A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Billy McMillon, ideal leadoff hitter

Yes, the man is hitting .235. But he has been up twice today, and has had an 11-pitch at-bat and a walk. I'll take this over Terrence "Pop-up on two pitches" Long any day.

McMillon is out-OBP'ing long by 60 points.

John Halama is, as one might expect, running into problems against the Jays lineup as we speak.

Friday, August 22, 2003

The Mulder Injury

I don't think this is as bad as it looks. We have 34 games left, which is around 6 or 7 starts for Mulder. Mulder is excellent, but one thing to remember is that, in principle, the virtue of having a good defense is that you can plug any low-walk, low-HR pitcher in there and get reasonable results. Justin Duchscherer fits the bill. In the PCL this year, he has walked just 16 batters (against 107 K's) and given up 11 HR in 142 innings. These numbers are actually similar:

Name K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Duke 6.78 1.01 0.70
Mark 6.17 1.93 0.72

Now, of course, those are Duchscherer's numbers in AAA, but those look like the numbers of a pitcher who will be successful in front of a good defense, which the A's have in spades. The difference between Duchscherer and Mulder, with the A's defense, is not astronomical.

I would recommend a platoon of Duchscherer and Halama, mixing and matching depending on the L/R-ness of the opponents' lineups.

Or... Keith Foulke? (It'll never happen, but I wonder whether it would be a good idea.)

Anyway, that's not the problem. The problem is that Terrence Long is hitting leadoff and Ruby hasn't done anything in awhile and we're now tied with Boston and three back of Seattle. Those things are way more important than an injury to admittedly an excellent starting pitcher.

Mark Mulder has a stress fracture, and may be out for the year. Ugh. That's really bad news.

A's Win Shares
Get 'em here. (Maybe you already knew about this page. I didn't until Rob Neyer's ESPN chat.)

Wow, Ken, that last post is a tough act to follow. S'pose I could also mention that both Willis and Jimmy Rollins went to my girlfriend's high school (two years behind her and two years ahead, respectively), not that it compares at all.

My Brilliant Interview, or How I Almost Prevented the Career of Dontrelle Willis From Ever Happening

Dontrelle Willis has dazzled baseball fans with his funky motion and charming personality. He returns to the Bay Area tonight for the first time as a major leaguer to pitch against the Giants.

Suddenly, he's become a huge star. There's a great interview with him in today's Miami Herald. The San Francisco Chronicle had a feature article that detailed how he got his unusual delivery playing with some buddies against the wall of his apartment building.

It almost didn't happen. Because of me. But the events you are all familiar with all unfolded because I, too, once had a great interview.


After we graduated from college in 1988, my girlfriend (now my wife) Pam and I decided to go spend a year in Europe. We returned to our hometown, Alameda, a year later, broke and jobless. Pam's brother Sam was kind enough to agree to let me stay in his apartment until I could find a job.

After three months, I still hadn't found a job. Things were looking rough, and then the big earthquake hit. My job prospects, already slow, came to a complete halt.

Sam was nice, but I could tell I was starting to cramp his style. He had a fairly small apartment, and it didn't look like I was going to be moving out anytime soon. Two more months passed. So when the largest apartment (of five) in the building opened up, Sam considered taking it. We went in and looked at it. It was certainly much more spacious than the old one.

The Interview

That week, though, I had a job interview out at UC Berkeley, and I nailed it. It was the best interview I have ever given, to this day. I was charming and funny. I had great answers to all their questions. I made it practically impossible for them not to hire me.

So I got the job, and I moved out. Sam decided not to move, and instead, Dontrelle Willis and his mom moved in, into the apartment with the wall against which he first learned to throw that weird-looking pitch.

Every little thing you do triggers a great chain of events you can't even begin to predict. A job interview I had at UC Berkeley set off something that may, in the end, save baseball in South Florida. If my interview had gone poorly, Sam might have moved into that apartment instead of Dontrelle, who wouldn't have come up with that funky delivery, and Miami would not now be abuzz.

