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Monthly archives: August 2007

 

The Glove That Ate Oakland!
2007-08-30 01:51
by Ken Arneson
Coming soon to a theater near you...


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Who to Expect on Expanded Rosters
2007-08-29 12:56
by Ryan Armbrust

With September 1st -- and roster expansion -- just a few days away, Oakland will likely be calling up roughly a dozen players from the minors and placing them on the active roster. After Esteban Loaiza's release on waivers, Oakland's current 40-man roster sits at 39 (not including players on the 60-day Disabled List). Rich Harden will be eligible to return to the roster on Sept. 9th, and I'm guessing that the 40th spot will be kept open for him until then. So, then, who are the other players we might expect to see in Oakland on Sept. 1st?

Players on the 40-man roster, but not on the 25-man roster:

  • Ron Flores - Flores had some control issues while with the A's earlier this season, posting a 15:12 SO:BB ratio in 15.1 innings. For Sacramento, he's been better: a 2.55 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 35.1 IP is good, but 17 walks isn't so encouraging. Still, another lefty in the pen is never a bad thing.
  • Brad Halsey - Halsey has been on the minor league DL for most of the season.
  • Shane Komine - Komine is a likely call-up as a mop-up relief guy -- not a starter. He's been overly prone to the gopher ball this season, giving up 21 homers in 126.0 IP -- well above his career rate. His SO:BB ratio is also out of whack this year, leading me to believe that there's something in his delivery that's changed, leading him to lose control and hang his breaking pitches.
  • Dan Meyer - Meyer may be called upon to fill Loaiza's spot in the rotation, assuming Colby Lewis doesn't break from his MLB track record of poor pitching. Meyer is going to be counted on to fill a rotation spot next season, and needs as much time as possible to get adjusted to MLB hitting.
  • Connor Robertson - Robertson wasn't impressive in three outings for the A's earlier this season (2.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO), and has been fairly mediocre in AAA (3.65 ERA, 35.0 IP, 38 H, 21 R, 15 ER, 18 BB, 39 SO).
  • Jason Windsor - He's been on the minor league DL since May 23.
  • Kevin Melillo - With Marco "Dizzy" Scutaro becoming unreliable due to his Lucille Two-like spells of vertigo, and Donnie Murphy, Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby on the DL, it would appear that a 2B/3B could have some playing time in the last month of the season. Melillo has an OPS of .791 at Sacramento, and is showing signs of breaking out of a recent 3-for-26 slump.
  • Javier Herrera - The once-hyped "five-tool" prospect just hasn't been the same since getting caught using PED's and having Tommy John surgery. Herrera is hitting only .254/.316/.451/.767 at AA Midland after posting a .787 OPS at High-A Stockton. He's also been below average on the basepaths, getting caught stealing seven out of nineteen times for a 63% success rate.
  • Danny Putnam - After rehabbing his injured hand, Putnam has been struggling at the plate. He's slumping even further as of late, hitting .083 over last 10 games and .208/.298/.282 overall at AAA Sacramento.

Out of that group, I would expect to see Melillo, Flores, Meyer and perhaps Komine. With Oakland's full outfield, I'd be surprised to see Herrera or Putnam.

As for players who are not on the 40-man roster (as of today), but could see time in Oakland in September, here are my guesses:

  • Dallas Braden - It's hard to ignore someone striking out 17 batters at AAA. Braden did just that on August 27, and I'd be very surprised if he didn't get a start or two in September due to his gem for Sacramento.
  • Daric Barton - While Barton can't possibly live up to the expectations some Oakland fans have for him, he's going to get a shot at the big leagues this September. Though he's fallen off his midsummer surge, Barton still has a line of .295/.393/.445/.838 with 37 doubles and 9 home runs. That'll earn you some time in the bigs, especially if you do it as a just-turned-22-year old at AAA. As much as it pains me to say it, Dan Johnson is virtually done as a first-baseman for the A's. The door is open for Barton.
  • Jeremy Brown - With Oakland carrying two catchers -- only one of which has any future with the team -- Brown could be given another shot to prove he could be an MLB backup to Kurt Suzuki.
  • Gregorio Petit - Petit has the reputation of being a suberb defensive shortstop, and his bat has been coming around (.290/.345/.376 with 23 doubles and 6 homers between AA and AAA). I wouldn't be surprised to see Bobby Crosby, Donnie Murphy and Petit battle it out for playing time in 2008.

