Monthly archives: November 2005
Don't Fear The Pumpkin
"We don't get the guys who are perfect...There has to be something wrong with them for them to get to us."
Esteban Loaiza signed with the A's. What's wrong with him?
Like some of Billy Beane's other past pitching acquisitions, such as Mike Fetters, Mike Magnante, Mike Holtz, Mark Redman, Arthur Rhodes, and Jay Witasick before him, there is a clear and definite risk that Esteban Loaiza could turn into a pumpkin at any moment.
Loaiza had a great year in 2003. He had a very good year in 2005. Unfortunately, he turned into a pumpkin in 2004. And before 2003, he was pretty much an average to below-average pitcher.
This is what both frightens and fascinates me about this signing. Beane is taking an extremely interesting gamble. Fate is a foolish thing to take chances with. It could pay off brilliantly, or it could completely blow up in his face.
To see how, let's start by looking at Loaiza's stats from the last six seasons:
Loaiza induces a lot of ground balls. This plays perfectly into the Oakland's excellent infield defense. Even if they got the mediocre Loaiza of 2000-2002, with DIPS ERAs hovering around 4.50, the A's defense could turn that into an actual ERA under 4.00. Witness the A's rotation in 2005:
The only pitcher on the entire 2005 A's pitching staff (starters and relievers) with a DIPS ERA higher than his actual ERA was Joe Kennedy (4.28 DIPS/4.45 ERA).
The other good thing about Loaiza is that he has rarely been hurt. Health is a useful skill. Although this could change, as Loaiza will turn 34 next month.
With all this information in hand, I can see three scenarios play out:
Which result will the A's get? Who knows? My first reaction was one of bewilderment, but I'm more at peace with the decision now than I was a few hours ago. Fate is the foolish thing. Take a chance!
The seasons don't fear the pumpkin
Or something like that...
A's to Sign Loaiza
According to Ken Rosenthal, the A's are about to sign Esteban Loaiza to a 3-year, $21 million deal.
This deal makes very little sense to me in isolation. It has to be part of some bigger plan.
I gotta run--I'll be back at 3pm PT and add some more comments.
Update #1: Dave Cameron at USS Mariner thinks the A's made a good deal.
Update #2: Blez likes it, Zachary doesn't (much).
Back again later. Busy day for me, sorry...
Those of you who blame Ken Macha for the A's September collapses of the last two seasons might want to look away.
By far, the toughest month of the A's 2006 schedule will be: September.
Here are the combined 2005 winning percentages of the A's 2006 opponents:
*The September total includes one game in October.
This is all subject to change, of course. Maybe Toronto and Tampa Bay will be the AL's best two teams next year, and August will be difficult. Maybe the last six series of the year (against the Twins, White Sox, Indians, Angels, Mariners, and Angels again) will end up being easy. Who knows?
But judging by 2005's results, if the A's are going to win a playoff spot in 2006, they better take advantage of that easy early schedule, get off to a fast start, and then nail that spot down in August. Because the last three weeks could be a dogfight.
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Signs I'm getting old:
* * *
Watching Billy Beane fill out the roster at Sacramento is one of my favorite offseason pleasures. He always manages to find some hidden gems to fill the A's depth chart with players who can provide above-replacement-level production.
This year, this show begins with the signing of Matt Roney as a free agent. I didn't know anything about him, but a quick look at his stats shows why the A's signed him. He had struggled as a starter for most of his career, but he responded well to a switch to the bullpen in 2005. His K/9 rate jumped from about 5.5 in 2004 to nearly 9.0 at AA and AAA in 2005. Worth a flyer, in case he turns out to have some Chad Bradford-type ROOGY usefulness. Even if he doesn't, having the depth at Sacramento is always a good thing.
* * *
The A's 40-man roster now stands at 38 players, after the A's added their Rule 5 protections (Herrera, Andre Ethier, and Shane Komine). Who are those last two roster spots being held open for? A trade perhaps?
Maybe one of them is being held for Ricardo Rincon, in case the A's manage to bring him back. But with the Yankees and Diamondbacks, among others, now rumored to be after Rincon's services, it's likely someone else will overpay for him.