Is your favorite team in trouble? Threatening to move? Give me a job interview! I am currently unemployed, just as I was back in 1989. I need a job, I can write, and I can do magic with a computer. Here's my resume. Take a chance! You have no idea what you are missing.

Should we root for Seattle or Boston this weekend?

If I had Baseball Prospectus' postseason odds calculator, I could calculate which scenarios produce the best odds for the A's to make the postseason. But I don't, so I'll do something crude:

Assuming all four teams (A's, Jays, Sox, M's) are equally likely to win each game, here are the odds that after Monday, the A's:

trail Seattle, and lead Boston: 61.7%
trail Seattle, and are tied with Boston: 20.3%
trail both Seattle and Boston: 14.4%
tied with both Seattle and Boston: 1.6%
tied with Seattle and lead Boston: 1.6%
lead both Seattle and Boston: 0.4%

What about staying close in the AL West race? Odds of trailing Seattle by:
3+ games: 63.7%
4+ games: 36.3%
5+ games: 14.4%
6+ games: 3.5%
7 games: 0.4%

There's an 85.2% chance the A's finish this weekend either leading or tied with Boston. But there's a significant risk that Seattle can put the division out of reach. Perhaps I should root for Boston to take three of four games. I like a being in a pennant race, but I like being in two pennant races even more.

Nah. When it comes down to it, my dislike for the Red Sox will outweigh my dislike for the Mariners; I will find myself rooting against the Red Sox; and my logic will be brushed aside like a Vulcan in heat. Forget I said anything.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Pitching matchups vs. Toronto:

Friday: Zito vs. Halladay. We stole one here before, let's see if we can do it again.
Saturday: Some uncertainty in the Jays' camp, but it looks like RHP Pete Walker will probably start against an apparent John Halama for the A's.
Sunday: Tim Hudson's scheduled start. We'll see how his hand continues to feel; I think he'll probably go. I'm not sure who would start here if Hudson isn't ready. My vote is for Justin Duchscherer. Kelvim Escobar will be going for the Jays.
Monday: Ted Lilly vs. probably Cory Lidle if he's able to go (groin.)

Good matchups for the A's: two guys coming off the DL, and all four righties.

Hey, Greg (and others):

How did Mike Wood look out there?

Wood, making his major league debut today, is a fringe prospect I've kept my eye on for the past couple of years. He walks almost no one and keeps the ball down -- I definitely think he could contribute at the major league level. I'm curious to know how he looked -- obviously mixed results, but against this lineup, that's not necessarily an indication of anything.

If the O's can hang on and beat the Mariners, we'll be going into Toronto a combined two games behind Boston and Seattle. Win 3 of 4 and we'll be a combined zero games behind. We'll see how Halama can do in Mulder's spot.

Did the A's just manufacture a run?

Apparently Jose Guillen knows how to bunt. I was going to post yesterday on Ramon Hernandez's failure to get a bunt down. Namely: While I'm far less dogmatic than others about the ill-advisedness of most sac bunts, I can say that attempting one is a much worse idea with a guy who can't bunt than with a guy who can.

This (and that whole Ricciardi article a few days ago) leads me to two questions:
1. How hard is it to learn how to bunt? More to the point, what is the ratio of time spent to skill gained? Ricciardi says he'd rather his guys spend the time on hitting, but if you take diminishing marginal returns into accout, at what point does working on bunting make sense after all?

2. What's the marginal value of a given player's bunting ability? And related to this, how well do teams evaluate players' bunting skills? I'm assuming that bunting isn't one of those "undervalued" skills like OBP (I guess that one used to be undervalued), nor overrated like speed. Blah. So many questions I have, without answers.

UPDATE: In the bottom of the 1st, Boston scoffs at the notion of "manufacturing" a run. Reminds me of Game 3(?) of the 2000 ALDS when Oakland was at NYY and Skip Caray and Joe Morgan were calling the game and Morgan scoffed at the A's expection of hitting three-run homers, just as Chavy lit into one.

I'll go ahead and chime in here ...

I'm Greg, transplanted Californian and A's fan since July 24, 1988. I scored tickets for all three of these Boston games back in February, so I've had the good fortune of watching Macha's crew steal two wins from the Sox.

