Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Fate of A's coaches/managers.

I know it's old news by now, but the A's got rid of bench coach Chris Speier . No big surprise there, no big loss either.

Billy Beane has assured the world that Ken Macha will be back in 2005. In the same article, though, they mention that the A's are pushing infield master Ron Washington for a managerial position. What ?!?!?! This is the man most responsible for the A's infield success, the man who deserves the lion's praise for players like Eric Chavez, Scott Hatteberg, Mark Ellis, Bobby Crosby, the list goes on and on. I quote the Oakland Tribune :

The A's will push infielders coach Ron Washington for any managerial openings,
but will be ecstatic if he doesn't get any because he's so valuable...

The A's candidly admit nobody could replace Washington, so they'd love
to have him back.

Perhaps another few seasons of not making the playoffs will wake up A's management to the fact that you can not afford to let your best coaches and managers leave the organization. It is our top coaches and managers who are responsible for developing and training our players. If Ron Washington is so valuable (he is) and so proficient at managing his players (yes, he his) then why not give him the job of running the A's ??

Last year we gave up Rick Peterson, our longtime pitching coach who was one of the key reasons for "The Big Three" pitching as well as they did. We were more than willing to let him go because he wanted to be close to his family, which is fine, but it was a tough loss. We actively pitched Terry Francona for managerial positions after last year's season and he ended up as the manager for Boston. For those of you not paying attention, Boston is in the playoffs, we are not. Sure, Francona has a great team behind him and a solid front office, but he has also done a great job managing the team.

I'm not going to cry any tears over Speier, but retaining Ron Washington is a MUST. The A's front office would be smarter to do whatever it takes to keep Ron Washington in Oakland for 2005 and then hand him the Manager's job after Macha's contract expires in 2006.

No official word yet on the other coaches, if you have any news, let me know. Curt Young deserves to go, but I have a feeling that the A's will hang onto him. Sure, he has done great things with Rich Harden, but what about Zito's inconsistency all season long ? What about Mulder's post All-Star collapse ? What about Hudson's horrible September ? Someone must provide a reasonable explanation for all the problems with the Big Three this season and our oft imploding bullpen. Changes need to be made to fix the pitching or we won't make it to the post-season next year either.

Billy Beane on the Red Sox vs the Yankees

Billy Beane adds his 2 cents worth in the Contra Costa Times regarding the American League Championship Series.

Kielty's Krew ?

There's been a lot of discussion over at the official A's messageboard regarding Bobby Kielty. There were a lot high hopes for Mr. Kielty this season, but his performance was less then satisfactory to say the least. Granted, he saw limited at bats, but he still had more than enough playing time to show us what he was capable of. Unfortunately, he never seemed to get it in gear and ended the season with a pretty dismal stat line :

BA 0.214 / OBP 0.321 / SLG 0.370 / OPS 0.691 / HR 7 / RBI 31 / 35 BB / 47 SO

The only silver lining is his OBP and BB rate, his OBP was a full point + over his BA and his BB rate was quite good.

Currently the discussion is on whether he will be around next season or not. Personally, I would like to see someone else in the OF instead of Kielty with some better production. However, knowing the A's budget and Billy Beane's sometimes stubborn loyalty to certain players, I have a gut feeling that Kielty will still be around. Will that be a good thing or a bad thing ? Well, that all depends on Kielty.

Personally, I think he just had a really bad year, a fluke of a year. If you take away his 2001 and 2004 stats - what I consider his worst seasons - and base his 2005 season on the stats that remain, his 2005 would look something like this :

BA 0.263 / OBP 0.376 / SLG 0.433 / OPS 0.809 / HR 15-18 / RBI 60-70

That's based on a total of 503 at bats for the 2005 season based on his career numbers minus 2001 and 2004. If this is the Kielty we can count on for next season, then I have no problem hanging on to Kielty. But that is a big IF and the A's need to decide if Kielty is a risk worth taking.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Swisher and Johnson - Why Not ?

For some reason, there are a few people out there questioning whether we should really play Swisher and Johnson. Some think we should trade them off for "proven" veteran players.

You can not be serious.

