Monthly archives: March 2007
According to this press report, the A's have released Erubiel Durazo.
Given that Dan Johnson and Esteban Loaiza will join Mark Kotsay on the DL to start the year, there are basically two roster decisions remaining: Lenny DiNardo vs. Brad Halsey as the long man in the pen, and Todd Walker vs. Travis Buck to replace Dan Johnson.
Even though Buck is probably a better player right now, I expect the A's to let Buck simmer some more in AAA, and give Walker a shot. Walker's slugging percentage slipped under .400 last year, but he still put up a typical-for-him .356 OBP, which ain't bad. Most of that drop came from a collapse against LHP (.204/.320/.315), which is actually fine, since Bobby Kielty has the same issues from the opposite side of the plate. This makes for a nice platoon, with Swisher covering the position for the sitting half of the platoon. How's this for some platoon numbers:
2006 vs LHP (Kielty): .325/.358/.607
Walker's slugging still isn't great, but the total numbers will do fine. Only problem is, this requires Shannon Stewart and Milton Bradley to stay healthy, so the A's can avoid playing Kielty against RHP and Walker against LHP. I suppose if that situation does come up, that's where you try Antonio Perez in the outfield and see what he can do.
A's Lineup Permutations 2007
On a recent morning, Beane took note of a website that attempted to calculate how many runs the A's could score with every possible lineup combination.
Hey, I resemble that remark!
I had kinda forgotten about it until then, but since it seems Billy Beane took note of it, I suppose it's time to dust off the old formula, and see what it says about the 2007 A's. I plugged in PECOTA's projections into the formula, and ran all the possible lineup combinations. The results are kinda weird, mostly because I think PECOTA's OBP projections are too high for Mark Ellis (.349) and too low for Mike Piazza (.324). So you may want to look at the results, and mentally flip-flop Piazza and Ellis, because the formula likes Mark Ellis batting cleanup. Cleanup!
Also, I used Bobby Kielty's projection, because he was the only name I could fill in for Dan Johnson that I was sure would be on the team. For what it's worth, Erubiel Durazo's projection (.333/.409) is nearly identical to Kielty's (.336/.408). Todd Walker has a higher projected OBP, but a lower SLG (.345/.402), but that projection was for Petco Park--the numbers might project higher in Oakland. Still, all three players project similarly, so it probably won't make much of a difference for this exercise.
The number beside the lineup is runs/162 games. The number will seem higher than actual team season run totals, probably because the optimal lineup never plays all 162 games. Lesser players get a lot of plate appearances besides the top nine players.
Top 10 Lineups
The projections are about 40 runs lower than last year's projections. It still likes Kendall batting ninth. Stewart is this year's Kotsay, which it likes eighth.
Last night on the A's broadcast of the Giants game (where a miked Rene Lachemann was a hoot), Bob Geren said the top six lineup spots would probably be Kendall, Stewart, Bradley, Piazza, Chavez, and Swisher. So let's look at that lineup:
798.54 - Kendall Stewart Bradley Piazza Chavez Swisher Crosby Ellis Kielty
That's pretty much right in the middle of the possible combinations.
And for fun:
The slowest player in baseball history leading off? Yeah, that seems like a bad idea.
P.S. Go fill out TangoTiger's community projections, and show PECOTA a thing or two.
Pucker Up, Sis
I've never really thought much of the Bay Bridge series because, well, really, what's the point? The games don't happen at the beginning of spring, so you don't have that "And thus ends six long, dark, lonely months" feel that accompanies early-March tilts. Instead, happening as they do within spitting distance of Opening Day, the Bay Bridge preseason games feel more like something to endure, nine innings of sitting with your fingers crossed and hoping no one gets dinged up in what my wife appropriately calls "fake games." Throw in my general attitude toward the Giants -- benign indifference! -- and the fact that in the Age of Selig, the A's and Giants already play each other six times that count in the standings, and it's not hard to see why these three games have never much mattered to me. I work within a block of Phone Company Ballpark and live across the San Leandro Channel from the Coliseum, but I've never gone to a Bay Bridge game. Fly to Arizona to watch teams scrimmage? Okey-dokey. Go five minutes out of my way to see the same thing? Thank you, no.
