A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Ownership transfer complete

The sale of the Oakland Athletics to developer Lewis Wolff was completed Friday, and with a wrinkle: GM Billy Beane and team president Michael Crowley were added as limited partners in the ownership group. In addition, Beane's contract was extended to run through 2012 and Crowley's through 2008. Ken Hoffman and Steve Schott are no longer the owners, although Schott remains a limited partner for at least the next three years.

This, of course, is very good news. Beane is the best thing the A's have going for them, bar none; this deal practically assures that he'll be with the team longer than any of the current A's players and probably until he retires. It marks the first time that an active general manager has been part of an ownership group.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Crosby injured

Why did I have to open my big mouth?

Wrist injuries can suck. Hopefully he'll be back soon and as good as new.

Rotation shaping up

It's been known for a while now that the top four starters will be Barry Zito, Rich Harden, Danny Haren and Joe Blanton. The team made some recent moves clarifying the fifth starter spot. First, it was announced yesterday that Keiichi Yabu will not be the fifth starter, and then today Dan Meyer was optioned to AAA Sacramento, so he's been eliminated too. That leaves the fifth slot in the rotation belonging to either Seth Etherton or Kirk Saarloos. Etherton is scheduled to pitch tomorrow against the Giants at whatever-their-ballpark-is-currently-named in San Francisco, with Saarloos probably also getting some work in. That one start could decide the rotation.

The coaches want Meyer to go down to the minors and work on his breaking ball and to stop trying too hard. He has been pretty awful this spring, but I'm still fairly optimistic that he can be back up and contributing before mid-season.

Also affected by these moves is Huston Street. Since Yabu has a $1 million guaranteed contract, he's a virtual lock to make the major-league bullpen; and since the loser of the fifth-starter battle could also make the team, that would leave Street out in the cold in the resulting numbers game. He's got plenty of time (he's not even on the 40-man roster yet, unless I'm mistaken) so there's no rush if he's not going to be one of the top relievers on the team. After a sizzling Cactus League start, Street has allowed a run in five of his last six appearances.

In other news, catcher Jeremy Brown was also assigned to minor-league camp. He'll start at AA Midland, which is a little surprising to me since I figured him to split time with John Baker at Sacramento. But that does clear up the minor-league catching picture somewhat: with Landon Powell out for the season, that just leaves Kurt Suzuki and Daric Barton (if indeed he ends up catching) between Kane County and Stockton. Barton is the more advanced hitter, so expect to see him in Stockton (high-A) and Suzuki in Kane County. John Suomi will continue to rehab from his knee injury, but he could be back mid-season... by which time any of these guys might be shuffled around to other affiliates.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Season preview

With opening day only a week off, it's time to get excited about the 2005 A's. Actually, I've been excited all winter, but now it's starting to pervade my consciousness nearly 24 hours a day.

First, to whet the appetite, here are some links:

Over at Baseball Think Factory, Walt Davis has written a 2005 A's preview. I think it's a good read; it sums up the off-season rather well and he makes some predictions for the upcoming season. The projection system he leans on for these predictions is Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections. I don't know quite how it works, but ZiPS seems to be very positive on Joe Blanton (172 IP, 122/39 K/BB ratio, 3.89 ERA) and expects pretty much the entire lineup to post OBPs at or better than league average. That's good.

Baseball Prospectus always has some useful content, although much of it requires a paid subscription. Will Carroll's Team Health Report for the A's is mostly positive. He's got warning lights for Mark Ellis and Seth Etherton, but the vast majority of the team is green lights, and in addition the A's are probably the deepest team in all of baseball. Obviously you wouldn't want to see anybody miss extended time due to injury, but I don't think there's an irreplaceable player on the entire team. Mad Dog suggested that Crosby would be tough to lose, which I guess is true, but it wouldn't be such a terrible hit to have Scutaro or Ellis play short. Anyway, the overall health of the team should be good, and the depth will come in handy if something does go awry.

Also at BP, Nate Silver has projected AL standings using his PECOTA projection system. Even though PECOTA isn't very positive on most of the specific A's players (except Chavez and Dotel), it too recognizes the extreme depth of the A's, both on offense and on the pitching staff. Nate expects the A's to win 88 games (which seems like a reasonable guess to me), and, surprisingly, the division, as the Angels are projected to regress to 83 wins and the Rangers to 79.

What do I think? Well, I'm not going to use as sophisticated methods as Nate Silver or Walt Davis did, but I'd wager I follow the A's more closely than either of them. I really, really like the offense and the bullpen. I think the offensive gains the team has made this winter will get them back to at least 850 runs, a number they haven't sniffed at since Jason Giambi left in 2001. The lineup stands a decent chance at being above-average at every single position, not just in terms of OBP but overall production. For the first time in four years, the A's will have a championship-caliber offense.

The pitching side of the ledger is going to be a bit bleaker than in years past, but not by as much as you'd think. I expect three-fifths of the starting rotation to be excellent: we know Harden is ready to take the American League by storm, and Zito seems to be on track to right himself from last year's sub-par season. I really like Dan Haren, too, and I think he'll be quite good. So we really only need average or slightly below-average seasons from Blanton and whoever wins the 5th starter battle (currently it's looking like it might be Kirk Saarloos, who filled in capably last year when Hudson went on the DL). That's not too much to expect; meanwhile the bullpen will be somewhere between very good and absolutely dominant. Having Dotel, Cruz, and Calero back there reminds me of the 2002 Astros with Billy Wagner, Dotel, and Brad Lidge. Add Justin Duchscherer and Huston Street into the mix and it'll be a deep and versatile bullpen; Rincon and Yabu can't do that much to sabotage it, though I have very low expectations for both of them.

Add it all up and I think the A's score about 860 runs and allow 750. That would give them a record of about 91-71. That should be good enough to win the West, since I agree that the Angels and Rangers will regress. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Bring on the season!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Harden's line today: 5 IP, 1 ER, 8 K's

It's beginning to look a lot like the regular season. Listening to the game today, it was obvious that Rich Harden is ready to start the season. The strikeouts were piling up fast, and this bodes well for the 2005 A's. I haven't seen them at all yet this year, and can't wait til they are on TV Thursday, Friday and Saturday against the Giants. The Giants are even watchable this year beause they picked up Omar Vizquel. If you haven't seen this guy's glovework very much, check it out. Omar's range may be down but he has the best hands in the history of the game.

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