A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Race heating up

The A's beat the Devil Rays again, 5-4 behind 7 strong innings from Tim Hudson and home runs by Erics Byrnes and Chavez. The team has now won 11 of its last 12 games. But it's been almost impossible to gain ground in this playoff race, because look what the other contenders have done during that span (since 8/16):

Oakland: 11-1
Boston: 11-1
Anaheim: 9-2 (thank you, Johan Santana!)
Texas: 9-3

It is mind-boggling that a team playing .750 ball has actually dropped two or more games in the standings to each one of the three teams they are chasing for a playoff berth. The standings now look like this:

Oakland 76-53 --
Boston 75-53 .5 GB
Anaheim 74-55 2 GB
Texas 73-55 2.5 GB

The top two teams out of these four will advance to the playoffs, barring something crazy like the Yankees going into the tank and missing the postseason. At this rate, it's not impossible for a team to win 95 or even 100 games and still miss the playoffs. (This has never come close to happening in the wild card era.)

Ah, but there's a catch: head-to-head play. Starting with next weeks' series, here's what the four contenders still have to deal with (head-to-head matchups in bold):

Oakland: CWS 3, Tor 3, Bos 3, Cle 3, Tex 7, Sea 7, Ana 6
Boston: Ana 3, Tex 3, Oak 3, Sea 4, TB 6, NYY 6, Bal 8
Anaheim: Bos 3, Cle 3, Tor 3, CWS 3, Sea 7, Tex 7, Oak 6
Texas: Min 3, Bos 3, CWS 4, Tor 3, Oak 7, Ana 7

Hold on to your hats; this is going to be a great September race. Four teams are fighting for two spots, and none of them ever seems to drop a game.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Barry Zito Forever

Let's not forget that Barry Zito has the 2nd most wins on the best pitching staff in baseball. It's like someone who drives a Range Rover wishing they had a Ferarri. You could be driving a Daihatsu Charade. Barry Zito hasn't been as good as he was 2 years ago, but he is still good. Yesterday, one bad inning, only one inning in which the opposition scored, and he still got the W. I don't believe he has turned permanently into a .500 pitcher with an ERA of 4.5, but even if he has, he is still better than the average pitcher with those numbers. I really don't think that ERA is such a great metric anyway, or that W's are such a bad metric. I know there are more stats than we can count, and somewhere down there in the minutia, or maybe unmeasureable but still true is the fact that Barry Zito is a great pitcher. Maybe in a down cycle, but I'd take him in the playoffs tomorrow against anyone and feel like the A's would have a great chance of winning. Wouldn't we all? I keep going to MLB.com and replaying the 2003 Game 2 playoff game against the Bosox, where Barry threw 10 yellow hammers and K'd the side. Every pitch of that game was beautiful.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

A New Hero Every Night

Two days ago I posted on how balanced the A's were. I named 16 A's but I didn't mention Marco Scutaro. Last night he got what must have been the biggest hit of his career to win the game in the bottom of the 9th. Marco Scutaro is the most unlikely player in the majors this year. There is a silent understanding that if not for a freak injury, Mark Ellis probably would have played every inning at 2B this year. But Marco and McLemore have done a workmanlike job at 2b, and have not hurt the A's much defensively.

I know I need to savor these wins, but I can't help but look forward to when we play the real competition for the playoffs. Going into last night's game there were 4 AL teams who were 8-2 or better in the last 10 games. Those teams were the same 4 fighting for the last 2 playoff spots, Anaheim, Oakland, Boston and Texas. I am already conceding that the Yankees and the Twins will be in. For The Yankees to miss the playoffs, 3 teams have to finish ahead of them who are now at least 5 behind them and one must be Boston. For the Twins to miss the playoffs, they need to drop 7.5 games to a .500 Cleveland club. So all of a sudden the playoff picture is pretty clear, 4 teams 2 spots. And those 4 teams are the hottest teams in baseball. The A's play 16 against the other 3, then we'll see some heads roll.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


Here are the A's top 8 in RBIs:

1. Hatteberg.70
2. Durazo....69
3. Dye.......68
4. Byrnes....63
5. Chavez....55
6. Kotsay....52
7. Miller....50
8. Crosby....49

When Crosby picks up 1 more RBI, the A's will have 8 guys with 50 RBIs. How rare is that? Well, here are the other contenders and how many guys they have with 50 RBIs:

St Louis....5
Los Angeles.4

So at least for RBIs I think a case could be made that the A's have the most balanced attack in baseball. Is that good? I think it excellent. If a team has one Barry Bonds and a bunch of easy outs vs a team where every guy can drive in runs, I'd take the team where every player is a producer.

Similarly for pitching, here are the A's starter's win totals:

1. Mulder..16
2. Hudson..9
3. Zito....9
4. Redman..9
5. Harden..8

So when Hudson, Zito and Redman win one more and Harden wins 2 more, they will have 5 starters with 10 or more wins. Looks like a good team to me. Of course we all knew the A's were a good team already, but this may be the most balanced attack in baseball, and the most balanced A's team of the last 5 years. Does that mean postseaon glory? Maybe not, but maybe it does. You other teams put your best guys in the middle of lineup and on the mound for big games, and we'll put up somebody good for every at bat and every pitch. No easy outs, no bad pitchers, good defense everywhere.

Last night's game was scary good. Hudson pitched well, but easily could have gotten an L or a no decision. He was behind 3-1, then in the bottom of the 7th, the A's loaded the bases with 1 out, and Ruby up. Ruby has been knocking the cover off the ball lately, I don't know if I would have picked anyone else in baseball to be at the plate last night with one out and the bases loaded. It looked like a sure thing. But Durazo K'd. Now there are 2 outs, and Dye is up. No problem, 2 run single to tie it at 3. Now Melhuse is up, first pitch he takes a savage rip at it and knocks in the game winner. Even our backup catcher is contributing.

Then in the top of the 8th, Hudson gets into a jam, runners on the corners,1 out. Rincon comes in and gets Surhoff and Palmeiro to leave those runners stranded. Then in the 9th, Dotel comes in, working with no net, and no fear at all, mows 'em down. Looking at Dotel's face in the 9th is fun in itself. It is written all over his face , "Here comes my best stuff and I am gonna get you OUT!" Then he does it. The last guy looked pittiful trying to hit heaters low and inside.

We were flipping back and forth between the A's and the Olympics last night. On the Olympics was the balance beam. I don't like gymnastics, but I like the balance beam. The gymnasts have about a minute to do every trick they can, and one flub, one missed step and bye bye gold. The Romanian, Catalina Ponor attacked that beam, working with no net and no fear and no mistakes and nailed the mind-bending dismount. She scored 9.878 and was robbed, that routine was a 10 if I ever saw one. The American, Carly Patterson had one little hop when she landed, and it cost her the gold. I realized with a chill this morning, I was watching the same thing on 2 chanels. Last night the A's were on the balance beam themselves, trying to get a win in a game so easy to lose. Huddy needed 2 2-out RBIs and perfect relief from Rincon and Dotel to get that W last night. So who was the star for the A's last night? Hudson, Dye, Melhuse, Rincon or Dotel? Of course the answer is "all of them". Balance.

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