So that's eight guys from the minors, combined with the eventual return of Crosby, Harden, Chavez, Murphy, Buck and Kotsay. Sounds about right. Readers, what's your take? Who do you think will be on the roster on Sept. 1st? Sept. 15th?

Losing Loaiza
2007-08-29 11:47
by Ken Arneson

Goodbye, Esteban Loaiza. Thanks for last August (4-0, 1.48) and 2006 ALDS Game 2. I'm not sure it was worth the $13 million the A's paid you for that, especially considering the 2006 ALCS Game 2, and the DUI, and all the time spent on the DL, but what's done is done...

I suppose saving the $8 million remaining on Loaiza's contract is a good thing. The A's filled in quite nicely this year without him for a lot less money. I'd hoped that the A's could get something in return for Joe Kennedy and Loaiza except salary relief, but I guess that's not how things work these days.

If the days of unloading veterans for prospects are over, you have to wonder what methods are left for the A's to rebuild. Suck for a few years, so you can get some top draft picks? If that's the case, maybe dumping salaries is the thing to do. It will be an interesting winter of Beane-watching, for sure.

Of Holes
2007-08-27 13:53
by Ken Arneson

My baby daughter turns two months old today. For the first six weeks of her life, she didn't do much of anything; she was like a cute little simple robot that was programmed to just eat and sleep and fill her diapers. Lately, however, there have been signs of sentience. If I sit her on my lap, she will stare intensely down at her own bare feet, studying them as if they were the two most interesting things in the universe.

* * *

I woke up yesterday morning and found my seven-year-old daughter in a state of hunger. Of course, she didn't tell me this, I had to deduce it from her attempts to pick a fight with her older sister. When she's hungry, she gets cranky and loses all ability to reason. She feels like nothing can ever possibly make things right (save food, but she'll never admit that): she's unhappy, that's the way it is, and that's how it always will be, and everyone else around her might as well be unhappy along with her.

Come to think of it, that behavior is not too much different from the two-month-old, minus the foot fetish. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose:

Me: What do you want for breakfast?
7-year-old: I don't want breakfast.
Me: You need to eat. What do you want?
7-year-old: I don't want breakfast.
Me: OK, let's skip breakfast and go straight to lunch. What do you want for lunch?
7: I don't want lunch.
Me: Dinner?
7: I don't want dinner.
Me: How about dessert?
7: I don't want dessert.
Me: You must be sick, if you don't want dessert. Shall I call the doctor?
10-year-old daughter (sensing an opportunity): I want dessert for breakfast! Let's have chocolate-chip cookies!
Me: I was kidding. You can't have dessert for breakfast.
10: What about donuts? Can we have donuts?
Me: We don't have any donuts, and I'm not going out to buy any.
10: How about chocolate-chip pancakes?
Me (sighing defeatedly, heading towards the kitchen): Oh, all right. I'll make chocolate-chip pancakes for breakfast today...

* * *

Reason is an elevator to Enlightenment. But Enlightenment is a just a small, lonely bus stop on a long journey to a chocolate-chip beach. Enlightenment is nobody's final destination. Dessert, on the other hand...

* * *

Josh Wilker, as a young man, took a Greyhound bus to California. He found a hole in a grocery store security system. He stole some cream cheese. But there's a hole in his story. Where did the bagels come from?

The bagels fell from the sky, into the ocean, and washed up on the shore. Barefoot people with tans combed the strand, gathering the bagels into baskets, and drove the baskets away in a vintage VW bus painted with all the landmark tourist attractions of the world.


(You got your loaves, your cheeses, your walking on water, and then the topper--Wow! Look at the front of that bus! What a header! Who was that--Jesus or David Beckham?)


Continue reading...

