Baseball Toaster Catfish Stew
Monthly archives: May 2005


Blog the Dawgs
2005-05-31 04:51
by Ken Arneson

My family vacation to San Diego coincided with a Padres road trip, so we missed Petco Park. But no matter. We went out Saturday evening and checked out some Surf Dawgs, instead.

The San Diego Surf Dawgs are one of eight teams in the Golden Baseball League, a brand new independent league centered on the west coast. The league began play on Thursday, so the game we attended on Saturday was the third game ever for the Surf Dawgs and their opponents, the Long Beach Armada. The Surf Dawgs and their main attraction, Rickey Henderson (more about him later), play at Tony Gwynn Stadium on the campus of San Diego State University.

Home of the Surf Dawgs

The ballpark seats about 3,000 people, all on the infield. It was about half-full on Saturday evening, and from listening to the people in the crowd, it seemed like half of the people in the stands were related to somebody on the field. "The pitcher is my cousin." "My dad's the bullpen catcher." "C'mon son!"

Inside Tony Gwynn Stadium

I doubt catering to the relatives of ballplayers is a sustainable business model, but if the league fails, it won't be for a lack of marketing. In fact, I think they pulled out the table of contents in the Baseball Marketing 101 textbook and used it as a checklist.

Checklist item #1: give something away as people enter the stadium. We each got a T-shirt commemorating the inaugural weekend of Golden League play. The gift was a good way to get on our good side right away.

Checklist item #2: give some more things away after that. Just minutes after we settled down in our seats, a Surf Dawg employee came by and told us that our row had been selected for an upgrade to a luxury box. Free catered food!

Our box

In an interview with Christian Ruzich, Dave Kaval, a founder of the Golden League, explained their marketing strategy:

We're targeting families. We're very, very focused on the typical four-person family: wife, husband, the two kids. We're going to cater to families with the types of promotions we do — from having the kids run the bases between innings to having a kid zone in all of our parks, with everything from speed pitch to one of those big Scooby-Doo blow up things for the kids to jump around in. Just making sure that the lowest common denominator is entertaining the children.

He wasn't kidding about the kids. They had a kid zone with all sorts of games. They had both a Surf Dawg mascot (named Southpaw) and a clown who made beaut animals. My kids got their faces painted. And between every half-inning, there was some entertainment happening on the field, from a frisbee-catching dog to a burrito-catching contest.

Fun Zone

The marketing plan worked to perfection on my wife and kids. Everyone on the staff was friendly and approachable. They seemed to genuinely care to make sure we were having fun. My kids had a great time, and were never bored at all. My wife absolutely loved it. We have a trip planned to L.A. later this year, and as soon as we got home, she checked out the schedules online to see if we could make another Golden League game. In fact, I'd bet if there were a Golden League team in the Bay Area next year, she'd want to dump our A's season tickets and go there instead. (Memo to the marketing departments of MLB and the Oakland A's: we're people, not ATMs.)

I, on the other hand, am more of a hard-core baseball fan, and I'm not going to fall for any marketing magic unless the product on the field is worth watching. The defense was not crisp, and none of the pitchers I saw had great stuff, but at least they threw a lot of strikes and made the batters put the ball in play, which made for an entertaining home team victory, if not an impressive one.

And yet, even for me, the night was magical.

When the game was over, I felt like I had stepped out of a scene in Field of Dreams. Ray Kinsella had come into my office and asked me if I could have one wish, what it would be? And I responded, "Just once, I'd like to see Rickey Henderson young again, driving the opposing team absolutely insane, working the count, taking walks, hitting homers, and running wild on the bases. That's my wish, Ray Kinsella. That's my wish."

And so it was.

Continue reading...

2005-05-29 20:57
by Ken Arneson


I went with my family to San Diego this weekend to visit my brother-in-law, his wife, and their holophrastic 20-month-old daughter.

There's a poetry to kids in that stage of language development, as they reduce the complex world they live they experience to just a single word.

Things going badly for your favorite team? We could do a complex statistical analysis of the phenomenon, or we could just say:


My niece had a vocabulary of about 30-50 words. My favorite was "beaut". "Beaut" comes from "beautiful" I guess, but to her, it means "balloon".

Such innocence doesn't last long. Back in April, I believed the A's would be like those beauts, floating with grace and ease, filling us with a sense of wonder and magic, capable of defying the concept of falling, helping us believe there is something pure and simple and good in the world.

Eventually, though, we come to learn that even the best of beauts go bad.

Give Me A Break
2005-05-26 01:26
by Ken Arneson

Every time I think the A's may have hit rock bottom, they prove otherwise.

Luckily, I was busy and missed Wednesday's thwacking by the Devil Rays. I didn't suffer at all. Ignorance is bliss.

So let's think about something else. Here is the phrase "catfish stew" translated into five Continental European languages:

Dutch: katvis hutspot
French: ragoût de poisson-chat
German: Welseintopfgericht
Italian: stufato del pesce gatto
Spanish: guisado del siluro

Heerlijk! I'll be busy over the Memorial Day weekend, so I'll be taking a few days off from les blogs du grille-pain. Let's look at it as an experiment. If the A's immediately go on a winning streak in my absence, then we've found the jinx.

Si ce blog est la malédiction, je peux ne jamais retourner. Ik betwijfel dit, nochtans zal gebeuren.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Pure Slop
2005-05-24 19:17
by Ken Arneson

It's a pretty sad state of affairs when you're watching your team play against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and you suddenly realize that the Rays might have the better team. That probably wouldn't be the case if the A's were healthy. But here we are.

Let's look at some rankings:
Offense, OPS: A's 14th, Rays 7th.
Pitching, ERA: A's 11th, Rays 14th.
Defense: DER: A's 7th, Rays 9th.

The A's pitch better, the Rays hit better. Not much news there.