Here are the stats for Bobby Crosby, Nick Swisher, and Dan Johnson in their final year at AAA Sacramento :

Bobby Crosby
  • BA 0.308
  • OBP 0.395
  • SLG 0.544
  • OPS 0.939
  • HR 22
  • RBI 90
  • BB 63
  • SO 110

Nick Swisher

  • BA 0.269
  • OBP 0.406
  • SLG 0.537
  • OPS 0.943
  • HR 29
  • RBI 92
  • BB 103
  • SO 109

Dan Johnson

  • BA 0.299
  • OBP 0.403
  • SLG 0.534
  • OPS 0.937
  • HR 29
  • RBI 111
  • BB 89
  • SO 93

Any questions ? All 3 players have an OPS between 0.937-0.943, very similar. Another thing to notice is that even though Crosby hit for more average his final year in AAA, both Johnson and Swisher hit more HR and more RBI. Last but not least, all 3 players walk like there's no tomorrow, with both Swisher and Johnson sporting OBP's above 0.400 - and with Swisher that is even more impressive considering his BA was only 0.269.

Big deal, you say ? So what if they can walk to first base ? Well, look at those SLG numbers baby : all 3 have a + 0.530 SLG. That means that in addition to walking, when they do hit they smack the ball for extra bases.

I put Crosby's numbers in there because we all know what he did his first year with the A's. Will Swisher and Johnson perform as well as Crosby their first year ? Hard to tell, each player is different, each player adjusts differently to the big leagues, but both Swisher and Johnson have the potential to become big league stars, as does Crosby.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Should I stay or should I go ?

I really wanted to save this post for later, but so many people are talking about, I guess I'll have to post this before I wanted to.

Already the media and the internet is buzzing about changes for next season, who are the A's going to hang onto, who will they let go, and which players are available for Billy Beane and the A's ? In this post I will try to put it all together for all of you out there :

First off, the Contra Costa Times has a great A's players chart listing the players' current status and their probable future with the A's. It's a great place to start if you are just trying to figure out who is under contract, who is arbitration eligible, and who will become free agents. For those of you who are fascinated by contracts and numbers, here are 2 great websites that go into much greater detail on contracts and dollar signs : Dugout Dollars and MLB Contracts .

From Mychael Urban's article this past Monday, he speculates that there are only 9 A's who are assured of going nowhere during the offseason :

3B - Eric Chavez - Signed a 6 year contract this year, signed through 2010
SS - Bobby Crosby - Club owns rights
OF/1B - Nick Swisher - Club owns rights
C - Adam Melhuse - Club owns rights
CF - Mark Kotsay - Under contract through 2006
P - Tim Hudson - Under contract through 2005
P - Mark Mulder - Under contract, I believe A's have an option for 2006
P - Rich Harden - Club owns rights
P - Ricardo Rincon - Under contract through 2005

I am going to agree with Mychael Urban's prediction. While I am not a Rincon fan, he is a rather effective pitcher against left-handers and his numbers during the second half were a huge improvement from the first half. I see no reason why the A's would cut him loose. The rest of the players on that list are no-brainers.

Now let's go through the list of players who are free agents :
P - Jim Mecir
C - Damian Miller
Infield - Mark McLemore
OF - Jermaine Dye

I can only pray and hope that Jim Mecir is gone. He is contemplating retirement (good idea!). Even if he doesn't retire, the A's would be stupid to hang onto him, I think they will let him retire or try his luck on the free agent market.

Damian Miller has been one of my favorite players. Valued as one of the best defensive players in the game and seeing how the A's are now valuing defense, I don't see why Billy Beane would let Miller go. He was a surprise with his offense after a dismal season in Chicago and I think he will sign with the A's without too much trouble.

Mark McLemore is most probably going to retire. Even if he doesn't, with Scutaro and German as back up infielders - young and cheap - I don't see why the A's would clutter the bench with an aging infielder. Consider him gone.

That leaves Jermaine Dye. I know he has a lot of fans and some people are pulling for him, but his performance simply doesn't justify the price to exercise his option for 2005. Even Dye himself said that while he would like to stay, he wouldn't for less money. Consider him and his $14 million dollar option gone.

Now that we have gotten the free agents out of the way, let's look at our arbitration eligible players :
P - Chad Bradford
P - Octavio Dotel
DH/1B - Erubiel Durazo
OF - Eric Byrnes
OF - Bobby Kielty
OF/PH - Billy McMillon

Chad Bradford had a decent season at best. He was up and down all season long and struggled at times, but still shines as a right-handed specialist. However, with call ups like Justin Lehr and Joe Blanton in the mix - and much cheaper, I might add - Bradford might just be expendable. He is one of my favorite pitchers, but I think the A's will let him go and give the job to the youngsters rising through the ranks.

