Monday, April 24, 2006

4-24-2006: vs Texas Rangers

Had to take care of jr. while my wife was at the store so I couldn't post any pre-game comments.

This game should have been a slugfest. Instead it was yet another 1 run squeaker. Both pitchers were extremely lucky to have exited the game relatively unscathed:

Blanton: 6 IP, 8 Hits, 1 BB, 1 HR
Millwood: 5 IP, 4 Hits, 6 BB

Oakland LOB (left on base): 12
Texas LOB: 10

Twice, in back to back innings, the A's loaded the bases and failed to score. Texas also failed to make headway with runners on base and in scoring position.

In fact, 4 out of 5 of the total runs scored were due to home runs. Thankfully, Swisher and Chavez stayed hot, with Swisher hitting his 9th HR of the season, a 2-run shot, and Chavez also hit a solo shot and walked 3 times.

Bradley went a disappointing 0 for 5 with 3 strikeouts, not his normal self, I guess. It was nice to see Ellis get a couple of hits, hopefully he can get himself back on track soon. Dan Johnson looked just desperate, every hit was just weak. He just seems to be trying too hard at this point.

The A's offense continues to sputter with only Chavez and Swisher making a contribution. For a breakdown of the team's offense, check this post on OPS over at Athletics Nation:
When only 4 regulars are above 700 in OPS you've got problems.

Blez also chimes in on the A's consistently slow Aprils over the years:
Regardless, it's more of the same so far from the A's. Thankfully, none of the division opponents are performing that much better. The A's are still only two games out at this early stage whereas in years past, they were already four or five back. It's also early to say the team is having a slow start, but it doesn't seem to be getting easier just yet. This week the A's begin a big series with AL West co-leader Texas in the nightmare of a ballpark known as Ameriquest Field, where the A's have been known to struggle in the past. And we all know where patterns have gotten the A's so far this year.
Inevitably, I tell myself, "Maybe I should just start watching in June?" Nah, because when the team eventually comes around I can say, see I knew it all along. The only problem is that one of these years, the team is going to bury itself so deep that it will never see the light of day again.

And Elephants in Oakland comments on the Kendall quandry:
At some point the rest of A's fandom will have to realize that the A's employ beyond a weak-hitting catcher behind the plate. They essentially employ a pitcher as their catcher. Surely no pitcher can hit 'as well' as Kendall. Then again, Kendall has the advantage of a few thousand more at-bats than the average National League pitcher who hits every few days.

The A's can place all the puff pieces they want about Kendall and his leadership and handling of pitchers, if they are so sold on his traits in that area, then make the guy the pitching coach. He doesn't get paid, and paid very well, to be a partially catcher. If he doesn't hit enough to keep his job, how does he keep his job?

Let's hope the A's offense can pull it together sooner rather than later and the bullpen stays strong. Hats off to The Duke for his first save of the season.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Daric Barton Watch

Daric Barton ranks second in the league in total walks: 16 with an OBP of 0.462. Junior Spivey of Memphis is the leader with just 1 more walk than Barton. I know it's a ridiculously small sample size, but currently he is averaging 1 walk per 3 at bats.

4-23-2006: vs Angels

The A's try to wrap things up on a positive note before heading on the road with Loaiza on the mound. Somehow the phrase "...with Loaiza on the mound..." does not instill confidence in me. But, with any luck, perhaps the A's abysmal offense will wake up today and score some runs. They can't rely on Swisher and Chavez forever. Eventually they too will slump.

(hey, did Macha read my last post? Ellis batting 7th, Kotsay leading off, it's about time he dropped Ellis down the batting order)


I'm off to grab a bite to eat and watch the game. Loaiza's velocity was slightly up the last time he pitched, let's see if he has gotten his game back today, although I have my doubts.

I think this quote pretty much wraps up the A's:
Bases loaded, nobody out and the heart of the order coming up is an ideal situation for any offense --­ any offense, that is, except for Oakland's lately.

The A's rank dead last in the majors for team batting average. The team OBP is a lowly 0.300 and their SLG a measly 0.392. Simply, they stink right now.

Despite Swisher homering again as well as Bradley, they blew it in a key bases loaded situation in the 4th.

Loaiza left quickly before even completing 4 innings. His speeds registered between 75-85 MPH. The official word from the A's is that Loaiza is injured:
Neither did A's starter Esteban Loaiza, who was forced to leave after just 3 2/3 innings with what the A's described as "spasms in his left trapezius," a muscle linking the shoulder to the neck.

Hmm. If I were the person reporting this news, I would put it in quotes too. I have never heard of a muscle called the trapezius and am especially surprised considering one of the key reasons we got Loaiza is because he is a consistent innings eater who consistently pitches +200 innings per season. It's especially strange considering that both Macha and Loaiza fully expect him to make his next start. Call me crazy, but I think it sure is a convenient excuse to pull Loaiza in favor of Saarloos today. At this point, I think it's just a matter of time before Saarloos is starting again, even if just temporarily.

Look for Loaiza to go the way of Beane's other mistakes in the offseason (think Redman, Rhodes, etc). The only question is what price will he pay to get someone to take Loaiza and his bloated contract off his hands.

4-22-2006: vs Angels - WRAP

I didn't get a chance to post on the game yesterday because my parents were over to see their grandson and they did not leave until late last night.

The A's lost today in a close game, 5 to 4. But the 4 runs the A's scored were all due to a grand slam HR by Swisher (stay hot Swish) so were it not for the HR, possibly the score could have been 5-0.

Still, the A's did the right thing in the 9th, bringing in Frank Thomas as a pinch hitter who promptly got on base, bringing in Crosby as a pinch runner, and then leaving it up to......Dan Johnson ?!?!?!

Ok, that I just do not understand. On a good night, Johnson finally had a game with some hits, going 3 for 3 prior to the 9th inning. It's nice to see Johnson finally hitting. But you don't allow a struggling hitter who just had a decent game come in to save the day in the bottom of the 9th, especially if your argument was "he was having a good day.....".

And when is Macha going to learn to stop batting Ellis in the leadoff spot? 0 for 4 with a strikeout and a 0.175 BA is not the resume of a leadoff hitter. I have every confidence Ellis is going to pick things up, but until he does you leave him out of the leadoff spot. Hell, at this point I would feel more comfortable with Kendall back in the leadoff spot. At least you have chance of getting him on base.

Overall, offensively, this team just isn't cutting it. I know it's April, but April will be gone in a week, meaning it has been nearly a month and the batters are still not "warmed up". At least Chavez is having a career April and Swisher is hotter than a 26k run through Death Valley. Bradley overall is doing pretty good, although he has slumped lately, but other than these 3 I can not find much I like about the A's offense.