On the subject of Ted Lilly, I'm with Ken here -- I really don't think he was pitching that poorly. He missed a couple of spots, but he got two strikes on nearly half the batters he faced and made a bunch of good pitches nonetheless. I mean, the A's only have one guy (Chavez) with a higher slugging percentage (.500) than the Red Sox as a team (.494).

* * *

I've sat in Fenway's cramped bleachers for more than eight hours so far this week, and I still don't understand Macha's current lineup. Long and Guillen have the two worst walk rates on the team, and yet, since the beginning of the Toronto series, they've batted 1-2 every game. Here's what the current Oakland offensive juggernaut looks like in order:

            AVG   OBP   SLG  R/L

Long .245 .293 .402 L
Guillen .267 .309 .453 R
Chavez .273 .343 .500 L
Tejada .256 .307 .427 R
Durazo .263 .386 .444 L
Hernandez .257 .313 .449 R
Hatteberg .261 .341 .383 L
Ellis .249 .321 .360 R
Singleton .261 .303 .371 L

Yes, that's right. On the most OBP-inclined team in the known universe, Terrence Long, with the worst OBP on the team, is the current table-setter. Long has been shuffled around Macha's lineup card a bit this year, with varying degrees of success. Sample size cautions apply, but here's how Long has looked this year in various spots:

            AB   AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS

Batting #1 56 .214 .241 .446 .687
Batting #2 5 .200 .200 .200 .400
Batting #5 5 .200 .333 .200 .533
Batting #6 44 .136 .220 .182 .402
Batting #7 183 .301 .357 .525 .882
Batting #8 103 .223 .252 .301 .553
Batting #9 7 .286 .286 .286 .572

Now, other than the first inning, the actual slot in the order doesn't matter, so there almost surely isn't something special about the number seven to Terrence. But am I the only one that finds this striking? In the seventh slot, he's Eric Chavez; everywhere else, he's Tony Womack. Here's what I propose:

            AVG   OBP   SLG  R/L

Ellis .249 .321 .360 R
Durazo .263 .386 .444 L
Tejada .256 .307 .427 R
Chavez .273 .343 .500 L
Guillen .267 .309 .453 R
Hatteberg .261 .341 .383 L
Hernandez .257 .313 .449 R
Long .245 .293 .402 L
Singleton .261 .303 .371 L

Of course, why is Long even playing over McMillon (.356 OBP) in the first place? It's a total mess.

* * *

Quick question for anyone with an opinion: Should I start Harden on my fantasy team tonight?

Mark Ellis
Check out his career line through August 19. (By the time you see this it'll probably include August 20.) Comparing his full 2002 to his 2003-to-date, many of the counting stats are exactly matched:


Up to that point the only differences at all are the increase in absolute # of doubles and strikeouts. So does that mean he's swinging harder and making less contact?

Alas, no, the number I left out: He's had 418 at-bats this year, 345 all of last year. On the margin that's nine more hits (seven of them doubles) and two fewer walks, but in 71 more plate appearances.

That brings us from .272/.359/.394 (decent) to .246/.319/.359 (perhaps unacceptable, though the secondary average is actually pretty good).

Ellis certainly isn't the problem--compare his OBP to that of T-Long or even Chavez or Tejada--but he may not be part of the solution either.

If you were the A's, how much time would you spend thinking about whether there's a price at which you could bring back Tejada after all?

(Perhaps with Crosby at 2B and Ellis in a superutility role?)

Then again anecdotally Ellis plays fantastic defense. He and Michael Young (2B-TEX) both. Young is an interesting player in that his defense seems way underrated (if you compare the stats to how little you hear about it), yet his offense marks him as having one of the worst seasons possible for someone with a batting average that high.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Ted Lilly is a head case. I actually thought he was pitching pretty well. But then the umpire started squeezing him, Lilly visibly lost his cool, and he was toast thereafter.

Speaking of toast, I wouldn't call the Red Sox toast. They have a tough schedule right now, but September should be much easier for them. If Pedro wins tomorrow, it's only a one-game lead. Not much of a cushion.

