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The Thievin' A's
2006-08-26 11:12
by Ken Arneson

Sapphire bullets...bullets of pure A's:

  • I haven't actually watched an A's game in well over a week. Several of the games on their current road trip weren't televised, and I was busy during the others.

    I feel somewhat disconnected from the team right now. Who are these guys?

    I did go back on and watch the interesting innings from Monday's game against Toronto, where they came back from an 8-0 deficit to win 12-10. That game left me with the feeling that perhaps the best way to characterize the 2006 A's is that they're a gang of thieves.

    The A's had no business winning that game, but somehow they managed to sneak their way in the back door and burglarize a W out of it. This year, it seems like there are a lot more games that the A's have won that they shoulda-coulda lost than the other way around.

    The stats back me up on that one: they're currently 18 games over .500 at 73-55, but their record in BP's adjusted standings indicates they really should have a record of about 65-63 or 64-64.

    Which explains why, I suppose, that even though the A's have the second-largest division lead in baseball, their 5.5 game lead over the Angels feels so insecure. Thievin' may be a thrillin' way to live, but in the back of your mind there's always the fear that sooner or later, your thievin' ways are going to be exposed, and you'll be revealed for the fraud you really are.

  • Part of the A's thievery involves fortunate scheduling. They finished playing the Yankees before they acquired Bobby Abreu, and started playing the Red Sox just as they started falling apart. They missed Roy Halladay this week in Toronto. They missed both John Lackey and Jered Weaver the last time they played Anaheim. And would the A's be 15-1 against Seattle if the rotations had fallen so that they had faced Felix Hernandez five times and Joel Pineiro once, instead of the other way around?

    That luck may soon run out, though. If the Angels are going to make a run at Oakland, next week might be the time. They'll play three games against the hapless-and-losing-more-hap-by-the-hour Mariners, while the A's are staring down both Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. Also, Tim Wakefield may be ready come off the DL to face the A's, as well. So much of streakiness is in the scheduling.

  • This weekend's Oakland-Texas series is a true battle of top heavyweights. The top two teams in the MLB Heavyweight Championship standings (see sidebar) are battling it out for baseball supremacy in Arlington.

    With their victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday, the Rangers had pulled ahead of the A's in the standings. But Barry Zito's near no-hitter against Texas on Friday not only gave him his 100th career victory, it also put the A's back into first place.

    Sunday's game (Dan Haren vs. Vicente Padilla) may be the Fight of the Year. The winner will have a big step up in the battle for Heavyweight Team of the Year.

  • Speaking of mystery photos...a guy in Southern California pulled a bunch of publicity photos out of someone's trash, and put them up on Flickr.

    I think this one might be the first recorded meeting between Billy Beane and Ken Macha.

  • Nick Swisher has emerged from the worst of his slump, and been playing better of late. He's been collecting the occasional extra-base hit, and the occasional base-on-balls.

    Unfortunately, he has not yet put the two together in the same game, so my Swisher fast continues.

  • Chris Dial's defensive ratings through July 11 have Eric Chavez as a below-average fielder.

    That is unfathomable. How can a guy who catches everything be below average? I mean, Eric Chavez fields everything there is to field. E.V.E.R.Y. T.H.I.N.G.

    Maybe he had a bad three weeks while I was in Europe, and I missed it. I don't know.

    Otherwise, if he's below average, that means that there are seven third basemen in the AL who are fielding more than everything. Hank Blalock? Troy Glaus? Alex Rodriguez? No way, dudes.

    Time now for everyone to go over to TangoTiger's place, and tell people who's really boss.

2006-08-26 16:50:39
1.   Linkmeister
Man, that Flickr photo collection and the story behind its acquisition is amazing.
2006-08-26 17:08:57
2.   Bob Timmermann
I renounce any claim that I was living during the decades when those photos were taken.
2006-08-26 17:55:12
3.   bob gaj
you said:

"That is unfathomable. How can a guy who catches everything be below average? "

and i answer:

see jeter, derek a few years ago. limited range, slow first step. but hit a ball straight at him, and it was an automatic out.

i'm not defending the ratings, or claiming chavez is below avg this year - i don't know the answer. but if you have someone who saves lots of balls by having great range but occasionally screws up (errors), or someone else who has no range at all, but is automatic on those hit right to him - well, the first guy is much more valuable defensively.

2006-08-26 18:37:15
4.   Ken Arneson
Chavez has range and hands and quick first steps and E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Nothing is getting past him in any direction, quite unlike Derek "past-a-diving" Jeter.
2006-08-26 22:43:35
5.   scarface
Yeah, I know Dial (and MGL, whose system apparently largely agrees with Dial, in general) are respected and all, but I can't really believe anything that system says, when it says Chavvy is that bad. The only possible weakness he has displayed is in arm strength to first, and that rarely seems to cost an out. I wonder if the inter-player dependence in fielding is stronger than Dial might account for?

Dial also put Lance Niekro at the top of NL 1B - hard to accept.

As for outperforming the Pythag., Kurkjian had an article on ESPN today which reported Beane telling the Indians' GM that both their teams were confounding sabermetricians (Indians are Plus-50 in Net Runs Scored, but 10 below 0.500, or so).

2006-08-27 00:10:06
6.   Ken Arneson
5 I have the utmost respect for Dial and MGL, and what they're trying to do. But I, too, get the feeling that there is still something significant that's not being captured by these fielding stats, or something insignificant that is.

MGL's system had Nick Swisher as one of the greatest right fielders who ever lived last year. These things defy common sense: Chavez is clearly one of the best 3Bs in baseball, and Swisher, while not horrible, is certainly not a defensive wiz in the outfield.

The great thing stats like OPS or ERA is that they match our common sense so well about what a quality player is. When we find a fielding stat that matches our common sense like that, then we'll be happy.

And that's why TangoTiger's work is so important in the struggle to find such a stat--it's a way to measure our common sense against these other numbers, to try to find a way to make them match.

2006-08-27 08:25:36
7.   bob gaj
ken - any chance that chavez' injury would be responsible for part of it? i only saw one game of his when he was batting lower in the lineup - i'm on the east coast...

but my answer was mainly towards your more-general question, which is what many fans of jeter said...

2006-08-27 10:44:03
8.   Ken Arneson
Well, like I said, the stats were only through July 11, and I was out of country during the last three weeks of that, so I didn't see him play then.

So maybe his injury affected his fielding during those weeks, but on the other hand, he had a 60+ game errorless streak that went straight through June and July. From what I've seen, the injury really only affects his swing, not his fielding.

2006-08-27 13:03:51
9.   Bluebleeder87
Chavez has range and hands and quick first steps and E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Nothing is getting past him in any direction, quite unlike Derek "past-a-diving" Jeter.

i've seen Chavez only a hand full of times but you can just tell when somebody is a good defender & the times i've seen him, he gets my thumbs up.

2006-08-27 16:05:21
10.   Tangotiger
Thank you kindly for the link. I got a good spike following this posting.

And I agree with Ken's sentiment.

2006-08-27 17:21:58
11.   bleacherdave
That system ranks Emil Brown highly among left fielders. He was just in the SJ Merc's list of worst outfielders. Something doesn't jibe.

Anyone else have Dewan's Fielding Bible?

2006-08-28 15:48:11
12.   For The Turnstiles
Dial has posted new numbers, through Aug. 27, and they seem to come closer to passing a sanity check. Chavez is now ranked above average, though still not as highly as I would think he should be. Ellis, Crosby, Bradley, and Swisher (as a LF) are all doing very well by his metric.

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