Baseball Toaster Catfish Stew
Monthly archives: April 2008


A's Trade Watch
2008-04-29 18:49
by Ken Arneson

Only looking at the major leaguers traded this offseason:

Dan Haren:      4-1, 3.13 ERA, 37.1 IP, 29 K,  7 BB
Dana Eveland:   3-1, 2.48 ERA, 29.0 IP, 21 K, 12 BB
Greg Smith:     2-0, 2.88 ERA, 25.0 IP, 16 K,  8 BB

Joey Devine:    2-0, 0.96 ERA,  9.1 IP,  8 K,  3 BB
Mark Kotsay:    .268/.333/.390

Nick Swisher:   .221/.376/.349
Ryan Sweeney:   .254/.284/.317

Marco Scutaro:  .200/.351/.250

Oakland at Angels, 7:05pm, Smith vs. Joe Saunders

Another Streak Will End Tonight
2008-04-28 18:50
by Ken Arneson

The A's and Angels have the exact same record, 16-10, tied for the best in the American League.  Moreover, they have done the exact same thing for seven straight days:

Mon 4/21:  day off
Tue 4/22:  loss
Wed 4/23: win
Thu 4/24: win
Fri 4/25: win
Sat 4/26: loss
Sun 4/27: win

That's about to end shortly, unless something like this happens.

Oakland @ Angels, 7:05pm, Chad Gaudin vs. Jon Garland.

The Big News from Thursday's Game
2008-04-25 00:07
by Ken Arneson

The A's 11-2 drubbing of Minnesota wasn't filled with much drama, but it was a Big News kind of day nonetheless. The game was not televised, and many people missed the excitement because of work obligations, but do not fear. Catfish Stew has the goods on What It Was Like To Be There. Here's the Big News you want to hear about:

Continue reading...

Big Hurt is Back
2008-04-24 10:00
by Ken Arneson

It's official: the A's have signed Frank Thomas.

For now, the A's will let Mike Sweeney and Thomas co-exist on the roster. Hard to understand how long that can last. But for now, to make roster room, Travis Buck was placed on the 15-day DL; Eric Chavez was transferred to the 60-day DL.

Meanwhile, I'll be at the game today.   Will Thomas be in the lineup?   I have an extra ticket, if anyone wants to go. Email me by 11:30am if you want it.

Twins at Oakland, 12:35pm

Santiago Casilla, MVP
2008-04-24 09:26
by Ken Arneson

If I had told you in March that the A's would be in first place near the end of April, who would you have thought would be the player most responsible for the hot start? I bet you wouldn't have said "Santiago Casilla." Casilla is currently leading the A's in Win Probability Added.


Geren Gripes
2008-04-23 18:32
by Ken Arneson

Ah, nothing says "the baseball season is really here" than your first, good heart-felt second-guess. Last night gave me my first good one.

I've been getting annoyed at how bad Bob Geren has been at recognizing when Joe Blanton is running out of gas. There was a breakdown of the A's on Hardball Times yesterday where Jeff Sackmann wrote "Blanton has been pedestrian", which if you look at his basic stats (1-4, 4.32) appears to be true, but that's been misleading. Joe Blanton hasn't been pedestrian, he's been fabulous. The problem is that Geren has removed Blanton after he's run out of gas in all but one of Blanton's six starts this year.

Compare Blantons' last half-inning of work to all the earlier innings so far:

vs.   1st X      Last <1

BOS 5.0 0 0.2 3
BOS 5.0 1 1.0 1
CLE 6.0 0 0.2 2
CLE 7.0 1 0.2 5
SEA 7.0 4 1.0 0
MIN 7.0 4 0.2 1
All 37.0 9 4.2 12

Before his last inning, Blanton has an ERA of 2.19. In his last inning, Blanton's ERA is 23.14. Methinks Mr. Geren needs to do a better job of removing Blanton before damage is done.

Last night's loss was particularly annoying, as Blanton was approaching 100 pitches, it was a tie game with one out in the 8th inning, and three of the next four batters were left-handed. Perfect time for Alan Embree, wouldn't you think? Not if you're Bob Geren, apparently. Blanton gave up hits to two of next three batters before Embree came in and gave up the single which won the game for Minnesota.

C'mon Geren, wake up:

Twins at Oakland, 7:05pm

Optimizing the DH
2008-04-22 10:02
by Ken Arneson

The A's are 12-8 so far, despite getting almost no production out of their primary projected power source, Jack Cust. The A's are dead last the majors in hitting home runs--only seven combined homers for the entire team.

The Blue Jays' release of Frank Thomas makes it worth a look to see if the A's can get better production out of their DH spot than they're getting from Cust. Perhaps Cust is just a one-year wonder--teams have figured out that Cust only hits fastballs, and are giving him nothing but soft stuff until he adjusts, and he might not adjust.

So let's take a look at the options for the DH slot: Cust, plus Mike Sweeney, free agents Thomas and Barry Bonds, plus, just for the heck of it (since there are calls for his head in New York), Jason Giambi.

