Baseball Toaster Catfish Stew
Monthly archives: February 2007


Spring Has Sprung
2007-02-28 17:31
by Philip Michaels

Your correspondent has landed in Phoenix...

Athletics warm up

And, after the jump, a Mike Piazza-in-green-and-gold sighting

Continue reading...

Red Hair Red Light: Kielty Gets Knee Surgery
2007-02-28 11:11
by Ken Arneson

Score one for the red light Will Carroll gave Kielty's health risk over at Baseball Prospectus:

He crushes lefties when he's healthy, but his hand, shoulder, and oblique have made him more known for his costumes than his bat.

Add a knee to that list of body parts. Susan Slusser reports that Bobby Kielty needs some minor knee surgery, and will miss three-to-six weeks. I'm sure he's quite depressed about this...

Kielty depressed

...but look on the bright side: this reduced the odds considerably that the Pittsburgh Pirates might want to trade for him.

* * *

The flip side to Kielty's red light is Milton Bradley's green light. I was quite curious how a five year veteran who has only managed to stay healthy enough for 400 ABs once in his career managed to get a no-comment green light from Carroll. I asked Will for a comment about this surprising (to me) result. He acknowledged that the system may have missed something but "I think the green's still accurate. The shoulder doesn't appear to be a long term concern, he overcame the knee problem with no real effect, and most of his past history is either non-recurring (oblique) or traumatic (appendectomy.)"

OK, then. I'm still not sure I understand how that makes him all that much of a better health risk than Kielty, but since Kielty is now injured, and Bradley (knock on wood) is not, we'll give Will the benefit of the proof in the pudding.

Hold Off On Those Change-of-Address Cards For Now
2007-02-27 09:26
by Philip Michaels

If the rising flood waters don't get you, the cloud of deadly arsine will, according to the San Jose Mercury News:

Just across the street from the envisioned ballpark village site sits Scott Specialty Gases, a distributor of highly toxic materials used in semi-conductor manufacturing. Fremont officials advised Wolff last year that he'd need to either relocate the plant or find another way to mitigate the potential hazard posed by a toxic gas cloud floating over a ballpark filled with 32,000 people.

Worst. Pyrospectacular. Ever.

Tadano's Eephus
2007-02-26 10:20
by Ryan Armbrust

"Eephus ain't nuthin'." -- Maurice Van Robays

I'm fascinated by the eephus. The Eephus is one of my two standby names for my teams in fantasy leagues (the other being The Interrobangs). I'll pull it out when I'm playing catch with my brother. I considered, for a time, getting "EEPHUS" as a custom plate on my motorcycle, since it doesn't go quite as fast as it should. When the eephus comes up in conversation, I can't help but laugh. It's one of the many little quirks that I love about this game.

The eephus, for those who have no idea what I'm talking about, is a pitch so excruciatingly slow that hitters fall over themselves trying to crush it. They almost always fail, and ground out. It was invented by Rip Sewell of the WWII era Pirates, who famously never game up a home run on the eephus. (Except to Ted Williams in the All-Star game, but he cheated to hit it.)

Here's an incredibly scientific illustration (nearly to scale, really!) of the trajectory differences between the eephus and normal pitches. The red line is a fastball, the blue one a curveball, and the green a typical eephus. The yellow line on top represents the 25-foot high eephus that Sewell was purported to have thrown at the height of his career (pardon the pun).

I'm not sure if I completely buy that Sewell's pitch traveled quite that high, but I'll go with it for the sake of tradition.

While I don't recall the specifics of the first time I saw someone "uncork" the mother of all junkballs, I do know that I couldn't believe what I'd just seen. It looks as ridiculous as if someone were to walk to the plate holding the bat by the barrel. So... when I read that Kaz Tadano was bringing back the eephus this spring, I was delighted. Against all reason, I'm now rooting for Tadano to make the club.

Apparently Tadano has been using the pitch for years. He can allegedly throw it for strikes, too. I get the impression that the two A's that saw the eephus didn't really know how to react.

"It's just like a softball pitch," said outfielder Mark Kotsay. "He threw it twice to our group. ... I swung at it."


"It jammed me," he admitted with a shrug.

Infielder Mark Ellis, who didn't know Tadano threw an eephus, also got one Sunday.

"I knew it was coming and I was still surprised," Ellis said. "I swung really hard and it hit the top of the cage."

I don't know how many times I've watched and rewatched clips of Orlando Hernandez and Kaz Tadano throwing the eephus. The look on the faces of the players who will just stare the all-too-hittable pitch all the way into the catcher's mitt is one of the small joys of baseball. When they do recognize what's coming their way, load up and get ready to hit the ball harder than anything they've ever hit in their life... I love the sheer frustration and embarassment expressed as they swing mightily and tap out softly to third.

Somewhere on, there's a clip (which seems to be down at the moment) of Kaz Tadano throwing the eephus to Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod subsequently grounds out softly to third base, and he can't believe what just happened. He just stands there looking as befuddled as if he'd just been thrown a peeled potato. (The potato incident is one of my favorite episodes in baseball, but that's another story...)

Does it make me a superficial pitching fan if I were to relish the idea of someday seeing a bullpen with Dallas Braden (screwball), Kaz Tadano (eephus), Brad Ziegler (submariner), Craig Italiano (98+ mph smoke) and Scott Dunn (occasional knuckleball)? The A's already have Huston Street (sidearm slider), Justin Duchscherer (ridiculous curve) and Kiko Calero (three distinct sliders‽) in the pen, which should cover all of the bases for pitch-type, if you'll excuse me mangling a metaphor.

2006 Photo Outtakes #50
2007-02-26 00:34
by Ken Arneson

Swept away

The outtakes are done. 2006 has been swept away. The house is clean, ready for a new start.

