Monthly archives: April 2005
Hudson vs. Mulder Liveblog
Thought I'd jot down my notes as I watch Tim Hudson take on Mark Mulder for the first time.
I have a soccer game at 6:30, but Mulder works quickly, so I might be able to watch the whole game. Of course, that's what I thought the other day, too.
4:35pm: Hudson vs. Eckstein. Seen that before. Eckstein singles to left, as Brian Jordan trapped it.
4:38: Larry Walker, bunt single. Huh?
4:39: Pujols chases a hard sinker in the dirt and strikes out.
4:42: Hudson leaves a couple of pitches up and over the plate, and Edmonds and Rolen hit them hard. 3-0 Cardinals.
4:46: Hudson is having a hard time finding the happy zone between hittable pitches up and pitches too low. The low pitches aren't called strikes, and the high pitches are moving toward the center of the strike zone. This is what happens when Hudson has a bad game.4-0 Cardinals.
4:47: Hudson makes a diving catch on a squeeze bunt and turns it into a double play. Web gem.
4:50: Mulder gets Furcal to ground out on an 0-2 splitter. That's what Good Mulder looks like.
4:53: Mulder leaves a pitch up, and Jordan hits a deep fly to center. That's what Bad Mulder looks like.
4:55: Franco lines a fastball up the middle, just like Giles did. Where's Mulder's forkball?
5:00: Molina makes a bad pickoff throw, runners move to 2nd and 3rd. Mulder throws the forkball, but Jones won't chase it. Mulder leaves a 3-2 pitch way up high, and Jones singles to left. Some pitchers duel this has turned out to be. 4-2 Cardinals.
5:02: Mulder at bat. Mulder grounds out 3-1 on a 1-1 changeup. Hudson smiles at Mulder as their paths cross near first base.
5:07: 1-2-3 inning for Hudson. Looks like he found the happy zone.
5:11: Hudson bats against Mulder. Hudson loses his bat into the stands striking out on an 86-mph changeup. That's gotta be worth a lot of bragging points for Mulder.
5:27: Brian Jordan takes a slider down the middle and hits a two-run homer. Tie game, 4-4.
5:29: Fly out to center, then a walk. This is vintage Bad Mulder. Fly balls and walks are rarities for Good Mulder.
5:35: Hudson gets a strike called below the knees on Grudzielanek. Hudson will be impossible to hit if he gets that call the rest of the night.
5:36: Grudz gets an emergency-swing double down the line. Lucky shot.
5:39: Mulder up with 1 out and runner on third. Infield in. Hudson almost hit Mulder with the first pitch. Perhaps to see if he's squeezing.
5:42: Hudson strikes Mulder out with two cutters on the inside corner. I guess they figure Mulder's arms are so long, he'll have trouble getting around on the inside pitches.
5:43: Giles makes a great play to stop a grounder from going into right field. Inning over.
5:48: Mulder gets two groundouts in a 1-2-3 inning. That looks more like it.
5:51: Albert Pujols goes oppo. 6-4 Cardinals. It wasn't even that bad a pitch; it was right on the outside corner. Maybe it was a bit too high, but Pujols is just awesome.
6:02: Hudson breaks his bat and grounds out back to Mulder. If you can pitch inside, so can I.
6:06: Boy, it looks like Marcus Giles has Mulder's number. Single up the middle drives in Furcal. 6-5 Cardinals.
6:07: Mulder gets a double-play ball to get out of the inning.
6:13: Molina bunts the runner to second ahead of Mulder. Unless you're gonna pinch hit for Mulder, that's crazy.
6:14: Mulder looks for that inside pitch, and pulls it foul.
6:15: Hudson pitches away, and Mulder hits a line drive to left, but it's caught.
6:20: We got through five, 6-5 Cards. Gotta run...
Curt Schilling vs. Lou Piniella, Round 2
Lou Piniella's dislike for Modern Architecture is clearly a huge weakness. With my purple forcefield, I could easily kick his ass, too.
In fact, I'm the most kick-ass guy on all of baseballtoaster.com. Well, me and Mike Carminati. Mike, like me, is a giant robot. His computerized brain (presumably the size of a planet) can cause me a slight problem, but I have far superior strength. Plus, Mike is too busy being depressed about the fact that he's about to be famous.
Otherwise, I can pound the other guys fairly easily. These guys might win once in a while against me:
The rest of 'em just get smacked around, all the time:
Schilling, Piniella, Darwin
Curt Schilling claims that some Tampa Bay players are questioning the rationality of their manager's beanball policies. In reply, Lou Piniella channels Brian "I am not an idiot" Sabean.
We won't admit hearsay as evidence into this trial, so we don't know whether Schilling's claims are accurate or not. But we can present some evidence on Piniella's behalf.
Altruistic punishers are willing to pay a personal cost to ensure that people cooperate. Darwinists have puzzled over how this behavior could have evolved, since you would think that the people willing to perform such punishment would have a reduced chance of surviving and reproducing than those who do not.
Eureka Alert summarizes the findings thusly:
To examine how altruistic punishment could take root in a society, James Fowler developed a mathematical model that simulates interacting behaviors in a society over time. He found altruistic punishers can enter a population of cooperators and noncooperators and change the dynamics of the group. Under certain conditions, altruistic punishment is so beneficial to the population that it will come to dominate the behavior of the group and keep noncooperators at bay.So the self-policing behavior of beanball wars has several benefits:
Leftover Rotisserie Chicken
The SF Chronicle has a nice recipe today for what to do with your leftover rotisserie chicken.