All five of these guys have similar profiles: low batting averages, lots of walks, high slugging percentage. Let's look at their PECOTA projected and current 2008 stats, both overall and by handedness:


Overall:   projected          2008 to date
Sweeney: .259/.321/.428 .275/.356/.333
Cust: .242/.389/.467 .157/.368/.255
Thomas: .258/.364/.488 .167/.306/.333
Bonds: .246/.420/.494 ---
Giambi: .234/.362/.453 .109/.288/.283

vs LHP:
Sweeney: .266/.332/.422 .391/.483/.435
Cust: .216/.362/.395 .143/.368/.286
Thomas: .273/.387/.518 .143/.250/.357
Bonds: .234/.397/.449 ---
Giambi: .214/.338/.413 .000/.400/.000

vs RHP:
Sweeney: .251/.309/.389 .179/.233/.250
Cust: .246/.396/.477 .162/.367/.243
Thomas: .253/.351/.461 .174/.321/.326
Bonds: .253/.437/.508 ---
Giambi: .241/.377/.492 .125/.265/.325

If you look by projections alone, clearly Mike Sweeney is the worst of the bunch. His projected OBP is far lower than any of the other four candidates. And yet, Sweeney is the only one of the five who is doing anything at all this season: he's clobbering LHP. Nobody's doing anything against RHP, although Cust has at least been taking his walks.

Normally, you'd say forget the small sample size of 20 games--believe the projections. However, since all five of these players may be considered to be possibly in the final year(s) of their career, you need to make a judgment on whether the player has anything left in the tank or not. Any one of them could fall off the cliff at any time. Sweeney's the only one who is showing any positive evidence that he hasn't already fallen off the cliff.

In the end, I think the A's will just stick with what they have. Bonds is a headache I don't think they want to deal with. Cust has better projections than Thomas against RHP.  The difference between Sweeney and Thomas against the few LH starters the A's would face in the AL West (Saunders, Washburn and Gabbard--one per team), particularly given the performance so far, might not be so big that it's worth the extra salary it would take to bring in Thomas. Plus Sweeney is the backup first baseman now that Dan "Crab-Man" Johnson is gone, and he vastly outperforms Thomas in that defensive role. But given the positive history of Thomas' one year in Oakland, the idea of bringing him in is certainly tempting.


Tonight: Twins at Oakland, 7:05 pm. Livan Hernandez vs. Joe Blanton.

A's Tie Obscure MLB Record!
2008-04-19 02:15
by Ken Arneson

With Chad Gaudin picking up the victory in last night's 13-2 win over Kansas City, the A's have now won 10 games on the season, each with a different winning pitcher. The 10 wins with 10 different winning pitchers to start a season ties the MLB record held by the 1973 Chicago Cubs and the 1992 California Angels.

No team has ever gotten their first 11 victories with 11 different pitchers. The 2008 A's could become the first team to ever accomplish that feat, if somehow either Santiago Casilla, Keith Foulke, Andrew Brown, Kirk Saarloos, or Huston Street (or some other pitcher not currently on the roster) is the next A's pitcher to earn a victory. Today's attempt:

Royals at Oakland, 1:05pm

A Few Short Sentences I Never Imagined Writing
2008-04-18 18:29
by Ken Arneson

The Batoidea claim the Crab-Man and his bat.

There I Guo.

Go-Dan and tie the MLB record tonight!

Royals at Oakland, 7:05pm


Miggy The Liar
2008-04-17 11:14
by Ken Arneson

It's too bad for the cable news networks that Miguel Tejada isn't running for President. They'd have a field day with this guy, tearing his character to shreds. First the steroid accusations from Rafael Palmeiro, then the Mitchell Report where Adam Piatt ratted him out as a steroid user, and now this: Tejada has been lying about his age for oh-so-many years. He's a full two years older than previously acknowledged.

I can't find it anywhere online, but I'm certain Miguel Tejada was asked about age-gate issues back when Luis Vizcaino got caught fudging his age in 2002, but I can't recall or find exactly what he said about it. Tejada was fortunate that year to be in the middle of a three-year visa when all the age-gate scandals broke, so he was apparently able to evade the issue with the press on a technicality.

He could have confessed then, when all the fuss was going on, but he didn't. And he expects us to elect him President? Shame on you, Miguel Tejada!

Interesting that the two main characters in Moneyball, Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta, each have had on their resume a much-criticized decision to let players go, who later were revealed to be quite tainted.

Beane has been criticized often for choosing Eric Chavez over Miguel Tejada. Sure, Chavez hasn't turned out great, but knowing what we know now, anybody would make that same choice.

Meanwhile, Paul DePodesta's legacy is tied to the trade that brought Brad Penny (and others) to the Dodgers for Paul LoDuca, Guillermo Mota, and Juan Encarnacion. LoDuca was revealed to be a big steroids consumer, as was Mota. Encarnacion was clean, but vastly overpaid. Great trade, or greatest trade?