Octavio Dotel is a white knuckle closer - you never know when he is going to blow a game wide open or shut down his opponents with ruthless efficiency. Still, I think he is better than his numbers with the A's show and before Dotel arrived onto the scene, the bullpen had no anchor and it's doubtful the A's would have even made it as far as they did. I think the A's will try to hang onto Dotel while developing one of their new younger pitchers into a future closer. I predict a 1 year deal with Dotel.

Erubiel Durazo finally had the kind of year that everyone has been waiting for. Hitting for power and average, he was an offensive powerhouse. He is a fan favorite and with Jermaine Dye leaving, the A's will need a power bat in the lineup. The question is : was this year a fluke or a vision of seasons to come ? I am going to go out on a limb and say that the A's will keep Durazo for at least another year. This could all change though, depending on Dan Johnson's health.

Eric Byrnes had a career year this season. He was strong in the outfield and smacked 20 HR. With Jermaine Dye gone the A's need every bat they can get and can't afford to weaken their outfield. While some are saying that Byrnes could be trade bait in the offseason in a multi player package, I think the A's will hang onto Byrnes.

Bobby Kielty was a huge disappointment, but Billy Beane has shown a strange stubborness towards some players and I think Kielty is one of them. As much as I hate to say it, I think Kielty will be back in 2005. Hey, look on the bright side, he is cheap.

Billy McMillon's stock skyrocketed after the 2003 season, he was decent outfielder and an incredible pinch hitter. What was his record as a pinch hitter in 2004 ? 0.080. Kiss him goodbye.

So that takes care of the players up for arbitration. Let's take a look at the players left :
P - Joe Blanton - I believe he has a good chance to be our #5 starter next season
P - Justin Duchscherer - My favorite pitcher in the bullpen. Our guaranteed long reliever for 2005
P - Jairo Garcia - Will remain at AAA Sacramento to begin the season. Possible call up mid-season next year.
P - Chris Hammond - Club option for 2005. A hefty price tag for his limited appearances, but the A's would be smart to hang onto him, great stuff. I think he's in.
P - Justin Lehr - Has potential, but has struggled all season. Still, he's cheap and young and for some reason the A's management like him. He will be in.
P - Mark Redman - I like him. However his salary is far too expensive to justify his home numbers. Look for him to be traded in the offseason.
P - Arthur Rhodes - Like T.Long before him, Billy Beane will have to package him in someway to another team in a trade. However, if Beane can get another Kotsay-like player in return, it will be worth it.
P - Kirk Saarloos - Faces surgery, he will either be demoted to the minor leagues or get picked up by another team.
P - Barry Zito - A lot of trade rumors have haunted Zito all season. Forget it. Billy Beane is awfully fond of his trademark "Big 3" and while he might be tempted, he will not trade Zito. Zito will be with us at least for 2005.
Infielder - Esteban German - Billy Beane may be forced to package him along with Redman or Rhodes, but I think he'll still be around as a back up for the infield along with Scutaro.
1B - Scott Hatteberg - Despite having a career year and being under contract for 2005, I think he will be traded off to make room for Dan Johnson. Durazo is younger and more valuable, Dan Johnson is one of our top prospects and deserves a chance.
1B/DH - Dan Johnson - Has Vertigo, which can come and go throughout a person's lifetime, possible long-term health concern. But his numbers at AAA demand he be given a chance for the team in 2005.
2B - Mark Ellis - Ellis will be back. Count on it. While still not 100% healthy, he has plenty of months to work on it. One of the best defensive 2B in the game.
2B/Infielder - Marco Scutaro has been the biggest surprise this season. He could easily be our starting 2B, but I think Ellis will get the nod over Scutaro, with Scutaro as our primary back up.

So if you are still reading, here is what I think our roster will look like at the beginning of the 2005 season :

Starting Pitchers:
Tim Hudson
Mark Mulder
Barry Zito
Rich Harden
Joe Blanton

If Joe Blanton lives up to his potential, Rich Harden pitches as well as he did during the second half, Mulder stays healthy (mentally and physically) for the entire season, and Zito can remain somewhat consistent, we will have the best starting lineup in the entire major league. That's a big IF though, folks.

