A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Lilly doesn't seem to be sucking today. Of course, one or two longballs and I could be singing a very different tune, and that's precisely the problem with Lilly.

Ramon Hernandez, also not sucking. Looks like (knock on wood) we will cruise to a victory. Meanwhile, over in Boston, Damian Moss continues to defy DIPS, allowing just two runs to the potent BoSox offense despite walking three and striking out none through five innings.

Re Lilly: I've had an irrational dislike for him ever since the second Carlos Pena trade brought him over. So maybe it's my fault he's struggled: I always expect him to suck, as if I even want a reason to hate him, and on that front he comes through. I wish I didn't dislike him so.

Oh, a funny A's media related moment yesterday: So there was a Raiders preseason game Friday. This led Greg Papa (radio voice of the Raiders) to say, very disingenuously, "this is our first time at Network Associates Coliseum since January." Obviously he himself has been there many times since January, calling A's games on TV.

Speaking of which, Ken Korach apparently filled in for him on TV, leaving Bill King all by himself on the radio. Disoriented the hell out of me when the third, then the fourth, innings came along and it was still King calling it.

But then for the fifth and sixth innings, A's radio network actually borrowed White Sox radio guys. The first one wasn't too bad.

More Giants talk, sort of (I take no formal position on the scope of this blog, just happen to have SF-related news to share). It's now been two games in a row that I took J to where the team who was ahead when she left, ended up losing the game.

Last Sunday this was good news: She and her niece left, setting the stage for the rally that only I saw. This week, not so good. For niece-caretaking reasons we had a strict departure deadline, in fact one that got moved up half an hour on me. Given how the game ended this was more than just as well, though. Curiously, the limits on my Giants fandom (mainly self-imposed, resulting from A's fandom and from actually starting to buy this idea that "you can have only one") were a psychological godsend for me, for two reasons:

First, J and I got to enjoy Pacific Bell Park much more than we would have had we felt (read: had I felt) the insatiable urge to be glued to the game, to watch from our way-way-high "View Level" seats that made both of us dizzy. Instead we walked all around the park, ultimately alighting by the picnic tables, getting a piecemeal impression of innings 4 thru 7 (we'd watched the first three innings in our seats), with me very complacent in my dead certainty that SF had this game in the bag. I think it worked out to more fun this way, not to mention the my complete lack of anguish about leaving the game at 7th inning stretch time.

Second, if I were remotely a real Giants fan, I'd find this game utterly devastating. Pat Burrell did for Philadelphia today roughly what Ryne Sandberg did in a game 19 (NINETEEN! how time flies!) years ago, with a couple minor differences, one between true national TV coverage and essentially West-Coast-plus-Philly regionalized coverage; the other between Bruce Sutter in his prime and Tim Worrell just sort of filling in.

Damn, I have Worrell in a head-to-head fantasy league. That's going to hurt.

Anyhow, Giants losing streak on the horizon (devastating loss plus injuries to Durham and Aurilia), film at eleven.

And now back to A's coverage, albeit from Mike and Joon, not me.

i like lilly, and i guess i always have, but boy is he susceptible to the long ball. he needs a trade to the giants (not that i condone the notion of giving that other team equal time in this blog), where at least half the time he can give up 410-foot flyball outs. i'd certainly deal him for williams or foppert. sabes, are you listening? no? aw nuts.

i also think it may not be coincidence that in addition to the HRs (and to a lesser extent, the walks), lilly's ERA is horrible relative to his K rate because he gets worse defensive support. this may be because he works slowly and batters--when they bother to take the bat off their shoulder--don't make much contact. so the defense is back on their heels a little bit. (actually, looking at that now that i've written it, i don't believe it a bit. the guys with the leather are pretty much ready on every ball.)

anyway--yes, lilly is maddeningly inconsistent. but he's not really the problem; how many teams actually have a better pitcher as their 5th-best starter? (yes, he may technically still be our "#4" but you and i both know that harden could outpitch him blindfolded.) the offense is still the problem, though chavez is enjoying a nice hot streak and miggy had his magic series vs the yanks. i don't believe that guillen is the solution, because unfortunately, he's not better than the guy he replaces (mostly mcmillon). he would be, if management could get over their blind spot re: t-long.

