Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Nice Win by the A's Last Night

A’s won 4-3 on the strength of Nick Swisher’s bat, Carlos Guillen’s errant throws in the 4th inning and surprisingly decent pitching.

Good News
- Loaiza didn’t look awful
- Swisher continues his hot start, both at the plate and in the field
- Defense looked solid, as it has all year. I love watching the A’s turn a double play
- Sloth Shelton stayed in the yard
- Huston Street bounced back from his tough outing on Sunday

Not Quite As Good News
- Bobby Crosby doesn’t look right at the plate. He went 0-4 to bring his average down to .205
- Huston Street had to throw a bunch of pitches again - 21 last night

Vin Scully is the Best

Over the weekend, a friend and I were lamenting the lack of quality baseball commentators on TV. We really couldn’t come up with anyone that was worth listening to – but we overlooked Vin Scully. I caught my first Scully/Dodgers game Monday night and it was a joy.

Scully is smooth, knowledgeable and fun to listen to. And he’s really not much of a homer. Scully couldn’t have been more excited to watch Greg Maddux twirl a gem for the Cubs. He kept marveling at how Maddux was teaching the Dodgers what pitching is all about – almost yelling out at times, “He might as well have a blackboard out on the mound with him” and, “These Dodgers should get a diploma after this lesson” (if you’ll forgive my paraphrasing). I can’t stand the Dodgers and I’ll never forgive them for 1988. But I love watching their games so I can listen to Scully. He’s an old fella’ but I hope he keeps covering baseball forever.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ken Macha Cost the A's Sunday's Game

I have two thoughts about the following:

Street's streak of converted save opportunities came to an end at 21, tied for the second longest in Oakland history with Dennis Eckersley and Mudcat Grant. Street's last blown save was July 10 at Chicago, but it was the 22-year-old's first career loss in a save situation.

"It's good for him, toughen him up,'' joked third baseman Eric Chavez, who had four hits and all three of Oakland's RBIs. "No, it happens. I want Huston out there every day -- he's the guy. He's going to be the guy. He can't be perfect his whole career.'' - Street bobbles the save
After 21 straight successes, closer has first blown chance since July

(1) Sounds like the team isn't really taking this one so hard. That's probably a good perspective, especially for a young team.
(2) Huston Street looked tired yesterday - and I'm going to place the blame at the feet of Ken Macha. If Street hadn't thrown 25 pitches in a pointless Friday-night outing, I think he holds the lead and saves the game, even with the bobblehead curse.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Disappointing Series in MN

"Three fine starts by A's pitchers at Seattle were systematically rubbed out by three correspondingly poor performances at Minnesota." -Susan Slusser, on the A's last series

Well, that didn't turn out to be so much fun. I had suggested that the pitching matchups would favor the A's, but things certainly did not turn out the way I was hoping.

The A's get a chance to bounce back this weekend in Oakland against the Rangers.

Friday - Millwood vs. Zito
Saturday - Padilla vs. Harden
Sunday - Loe vs. Haren

Again, the matchups should favor the A's. Let's hope it plays out a little better this time around.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Twinkies Up Next

My least favorite Twin was always Brian Harper. He was never the best Twin, but he seemed to have a knack for killing the A's. From 1988-1993, it seemed like he could drop a flare double on the left- or right-field line against the A's at will, and his success drove me bonkers.

Here's his career line with the Twins: .306 BA / .342 OBP / .431 SLG
And against the A's: .351 / .404 / .490
(Thanks to Baseball Musings' amazing day-by-day database for the numbers)

Brian Harper was a quality major league catcher, but he had no business putting those numbers up against my A's. I guess the A's brought out the best in Harper, and Harper brought out the worst in me. I hated him.

No one on the Twins today makes my blood boil like Brian Hunter, but I'd like to see the A's sweep 'em all the same.