* * *
Here's a weird thing: in the same Star-Ledger article which mentions the Yankees' interest in Rincon, it also claims that the Yankees asked Beane about Mark Kotsay:
A baseball official familiar with the Yankees' plans said they recently reached out to the Oakland A's to ask about the availability of center fielder Mark Kotsay. The official said the A's aren't opposed to moving Kotsay, but that talks stalled when Oakland asked about second baseman Robinson Cano and pitcher Chien-Ming Wang -- the two players everybody keeps asking the Yankees about.
Maybe. Or maybe talks stalled when somebody mentioned that Kotsay has a full no-trade clause through 2006, and might not want to go.
But Jay Payton doesn't have a no-trade clause. His $4 million salary is relatively cheap. His defensive numbers in center field are quite good. So why would the Yankees ask about Kotsay, and not about Payton?
* * *
Billy Beane can now realistically ask for the moon for Barry Zito, and expect to get it. The Red Sox gave up one of the Top 10 prospects in baseball, plus two really powerful young arms, in exchange for an injury-prone #1 starter, and a guy with a bloated contract coming off a terrible year.
Rich Lederer pointed out that Beckett's career ERA+ is 117, slightly below top tier. Zito's career ERA+ is 129.
So what's the asking price for a 27-year-old #1 starter with a reasonable contract who has never missed a single start in five years?
Beane has to be asking for at least the same as the Marlins' haul, if not more: one can't-miss top prospect, and two more real good ones. Certainly somebody will pony up that price, if not more, especially after some of the other pitchers come off the market.
* * *
And finally, the A's also announced their minor league coaching staffs for 2006. Nothing particularly interesting in the hires they listed. But there is one noticeable hole: there is no manager in Vancouver, the A's short-season affiliate.
Think maybe that job is being held open for Washington resident Scott Hatteberg?
Seems to be the perfect fit. A's executives love the guy, and want to keep him in the organization. At the same time, if Hatteberg is going to retire from playing, he would probably like to stay close to home. I'd wager that if Hatteberg isn't on a major league roster come opening day, he'll be driving across the border to coach the Canadians come June.
* * *
Younger men than I are now retiring and becoming coaches. Yup, I'm officially old.
AI on Zito
My R&D into creating automated blog entries continues. Today, I had a conversation with an online artificial intelligence about the idea of trading Barry Zito.
Ken: Do you think Billy Beane should trade Barry Zito?
We're getting closer. By opening day, I'm confident that Baseball Toaster will be fully automated.
If too much time elapses between any tasty morsels of A's news, I start to suffer from withdrawal pains. In the absence of real A's news, I find myself making up fake A's news, instead.
I'm not sure that's a healthy thing to do.
So it was a relief to find my A's season ticket invoice in my mailbox yesterday. For a few hours, I had something concrete to think about.
* * *
As expected, the third deck and the upper levels of Mount Davis have indeed disappeared from the Coliseum map. Here are the ticket prices being offered:
The Plaza Level is now split into four sections, each with different prices: Outfield, Infield, Club, and...um...Spade? The Outfield sections are the four sections furthest from home plate. The "Spade" sections are next five sections over.
Field Level remains unchanged. Well, except for the fact the price has gone up $2. Groan.
* * *
The cover of the invoice package has photos of four 2005 rookies: Huston Street, Nick Swisher, Dan Johnson, and Joe Blanton. I kinda get the feeling that in the offseason, the A's marketing department is very careful not to heavily promote any players Billy Beane might trade.
Hence, Barry Zito, the team's biggest star, has only a partially obscured photo in the brochure. And when he is mentioned in the text, it is in the middle of a paragraph, the ninth player listed out of thirteen.
* * *
It's pretty clear that Beane is shopping Zito. Peter Gammons has mentioned it, and Ken Rosenthal just wrote that with A.J. Burnett getting offered $50 million by Toronto already, the odds are pretty good that someone will meet Beane's asking price.
* * *
Trade rumors drive some people nuts. It's just the opposite for me. I need them. In times of drought, they quench my thirst for baseball stories to contemplate. They exercise my mind, keep it active. They give me a kind of jigsaw puzzle to solve: do the rumored pieces actually fit together?
