Baseball Toaster Catfish Stew
Monthly archives: October 2007


Halloween Greetings from Catfish Stew
2007-10-31 15:31
by Philip Michaels

With the Red Sox completing their sweep of the Rockies in remorseless fashion, we are left bereft of baseball far sooner than any of us outside the greater New England area might have hoped for. So, to pass the time until the beginning of the Hot Stove League -- or as we A's fans call it, Get a Load of Our Rule V Draft Selections and Non-Tendered Signees! -- I thought I'd share my Halloween costume with y'all.

Detroit Tigers hat... mustache... Hawaiian shirt... beloved '80s icon... Are you getting it?

That's right -- I'm going as former Tigers Pitcher Dan Petry on vacation in Oahu.

Ooooooh... I went 18-8 in 1984! Scary stuff!

My wife is dressing up as teammate Milt Wilcox, by the way.

All of you people who guessed Magnum P.I. should be ashamed of yourselves.

2007-10-25 15:50
by Ken Arneson

The A's are clearing out their 40-man roster, trying to make room to protect some potential Rule 5-eligible prospects. They tried to sneak Chris Snelling through waivers, but he was claimed immediately by Tampa Bay. I'm not so much surprised that he would be claimed, but by Tampa Bay? The Rays have outfielders coming out of their ears: Baldelli, Crawford, Dukes, Gomes, Upton, Young. Do they really need a seventh-string injury-prone outfielder on their roster? Well, maybe this will be the year they finally trade an outfielder for a pitcher or two.

And yet, the A's managed to sneak a boatload of AAAA pitchers off their 40-man roster and back down to Sacramento: Connor Robertson, Jason Windsor, Shane Komine, Ron Flores, and Brad Halsey. So many teams starving for pitching, and nobody wanted to take a free chance on those guys? I guess everyone else is too busy trying to clear room on their own rosters to notice anyone else's housecleaning. Meanwhile, the A's lost one pitcher who pitched worse than any of those other fellows. Jay Marshall was claimed by the one team who should be too busy these days to notice, the Boston Red Sox.

Meanwhile, two middle-aged mediocre freely replaceable middle relievers, Ruddy Lugo and Colby Lewis, are still on the 40-man roster. Weird.

Traffic Vibration Rate
2007-10-19 15:32
by Ken Arneson

I'm not a big believer in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, but sometimes when a concept is expressed in a different language or using a different metaphor, it's like coming to the top of a steep hill, and a whole wide valley opens up beneath you.

For instance, you've probably understood the idea of "Earned Run Average" for years; it doesn't thrill you much anymore, does it? Ah, but what happens to your understanding of that concept if you start calling it "Traffic Vibration Rate" instead?

Suddenly, you're not looking at ERA as just a number of baseball events divided by another number of baseball events. You're imagining the advancement of baseball runners to be like cars on the freeway, sometimes getting congested, and other times moving unobstructed. You imagine the pitcher not just as a trigger of single individual events, but as a source of oscillation over time. Runners flow around him, like a stream around a boulder. Baseball is governed not just by the laws of averages, but by complex systems of fluid dynamics.

And then, on further inspection, we imagine that the game inhabits the very paradoxes of quantum mechanics: each baseball event is not just a particle, but it is also a wave. Like string theory, all matter consists of tiny vibrating strings, and the rate at which they vibrate determines how they manifest themselves in our perceptions. Each particle exists as an individual unit, but each wave interacts with every other particle/wave in its vicinity, amplifying and/or cancelling its effects. The fastball up-and-in exists as a fastball up-and-in, but has a profound effect on the curveball down and away that follows.

The pitcher is no longer just a single man throwing a single ball. He is, in his moment of throwing, at one with the universe: both creating it and being created by it. He is a happy young boy, standing barefoot along the shore, skipping stones atop the waters, making waves that cross a wide, wide ocean.

A's Claim My Sixth Grade Teacher
2007-10-12 14:41
by Ken Arneson

The Oakland Athletics claimed Jose Garcia off waivers from the Florida Marlins yesterday. This shocks me, because I had Jose Garcia as my sixth grade teacher thirty years ago, and that would make him what? At least 60, probably 70 years old or so? Not only that, he missed the entire 2007 season with Tommy John surgery.

Now don't get me wrong, I liked Mr. Garcia a lot; he was a good teacher. But Billy Beane's search for "undervalued" players has gone completely off the deep end. Sure, Mr. Garcia's previous minor-league numbers look good: 203 career strikeouts in 198 1/3 innings is excellent. But the A's suffered through all of 2007 with injury after injury, and now they add another injury-prone player to their roster? I know the prognosis for Tommy John surgery is usually quite good, but that's not a prognosis derived from a population of people who are eligible to collect Social Security checks. The Marlins must be completely flabbergasted that they were unable to sneak Mr. Garcia through waivers.