Now take a look at the team Billy Beane had when he took over as GM of the A's in 1997. That team had Tejada, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, and Scott Spiezio. There's a group of guys with some deep moral convictions, eh?

Yeech. I rooted for this group of dingbats. I followed them. I bought their product, helped pay for their salaries. Does that lack of judgment, by association, disqualify me to be President? I think it might. Drat.


Mariners at Oakland, 7:05pm

Forget Rebuilding, Win Now
2008-04-15 10:37
by Ken Arneson

It's absurd, really. The Oakland Athletics have the best record in the American League, half a game ahead of Kansas City and Baltimore. Who'da thunk that before the season started? Who thinks the standings will look anything like this at the end of the year? Well, apparently, the A's do.

Remember Billy Beane's old idea that you take the first two months of the season to evaluate where you are, two months to fix your problems, and then go for it in the last two months? Well, throw that out the window. Two months? Try two weeks. The A's are going for it now. They think they can win this year. Yesterday, they DFA'd Rule 5 pick Fernando Hernandez and brought up Kirk Saarloos. You don't do that--replace a young pitcher with plenty of upside with a mediocre pitcher without any upside--unless you're placing a lot of value on the here and now.

I thought that the A's would be the last sports franchise on earth to fall victim to the illusions of small sample sizes. It's only 13 games into the season--and only three games into Hernandez' major league career--so it's pretty early to jump to conclusions: that the A's are competing for a playoff spot, and that Hernandez isn't ready for the majors. And yet, that's obviously what the A's are saying here.

Greg Smith did his best Kenny Rogers impression last night, and befuddled the White Sox. Can he keep it up all year? Will Dana Eveland keep his ERA under 2.00? I doubt it, but we'll give it another look-see today. Eveland will try his best to keep the A's from tying a major-league record by winning today's game.

Athletics at Chicago White Sox, 11:05am

A's Set Team Record: Updated!
2008-04-14 22:39
by Ken Arneson

The A's lead the AL with eight victories this year, yet oddly, no single pitcher has more than one win. This is a new team record for Most Consecutive Different Winning Pitchers To Start A Season.

So far, Rich Harden, Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland, Alan Embree, Fernando Hernandez, Joey Devine, Joe Blanton, and Lenny DiNardo have each recorded exactly one win.  Update: Add Greg Smith! Make it nine different pitchers with exactly one win!

The old team record was seven, set by the 1991 version of the Oakland A's. The first seven pitchers to record a victory in 1991 were Dave Stewart, Joe Slusarski, Mike Moore, Kirk Dressendorfer, Dana Allison, Bob Welch, and Steve Chitren. Moore ended the streak by notching his second win of the season on April 17th. The A's were 7-1 during this streak, the only loss being recorded by Bob Welch in the second game of the year.

The major league record (going back to 1920) is 10, held by two teams: 1973 Chicago Cubs (Bob Locker, Jack Aker, Rick Reuschel, Bill Bonham, Fergie Jenkins, Ray Burris, Burt Hooton, Bill Virdon, Larry Gura, Milt Pappas--streak broken by Reuschel) and the 1992 California Angels (Don Robinson, Mark Langston, Jim Abbott, Joe Grahe, Chuck Crim, Scott Lewis, Steve Frey, Julio Valera, Scott Bailes, Chuck Finley--streak broken by Grahe). The 1966 Pittsburgh Pirates had a streak of nine, while seventeen other teams besides the 2008 A's have run up a streak of eight. The most recent was the 2007 Yankees.

The A's can tie or break the MLB record if their next two or three victories come from this group of winless A's pitchers: Santiago Casilla, Keith Foulke, Huston Street, Chad Gaudin (who blew his chance yesterday), and Greg Smith.

Smith takes the mound tonight hoping to extend the streak. He opposes Mark Buehrle, Nick Swisher, and the Chicago White Sox.  Update:  Success!  They are now one short of the MLB record!

Athletics at Chicago White Sox, 5:11pm

Game 13: If You're Happy and You Know It
2008-04-13 09:57
by Ken Arneson

My nine-month-old daughter figured out how to clap her hands this week. The A's haven't lost a game since. There's been a lot of applause going on around these parts lately.

Thing is, I can't really figure out why this is happening. They're on a five-game winning streak, they're in first place by a game and a half, and the only home run they hit in those five games was Bobby Crosby's shot last night. They're not really hitting out of their heads--there's not a single regular with an OPS over .900. Crosby and Ellis are in the .800s, but Cust, Hannahan and Buck are all in the .500s. There's not really one thing you can point at and say, that's the reason. And yet they're scoring runs and winning games. It's a different offensive hero every day, it seems. Clap, clap.

Pitching and defense, pitching and defense.  Clap, clap.

