Monday, October 30, 2006

Grading the pitchers - Part I

Now that we've finished grading the hitters it's time to get on to the pitchers. The A's overall had a pretty good pitching staff, although it was a bit disappointing to see Blanton drop off so much from his stellar rookie year and Loaiza was a complete bust except for a brief flash of brilliance in August. The bullpen was rock steady anchored by the combination of Calero, Duchscherer, and Street at the end. Gaudin wins the sleeper performance of the year for coming out of nowhere, Witasick drops off the planet (who is Witasick? oh yeah, he's still with the A's, don't remember seeing him too much), and Zito had a pretty solid year for technically his last year in Oakland.

Dan Haren - SP - 223 IP / 4.12 ERA / 31 HR / 45 BB / 176 K / 1.21 WHIP
0.258 AVG / 7.10 K/9
Dan Haren pretty much ended up the year the same as last, albeit for a higher ERA. His WHIP, AVG, K/9, IP, even his win-loss record were eerily similar to 2005. Dan Haren so far has proven to be durable with his second +200 IP season. He strikes out batters on a higher than average rate, but gives up quite a few HR in the process as well. He doesn't allow too many baserunners with that WHIP and keeps hitters down to a 0.258 AVG. Haren is a solid starter and a vaulable addition to the A's staff. If he can improve with experience and find a way to keep balls from leaving the park, he could be a future ace.

Overall Grade: B+

Post-season notes: Haren pitched 2 games for an ERA of 4.09, the best out of the 5 starters.

Where he will be in 2007: The A's wisely locked Haren up under a long-term contract, he will be back.

Barry Zito - SP - 221 IP / 3.83 ERA / 27 HR / 99 BB / 151 K / 1.40 WHIP
0.257 AVG / 6.15 K/9
Zito's greatest quality is not his devastating curveball, his changeup, or any other pitch in his arsenal. His greatest quality is durability. Zito has yet to miss a start and has pitched +200 innings 6 years in a row. When Billy Beane shocked the baseball world by trading not just 1, but 2 of his vaunted Big Three pitchers, it was noted at the time that Zito was the only one of the three who had never been placed on the DL or missed a start, despite coming off his worst season in 2004.
While I like Zito and admire his durability, he has not been my favorite pitcher. Make no mistake, he is good, but he has also shown a frustrating streak of inconsistency, and this year was no different:
April - 5.93 ERA / 1.24 WHIP
May - 1.32 ERA / 1.24 WHIP
June - 3.95 ERA / 1.44 WHIP
July - 4.02 ERA / 1.39 WHIP
August - 3.40 ERA / 1.39 WHIP
September - 5.40 ERA / 1.74 WHIP

Looking at the game by game breakdowns it is even more pronounced. Zito can go out and give you 8-9 shutout innings, striking out 7-8 batters in barely 100 pitches. Or he can barely get through 6 innings with 120 pitches, 4-5 earned runs, and a boatload of walks. Sometimes he'll manage to string several solid performances together - other times it'll be a string of duds. But regardless, over a 162-game season, his better performances outweigh the bad.

Zito has always walked a lot of batters, but this year he walked a career high of 99. Like Haren, he too has given up a fair number of HR. Zito also completely fell apart at the end of the season, putting together a string of forgettable performances at the end of the season, but his saddest outing could also have been his last - a complete disaster in the ALCS against Detroit.Overall Grade: B+ (he'd get an A if he didn't falter at the end and showed a little more consistency)

Post-Season notes: Was stellar against Santana and the Twins, complete disaster against Detroit.

Where he will be in 2007: Headed for a high market (or pocket) team, the A's simply can not afford what he will fetch on the free agent market. Personally I think the NY Mets will grab him up, but other likely destinations include the Yankees, Dodgers, San Diego, possibly even Boston.

Overall Grade: B+ (he'd get an A if he didn't falter at the end and showed a little more consistency)

Post-Season notes: Was stellar against Santana and the Twins, complete disaster against Detroit.

Where he will be in 2007: Headed for a high market (or pocket) team, the A's simply can not afford what he will fetch on the free agent market. Personally I think the NY Mets will grab him up, but other likely destinations include the Yankees, Dodgers, San Diego, possibly even Boston.

Joe Blanton - SP - 194.1 IP / 4.82 ERA / 17 HR / 58 BB / 107 K / 1.54 WHIp
0.309 AVG / 4.96 K/9
Joe Blanton was a serious rookie of the year candidate when he posted a 3.53 ERA in his first full season in 2005 in 201.1 IP. He fell off considerably in 2006, watching his ERA explode along with an ungodly 1.54 WHIP. That's a lot of runners on base.

Where did all those extra runs and bloated ERA come from? Hits. In 2005 Blanton gave up 178 hits in 201.1 IP for an opponents batting AVG of only 0.236 and a WHIP of 1.22. This year Blanton gave up 241 hits in even fewer innings (194.1), allowing an opponents batting AVG of 0.309. Other than this obvious discrepancy, most of Blanton's other numbers look pretty close to what he did in 2005:
2005 - 23 HR / 67 BB / 116 K / 1.73 K/BB / 5.19 K/9
2006 - 17 HR / 58 BB / 107 K / 1.84 K/BB / 4.96 K/9
He managed to cut back some on his HR and BB totals and kept his K/9 pretty close.

Blanton is a young pitcher with plenty of talent who at times blew the game wide open. While I certainly didn't expect for Blanton to repeat his incredible performance from 2005, I also did not expect him to falter as much as he did. That being said, Blanton is definitely better than his 2006 performance indicated, although I think it would be stretching it to expect another 2005 out of him. I figure if he can cut back on the number of hits allowed and turn some those hits into strikeouts or simply outs while maintaining all his other numbers then he should be a solid performer in 2007. I am looking for a slightly +4.00 ERA / +/-1.30 WHIP / double digit win season for Blanton in 2007. Hope I'm right.

Overall Grade: C

Post-Season notes: Blanton's poor performance, particularly at the end of the season, doomed him to relief status in the playoffs where he pitched a measly 2 innings in relief.

Where he will be in 2007: With the A's starting rotation.

Esteban Loaiza - SP - 154.2 IP / 4.89 ERA / 17 HR / 40 BB / 97 K / 1.42 WHIP
0.288 AVG / 5.64 K/9
The Esteban Loaiza free-agent signing by Beane raised a lot of eyebrows and for good reason. The A's are not known for big free agent signings and Loaiza was getting a nice $7 million dollar a year contract for 3 years. While he had just completed a solid season with the Nationals and had won 21 games with a 2.90 ERA with the White Sox in 2003, the rest of his career was an up and down nightmare. Signed as a solid "innings-eater" who was supposedly durable and had a nice career BB/K ratio, Loaiza seemed fine in Spring Training only to fall flat on his face to an alarmed and quickly angered fan base.

Tossing your fastball in the low 80's when you normally hit the low-mid 90's enroute to an ERA of 8.35 with ZERO wins in April does not endear you to the fans as a new player. No one forgot his dismal performance either, even when he pitched an outstanding August amidst a bunch of sub-standard or downright terrible months:
April: 8.35 ERA
June: 4.91 ERA
July: 7.26 ERA
Aug: 1.48 ERA
Sept: 5.11 ERA

Take out that August, which was CLEARLY an anomaly, and you have a 2006 ERA above 6.00.

Loaiza's entire career is a bunch of sub-par performances with the occasional diamond in the rough - he has had only 2 full seasons with an ERA under 4.00 and his career WHIP is 1.42. I don't know what kind of numbers the A's were looking at when they decided to sign Loaiza, because everything I saw said this was a disaster in the making.

Overall Grade: F

Post-Season Notes: Loaiza showed that his April and July numbers were the norm with a 7.36 ERA and 3 HR given up in 11 IP.

Where he will be in 2007: Thanks to his awful A's debut, nobody will be interested in entertaining a trade for Loaiza, he is under a nice expensive contract for 2 more seasons with the A's so we are stuck with him. He'll be back, much to the detriment of A's fans everywhere.

Rich Harden - SP - 46.2 IP / 4.24 ERA / 5 HR / 26 BB / 49 K / 1.22 WHIP
0.191 AVG / 9.45 K/9
Harden seems intent on doing his best Kerry Wood/Mark Prior impression with his second DL-shortened season in a row. He spent most of the year on the DL, but when pitching was mostly lights-out. When pitching he struck out more than a batter per inning and kept opponents batting AVG below 0.200 for the first time in his career. Harden, more than anyone else on the A's staff, has the potential to be an elite starting pitcher with ACE written all over them. Unfortunately 2 injury-ridden seasons have brought his long-term durability and pitching role into question.

If Harden can stay conditioned during the off-season and manage to stay healthy for at least 150+ IP, he could easily be one of the best, if not THE best, starting pitchers in the league.

Overall Grade: D+ (I had to give him credit for outstanding pitching when he was healthy, short time that it was)

Post-Season Notes: Harden pitched 1 rocky post-season game for an ERA of 4.76 in 5.2 IP.

