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Monthly archives: March 2006


A's Trade Bynum, Receive Time In Return
2006-03-31 21:19
by Ken Arneson

This trade is kinda weird at first glance. Do you really want the Rangers' rejects?

Well, maybe. Justin Duchscherer worked out OK.

But I think this trade makes more sense if you look at the last two trades as one trade. Then you get this:

Brad Halsey = John Rheinecker (finesse lefty), only two years younger.
Juan Dominguez = Juan Cruz (hard-throwing righty with control issues), only two years younger.
Freddie Bynum = the price to add two years to the careers of two of their pitchers.

So they essentially traded Freddie Bynum for four player years. It's not sexy, but I guess it has value.

My RealSeason Predictions (Trademark)
2006-03-31 10:23
by Ken Arneson

We did some internal preseason predictions, which Bob Timmermann has summarized here. Most people just predict the standings, by measuring the relative team strengths and talent levels. I, on the other hand, do RealSeason Predictions™. Real seasons don't play out to the true talent levels of the teams involved. RealSeason Predictions™ come complete with injuries and trades and surprises and magic and luck, both good and bad, just like reality. So here we go:

AL West: Angels, A's (WC), Rangers, Mariners.

Everyone thinks the Angels will have great pitching but have trouble scoring. The converse will be true. One or more of their top 7 pitchers (5 starters, Shields, KRod) will get hurt, and the dropoff will be painful. So they'll trade Adam Kennedy for a pitcher, promote one or more of their young studs, and then they'll be better than ever. The A's and the Angels will end up tied for the best record in the American League, but the A's will lose the tiebreaker. The Rangers will be in the race until August when they'll suddenly go on an untimely losing streak and fall out of the race. The Mariners will be respectable, as well, but their total lack of pitching depth will doom them. They're in the wrong division.

AL Central: Tigers, Indians, Twins, White Sox, Royals.

The Indians will lead the division all year until September, when once again, they will choke down the stretch. The Tigers, Twins, and White Sox will all be lurking, hanging around, waiting for their opportunity. One of them goes on a lucky hot streak at just the right time, and it's the Tigers. The Twins and White Sox will be muttering wouldifs all winter, both thinking they should have won the division, if only that one little bad break had gone differently. The Royals...forget it.

AL East: Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Devil Rays, Orioles.

The Yankees will win 94 games, and win the division by eight games. The Blue Jays and Red Sox will battle for second place, but not for the division title. This race will be over early. The Red Sox collapse will be surprising. Their pitching will not perform up to expectations, and their ability to hit in the clutch will magically disappear. "Oh no, not another strikeout with the bases loaded!" will be groaned throughout New England all summer. Tampa Bay will almost, but not quite, catch up to Boston at the end, while the Orioles will finish dead last, after they trade half their team away in July.

NL West: Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Padres, Giants, Rockies

The division will be close until July, when the Dodgers call up some of their young pitchers to round out the bullpen. After that, they'll go on a long hot streak and bury the competition. The race will be over by September 1. The Dbacks will finish just a tad over .500, the Padres and Giants just a tad under. The Rockies will be the Rockies.

NL Central: Cardinals, Brewers (WC), Astros, Cubs, Pirates, Reds

The Brewers and Cardinals will be neck and neck until July, when the Cardinals make a couple big trades that boost them to the title, while the Brewers stick to their young knitting. Still, the Brewers will eke out the wild card over the Mets. The Astros will start out very slowly, leading Roger Clemens to decide to stay home for good. The Astros come back, but it'll be too late. The Cubs will fall victim to Murphy's Law, as usual. The Pirates won't win, but they won't be embarrassing to watch, which is more than we can say for the Reds.

NL East: Braves, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Nationals

The Braves will win by default. Pedro Martinez will get hurt, and the Mets pitching will suck, as will their defense. Too bad. The Phillies will win the division if you measure by Pythagorean records, but mysteriously finish in third place in the real thing. Mike Carminati will run 54 different SQL queries trying to figure out how this could happen. The Marlins and Nationals will be punching bags.