For example, I heard a wild fourth-hand rumor that the Mike Cameron-for-Xavier Nady trade involved Barry Zito, possibly headed for San Diego. I didn't believe it because (a) the rumor mentioned Brian Giles, who is a free agent, and (b) it mentioned Adam Eaton, whom I can't imagine the A's wanting, and (c) the Padres' farm system is pretty much devoid of players who would be worth giving up Barry Zito for. The Padres don't really have what the A's want.
So these particular puzzle pieces didn't really fit together. Even though Bobby over at A's Future recently had a Padres deal as one of his daily Zito trades, I can't see Zito ending up in San Diego unless there's a third team involved.
But suppose, just for fun, that there's an element of truth in this rumor. Not that Zito is going to San Diego, but that the Cameron-Nady trade is the first domino to fall in a series of events that results in Zito getting traded. If that were the case, I'd guess Nady ends up in Florida in the rumored Carlos Delgado deal with the Mets, after which the Gammons rumor of Zito-for-Lastings Milledge could happen.
But why would the A's-Mets trade hinge on the Mets-Marlins trade? I can only think of two reasons: (1) money (they Mets can't afford Zito's salary unless the Marlins pay some of Delgado's), or (2) some player from Florida would be coming over to Oakland. Who could that be? The Marlins have several good prospects. Or perhaps it is John Danks, who is reportedly about to be sent from Texas to Florida in the Josh Beckett-Hank Blalock trade.
Danks and Milledge for Zito? That's a price I think Billy Beane might be willing to pay. But that scenario doesn't really make sense. Why would Florida send a prospect to the Mets along with Carlos Delgado? The Marlins should be receiving prospects, not giving them up.
It's gotta be the money, then. Perhaps the Marlins are willing to pay some of Delgado's salary only if they can unload Mike Lowell's salary, first. Once the Lowell trade goes down, the Delgado trade can go down, clearing enough space in the Mets' budget for a Zito-for-Milledge trade.
* * *
See? This is what I'm talking about. There I go again, making up fake news, because I'm just not getting enough of the real thing. It's wrong, I know, but I simply cannot help myself.
How long until spring training starts again?
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For you Dodger fans out there who fear that new GM Ned Colletti does not adhere to sabermetric principles, I advise you to think again.
There has been no organization in baseball history that believes more strongly in the sabermetric principle of TINSTAAPP than the Giants of recent vintage.
Dodger fans can now expect that every single pitching prospect they have will be traded for some sort of average major-league talent. Every. Single. One.
That sounds worse than it actually is. Sure, every once in a while you'll give up a Joe Nathan, or a Francisco Liriano--a pitching prospect that actually turns into a good pitcher. But more often than not, you'll be getting a legitimate big leaguer in exchange for some kid who won't ever get more than a cup of coffee. Wouldn't you rather have three years of Livan Hernandez than six years of Jason Grilli and Nate Bump?
* * *
And if you're an A's fan...shhhhh...keep a low profile...Chad Billingsley could be in an Oakland uniform any day now...
And Gets Out Laughing
Editor's Note: Baseball Toaster aims to provide the highest quality writing at the lowest possible cost. In that spirit, we are excited to announce that Ken Arneson has been replaced by a computer program. The software takes his previous Catfish Stew articles, and reconfigures them into new ones. We think you will agree that the difference is negligible.
I need some intense anticipation!
Huston Street's delivery was only managed to fall into shape, and I was tipping his firm stance and better than the best lottery tickets with a pumpkin.
His slider across, the A's had it as a Surf Dawg employee came in from straightaway left field bleachers with minor league pitcher with some mosquito bites followed with a perfect.
The setup is to see Rickey sized up by the choir invisible hand have really worried. Walks off the teams, get the best hitter, Rickey stole second straight Outta Town.
Listen, matey, I think that he wants a chance to do which would you dissolve in excruciating fashion by Byrnes was a desire to the game will apparently from.
* * *
I'm trying to deal with powder.
Perhaps you are a broken bat nearly seven feet tall, too, and there's any giant robot.
That's what my neck almost won--Brian Sabean's distrust of Japan.
* * *
My five-year-old takes Durazo's pitch to discuss it up, so we don't actually do win on his hitting homers in the A's team, and let up a Nick Swisher Thomas.
