Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hats Off to the Tigers

Well, the A's put up a little fight in each game, but if you look at the 4-0 Tigers sweep, you really don't see any fight at all. The Tigers just flat-out beat the A's. The Tigers had great hitting, great starting pitching, great relief pitching and solid defense while the A's really didn't show nearly enough of those things.

From around the interweb...

-Ken Arneson:
...without Ellis and his MLB-record 2B fielding percentage, and without Justin Duchscherer, who can throw two shutdown innings in the middle of a ballgame, the A's M.O. was gone. Those two guys were the keys, the very heart and soul of the A's success in 2006.


-Barry Zito:
I'm sure in a couple of days I'll have a more positive outlook, and I'll be able to look back at the season and smile. But right now it's just really tough because of the fashion in which we lost. We just laid down, myself included...

Eventually I'll look back at some highlights. Beating Santana in the Metrodome, highlight of my career. Going in there, with all odds against me and the team -- not just that game but the whole series -- and getting through it on the positive side is definitely a highlight...

The plane ride home is going to be pretty emotional. That kind of stuff goes on every year, saying goodbye to guys because you know they're not going to be back or might not be back. You go up to those guys and make a real point to express how much you like playing with those guys, how much you love being around them. But this year I might be the guy leaving, so I want to go up to the rest of the guys and tell them how much I appreciate playing with them, their competitive spirit, their love, their determination and their support in the clubhouse. That's going to be emotional, I'm sure.

Finally, I'd just like to thank the people who have been following us and supporting us all this time. If this ends up being my last year here, I just want the fans to know how much I love them, too. That's all I can really say right now. Thanks for everything.

Man, I'm going to miss that guy.

-Nico on Athletics Nation:
From early in Game 1 to the end of Game 4, it was simply the Tigers time to play in the World Series. The A's, built on starting pitching, would fail to get a single quality start in the ALCS. Frank Thomas didn't get a single hit. You're not going to win too many series under those circumstances. ... I'm proud of the 2006 Oakland A's. And I can't wait for Spring Training, 2007.


-The Pastime: "Detroit was simply the better team over these 4 games. Eric Chavez took a lot of heat for saying that, but he was right. They made very few mistakes, and took advantage of the A's miscues."

-From Bruce Jenkins at the SF Chronicle:
"That man over there," said Bradley [of Frank Thomas], "that's just greatness. I grew up watching him play. Now I'm watching him accept defeat with humility. He's handling his struggles like a man. He taught me, a lot of us, how to be major-league players. You can't replace that kind of leadership."

-More from Jenkins:
Milton Bradley is the last Oakland player coming off the field, in a slow walk. He's pointing to someone on the Tigers, as if to say, "Job well done." He's pausing now, and I've got my eye on him, becase he was the Oakland A's today. Now he has been acknowledged, but Bradley is hanging around, all by himself, outside the A's dugout.


Wow. It appears that Jim Leyland is the man Bradley was acknowledging. Now Leyland is coming over to pay his respects to the A's. What a class act... Leyland knows the feeling of heartbreak, and he knows how the A's feel right now, and he has left the madness of his own team's triumph to commiserate with Oakland.


I guess I'll be rooting for the Tigers in the World Series. They're a hell of a team and a classy bunch.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Athletics Nation Says It All

After Game 2, the A's are "Down But Not Out"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Zito's Thoughts on ALCS Game 1

Barry Zito's Playoff Blog: Don't bet against us

They were gonna make me throw them strikes, and that's just something I didn't do. I think a lot of teams that face me, if they're not swinging, it's either because they're trying to time me or because they're going to make me throw strike one, and I didn't throw strike one nearly enough, so I take full responsibility for the loss.

...

I would never bet against this team. First of all because it's against the rules, but also because we've been through so much, and we've been counted out many times. If we can just refocus and clean the slate for tomorrow, I think things will start to look up for us.