ALDS: A's vs. Yankees: Normally, the A's would win, because the team with the fewest errors in the regular season wins 2/3 of all Division Series. This is a 1/3. Some A's player will find yet another creative way to commit an unbelievable brain fart, and the Yankees will win in five.

Angels vs. Tigers: Tigers are just happy to be here. Angels win.

NLDS: Cardinals vs. Dodgers: By the time the playoffs come around, Scott Rolen is at full strength. The Dodgers can't hit a single ball past him. Cardinals win.

Brewers vs. Braves. The Braves new home vs. their old one. The Brewers give away one out too many in the field. Braves win.

ALCS: Yankees vs. Angels. Angels win, just because the Angels always beat the Yankees in the playoffs.

NLCS: Cardinals vs. Braves. Cardinals. Just because this is what happens to the Braves in the playoffs.

World Series: Cardinals vs. Angels. Tony LaRussa-managed series never go the distance. Sweep or be swept. This time, the Cardinals come out on top in their spiffy new digs, in the bloodiest looking World Series of all time.

A First Glance at Jered Weaver
2006-03-31 08:39
by Ken Arneson

I got blessed with tickets to the Giants-Angels game at SBCAT&T Park last night. There weren't any ferries for this game, so we drove. We left kinda late. The Bay Bridge was all backed up. It took half an hour just to get to the toll plaza from my house; it normally takes about ten minutes. I didn't arrive at the park until the third inning.

In the fifth inning, it started to pour. They called the game in the sixth. Kind of a waste of time, but at least I got to see the Angels' top pitching prospect, Jered Weaver, for a few innings with my own two eyes instead of Rich Lederer's.

I particularly enjoyed watching him take on Barry Bonds for an at-bat. That was fun. Bonds flied to left in his first plate appearance, while I was still on the bridge.

In Bonds' second plate appearance, Weaver fell behind 2-0. Gotta figure Bonds was sitting fastball. Weaver threw a really nice slider instead, and Bonds took it for a called strike one. Weaver had been throwing fastballs all evening around 91-92 mph, and I figured Bonds was still sitting on it. If he threw another one, I was sure Bonds would crush it. Sure enough, Weaver does throw him a fastball, but he suddenly cranks the dial all the way up to 96, and Bonds fouls it off straight back.

Next two pitches were just off the plate, the kind of pitches that only a batter with a great eye like Bonds lays off. Bonds walked. Still, I was impressed. Weaver was pitching. He struck out the next batter, Pedro Feliz, by dropping down sidearm and throwing him a changeup. Wow. Feliz swung feebly and missed, completely fooled.

Physically, Jared Weaver looks an awful lot like his brother. He's tall and gangly, and I can imagine he'll have days where all those long appendages don't quite synch up as well as they did last night.

Stylistically, however, he reminded me not so much of his brother as of Tim Hudson. They're physical opposites--Hudson is probably about eight inches shorter than Weaver--but the way Weaver just seemed to invent new pitches out of nowhere against Bonds and Feliz was quite Hudsonesque. They both use a low-90s fastball, and mix in a bunch of other stuff--sliders, curves, changeups. Weaver, like Hudson, doesn't seem to have that dominant #1 starter stuff, like a Johan Santana, Rich Harden, or Felix Hernandez. But he has such a diverse arsenal of weapons, he's clearly capable of being a solid #2 starter for a long time to come. Look out AL West.

The Rumor That Will Not Die
2006-03-30 14:08
by Ken Arneson

I'm almost done with an insanely long post that covers about just about everything on the planet except the Oakland A's. So to compensate for that, here's some juicy A's news: the Barry Zito-to-the-Mets rumor is back on the grill. (Hat tip).

