Monthly archives: January 2007
2006 Photo Outtakes #40
2006 Photo Outtakes #39
We have now entered the "subject is off to one side of the frame" section of our tour.
2006 Photo Outtakes #38
I left Saturday's Fan Fest early, so I missed the part where Milton Bradley charmed everyone's socks off. Seeing that Barry Bonds finally signed with the Giants again makes me wonder if Milton Bradley might get a similar treatment from the free agent market next year: only one team knows how to handle you--you better stay there.
That's assuming that Bradley doesn't blow up in Oakland this year. And that he stays healthy. And that he doesn't get blamed for accidentally spilling too many coffee cups on teammates.
I am still busy holding Bobby Kielty Prisoner, so I haven't had time to comment further on Fan Fest, or on Justin Duchscherer, or the latest on Kirk Saarloos (again). I hope that this, too, shall pass, so these words that build up like magma under my dome may one day be released, without too much violence.
Street's Slider versus Duchscherer's Curve
With apologies to the recently departed curveball addict Barry Zito and multiple slider maestro Kiko Calero, I'm of the opinion that Justin Duchscherer and Huston Street have the best breaking pitches on Oakland's pitching staff.
I have to admit, I'm completely fascinated by their movement. When either of those hurlers takes the mound, I've been known to call members of my family, friends, and whoever happens to be around into the room. I'll beckon them to "Just watch the break on this pitch...", and though they aren't nearly the baseball nut that I am, they're usually impressed.
Street's slider whips down and away from flailing hitters, causing many to check their bats for holes. Duchscherer's swooping curve drops down from nowhere to leave the once confidant batter looking downright befuddled and embarrassed. Hence my nickname for the Duchscherer hook: Death from Above.
Both Street and Duchscherer have used their powers to erase dozens of batters in the past couple of seasons. Duchscherer has a K/9 of 8.7 since shifting into a full-time relief role at the beginning of 2005, while Street has a 8.4 mark since making the team out of spring training in 2005.
They both average just a hair under strikeout an inning, but here's where it gets interesting... While Street's slider is nearly unhittable (when he's in the groove), Duchscherer's slow curve relies more on misjudgement by the hapless hitter.
Take a look at the percent of all of their strikeouts that are swinging:
Street - 2005
Street - 2006
Duchscherer - 2004
Duchscherer - 2005
Duchscherer - 2006
It appears that when Street was getting his feet wet, batters laid off everything he threw at them, hoping he couldn't get his stuff across for strikes. When it became apparent that he indeed could, they started hacking at it. And missing.
In Duchscherer's All-Star season of 2005, he struck out nearly as many batters by making them watch it into Jason Kendall's mitt as he did my making them miss the ball. Duchscherer had as many looking K's by the All-Star break as Street would have all year in his Rookie of the Year campaign.
There's one story about Duchscherer's curve that I can't seem to tell often enough. Last March, I was in Arizona watching spring training baseball, as usual. The A's were playing the Padres, and over the course of two and one third innings of work, Justin Duchscherer struck out, consecutively, Mark Bellhorn, Dave Roberts, Mike Cameron, Brian Giles, Mike Piazza, and Ryan Klesko. Four of those were looking, most were with the Death from Above curve, and all were impressive.
(I had to look back in my scorebook to make sure I wasn't imagining things, and as far as I can tell, I'm not. The official box confirms it.)
I Am Holding Bobby Kielty Prisoner
I arrested Bobby Kielty today. Call it a citizen's arrest. I took one look at him at the A's Fan Fest, and I instantly realized that a terrorist could kidnap him, trade him to Pittsburgh, and create a weapon that could injure or kill thousands, if not millions, of innocent people.
It is a danger that in good conscience, I could not allow to persist. Rest assured, Bobby Kielty is safe, and will not be harmed. I am detaining him merely to protect the innocent. When I have received written proof that Kielty cannot and will not ever wear that hideous new red Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, I will release him.
I realize that my actions have consequences. I am prepared to accept those consequences, whatever they may be, in order to save the lives of others. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. I am not sure when you will see me again here at Catfish Stew.
The good news is that The Pastime author Ryan Armbrust has agreed to join the staff of Catfish Stew. I'm sure you will find him to be a fine young writer, with many lovely charts. I am excited to have him join us, even in these dangerous and difficult times.
Save the outfielder, save the world...
Kirk Saarloos: Friend to Old Men and Depleted Rotations
With Catfish Stew world headquarters bidding a fond farewell to Kirk Saarloos, I feel obligated to share a personal interaction with the latest ex-Athletic. Well, not my personal interaction with Kirk Saarloos, precisely, but a Kirk Saarloos interaction involving someone in the Michaels family.