(you know, at some point, i should try to write an entire post without complaining about long. next time, perhaps.)

Okay, what do we think of today's starter, Theodore Roosevelt Lilly, going forward?

Here's a quick summary of Lilly's career.

Lilly's been in four organizations. He was drafted by the Dodgers, and in his first pro season, he dominated the short-season A-ball Northwest League completely. In 53 2/3 innings, he struck out 75 batters, walked 14, and allowed 25 hits with a 0.84 ERA. The next season was more of the same, as at age 21 in the California League, a hitter's league, he struck out 158 against 32 walks in 134 2/3 innings, with a 2.82 ERA.

Starting in 1998, Lilly's apparent rise to stardom was interrupted by a lot of moving around. He pitched OK for the AA San Antonio Missions (96 K, 37 BB, 3.32 ERA in 111 2/3 innings), reached AAA and did fine (25 K against 9 BB in 31 IP) before being traded to the Montreal organization, where he had fine numbers in the International League (49 K, 19 BB in 39 IP; note that the IL is a better pitchers' league than the PCL, where those other AAA numbers were put up.)

In 1999, he did pretty well in the IL, 78 K against 23 BB in 89 IP before allowing 20 runs in 23 2/3 innings in a callup with the Expos, albeit with a fine 28/9 K/BB ratio. 7 HR were his downfall, a stat which will no doubt not surprise A's fans. (I don't have his minor league HR numbers, unfortunately.) That offseason, he was traded to the Yankees. In 2000, he spent most of the season with the AAA Columbus Clippers, striking out 127 against 48 walks in 137 1/3, pretty good. With the Yankees in 2001, he struck out 112 batters against 51 walks while once agian being vulnerable to the long ball, 20 HR in 120 2/3 innings, an alarmingly high rate. In 2002 with New York, more of the same, 59 K against 24 BB, 10 HR in 76 2/3 innings. His A's career, you know: enough strikeouts, command problems, but mostly, lots and lots of gopher balls. When the A's acquired him, Peterson claimed that his mechanics were screwed up and overhauled his delivery. This seems to have done nothing to alleviate his inconsistency.

Here's a little table of the A's four starters excluding Harden, who has obvious sample size problems.

Name K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Lilly 7.72 3.29 1.53
Zito 7.21 3.40 0.85
Hudson 6.80 2.92 0.75
Mulder 6.09 2.47 0.86

That's right, Ted Lilly has a better strikeout rate than any of the Big Three. (Zito and Hudson have given up significantly fewer hits than Mulder and Lilly, so their numbers should all be adjusted upwards in the rates per batter faced comparison, but not by so much.) The big difference in the table is the HR column.

What's going to happen to Lilly, a guy with great minor league numbers who hasn't really progressed (and who might, I don't know, have given up the gopher balls in the minors too)? Subjectively, watching Lilly is frustrating, even aside from the fact that he walks slowly. He just makes mistakes. He doesn't have command, like Zito this year, and he doesn't seem to be pitching smart. He has a nice curve, and nice pitches in general, but will he ever put it together? What will he do in the remainder of 2003, and in 2004? Will he even be in baseball by 2005? He's not exactly a guy you would expect to have success as a reliever; if he can't shake the gopher ball tendency, it's hard to see him staying in MLB for long.

What do we think about Ted Lilly?

Friday, August 08, 2003

Ugh, I don't really want to talk about tonight's game.

So I won't. I will, however, note that I stopped listening to the game (for unrelated reasons) with the A's up 2-1, so apparently I'm not the only one cursing them.

