Baseball Toaster Catfish Stew
Monthly archives: August 2008


Boom Goes the Dynamite
2008-08-30 21:59
by Philip Michaels

One of the nice things about living where I do is that I can step outside my front door, walk approximately a half-mile to the southwest, hang a sharp left, and I've got an excellent view of the Coliseum from across the San Leandro Bay. This view comes in particularly handy when the A's decide to shoot off some fireworks. So that's four nights of free entertainment for each of team's in-season Pyro-Spectaculars... at least until the A's perfect the Molecular Disruption Ray that only lets paying customers watch the fireworks. Really, it's the next logical step after you've tarped off the upper deck.

Anyhow, I spent the evening toggling back and forth between Cal's lid-lifter against Michigan State (Hooray, Bend-Don't-Break Defense for not breaking!) and the A's-Twins game (Hooray, walk-off errors!). And the second after Joe Nathan's ill-advised throw to third, I flipped back to the Cal game while my wife grabbed a sweater. We waited long enough for the Bears to salt away the victory, headed out the door and arrived to our prime vantage point just as they killed the lights at the Coliseum. Then, we got to watch stuff blow up.

Which is a nice way to spend a holiday weekend, really.

You really can't hear the stadium sound system from where we watch fireworks displays, so I can't say for certain if there was any announcement about the theme for this particular Pyro-spectacular. But judging by the severity and breath-taking nature of the explosions, my guess is that title of tonight's fireworks display was something along the lines of "What Happened to Our Season After the Harden and Blanton Trades: A Visual Representation."

2008-08-19 11:18
by Ken Arneson

The A's had two of the biggest coups in the draft, according to Jim Callis at Baseball America.

Biggest Coups, Rounds 1-10

2. Brett Hunter, rhp, Athletics (seventh round, $1.1 million, No. 51 on BA Top 200)
Elbow problems kept him from being a possible top-10 pick, but he's a steal if healthy.

Biggest Coups, Rounds 11-50

4. Dusty Coleman, ss, Athletics (28th round, $675,000, No. 185th on BA Top 200)
An all-star season in the Cape Cod League earned him second-round money.

2008-08-19 11:11
by Ken Arneson

Trevor Cahill will start against Japan on Wednesday (4am PT).  The game is meaningless to the US medal chances, as they have already qualified for the semifinals.  But it should be interesting to see how Cahill does against a quality team like Japan.

2008-08-19 11:03
by Ken Arneson

ShysterBall has a conversation about the worst seats you ever had at a ballgame.  Here's my contribution:

I went to the first game at Pac Bell Park, a preseason game against the Milwaukee Brewers. I had tickets in the upper deck, left field corner.

When I got to my was no seat. It hadn't been installed yet.

Eventually, an usher managed to scavenge a folding chair for me to sit on.

2008-08-18 21:54
by Ken Arneson

The A's have been awful in August, but they've also had a pretty tough schedule.  The only sub-.500 team they've played this month is Detroit, who aren't exactly patsies themselves.  By contrast, they'll only play three games in September against a team (the Angels) currently above .500.

2008-08-18 21:30
by Ken Arneson

Uh, oh.  Justin Duchscherer has injured his hip.  I'm assuming it's the hip he had surgery on last year.  Bad news, for two reasons:  one, I like the guy and want him to succeed.  Two, a recurrence to an old injury hurts his trade value a lot.  If I guy injures something and then gets it fixed, that's fine, but if he injures it twice, he'll probably injure it three times.

2008-08-16 11:40
by Ken Arneson

The A's signed Brett Hunter, their seventh-round pick out of Pepperdine, just before yesterday's signing deadline.  Hunter is a top-two-round talent who fell because of injury concerns.  But he spent the summer pitching for a collegiate all-star team, and pitched well enough to convince the A's he was healthy enough to play.

2008-08-16 11:38
by Ken Arneson

Brett Anderson started for the US against Canada, and yielded four runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.  But like Trevor Cahill the day before, Anderson ended up with a no-decision.

2008-08-15 12:45
by Ken Arneson

Trevor Cahill was the starting pitcher for the US in today's Olympic ballgame against Cuba.  He got a no decision, pitching five innings, allowing two runs on six hits and four walks, striking out three.

The End of Ziegler's Streak, in Photos
2008-08-14 18:47
by Ken Arneson

I witnessed an end of an era today: Brad Ziegler's consecutive scoreless innings streak ended at 39 and whatever innings. Ziegler didn't have good stuff today: the Rays hit several balls hard in the previous inning, but they were caught at the warning track.