Asked and Answered
2007-08-26 09:08
by Philip Michaels

One of my great pleasures in a season short of them -- more on that theme later, assuming I can get my chores done in a timely fashion -- is perusing the Internets and stopping by the San Francisco Chronicle's A's Blog and seeing what brain-teaser the newspaper's Automated Random Generator of Various Athletics Questions comes up with today. The ARGoVAQ 2000 combs through the previous day's happenings, crunching statistics and standings and game reports, to formulate a topical query in the hopes of stimulating discussion from us keyboard-equipped A's fans. "What do you think of Player X's recent Slump/Offensive Outburst/Debilitating Injury?" the ARGoVAQ 2000 will ask. Or, "With the A's latest Unexpected Win/Crushing Defeat/Half-Witted Roster Move, do you think the team will Make the Playoffs/Get Relegated to the Pacific Coast League/Change Its Name to Billy Beane and the Beane-Tones?" It gives me a quick glimpse into the zeitgeist of the season on any particular day.

But lately, I worry that the ARGoVAQ 2000 is beginning to wear down under the strain of a 162-game season, as if generating that many Various Athletics Questions is taxing the 1s and 0s that fly through its automated brain. Because amid the usual round of inquiries about such-and-such a player's prospects and another player's groin were a couple of puzzlers that barely registered a blip on the Probing and Insightful scale.

Take this stumper, posed in the heady days before back-to-back thrashings at the hands of the Devils Rays revealed that the A's preceding 5-game win streak was more of an aberration than the norm.

What is the best that can be expected for the last 34 games of the season?

I'll field that one, ARGoVAQ 2000. By definition, the best that can be expected is that the A's go 34-0 and sweep through the post-season on their way to Oakland's first World Series title since 1989. The worst that can be expected is that the team goes 0-34; that the front office trades the entire 40-man roster for a collection of slow-footed 1B/Corner OF types who either walk, homer, strike out, or hit into rally-killing double plays; and that Lew Wolff moves the team to Tehran when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offers him a better stadium deal than the one he's getting in Fremont.

What is the most reasonable expectation? Well, that wasn't exactly what you were asking, was it, ARGoVAQ 2000?

A two-part poser offered a few days earlier, however, proved far murkier.

On Tuesday, the A's begin a stretch of nine games against Toronto and Tampa Bay and five of those games are not televised. How will you follow the club in that quintet of non-TV games -- and does it bother you that the A's are off the tube so often in this stretch?

I've tackled the issue of the A's and their podunk approach to TV contracts in the past, so instead, I'd like to focus on the first part of that question -- How will I follow the A's when their games are not televised? -- because I feel that, through trial-and-error, I have devised a nearly foolproof system.

In the past, when the A's were not on local TV, I would go down to my local telegraph store and wait for the batter-by-batter dispatches to come in from the Western Union operators; for particularly big games, a telegraph store employee would record each at bat on a giant chalkboard. But it's hard to concentrate on the game when local merchants are rushing in and out to get the latest telegraph wires on their bustling sorghum trade, so I tried to find another source of baseball info.

For a while, I tried randomly dialing numbers in the area code where the A's were playing an away game and demanding that the startled recipient of my phone call give me a full account of the action taking place. This works out better than you might imagine, as a lifetime of experience has indicated that most people, by and large, like to help out their fellow man. The downside, of course, is that there's no way of knowing whether the person on the other end of your random phone call is even watching the game, and so you waste valuable seconds determining that they're watching Dancing With the Stars instead. And even if you do get a hold of someone who is watching the game, after about three innings of play-by-play, their voice usually starts to give out and they become eager to return to their dinner. Also, they do not seem to appreciate the fact that I usually call them collect.

I have been known to hire actors to present dramatic recreations of A's road games in my backyard -- these little pageants are generally performed the morning after the game, after my cast and crew have had time to read through the accounts and descriptions of last night's game. However, the cost of building scale models of the Metrodome or The Ballpark at Arlington in my backyard is quite high, and the last time I tried this, the actor I hired to play Nick Swisher broke into my liquor cabinet. Also, I have a hard time avoiding spoilers.

When the A's play the Devil Rays in a non-televised contest, I have all my bases covered -- my brother-in-law lives in Florida, so I have him tape the game for me. After each inning, he hands a cassette to a courier, who then begins a tortuous, serpentine cross-country trek. The route is varied and involves many detours and fake-outs and hand-offs so that we can confound Bud Selig's ever-present gendarmes, but I can usually get my hands on the tape 10 to 12 hours later. I'm currently watching the second inning of Saturday's game -- I hope Joe Blanton settles down soon!