The Defensive Efficiency Ratio says that the A's play slightly better defense than the Rays. If I hadn't looked it up I would never have believed it. The A's have made a ton of errors lately (22 in the last 19 games), including a 7th-inning error on Kirk Saarloos (he missed the bag on a 3-1 putout...which is about the third time in recent weeks this has happened...why do the A's keep having a problem stepping on the base/plate...the game is called should be the first skill you learn...but I digress...back to the sentence...), which turned out to be the eventual winning run. Meanwhile, the Rays made numerous excellent defensive plays that killed a couple of A's rallies.

The Rays, though lacking talent, played sharply. The A's had more talent, but played uninspired and sloppy ball. Today Saarloos was the worst offender. In addition to his error, he also botched a rundown--choosing to throw to first on a comebacker when he had a runner on second hung out to dry. But he hasn't been the only one making mental blunders. There seem to be several such mistakes every day. It's a team-wide epidemic of concentration lapses.

I don't know how you fix a team that has seemingly ceased to take its concentration pills (that's a joke, not an accusation), other than to make somebody lose their job.

Scott Hatteberg homered tonight, his third of the year. Despite that, I still think Dan Johnson should be here and taking some of Hatteberg's and Erubiel Durazo's at-bats. Durazo looked horrible at the plate today. Go make him earn his plate appearances, and write his name into the lineup. Free Dan Johnson!

Meanwhile, Nick Swisher's rehab has been going gangbusters in Sacramento (.400/.455/.550 in 20ABs). Bobby Crosby's rehab in Stockton is a few days behind Swisher's, but he is 2-for-6 so far. A change is a-comin'.

They Might Be Gigantes
2005-05-22 20:04
by Ken Arneson

Ladies and gentlemen
Ladies and gentlemen

He is our hero
Get rid of
Step on Ginter
We love you Ginter

I promise not to kill you

We love you Ginter
Get rid of
Must stop
He is our hero

Tears For Fears
2005-05-21 16:10
by Ken Arneson

Most preseason discussions tend to be optimistic; after all, everybody wants to rule the world. But before the season started, we had an internal Toaster discussion about our worries. Unfortunately, most of my fears have turned into tears.

I didn't mention injuries in our discussion, because they're not really worth mentioning unless you have some players who are particularly injury prone. Obviously, these are things I could do without. But it's hard to turn your back on mother nature. The A's have six players on the DL right now (Crosby, Swisher, Harden, Calero, Dotel and Bradford), seven if you count Dan Meyer, who was expected to make the team but couldn't get his arm into shape, and one more, Justin Duchscherer, who hasn't pitched in a week and could be joining them retroactively.

Mike thought there was a good chance the new A's pitching staff might implode. The pitching hasn't been great, but it hasn't been a total nightmare either. But making up for the loss of Hudson and Mulder wasn't my biggest fear, anyway. That's just one headline, why believe it? Nothing ever lasts forever. Here's what I replied to Mike:

I'm more worried about the hitting imploding than the pitching. The Coliseum is a tough place to hit .300. Oakland has only had twenty .300 seasons in 37 years. Yet Kotsay, Durazo, and Kendall (elsewhere) all hit .300 last year. What happens to the offense if they all hit .280-.290? If Byrnes falls back to earth? If Crosby and Swisher are young strikeout machines? The A's offense should improve at C and 2B, but I can imagine a scenario where none of the other 7 positions do.
Indeed, the A's are still walking a lot, but they've suffered a huge collapse in batting average, which has hurt the offense overall. I was considering .290 a disaster scenario for Kotsay, Durazo and Kendall; now it's wishful thinking. Kotsay is hitting .289, Durazo .250, and Kendall only .226. Chavez is only hitting .211, while Crosby and Swisher have been hurt. It's a very, very mad world.

I keep looking at the A's PECOTA projections in disbelief. Right now, only Bobby Kielty is well above his 50% projection for OPS, and only Eric Byrnes and Mark Ellis are near it. Eight hitters are at or below their 10% projections. I find it kind of funny. I find it kind of sad.

Joe Sheehan deconstructed the A's disappointing season yesterday in a Baseball Prospectus Premium article yesterday. There wasn't really much to disagree with, really. Here's the crux of it:

The A's don't hit for average and they don't hit for power. I mean, they really don't hit for power. Since offense ticked up in 1993, just one team--the '93 expansion Marlins--have posted an isolated power mark (SLG - BA) of less than .100. The A's are at .106 through a quarter of the season; the second-lowest figure since 1992 is .120, held by a handful of teams. We can talk about park effects and changes to the run environment all day, but if you slug .350, you can't compete.

Who could have imagined the A's offense would be laid so low? Man, you guys, I wish you were my enemy.

I don't think you have to look to the skies for some kind of divine intervention. This can be fixed. You'd probably have to sacrifice some defense, but to fix an historically bad offense, I'm sure it would be worth it. I love power. I believe in love power. We need a change, before it's all too late. I could be quite naive, and I can't actually operate on this failure, but all I want to be is completely in command, so I'm going to shout and let it all out, and I hope we live to tell the tale. This is my four-leaf clover:

  • Replace Scutaro and Ellis with Crosby and Ginter. Ginter homered last night against the Giants; perhaps he can find the stroke that hit 19 homers last year. Crosby begins his rehab assignment today in Stockton.
  • Give Scott Hatteberg at-bats to Dan Johnson. Both PECOTA and ZiPS project Johnson and Hatteberg to produce similar offensive numbers this year, around a .760-.790 OPS. So why not try the guy with the power and the upside instead of the player on the decline? With one foot in the past now, just how long will it last?
  • Keep playing Bobby Kielty. He's always swung well right-handed, but his left-handed swing this year is night-and-day from last year. Last year, he had an ugly, noisy and powerless stroke from the left side. This year, it's short and smooth. Sometimes your eyes do tell the story.
  • Ride the hot hand between Swisher and Byrnes. Like Hatteberg and Johnson, Swisher and Byrnes are projected to produce similar numbers. The difference is that Byrnes is still in his peak years, while Hatteberg looks very close to falling off the proverbial cliff.
  • Free Eric Chavez! What has happened to the friend that I once knew? Has he gone away?
So kick out the style! Bring back the jam!

