Monday, January 29, 2007

Kirk Saarloos analysis at The Hardball Times

Wow. Sal Baxamusa over at The Hardball Times is really down on Saarloos:

Of course, pitchers can succeed without striking out every fourth batter. Some guys are as stingy with the walks as they are with the swings and misses. Saarloos is not one of those guys. But his walk rate is awful, both as ratio—he has walked more men than he has struck out over the last two years—and as absolute—had he qualified, he would have ranked third from bottom in BB/G.


He's quite hittable (in the sense that it is easy to make contact), so there's no need to attack the first pitch even if it is a strike. This corresponds to my memory of watching him pitch for my favorite team, the Oakland A's. It was extremely frustrating as a fan to watch him get ahead in the count on called strikes only to watch him nibble in an attempt to get the batter to pound his sinker into the ground. Without a way to put away hitters, the nibbling would often lead to walks, rarely lead to strikeouts, and occasionally lead to hits.

Interview with Billy Beane

I wish I had the access to the A's front office like Blez does, but since I don't I'll simply have to enjoy the great interviews he does with Billy Beane and others. In this latest interview, Blez and Beane discuss the A's off-season moves.

Beane more or less skirts around the question of Ken Macha's hiring, despite pushing by Blez. The most interesting comments by Beane were on the hiring of new hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo:

We kept hearing his (Van Burkleo's) name come up from people who didn't know each other. As we were putting together a list of potential hitting instructors, we put his name on the list because we'd heard his name in several different places who all rave about this guy. So I knew the first indication that we'd hit on something when I called Assistant GM Ken Forsch and I said, "Ken, I'd like to ask for permission to speak to Ty Van Burkleo for our major league hitting job." He just groaned like I was afraid you were going to say that. To me that was a validation of what their own organization thought about him and the last time that someone had that reaction when I called to ask about another person is when John Hart had that reaction when I called about Paul DePodesta. His reaction and John's and the fact that Paul ended up being as great as he was, I figured we hit on the right guy.

The Pastime: Round Table parts II and III

Ryan Armbrust of the excellent The Pastime has parts II and III of his Round Table up, of which Condition Oakland was invited to participate.

Part II discusses the question "Bobby Crosby - Is he an injury-prone bust, or can he rebound to approach the Rookie of the Year Expectations? "

While no one seems to be too excited about Bobby Crosby, opinions differ on his future.

Part III discussed the question "How much will this team miss Barry Zito, in terms of pitching and/or leadership."

It's pretty clear that everyone feels a healthy Harden will actually be an upgrade over Zito.

Be sure to check out the answers, lots of interesting commentary from A's fans in the blogosphere.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Another way to look at pitching

I can't believe I missed this earlier at The Hardball Times, but J.P. McIntyre has broken down the starting rotations of all the teams, separated by league, in terms of their starting rotation's Net Win Share Value. For those of you who don't know what Net Win Share Value is:

Let's look at how teams did in 2006 in terms of payroll efficiency with their starters. I am using Net Win Shares Value, created by Dave Studeman. To paraphrase Dave's definition, Net Win Shares Value essentially estimates the "expected" production from a player based on how he was signed (as a free agent, arbitration-eligible or not eligible for arbitration) and how much he was paid, then compares that to how he actually did. The difference is multiplied by the average amount teams paid for each Win Share Above Bench last year. If the number is positive, the player was a relatively good deal for the team; if not, not.

Not surprisingly, number 1 on the list in the AL is the Detroit Tigers, with a $24.9 million Net Win Share Value based on their starting pitchers. As McIntyre explains:

The Detroit Tigers had the most cost-efficient rotation by a considerable margin because not only did their starters pitch well, but most were signed to inexpensive contracts.
             Net WS Value      GS
Verlander 8,003,000 30
Robertson 6,281,000 32
Bonderman 4,636,000 34
Rogers 3,282,000 33
Miner 1,378,000 16
Ledezma 1,362,000 7
Maroth -145,000 9
But the team that came in second in the AL? You guessed it, our 
beloved A's with a $16.9 million Net Win Share Value.

The White Sox had no starter who truly shined, even though management was
writing some large checks. A more efficient team was the Oakland A's:

             Net WS Value      GS
Haren 7,062,000 34
Blanton 4,332,000 31
Saarloos 2,096,000 16
Zito 1,087,000 34
Harden 1,101,000 9
Loaiza 988,000 26
Windsor -585,000 3

Because Harden was not receiving a large salary, his injury did not hurt the A's financially, unlike Mark Mulder of St. Louis, who had a -$9.9 million Net WS Value. Oakland general manager Billy Beane's market philosophy allows him to get a high yield on the money the A's pay their starters.
I think this is an interesting way to look at starting rotations in terms of the value their pitchers bring to the team. Thanks to the clever minds at THT for doing this nice analysis.