Speaking of rotisserie, those of you who have Eric Chavez on your fantasy teams can be glad that Ken Macha did not follow my advice and give Chavez a day off yesterday. Eric Chavez finally looked like Eric Chavez again.
In the first inning, he took a pitch away, and flied out to deep left. I said out loud, "that's the first good swing I've seen him take all year." It reminded me of Sunday's game against the Angels, where ESPN had a microphone in the Angels dugout. Steve Finley came back to the dugout after a fly out and declared "That's my swing." Next at-bat: home run.
Chavez didn't follow up that good swing with a homer, but he hit two balls hard to the opposite field, driving in three runs. That's his swing. That's the real Eric Chavez.
We also got to see, I'm afraid, the real Eric Byrnes, who at times can win games with his hustle, but also lose them with his uncontrolled style. Last night, he misplayed a fly ball (lost in the lights, presumably), and then later that inning proceeded to throw the ball to third base when no one was standing there, allowing the tail runner to advance to second.
After watching that, my wife said, "He's not young enough anymore to be making mistakes like that." So true.
It was good to hear that Mark Kotsay gave the team a dressing down in the dugout after that inning. The play has been so lackluster lately, a kick in the pants was probably a good thing. It was a question before the season as to who would succeed Tim Hudson as team leader; looks like Mark Kotsay is the man.
Meanwhile, Ken Macha will likely give Bobby Kielty, Nick Swisher, and Charles Thomas some more opportunites to grab the job in the near future. Swisher and Thomas get the call this afternoon. Let's hope Thomas can finally get a hit.
Now, I'll go listen to the game on the radio while I eat my lunch. I don't think I'll use that rotisserie chicken recipe today; after all, I'm not Wade Boggs, and I had chicken for lunch just two days ago.
Get Yer Recipes Here
Last time I tried to do an A's web site on my own (2002), the A's started the year and couldn't buy a run the entire month of April. I got so frustrated I quit writing, and the A's immediately started hitting again.
I'm sitting here watching the A's hit into three double plays in the first three innings of tonight's game, and feeling a strong sense of deja vu: that the RISP jinx may be caused by me.
So I just want to declare the following: this is not an A's blog. It's a recipe blog! Yeah, and, um, a blog about, um, the philosophy of, um, cultural, uh, stuff. And of course, it's a blog about putting a stop to porosity casting. If I happen to mention the A's here, it's only to illustrate one of those other purposes. Really.
Here's a recipe for buttered toast:
Place bread slice into toaster.
Update: Yup, this is definitely a recipe blog. There's nothing like the taste of buttered toast with a dash of RBIs (9 runs scored, all after the fourth inning, when this was published).
Harden vs. Buehrle
I was thinking about going to the game tonight, but I'm afraid if I show up a few minutes late, I might miss the whole game.
The average time of game for these two starters this year is 2:17. And that doesn't even take into account that none of Buehrle's previous starts were against the A's, who can't hit diddly squat. This game might be done by 9:00pm, if anybody manages to score a run somehow.
Ken Macha should give Eric Chavez the night off. Lifetime against Buehrle, he's hitting .207/.200/.310. Take a day off, and see if it helps cure his slump. Wednesday he gets a familiar opponent, Freddie Garcia. Give Hatteberg a night off, too: he's .190/.190/.333 against Buehrle. While we're at it, sit Durazo, too, and play with as many right-handed bats as possible: Ginter at third, Swisher at first, Byrnes and Kielty in the outfield corners. Harden don't need no steenkin' defense anyway.
Maybe, if my neck is feeling better, I'll go to the game tomorrow instead, since it's not on TV.
It's A Curse
See, even when I play Backyard Baseball, the A's can't get any RBIs:
Up is Down
Pulled a muscle in my neck over the weekend. Hard to sleep, hard to move. Darn near everything I do is uncomfortable. What to do?
Dr. Orva: Here, smoke this. And, be sure you get the smoke deep down into your lungs.That's a joke from Sleeper, but at this point, I wouldn't be surprised if Dr. Orva is correct. Everything else we've been programmed about our health is being turned upside down.
Yesterday, I learned that being overweight is healthy. A new study revealed that having a Body Mass Index in the "overweight" category" is more ideal than the "ideal" weight, and being "underweight" is more deadly than being "obese". It's better to be fat than thin.
Who knows? We can't be sure about anything anymore, except this: every theory is wrong, including the ones that are right.
Steroids: bad or good? Yes. No.
War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.
Bill James is wrong. Joe Morgan is right: the A's need to find multiple ways to win a ball game. They can't just wait for two walks and a homer; it doesn't happen every game.
When Billy Beane signed Bobby Crosby to a long-term deal while injured, was he making the same mistake he made when signing Jermaine Dye? Sure he was. Or wasn't. How do I know?
Why am I even worrying about it?
I love baseball. You know it doesn't have to mean anything, it's just beautiful to watch.Woody Allen is the true prophet of our era. I should just follow his lead.
I should enjoy the beauty of a young team playing two weekends of tense, exciting baseball against the division favorites. They won some, they lost some. Those are the breaks.