They're really paying Durazo and saying, "He can just have miraculous streaks." And so high! Let me, when Viola from Ingmar Bergman's The Dodgers coasts to buy a very difficult-to-bench Ellis, score above median.
In Swedish, the last place (not my lesson from Tommy Lasorda, which will shake without back-to-plan) can get used for strikes is on the other usual dominant self.
If Murphy has become the baseball and Martin Scorsese's new reliever throughout the same way, I am not just in baseball a star among stars.
No more ideal than an art is unlikely, to second and trusted in the laws of Jason Kendall--wow, he's trying to Star Wars film based at first game started!
* * *
Looks like this type than the first MLB Heavyweight Champs. King complains about the kind of those moments that aren't too slow to you, and Angelball began looking at Hi Corbett Field here.
The Angels are very frustrating about Torii Hunter his 37th opening day, every strong contempt for him and Yabu ends up to fall for a European shotputter?
That's just way too 9-4...
If Lackey's age and fielding gaffes all goes eight deep, enough A's do some reason but the style is just stupid stupid stupid ape. A couple of people and Jason Giambi will cause me damn parasites!
* * *
Rich Harden: Dan Haren has the agenda. You grind their outfits in the agenda!
Barry Zito gives up spots in his pitch-by-pitch data knower. Now we're going into account that Bonds Barry Zito lost 3-2 in a surface-level reason I had lost 19 in weak grounders to be an Angry God we about.
And gets out laughing?
A Ramble of Artificial Scarcity
Oh, those pesky subatomic particles!
Newtonian physics made perfect sense for centuries. But then all these subatomic particles came along, and started screwing up Newton's laws. Thankfully, Einstein came along in 1905 to restore order to the chaos with a simple equation.
100 years later, those subatomic particles are at it again. Electrons and photons are now criss-crossing our planet at breathtaking rates over this thing we call the Internet. And again, these troublesome particles are messing with laws of nature that have functioned so well for so long.
This time, they're not messing up the laws of Newton, they're messing up the laws of supply and demand.
In physics, as you approach the speed of light, strange things happen. Your mass increases, and time slows down to almost zero.
Time slows down? Really? That's just plain bizarre.
On the Internet, as the costs of bandwidth starts approaching zero, the cost of distributing data also approaches zero, and the supply of any given piece of data approaches infinity.
Just as Newtonian physics breaks down when a mass approaches the speed of light, the laws of supply and demand start to break down when the supply approaches infinity.
For centuries, supply and demand have worked quite well in regulating and optimizing people's behavior. But online, it all falls apart.
I just spent several hours yesterday extracting all the referer spam that has cluttered up our server logs. That time is a cost to me. Wouldn't it make more sense if the manufacturer of this referer spam had to pay that cost?
In the real world, the cost of marketing a product is absorbed by the manufacturer, and passed on to its customers in a sale. Online, costs can be transferred to potential customers, even without a sale.
That's just as bizarre a concept as time slowing down.
* * *
Of course, traditional businesses hate this development. They're fully invested in the laws of supply and demand. They don't understand what to do when it breaks down.
But who does? Where is our new Einstein? Who can make sense of the economics of online business? Where is our E=mc2?
The initial response to this by the business world has been to try to limit supplies by creating artificial scarcities. Go try to download and pay for a copy of Microsoft Office without receiving a physical product. You can't do it (at least not legally). To this day, Microsoft makes you buy a physical box with physical CDs. There's no technical reason why this needs to be the case.
The record labels and movie studios are resisting opening up their content to unlimited supplies, as well. ESPN.com is increasingly moving its content behind a paid "insider" firewall.
Creating artificial scarcities are usually frowned upon in free markets, as they are the purview of monopolies. People hate monopolies, and they hate artificial scarcities, as they jack up prices beyond what the traditional laws of supply and demand would dictate. Nobody likes their prices to go up, especially when someone makes them go up on purpose.
There's a lot of anger directed at Microsoft, at the record labels and movie studios, at ESPN.com, all of whom who have products that can be distributed in almost infinite supply and at almost no cost. But they want to make money. What else can they do? The infinite supply drives prices down to zero. There's no Einstein around to give them a better equation to use.