Heavyweight Championship Update
2005-05-20 12:43
by Ken Arneson

Down on my sidebar, you can see the current standings of the MLB Heavyweight Championship. This is where we assume that if you beat the champion, you become the new champion, just like in boxing.

Since the Red Sox won the World Series last year, the Heavyweight Championship has resided in the American League all season. Of the AL teams, only the White Sox, Mariners, and Tigers have not had a title bout yet. The Blue Jays have held the title the most, winning eleven title bouts out of eighteen.

As we move into the first weekend of interleague play, the Minnesota Twins are the current champs. The Milwaukee Brewers will be the first NL team this year with a shot at the title. Also, if the Brewers win on Sunday, they can keep crown over in the National League for a few weeks until the next round of interleague play. I wouldn't bet on it, though; they'll be facing Johan Santana. Good luck.

My Notes Wait There
2005-05-19 23:54
by Ken Arneson

In San Francisco, across the greenish-brown and windy bay:

  • The A's concluded the hellish portion of their schedule on Wednesday with a 13-6 win over Boston. Of the nine different teams the A's have played so far, only Seattle and Tampa Bay are currently under .500. Their next four series, however, will all be against teams who currently have losing records. Now would be the ideal time to get hot, get healthy, and turn things around.
  • The Giants might actually be a team where the A's "run-up-the-starter's-pitch-count-so-you-can-feast-on-middle-relief" offensive strategy might actually work. I've seen a lot of Giants games this year, and their middle relief sucks. Well, except maybe for Scott Eyre and Jason Christiansen, they're not too bad. Oops, I forgot, the A's lineup consists mostly of left-handed batters, so Eyre and Christensen are probably the only middle relief they'll see. Never mind...
  • In addition, the Giants are starting three left-handed pitchers against the A's this weekend: Rueter, Fassero, and Lowry. Sure hope Bobby Kielty will be ready to play; the A's will need all the right-handed bats they can muster.
  • Speaking of which, when I wrote...
    I've seen enough of Eric Byrnes. His swing is so screwed up now that his biggest strength offensively is the HBP.
    ...back on May 9, Eric Byrnes was batting .208/.282/.351. Since then, he's gone 12-for-27 with five doubles and a homer. He is now second on the team with a .785 OPS. Keep it up, Eric, and maybe someone will give us something in a trade for you after all.
  • Billy Beane was on KNBR radio this afternoon. He's not going to attend the A's-Giants series; instead he'll be at Stanford with Paul DePodesta, scouting the Cardinal as they host Arizona.
  • Beane also said that Octavio Dotel's elbow injury was not one that would require surgery. Worst case scenario: he rests the elbow for 15 days or so on the DL.

Making Whoopee
2005-05-18 21:17
by Ken Arneson

I just finished watching Eric Byrnes and Barry Zito on ESPN's version of The Newlywed Game, Teammates.

Teammates is just horribly painful to watch. The Newlywed Game wasn't so great, either, but at least it had the whole sexual innuendo thing going for it. You weren't allowed to come out and say what you mean, if you know what I mean, and that was half the fun.

Now that I think of it, maybe Teammates really is a great show, too, but I forgot to watch it with my my gaydar turned on. Perhaps I need to give it a second glance, if you know what I mean.

Otherwise, the most interesting part was when Zito guessed correctly that Byrnes would say his favorite to thing to watch on TV other than SportsCenter was Fox News. Did Byrnes know that he just excommunicated himself from not only Athletics Nation, but the entire Kososphere? Blasphemy!

Memo To All ESPN Networks
2005-05-18 20:21
by Ken Arneson

You are hereby banned from making any jokes, any sarcastic, cynical or snide remarks, or any other form of wise-guy commentary regarding the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim".

Reason: "Baseball Tonight By L'Oreal Men's Expert."

Perhaps we should start looking for a sponsor for Baseball Toaster. We'd need something that would be as big a mouthful as possible. Maybe something like "Baseball Toaster Presented by Fuji Tsuushinki Seizou Kabushikigaisha".

Dallas, Texas Leaguer
2005-05-18 14:40
by Ken Arneson

It was a pretty bleak evening in Oakland last night. The A's were playing severely short-handed: Yabu pitched a couple innings the night before, Bobby Kielty and Justin Duchscherer were unavailable with minor injuries, and Octavio Dotel was on his way to see Dr. Yocum about his elbow (yuck). All of which contributed to the A's eighth-inning collapse, where Juan Cruz ran out of gas, and Eric Byrnes made another costly outfield blunder. It's unlikely either would have been in there if the A's were playing with a full roster.

So the loss was annoying, but understandable. I was mad at Byrnes and Hatteberg for their errors, but I figure those guys are lame ducks at this point, so my anger didn't really linger very long. I'm still feeling oddly optimistic.

The biggest source of A's optimism last night didn't come out of Oakland. Dallas Braden made his AA debut last night for Midland, and was quite successful:

 IP  H  R ER BB  K
6.2  7  0  0  2  5

Braden had brilliant numbers at Single A Stockton (2.68 ERA, 64K, 11BB in 43 2/3IP), but you have to view it with some skepticism because he's a soft-tosser. Sometimes the slow stuff will work at lower levels, but gets clobbered further up the ladder. So tossing a shutout in his first AA game is a very good sign.

How to Tell When Your Kids Have Heard One Too Many Baseball Commercials
2005-05-18 13:59
by Ken Arneson

Me (taking drink requests at dinner): What do you want?

4-year-old daughter: I want to taste my beer!

Imagine That
2005-05-16 23:40
by Ken Arneson

Sound drums and trumpets! farewell sour annoy!
For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.

--King Henry VI, Part III, Act V, Scene VII

Get denied something you want too many times, you will eventually come to feel that getting what you want is impossible.