Gained a half-game on Boston. Meh.

Another gratuitous Giants post...
...sorry to stray from the theme (again) but quick, without looking, give me Pedro Feliz's 2003 stat line. (Mainly I'm thinking of AVG/OBP/SLG.)

As testy as we get about McMillon vs. T-Long and such, imagine if, on your favorite team, a guy like Feliz routinely subbed for a guy like Barry Bonds. (Some guys I work with were at Thursday afternoon's Giants game; I noticed in the box score that Barry was out of the lineup again.)

Matchups for the ChiSox games:

Friday: Mulder vs. Buehrle (no-walk, ground-ball lefties)
Saturday: Lilly vs. Garland (long-time talented prospects who have been unable to put it together in the majors)
Sunday: Harden vs. Loaiza (one-year explosions)

Should get some good games here. As for our competitors:

Boston (we're 1 1/2 back, 2 in the loss column) plays the suddenly hot Orioles for three. Pedro isn't starting in this series; he's facing Hudson on Monday at the Coliseum. Matt and I will be there. It'll be a key game whether we're 1/2 back, 1 1/2 back, or 2 1/2 back (I don't even want to consider anything more than that...)

Seattle (3, 3) and the Yanks (4, 5) are playing each other, so one of them is going to lose, good news for us.

If Terrence Long is in the lineup tomorrow I will not be a happy man. Groundball pitcher against a lefty, Piatt should be in there in LF, Byrnes in CF. None of this Singleton or Long bullshit; outfield defense and left-handed hitting are both way less relevant than usual.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

More administrivia: I made minor changes (switched archives from monthly to weekly, for one). Let me know if anything seems amiss.

I'm posting this via Lynx so it may come out wrong.

Devastating loss today. Many chances blown, critical homer served up at the wrong time, and so forth. Looks like I might have been "right" about the team meeting, although what effect it might have had no one knows. Someone should do a study seeing if teams' winning percentages go up after a team meeting...

I could talk about many things: the alarming demise of Zito (and no, I don't mean W/L, but rather K/BB/HR), the absurdity of hitting your worst hitter leadoff to get him more plate appearances, the odd swinging at the first pitch by Hatteberg and McMillon during the threat I killed, and so forth.

But instead I will just throw in a little blurb on the absolute absurdity of playing for one run when you're down by one, which in this case manifested itself in Eric Byrnes being thrown out at the plate for the second out in the eighth inning.

Without that, it would have been bases loaded, one out, down by 1. The problem is, when you get thrown out, you not only kill yourself, but you also drastically reduce the chance of those runners behind you scoring. Teams bunt down by 1 with one runner on all the time -- it's crazy.

So you could tie the game. But, you know, that second run is worth as much as the first one, because the difference between +1 and 0 is as big as the difference between 0 and -1. Psychologically, I see why people do it: you want to tie it first, and then think about winning it later. But people's intuition is wrong here -- it just doesn't make sense. Playing for one run when you're tied makes a lot of sense. Playing for one run when you're down by 1, at the expense of a possible second run, is foolish. In this case, the A's were done in by the hot-streak fallacy too: because McMillon had failed with the bases loaded and one out before, they assumed, I suppose, that he would fail in this situation too. Well, if you assume that the guy is always going to fail, why is he in the lineup? These are independent events.

So many more things I could bitch about. Anyway, we're heading into that 16-game stretch, starting with three against the Pale Hose over the weekend. I am not optimistic.

A corollary is that the Giants do score when listened to. They score in spades.

Forgot to bring a radio or headphones today and was too cheap this year to buy any MLB game audio. By the time I took lunch (and went to Target for some cheap computer speakers), the A's were done and the Giants were teeing off on Ryan Vogelsong.

I imagine it's mostly the vast difference in offensive output between those teams.

Yes, these A's definitely do not score when watched. I turned on the game with second and third and no outs. Four batters later, no scoring, end of inning.