Oh, also when the A's games aren't on TV, I suppose I can follow the team by listening on the radio. That sort of works, too.

A's are Champs Again, Plus Other Notes
2007-08-23 22:39
by Ken Arneson

Thanks to their sweep of the Blue Jays and their victory tonight over the Devil Rays, the A's are back in a familiar position: as MLB Heavyweight Champions. (It's like boxing: beat the champ and you're the champ. See the Catfish Stew sidebar for details.) The A's will have to stay hot to keep their two-year run as Heavyweight of the Year going. They're currently seven victories behind the White Sox for first place.

* * *
Is Jack Cust as good at catching the ball as Mark Ellis? If you think so, I suggest you follow in Billy Beane's footsteps and go watch a sport where people aren't allowed to use their hands at all. Baseball isn't for you. If you can tell the difference, however, it's time for you to go fill out TangoTiger's annual Fan Scouting Report.

* * *

Interesting that Susan Slusser thinks the A's might go into major rebuilding mode this offseason, and trade off a bunch of players, like Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, and Eric Chavez. Hard to imagine trading Haren, but on the other hand, starting pitching is starting to get way, way overvalued and expensive. And it will probably only get more overvalued this offseason: as Jayson Stark reports, now that Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano have signed new contracts, it will be a truly awful free agent market for starting pitchers this year. With every other GM seemingly hanging on to every last pitcher like they're the last piece of gold on earth, Beane might be holding baseball's two most desired and available commodities. Heck, he might even be able to get something good for Esteban Loaiza, if he keeps pitching like he did on Wednesday.

As for trading Chavez, he's kinda in the same boat as Rich Harden: he's an attractive talent, but unless he comes back and has a monster September to prove he's healthy, he's not going to bring much back in a trade. Check this out these 2007 stats from the A's third basemen:

Eric Chavez:   .240/.306/.446, $11 million.
Jack Hannahan: .241/.333/.448, Minimum wage! Hee-yah!

Which would you prefer?

A's Get Back to .500
2007-08-22 13:32
by Ken Arneson

You know the old saying, first you get back to .500, then you think about how to get to the playoffs.  OK, the A's are back at .500 with their sweep of Toronto; how's the playoff picture look?

11.5 games behind the Angels in the division.
9 games behind the Mariners for the wild card.
7 games behind the Yankees for second place in the wild card.
5.5 games behind the Tigers for third place in the wild card.

Nope.  Too many teams ahead of the A's, too many games back.  I think we need another saying.  First you get back to .500, then you get to within 5 games of the lead, then you think about how to get to the playoffs.

I shall now return to my relaxing summer, free of the stress of playoff worries.

Aw, Who Cares?
2007-08-20 11:35
by Ken Arneson

I went to the A's-Royals game yesterday. Unlike the other game I went to this season against a team from Missouri, which had the fingerprints of the visiting team's manager all over it, I didn't find any evidence of Royals manager Buddy Bell at all. I was a lovely day, after all, he's retiring soon, the Royals had already won the series, so why make any fuss? He probably scribbled his game plan on a napkin at breakfast, set the team on autopilot, laid back and took a nice afternoon siesta.

That's the only way I can think of to explain how the Royals essentially gave the A's a free victory yesterday. In the top of the sixth, with the A's up 2-0, the speedy Joey Gathright led off the inning with a single. Jason LaRue, he of the .147/.229/.287 batting line, was due up next, with the top of the order to follow. Good chance for a big inning, so you'd expect a pinch hitter, right?

Nope. LaRue hits. Not only that, but he bunts. When down by two. With a guy on first who could probably get to second base on his own if that's what you think you really need. A total waste of an at-bat, of an out, and, as it turned out, of an inning.

Then, in the bottom of the sixth, Kyle Davies, who had thrown 99 pitches, was replaced on the mound by John Bale. The A's were not fooled by Bale for a second, and smacked him around for two consecutive innings, scoring three in the sixth and another in the seventh. Not once in those two innings did the Royals get anybody up in the bullpen. Apparently, the plan was for Bale to pitch two innings, no matter how much he stunk, and if it cost the Royals a chance to win the game, who cares?

