Friday, November 25, 2005

Interview with Jim Callis of Baseball America

Elephants in Oakland has a great interview with Jim Callis of Baseball America regarding the A's 2005 draft. You can read it here. Some highlights for you lazy folk :
EIO : How high does Travis
rate as a hitter to other hitters in the organization right now, and
how high does he rate over the last few drafts?
JC : As far as a pure hitter, Buck
would be up there with Daric
in the system and is probably the best the A's have drafted in recent
years. There is question as to how much power he'll develop--which is why the
A's were able to get him where they did--but little question that he'll
EIO : Let's skip to Clifton
. There were some opinions by scouts that Pennington
might move to 2nd base as he progressed. Some are adamant that he's a shortstop.
Where do you fall in this debate? Do the inklings of a move have anything to do
with Bobby
, or not moving, a notice that the A's might sign Mark Ellis?.
JC : He definitely can play
shortstop. He's one of my favorite minor league prospects. Where he plays in the
majors depends on whether or not he's a better shortstop than Crosby
when he gets there. I think you'll see him in Oakland pretty quick.
EIO : With Huston
making the jump so soon the major leagues, how irrational do you
think A's fans will be with future draft picks, like Pennington
and Buck?
JC : Oh, probably pretty irrational, but I think fans of every team
are like that, thinking their prospects are the best and they'll be in the
majors tomorrow. But Pennington
and Buck
should make it up the ladder pretty quick, probably getting their first taste of
the majors by the end of 2007.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Are the A's done with Oakland ?

First off, the A's organization is eliminating upper deck seating for 2006. This means forcing season ticket holders to fill up more seats in the second and first levels, reducing capacity in order to force more "sellout" games and also gambling to increase revenue as fans who normally would have sat in the third level will pony up for higher price tickets. This also gives Lewis Wolff his chance to test his plans for a new ballpark which would have similar capacity and also would only have 2 levels of seating.

Next, the city of San Jose is not giving up their plans to entice the A's to leave Oakland by acquiring land to the tune of $5 million plus spending money for an environmental impact statement. It's a win-win for San Jose, if no baseball park materializes, they can always use the land for something equally beneficial.

Fremont has been in the game as well, with the city approving a study for a possible ballpark back in October. (big hat tip to new A's ballpark for all the links and info)

There is a fantastic article outlining the big picture for the new A's ballpark at Yahoo and written by the author of the new A's ballpark blog. It is a great primer for those who want to learn more about the A's ballpark woes.

Personally, I think the A's days in Oakland are almost over. The new ballpark proposal Lewis Wolff gave to the city of Oakland will be difficult for the city to make happen. Whether Wolff did this on purpose in order to make it easier to move the team to "better" locations in the future is a matter of opinion. I think Oakland has more important things to worry about than a new baseball park, as sad as I am to admit that. They also remember all too well how Al Davis screwed everybody when bringing back the Raiders, and that bitter taste is hard to forget, so the city will be extra cautious when looking at possible baseball park plans for the A's.

The best option would be for the A's to find a home somewhere in Alameda County, if Oakland no longer becomes a feasible option, which I think is certain. While MLB has said that the Giants own the territorial rights to San Jose, it certainly hasn't stopped them from actively pursuing the A's. Ideally, the A's will find a home somewhere between here and there, and preferably close to a BART station and still within Alameda County.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Search for a RH power batter - Part 1 - Free Agents

Just about everyone under the sun has said that the A's glaring need this off-season is a right handed power bat in the middle of the lineup to give Eric Chavez some support, and obviously it is high on the A's agenda. However, Billy Beane has also said that he will not sacrifice the long term success of the franchise for a short term fix, basically saying if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.

With the A's budget and the high price of power batters being what they are, acquiring a RH power batter will be difficult to say the least. Most likely, if it happens, it will happen via one of Billy Beane's famous deals, rather than via the free trade route. But, in an effort to really look at the entire picture, we will take a look at all the options on the table for the A's in an effort to determine what is available. In Part 1 of this series, we will look at the free agent market and see who is available and who might fit in with the A's.