His luck didn't last another inning.


He gave up a single to Akinori Iwamura.  Then that lovely swing of B.J. Upton connected:


The line drive shot into the left field corner, and the runners were off to the races:


Jack Cust didn't pick up the ball cleanly, and Iwamura came around to score the first run ever against Brad Ziegler:


And the streak was over. The Rays took the lead 5-4. It was the first time I've ever seen the home team fans give a relief pitcher a standing ovation after giving up the lead:



* * *


That's what A's fans will remember about this game. But for teams that are still in the AL pennant race, this play is probably more significant:


Troy Percival fielded a bunt by Mark Ellis and sprinted over to tag him out. Percival injured his leg on the play, and had to leave the game. His replacement yielded the tying run, and the game went to extra innings. The Rays won the game in extra innings, but if Percival is out for any extended period, that could be the injury straw that breaks the Rays' back. I'm rooting for the Rays, so here's hoping Percival is OK.


2008-08-13 00:53
by Ken Arneson

Another tidbit I noticed that I didn't include in my wrap up of last night's game:  Brad Ziegler throws his first two warmup pitches on the mound using his old overhand motion before he switches to the sidearm delivery.

2008-08-13 00:39
by Ken Arneson

Help! The sanctity of my home has been violated by Albert Pujols! Won't anyone think of the children?


Choice Seats
2008-08-12 23:41
by Ken Arneson

I had plenty more important things to do, but when my brother-in-law called this afternoon and said he had seats he couldn't use right behind home plate, I thought, hmm...Gio's Oakland debut, Pennington's first game, could be interesting. OK, I'll go. Here's the wide angle view of the seats I had:


From this short distance, you get a much more realistic sense of the impressive speed of the game at the major league level. How any batter ever manages to discern ball from strike, and make any sort of contact at all off these pitchers throwing over 90mph is a minor miracle. And then to recognize the difference between that and a changeup before it's too late? It looks so much easier on TV than up close and personal. Also, foul balls should be renamed "Death Missiles". They're absolutely terrifying as they go whistling overhead or slam into the screen in front of you.

Continue reading...

Pennington Called Up to Replace Hannahan
2008-08-12 16:14
by Ken Arneson

Cliff Pennington has been called up to be the A's new third baseman, replacing the severly slumping Jack Hannahan at 3B. Pennington doesn't have much power--he profiles more as a shortstop offensively--but anything would be better than Hannahan at this point.

Hannahan was hitting .222/.307/.333 for the year, but only .136/.191/.159 over the last two weeks. Pennington was hitting .297/.426/.386 in 236 at-bats in Sacramento.

Lenny DiNardo was sent back to AAA to make room on the 25-man roster, and Brooks Conrad was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Pennington.

2008-08-12 15:28
by Ken Arneson

David Laurila at BP Radio has interviews with Jerry Blevins, Ray Fosse and Justin Duchscherer (mp3). If you're a serious A's fan, you can probably skip the Fosse interview--you've probably heard him say the same things a hundred gazillion times before, but I enjoyed hearing Blevins and Duchscherer.

2008-08-11 18:31
by Ken Arneson

Melissa Lockard takes a look at Dan Meyer's future. Money quote:

Meyer's biggest mechanical flaw, according to A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson (who I spoke on Saturday morning with about Meyer for, is that he has a tendency to fail to finish some of his pitches, which causes the pitches to stay up in the strike-zone. We saw that on Saturday night on the three homeruns. However, when Meyer was finishing his pitches, his stuff was very difficult for the Tigers' hitters to handle. He got a lot of groundballs and was able to keep the hitters off-balance, for the most part. In addition, he worked at a much better pace than he did last season and generally looked a lot more confident on the mound.

That last sentence is the key to Meyer for me. I exchanged greetings with Meyer at Fanfest just after the Tim Hudson trade, and the guy looked like a scared puppy, totally overwhelmed. Unlike Hudson, who I also ran into once in his rookie season. Although Hudson is physically no bigger than I am, he had a look in his eyes that said, "I'm the big dog around here." It didn't surprise me that Meyer was too afraid to admit to his spring training injury his first year in Oakland, or to hear that he sometimes lacks confidence on the mound. Meyer's just probably not a naturally self-confident guy, but instead probably needs some success to give him the self-confidence to have success. It's a bit of a catch-22. You could probably throw a bulldog like Hudson into the World Series as a fresh rookie and he'll be fine, but a guy like Meyer needs to be eased into things. Start him in the bullpen against some lousy teams, and then let him work his way up.