Where he will be in 2007: Back in the A's starting rotation, hopefully for a nice, healthy season.

To be continued....bullpen next.

Background on Bob Geren

Finally someone in the blogosphere has some useful information on Bob Geren, current bench coach for the A's and one of the internal candidates being considered for the manager's job:

A fellow San Diego native, Geren had been drafted by the Padres in 1979. A year later, though, Geren had been packaged with Rollie Fingers, Terry Kennedy, Gene Tenace to the Cardinals for a few players, including Nick Swisher’s father, Steve.

Like Beane, Geren had been snatched in the first round in 1979, a year before Beane was drafted. Geren is 45, and Beane is 44.

Like Beane, as a player, Geren’s statistics were far from impressive, and besides talent, both underachieved. A catcher most of his career with the Yankees and Padres, Geren batted .233 with 22 homeruns spanning five seasons (307 games). At 31, his career was over, though.

Beane and Geren’s career shouted a constant. Both were expected to excel in the majors, but both fell short. They can empathize with each other, and that's probably why they connect so well.

After joining the A’s organization in 1999, Geren managed the Modesto A’s, their Single-A affiliate, where he captured the California League Manager of the Year honors. For the next three seasons, he steered the Sacramento Rivercats to consecutive Pacific Coast playoff appearances, before becoming the A’s bullpen coach.


Based on this research, Professor has come up with this finding:

Beane wants Geren, and the pupils just the read reasons.

If Beane crowns Geren the next skipper, we will witness Mr. Moneyball's on-the-field shadow as never before.

Hat tip to Athletics Nation.

Mychael Urban on the next manager in Oakland and the future of Frank Thomas his weekly mailbag feature:

On the next manager:
I can't answer that question with even an ounce of certainty, so I won't. General manager Billy Beane generally doesn't tip his hand during negotiations, and that's what a managerial search is -- one huge negotiation. Last time I spoke to him regarding candidates, it was like he flipped into this heretofore unheard Robo-GM mode: "We'll take our time ... due diligence ... respect the process ... Erubiel Durazo ... OK, where was I?"

And that's his right. If anything, Beane's relative silence on the matter probably means that he doesn't have a front-runner at this point.

He too is partial to Ron Washington but notes that Beane often doesn't take the popular consensus into account when making decisions.

On the supposed $15 million deal to keep Thomas in Oakland for 2 years:
I have nothing to add but this: If that's really the deal, Thomas should take it and run. Not run hard, but take it and run. It's a good deal, and Oakland is a good place for Thomas right now.

He's also high on Blanton, as am I (I'll be commenting on Blanton in my pitchers' grades, which is currently in process).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Add Rangers bench coach and Trey Hillman to the candidate list

Trey Hillman, manager for the Japanese baseball team Nippon Ham Fighters, is now reported to also be interviewing for the A's manager position:

Hillman confirmed in an e-mail on Sunday morning that he will interview with Texas and also with Oakland and San Diego for their managerial openings.

The A's are also seeking permission to interview the Rangers bench coach, Don Wakamatsu.

Internal candidates Washington and Geren are scheduled to be interviewed this week.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A’s grades part III…

Continuing along with our grades for the A’s hitters. Previous posts on A’s grades can be seen here and here.

Dan Johnson – 1B/Hatteberg clone – BA 0.234 / OBP 0.323 / SLG 0.381 / OPS 0.704
9 HR / 13 2B / 1 3B / 37 RBI / 40 BB / 45 K
There’s no question that Hatteberg Jr. had a rough year. After struggling earlier in the season, the A’s brass decided he needed to be sent down to AAA to regain his stroke, despite the fact that in June he hit 0.321 / 0.406 / 0.543 in 81 AB with 4 HR. Let’s also not forget that both Ellis and particularly Crosby were also struggling at the same time with equal or even worse numbers, yet it was poor DJ who got sent down. I guess infield defense counts for a lot more than 1B.

I was one of those few who supported DJ before he got sent down, pointing out that while he struggled mightily in April and barely hit at all in May, he was having quality at bats. Dan Johnson has a good eye and is patient at the plate. He rarely strikes out and the way he works pitch counts would make Hatty proud. And let’s not forget that DJ walks more than most. From April-June, Dan Johnson had an equal number of walks vs strikeouts (31 to 31) and ended the season with 40 BB vs 45 K. In his 2 short years in the majors, he has a 90 to 97 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

Dan Johnson was sent down to AAA where he literally destroyed AAA pitching. Later in the season he was brought back where he struggled again, albeit better than in April and May. Not able to count on regular starts probably contributed to his difficulties. While I was disappointed in his overall numbers, he continued to show patience in his approach.

Overall Grade: C-

Playoff Notes: Official bench warmer.

Where he will be in 2007: He’s young, he’s cheap, and has patient at bats. He only has 2 short years in the majors and should be able to improve on this years numbers. The A’s would be stupid to let him go, but should definitely work on his development and give him a chance to start regularly at 1B again.

Bobby Kielty – OF – BA 0.270 / OBP 0.329 / SLG 0.441 / OPS 0.770
8 HR / 20 2B / 13B / 36 RBI / 22 BB / 49 K
Kielty once again played the dutiful role of backing up the OF and the occasional insertion against LHP (left handed pitchers). Kielty managed to contribute most of the time he was in the line up with pretty consistent numbers throughout the months, although he had a poor Sept. His best months were June and August and this marks the third straight year of improvement from Mr. Kielty:
2004 – 0.214 / 0.321 / 0.370 / 0.691
2005 – 0.263 / 0.350 / 0.395 / 0.745
2006 – 0.270 / 0.329 / 0.441 / 0.770
Kielty is known for his patience and racking up a fair share of walks, but the rise in strikeouts this year is cause for some concern.

With Kotsay’s back acting up it created the perfect opportunity to bring Kielty into the game more often, but thanks to Kotsay’s incessant whining and complaining about being in a platoon, Kielty didn’t see as much playing time as he should have. In fact, I was very disappointed hearing Kotsay’s complaint about “platooning” and playing time, particularly when Kielty was hitting better than Kotsay and is the far superior option against lefties:
Kotsay vs LHP: 0.265 / 0.293 / 0.410
Kielty vs LHP: 0.325 / 0.358 / 0.607

This is an easy decision for any manager, particularly one dealing with a light-hitting CF with a bad back. Sorry Kotsay, but I would have sat you every time we faced a LHP, putting Payton or Bradley in CF so Kielty could be in the lineup. The fact that Kotsay failed to understand this and whine about playing time is pretty disappointing.

Overall Grade: B

Post-season notes: Kielty only had 2 at bats in the playoffs, despite the A’s facing a multitude of LHP. Macha claims he bent to pressure from Kotsay to make him happy by playing him instead of Kielty and that this is one of the reasons he was fired – for making such a bone-headed decision in the midst of the playoffs I would have been tempted to fire you too.

Where he will be in 2007: Barring an unreasonable salary raise in arbitration or being involved in one of Beane’s infamous off-season trades, Kielty should be back for 2007, again in a limited role, although I think he deserves far more playing time than he has received in the past. Put him in there against every left handed pitcher and the occasional righty as well just to mix things up and give aching Kotsay and perhaps Bradley a spell. It’s also possible that if Payton is let go that Kielty could get a shot as an everyday player, but that’s doubtful.

Mark Kotsay – CF/future Bengay spokesman – BA 0.275 / OBP 0.332 / SLG 0.386 / OPS 0.718
7 HR / 29 2B / 3 3B / 59 RBI / 44 BB / 55 K
Despite an aching back Kotsay still managed to snag more than 500 AB for the third year in a row. Once again he exhibited stellar defense and is easily one of the best defensive CF in the game. Unfortunately 2006 also marked his worst offensive year since 1999 where he sported an OPS of 0.708 and easily his worst year with the A’s so far. He failed to reach double digits in HR and failed to SLG 0.400 or better for the third time in his career. It also marked the third straight decline in his overall offensive numbers, where he started off with a bang in 2004 only to put in a mediocre 2005 and a pretty weak 2006. We now have an expensive, light-hitting, but strong defensive CF under contract with a bad back who can be expected to miss regular time season after season. A big Kotsay fan when he first came over from San Diego, I was disappointed when I read that he was whining about playing time and sharing at bats with Kielty.

Overall Grade: C- (only reason it isn’t a D is because of his defense)

Post-season notes: Kostay was again a light-hitter, but was the talk of the town briefly for his inside the park HR vs The Twins that had him racing for home with his shirt coming out of his pants.

Where he will be in 2007: Not too many teams looking for a weak-hitting CF with a bad back locked up for big money. Kotsay will be back in 2007 but better start learning to share field time with his teammates.

Marco Scutaro – SS/2B/Mr. Clutch – BA 0.266 / OBP 0.350 / SLG 0.397 / OPS 0.747
5 HR / 21 2B / 6 3B / 41 RBI / 50 BB / 66 K
What’s not to like about Scutaro? The timely game-ending hits, the chants of “Marco………Scutaro” in the coliseum, and the ability of this likeable sparkplug to capably play any infield position available combine to make him a fan-favorite player. Injuries to Crosby and Ellis be damned! We have Scutaro to right the ship!

