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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Game 33 Recap or From Perfection to Insanity

Oakland 7, Texas 6 (13)(WPA Graph from Fangraphs)

A's Current Record: 18-15
Well that sure was crazy.  The odds that Dallas Braden would throw a perfect game were 1 in 15.2 million.  I wonder what the odds are that Eric Chavez would homer, Landon Powell would steal a base, and Tyson Ross would get an at bat in the same game. 

Any 13 inning game with four blown saves (three by the A's) will have controversial managerial moves and this game was no exception.  In watching Bob Geren over the past few years I'd have to say that bullpen management is what he is worst at.  Unfortunately for him, choosing which pitcher pitches in a given situation is the most visible thing a manager does.  The A's bullpen should be fairly easy to manage, especially now that it has nine guys in it.  But Geren once again made a bad move which led to a chain of crazy events.

The first eight and a half innings were typical of what we've seen so far from the A;s, with Chavez' two run homer, his first since 2008, being the biggest oddity of the night.  The Rangers had managed only two runs off of Trevor Cahill, Jerry Blevins, and Brad Ziegler, while the A's had managed to score three.  Heading into the bottom of the eighth, Ziggy was on the mound set to face righties Elvis Andrus and Michael Young.  Lefty Josh Hamilton was due up third.  Ziggy retired Andrus, but hit Young.  Geren left the right hander in to face Hamilton, who promptly gave the Rangers the lead with a homer.

Geren absolutely cannot have Ziegler facing Hamilton in that situation.  Although Hamilton's splits aren't horrendous, Ziegler's are.  Maybe if the bases were empty it'd be OK to leave Ziggy in the game where Hamilton could only tie the game, but that was not the situation at hand.  The right (and seemingly obvious) move is to go to Breslow there and have Bailey ready to face Guerrero.  I really have no idea why Geren wouldn't go to a lefty there.

In the top of the ninth against the lefty Darren Oliver, Chavez reached on an error.  Gabe Gross ran for him and Adam Rosales followed with a single.  Jake Fox then hit for Eric Patterson at which point the Rangers went to right handed closer Neftali Feliz.  The A's, because of their nine man bullpen, were left with just Josh Donaldson on the bench, who really has no tactical value; he can't hit, run, or play any position besides catcher.  After Feliz hit Fox, the A's retook the lead on singles by Landon Powell and Cliff Pennington. 

At this point Geren was faced with a somewhat tough decision.  He could either leave Fox in the game in left or put Gross in left while losing the DH.  I think Geren made the right choice; there was little chance that the pitcher's spot would come up again since the most likely scenario was for Bailey to end the game in the ninth.  BUT, he really shouldn't have been in this position in the first place.  Pinch running for Chavez would probably be fine if the A's had a full bench, but with only two guys that you're willing to use, the marginal upgrade from Chavez to Gross on the bases isn't worth it.

Bailey did allow the Rangers to tie the game and the teams went to extra innings.  Daric Barton gave the A's the lead with a homer in the 11th, but Tyson Ross gave it back in the bottom of the inning to give the A's three blown saves on the night.  Geren again made a questionable decision in the 12th, allowing Ross to bat with two outs and a runner on first. 

There are several occasions where its OK to have a relief pitcher bat in a close game, but this was not one.  First, the A's still had Josh Donaldson on the bench to pinch hit.  Managers are always very concerned with having a player on the bench in case of an injury, but the fear is silly.  Yes it's possible for someone to get hurt in the middle of a game, but the odds are pretty low.  Plus, if the injury occurred to anyone except for Powell, the A's would be stuck playing someone out of position anyways.  Second, there were plenty of arms available in the bullpen, and while Ross was probably the best, there's a reason Edwar Ramirez and Henry Rodriguez are on the team.

Geren made one last crazy decision in the 13th.  After Powell walked to lead off the inning, he stole second.  That's right, the guy with two major knee surgeries that is listed at 260 pounds that had caught 12 innings so far was sent to steal.  While the play ultimately worked, it nearly didn't as a good throw would have gotten him.  Powell went on to score on Daric Barton's two out single to center and Ross finished off the Rangers in the bottom of the inning.

So the A's won, making all my complaints about Geren's moves moot.  The real problem (apart from allowing Ziegler to face Hamilton)  is that he managed the game as if he had a seven man bullpen and four man bench - not the roster he actually had.  I'm not exactly sure why the A's  have so many guys in the pen anyways and this game illustrates perfectly why there's no need for it.  We'll see how long the A's go with this roster configuration.  Kurt Suzuki may be recalled from the DL soon, but the A's likeliest move would be to send Donaldson, and not a pitcher, back to AAA.  Perhaps when Duke comes off the DL to make his start in Anaheim the roster will return to normal, but hopefully the A's overstuffed bullpen and understaffed bench won't haunt them anymore.

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