Pitchers and Catchers Have Reported, And Now So Shall I
2007-02-24 10:40
by Philip Michaels

I have a simple rule that governs my life: Any time Mike Piazza shows up in A's camp, wait about a week and then head over to Papago Park for yourself. And so, for that reason, I will steal of to the desert next Wednesdays for three days of watching fabulously wealthy men perform calisthenics and make warm-up tosses.

At some point, I will mix in a fabulous prime rib dinner.

Yes, I'll be skulking around the Cactus League from February 28 to March 2, making me the second member of the Catfish Stew family to schedule some extended down-time in the greater Maricopa County area. Between me and Ryan, I figure a representative from this here blog will be on site for a little more than two weeks of Cactus League action. I'm sure we can persuade Ken to drop whatever he's doing to cover the remaining days.

My game plan is to get off the plane on the 28th and head directly to Phoenix Municipal Stadium. That's the day before the official games start, but if history is any guide, the A's will play an intrasquad game. My parents caught last year's installment and enjoyed it a lot -- Rene Lachemann introduced the players to the crowd, mixing in a lot of jokes at the team's expense. (Lachemann's introduction of Bobby Crosby, as paraphrased by my father: "Those of you with the 20-game ticket packages are in luck because that's how many games Crosby will play this year." That turned out to be more prophetic than funny, actually.)

Anyhow, on March 1, I'll be at the Giants-Cubs game in Mesa, although that depends on whether we can get tickets without getting shaken down by the Cubs and their usurious convenience fees.Why that game and not the A's-Brewers opener in Maryvale? Several reasons. For one, I'm hitting spring training with my parents in tow, and my mother, despite an otherwise happy childhood, grew up a Cubs fan. Second, the A's will be playing the Brewers the very next day at Phoenix Municipal, and as anyone from Milwaukee will tell you, there are just so many times you can watch the Brewers before it gets really, really old. So I'll get my Brew Crew fill on March 2, instead.

I happened to attend the A's Spring Training lid-lifter at Phoenix Municipal last year. Photos follow after the jump.

Continue reading...

In Hand
2007-02-23 16:42
by Ken Arneson

Fresh from Saskatoon, where the people all smell like ink on cardboard!

2007 tickets

Wanna go?

Smell Like Canadians
2007-02-22 00:02
by Ken Arneson

And so I'm sitting here thinking I don't know what I'm doing with this module I'm programming--the concept of it is still too unclear in my head--so I just keep futzing around, not attacking it, just kinda waiting for some divine inspiration, so maybe I need to take a break and think about something else to reboot my brain, and my thoughts keep turning back to the fact that I got an email today telling me that my Oakland Athletics season tickets have been shipped and they're on their way and will be here in three days, and so I followed the FedEx link to track my package, and the tickets are being shipped from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which strikes me as being highly weird, except really, Saskatoon isn't really any further from Oakland than Kansas City, and would I think it was weird if the tickets were being shipped from Kansas City? Not really, since the team itself was shipped from Kansas City back in 1968. But perhaps it would have been better to get the tickets printed in Fremont, you know, so it would be a clever bit of foreshadowing.

But nope. Saskatoon it is. How did a company in Saskatoon win a bid to print tickets for Major League Baseball? I look up the weather in Saskatoon and it's 18 degrees F, which is quite unspringtraininglike. And I'm thinking, those Canadians who printed the tickets must think that baseball is a highly abstract concept at this point. Which is appropriate, because the most famous major league player who was born in Saskatchewan is Reggie Cleveland, and Reggie Cleveland is like an abstract concept to me, too. I mean, he's not Reggie, and he didn't play for Cleveland, so he makes no sense.

I read the reports coming out of Arizona (Dan Meyer lives! Bobby Crosby swings! Landon Powell and Joe Kennedy aren't quite so fat! Dan Haren looks like Bigfoot!), but they don't quite hit home yet. But three days from now, I'll have something tangible in my hands, something with weight and dimension and color, something to see, feel, touch, smell. Maybe the tickets will smell like Canadians, but they'll be affiliated Canadians, and they'll be real, and baseball will finally come alive once again.

OK, enough dreaming. There's some software that is slouching towards Arneson to be born. Time to go on the attack. Futztime is over.

Get Yer Schedules Here
2007-02-20 23:13
by Philip Michaels

Pardon me, reader -- but how would you like your very own 2007 Oakland Athletics' calendar, lovingly hand-crafted by one of the multitude of bloggers assembled here under the Catfish Stew brand name.

"I would not like such a calendar," some of you might reply. "Now hold still so that I can chuck these oranges at your head."

Which is not a very encouraging attitude, if you want my opinion, especially since such a calendar is available to you for the low, low cost of free for both your viewing and downloading pleasure. The calendar is an .ics file, so it will definitely work in iCal and most likely work in programs like Sunbird and Google Calendar.

The long backstory to how this calendar came to be is chronicled here, here and, most recently here under the auspices of the day job. The highlight reel version is that I got tired of sitting around waiting for someone else to whip up a calendar that I could keep alongside my work and personal schedules, so I decided to build one myself. And then, thanks entirely to people more clever than I, I commissioned the creation of a AppleScript that does in seconds what it used to take entire armies of men days to do. And, since I went through all this trouble, I usually update the calendar throughout the year with scores and game notes; this year, I'll probably add relevant Web links to write-ups on A's-themed blogs not unlike this one. So if you've got iCal and you're interested in keeping tabs on the fortunes of the A's in the coming season, it's a handy little calendar to have.

"Your idea of a calendar intrigues me," some of you might be saying. "However, I just come here for the fabulous pictures, interesting statistical tables and intriguing articles written people other than you. In short, my allegiance lies with another team. I don't suppose you've built a calendar for them."

No... but I can tell you how you can, again liberally cribbing from the day job.

  1. Download this AppleScript.
  2. Jump on over to Major League Baseball's Team by Team schedule page and click on the link for your favorite team.
  3. Once your on the relevant team's schedule page, click on the Downloadable Schedule link in the left-hand pane and download the linked CSV file.
  4. Open the resulting file in your favorite text editor (TextEdit will do quite nicely.)
  5. Run the script.
  6. Admire your handiwork.