I don't live in Boston like the most of the other guys on this blog. But after experiencing an extremely obnoxious gathering of Red Sox fans in Oakland last Wednesday, I must admit that just hearing about the current pessimism in New England fills my heart with schadenfreude.

Another day, another unbelievable win at Fenway. The only feeling I have is gratitude, for the A's determination and also for the sheer luck that it takes to win a game like that.

Are the Red Sox Toast?
If it were any franchise other than Boston, this would be a silly question to ask. Tonight's game is the sort of game that everyone expects to derail the losing team's season, even though my intuition is that it's no better/worse a predictor of future performance than any other loss.

(Any studies ever been done on this? What metrics would you use for devastation? Some formula involving men left on base (17), hit differential (7), and/or largest lead blown (4 runs)?)

These are the Red Sox, though. More importantly (to be sure that Sox fans in the audience don't think I'm being insulting), this is still the team whose post-game show is hosted by Ted Sarandis and whose coverage comes from the likes of Dan Shaughnessy. There's so much negativity in the market (most of us have experienced this first-hand), that you have to like your chances of outperforming Boston down the stretch, despite the massive gap in talent.

What about Ted Lilly?
Didn't he used to have good peripherals? The striking thing about Lilly's start tonight was that he was bad in a different way than usual. Instead of making mistakes at exactly the wrong time, he was knocked around like a rented mule (I base this solely on on-line box scores: Didn't get to my car radio until the start of the 8th inning) and yet somehow managed never to make the mistake that would have turned this game into a cakewalk.

All the same, the less Oakland has to rely on Lilly, the better.

How foregone a conclusion is tomorrow's outcome?
It was a little strange towards the end of the radio broadcast to hear the repeated description of a potential win tomorrow as "gravy." Granted, this is actually true: It's hard rationally to expect to beat Pedro, especially when he's pitching at home to try to prevent a sweep, having already lost to the A's two starts ago.

On the one hand, this is probably a great way of managing the expectations game. As fans, it's good to expect to be dominated by Pedro and then by euphoric should that turn out not to be the case. The only thing I hope is that Oakland hitters themselves don't buy into this.

(Random personal anecdote that might or might not be relevant: I know exactly when our coaches expected my high school quiz team to lose in the elimination rounds of this national championship we went to my senior year (1992 for what it's worth). This was the game right before which they started going out of our way to tell us just how proud they were that we'd gotten this far. They clearly didn't expect us to beat our next opponent, and wanted us to know in advance that we shouldn't be disappointed to lose. Made me so mad to hear that--maybe that was the goal, some deep psychological trick?--but in any case, we not only upset our opponents but also just manhandled them.)

In my utopian universe, Pedro gets absolutely brutalized tomorrow. I know better than to expect that. Still looking for three of the next five to wrap up a 5-2 (or better?) trip.

Quick Survey Questions
Any author or reader can comment on these:

Favorite A's player? (Mulder; hitter is Durazo, Matt Stairs, or Rickey Henderson depending on how far you expand the timeline)

Best A's game you ever went to? (#20 last year, followed by #18 last year)

Evaluate Art Howe's tenure in ten words or less. (Underrated. He deserves credit for the recent great second halves.)

If you ever post anonymously to Baseball Primer's "Clutch Hits," what's the coolest on-topic alias you've ever had a chance to use? (I have some; suddenly drawing a blank.)

Official Ruling: It is not at all gauche to gush about the Giants here. Go right ahead as you see fit.

As I type this I'm listening to "Midnight Baseball" on KNBR (SF Giants flagship). I'm still awake for the express purpose of listening to this game. Sometimes the game replay is great when I don't know how it comes out; sometimes (like tonight) it's great precisely because I do know how it comes out.

I wish KFRC and the A's did this. You'd think this would be an obvious net benefit to the team and the station. It's a marketing opportunity missed.