At least until last night. My contractor is a Giants season ticket-holder who was unable to attend the first of three meaningless A's-Giants tilts. And so, doubtlessly out of gratitude for the day I bought a home that needs incalculable repair, he offered his tickets to me and the missus. (Actually, he's a fabulous contractor and I'd be happy to recommend him for any job, which is fortunate, as we have him on retainer until 2019.) Since, as mentioned above, I already work within blocks of the ballpark and the price was right, I opted to end my long-standing apathy toward late-exhibition season Bay Area rivalry games.
It is perhaps fitting that I witnessed a tie.
Oh, it wasn't as bad as all that. Sure, I left after six -- if the A's starters aren't going to stick around for the whole nine innings, why should I? -- and I still managed to witness four of the five Oakland hits in person. That doesn't do much to stoke one's confidence about the A's offensive prospects heading into the '07 campaign. But I did get to see Rich Harden pitch in person for the first time this spring and he was as good as advertised -- provided you were off getting garlic fries for the first two Giants batters.
Dave Roberts led off the first by blasting a no-doubt-about-it triple over the head Charles ("My GM Traded Tim Hudson to the Braves and All I Got Was This Quadruple-A Outfielder") Thomas, and Omar Vizquel followed with a hit-'em-where-they-ain't double down the right field line. After that -- lights out, Canadian-style. Harden set down 12 of the next 13 batters he faced, yielding only a walk to my fellow San Ramon Valley alum Randy Winn in the third. Otherwise: 4 innings pitched, 2 hits, a walk, and four strikeouts. "Electric stuff," Ken Korach enthused on the drive home.
Indeed. Now cover Harden in bubble wrap and stuff him in his Nerf-enclosure until his next start.
In other pitching news, my personal pet project Jay Marshall -- known around the Michaels homestead as My Magnificent Lefty Side-Armer -- pitched decently enough Friday night. He's all but certain to make the team, and what minor wobbles he experienced on this evening shouldn't be enough to give anyone any second thoughts. Marshall pitched the A's out of a Jay Witasick-induced jam in the fifth by getting two ground ball outs (aided and abetted by some stellar glovework by Nick Swisher on a Dave Roberts smash to first). Marshall opened the sixth by getting Barry Bonds to hit a loud out -- a deep, high fly ball to right that fell into Travis Buck's glove well short of the warning track and disappointed the orange-clad patron in my section who leapt to his feet screaming "Gone!" the minute Bonds made contact. Guess the fans need to work out those spring kinks as well.
Marshall didn't fare as well against the next three batters. Ray Durham, hitting from the right-side, smashed a sharp single to left. Rich Aurilia hit a ground-rule double. After that, Marshall gave up a walk to Ryan Klesko -- a lefty, oddly enough. The take-away lesson for Bob Geren, I think, is to use Marshall in situations that he's best suited for -- one- or two-batter outings preferably against southpaws.
Speaking of Bonds -- well, I was a couple of paragraphs ago -- both of his at-bats against Harden came with a runner on second and first base open. In a game that counted, some managers might have been tempted to give Bonds four wide ones; Harden pitched to him and the results were a high pop-out to left and a sharply hit ball to center right at Charles Thomas. National League managers, take note: the only time Barry Bonds will reach base with 100-percent certainty is when you intentionally walk him. At this point in Bonds' career, you're better off trusting your highly-compensated Big League pitcher to retire him without incident.
Other notes from a game that doesn't count:
* The Giants' much-ballyhooed high-definition scoreboard is absolutely gorgeous -- a vast improvement over the Candlestick-era monochrome board that served Phone Company Ballpark the first seven years of its existence. The picture is crisp, the graphics are eye-popping, the resolution is clear -- obscene gestures from the fans during late-season blowouts are going to look fantastic on that screen.