Today's game against Cleveland is in a weather delay. We'll see if the game gets played. If it does:

Athletics at Cleveland, 10:05am



Game 12: Slip Slidin'
2008-04-12 15:52
by Ken Arneson

It's the first hot day of the year here in Northern California, up over 80 degrees.  The weather's too beautiful to be sitting inside in front of a TV watching Lenny DiNardo pitch.  Instead, it was a perfect day to break out the Slip 'N' Slide for the kids:

The A's are in first place all by their lonesomes. I'll enjoy it while it lasts, but I think I'd be happy today even if they weren't.

Athletics at Cleveland, 4:05pm

Game 11: Fun With Sample Sizes
2008-04-11 14:06
by Ken Arneson

Say, Billy Beane, how are those big trades working out for you so far in 2008?

Dan Haren:        1-0, 3.00 ERA, 12.0 IP,  9 K, 1 BB
Eveland + Smith: 1-0, 1.40 ERA, 19.1 IP, 18 K, 9 BB

Nick Swisher: .269/.457/.538
Ryan Sweeney: .364/.391/.500


Athletics at Cleveland, 4:05pm

Game 10: Awesome A's 2Bs
2008-04-10 14:00
by Ken Arneson

Interesting result from Baseball Prospectus today: Dan Fox's has ranked all fielders from 1957-2007 using his new fielding stat, SFR. The top three second basemen are all Athletics:

Name                Span         Balls     SFR    Rate
Dick Green 1963-1974 4281 102.0 1.18
Mark Ellis 2002-2007 2680 67.7 1.18
Mike Gallego 1986-1997 2117 50.5 1.16
Mark Lemke 1988-1998 3602 90.2 1.15
Jose Oquendo 1986-1995 2473 45.2 1.11

That's highly unusual. Green, Ellis and Gallego are/were all fantastic fielders, but it makes you wonder if there's some kind of hidden park factor going on here. Which would make sense if we were talking about first or third basemen with all the foul territory for popups (Eric Chavez is third amongst third basemen behind Brooks Robinson and Jim Davenport), but I doubt second basemen catch enough foul popups to make any difference here.

Maybe the first basemen play a step closer to the lines in Oakland in order to cover the foul territory? That would turn more balls that can normally be taken by either but are typically cut off by the first baseman into the responsibility of the second baseman alone. I dunno, that's just a guess, though.

I wonder what would happen to those rankings if you split them home/road?

And speaking of road:

Athletics at Toronto, 4:07pm

Through My Green and Gold Colored Glasses
2008-04-09 19:50
by Ryan Armbrust

Perhaps I'm just too much of a natural optimist. Perhaps it's watching Bobby Crosby produce in his early-season fortnight of health. Perhaps, compared to last year, this year's A's squad seems reasonably healthy, since they only have three players currently on the disabled list.

I'm not sure why, but I'm finding myself actually peeking at the standings, checking the calendar for upcoming series against contenders, and generally believing that this "rebuilding" squad won't lose 90-95 games, as many prognosticated in February.

Oakland challenging for 85 wins? Sure, I think it's possible. Contending for a playoff spot? Unlikely. Outperforming expectations? Absolutely.

Here's what we know, so far, that might back up my theory of relative success for the A's:

  1. Dana Eveland and Greg Smith, two of the pitchers new to the organization, kept fairly good offenses from stomping the A's. Cleveland and Toronto are pretty good initial tests of a pitcher's effectivness, and though Smith struggled with his command at times in the Rogers Centre, I'll allow a bit of margin for error considering it was his Major League debut. Nerves have to play a small role, even for a pitcher considered to be the most "polished" of all the arms Oakland acquired this winter.
  2. Speaking of pitchers, Oakland's staff is currently second in the American League in strikeouts and ERA. Did anyone expect that after the loss of Dan Haren, from a rotation of Blanton, Harden, Duchscherer, Gaudin and Eveland? I know, I know... small sample size. Still, it's a ray of hope -- assuming the staff remains healthy, the ever-present caveat to any analysis of an A's team.
  3. Even dealing with the health issues has been fairly successful to this point. Jack Hannahan is filling in ably for Eric Chavez, while Chavvy's back/arms/shoulders/everything-else heals at a rate similar to a bristlecone pine's growth. Hannahan's bat has been average to this point, and he's been a tad strikeout-prone, but his defense at third has been, at times, Chavez-esque. It was especially striking on Wednesday night, when Hannahan fielded a deflected ball on the run and bare-handed it on a beautiful throw to a stretching Daric Barton for a key out at first.

    Not ten minutes later, former Oakland utilityman and "Clutch Hitter" Marco Scutaro made a terrible throw that sailed wide of catcher Gregg Zaun, allowing two A's insurance runs to score. Sentimentality aside, how many in Oakland still wish Scutaro was on the field instead of Hannahan? Especially after his comments that indicated he's happier in Toronto, away from what he thought was a "Moneyball" offense? (Someone should tell him who Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi studied under...)

  4. Past the immediate big-league issues, there is a ton of talent is waiting in the wings. Carlos Gonzalez and Gio Gonzalez, only related by natural baseball skill, should be up with the team by mid-season, providing a boost. Greg Smith has already demonstrated his ability to step in for a spot start, and Dan Meyer and Joey Devine will be ready to provide fresh arms when the A's inevitably require them.