As for the pain in my neck, anyone know where I can buy an Orb and an orgasmatron?
A Frustrating Lo..er..Win?!?
I play soccer on Friday nights, so I missed the first half of the A's-Angels game last night. That's probably a good thing, as I probably would have kicked my TV across the room after a missed popup fell for an RBI double and the A's squandered yet another opportunity to drive in runs, this time a bases-loaded no-out situation in the second, where they scored only one run, and that was on a HBP. Instead, I kicked a soccer ball. 'Tis a wee bit less destructive.
I guess the A's didn't want me to feel left out, though, so they showed me some more squandered opportunities after I got home.
The A's were 0-for-12 going into the ninth inning with runners in scoring position. That actually doesn't frustrate me so much as the repeated failure to bring home runs from third with less than two out. You don't even need a hit, you just need to make some friggin' contact. They can't even do that. Apparently, Ken Macha's focus on situational hitting in spring training was a colossal waste of time. It hasn't done a lick of good so far. Is there some rule that A's hitters aren't allowed to take a two-strike approach earlier in the count, even if the situation calls for it?
It's the same old story. The pitching was once again quite good. The offense sucked. Again. This was such an incredibly annoying and frustrating way to lose. Argh!
The A's won?
What the...? Well...wow...um...gosh...so, um...never mind. I uh...hey, you know...everything's just wonderful. Peachy keen. It was a fine, well-played game, gents, yessirree!
Congrats to Keiichi Yabu on his first MLB win.
And kudos to Scott Hatteberg. Way to trick K-Rod into giving you a fastball over the plate on an 0-2 pitch with 2 outs in the ninth, instead of just putting you away with one of those nasty hooks. I knew you could do it, really, I did...
I don't really need to say anything else about last night's game, so I won't.
Instead, I'll talk about a useless stat Jayson Stark made up called "runs not scored". Runs Not Scored is Runs Scored subtracted from Times On Base. Stark notes that Ichiro didn't score many runs for a guy who was on base so much, and wonders who else in history has had such problems.
Ordinarily I'd ignore such a stat, because "RNS" is misleading: it sounds like you're measuring a bad thing, but it's actually a good thing. Teams that have a lot of RNS usually have a lot of runs scored too, because they have a lot of baserunners overall.
But I was certain that last year's A's team must have had a ton of Runs Not Scored, so I was curious to see just how much.
We Bay Area baseball fans saw an awful lot of runners left on base last year. The 2004 A's had 1,415 RNS, which was second only to
That's not quite as many as New York fans saw in 1999, though. The '99 Mets had 1,465 (2nd all time), while the Yankees had 1,441 (12th all time).
This year's A's team does not actually have this "problem"; the 2005 A's are actually tied for 16th in RNS with 124. (The Yankees are first with 150.) The problem with this year's A's, despite Eric Chavez being 0-for-15 with RISP, is not so much driving in runners; it's getting enough of them on base in the first place.
The all-time record for team RNS is held by the 1989 Boston Red Sox, who had 1,476. Below, I'll put a list of the top 50 all-time teams for RNS. You'll notice that most of these teams were good teams. Only 12 of the top 50 teams were below .500.
Black Smoke Days
I watched last night's A's-Mariners game with an odd feeling of detachment. I think I only yelled at the TV twice last night, which is probably a record low for me in a loss.
Once, of course, was when Eric Byrnes dove for a ball with the bases loaded and let three runs score instead of one. The other was when Eric Chavez struck out looking against Ron Villone on a borderline pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth.
I shouted out in frustration, but it's really more a matter of cursing our luck than calling it a dumb decision. Each Eric had a difficult choice to make between being aggressive and passive. Byrnes was trying to preserve a tie. Chavez was trying to drive in a run with a walk. You can't really call it a bonehead decision. In each case, though, the decision didn't work out, and it cost the A's the game.
On the other hand, I didn't yell at all when Barry Zito gave up a grand slam to Bret Boone. Zito came out in the first inning and pitched with as much precision as I do, which is to say, none at all. He wasn't even getting close to the strike zone, missing by about a foot with any type of pitch he threw. It was inevitable that he would eventually miss in the middle of the plate. You could see it coming several batters in advance.
Zito corrected his mechanics in the second inning, and pitched a good game the rest of the way. But a sense of resignation came over me as a result of that first inning.
This sense of resignation was not just about the game, but about this team. Emotionally, I finally grasped that we're in a sort of interregnum, where one team hasn't quite fully abdicated, and the new team hasn't quite taken over.
The king is dead. Long live somebody, we don't know who.
Zito and Byrnes were the subjects of all kinds of trade rumors this winter, and survived them all. But I don't get the sense that they're here for the long haul. Every time Zito coughs up a homer, or Byrnes misplays a fly ball, or Scott Hatteberg grounds out to second base, I think to myself, "That's the old team failing. I want to see what the new team can do."
Black smoke pours out the pipe. We know that at some point, who knows when, a cloud of white will take its place, signaling the true start of a new era. In the meantime, the process runs its course. Filled with anxiety, trying our best to be patient, we watch and wait.
Respect Your Elders
When old farts like Pedro Astacio and Hideo Nomo shut you down, you gotta wonder. So I wondered. And I noticed something interesting.