And don't get me started about the A's starting pitching. Aside from Rich Harden, not a single A's starter has an ERA below 5.00. In fact, only 3 out of 5 have an ERA below 6.00! The only silver lining to that is that at least Zito and Haren have a low WHIP of 1.13 each and respectable K/9 of 7.59 and 6.91 respectively, so I am crossing my fingers and hoping that they will slowly improve, as they have been doing.

Friday, April 21, 2006

4-21-2006: vs Angels

For the first time this season, Oakland faces their perennial rival, the Los Angeles Angels of Disneyland. We'll see if mighty Rich Harden can keep Vlad and the other Angels' bats in check while the A's offense (what offense?) takes on John Lackey.

Lackey may have a higher ERA and fewer K's than Harden, but he has only walked 2 batters so far this season.

Will post the lineups and more details later.

Here's the lineups:
Ellis (0.188)
Kotsay (0.278)
Crosby (0.213)
Chavez (0.296)
Thomas (0.192)
Bradley (0.291)
Swisher (0.321)
Kendall (0.225)
Johnson (0.029)

I am convinced Macha has no clue how to create a lineup. Johnson should be in AAA, not Kielty, and Ellis has yet to prove himself in the leadoff spot, not to mention any other spot in the lineup. Crosby has no business in the number 3 spot, and I am perplexed as to why some sports writers picked him to win the MVP award. Give me a full uninjured season, impeccable defense, hit better than 0.250, get on base at a consistent 0.360 clip, and mash 30+ HR, and then maybe, just maybe, I might consider you a bonafide star - but still not MVP.

Figgins (0.269)
Cabrera (0.311)
Guerrero (0.365)
Anderson (0.279)
Erstad (0.283)
Izturis (0.333)
Kotchman (0.176)
Mathis (0.148)
Kennedy (0.388)

Guerrero has a monstrous batting average but has also struck out 9 times with only 1 walk. I like Figgins, but with 13 strike outs and a 0.296 OBP, I also have to question why he is batting leadoff.

Anyways, I am off to watch the game, will update later.

What a game! Rich Harden pitched 8 innings, looking less than perfect, but still pretty good. He only struck out 2 and managed 12 ground outs - good job!

I was surprised at Lackey, who is a pretty good pitcher. He made up for his lack of walks tonight by issuing 7, that's 7, to the A's.

I've been critical of Swisher's plate discipline, but tonight he was on base 4 times with 3 walks and 1 HBP.

Chavez hit his 7th HR of the season and Kendall actually managed an extra base hit!

But what made this game so crazy was the way it ended. With runners on the corner, Calero struck out Mathis and threw to second to nail Quinlan. The throw wasn't in time, but Mathis got in the way, with Kendall's hand hitting Mathis. 3rd out, end of the game.

WTF? Kielty sent back down to AAA to make room for Gaudin

You can find the info here and the official release here.

I don't get it. I know we need an extra pitcher in the bullpen with Street injured, but why send Kielty down? He has only appeared in 1 game so far.

I know our OF is crowded, but aren't there some other candidates for AAA Sacto? Don't we have a struggling 1B who has gone like 1 for 1,000 lately?

I like Dan Johnson, but this really isn't fair to Kielty. He posted solid, if not spectacular, numbers last season and has already proven himself at the major league level. If I were Kielty I would be pissed off and I would be starting to think why the front office has it in for me.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A little Concerning

Seeing the last few games of the A's, I'm beginning to get a little worried. I know, I know, the season's young, and we have well over a hundred games to go yet, and let's face it, the A's are never consistently good out of the starting box, but from what I've seen of the A's in the past, is that they seem to just have a general slump, no one seems to do really well. This time, we have a serious lack of stability within the players. Zito is all over the place, allowing runs and then pitching perfect to near perfect. The Duke has great days then struggles. Crosby, Johnson, Kotsay, are all hitting well below par, yet the ones that you might expect that from, or at least understand they won't be hitting like the previous three are red hot. Swisher is hitting like mad, Bradley is really doing well, Kendall is consistent. My worry is will this turn on it's head? Will Swisher and Bradley go into a slump, then Bradley, then Zito starts to pitch well, but then Street loses it, Crosby, Johnson, and Kotsay come back and hit well again, and we lose them to the DL? I believe we have a good team, but it seems we are struggling a bit to get all the players to play well, all at the same time. But then, it's still April, We're 2 weeks into a very long season, so maybe I should just hold my breath and wait it out.

April 20, 2006: vs Detroit

I couldn't post on the game cause I was at work. Sorry I don't have the kind of job where I can surf all day on the internet posting on my blogs.

Zito was all over the place today, a balk, 2 HBP, and throwing a lot of pitches high. However, he was also lucky, getting 3 double plays. Don't get the wrong idea; I really like Zito, but I have never thought he was an "Ace", he is a workhorse who has never missed a start or spent time on the DL and will consistently pitch +200 innings per season. Just don't expect another Cy Young, sub-3.00 ERA season, I just don't see it happening.

Pitching 7 innings and allowing only 1 earned run, the ball was turned over to the bullpen. Kennedy and Calero were great and then The Duke came in - and turned in a very un-Dukelike performance, walking 2 and allowing 3 earned runs, which allowed Detroit to take the lead in the 9th inning. Oakland managed to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but Melhuse struck out to end the game.

On a positive note, Chavez hit a double and had 2 walks, bringing his OBP up to a respectable 0.361. And Swisher, while not getting a hit, actually showed some plate discipline as well with 2 walks, bringing his walk total for the season to an unbelievable 3!!

Mark Ellis's average is back down below 0.200 and poor Dan Johnson went 0 for 3. If things don't change soon, he could find himself back in AAA Sacramento to get his groove back, which I am sure he doesn't want.

And Street has a sore muscle, so we might be without his services for a few days.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Elephants in Oakland players of the week

Oakland: Milton Bradley and Dan Haren

Sacramento: Jeremy Brown, Doug Clark, and Chad Gaudin
(what a sick line from Jeremy Brown: 0.455 BA / 0.500 OBP / 0.909 SLG)

Midland: Kurt Suzuki, Shawn Kohn, and Brad Ziegler

Stockton: Richie Robnett and James Shull

Kane County: Frank Martinez and Bradley Davis

You can check the stats and read the entire thing here.

April 19, 2006: vs Detroit Tigers

Huh. Here's something we haven't seen in awhile: Kendall in the leadoff spot.