Scutaro has played in an incredible number of games during his 3-year stint with the A’s thanks to the multiple injuries of Crosby and Ellis. While his range his limited, he has nonetheless dazzled with his defense. Although a light-hitter, he has managed to improve on his overall numbers year after year:
2004 – 0.273 / 0.297 / 0.393 / 0.690 – 16 BB / 58 K
2005 – 0.247 / 0.310 / 0.391 / 0.701 – 36 BB / 48 K
2006 – 0.266 / 0.350 / 0.397 / 0.747 – 50 BB / 66 K
In each of his season with the A’s he has managed to dramatically increase his walk totals without sacrificing any power. He also has a penchant for the dramatic game-ending hit, which has made him a fan and media favorite in Oakland. Although he had a horrible May and a mediocre June, he steadily improved on his numbers from July through September, hitting all 5 of his HR during this 3 month period and 4 of his 6 triples. His outstanding performance on the field in place of Crosby and his far superior numbers at the plate turned Crosby into a “non-entity” to borrow a phrase from Macha. Crosby who? Oh yeah, he used to play SS for the A’s – is he still on the team?

Overall Grade: B

Post-season notes: Scutaro was the hero during the ALDS but watched his numbers collapse with a lackluster performance during the ALCS

Where he will be in 2007: Scutaro would probably be an everyday player on another team and is invaluable as a back up for the A’s. While he is due for a substantial raise, expect him back in yet another back up role awaiting the inevitable injury to Crosby where he will shine again in Crosby’s place.

Antonio Perez – Who? – BA 0.102 / OBP 0.185 / SLG 0.204
Other numbers: who the heck cares.
Perez suffered from a lack of playing time, which, when it did come, was intermittent. Coming in for the occasional pinch hit or rare game it’s difficult to get into your groove or build up any kind of consistency. With a lack of regular at bats, Perez floundered, and even when given several games in a row failed to do anything noteworthy. Still, he’s a young player and has yet to play a full year in the big league. There’s a chance for him yet.

Overall Grade: F

Post-Season notes: Huh?

Where he will be in 2007: This is the second bust in a row for Beane, who traded for Keith Ginter in 2005 to back up Chavez with similarly disastrous results. Ginter got sent down to AAA early in 2005 and spent all of 2006 there with lackluster numbers. Surprising that Perez didn’t get sent down, but with Chavez playing injured I guess they wanted Perez around just-in-case. With his dismal numbers look for Perez to be sent down or released. Beane will have to look yet again for a suitable back up for Chavez.

Adam Melhuse – backup C/benchwarmer – BA 0.219 / OBP 0.273 / SLG 0.375 / OPS 0.648
4 HR / 8 2B / 18 RBI / 9 BB / 34 K
Poor Melhuse never had a chance with iron-man Kendall pushing to start every single game he could bully Macha into giving to him. Of course it doesn’t help when you don’t have a good relationship with your manager and even worse when you don’t perform too well the few chances you were given. Still, he was a capable back up who has served the A’s well over the years, but with Kendall onboard for 1 more season with the A’s and Beane pushing to get Money-baller Jeremy Brown into the lineup, look for Melhuse to head elsewhere.

Overall Grade: D (probably would have been better with some regular playing time here and there)

Post-Season: Never mind.

Where he will be in 2007: Gone to greener pastures, I hope. Someone should pick him up. Jeremy Brown will be the back up catcher for 2007, count on it.

Jason Kendall – C/iron-man – BA 0.295 / OBP 0.367 / SLG 0.342 / OPS 0.709
1 HR / 23 2B / 50 RBI / 53 BB / 54 K
Kendall finally had the season everyone was expecting him to have when he first came to Oakland and managed to hit his first HR in almost 2 years. Kendall served the leadoff position well, hitting for high average, rarely striking out, and finding a way to get on base any way possible with plenty of HBP (hit by pitcher) and walks. Yet another slow starter, he picked things up in May and batted 0.300 or better the last 2 months of the season. He also showed surprising durability and speed for a catcher (11 SB, a lot for an A’s player) playing in 143 games. A team leader and old-fashioned gritty player.

Overall Grade: B+ (would have liked to have seen a few more walks)

Post-Season: Kendall had a very mediocre post-season, batting 0.258 with only 2 BB.

Where he will be in 2007: His price tag alone makes him virtually untouchable, he will be back in Oakland for a final year in 2007, with Jeremy Brown as back up and Kurt Suzuki waiting in the wings.

Next: Pitcher grades

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Frank Thomas: A's "cautiously optimistic"

Via USAToday:

A's general manager Billy Beane spoke to Thomas' agent, Arn Tellem, on Thursday and Tellem said he believes the sides are making strides and that he expected to soon talk again with Beane.

"We continue to talk," Beane said Thursday. "I am cautiously optimistic that both sides have a desire to get something done. We're certainly not there yet, but we've got time. I remain positive."

Hopefully they can get something done, I would hate for Thomas to go somewhere else. Of course, I don't want to give up the farm for him either, if his asking price is too high then let him go - let's not get too excited and forget he will be 39 next year and is one base slide away from injury.

Colorado bench coach Jamie Quirk to interview for manager position

Looks like there is another candidate in the mix for A's manager:

Quirk, 52, spent 18 seasons as a utility player in the big leagues, including three-plus seasons with Oakland, where he was briefly a teammate of Beane's in 1989. Quirk has been the Rockies' bench coach since October 2002; before that, he was a coach with the Royals for eight years and with the Rangers for one season.

The A's already have scheduled interviews with Angels pitching coach Bud Black, who will talk to the front office early next week, as well as A's bench coach Bob Geren, A's third-base coach Ron Washington and ESPN analyst Orel Hershiser, the former Rangers' pitching coach.

According to the Denver Post, Quirk has a positive attitude and is liked by the players:

Among Rockies' players, Quirk is known for his upbeat personality, those traits can't be overlooked given that Ken Macha was dismissed in Oakland because of a "disconnect" with players, as Beane put it.

Macha was fired just two days after the Detroit Tigers swept the A's in the American League Championship series.

"First of all Jamie is ready for this. I have been around a lot of guys, and he's one of my favorite coaches," said former Rockies third baseman Vinny Castilla, now a special assistant for the team. "He's easy-going, has a good attitude and knows the game."

They also interviewed Quirk who proclaimed himself a player's manager:

I would just try to be myself. I don't want to be the kind of manager - and I'm saying this, but I never managed, so who knows if you'd do it or not when the bottom line came - but I would want to be a player's manager. That's a guy who communicates and talks and can listen and chew up a behind when he needs to. To me, that's a player's manager. A player's manager is someone who a player would actually feel comfortable talking to.

That's great for the players but harder to accomplish when the GM is pulling all the strings and the players know it. It'll be interesting to see what happens if Quirk gets the job.

Hershiser apparently is eager to get a crack at the job:

"I've been in the game a long time and there's very few, if any, relationships between GMs and managers that don't have an edge to them," Hershiser said. "You have very competitive people who have risen to the top of their profession and have opinions that might differ. That usually makes things better.

"You want to be able to say we can debate this, fight like brothers inside, then lock arms outside like a solidified army. That doesn't bother me at all. That almost makes me excited."


"I'm very interested in sharing more discussions, and sitting down face to face," Hershiser said. "It will be fun to go through. ...

"It's just an outstanding organization. They've accomplished so much with so little. Now the budget has gone up a little. It's a great young, talented team. It looks like it has a bright future."

From what little information is out there on these guys, here's my take on each of them:

1. Ron Washington - well liked by players and fans alike, he knows baseball and is due for a chance at a manager's position. Claims he knows what is expected of Beane and can handle him.

2. Bob Geren - was bench coach under Macha and is well known as one of Beane's best friends. However, other than being close to Beane he doesn't seem to have any overwhelming pos/neg attributes. Considered a good bet for the next manager.

3. Bud Black - currently the Angels pitching coach. The Angels have a talented pitching staff, but it takes a good coach to keep them competitive and developing. The A's have a number of young developing pitchers, so taking this route might be seen as a positive for our pitching. Would also be a blow to the Angels to lose Black, but the impact of his loss is unknown.

4. Orel Hershiser - previously the Rangers' pitching coach. Not something that looks too good on the resume considering Texas' overall poor pitching but a good portion of that can be blamed on the Rangers' hit friendly ballpark. Again this could be seen as an avenue for developing our young pitchers.

5. Jamie Quirk - currently the bench coach for Colorado. Considers himself a players' manager, whatever that could mean, and apparently is well liked by the players in Colorado. Supposedly has a positive, upbeat attitude, which would be a welcome change from the almost boring Macha.

As I said before, count me in for Ron Washington, joining the popular consensus. He has been working with Beane for years and if he doesn't know how to deal with Beane and understand how things work under Beane by now then he will never know. While he is the clear favorite for fans and players alike, his experience in Oakland - and with Billy Beane - should be taken into consideration. Who would you rather work with you? An experienced guy you have known for years who is popular amongst the staff or an unknown outsider?