Looking less impressive: the field, which, while not as bad as the Coliseum in September after a Raiders-Chiefs game, still looked brown and patchy in parts. Not exactly what you expect to see at the dawn of April.
The Giants have also opted to begin another season with their wacky morning DJ public-address announcer, a great way to give an otherwise stellar ballpark a Triple-A field. "This season, the Giants and Yankees will play each other in a three-game series for the first time since 1962," the p.a. announcer boomed in an effort to get us to buy season-ticket packages that include ducats for the upcoming Giants/Yankees interleague match-up. Yes, the first time since 1962 -- apart from that other three-game series.
* At one point, the high-definition scoreboard had the following message: "The Giants welcome Ross Porter." I have no idea if that was the same Ross Porter who used to call Dodger games -- for all I know, it was an entirely different Ross Porter -- but that didn't stop me from breaking out my Ross Porter imitation: "Interestingly enough, when the Giants put my name on the scoreboard in spring training games, they boast an impressive record of 43-12." My wife laughed politely. The merry-making never stops when I'm at the ballpark, I tell you.
A's Scrounge Up Some First Basemen
A couple of curious moves today in the wake of Dan Johnson's injury. With Johnson out a couple of months with a labrum tear in his hip, the A's signed Todd Walker, and also traded minor league catcher Jeff Baker to the Marlins for Jason Stokes. It's says a couple of things:
So instead, there are now not just one, but two new potential first basemen in the A's system. Walker has played all over the infield, but like Durazo, he plays those positions badly. Walker, like Durazo, is a hitter, first and foremost. I try hard not to remember his performance in the 2003 ALDS.
But perhaps it's just a case of the A's seeing an opportunity to grab freely some available talent. Baker wasn't going anywhere with the A's with Suzuki and Powell moving up the system. The A's and Marlins have exchanged Baker before, through waivers: the A's waived him, the Marlins claimed him, then the Marlins waived him, and the A's claimed him back. At least Baker's going somewhere he knows he's wanted.
In exchange, the A's get a former top prospect who has been hampered by injuries over the years. Stokes was on a lot of top prospect lists back in 2003-04, but has fallen after multiple injury-plagued seasons. But he's still only 25, so it's a good risk. There was some talent there, once.
But where are they going to put all these guys?
Slow Like An Elephant
When Mike Piazza plays his first game for the Athletics on Monday, three of the four slowest players of all time (and four of slowest six) will have played for the Oakland A's. And that doesn't even include Eric Karros, who is tenth.
It's totally amazing that the A's manage to replace Frank Thomas with an even slower player than Frank Thomas. Kinda like how Cheers managed to replace Coach with a character who was even dumber than Coach.
Somehow, we gotta get Paul Konerko in an A's uniform before his career is over.
Elephants Leave The Desert
Time to come home.
Or if you're Ryan Goleski, time to go back to Cleveland. The A's don't get their Rule 5 money back, apparently, because they were satisfied that Goleski showed up healthy in Arizona. Or that seeing him up close and personal, they were satisfied that drafting him was a mistake.
In either case, the A's played their last game in the Cactus league today, losing to the Angels, 2-0. They finished the Cactus League with a 15-12-1 record.
A Look at the Roster (Updated)
Joe Kennedy probably put a clamp down on the A's fifth starter's job today by pitching five innings, allowing only one run, and striking out nine. And since Rule 5 acquisition Jay Marshall, by all accounts, has won himself a job in the pen, the roster is pretty much set now. The only question remaining is whether Bobby Kielty will be ready by opening day, or will have to start the year on the DL. If he does, there might be room for Erubiel Durazo, who played great all spring, but otherwise doesn't have a open spot to play.
Update: Susan Slusser reports that Dan Johnson was seen hobbling with a "tweak" in his hip, which may provide another opening for Durazo to make the opening day roster.