Ricardo Rincon
Justin Duchscherer
Chris Hammond
Justin Lehr
Octavio Dotel

Octavio Dotel will remain as the closer until we can develop our own closer from our farm system. Both Jairo Garcia and Huston Street have potential. If Lehr can step up to the big league pressure, he could be a quality set up man, but he has a lot of work to do.

CF - Mark Kotsay
OF - Eric Byrnes
OF - Bobby Kielty
OF/1B - Nick Swisher

Unlike some people, I really think this will be a productive outfield. Kotsay is a gold glove caliber defender and a strong offensive player. Swisher is one of the top prospects in the game. Hopefully Byrnes can reproduce similar numbers to this season. Kielty has a lot to prove.

C - Damian Miller
C - Adam Melhuse
1B/DH - Erubiel Durazo
1B/DH - Dan Johnson
2B - Mark Ellis
2B/IF - Marco Scutaro
3B - Eric Chavez
3B/IF - Esteban German
SS - Bobby Crosby

Both Miller and Melhuse are capable catchers. Defensively, with the exception of 1B, I feel really good about this line up.

So there you have it, our rough lineup for 2005. Obviously there will be players to add to this roster and probably some of my predictions will be wrong, but it's fun to speculate.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

My vote for A's MVP in 2004

Well, now that the season is over officially for the A's, it is time to review the players and decide : Which players put in the best performance ? Which players were the worst ? Who gave it their all and who didn't give enough ?

Oakland A's MVP : Mark Kotsay
There was much wailing and complaining when the A's packaged off budding star Ramon Hernandez with Terence Long to San Diego for an outfielder who suffered through an injury riddled season with 7 HR and 38 RBI from limited at bats. A lot of A's fans were raising eyebrows and scratching their head trying to figure out what kind of impact this guy Kotsay would have with the A's.

Well, there is no more head scratching or questioning any more : Kotsay has emerged as a strong leader, someone who has gone out of his way to lead his team by example and in deeds. He has gone out of his way to be helpful and available to the media and his fans, he has been there to provide guidance to our younger players. He played through pain during the month of September without allowing his performance to diminish.

But enough of his character and personality : the real data lies in the numbers :

Offensive Stats
BA - 0.314 - 8th in the AL
OBP - 0.370
SLG - 0.459
OPS - 0.829
Hits - 190 - 5th in the AL
2B - 37 - 15th in the AL
HR - 15
RBI - 63
RC - 103.4 - 18th in the AL
RC/27 - 6.39
*BA - Batting Average, OBP - On Base Percentage, SLG - Slug Percentage, OPS - On Base + Slugging, 2b - Doubles, HR - Home Runs, RBI - Runs Batted In, RC - Total Runs Created, RC/27 - Runs created per 27 outs (Estimates how many runs per game a team made up of nine of the same player would score)*

Defensive Stats
Put Outs - 347 - 2nd in the AL
Assists - 11 - tied for 1st in the AL
Double Plays - 4 - 1st in the AL
Fielding Percentage - 0.984 - 6th in the AL
* Defensive rankings as compared to other AL center fielders

Looking at the splits, you can see how Kotsay got off to a rough start and then shined in June and July, struggled a bit in August, and finished off with a great September :

March and April : 0.256 BA / 0.316 OBP / 0.291 SLG / 0.607 OPS
May : 0.308 BA / 0.353 OBP / 0.372 SLG / 0.725 OPS
June : 0.340 BA / 0.405 OBP / 0.530 SLG / 0.935 OPS
July : 0.352 BA / 0.419 OBP / 0.556 SLG / 0.975 OPS
August : 0.264 BA / 0.299 OBP / 0.445 SLG / 0.744 OPS
September : 0.347 BA / 0.404 OBP / 0.500 SLG / 0.904 OPS

Keep in mind that the last month of September he played with a severely bruised knee.

Our biggest weakness in 2003 was our outfield. Their defense was questionable, their lack of offense was laughable. Billy Beane made it his top priority to fix the outfield during the off-season and he did it with Mark Kotsay. Kotsay is arguably one of the best defensive CF in the game, if not the best defensive CF in the game. He backs it up with a solid offense, leadership, and determination. For these reasons, I think Kotsay deserves the award of Oakland Athletics Most Valuable Player.

Monday, October 04, 2004

It's over - 1 win too late

The A's finished off their season yesterday with a meaningless win. They beat the Angels to finish out the regular season just 1 game behind the Angels.

