A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Friday, May 13, 2005

A much-needed day off

As the A's return from their East Coast road trip with their collective tails between their legs, let's pause and take a collective deep breath. The last five games have been pretty ugly: back-to-back shutouts, a 13-5 drubbing, and then the two walk-off heartbreakers. But step down off the ledge, A's fans; things will get better. They ... well, they pretty much have to. And there have been signs of life.

Rich Harden is pitching twice on this upcoming homestand. After that, there is a solid 3-week stretch where the A's might not have to go up against any good pitching: @SF (Schmidt on the DL), @TB, @Cle, TB, Tor, Was. Let's hope the bats heat up with the weather, as they did around this time last year. If the team hasn't started hitting by that time, at least we can get excited about the amateur draft and look ahead to 2006 and beyond.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Hang in there, A's Fans

I remember listening to an interview of Miguel Tejada on a sunday afternoon, maybe it was Mother's Day 2002 on a post game interview. The A's had just won a tough game and Billy Beane had either just made a bunch of moves or was about to. Miggy said, "We not gonna geeve eet up, Billy Beane not gonna geeve eet up." At that moment I began a male crush on Miguel Tejada that endures to this day. Right then the A's were something like 12-18 and things were looking grim, Jason Giambi was gone, Jeremy was surly. I think the next day Pena and Menechino were sent down, Jeremy was traded, and the A's started to heat up. We've had a bad week, not a bad year. These guys can play, maybe not with Boston right now, but the Yankees get psyched any time they can get a win. We can play with them at the Coliseum, we can probably play with anyone at the Coliseum. There are probably moves coming, and they will probably be good moves. I think the A's are just about to go on a tear. Sarloos has good stuff, he might just have a great game tomorrow. Then we just need to get Jobu to work on the bats.

Prospect Report #2

About one-fifth of the way through the season, there is little good news on the major-league level. Let's check in on the minors again.

Sacramento (AAA): There are only a few prospects here. Dan Meyer continues to get roughed up; in 30 innings, he has allowed seven homers, striking out only 17 against 16 walks, which adds up to a 6.98 ERA. It may be time to get worried about the Curse of the Ex-Atlanta Pitching Prospects. He's the only top-notch prospect. There are a few semi-prospects there; Dan Johnson had a hot start, then slumped terribly, but has rebounded somewhat to get back to .270/.375/.461. He's still ready. Catcher John Baker is having a terrible season, with an OPS in the low .500's. Matt Watson and Adam Morrissey are both putting up decent seasons, but both are AAAA players at this point, not prospects.

Midland (AA): Andre Ethier continues to rake. The 2003 draft pick's line now stands at a nifty .411/.458/.510. His walk rate is adequate, and he has 17 extra-base hits in 27 games; if the A's corner guys continue to stink it up, Ethier might be in Oakland sooner than you think. Admittedly, this is in the high-offense Texas league. Aside from Ethier, the other notable prospects are fellow 2003 pick Omar Quintanilla, whose .265/.294/.398 line won't cut it. Jairo Garcia continues to strike out ridiculous numbers of guys, 25 in 15 innings, but has walked eight. You need better control than that to succeed in the majors, as we saw last year. Jeremy Brown, who probably needs a big year, is putting up the very Moneyball-ish line of .233/.398/.452, including a triple. Steven Bondurant is the only real pitching prospect and is doing okay in the BB/K department, 9/29 in 35 innings, but has given up eight gopher balls.

Stockton (high-A): This is probably the most prospect-laden team in the chain, which says a lot about how many more prospects come from recent drafts and is a sad reminder of the rate of winnowing. Prospects here include C Kurt Suzuki (.906 OPS), OF Danny Putnam (.854), OF Richie Robnett (.731), C/1B Daric Barton (.697), LHP Dallas Braden (a 24th-round pick who is blowing the league away, striking out 53 guys against 10 walks and 3 homers in 35 innings of work), and RHP Jason Windsor (40 K/5 BB/5 HR in 32 innings). Brad Ziegler, not really a prospect, is having a weird year; he has struck out 22 and walked four, allowing just one homer in 31 innings, but has given up 50 (!) hits for a 6.75 ERA. The Cal League is a good hitters' league, so adjust accordingly.

Kane County (low-A): The Midwest League is the only pitchers' league among all A's affiliates. Kevin Melillo is the star here; the 2004 5th-round second baseman has walked 28 times in 27 games, giving him a .470 OBP, and he also sports a .471 SLG, making him very valuable despite a .294 batting average. In fact, the whole Kane County team is walking up a storm, with Cory Tritle (18 in 78 PA) and Nick Blasi (19 in 110) also having bases-on-balls. Uber-prospect Javier Herrera is here, but perhaps shaken by the lack of steroids / steroid controversy, Herrera has not yet started to hit, with an OPS in the mid-.600's. Other prospects here are 2004 second-round RHP Michael Rogers (21/12/5 in 30 innings), fourth-rounder HS RHP Ryan Webb (23/5/3 in 25), and fifth-round RHP Derek Tharpe (26/8/2 in 33.)

All in all, only Ethier and Braden are having what one could call breakout seasons down on the farm, while two of our top prospects, Quintanilla and Meyer, are floundering. Not great news overall; usually this early there are plenty of possibly-small-sample-size breakouts, and the fact that we only have two is a little discouraging.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

What do you do when you hear a stranger say "2 + 2 = 5" ?

We vacationed in LA last week and went to a Dodger game Wednesday night against the Nationals. There were 2 guys sitting next to me talking about the Dodgers. I overheard enough of their work talk to find out they were both lawyers. One was telling the other about how Jim Tracy really has the team playing good this year. Then the other one said, "But the thing that is really helping this team this year is new hitting coach Tim Wallach." To my ears I thought I just heard him say "2+ 2 = 5".

I look up at the scoreboard and as each hitter comes up, they post his on-base percentage, and his slugging percentage, and most of the Dodgers are at or above .400 on each. Jeff Kent has OBP+SLG over 1.000. The lineup is full of players who have been on the team less than 2 years. In fact the only starter I am sure was on the team over 2 years is the shortstop, Izturis. Hee Sop Choi is playing 1b, Kent 2b, a new Japanese player is playing 3rd, Jason Phillips is the C, in the OF they have JD Drew Rickey Ledee and Milton Bradley. What almost all the Dodgers players have in common is THEY WERE HAND PICKED BY GM PAUL DEPODESTA! I didn't interject that to my fellow baseball fans to my left, but I wanted to. I am not sure if Depo's team will win anything this year, but we gotta give credit where it is due. This is Depo's team and he has wasted no time filling spots with players he likes. It almost seems like he went for "cancer in the clubhouse guys" who rake in Kent and Bradley. But that would make sense, they are probably undervalued. What I know about Depo is he is thinking about stats we can only imagine and trying to optimize wins with whatever computing power and algorythms he can get his hands on. We should expect quality play from the Dodgers for a long time. Maybe Tim Wallach helps.

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