After eight losses in a row, I had reached that point with the A's. I had lost my ability to even imagine the A's winning.

But hallelujah, the A's won this evening! Suddenly, my imagination, locked away in some dark corner of my mind by the recent downturn, burst forth with a barrage of optimistic ifs.

  • If Matt Watson can keep hitting in Oakland like he did in Sacramento, the offense may finally have found the sparkplug it needs to turn itself around. His two hits tonight keyed both the A's run-scoring innings.
  • Bobby Crosby took batting and fielding practice this afternoon. Ken Macha said on the pregame show that he may begin a rehab assignment this weekend. If he can return and play well, we may have the right-handed power the lineup has been so sorely lacking.
  • Eric Chavez had three hits tonight, all singles to left field. His left-field stroke has been MIA so far. If he's found it, we may have the Eric Chavez we expected to see all along.
  • Murphy had every opportunity to shove his cruel Law back in our face again, just like he had done all season long, but for once, failed to do so. The Red Sox, not the A's, twice failed to score after getting two runners in scoring position with no outs. Then Octavio Dotel, with an opportunity to get the final out of the game, missed the bag when covering first base, bringing the winning run to the plate. But Dotel got out of the jam. If Murphy has moved on to torture someone else for a change, maybe it's not too late to salvage this season after all.

They're So Bad...
2005-05-16 15:38
by Ken Arneson

I had some fun browsing BP's stats today, looking at how badly the A's suck.

  • The A's playoff odds have dropped to 6.78%. In their simulations, they now average 68.5 wins.
  • The Orioles lead MLB in adjusted equivalent runs with 210. The Marlins are next-to-last at 144. The A's? 127.
  • Barry Zito is the second-worst pitcher in MLB at getting batters to hit into double plays: just once in 39 opportunities.
  • Eric Chavez is in seventh place overall amongst the players in the Hacking Mass contest, where you try to build the worst possible team that gets the most playing time.
  • In fact, if you used the projected A's starting lineup to build your Hacking Mass team at the beginning of the year (using Zito and Dotel as your pitchers), you wouldn't have a single player with a negative score. Your Hacking Mass team would be in 173rd place out of 1859, better (or is it worse?) than every single member of the Baseball Prospectus staff.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2005 Oakland Hacking Massletics:
Jason Kendall31
Scott Hatteberg17
Mark Ellis17
Eric Chavez43
Bobby Crosby0
Eric Byrnes9
Mark Kotsay14
Nick Swisher13
Barry Zito26
Octavio Dotel0

2005-05-16 13:19
by Ken Arneson

There's a discussion over on BTF about Rob Bell's panic attacks. Since I have some experience on this subject, I added my two cents, which I'll reprint here:

Panic attacks, panic disorder and anxiety disorders are all slightly different things. I'll talk about panic attacks and panic disorder, because I've dealt with them myself.

Panic attacks are when your body's sympathetic nervous system (a/k/a your fight-or-flight system) kicks into gear at inappropriate times. It can happen for no reason. In my case, my first panic attack happened as I was loading the dishwasher after a dinner of fettucine alfredo.

Now it's a good thing to feel anxious and afraid, to have your heart start racing and your breathing to get faster and shallower, when a lion is chasing you. That's why we have this fight-or-flight system. But it's not much help when you're trying to load a dishwasher.

Panic disorder can happen as a result of a panic attack. Here's how it works: our brain stores memories much more quickly and effectively when the memory is associated with an emotional event. Strong emotions are a shortcut to memory building.

A panic attack is a strong, emotional event. What your brain does (automatically, not consciously) is to take a snapshot of the environment during the event. Your brain isn't sure which of the elements of the environment is the cause of the emotional event, so it makes an association with everything it can.

Anytime thereafter that you encounter one of those elements, your brain is put on alert for that event to happen again.

So in my case, my brain associated the panic attack with dishwashers and pasta. For the next couple of weeks every time I had to do the dishes, or eat pasta, I felt nervous and on edge.

Panic disorder happens when you confront this environment again, and it triggers another panic attack. This in turn strengthens the association in the brain with that environment, and it becomes a vicious circle.

If Rob Bell had a panic attack on the baseball field, his brain may have made similar associations with his environment, and he could have fallen into a similar vicious circle. He could be perfectly fine off the field, and only panic when he gets onto the field.

There are basically two methods to cure/prevent panic disorder. One is to go back to that environment repeatedly, and retrain your brain that this environment is not dangerous. The other is with medication to suppress the flight-or-fight response. Or both.

Fortunately for me, I was able to avoid the vicious circle without medication. But I can sympathize with those who need it. Who would want to live their lives afraid of baseball or pasta?

How Bad Are They?
2005-05-16 10:10
by Ken Arneson

The A's are so bad, their entire catching corps has fewer home runs than Sal Fasano.

Seriously. Sal Fasano.

Dirty Rotten Shame
2005-05-14 10:04
by Ken Arneson

I recall the good old days
But thankfully, they've gone
Now the ponies all are broken nags
That stumble as they groan
And throw the jockeys from their throne
When there are pitches left to dodge
And lions left to tame
But it's nothing but a dirty rotten shame

--Elvis Costello

This is a transition year, and I was hoping that even as such, Fortune might favor the A's, and we would still witness a competitive season. Alas, Fortune has ignored the A's, and Murphy and his Law have stepped in to fill the vacuum.

The A's are seven games under .500 with five more games this week against the reigning monsters of the AL East. And now Rich Harden is probably out for several weeks with a pulled oblique muscle. I'd ask what else could possibly go wrong, but I'm afraid Murphy might decide to answer that question.

Billy Beane is walking around repeating his Hitchhiker's Guide mantra ("Don't Panic"), but that's a far cry from a mantra like "This Is Our Year". It's someone else's year, and the best the A's can hope for is to be a nice, minor decoration in the larger artwork, like a solid-colored gonfalon hanging from a jewel-studded cross.