"Well, that's fairly useful," a sizable percentage of you may have concluded. "But I use Windows, and your AppleScript download will not work on my machine. Any advice for me."


  1. Go buy a Mac.
  2. Repeat steps 1 through 6 from above.

See? Simple.

Spring Pruning of the Oakland Roster
2007-02-20 02:03
by Ryan Armbrust

The A's are entering what looks to be a very interesting Spring Training. By my estimation, there will be between thirteen and seventeen players with legitimate shots at only seven roster spots. Battles in the outfield, starting staff, relief corps and backup infield will be fierce. For many, if they fail to secure a spot, it means the end of their time in the Oakland organization.

So who will be participating in this high-stakes game of musical chairs? To discover that, let's work backwards. Who's a lock to make the 25-man roster? I'll assume that the A's decide to carry 12 pitchers out of Spring Training, for the sake of argument.

- - -

Pitching Locks (9 out of 12):

Rich Harden
Dan Haren
Joe Blanton
Esteban Loaiza
Joe Kennedy
Huston Street
Justin Duchscherer
Kiko Calero
Alan Embree

Fielding Locks (9 out of 13):

Jason Kendall
Mike Piazza
Eric Chavez
Bobby Crosby
Mark Ellis
Nick Swisher
Milton Bradley
Mark Kotsay
Shannon Stewart

- - -

That leaves us with three pitching slots, and four openings in the field. Let's look at the competition for the last three pitchers.

In approximate order of the chance to make the team, the top candidates:

Chad Gaudin
Brad Halsey
Lenny DiNardo
Ron Flores
Jay Marshall
Jay Witasick

- Gaudin and Halsey seem to have the inside track, since they're healthy and have plenty of MLB experience. They can also fill-in as emergency starters and compete with Joe Kennedy.

- Witasick is going to have to really impress to earn his spot back. He's earning a lot of money, and is out of options. I don't see him in green and gold in 2007.

- Flores, as a lefty, is behind Embree and Halsey. He'll be in Sacramento, waiting for the A's to trade him before it's too late.

- DiNardo has good stuff, but he's facing stiff competition and can be optioned to Sacramento. At this rate, Sacramento is going to have a better pitching staff than the Kansas City Royals. I'm not even sure that's an exagerration, either.

- Jay Marshall has filthy stuff and he's a Rule V pick so he either makes the team or the A's lose him, but he's only pitched at the high A level. I'd guess that the A's will give him the last bullpen spot, and see if he can hold his own at the MLB level. If not, they'll have to let him go.

My picks to make the team: Gaudin, Halsey, Marshall

These players are on the 40-man roster, but have minor league options left and/or aren't quite MLB ready:

Jason Windsor
Shane Komine
Marcus McBeth
David Shafer
Scott Dunn
Santiago Casilla
Dan Meyer

I wonder if Dan Meyer will ever pitch again in the majors? His health is a mystery wrapped in a .. well, you know the cliché.

- - -

Now that the pitchers seem to have sifted themselves out, let's look at the fielders. This is not going to be nearly as simple as the pitching staff was.

With four spots open, here are the contenders:

Dan Johnson
Marco Scutaro
Bobby Kielty
Adam Melhuse
Antonio Perez
Ryan Goleski
Erubiel Durazo

- If Dan Johnson's double-vision is gone, and he rakes, he can make the team. He's essentially in a competition with Durazo. Both of them cannot make the team. Johnson is out of options, and it's unlikely Durazo would clear waivers and/or accept an assignment to AAA. The A's need a first-baseman, and since Durazo can't field well, Johnson has a built in edge. With Piazza holding down full-time DH duties, ol' Alligator Arms will have to thoroughly convince Billy Beane that he's back to 2004 form.

- With the precarious health of Ellis, Crosby and Chavez, the A's need middle infield depth. Marco Scutaro is a very capable middle infielder, and he can hit well enough that it won't create problems. However, Scutaro isn't a great option if Eric Chavez goes down or needs a rest. Antonio Perez can play third, and can't perform any worse offensively than he did last year. If he did, I'm confident that Earth would begin to revolve the opposite way, and very bad things would happen to the time-space continuum. Adam Melhuse can also play third in a pinch, although his job security isn't the best since Mike Piazza can handle the 2-3 times a month Melhuse would likely catch. Perez is a better option as a pinch runner, though, and is a better fielder.

- As is stands, the four outfielders (Bradley, Kotsay, Swisher, Stewart) can handle one more in the rotation, but six might not be feasible. So who does that spot go to? It'll come down to Bobby Kielty and Ryan Goleski. Goleski is another Rule V pick, but he has the strange advantage of being hurt. How is that helpful? He can begin the season on the DL, and Oakland won't have to return him to the Indians. Kielty will be used almost exclusively against lefties, which will inflate his numbers, which should lead to him being traded. The best option for the A's may be to trade a .320 hitting Kielty in May, and activate a now-healthy Goleski. If Stewart, Bradley or Kotsay go down with an injury, things become much easier for Beane and Geren, obviously.

My picks to make the team: Johnson, Scutaro, Perez, Kielty

Longshots to make the team, but they have options left:

Javier Herrera
Jeremy Brown
Donnie Murphy

- - -

My 25-man roster:

Rich Harden
Dan Haren
Joe Blanton
Esteban Loaiza
Joe Kennedy
Huston Street
Justin Duchscherer
Kiko Calero
Alan Embree
Jason Kendall
Mike Piazza
Eric Chavez
Bobby Crosby
Mark Ellis
Nick Swisher
Milton Bradley
Mark Kotsay
Shannon Stewart
Dan Johnson
Marco Scutaro
Antonio Perez
Bobby Kielty
Chad Gaudin
Brad Halsey
Jay Marshall

Guesses as to who will be gone between April 1 and May 31: Witasick, Durazo-or-Johnson, Goleski-or-Kielty, Melhuse, Flores, Marshall

That's my best estimate. What's yours?