It will be a long winter to ponder what went wrong with the A's and what they will do in the off season to fix things. Already, rumors are flying that Macha's job is in jeopardy , Jermaine Dye claims he wants to stay with the A's, and according to an article on the A's website, only 9 players can count themselves safe with the A's : Chavez, Hudson, Mulder, Harden, Kotsay, Crosby, Swisher, Melhuse, and (shudder) Rincon. Notice somebody absent from that list ? That's right : Zito. The Zito trade rumors have begun again.

I think we should hang onto the big 3 no matter what. Yes, Zito has been inconsistent all season long and even last season wasn't looking too hot. But he seemed to pull himself together the last month of the season and he did pitch some big games here and there. We have club options on him through 2006. I say hang onto him for at least 1 more year.

I know a lot of people aren't too keen on Redman, but he is a capable # 5 starter. On any other team he would probably be a # 3 or # 4 starter. He has only been with us 1 season and has 1 year of guaranteed money left on his deal, I say we keep him. If he could just marginally improve his numbers at home next season, he would be a capable starter.

There are rumors of The Duke being traded to a team that needs a starter. This would be a huge mistake. The Duke was the anchor of the bullpen this season and he single handedly carried it through the first few months of the season. Did I mention he is cheap ?

Blanton could easily become our next starter after Redman leaves. I say put him in the bullpen with The Duke as another long reliever.

Anyways, I'll save most of my thoughts for another post on what I think needs to be done in the offseason and also another upcoming post I will outline my favorite A's players of the season.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Game 161 : the A's are out of the post-season

Today I was at the game again and it was a rough game. And it started off so well.

Zito was finally on his game. He pitched 7 strong innings, baffling the Angels hitters and only allowing 3 hits through 7 innings. Unfortunately, one of those hits was a 2-run HR. Chavez went 2/3 with 2 RBI, Miller and Scutaro both added RBI's and by the end of Zito's magnificent run, the A's were ahead 4-2.

Then everything went to hell. At the top of the 8th, Macha went to Mecir. I leaned over and mentioned to my family "that's it, game over, we just lost the post-season". I have never liked Mecir. Sure, he has some good numbers this season and also recently, but he had blown a lead just a few days before against Seattle and I have never felt comfortable with him on the mound.

Sure enough, 2 hits and 2 runs later, the Angels tied the game 4-4. Macha then pulled Mecir and replaced him with - Rincon ?!?!? Who promptly gave up a double that was almost a HR on his first pitch and allowing the go ahead run to come home. Angles 5-4.

Macha, perhaps finally realizing he has mis-managed the bullpen yet again, brings in Dotel to pitch the remaining 1 and 2/3 innings - Dotel, who has complained about tendonitis in his elbow. Luckily, Dotel struck out 3 and walked 1 to close out the game.

But with Donnely, K-Rod, and finally Percival, the A's couldn't manage to get another run home to tie the game up, finishing the game with 3 fly outs to left field.

We stayed after the game was over in shock, as we watched about a hundred Angels fans celebrate in the stands.

The A's lead in the AL West and their chance to go to the post season were theirs to lose, and they lost it. The Angels played like a team hungry to get to the playoffs while the A's stumbled around like extras from the movie set of Dawn of the Dead. I have always felt the A's and Angels were well matched against each other. At the end, it came down to the A's just not playing the kind of September ball that made them the perennial favorites in the past.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Game 160 : A's vs Angels - best 2 out of 3

I managed to score some free tickets to tonight's game (YAY!) and was looking forward to an exciting game.

Boy was I disappointed. Mulder lasted 2 innings giving up 4 runs in the second. The play that made me hang my head in shame was watching Mulder fall flat on his stomach trying to field a bunt up the middle that he only managed to roll slowly toward Hatteberg at first base. It was embarassing.

But, my hopes lifted watching Blanton work his way through scoreless inning after scoreless inning only to watch him load the bases after 3 innings of work. In comes an Angels batter with a 0.151 batting average and 2 outs - and what does he do? Smacks a grand slam.

The rest of the game was just painful to watch.

If the A's continue to play ball like they have the rest of the month of September, there is no way they will get through this weekend and into the playoffs. They need to treat this like a playoff situation and stop pretending like "it's just another game". Their attitude to the press and off the field is so nonchalant. I know they are trying to keep a cool face on the situation, but dammit, they need to buck up and show some urgency.