At least the A's were trying to win. But even with the A's, a feeling of resignation was in the air, as I looked out on the field and saw a lineup with only three players who played on opening day. It felt like I was rooting for an expansion team, instead of a team that made it to the LCS just last season. Who are these guys? Is that Dave Telgheder I saw out there? Patrick Lennon? Damon Mashore?

I took the usual assortment of photos, but the game just didn't seem worthy of photos. But my seven-year-old daughter said she wanted her picture on this web site, so I'll put this one up:

Last year, we were rooting hard for the glory of the A's winning the World Series. Now we're reduced to hoping against hope (and Placido Polanco--not him again!!!) that Mark Ellis finally wins a gold glove. It's not quite the same thing.

 

Comparisons: Two Relievers
2007-08-15 12:45
by Ken Arneson

Check out the 2007 organizational stats for these two Oakland A's relievers:

ERA WHIP BA OPS BABip S0/9 K/BB
2.76 0.98 .187 .519 .264 10.62 3.89
2.49 1.00 .193 .548 .269 10.74 3.89

Outstanding numbers, and eerily similar. Is it a trick question? Are they from the same guy? Nope...


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Comparisons: Why is Jack Cust Better than Dan Johnson?
2007-08-14 15:28
by Ken Arneson

As a fan of a Moneyball-type team, there's something deeply unsatisfying about watching your offense at work. There's always a sense as a fan that something is missing from the attack; we grasp at straws trying to figure out what this something is. Sabermetricians pooh-pooh our doubts, patronizing us as if we just silly little children talking about imaginary monsters underneath our beds.

I try to be brave, but I keep hearing noises. It keeps me awake, and as I lie there trying to tell myself that there are no such thing as monsters, my mind ignores my own advice, and keeps looking for proof that monsters really, truly exist.

Lately, my mind has convinced myself that the key to finding the monster lies in the comparison between Dan Johnson and Jack Cust. Jack Cust, as you all know, TOTALLY ROCKS, while Dan Johnson (when hitting without Ryan's mojo) SUCKS. The thing is, I don't really understand why. They're both about the same size: Johnson is 6'2", 225, while Cust is 6'1" 230. They're both pretty slow, lumbering types. They were both born in 1979. They both have the typical Moneyball approach to hitting: see a lot of pitches, take a lot of walks:

2007 Johnson Cust
Plate appearances 363 320
Bases on Balls 53 59
Pitches seen 1494 1404

Cust has a slight advantage there, but not a hugely so. There's nothing there to suggest that the problem with Johnson is that he needs better plate discipline. And while Cust has more home runs, it's not like Johnson is without power, either. In fact, they both have exact same number of hits (69) and extra-base hits (30) this year; the difference being that Cust turned seven more doubles and triples into homers:

2007 Johnson Cust
Hits 69 69
Doubles 18 12
Home Runs 11 18

On the other hand, if there's one thing that's glaringly different between these two men, it's the kind of outs they make:

2007 Johnson Cust
Strikeouts 54 104
Ground outs 84 59
Fly outs 96 28

See that? If you didn't have the middle table in this blog entry, and you were going to guess which guy has more home runs, the guy who puts the ball in the air in 30% of his plate appearances, or the guy who does so in 14% of his plate appearances, which would you choose? If you were going to guess which guy has the better batting average, the guy who puts the ball in play 85% of the time, or the guy who puts the ball in play 67% of the time, which would you choose? You'd think if baseball outcomes were distributed more or less evenly and fairly, Dan Johnson would be better than Jack Cust, but he's not.

I don't understand it. Even though their ages and body types and plate discipline are similar, there's something clearly inferior about the quality of contact that Johnson makes when he swings his bat. Perhaps some smart people out there can explain it to me. Perhaps there is some chart (Plate Discipline on one axis; Quality Contact on another?) that could make sense of this for me. But until I understand how the quality of contact works, how you measure it, and how it impacts an offense, I'm still going to continue to feel like there are treacherous monsters sabotaging the A's attack.

What I was doing while Bonds hit #756
2007-08-07 21:21
by Ken Arneson

I was this close to catching Barry Bonds' 756th home run. Bonds hit the ball almost directly straight at me, but unfortunately, it landed about five miles short of where I was standing in the hallway of my home, as I took a break from cleaning baby bottles to peek into our TV room to watch the at-bat.