Kirk Saarloos, as you may or may not know, is quite the golfer -- in fact, the newspaper article announcing his trade to the Reds mentions both his passion for golf and the fact that he shot a course record at a Michigan golf course during an A's off-day last season. My father has decided to live out his dotage working at a local track, where Mr. Saarloos has been know to spend his off hours during his Athletics tenure. In the course of his duties, my father would occasionally encounter Kirk Saarloos, and the two would have brief-though-amiable conversations.
My father's verdict: Kirk Saarloos is a polite young fellow who treats his elders with the respect that they have earned and thus should have been given a place at the top of the A's rotation, especially ahead of that Zito character.
The lesson here is two-fold: 1) Professional ballplayers, be kind and courteous to your friendly neighborhood golf marshal, and they shall immortalize your deeds in legend and song long after you are shipped off to Ohio. And 2) My father is unlikely to become Billy Beane's next unconventional hire for Oakland's corps of talent evaluators.
My own Saarloos memories are a lot less personal, though no less positive. I liked the guy -- he was a serviceable fifth starter/injury fill-in/oh-no-someone's-getting-shelled-in-the-second-better-warm-up-Kirk kind of option. My lasting memory of Saarloos in an A's uniform will probably be from this Oakland-Texas game from earlier this year. Shane Komine was making his second start for the A's, and he was simply dreadful that night -- he gave up a couple of bombs to Michael Young and Mark DeRosa in the third and let the first two batters reach to start the fourth, which was pretty much when Ken Macha decided he had seen enough. Saarloos came in and held the Rangers at bay -- three hits and an intentional walk over four scoreless innings -- buying the A's offense enough time to wake up and take the lead. Huston Street did his level best to cough up the game in the ninth -- if not for Jason Kendall wheedling a rather questionable interference call on a stolen base attempt, the Rangers might have tied things up. But the A's held on, and Saarloos picked up the win.
Kielty Signs (2006 Photo Outtakes #37)
Bobby Kielty and the Oakland A's avoided arbitration by agreeing to sign a one-year, $2.1 million contract. The A's led the majors this offseason with nine players eligible for arbitration, but avoided hearings with all nine.
I think they should have given Kielty a bonus if he gives up switch hitting. Sadly, that doesn't appear to be in the cards.
No word on what Matt Watson thinks about all this.
2006 Photo Outtakes #36
It's too bad Billy Beane couldn't have waited a week to trade Kirk Saarloos. The A's Fan Fest is coming up on Saturday, and it would have been nice to have Saarloos around. Last year, of all the people who appeared in Q&A sessions, Saarloos was probably the most entertaining of them all. The dude may not have a sharp fastball, but he does have a sharp wit.
I have plans to attend Fan Fest again this year. If anyone else is going, and wants to meet up, let me know.
A Romantic Setting (2006 Photo Outtakes #35)
This is apparently the perfect way to impress a future spouse with opulence and luxury...
Saarloos Traded To Reds
I was just thinking last night that maybe Billy Beane had ceased to actually exist. He hadn't made a trade involving a major league player since the Juan Cruz-for-Brad Halsey trade back in March 2006. Where's he been?
Responds Beane, "I trade, therefore I am."
Who the heck is David Shafer? Never heard of him. PECOTA doesn't think that much of him; it gives him at best a 50% chance of being nothing more than a scrub. Kevin Goldstein doesn't bother to mention him in his Top Reds Prospects article, while John Sickels ranks him as the Reds 18th best prospect, calling him a "useful bullpen spare part."
So basically, this was a salary dump. Saarloos just hit arbitration status, and his mediocre production, while valuable at minimum wage, isn't so valuable at higher prices. Plus, I think the A's had about 13 pitchers who were either too good for the minors, or were without any major league options left, so someone had to go.
From the Reds point of view, I suppose a ground-ball pitcher like Saarloos would have more value in a home-run launching pad like Cincinnati than elsewhere. My call: a good non-deal for both sides.
2006 Photo Outtakes #34
Continuing the popup theme...it's a pretty neat trick to get everyone in this picture except Nick Swisher and the umpire completely out of focus. I wish I knew how I did that.
2006 Photo Outtakes #33
Call the last photo "How Not To Catch A Popup". Call this one "Textbook".
2006 Photo Outtakes #32
Darin Erstad is not going to join the A's, as previously rumored. This is probably a good thing, for my sake. I seem to have an unhealthy obsession with the dude, even when he was the enemy. Who knows what I would do if he were on my side?
Now I can still appreciate all his web gems, without having to suffer through a gazillion foul outs in the process.
Zito Epilogue (2006 Photo Outtakes #31)
To conclude our thoughts about the Man On Top (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), TangoTiger backed up my scouting report with some strong statistical evidence for Barry Zito's prowess against right-handed batters:
That's right, while Zito's career BABIP against LH is virtually exactly league average, he has a BABIP of 42 points less against RH! Zito has 3200 BIP against RH, meaning one standard deviation would be 8 points. His performance is FIVE standard deviations from the mean. That is about as significant as significant gets.