Paul Konerko – 1B - BA 0.283, OBP 0.375, SLG 0.534, OPS 0.909, VORP 56.1

Konerko is one of the most coveted free agent batters on the market, which means that the A’s chances of signing him are less than zero. He is looking for a big money contract and the White Sox got the ball rolling by offering $52 Million over 4 years to keep him in Chicago. Konerko supposedly is looking for something closer to $14 million per year over 5 years, and there are plenty of teams interested. That means you can forget the A’s ever getting their hands on Konerko. Konerko is a very good batter who probably deserves whatever contract is thrown his way. He averaged 4.15 pitches per plate appearance, has a career OBP of 0.349, and averaged a HR every 14.4 at bats. Let’s not forget his IsoP of 0.250 either.

Conclusion : Still hoping the A’s might get crazy with their wallets ? Keep waiting for hell to freeze over….

Frank Thomas – DH – BA 0.219, OBP 0.315, SLG 0.590, OPS 0.905, VORP 9.2

Ok, so Frank Thomas didn't hit for average, but the guy managed to hit 12 HR in only 105 at bats, or 1 HR every 8.8 at bats. The guy had a 0.905 OPS with only a 0.219 BA. He has not had a sub-0.500 SLG since 2002, and that year he still managed to hit 28 HR. Over the past 3 seasons, he has averaged roughly 1 HR per 12 at bats. That translates into roughly 44 HR over a full 162 game season, averaging 3.3 at bats per game.

But that’s exactly the problem – when was the last time Frank Thomas was able to play a full season? In the past 5 years, Thomas has only had 2 healthy seasons. Injuries kept him out almost all of 2005 and a large portion of 2004. He is 37 and not getting any younger.

Perhaps with all that in mind, Chicago decided to decline their $10 million dollar option on Thomas, opting instead to pay the $3.5 million buyout. That means that either Chicago plans on letting Thomas go or is gambling that they can re-sign him later for less money. Bottom line, they don’t think Thomas is worth $10 million, so if they are planning on re-signing him to less money then that means they hope to get Thomas for less than $6.5 million.

Thomas might be a good gamble for Billy Beane : This is a great player in his twilight years who is an injury risk, which greatly reduces his expected salary. If the A’s are willing to gamble that Thomas will remain relatively healthy next season, then they might be willing to plunk down $4-6 million per year for a short 1-2 year contract.

Again, if this happened it would be another Billy Beane gamble, and lately his results have not been too good. Think Arthur Rhodes, Eric Karros, Keith Ginter, and Keiichi Yabu. Also, if Thomas went down again for any extended period of time, it would leave Chavez alone in the lineup.

Conclusion : The rumor mills have already started and the A’s and Thomas have been mentioned in the same sentence. A risky gamble for the A’s, certainly possible, but I don’t think it will happen.

Mike Piazza – C/DH – BA 0.251, OBP 0.326, SLG 0.452, OPS 0.778, VORP 25.1

Mike Piazza’s days as a catcher are done, his only hope for survival lies with the American League, where he can finish off his career as a DH, thereby saving his body from the physical strain of being a catcher. However, it is arguable whether Piazza’s numbers will actually improve as a DH or if he is in a state of continual decline. His OPS and OBP have dropped consecutively 3 years in a row. 2005 marked the first season since his rookie year that his OPS dropped below 0.800. And let’s not forget that he is 37 years old, which makes him about 100 in catcher years.

But in spite of all this there are some things the A’s might like. He has a career OBP of 0.382 and doesn’t strike out very often : in fact, his highest number of SO was 93 in 1996, but that was also the year he racked up 81 BB with an OBP of 0.422. His past 3 years he has averaged about 1 HR every 21.67 at bats, way off his career average of 15.6, but in a full season that would still translate out to roughly 24-25 HR. Being a catcher he could also occasionally spell Kendall behind the plate, although he would best serve the A’s just being a DH.

Conclusion : Despite being in decline, Piazza is still a big name in baseball and could still command a salary far beyond his worth, making him unaffordable for the A’s. Despite some solid career numbers, his ability to hit a large number of HR is questionable and there is great doubt he will improve, even if turned into a DH.