2008-08-11 16:58
by Ken Arneson

The Mark Ellis trade market has suddenly picked up after couple of key broken bones to contenders. The Diamondbacks recently lost Orlando Hudson for the year, and today, Evan Longoria went down with essentially the same injury: a broken bone from a hit-by-pitch.

Ellis is hitting .231/.317/.361, which isn't really any better than Orlando's backup, Augie Ojeda (.257/.358/.324). So even with the defensive upgrade to Ellis, the Diamondbacks might not want to pay the price. Then again, Ellis would be going from one of the most difficult ballparks for hitting to one of the easiest, so his numbers would probably improve. Susan Slusser of the Chronicle adds her weight to this speculation.

This article suggests that the Rays will replace Longoria with Willy Aybar, who is hitting .225/.299/.379. Even with his bad season at the plate, Ellis would still be an improvement over Aybar at the plate, and is an improvement over anybody in the field. Now obviously Ellis isn't a third baseman like Longoria, but current Rays 2B Akinori Iwamura played third base last year, so the Rays could switch him back. Although I'm not sure why the Rays wouldn't just play Eric Hinske at third base over Aybar and never mind Ellis.

All of this assumes that Ellis has/will pass through waivers. There is no word on that.

2008-08-11 15:49
by Ken Arneson

You think steroid king Barry Bonds is a cancer to the sport?  He's got nothing on Zog Larson, who may be in a major league uniform sooner than you think.

Who will play professional baseball first, cavemen or robots?  You know that eventually, mankind will go there.  Will our single-minded pursuit of sports glory eventually cause the fall of mankind?  How will our civilization end?  Like Planet of the Apes?  Or like Terminator?  Or perhaps we shall create a race of robot/cloned human hybrids to play our professional sports for us, and when they inevitably turn on their human creators, we shall be forced to take refuge in outer space, like Battlestar Galactica.  Woe is us.

2008-08-11 15:21
by Ken Arneson

Ex-A's report:  Bobby Kielty, recently released by the Red Sox, has signed a minor-league deal with the Twins.

2008-08-11 13:11
by Ken Arneson

Chris Carter (1B/3B/OF-Stockton) and Aaron Cunningham (OF-Sacramento) both make Kevin Goldstein's Monday Ten Pack ($) at Baseball Prospectus. Goldstein notes that the A's are moving Carter around trying to find a position for him to settle at, and Cunningham will likely challenge for a big-league job next spring. Cunningham's task shouldn't be too hard, considering two outfield roster spots are currently held by Emil (.289 OBP) Brown, and Rajai (.259 OBP) Davis.

2008-08-11 10:39
by Ken Arneson

Difference between the Dodgers front office, and the Athletics front office, in a nutshell:

"We've got young hitters, but you can't blame all of our woes on young hitters," Geren said. "Some of those young hitters are hitting best on the team."

Related note: the only three A's batters with a batting average over .255:

Ryan Sweeney:    .291
Kurt Suzuki: .286
Carlos Gonzalez: .277
2008-08-11 10:17
by Ken Arneson

I'm glad Huston Street has some perspective on his recent slump:

"I know I've been in the league 23 months, and the first 22 were pretty solid. The last month was the first time I've experienced prolonged poor results and it will turn around. ... I'm probably not going to see late innings when we've got a guy who's thrown 37 scoreless innings, I understand that. At the same time, I expect that within a month from now, Sept. 10, I will have righted my ship."

There are a lot of clueless athletes with a sense of entitlement who would be outraged by a demotion.  At least Street knows he's been awful this month, and recognizes Brad Ziegler's accomplishments.

* * *

Meanwhile, the A's front office apparently expected the A's to be terrible like this all year long, and were a bit surprised they didn't.   A's assistant GM David Forst:

"It's great we got off to a good start and played that well, but, unfortunately, it created some unrealistic expectations outside the organization."


Oops, sorry fans, see those standings, where we're 9 games over .500?  Ignore that.  We actually suck.  Watch, we'll prove it to you!

* * *

Reminder: we've started running short snippets on the Catfish Stew homepage that don't show up in the "Hot for the Toaster" list.  So check back often, y'hear?


2008-08-11 10:16
by Ken Arneson

Breaking news from the San Francisco Chronicle:  Going 3-21 is "no fun".

