about 2006 (like David Feldman said on tonight's version of Extra Innings...) but once again, probably not. While the Mariners are just plain better than the A's this year, the A's seem to play their absolute worst against them. Most likely, the Mariners are a better match up against the A's. The M's don't have a great offense, but their pitching is the best in the AL (the only team in the league to have an ERA under 4) and, as it's been well documented, the A's aren't exactly the 1927 Yankees at the plate (or for those who may be offended, the 29' A's). The A's are last in both OPS and home runs, and probably a bunch of other categories I didn't check. So as the old saying goes, (most of the time) good pitching beats good it shouldn't take a genius to figure that really good pitching destroys really bad hitting.

Tonight's games was another lack-luster competition for the A's...of course this comes from an A's-fan-prospective, it may have been quite exciting for an M's fan...the A's managed just 5 hits, and shockingly (and almost sickeningly) Nomar had 2 of them. I say this rather facetiously only because the only time he ever seems to play is when he's pinch-hitting...and when Nomar pinch-hits, it really should be called pinch-getting-out. Seriously...he's been horrible as a pinch-hitter, and he starts so rarely that it's a phenomenon his batting average is .269...that would imply he actually gets hits. One of Nomar's two hits was a two-run homer that was actually caught for a brief moment by Franklin Gutierrez until it popped out of his glove and jumped over the fence. The only other RBI was off the bat of Adam Kennedy who doubled in Ryan Sweeney from second. Even though Mazzaro was scratched and replaced with Clayton Mortensen, it was a very Mazzaro-like game...well other than the fact that Mortsensen was able to go 7 innings. Mortensen, much like Vin does, gave up all 4 earned runs in one inning (the 2nd). He settled down very well after that and the bullpen gave up the remainder. And one more thing about about Ryan Rowland-Smith? Once again he shut the A's down. Last time he faced the A's he pitched very well, but so did Brett Anderson, essentially resulting in a no-decision for Rowland-Smith in a game the Mariners ended up winning. Tonight the M's Aussie went 8 innings, surrendering 3 runs (which could easily have been just 1 if Franklin Gutierrez comes up with that shot off Nomar's bat) while allowing just 4 hits, walking 1 and striking out 4. His numbers may not speak "pure domination" but Ryan Rowland-Smith is slowly becoming an Athletics nemesis. This season, the righty is 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 17 2/3 innings. Not eye-popping, but very solid.

Scott Hatteberg is mobbed by the 2002 A's in one of the most celebrated moments in recent A's history

Briefly...Extra Innings paid tribute to the Athletics 12-11 win over the Royals 7 years ago tonight....or what was tonight 45 minutes ago (it's 12:35AM Saturday, therefore no longer September 4th)...with a series of radio calls from the 18th, 19th, and 20th wins in the streak, all of which were done in walk-off fashion. Hearing those calls gave me goosebumps and a pleasant feeling of nostalgia. I loved Bill King's call of the Hatteberg walk-off home run in the 20th game, but my favorite is easily Ken Korach's call of the 18th win. Obviously the 20th game was the biggest win in that streak because it set a new record, but the most exciting game out of all of them was the 18th win. It was the only game of the three in which the A's were actually losing entering their last at-bat. And for a season in which Miguel Tejada won the American League MVP, it was an ideal moment to show the world how valuable he really was to that team...I will never forget the moment he took Everyday Eddie Guardado deep to give the A's a 7-5 advantage.

Any comments or something? Still to come....MY TOP PROSPECTS!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

State of the Team for September 3, 2009

Russell Branyan is proof that Adrian Beltre's right testicle isn't the only ball crushing we can associate with the least against us

Once again the Mariners defeated the Athletics by a score of 7-4, improving their season record against Oakland to 10-3. The only teams to fair better against the Athletics are the Giants (5-1) and the Rockies, (3-0) neither of which are common regular season opponents for the A's. It kind of shows how far the Mariners have come. Last year the A's were 10-9 vs the Mariners, but it should be considered the Mariners were the worst team in the American League, and in 2007 the A's were 5-14 vs Seattle. It's a far cry from the 2006 A's who basically were an above average team against everyone else but the Mariners, going 17-2 head to head versus the M's and 76-67 against everyone else. How the tables have turned. I sound like a Mariner beat writer...from the A's side, there isn't much to say.

Brett Tomko let three 2-run homers happen and you can't be too surprised. Tomko's an average pitcher, probably lucky to last as long as he has, so you knew this day was coming. Like I said with Edgar Gonzalez, this just makes the game in Anaheim that Tomko started more difficult to swallow because he pitched well and you've got to take advantage of good outings from average pitchers. It almost seems as though no matter how Tomko did, he wasn't gonna get pulled until he threw around 100 pitches, and that's exactly what happened. Management likely doesn't feel the urgency to uphold Tomko's total innings like they do the young kids so it should be no surprise to see him go that far in a game, even if he surrendered six runs. It's sad to say, although the A's probably threw up the white flag some time in June, this is the first time we are actually seeing it in how they're being managed on the field. We should probably expect more preservation-style ball to come. I'd expect Dana Eveland to rack up plenty of innings as the long man this month, despite our previous long man (Edgar Gonzalez) only making two appearances in August. The only exception may be if Cahill or Anderson (and if it were possible...Mazzaro) had a no-hitter through their first five...and even there we may be pushing it.

