A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Season over

I know A's fans everywhere are hurting bad over this latest meltdown. Don't be. The 2005 team is going to be insanely good. This team will be the best in the AL and if nothing goes seriously wrong should win 100 games. Here's why:

1) The team will be above-average to excellent in every phase of the game.

1a) Offensively, there are no holes, with Chavez, Crosby, Ellis, Hatteberg, Durazo, Melhuse/Baker/FA signing, Byrnes, Kotsay, and Swisher all league-average or better for their position (Swisher might be slightly below, Chavez, Crosby, and Kotsay figure to be well above.)

1b) The defense is simply awesome -- Chavez and Ellis are the best at their positions excepting Pokey Reese-type players who are fringe regulars, Kotsay is a great CF, Byrnes and Swisher are tweeners playing corner outfield spots, Crosby is solid, Hatteberg is okay (I have to admit I don't have a well-formed opinion of Melhuse or Baker's defense.)

1c) The starting pitching is bound to be better than this year. Redman's year was not in line with his past few and he should bounce back. Harden is not an unreasonable pick for the 2005 Cy Young if Johan Santana gets hit by a truck. There is no reason to think that Hudson will be less effective than this year, and Mulder and Zito could hardly be. If Mulder is seriously hurt, as we all suspect, Blanton can step in a bit early and not be much worse than the 2004 Mulder.

1d) There is no reason to believe that the bullpen will perform worse than this year. I don't see Dotel being worse (though he might be injured himself), Mecir is gone, Bradford had a down year, Rincon will probably be about the same, Duchscherer may decline a bit, Rhodes is going to be better than an injury-filled craptastic season, and we have Jairo Garcia and Huston Street to possibly inject into the mix.

1e) The managing can't be worse in terms of results. Macha did an awful, awful job this year; it wouldn't surprise me to see him gone, but even if he stays around it's unlikely that all of his decisions will bite him in the ass as hard as they did this year.

2) None of the other good teams are likely to be better. New York and Boston are terribly old. New York will probably get better pitching than this year, but their hitters are almost all on the wrong side of 30 and their defense ain't getting any better. Boston might crumble -- their hitters are also all very old, as are their pitchers, and Pedro and Varitek are free agents. It wouldn't surprise me if the Red Sox ended up below .500. The Angels have MacPherson and Kotchman in the pipes, but Glaus is a free agent, and the majority of their team is old. Vlad is awesome, but he had a very good season even for him, and I can see him losing some production as AL pitchers adjust to his unique abilities. Minnesota might be a bit better if they exile Guzman, whose contract is up, and if Mauer is healthy and can catch. Texas will probably be about as good, but they ought to fall victim to the Plexiglass Principle and fall back a bit.

3) In principle, the players should come back hungrier than ever before. Well, this is of dubious validity, but it's probably not a bad thing for next year's team that they lost this year. Possibly Schott will spend some money after realizing that his penury re: Jeff Kent cost the team a playoff spot.

I think this team will go 100-62 and have the best record in the AL. After that, well, the playoffs are a crapshoot.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Best of three

I don't like the A's chances here. However, we have some things in our favor: home field advantage, plus the Angels' four-man rotation means that all of their starters will be going on short rest.

Friday: Bartolo Colon vs. Mark Mulder
Saturday: Kelvim Escobar vs Barry Zito
Sunday: Jarrod Washburn vs Tim Hudson (unless same team wins first two games)

I like our chances in the Sunday game. The Friday game looks like advantage Angels since Mulder has been pitching like crap and Colon is pitching well recently. The Saturday game is probably a toss-up. I would say slight advantage Angels -- Escobar dominates the A's. Of course, whenever the starting matchup is even, the Angels have an advantage because of their frontline bullpen... but K-Rod has pitched a lot recently (89 pitches in the last 6 days including 42 yesterday, he usually averages about 7 or 8 a day), so maybe that's a good thing.

