Current Series

7/30, 5:05 PST
Oakland (Lucas Harrell) @ Chicago (Brett Anderson)

7/31, 1:10 PST
Oakland (John Danks) @ Chicago (Dallas Braden)

8/1 1:05 PST
Oakland (Gavin Floyd) @ Chicago (Gio Gonzalez)

Previous Series:
Texas 3, Oakland 1
Oakland 3, Texas 1
Texas 7, Oakland 4

Friday, July 30, 2010

Games 99-101 Recap or Slim Just Left the Building

Texas 3, Oakland 1 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
Oakland 3, Texas 1 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
Texas 7, Oakland 4 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)

A's Current Record: 51-50

Despite playing three close games with the AL West leading Rangers, the A's lost one or two more than they needed to in order to keep their remote playoff hopes within a dream's reach.  Now, according to Baseball Prospectus, the A's odds of reaching the playoff sits between 1 and 5 percent.  With the Rangers acquiring Jorge Cantu and Cristian Guzman, these low figures may even be overstating the A's chances.

Even though this series probably was the death knell for the A's postseason hopes, there were several promising performances that bode well for next season and beyond.  First and foremost were the pitching performances of Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill.  Gio managed to stay neck and neck with Cliff Lee for six innings, though he did struggle a bit with his pitch count.  Gio's final line of 6 innings, 1 run, 8 baserunners, and 6 Ks was nice to see given that he was pitching in Texas, a place where A's starters always seem to wither.   Trevor Cahill did even better, going eight innings while giving up only one run on two hits.  He also struck out 4 and walked 3.   Key to his success was getting groundballs; he got 13 in all and gave up just two line drives.

It really can't be said enough, the development of Gio and Cahill is the key to the A's ability to compete in the near future.  A rotation that includes Brett Anderson, Gio, Cahill, and Dallas Braden gives the A's a strong core of talent on the mound.

And then there's the hitting.  Eight runs in three games at Texas is simply not going to cut it.  It's a pretty obvious sign that you're not actually a contender when Matt Carson and Matt Watson are getting key at bats in one of the most important series of the year.  (They should really just be allowed to count as one switch hitting outfielder named Matt Warson as I don't think anyone really knows the difference between the two.)  Yes Cliff Lee is amazing, and expecting a win against him is probably a little crazy, but even against CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis the A's couldn't muster much offense.

We'll see what storylines emerge as the rest of the season progresses.  I think battling the Angels for 2nd place is a worthwhile goal and I'll also be watching for growth from Cliff Pennington, Adam Rosales, and Daric Barton and awaiting the potential call ups of Chris Carter and Michael Taylor (which I really don't think should happen until the AAA season is over). 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Games 93-95 Recap or Are the A's as Good as the Red Sox?

Boston 2, Oakland 1 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
Oakland 5, Boston 4 (10) (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
Oakland 6, Boston 4 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)

A's Current Record: 48-47

The short answer to the question in the title of the post is "no."  But, there's a pretty good argument that the A's are about as good as Boston right now.  Obviously, there's the results of the past series, where the A's beat the Sox twice in three games and outscored them Red Sox by two runs over the series.  And there's the fact that Eric Patterson, who the A's cut, played in two of the games for the Red Sox.  Of course, most of this has to do with the injuries Boston is currently dealing with.  Their DL looks worse than even the A's.  Jason Varitek, Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell, Jeremy Hermida, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Josh Beckett are all sidelined, meaning the Sox were down to their third best catcher, 5th and 6th best OFs, and backups at second and in the rotation.

The bullpen really carried the A's throughout the series, something they haven't exactly done to date.  Don't get me wrong, the bullpen has been perfectly fine so far this year, but they haven't dominated the way I thought they might considering the years that Andrew Bailey, Michael Wuertz, and Brad Ziegler had in 2009.  Against Boston, the bullpen pitched 10 scoreless innings, allowing the A's to survive Gio Gonzalez' poor start on Wednesday and Dallas Braden's short stint on Tuesday, and to stay alive in the pitcher's duel on Monday night.

None of the A's starters were particularly dominant, but the depleted Red Sox offense couldn't take advantage of the mediocre showings of the A's starting staff.  Ben Sheets' line from Monday looks fine -- 6.2 IP with 2 ER, but he only struck out two and gave up a fair number of fly balls and line drives.  Dallas Braden, coming off of the DL to make Tuesday's start, also struggled.  He couldn't make it out of the fifth and gave up 10 hits.  He did strike out 6, which is encouraging, but 11 baserunners in under five innings is not a recipe for success.  Gio's start was also mediocre at best; he gave up four runs in six innings and only struck out three.