Perhaps you believe me, and perhaps you don't. Perhaps it's really too early to be making judgments of any scale on how the 2008 season will progress -- Tigers fans will agree there.

I'm going to go ahead with the optimism of April, though. The A's are over .500, and half a game out of first in the West. It's never too early to start rooting.

--- -- ---

And of course, being who I am, I can't resist a couple statistical nuggets that I dug up during Oakland's 6-3 win over les Blue Jays de Toronto, as they say up there in the Great White North.

Fernando Hernandez became the first Oakland reliever to be credited with a win in his MLB debut. Jose Santiago accomplished the feat for the 1963 A's -- but they were still playing in Kansas City's Municipal Stadium at that point. Santiago, later a starter, went on to become an All-Star in 1968 with the Red Sox.

With his seventh career four-hit game, Mark Ellis has now had more 4+ hit games in his career than any other Oakland second baseman, since at least 1956. He was previously tied with Dick Green, who had six 4+ hit contests between 1964 and 1973. Green still holds the A's franchise record for career home runs by a second-baseman with 80, although Ellis only trails by 20 after his two dingers of 2008.

Game 9: Greg Smith Needs a Nickname
2008-04-09 15:26
by Ken Arneson

Greg Smith, who like Dana Eveland came over in the Dan Haren trade, replaces Dan "Crab-Man" Johnson on the roster, and Justin Duchscherer in the rotation. Since Smith is replacing the Crab-Man, I think it's natural to turn to crab predators in search of a nickname:

Crabs are frequently preyed upon by halibut, dogfish, sculpins, octopus, otters, sea turtles, and even other species of crabs. Young crabs may sometimes be eaten by their own species. Crab larvae might be eaten by pretty much anything that eats plankton.

What the heck is a sculpin?

Greg "The Octopus" Smith? Greg "the Otter" Smith? "Dogfish" Smith? "Halibut" Smith? "Cannibal" Smith? Hmm...combine those last two and it sounds like a movie character. Greg "Fava Beans" Smith?

Athletics at Toronto, 4:07pm

You Won't Have Dan Johnson to Not Bat Any More
2008-04-09 12:50
by Philip Michaels

Susan Slusser reports that Dan Johnson has been designated for assignment. Johnson is a victim both of the A's roster crunch -- they needed to make room for tonight's emergency starter, Greg Smith, on the 40-man -- and the apparent indifference to his presence by Bob Geren (one at-bat through the first eight games of the season).

I can't confess to having too many Dan Johnson-themed memories. There was his two-homer performance against the Yankees in June of 2006 -- the second one was off Kyle Farnsworth to put the A's ahead for good. But the more memorable homer that day was Nick Swisher's inside-the-park job. I was also in the stands the day DJ went 4-for-4 against Cleveland, but I had completely forgotten his performance up until I looked it up on Retrosheet. Honestly, what I recall about that day was another game-winning hit from Marco Scutaro. Oh, and it was Mug Root Beer Float Day.

When I think about Dan Johnson, sadly, the thing I'm going to think about the most are his assorted injuries -- double vision here, a bad back there. For some reason, that seems totally in line with the story of the Oakland A's the last several seasons.

Best of luck to Dan Johnson for whatever team ends up acquiring him, mostly like via waivers though I suppose it's possible for the A's to consummate a trade in the next 10 days. To whatever team does wind up getting their mitts on DJ, may I suggest that you also make sure Ryan Armbrust has plenty of tickets to your games, to ensure a steady stream of Johnson-smacked taters.

Game 8: Who Stole My Cheese?
2008-04-08 15:45
by Ken Arneson

This game was originally scheduled to be a matchup of Rich Harden and A.J. Burnett. There would have been some serious cheese being thrown in that matchup. But alas, Harden has some sort of lat/side/back soreness and won't pitch until Saturday. Or so they say.

On one hand, I'm glad they're treating Harden with kid gloves, taking no chances with any sort of discomfort whatsoever. Perhaps they've learned a lesson. Twice before we've seen Harden feel some discomfort, and then continue to pitch in the game for half an inning or so, and then promptly go on the DL for weeks and/or months.

And yet: in his last start, Justin Duchscherer experienced some discomfort, continued to pitch in the game for half an inning or so, and then promptly went on the DL thereafter.  Perhaps the A's need to learn their lessons more universally.  To complete this round of injury-prone pitcher musical chairs,  Chad Gaudin trades places with Duchscherer on the roster and gets tonight's start in place of Harden.

Athletics at Toronto, 4:07pm

You Can't Have Nice Things
2008-04-07 20:17
by Philip Michaels

See, this is why I'm such a Gloomy Gus -- because 36 years of bitter experience have taught me that the expected outcome often comes to pass more often than not.

It also reaffirms why I find 3 a.m. local time starts so irritating.