2006 Photo Outtakes #49
2007-02-19 00:41
by Ken Arneson

Cleaning up afterwards

Thank you for cleaning up after yourself. You're a good kid.

Ex-Athletics Report: Zito's New Delivery
2007-02-17 14:28
by Ken Arneson

I'm now in my forties, and I am finally getting comfortable and confident with my own political beliefs. But I still don't like talking about it much, because I see flaws with both sides of the major philosophical divide:

Progressives: Quite eager to fix problems, but because of the laws of unintended consequences, their solutions introduce as many problems as they solve, if not more.

Conservatives: Their fear of unintended (or intended) consequences leaves many problems unsolved.

Basically, you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. What's worse is when you can't even tell which party supports which flawed philosophy. I'm sure you can come up with your own recent examples of Republicans making the progressive mistake, and Democrats making the conservative mistake.

Solving problems is hard. There is usually no perfect solution: there are risks, and there are tradeoffs. I suppose it's too much to ask to have a discussion that acknowledges these risks and tradeoffs, instead of having everything labeled right or wrong, good or evil, brilliant or idiotic, for us or against us, to have a political discussion that doesn't just descend into namecalling. But unfortunately, risks and tradeoffs don't fit neatly into 30-second soundbites.

* * *

What got me thinking about this was my first reaction to the news about Barry Zito changing his delivery: "There he goes again."

Back in 2004, he tried to change his delivery, presumably to solve a problem he was having with his knee. The unintended consequence was he lost his ability to reduce the BABIP against RHB, which is the whole key to his success. He abandoned the new delivery mid-season, at which point his BABIP-reducing skills quickly returned.

OK, new problem: Barry Zito has worn down in September each the last two seasons. ERA over 5.00 each time, unlike the summer months where his ERA has been excellent.

Barry Zito is a smart guy. Smart guys figure out how to solve problems, right? So Zito decides the problem is with his legs, or lack of use thereof, so he bulks up his legs in the offseason, and decides to use a different delivery that makes more use of his legs. More power from legs, less stress on arm, greater endurance...problem solved!

D'oh! Forgot about those unintended consequences.

Lessee, what possible unintended consequences could there be? Let's make a list:

  • Loss of control
  • Loss of deception from release point
  • Loss of deception from difference in speeds
  • New delivery may cause injury to do? Be conservative, leave things the way they were, and leave the endurance problem unsolved? Or be progressive, use the new delivery, hope that the unintended consequences are minimal, and solve the problem, hoping everything works out great?

Or...maybe...there could exist some sort of middle ground, that trades of a little of the risk for a little bit of progress towards solving the original problem? A--dare I say the word---compromise?

The more radical elements of Barry Zito's new delivery appear headed for the dustbin after he and pitching coach Dave Righetti had a long chat Friday. Asked afterward if Zito will revert to something closer to his Oakland motion the next time he throws, Righetti said, "Probably."

Righetti insisted he did not order Zito to scrap the new windup, which featured a longer stride and a more crouched stance, but said they talked for "a bunch" and had a meeting of minds. Zito still might incorporate some of what he tried on the mound Thursday to generate more thrust from his legs, but the result should be more like the upright delivery that made him successful with the A's.


"You don't look at a Michelangelo sculpture halfway done and start commenting on how terrible it is," Zito said. "You wait until the final product."

Damn Zito. He's nothing but a flip-flopper.

Pitchers and Catchers; No Piazza
2007-02-17 01:42
by Ryan Armbrust

[AP Photo/Eric Risberg]

Our long national nightmare is over. We can all officially bid farewell to the offseason of our discontent and welcome spring.

Pitchers and catchers have voluntarily reported to Phoenix Muni by now, as most of you know. Jeremy Brown and Lenny DiNardo are pictured above; they're among the couple dozen pitchers and catchers who begin the mandatory workouts today. Brown and DiNardo are also among the handful of players that have shown up early to fight for the 24th and 25th roster spots.

It's telling that Mike Piazza hasn't shown up to camp yet. Perhaps he's working on getting used to his new role as a designated hitter.

Joe Blanton is in camp, and is sporting the standard spring training untrimmed facial hair, going for the "I spent my offseason playing golf horseshoes and video games" look. Maybe it's for good luck, he could use it. He's looking slimmer, though, if anything can be ascertained from this photo:

[AP Photo/Eric Risberg]

As for everyone else, the positional players are due to report next Wednesday the 21st, with the first full workout on the 22nd. There are already quite a few A's around Papago Park, though. According to Bob Geren, "I guess we've had a steady stream coming in the last couple of weeks, guys are coming in earlier and earlier every year. That's very encouraging to hear that."

I just hope someone labels the sunblock this year.

With live games quickly approaching, we're all that much closer to Opening Day.

Countdown to Opening Day:

2006 Photo Outtakes #48
2007-02-15 13:46
by Ken Arneson

A Mess in the Pen

Have fun playing, but don't forget to clean up after yourselves when you're done.

A's Claim DiNardo, Waive Bocachica
2007-02-14 15:26
by Ken Arneson

Well, I suppose the Hiram Bocachica Fan Club isn't too happy about this. The A's have decided to Firam Bocachica from their 40-man roster again, this time in order to claim Lenny DiNardo off waivers from the Boston Red Sox.

With the A's having waived both Charles Thomas and Bocachica this past week, it makes you wonder who will man centerfield in the inevitable case that both Mark Kotsay and Milton Bradley are hurt at the same time. Nick Swisher? Yeech! Javier Herrera is on the 40-man roster, so I'd guess he'd be the guy, but that's assuming he has recovered from his Tommy John surgery.

The A's have two Rule 5 picks on their 40-man roster, and there's probably not room for both of them on the 25-man roster. If either one gets sent back to their original teams, that would leave a roster spot or two open for the emergency fill-in. Someone like Hiram Bocachica.