Then again I also wish for more Ken Korach and less Bill King, something that won't happen until King retires. (I like that Korach calls the 7th and 8th, since they're often more important than the ninth.) For that matter I wish for an audiotape of either King's call or (presumably) Joe Castiglione's call of Terrence Long's 2002 game-saving catch at Fenway. The only time I ever heard/saw this, the call was Chris Berman's (!) from ESPN's broadcast.

If the A's take four of the next six games (to complete a 5-2 road trip) I really like their chances, Mulder or no.

Hi, I'm James Newburg, A's fan since 1988, college student since 2001. Through shameless self-promotion (okay, so it was asking a question in the comments section), I have landed a spot as a contributor to Barry Zito Forever. My main baseball interests right now are doing research and voting in the Hall of Merit over at Baseball Primer, lurking in Clutch Hits, going to as many A's and Giants (shhh!) games as possible before I go back to school, and wondering how the hell Jose Guillen is hitting so well (more on this in the next few days).

My posts certainly aren't going to be as frequent as Matt's or Mike's are. I can only look so close at the A's before I become a pile of nerve endings and fingernail clippings. The A's have been so blessedly, unbeliveably successful over the past five years that examining it on a daily basis will make me about as neurotic as the average fan in Red Sox Nation. Nobody wants to see that. What I'll try to do is go into greater depth so my contribution won't be reduced to dropping daily f-bombs at the sight of T-Long or Chris Singleton flailing away helplessly to kill a (rare) A's rally.

Oh, and I'll also post some occassional stuff from around baseball as it's warranted.

(Tangent: Though it's probably gauche of me to gush over a Giants game, especially in my maiden post, I must do it. I was in the house tonight for the Giants and Braves, which gave me the chance to witness both crappy in-game managing from Bobby Cox and the most incredible finish to a game I've ever seen in person.

First, the managing. Cox let Russ Ortiz pitch the seventh inning, despite having a two-run lead, with Ortiz up at 101 pitches. Sure enough, Jose Cruz hits a jack to lead off the inning and cut the deficit to one run. Ortiz finishes the inning and leaves the game after throwing 119 pitches.

Now, the Braves lead 4-3 after seven innings against their biggest threat in the National League. Bobby Cox has a former starter as his closer, someone capable of going two innings if needed. This closer is arguably the greatest since Dennis Eckersley. You call his number, right? Not if you're Bobby Cox.

Naturally, Cox turns to Trey Hodges, who is one of a cast of thousands in the Braves bullpen with an ERA in the 4.00 range. Hodges gives up over 12 baserunners per nine innings, just the kind of guy you want in a close game. Predictably, the Giants scratch out the tying run. Neither team scores in the ninth and we're going into extra innings.

The Braves hitters go down without much of a fight in the top of the tenth, setting the stage for an outstanding finish. But not before we see some more Bobby Cox bungling. (Of course, if Cox brings in Smoltz to pitch the eighth and ninth, I'm sitting in traffic at this point.)

Leading off the bottom of the tenth inning is the greatest player in National League history. His name is Barry and he has a freakishly large head. So, golly gee, Cox thinks it's a great idea to pitch to him. (Watching the game live, you could almost see the spirit of Grady Little possessing Cox's body. You could imagine Cox on the bullpen phone saying, "Give me Ray King. And some French fried potaters, mmm-hmm.")

So because Ray King has the virtue of holding Barry Bonds hitless in six at-bats, Cox passes over a pitcher with a 98 mph heater, a Cy Young Award, and a 0.92 ERA for some LOOGY who had the good fortune to get Bonds out during some meaningless August games between the Giants and Brewers.

By the way, Pedro Feliz is on deck. On to the finish...

Bonds beats the crap out of a 2-1 offering from King. Seriously, this was the hardest-hit ball I've ever seen. The ball was a line shot that rose as it cleared the wall. A sellout crowd reacted in unison, and their reaction said one thing:



But he wouldn't have had the chance to send 42,307 fans home drunk with happiness if Bobby Cox knew how to manage his bullpen.

End of tangent.)

Don't worry, I'll keep the Giants stuff to a minimum. But the way the game unfolded tonight "warrants mentioning," as Bill Simmons would say.