2008-08-10 22:26
by Ken Arneson

Don't ignore the Never-Heard-Of Guy: I didn't like the Rich Harden trade at first glance, because in return for Harden and Chad Gaudin, the A's got three players I'm not too excited about, and another guy I had never heard of.

That "guy" is single A catcher Josh Donaldson. Donaldson had a triple and a home run for Stockton on Sunday, and is now hitting .394/.466/.712 in 114 plate appearances since the trade.

Matt Spencer, the Never-Heard-Of Guy in the Joe Blanton trade, is hitting .353/.411/.576, even after an 0-for-4 yesterday.

2008-08-10 11:54
by Ken Arneson

Interesting interview with Brad Ziegler by BP's David Laurila.

2008-08-09 18:00
by Ken Arneson

This experiment of short blog entries reminds me (via Rodcorp) of the Brian Eno interview discussing the little tune he wrote ("The Microsoft Sound") that played when Windows 95 booted up :

The thing from the agency said, "We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,'' this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said "and it must be 3 1/4 seconds long.''

Perhaps, like Eno, after switching from long to short forms, I will find "at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work".

Is the correct term for a blogging logjam a "blogjam"?

2008-08-09 12:09
by Ken Arneson

The Heavyweight Championship standings have been updated on the sidebar.  The Milwaukee Brewers are the current champions.  The Mets have a large lead in the standings, thanks to a six-week streak from mid-June to the end of July when they won the final game of every series they played.  The streak included a 3-1 victory on June 29 over the Yankees that eliminated the American League from any further championship bouts for the rest of the regular season.

2008-08-09 11:48
by Ken Arneson

Ex-Athletic news, part 2:  Tim Hudson had Tommy John surgery yesterday.

2008-08-09 11:45
by Ken Arneson

Some things never change, ex-Athletic department:  Joe Blanton pitched a seven-inning one-hitter last night, but his team still lost.

2008-08-08 19:59
by Ken Arneson

The A's break their 10-game losing streak.  Dallas Braden pitches seven effective innings.  Brad Ziegler throws two more scoreless innings, giving him 37 consecutive shutout innings to start his career, and picks up his first career save.  

Braden's ERA is 4.62.  Since he's essentially replacing Joe Blanton (4.96 ERA) in the rotation, that's pretty good.  Blanton is easily replaced, and the A's both save money, and get three prospects.  That deal has worked out well so far.

Ziegler's ERA is 0.00, obviously.  If Ziegler went out in his next appearance and gave up 19 runs without recording an out, his ERA would be...(drumroll please)...4.62.

2008-08-08 16:02
by Ken Arneson

Forbes declares the Sacramento River Cats to be the most valuable minor league franchise, worth $29.8 million. 

Forbes also declare A's fans to be the third least loyal in the majors.  Doggone Angels finish first again.

2008-08-08 15:38
by Ken Arneson

Vincent Mazzaro is one of Peter Bendix's "eight prospects to watch" over on Beyond the Boxscore.

2008-08-08 15:17
by Ken Arneson

A's prospects Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are both possibilities to start the Olympic opener against South Korea.  But apparently, the starting pitcher is kept a secret in international competition, so US manager Davey Johnson is keeping mum.  We won't know for sure until game time.

The opener for the US is scheduled 6pm Beijing time on Wednesday.  That's 3am ET, midnight PT.  The game is scheduled to be shown on MSNBC on tape delay between 10am and 2pm PT.

2008-08-08 15:12
by Ken Arneson

The A's have lost 10 in a row, and are now eight games under .500, but they have still outscored their opponents, 4.04 runs/game to 3.93 runs/game.

Take A Guess
2008-08-08 14:51
by Ken Arneson

Which player has the highest 2008 Win Probability Added among A's batters?

First, a little hint: the player that leads the team in Win Shares (14) is dead last on the team in WPA (-10.45).

Made your guess?   OK, now you can peek.

Bet you were wrong.

* * *

Also, be sure to check out our little experiment on the Catfish Stew home page.  Explanation here.

2008-08-08 13:37
by Ken Arneson

Graham Goldbeck takes a look at the debut of Gio Gonzalez using Pitch/FX.

2008-08-08 13:32
by Ken Arneson

Huston Street, unsurprisingly, did not pass through waivers.

2008-08-08 13:26
by Ken Arneson

Brad Ziegler admits to contemplating his bobblehead.