Don't Panic aside, I fully expect some kind of move to be made soon. Beane and Macha have had two closed-door meetings in the last week. With the draft coming up in early June, Beane would probably prefer to make whatever move they're going to make now, so that he can focus on the draft for the next few weeks. (Wouldn't this time of year be really fascinating if draft picks were tradeable?)

I wouldn't expect a trade, since he'd probably be selling low with most of his chips slumping. He's better off letting them play and seeing if they can increase their trade value for July. But for a spark, I'd probably just call up Dan Johnson, rotate him into the mix with Hatteberg and Durazo, and see what happens.

Update: Oh yes, I forgot to add: and make Zachary happy, too. Matt Watson is getting called up. I haven't heard about anyone getting sent down, so I'm assuming Harden goes immediately to the DL, Watson takes his roster spot, and the A's go with 11 pitchers.

But with Watson here, that makes Jermaine Clark less necessary. I'd send Clark down and bring up Johnson.

Giambi Returns
2005-05-13 15:34
by Ken Arneson

I'm very much looking forward to the Mike Mussina-Rich Harden pitching matchup tonight, but I suppose the big story is that Jason Giambi is returning to Oakland for the first time since his BALCO testimony was leaked.

Giambi may not even play, as he is struggling at the plate. Perhaps, as some suggest, he is failing because he stopped taking steroids in 2003. Giambi says he has been battling some minor injuries: a forearm cramp and a recent beaning.

Giambi may be right. Even when he was in Oakland, he was never the type of player who could hit with minor injuries. In Oakland, when he was nursing an injury, he would DH. Look at his career numbers as a 1B (mostly healthy) vs. as a DH (less healthy):


Just like in his recent struggles, his ability to walk didn't suffer as a DH, but his batting average dropped a ton. The difference now is that his slugging percentage is down, too. That may just be a matter of sample size, though.

I doubt Giambi will ever be a great player again, because it's unlikely he'll ever be consistently healthy again. Mike's recent study shows that players with similar stats to Giambi's often ended up retiring soon thereafter. But I still think it's possible he could put together another stretch of good fortune with his health, and have a John Jaha-like last hurrah before his body fails him at last.

We'll Take The House
2005-05-11 15:07
by Ken Arneson

Honey, the chances of giving up a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth with a one-run lead two days in a row are astronomical. See? It's been pre-disastered. We're going to be saf

Lightning never strikes twi

The Evil Midnight Blogger What Blogs At Midnight
2005-05-11 00:01
by Ken Arneson

And so he says to me, you want to blog? and I says, Yeah baby! I want to be a blogger! I says play ball, bunt monkeys! I'm making hot dogs without mustard! Ah ha ha ha haaaa!

He says to me, he says to me, 'Baby I'm tired of watchin' this lousy team!' I says, I says, why don't you blow it to bits?

And he says to me, he says to me, you got style, baby! But if you're gonna to be a real blogger you gotta get a gimmick…and so I go I says Yeah Baby! A gimmick, that's it! Team Explosives! Aaaah-hahahahaaaa!

So he says to me, you gotta do something smart, baby, something big! He says you want to be a superblogger, right, and I go yeah baby, yeah yeah! What do I gotta do? He says, you got bombs, blow up the team; it's packed with powder. You'll go down in superblogger history, and I go yeah baby, cuz I'm the Evil Midnight Blogger What Blogs at Midnight! Ah ha ha ha ha ha!

Eat my smoke, Zito baby! I'm trading you! Kaboom!

Dotel, baby, this could happen to you, too. This could happen to anybody! He says he hung that slider, and I go, I says, it's the only hung you got. Ha!

And then next thing you know: milkshake! Whoosh!

And so I says to Byrnes, uh, Byrnes baby Byrnes, I says, you got legs baby, you're everywhere, you're all over the place, but you're not here anymore, baby! You're outta here!!!

Oh, hi!

Durazo, I says, I don't like the price of your jib, and I go, you're going, baby, your jib's going straight Outta Town!

Excuse me…excuse me…and then I says tell me I'm wrong, and he says I can't baby 'cause you're not!

And Hatteberg, Hatteberg, sixty seconds to nowhere, baby! You're becoming the next victim of the Evil Midnight Blogger What Blogs...hey pay attention!

Yeah Baby! Now you've only got twenty seconds until you all Eat My Stew!!!

You'll never prove a thing; I'm just a part-time programmer. Down with patience! Blogging is good, baby!

Lots of Q's, No A's
2005-05-10 11:37
by Ken Arneson

FRIAR FRANCIS: Did I not tell you she was innocent?

LEONATO: So are the prince and Claudio, who accused her
Upon the error that you heard debated:
But Margaret was in some fault for this,
Although against her will, as it appears
In the true course of all the question.

ANTONIO: Well, I am glad that all things sort so well.

   --Much Ado About Nothing, Act V, Scene IV

Went to the doctor yesterday for my heartburn, and he said I had a "classic case of acid reflux." That's not the greatest news in the world, in that I'll probably have to deal with this on and off for the rest of my life now, but I am happy to hear that it's classic. There's a clear program for dealing with it. I've had some other things where the doctors aren't quite sure what's going on, or how to treat it. That's worse.

But given that I'm trying to calm down my stomach, I've decided to avoid any unnecessary stress. So when Scott Hatteberg committed two errors on one play with the bases loaded yesterday, I turned off the TV. I knew right then and there the A's were going to get their butts kicked, and I didn't need the aggravation.

I probably shouldn't even watch any games at all this week, but that's probably not going to happen. I'm rather addicted to this sport, and it's hard to quit cold turkey.

Speaking of addictions, I hope that this article about amphetamines by Jeff Passan in the Kansas City Star is much ado about nothing, but I have questions.

Would any of the other players in that congressional hearing have gone into a Mark McGwire-like silent trance if they had been asked about greenies instead of just steroids?

How widespread is widespread? What percentage of Major League baseball players are addicted to amphetamines? What would happen to them if they were suddenly forced to stop taking them? Would they have withdrawal symptoms? Would their performances drop?