C Kendall
2B Ellis
SS Crosby
DH Thomas
RF Bradley
CF Payton
1B Swisher
LF Kielty
3B Perez

Also interesting is Ellis batting second and Chavez getting the night off. Has Macha given up already to Rogers?
Lewis Wolff owns the A's, but Kenny Rogers owns the A's.

Blanton faces A's-killer Kenny Rogers

These are the quotes floating around the A's website and the general mood of the team seems to be that they just can't beat Rogers. So either Macha has given up already and decided to save his best for tomorrow's game, opting instead for Kielty and Perez to get some playing time, or he is gambling that the newcomers on the A's will have better luck against Rogers than the regulars.

Detroit's starting line up:
CF Granderson
2B Polanco
C Rodriguez
RF Ordonez
DH Gomez
1B Shelton
SS Guillen
LF Monroe
3B Inge

It'll be Joe Blanton on the mound vs Kenny Rogers. Will update more later.

Bottom of the first. Kendall managed to get on base thanks to a fielding error by Guillen. It was a weak-ass hit, so Kendall got lucky. Ellis just popped out to LF.

Blanton managed to get through the 1st inning allowing only 1 hit.

Inning over - Crosby grounded into a DP.

2nd Inning:
Blanton gave up a double and a run.

But Thomas came in and hit his 4th HR to even things up. Bradley and Payton both fly out. Swisher just singled.

I know everyone loves Swisher, he is hitting unbelievably well right now, but anyone else notice his 1 BB vs 14 SO?? What happened to his plate discipline?

Uh Oh:
Top of the 4th and Detroit has scored another run with runners on 1st and 3rd - and ZERO outs.

Come on, Blanton!

Conclusion: Blanton couldn't make it 5 innings, allowing 7 earned runs. Saarloos allowed another run. Errors cost the A's 3 more unearned runs.

Pretty pathetic game.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

April 18, 2006: vs Detroit

The A's face the Detroit Tigers for the first time this season in Oakland. Verlander with a 6.52 ERA will face off against the A's $21 million dollar man with the 11.42 ERA. I don't know, but something in my gut tells me Loaiza is one of Billy Beane's mistakes that will go the way of Rhodes or Redman after the season. Over the past several offseasons, Beane has always had at least 1 head scratching move that didn't pan out. It's just a matter of how much more patience Macha and Beane have.

We'll post the lineups later, but here's hoping Kotsay stays in the top spot. Ellis will have to get some at bats sooner rather than later, but the leadoff spot is not where I would like to see him getting his groove back.

Took them long enough, finally we have tonights lineups:

2B Mark Ellis (uh oh)
CF Mark Kotsay
SS Bobby Crosby
3B Eric Chavez
DH Frank Thomas
RF Milton Bradley
1B Nick Swisher
LF Jay Payton
C Adam Melhuse (yay!)

CF Granderson
2B Polanco
C Rodriguez
RF Ordonez
DH Thames
1B Shelton
SS Guillen
LF Monroe
3B Inge

Ok, it's the top of the first and already Loaiza has given up a 3B and a single and 1 earned run with ZERO outs. Loaiza's velocity is crap, I'm ready to have him pulled now. Yeah, I am getting tired of his lousy outings. He just isn't showing anything that impresses me.

Ok, before you jump over all over me about the "ready to pull him now" jibe, Loaiza really didn't pitch all that well. He got lucky. His velocity was still down, and Detroit was getting wood to ball - 10 of his outs were flyball outs. He allowed 6 hits and 3 earned runs in 6 innings, not exactly a recipe for success. On a bright note, he did manage to strike out 3 batters.

The A's offense belonged to Nick Swisher, who hit 2 HR, but let's not forget that it was canny at bat by Bradley with a walk that allowed the 2 run HR by Swisher. We should also give a big thank you to Detroit's defense which allowed one of the runs on the board.

Another bright note was Street's comeback, striking out 2 for the save. But those were some long at bats, Street, a lot of pitches were thrown. Still, he looked good out there.

I can't forget The Duke either, my favorite pitcher in the A's bullpen. Beautiful curveball tonight. And he still has a 0.00 ERA. Unbelievable.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What happened to the Moneyball draftees?

The 2002 draft year for the Oakland A's was famously chronicled in Michael Lewis's bestselling book Moneyball. We all know that Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher, 2 of the famous 7 draft picks taken in the first round, are both on their way to successful major league careers with the Oakland A's. But what has happened to the other 5 Moneyball picks? Let's take a look at where they are today:

Jeremy Brown:
Arguably the most talked about draftee in Moneyball, Jeremy Brown is now playing with the Oakland A's AAA affiliate, the Sacramento Rivercats. In 14 at bats, he currently sports the following stat line:
0.421 BA, 0.478 OBP, 0.895 SLG, 3 BB, 4 SO, 3 HR

Brown has not lived up to some people's expectations, which partly has to do with the unfair hype and fame received from being a main subject in a bestselling book; some people just expect too much. While his BA has never been spectacular, he has shown a knack for getting on base and doesn't strike out too much. In 1288 minor league at bats, Jeremy Brown has 218 BB vs 260 SO to go along with a minor league career 0.382 OBP. That's a BB/SO ratio of 0.838.

Aside from the low BA, Brown has also had trouble hitting for power, spending 2 years at AA Midland with sub 0.400 SLG. Last season he seemed to turn things around, hitting 20 HR and 27 2B for a 0.487 SLG.

Brown is getting a bit old to be considered a prospect - he turns 27 this year - but if he can continue to get on base and keep the power numbers up, he should get a chance at a major league position. With Beane & Co.'s strategy of locking up top catching prospects in the past, Brown could be a marketable asset in one of Billy's famous trades. Another possible outcome is letting go of Melhuse and bringing in Jeremy Brown as the back up catcher for 2007. But there are plenty of other solid catchers in the A's farm system, so if Brown doesn't deliver he could easily be passed on the ladder.

John McCurdy:
John who? I doubt most people know who John McCurdy is, not to mention the fact that he was a first round draft pick in 2002. That's probably because McCurdy has languished in the Minor League system with pretty subpar numbers. In fact, he was demoted from AA Midland back down to A Stockton. Currently McCurdy sports a minor league career OPS of just 0.668, which does not translate well into future major league success.

In addition, McCurdy has shown a surprising lack of patience at the plate, walking only 99 times vs 343 strikeouts during his minor league career. That's a BB/SO ratio of only 0.289! It's looking like that final season at the University of Maryland where he batted 0.443/0.496/0.828 was just a fluke.

McCurdy turns 25 tomorrow and has never turned in a solid minor league season. Unless he can put together one hell of a season at single-A and double-AA ball this year, his professional baseball career could be over very quickly.