We know Billy Beane has been working the phones because of the Freddie Bynum-out-of-options conundrum. Some roster move needs to be made pretty soon. But this idea sounds absolutely insane. Trading your opening day starter just days before his start? For a couple of minor leaguers? On a team that envisions itself as a World Series contender? I doubt it.

The only way I see Zito getting traded at this point is if he brings something in return that either (a) improves the A's for this season (a slugger), or (b) brings someone back who can provide a reasonable facsimile of Zito for the near term, and improves the A's in the long term. The speculated-upon Lastings Milledge-Brian Bannister package seems like neither.

A Zito trade would have made more sense before the Mets traded all their best prospects this winter. If you look at PECOTA projections, new Athletic Brad Halsey has more value than any remaining Mets prospect except Milledge. I find it hard to imagine Halsey headed to the Mets and getting good value in return, let alone Zito.

I'll be floored if anything happens in the next few days besides a Freddie Bynum trade. He had a great spring and made himself quite tradable. Thanks, Freddie. We'll be happy with whatever price you bring.

Update: Sources inform me the Zito rumor is false. Bynum is still being shopped, however.

A's Trade Cruz for Halsey
2006-03-26 12:36
by Ken Arneson

The A's traded Juan Cruz to Arizona for Brad Halsey today. At first glance, it's a bit of a head-scratcher. Does this really improve the A's?

You look at Juan Cruz, with his impressive stuff, and his dominant numbers in AAA, and you think he should be a star. You hate to give up on him. But with the exception of one good year in Atlanta, it hasn't happened. He's been hit pretty hard in the majors. He's 27 now, and there isn't room for him on the A's roster. His trade value probably isn't going to get any higher than it is right now.

So the A's get Brad Halsey, who has some advantages over Cruz:

  1. He's two years younger than Cruz.
  2. He has more options remaining than Cruz.
  3. He's cheaper than Cruz.
  4. The A's will control his rights longer than Cruz.
  5. He might be a better pitcher than Cruz.
  6. He's more left-handed than Cruz.

If the A's do have an opening on their 25-man roster, it's for a left-handed relief specialist. Halsey has been a starter, but he does has some pretty nifty career numbers against left-handed batters: a .245 batting average against, and a 1.14 WHIP. If they decide not to use him as a reliever, he provides pitching depth at Sacramento, and another option to replace Barry Zito when he departs to free agency next year.

PECOTA projects Halsey to be worth about four more wins over the next five years than Cruz. Here's a comparison of their projected Wins Above Replacement Player:

Year    Cruz    Halsey
2006    1.5     2.9
2007    1.7     2.7
2008    1.5     1.9
2009    1.2     1.8
2010    0.9     1.7
Total   6.9    11.0

Halsey's not a great talent, but he is a useful role player. With this trade, the A's get a better, younger, cheaper player who can potentially fill more roster holes for the A's than the player they lose. Unless Cruz suddenly matures into the player people thought he could become but never did, what's not to like?

* * *

Just as I type this, Frank Thomas hits a monster home run in his second Cactus League AB. What's not to like?

Javier Herrera, meet Tommy John
2006-03-22 13:58
by Ken Arneson

According to Baseball America, the A's #2 prospect, Javier Herrera, will miss the 2006 season with Tommy John surgery.

Rats. I had a feeling the A's were overdue for some bad news. Well, at least this bad news doesn't hurt the major league club much in 2006. How much missing a year will hurt Herrera's progress is another matter.

Question: suppose you could choose between Herrera and Daric Barton as to which one would miss a year of development with injury. Which one would you choose? The toolsy guy (Herrera) or the plate discipline guy (Barton)? Which type of player is hurt the most by losing a year of development?

Grasping At Loogies
2006-03-20 11:12
by Ken Arneson

Has a team ever had a more boring spring training than the 2006 A's? No roster battles, no job battles, no major injuries, just a few minor ones that seem nothing to worry about. I guess I can worry that some of the starting pitchers, like Joe Blanton and Dan Haren, aren't pitching that well. But I don't.