If clubhouses in the 90s had amphetamine-spiked coffee out in the open, the team doctors and management had to know about it, and tolerate it. Do they still tolerate amphetamines today? If not, when did they stop, and what prompted the change?

What if they only stopped this year, because of the steroid scandal? Would scoring go down? Or have pitchers popped greenies as much as hitters?

What if some teams stopped their tacit tolerance of amphetamines, and others didn't? Would the performance of those teams suffer unfairly in comparison to others?

When Brian Anderson says about public perception, "we're going to get slaughtered if the public buys into it," should we buy into it?

When Bud Selig says, "It is time to put the whispers about amphetamine use to bed once and for all," is he right? Is it time to cease our gossipy whispers, grab our torches and pitchforks, and come after these players with the shouts of an angry mob, hungry for the slaughter?

Or do we just let it slide, because thinking about it makes us sick to our stomachs?

Ken's Rants
2005-05-09 08:39
by Ken Arneson

I'm in a bad mood. Maybe it's this heartburn that's been bothering me for the last few days, or maybe it's because yesterday was Mother's Day, and my wife hates it when I yell at the TV, so to give her as nice a day as possible, I bottled all my negative emotions during yesterday's game, but now they're ready to burst. In any case, I need to vent, and that's partly the reason why I started this blog. The following is probably not particularly rational:

  • Memo to Fox Sports Net: I hate smoking as much as anyone, but the next time you show that anti-smoking ad with the chick who keeps saying "I'm not a smoker", I'm going to poke a fork through my eyeball sockets and scoop my brains out onto the floor. Must you show that thing every dang inning?

    Really, is it ethical to run ads that prevent lung cancer in some people, if it causes suicide in others?

  • Peter Gammons writes a rant about failing to plate runners from third with less than two outs that I wish I had written myself, since I've been screaming similar things at my TV for over a year now.

    The table Gammons uses tells it all. Only eight MLB teams have scored such runners less than 50% of the time. Only two have scored less than 40% of the time. The A's have scored less than 30% of the time: a .286 average as of last week (and almost certainly lower now after two straight shutouts).

    Gammons quotes Buck Showalter as saying "Too many hitters have no idea about a two-strike approach," which would definitely be part of my rant. But to those players on the A's who do have a two-strike approach, I'll add this: you don't have to wait until there's two friggin' strikes on you to use your two-strike approach. If there's a runner on third with less than two outs, or a runner on second and no outs, use your two-strike approach from the first pitch. Get a pitch to put in play, and put it in play. Don't swing for the fences, and don't hope for a pitch later in the AB that you can hit a home run with. You guys ain't hittin' home runs anyway.

    I've had a sneaking suspicion that this has been a fundamental flaw in the type of players Billy Beane likes to acquire. High-walk players just don't put the ball in play enough to drive in runs. Over on Baseball Prospectus, James Click has a study that puts some numbers behind this suspicion. It's subscription only, but I'll include a key quote:

    This doesn't mean that walks are a bad thing; it just means that teams with a disproportionate percentage of their baserunners coming on walks will have a higher percentage of their baserunners left on base than teams whose baserunners come from hits.

    In Beane's defense, I think he's come to realize this. His acquisitions of Mark Kotsay and Jason Kendall the last two offseasons shows that he does appreciate players who put the ball in play. But if the rest of the current A's roster can't do the job, Billy Beane should go and find some players who can. Because that .286 percentage is simply unacceptable. When something doesn't work, you try something else.

  • Speaking of Jason Kendall, I am not much impressed with his defense. Half his throws to second base don't even get there on the fly. Yesterday, he let two wild pitches go through his legs when he failed to turn his glove over and block the ball. And his hitting hasn't been all that great, either. If Macha is serious about his "players write the lineup" mantra, he's going to give Adam Melhuse some more chances to play.
  • I've seen enough of Eric Byrnes. His swing is so screwed up now that his biggest strength offensively is the HBP. Give me Charles Thomas, Matt Watson, Andre Ethier...anybody.
  • And finally, in the spirit of replacing things that don't work with things that do, I'll replace my jinx reverser with Cliff Corcoran's.

    The A's will get swept in Boston. The A's won't hit Wakefield or Arroyo at all while the Red Sox pound Haren and Saarloos. On Wednesday, Barry Zito will have more bad luck, as the A's may get some baserunners against Matt Clement, but as usual, they won't get a single clutch hit or productive out to drive in a run. Or as I said to Cliff Corcoran the other day when he predicted that Kevin Brown would give up 20 baserunners in a single inning against the A's, "That may be true, but even if the A's get 20 baserunners against Brown in one inning, they would still fail to score any runs."

Nice Trick, Cliff
2005-05-07 12:25
by Ken Arneson

Cliff pulled the old reverse jinx trick by predicting an A's sweep, thereby guaranteeing that it wouldn't happen.

It totally negated my recipe trick, and the A's went back to their pre-recipe-blog non-scoring ways, and lost 5-0.

Moreover, I think he's up to some other evil trick at this very moment, so to counteract him, I'm throwing out a triple dose of recipes:

First, here's where to get some jinx-removing root oil.

Then, we'll use the classic Egg Jinx Removing Spell.

And to invoke the power of Motherhood, and to prevent my powers from crumbling away, I'll throw in Mom's No-Crumble Nutbread.

That, plus a solid dose of Rich Harden ought to do the trick.

2005-05-06 21:57
by Ken Arneson

The A's beat the Yankees 6-3 in ten innings, but I'm not feeling pumped up about it like I usually do after beating them. This felt like a mid-August game between two teams in fourth place, not a tense battle between playoff-caliber clubs.

Barry Zito pitched well (although Macha left him in too long again), and the A's got a couple of home runs (home runs? what's that?) from Eric Byrnes and Bobby Kielty. But that's about it for the highlights. The rest of the game was ugly.