The only thing Geren seems to have going for him is being Beane's close friend. That could turn out to haunt him: close friends in a boss-employee relationship don't often remain close friends. Furthermore, his hiring could give the impression to the players that he was only hired because of his friendship with Beane. We'd have the same problem, players who didn't respect their manager. Want to talk about disconnect now?

Black and Hershiser could be brought in as outsiders, reasoning that with so many young pitchers on the team the A's were looking for someone who could really manage the development of the younger players. It also could be a sign that the A's really value pitching and the concentration going forward should be on pitching development. It could also be reasoned that the A's felt they needed to go with a fresh face outside of the organization.

Quirk could also be brought in as an outsider under the same reasoning. But he also could be looked at as someone whom the players might feel comfortable with and at ease talking to. However, he will need to learn to be an organization's manager as opposed to a player's manager and will have to learn to take orders from Beane concerning players, something that the previous two managers both chafed at.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A's grades continued....

Mark Ellis – 2B – BA 0.249 / OBP 0.319 / SLG 0.385
11 HR / 25 2B / 1 3B / 52 RBI / 40 BB / 76 K
At first glance, and especially compared to last season, Mark Ellis’ numbers look like a disappointment. But let’s take a closer look at his pre and post-All Star splits:
Pre-All Star: BA 0.219 / OBP 0.288 / SLG 0.311 – 3 HR
Post-All Star: BA 0.273 / OBP 0.342 / SLG 0.445 – 8 HR
Also notice that his numbers for 2006 were eerily similar to his 2003 season.
Expecting Ellis to repeat or improve on his unbelievable 2005 numbers, in my mind, was simply delusional. I expected him to do well, better than 2003 but not quite as good as 2005, meeting somewhere between those 2 extremes. I believe his post-All Star numbers paint a fairly good picture of what we can expect from Ellis in the future, provided he doesn’t slump early on in the season: a 0.270-280 / 0.330-0.340 / 0.400-0.440 hitter with low double digit HR and a modest number of walks. Combine that with outstanding defense at 2B and you have one heck of a second baseman. He deserves the gold glove for his defensive work but a weak season at the plate has hurt his chances, despite the fact that offense should have nothing to do with it, a sad truth when it comes to name recognition and popularity.

Overall Grade: B- (A+ for defense, nice improvement in offensive numbers in second half kept him from dropping down to the C range)

Post-Season Notes: Ellis broke his finger in ALDS play and had to sit out the remainder of the post-season relegating 2B duties to the far inferior Jimenez.

Where he will be in 2007: Back as the A’s everyday 2B where I hope he will prove me and other realists wrong and have his best year yet with no injuries.

Jay Payton – OF/Jay Pay – BA 0.296 / OBP 0.325 / SLG 0.418
10 HR / 32 2B / 3 3B / 59 RBI / 22 BB / 52 K
A lot of people point to Jay Pay’s weak OBP and low walk totals as proof that he is the archetypical anti-Beane player and can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that the A’s seemed more than willing to pick up Jay Pay’s option for 2006 and that there has been talk of extending him a contract to keep him with the A’s.
Despite Jay Pay’s incredible ability at avoiding walks, too many forget to notice that in addition to avoiding walks Payton also avoids strikeouts. Jay Payton led the A’s in fewest strikeouts (52) for batters with a minimum of 300 at bats. The next batter on the list is Bobby Kielty, who had 3 fewer strikeouts than Payton - with less than half the number of at bats that Payton had (270 compared to 557). Jay Pay is a contact hitter who puts the ball in play, rarely walking, but also rarely striking out. When he is “on” (or lucky as some people might put it) he will hit for high average with some occasional pop. When he is “off” his hits will more likely than not end up in a fielder’s glove or thrown out at first base.
Jay Pay also brings solid, if unspectacular, defense and decent baserunning. He can play all 3 OF positions competently and brings a lot of energy and emotion to the game for a veteran.
While Payton displayed some good gap power with 32 doubles, his HR total suffered from 2005 but was more in line with his career numbers. While Payton, along with too many others, also stumbled in April he is one of the few players to show strong consistency month after month with fewer peaks and valleys.

Overall Grade: B+

Post-Season Notes: Payton carried that consistency into the post-season, batting 0.308 with 2 doubles and a HR.

Where he will be in 2007: I like Payton, but with Kotsay locked up under contract, a superior Bradley likely to stick around, and Kielty as a more than adequate back up look for Payton to end up somewhere else. Although if I were Beane I would take a good hard look at trading Kotsay and keeping Payton. Payton isn’t quite as good in CF but his offense is better than Kotsay’s and he doesn’t have a gimpy back.
Ok, I just realized the mountain of hate I brought onto myself from Kotsay fans with that last comment. Bring it on!

Bobby Crosby – SS/perennial DL favorite – BA 0.229 / OBP 0.298 / SLG 0.338
HR 9 / 12 2B / 36 BB / 76 K
I just don’t get what everyone sees in Crosby. The A’s front office and numerous baseball writers and experts continue to praise Crosby’s talent and make excuses for his continuing failures, telling us to hold out because “any day now” Crosby is going to put everything together and all that talent he supposedly has is going to bust out and make us all believers. Crosby has now been in the show for 3 seasons – he isn’t a rookie anymore- and has yet to display any proof that he has learned to make adjustments or put anything together except for the amazing ability to find new ways of ending up on the DL. He has never had a fully healthy season, has an aggressive, violent swing that is prone to cause injury, has a knack for injuring those around him, and has yet to make any useful adjustments at the major league level. Here is a scouting report from yours truly to every other team in the AL: to get Crosby out just throw outside sliders or changeups for every bat. He’ll swing at almost every pitch and either strikeout or ground out weakly, sometimes into a double play. Don’t worry about those freak hits that manage to get through, he’ll end up injuring his back, or finger, or hamstring running around the bases and if you are lucky will end up injuring another of his fellow players in the process.
Watching Crosby swing dumbly at every outside or off speed pitch this season while nearly coming out of his shoes with his violent swing was just embarrassing and made me want to cover up my Crosby shirt in shame. Sure, he has great range on the infield when he isn’t crashing into something and has flashed some impressive leather from time to time, but even this is not enough to improve his overall image. His lack of playing time at such a young age is very troubling and his stubbornness (or stupidity) in refusing to alter his swing or learn from his mistakes is inexcusable. Unfortunately he is under contract for some time, so unless Beane has a miracle trade (who would want this guy?) we are stuck with him for the time being.
For all you Crosby fans out there – “…any day now, you just wait, he’s a future star…” – I’ll concede he MIGHT have some potential when he is able to play a full season without injury, jack 25-30 HR and strike out less than 100 times.

Overall Grade: F

Post-Season Notes: What post-season? Crosby’s numbers were so bad and had spent so much time on the DL that I think the average fan forgot he was even on the team.

Where he will be in 2007: Unfortunately he will be back at SS for the A’s just long enough to stink up the joint until he can find a way to injure himself so Scutaro can capably take over.

To be continued....

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Grading the Team

Grading the Team

I know it's long in coming, but here are my grades for the 2006 Oakland Athletics. The basis of my analysis is the regular 2006 season. I will add a small blurb about their post-season performance (or lack thereof) and also give my thoughts on where they will be headed in 2007. Without further ado:


Frank Thomas – DH – BA 0.270 / OBP 0.381 / SLG 0.545 / OPS 0.926
39 HR / 11 2B / 114 RBI / 81 BB / 81 K
How The Big Hurt failed to make comeback player of the year is beyond me. Here is a guy who was turning 38 and had been cut loose from his former team after 2 injury plagued seasons limited him to a handful of games, despite playing for the same team his entire career. The fact that the A's were able to pick him up for a measly $500k + incentives says something about the lack of interest in Thomas from other teams. I clearly remember at the time numerous "experts" expressing skepticism in the deal, although most admitted that a healthy Thomas could provide the A's offense with some much needed pop, but nobody thought he would be healthy enough to do any damage. Even I have to admit that while I was excited about this move I thought we would be lucky to get 300+ at bats out of Thomas with 15 HR or so. Thomas started off slowly but once he got back into the swing of things he was back to his old self again and was a big reason the A's made the playoffs.
Pre-All Star : BA 0.238 / OBP 0.367 / SLG 0.523 / OPS 0.890 / 19 HR
Post-All Star : BA 0.298 / OBP 0.393 / SLG 0.563 / OPS 0.956 / 20 HR

Overall grade : A+

Post-Season Notes: After going 5-for-10 with 2 HR in the ALDS against Minnesota, The Big Hurt went hitless against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.

Where will he be in 2007: My guess is he will be returning as the A's DH with a 2-year contract and club option for 2009.