Reggie Sanders – OF – BA 0.271, OBP 0.340, SLG 0.546, OPS 0.886, VORP 27.4

I know his name has been tossed around quite a bit on the messageboards. Looking at his raw numbers, there seems to be a lot to like. He’s averaged more than 20 HR per season the last 3 seasons, his SLG has not fallen below 0.450 since 2000, he has averaged 1 HR per 16.3 at bats over the last 3 seasons, and he sports a career IsoP of 0.223, which is not too shabby. He does tend to strike out quite a bit, but his career OBP has managed to stick around 0.344.

The problem with Reggie Sanders, like Piazza and Thomas above, is that he is well past his prime at 37 years old. While he still managed to hit 21 bombs this year in 295 at bats, he was a poster boy for the DL. Getting older is not going to help this battered warrior.

Still, he is relatively cheap at $4 million for 2005 and I expect he can be picked up for about the same, if not cheaper.

Conclusion : Another aging slugger in an already long list of aging sluggers. Don’t count on it.

Brian Giles - BA 0.301, OBP 0.423, SLG 0.483, OPS 0.906, VORP 65.1

Brian Giles is the prototypical “Moneyball” player. He walks at a ridicul0us rate with a career OBP of 0.413 and hits for plenty of power with a career SLG of 0.542. While his HR totals for the past 3 seasons are down from his loftier totals from ‘99 - ‘02, he has managed to maintain +30 doubles per season for the past 7 seasons. While no longer considered young in baseball years - he will be 35 next season - he should still have some good years left in him.

The problem is, being such a good player - and a free agent - immediately puts him out of the A’s price limits. According to numerous news reports, the Yankees have set their sites on Giles, and what the Yankees want, they usually get.

Conclusion : Giles will be in pin-stripes next season.

Preston Wilson - BA 0.258, OBP 0.322, SLG 0.491, OPS 0.813, VORP 12.1

Preston Wilson is in this list simply because, excluding 2004, he has averaged about 26-27 HR over the last 7 seasons. Unfortunately those HR totals come with a career OBP of 0.333 and a seasonal average of 162 strikeouts. Not to mention that he made $12.5 million in 2005 and chances are someone will be stupid enough to pay him just as much, if not more.

Conclusion : Wilson makes no sense for the A’s. They already have a superior CF in Mark Kotsay and whatever extra wins they would get from Wilson’s HR would be negated by his low OBP / high SO totals.

And that's just about it. Bottom line, I don't see the A's chasing any of the above mentioned names. Rarely has Billy Beane gone the free agent route, except when it was a perceived bargain. If the A's are going to acquire a power bat, I honestly think it will happen via one of Billy Beane's trades. Still, in the rare case it does happen - and that would be quite rare - I have a feeling it just might be one of the names above.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Huston Street named AL Rookie of the Year

Just 3 days after picking up the Players Choice Rookie of the Year award, Huston Street has now picked up the official American League Rookie of the Year award, giving the Oakland A's 2 back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners in Bobby Crosby and now Huston Street :

Street, a 22-year-old closer, becomes the seventh A's player to win the
award and the second in a row, following shortstop Bobby Crosby's honor in 2004.
He might be young, but Street has been around enough to know he couldn't
have won this award as a ninth-inning hero without help.
"To me, it says a
lot about my team and my teammates," Street said. "As a closer, you have to
recognize the fact that it takes eight innings of winning baseball to get you
into the position to get your job done."
Street finished the 2005 season with a 5-1 record, recording 23
saves in 27 opportunities. He posted a 1.72 ERA -- second only to the Yankees'
Mariano Rivera (1.38) among AL closers -- and registered 72 strikeouts in 78 1/3
innings, while allowing opponents a meager .194 average against him.

After replacing injured Octavio Dotel as the A's closer in May, Street
helped Oakland climb from 15 games under .500 to playoff contention. Street converted all 18 of his save opportunities after the All-Star
break, the longest such streak by an A's closer since Dennis Eckersley went for
40 in a row in 1991-92.