Here's a look at the Athletics' roster, as I see it, with some commentary about each player's status. Includes only 40-man roster, plus Durazo:
Ken's Greatest Hits
My motivation in starting this list was to have some kind of sampling on the sidebar. My motivation in finishing it is having Catfish Stew mentioned in this week's Sports Illustrated. So if you're coming here from there, read a sampling below, and then vote for us.
Note: This is just a list my own writing that I'm happy with. Philip and Ryan can make their own doggone lists. Call me selfish if you like. ;P The list is below the fold...
Answer: Widespread Panic!
As all you DIPS supporters out there know, when you see a pitcher whose K/9 rate has started to fall by a strikeout or two a game, it's definitely cause for concern. So what is it cause for when a pitcher's K/9 rate falls by six strikeouts per game?
Rich Harden only struck out seven in five innings today. That's a mere 12.6 K/9 rate, well off his earlier spring training pace of 18.69 K/9.
You know what to do.
In Which Bob Geren Is Visited By Supernatural Entities
Methinks the fisking of anti-sabermetric articles is growing more stale by the day, but this one is worth it just for this one sentence:
I am a strange demon with special Joe Blanton wins-related supernatural powers, and Bob Geren, I am offering you this deal right this second.
I know almost nothing about Bob Geren, how he runs a game, how he relates to the team and to the press and to the fans, but I think it's great to start off the relationship by picturing him sitting in his office negotiating with ghosts.
Joe Kennedy, You're No Starter
I know effective starting pitching, and Joe Kennedy is not it. (reference)
Ugh. That's the only word I can think of after that outing by Joe Kennedy. He's just about pitched his way out of the 5th starter job that was all but wrapped up for him entering March.
Kennedy has now given up 22 earned runs in 9.2 innings pitched. His ERA is 20.48, which sounds more like the APR on my credit card after paying for my trip to Phoenix.
The A's have given up 73 earned runs this spring, and Joe Kennedy is responsible for 30% of them. That's about the same impact on the team that Mike Piazza and Erubiel Durazo have had -- a combined 21 RsBI -- except negative. Very, very negative.
I know not to get too discouraged by Kennedy's dismal performance, just as I shouldn't get too excited about Rich Harden's incredible spring. Kennedy is competing for a spot in the rotation, though, and has been nothing short of terrible in every one of his four starts.
Who's now the leader for the No. 5 spot? I'd guess Shane Komine and Brad Halsey are neck-and-neck. Komine has better spring numbers, but Halsey has more MLB starting experience.
-- - --
And with that, my time here in Arizona draws to a close. I've taken a couple thousand pictures, attended a dozen games, and had immeasurable fun here in the desert. I hope I've been informative and at least a little entertaining to those of you who didn't blow off two weeks of real life to watch baseball.
When I return home to Nebraska in a couple days, after driving through Zion and Arches National Parks in Utah, I'll look through all of my photos, and probably share a couple of the best ones that didn't fit in with what I was writing.
Newton's Third Law Of Spring Training
Kennedy gave up nine runs in 2 1/3 innings today, his fourth straight a-clobberin'. This is no Gaussian slump. It's either a Gomes or a Crosby or a Blass. Something is clearly out of whack here.
Starters ERAs so far:
But hey, don't fret your little head none, 'cuz ERAs don't matter, wins do. It all starts with heart, and Joe Blanton is a tough son-of-a-gun out there.
* * *
Back on the happy side, Rule 5 pick Jay Marshall is making a good case for sticking around. He followed Kennedy's disastrous outing with two perfect innings. His ERA this spring is 2.89. In fact, the entire A's bullpen, with the exception of Justin Duchscherer (who is expected to pitch for the first time tomorrow) has been lights out this spring. Kiko Calero, Alan Embree, Huston Street and Jay Witasick have yet to yield a run in a combined 20 innings of work. They're making Chad Gaudin, who has yielded one run in six innings of work, look bad in comparison.
* * *
I have two openings in a very casual head-to-head Yahoo fantasy baseball league.
Update: Looks like the openings are filled.