As for DiNardo (who apparently has a fan club, too), he's a soft-tossing lefty. He throws cutters, cutters, cutters, a slider, and an occasional changeup. Baseball Prospectus says,

DiNardo draws consistent comparisons to Jamie Moyer because he's left-handed and throws about as hard as a pitching coach.

Ouch. That's not particularly encouraging--many are compared to Moyer, but few actually do Moyer. PECOTA gives DiNardo about a 30% chance of being something better than a scrub. Which is actually pretty good, considering that DiNardo's 2006 season was plagued with a neck injury, and PECOTA probably thinks he just sucked in 2006 because he sucked. DiNardo also pitched in the WBC, for Italy. You can ask Esteban Loaiza about how starting pitchers struggled after the WBC last year.

DiNardo had a pretty good season in AAA Pawtucket in 2005: 3.15 ERA, 1.32 WHIP. He's basically another Brad Halsey/Kirk Saarloos for the A's--a fifth-starter/middle-reliever type. He's also apparently a replacement for Barry Zito in the left-handed pitcher/guitar player department. We love Bocachica--he has an all-time classic baseball name--but mediocre pitchers are harder to find than AAAA outfielders. The move gets my Catfish Stew stamp of approval.

2006 Photo Outtakes #47
2007-02-14 02:16
by Ken Arneson

Hayden in the Penn

Pitchers and catchers, report! You may now officially start over, and forget about days gone like this one, when Hayden should have just stayed in the pen.

2006 Photo Outtakes #46
2007-02-13 01:46
by Ken Arneson

Baserunning, Umpires

Little known baserunning fact: while baseball players are required to run the bases in a counter-clockwise direction, baseball umpires run the bases clockwise, as shown above.

2006 Photo Outtakes #45
2007-02-11 21:19
by Ken Arneson

Baserunning, Chone Figgins edition.

Baserunning, Chone Figgins 1

Baserunning, Chone Figgins 2

Dan Johnson Stuck Around 'Til He Couldn't See Straight
2007-02-09 15:42
by Ryan Armbrust

I've never tried to hide the fact that Dan Johnson is my favorite player. I watched him smack the ball all over the lime-green astroturf of Buck Beltzer Field as a Husker and set Nebraska records for home runs and slugging. I followed him through the A's system, and even went to a couple AAA games when the RiverCats came to Omaha. In 2005, I got caught up in the Dan Johnson hype, and almost believed that he deserved to win the Topps All-Rookie Team first-baseman's spot over the incredible force that is Ryan Howard. Almost.

2006 was nothing short of horrible, though. Last season was rough on him as a player, and it wasn't easy on me as a fan. He endured an epic slump to begin the year, seemed to recover, and then went into a tailspin by midsummer. Johnson had to endure the shame of playing in the game where his RiverCat bobblehead was given out, emphasizing his fall from The Show.

Not all is doom and gloom for Johnson, though. Sure, the glut of outfielders in Oakland's camp suggests that Nick Swisher will force Johnson out of a job at first base. He can't even DH, since the A's once again have a reclamation project filling that spot. Johnson could look past all of that, though, and see his way into the lineup. Quite literally.

Last year Johnson had some trouble with his eyes. They were dry all the time, and he was having trouble seeing the ball in, which doomed him from the get-go. Of course, Gerald Perry didn't seem to know what to do with Johnson, but that's another story.

According to Susan Slusser of the SF Chronicle, Dan Johnson suffered from the affliction made famous by Foreigner. Double vision.

Johnson's season-long trouble with dry eyes was discovered to be far more serious: The A's first baseman also had developed double vision, according to a group of specialists in Mesa, Ariz., that Johnson's agent found.

One of the prescriptions Johnson was given during the season apparently caused the double vision, the specialists said. Johnson just thought his vision was blurry, and that complicated the diagnosis, because "my perception of what was wrong was wrong."

Johnson has been undergoing intensive eye therapy and, he said, "There were dramatic results right away. It's night and day.''

While there is still the distinct possibility that, dare I say it, Dan Johnson is a AAAA-type player, he could still return to the form that saw him hitting over .300 with power for much of 2005. If so, I'm much more comfortable with a four-man rotation in the outfield of Swisher, Kotsay, Bradley and Stewart, as opposed to relying on Kotsay and Stewart to stay healthy for 140+ games.

Feeling down n dirty, feeling kinda mean
Ive been from one to another extreme
This time I had a good time, aint got time to wait
I wanna stick around till I cant see straight

Fill my eyes with that double vision, no disguise for that double vision
Ooh, when it gets through to me, its always new to me
My double vision gets the best of me

Shannon Stewart: Finder of Lost Loves
2007-02-09 13:07
by Philip Michaels

Well, Catfish Stew has already covered the Shannon Stewart signing from an analytical perspective and from the informed historical perspective. But what of the inane, of-interest-only-to-me perspective? Who will speak for it?

Oh, all right. I'm game.

Actual conversations between me and my wife this morning:

"Hey, looks like the A's signed Shannon Stewart," I said.

"That's disappointing," my wife replied.

"Disappointing? Are you worried that his recent injury history will make it unlikely for him to have much of an impact with the A's?"


"Are you upset because it potentially means that Bobby Kielty will be fighting for playing time?"

"Not really."

"Then why is it disappointing?"

"Because I used to date a guy named Shannon Stewart."

"Oh... say, this guy you used to date... the Blue Jays didn't happen to draft him with the 19th pick of the 1992 amateur draft, did they?"

"I don't think so."

"He didn't have a career on-base percentage of .364 and a .439 slugging percentage?"

"I'm pretty sure he did not."

"Get a lot of MVP consideration in 2003 following his trade to Minnesota?"


"Oh. Then it's probably not the same guy then."

And... scene.