Offensively, the A's were pretty lucky in scoring their runs until yesterday's game, when they actually hit the ball well.  Monday night's scoring came off of a solo shot by Rajai Davis.  On Tuesday they managed to score five times, despite getting just 6 hits.  The five walks they took helped, as did their aggressiveness on the basepaths against Tim Wakefield.  They scored the four runs in the third thanks in large part to a double steal and a passed ball.  In their lone legitimately solid offensive performance, the A's scored six times, getting homers from Jack Cust and Matt Watson (his first in the majors) in addition to 10 other hits and 5 walks.

Although their playoff chances keep getting slimmer and slimmer, it's nice to see the A's beat a good team for once, instead of pounding on the dregs of the AL and in turn getting pounded by the elite teams.   With the White Sox coming to town, the A's have a chance to prove themselves yet again against a team with actual playoff hope.  We'll see if the A's can keep winning games and keep their playoff chances alive for at least a few more days.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ryan Sweeney Out for the Year

It looks like Ryan Sweeney's season is over as he will undergo surgery on one or both of his knees and should be at full strength to start next season.  The procedures are not supposed to have long term effects, but its hard to say that season-ending knee surgery won't change Sweeney's career path at all.

In the meantime, we're likely to see more of Gabe Gross and Matt CarsonMichael Taylor's been hitting well of late in AAA, so he may be in line for a September call up.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Games 90-92 or The Royals Are Who We Thought They Are (And so Are the A's)

Oakland 5, Kansas City 1 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
Oakland 6, Kansas City 5 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
Oakland 9, Kansas City 6 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)

A's Current Record: 46-46

With the A's five game win streak, they've reached the .500 mark for the first time since mid-June.  They were aided by series' against the Pirates, Orioles, Indians, and Royals over that stretch, but .500 isn't the worst place in the world to be at this point in the season.

Friday's game was a replica of any number of A's wins this year:  very good pitching with just enough offense.  Gio Gonzalez did his best Trevor Cahill impression, going seven innings while giving up one run on seven hits.  He struck out just three, but he also walked only one Royal and managed to induce 14 groundballs.  While the low K total isn't the best sign in the world, perhaps if Gio trades some Ks for more grounders and fewer walks he'll be more effective in the long run.

Offensively, the A's were able to take advantage of a couple of Kansas City miscues to score five runs.  They did this despite not hitting the ball especially hard off of Zack Greinke, and in spite of the fact that Daric Barton continues to bunt like its 1899.  Barton's latest shennanigans took place with the A's up by three in the third inning with runners on first and second.  Even though Greinke's a dominating pitcher, Barton's really got to swing the bat there to try to break the game wide open.

Game two of the series was far less typical of the A's season, with Trevor Cahill getting knocked around and the A's scoring off of Royals closer Joakim Soria to take the lead in the ninth.  Cahill only had one bad inning, giving up five runs in the second; the big blast being a Yuniesky Betancourt grand slam.  After giving up a Scott Podsednik triple immediately following Betancourt's blast, Cahill retired the next 16 Royals in a row, before Betancourt struck again with a double that helped chase Cahill in the seventh.  After the second inning, Cahill did what he had to do to keep the game close and the A's took advantage, scoring single runs in the sixth, seventh, and ninth to take the victory.

Yesterday's game was basically a blow out, even if the final score shows only a three run margin.  The A's jacked three homers, and magically more than doubled their average offensive output by scoring nine runs.  Adam Rosales continues to show that he's a valuable player, starting at first base and homering in the process.  Jack Cust also continued to prove that the A's made a mistake starting the season with him in AAA and is now batting .287/.388/.441 on the year.  Kevin Kouzmanoff also homered.