The A's median runs scored is 2.5. In 7 games, they've scored two or fewer runs, and in 7 games three or more runs.
Age of the opposing starting pitchers when they've scored:
In other words, the veteran starters are all completely shutting the A's down. On the other hand, the A's are feasting on youngsters.
The only exception to this pattern is last night's game, where they beat Chan Ho Park.
The correlation between runs and age isn't quite statistically significant (-0.579, thanks Mike), but it's not nothing, either. So let's watch this, for kicks. Here are the A's upcoming opponent pitchers:
Wed vs. Mariners, Joel Piniero, age 26
If it holds up over the weekend, we'll continue the fun on Monday, and start making up theories out of thin air. Mark your calendars...
The A's beat the Rangers 8-5 today. The game wasn't on TV, and I only listened to part of it on radio. Nice to hear the offense do well; the most encouraging news was that Erubiel Durazo had three hits.
Dan Haren still sounds like he's getting by on talent rather than craft; he walked five in six innings, but only gave up three hits. Kinda reminds me or Rich Harden circa April 2004. It will be interesting to watch if he can begin to harness that talent as he goes along, as Harden did.
Does Juan Cruz have options left? That dude is messed up; he could use a few innings somewhere to find whatever it is that he lost. He darn near blew a six-run lead in the ninth, and Dotel was forced to come in and get a save.
All in all, a nice, but uninteresting victory. More interesting than what happened to the A's today is what happened to some ex-A's:
Unrecognized Parameter Format
I went to the game yesterday, and I still find myself unable to process what happened. I can't find any sort of pattern to make sense of. Witness:
I still have no idea what kind of team we have with these 2005 Oakland Athletics. Now, it's on to Texas and then Seattle. I have a feeling that this week will be quite revealing, and we're about to learn a lot about the true nature of the 2005 AL West race.
A's 1, Angels 0
Moneyball schmoneyball. The A's have two game-winning bunts in less than two years!
OK, so Scutaro's game-winning bunt today was an error, not a hit like Ramon Hernandez's, but who'da thunk?
The real hero today was Rich Harden, who battled Jarrod Washburn pitch for pitch. Just like last night, both pitchers were on top of their game. Compare the two lines:
Pitcher IP H R ER BB SO Washburn 8.0 4 0 0 2 7 Harden 8.0 4 0 0 2 8
The A's offense continues to be anemic, but the last two games, I suspect the problem has been good pitching by the Angels rather than bad hitting by the A's.
Tomorrow, we should see a few more runs on the board, with Kirk Saarloos vs. John Lackey. If Lackey throws a complete game four-hitter, I'll definitely go back to blaming the A's offense.
Angels 6, A's 1
I was at the game tonight, and I really enjoyed it. These are the types of games that I love to watch, and don't really mind losing so much. Both pitchers were great. Colon was throwing heat with good control. The A's had some pretty good at bats against him (except Durazo, who looks lost up there right now), but every hard hit ball was right at somebody.
Zito's changeup tonight had more movement on it than I've ever seen. His changeups have always looked pretty straight to me before. Maybe I just had a different angle on it from where I sat tonight, but the changeup I saw tonight had a wicked tail on it, moving down and away from right-handed batters. Darn near looked like a screwball.
Zito also threw his curveball for a strike on (I believe) the second pitch of the game. If he can establish early that he can throw the curve for strikes, so they can't just sit on a fastball, he'll usually have a good game. That's what happened tonight.
Zito's offspeed stuff was so good tonight that he threw very few fastballs. Except, oddly enough, to Vladimir Guerrero. In one at-bat in the sixth inning, Zito challenged Vlad with nothing but high heat. Guerrero eyes seemed to light up, he swung out of his shoes, but came up empty each time. I love at-bats like that: I'm gonna give you exactly what you want, and we'll see if you can hit it. That's juicy fun.
A game like tonight where both pitchers have their best stuff will usually be decided by some lucky break. The Angels got the break tonight, when Eric Chavez couldn't come up with a hot smash in the seventh which scored the winning run. With K-Rod waiting, that's all they really needed, although they added some insurance in the ninth off Juan Cruz, who has not impressed thus far.
The A's really need Rich Harden to have a good game tomorrow. You don't want to have to depend on Kirk Saarloos to keep from getting swept, do you? Didn't think so.
Long Walk, Blue Moon
Yesterday, I'm walking to the post office to mail off my taxes when I'm hit with a sudden urge to go find a corner store somewhere and buy some baseball cards. This is quite odd, since I don't think I've had a desire to buy baseball cards for decades. And not only that, corner stores don't sell baseball cards anymore.
I think it's the weather. It's a sunny afternoon, and there's a slight breeze that changes the air from being slightly too warm to slighly too cool. In Newark, CA, where I grew up, this was the prevailing weather pattern. The sun would warm up the air all morning, but every day at about 2 or 3pm, a breeze would come in and cool everything off to a tolerable temperature.
Alameda, where I live now, has a much cooler and foggier climate, so this kind of weather is less common up here. The sun, the wind, and the temperature combined with being out for a walk must have dug up some deep memory from my childhood and brought it up to the surface.
When I was a kid, when I'd get my allowance, I'd often taken an after-school walk with some friends from my house to the local 7-11 store, and spend my loot. I'd spend it mostly on candy, Slurpees, and baseball cards.