Ken Rosenthal tries to worry me with this:

The A's lack of a proven situational left-hander is perhaps their only glaring weakness. Joe Kennedy figures to be more of a multiple-inning reliever than a left-on-left specialist, and unlike the Angels of recent seasons, the A's don't have hard-throwing right-handers to counter lefties in the middle innings.

Thus, it will be more difficult for the A's to match up against the top left-handed hitters in the division: the Angels' Garret Anderson and Casey Kotchman, the Rangers' Hank Blalock and Brad Wilkerson, the Mariners' Ichiro and Raul Ibanez.

Sorry, I'm not falling for that worry, either. Last year, Anderson, Ichiro, and Wilkerson each actually had a better OPS against LHP last year than RHP. In fact, Ichiro and Wilkerson both have a higher OPS vs. LHP for their entire careers. The only lefty hitters in the division who seem to have abnormally large career splits are Blalock and Matt Lawton. If having Justin Duchscherer or Kiko Calero face Blalock or Lawton in a game-critical situation is the A's biggest problem, well, golly, it's going to be a really good season.

But the fact that Rosenthal is dropping hints, and Ken Macha has done likewise, makes me suspect that even if another lefty isn't a pressing need, if there's a decent deal out there to be made, the A's might be tempted. The spring training trade flurry has begun, with teams making final roster shufflings before opening day, so perhaps something will happen soon.

If nothing else, the A's need to figure out what to do with Freddie Bynum, who is out of options. The A's are pretty much forced to trade him, it seems, as I doubt a team like the Marlins would let Bynum pass through waivers without claiming him. You wonder if the A's can even get anything for Bynum, since they're backed in a corner with him, but the A's were in such a situation a few years ago with Chad Harville, and ended up getting Kirk Saarloos for him. That turned out pretty well, all things considered.

* * *

By the way, in researching this entry I found an interesting quirk. Check out the Mariners roster. Every single one of their listed catchers and infielders bats right handed. Every single one of their listed outfielders bats left handed.

Carl Everett is a switch hitter, but he's separated out by being listed as a DH. I guess Mike Morse can play some outfield, and Ibanez can play first base, but all in all, it looks like the Mariners won't be doing much platooning this year.

Update: Maybe this is why the Mariners just traded for Joe Borchard, a switch hitter.

A's WBC Recap
2006-03-16 19:56
by Ken Arneson

With Mexico and the USA eliminating each other tonight, all four of the A's players involved in the World Baseball Classic are now done. Here's how they did:

Marco Scutaro, Venezuela. 0-for-4, 1 BB, 1 run.
Esteban Loaiza, Mexico. 9 IP, 5 runs, 10 hits, 5 BB, 4 SO.
Kiko Calero, Puerto Rico. 3 1/3 IP, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 BB, 1 SO.
Huston Street, USA. 3 IP, 0 runs, 0 hits, 2 BB, 2 SO.

Both Street and Calero were outstanding. Loaiza had one good outing (against Canada), and one bad one (against Japan). Scutaro hardly played at all, but hopefully, he'll get used to that.

* * *

I have an opening for one or three teams (not two--it's a head-to-head league and you need an even # of teams) in a Yahoo fantasy baseball league. If anyone wants to play, email catfish AT zombia d.o.t. com, and I'll send you an invite.

It's a very low-key, casual league.

Update: League is full now. Thanks.

March Weirdness
2006-03-13 23:39
by Ken Arneson

I haven't posted anything in over a week. I have an explanation.

On Saturday, I bowled snowballs. Here. In the Bay Area.

snowball bowling

Today, I went ice skating. Again, here. In the Bay Area.

And as I write this, it's pouring outside. It's been raining all month. Rain rain rain. We're about to meet our monthly precipitation average for March, and March isn't half over yet.

It's clear what is happening. Without Bill King's voice, spring does not know that it's time to return. Winter just keeps going and going and going...