The Canadian Freight Train
Last night, as I sat in my hotel room here in beautifully warm (but smoggy) Phoenix, there was a special on the National Geographic channel about tornadoes. Of course, there was the inevitable comparison by eyewitnesses to a freight train. They all say that the twister has a palpable energy that you can feel it as it passes by you, hence the freight train analogy.
That's the closest I can come to telling you just how Rich Harden was pitching today. Throughout Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, there was a buzz every time Harden effortlessly sizzled another pitch in for a strike.
I don't know that I've ever seen such a combination of power and grace, of pure steam and location.
Nine strikeouts in 3.2 innings pitched. That's eleven outs, of which only two weren't strikeouts. Fourteen batters came to the plate, and only five didn't get K'd.
Harden has now struck out 18 batters in 8.2 innings pitched. Let that sink in a bit. That brings Harden's K/9 in the spring to 18.69, a staggering number. Of the 26 outs recorded by Harden, only eight have been by something other than a strikeout.
Sure, spring training stats don't mean much on the surface, but they do indicate something. I'm encouraged greatly after watching the first four innings of Thursday's game. I was rapt in the stands, as were a good portion of the Rockies' fans.
Not to echo Ken's recent enthusiasm too much, but Harden could be primed for a really, really good year.
IF... he can stay healthy. All signs point to his health problems being behind him, but I'm crossing my fingers. I'd knock on wood, but there aren't many trees here in the desert...
Rich Harden: Yowza!
Just watched Rich Harden's start against the Rockies today on MLB.tv. Nine strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. Absolutely filthy. He gave up his first run of the spring, but it was from two wild pitches and a groundout--he wasn't hit hard at all. Harden was throwing 98 mph fastballs on the corners, followed by 89 mph sliders just off the black or those 86mph backup-floaty-knuckle-splitter thingies--the Rockies had no chance.
For the spring, he now has 18 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings, with just one walk. Yowza, what talent. Oh, man, what a pleasure it would be to see him stay healthy for a full season. I just hope there's nothing to that voice inside my head that keeps saying, "this is too good to be true."
Update: Carlos Gomez breaks down Harden's delivery over at THT.
Press Release: Arneson To Shower, Shave
Catfish Stew, a weblog dedicated to staying on the cutting edge of Oakland Athletics baseball culture, hereby announces the following:
These pledges are made in conjunction with today's Oakland Athletics press release, which announces that Nick Swisher will be getting a haircut.
An Afternoon in Peoria: A Pictorial
From the A's game in Peoria on Monday, a collection of pictures, including:
- Jeremy Brown's Moneyballed home run
Go Ahead, Fool Me Thrice
Presumptive fifth starter Joe Kennedy got clobbered again today, which is really odd, if you believe in the walk year effect, and you consider that Kennedy is looking at Gil Meche money instead of Alan Embree money if he can manage to get through the year without losing The Job That Is His To Lose.
Yeah, yeah, it's just spring training, and all that. Worry not. But on the other hand, Billy Beane & Co. are perfect examples of Cringely's Law of Smart People:
There's an interesting effect here that I've noticed over the years -- smart people don't make the same mistake twice while REALLY SMART people don't make the same mistake three times. Since they tend to make fewer mistakes to start with, really smart people tend to repeat the mistakes they do make because they are initially convinced that the outcome was someone else's fault or perhaps because of cosmic rays.
Thus Jose Ortiz starts at second base for two months until the A's figure out he's not a major leaguer, and Eric Karros keeps getting to play for months until the A's figure out his career is done, and Arthur Rhodes keeps getting the ball in the ninth inning for two months until the A's figure out he's a basket case, and Esteban Loaiza pitches every five days for two months until they figure out he's injured, and Dan Johnson plays first base every day for two months until they realize he can't see. And every year the A's get off to a slow start, and every year the A's wait about two or three weeks longer than any smart (not REALLY SMART) person would wait before getting rid of the guys who are dragging them down and replacing them with someone who can actually play.