I always bought a Slurpee if they had special plastic cups. I remember one series had superheroes, and there were others with football and baseball players, too. Man, I loved those cups. I had them stacked from floor to ceiling in my closet.
If there wasn't a special cup, I'd often skip the Slurpee and just buy packs of baseball cards. Collecting was a game; you'd try to get every card with your favorite player on it (mine was Reggie), then you try to get every player on your favorite team, and then you try to get the other cards you didn't have yet. If you got duplicate cards, you'd trade them to your friends for cards you needed.
I remember in 1974, by June I had collected every A's player except one: Blue Moon Odom. My friend Kevin had the only one I'd seen, and man, I eyed that card with envy. But I could never find another one. Finally, as the season was almost over, Kevin got another Blue Moon Odom card, and traded him to me. At last, Blue Moon, you are mine!
Back to the future: Blue Moon is missing again. I got rid of all those Slurpee cups, and most of my cards, when I moved to Sweden when I was 13. I suppose I could just go online now and buy the entire set in a box. But that just seems like cheating to me. You gotta chew the chewing gum and slurp the Slurpees, or it doesn't count.
On my way home from the post office, I walk past the apartment building which once housed the likes of me and Dontrelle Willis. The building has new paint job. I don't think it had been painted since I moved out in 1989. The strike zone which had been drawn onto the wall by Dontrelle and his buddies is now gone.
I keep walking. A block away now, at Willie Stargell Field, another generation of young baseball players are taking batting practice. The pinging sound of aluminum bats floats up into the air, lands gently in my ear, and becomes a memory. I am home.
Down Goes Frasor!
And your new Heavyweight Champions of baseball: the Oakland Athletics!
The A's hit diddly squat off of David Bush for seven innings, but delivered a knockout punch to reliever Jason Frasor, scoring four times in the eighth inning with a few clutch hits (at last!), and taking the champions belt away from the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-3.
We are the greatest! We're pretty! We're a baaaad team!
I'd stay and chat more about some of the good performances, like Joe Blanton's, but I'm gonna go eat instead. I suddenly have a craving for a grilled hamburger...
The pitching wasn't bad. Haren threw a fat fastball to Eric Hinske, and that one mistake (3-run HR) was enough to lose the game.
The problem was, once again, the offense. Let's have some fun with small samples:
The A's offense per game in their:
Looks like the A's have been extremely dependent on walks and homers to score so far. That's a problem if (a) the pitcher isn't walking anybody, and (b) you don't have a lineup with power.
Tonight the A's had Charles Thomas, Mark Ellis, and Marco Scutaro in the lineup. None of those guys are likely to hit the ball out of the park. The lineup would have a lot more pop with Eric Byrnes, Keith Ginter, and Bobby "get well soon" Crosby in there instead.
I have to add that I really dislike the lineup where Chavez, Durazo and Hatteberg are the 3-4-5 hitters. It's too easy for the opposing team to bring in a lefty in the late innings work through the heart of the order. It happened tonight with Scott Schoenweis in the 8th inning. It's almost like taking the most leveraged situation in every game, and handing it to the opponent.
I'd rather see a L-R-L-R lineup, something like this:
Opening Night Liveblog
I'm not going to Opening Night tonight, so I thought I'd do some instant impressions as I watch on TV.
5:58pm Nice to turn on the TV after spending the afternoon fiddling with QuickBooks. I hate doing accounting, so I always procrastinate until April 15 looms.
Flipped the remote to the Braves-Nationals broadcast. It's my first look at the Nats aside from brief highlights. I dig the scripty W on the cap, but it doesn't match the blocky text on the shirt at all.
6:05 Dinner time. Kids ask a question, and I can't come up with an answer: If the outside of bread is called the crust, what's the inside of the bread called?
6:30 Pregame show starts. Glen Kuiper interviews Shooty Babbitt, a D'backs scout. Shooty says he expects the young A's to make some mistakes, correct them as they go along, and play spoiler in the end.
6:50 Player introductions. I don't know why, but I find the pregame ceremonies before Opening Day and the playoffs to be torturous. Can't stand 'em. I'm doing dishes instead.
6:55 My four-year-old daughter says the Canadian anthem "is so beautiful, it sounds bad."
7:07 Saarloos starts off throwing strikes. Catalanotto fouls some off, but then strikes out on a check swing.
7:12 Mark Ellis can't handle a rocket hit at him by Koskie. The two hits this inning are more than Saarloos gave up in 6 innings in Baltimore. Then Saarloos hits Hillenbrand in the elbow. Bases loaded.
7:16 Saarloos is nibbling, falls behind Hinske 3-1, who then singles to left. 2-0 Toronto.
7:19 Swisher makes a nice sliding catch to get the A's out of the inning.
7:23 This is my first look at Gustavo Chacin. He's wearing some funky-looking glasses, and has a weird stutter-step in his windup.
7:26 Jason Kendall gets a single in his first Coliseum at-bat. But he's left stranded.
7:32 Blue Jays not fooled at all by Saarloos so far. Three straight hits to lead off the second. They're hitting fastballs, breaking stuff, anything and everything he's throwing up there. 4-0 Toronto.
7:36 Sac fly by Wells. 5-0 Toronto.