Nick Swisher – 1B/OF – BA 0.254 / OBP 0.372 / SLG 0.493 / OPS 0.865
35 HR / 24 2B / 2 3B / 95 RBI / 97 BB / 152 K
Nick Swisher improved on his rookie season numbers and started hot out of the gate only to revert to the norm. Actually, in looking at his season numbers, he pretty much did what I projected him to do. Take a look at his career minor league numbers:
BA 0.261 / OBP 0.381 / SLG 0.476 / OPS 0.857 – 222 BB vs 300 K
Swisher, to me, projects as a 0.250-0.260 hitter with some pop who manages to get on base at an above average rate thanks to his walk totals.
As in last year he showed a propensity for striking out but at the same time also improved his walk total from 55 to 97. I don't like strikeouts any more than the next guy but if you can also rack up a fair number of walks it takes away some of the negativity. Swisher was all over the place offensively and can thank an incredible April and strong May for boosting his overall season numbers:
April – 0.313 / 0.404 / 0.738 – 10 HR
May – 0.299 / 0.409 / 0.551 – 6 HR
June – 0.204 / 0.342 / 0.337 – 3 HR
July – 0.188 / 0.310 / 0.306 – 3 HR
Aug – 0.237 / 0.321 / 0.464 – 6 HR
Sep – 0.294 / 0.450 / 0.612 – 7 HR
June and July he was just terrible while in Aug he played close to his career numbers and then he took off again in Sep. One thing I noted though is that his OBP never suffered – at no time did his OBP fall below 0.300, even when batting only 0.188 in July, and in most cases his OBP was about 100 points higher than his BA. If Swisher can cut back on the strikeouts while maintaining his patience and power, he could be a truly fearsome hitter. But he will have to improve his BA with RISP : 0.190. Swisher split time between the OF and 1B and did a fair job defensively at both, although he seemed a better fit at 1B.

Overall grade : B+

Post-Season Notes: Swisher didn't do much, going 4-for-20 with a couple of 2B and no HR. He did manage 7 BB though.

Where will he be in 2007: Splitting time again between 1B and the OF, Swisher may get a long term contract signed during the winter that will lock him in through his arbitration years.

Eric Chavez – 3B/Walking Wounded – BA 0.241 / OBP 0.351 / SLG 0.435 / OPS 0.786
22 HR / 24 2B / 2 3B / 72 RBI / 84 BB / 100 K
This was supposed to be the year that Chavez proved all the skeptics wrong after his hot start in April when he clubbed 9 HR with a 0.301 BA. Unfortunately a multitude of injuries hobbled Chavez throughout the season, severely depleting his offensive abilities and ending up overshadowed by Swisher and Thomas. Luckily his defense was top notch, despite the injuries, and he should be a strong choice for yet another gold glove. However, the injuries and weak offensive numbers troubled a number of impatient fans still waiting for that so-called "breakout season" that will make Chavez's expense worthwhile. Personally I am perfectly content just to have a healthy Chavez with top-notch defense at the corner with 25-30 HR along with a 0.270 BA and a decent OBP. Which is exactly what we have been getting and what I think we can count on getting in the future, except possibly for the healthy part. Is that worth $11 million dollars a year? That's for you to decide, personally I am ok with it hoping that the occasional plus offensive year will get thrown into the mix of normal years for Chavez.
While at times Chavez looked lost at the plate, I really don't think it was nearly as bad a year as some people thought – definitely he could and should do better healthy, but considering he played injured almost the entire season I thought he did quite well. Thanks to higher walk totals (84 compared to 58) his OPS was only 9 points lower than in 2005. Sure, his BA was way off, but OPS is a much better indicator of a player's offensive impact than simply looking at BA. It makes me wonder what the year would have looked like had he been healthy. To get a possible glimpse of what that could have been like, take a look at his April and Sep months:
April – BA 0.301 / OBP 0.392 / SLG 0.687 – 9 HR
Sep - BA 0.243 / OBP 0.352 / SLG 0.568 – 6 HR
While his Sep BA was still low, it was a marked improvement from the previous 3 months. April and Sep accounted for 15 of his 22 HR – he hit only 1 HR in both July and Aug and only 2 in June. Had he remained healthy this could have been his best year yet.

Overall grade : B (he gets a boost for effort)

Post-Season Notes: While he only hit 0.217 with 5 hits, 4 of those hits were for extra bases (2 doubles and 2 HR). However, his defense at times was troubling, very un-Chavez like, and most likely could be attributed to injuries.

Where will he be in 2007: Chavez of course is under contract and the gold glover will be back at 3B. However, look for some 3B relief to join the A's in case Chavez once again is saddled with injury. Even Chavez admitted he probably should have gone on the DL at some point earlier in the season. Barring injury, he should bounce back nicely.

Milton Bradley – OF/Firecracker – BA 0.276 / OBP 0.370 / SLG 0.447 / OPS 0.817
14 HR / 14 2B / 2 3B / 52 RBI / 51 BB / 65 K
Milton Bradley was a great pick up by Beane. Sure, we gave up a good prospect, but as I remarked at the time getting 2 solid major league players (well, 1 and ¼ considering Perez's horrid year) for a minor league prospect was well worth it. Once again this was a risky move by Beane considering Bradley's penchant for getting injured and Perez's relative youth and inexperience. Still, when healthy, Bradley was a real middle-of-the-order threat with excellent defense. Having 5 OF to back up in case of injuries made the risk that much easier to take. Bradley also had a reputation for a fiery temper and for getting into trouble with umpires and teammates, but except for one instance where Macha had to physically restrain him, Bradley behaved comparatively well.
Once again Bradley landed on the DL for part of the season but came back with a bang in July, had a weak Aug, and finished the season strongly in Sep. Bradley showed patience and a good knowledge of the strike zone along with some pop and heck, even stole 10 bases, almost unheard of for an A's player. His fiery emotion was a welcome addition to the clubhouse, in my opinion, something unseen since the days of Miggy.

Overall grade : B+

Post-Season Notes: Milton carried the team in the post-season with a 0.323 BA, 2 doubles, and 3 HR. Alas, it wasn't enough as the rest of the team sucked just enough to get swept by the Tigers.

To be continued…..

Monday, October 23, 2006

"...the door was always open..."

Managers always like to tell people that their "door is always open" when in fact it takes two to tango. Part of management 101 is communication, communication, communication, but just leaving your door open is only part of the process - sometimes you need to "manage by walking", get out of the office and talk to people on their own turf or outside of the standard boundaries of the organization. Some people need to be shown where the door is and how to open it.

Just telling people that your door is always open only means that you are waiting for them to initiate the conversation. While it's a good gesture and meant to imply that your employees should feel comfortable and welcome in approaching their manager with an issue, you aren't going to be an effective manager just going through the motions while sitting in your office, disconnected with what is going on around you. In each case quoted in this article - Kielty, Payton, Bradley - the players came to him, not the other way around. A manager perceived as aloof or uninterested in what's going on "in the trenches" is a manager that will NOT be approached regularly by employees or seen as the solution to their problems.

Macha mentions that he had 6 coaches and he never heard of any "undercurrent going on" with the players. A good manager would have known without even speaking to his coaches that there was a problem with a player or players. Good managers know because they have the pulse of their employees. Although a good manager will often seek the opinion and insight of other supervisors and management in relation to his employees, he should not have to rely only on them to be alerted of any problems or difficulties.

Again, in the case of Kotsay and his bad back, Macha indicated he had no idea the outfielder was upset at his comments and again put the burden of communication on his players:

If Kotsay was really disturbed by that comment, he could have come in and said so.
A manager in tune with his employees would have sensed a problem earlier on and approached the employee with an invitation to resolve the issue.

It's obvious that Macha and Beane didn't get along and possible that Beane treated Macha poorly while in Oakland. It's also obvious that some of the players did not care for Macha. But to me the real reason he was fired is quite simple: Macha was simply not a good manager. And when I say manager I mean a manager of people, not the game.

Dirty Laundry

Baseball Prospectus has a great rundown of all the quotes running around regarding the A's and Macha airing their dirty laundry for all to see. Click here for all the quotes, some I had heard already, others were new for me. What an ugly divorce......

Bye bye Jimenez

No big deal:

Jimenez was signed by the A's to a minor league contract on June 23 after he was released by Texas and hit .071 (1 for 14) in eight games over three stints with Oakland. He batted .211 with a home run and eight RBI in 20 games with the Rangers for a .183 batting average in 28 games overall. Jimenez also started the A's last five postseason games at second base following the injury to Mark Ellis and was 2 for 16 (.125) in six postseason games.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Pastime's season review

Ryan Armbrust posts his A's season review which is chock full of statistical goodies:

On the A's win/loss total and winning percentage:

Yes, I know the concept of “wasting runs” is ridiculous, but what I mean is
that when the A's scored, they usually just happened to score enough to win.
They had few blowout wins, and played most teams rather closely. No less than
107 of the games that the A's played were decided by 3 runs or less.

Adding to that effect was that the A's, when they did give up runs, gave up
a lot of them. They gave up more than six runs just 34 times this season, but in
those 34 games they gave up an average of 8.88 runs. They gave up 42% of their
runs in only 21% of the games. In the other 128 games they played, the A's only
allowed 3.32 runs per game.