Oh well. So I didn't end up with a valuable piece of memorabilia. I didn't get to say I was there. But hey, at least I got to hear the fireworks!

A Nebraskan in Oakland
2007-08-07 11:19
by Ryan Armbrust

When I was about four years old, my grandma started buying me baseball cards. I was often under her care, with my dad's time monoplolized by farming. I'd eagerly await the opportunity to go into town and tear into a new pack of cards, not caring -- or knowing -- who was depicted on them. Somehow -- perhaps it's due to my favorite color at the age being green -- I adopted the Oakland A's as "my team". Almost twenty years later, I've finally made the 1,500 mile trip to California to see them play at home.

I've seen the A's play countless times at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, the nearest Major League park in my neck of the woods, but as any fan can tell you, there's a markedly different atmosphere to cheering on your team when they're on the road. I'm still a little overwhelmed from the sight of more than a couple dozen other fans decked out in green and gold.

To begin my weekend, I ventured into the territory of the flag-waving, sign-hanging, drum-beating, irrepressibly enthusiastic LF bleacher denizens. The world needs more fans like that. Though I found that I couldn't see the left-fielder or ceter-fielder on plays near the wall, the view wasn't bad at all. For instance, I got a nice view of Donnie Murphy filling Bobby Crosby's shoes at shortstop.

Over the years, the A's have won almost every game I've attended -- though the fact that many of them were against the Royals shouldn't be forgotten. In particular, as Ken mentioned, I've been able to bring a great amount of luck to a player I first watched play at the collegiate level in Nebraska, Dan Johnson. Using the magic of baseball-reference and retrosheet, I've compiled Johnson's stats over the games in which I've been in the stands.

Not bad, eh?

I made a bold prediction to Ken and Philip that I was going to bring Johnson some more good fortune, and wouldn't you know it... he made me look pretty smart (or lucky).

My "Dan Johnson mojo" ran out after his go-ahead home run, though, and couldn't help the A's pull out the Sunday game against Chone Figgins and the other "asparagusy" Angels. The DJ mojo just wasn't as string as the Ken Arneson Angels karma, I guess.

 

Sitting next to Ken and Philip -- which was a great time, even with the drizzle and loss -- I can understand why Ken is able to get so many great pictures. His seats above the first-base dugout afforded a nice perspective on almost every play on the field -- especially those in (or behind) the batter's box:

Though I don't know when I'll be able to return to Oakland, I'm looking forward to it. I've got some nice memories to tide me over until then, though. DJ's homer, wins against the Angels, astoundingly delicious garlic fries, and the pre-Raiders verdant outfield all come to mind.

Asparagusy, Asparagusy, Asparagusy
2007-08-06 08:43
by Ken Arneson

The title of this blog entry has been changed from the original, because my two oldest daughters have been calling each other "stupid" and "ugly" for about a week straight, so I just raised the price of using those two words in our home from free to dessert. A parent should require more creativity in the use of language in their households. So in order to have some ice cream myself, let's just say there that there was a bit of "seaweedity" a lot of "asparagusiness" at yesterday's A's-Angels game. Not in the quality of play--both teams pitched well, played solid defense, and put up some good at-bats. It's just that--well, you have to see for yourself:

In the first inning, this pitch got almost too far inside on Vladimir Guerrero, and nearly hit him.


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Waive Goodbye to Mike Piazza?
2007-08-05 21:47
by Philip Michaels

First Joe Kennedy, now Mike Piazza? ESPN's Buster Olney -- not a pen name! -- is reporting that the A's placed Mike Piazza on waivers, and that no other team put in a claim. (Unlike, say, for our old friend, Miguel Tejada who was thisclose to becoming a White Sox.) What all this means, if true, is that the A's can trade Piazza at will, with the most likely destinations being either Minnesota or Los Angeles of Anaheim of Orange County of California of the United States of North America of the Western Hemisphere of Earth of the Milky Way.

I can report that at Sunday's game -- attended by all three members of the far-flung Catfish Stew empire -- Mike Piazza did not get the start and was relegated to eighth inning pinch-hitting duties. (He fouled out first with the tying run aboard, thus torpedoing his trade value.) I assumed this was part of Bob Geren's wholly unsatisfying rotation that has the roster all mopey and bothered, but perhaps it's a signal that a move is afoot.

