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.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Tyson Ross optioned, Ross Wolf in

Just a day after Tyson Ross got an article in the Wall Street Journal (well worth reading, about how he lives at home), the A's made it moot by optioning him to Sacramento. He was a valuable member of the bullpen in the beginning of the season but struggled the past two months and the A's want him to go back to being a starting pitcher. This is the right move --- if Ross is just gonna be a mop-up man for a mediocre team, better try to extract more value out of him if possible.

Wolf was acquired from Baltimore for Jake Fox, and has had a very solid year in AAA, with a 1.99 ERA and a 2:1 K:BB ratio, including 7 solid appearances for Sacramento since being acquired.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Watson, Carson up, Jackson DLed, Mortensen sent down

Conor  Jackson was placed on the 15-day DL and the A's called up two outfielders, Matt  Carson, who is up for the third time this season, and old friend Matt  Watson, who last played in the majors in 2005 with the A's.  They cleared an extra roster spot by sending Clayton Mortensen down to AAA, as the 5th starter spot is not needed until after the All-Star Break.

Jackson had cooled off after a hot start (though some of that could have been his hamstring problem) --- he's at .267/.365/.311 in his 14 games with the A's, not exactly allaying any doubts we have about his power returning after his bout with Valley Fever.  Carson has 9 ABs with the A's this season and is hitting a very solid .301/.376/.534.  The most interesting part of the transaction is Watson, though --- a 31 year old journeyman, he was just signed by the A's out of an independent league (he played in Japan in 2007, Korea in 2009 and all through the minors and indy ball the past few years) and has been raking at Sacramento with a line of .313/.358/.600.

I remember talking with Watson's wife and maybe his brother or brother-in-law or something similar at spring training in 2005 and talking about the financial struggles of a journeyman minor leaguer, so it's nice for me to see him get some big-league time after 5 years.  It's not likely to be long, but you never know.

Also, over the past few days the A's claimed pitcher Jeff  Lyman off waivers from the Braves, signed Boof  Bonser to a minor league deal and signed a top Venezuelan prospect for $2.2 million (always nice to see the A's spend money).  Lyman, 23, is a San Francisco native and a former 2nd round pick who has been working out of the bullpen and struggled at the AAA level --- I guess if you have a 40-man spot open for him that's fine, but he seems pretty fungible and is at AA right now.  Bonser made a couple of appearances for the Red Sox earlier this year and still throws hard, but if he sees time in the majors, it probably isn't a good sign for the A's.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Game 81 Recap or Rare and Awesome Play Saves the Day

Oakland 3, Cleveland 0 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)

A's Current Record: 40-41

An oft used cliche about baseball is that in every game you'll see something you've never seen before.  While I'm not sure that every game does have something that is interesting and unique, last night's key moment sure was special. 

With the A's winning 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Gio Gonzalez gave up three two-out singles to load the bases.  Indians' catcher Mike Redmond then lined what appeared to be another single to right, bur Ryan Sweeney made a great heads up play to throw Redmond out at first.  I don't think I've seen a right fielder throw a batter out at first base in an American League game before (I feel like I've seen pitchers get thrown out at first on grounders to the outfield) and I've definitely never seen it come at such a crucial time in the game.  Had Sweeney not thrown Redmond out at first, the Indians would have had the bases loaded with two outs, trailing by two.  Instead, the inning ended with the A's 3-0 lead intact.

Not only did Gonzalez get a bit lucky with that play, he was pretty lucky to be entering the sixth with a shutout.  His control was spotty, especially in the beginning of the game.  He walked two batters in the second and another pair in the third before he settled down; after the third, he didn't walk another Indian.  Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey finished the game for Gio.  Breslow retired the four batters he faced and Bailey pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

At the plate, the A's scored their three runs on six hits and five walks.  They could have broken the game open, though, as they left the bases loaded in the first and the sixth.  Strangely, they struck out 5 times against Mitch Talbot, a guy with a career K/9 of under 4.5.  While strikeouts generally aren't any worse than other types of outs, since the A's rely heavily on getting singles, they need to get the ball in play more than most teams to get base runners.  Striking out once an inning, especially doing it against a finesse pitcher like Talbot, is not good news for the A's.

All in all the three runs was enough and they've pulled back to within a game of .500.  Halfway through the season we have a pretty good idea now of what the A's are.  A team that can definitely beat the dregs of MLB, but are probably not good enough to compete in the surprisingly good AL West.  A midseason review will be coming sometime this week.

Braden scratched, Mortensen to make the start

via SFGate:

"The A's have decided on the most sensible course of action and scratched Dallas Braden from tomorrow's start; he'll now get more than two weeks and potentially nearly three to rest his left elbow. Nicely done, no need to risk further issues for Braden for just one start.

Clayton Mortensen, having a very nice (10-2) season at Triple-A Sacramento will come up to start tomorrow. The A's have not made the move yet, but there's no reason not to put Braden on the DL since he won't be needed until after the break."

The smart, conservative move here --- the A's need Braden to be healthy and one start is not worth further damage to his elbow.  Apparently, Conor Jackson may also need to be DLed, but Daric Barton was healthy enough to play yesterday.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Game 80 Recap or A's Prove They Can Hit Minor League Pitching

Oakland 8, Baltimore 1 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)

You can't complain too much about an 8-1 win -- and there were a bunch of good things to take away from the game.  However, most of the good performances need to be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.  Not only are the Orioles the worst team in the AL, their lineup last night, especially the pitchers they used, were barely major league quality.