Let's examine games that would be consider blowouts, where runs would be
“wasted”. There were 18 games that the A's lost by 6 runs or more, and 14 that
they won by 6 runs or more. Over those 32 games, Oakland scored 137 runs and
allowed 174. They went 14-18 in those “blowouts”, a reasonable record for having
a run differential of -37, over a run a game.

If, for argument's sake, you removed those games, Oakland's expected
winning percentage (with a new RS-RA of 634-553) would jump from .528 to .560,
much closer to the actual winning percentage of .574.

Of course, that all smacks of cherry-picking the stats, but I think it's
nevertheless interesting to dig into.

On Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez:

In 632 total chances, Mark Ellis only made two errors. That sets the record
for highest fielding percentage by a second baseman at .997, and should win
Ellis a well-deserved Gold Glove.

Eric Chavez developed tendonitis in both forearms, limiting him to his
worst statistical season at the plate since his rookie year, but he had perhaps
the best defensive season of his career. He made just 5 errors, fielded .987,
and turned 43 double plays. He led all third baseman in those categories, and
should be in line for a sixth consecutive Gold Glove.

I would also point out that the hobbled and injured Chavez still managed to post an OBP of 0.351 with a mediocre BA of only 0.241. He worked 84 walks, second highest of his career, and still managed to smack 22 HR with an OPS of 0.786 - only 8 points lower than in 2005, which still left him ranked 4th on the team leaving only Bradley, Swisher, and Thomas with higher OPS than Chavez. Not too shabby for the walking wounded.

On Huston Street

Some would say they were taken by surprise at Huston Street's mediocre
season. Well, mediocre by the expectations they placed on him after his stellar
2005 rookie campaign. They expected a closer who would put up sub-2.00 ERA
seasons with a 9.0+ K/9 rate and 40 saves a year for the next 20 years. Street
was just 22 years old this season. He had a decent year, 3.31 ERA and 37 saves.
Yes, he blew a few too many save opportunities, but he pitched extremely well
for a kid in his second full year in the majors. After all, he was pitching in
the College World Series only 30 months ago.

Thank you for pointing this out. A little tired of all the Street haters during the last month of the season and in the post-season, where he pitched just a little too much for my liking. This kid is only in the second season of his career and still managed 37 saves with a 3.31 ERA. Yeah, he blew a few and some of them were a bit nerve-wracking, but to expect a repeat of last year I think was just a bit too unrealistic. I think he did a fine job and is still learning to develop as a major league closer.

I've been busy, but will post my review later as well as grade all the players.

Let the mudslinging begin!

Macha finally speaks up:

Macha cited two postseason incidents involving what he perceived as a
dispute with Beane.

-- According to Macha, Beane wanted Bobby Kielty to start against
left-handers, as had been the case in the final weeks of the regular season. But
Macha started Kotsay against Johan Santana of Minnesota and Nate Robertson and
Kenny Rogers of Detroit.

Come on Macha. That's just dumb. Everyone and their brother were scratching their heads wondering why Kielty didn't get EVEN ONE START against those left handed pitchers. Everyone knows Kielty mashes lefties, and yet you let Kotsay start all those games because.....well because if you didn't Kotsay would whine about playing time. When the ALCS is on the line you don't worry about hurting players' feelings regarding playing time. You do everything you can to win. Period. But at least we know this was one more straw on the camel's back in Beane's book.

-- Macha said he wanted 14-game winner Dan Haren to start Game 3 against
the Tigers in the American League Championship Series and be available for a
possible Game 7. But Rich Harden, who was injured most of the season, was picked
to start Game 3. It was Beane's call, said Macha, who went along with the

In retrospect it didn't matter because they both lost. But either way Harden was going to pitch. This one just isn't that huge of a deal to me, but as you can see Macha didn't like taking orders from Beane. Message to all future A's managers: you want to manage, better listen to Beane.

Macha was fired because of what Beane described as a "disconnect on several
levels," and five players -- Kotsay, Haren, Jason Kendall, Eric Chavez and Barry
Zito -- made unfavorable comments about Macha in Tuesday's Chronicle. Kotsay
said he felt "disrespected" that Macha seemingly questioned why he wasn't
playing a road game when the team was off the day before.
Kotsay, who
battled a bad back during the season, also said the A's "didn't play" for Macha
and rallied among themselves, adding Macha "didn't have my back."

"Billy wanted Kielty in the postseason, and I play Kotsay, and then Kotsay
comes out and says bad things about me while I basically got fired because I
played him," Macha said. "It's kind of sad."

"That's one instance," Macha added, "but it happened a lot."

No, you didn't get fired because you played him, that was just one of several bone headed decisions. You got fired because you and your boss didn't get along. Period. And that's not to say it was all your fault either. It's obvious Beane can be pretty heavy-handed about what he wants and obviously didn't care much for Macha.

Macha Beane moment via Tim Kawakami @ The Mercury blog

broncobert over at Athletics Nation just posted a diary linking to this extraordinary Macha-Beane moment remembered by Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News:

Where did we go for the talk? Billy zipped right into Macha’s office, which
was empty for the time being, plopped down and started eating.

Looked at me, said, “Go ahead, ask.” Usually, everybody stays
out of the manager’s office, by the way, unless the manager is there and
is fine with it. Not the A’s way, though.

I started asking, but a few minutes later Macha and Curt
Young came back, with plates of food and just in their underwear, obviously
looking to eat, change clothes and relax.

They stared at us, I stared at them, Billy just kept eating and

Macha tenatively sat down behind his desk for a few seconds. Very
uncomfortable. Shot another glance at Beane. Glared at me. I shrugged, said
to Beane, “Umm, maybe we should do this somewhere

Beane looked up like this was the first he’d noticed Macha was there–or
cared that he was there–dropped his plate, then just waved at Macha, pointing
him out the door. Remember, this was Macha’s own office. After winning
for something like the 33rd time in 40 games.

“Ken, you can let us do this, right?” Beane said as he
waved. Beane turned back to me and never looked at Macha again
as Macha and Young sighed, got up, and moved out.

I think Beane is a great manager but that is just plain rude. If he really felt this little about Macha - or any manager for that matter - it's no wonder Macha had a "disconnect" with the front office.

Bud Black to Interview for A's manager

One of the outside names to be considered for the new A's manager has been Bud Black, the pitching coach for the Angels. He has received permission from the Angels to interview with the A's:

Black, 49, interviewed for the Giants' manager job earlier in the week. He
has spent the past seven seasons as the Angels' pitching coach and before that
worked as a special assistant to then-Indians GM John Hart.

Black, a left-hander, pitched for 15 years, including four with the Giants
(1991-94). Under Black, the Angels have had one of the top pitching

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Another way of looking at the A's offense

Ryan Armbrust over at The Pastime has come up with an interesting way of looking at the A's offense this season that makes for easy comparison of the A's hitters and how they compared to each other and the league average. Head on over to his site here and click on the pic to enlarge. Be sure to read his explanation for what the various colors and lines represent so it all makes sense.

I was mildly surprised to find that Chavez, despite playing injured almost all season long, still had an above average offensive season when compared to the rest of the league. While his BA was below league average, his OBP was higher and his SLG just about met the average, putting his OPS slightly above that of the league average. So if this is the worst we can expect from an injured Chavez, I think I'll take it.

As can be easily deduced Swisher and Thomas were the big performers with OBP, SLG, and OPS far above average. Milton Bradley also fared well above average. However it's also telling how many players OPS were well below average.

Anyways, take a look, it's quite interesting.

Still time for Washington

While the A's are in no hurry to replace Macha, Washington still has time, despite already interviewing for the Rangers job. The Rangers still have 4 other candidates to interview, some of which are in the middle of the post-season, so it could very well be November before a firm decision is made. That's not much time, but could be enough to at least give Washington a chance to interview for the A's position.

Mulder and Lilly? Keep dreamin'

Athletics Nation and Susan Slusser are openly speculating on who will replace Zito once he leaves during the off-season. Their speculation points to 2 old A's lefties: Mulder and Lilly. To which I say: keep dreamin'.

Ted Lilly is sure to attract some serious interest on the free agent market and will almost assuredly fetch a higher price than the A's are willing to pay, particularly looking at the free agent pitching signings over the last 2 off-seasons. Mulder is coming off of shoulder surgery which means he will most likely not be ready to start the 2007 season. Even if he can or when he eventually does join the rotation, it will take considerable time to get his arm back up to strength and even then it will take time to get back in the rhythm of major league pitching. And he is still enough of a name to attract some interest in the free agent market, particularly teams willing to offer a longer term deal knowing that the first season he pitches for them could be a throwaway considering his injury and surgery. I don't see Billy Beane making a move for Mulder unless he senses that there is little interest in Mulder and can convince Mulder to sign a 1-2 year incentive laden deal.

The far more likely route, and one that is typical A's, is to promote and develop from within. The A's already have 2 lefties in their bullpen that traditionally have been starters: Brad Halsey and Joe Kennedy.