Anyway, if you ever want to chat, send me an instant message at James Newburg. I'm always one to talk.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Right on, Ken.

I was out for dinner with my advisor and some other professional colleagues, but fortunately we were at a place that was showing the game. I got there at the start of the bottom of the fourth, saw Chad Harville pitching, and had one of those sinking feelings when you just know they're going to lose and it's going to be excruciating. Lowe was totally on top of his game; we were lucky he had that blister problem.

The walks to Chavez and Durazo were huge, and then Hernandez... wow. And the bullpen, notably Bradford, was just awesome today -- Bradford threw 13 pitches to get Nomar, Manny, and Millar, three great hitters, 1-2-3, and I don't think any of the 13 were above mid-thigh.

Stealing this game was phenomenal. We've stolen quite a few recently, including those two against the Yankees. Sure, maybe I'd prefer to win by talent, but I'd prefer to win like this than not win at all. As a side note, once again Long should not have been in the lineup, especially since a) Mulder is a groundball pitcher, and b) Fenway makes LF defense less important since there isn't much ground to cover. He should probably be in there tomorrow with a knuckleballer going and a flyball pitcher on the mound, though.

OK, now we're even for that painful loss last Thursday. The Red Sox should have won this game tonight: Mulder left early, and Lowe was cruising. One bad pitch each game (to Manny Ramirez on Thursday, and to Ramon Hernandez today), and winners suddenly became losers.

Here's hoping that Mulder's hip strain isn't too serious.

Author Links
One more new-author thing: Tell me where your link should go (i.e. my name links to here, Mike's goes here and so on. Web pages or mail-to links are fine.

Welcome! Introductions all around are probably good. I'm Matt Bruce, A's fan since 2000 (relocated here from Boston for job reasons), season ticket mini-plan holder since 2001.

I have (or used to have) a tenuous connection to the minor leagues, with three summers and a long autumn at Howe Sportsdata (before it was absorbed by SportsTicker). I also maintain a couple spreadsheets for Baseball HQ.

This weblog was Mike's idea, though he nominated me to handle most admin work. Oversimplying a bit, I know Mike from the Harvard math department; I know Joon from quiz-bowl competition; and Mike and Joon know each other from (at least) being the same class year, possibly either roommates or common roommates involved.

Mike can always expand on this. Joon is in Paris playing bridge and won't see this until September.

This is on blogspot at my suggestion, for various laziness reasons. I'd be amenable to a move to MovableType at some point.

Adam Piatt was claimed on waivers by Tampa Bay. The Rays are so bereft of talent at 3B they ought to just stick Piatt there right away, even if he hasn't played there in two years. This is a good move for Tampa and for Piatt, who should now finally get a decent shot at playing every day for awhile. Well, as long as he stays on Piniella's good side, at least...

Hi, I'm Ken Arneson, A's fan since 1974. Matt was kind enough to invite me to join this blog. I had an A's blog for awhile called "Fingers and Zitoes", but I didn't have the time to do it justice. Joining a bigger group like this works much better for me. I'm interested in the minor leagues, so I imagine I'll be doing some stuff on that here.

One minor correction: my e-mail is barry_zito_forever at hotmail (underscores instead of nothing.)

While I don't talk about the non-A's much, for the simple reason that I don't really know _that_ much about what's going on around MLB, I thought I would mention a non-story which should appeal to the stathead.

It is very simple: the Yankees, one of the smarter franchises in MLB, have not offered a long-term contract to Alfonso Soriano. We're talking about a guy who had a good rookie season, then exploded with .300/.332/.547 last year. I think most organizations would have gone after the guy, eager to ink him to a long-term contract to show dedication and take some of the pressure off, and avoid the nasty snarl of arbitration.

But I haven't heard the Yankees mouth one word about trying to sign Soriano. Admittedly, I don't live in New York, but I used to, and that press corps is so overstimulated that they report anything and everything, so I'm not inclined to take them seriously. In any case, no talks, no long-term contract. He's making $800K this year, and is arb-eligible; the most recent talk I can find is this article, in which Soriano says he would be open to a long-term contract and Cashman basically dismisses the prospect. Another take has Cashman "open" to the idea, but seemingly apprehensive:

"If you can get a long-term deal knocked out, we'd like that," Cashman said. "There might be a discussion to be had. Of course the numbers have to make sense." (from here.)