And Joe Kennedy? I am of the opinion that Joe Kennedy has already proven his suckitude as a starter (5.01 career ERA), and also proven a certain awesometude as a reliever (2.51 career ERA), so why mess with success? I guess the good news is that if I am right, and Kennedy has his head screwed on backwards when he starts, he's giving the A's a four-week head start towards figuring out that he sucks. Maybe now they'll replace him in May instead of June.
But why listen to me? Maybe the starter/reliever splits are just phantoms, and Kennedy will fix whatever's ailing him, and he'll do just fine. After all, I'm just an ordinary smart person, not some REALLY SMART guy like Billy Beane.
A's Play Games for Charity
I can only imagine what it would be like to play as myself in a video game that tries to closely emulate my job. I don't think anyone would walk into their local video game store and ask for "College Student 2K7: In Debt Edition".
Major League ballplayers can experience that, however. It's common for these perpetual kids to spend hours playing games in which they star. Sometimes, they can even play for a good cause.
Michele and Justin Duchscherer have an annual fundraiser to fight Multiple Sclerosis. It's called "The A's - Giants Video Game Challenge", and it happened last night at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Tempe, Ariz.
It all kicked off about an hour and a half after the A's beat the Giants 3-2 at Phoenix Muni. Nick Swisher and Esteban Loaiza were among the first to arrive and pick up their custom 2K sports jerseys.
Swisher signed for some of the early arrivals, including a couple kids who were awe-struck at meeting Swisher on the street.
Esteban Loaiza came with his wife and son, and they looked like any other family walking down the street, which was somehow very strange. I'm not sure why, but I got a kick out of the shirt he wore. It just seems to fit his attitude with the A's.
There were a ton of other players from the A's there, and a good number of Giants. Far too many, in fact, for me to try and list them all. The only significant A's that I didn't see were Huston Street, Jason Kendall, Mark Kotsay, Shannon Stewart, Erubiel Durazo, and Joe Kennedy. A notable no-show was Barry Zito, who was supposed to attend but never did make it.
Why Do The A's Keep Losing Spring Games?
The A's are fortunate that these spring games don't count for anything, since I've seen the A's lose in all three games I've so far attended.
Either I'm bad luck, or Oakland can't beat teams that have managerial connections with them.
Case in point: The A's last three losses have been to the Royals, Cubs and Rangers. Consider this: Bob Schaefer, current A's bench coach, former Royals interim manager. Rene Lachemann, current A's third-base coach, former interim Cubs manager. Ron Washington, current Rangers manager, former A's third-base coach. I rest my case.
In all seriousness, though, it was hard to miss today's real storyline. With the Rangers coming to visit the A's at Phoenix Muni, it was The Return of Wash: The Prequel.
The A's don't play the Rangers in the regular season until April 20th (in Arlington) and Ron Washington won't return to the Bay Area until the May 28th series in Oakland. This was an opportunity for the A's to see their beloved old third-base coach in the other dugout on friendlier terms.
During batting practice, Eric Chavez came bounding out of the dugout, nearly sprinted across the field, and gave Wash a big hug.
Once the hugs and handshakes finished, most everyone remembered that there was a ballgame to play.
Milton Bradley and Charles Thomas were ready to play, as they each knocked out two hits. Bradley's triple off of Vicente Padilla garnered the loudest cheers of the day.
I'd wager that Bradley has made one of the bigger shifts in fan acceptance in recent years. He came in with a less-than-stellar reputation, and he's now won over nearly every Oakland fan I've met. It's amazing what an great home-run dance and incredible performance in the ALCS will do for someone.
-- - --
I don't know what kind of bats the A's are being supplied with this spring, but I've seen more broken bats in the last three games than I've seen in the last twenty.
Here's Durazo shattering yet another bat, against Vicente Padilla:
I've got a lot more eye candy for you from today's game after the jump:
It's Fitting That the Ho Ho Kam Were Farmers
It's funny, I drive over a thousand miles to watch baseball in Arizona, and I end up sitting next to a guy who wants to talk about crossbred beef marbling and post-emergence herbicides. I could have done that at home in Nebraska.