Stephen H. Obenchain:
This pitcher from the University of Evansville pitched well in both Vancouver and single-A ball until 2003 when he turned in a lackluster season. He continued to struggle in both A and AA ball through 2004-2005.

Currently, I can not find any record of him playing anywhere. I thought he was starting the season at AA Midland, but he isn't listed on their roster. Anyone out there with more info than me that can enlighten us? Did he give up on pro ball?

Ben Fritz:
Another first round pitching prospect who has bounced around the A's minor league system, spending time in both AA and A ball with limited success. Currently Fritz can be found pitching for the AA Midland Rockhounds. So far in 9.1 IP, he sports a 6.75 ERA with 3 BB and 6 SO.

I am bit puzzled by Fritz, because he seems like a pitcher with potential who just can't quite seem to put it together. Through 2005, he has pitched 255.1 innings with 215 SO and 109 BB, so he appears to be able to strike batters out, but along with that statline he has also allowed a whopping 258 hits for a minor league career WHIP of 1.44 and 9.09 H/9 (hits per 9 innings pitched).

While still listed as a starter for AA Midland, I wonder if a change to the bullpen might improve things a bit.....? Or not. Another prospect turning 25 this year, he needs to put up some solid numbers and advance to AAA Sacramento or he could find his options limited.

Mark Teahen:
The only other Moneyball draftee to make it to the majors outside of Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher, Teahan was involved in the 3-team Carlos Beltran trade that saw him going to Kansas City while Oakland ended up with Dotel.

Teahen did ok at AAA Omaha, but nothing spectacular, after going 0.275 / 0.383 / 0.391 at AAA Sacramento. In 2005, Teahen was called up to play 3B for Kansas City and hit a pedestrian 0.246 / 0.309 / 0.376 with 107 SO.

Teahen has started the season with Kansas City at 3B, but he needs to work on his plate discipline as he already has 11 SO in just 10 games. He needs to start showing the patience he had in college where he was 106 BB / 74 SO in 3 seasons at St. Mary's along with a high BA. He has shown the ability, at times, to hit for average, so it may be possible for Teahen to develop as a high BA/above average OBP hitter if he can cut back on the SO. Luckily he is only in his second full major league season and will only turn 25 this year, so he has several years to work on things before he hits his peak years. Of course, if he continues to hit the way he has during the month of April (0.235 / 0.270 / 0.382) then he might find himself back at AAA.

And there you have it. Out of 7 first round draft picks, 3 have made it to the major league level, with Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher both being called up in September 2004 to the Oakland A's and contending for the rookie of the year award in 2005. 3 out of 7 ain't bad at all, especially considering the major contributions both Blanton and Swisher have made and continue to make to the A's. Jeremy Brown, provided he can really perform at AAA Sacramento, has a good chance at making it on someone's major league roster at some point in the future. Whether he manages to make it as a starting or back up catcher depends on the team and his performance. McCurdy and missing-in-action Obenchain will most likely never make it at the major league level while Ben Fritz still has some life left in him.

In the future we will analyze the 2003-2005 first round draft picks as well.

April 16, 2006: vs Texas Rangers

Late post, I won't bother with the lineup. What a disappointing game. I know it is still very early in the season and I know I shouldn't get down but first our starting pitching has been letting us down and today it was the bullpen.

What was largely a pitcher's duel through 8 innings fell apart in the top of the 9th when Street gave up 5 hits, a HR, and 4 earned runs. The A's managed to load the bases with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th only to have Swisher pop out to end the game.

The good news is that Haren was downright brilliant, pitching 8 solid innings, striking out 5, and allowing just 1 run. His ERA has been brought down to 5.40 thanks to his solid outing.

Chavez was unstoppable, going 4-for-4 with 2 doubles and all 3 of the A's RBIs. So far this April is going down as the best in Chavy's career:
0.313 BA, 0.358 OBP, 0.750 SLG, 1.108 OPS, 3 2B, 6 HR. He is also averaging more than 4 pitches per plate appearance. Let's just hope he doesn't slump in May. Could this be the first year Chavy sports a +0.900 OPS??
Crosby was also excellent at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a BB. Although he still has a lot of room for improvement, he is starting to show signs of life again.

Street proved that he was indeed mortal as his string of 21 straight saves came to an end. I don't know what happened to Street, but he looked lost out there. Sure, the umpire could have called a few close pitches better, but that's part of the game. He gave up a HR to Teixeira and was pulled from the game after giving up 4 runs. In fact, I can't remember Street EVER being pulled from a game, I think this was the first time I had ever seen it happen. And heck, it was even Huston Street bobblehead day - you don't pitch like that on bobblehead day!!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Texas, Take 2

Ok, gearing up for Texas game 2, We have:




I'm predicting a bit of a pitcher's duel, with the edge to Harden slightly with a just under 3.0 ERA for Harden compared to Padilla's 3.0, with the batting force of the A's edging out the Rangers. Look for a tight game.

Update (SwizStick):
Oh. My.
Damn did I miss a good one. My wife and I were up in Sacramento visiting her sister on Saturday and so I missed the game. And I can't believe I did.

Harden, despite walking 5 and allowing 3 hits, managed to get through 7 innings with 8 strikeouts. But the big news happened in the bottom of the 6th inning, where the A's were trailing 4 to 2.

Up comes Chavez, Thomas, and Bradley, who each hit back-to-back-to-back homeruns on the first pitch each. Un-freakin'-believable.

Kennedy has been a nice surprise so far this season in the bullpen. Let's hope he can keep up the good work. I never worry about The Duke, and Street got his 3rd save.

Sigh... What next?

Well, we're now below .500 for the season, and well, I'm a little depressed. After being completely shut out in the Minnesota Series, we've started the Texas series with a massive Goose egg. Via the A's website, it seems that we can't seem to get things straight.

In the first game against Texas, we lost. There, I've said it, I can admit it, we lost. Why? Well, let's have a look. 3 words is what I noticed. Zito, Zito, Zito. Now, I gotta admit, I'm a Zito fan, but his beginning isn't looking good. We seem to be seeing 2 sides to the lad, one that is referred to as "the dominant one", overshadowed at times by "the ineffective one", who seems to get a paycheck from the opposing team, whoever it may be. Reminiscent of opening day, he gave up a few runs in a shaky start of the 2nd inning. He hits one batter (the first one of the inning), walks another (the second of the inning(Don't worry there's no pattern emerging)), and then almost saves himself with 2 strikeouts. Then, a single, which starts off the 2 runs, which basically costs us the game. Maybe I'm being harsh, but this doesn't seem like the Zito I'm used to.