Kennedy Claimed by DBacks
2007-08-04 12:48
by Ken Arneson

The Arizona Diamondbacks have claimed Joe Kennedy off waivers. This is the third player the Dbacks have claimed this week, along with Jeff Cirillo and Byung-Hyun Kim. The A's get nothing in return but salary relief. I suppose that's good, if Kennedy wasn't going to generate a draft pick in free agency, but it's also quite unexciting. I'm not exactly an A's fan for the accounting ledgers.

Disabled Listing
2007-08-04 10:06
by Philip Michaels

So Friday afternoon, I started writing an irritated diatribe about how the A's were handling Eric Chavez's balky back (My take: Not well), inspired by the news in the day's paper, that Chavez had sat out his seventh consecutive game, after only starting three of the last 19. My fury was stoked by comments from Bob Geren in Wednesday's funny pages that there were no plans to put Chavez on the DL since he wasn't going to sit out for enough games to justify the mandatory layoff.

Hey Bob -- I was going to write -- once you've missed seven games, it's easy to make it eight more. Put the guy on the DL already.

So just as I was working myself into full-screed mood, what do the A's do? Put Chavez on the DL.

If you're scoring at home, this is the second time this summer the A's have short-circuited one of my blog entries by taking some sort of action. (The other time was when they nearly made me spike a Milton Bradley bit by kicking him off the team.) Twice is just a coincidence, three times is a trend, so in order to test this out, let me just pre-announce that my next angry diatribe will feature a call for Lew Wolff to abandon his Fremont plans and build the new ballpark next to my house. Try and scoop me on that one, A's front office.

Anyhow, back to the Chavez thing. Well done, A's. Exactly what I would have argued for had I just been able to type faster. My only complaint: Do you think the 15-day DL is long enough?

Let's face facts here -- Chavez has been battling one injury or another since some point in the 2005 season. Back then, it was a disagreeable shoulder. In 2006 and for part of 2007, it was forearm tendonitis. Now, it's a bad back. The guy has been playing through injuries for two solid seasons now, which is certainly admirable, but a little bit maddening when it's so clearly affecting his performance. It's one thing to keep running Chavez out there in the middle of a pennant race -- an argument can be made that his glovework helps the A's eek out wins in a taut battle for the division crown, even as his bat has gone MIA. But when you're a dozen games back in the division and ten back in the wildcard, and there are other, better teams in line ahead of you, what is the benefit of having a clearly injured player dragging himself onto the field? So that can Oakland can finish with 86 wins instead of 77? Better to disable him, for the year if need be, so that Chavez can address these assorted maladies and come back healthy for 2008, when it might actually help the team contend.

I'm not confident that this well happen, however. Can you ever remember the A's being more erratic with how they've managed their resources then they have been this year? Besides the whole Chavez-won't-miss-enough-time-to-go-on-the-DL-oh-wait-yes-he-will shuck-and-jive, there's also the curious case of Mike Piazza's return to the active roster. After recuperating from his shoulder injury, the A's designated hitter was all set to begin a rehab assignment in mid-June when the A's suddenly got the bright idea that maybe he could come back as a catcher instead. Considering that Piazza hadn't caught a game since the previous October and that he wasn't much of a defensive whiz even at that point and that the injury he suffered was to his throwing arm, you could call the decision surprising -- it certainly caught Piazza off-guard.

The catcher-turned-designated hitter was all set to make the 90-minute drive to Sacramento for a rehab assignment with the Triple-A club when the plan suddenly changed - with Piazza receiving no warning whatsoever the switch was in the works.

"That was a little strange," Piazza, out since May 3 with a right shoulder injury, said Monday. "This game is unpredictable at times. I never thought this would be the case, especially at this point in my career, but I learned to go with the flow. Whatever they want me to do. ... I was just as surprised as anybody."

The day the A's clued Piazza in that "Surprise! You're a catcher now!" move, Oakland's record stood at 37-31, six games back of the Angels but ahead of Seattle and still very much in the division race. Trying to get Piazza back up to speed as a catcher delayed his return by three weeks -- indeed, he wound up not starting his rehab assignment until July 14. Maybe getting Piazza back in late June rather than late July doesn't keep Oakland in the hunt, but the way he's swung the bat since returning to the lineup, it certainly wouldn't have hurt.

