A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Billy Beane rides again

With their backs to the wall, the A's traded right-hander Chad Harville, who (see below) was out of options and basically was going to be gone from the team no matter what, to the Houston Astros for RHP Kirk Saarloos (pronounced sar-LOHS). Saarloos is a darn good catch considering the A's had essentially no leverage in their bargaining. A 24-year old drafted in 2001 out of Cal State Fullerton, Saarloos was the first player from his draft class to make the big leagues, starting 17 games for the Astros in 2002. Since then he's been jerked around, both to and from the rotation and also to and from New Orleans (the team's AAA affiliate), which is where he had been pitching this season.

Saarloos has given up a mere 7 home runs in 191.1 career innings in the minor leagues, with a 175/41 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but scouts don't love him (and neither did Houston manager Jimy Williams) because he's a short (6'0") righty who doesn't throw that hard. All in all, I think he's a perfect pickup for this organization--which emphasizes performance over physical tools, and pitching know-how over radar gun readings--and they got him for essentially nothing at all. Saarloos has been assigned to Sacramento, and will shore up the team's already ridiculously-strong pitching depth.

Have I mentioned recently how lucky I feel to be a fan of this team? I love the A's.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Harville designated for assignment

Much to no one's surprise, the A's called up Rich Harden to start yesterday's game against Texas. It was the first time this season that they needed their 5th starter, and the team had made public its plans to use Harden in that role while still getting him some work during the season's first two weeks, by having him start at Sacramento.

They did have a decision to make, however, as to which player to remove from the 25-man roster to make room for Harden. It came down to Chad Harville and Justin Duchscherer, and it seems they decided on Harville. The problem with this is that Harville is out of options. So the team has 10 days (actually, 9 by now) to trade Harville, release him, or outright him to the minors; if assigned outright, Harville would be available to any team that wanted to claim him off waivers. So this may well be the end of the line for Harville with the A's, which is a little disappointing given how long we'd been hearing about him as the "closer of the future." Anyway I'm hopeful that the team will find a way to either keep him or get something of value in trade for him, since it would be a shame to lose him with no compensation. Harville isn't a world-beater, but I'm pretty sure he could provide league-average right-handed relief at this stage of his career, and that has value to a baseball team.

So the pitching staff is now pretty much all set for the season: Hudson, Mulder, Zito, Redman and Harden in the rotation, with a bullpen of Rhodes, Bradford, Rincon, Hammond, Mecir, and Duchscherer. Barring an injury--and the A's have been amazingly good at keeping their pitchers healthy--that'll probably be the way it is until the team makes a mid-season trade or a prospect (most likely Joe Blanton) is ready to step into the rotation.

Speaking of which, it may be time to start the Blanton Watch: it's certainly not as impressive as the start of Harden's 2003 season (13 perfect innings against Round Rock in the Texas League), but Blanton has come out of the gate on fire at Sacramento: 2 starts, 12 IP, 8 H, 4 BB, 9 K's, 1 ER. Especially with Harden's struggles in his first start (and for that matter, Redman's struggles in his first start, although he was better the 2nd time), it can't hurt to have more options for the back of the rotation.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Putting it in play

I've been thinking of a new baseball stat. Not that baseball necessarily needs one, but what about the value of being on base via an error (OBVE)? I looked around the web and couldn't find that stat listed anywhere. My theory is that certain players are more likely to get on via errors than others. Bonds hits so hard, I bet he gets on via errors more than the average player. I would guess Ichiro and his speed cause infielders to make more errors on him than they do on slow guys. Also players who hit more balls on the ground should get more OBVE's than guys who hit flyouts. With the new era of baseball thinking more focused on OBP, I could imagine a different percentage where getting on via an error would be counted in favor of the batter. If the motto goes, "a walk is as good as a hit", why would being on base because the infielder booted it be any worse? The object is to score runs, and the more times a batter doesn't make an out the better. I am convinced hustle down the line can cause errors, and hitting grounders is better than fly balls cause there are many more errors on ground balls. I am looking for the data to back me up. I wonder if the A's management already has it?

The old Jermaine Dye

After blasting off against Rangers starter R.A. Dickey twice tonight, A's right fielder Jermaine Dye leads the American League with 5 homers and 12 RBI. He's also hit safely in all 8 of the A's contests, and looks to be his 2001 self again. That's big, big news for a club which struggled to get any consistent production from its outfielders last year. It's also especially important because most of the A's other top hitters bat lefty, so Dye has been cast as the cleanup hitter between Eric Chavez and Erubiel Durazo. It's a little similar to the situation of Pat Burrell, batting between Bobby Abreu and Jim Thome in Philadelphia. When he had a big year in '02, the Phillies offense looked great; when he was awful in '03, the whole lineup was thrown off. Anyway, I'm very hopeful about Dye's comeback; it's been a long time since we've seen anything like the hitter that fueled the A's juggernaut second half in 2001.