That's what you get when you take in a Cubs game at HoHoKam. Folks who've made their annual trek from the corn belt to see their Cubbies begin "next year".
Don't get me wrong, though, I enjoyed talking with that older gentleman from central Illinois. I don't think he'll stumble across this, though, since I overheard him refer to an email from his grandson as "an internet he sent me".
The ballgame itself featured the Cubs likely Opening Day lineup, with Carlos Zambrano taking the mound.
The A's -- or should I say the River Cats -- sent out a less-than-impressive lineup. The only starters to play were Nick Swisher and Jason Kendall. Shannon Stewart and Dan Johnson started, but they may be in platoons to start the season, or -- in Johnson's case -- might not make the team.
Kendall watched the first couple pitches of his at-bat to lead off the game, and then laced a pitch down the right field line for a double.
Kotsay Out Three Months
Mark Kotsay is going to have surgery to fix a herniated disk in his back, and will miss 8-12 weeks.
So, let's take a look at how the A's red lights are doing so far:
Mark Kotsay: back surgery
Yup, them's our A's for you. We love 'em!
Sights and Sounds from Phoenix Muni
I already have a sunburn.
The thing is, I really don't care. As I type this, I'm sitting at a cafe on Mill Avenue in Tempe, just a few blocks away from Phoenix Municipal Park. It's about 75 degrees, nice enough weather to make me forget that Oakland just lost a game to Kansas City.
Of course, the score of spring training games doesn't really mean anything. Mike Piazza taking one off the elbow, however, does.
Piazza has a "bruised triceps", and will be out for a couple days. The injury bug seems to be striking the A's early this year.
Now is the time on Catfish Stew when we dance.
Rich Harden, you are light and combustible; if you were a gas, you would be pure hydrogen.
2 IP, 5 strikeouts. I am filled with anticipation, and it is delicious.
I am as happy as a little girl!
Defending Murray Chass
If you spend any time working as any sort of designer or engineer, you quickly discover that human beings are absolutely horrible at explaining what they want. A client will come to you and insist on some crazy feature ("We need a big photograph in the middle of this web page") which to an expert is just obviously a bad idea for five reasons you can think of right away, and another couple dozen reasons lurking beyond, and so you have to delicately steer the conversation to dig down beneath the surface of this seemingly stupid request to find the real reason they suddenly want this change. You ask dozens of questions and pick apart what they say until you discover that the problem has nothing to do with a lack of photographs at all, they just want the page to have more three-dimensional depth. So you simply add a drop shadow to the border, and all is well.
The human mind is like that. We're very good at sensing when something isn't quite right, but we're really awful at consciously understanding what the problem is and how to solve it. Still, that doesn't stop us from guessing. Weirdest of all, we convince ourselves that our guess isn't a guess: this really IS the problem, and we really DO need this solution.
So when Murray Chass goes rambling that these newfangled statistics are ruining the game, I thought, I recognize this pattern. It's an obviously preposterous statement. But this isn't coming from some ignorant blowhard message board troll, it's coming from a Hall-of-Fame writer. There probably is a real problem here, but the problem is not VORP, and the solution isn't to ban it.
Here's the key statement:
But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans' enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.
The idea that statistics can undermine the enjoyment of baseball is obviously preposterous. It's easy to provide plenty of counterexamples to prove that statement false. The real problem, if I can read between the lines a bit, is this: Nobody has any friggin' idea why fans enjoy baseball.
When we ask the question, "Why do teams win?", we can respond with precise measurements like OPS and WARP and VORP. But when we ask the (IMO) more important question, "Why do we watch?", we fumble around for answers like, well, design clients.
Baseball is a sort of Age of Enlightment when it comes to understanding why teams win. The Bill James, Nate Silver, and Tom Tango characters of this era are transforming our understanding of how teams win, just as Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton transformed our understanding of how the universe works.