Then there's Esteban Loaiza who after his rehab start with Sacramento Wednesday will now be... well, he's not sure exactly:

Asked if he would be making another rehab start, Loaiza responded: "I'm going to need another one. Actually, I don't know. It's up to them. I can say something, but it'll be the opposite. It's their decision."

Loaiza pointed to his outing as an example of why he was bent out of shape.

"The day before, they told me I was going to throw 60 (pitches) no matter what," Loaiza said. "Then the manager (in Sacramento) told me I could go 75. But then when he took me out of the game he said, 'If you throw more than 60 pitches, I'll get fired.' Where's the communication at? I really don't know what's going on."

That's three instances -- Trend! -- where plans of dealing with an injured player have changed suddenly and dramatically, and the player is usually as clueless as the rest of us. We could probably dig up more -- anyone heard form Brad Halsey lately? -- but I think you get my point. The A's don't seem to know what they're doing, or if they do, they're doing a fine job of keeping it to themselves.

Milton Bradley ripped Billy Beane in a Carl Steward column today, and while I expect much hay to be made over the casually and recklessly volleyed racial allegations (indeed, that's the only thing some bloggers choose to focus on) the more salient criticisms in the piece are the ones that characterize the A's front office as ego-driven and controlling, poorly communicative, and inclined to treat players like they were nothing more than Strat-o-matic cards.

How accurate is that assessment? Who knows? But the way that some decisions have been handled this year suggest that it's not an entirely unfair critique.

If Billy Beane Won't Hold a Fire Sale, Then I'll Just Have To Do It Myself
2007-08-03 13:29
by Ken Arneson

Another reason for the A's not holding a fire sale, besides the ones I listed last time, is that the A's are not really all that far from contending again. While the A's are currently seven games under .500, they have actually outscored their opponents on the season. And if you go even further, and adjust their runs scored/runs allowed by strength of schedule, things look even better. According to BP's Adjusted Standings, the A's ought to have the best record in the AL West, and should be just one game behind Detroit for third-best in the entire American League.

When a team's actual record falls far below its projected one, it's usually a sign of two things: 1) a bad bullpen, and 2) a bounceback to come. This is essentially what happened to Cleveland in 2006--they outscored their opponents by 88 runs, but finished 6 games below .500, thanks to an atrocious bullpen. They stabilized their pen in the offseason, and in 2007, they are contending again.

There was a period in July, while Huston Street, Justin Duchscherer and Kiko Calero were all on the DL, when there was not a single member of the A's bullpen who was on the division winning team of a year before. The A's won the division thanks to their pen--their M.O. in 2006 was to play solid, mistake-free defense, keep the game close into the late innings, and then outlast the other team's bullpen with depth. There were many narrow, late-inning victories on the way to the division crown. This year, the A's haven't been able to win those types of games very often.

If Street, Duchscherer and Calero return to health in 2008, and are joined by an effective Alan Embree and Santiago Casilla, the A's could return to their favorite game plan again. The major tinkering that needs to be done is to purge the team of the sub-.300 OBPs that are killing the offense. Jason Kendall is gone, so that's one-third the battle. And hopefully, the A's can find some sucker to take Mark Kotsay off their hands, and hope that Chris Denorfia can take over the job and put up a far more respectable OBP than Kotsay's. The final and most difficult problem is to find an ABC (Anybody But Crosby). I've been watching Donnie Murphy pretty closely this week, and I don't see any reason to think he's Anybody.

 

* * *

Meanwhile, I'm facing a bit of a roster crunch at home. With three kids now, there's just not enough space around here to keep all the stuff we've accumulated over the years. It's time for a fire sale! I'm doing a major purge of my house this weekend, getting rid of anything I don't need--clothes, trinkets, toys, games, books, etc. This includes dozens of baseball books. Everything must go! If any of you are in the Bay Area, and might want to take any of this stuff off my hands, email me at catfish AT zombia.com. Anything I have left by Sunday will be headed to Goodwill or CARH.

STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
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