Let's go A's!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Well, the A's are no longer in first place, thanks to a five-game winning streak by the Angels and a poorly-timed fade by the good guys. They have just not been getting the job done. Rich Harden turned in a fine performance tonight but was done in by the lack of support from the offense and the bullpen.

Still, as we all suspected, it is going to come down to the final head-to-head series between the A's and Angels, here in Oakland this weekend. (Texas was mathematically eliminated today. They are only four games out of first with four games to play, but even if they win out and the Angels lose out, they'll be in a tie for second, not first, because that will mean that the A's swept Anaheim to stay ahead of Texas.) No way the team is going to roll over and give up the pennant to Anaheim face-to-face, at home.

On to a less gloomy topic: A's minor-league prospects. The organization has named six players to play in the Arizona Fall League: right-handed pitchers Steven Obenchain and Huston Street, catchers John Baker and Jeremy Brown, shortstop Omar Quintanilla, and outfielder Jason Perry. All six of these guys spent all or most of their minor-league season playing for the Double-A Midland Rockhounds.

We've discussed Street here quite a bit since he was drafted this June and shot up through the system, finishing up the season in the PCL playoffs with Sacramento. Baker and Obenchain are from the 2002 "Moneyball" class; Baker has a good chance to be the A's catcher of the future (if he can hold off Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell). Brown, of course, is also from that group and is prominently featured in Moneyball but doesn't seem to have advanced much since 2002 and has been passed by Baker. As for Obenchain, he was decent but not particularly impressive in Modesto, and couldn't even crack the rotation for Midland after his mid-season promotion. I really don't expect him to pan out into a useful major-leaguer.

Quintanilla and Perry, like Obenchain, began the season in Modesto but were both promoted after strong first-half performances. Quintanilla was a sandwich-round pick in 2003 out of the University of Texas. He doesn't walk a ton, but he seems to be a fine hitter and according to scouts has excellent baseball instincts; many think that he will eventually shift positions and become the A's starting second baseman, perhaps as early as 2006. Perry put up huge numbers in Modesto (leading the league in OBP and SLG with .431/.686) but was quite old for the league (24), has no defensive value, and struggled mightily in a brief exposure to AA ball. I think he's a pretty fringe prospect unless he does something very impressive with the bat in the high minors during the next year; and even if he does, he may just end up being the next Graham Koonce or Dan Johnson--a slugger good enough to be a minor league MVP but not good enough to crack the majors.

Speaking of which, it was actually Perry's teammate Brian Stavisky who won MVP honors in the California League, but also was quite old for the league and has even less defensive value. A little further down the ladder, Javier Herrera was named MVP of the Northwest League and also Baseball America's top prospect in that league. Herrera is a five-tool talent (you never see those words in connection with A's prospects, do you?) who has drawn comparisons to Carlos Beltran. Granted, he's still quite far from the majors, but gosh, it would be nice to have a guy like that in our outfield. Even if he turns into Beltran lite, I'd love to see him play ball for the A's some day.

I'll have a more comprehensive 2004 A's minor-league wrapup when the major-league season is over. Hopefully that won't be next week--let's go A's!!!

The Game Last Night

I went to the game last night. Just what I didn't want to see, the A's down 3 before they even got to bat. They loaded the bases twice late and didn't get a big hit, and that was the highlight of the game. Some people have said maybe the A's don't even want to get into the playoffs this year, maybe the thought of having to play a 5 game series against the Yankees or Red Sox just seems too hard. If I could chose though, I'd rather make the playoffs and get swept in the first round than not make the playoffs. I think it is an accomplishment, even if you don't get to the next level. And who knows, maybe we'd get some funny hops and crazy plays and win a few games. If there was any silver lining at all, Hammond and Lehr looked good out of the pen. Kotsay seems to be swinging well. Crosby made some good plays on Ichiro. But we are going to need some pitching, and if I were Macha, I would have a pretty quick hook the rest of the way. I really think we might as well try guys like Harden, Duchserer and Blanton to get us some big innings. It is going to be tight, when Anaheim comes to town they will neither have clinched nor be eliminated. It is still not too late.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