But when we try to understand why we're so fascinated by this sport, we're still in the Dark Ages. Sure, we'll make guesses, but our guesses are pretty much the equivalent of describing the sun as a burning chariot traveling across the sky. We talk not in measurements, but in vague terms like "the human factor." Basically, when it comes to why people watch baseball, we're primitive barbarians who still believe in magic.
Never get between a barbarian and his magic. I'd explain why, but it's a long, tall tale.
Catfish Stew Exclusive: Made Up Spring Training News!
Attended today's A's-Brewers game at Phoenix Municipal today. I'll have photos and details once I return to my ancestral homeland in the East Bay. (Long story short: Please, oh please, let Milton Bradley play a full complement of games this year.)
Instead, let me use these fleeting moments of free Internet access at Sky Harbor to report some breaking spring training news -- sources are telling this reporter that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, having fought a costly legal battle to change their name to the aforementioned unwieldy moniker are planning yet another name change. Indeed, sources are claiming that mustachioed owner Arte Moreno has his eyes set on a much larger market -- the entire state of California.
Or so this banner at Hohokam Stadium that I spied during yesterday's game would have you believe.
It is unclear whether Moreno will stick with the California Angels or go with the more inclusive California Angels of Los Angeles As Well As Anaheim And All Points In Between. When this reporter sought comment from the Angels, he was met with stoney silence and disapproving looks -- clearly the next best thing to a confirmation in this day and age.
While many details remain unknown at this time, there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty: I have never known a banner to steer my wrong. They tell me when there are grand opening sales and where I get my hands on some good jerk chicken all the time.
So I, for one, believe everything the banners tell me.
These Aren't The Teams You're Looking For
You wanted it, you got it. Spring training action from the very first game of March.
Wait, Cubs-Giants? I wasn't aware that I was writing for Cub Town.
So how does an A's fan find himself at Hohokam Stadium for a Cubs-Giants tilt, while Oakland is halfway across the Valley of the Sun squandering a 6-0 lead to lose to the Brewers in Maryvale? Simple, he gets sired by a pair of Indiana natives who are just cuckoo for Cubs games. And it's their car and their lodging, so who am I to impose my will on my elders.
So Cubs-Giants it is. If nothing else, it game me the chance to catch up with an old friend.
Hey -- wrong uniform, bub.
The Zito free-agency signing took place during one of my too-frequent fallow periods of blogging, so I never really got the chance to weigh in with my thoughts on seeing Zito move to the Giants for $126 million less a whole mess of bridge tolls. I guess I'll do that now, after the jump.
STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 01
12 09 08 01
12 11 10 09 08
Ken: catfish AT zombia d.o.t. com
Ken's Greatest Hits
28 Aug 2003
12 Jan 2004
31 May 2005
11 May 2005
29 Jun 2005
8 Jun 2005
19 Jul 2005
11 Aug 2005
7 Sep 2005
20 Sep 2005
22 Sep 2005
26 Sep 2005
28 Sep 2005
29 Sep 2005
18 Oct 2005
9 Nov 2005
15 Nov 2005
20 Nov 2005
13 Dec 2005
19 Jan 2006
28 Jan 2006
21 Feb 2006
10 Apr 2006
16 Apr 2006
22 Apr 2006
7 May 2006
25 May 2006
31 May 2006
18 Jun 2006
22 Jun 2006
6 Jul 2006
17 Jul 2006
13 Aug 2006
15 Aug 2006
16 Aug 2006
20 Aug 2006
11 Oct 2006
31 Oct 2006
29 Dec 2006
4 Jan 2006
12 Jan 2006
27 Jan 2007
17 Feb 2007
30 Apr 2007
27 Aug 2007
5 Sep 2007
19 Oct 2007
23 Nov 2007
5 Jan 2008
16 Jan 2008
4 Feb 2008
7 May 2008
20 Jun 2008
4 Feb 2008