A Pitch Graph to be Named Later (part II)
2007-02-09 02:13
by Ryan Armbrust

[click the image to enlarge it]

Thanks for the wonderful feedback on the original post. As requested, I've made some changes to the prototype.

I tried to make the innings more defined, I moved some of the data, and differentiated some colors. I added in the pitchers names, and made the code on the left hand side less mysterious. There's now a pitch count bar at the bottom. I also extended the plate appearance end-lines from the top to the bottom.

Anything else you'd like to see changed or added? Once I get everything smoothed out, I'm planning on posting charts like this for particularly intriguing games this season. There might be some interesting trends that jump out.

I'd write a fancy graphics script to parse the data from pitch-by-pitch sources for every game, and automatically generate a graphic... but that's beyond my technical capabilities. Unless someone out there can lend a hand, I'll just continue to put these together using retrosheet, MS paint, notepad, and my own misplaced sense of persistence.

One last item: any suggestions for a name for this thing? I've been calling it a pitch graph and a pitch chart, but those just don't have a nice ring to them...

Fresh Pitch Chart, Get it While it's Hot
2007-02-08 13:13
by Ryan Armbrust

Straight from the Ryan Armbrust Graphical Baseball Laboratory, located in a secluded castle on a mountaintop of the Bohemian Alps in southeast Nebraska, I bring you my latest creation. What you see is every Oakland pitch thrown from one game last year.

What began as a simple experiment in visualizing pitch progression for a game ended up looking vaguely like a reject from the Frank Lloyd Wright school of stained glass windows.

Nonetheless, I think there's some promise to what I set out to accomplish. Let me go back to the beginning, and explain what I've got going on there.

On the left hand side, there are some letters that, while they may look like some kind of acronym from anatomy class in high school, are actually indicating the pitch type on the rest of the chart. K is a swinging strikeout, backwards K is a called strikeout, O is an out made on a ball in play, S is a swinging strike, C is a called strike, and F is a foul ball. Below the double line that marks good from bad, B is a ball, W is a walk, and H is a hit.

The vertical lines indicate the end of a plate appearance, and the numbers below everything help define the duration of a specific inning.

Bright red marks are strikeouts, maroon marks are outs on balls in play, and the blue dashes are hits. You can tell at a glance how many K's and hits a pitcher gave up over the course of a game. Speaking of which, I went the easy route for this first chart, and graphed one of the simplest games of 2006. If you can guess which complete game this was, and who the Oakland pitcher was who threw it, I'll consider the chart to be at least somewhat interpretable.

My goal here is to produce a sleek chart that will contain as much relevant info as possible. If you can take a glance at it and say, "Hey, I see that the second batter of the third inning saw a ball, took two called strikes, another ball, and then struck out swinging", that's what I'm aiming for.

There are some unresolved issues with it, such as how to deal with double plays (such as the one that ended the first inning), whether runs should be accounted for, pitching changes, and if I should differentiate between singles, doubles, etc. I've got some ideas brewing, though.

So, I'm going to open myself up to some criticism here. Keep in mind that I've only invested a couple hours into this prototype, but don't pull your punches. What, if anything, do you like about this? What would you include/exclude/change? Is it similar to an existing thing that I've managed to remain ignorant to? Also, let me know if you'd like to see more of this sort of nerdy numbers and pictures creation thing, or you'd rather I stick to more... traditional methods.

Shannon Stewart as an A
2007-02-08 04:07
by Ryan Armbrust

With the apparent news that Shannon Stewart has been inked to a deal with Oakland to be in the running for the 4th, 5th, 6th an outfield job, I decided to see what the ol' crystal ball had to say.

Using a weighted average based on the accuracy of the systems in years past, I came up with what I've called the Grand Unified Projection for Shannon Stewart.

Bill James 339 20 7 29 43 .292 .357 .419
CHONE 377 19 8 34 48 .282 .346 .405
MARCEL 321 15 7 27 44 .283 .342 .408
PECOTA 304 14 5 25 39 .273 .332 .383
ZiPS 342 17 7 31 49 .275 .341 .392
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Weighted Avg. 336 17 7 29 45 .281 .344 .402

While that's not the kind of power that you'd like to see from a corner outfielder, there's nothing wrong with a .281/.344/.402 line.

That's assuming Stewart stays healthy, of course. Considering that he's spent his entire career on carpet in the Sky Dome Rogers Centre and Metrodome, and that his major problem has been with his legs and feet... I've got to think that he'll hold up better on real grass on Oakland.

If he can earn the playing time amongst the other dozen outfielders on the roster, that is. With the likes of Bobby Kielty, Ricky Ledee, Ryan Goleski, Hiram Bocachica, Charles Thomas, Javier Herrerra, Travis Buck and whoever else Billy Beane signs in the next two weeks, Stewart will have plenty of company in the outfield this March.

Shannon Stewart Continues The Jaha-Thomas Tradition
2007-02-08 00:12
by Ken Arneson

Shannon Stewart is the winner of this year's been-hurt-so-long-we-almost-forgot-about-him Billy Beane Sweepstakes. The Oakland A's agreed on a 1-year, incentive-ladel deal with Stewart.

Back in his healthy days, Stewart regularly put up OBPs of .360-.380. That certainly would be welcome and useful, if Stewart can return to form after two years of plantar fasciitis problems.

He's not the ideal platoon partner for Bobby Kielty, as he bats right-handed, but at least he's been much better against RHP than Kielty has been. And it's insurance in case Dan Johnson flops, Mark Kotsay gets hurt, Mike Piazza gets old, Milton Bradley implodes, and various other disasters. Depth never hurts.

* * *

Just for kicks, I was recently reading through the early Transaction Analysis articles over at BP. Here's Christina Kahrl's take on the original success story in the Billy Beane Sweepstakes (apparently called the Guillermo Frijoles Sweepstakes back then), John Jaha:

I'm not a big fan of bringing in Jaha, but the A's are heavily left-handed, and he'll get every opportunity to win the right-handed DH job. The misfortune is that there's more Kevin Mitchell in this signing than Matt Stairs. Jaha basically can't pass a physical, and some folks are joking that he hurts himself in workouts. They'll have to be really stubborn and ignore all of that to make room for him.