The alternative is to embrace the zero price. Reading blogs is free. Open source software is free. But the methods for turning a product that costs nothing into a big business is not very well understood. Many businesses are gravitating toward a tiered approach: provide some services for free, and limit access to others, for a price. Is that the ideal approach?
Nobody knows. We're all just wandering around here, stumbling in the dark, hoping through trial and error to make just the smallest business work, waiting for some Einstein to come along and turn on the light.
* * *
Which brings us to the Oakland Athletics portion of today's programming.
It seems the A's are planning to close off the entire upper deck for the 2006 season. Perhaps only to season tickets, perhaps only for certain games, it's not clear. But what is clear is this: the A's want to create an artificial scarcity.
Unless the Yankees, Red Sox, or Giants are in town, the A's seating supply may just as well be infinite as 50,000+. Just like on the Internet, unlimited supplies drive prices down to almost zero (or $1-$2, in the case of Double Play Wednesdays). Many people stayed away on Monday and Tuesday nights to buy the cheaper tickets on Wednesdays. Creating an artificial scarcity to drive prices back up, making capacity about 35,000 instead of 48,000, is certainly an interesting experiment to try.
That has some people hopping mad, of course. Making people angry is always a consequence of choosing to implement an artificial scarcity.
Lew Wolff has a lot of goodwill with the fans right now, but this move puts that goodwill at risk, if it isn't handled right.
Handling it right won't take an Einstein. It ain't rocket science. The A's just need to be transparent on this issue, so they don't come across as just greedy money-grubbers. Transparency == trust.
Lew Wolff should come out and quickly and honestly say something like, "We're going to try an experiment. We don't know if it will work, but we think it might. We want to increase advance ticket purchases and increase revenues, so we can keep as many good players as we can. Some of you third-deck denizens won't like being displaced, of course. We're sorry about that, and we'll try to make it up to you somehow, and accomodate you as best we can for your inconvenience. If it doesn't work, we'll go back to opening the third deck in 2007. You'll get first dibs if we do."
And then see what happens.
On Bartolo Colon's Cy Young
I am annoyed.
I'm almost 40 now, and I've gone through the whole mid-life crisis thing, and if there's anything valuable that I got out of that crap, it's this, my new personal motto:
Like what you like.
I suppose that's just a variation of Joseph Campbell's "follow your bliss", but sometimes you gotta put things in your own words for it to really make sense to you.
Don't have guilty pleasures. Just have pleasures. You are who you are, and you like what you like, and as long as you're not hurting anyone else, don't apologize.
It's much, much harder than it sounds. There's so much crap in our lives, so many pressures coming from here and there, to think this, and want that, and do the other. If liking what you like wasn't so hard, it wouldn't be so rare to find someone who actually lives their life that way.
As I read all the stories about Bill King's passing, the saddest part of all of it was the realization that King probably personified this philosophy better than anybody in the history of the planet.
Bill King deserves his own religion. Seriously.
And so as I begin my attempt at King discipledom, I find myself increasingly annoyed at those who try to stop me from liking what I like, or try to stop other people from liking what they like.
Which leads us to Bartolo Colon.
I am not annoyed that Bartolo Colon won the Cy Young. I am annoyed at the namecalling that has emerged over the choice. Words like "idiots" and "insane" are flying around the blogosphere. That's exactly the kind of "don't-like-what-you-like" crap that BillKingism teaches us we need to throw out of our lives.
Listen: Awards are not measurements. Awards are celebrations.
Suppose there's a $1,000,000 lottery drawing tonight. The tickets are hidden on a baseball field. JS manages to find 4,000 hidden lottery tickets, and BC manages to find only one. JS has 3,999 more chances to win than BC. But somehow, BC wins the lottery, anyway! JS is clearly, and by far, the best lottery player. BC just got lucky.
But at this point, the relevant question to ask is not, "who was the best lottery player?" The question is: "whose party do you want to attend tonight?"
That question has nothing to do with logic, statistics, or probabilities. The time for being rational has passed. The question is now about celebration and fun. Perhaps you choose to celebrate the rational choice, and you think that logic is fun, and that's fine. But lots of things can be fun, logic being only one of them, and one shouldn't be belittled for picking one of the others.