While I wasn't too impressed with Brad Halsey as either a starter or in the bullpen, he is still young. He will be 26 next season with only 3 years of major league experience, and his first season he pitched only 32 innings. He had mixed results with Arizona as a full time starter, but his numbers weren't much different than he had here in Oakland. While I didn't see too much that impressed me, there is always the chance he improves with further experience. He's also still several years away from his arbitration years which basically means he's cheap, and the A's love a good bargain.

More expensive but coming off of a solid year, despite the injury, is Joe Kennedy. He pitched excellent coming out of the bullpen which may have reduced his value as a starter. Performing so well out of the bullpen may have sealed his fate there. However, things could change with Zito leaving and a spot open for a lefty starter. Kennedy has more experience, but that experience as a starter has been spotty at best.

I don't know if Halsey or Kennedy will make the rotation, but they certainly are more realistic options than Mulder or Lilly.

And don't forget Dan Meyer, the once touted prospect from the Hudson trade. He has had shoulder problems 2 years running now, but if and when he can get back to full health he just might return to the player the A's knew he could be when they traded for him. The A's might be gambling for a Meyer return, if so then they would only need a fill-in for 1-2 seasons while Meyer returns to full strength, perhaps getting a call up in late 2007 or 2008. But this is just wild speculation, time will tell what the A's really think of Meyer.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fill in the blank

The next manager of the Oakland Athletics will be ......... ?

Now that Macha is gone the media and fans alike are buzzing about who will replace Macha. From reading the many reports and commentary out there it sounds as if no one will miss Macha too much.

I'll admit I was a little surprised - a little, not a lot - when I heard that Macha was let go, but of course at the time I had not yet had a chance to read the news for myself and see the reasons he was fired. I can't say I'll miss him too terribly, but I also can't say that I am thrilled to see him go. And I think that is one of the problems with Macha - he just doesn't effect a lot of emotion in people. Most people I know don't really hate or dislike him, nor do they particularly like or love him - they just simply shrug their shoulders - nobody really cares for the man. I can't speak for the players, but perhaps that indifference, that don't-rock-the-boat, steady-as-she-goes attitude just left everyone feeling like he didn't really matter one way or the other.

I never felt he was a great manager and have been particularly critical of his management of the bullpen. But I never felt he was a particular bad manager. I think he did the best he could with the number of injuries he had to deal with this year and did what he does best - kept the ship floating and moving ahead and managed to keep the rocking to a minimum. But while that may work in the long run during a 162 game season, it means jack in the post-season when you need to get fired up and make some tough decisions that could mean sink or swim in some turbulent seas. In fact, one of the things that really bothered me in the post-season was Macha's seeming indifference to everything going on around him. It's one thing to see Macha's calm, passive self during the regular season sitting in the dugout while the game implodes around him, nary an expression of emotion on his blunt face. It's another thing entirely when you are in the middle of blowing the ALCS and you can't seem to conjour up any emotion or fire. Again I can't speak for the players, but perhaps they found it tough to get inspired against the Tigers when their admiral had no inspiration or spirit to give.

So Macha is gone and most either don't care or say "good riddance". Now discussion turns to who will replace Macha. The front office has a tradition of promoting from within, so the possible candidates include fan and media favorite Ron Washington, Beane's trusted friend Bob Geren, and Rene Lachemann.

Ray Ratto of the Chronicle says Ron Washington is the best choice.

Scott Ostler, also of the Chronicle, says firing Macha was the right thing to do and also echoes Washington as the right choice.

Both Killion and Kawakami of the Mercury News don't miss Macha, with Killion claiming that the "...players didn't care for him..." and Kawakami stating the obvious: that the real force behind the A's is Beane and not the on-field manager, and that the players know it.

Eric Gilmore of the Contra Costa Times isn't shocked either.

Blez seems to agree, stating that the manager isn't all that important, and speculates that Bob Geren is possibly the early favorite to take Macha's place.

Catfish Stew laughs out loud at the suggestion that Dusty Baker would be a good candidate for the A's. I almost spewed diet Dr. Pepper all over my keyboard when I read that as well.

Elephants, a longtime Macha critic, says Macha was done sometime around the middle of the 2003 season.

Barry Zito Forever (up for a name change once Zito gets that big paycheck somewhere else) is more worried about re-signing Zito (keep dreaming) than the future Oakland manager.

Oakland A's Days are ready for someone new.

I'll join the growing chorus in calling for Ron Washington as the new manager, but I have a hunch it will be Geren. Washington deserves a shot at a manager's job and may have to go outside Oakland to get it. Geren is one of Beane's best friends and is the current bench coach, a position Macha held for some time before assuming the reigns. I have no idea how well Geren gels with the players but Ron Washington appears to be universally beloved by players and fans alike. It would be a shame if he didn't get the job, and if not we may be seeing him managing for a rival team.

Macha Out

I meant to post on this yesterday but by the time I managed to find some time to sit down at my computer it was too late and I was too tired to comment.

As you are probably already aware, Macha is out:

Two days after the A's were eliminated from the postseason, Ken Macha was fired as the team's manager, because of what general manager Billy Beane described as "a disconnect on several levels.''

Though Beane was careful not to spell out that disconnect, emphasizing during a news conference Monday that he alone was responsible for Macha's ouster, the primary reason the team parted ways with a man with the second-highest winning percentage in Oakland history was that a growing number of players had issues with Macha.

From the same article, Susan Slusser quotes a number of suddenly vocal A's players expressing displeasure or at least admitting there was a problem. Surprisingly the most critical player appeared to be Kotsay, who claimed that players "...didn't have the same feeling about the manager as they did at the start of the year..." and that he felt "...disrespected..." when Macha questioned his injury. Most damning of all Kotsay stated "...we didn't play for him." Zito, Kendall, and Haren all sounded off negatively on Macha. But I think Chavez summed it up perfectly:

"Deep down inside, I think he cared about the players, he just didn't have a good way of communicating."

To quote my father, Management 101: Communicate, communicate, communicate - back your people, and let them know you back them.

A manager's greatest duty is to manage people and relationships - it seems from reading these reports that Macha failed in that respect.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Welcome to the off-season

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I missed the A's disappointing last game in the ALCS on Saturday. I was in Sacramento visiting relatives. Since none of them are baseball fans I was unable to catch the game, although I did manage to catch the score in the 9th inning on my Blackberry - 3-to-3. I thought at the time that the A's just might have a chance if they could get into extra innings. They seem to do well in extra innings games.

Unfortunately luck was not with the A's as Huston Street gave up 2 singles and the game winning HR. I was pretty upset at Street until I realized later, after coming home, that Macha had put Street in during the.....7th inning???? What the heck was Macha thinking?

Anyways, I had high hopes for the A's after their dramatic sweep of The Twins, the team I feared most going into the playoffs and who I felt had the best chance of killing the A's. But the A's fell flat on their faces in the ALCS. Poor starts from Zito and Loaiza didn't help, but the A's offense was non-existent as well. It was nice to see Bradley shine, unfortunately he did all the shining. I know some people are upset that Frank Thomas failed to get a single hit, but he was outstanding vs. Minnesota and if it weren't for Frank the A's possibly wouldn't have made the post-season anyways.

So the A's finally managed to get past the first round only to find themselves quickly swept by Detroit and quickly into off-season mode. I will post my season review of the A's and key players when I get some free time. It's been a pretty glum ALCS but quite and exciting 2006.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Rogers continues domination of A's

Once again Rogers dominates the A's in the third win by the Detroit Tigers in this ALCS.

Rogers, who brought a 21-7 career record against the A's into Game 3 and hasn't lost to them since September 2004, made 7 1/3 innings of two-hit work look easy while leading the Tigers to the brink of their first World Series appearance since 1984.

The A's have been playing from behind every single game. Macha's horrible management of his pitching staff through the first 2 games will come back to haunt the A's should they lose this series. Macha's laid back, steady-as-she-goes management style may work in a long 162-game season but it's worth jack in the playoffs. All year long he has consistently left starters in way too long and long after they got into trouble. He takes too long to get his bullpen warmed up and sometimes brings them in when it is already too late.

Haren is pitching a must-win tomorrow and has not looked too good throughout Sept/Oct. In his ALDS appearance vs The Twins he allowed 9 hits, a walk, 1 HR, and 2 earned runs over 6 innings. He got lucky. He also is sporting a 5.80 ERA for Sept/Oct so far with 7 HR allowed in just 35 innings. He needs to pitch like he did in May and June or get lucky like he did with The Twins to avoid any damage and salvage a win.

As to the offense, the middle of the order better get cranking tomorrow. Thomas and Swisher are both hitless in this series and Chavez has a measly 0.200 BA.

Blog Commentary:
Blez is trying to stay positive with a pretty realistic take on things.

Elephants offers up some harsh analysis on Chavez.

Catfish Stew refuses surrender.

The Pastime is already prepared to write his season-in-review and start the countdown for spring training.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A's down 2-0 : Not looking too good

Street came into the 9th in a non-close situation and still gave up a HR. Like Loaiza, he too has been struggling with a mix of good and bad outings throughout September and on into the post-season. He may get the saves, but you'll have white knuckles watching him.