Used to be that you had to play your best mistake-free game to beat the Yankees. But tonight, the A's played sloppily, left a gazillion runners in scoring position again, and yet still won because the Yankees played even more sloppily than the A's.

The key play was in the bottom of the eighth inning where Octavio Dotel threw a terrible pitch behind Alex Rodriguez, which glanced off the glove of Jason Kendall, who then threw out Jorge Posada trying to advance to third base with two outs in a tie game. Just a horrible pitch, but an even more horrible baserunning mistake.

Then the Yankees played defense like a bunch of Little Leaguers in the top of the 10th, and handed the A's three runs. The A's tried their best to slop the game back to the Yankees in the bottom of the 10th, walking the leadoff man and dropping a pop fly, but the Yankees failed to capitalize, and the A's held on to win.

The Yankees failed to capitalize? I can't remember ever saying that before. Something weird is going on here. First the Red Sox break their curse, and now the Yankees can't get the lucky break they almost always seem to get. The Earth's magnetic North Pole and South Pole must be flipping upside down or something.

Therefore, I hereby declare that the recipe of the day is Broccoli and Cornmeal Upside-down Cake. What could be more appropriate than that?

Got Beer? Got Tacos?
2005-05-06 11:38
by Ken Arneson

Yesterday, as I started my car, my radio was tuned to 610 AM, the A's flagship station. 610AM has just switched from being an oldies station to religious (Christian) programming.

I have nothing against religious programming per se; some of my favorite films and music albums explore the relationship between God and man. My problem is that most of it just descends into trite, annoying clichés.

I was expecting the worst, either some bland Christian pop music like "You Light Up My Life", or some 700-Clubish "Democrats will burn in Hell" chatter. But I decided to keep an open mind and give the station a chance. To my surprise, I didn't turn the dial; the announcer was reading a story about the death of Aaron Burr.

That certainly got my curiosity up. Awooon Buuuhh! Awooon Buuuhh! (Can anyone hear the name Aaron Burr anymore without thinking of that commercial?) I wondered, why would a religious station discuss Aaron Burr?

It turns out the Aaron Burr in question was Aaron Burr, Sr., not Awooon Buuuhh, Jr. who was only a year old when his father died.

The story being read was not about Burr or Buuuhh; it was a biography of Burr's father-in-law (Buuuhh's grandfather), Jonathan Edwards. Edwards succeeded Burr, Sr. as President of Princeton University in 1758. (His term was brief; Edwards died just months later in a failed smallpox immunization attempt.)

Jonathan Edwards was a Calvinist Puritan preacher in a time when Puritanism was fading in popularity. Like any good Puritan preacher, he could deliver an effective fire-and-brimstone story, such as Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: are thus in the Hands of an Angry God; 'tis nothing but his mere Pleasure that keeps you from being this Moment swallowed up in everlasting Destruction.

In Edwards' era, Isaac Newton's physics and John Locke's philosophy were profoundly changing how people looked at the world God had created. Edwards, in his writings and sermons, attempted to merge these new ideas with his old Calvinist Puritan beliefs.

This, I suspect, is why the religious station was discussing the life of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards had many followers in his day, but over time, his philosophical theology faded along with Puritanism itself. But America is experiencing a bit of a neo-Puritan (i.e. Fundamentalist) revival these days, and his arguments now have a new audience who find them useful.

I knew nothing about any of this until I went home and looked up Edwards on the web. What fascinates me about this is that people in the 18th century were deep into the sort of beer-or-tacos, faith-or-rationalism debate that characterizes baseball today.

On the one hand, you have the old school: the 18th-century Puritans (21st-century scouts), who were deeply entrenched in a pre-scientific culture, had complete faith in their way of doing things, and utterly rejected the new knowledge. At the other end of the spectrum, you had those (some atheists and statheads) who rejected the old ideas as pure illogical nonsense, and would only tolerate rational arguments.

In between, you have a full spectrum of beliefs. There are some (Jonathan Edwards, Joe Morgan) who will acknowledge the new ideas as having some merit, yet still cling with a fierce determination to the old way of life. Others (Deists, Billy Beane) will acknowledge the mysteries to a small degree, but insist on behaving as if the universe is mostly rational. Most people fell somewhere in-between.

Interesting, too, that the most venomous debates were not between the purists on either end, but between the near-purists. We all know how much poison there is between the Joe Morgan camp and the Billy Beane camp. Similarly, Edwards had strong contempt for deists, who believe in God but not in miracles:

Edwards reveals the status of deists in his own mind when, in an unpublished sermon preached in 1731, he refers to "robbers, pirates and deists" with apologies to the robbers and pirates.

So don't expect the scouts vs. stats debate to end any time soon. If the history of faith vs. reason has shown us anything, the argument could last for centuries.

Bizarro Beane
2005-05-04 16:27
by Ken Arneson

When me say me want A's to shake up things, me not mean replace old A's with Bizarro A's.

Old A's park dry in May. Bizarro A's park rainy. Old A's score no runs, give up just a few. Bizarro A's score lots of runs, give up even more.

Me not like. Me wanted Bizarro Beane to turn worthless diamond into valuable coal. Not turn worthless solid diamond into worthless diamond dust. It still worthless.

Me must learn to be careful what me ask for.

Kitty Litter
2005-05-03 22:18
by Ken Arneson

This recipe for kitty litter cake is the most disgusting thing I've seen in a long time. Aside from the A's offense, of course.

The A's got shut out through 5 2/3 innings by Chris Young tonight. That's inexcusable. Not that Young can't have a good day every now and then, but tonight wasn't it. He wasn't painting the corners. He was constantly falling behind in the count. He was throwing 3-1, 87mph hit-me pitches down the middle of the plate, and the A's were fouling them off or popping them up. There are plenty of AA and AAA teams that wouldn't have been shut out by Chris Young tonight.

Shutting down the A's offense right now is incredibly simple: just throw the ball over the plate. Don't walk anybody, and chances are, the A's won't hurt you.