Emphasis added by Condition Oakland

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Huston Street chosen as Players Choice Rookie of the Year

Read the whole thing here.

Major League baseball players named reliever Huston Street of the Oakland A's as
American League Outstanding Rookie of the Year, when they today announced the
winners of the 2005 Players Choice Awards.
Street saved 23 games in 2005,
leading all MLB rookies. He also crushed the A's rookie save record of 12, set
in 1969 by Rollie Fingers. Street's ERA of 1.72 ranked second among all AL
relievers and was the third lowest in A's history based on a minimum of 70
innings pitched. Street was drafted from the University of Texas by the A's in
2004 and was called up to the majors in 2005.

Congratulations !

Ethier STILL on fire....

Andre Ethier is still tearing up the AFL - just look at his stat line here. Granted, it's a pretty small sample size - only 76 at bats - but that line of BA 0.368 / OBP 0.495 / SLG 0.604 still looks awfully nice.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Updated Unofficial 2006 Roster

Click here.

Update :
Wanted to speak more about the Jay Witasick signing, but did not have the time earlier.

Jay Witasick, along with teammate Joe Kennedy, came to the A’s via the Eric Byrnes trade that sent Byrnes and minor league prospect Omar Quintanilla to Colorado. After arriving in Oakland, he put up the following numbers :
IP (Innings Pitched) – 28.2
Hits – 26
HR – 2
BB – 17
K (Strikeouts)– 33
Hld – 6
ERA – 3.25
WHIP (Walks + Hits per Inning Pitched) – 1.55
GO/AO (Ground out to Fly out ratio)– 1.38
OBP (On Base Percentage against) – 0.357
AVG (Batting Average against) – 0.239
K/9 (Strikeouts per 9 innings pitched) – 10.74
K/BB (Strikeout to Walk ratio) – 1.94

While that is one ugly WHIP up there to go along with an OBP against of 0.357, showing that Witasick allowed way too many batters to reach base, his peripheral numbers look pretty good. He averaged more than one strikeout per inning, as well as a decent K/BB of 1.94, has a pretty good GO/AO of 1.38, and limited batters to a 0.239 batting average.

Supposedly his contract is for $1 million in 2006 and $1.5 million in 2007. Those are pretty low prices for a pitcher who has averaged a 3.53 ERA and 8.99 K/9 over the past 3 seasons. While his career WHIP and OBP numbers are cause for real concern, I believe Oakland would be hard pressed to find better value for $ 2.5 million.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

New Hitting Coach : Gerald Perry

The new hitting coach for the Oakland A's is Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach Gerald Perry:
The Oakland Athletics announced today the club has agreed to terms with
Gerald Perry on a one-year contract to serve as the club's Major League hitting
coach for the 2006 season.

Let's hope 1 year is enough to turn around the A's offense. According the press release :
Perry, 45, served as the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates for the
last three seasons after serving in the same capacity with the Seattle Mariners
(2000-02). In his first season as the Pirates hitting coach, the team batting
average improved 23 points from .244 to .267, which was the third best team mark
in the National League in 2003. During his three-year stay in Seattle, the
Mariners led the Major Leagues in on-base percentage (.357) and walks (2,018)
and topped the American League in batting (.278), runs (2,648) and ranked third
in batting average with runners in scoring position (.285) and were second in
hits (4,649).

Sounds great from the press release, especially considering his time in Seattle where the Mariners led the Major Leagues in OBP and BB, which I am sure caught Billy Beane's eye.