There are rumors that the A's have played some Cactus League games. I have no evidence that would lead me to believe such speculation. Not a single A's game has been on TV. I've only heard one game on radio, and I was kinda busy at the time, so I wasn't really listening. The 25-man roster is pretty much set, so there's nothing really compelling about following who's doing what in the Cactus League. I have seen Kiko Calero and Huston Street throw, but they weren't wearing A's uniforms. I'm loving the WBC on one hand, but on the other hand, it's just adding to the list of strange things this March.

All the usual signals of spring are missing. Maybe I need to pull out my Bill King bobblehead, and say a prayer.

No Mercy
2006-03-08 22:34
by Ken Arneson

The A's have been getting their butts kicked all over Arizona so far this spring (they're 1-6), but there have been plenty of distractions to keep me from thinking too much about all the inflated ERAs of the A's pitchers so far.

The most impressive performance of the spring by a member of the A's just might be that of the new manager of the A's short-season A-ball team in Vancouver. Rick Magnante has been managing the South African team in the World Baseball Classic. The South Africans are basically a team of amateurs, and most people fully expected them to be routed in all three games of the first round.

In their first game against Canada, Magnante's team held the lead going into the ninth inning, only to lose 11-8. Still, a fully respectable showing. Today, against Mexico, they lost 10-4. But that's still pretty good. The mercy rule seemed to be made with the South Africans in mind, but mercy hasn't been needed. Magnante's team has been competitive, and he should be commended for it.

And that praise should be said now, because South Africa faces the United States on Friday, and I have a feeling they're going to get clobbered. The USA lost to Canada today, and if there's one rule in sports, it's this: don't be the team that plays a great team right after they lost in a huge upset.

I lived in Sweden during the 1980 Winter Olympics, and I didn't get to see the Miracle on Ice game, where the US beat the Soviets, because the game started at 2AM or something Swedish time, and I had school the next day. But I did get to see the next game the Soviets played, which, unfortuately, happened to be against Sweden. The Swedes had a pretty good team (they were only team that team USA didn't beat, tying them 2-2). But no team in the history of hockey could have beaten USSR that day. The Soviets competely and totally wiped the Swedes off the ice, 9-2.

So South Africa should probably be happy with the moral victory. Sometimes those victories are as sweet as any. I play in a "beginners" over-30 co-ed indoor soccer league, with a bunch of other old farts like myself. We're the worst team in the league. The best team should probably play about two league levels above us. The first time we played them, they clobbered us by some ridiculous score like 17-2. If we got the ball past midfield at all we were lucky.

But we noticed as we played them that they had a few weaknesses. So this past Friday, when we met again, we devised a radical game plan to exploit those weaknesses, and make the game competitive. The game plan was one part four-corner offense, one part hockey-style penalty kill, one part man-to-man double-team on their best player, and one part Swedish hockey mentality: play defense defense defense, and move up on offense only if a quick counterattack presents itself.

And it worked! We actually took the lead for a few moments, scoring the first goal of the game. At halftime, we were only down 4-1. We ended up losing 10-4 (I scored a miraculous two-pointer from midfield on a kickoff), but it was the most satisfying loss I've ever been a part of.

Necessity is the mother of invention. We didn't want to be embarrassed again, so we came up with a way to improve ourselves. And I'm sure that in our next game, we'll be a better team because of it.

And maybe that's the best reason of all to have this World Baseball Classic: not to have the Dominicans face the Japanese, but to have the South Africans face the Americans. There was a time when the USA basketball team made fools of every other team in international competition. But those teams didn't like losing so badly, and worked and worked and worked, and improved and improved and improved. It's not an upset anymore when Team USA loses.

Perhaps baseball is where basketball was 30 years ago, with huge imbalances in talent. But if you face that better talent enough, you're going to get better yourself. These South African players are going to go back to South Africa and bring their newly gained knowledge to their teammates and to the next generation of South African baseball players. And then someday, mercy rules won't be necessary.