Game 2: Verlander vs Loaiza

People are talking about Justin Verlander like he's the second coming of Josh Beckett, circa 2003. I had Verlander on one of my fantasy baseball teams, and he pretty much ran out of gas down the stretch. He was fantastic in July but really scuffled through August and September, as they say young pitchers tend to do.

How does Loaiza compare? Loaiza stunk up the joint for the first few months of the season before turning in a fantastic August and a mediocre September. To confirm my recollections on these guys, I took a look at their game scores, using BaseballMusings' Day by Day Database.

By the way, here's the definition of "Game Score" from Baseball-Almanac.com:
Start with 50 points. Add 1 point for each out recorded, (3 points per inning). Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th. Add 1 point for each strikeout. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract 1 point for each walk.


And here's how they stack up (monthly averages above 50 are bolded):
Verlander v. Loaiza

Verlander definitely had the better year, but he hasn't pitched great since July. And his September game scores really mirror Loaiza's. I just don't see this as the mis-match I keep hearing about from the TV folks at ESPN and Fox.

Let's Go A's!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Vacation?

The A's pitching, defense and clutch hitting took a near total holiday today.

Pitching
As great as Zito was last week against the Twins, he really struggled against the Tigers tonight in Game 1 of the ALCS. Gaudin, Kennedy, Calero and Blanton pitched well in relief (4.1 IP and no runs), but Zito allowed 7 hits, walked three, struck out no one and gave up 5 runs in 3.2 innings.

Defense
Where the A's played nearly flawless defense against the Twins, they kicked the ball around today. Chavez made an uncharacteristic mistake on a bases-loaded grounder in the third inning that allowed a run to score. It was a tough play moving to his left, but Chavez usually makes that play -- an out there would have saved a run and ended the inning.

Then, in the fourth, D'Angelo Jimenez looked like he was trying to stop the clock instead of turning a double-play. With Craig Monroe on first, Marcus Thames grounded a ball to Chavez who zipped it over to Jimenez. As he turned to throw to first for the double-play (a near guarantee with a healthy Mark Ellis), Jimenez essentially spiked the ball into the ground (it did make it at least 75 or 80 feet in the air). Instead of two outs and the bases empty, Zito had only one out and a runner on second. The next two batters doubled and grounded out. If Jimenez had turned that double-play, the A's are out of the inning without allowing any more runs. BUT - the Tigers ended up scoring two more runs.

Those two defensive missteps arguably cost the A's 3 runs. Take those three runs away and the final score is 2-1, which takes us to our next point...

Clutch Hitting
The A's were 0-13 with runners in scoring postion. Here's the litany of good situations the A's turned sour:
-Runners on first and second with one out in the first.
-Runners on first and second with one out in the third.
-Runners on second and third with NO out in the fourth.
-Runners on first and second with NO out in the fifth.
-Runners on first and second with one out in the sixth.

It's almost unbelievable that a team could put itself in all of those situations and not score a single run. But then, this is how the A's roll in the post-season. So far this year, the A's are 3-34 with runners in scoring position. Since making the playoffs in 2000, the A's are 40-174 with RISP (according to my rough scanning of the retrosheet box scores: example). That's a .230 batting average. In fact, the A's were only 4-42 (.095) in 2001 while losing two of five to the Yankees.

This clutch hitting problem is nothing new, but we don't have to like it. And the A's don't have to keep it up. Tonight was painful, but the A's are capable of going 4-2 over the remaining 6 games against the Tigers. They just have to pitch, play defense and get a few clutch hits.

LET'S GO A'S

Monday, October 9, 2006

Underdogs

From David Pinto's ALCS Preview: "I'll pick Detroit, with about a 60% chance of winning the series."

Well, I think that's better odds than anyone gave us against the Twins...

Oh, and here's your typical A's fan.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Sweep!

Oh, the joy! I was only able to watch two half-innings of the entire Twins-A's ALDS. Bottom of the ninth in game 1 and top of the ninth in game 3. But what an enjoyable two innings they were. The Guinness in my hand was shaking last night as Street wobbled through the ninth inning towards the save and the sweep.