Admittedly, I haven't seen Mr. Garcia since I left Lincoln Elementary School back in 1978. Maybe he's in phenomenal shape. I'm skeptical, but I guess we'll find out in March. I look forward to seeing him again.

If At First You Don't Succeed, Fire Your Coaches
2007-10-06 17:12
by Philip Michaels

Larry Davis might have been given the corner office treatment, as Ken reported in this space earlier, but three members of the coaching staff are not so lucky. Susan Slusser reports that Rene Lachemann, Brad Fishcer, and Bob Shaefer have been told they won't be back next year. This is apparently the chickens from Billy Beane's season-ending mutterings about letting Bob Geren have more of a say in picking his staff coming home to roost.

It's unclear from the blog post whether Lachemann, Fischer, and Shaefer are out of the organization altogether or if they'll be offered jobs elsewhere within the A's empire. I'm guessing a Davis-like title of Coordinator of Coaches is probably out of the question.

Bob Schaefer's most distinguishing feature is his resemblance to Ken Macha from behind, so much so that I did a double-take at Spring Training this year when I first clapped eyes on him. "Didn't we fire you?" I murmured under my breath. To his credit, Schaefer didn't turn around.

I kind of figured Lachemann's days were numbered when, in the wak of the Mike Coolbaugh tragedy, he started wearing a helmet and standing as far away from the coaching box as he possibly could while still remaining on the field of play. It is possible that the A's figured that perhaps Lachemann's heart wasn't in the third-base coaching gig so much anymore.

I'm shocked about Brad Fishcer being shown the door, or as shocked as one can be when the bullpen coach is let go. Fischer just wrapped up his 29th season in the A's organization. Perhaps he answered the bullpen phone with a funny voice one too many times for Curt Young's liking -- I don't know. I met Fishcer once at an A's Fan Fest, and he was very friendly and cordial, moreso than a lot of people might have been under similar circumstances. I hope he and the A's don't part ways entirely -- it seems like he really enjoyed being part of the organization and he certainly served it well.

In a related note, it looks like Ty Van Burkleo has survived the Curse of A's Hitting Coaches that has claimed your Gerald Perrys, your Dave Hudgenses, and your Thad Bosleys in years past.

If At First You Don't Succeed, Give Everyone A Promotion
2007-10-06 08:57
by Ken Arneson

Good news, everyone! Billy Beane has recognized that there were issues with the Oakland A's medical and training staff in 2007, and has taken a big step towards correcting the problem. His solution is a classic example of that famous book you all know about.

No, not Moneyball. The step Beane has taken comes straight out of Scott Adams' book, The Dilbert Principle, which states that organizations systematically promote their least competent employees to management, where they can do the least amount of damage.

Former Head Trainer Larry Davis has been promoted to a newly created desk job called "Coordinator of Medical Services". Steve Sayles takes a step up from Assistant Trainer to fill Davis' old role, while Walt Horn moves up from AAA to complete the shuffle.  In addition, A's team orthopedist Dr. Jerrod Goldman has resigned, replaced by Dr. John Frazier.

Good to know that the A's know when to apply new principles of management, and when to use the old, time-tested solutions.  That's the true test of intelligence.  Next year, the A's will be fully healthy all year, I'm sure!


Playoff Predictions 2007
2007-10-02 20:41
by Ken Arneson

In my preseason predictions over on the Juice Blog this year, I picked the Cubs to win the World Series. Last year, my preseason prediction was right, as I picked the Cardinals to win it all. The year before, I didn't make a preseason World Series prediction, but my postseason playoff prediction formula correctly predicted the White Sox as champions. This formula, which relies solely on the number of errors each team committed during the season (and accurately picks the Division Series winner 67% of the time), fell apart last year with a number of ties in error totals. This year, there are no ties: it predicts the Cubs to lose the Series to the Yankees.

The formula says:

(LDS: pick the team with the fewest errors)
Rockies (68 errors) over Phillies (89).
Cubs (94) over Diamondbacks (106).
Yankees (88) over Indians (92).
Red Sox (81) over Angels (101).

(LCS: reverse it, and pick the team with the most errors)
Cubs over Rockies.
Yankees over Red Sox.

(World Series: pick the team with the fewest errors)
Yankees over Cubs.

OK, so which one do I choose as my final answer--my formula or my preseason choice? Picking the Yankees is boring. I'll go with my preseason one--the errors formula works better in the LDS than in later rounds, anyway. Plus, I'd rather have fun than be right, any day. Go Cubs!

Feel free to leave your own playoff predictions in the comments.

* * *

Congratulations to the Seattle Mariners for winning the highly coveted title of Heavyweight of the Year. They swept the Texas Rangers in the final weekend of the year to take the crown.

* * *

I should probably add the disclaimer that while I've had some success in making predictions in general, I totally suck at predicting the AL West.  Whenever I pick the A's, the Angels win the division, and vice versa.  Clearly, I know nothing at all about that particular division.

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