Also, the A's have scratched Mazzaro for tomorrows start, and Clayton Mortensen, RHP out of Gonzaga, acquired in the Matt Holliday deal, will start instead. Mortensen has an ERA somewhere in the 12's so don't expect much...Mazzaro apparently has had a case of shoulder tendinitis, which hopefully we can blame his inconsistency on. Also, Grant Green is 3/8 with a 2-bagger and 3 RBI in his first two games with the Ports...not looking too over matched for starting at a relatively high level of play.

Comments? I'm sure there aren't but I think that's my signature sign off. I should ask "Readers?" instead, I'm sure the results are the same.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

State of the Team for September 2, 2009

Today the A's put a beating on the Royals by the tune of a 10-4 final to close the season series between these two clubs at 7-2 in Oakland's favor. Landon Powell continues to be a solid backup catcher, launching a grand slam off Yasuhiko Kabuta in the 2nd inning of today's contest. The Athletics are now 22-25 since the break, a .040 winning % improvement over what they were prior to that...not really big news, but the mild improvement says little about the change in A's baseball since then. The post-AS-break record may not speak volumes, but anyone who's followed this team all year knows the A's have played much better in the second-half, whether the record is indicative of that or not.

Rajai Davis, since the All-Star break, is leading the Major Leagues in stolen bases.

I wanted to hold off on saying too much about Rajai yesterday, but today I can't help myself. Today, Rajai was 2 for 3 with 2 RBI and 1 run scored. All of the players, when asked what they thought of the A's playing better baseball, they all point to Davis. Whether it's him running down balls that would be gappers if someone else was in center, or turning a routine single into a double, Rajai is the spark plug to the otherwise incombustible engine that is the Athletics offense. The guy may not hit for much power (7 HR in 677 career AB's, .378 career SLG) but how often does he take second after reaching first via BB or base hit? He makes up for the lack of doubles by putting himself on second base through walks and singles a couple of pitches after reaching first. And while his career numbers may be average (with the exception of stolen bases) this season has been his breakout. Davis, .270/ .330/ .378 on his short career, is hitting .297/ .357/ .417 in 288 plate appearances this season to go along with his 30 steals. I truly hope this is a sign of things to come, and as long as Raj continues to be consistent then I have a hard time believing that won't happen. Every hitter slumps from time to time, but speed never does and that is the name of Rajai Davis' game.

Once again, big one coming up this weekend, I'll make sure all my big ones happen then...Comments? Not sure why I ask...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

State of the Team for September 1, 2009

So I missed a day for updating this thing, who cares? Anyway, I attended the game Monday and I'm pretty sure about 15 other people made up the entirety of that games attendance. Unfortunately I was too inebriated to remember the highlights from the game, although I do remember some lowlights, like Gio giving up three runs in the first. With that said, I watched the highlights on and I must say, when Rajai singled in two in the third and took second on the throw, I was impressed...but the play wasn't over, when the throw skipped passed Miguel Olivo, Luke Hochevar retrieved it near the A's on-deck circle, only to have his head down as he walked back to the mound...Rajai took note, and ran to third...Now that was amazing. Rajai has continued to impress me, and every time I think his hot streak's about to end, he just keeps it going. He's 6th in the AL in batting average since the break, as well as 1st in stolen bases over that same period of time.

Tonight was a slightly different story for the A's. Rajai hit a home run in the first and Edgar Gonzalez was effective but Jay Marshall came out of the pen to surrender two runs and take the loss. The sad part about this was wasting an effective outing from Edgar Gonzalez. 2 out of every 3 times Edgar Gonzalez goes 4 or more innings, it seems like he loses it at some point. That's not terribly disturbing in a mop-up role, but when you hear Edgar Gonzalez is starting, it doesn't make for the most appealing pitching match up. But when he can go 5+ and give up 1 run, you've got to take advantage of it, because that's not going to happen too often.

What's also terribly frustrating is the fact the A's left 23 runners on base. TWENTY THREE. I really hate the LOB stat, even if it's high for the other team. If it's a high amount (like 10 or more) for the team you root for, that just tells you how un-clutch your hitters were, and almost teases you saying "well this is how many runs you could have scored...but you didn't." On the other hand, when it says that about the other team, it goes to show you how much worse your pitchers may have been. A solid outing by a solid pitcher leaves few runners on, whereas a guy on thin ice will have to work in and out of trouble the entire time. It's probably more frustrating if you're following the development of a young pitcher, and you want to see how efficient they may or may not be.

One more thing: the A's called up Jerry Blevins, Dana Eveland, and Brad Kilby, all lefties to shelve into the pen. I'm assuming this is related in part to giving Anderson, Cahill, and Mazzaro less innings. Not a whole lot to be excited about in the call ups. Everyone knows Eveland and Blevins, but I am a little excited to see how Brad Kilby does after being a solid Triple A pitcher over the passed two seasons. It's tough to evaluate relievers when their September call ups, but I suppose you could say that about any position. Oh and by the way, Chris Carter hit 3 homers for the Riverkitties last night while Tommy Everidge hit 1 last night, and 2 today.

Everyone knows Chris Carter, but despite being called up for a brief time, there's still little talk about Tommy Everidge, who's hitting .340/.406/.567 with 20 dingers and 94 RBI combined between Midland and Sacramento

Still have my big article to follow soon, probably won't be until this weekend...Comments?