Well, sometimes this sort of thing doesn't work out (Mitchell, Tim Raines), and sometimes it does (Jaha, Frank Thomas). I guess we'll find out soon enough about Stewart.

* * *

Reading those old transactions sure makes me thankful for the rosters of recent seasons. The 2007 A's probably have about six starting pitchers, and about seven or eight relievers who are better than anybody on those 1996-1998 teams. Here's a Kahrl note from 1998 that just about sums those years up:


Recalled RHP Dave Telgheder from Edmonton; designated RHP Jim Dougherty for assignment. [4/28]

The A's fall back on their third option for the fifth starter slot, as they've had to in each of the previous seasons: Dave Telgheder. Maybe its my easily inspired sense of imagination. Maybe only I shudder each time it happens. But the surrender that Telgheder represents, the agony of having to hand him a job every couple of months, is the surface ripple of the organization's deep problems with their minor league pitching prospects. Whether its Willie Adams or Kirk Dressendorfer or Andrew Lorraine or Bret Wagner or Ariel Prieto, no matter what glimmering possibility seems to hold promise, we keep coming back to Dave Telgheder. You can't kill him, you can't hide from him. He's the uninvited guest who chains himself to your couch. His agent certainly earned his cut by getting his client into the right organization as a minor league free agent.

Hilarious. But probably only because those days ended long ago. Just curious, though: does Jay Witasick use Telgheder's old agent?

2006 Photo Outtakes #44
2007-02-07 22:42
by Ken Arneson

Baserunning, part 2

Is it March yet?
2007-02-07 00:49
by Ryan Armbrust

For twelve glorious days this March, I'm going to leave behind the windchill of Nebraska and bask in the baseball-filled warmth of Phoenix, AZ. I'll be spending a good amount of my time around Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the home of the green and gold for six weeks every spring.

As you may have expected, I'll be splitting my time equally between watching baseball and writing about baseball. Of course, that's an oversimplification, as I'll probably need to find some time to eat, sleep and stop by Mill Avenue in Tempe.

I'll also be toting along my brand new camera to the games. In my highly scientific estimation, it's somewhere around a thousand times better than my old one. Hopefully my new and improved shots of Rich Harden will be the first of many we'll see of him on the mound in 2007. Here's what he looked like in March of 2006:

If you're going to be in the Phoenix area between March 6th and 17th, drop me a line. I'm always up for shooting the breeze about any and all things baseball.

And for those of you expecting something more... sabermetric from me, I'll be back with some fancy pictures and numbers in a couple days. Until then, I'll send you back to your regularly scheduled programming of the stylings of Ken Arneson.

2006 Photo Outtakes #43
2007-02-05 20:54
by Ken Arneson

Baserunning, part 1

And now, for something competely different...baserunning!

That's 'Six Feet Under' 3.5 Times Over, For Those Of You Keeping Score
2007-02-05 19:30
by Ken Arneson

Overreact once, shame on you...overreact twice...OMG! If global warming increases sea levels by more than a couple of feet, the A's new stadium in Fremont might find itself below sea level. We'll all drown!!! seems we're all dead already...I've always felt that being an A's fan is like being in some kind of purgatory...not quite hell, exactly, but not quite heaven either...things go well, but it's never quite right...there's great weather, but an ugly park...great transportation, but to a bad neighborhood...when you win it all, there's an earthquake or something...and then you find out your favorite players were all a bunch of steroid the I understand why...because right the help of global warming...there's this:

The field at the Oakland Coliseum is 21 feet below sea level.

How To Overreact On A Slow News Day
2007-02-05 17:13
by Ken Arneson

A's DH Mike Piazza became a father over the weekend:

"Both baby and mother are doing fine," Piazza's rep, Josh Goldberg, said in a statement to PEOPLE.

Baby and mother? But..but...what about the FATHER? Why was he omitted from this statement? Is something wrong with him? Did he faint and hit his head in the delivery room? Did he suffer a concussion? Will he be ready for opening day? Or will he have to retire like Mike Matheny?

We're sorry about Mr. Piazza's unfortunate delivery room mishap, but nonetheless we send hearty Catfish Stew congratulations to the new father. He obviously thinks ahead with great planning and timing, unlike some other old fools. Less thoughtful men may find themselves missing Opening Day, or spending the heart of their season changing the diapers of newborn half-Swedes instead of playing in the British Open or covering Frank Thomas' return to Oakland. Such men should be ashamed.

Football Is Out(takes #42)
2007-02-05 11:34
by Ken Arneson

Football Is Out

The football Bears lost yesterday, but you can't say I didn't warn them.

But no bother. That's yesterday's news. And besides, the more important Bears won. Long live baseball.

Winnie the Pooh, the Super Bowl, and Me (Happy XLI to Us)
2007-02-01 17:21
by Ken Arneson

On February 4, 1966, Disney released its first Winnie the Pooh film. That was the second-most important historical event of the day--the first being the birth of yours truly. Exactly XLI years later, on February 4, 2007, Super Bowl XLI will be played...and Winnie the Pooh and I will be turning XLI years old.

This is a truly cosmic convergence of events. It's like all the planets lining up in a row. The most popular sporting event, the most beloved children's character, and the most fantastically awesome blogger in the world, all celebrating the same number birthday on the very same day, for the very first time EVER!

I must say, I'm quite disappointed that somebody over at Disney or some other large advertiser hasn't yet seen fit to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to fly Mr. Pooh and me down to Miami, and provide us with Super Bowl tickets, so that the three of us can celebrate our XLIst birthday together, just as Destiny obviously intends. It's a great story, and would make a great promotion.