Tuesday: Haren vs. Radke
Wednesday: Loaiza vs. Silva
Thursday: Blanton vs. Lohse

The A's don't have to face Johan Santana (a now-perennial favorite for the Cy Young) and the Twins miss both Zito and Harden. So, it's really a battle of the back-end of the rotations, and I like the A's chances. Let's hope Haren, Loaiza and Blanton continue the 0.43 starters' ERA we saw over the weekend in Seattle.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Nice Start, Indeed

Bradley, Thomas making presence felt / Newcomers key A's win over Yankees

"It's a nice way to start,'' said A's third baseman Eric Chavez ... "Opening Night was probably more disheartening for the fans, but we were able to shake it off."

Chavez is right. A 2-1 series victory over the Yankees is a good way to start any season. Putting aside Monday's disastrous performance, the A's have won with good pitching, great defense, quality base-running and clutch hitting. Just as Tuesday morning was too early to write off the season, Thursday morning is too early to start printing the playoff tickets... But as an A's fan, you've gotta feel good about what you've seen the last two nights.

Next up, four games in Seattle:
> Loaiza - Meche
> Blanton - Felix Hernandez
> Zito - Moyer
> Harden - Pineiro

That Blanton-Hernandez matchup tomorrow looks to be the most interesting. A 25-year-old pitcher coming off a 200 IP / 3.53 ERA season against a pitcher one day shy of his 20th birthday coming off a phenomenal 84 IP / 2.67 ERA season. Two up-and-coming pitchers facing off early in the year - anything could happen. Should be worth watching.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Scoring a Double Play?

Watching the A's-Yankees again tonight - and Michael Kay just said that a play would have been a 6-6-3 double play if Jeter hadn't bobbled the ball off his face. He said the same thing last night about a play where Jeter fielded a grounder, stepped on second for the first out and threw to first for the second out of a double play. 6-6-3?

Isn't that just a 6-3 double play? Am I crazy here?

(And kudos to Jeter for turning two consecutive playable ground balls to his left into baserunners.)

Feeling Better About '06

Catfish Stew : Now That's More Like It

The A's won with some home runs, a walk, a bunt and a clutch hit--a multidimensional attack that can satisfy both sabermetricians and traditionalists. The fact that they are capable of playing a crisp, tense, mistake-free playoff-caliber game in early April fills me with all kinds of hope. It finally feels like the season has begun. -Ken Arneson

I couldn't agree more. I also like his quip that, "Ken Macha and my wife outmanaged Joe Torre." It's very curious that Rivera wasn't pitching the ninth inning. As far as high-leverage innings go, tied in the bottom of the ninth has got to be right up there. You have to use your relief ace in that situation, right?

Well, I've found tangotiger's chart of Crucial Situations. Scroll down to the bottom of the ninth. And check out the various situations - depending on the score, the runners on base and the number of outs, the leverage of the situation varies from low (blank) to medium (gray) to high (blue) to very high (red). Let's walk through the A's 9th inning last night.

Start of the inning, tied: medium leverage
Bradley walks: still medium leverage
Kendall sacrifices Bradley to second: high leverage
IBB to Swisher: high leverage
Scutaro's single: game over

I guess the game never made it to a "Very high" leverage situation, but do you really want Scott Proctor out there in even High leverage spots? How is that excusable when you've got Mariano Rivera out in the bullpen? Beats me. But I'll take the win. Today, we've got youngsters Dan Haren and Chien-Ming Wang facing off.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Holy Smokes

My mom has a website! Check out - she's got all her watercolor paintings up there for the viewing. I think Silver Breeze is my favorite, but the low-res image here doesn't do it justice. I recommend you buy a print!

Congrats Mom, and welcome to the internet.

(note - this post was originally authored, posted and taken down on 3/28/06)

Stumbling Out of the Gate

The A's opened the 2006 season last night and it could hardly have gone any worse, losing 15-2 to the Yankees. I keep looking through Susan Slusser's recap and the box score trying to find some kind of silver lining. I think I've finally found it: I was at dinner late last night and missed the game. I think that's it. The only good thing about last night's game was that I didn't watch it.

With that said, it is only one game, and Barry Zito started slowly last year as well. As I pointed out last May, Zito started '05 by giving up 22 ER in his first 30 innings (6.60 ERA). In fact, Zito has a 5.22 career ERA in April against a 3.27 ERA in all other months. So, let's hope Zito gets these early-season jitters out of the way and settles in to another solid year.