He doesn't seem eager to pursue the talks. "Might" be a discussion.

Why have the Yankees not locked up Alfonso? My guess is that they, like us statheads, are worried about Soriano regressing, turning into Juan Samuel, as his lack of plate discipline catches up to him. Meanwhile, other teams are anxiously tying up these low-OBP hackers like Juan Pierre, whose arbitration years were bought out by the Rockies seemingly by reflex. Now, Soriano is a better player than Pierre, but this type of player can get chewed up and spit out (or become Vlad Guerrero, to be fair), and the Yankees are being quite prudent by waiting on Soriano.

I guess it might just be the fact that you never know when a second baseman you might want to buy will go on the free agent market.

Another minor admin note: I just sent out two invites, one solicited, one not. People who accept invitations, feel free to introduce yourselves, though between Primer and various other sites you're probably already pretty well-known. People who want invitations, feel free to ask. I'll see e-mail sent to matt979 at yahoo faster than I'll see comments here. You can also send to Mike (barryzitoforever at hotmail), who has my favorite e-mail handle (it preceded the blog name by a couple years).

Monday, August 18, 2003

Watching Other Teams' In-Game Box Scores
This one probably won't be as interesting when you see it as when I post it. Then again, it could be. It would be still more interesting had "Jurassic" not taken one for the team with two outs in the White Sox' fifth.

Pitching matchups for the all-important three-game set at Fenway.

Tuesday: Mark Mulder vs. Derek Lowe. Not much has changed since teh last time they met: Mulder is still a better pitcher than Lowe and the Sox lineup is still better than the Athletics'. Both are extreme groundballers, so the change of venue will impact them equally.

Wednesday: Ted Lilly vs. Tim Wakefield. Lilly has actually pitched quite well recently, but sending a flyball, gopher-prone pitcher into Fenway does not strike me as the best of ideas.

Thursday: Tim Hudson/Rich Harden vs. Pedro Martinez. Hudson will go if he is recovered from the bruised wrist he sustained when being hit by a Dave Berg liner in his last start. There is talk, I don't know how serious it is, of Pedro being pushed back to start against the Mariners, against whom he has super numbers (and also the Sox like to give him an extra day of rest.) I am wholly in favor of this idea. Maybe we can make a deal where we don't pitch Hudson and they don't pitch Pedro.

Pitching Lilly instead of Harden is, of course, the decision here. I think it's reasonable in the abstract, which is to say that I don't think the difference between them is as big as everyone thinks and after Harden's high-stress pitches last start, giving him some rest might be a good idea. And Harden fared poorly against the patient Jays, who swung and missed at his great pitches but didn't swing at his numerous balls, forcing him to come back with cookies every so often, which were nailed.

So it's not unreasonable to think Harden would struggle against the Sox. On the other hand, Ted Lilly in Fenway does not strike me as a good combination, and it's not like Lilly has great control or anything. We shall see how it turns out, I suppose.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

I agree. Obviously an excellent game -- apparently sometimes you do, in fact, get the bear. I arrived at my destination with the Jays having just scored. When I got back in my car an hour later, I heard "Chavez leads off the fourth against the new pitcher" and I did a doubletake, because, hey, we're not supposed to get Halladay out after three. When Korach continued with the apparent fact that we were up 7-1, I spluttered happily.

I suppose these last two wins mean Terrence Long leadoff is here to stay. As JMM commented on yesterday's Game Chatter over at Baseball Primer, Long's best season did come with him hitting leadoff. Maybe, just maybe, there is some correlation there, despite the fact that at the A's FanFest pre-2002, someone asked Long where he would like to hit in the order, and he said, "Anywhere but leadoff."