7:51 A's get two runners on in the second, but Swisher hits into a double play.
8:09 Lewis Wolff is up in the booth. He has a very bland delivery, but at times he shows a flash of dry, subtle wit.
8:14 Shea Hillenbrand hits a hanging slider for a double. Juan Cruz coming in to replace Saarloos. 6-0 Toronto.
8:18 Cruz throws a wild pitch, but Kendall gets it quickly and throws out the runner at the plate.
8:22 Chacin is impressive. He throws strikes, hits the corners.
8:29 Eric Hinske hit an outside pitch for a single to left in the first, now he pulls an inside pitch to right for another hit on a tough pitch. How come he didn't hit this way last year when I had him on my fantasy team?
8:31 Cruz walks two guys after Hinske's hit. This game is one hit from being over.
8:34 Cruz didn't get over to cover first, and everyone is safe on an infield "hit". 7-0 Toronto.
8:36 Terrible throw by Byrnes on a sac fly. 8-0 Toronto.
8:47 I'm bored, so I start surfing. Siliconhouse Rock?
8:59 Toronto scores two in the top of the sixth. Byrnes homers leading off the bottom. 10-1 Toronto.
9:06 Ellis drives in a run. 10-2 Toronto after six.
9:29 Huston Street is blowing hitters away. Two scoreless innings, strikes out the side in the eighth.
9:53 Game over. Final score: Toronto 10, Oakland 3.
The A's of the last five years didn't have a heck of a lot of those types of games, where they didn't really even have a chance to win. This is the second such game in three days. I suppose there will be more of these to come, with such a young starting staff. Good days and bad days. But too many, and the A's will have trouble competing this year.
...But from this day every day will be Boxing DayIf you haven't noticed, I have a fun little thing on my sidebar called "MLB Heavyweight Champion". I'm keeping track of the baseball championship as if it were boxing: if you defeat the champion, you become the champion.
I'll also keep track of their records in title bouts, and the team that wins the most title bouts at the end of the year shall be deemed the Heavyweight of the Year.
Tonight, the A's get their first crack at the title, as they take on the current MLB Heavyweight Champs, the Toronto Blue Jays. (The champs this year so far: Red Sox, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays.)
Seeing the A's go into their first home series with Saarloos, Haren and Blanton as the scheduled starters doesn't fill me with the warm fuzzies about their immediate title chances. That's probably just a matter of unfamiliarity, however. I certainly wouldn't count them out.
Joe Sheehan said in a premium Baseball Prospectus article today that in trading Hudson and Mulder, the A's "traded perceived value for actual value, and in doing so, made their team better in the short term and in the long term."
I think he's probably right, but I'll put it another way. The A's traded Warm Fuzzies in exchange for Hope.
With the exception of Barry Zito, the pitching thus far has been fabulous. The non-Zito starters have yielded just 4 runs in 22 1/3 IP. And while so many other bullpens around major league baseball seem to have imploded during the first week of play, the A's pen has allowed just one run in 20 1/3 IP.
With results like that, Harden and Haren and Saarloos and Blanton certainly give me hope. The bullpen gives me hope. But hope is an instant emotion; if you're looking for it, it takes only seconds to minutes to find it.
Mulder and Hudson were Warm Fuzzies. No rookie can provide it. It requires turning weeks of results like these into months, and months into years.
Warm Fuzzies linger, far beyond the source of the warmth. You don't mind cleaning up on December 26th, because December 25th was so much fun. You can milk it for a week or two, but eventually, you have to return to the realities of daily life.
I still get warm fuzzies from my Barry Zito package, but the hope I get from him is fading with each bad result. Hudson and Mulder provided a lot of joy in Oakland, but it couldn't last forever, either. You have to let the old fuzzies go, and start making new ones.
The calendar turns. Tonight, a new year, a new era, begins in Oakland.
Stranded in Florida
The A's pitched well tonight, but lost 3-2 in 10 innings to the Devil Rays. As usual in these kinds of losses, the A's had plenty of baserunners, but absolutely sucked at driving them in.
Tonight they were 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position. And only scored two runs. Add that to the 4-for-23 they hit in Baltimore, and the A's are batting .179 with RISP in 2005.
Such a small sample size shouldn't really bother me that much, but I've been frustrated by this for years. *Sigh*.
Nick Swisher had a bad night. The Devil Rays decided Swisher would see a steady diet of slow stuff away away away. Swisher looked like he was trying to pull everything. He'll need to adjust and take a couple of those pitches the other way if he ever wants to see another fastball to hit.
That doesn't bother me so much, as that sort of failure and adjustment are part of the process for a rookie. I was more disappointed with a couple of terrible Eric Chavez ABs. He struck out twice when making any kind of contact would probably score a run. I've come to expect better from Chavez; tonight seemed like a regression for him.
On the positive side, the pitching has been fabulous so far this year. Eight runs allowed in four games is excellent. Keep allowing only two runs per game, and even a teamful of the least clutchy hitters in major league history would probably win most of their games.
Oakland A's First Manager Dies
Kennedy is probably best known for serving stints as manager and as GM of the Cubs. He played 16 seasons in the big leagues. He was the father of former Giants and Padres catcher Terry Kennedy.
Kennedy only managed the A's for one season, guiding a very young team to a 82-80 record, before becoming one of many managers to be let go by Charlie Finley.
