Saturday, December 18, 2010

Harden Returns, Willingham Acquired

One day after the A’s ended their disappointing streak on the open market with the additions of Hideki Matsui and Brandon McCarthy, Billy Beane added a familiar face to the Oakland roster. Rich Harden agreed to a 1-year, $1.5 million deal. The very next day, Beane acquired OF Josh Willingham from the Washington Nationals in exchange for RP Henry Rodriguez and minor-league OF Corey Brown.

The A’s plan to use Rich Harden as a reliever in 2011, though he may compete for the 5th-starter spot with Josh Outman and Brandon McCarthy. Harden came up in the Oakland system, first breaking into the majors in 2003. He was one of the most promising young pitchers in baseball prior to the 2005 season. Harden’s reputation as a hard-throwing, strikeout pitcher gradually became overshadowed by his current reputation as an injury-prone liability. As recently as 2007 Harden was the Opening Day starter for the A’s and will don the same uniform in the upcoming campaign (but will likely be used in a different capacity). The intentions for Harden in 2011 to work out of the bullpen are an understandable measure taken by the A’s, considering his history.

The acquisition of Josh Willingham from the Nationals addresses Oakland’s most pressing need – offense. Despite having one of the most dominant young pitching staffs in Major League Baseball last season, the Oakland offense was among the least productive. The infield boasted dazzling defensive numbers using various metrics that countered their quiet bats, but the outfield did neither - with the exception of Coco Crisp (who didn’t play the entire season). The A’s plan on using Willingham primarily in LF, Crisp in CF and the recent off-season acquisition from KC, David DeJesus in RF. Ryan Sweeney now becomes the A’s fourth OF, but should still see plenty of playing time as a result of his versatility in the outfield.

While the A’s have now added Willingham, Matsui, and DeJesus to their lineup, the lacking offense still remains an issue. The urgency of its acknowledgment has certainly been alleviated (to an extent), but Beane implied over conference call that the team is probably not done searching for help.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A's Add Matsui, McCarthy

After a combination of both disappointing results and a lack of development regarding the offers made to free-agents on their behalf, (some of which were reported to include Adrian Beltre, Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, as well as the now infamous Hisashi Iwakuma) the Oakland Athletics finally found success on back-to-back days in the middle of December. On Monday, the 13th, the Athletics inked RHP Brandon McCarthy to a 1-year, $1 million deal that could be worth an additional $1.6 million in incentives. The very next day the A's announced the signing of the former Yomiuri Giant, New York Yankee, and most recently, Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim, Hideki Matsui. Matsui's deal was initially reported around $6 million, but a number of subsequent figures reported the deal at $4.25 million. The A's also avoided arbitration by reaching a 1-year agreement with reliever Joey Devine.

While the McCarthy deal is obviously the less publicized of the two, the A's added what many believe could be a diamond-in-the-rough starting-pitcher as a fifth-starter candidate. Those well versed in the career of Brandon McCarthy may be quick to point out that the 27-year old righty was ranked by Baseball America as the #49 prospect in all of baseball entering the 2005 season for the Chicago White Sox. Although his big-league progress has been hindered by shoulder injuries that have persisted largely since he was first called-up, in 8 minor-league seasons McCarthy's posted a 9.8 K/9IP, a 1.10 WHIP, and a 5.26 K/BB ratio that everyone with the exception of Cliff Lee would envy. Following the dissolution of the Iwakuma talks, the addition of McCarthy to the A's staff not only saves the club $18 million, ($19 million for the Iwakuma posting fee - $1 million for McCarthy) but sets up an exciting and interesting battle for the final spot in the Oakland rotation. Adding to an already talented top-4 in Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Braden, the two favorites for the fifth spot are McCarthy, and the recovering Josh Outman who missed all of 2010 due to Tommy John surgery that was undergone in the previous season. Bobby Cramer, Tyson Ross, and Clay Mortensen are among those who round out the remaining popular candidates for the job.

The addition of Hideki Matsui to the A's lineup aids an offense that was among the worst in 2010. While Matsui's power isn't quite that of Dunn, the 36-year old DH/OF provides a level of pop the A's have lacked for the past few seasons. Matsui will go into the 2011 season with a career .848 OPS - the only Athletics over .800 in 2010 were the recently departed Jack Cust, and the young 2nd baseman Eric Sogard, who accomplished the feat in 4 games. Adding Matsui as the A's primary DH allows the team to utilize a modified platoon at the position. The left-handed hitting Matsui can take the majority of games against righties, while the young right-handed hitting Chris Carter can ease into the position by taking most of the games against lefties. Although Hideki Matsui is certainly a welcomed bat in Oakland, it is unlikely that the A's are done with their search for more offense. Even if no deals are announced, it won't mean the A's didn't explore more options. It is hard to imagine Billy Beane will rest until every stone has been turned.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Offseason Update: Davis Trade, Iwakuma Talks, Beltre, Berkman, Encarnacion

Here’s a brief update regarding all the action in the A’s front office as of recent.

First, a few acquisitions.

The A’s traded the speedy Rajai Davis to Toronto in exchange for two right-handed minor league relievers, Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar.

Also getting picked up from Toronto via the waiver wire was 3B Edwin Encarnacion. Plenty of uncertainty now surrounds the 2011 A’s 3B position, as the Encarnacion addition has a lot of people wondering what the A’s plan on doing with either Encarnacion and/or Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Adding to the uncertainty of the 3B position is the deal the A’s reportedly offered to 3B Adrian Beltre, worth $64 million over 5 years. While Scott Boras alleged his client should be getting $90 million over that same period of time, it’s without a doubt an uncharacteristically substantial offer on behalf of the A’s.