Game 7 Chat: Taxonomy
2008-04-06 12:31
by Ken Arneson

In the spirit of looking away, I'm doing my taxes this afternoon.  It irks me that I have to spend a full day of my life each year filling out all these forms, even though my taxes are pretty much the same every year.  I'd gladly pay more taxes in exchange for all those days back.  This is the computer age, doggone it.  All that data should go electronically to the IRS, and it should fill out the forms for you, and all you should have to do is check a box and say, "yeah, that's right."  10 seconds of your life every year, and that's it.  How much of our nation's productivity is lost to this manual process that needn't be manual?

Meanwhile, Joe Blanton gets his third start of the season, facing Cliff Lee.

Indians at Oakland, 1:05pm

Game 6 Summary: Look Away!
2008-04-06 09:30
by Philip Michaels

As Ken noted in yesterday's game chat, the key to success for the 2008 edition of the Oakland Athletics is for me to not pay attention to them. Consider Friday night when the A's were planting a crooked number on Cleveland in the fifth inning -- I was wandering the aisles of the Alameda Trader Joe's, wondering why they don't stock the chicken lasagna anymore. For Saturday's game, I literally walked outside my home right at first pitch to do gardening and run errands and I didn't return until the game was over. With Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo serving as my eyes and ears, the A's easily handled Cleveland to win their first series of the year.

Three times is a trend, as we say in the journalism business. And we'll be putting that theory to the test as the A's go for the sweep today. At about the same time Joe Blanton takes the mound to stare down Cliff Lee, I'll be watching my nephew's tee-ball game.

And if this theory sounds a little cracked, it's no worse than the "we only win when we wear these atrocious black jerseys" argument that is no doubt being advanced in the Oakland clubhouse right now.

Game 6: A's 6, Cleveland 1

Your Pitchers of Record: WP: D. Eveland (1-0), LP: C. Sabathia (0-1)

Went Deep: Ellis (2)

Your Gordon Biersch Marzen Star of the Game: Young Dana Eveland, who was stellar in his Oakland debut -- seven strong innings with seven Ks and a WHIP of 1.0. Let's hope it's a sign that the long tradition of surprising useful fifth starters in Oakland -- Erik Hiljus, Aaron Harang, Kirk Saarloos, to name just a few -- is set to continue in '08.

The Turning Point: A big meanie would say it was when C.C. Sabathia got the starting assignment. The AL's reigning Cy Young winner is now 1-4 lifetime with a 7.12 ERA when called upon to pitch in the land of his forefathers.

But I am not a big meanie, not today at least. So I'll say the Turning Point was probably Jack Cust's first-inning double that plated Mike Sweeney and Emil Brown and gave Oakland a lead it would never relinquish. Or it was the nifty escape act the suddenly rejuvenated Keith Foulke pulled off in the eighth when the game was still within Cleveland's reach. With a runner on and one out, Foulke had rung up a 3-1 count on Travis Hafner -- one more pitch out of the strike zone and Cleveland brings the tying run to the plate. Foulke buckled down, striking out Hafner on a changeup and getting shortstop/typographical error Jhonny Peralta to pop out to right. Threat over, game in hand.

Mr. Three True Outcomes: No, not Cust -- rather it's South Dakota's all-time home run leader Mark Ellis. In 22 at-bats, Ellis has just three hits -- two of them, however, are homers.

Mr. One True Outcome: Travis Buck rode the pine yesterday, which is just as well. He's 0-for-18 as of this writing, with nine strikeouts and a swing with so many holes in it, you could probably run straight at him while he's swinging without any fear of getting struck.

Dreaded Steve Sayles Sighting: Donnie Murphy collided with Cust chasing down a third inning pop up, and the result of the collision was about what you'd expect it to be -- bad for the non-Cust party. Murphy sprained his right middle finger (leaving him dangerously unarmed to respond to motorists who cut him off in traffic) and had to leave the game.

Also, Justin Duchscherer is getting an MRI today to see exactly what's going on with his bicep. Depending on the answer, we're either going to see Chad Gaudin a lot sooner than we expected or Greg Smith or maybe Lenny DiNardo, but hopefully not Dallas Braden.

All in All: The A's have had a fine weekend against Cleveland, with strong pitching and timely hitting. It'll be even nicer if I ever get a chance to see that kind of performance with my own eyes.

Game 6 Chat: Da? Na. Si? Si!
2008-04-05 12:24
by Ken Arneson

The A's scored four runs in an inning last night, while I had left the room to change a diaper and Stewmate Philip Michaels left his TV to go shopping. The key to the A's offense, obviously, is to not pay any attention to it.

So let's not pay attention as the A's take on all-star starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia. Before the bottom of each half inning I shall declare a new activity besides watching the game that I am focused on. Meanwhile, Dana Eveland makes his first start as an Athletic. He pitched great in spring training. What are the odds that Eveland ends up having a better year than Dan Haren?