The A's were hitting like this in 2002, and in the middle of May, Billy Beane shook things up: he traded Jeremy Giambi, he demoted Carlos Pena and then traded him, too. They went on to win the division.

I'm sure Billy Beane is working the phones right now, seeing what his options are, so that perhaps in a week or three, he can do some shaking. Or perhaps, the A's will wake up and start hitting by then, so a shakeup won't be needed.

But a wakeup or a shakeup better come soon. I don't want to spend the next five months watching hitting like this. Frankly, I'd rather eat kitty litter.

2005-05-03 12:59
by Ken Arneson

One of my favorite things on the web are the "Elsewhere" entries over on 2 Blowhards. I'd really like to flatter them, so here's some imitation:

  • Zachary Manprin didn't like Eric Byrnes' diving catch on Saturday.
  • Over at Athletics Nation, they're discussing an Eric Byrnes-for-Reggie Sanders rumor. I don't know why St. Louis would do that. When you're kicking butt like the Cardinals are, you don't mess with your team.
  • The latest BP Postseason Odds Report shows the A's with a 29.4% chance of making the playoffs, slightly higher than the Angels' 28.75% chance. But here's the sad thing: the A's have an average of 78 wins in their simulations, the Angels 77. If the West was won by a sub-.500 team, it would be truly pathetic.
  • Rob McMillin expands on my list of satellite pictures of current ballparks, with a satellite tour of old ballparks.
  • Meanwhile, Marine Layer has both satellite and ground-level tours of possible future ballpark sites for the A's.

And finally, my four-year-old daughter offers her own satellite image of a future A's ballpark, apparently named 'Bank of America Field':

Some comments from the architect:

  • "I messed up on the batters boxes."
  • "Hatteberg is a really long word."
  • "Crosby is spelled 'Crows Bye'. That's really funny."
  • Her favorite recipe.

The Boss of My Brain
2005-05-01 21:46
by Ken Arneson

Philip Michaels offers this blog some recipe recommendations. I'm grateful, Philip. Although I'm not sure I can recommend the fish tacos. Isn't that a Padres thing?

I didn't see the A's game today. Went with the family to a Tom Chapin concert. If you're looking for good children's music that won't drive you insane with cliches, Tom Chapin's the guy. You may disagree, but it's a free country, and I am me, and you're not the boss of my brain.

It was a fun, entertaining day. After the show, we got to meet Chapin and his fellow performer Michael Mark (whose claim to fame is writing the theme song for Entertainment Tonight), and they couldn't have been nicer to the kids. And best of all, unlike the show at the Coliseum, we didn't have to witness somebody tear up their collarbone.

I guess we'll find out tomorrow how bad Nick Swisher is hurt. Swisher certainly hasn't been hitting much better than any of the other outfielders. So it's hard to say the A's will be missing his bat all that much.

Saturday, I was at the game and watched Swisher play first base, giving Scott Hatteberg a day off. This role may be where Swisher is missed the most.

Swisher looked pretty comfortable around first base. Hatteberg wore down at the end of last year because the A's had no adequate replacement at 1B. Durazo is a truly awful defensive first baseman. Kielty has played a little bit there, but I'm not sure he's much better. Maybe Keith Ginter ought to start taking some grounders at first. Otherwise, if Hatteberg gets nicked up and needs a couple of days off, we might end up seeing Dan Johnson.

But I'm guessing the A's will call up an outfielder, since none of them save Kotsay were hitting anyway. If the A's MLB site is to be believed, Matt Watson is the only other outfielder currently on the 40-man roster, so I'd call him the favorite. On the other hand, it also says the 40-man roster only has 37 players on it, so it could be someone else, like Jermaine Clark, who is a bit more versatile defensively.

On the positive side from Sunday's game: (a) the A's won, and (b) Barry Zito pitched well.

I'm still have some optimism about Zito; he had one bad game against Tampa, but otherwise has been pitching with a lot of bad luck. He's added a slurve, which he said on the post-game show today is really just his curveball thrown from a 10-to-4 instead of an 11-to-5 angle, which gives it a velocity in the upper 70s, instead of the high-60s-lower 70s with his curveball.

I've noticed this year that he's had a much greater variety of speeds on his pitches than in previous years. Before, he was just a three-pitch, three-speed pitcher. Now he has a larger palette of speeds and pitches to paint with. His fastballs used to be 86-89mph; now it varies between 82-89. His off-speed stuff was always 68-73; now that range is 68-79.

I've always felt that Zito's biggest problem is that didn't have enough ways to get somebody out if one of his pitches wasn't working. The more ingredients you have in your kitchen, the more creative you can be with your recipes.

It doesn't look like he has quite mastered his new tools yet, but give him time. The old dog of the A's pitching staff is still young enough at 26 to learn a few new tricks.

May Day!
2005-05-01 10:45
by Ken Arneson

Today is May Day, when Socialists across the globe get out and demonstrate for a more equitable distribution of wealth.

I'm not a socialist, but perhaps I should demonstrate for a more equitable distribution of PECOTA percentiles. Only three A's players are hitting above their 10% percentile projections for OPS:
NameavgobpslgopsNearest %
Mark Kotsay.323.382.444.82675%
Marco Scutaro.275.383.406.78975%
Mark Ellis.279.323.328.65125%
Scott Hatteberg.267.323.349.67110%
Jason Kendall.258.333.292.62510%
Erubiel Durazo.250.315.345.66010%
Nick Swisher.218.274.372.64610%
Eric Chavez.194.276.312.58810%
Bobby Kielty.
Eric Byrnes.192.276.346.62210%
Keith Ginter.176.263.382.64610%
Adam Melhuse.
Charles Thomas.

Not fair! We demand equality! 50% percentiles for all!

I am grateful the A's finished April with a 12-12 record and only one game out of first despite the injustice of Those Who Play Dice With The Universe. Otherwise, we might not just be protesting for justice. We might be calling for a revolution.

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