When was the last time the A's won a postseason series? It's been 16 years! The last time the A's won a series, they swept the Red Sox in the 1990 ALCS. Since then, post-season agony:
-1990 World Series, swept by the Reds
-1992 ALCS, lost to the Blue Jays 4-2
-2000 ALDS, Lost to the Yankees 3-2 ("Jill" Heredia gave up 6 runs in the top of the first inning of game 5 with some help from CF Terrence Long)
-2001 ALDS, Lost to the Yankees 3-2 (lost three straight after taking the first two games in New York. Oh, and there was that whole Jeter flip, Jeremy Giambi no-slide play...)
-2002 ALDS, Lost to the Twins 3-2 (lost the last two games after going up 2-1. The tastefully named Billy Koch gave up three runs in the top of the ninth of game 5, which the A's lost 5-4)
-2003 ALDS, Lost to the Red Sox 3-2 (Went up 2-0 before baserunning blunders by Eric Byrnes and Miguel Tejada and Ricado Rincon's inability to stop Todd Walker submarined the A's.)

That's six consecutive post-season series the A's had lost, the last four in excrutiating fashion. So, I could hardly believe it was happening as Luis Castillo popped out to Jay Payton in left to end the series. It's been so long, and we've rooted for such great teams in the last few years. It just seemed like we were destined to root for a postseason loser. Clearing that hurdle, getting that monkey off their backs is such a relief. If only the A's had gotten past the Yankees in 2000 or 2001, if only they'd gotten past the Twins in 2002 or the Red Sox in 2003... Well, let's hope this is our year.

"For all of those die hard A’s fans that haven’t seen a World Series since 1989, we hope to bring that back to them." -Barry Zito

Let's Go A's!

From around the interweb:
-Video from the A's locker room. I love me some Nick Swisher.
-Barry Zito: "I Can't Explain How it Feels" (Another excellent piece from Zito's blog. Really well written and heart-felt.)
-Catfish Stew: "Woooooooooooooooh! Woooooooooooooooo! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Woooooooooooooooooooooooo!"
-David Pinto at BaseballMusings: "Many people said the Twins were the scariest team in the playoffs, mostly due to their great pitching. That was there in the first two games, but Oakland managed to pitch just a little bit better, and hit a bit better."
-Blez, at Athletics Nation: "Bring on the Yankees or Tigers. I personally would love to see the Yankees and finish that book that Michael Lewis started years ago. But right now, I couldn't give a rat's ass who it is..."


mmmm, ALCS...

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Tentative Joy

Winning game one of a 5-game series doesn't guarantee anything, as A's fans have learned the hard way. But beating Johan Santana in Minnesota is a rare feat. And now the A's are in pretty good shape. Taking 2 of 3 from Boof Bonser, a one-armed Brad Radke and Carlos Silva is no gimme, but you have to like the A's chances. It is critical for the A's to win two of those three games, though. We (A's fans) do NOT want to see Johan Santana back on the mound in a winner-take-all game 5.

Player of the game was obvioulsy Frank Thomas, but Barry Zito pitched a great game (with some help from the free-swinging Twins). Now, we turn to Esteban Loaiza. Let's Go A's!

Notes from around the interweb:
-Zito's thoughts on game 1 (courtesy Catfish Stew)
-Gleeman's breakdown
-Simmons' game diary
-Deadspin's inifinitely funnier live blog

Monday, October 2, 2006

Anxiety

The A's kick off the ALDS in Minnesota Tuesday afternoon at 1pm Eastern. I'm not sure whether I should be upset that I'm missing the game or happy that I won't be able to agonize over every pitch as I'm in my various meetings all afternoon...

I got an email from good buddy Nick this afternoon, who asked simply, "Is there any way we can win 3 games?" Ahhh, optimism. Seriously, almost no one is picking the A's to win the series. It's going to be an uphill battle. All we fans can do is hope.

Let's go A's.