The A’s also recently broke off negotiations with Japanese hurler Hisashi Iwakuma, for whom the A’s bid an estimated $16 million posting fee. The reason for the cease in talks between both parties was apparently because the proposed figures were too far apart. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Iwakuma was seeking a contract similar to that of Giants’ lefty Barry Zito; a 7 year deal worth $126 million.

The A’s are also showing strong interest in Lance Berkman, who recently claimed the A’s have been the most aggressive team he’s spoken with so far. Berkman also admitted he’d prefer to not be primarily used as a DH, something that may detract from the interest the A’s have in him, with Daric Barton having a stronghold at 1st base.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A's Send Mazzaro to KC for DeJesus, Ink Top Dominican Prospect

Like many had predicted, the A's dealt the most expendable of their young arms on Wednesday as they sent Vin Mazzaro to Kansas City, along with 2009 third-rounder Justin Marks, in exchange for long time Royals OF David DeJesus. While the departure of Mazzaro was certainly foreseeable, David DeJesus seemed to be garnering more interest from the Red Sox than the A's - at least in public.

Oakland GM Billy Beane mentioned that his admiration for DeJesus had existed for some time, and it's easy to see why. The newest member of the A's has put up some very Moneyball-esque numbers in his career. He's posted a .289/.360/.427/.787 line in his career while playing solid defense in the KC outfield.

Those who don't find DeJesus much more than a "decent" acquisition may be unaware of Oakland's OF production in 2010. While Coco Crisp put up a 3.3 WAR in an injury-plagued year, the remaining 12 outfielders totaled 0.1 Wins Above Replacement. The ex-Royal-turned-Athletic was on pace for a 4.5 WAR until a thumb injury ended his year at a 2.9 WAR.

After the DeJesus trade was made public, another deal involving the A's - albeit one that won't come to fruition as quickly ( a good way that is) - was in it's finalizing stages. The A's signed 16 year-old CF Vicmal De La Cruz of the Dominican Republic to a deal that has yet to be disclosed. Little is known about De La Cruz among the general public, but Blake Bentley of MLBTR compiled a list of the top Dominican prospects after exchanging words with numerous MLB executives and scouts, and De La Cruz topped the list. The young prospect is said to have a superior set of tools, and "star power."

The A's are still within their 30-day window to sign Japanese hurler Hisashi Iwakuma, whose bid made the trade on Wednesday perhaps more expected than a trade involving a young Oakland starter already was (if that's even possible). DeJesus is almost assuredly not Beane's last move in preparation of 2011, as he recently vowed to be creative this offseason.

Less than a week in, he's already put the Moneyball where his mouth is.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hisashi Iwakuma’s Agent Tweets A’s Place Winning Bid For Japanese Ace

While there has not been any official announcement, it appears as though the Oakland Athletics placed the winning bid to negotiate a contract with Hisashi Iwakuma, ace of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The news comes from tweets made by Iwakuma’s agent Don Nomura.

It’s important to note that placing the winning bid does not constitute a contract – it merely gives the A’s exclusive rights to negotiate one with him. Iwakuma is regarded as the second best pitcher in Japan behind Yu Darvish.

What does this mean for the A’s? If Nomura’s tweets mean the A’s really were the top bidders, it appears as though one of their starters may be dealt for a bat. Ken Rosenthal proposed that the A’s may look into a deal with Milwaukee for Casey McGehee, while the A’s would send a package possibly consisting of Vin Mazzaro and/or even Iwakuma himself. However, Iwakuma won’t be eligible for a trade until June, should the A’s work out a deal with him. In that event, a deal would likely involve the A’s trading their rights to negotiate instead. Either way, the hot stove in Oakland is already getting pretty warm.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Second Base

The Starter

Billy Beane recently mentioned that options and buyouts would not be addressed until the conclusion of the World Series. Well, it took the A's just two days after the Giants recorded the final out in Arlington before the A's did what most people expected. What was once a question-mark at 2B (if only in theory) was clarified Wednesday morning when the Athletics exercised the $6 million option on 2B Mark Ellis, in addition to the $5.75 million option on Coco Crisp, while opting to buyout Eric Chavez' contract for $3 million rather than picking up the $12.5 million option. It was recently revealed that Ellis qualified as a Type B free agent, missing the top 20% based on the criteria set by Elias - meaning the A's wouldn't have received the compensatory first round pick forfeited by the signing team. Ellis himself was sure to be one of the proponents of the A's picking up his option, seeing as how the $6 million he's guaranteed is a lot heftier than what he'd expect on the open market. In the wake of Wednesday's news, Ellis is certain to man second the majority of the year, though the A's could also use 2011 as an opportunity to ease future 2B candidates (such as Eric Sogard) into a more prominent role with the team, thus allowing Ellis to transition into a veteran/utility position.

(pictured above: Mark Ellis will return to the A's in 2011)

2010 was an odd year for Ellis. A's fans who followed closely are sure to remember his less-than-stellar beginning to the year, which was initially slowed by injury. Ellis then proceeded to go on an absolute tear the last two months of the season, which ultimately allowed him to finish with a respectable line of .291/.358/.381. His .739 OPS left him tied with Freddy Sanchez for 12th out of the 24 2nd basemen with at least 450 plate appearances. Defensively, Fangraphs ranked Ellis second to only Chase Utley in 2010, which is a big reason as to why his 3.2 Wins Above Replacement have him tied with Ian Kinsler for 8th in WAR among MLB 2nd basemen with at least 450 PA.