I haven't written about my wife, Tanya, much in this blog. She is the greatest. Last night, when Durazo led off the bottom of the 9th with a popup behind 3rd, Tanya said, "Noonan!.........Noonan!...." All hail the power of the noonan. The fielders came close to colliding and the ball was dropped, the A's had the winning run on 2nd with no outs. Then Dye had an incredible AB which will not go down in the books as a sacrifice, making it all that much more sacrificial. He intentionally hit a slow roller to 2nd to get Durazo to 3rd with one out. Then after 2 intentional walks, the slumping Bobby Crosby came through with perhaps the biggest hit of his young career, a 1-out sac fly to Ichiro. The A's manufacture the winning run. One up with six to go. All hail the power of the noonan.

Mulder starting Friday

The news is that this is news. The A's are typically very good regarding leaking information, so I'm surprised the story has reached the public domain, but apparently A's management considered having Blanton start on Friday against the Angels instead of the struggling and obviously (to everyone but him) hurt Mulder. This seems like poor PR, since it can't feel good to Mulder knowing that he's thisclose to being dropped from the rotation (if he has a poor start but the A's make the playoffs anyway, is he in the playoff rotation?).

I'm not sure how I feel about it. I think starting Mulder is definitely the right decision because the team faces a huge problem this offseason if they don't, but I'm not sure whether Blanton right now would be better than Mulder. It seems clear that the A's are going to want Blanton in the majors next season, though, which means something has to give this offseason. Who should the A's trade? If it's Redman, they would have to eat a lot of his contract. What could we get for Mulder or Zito? Hudson is the only one who is a free agent after 2005. I assume Harden is last on the list, but if we could get some phenomenal players and/or dump some salary might it be worth it? What if we could trade Harden and Rhodes for, say, Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner? (I doubt Cleveland would make that trade, but what if.)

Monday, September 27, 2004

I'm in Love with Joe Blanton

I've only seen him pitch once, and I am totally in love with Joe Blanton. He was carving up the Angels lineup last night for 3.1 innings. He's funny looking too, kinda chubby with hair that looks too light to be natural. But he looks totally solid out there, and appears to have velocity and control. Seems like we can use this guy down the stretch. If it doesn't bug him, I'd throw him from the bullpen in long relief just like he was used last night. Maybe even start him once in Redman's starting spot at home, where Redman seems to suck the most.

I don't know if everyone sees it like I see it, but it appears to me that about half the A's roster is hurt. Kotsay looks achy running the bases, Ruby looks like it hurts him to run too, Hatty seems banged up, McLemore seems constantly banged up, and Dye has been hurt, although right now he seems to be swinging the bat. On the pitching side, something is wrong with Mulder, and Rincon and Bradford have had back trouble. I think some of these young guys need to get some innings in this week. If the A's get up or down by more than about 4 runs in any of these games, I'd throw in the 2nd line: get Johnson in there, Swisher for sure, Blanton, Jairo...bring out the Rivercats. I hope management is thinking that way too. These Rivercats might not only win us a division, but give the starters just enough rest to get some good playoff games in. All these hurt guys are slumping anyway, let's get the youth in there.

I don't know where we can see who is on the playoff roster, but I think Swisher is on the roster and Blanton is not.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Billy Beane's failing

In Moneyball, Beane mentions that relievers are the most volatile of baseball commodities; you have to get rid of them before they go south. However, he seems unable or unwilling to put his money where his mouth is. Jim Mecir was signed to a 3-year deal, Rincon to a two-year deal, Rhodes to a three-year deal, even as Duchscherer and Chris Hammond (who appears to be in the doghouse for no reason) prove that you don't need a big name to be an effective reliever, along with countless other examples around the league. Now Garcia and Street zoom through the system -- they're cheap, effective, and Arthur Rhodes is making 3 million a year.

Relievers are fungible, Billy. Believe it.

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