Here's what he's got to say about it: "That was the key at-bat of the game," Zito said. "You always have a tendency to get up for the big-name guys in the middle of the lineup, and I might have let up a little bit there. That's unacceptable. ... You have to attack everyone like it's Babe Ruth up there." (emphasis added)

Um.. Barry, "might have let up a little"? Swizstick and I were debating his first pitching of the season and his response was "Barry's problem is that he really doesn't take it seriously, he was like, um, yeah, it wasn't a good day, and yeah, I should maybe try a little harder" (not an exact quote). I can see what Swizstick means now, in referring to the last at bat that cost 2 runs, ignoring the fact you hit a batter and walked the next one really doesn't help your case, Barry. You remind me of the guy in Dodgeball who needs to get mad to play properly but can't. In fact, he sucks until the very last game when he sees his wife canoodling with some other guy, then he goes wild and kicks some serious tail. Maybe we should hire a guy to canoodle with Barry's squeeze, volunteers to throw some cash into the kitty? Watch this space for a Paypal donation bar real soon. Either way, Zito's inconsistencies are really something that he needs to work on, and hopefully he'll realize that before it's too late. Or maybe he just needs to take the motto of Dodgeball to heart.

Ok, on another note about the game, seems that Frank Thomas is doing ok, having chucked a ball to the fans in a gorgeous home run to left field. One of the things I love is his attitude towards batting. To quote "He was getting ahead of everybody, and I figured with a 5-0 lead, that's what he'd be trying to do with me," Thomas said. "And he did. First pitch, he gave me something to hit, and I hit it." You sure did Frank. Johnson also broke his slump in batting, and it seems that Bradley continues to be very capable and consistent.

Our offense seems to be doing well, Swisher's hot, Thomas is earning that paycheck(please, walk man, walk), and Bradley is doing very well, Johnson hit that T ball and we're scoring runs. But with deficits from our starting pitching we're still not going to win any games. It's too bad as well, as Thomas' attitude is so great: "We'll get hot here at some point, and when we do, we'll get back on a roll." I agree Thomas', and congratulations on hitting that 450th Homer.

Friday, April 14, 2006

April 14, 2006: vs Texas Rangers

The A's are back in town to begin a series against the Rangers. Let's hope they can put that 3 game sweep in Minnesota behind them and let's also hope that the A's starting pitching behind Zito can rebound from their horrid performance over the last 3 games.

Tonight we'll get to see how Kevin Millwood performs with the Rangers. Here's tonight's lineups:

2B Ellis
CF Kotsay
SS Crosby
3B Chavez
DH Thomas
RF Bradley
LF Swisher
C Kendall
1B Johnson

CF Matthews
SS Young
1B Teixeira
DH Nevin
3B Blalock
C Barajas
LF Wilkerson
RF DeRosa
2B Jimenez

Let the game begin!

Coliseum Authority and the A's agree to 3 year extension.

As usual, new A's ballpark has the details:
The extension could potentially keep the A's in the Coliseum through 2013. The structure of the deal is such that the pre-existing deal, which was guaranteed through 2007 and had one-year options through 2010, now guarantees the A's stay through 2010 and push the options out to 2011-2013. Some of the finer points:
  • The lease allows the team to leave with 120 days notice without penalty if it moves to a 40,000-or-more capacity stadium in Alameda County.
  • Should the team leave the area, it would have to pay the remainder of its lease and a $250,000 penalty.
  • Whether the 2011-2013 years are optional or guaranteed has not yet been finalized.
  • The payments will be higher than in the pre-existing lease, totalling $4.7 million over the last five years. The A's payment for 2006 is only $500K.
On the surface this sounds like a nice reciprocal goodwill gesture, but as I wrote earlier on this matter, simply pushing the options out three more years mostly benefits the A's since they get a nice safety in case a new ballpark is beset with delays.

April 13, 2006: vs Minnesota Twins

Ok, so my post is a day late, sorry. Day games are tough for me to cover because I am at work and don't really have time to update like I should. Also I got home last night with a splitting headache, so I skipped any blogging.

Score: Oakland 2, Minnesota 8

Blanton: 6 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1 HR
A rough outing for Blanton, but c'mon: you didn't really expect him to pitch the same as he did against Seattle, did you? Especially this early in the season. I agree he got roughed up a bit, but am not concerned as he had such a stellar outing last week. Blanton is still very young, this is only his second year, so expect some ups and downs. It is nice to see Blanton throwing strikes, he has 10 SO now over 14 IP with a 1.14 WHIP. Hopefully he can throw some more strikes his next game while cutting back on the hits.

Swisher: 2 for 4 with a 2B
Swisher has been on fire lately and as usual, Macha is trying to take advantage of his hot bat. While the work ethic that Swisher has put into his batting, concentrating on going the other way, is a welcome sign, I doubt that he can keep up his torrid hitting streak. Eventually pitchers will adjust or Swisher will go through a slump, so don't get used to a 0.323 BA for too long. That being said, I think he will definitely improve over last year, I just don't know how long he will stay hot.

The Big Hurt was also 2 for 4 with a 2B, let's hope this is a sign he is coming out of his slumber.

Dan Johnson can't be this bad for so long. He is too good of a hitter to remain hitless forever. Macha should keep trying to fit him in somewhere in hopes of him getting a hit. My fear is that the longer he goes hitless, the more frustrated he will become which will make him even worse. Hang in there DJ, we're pulling for you.

And despite what many think of Kendall I think he is going to have a great year. Give him some time, he'll warm up and be back to hitting 0.300 again.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

April 12, 2006: vs Minnesota Twins

The A's are hoping Loaiza's horrid first start are behind him as they take the mound today against the Twins. Here are the lineups:

2B Ellis
CF Kotsay
SS Crosby
3B Chavez
RF Bradley
DH Payton
LF Swisher
1B Johnson
C Melhuse

LF Stewart
2B Castillo
C Mauer
DH White, R
CF Hunter
1B Morneau
3B Batista
RF Kubel
SS Castro

Will update as the game progresses...

Bottom 3rd inning:
Well, looks like Loaiza has picked up right where he left off from his first start. He just gave up a big 3-run HR to Morneau after walking 2 batters in the inning. He followed that up by allowing a hit to Batista. His pitch count is already at 65.

Update: I missed the first 2 1/2 innings, looks like Swisher hit a double for 2 RBI and Melhuse followed up with a solid single RBI.