2010 Ellis in a Nutshell

Final line: .291/.358/.381
OPS among MLB 2B (min 450 PA): .739 - 12th out of 24
UZR among MLB 2B (min 900 Inn): 9.9 - 2nd out of 24
ISO among MLB 2B (min 450 PA): .089 - 20th out of 24
WAR among MLB 2b (min 450 PA): 3.2 - 8th out of 24

Fangraphs showing MLB 2B ratings by WAR w/ Ellis highlighted, click to enlarge

Though respectable, the numbers are a bit deceiving. While the .739 OPS isn't something the feds might call Victor Conte about, Ellis' .321 BABIP is 28 points higher than his career average, and his highest since the .335 he managed in 2005 - meaning it's not sustainable. His ISO in 2010 was also a career low .089, which may lead to fans wondering about his age possibly catching up to him. Other than that, Ellis should still be considered an above-average MLB 2nd baseman, at the very least. His defense has certainly never been questioned, and the only hesitations A's fans have may about him should be based on Ellis' health history, and the positional alternatives for the upcoming season. Though due for regression, the play of Mark Ellis continues to be overlooked by the baseball world, and the A's won't complain - unless they try shopping him.

The Backup/ The Case For Sogard

Most followers of Baseball America,, Project Prospect, and/or Baseball Prospectus, are familiar with A's farmhand Adrian Cardenas. The downside to that is most followers have been familiar with him for a bit too long. Cardenas showed tremendous upside almost immediately after the Phillies took him in the 1st round in the 06' draft. Baseball America named him in their pre-season Top 100 entering both 2008 and 2009, going as far as naming him the top 2B prospect in all of baseball. Acquired by Oakland in the Joe Blanton deal with Philadelphia in 2008, Cardenas continued to impress until the latter half of the 2009 campaign after being promoted to Triple-A Sacramento. The notion that he wasn't ready for advancement proved true once again in 2010, after starting the year in Sacramento, where he posted a .228/.285/.281 line in 31 games with the River Cats. Cardenas' poor performance to start the 2010 campaign forced the A's to dismiss him back to Double-A Midland, where he curiously managed to put a .345/.436/.469 line on his stat sheet, once again earning a trip back to Triple-A. Despite the inconsistency, the A's were pleased to watch him put up a line of .313/.362/.385 upon his return to the PCL. Unfortunately, Cardenas' recent struggles following his promotions at the higher levels of the minors have left him in a less-favorable position with the projection analysts than he was two seasons ago. Questions about Cardenas are largely based on his disproportionate performance, footwork on defense, and lack of familiarity with the 2nd-base position (he was drafted as a shortstop). Nevertheless, he does remain a popular option as a viable utility/ backup option in the near future, in addition to Ellis' potential successor in the less-near future.

Another candidate to succeed Mark Ellis is Eric Sogard. Though not as popular a prospect as Cardenas, Sogard has shown remarkable consistency at every level he's played. The second-rounder of the Padres in 07' posted a .308/.394/.453 line at High-A in 2008, and a .293/.370/.400 line at Double-A in 2009, before being traded to Oakland alongside Kevin Kouzmanoff in the winter. Most recently, Sogard managed a .300/.391/.407 in a full season at Triple-A Sacramento, before being called up to Oakland when rosters expanded in September. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sogard's game is his discerning eye - he's walked a Daric Barton-esque 1.13 times per strikeout in his minor league career. Sogard is also highly regarded for his glove work; something Mark Ellis enthusiasts could take solace in.

In addition to his reputation as a defensive specialist, Sogard has posted a strikingly familiar line to that of Ellis in their respective minor league careers. Here's a comparison of Ellis along with the lead candidates to succeed him.

Mark Ellis: (380 MiLB Games) .292/.383/.413 .796
Eric Sogard: (441 MiLB Games) .295/.380/.414 .793
Adrian Cardenas: (516 MiLB Games) .300/.366/.411 .778

While it may seem as though I'm simply trying to skew the numbers in favor of Sogard, I think his numbers are more notable if only his full seasons are counted - meaning the 54 games he played after signing with San Diego in 2007 are taken out of the equation. I say this because the disparity between that season and the following years is huge, while the sample size is no less adequate at 387 games. His 2007 numbers could even be considered an outlier; possibly a result of factors such as traveling between the Northwest League, the Midwest League, and the PCL in such a short period of time; or immediately playing after signing; or simply because it was the only season in which he changed his uniform multiple times. Either way, his performance exclusively in his full seasons has been even more impressive.

Eric Sogard since 2008: (387 MiLB Games) .301/.388/.421 .809

As much time as I took to write about Eric Sogard, those very accolades (and/or those of Adrian Cardenas) could be what send them off in a trade during the offseason. While it's unlikely both of them are dealt, their departure wouldn't be at all threatening to the A's retaining a legitimate backup option at 2nd because Adam Rosales is expected to be healthy by the start of spring. Rosy put up solid numbers for a utility guy, posting a .271/.321/.400 while playing excellent defense all over the infield.