But a closer look at Pittsburgh's team stats for 2005 paint a less rosy picture for Perry's more recent work :
Runs - 680 - 28th in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 9th)
Hits - 1445 - 20th in the Major Leagues (tied with Kansas City - Oakland was 15th)
2B - 292 - 14th in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 8th)
HR - 139 - 22nd in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 18th)
OBP - 0.322 - 22nd in the Major Leagues (not a good sign - Oakland was 14th)
SLG - 0.400 - 23rd in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 22nd)
OPS - 0.723 - 24th in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 20th)

Basically Pittsburgh - as a team - ranked in the bottom third of all major league teams in almost every major offensive category except for doubles (2B) where they were barely average. Let's take a look at these same numbers with runners in scoring position for the 2005 Pittsburgh Pirates :
Runs - 530 - 21st in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 9th)
Hits - 371 - 12th in the Major Leagues - respectable (Oakland was 7th)
2B - 69 - 21st in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 6th)
HR - 33 - 26th in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 23rd)
OBP - 0.347 - 17th in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 16th at 0.348!)
SLG - 0.411 - 18th in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 21st)
OPS - 0.758 - 16th in the Major Leagues (Oakland was 17th at 0.756!)

It is tough to judge by only a 1 season sample size, but from looking at all the numbers above, it appears that Oakland's offense was mostly superior to Pittsburgh's and in fact managed to rank in the top third in certain key categories. However, I firmly believe team performance depends as much on the players as it does the coaches, and Perry will obviously have some nice talent to work with in Oakland, so hopefully he can do a lot more good in Oakland.

I'll be taking a closer look at Perry over the next few days and try to shed some more light on his possible impact with the A's offense.

On a side note, the same press release confirms that the remainder of the A's coaching staff will be here for the 2006 season, with Washington signed through 2007 - YAY !
In addition, the Athletics announced the remainder of the Major League
coaching staff-Brad Fischer, Bob Geren, Rene Lachemann, Ron Washington and Curt
Young-will return for the 2006 season. Washington, Geren and Young agreed to
terms on two-year contracts through the 2007 season, while Lachemann and Fischer
agreed to terms on one-year deals for the 2006 campaign. Geren will assume the
duties of bench coach, Lachemann will take over the first base coaching duties
and Fischer will be assigned as the bullpen coach.

Official : A's decline option on Scott Hatteberg

Missed this earlier on the A's website, but the official word is that Hatteberg's option has been declined.

Hatteberg is a class act and a team player, unfortunately he never seemed to get it going during the 2005 season and lost the 1B job to rookie Dan Johnson. He was well on his way to a great season in 2004 only to wear down and stagger during the last 2 months of the season.

2005 saw his OBP slip to 0.334, the lowest since 2001, his last year with the Red Sox. He failed to reach double digits in HR and hit few doubles, lowering his SLG to 0.343. The last time he had a sub 0.350 SLG was also in 2001 with the Red Sox.

I hope Hatteberg retires as a player and finds a good home with the A's or another team as a coach or possibly in the front office.

Chavez gets 5th Gold Glove

Big yawn here. Chavez wins his fifth Gold Glove, becoming only the fourth AL third basemen to win 5 or more Gold Gloves.

But what I really want to know is : where do they get these awful pictures of Chavez with his tongue hanging out ? Go to the main page at the official A's website and watch the flash presentation of the news items. Look at the picture of Chavez.

More examples here.

Seems like Chavez has trouble controlling his tongue when making many a tough play. I found far too many photos like these to post and was having trouble controlling my laughter while digging these up, but in all seriousness I don't care what Chavez looks like when he makes these plays, he is arguably the best third baseman the A's have ever had.

DePodesta and Epstein : No Comment, thank you

Some people have asked me why I have nothing to say on the firing of DePodesta from the Dodgers and Epstein leaving the Red Sox. It's not that I don't care, I do, but neither event has anything to do with the A's organization.

First and foremost I want this blog to concentrate on the Oakland A's and their minor league affiliates. Now if the departures of DePodesta and Epstein had some kind of imminent impact on the A's, then sure I would discuss it here, but I don't think they do.

There has been some rampant rumors on some messageboards that DePodesta or Epstein might get snatched up by the A's organization. Keep dreaming. Unless they both are very comfortable with taking a HUGE paycut and being relegated to lesser positions under Billy Beane, it just isn't going to happen. If anything does miraculously change and we find out one of them is coming to the A's organization then sure, I will be happy to discuss the issue.

There. I said I wasn't going to comment on the situation and look what I have done, rambled on for 3 paragraphs. Enough said, no comment, thank you.