Top 4th inning:
Alrrrrrright! Swisher just tied up the game with a nice HR, his second of the season.
Although Silva has allowed 4 runs, same as Loaiza, he is throwing fewer pitches and also has 5 groundouts to Loaiza's 1.

Bottom 4th:
Joe Mauer just put the Twins ahead with a sacrifice fly. Dammit!

Bottom 5th:
I know it is only his second start of the season and I shouldn't lose patience, but Loaiza just gave up another HR, this time to Torii Hunter.
Loaiza now sports an 11.42 ERA and has given up 3 HR in just 8 2/3 innings pitched with only 1 strikeout. Oh, and he has a nice fat $21.375 million contract.
Update: Loaiza is out, Halsey is in.
Update: Halsey pitches a scoreless inning, but does give up a walk.

Top 6th:
Quick inning, but Swisher did hit a bullet of a HR, his 3rd and second tonight. The A's are still in this game......

Problems with Blogger, couldn't access the blog.
Calero took over from Halsey, didn't allow any runs.
Kennedy took over from Calero, gave up a single to Batista after striking out Morneau. Bottom of the 7th......

Game over. Once again, the Twins won by just 1 point, and once again a poor performance from Loaiza pretty much did the A's in. On the bright side, Swisher was 3 for 4, I believe, with 2 HR.

Tomorrow we will see if the A's can manage to leave Minnesota with some dignity. Hopefully Blanton can repeat his performance from last week.

Interview with Billy Owens, Director of Player Personnel

Over at Athletics Nation. Read the whole thing. I enjoyed his comments on some of the A's current players:

On Eric Chavez:
Chavez plays an extremely tough position at Gold Glove-caliber so his 25-30
homers annually with 100 rbi's is special. I know we are all looking for that
super breakout year from Chavez but in reality what he's done so far in his
career is borderline historical.

On free swinger Jay Payton:
Jay Payton likes to swing the bat and he makes contact when he does so that
limits his walks. He is also a guy with some power. He hit 16 homers for us in
limited action. He hit 28 homers one year in Colorado. He plays very good
defense. Plus he is a tremendous character guy. He was hurt so much early in his
career coming up with the Mets that he still has a ZEST for the game of a
teenager. So in our position last year he was a no-brainer. We are elated
to have him whether he walks or not.

On the question of anyone in the minor league organization that we should keep our eyes on:
Justin Sellers is a guy that is currently under the radar that will not be
after this year. Slick fielder that is small but he can hit and play.

Fremont is closer to becoming the new home of the A's

According to City Manager Fred Diaz:
Oakland A's co-owner Lew Wolff is close to completing negotiations with
Cisco Systems Inc. for a 143-acre parcel, a deal that could clear a major hurdle
in allowing the team to move to Fremont, City Manager Fred Diaz said.
think we are the lead candidate for the new home of the A's," Diaz said. "If
there's a deal to make for both the A's and the city of Fremont, then we'll find
it and make that happen."
The Fremont city manager's comments came after
Wolff briefly met April 3 with Fremont City Council members and staffers,
including Diaz and Daren Fields, Fremont's economic development director.
According to this same article, which ran on the front page of today's Oakland Tribune:

Talks have progressed so far that only a few issues, such as
stadium naming rights, remainunresolved
, Diaz said: "That is my
understanding through (talking with) Lew Wolff."

It remains to be seen whether Fremont will actually become a reality or not. Newballpark blog has much more here and here.

I know a lot of Oakland A's fans are hoping against hope that the A's stay in Oakland, but I have never seen that happening. The city of Oakland has far more pressing and important issues to deal with than worrying about finding a way to keep the A's in town. And most people are still stinging from the after effects of bringing Al Davis and his Raiders back to Oakland, which ruined a perfectly decent ballpark and screwed things up with local county and city leaders. No way a new ballpark could be built in Oakland without substantial city and county assistance and after the Raiders' deal no one is willing to put their political career on the line to really make it happen. Sure, they will pay some lip service and make the right noises and at least a gesture to try and keep the A's in town, but in reality nobody really wants to spend too much time and effort on it.

As long as the A's stay in the Bay Area, I am fine with that. The only problem with the Fremont location is transportation, which I am confident will be worked out in time.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

April 11, 2006: vs. Minnesota Twins

Sorry for the very late posting. Got home from work after the game started and my wife was using the laptop. Sure, I could have used the desktop, but then I wouldn't be able to watch the game on TV as the desktop is in another room.

Here are tonight's lineups:
Oakland A's:
2B Ellis
CF Kotsay
SS Crosby
3B Chavez
DH Thomas
RF Bradley
LF Payton
C Kendall
1B Swisher

Minnesota Twins:
LF Stewart
2B Castillo
C Mauer
DH R. White
CF Hunter
1B Morneau
3B Batista
RF Cuddyer
SS Castro

I was hoping to live blog the game, but looks like that isn't going to happen. Will update later with my thoughts on the game once it is over.

The game just ended, ultimately it was a pretty good game to watch, lots of solid hitting on both sides, but in the end 1 bad inning for Dan Haren was enough to lose the game.

Chavez hit 2 HR in the game and is looking really comfortable at the plate. This is in stark comparison to seasons before. For those keeping count, Chavez hit only 2 HR total in the month of April 2005. Chavez is a notorious slow starter:
April 2005 - 2 HR, 0.194 BA, 0.276 OBP, 0.312 SLG
April 2004 - 5 HR, 0.221 BA, 0.350 OBP, 0.419 SLG
As a matter of fact, Chavez has not hit more than 5 HR in April since 2002, when he hit 9.

Crosby hit his first HR of the season and is looking better at the plate since coming back into the lineup.

Ellis went from hot to cold, going 0 for 5 with 2 Ks. So far his line this season reads:
0.222 BA, 0.323 OBP, 0.259 SLG
I won't panic yet as it has only been 1 week and Ellis hit well against Seattle. I think it is just a matter of time.

I am definitely on the Bradley train. He already has 6 walks and is averaging 4.58 P/PA. Now if he could only get his power numbers up.

Thomas is still struggling at the plate - he is only batting 0.080. The only good news is his 2 hits so far were both for extra bases, 1 HR and 1 2B.

Haren had another rough start, but really it just boiled down to the 3rd inning where he gave up 6 runs. Despite giving up a HR to Morneau, he was relatively solid over the next 3 innings. A lot of pitches seemed to be left up and right in the middle of the plate. It wasn't until later in his outing that he seemed his normal self.

Saarloos looked much better than in his previous outings. Hopefully he has worked out the kinks in his system.