6-2, looking pretty good. Admittedly there have been a lot of close calls, and the 2004 A's are certainly not yet a finished product, but you can't be unhappy with 6-2. The team is on the road until April 23-25, when they return to host Anaheim for a weekend series. I'll be there and I'm already looking forward to it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

4 for 5, Baby

Tonight Rhodes saved his 4th game in 5 chances. 80%, I like it. Let's say he went 40 for 50. Some of those blown saves would turn into A's wins, Koch's and Foulke's did, let's say half. I like the A's chances with numbers like that. I like the A's chances, period. This one was tough, it was 10-9 to start the bottom of the 9th, and Rhodes gave up a leadoff double. At that point it seemed like two well placed outs shoulda tied it. A bunt and a sac fly. But instead it went K, fly, grounder to 1st and before it could really get hairy it was done. And a win for Zito, a start and a couple a knocks for Byrnes and another tater for Dye. Zito has lost one he shoulda won and won one he shoulda lost.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Magic Closer Dust

Aaron Gleeman has written a great article supporting Arthur Rhodes qualifications as a closer. I thought Rhodes could do it, and after saving 3 of 4 chances, and doing pretty well in the blown save, I still think he can do it. On Baseball Tonight last night (trippy), someone (Harold Reynolds?) was saying Rhodes is a question mark, "just because no one has given him a chance before." As if there was something wrong with him because management hadn't made him the closer before. So that means anyone who has been around a while and has never done something before can't do it? I guess they were trying to say there was some sort of flaw or something lacking in Rhodes that they couldn't recognize but they were sure it was there. Ever heard of the Michelson-Morley experiment? Assuming at least someone says, "no, but I'd love to", every wave except light has to have a medium. Water waves travel on water, sound waves travel in air...but light appeared to be different, no one could say what light travelled on. So people decided there was a particle for light to travel on which permeated all space, even in a vacuum chamber, and they called it the "aether particle". (Not the same stuff as the ether that gets you high). The Michelson-Morley experiment was trying to determine the effect of flow of the aether particle by using an interferometer to measure the speed of light going with or against this aether. They spun a light source on a pool of mercury, figuring in one direction or the other, the ether would cause the light to make different interference patterns, showing the flow of the aether. Guess what? You could spin that gizmo any way you liked, and there was no effect. Light doesn't need a medium to travel on. Aether is like magic pixie dust, it doesn't exist.

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

I can't believe I am going to be critical of the A's in two consecutive posts. There is so much great about this team.

Rhodes had his first blown save Sunday. I still like him a lot and I think he can do this job. I saw a play out there that wasn't his fault. With one out and no one on in the 9th, Dan Wilson hit a ball to Scutaro's right. He slid for it, got up, and threw offbalance to first. Karros couldn't come up with the hop. But the throw beat Wilson by like 3 steps! Scutaro is new and might not know the hitters, but I know Dan Wilson HAS NO WHEELS. I would consider that play a mental error. That's the only kind of error I am mad about. Scutaro had plenty of time to set himself and make a good throw. But it was the kind of hop I think Hatteberg picks up. I am not saying Hatteberg is better on D than Karros, but at least on that play, I usually see Hatteberg make a play like that. Sure it coulda been 2 outs and no one on and the A's coulda still lost it. But I doubt it.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

I Just Want to Be the House in Vegas

Those are the words of Paul DePodesta, former A's assistant GM, quoted in Moneyball. Doesn't Ken Macha also want to be the house? Seems like a good plan, get the odds in your favor and keep dealing the cards. Friday night, Macha had 2 choices. Keep Rincon in to face Bret Boone, who was 1 for 13 vs Rincon, but it was a lefty/righty matchup. Or make the matchup righty/righty putting in Bradford, who Boone was 5 for 9 against. When I saw that graphic on TV I thought it was a nobrainer to leave Rincon in there. 5 for 9 is really good, Bradford didn't have the cards stacked in his favor at all, and Boone got a go ahead 2-run single off of Bradford. It could have lost the game had the A's not made a great comeback. I am pretty sure Macha knew what both pitchers were against Boone, but according to Ray Fosse, that's what Macha's guts told him was the right move. I've never seen a move made where the numbers were so against it. I'm glad it turned out ok, but I hope we don’t hit on 17 anymore when the dealer is showing a 6.

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