The one unqualified success was, yet again, Trevor Cahill.  He went seven innings, giving up just one run on four hits, and although he struckout just four, he also walked just one batter and 13 of the 20 balls hit off of him were grounders.  His only mistake was to Corey Patterson to lead off the game, who doubled and came around to score on two productive outs.  After that, Cahill allowed just one batter to reach second base.  Somewhat surprisingly, Cahill has turned into the A's most reliable starter as he's allowed more than three runs just twice this year in 13 starts.  He, and maybe Gio Gonzalez, are the only two guys that when they take the mound I feel the A's have a good shot at winning, no matter how poorly the offense performs.

As for those hitters, on the surface it looks like the A's had a good day at the plate.  They roughed up the Orioles for 8 runs on 15 hits and walked 5 times.  Cliff Pennington and Ryan Sweeney each had four hits (seven singles) and Jack Cust doubled twice and drove in two runs.  Obviously 21 baserunners is a good thing, but almost all of the damage was done against O's starter Jake Arrieta and Frank Mata, a pair of pitchers who started the year in the minors.  Arrieta, despite being a pretty good prospect, has struggled mightily so far in his brief major league career and Frank Mata has more or less proven he doesn't belong in the big leagues. 

It's good to see the A's taking care of business and going 5-1 against the Pirates and O's.  I guess for all my disappointment for the A's falling out of the AL West race, these last two series provided a good reminder that things could be (much) worse.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Games 78 & 79 Recap or Two Games, Many Oddities, More Geren Criticism

Tuesday: Oakland 4, Baltimore 2 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
Wednesday: Baltimore 9, Oakland 6 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)

A's Current Record: 38-41

Unfortunately, I was unable to get to Baltimore for these games (and won't be attending tonight's game either). While I'm upset that I may not get to see the A's again in person this year, the fact that the A's played two really ugly games makes me feel a little less bad about not catching them in person. The way they played they could have easily dropped both games, although they got lucky enough that they also could have won both.

The story of Tuesday's game was Vin Mazzaro. Initially, Dallas Braden was scheduled to start, but was scratched because of elbow stiffness (luckily, Braden is likely to make his start on Saturday). Mazzaro then went 6 innings, walked 6, while striking out just 2. And though he gave up just 3 hits, 2 of them were doubles. Despite all this he gave up just one run and earned the victory. As evident from the high walk total, Mazzaro had a very tough time with the strike zone, throwing almost half of his 98 pitches for balls. What's even stranger is that Mazzaro only got one double play ball and did not benefit from outs on the basepaths either.

As is often the case, the A's offense was just good enough, riding a season high 4 steals, on top of 11 hits, to score four times. Coco Crisp was the star of the game, as he was a homer short of the cycle, walked once, and stole two bases. Unfortunately, Coco was the only A's hitter to knock an extra base hit as the rest of the offense continued its singles-only stylings. The offensive oddity was Kurt Suzuki's three RBI, despite the fact that he didn't hit the ball out of the infield cleanly on any of his RBI at bats. An infield single, RBI groundout, and single off of Miguel Tejada's glove accounted for his big RBI day.

Last night's affair was especially ugly. made worse by questionable bullpen management from Bob Geren. Granted, he was not given the best of circumstances, as Ben Sheets was shaky and Brad Ziegler gave up a rare home run to a right hander in a critical situation.

Ben Sheets labored through six innings (though to be fair, with the amount that guy sweats, it always looks like he's laboring). He gave up four runs, three earned, but was done in by the long ball as he allowed solo dingers to Adam Jones and Corey Patterson. The bullpen went out and gave up three more homers as the staff's five homers allowed tied a season high.

Perhaps the bullpen would have performed a bit better had Geren deployed them a little better. He seems deathly afraid of letting any reliever pitch on back to back nights, no matter how few pitches was thrown the previous night. Furthermore, he still allows Ziegler to face lefties and it bit the A's right on the backside yesterday. Entering the bottom of the seventh, the A's had a two run lead, thanks to the A's six run fourth inning. The O's had Tejada (R), Nick Markakis (L) , and Ty Wigginton (R), due up, with Luke Scott (L) ready to bat if any Oriole reached base. At this point, Ben Sheets was at 104 pitches and definitely could have faced at least one more batter. Instead, Geren brought Ziggy into the game, who retired Tejada, but walked the lefty Markakis, which brought the tying run to the plate. Had Sheets stayed in the game to face Tejada, Sheets or a lefty could have faced Markakis, with Ziegler facing Wigginton (or not coming into the game at all depending on the situation).

If Geren decided that Sheets was done, though, then his first bullpen choice was less than ideal, but defensible. Ziegler rarely gives up homers to righties, so it was tough to imagine Wigginton tying the game with a two-run blast. What was just stupid was bringing in Cedrick Bowers to face Luke Scott. Bowers should really be the A's mop up man (and probably should even be in AAA so the A's can carry an extra bat on the bench). Jerry Blevins should have been available as he threw just 8 pitches on Tuesday. Bowers faced Scott after Wigginton's jack, and Scott promptly gave the O's the lead with a solo shot of his own. For good measure, Bowers struggled through the rest of the inning, allowing a single and a walk before getting the final out of the inning. Tyson Ross' struggle in the eighth, and the A's inability to score in innings that didn't start with the number 4 may have made all this moot, but you can never know how the game would have played out had they escaped the inning with the lead (or in a tied game).

The A's look to take the series tonight, then head to Cleveland to face the AL's second worst team. The A's still have a shot at using a soft part of the schedule to leap back above .500, but the ugly ball they've played so far in Baltimore doesn't bode well for the rest of the road trip.