A Weak, but Happy Ending
I think if you boiled baseball games down to a few basic plot formulas, Thursday's nice A's-O's game could be a prototype for the pitcher's duel, ruined by generous bullpen plot.
This plot was the A's basic winning M.O. from 2000-2003; the starters would keep the game close until the A's could beat up on their opponents mediocre middle relief.
Last year, the A's used this plot quite often, as well, but they played the opposite role. Time after time in 2004, the A's starters would seven innings, then hand over a tie game or a small lead to the bullpen, usually with disastrous results.
In the third game of 2005, it looks like the A's might be getting back to playing the good guys again. The A's just hung around patiently, not making mistakes, until they could get to the Orioles' bullpen. The O's pen, assisted by some shoddy defense, then proceeded to give a tense pitching duel between Dan Haren and Eric Bedard an anticlimactic ending.
Bedard was one of the players involved in the Hudson-Mulder rumors, and I can see why Beane was asking for him. He seemed very much like a left-handed Dan Haren. Both pitchers are young, throw hard, and have impressive breaking pitches, too.
Thursday night, both pitchers seemed to be relying more on raw talent than on pitching craftsmanship. Both fell behind in the count quite often, but their stuff was so good that their opponents couldn't hit the ball hard off them, even if they had a pretty good idea what was coming. We entered the 8th inning, tied 1-1.
At this point, the A's didn't so much win the game as the Orioles lost it. Steve Kline came in and walked Marco Scutaro to lead off the inning. Then Mark Kotsay bunted to the pitcher. The pitcher fielded it, and threw it towards the second baseman covering first. But oddly, the charging first baseman cut off the throw, and everyone was safe.
Eric Byrnes then tried to lay down a bunt, which went just foul. Figuring Byrnes was going to bunt again, Kline threw a high fastball, probably hoping that Byrnes would pop up the bunt. Instead, Byrnes swung away. The Kline pitch may have been hard to bunt, but it was perfect for Byrnes to swing at, and he crushed it beyond the centerfield fence for a three-run homer.
Kiko Calero came in for the last two innings and kept the tension low for the rest of the evening. A happy ending if you're an A's fan, but if you want an exciting ending to a well-played ballgame, you'll need to look elsewhere.
Street in Stride
Huston Street made his major league debut on Wednesday in the A's 9-0 win over Baltimore. He pitched the eighth inning, giving up a walk and a single, but no runs.
His made his first out himself, jamming the batter and catching a little popup. His last out was a nice sequence which concluded with Sammy Sosa striking out on a nasty slider.
I got a good look at Huston Street last week in Tucson, and I returned home with some interesting pictures of Street's delivery taken from above the A's bullpen.
Ken: I was wondering about the third picture, where it looks like he drags his back leg to the side, like he's trying to get as much towards first base as possible. I'd never seen that before. You can see the skid mark.
Street's fastball is only around 92, but perhaps the long drag line helps explain why so many people say his stuff seems so nasty.
If word got around that Street was tipping his pitches, it might explain his struggles toward the end of spring training. That problem should also be correctable.
I tried to look and see if Street's stride on the mound in the game differed from these bullpen photos at all, but it was hard to tell. I could see that he was setting up on the first base side of the rubber as in the photos, at least to right-handed batters. But ESPN2 had their ticker running along the bottom of the screen, and obscured the view of the mound, so I couldn't see much more than that.
No problem, though. I have a feeling there will be few more opportunities to follow Huston Street.
Happy Unopening Day
The weirdness of Opening Day is at long last over!
Now we can get back on our normal paths. Baseball every day. The flow of the season.
Bad news all around. Strange, abnormal, disturbing. Time to reverse field. Game #2, coming up...
Satellite Ballpark Images
With Google maps, you can toggle between a map view and a satellite image view. To view satellite images of MLB parks, click the links below, then click on the satellite link in the upper right corner.
A couple of pictures (Milwaukee, Cincinnati) are only low resolution images. A couple (Philadelphia, San Diego) show the ballpark under construction. The Marlins' home looks like it's configured for a bowl game, while Anaheim seems to be set up for some kind of dirt bike race or something.
A's - O's Running Diary
11:37 am PT: Pregame show. Team introductions. A's get booed mildly. Ginter's on the bench, Ellis is starting.
11:39 A's starting lineup announced:
11:43 Orioles coaches introduced. Elrod Hendricks in his 37th opening day with the Orioles!
11:45 The O's are coming in on a long Orange carpet from center field instead of out of the dugout.
11:49 Orioles' starting lineup:
Dang, that's an impressive lineup.
11:50 Moment of silence for Johnny Oates, Chuck Thompson, and the Pope.
11:51 Have to go pick up my daughter from preschool. Gonna miss the opening pitch...but back soon.
12:03 First guffaw via Hank Greenwald, filling in on radio for Bill King, who is nursing a leg injury: "Starting lineup brought to you by Valero: Gas with vroom...Sorry, I didn't read that very well. But nobody does gas like Bill."
12:06 Kotsay leads off the season with a 10-pitch AB. A's Brand baseball.
12:14 A's go down 1-2-3.
12:17 79mph changeup from Zito. Good sign that he's throwing it hard. If he's not being aggressive, it's in the 60's. Then he jams Roberts with an inside fastball.