Something magical is meant to happen there, to the three of us. And we shall be rooting for the Bears. OF COURSE the Bears are in this Super Bowl--how could they not have been? Winnie-the-Pooh is a bear. And I graduated from UC Berkeley, so I'm a Bear, too. In fact Pooh and I are both Golden Bears of sorts. So isn't it appropriate that the Bears win Gold in this Super Bowl?

I know somebody at will read this. Send it up your chain of command. It's gotta happen. You know it. Make it happen. Or maybe some wealthy Chicago Bears diehard wants to hedge his bets. You KNOW if Pooh and I are there, the Bears HAVE to win the game, with some kind of incredible ending. How could it be any other way?

Otherwise, I'll probably just hang around home, popping Doritos while I watch some boring 48-7 Colts blowout victory, on my nothing-special 20" TV, eating an ordinary birthday cake and opening a few presents, all of which is certainly nice, but also not magical.

And just to show how incredibly incredible this cosmic convergence of events is, guess what? Baseball Toaster's 2006 Photo Outtake series has reached photo #XLI:

Baseball on a Football Field

And can you believe it? It just happens to be a picture of baseball players on a football field. The odds of all these things happening together are simply astronomical.

There is a chance that these events could converge again in 2018, the next time February 4 falls on a Sunday. But do we really want to wait another eleven years for this opportunity? Do we really want to trust the NFL not to push the Super Bowl out another week a decade from now? That the Bears will be in that Super Bowl, too? Do you really want a boring Colts blowout, CBS? I think not. Pepsi, Nike, Toyota--do you want as many people as possible to see your ads in an exciting game? Prove it! Me, Pooh, and the Super Bowl. We must meet. This chance may never come again. XLI, baby! Just do it!

BABIP: A Tale of Two Blantons
2007-02-01 02:30
by Ryan Armbrust

For Joe Blanton over the past two years, it was the best of luck, and it was the worst of luck.

(The lame Dickens references end here. I promise.)

Many folks, including myself, wondered how Blanton, without really changing any of his peripheral numbers and rates, could manage to put up a 3.53 ERA in 2005, and a 4.82 ERA last year. Look at some of his rates:

2005 2006
ERA 3.53 4.82
WHIP 1.21 1.54
BB/9 3.00 2.69
SO/9 5.17 4.96
SO:BB 1.73 1.84
HR/9 1.03 0.79

His ERA and WHIP ballooned, but his walks per nine, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and home runs per nine actually improved. He gave up a lot more hits; that's obvious. But how, and why?

Let's start from the beginning.

In 2005, Joe Blanton, after a brief rough stretch to open his career, put up some great numbers. Before May 30th of 2005, Blanton had a hellish ERA of 6.66, but from that date until the end of the season, he put up a 2.53 ERA.

It's worth noting that Blanton had a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .284 before that break point, but afterwards he had a significantly lower .230 BABIP. Major League average for BABIP is considered to be around .290-.300. BABIP is considered to be controlled in part by the batter, mostly by the fielders, and very little by the pitcher. Anything far off of .300 is seen to indicate luck, or lack thereof.

Kentucky Joe had the third lowest BABIP in the majors, among all pitchers with 100 innings or more.

1 Roger Clemens HOU .248
2 Barry Zito OAK .249
3 Joe Blanton OAK .252
4 Pedro Martinez NYN .253
5 Rich Harden OAK .257
6 Carlos Zambrano CHN .258
7 Tim Wakefield BOS .261
8 Bruce Chen BAL .262
9 Jose Contreras CHA .263
10 Kris Benson NYN .264

In my estimation, Blanton's low ERA is largely due to his very low BABIP during the majority of the season. He got lucky that not many balls were falling in, and it affected his ERA positively.

And then we come to 2006. Blanton's BABIP luck completely reversed itself, and everything fell in for a hit. He was buried under a .341 BABIP. It was so bad that Blanton actually finished the year with the 5th highest BABIP of any pitcher with 100+ innings to his name.

1 Ryan Madson PHI .364
2 Victor Santos PIT .362
3 Byung-Hyun Kim COL .350
4 Ben Sheets MIL .342
5 Joe Blanton OAK .341
6 Brian Moehler FLO .340
7 Zach Duke PIT .336
8 James Shields TBA .334
9 Paul Maholm PIT .334
10 Andy Pettitte HOU .333

Here's a look at Blanton's BABIP and ERA over the past two years. Both stats are plotted as a five-day rolling average, and ERA has been scaled down by ten-fold for comparison.

While not highly correlated, you can see that the BABIP variation coincided with his ERA exploding or collapsing, as it may have been.

An 89 point swing to one's BABIP is going to cause some pretty big ripples thoughout the rest of the stats. I'd be extremely surprised to see Blanton come near either .252 or .341 again.

So which version of Joe Blanton is the aberration here? The 2005 unhittable Blanton-ator, or 2006's jacked-around Joe?

Both are off, really. Blanton hasn't shown the ability to limit BABIP that a only a few pitchers seem to have. He's also not exceptionally hittable, as 2006 suggests he is.

Here are Blanton's career BABIP numbers. I've included the average BABIP at the level he was pitching for reference. And yes, NCAA BABIP is that high.

(Bold numbers are those that have enough innings to give an accurate number. Italics indicate small sample size)

Year Team Level IP Lg BABIP BABIP
2000 Kentucky NCAA 50 .340 .321
2001 Kentucky NCAA 58 .340 .310
2002 Kentucky NCAA 100 .340 .343
Vancouver A- 14.1 .327 .282
Modesto A+ 6 .323 .368
2003 Kane County A 133 .321 .290
Midland AA 35.2 .318 .206
2004 Sacramento AAA 176.1 .322 .326

As you can tell, Joe's never been that far off of the league average. So on the pure logic of regression to the mean, I certainly think Joe Blanton will have a good year in 2007.

Well, at least as far as BABIP goes. He's still got to figure out a way to strike out more than 5 batters per nine innings.

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