(pictured above: Eric Sogard during 2010 spring training
Source: Chris Lockard., 2010)

The 2B Market

In all honesty, there's hardly a 2B market. Scott Moore and Bill Hall are arguably the most intriguing names on the list, and the A's have at least 4 players that could almost undoubtedly put up better numbers than both of them at 2nd. That's probably way too much detail as it is to waste anymore time writing about the 2011 2B free agents. I suppose Juan Uribe is a legitimate name if you count him as a 2B. Plus his 3.2 WAR was equal to that of Ellis, and even higher than San Francisco's main 2B option, Freddy Sanchez. Still, the 2B market isn't quite star-studded enough for the A's to start considering anyone this year.

That's all for now.

Go A's.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ortiz or Stassi?

I can't believe I've completely overlooked Ryan Ortiz. The former Beaver was 4th in OPS (.873) among fellow A's farmhands that did not see any big-league playing time with at least 200 Plate Appearances. The only ones in front of him are Stephen Parker, AJ Kirby-Jones, and Grant Green. Maybe Ortiz will be Kurt Suzuki's successor whenever that time comes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Congratulations to the 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants and Their Fans

It's a big night on the peninsula for the championship-starved San Francisco Giants, and really, there's arguably no franchise more deserving (I hate saying it). At least the Cubs and Indians won their last one in the city they still play in. For the first time in 4 attempts, the Giants of San Francisco won it all, here in 2010.

I thought they'd be good, but I'll admit I would not have picked them to be the World Series winner. Either way, the dominance of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain through the NLCS made it clear that they were as close to unstoppable as a team could get. I'm not going to lie - it's hard watching the team the A's share a market go down in history as the best team of 2010 in a year the A's finished 81-81, but it's important to note that the Giants are certainly deserving of all the praise they have received, and will continue receive for their performance this season. I think back to 2002 when the A's had a remarkable season, only to be eliminated by the Twins in the ALDS while the Giants went on to win the National League Pennant. That may have been a little harder because it seemed as if the A's wonderful season was all for naught. This time, the A's didn't have the same success, so in the end, it wasn't quite as hard watching the Giants take it to the elite teams of MLB.

I'm happiest for my friends, who have all followed the Giants closely since I've known them. Through the hardest times they remained loyal to the team, and are the most deserving people I know of a World Series Championship. For the bandwagoners, they are certainly welcome to enjoy the festivities, but it's not as special as it is for the ones who sit through the rough patches. My closest friends are mostly Giants fans, in addition to one avid Red Sox fan, and a couple Mariner fans. Sadly, since I was only 2 years old the last time the A's won it all, only my Seattle-faithful fans join me as the ones who've never seen our team win the World Series. Here's to the hope that neither of our teams are cursed.

It's the hard times that make the good times great. Stick with the team A's fans, and whenever the A's find themselves in the Fall Classic, it will pay to know you were around when it wasn't so great.

By the way, both the Rangers and Giants deserve a ton of props on being able to make it to the World Series after relying on the services of players such as Bengie Molina, Jeff Francoeur, Aaron Rowand, and Edgar Renteria. And oh yeah...does former Athletic Brooks Conrad get a ring too?

Go A's.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Random Interjection...

10 of the top 40 Minor Leaguers in Bases On Balls in 2010 had more walks than strikeouts, 4 of which were A's draft picks (1 being Dan Johnson). The other 3 were...

1. Conner Crumbliss
2. Tyreace House
3. Eric Sogard

...Crumbliss also led all minor leaguers in walks, with 126.

Friday, October 29, 2010

First Base

The Starter

As of right now, Daric Barton will (and should) get the majority of playing time at 1st base in 2011. The actual amount of time could diminish somewhat, at least if I get my way (meaning Chris Carter makes the team out of spring training and the A's sign Adam Dunn). But even if the A's appease my own desires, fans will most assuredly see Daric Barton manning first more often than not. Even hypothetically, the addition of two sluggers that hit from both sides of the plate, who are not quite as sure-footed on the defensive end of the game as Barton, would essentially be forced to yield the position to him. Why? Because in 2010, Daric Barton proved he was beyond adequate with the glove. Last season he finished the campaign as the leader in UZR among Major League 1B's, while finishing second to Albert Pujols in range factor/9IP among MLB 1B's. In many respects, Barton made a name for himself strictly on his defense - something very uncommon among 1st basemen.

Barton's offense may have left something to be desired, at least to the baseball traditionalists, and those evaluating his numbers based on the position he plays. No, he didn't hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs like all the aforementioned detractors probably demand of MLB 1st basemen. But the biggest contribution Daric Barton actually made in 2010 when he was holding a bat didn't even involve him swinging it. The 25 year old California native led all of baseball in walks last year with 110. His patience was no fluke either; Barton put his keen eye on "display" by also leading the Majors with the smallest percentage of pitches swung at outside of the strike zone (O-Swing%) at 15.5%. The exceptionally patient Brett Gardner ended at 17.9%, and was the only other player besides Barton to have an O-Swing% under 18%. His remarkable approach in 2010 is why his .393 OBP% was good enough for 5th in the American League, and 9th overall.