Kirby Thoughts
2006-03-06 22:10
by Ken Arneson

From 1987 through 1992, only two teams won the American League West--the Minnesota Twins and the Oakland Athletics. In those six years, the two teams combined for five AL pennants and three World Series titles.

As often happens when two successful teams compete in the same era for the same titles, a rivalry develops. In those days, I considered the Twins to be the A's biggest rival.

As an A's fan, I grew to despise everything about the Twins. You name it, I hated it. I hated the Metrodome. There was nothing redeeming about it--the roof where pop flies got lost into triples, the turf that took a grounder to second base and turned it into an inside the park homer. I hated that bad architecture had turned baseball into some other sport altogether. I hated that they played indoors. I hated that the used air conditioners to cheat. I hated the artificially amplified noise. I hated the shrill voice of Bob Casey, the PA announcer. I hated Kent Hrbek's cockiness. I hated Gary Gaetti when he was a selfish jerk, and then I hated him when he found God and became all self-righteous. I hated Dan Gladden's hustlier-than-thou attitude. I hated Frank Viola's mustache. I especially hated Greg Gagne, who sucked against everybody except, it seemed, the A's. Gagne just really irritated the heck out of me. If I had to make an all-time all-annoying team, Greg Gagne would be my shortstop. If fact, name any player on the Twins in those days, and I could find some reason to hate him.

Except Kirby Puckett.

It was just impossible to not like the guy. I hated the Twins, but I loved Kirby Puckett. I couldn't help it. He was just too much fun to watch.

Any player--any person--that has any success in life uses some combination of positive attributes to reach their success. Some players thrive on an inner calm. Some players thrive on discipline, some on a channeled anger, some on determination, some on grit, some on hustle, some on pure God-given talent.

More than any player I've ever seen, Kirby Puckett thrived on joy. This joy, the pure joy of playing baseball, was absolutely contagious, even if you despised the team he was playing. The value of his numbers alone didn't put him into the Hall of Fame. It was the value of the joy he brought to the fans that put him over the top.

There was a dark side to that joy, which came out later, after his career ended. His last few years seemed unbearably sad, as if perhaps he simply could not bear to live without the joy of playing baseball.

And now, sadly, Kirby Puckett has passed away. But perhaps, if we think back beyond the sadness, we can hold in our memory a smile, a laugh, and know that the joy that he brought to us will never die.

Baseball Salaries Visualized
2006-03-03 09:31
by Ken Arneson

Why haven't I seen this tool before? It's way cool.

The user interface is kinda tricky to figure out, but once you do it's fun to fiddle with. I love being able to toggle through each position. Just remember: pressing "h" brings you to the instruction screen.

Hat tip: Andrew Koch.

2006-03-02 15:06
by Ken Arneson

The A's played a baseball game today. At long last! It feels so good, even though the A's lost to the Cubs, 8-7.

The good:
Mark Ellis hit a grand slam, and Bobby Kielty went three-for-three, including a left-handed home run. Several pitchers threw well: Joe Kennedy, Chad Gaudin, Kirk Saarloos and Huston Street.

The bad:
Dan Haren and Jay Witasick got knocked around a bit, and Ron Flores took the loss. Flores isn't really to blame, though, as he was hurt by some shaky defense by Cliff Pennington and Daric Barton. The word around camp was that Barton's defense had improved, but judging by today's performance, where he failed to catch a couple of throws, and then was indecisive on the game-winning play (he hesitated on whether to try to get the out at the plate, or try for a 3-6-3 double play, and got neither), he still has quite a bit of work to do. But it's early, and he still has several weeks ahead of Ron Washington in his ear, I'm sure.

About the A's--none. Haren was bad, but I saw him get knocked around in spring training last year too, and he turned out fine.

About the Cubs--Carlos Zambrano is (still) one heckuva pitcher. Brian Corey, whom the A's scored all seven runs off of, is not.

Box Score. (Note: it was Kielty, not Clark, who was 3-for-3. The box score is wrong.)

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