Indians at Oakland, 1:05pm

Game 5 Chat: The Genesis of Duke's Starting
2008-04-04 18:02
by Ken Arneson

Justin Duchscherer makes his first start since 2003 tonight, facing Paul Byrd and the Cleveland Indians. I'm sure Duke will be a Man of our Times, and put to rest any thoughts that the plan to make him a starter was just some sort of Misunderstanding. But let's hope Duke isn't Alone Tonight as the only A's player who does anything well. Please Don't Ask where the A's offense has been; they've been missing somewhere Behind the Lines. They need to Turn It On Again, and keep going forward, not get stuck in some offensive Cul-De-Sac that goes nowhere. Otherwise, Duke's Travels will just end up forgotten in a Heathaze of Athletics losses. Here's hoping Duke's End is more uplifting than that.

Indians at Oakland, 7:05pm

Game 4: Happy Harden Day!
2008-04-02 09:16
by Ken Arneson

The A's only managed three hits and no walks last night (or even last night) against Daisuke Matsuzaka & Co. Unlike the opener in Japan, Dice-K was on his game, throwing strikes with multiple pitches. When a team relies on the walk as much as the A's do, you can go a long way toward beating them simply by throwing the ball over the plate. Throw strikes with some zip on it, and the A's are putty in your hands. Except for a lone Jack Cust home run, the A's were simply overpowered last night, despite another good pitching effort by Joe Blanton.

Hopefully, it will be the Red Sox' turn to be overpowered this afternoon when Rich Harden takes to the mound. Will Travis Buck ever get a hit? I'd be concerned about that, but then I saw that David Ortiz is hitless this year, too. Can that possibly last another day? If the A's can escape a four-game series with Boston without being hurt by Big Papi, they should consider themselves very fortunate.

Red Sox at Oakland, 12:35pm

Game 3 Summary: No Dice
2008-04-02 09:15
by Philip Michaels

I'll be frank -- I wasn't terribly pleased by the decision to have the A's play their home opener several thousand time zones away. No, this isn't the result of some misplaced nostalgia for Cincinnati's supposed God-given right to open the season and, unlike Furman Bisher, I'm not hung up on that spot of unpleasantness we had with Japan back in the '40s. Rather, I am opposed on principle to the idea that after a winter-long drought of baseball, the first "this time, it counts" game should be played when most of the fans of the home team are sound asleep. I am especially opposed to it when the team in question is the one I root for. It is the very definition of being fan-unfriendly.

Hey, Oakland fan! Bet you're excited about the start of another season of baseball!

Well, sure. I don't expect the A's contend this year, but I'm always ready to watch a baseball game featuring my favorite team -- especially since I haven't seen the A's take the field since last fall.

Great! Then surely you won't mind getting up at 3 a.m. on a school night to watch the first game of the season and throw off your sleep patterns for the entire week!

Um... I sorta do mind, actually.

That's OK! You can watch the second game instead! Rich Harden is pitching!

That's fantastic. I love to watch Rich Harden pitch.

Terrific! He'll be taking the mound at 3 a.m., so be sure to set your alarm clock!

You know what? I think I'll take a pass on that one, too.

Why do you hate baseball?

So yeah, I sat out the first two games. My employer likes it when I show up to the office not sleep-deprived and I had to catch a red-eye flight last Wednesday anyhow -- three late nights in a row seemed like a poor way to start a week.

Which means that Tuesday night's domestic home opener was my first chance to see the A's in what I'm essentially treating as Oakland's 160-game 2008 season. For the most part, I enjoyed the game, even as the A's went down fairly meekly to defeat. I don't necessarily think the meekly part of that result was entirely the fault of the A's hitters -- Daisuke Matsuzaka was on his game last night, and when that happens, Oakland's margin for error is virtually non-existent.

Game 1 3: Red Sox 2, A's 1

Your Pitchers of Record: WP: D. Matsuzaka (1-0) LP: J. Blanton (0-1) S: J. Papelbon (2)

Went Deep: J. Cust (1)

Your Gordon Biersch Marzen Star of the Game: Matsuzaka, who only gave up two hits in 6 2/3 innings while striking out nine batters on merit. Even the run he gave up -- a towering homer smacked by Jack Cust -- wasn't really a mistake; Cust just happened to unleash the full fury of his swing on an outside fastball that most batters would have whiffed on.

The Turning Point: Joe Blanton pitched relatively well Tuesday night, keeping the Red Sox off the bases (only one walk) and getting out of trouble whenever the visitors did mount something of a rally. More impressive, Blanton was able to cover for his teammates mistakes. Jack Hannahan made a fine stop on a shot down the line by Kevin Youkilis in the second, but he hesitated on the throw, putting runners at the corners with one out. But then Blanton got Jason Varitek to pop up before striking out Coco Crisp to escape the second without any damage. Similarly, Blanton responded to Daric Barton's Babe Herman impression -- easily catchable foul out clanking off his shoulder -- by striking out Mike Lowell to end the inning.

That success came to an abrupt halt in a two at-bat sequence in the sixth, when Youkilis crushed a ball to left center for a triple. Varitek followed that by mashing a ball to right that landed on top of the out-of-town scoreboard but bounced onto the field of play -- should have been called a homer, but the umps ruled it a double. It ended up not mattering -- the Sox got the go-ahead run, and, thanks to strong performances from Matsuzaka and Papelbon, were able to make it hold up.