All in all, a good game although the A's came up short. Like I said yesterday, the Twins were just due.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Minnesota Preview 4-11-2006

Tomorrow the A's begin a 3 games series against the talented Minnesota Twins. Don't let the fact that the Twins lost their last 4 games fool you: in my mind, that just means they are due, and this is a ball club that has continued to contend year after year on a limited budget, just like the A's.

Tomorrow Dan Haren faces off against Brad Radke. Both starters sport an ERA of 6.00 and were knocked around a bit their first start of the season, although Haren also managed to strike out 8 batters in his first start.

We'll wait and see what kind of lineup Macha produces once he is finished playing musical chairs with the players. With 4 hits over the past 2 games, including a 2B, hopefully the Mark Ellis of 2005 is back and will possibly bat leadoff, although I feel perfectly comfortable with Mark Kotsay there, a role he hit very well in back in 2004. I'm glad to see Crosby back in the lineup and hopefully he can produce in the number 3 spot. It would be nice if Frank Thomas were able to get locked in on these next 3 games.

Weekend round up

Hello all, we were out of town for the weekend up in the mountains and had no access to a computer, internet, or even radio coverage for that matter, and therefore were unable to update the blog, not to mention the pain of baseball withdrawal.

And my, what a weekend we missed! :
4-7-2006 vs Seattle: Beat Seattle 5 to zero.
- A's pitchers worked 9 scoreless innings, allowing only 2 hits
- Joe Blanton pitched 8 full innings, striking out 6. (only starter on the A's staff to emerge unscathed from his first start of the season!)

4-8-2006 vs Seattle: Beat Seattle 3 to zero
- A's pitchers again worked 9 scoreless innings, allowing only 1 hit!
- Zito bounced back from his horrible first start to pitch 6 solid innings with 6 strikeouts.
- Kotsay hit his first HR of the season

4-9-2006 vs Seattle: Beat Seattle 6 to 4
- Harden pitched 7 strong innings, striking out 8. It should be noted that the lone run attributed to Harden was due to Duchscherer allowing one of his inherited runners to score in the 8th.
- Chavez hit is 3rd HR of the season.
- Street managed to save the game, working out of a troublesome 9th inning.

Until the 8th inning, it looked like the A's were going to shut out the Mariners for the third straight day.

I gotta give props to Joe Blanton, who managed to be the only A's starter to turn in a good first start. Good? It was damn brilliant. It was as if Blanton picked up right where he left off in 2005. Post All Star break 2005, Blanton was downright unhittable:
ERA 2.65, 102 IP, 69 K, 33 BB, WHIP 1.16, OpBA 0.226

But the real ace of the A's staff, and my personal favorite, is Rich Harden. Just how good is Rich Harden?
If a typical ace makes 35 starts in a season, here's a set of remarkable full-year numbers:

18-7 record, 3.03 ERA, 1.139 WHIP, 225.2 IP, 199 K

Those numbers belong to Oakland right-hander Rich Harden, in his last 35 regular-season starts dating back to July 20, 2004. He's a pitcher for whom many fantasy owners forecasted a breakout year, coming off a stunning 2005 in which he won 10 times in 19 starts, posting a 2.53 ERA and .201 opponents batting average. Remarkably, Harden did all that before he even reached his 25th birthday (which occurred last November).

'Nuff said.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Thoughts on the first 4 days

Well, Esteban Loaiza continued the trend of A’s starters stumbling out of the gate as he gave up 5 runs in less than 5 innings. I know it is only the first week of the season and this is the first start of the season for each of our starters, but I certainly didn’t expect that every first start would be so bad. Just look at these numbers:

Barry Zito - 1 and 1/3 innings pitched:
47.25 ERA
4 Hits
4 Walks
3 Strikeouts
7 Earned Runs
1 HR
6.00 WHIP
0.500 Opponents BA
44.25 Pitches per Inning

Rich Harden – 5 and 2/3 innings pitched:
4.76 ERA
7 Hits
4 Walks
4 Strikeouts
3 Earned Runs
0 HR
1.94 WHIP
0.318 Opponents BA
18.18 Pitches per inning

Danny Haren – 6 innings pitched
6.00 ERA
7 Hits
0 Walks
8 Strikeouts
4 Earned Runs
2 HR
1.17 WHIP
0.292 Opponents BA
16.67 Pitches per inning

Esteban Loaiza – 4 and 2/3 innings pitched:
9.64 ERA
9 Hits
3 Walks
1 Strikeout
5 Earned Runs
1 HR
2.57 WHIP
0.409 Opponents BA
21 Pitches per inning

Those are some ugly starts. Again, I know this is a ridiculously low sample size and only the first start of the season for each of our starters, but if you had told me before the season started that the first week Zito would pitch less than 2 innings and give up 7 runs, Harden would give up 7 hits, walk 4, and allow 3 runs, Haren would give up 2 HR and allow 4 runs, and Loaiza wouldn’t make it past 5 innings, giving up 9 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, I would have told you you were crazy.

It would have been unreasonable to expect that every starter would be perfect their first start of the season, but to have all of them turning in terrible to sub-par performances is not much fun to watch.

Luckily our bullpen, for the most part, has been steady. Duchscherer, Calero, Kennedy, and Street have been stellar. Watching Halsey pitch on Monday was terrifying, but he turned in a fairly good performance last night. The only 2 bullpen pitchers who make me nervous right now are Saarloos and Witasick, and anyone who knows me knows I am big on Saarloos, his performance Monday was unsettling. I am convinced Witasick is our new “Fear Mecir”. He got lucky last night. His pitches were mostly up and his speed was down.

For once in his career, Chavez is off to a good start, Bradley had a big game the other day, The Big Hurt has turned in some big hits, Scutaro (Crosby who?) has been unbelievable, and Kotsay has been consistent. Unfortunately, Dan Johnson still hasn’t got a hit, Kendall has done nothing to justify his bloated salary, Payton looks lost at the plate, and will the 2005 Mark Ellis please stand up? It also can’t help that Macha has changed the batting order every night so far. I don’t believe you should rigidly stick to a batting order, but some consistency in a batter’s role is a good thing.

Anyways, just some thoughts and comments over the past 4 days. I am sure our starters will get much better, particularly Zito and Harden, but it is disappointing to see so many first starts go so badly.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The value of a strong bullpen

Looking back at the first 3 games of this season and the fact that Zito couldn’t complete the second inning in the first game, Harden pitched very average through 5 and 2/3 innings, and Haren – whom I thought pitched the best – allowed 4 runs over 6 innings, it was clear to me that – barring that first game disaster – having a top class bullpen was the edge we needed to win over the Yankees.