Barton with a camera is no surprise; his eye's his greatest asset
(Source: Halip, Leon. Getty Images)

Barton's .798 OPS in 2010 was well above the Major League average of .728, but there's no denying that his position tends to generate a lot more pop than just league average. Among the 24 MLB 1st basemen who qualified, Barton finished 12th in OPS. Barton was roughly average on the offensive side, perhaps slightly better, for his position - at least using OPS. With that said, as all-encompassing as the simpler stats like OPS get, it's important to acknowledge the two components that make it up - OBP% and SLG%. Barton's 2010 OBP% was one of the best in baseball, so his good OPS is padded quite a bit by his tremendous OBP%. (Although the calculation of OPS weighs both metrics equally, the average SLG% is approximately 1.2x the value of the average OBP%, which means that SLG% can inflate the OPS a bit, and that if you had to choose, it would be more beneficial to have an OPS padded by OBP% than SLG%.) Still, remembering that 1st base is traditionally a power-position, it's hard to overlook Barton's .405 SLG%. Sure, it was .002 points above the Major League average of .403, but it was the third-lowest SLG% among the previously mentioned 24 MLB 1st basemen (placing Barton 22nd of 24 in SLG%). Another statistic, whose emphasis is strictly power, and also goes by couple of different names, is Isolated Power, or "ISO." (Also known as Isolated Slugging, abbreviated "iSLG%.") It's incredibly useful as an individual measure of power because the traditional SLG% can be inflated by a high batting-average or deflated by a low batting-average. What ISO does, is effectively take the batter's frequency of hits out of the equation...literally...ISO = SLG% - AVG. How did Daric Barton fare among his MLB counterparts? AWFUL! Only James Loney ended with a worse ISO than DB, who finished 23rd out of 24 in the category.

Daric Barton is a good player. Based purely on his offensive statistics, his numbers are very good at first glance. When you see that he plays 1st base, they're not quite as impressive. In fact, "underwhelming" would be the polite way to describe his power numbers. However, Barton's overall value increases once again when his defense is taken into account. As little credit defensively adequate 1st basemen tend to receive, Daric Barton was undeniably exceptional. While standard measurements only tell one aspect of a players ability, WAR allows us to gauge the overall value of Daric Barton (or anyone else for that matter) by incorporating both offense and defense. Many regard Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as the end-all, be-all of baseball statistics, partially because it takes every facet of the game into account (offense, defense, replacement player value, value-adjustments based on position). We know Barton finished at or near the top in many defensive categories, his greatest strength on offense was his patience, and his greatest weakness was quite literally his weakness - power (or lack thereof). Barton's a unique study because he's seemingly on one extreme, either high or low, in a number of measurements. Interestingly enough, Fangraphs calculated Barton's 2010 WAR equal to 4.9. That actually placed him 6th among MLB 1st basemen (2nd in the AL), behind Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Aubrey Huff, and Adrian Gonzalez, and in front of guys like Paul Konerko, Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn, Mark Teixeira, Derrek Lee, and Ryan Howard.

The Backup

The second 1st baseman isn't nearly as important as the 2nd catcher. It's not even a guarantee someone besides the starter will even play in the first few weeks (or months) of the year. As of right now, Daric Barton is the only true 1st basemen that's basically guaranteed to be on the Opening Day roster. The only backup candidates that are currently Oakland property are all naturally positioned elsewhere on the diamond. This includes Chris Carter, Adam Rosales, Jeff Larish, Landon Powell, and Josh Donaldson. Not having another true 1st baseman isn't really a problem; most teams enter spring training without a clear second option at first. In my opinion, it's more of an opportunity than anything else. If Chris Carter makes the team then it gives the A's another glove at 1st (and protection from Carter in LF when someone else DH's). If my wish is granted and Adam Dunn is in Green & Gold next season then he'll provide another 1st base option for the A's. The closest thing to a dark horse candidate would have to be Tommy Everidge, which would basically mean something went wrong over the course of the offseason (like no moves whatsoever and/or Barton is hurt to start the year).

In 673 minor league games, Carter put up an impressive .284/.380/.540 line

The 1st Base Market

If the A's sign a 1st baseman, it's because they want a DH. Chris Carter should get a number of opportunities in that capacity, but the A's may want to add a left-handed stick with power if Jack Cust isn't back in 2011 (and all signs indicate that he won't be). The A's could give consideration to Type A free agents Adam Dunn, Derrek Lee, and Paul Konerko, or Type B guys like Carlos Pena and Aubrey Huff. That's not to say a Mark Kotsay reunion is out of the question, or the possible addition of Lyle Overbay or Troy Glaus shouldn't be considered so the A's have some power off the bench. The payouts owed to each candidate is sure to be a factor in the A's potential negotiations of the future. Aubrey Huff is one player certainly deserving of a huge raise, regardless if he returns to the Giants or decides to test the waters of free agency. Huff's inconsistency in his career is his biggest detractor, but if my guess is correct, it won't matter because he'll be back in Orange & Black next season. One guy who won't be wearing the uniform he ended 2010 in is Lance Berkman, whose option was recently declined by the Yankees. Berkman failed in the American League, and his contribution to the Yanks was minimal. His .255/.358/.349 should result in a fair salary drop, despite being one of the more consistent power hitters of the past decade.

Only Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols have hit more HR's than Dunn since 2001

All of this is obviously nothing more than speculation based on itself (that being absolutely nothing). I don't know anyone who knows anyone anywhere in an MLB front office, and I could easily continue reciting name after name, knowing the more I list, the odds I mention someone the A's will acquire increase. Still, I'd still like to reiterate my one wish for the A's regarding free agents this offseason: ADAM DUNN. The Type A status is probably his biggest detractor from the standpoint of an organization such as the A's, who have lived an died on their early draft picks. But the amount of money the A's have coming off the books should allow them some leverage if they get into a bidding war with some teams. Anyone thinking he'll be another Jack Cust won't lose that argument from me, but that's because Cust was never as bad as most people felt he was. Sure, both of them strikeout a lot, but an out is an out. Both Adam Dunn's and Jack Cust's high OBP%'s mean they get on base more frequently than the average hitter - which, in turn, means that they make outs less frequently than the average hitter. So who cares how they're making those outs? Even if they're striking out every time, the end result is the same as an unproductive ground-out or fly-out, and their plate appearances result in an out far less often than most players. Cust's strengths were his patience and his power, and Adam Dunn excels in both those categories arguably more than anyone. Most people would say that those are in fact Dunn's greatest assets, but from a fan of a hopefully prospective suitor, it's his consistency I admire most.