I'm going to turn off the game now for the benefit of everyone.

i've been secretly nursing a "watched A's never score" theory for most of this season, and it's not far off the mark. it seems to me that they just don't score much, period, so it doesn't strike me as that unlikely that they'd go any given stretch without putting up any runs. and of course the pitching and defense has been even stingier than the offense, so that's hardly surprising either.

not sure which standings mike is looking at, but the A's gained a game on both seattle and new york today, but not boston. i guess the yankees game was decided late (rivera blew another save, on another error--this time his own--to texas), but more pertinently, all three relevant teams won yesterday, so the A's failed to gain any ground that day. (yes, it's almost 4 am, but by "today" = wed and "yesterday" = tue.)

it's a good point about mcmillon. i guess i kind of forgot they had him, which isn't that surprising since he seems to be the odd man out in the guillen shuffle. t-long, get thee to the DL where you can team up with jermaine dye to stop killing the offense!

The J Streak
In the last 22 innings of baseball my girlfriend has seen in person (all A's home games; this will change with Saturday's Phillies-Giants game), the combined score is:

Other Team 2, A's 0

Caveat: It's really 21 innings, subtracting out a bottom-of-the-ninth the A's didn't need, and a bottom-of-the-seventh that coincided with her escorting her tired six-year-old niece out of the Coliseum.

We're both strongly considering banning her from the Coliseum. Oakland is one of the worst possible rooting interests for a hardcore baseball fan courting a newbie fan, in that there's so much good baseball there, yet so little good casual-fan PR, particularly in the concrete pathos of their home park.

I think there's maybe a 5% chance she'll fall in love with Pacific Bell Park. If she doesn't, that may be the end of our habitually taking in games together, save for special occasions. I have mixed emotions there.

For completeness' sake (see the post right below this one), A's road record by day of the week (thru Wednesday night):

Sunday: 5-4
Monday: 2-2
Tuesday: 5-4
Wednesday: 5-4
Thursday: 4-5
Friday: 2-6
Saturday: 3-4

Well, that shoots down the Friday portion of the Tuesday-Sunday-Friday rotation theory below.

By the way, all this started with my twin hypotheses that The A's never score in Sunday home games and The A's never score when my girlfriend is there in person.

I had associated her being there in person with Sunday home games, though in hindsight this really isn't true. She's seen a Tuesday win, a Friday win, a Wednesday loss, a Sunday win, a Friday loss, and the losing portion of a Sunday win. Or, if you care about pitchers, she's seen Hudson; Mulder; Lilly; Lilly; Mulder; and Mulder.

Given my leanings (for random strangers, "Barry Zito Forever" comes from Mike; despite the blog title I'm a Mulder guy, though I have to admit from going to this game that Mulder looks a lot better in his road jersey than I do), you'd think the Mulder part would be on purpose, but it's just luck of the season ticket miniplan.

What's mildly improbable (but only mildly) is the lack of Zito.

When I lived in Boston, specifically in the summer of '96, I had an astonishing "ability" to miss Roger Clemens starts (and even Tim Wakefield starts). Luck and statistical clustering gave me instead some hefty doses of Sele and Moyer, to a lesser extent Tom Gordon.

Apropos of nothing, A's home record by day of the week:
Sunday: 9-1
Monday: 0-1
Tuesday: 8-1
Wednesday: 3-6
Thursday: 6-3
Friday: 9-1
Saturday: 5-5

The Sunday loss was in April, at night, to Texas. I was there; Colby Lewis beat Lilly (actually he beat Chad-Brad), 2-1.

The Monday game was June 30, Mariners in town, Jamie Moyer over Aaron Harang. I was not there but Mike and I will be at the A's second Monday home game of the season.

The Tuesday loss was the Devil Rays lighting up Zito last month.

The Friday loss was July 4 weekend, the 1-0 to Anaheim. I'm tempted not to count that as a Friday.