Not that the Yankees’ bullpen is shabby by any means, on the contrary they have a solid bullpen with a star closer in Mariano Rivera and set up men Farnsworth and Myers. But the recurring theme over the offseason with the A’s was depth, depth, depth. We saw how critical a solid bench and strong bullpen is to a team riddled with injuries to key players in an almost-made-it 2005. One of the areas the A’s strengthened considerably was their bullpen, adding former starters such as Kirk Saarlos and Joe Kennedy who can easily pitch multiple innings or fill in for an injured starter should they go down. All-Star Justin Duchscherer, Jay Witasick, and Kiko Calero all serve as strong right handed setup men, with The Duke a capable substitute for Huston Street as closer if Street ever ended up on the DL. The luxury of having such a versatile and deep bullpen is that when your starters stumble out of the gate, the bullpen can quickly come in to save the day.

Today John Donovan at via Yahoo! Sports had an article entitled “The Almighty Bullpen” and how choosing an effective bullpen can mean the difference:

In these first few weeks of the season, bullpens play a huge role. Since most
starters aren't yet ready to go more than six or seven innings, the teams with
strong bullpens have a real edge right now. (Of the 23 games played through
Tuesday, only 13 of the 46 starters went longer than six innings, and nobody
threw a complete game.)

For many teams, though, building a decent
bullpen seems to be little more than an afterthought. Lineups are taken care of
long before the relief is. Rotations are molded while the bullpen gets the
castoffs. Money is spent everywhere but for the pen -- closers being the notable
And if a team doesn't have its bullpen ready early -- if a team,
heaven forbid, doesn't have a reliable closer, a situation that at least a
half-dozen teams find themselves in right now -- it's often a weeks-long or
months-long process trying to get things straightened out. Sometimes it's longer
than that.
All the while, starters are forced to go further into games.
Innings pile up. Relievers are thrown into different, sometimes unaccustomed
roles. The bullpen gets overworked, leads disappear, games are lost. Tensions
mount. It can get ugly.
With the A’s beginning the season with a strong bullpen with well defined roles, they have an advantage over teams relying on starters still trying to get their groove from Spring Training whose bullpens lack depth and talent.

In his article, Mr. Donovan describes 10 bullpens that work:

Yankees - We'll still have to see whether Kyle Farnsworth can set up
games in New York. But Tanyon Sturtze has been
there, and former Red Sox reliever Mike Myers knows the drill.
Plus, no one's better than closer Mariano Rivera.

A's - Closer Huston
, last year's American League Rookie of the Year, is aided by a deep
pen that includes All-Star Justin Duchscherer, Kiko Calero and spot
starters Joe Kennedy and Kirk Saarloos.

Dodgers - If Eric Gagne is healthy, he can rack up a lot of saves this
year. Yhency Brazoban,
Gagne's main setup man, gets help from former Tampa Bay closer Danys Baez and former Rays
All-Star Lance

Padres - Towers paid big money this winter to keep Hoffman as his closer.
Otsuka is gone (to the Rangers), but the Padres still have Linebrink and World
Baseball Classic closer Chan
Ho Park
(who earned three saves for Korea in the tournament).

Astros - Closer Brad
lost it toward the end of 2005, but he's still among the best, and his
primary setup men -- Dan
, Mike Gallo
and Chad Qualls --

Angels - Their pen won the '02 World Series for them. Now, it's Francisco Rodriguez (45
saves in '05) with help from Hector Carrasco and the
Angels' usual suspects, Scot
and Brendan

Twins - Closer Joe
is set up by Juan
and Jesse
(75 games each last season) and now gets an aid from live-armed lefty Francisco

Nationals - There's no telling whether Chad Cordero can do what he
did last year (47 saves), but he'll retain the aid of Gary Majewski (79 games,
2.93 ERA) and Joey
(57, 3.22 ERA).

Cardinals - Tony La Russa loves his bullpen more than anyone, but he has a
new one to work with this year. We'll see what La Russa does with Braden Looper and Ricardo Rincon. Jason Isringhausen (39
saves) returns, though.

Cubs - Ryan
(33 saves) is their man now. And with imports Scott Eyre (86 games with
the Giants) and Bobby Howry (79 with the Indians), this will be one tough
late-game team.

With a deep bench and bullpen, the A’s have the potential to go all the way.

They've earned their paychecks

Well, we're now 2 (I'm in denial about the first game) games into the season, and the A's have done very well. After a great 2nd (OK, not that much denial, I'd rather not just talk about it) game first few innings, Harden got rattled a bit and let a few runs go by. Undaunted, the A's rallied back and tied the game to the bottom of the ninth, where Scutaro seemed to do a trademark "where in the world did he pull that maneuver from" fly to deep left which allowed the winning run home. What a game, and all the A's played very well.

As for game 3, after giving up 4 runs early in the game, they rallied back, and with Bradley seemingly dominating the night, tied it up in the 6th. After a round of pitching, the bottom of the 8th inning rolled up. Queue my favorite fantasy baseball pick, Milton Bradley, who proceeds to belt a triple and barely beat the throw at 3rd. Add Scutaro, who was facing an at bat with the bases loaded, again, pulls one out of nowhere and singles in another home. Then, Thomas, just misses by a mere foot the big yellow HR line in the stadium, and clears the bases, as he trotted to 2nd base(yes, trotted). From the evidence of the last 2 games, the team for the most part seems to be firing properly, and running well. Thomas was rather frustrated with his lackluster performance in his first at bats, and was visibly upset in the dugout after striking out twice. The grin on his face was visible from space after driving in those 3 runs, once again, making sure he earns that paycheck.

My top 3 players for the night are Bradley, Scutaro, and Thomas, Bradley for being purely solid, with some great defense and awe inspiring offense. Scutaro, with some impressive hitting, and one snag and throw in the 9th that was unreal, I've never seen a throw made in mid air facing the wrong way from nearly 3rd base nail a runner so close to first before. And Thomas, for simply being who he is, the big hurt, belting that ball the way he does. My not so hot pick for the night: Chavez. I didn't see particularly impressive play from him, and once again, he's doing that trademark Chavez pop out we all know about.

Comments: just 3, 1: We're doing well, I'm seeing a well organized, good group of guys out there. I'm happy so far. 2: Chavez, you're not a slugger, stop trying to be one, hit the ball like you're supposed to, not like you want to be. 3: Frank, for the love of all that is holy, please please please, SLOW DOWN. Every time I see you run I scream at the TV: take it easy, slow down big fella, it's ok, this isn't the iron man. Keep those ankles pure, my welders broken.

That's my wrap on the current A's games, Here's to a strong season, after a decent start.