A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Thursday, November 06, 2003

South Dakota's Finest Home Run Hitters
I hate the off-season. That said, thanks to everyone who's posted in the last few weeks for doing so with surprising excellence.

Because the Mark Ellis graphic always made me wonder, here's a page of South Dakotans from which you can derive the three players in front of him.

Biggest personal surprise: Did you realize that Justin Duchscherer was also South Dakotan?

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Peterson gone to the Mets

In a move that will surprise nobody who's been following this thread for the last couple of weeks, the Mets announced the hiring of Rick Peterson as their new pitching coach today. There was no mention of compensation to the A's for the hiring of Peterson, who had two more years left on his Oakland contract. Oh well.

I don't think this will affect the A's that much, but if there is a significant impact, I think it's most likely to be with Ted Lilly (see below)... which is why Billy should maybe look into trading Lilly this off-season for a real outfield bat.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

There's Something About Lilly

I've been doing a lot of thinking about how Beane is going to retool his team for next year, and much of the time I come back to the question of what's going to be done with Ted Lilly. His Oakland career has been a roller coaster, with glimpses of greatness matched by utter meltdowns. Coming off his disastrous performance in the playoffs, beat writers relayed stories last winter of Rick Peterson working closely with Lilly to refine his mechanics, which prompted widespread optimism among the Oakland faithful with respect to the year ahead.

Coliseum frequenters and fantasy owners alike were disappointed by much of what Lilly did this past season, though, and despite ending the year on a fantastic note, some of the buzz in the trade talk comes from how Beane might flip Lilly for a powerful bat.

As I've distanced myself from the painful Game 5 loss and the rest of the season, I found myself questioning whether trading Lilly really should be the approach to take. The idea is that, with Lilly eligible for a salary bump through arbitration, young cheap arms like Harden, Duchscherer, and possibly Blanton could be capable 4th and 5th starters (well, Harden is already pretty much guaranteed a spot). So the question I've been asking myself is: just what kind of conclusions can be drawn from Lilly's 2003 season?

I think I can take a couple of angles with this, and I might follow this up with a closer look the variance in his walks, HR allowed, and flyball/groundball rate. For now, I'm going to use the Bill James Game Score metric to try and get a handle on things. So, I've given letter grades to Lilly for each start, based on his game scores (which are centered around 50):
  •  A  - 66 and higher

  •  B  - 56 to 65

  •  C  - 45 to 55

  •  D  - 35 to 44

  •  F  - 34 and below
The color coding I think does a good job of visually representing the trends in Lilly's starts. His season, like a good book, had a strong beginning, a tense middle, and a great ending.

 DATE     OPP   GSc

04-Apr ANA 65
10-Apr @TEX 44
15-Apr @SEA 51
20-Apr TEX 56
25-Apr CLE 60
02-May @NYY 50
Avg: 54.3
Lilly began the year by attempting to repent for his ALDS catastrophe -- 38+ innings of solid pitching. For comparison, his average game score of 54.3 is in line with what Jamie Moyer (54.4) and Roger Clemens (54.2) did for all of 2003. Unfortunately, then came a bit of a bad stretch over the next 2+ months:
 DATE     OPP   GSc

07-May CWS 23
13-May @DET 72
18-May @CLE 33
24-May KC 59
31-May @KC 47
05-Jun @FLA 66
11-Jun ATL 25
17-Jun TEX 56
22-Jun SF 31
27-Jun @SF 43
02-Jul SEA 30
09-Jul TB 42
20-Jul @MIN 33
Avg: 43.1
Just to refresh: red is bad. This time, Lilly's comparables are not as good: Jeremy Bonderman (42.6) and Mike Maroth (43.0), en route to 19- and 21-loss seasons, respectively. All the progress that Lilly seemed to have made in the off-season and demonstrated in April vanished. But for a few solid starts, he was awful. Thus, when I pulled up to Edison Field with my family to watch the July 25th game, I expected the worst.
 DATE     OPP   GSc

25-Jul @ANA 66
30-Jul CLE 58
09-Aug @CWS 44
14-Aug BOS 65
20-Aug @BOS 15
25-Aug @TOR 51
30-Aug TB 70
05-Sep @TB 65
10-Sep ANA 64
15-Sep @ANA 71
21-Sep SEA 70
28-Sep @SEA 27
04-Oct @BOS 74
Avg: 56.9
Obviously, I was pleasantly surprised. After I saw Lilly toss a gem in Anaheim, he went on to finish with really only two blips in his final thirteen starts, including the postseason; his game scores were on par with "Big 3" teammates Mulder (57.4) and Zito (55.6). As for the blips, let's remember that even the best pitchers have off games; losing at Boston and at Seattle after beating each shortly before isn't a problem.

The real tragedy of his season, in my opinion, is that his masterful outing at Fenway in the ALDS will be forever forgotten due to his teammates' baserunning and fielding gaffes that cost the A's Game 3. At the time, the media was predicting an implosion by the flyball-prone Lilly, who was coming off a horrid outing at Safeco. Had the A's finished off the Sox that night, the same talking heads would have glorified him as a Clutch Postseason Performer while relegating the interference/non-interference calls to mere afterthoughts.

How good was Lilly in Game 3? In the first, after allowing Damon and Nomar to reach on a double and a walk, Lilly struck out Mueller (.326/.398/.540), Ramirez (.325/.427/.587), and Ortiz(.288/.369/.592), all swinging. Next inning, after his infield kindly awarded the Sox their first run, Lilly got two quick outs to strand Kapler on second base. From the third inning on, Lilly allowed no hits, one walk and one hit batsman. In all: seven innings, two hits, two walks, and one stifled Boston offense.

Back to the regular season, I think it's clear that Lilly did not struggle on and off in 2003 like some have suggested. Rather, despite encountering problems in the middle months, he bookended that with a quality April and a consistently great August and September. How predictive is this for 2004? I can't say with certainty, but I think it's extremely important to note how effective Lilly was down the stretch, even after accounting for quality of opposition.

Anyway, I'm not going to draw any sweeping conclusions about how the A's should handle Lilly and his pending arbitration this winter, but breaking down his season like this was certainly instructive for me and getting a better handle on his past and present capability.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Lon Simmons for the Hall of Fame!

The Hall of Fame has opened up the nomination process for the Ford Frick Award (the HoF honor given to broadcasters) to Internet voting. The top three online votegetters will be among the 10 finalists for the award. The winner will be chosen by committee.

Joan Ryan of the Chronicle has a nice article suggesting a campaign to get Lon Simmons in. I agree. His sense of humor is so rare among broadcasters, and he has that great voice on top of it. I thoroughly enjoyed Lon's 15 years covering the A's, and I'd love to see him honored.

The online voting actually allows you to nominate three people from a list of eligible people. I also voted for Bill King and Hank Greenwald, both of whom I also think are deserving. Other current or former A's announcers on the ballot are Ray Fosse, Wayne Hagin, Harmon Killebrew, Ken Korach, Jon Miller, Greg Papa, Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, and Monte Moore.

To vote, click here. You can vote once a day.

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