Blez spins things on a positive note, noting the explosive offense of Milton Bradley, but aside from Bradley nobody else did anything. Ok, so I almost overlooked the fact that Chavez hit a solo-HR in the 6th, but aside from that the A's middle of the order was unable to do any damage or get guys around the bases. At least they got to Verlander.

Next stop is Detroit and famed A's assassin Kenny Rogers. I feel confident with Harden on the mound, even with his last wild outing, and hope that he can keep the Tigers hitters off-balance and flailing. Harden will need to shut down the Tigers and the A's offense will have to find a way to eek out a couple of runs against Rogers.

It's not over yet, but that hill is starting to look awfully steep. If the A's can avoid grounding into double plays, hit just marginally better with runners in scoring position, and get at least average production from their middle of the order, then they should do just fine for games 3 and 4.

ALCS Game 2: Quick Commentary

The good news: Milton Bradley is on f-i-r-e going 3 for 4 with 2 HR and responsible for 4 of the 5 A's RBIs.

The bad news: Another poor start from an A's starter but not too surprising coming from Loaiza. Everyone points to his incredible August where he really turned things around, but he was hot and cold in September and had a 5.11 ERA for Sept/Oct coming into this game.

The surprise: That Loaiza was left in for so long. Throughout the season Macha has shown a stubbornness to pull his starting pitchers when they run into significant trouble. It is not surprising to see a pitcher give up 3-4 runs in the 3rd, 4th, or 5th inning and then see them right back on the mound the following inning. Macha needs to improve his management of the pitching staff or risk blowing the ALCS, already well on his way.

Problem spots: The entire middle of the order. Thomas, Chavez, Payton, and Swisher have been dismal tonight. Thomas has yet to get a hit in the ALCS and Chavez at times has looked ridiculous at the plate. Swisher appears too eager, wanting to swing for the fences, he needs to settle down and take his pitches. Payton had a good night last night, but so far has done nothing. If the heart of the order can't move runners around the bases, then you have a big problem.

Well, it's bottom of the 8th, Chavez and Payton both struck out swinging and the score is 7 to 5. Hopefully Bradley can single handedly save the night over the next 2 innings or it is going to be a long, thoughtful trip to Detroit.

BREAKING: Ex-A's pitcher Cory Lidle dies in accidental NYC plane crash

In a scene that brought back memories of 9/11, a plane crashed into a luxury high rise apartment building today in Manhattan. As tensions have calmed and experts have had a chance to investigate, all evidence points to an accident. The plane involved was a small 4-seat single-wing aircraft.

Cory Lidle, who has a pilot's license, was confirmed aboard the plane, and is believed to have been the pilot.

He was only 34 years old.

Cory Lidle was a starting pitcher for the A's back in 2001 and 2002 and pitched for the A's in the post-season, and most recently had been pitching with the Yankees.

I have been following the news of the crash all day, but was schocked just now to find out that Cory Lidle was onboard the plane.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Detroit didn't win - the A's beat themselves

I'm never happy when the A's lose, but to lose like this is just unacceptable. It would have been different if they had lost 5 to 1 with no walks and only a handful of hits. Sure, the loss would have sucked, but man those Detroit pitchers really shut down the A's, they pitched their hearts out.

But no. Not only did the A's lose 5 to 1, they did it in gut wrenching fashion. They rocked Nate Robertson for 6 hits and worked 3 walks with runners on base every inning - and got none of them home. They hit into 2 inning ending double plays and then with runners on second and third with NOBODY OUT Robertson strikes out three in a row.

But that's not all folks. The A's managed a hit against every Detroit pitcher faced except Jones and had 2 runners on the bases in 5 out of the 9 innings.

Even with Zito's disastrous third and fourth innings the A's should have won, and won handily. Grounding into 4 double plays and going something like 0 for 12 with runners in scoring pitching is a pathetic way to lose a game.

Detroit didn't win the game. The A's had numerous chances to take advantage and come back with a win and they blew it. The A's beat themselves, Detroit had nothing to do with it.

The A's still need to face Rogers, twice if it goes to game 7 and on game 7 Rogers will be pitching in his most favorable setting - the Oakland coliseum. If it goes to 7 games and the A's lose against Rogers, this first game will come back to haunt them.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lucky break? Detroit to hold back Rogers until game 3

Via Yahoo! Sports:

Rogers has dominated in Oakland -- both for and against the Athletics. He is 25-4 in his career in Oakland and 23-1 in 41 starts at the Coliseum since 1995, including two wins this season.

Rogers leads active pitchers with 21 victories against the A's, the team he pitched for from 1998-99.

"We considered that very strongly, but at the same time we felt like the effort against the Yankees was such a draining effort that we decided to give him the time," Leyland said Monday on the eve of the ALCS opener. "That's why the decision was made. And at the same time, if by chance the series would go seven games, he would be able to pitch Game 3 and then Game 7 in Oakland. That's why we did it."

Some may call me paranoid, but I have watched Rogers pitch in Oakland for quite a few years now and trust me, he just dominates. I appreciate some of the newer players in Oakland expressing their confidence in playing against Rogers in Oakland, but it sure hasn't mattered when we had fresh faces in the past, for the most part Kenny just does what he does in Oakland.

Time will tell, but this could be the lucky break the A's need as they start out the gate. If they can take advantage of the fact that they don't have to face Rogers until game 3 and win these first two then I believe they will have a very good chance to win at least 2 more before it comes to a deciding game 7 in Oakland vs. Mr. Rogers. If the A's take 4 from Detroit before reaching Rogers the second time around, this could end up being a decision that haunts the Tigers.

Meanwhile I have been having a hard time finding any "experts" who have picked the A's to win the ALCS. Once again the A's are underdogs as the mass media continues to underestimate them, which is fine by me. And if they win the ALCS I can guarantee that once again almost no one will pick them to win the World Series. So c'mon guys, prove these losers wrong and shove their worthless predictions where the sun don't shine - take it all the way!!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A look at the ALCS

After weeks of enduring endless reporters' questions and columns on how the A's haven't clinched a post-season series since man invented the wheel, they finally put them to rest with a handy sweep of the Twins. I bet guys like The Big Hurt, Huston Street, Jason Kendall, and Mark Kotsay were more than a little annoyed with reporters' questions - considering none of them were around for the last time the A's made the post-season.

I gotta admit, I thought the first round was going to be a lot tougher. The Minnesota Twins, normally, are A's killers. Cuddyer and Morneau just kill the A's and I fully expected to see Santana twice if it went to game 5. Going into Minnesota I thought "if they can win 1-out-of-2 in Minnesota then we just might have a chance". I was happily surprised that they beat Santana and then went on to win 2 more.

On Friday my office had the game on the TV in the lunch room. We couldn't hang out in the lunchroom all day, but let's just say a lot of people felt frequent urges for a fresh cup of coffee or glass of water or felt like they needed to check out the vending machines, because there were always a few people hanging out in front of the TV for a few minutes at a team, myself included. After the bottom of the 9th my co-worker and I went to the lunchroom to watch the 9th and there must have been 20 people in there. After the final out the lunchroom burst into applause and cheers, and I overheard more than a couple of "thank God they made it past the first round".

On to the ALCS. I was equally surprised to see the Yankees collapse against the Tigers. I always felt the Tigers had a chance and from day one had remarked on the Yankees weaker pitching, but that is one scary lineup. I thought for sure the Yankees would give Detroit a harder time, but never did I think they would implode like that. The Tigers pitching was just brilliant, especially Kenny Rogers.

Now the A's will be facing Detroit to see who will go to the World Series. A's fans, this ain't gonna be easy. The A's will have to face Kenny Rogers at least twice in a 7 game series. For those of you who don't know, Kenny Rogers OWNS the A's. I can't explain it, but he just does. The man is 25-4 when pitching in the Oakland coliseum and has beaten the A's more than any other team, 21-7 (I think - correct me if I am wrong). Even this year he won both games he pitched against the A's, although he did have a bloated 4-point-something ERA over those 2 games. From what I saw against the Yankees, he will be on the top of his game.

But it's not just Rogers the A's need to worry about. Justin Verlander has been good all year, even though he got roughed up a bit at the end, but he pitched excellent against the Yankees. Don't forget former A's farmhand Bonderman either. The A's will have a tough hill to climb against the Tigers.

Luckily the A's begin this series at home and let's just hope they can maintain the momentum. Zito will be pitching game one and hopefully will be on his game like he was against Santana. I'm a bit nervous about Loaiza in game 2, although he pitched well enough against The Twins. But the last few weeks of the season he had a couple of bad outings. Haren makes me nervous. He had a really rough September and although he managed to get through game 3 relatively unscathed he gave up 9 hits and a walk in just 6 innings pitched. I think he was lucky to emerge with only 2 earned runs. Despite a wild outing by Harden in his 3rd game since coming off the DL, I think he should do well in this series.

See you again on Tuesday!