2008-08-08 13:16
by Ken Arneson

Lenny DiNardo likes sad songs.  Is a losing streak like a sad song?  Is Lenny DiNardo enjoying himself?

2008-08-08 13:12
by Ken Arneson

Sure, Rob, it's easy to boycott watching the Olympics for two weeks in protest over the Chinese government.   But can you go two weeks without using any product made in China?  That would be a much more impressive feat.

2008-08-08 13:11
by Ken Arneson
2008-08-08 13:07
by Ken Arneson

15-year-old Bryce Harper has a beautiful swing.

2008-08-08 13:00
by Ken Arneson

Sometimes, my life circumstances make it impossible for me to write at any length about stuff. Like now.  The A's are on a 10-game losing streak, and I don't have time to think or write about it.  So I'm trying a little experiment:  throwing up a bunch of quick links on Catfish Stew when I find something interesting, but don't have time to absorb it.   For now, these quick links will only show up on Catfish Stew, and not on the Toaster home page or in the "Hot from the Toaster" list.   We'll see how the experiment goes.

2008-08-03 00:13
by Ken Arneson

The trade deadline came and went, as I suspected, without another trade by the A's. Justin Duchscherer, Alan Embree, Huston Street, Mark Ellis and Bobby Crosby are still going to be hanging out in Oaktown for a little while longer.

As I write this, I'm sitting here watching the A's get their butts kicked by the Red Sox, feeling curiously detatched about the whole affair.  The lack of activity at the trade deadline was a bit disappointing.  As much as I love Mark Ellis and Justin Duchscherer, I'm ready to move on. 

It's like senioritis: we know what college we're going to go to for the next few years, but here we are still hanging out at the same old school, with the same old classmates, doing the same old work, and the whole scene feels rather pointless.

How many of these current classmates will be going to the new school, the next good A's team? Let us count to 25 + 4 DL guys*:

Fer sure:
Kurt Suzuki
Daric Barton
Carlos Gonzalez
These guys are the core of the future lineup. Suzuki is already a solid, league-average catcher. Barton and Gonzalez have opposite problems: Barton walks well enough, but has not hit for average; Gonzalez has hit for average, but needs to walk more. But they're both very young and talented, and should improve enough to stick around for years to come.

Ryan Sweeney
Sean Gallagher
Both these guys are producing well enough at the major league to be regular contributors already. But they're not quite as young as Barton and Gonzalez, they have lower ceilings, and there are a whole lot of talented players in the minors at their positions who could push them out in the future.

Probably (reliever version):
Brad Ziegler
Joey Devine
Andrew Brown*
Jerry Blevins
Santiago Casilla
Relievers are unreliable. They can be great one year, and terrible the next. But this is as good a group of young relievers as you're going to find. Only Casilla had more than one full year of major league service coming into the season. The A's will have control of all of these other guys for five more seasons.

Greg Smith
Dana Eveland
Dallas Braden
Jack Cust
Jack Hannahan
Gregorio Petit
The service clocks for Smith, Eveland, and Braden can keep them around for five more years, as well, but there's so much talent behind them, that it's hard to imagine they'll all stay here when those younger pitchers are ready to make it up to the majors. I'm betting that they all get traded as soon as the Cahill/Anderson generation starts pushing for roster spots. Meanwhile, Hannahan and Petit might hang around not because they're good, but because because SS and 3B are the two positions where the A's don't have any really good prospects. Cust is an interesting case; I have a hard time imagining him aging very gracefully. He's only batting .226 right some point in the next few years, I imagine he'll go into an extended slump, lose his job to some younger hotshot and never get it back.

Justin Duchscherer
Huston Street
Mark Ellis
Bobby Crosby
Eric Chavez*
All these guys are young enough to still be in the majors in three or four years, but they'll all have hit free agency by then. And only Street won't be in his decline years.

No Way:
Alan Embree
Frank Thomas
Keith Foulke*
Mike Sweeney*
Rajai Davis
Lenny DiNardo
Rob Bowen
The first four are too old, and the rest just aren't good enough.

The current roster has more relievers of the future than anything else. But relievers are the easiest commodity to find, so even if you project Brad Ziegler to not give up a run for five more years, it's still not enough to put dreams of pennants dancing in your head. It's hard to watch a team when half the batting order and most of the starting rotation are simply placeholders. We're bored of this limbo. We want to see our new campus, and meet our new classmates. The future can't get here soon enough.

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