What's up with the Wednesday losses? Do the A's players not like Double-Play crowd sizes?

My best guess about this trend: Very frequently the A's have had a Tuesday-thru-Sunday road trip or homestand, with off day Monday. To some extent they can manipulate the staff so that one of their best starters would pitch on the Tuesday-Sunday. Naturally, that same starter would go again on Friday, and then pick one of (Wedesday-Thursday).

Neyer, Mariners, etc.
If you haven't done so already, go read this conversation between Rob Neyer and Jim Caple. What strikes me most about this is just how pessimistic Mariner fans (and possibly Mariner players, though I'm amused by how quickly they traded him, and for whom) have gotten. What psychological effect, if any, does this have?

While on the subject of opposition research, didn't you used to be Alfonso Soriano? At Sunday's game I did a double-take when I saw Soriano's season rate stats on the scoreboard. Apparently he's been awful since May and I had no idea. He also, of course, hand-delivered the A's Friday's game with his 8th-inning error, then made another 8th-inning error in Sunday's.

(If it weren't for Soriano's terrible throws, Andy Pettitte would have taken a no-hitter into the 9th inning. Of course, we can't really say that. A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, and so on.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Comerica doesn't seem to be holding down the long ball today -- two HR's off Hudson and three off the cast of no-names the Tigers are sending out. 6-3 A's in the ninth, we're well on our way to that sweep.

The A's do have a Jeremy Giambi-type in Billy McMillon. Today, of course, with the lefty starting, this is less useful, but with Hudson or Mulder (or Harden?) starting against a righty, Terrence Long should even more urgently find his ass on the pine.

Incidentally, Hudson has a good HR rate, but it's not that much better if you throw out Mark's rookie season, which just wasn't very good. Over 2001-2003, Mulder is at 0.74 HR/9 IP, Hudson is at 0.68 HR/9 IP; that's 1 HR per around 144 IP, or like two a year. (By comparison, Zito is at 0.88, so the difference between him and Mulder is more than twice the difference between Mulder and Hudson.)

Looks like, with the score 9-3 now, we'll gain a game on Seattle and for the second night in a row tread water against New York and Boston. You know, a team meeting before tomorrow's game might not be the worst of ideas. People always have team meetings when they're losing, but when you're winning, sometimes you might need a little kick to remind you that every game is as important as every other and it's no more okay to let down and drop one if you've been winning than it is to keep a losing streak going.

huddy's best parks are home run parks, because he's not going to give them up but the opposing pitcher might. so, in principle, he should be at his best in small outfields, short porches, etc. enron would be a great fit... i can't think of an AL equivalent. maybe fenway, camden...
of course, if the A's had a bit better bench they could really maximize the advantage here by platooning some jeremy giambi type in the outfield when hudson or mulder starts (lilly isn't extreme enough, and harden seems groundball so far but it's very small sample size), saving singleton for games where OF defense matters more (and ideally relegating t-long to the end of the bench, but that's a different issue). i guess david mccarty is too limited offensively (only hits lefties). piatt has the same issue, but less extreme... maybe they could try it out with him.
i just checked out huddy's day/night splits under the assumption that more HRs are hit during the day... although that's true of hudson (but not by that much), oddly his W/L is much better at night. i guess the sample size (~200 day innings in the past three seasons) is not huge. might be interesting to check out the same sort of thing for other extreme pitchers (derek lowe? tim redding on the other extreme?).

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

By the way, so far, so good on a potential sweep of the Tigers. My question: Is there any especially good match-up park for Tim Hudson? On turf the grounders sail into the outfield; in spacious grass stadia, the flyballers get a comparative advantage.

Is Huddy's ideal park something like Camden Yards, or maybe Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out?

Come to the Net With Me
Two pieces of administrivia:
1. I have tickets for both Monday and Tuesday's A's-Red Sox games (the 11th and 12th). Two per game, of which I plan one of me and one guest. Write to matt979 at yahoo with your fervent interest. (I'm guessing Mike will see this first, as by definition the other known reader.)