Somehow it took me that long to say that Daric Barton's a good 1st baseman who will start for the A's in 2011 and that I wish/hope the A's sign Adam Dunn...that's about everything in a nutshell.

Go A's

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

War of Jenkins' Ear

In a recent article, the San Francisco Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins managed to take some of the generally positive sentiment generated by the Rangers-Giants World Series match, and somehow mold it into a cynical evaluation of A's General Manager Billy Beane. I'm not questioning Jenkins' credibility as a writer by any means-he's written plenty of columns that collectively reflect his knowledge, and he's done so for a long time. What I am calling into question is what he seems to imply in the article. His argument seems so shallow that once you read the title, you might as well have read the entire article (minus the factual tidbits at the end).

(pictured above: Ron Washington congratulates Milton Bradley in 2006
Source: Bush, Darryl. San Francisco Chronicle, 2006)

Do I disagree with the point? No, I don't. I agree with Bruce Jenkins. I agree that Ron Washington would not have worked out as the Athletics' manager to the same extent that he has for the Rangers.

Like I mentioned earlier, what I don't agree with (or at least need clarification on) is what Jenkins' seems to imply. After pondering the amount of managerial consideration Billy Beane gave to Washington prior to the 2007 season, (Jenkins also describes Washington as "a man with a pulse, someone who speaks from the heart") he then writes "nobody wonders too long about that, because the answer is an emphatic NO." The latter portion is fine. Without question. But if nobody wonders about it, then why is it the point of your column, Bruce? Well, it looks like readers have to assume that the reason is the simplest of the simple - because it's a dog-eat-dog world we live in, so almost everything comes down to some sort of comparison when you break it down to the core (sports columns would be one of the last things exempt from this train of thought). So it's here, in Bruce Jenkins comparative entry, where the certainty of hindsight allows Ron Washington to be the great baseball manager with a heart (and a pulse to go along with it) while Billy Beane's authoritarian approach to organizational operations apparently make the imperceptible Bob Geren the ideal man to squeeze 81 wins out of a team that evidently overachieved (according to Bruce) by finishing 2nd in the AL West.


Ron Washington has a pulse, and the Rangers finished in front of the A's, so he's the reason the Rangers are a good team. Is that what Bruce Jenkins means? I'm asking this because there isn't much else to go on . Where's the support? Wait...something else is missing...oh yeah! Where's the foundation? Ron Washington is a good baseball man, there's no denying that. But Bengie Molina could have player/coached the Rangers to a division title. The Rangers success and the A's mediocrity in 2010 was predictable three years ago. In fact, it's almost amazing the A's reached 81 wins just three seasons after having no significant big-league contributors and a depleted minor-league system. But Jenkins' article seems to give off the notion that if Billy Beane had loosened up the leash entering the 2007 season and hired Ron Washington, the 2010 Fall Classic would be a rematch of the 1989 series.

"It's just such a great thing that Washington left Oakland and joined a team he could really manage."

Is it such a great thing? Are we all simply astonished by Ron Washington's unique managerial approach to baseball? NO! That "NO" is more emphatic than Jenkins' "NO" regarding Washington's hypothetical managerial career in Oakland. At this point, Jenkins' seems to expose his own personal convictions more so than anything baseball-related. It's certainly a great thing for Ron Washington that he left Oakland and joined the Rangers. I don't know how great it would have turned out elsewhere. In some cases...actually quite a few cases, it may have turned out horribly! Would Jenkins' have written this same article if Ron Washington had been in Trey Hillman's shoes the past three years? Maybe - if Ron Washington managed the Royals to the World Series. More importantly, would that have been possible if Wash' was in KC? NO! The cards Wash' was handed when he took the job were his greatest asset, not something he inherently possessed before he left the Bay Area nearly 4 seasons ago.

"There's no pervasive offensive philosophy on the Rangers, no strict directive to go up there and watch a million pitches pass by."

It seems as though Bruce is attributing a ton of Ron Washington's success to the moment the Rangers apparently became the Burger King of MLB front offices and told their skipper "have it your way, Wash!" By comparison, it's a given that Washington has far more control over the Rangers than he would have had he been named manager of the Athletics. But Jenkins seems to be under the impression that either the A's are the only team that implements specific philosophical approaches from the GM on down, or the Rangers are the only ones who don't. I don't know if he did it intentionally or not, but Jenkins' was correct when he mentioned that there isn't any offensive philosophy implemented by the Texas front office (that is public knowledge at least). If that was indeed intentional, it's probably because Jenkins is aware of Nolan Ryan's emphasis on pitcher stamina, which minimizes the significance of pitch counts, but is a big reason the Rangers' staff stresses year-round conditioning to their pitchers. The rational effect of this approach undeniably alters such state-of-the-game decisions regarding how, when, and where to use which pitcher, and therefore, the managerial approach taken by Ron Washington.