I am not saying I agree with the choice of Bartolo Colon for Cy Young. If I had to play the 2005 season over again, and I could pick one pitcher, I'd pick Johan Santana. If I had to celebrate one pitcher for the 2005 season, I would choose Mariano Rivera. This was a truly remarkable season in a truly remarkable career, and I think he deserves a party more than anyone.
But if some people prefer to celebrate the player who had the most wins in the American League, I'm not going to call those people names. If people like wins, they should be free to like wins. More power to them. Like what you like, people. There's nothing to apologize for.
Two ROYs In A Row
For the second year in a row, the A's have the AL Rookie of the Year. Huston Street follows up Bobby Crosby's win from last year.
It also marks the fourth year in a row that the AL Rookie of the Year is a product of the A's farm system. 2003 winner Angel Berroa was traded to Kansas City in the Johnny Damon/Mark Ellis trade, while 2002 winner Eric Hinske was traded to Toronto for Billy Koch.
Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher finished tied for sixth. Dan Johnson did not receive any votes. I would have voted for Johnson before Swisher, but I guess Swisher gives the writers who vote on this award better quotes or something.
I do agree with the writers giving the award to Street. Yeah, Blanton had a higher VORP, but Street came in and did something special. Was there any reliever in the American League, with the possible exception of Mariano Rivera, who was better than Street last year? Blanton established himself as a solid pitcher, but Street showed himself to be an elite one. It's a rare achievement, and very much worthy of celebration.
In 1986-88 the A's won three straight ROYs: Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Walt Weiss. It was also a sign of good things to come; with that core of young players in place, the A's went on to win three straight pennants.
That worked out quite well. Hey, let's do it again. Daric Barton, anyone? Andre Ethier? Dan Meyer?
Yipes! The Witasick deal is for two guaranteed years, plus an option for a third after all.
Still, if you include the option buyout, the deal is
* * *
Speaking of guaranteeing two years, remember the two-year deal the A's gave Mike Holtz in 2002? Two years, $1.8 million. The dude lasted two months, then got cut.
Relievers are like that. They can be unhittable one year, and awful the next. The Dodgers traded Guillermo Mota in 2004 because they had Yhency Brazoban in the wings. 2005: they both sucked.
And then there are these two words: Arthur Rhodes.
So I'm gunshy about relievers. So here's really hoping the A's don't offer two years to Ricardo Rincon. Rincon will turn 36 next year. He looks like could fall off the proverbial career cliff any time now. I'd be very surprised if he has two good years left. One year, maybe, but I think he's approaching the end of the line.
* * *
Speaking of done, the A's declined the option on Scott Hatteberg. Good move. Not sure what took so long. Were they really considering keeping him? Hatteberg is a likeable guy, but he is of no use to the A's anymore. Johnson has the 1B job, and Swisher can back him up there. There are plenty of other players who can put up better numbers as the team DH. Hatteberg can still put up a fightin' AB, but there's no jump off his bat anymore. The best use for him might be to sit on some National League bench somewhere and be a pinch-hit specialist. But with all the stathead GMs losing their jobs lately, who's gonna hire him?
* * *
Speaking of hiring, the A's have hired a new hitting coach: Gerald Perry. The impressive part of his resume is that he was the Mariners' hitting coach during their peak offensive years from 2000-2002.
The last three years, however, he's been the hitting coach in Pittsburgh, where he's had some hitters, like Brian Giles, Jason Bay, and (most importantly) Jason Kendall have success under him, but the talentless team as a whole has struggled to score runs.
Which goes to show two things, if nothing else:
Perry may not do miracles, but at least he probably won't screw anybody up. If he can do anything beyond that, it's gravy.
Perry has some fight in him. He got into a scuffle with Dave Duncan before a game back in August. That's OK with me. Baseball ain't hockey, but you still like to see someone in your dugout who's got your back, and is willing to do some enforcing. That seemed to be missing this year in Oakland without the likes of Tejada and Hudson.
* * *
Speaking of coaches in dugouts, the A's did some shuffling. Rene Lachemann is now the first base coach, Brad Fischer is now the bullpen coach, and Bob Geren is now the bench coach. Why, I don't know, but when Ken Macha demands something, by golly, Ken Macha gets it every time. Or something like that...
STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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