12:22 Zito walks Tejada, bringing up Sosa for his first AB as an Oriole. Gets a standing O. Zito throws him three straight inside fastballs, but then Sosa lines a low changeup to left for a single.
12:23 Zito vs. Palmeiro. I always love watching this battle. Zito gets him to pop up to center to end the inning.
12:29 Hatteberg pokes a single to left for the A's first hit of the year.
12:37 Crosby gets a lucky two-out infield single. Swisher popups up to Tejada, who runs circles in the wind and makes a diving catch to end the inning.
12:43 Zito is missing too far high with a lot of fastballs. Walks Gibbons, then gives up a homer to Matos on a hanging curve. 2-0 Orioles.
12:54 Kendall throws his bat and fouls of a hit and run attempt. Repeat: the A's tried a hit & run!
1:06 Tejada, Sosa, and Palmeiro repeat their first inning at bats. This time, there's only one out, though, and Tejada scores on a sac fly. 3-0 Orioles.
1:09 Crosby bobbles a grounder, but Sosa rounds third and is thrown out at home. Kendall makes a nice tag, as Crosby threw a two-hopper.
1:22 The A's have two runners on for the third inning in a row. They strand all of them, just like last year. OBP OBP OBP OBP, but nobody can get a damn RBI.
1:27 Scutaro is in the game for Crosby. He must have aggravated his wrist injury striking out.
1:33 Swisher misplays a fly ball for a double, and now it's 4-0 Orioles.
1:39 Shadows creeping between the plate and the mound. Going to be hard to hit for a couple of innings.
1:43 Two runners on again in the fifth. How much you wanna bet they strand these guys again?
1:44 Yup. Hatteberg pops out, inning over.
1:54 Scutaro hits an opposite field double. Only one stranded runner this inning. Improvement!
2:03 Zito has his second consecutive 1-2-3 inning. He should pitch in shadows more often...
2:06 Steve Kline is the pitcher, Geronimo Gil is catching. What's up with that? If you take one Lopez out, you have to remove both?
2:07 Kotsay leads off with a single, and then breaks up a double play grounder by Kendall.
2:11 Chavez flies out, and now it's Durazo. Here's the problem with the A's lineup; with all those lefty bats in a row, the Orioles can just leave Kline in there. Durazo flies out, too.
2:16 Justin Duchscherer is now pitching for the A's.
2:20 Reports come in: Javy Lopez and Crosby were both removed with back pain.
2:24 A's not doing anything off Jorge Julio. The O's bullpen looks a lot deeper and better this year with Kline and Reed out there, and with Julio setting up Ryan instead of the other way around. If the O's can get any sort of decent starting pitching this year, they might be a pretty darn good team.
2:30 Here's my first look at Kiko Calero in an A's uni, facing Sosa.
2:32 Scutaro airmails a throw from shortstop, E-6.
2:37 Calero's slider is nasty looking, and it looks like he has good control of it.
2:38 Hank Greenwald says Ron Darling will do do color analysis for the Washington Nationals.
2:40 Calero gets out of the eighth inning, and now we're going to the ninth with the Orioles ahead 4-0. B.J. Ryan is on his way in.
2:43 Swisher batting right-handed. Ginter is on deck.
2:44 Swisher strikes out on a check swing.
2:46 Mora makes a nice stop, and then Palmeiro digs out the throw. Two outs. Mora hurt himself going to his knees. Not sure if he hurt his knee or wrist. He's staying in the game.
2:50 Kotsay grounds out to Tejada. Orioles win, 4-0. I guess we'll have to wait until Thursday for the A's to score their first run of the year.
Doing the Dairy Queen
When in Tucson, do as the Tucsonians.
I felt left out that I had never been to a Dairy Queen when Ken Macha treated the A's to ice cream after a game in Tucson earlier in March.
So naturally, when I went to Tucson last week on vacation, I had to visit a Dairy Queen.
So I packed up the family, and we headed downtown to visit the oldest Dairy Queen in Tucson.
This particular Dairy Queen opened in 1952, and it didn't look like it had been remodeled at all since then. It was tiny; there was no indoor seating, and enough room in the building for maybe ten people to stand and wait for their order. Obviously, the drive-thru is the thing.
The wife and kids ordered chocolate-dipped vanilla cones, but I had to try the Blizzard. I was looking for the $7 one that Nick Swisher joked about ordering, but the most expensive one cost $3.55.
I still didn't really know what a Blizzard was, and there were a gazillion flavors to choose from. I had no idea what to pick, but I like cookies & cream, so I decided to go with a small Oreo Blizzard, and see what I got.
Then it was time to go outside and take my first scoopful of Dairy Queen ice cream:
The Blizzard, I discovered, is like a milk shake without the milk. They stir the ice cream around with a mixing machine until it's soft and frothy, but it's not as liquidy as a shake.
The texture was nice, and it tasted pretty good, but I'm glad I just ordered a small one. That was plenty. I think the $3.55 one would have made me sick, and a $7 one...well I can't even imagine that. If Swisher had a $7 Blizzard, it's no wonder he had a lousy spring training. Eating one that size would probably leave you bloated for weeks.
So now I know what I've been missing. I can say I've done the Dairy Queen. What's next?
STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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Ken: catfish AT zombia d.o.t. com
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