I could go on to criticize Jenkins' article in a thousand more words than it was even written, but that would ultimately detract from my objective. Although, when Jenkins implies that Ron Washington is courageous because he confessed to his own personal weakness after testing positive for cocaine use prior to the start of the 2010 season, it seems as though Bruce is using the most arbitrary details of Washington's off-the-field life to accredit his managerial success. Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge Ron Washington fan, and I think he's a terrific manager. I think there's plenty of in-game decisions that make that evident. I also think that someones' personal life and professional life are two entirely different entities, and therefore should be kept separated in their respective analyses. I don't think Ron Washington is a bad person because he tested positive for an illegal narcotic. I don't know the man! I know little about his personal life other than Eric Chavez gave him one of his 6 Gold Glove Awards, and that his New Orleans home was ruined by Hurricane Katrina and Jason Giambi helped him recover in the aftermath. Beyond that, I could say nothing about Ron Washington that doesn't have something to do with baseball. His character is what distinguishes his status as a "good" or "bad" member of society, so only people who know Ron Washington could judge him in that respect. It's in that same respect that we can't accurately judge Ron Washington's professional career based on the decisions he makes in his personal life. We have an infinite number of metrics we could choose from to evaluate Ron Washington's effectiveness as a manager, so why would we throw in some anecdotal nonsense that isn't even close to baseball-related? Bruce Jenkins may not agree with that particular idea, and that's fine. But citing a positive drug test as an event that ultimately revealed Ron Washington's courage to the public and somehow tying it back to the Rangers playing in the World Series is ridiculous. The last I checked, it was a bad thing to test positive for illegal drugs. Jenkins goes on to say that Billy Martin and Tony LaRussa have proven that not-so-good life decisions don't have to get in the way of success on the field. Yes, once again, I agree with the idea, but what is Bruce implying in that statement? I'd like to point out that, although Tony LaRussa may have been arrested for DUI, he's one of the most respectable individuals in society - not just in baseball. He's an animal rights advocate, and I admire him more for his personal ideals and contributions to society (such as ARF) than I do for his contributions to the game...other than maybe the 89' World Series. I'm a far greater supporter of LaRussa outside of baseball because of all of the work he's done to protect animals. I actually can't stand his strategic approach to baseball...but LaRussa's managerial decisions are a completely different topic...just like they should be.

In Case He Ever Reads It (within the next few weeks)

You're covering the World Series, Bruce. Giants fans will probably appreciate a column about what you think they're doing right a lot more than A's fans will appreciate a column about what you think they're doing wrong. I hope you realize that. Go A's.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Well the A's obviously aren't in them but quite a few A's fans probably can't seem to get away from playoff fever. I'm talking of course about the local buzz surrounding the National League neighbors of the Athletics, the 2010 NL West Champion San Francisco Giants. Although "playoff fever" is probably something the more bitter, envious, and spiteful A's fans would like to see turn into typhoid fever, it's undeniably an exciting time if your teams apart of it. And besides, any baseball is better than no baseball.

(The last play in A's postseason history from the 2006 ALCS is pictured above)

The seemingly inescapable talk about the 2010 MLB Postseason among Bay Area baseball fans is a direct result of the Giants success at the end of the regular season and through the playoffs so far. There are sure to be some A's fans who are genuinely mutual rooters of the Giants, and others who clench their teeth at the very thought of their success. What I might find hard to believe however, is that there are A's fans without an opinion on the matter-with the exception perhaps being those living outside of the region. Otherwise, your indifference can't be conditional, and the success of another team within the A's market cannot be ignored. The Giants were good this year, and their strong September play proved beneficial when the Padres decided October baseball wasn't for them.

As an A's fan, it's hard not to be a little jealous, especially since this is the first time since 1997 that the A's didn't make the playoffs while the Giants did. With that said, you can't hate someone for cheering on the team they grew up watching, and outside of the ballparks, I'm a fan of anyone wearing their team colors. It's also always good to see people who are fans of baseball in general. (This is a completely different conversation, but in a film-sport analogy, Michael Bay films are to football, as Stanley Kubrick's films are to baseball. That's a reference to both popularity and intellectual quality. Don't get me wrong, I've followed the NFL in the past as well as the NCAA in the more recent past, but I grew up in a Niners household and they're pretty much becoming the Royals of the NFL.) Growing up on the peninsula has forced me to accept that being an A's fan means I'm going to be in the minority, even within my own social circle. Personally, most of my close friends are very intelligent and loyal Giants fans. For them, I can be happy if the Giants succeed in the playoffs. Those I refuse to be happy for, and those I will insist on detesting, are the people who have just started following the Giants over the past eight weeks. I refuse to acknowledge these people as baseball fans, and if the Giants go on to win the 2010 World Series, it will make me sick to know that these people have the privilege of believing they were apart of something as special as a World Series. I understand that people like this are apart of almost every team to make a playoff run, but I'd feel the exact same way if it were the A's.

Another adverse effect this should have on the A's is from the media's standpoint. The Bay Area media practically refuses to acknowledge the very existence of the A's as it is. Even when the A's are good it seems as though they need to win twenty consecutive games, or have their starting pitcher throw a perfect game just to remind the local media that they reside in the same region. The amount of excessive discussion in 2011 alone that will come as a result of the Giants' postseason success is already a given. At this point it's merely a matter of how much bigger the already (and literally) "Giant" shadow hovering over A's will actually become.