2. Comments widget coming soon.

Big series these next few days.

What's that, Toto? We're playing the Tigers, the sorriest excuse for a franchise in the game today?

It's true, but that makes it even more critical. We have three games with Detroit before heading into a 16-game trial-by-fire stretch against the red-hot White Sox, the blue-hot Red Sox, and the white-hot Blue Jays. Okay, maybe I am overstating the heat, but those are going to be 16 tough games.

We need all three of these games with the Tigers. This is a big chance to gain ground on people. Seattle is facing the Indians, who I think could give them a very tough time. Boston faces Anaheim, a team which can give them trouble because of their deep pitching staff. New York ... okay, they should kill the Rangers, but the Rangers could take one of three.

We start the series a half-game behind Boston (1 in the loss column), and 4 back of New York (5 in the loss column, and Seattle (4). If we sweep here, we have a good shot of gaining a few games on the Red Sox and Mariners.

Harden goes today. You know, it is simply unrealistic to expect Harden to maintain a 0.86 ERA. His ERA in AAA was around 3, and obviously it would be great if he could have an ERA of around 3 in the majors this year. But an ERA of around 3 means some outings of 4 ER in 6 IP, occasional stuff like that, and unfortunately I'm not sure we can afford that with the still-dormant offense.

Then Hudson (a pitcher not really suited to Comerica) against R5-er Wilfredo Ledezma on Wednesday, a game we should win easily, and Zito-Bonderman, a matchup we have already lost, on Thursday.

We need a sweep here. The formula is to tread water when you're playing tougher opponents than your competitors and gain ground when you're playing easier opponents. We've done the first half against the Red Sox, and we need to cash in on the second half starting today.

Monday, August 04, 2003

One thing about Ramon is that after his April, everyone (this year at least) will always assume he's been doing better than he actually has, since the April portion of his stats will always be in his cumulative total, whereas his more recent stats won't have been.

I wonder how Tejada has done since, say, May 1 or so.

I like Ramon. When he and Long got those identical contracts a few years back, I thought Hernandez's one was fantastic and Long's was miserable. Well, one out of two, I guess...

Did Ramon deserve to be an All-Star? No, but he's clearly an above-average catcher this year, and I think he will continue to be one for a few years to come.

I'm not sold on Brown. If he hits .250, he'll be a good player, but the thing is, not everyone can hit .250 in the majors. The guy Brown reminds me of is former A's backup Sal Fasano, who, like Brown, was fat, had a pretty good eye, and had some pop, as well as better defense than people assumed he had because of the body. But Fasano struggled to hit .230, let alone .250, and despite the secondaries was a good backup, not a viable starter. His career .215/.300/.390 strikes me as a reasonable comp for what Brown is likely to do (although he could certainly do somewhat better or worse than that.) This is a good backup, but not as good as what I expect Ramon to put up (.247/.318/.380 coming into this year, when he seems to have improved somewhat.)

Yay or nay on Ramon Hernandez? On the one hand, Gammons claims the A's pitchers all love throwing to him, which has long-term implications related to Jeremy Brown's future.

On the other, a Baseball Primer poster called him "even more fey than Mike Piazza" after he stood two feet in front of the plate on Guillen's throw Friday.

I'm neutral towards him, I guess. I think he's overrated but there's nothing there for me to dislike, really.

Real Post
Let's kick things off with Sunday's game, which I touched on quite giddily here. Actually I said most of what I wanted to say there. All I can add:

When the Dodgers next come to Oakland (2004?), what kind of reception will Tejada get? I hope a kinder one than Jason Giambi has gotten.

Test Post
Welcome to Network Associates Coliseum... or rather, to the "Barry Zito Forever" weblog. More info to come about who we are (A's fans) and what we like and dislike.

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