Stat o' the Night: The performance from the law firm of Buck, Brown & Sweeney, otherwise known as your starting outfielders -- 0 for 9, with seven strikeouts. Four of those Ks were provided by Travis Buck, who can pick up his Golden Sombrero at a participating Chevy's Restaurant.

Advertisement That Probably Only Bothers Me: The A's slogan this year is "100 Percent Baseball," which certainly beats last year's slogan of "It Hurts When I Do This." The ad featured during last night's telecast showcased a charming East Bay suburb where a couple of kids have set up a lemonade stand where they are selling glasses of cool, refreshing lemonade for 50 cents. However, they are doing no business whatsoever on this bright, sunny day, and the reason is that just a few feet away, the A's have set up a stand where Buck, Barton, some Athletic I don't recognize, and Stomper are selling hot dogs for a dollar and having a rocking good time doing it. The message of the ad, obviously, is to convey that the A's offer $1 hot dogs on Wednesdays and that the team's a fun-loving bunch of guys. I, of course, detected a more sinister subtext: Lew Wolff loves to take money away from children. Sell lemonade at your own peril, children of Fremont.

The Untold Story: Dick Williams, honored on the field before the game for his recent election to the Hall of Fame, stopped by the broadcast booth for an enjoyable chat with Glenn Kuiper and Ray Fosse. One of the first stories told, of course, was the time during the 1973 World Series when, in the wake of the Mike Andrews incident, Dick Williams told the team he was quitting after the Series lest he suffer any more indignities at the hands of Charlie Finley.

Not mentioned last night: In the excellent The Man in the Dugout, the late, great Leonard Koppett suggests that by the time Williams resigned, he had already been approached by the New York Yankees about taking over their managing gig. (Indeed, Koppett theorizes that the Yanks might have privately expressed their interest to Williams as early as the 1973 All Star Game, which was held in the Bronx and where Williams happened to be the AL's manager.) As you may or may not know, the Yankees did attempt to hire Williams after he resigned from Oakland, but Finley demanded compensation, effectively blocking the move. New York wound up hiring Bill Virdon, and Williams took a job with the then-woeful Angels, with Finley happily granting his permission for that downward move.

That part of the story tends to get overlooked when people talk about the Williams-Finley contretemps.

All in All: As Ken observed in the comments of last night's open thread, the story of the 2008 A's appears to be "good pitching, hard time scoring." (That second part goes double when you throw in a buzzsaw like Matsuzaka.) If we assume the A's are going to lose 90 games this year -- and believe you me, I've made that assumption -- the most we can ask is that some of those 90 loses are at least entertaining. Tuesday's game was, so you'll hear relatively little griping from me.

Game 3: Dice-K vs. Cupcakes, The Rematch
2008-04-01 17:24
by Ken Arneson

I've never really done game threads before, mostly because my computer and biggest TV were in different rooms.  If I wanted to surf and watch TV at the same time, I had to watch on a teeny 15" TV, and use my wife's computer.  Now I have a nice new big HDTV and a slick laptop with a wireless network, so I'm good to go, if y'all are.  We got a decent amount of traffic during the two 3AM games, so if we don't gather any interest at the 7pm hour, I guess my demographics consist of more vampires than I thought.

Red Sox at Oakland, 7:05pm

STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
Frozen Toast
Google Search
Catfish Stew

02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  01 

12  09  08  01 

12  11  10  09  08 
Email Us

Ken: catfish AT zombia d.o.t. com
Ryan: rarmbrust AT gmail d.o.t. com
Philip: kingchimp AT alamedanet d.o.t net

Ken's Greatest Hits
28 Aug 2003
12 Jan 2004
31 May 2005
11 May 2005
29 Jun 2005
8 Jun 2005
19 Jul 2005
11 Aug 2005
7 Sep 2005
20 Sep 2005
22 Sep 2005
26 Sep 2005
28 Sep 2005
29 Sep 2005
18 Oct 2005
9 Nov 2005
15 Nov 2005
20 Nov 2005

13 Dec 2005
19 Jan 2006
28 Jan 2006
21 Feb 2006
10 Apr 2006
16 Apr 2006
22 Apr 2006
7 May 2006
25 May 2006
31 May 2006
18 Jun 2006
22 Jun 2006
6 Jul 2006
17 Jul 2006
13 Aug 2006
15 Aug 2006
16 Aug 2006
20 Aug 2006
11 Oct 2006
31 Oct 2006
29 Dec 2006
4 Jan 2006
12 Jan 2006
27 Jan 2007
17 Feb 2007
30 Apr 2007
27 Aug 2007
5 Sep 2007
19 Oct 2007
23 Nov 2007
5 Jan 2008
16 Jan 2008
4 Feb 2008
7 May 2008
20 Jun 2008
4 Feb 2008