Although some A's fans might say they refuse to root for a team whose owners allegedly want the A's "out" of the region, (a thought substantiated by the Giants attempt to "block" San Jose from the A's) there's little proof beyond speculation that Larry Baer and Bill Nuekom want the A's to depart from the region. While they obviously wouldn't have a problem with the A's moving elsewhere, it's important to note that Giants ownership said nothing about the Fremont development, or the A's excursions within their own territory. Thanks to a
post on, it's theorized that Baer and Nuekom apparently made a deal with Jon Fisher in which the A's majority owner claimed he would not pursue any ballpark developments in San Jose. That information is something most A's fans following the topic have been left in the dark about, and it also makes the Giants ownership not seem so merciless. As businessmen, it's understandable why they'd like A's ownership to honor their agreement. From that same business aspect however, it would also be nice to see the Giants take a more marketable approach to the situation if the A's can't find a new home in the East Bay, especially since the A's are the ones who granted the Giants their rights to the South Bay (it was previously mutual territory) back when they were in danger of moving to St. Petersburg.

Just For Fun

And of course for the more jealous A's fans (and any other A's fans surrounded by victims of the playoff-fever epidemic), it's still consoling to point out that even if the Giants win it all this year, the A's still have more trophies in ten less years spent in the Bay Area.

Here are a few facts about the Bay Area MLB franchises and their history in the region-just to sooth the pain of envy

  • As I mentioned earlier, this is the first time since 1997 the Giants have made the playoffs and the A's did not
  • Since the A's moved to Oakland in 1968, the Giants have made the playoffs just 3 times in years the A's have not, including this year (1987, 1997, and 2010)
  • The Giants have made the playoffs 8 times, including this year, since 1968
  • The A's have made the playoffs 15 times since 1968
  • The A's have won the World Series 4 times in 6 opportunities since moving to Oakland
  • The Giants have not won a World Series in 3 opportunities since moving to San Francisco

While these facts are fun to acknowledge, and prove the A's have the historical edge, what matters right now is that the 2010 NL West Champion Giants are a win away from their 4th pennant since moving to the Bay Area, and the Athletics are watching it on television. We can all point to history as a means of relief, and the historical facts are certainly a legitimate assertion. But we desire relief in large part because we wish we could all be where they are right now.

An Athletics Prophecy Based on Postseason History

Here's a playful prediction keeping with the theme of Bay Area baseball. Consider the following:
  • As of right now, the Giants lead the NLCS 3-2 over the Phillies
  • The last time the Giants led the NLCS 3-2 was in 1987 versus the St. Louis Cardinals (the Cardinals came back to win the sixth and seventh games)
  • That same year, the A's finished 81-81 and failed the make the postseason
  • The following year, 1988, was the first of three consecutive seasons in which the Athletics made the World Series (only winning it 89')
  • This year, 2010, the A's also finished 81-81 and failed to make the playoffs
  • The ONLY times in San Francisco Giants franchise history in which they led the NLCS 3-2 were in 1987 and this year, 2010
  • The ONLY times in Oakland Athletics franchise history in which they finished 81-81 were in 1987 and this year, 2010
This obviously means the A's are headed to the Fall Classic in 2011, 2012, and 2013. You read it hear first. (Of course I say this jokingly but if it happens I won't let anyone I know hear the end of it)

And the American League Side of it

Perhaps focus should be shifted off the Giants and over to the league the A's actually play in. Sure, a lot of people said the Rangers were going to win the West coming into the season. After the month of June it started looking like it would be difficult for them not to win it. But a lot of people also said they were going to get booted quickly from the postseason too. No team was as frustrated with Texas as the A's were, and A's fans probably share that same sentiment. Regardless of your feelings about it, the Rangers are going to the World Series. I rooted as hard as anyone possibly could have against the Rangers this past season, but it's hard to resent them when it was a miracle the A's were able to stave off elimination until a week left anyway. When you watch the final out, it's also hard not to be happy for Ron Washington. Not only that, it's also hard not to look twice when CJ Wilson lifts up Bengie Molina around the 1:17 mark. As much grief as I gave bandwagon fans earlier in the post, it's nice to see Texans give as much attention to the Rangers as they do the Cowboys. San Francisco's always been as good a baseball town as it is a football town, but the Rangers almost always take a backseat to the Cowboys (maybe not this year since they're 1-4).

(Rangers winning the American League Pennant pictured above)

The 2010 A's vs Who's Left

Seriously, with the Rangers winning the American League Pennant, and the Giants a win away from taking the NL Pennant, it's a tough call for A's fans on who to root for (or who to root against more). On one hand A's fans could root for the Giants and argue they're doing so because the Rangers were the only team standing between the A's and a division title. On the other hand, the Giants share the same market, and the media frenzy as a result of a trophy on the west side of the bay may quite possibly become the most irritatingly inescapable provocation to ever exi
st for an A's fan. Either way, if the Giants do indeed play the Rangers in the World Series, one things for certain-A's fans will not hear the end of it, no matter who wins.

The Rangers clinched the AL West on September 25th in Oakland

How did the A's fair against the leftover playoff teams?
  • They went 0-0 vs the Phillies
  • They went 3-3 vs the Giants

o The A's took the first three at the Coliseum while the Giants took the last three at AT&T Park

o The A's and Giants both looked like different teams when the series switched venues. The A's were 1st in the West when they played host, and three weeks later they left San Francisco losers of 5 of their last 15, never to rise higher than 2nd in the standings for the remainder of the year

  • They went 9-10 vs the Rangers

o This series was a close one, and was in the A’s favor for most of the year

o 10 of the 19 games were decided by 3 runs or less

o The A’s lost the final three games of the series, the second in which the Rangers clinched the division

Take what you want from this. This is an A's blog, so excuse the perceived biases. Go A's.