Tied with Boston, 4 back of Seattle. Am I allowed to whine about the fact that in these two weeks when we're playing opponents with one pitcher clearly better than any of the others, the A's are drawing those pitchers (Pedro and Halladay) twice each while Seattle is facing them only once apiece? Assuming that Pedro starts on Wednesday, which would be his 5th day.

I love days like today. The weather is gorgeous; the A's are rolling.

Days like today are a testimonial for acquiring a Type B personality. On the other hand, I suppose to appreciate days like this, being a Type B matters far less than becoming one. Not that you (the mythical entire audience of this weblog) really care, but I'm definitely a Type A who's becoming less and less of a Type A with each passing day.

The flip side, of course, is that the "they'll be fine" attitude, even when it's correct, breeds complacency. This is the sin people ascribed to Art Howe, perhaps correctly, associating it with the A's playoff series losses.

The problem with that criticism, however, is: Okay, so what do you actually do? Call a bunch of team meetings? Kick and scream and capsize the postgame spread?

The A's will make the playoffs this year, unless they don't. They'll win the Division Series, unless they don't. They'll win the ALCS, unless they don't.

They won't win it all this year, unless they do (which would make me just euphoric). Actually I should hedge my bets and say that at most one Bay Area team (I hope at least one) even makes the World Series.

Giants fans (fan singular?) reading this, I apologize for having alluded to an upcoming losing streak a few losses ago. I'll wishcast a really good homestand for you and we'll see how that goes.

Optimism: The A's may still be on track to take 5 of 7 (my target) from the Blue Jays in this and next weekend's home-and-home. It's tough, since they need 4 of the next 5, but just win tomorrow (tall order against Halladay, I admit) and go for 3 of 4 up North.

Pessimism: Over the last two days the Mariners, Sox, and A's have all gone 1-1. Stasis is non-terrible but it's much worse for the chasing team. I feel almost like someone at a hockey game, whose team is down a goal with about 13 minutes left in the third period. It's still just one goal but every minute that ticks off the clock looms large. We'll be putting in a sixth attacker before long.

One thing that makes Long tolerable for me is that he's death on the Red Sox (especially that one catch by the Fenway bullpen). That's obviously a fluke, but enough of one that I enjoy it.

Come to remember it, I felt the temptation to call for riding him out of town on a rail after he misjudged that ball in the first inning of Game 5 of the 2000 ALDS. There may be reaction formation here: Getting rid of him over that would have been so irrational that I started to bend over backwards to like him and not want to notice as his continued (relative) badness set a standard.

(Note the added parenthetical word "relative": T-Long is obviously a significantly better hitter or fielder than you or me or 99% of the males on this planet. He's probably better at what he does than your typical Triple-A outfielder, but the fact that it's merely "probable" is damning to both his playing time and his compensation.)

Hours ago I heard on the radio someone talking about Tony Womack. They referred to him as a great "makeup guy." (A cosmetologist? :-)) From context it seems almost certain that T-Long is similarly a great "makeup guy," since otherwise the way he's been treated would make absolutely no sense.

(I also know he's gotten rave reviews about his clubhouse influence and especially his being willing to play CF despite looking bad at it, at least up until the point where he and Beane agreed that he would never ever ever attempt CF again. The caveat here is that some of the worst clubhouse influences are the guys who conned people into thinking they were good influences, most notoriously Ozzie Guillen.)

T-Long can stay, as a fourth outfielder (the contract is a sunk cost), but the Pepsi Profile of him must go. Even the "Long cannot carry Jermaine Dye" subtitle got old after awhile.

As far as leadoff goes, the A's could use a guy who's not only perceived to be a good leadoff man (conventional leadoff skills) but also a good leadoff man in reality. I know Billy Beane doesn't care about perception, but even people who don't care about perception probably won't be bold enough to let Durazo lead off.

(By the numbers he'd be perfect for it; nobody would care if his slugging percentage is worse than expected. I'm in a Scoresheet league where a really good team has him leading off.)

I was content with Hatteberg leading off in the A's-Sox series, though it amused me no end to think of getting into a time machine and telling my 1997 incarnation that Scott Hatteberg (then an up-and-coming BoSox catching prospect) would someday find his niche as a leadoff hitter.

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