A sweep of the Royals is not at all surprising, though the heat and humidity took a toll on the team.  Daric Barton had to miss Sunday's game, and Ryan Sweeney missed the series with balky knees.  On the other side of the injury coin are Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson.  Braden will return to the A's on Tuesday, while Anderson has started his rehab stint and may be back later this month.  With the Red Sox coming to town the A's get to prove that they may be better than a .500 team and can actually do damage against a legitimately good team.  I wouldn't bet on it, but with the A's facing two of the Red Sox weaker starters, they do have a chance to surprise.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Site News

Obviously this page has been dark for a while and I apologize for the unannounced outage. I recently took a new job and I'm working 90+ hours a week and Adam is similarly busy studying for the bar exam. We do want to continue posting here, but daily posts look to be a thing of the past (for now). Instead, we'll do series recaps instead of game recaps and we'll try to swing by and add commentary once or twice a week.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Games 84, 85 and 86 Recap or the A's are definitely worse than the Yankees

New York 3, Oakland 1 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
New York 6, Oakland 1 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
New York 6, Oakland 2 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)

A's Current Record: 41-45

I didn't watch any of these games because, living in New York, they were blacked out on MLB.TV and I don't have cable (and didn't want to watch in a bar surrounded by Yankees fans), and I have to say I'm pretty happy about that decision.  The A's simply cannot hit against good pitching, and Javier  Vazquez, C.C.  Sabathia and A.J.  Burnett proved that rather convincingly.  Giving up 15 runs to the Yankees is about what you'd expect, though I would've liked to seen better performances from Trevor  Cahill (definitely not pitching in the All-Star game anyway b/c he goes on Sunday, but probably did not impress Girardi) and Gio  Gonzalez against the best team in the league.

These games are discouraging because it shows just how far away the A's are from being a legitimate contender.  Other than Kurt  Suzuki, there's not a single player in the A's lineup who would start for the Yankees (and that's w/ moving Posada to DH), or come even close.  Most of the team wouldn't even make their active roster.  They are simply a step below the Yankees (a great team, no shame in that but it's not close enough, nor does it seem as it will be anytime soon) and while they do have some strong young pitching, that's not enough.

Just so these posts aren't all negative, Cliff  Pennington has been hot, raising his season averages to .260/.332/.383, about what we'd expect, and worthwhile as a SS with average defense.  He was due for a bump as his BABIP was really low given his line-drive rate and has normalized a little bit.  Coco  Crisp has been great since his activation from the DL (.288/.355/.538), boosting his trade value quite a bit, and singlehandedly trying to keep the A's offense afloat.  Their pitching staff has been excellent -- as of today, they've allowed the 3rd fewest runs/game in the AL -- but they've scored the third fewest runs per game.  It's the same old story (good pitching, bad offense), and while I'm sick of writing it, I guess we better get used to it.

Games 82 and 83 Recap or the A's are probably better than the Indians

Cleveland 5, Oakland 4 (10) (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
Oakland 3, Cleveland 1 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)

A's Current record: 41-42

Yes, this is basically a week late, and as such, rather than talk specifically about the games, I wanted to evaluate where the A's stand relative to the rest of the league, and using the Indians (one of the league's worst) and Yankees (one of the league's best) as benchmarks seems about right.  The A's ended up taking 2 of 3 from the Indians, losing a winnable game in extra innings (which featured a fine 2010 season debut from Clayton Mortensen) and then winning a classic 2010 Oakland A's game thanks to Vin  Mazzaro's best start of the season.

The series left the A's at about .500 (spoiler alert -- not so much anymore), which is essentially where we saw them coming into the year --- a .500 team that needed some breaks to contend, which the A's really haven't had.  Their record matches their run differential as well as their third order record (from Baseball Prospectus).  The emergence of All-Star Trevor  Cahill and Gio  Gonzalez has been offset by the injuries to Justin  Duchscherer (predictable) and Brett  Anderson (not as much).  They also need the division to be mediocre all-around, but the emergence of Texas has made the A's a longshot to contend at this point.

It's been pretty clear that they can beat bad teams --- going 7-2 against the Pirates, Orioles and Indians --- but also that they have not been able to consistently beat good teams --- going 1-11 in the past month against the Giants, Reds, Cardinals and Yankees.

The Indians are in rebuilding mode, and without Shin-Soo  Choo or Grady  Sizemore, their lineup is pretty pitiful --- devaluing Mortensen and Mazzaro's starts.  Looking at their future, though, shows some promise that the A's simply don't have on the offensive side of the ball.  Carlos  Santana (already hitting a ridiculous .286/.425/.583) is a superstar in the making, and if Sizemore returns healthy, along with Choo, that's a championship level middle of the order.  Asdrubal  Cabrera (also hurt) is an above-average infielder and Matt  LaPorta is still well regarded.  Their pitching is well behind the A's, however --- but I do feel jealousy pangs every time I see elite young hitters on other teams, because the A's simply don't have any.