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Two Walks and a Cloud of Dust
2007-07-21 11:34
by Philip Michaels

With the A's snapping their longest losing streak in nine years Wednesday, this complaint is going to sound a lot like the guy who, after a week wandering around in the desert, gripes that the glass of water the rescue crew gives to him isn't properly chilled. But I think the manner in which the A's scored most of their runs against the Rangers typifies exactly why this team has been in such a funk lately and why Ryan is right to be skeptical of the chances for a late-season playoff push.

Let's go to the bottom-of-the-second play-by-play, courtesy of ESPN:

• Swisher walks.
• Ellis singles.
• Kotsay reaches on an error; Swisher and Ellis move up a base.
• Scutaro singles, scoring Swisher; bases still loaded.
• Crosby walked, scoring Ellis.
• Suzuki struck out.
• Buck hits a sac-fly, scoring Kotsay.
• Stewart singles, scoring Scutaro from second; Bobby Crosby moves from first to third.
• Stewart advances to second on a wild pitch.
• Cust walks, loading the bases.
• Swisher grounds out.

If you're scoring at home, the A's scored their four runs on three hits, an error, and three walks -- Oakland left the bases loaded. On one one play -- Stewart's broken-bat single to right -- did the A's runners advance more than a base. Rather than "exploding for four runs" as this Chronicle game story says, that's taking runs the Rangers have handed you. Kevin Millwood may as well have taken Swisher, Ellis, Kotsay, and Scutaro by the hand and escorted them around the bases -- the effect would have been the same.

And that is your 2007 A's offense in a nutshell. As Joe Sheehan wrote over at Baseball Prospectus, the A's can get on base via the walk and hit the occasional home run but not much else. A rally made up of a series of strung-together hits is the stuff of fantasy and rumor. Instead, your typical A's rally consists of a couple of walks, maybe a hit that moves the runners up a base but nothing more, and then a run-scoring ground-out and an inning-ending double play.

In fact, that's exactly what happened in the preceding game, an 11-4 loss to Texas on Tuesday. In the second inning the A's had runners on first and second with one out; Dan Johnson hit into a double-play. In the fourth, the A's managed to load the bases with a walk, a single and another walk; the only run came home on a sacrifice fly. The two-run outburst in the fifth came on a walk followed by a homer. And the A's got their final run of the night after loading the bases with one out in the sixth and hitting another sacrifice fly. (Friday's lose to Baltimore was more of the same only with fewer scoring opportunities and more swinging and missing.)

You've heard of the Minnesota Twins and their Piranhas-style offense? If Oakland were to have an animal kingdom equivalent for its offense, it'd be the vulture -- the A's wait around for their prey to fall over dead and hope that another predator doesn't come along to shoo them away from pecking at the carrion.

At the risk of repeating myself, I think this is a matter of poor roster construction -- getting too many guys with the same skills and the same ceilings compounded by relying too heavily on oft-injured players. The question is, can the A's right the ship? Not in 2007 certainly. Perhaps not for a while if there isn't some recognition that bad planning and not bad luck is the main culprit here.

Game 95: A's 6, Rangers 0

Your Pitchers of Record: WP -- L. DiNardo (4-6) LP -- K. Millwood (6-8)

Went Deep: Crosby (8)

Your Coca-Cola Star of the Game: Let us hear it for Lenny DiNardo, who gave up three hits in seven innings of shutout work and managed to do it without having the comforting sight of Jason Kendall behind the plate. To hear some people tell it -- including the A's themselves -- it's apparently something of a minor miracle that Oakland's pitchers are even able to find the plate without Kendall's guiding hand. Given the way Kendall's powers are talked up, I half-expected Dan Haren to hurl the ball into left field on his first pitch -- thankfully, Pudge Rodriguez was deemed an adequate enough backstop.

The Turning Point: Kevin Millwood's error on Mark Kotsay in the second set up things for the big inning, even with Oakland's "Please don't throw us strikes" offense.

Game 96: Orioles 6, A's 1

Your Pitchers of Record: WP -- E. Bedard (9-4) LP -- J. Blanton (8-7)

Went Deep: Ellis (9)

Your Arby's Star of the Game: Whenever an opposing pitcher shuts down the A's this season, we have to play the always fascinating parlor game "Skilled Performance or Consider the Opposition." In the case of Erik Bedard's Friday outing against the A's, it was definitely the former -- the guy is leading the American League in strikeouts after all. Then again, Bedard's other two starts against the A's this year ended in sorrow, so maybe he just caught them at the right time.

The Turning Point: Probably when Bedard woke up with a stiff neck in Seattle Wednesday, forcing the Orioles to push back his start to Friday. Had Bedard answered the bell Wednesday, it's likely the A's might have gone up a more giving pitcher in the series opener, especially in light of the fact Baltimore's active roster is peppered with people like Steve Trachsel.

Meet An Infrequent Catfish Stew Contributor: I'm filing this report from Los Angeles where I'll be attending Sunday's tilt between the Dodgers and Mets. If you happen to be in the Chavez Ravine area, let me know and I'll inform my bodyguards not to rough you up if you approach me.

2007-07-21 14:20:39
1.   Bob Timmermann
Since you don't have an iPhone, you have no use to me.
2007-07-21 14:52:26
2.   Agronox
You drink roast beef?
2007-07-21 15:05:33
3.   Philip Michaels
2 Occasionally, the Star of the Game is sponsored by something other than a frosty beverage when the mood strikes me. Though I do confess to occasionally doing shots of Arby's Sauce.

1 It's not just fists that can cause pain.

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