As for the Man Underneath, I got nothin', except that he's currently serving as the punchline over at Humbug.
2006 Photo Outtakes #30
2006 Photo Outtakes #29
Zito Thoughts, Part 3 of 3
We completed Part 2 (Part 1 here) with the question, is Barry Zito really an exception to the rule, a pitcher who can reduce batters' batting average on balls in play? If so, how does he do it, and what makes him different?
I'm just a fan, not a scout, but I have watched a lot of Barry Zito, so I think I have some idea of how Zito approaches batters.
Zito's approach is a lot more complex now that he has five pitches instead of three. I think it's useful to go back to 2000-2003 when Zito had only the fastball, curve and changeup, and study his basic three-pitch approach. To narrow it down further, we'll focus just on right-handed batters.
So here's the plan. It all starts with the curveball.
* * *
Share My Season Tickets (2006 Photo Outtakes #28)
One of the groups I split my season tickets with is dropping out. We need a replacement. The view in the photo above is roughly the view we have. If you're interested in all or any of these seats let me know. Details below the fold:
Phone-Enduced Dramatics (2006 Photo Outtakes #27)
Just to clarify: this is the phone that got the calls to tell Dennis Eckersley to get prepared to do the Phone-Enduced Dramatics (PEDs) that eventually got Dennis Eckersley a certain phone call that Eckersley's twice-teammate Mark McGwire is not going to get today.
Personally, I do not believe McGwire's dramatics were phone-enduced, but what do I know? I never really thought that McGwire was phone-call worthy while he played in Oakland, partly because he could never stay healthy or slump-free long enough to put together any long stretch of dominant play, and partly because I don't think he was all that great a relief pitcher.
Whether or not McGwire gets the phone call today, I don't feel required to have an emotional reaction. We'll leave that job to the Cardinals fans.
Goose Gossage, on the other hand, was a great relief pitcher, did get calls on that phone, and although those particular calls didn't produce the most dramatic moments of Gossage's career, I'd really like to see him get one more phone-enduced dramatic moment. Although Yankee fans would deserve the emotions far more than I, I plan to steal a little bit of the joy or disappointment for myself and my fellow A's fans. Call me selfish.
Melhuse Gets One-Year Contract, Reassuring Hug
The A's have lined up a backup catcher to sit on the bench and twiddle his thumbs while Jason Kendall gets his customary 140 starts. It'll be Adam Melhuse who has spent the past four years riding increasing amounts of pine as the backup backstop. For his troubles, Melhuse will get $815,000, plus a hearty handshake and meaningful eye contact every time he passes Bob Geren in the hallway.
I'm kidding about that last part, but not really. As you may recall, Ken Macha was shown the door this past fall, in large part of his icy relationship with his players. And if Melhuse's post-contract signing comments to the Associated Press are any indication, Melhuse is not the kin to forgive and forget.
I still know my position is the same, for the most part, as last year. At least I have a manager who thinks a little bit of me and will acknowledge that I'm there. I'm just preparing to be informed a little bit better. Hopefully Bob will find a time to use me.
We suggest that Ken Macha not list Adam Melhuse as a reference on his next managerial gig application. And that he speak to his next backup catcher in calm soothing words.
404 Page Not Found (2006 Photo Outtakes #26)
Whose brilliant idea was it to put an ad for a web site right next to a 404 sign?
Zito Thoughts, Part 2 of 3
"Barry Zito is going to start sucking any day now. He's in decline. He's been lucky. He's losing it."
I've been hearing words to that effect from the numbercrunchers for about four years now. I didn't believe it then, and I don't really believe it now, either.
Rich Lederer described the issue well:
To Zito's credit, his actual ERA has consistently defied his FIP and DIPS calculations, as well as his PECOTA projections. He is obviously doing something well that isn't being captured in these systems.
Over at Baseball Prospectus, Nate Silver found that if you use Zito's past ERA as a predictor of his future ERA, his new contract is actually worth the money. If you use his peripheral numbers, the Giants are paying double what he's actually worth. Silver writes:
But while ERA is a very useful backward-looking metric it's helpful in settling Cy Young Award debates, for example it's not such a good forward-looking metric. A pitcher's peripheral statistics predict ERA much better than past ERA itself.
I'd agree with that 99% of the time, but I can think of several reasons why Zito may be an exception to the rule. Consider:
2006 Photo Outtakes #25
OK, this is a Little League photo, not a Major League photo, but I liked the shadows in this picture.
You want a MLB tie-in? OK: I'll often see SF Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto at these various local youth sports games, because my nephew is the same age as the (son/nephew?) of Ratto. Ratto's recent throw-away line about a Joe Blanton-for-unmentionable trade has provoked the latest round of rumor discussions. I'm not going to comment on this rumor, except to say I don't believe it for a second.
2006 Photo Outtakes #24
"Then you love a little wild one,
STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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