Kielty and A's finally come to agreement.

The A's and Kielty have finally agreed on a number: $2.1 million.

Kielty will likely be primarily a backup outfielder again for the A's, with Nick Swisher slated to start in left field, Mark Kotsay in center and Milton Bradley in right. Kielty, who is strongest against left-handed pitchers, batted .270 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs in 81 games for AL West champion Oakland last season.

His contract includes up to $100,000 in performance bonuses — $25,000 each for 300, 350, 400 and 450 plate appearances. His batting average last year was the second highest of his career after he hit .291 in 2002.

Kielty will be in the lineup primarily against LHP, as he absolutely clobbers LHP:

3 year numbers (2004-2006), via ESPN
vs LHP: 0.303 BA / 0.367 OBP / 0.519 SLG / 0.886 OPS
vs RHP: 0.214 BA / 0.314 OBP / 0.316 SLG / 0.630 OPS

I said it before and I'll say it again, Kielty should be in the lineup every time the A's face a lefty, I don't care if he thinks he can or should hit against righties. If Geren trots him out in the lineup too often against righties then he should keep an eye on the "help wanted" section of the newspaper.

The Pastime: Round Table Part I

The Pastime has put together a round table of sorts to discuss some questions about the A's as we get ready for the 2007 season. He was gracious enough to invite Condition Oakland to participate and I am honored to be considered among such a fine group of A's fans and bloggers. The five questions we were asked to discuss are as follows:

- In your opinion, what is the is the key factor that the A’s season will hinge on in 2007?

- Bobby Crosby - Is he an injury-prone bust, or can he rebound to approach the Rookie of the Year expectations?

- How much will this team miss Barry Zito, in terms of pitching and/or leadership?

- Can Mike Piazza adjust to the differences of being a DH facing American League pitchers?

- Is Oakland’s defense as good as most people assume, or is it overrated?

- Are we at the end of the steroids era, or just the dawn of the HGH era in baseball?

Today he posted Part One of his round table, where you can find my humble answer amongst the others. From reading everyone's answers, it seems the common consensus is health, primarily Rich Harden's, and pitching.

I want to thank The Pastime for including me in his project, keep checking out his site for further updates to the Round Table discussion.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Saarloos traded to the Reds for prospect and player to be named later

Hat Tip to Athletics Nation diarist oak1:

MLB radio reported that Kirk Saarloos has beentraded to the Reds for minor
league reliefpitcher David Shafer and a player to be namedlater. Saarloos is
making an appearance onMLB radio later on today. Shafer is a minorleague AA
pitcher with a 2.60 ERA and 26 saves.

Some notes on Shafer from the comments in the same diary:

Shafer, 25, was 1-2 with a 2.36 ERA (13er in 49.2ip) with 26 saves in 44
appearances for Double-A Chattanooga last season. He struck out 52 batters in
his 49.2 innings of work, issued just 16 walks, allowed just two home runs and
limited hitters to a .204 batting average. His 26 saves were tied for second in
the Southern League. Over the past two seasons, he has limited hitters to a .207
average (77-207). Originally selected in the 32nd round of the 2001 First-Year
Player Draft, Shafer has posted a 14-16 record and a 2.59 ERA (71er in 246.1ip)
to go along with 63 saves in 169 minor league appearances, including seven
career starts. He has struck out 269 batters in his 246.1 innings of work while
walking 74 batters and limiting opponents to a .219 (200-915) batting average. A
native of Flagstaff, Ariz., Shafer attended Central Arizona Community College.
He will be placed on Oakland's 40-man roster.

Here's his stats, etc from The Baseball Cube. I like his WHIP, K/9, and K totals.

It will be interesting to see who the player-to-be-named-later is. I was not too surprised, but a little sad, to see Kirk Saarloos go. While he certainly wasn't an ace, he was extremely versatile, filling in rotation spots and a multitude of bullpen duties with little griping or whining and decent performance. I definitely think he deserves a rotation spot on somebody's team and hope the Reds give him that chance. I think eventually he'll develop into a pitcher somewhere between Saarloos v.2005 and Saarloos v.2006, which isn't too shabby.

Update: The Pastime has these comments:
I’d guess Shafer will play in Sacramento most of this year, get a September
call-up, and then try to make the team as a set-up man out of Spring Training in

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Further notes on the proposed Fremont ballpark

Via new A's ballpark. Excerpt:

Bo Magnussen of Magnussen Lexus inquired about the impact to the Fremont Auto Mall nearby. He had contacted someone at Coliseum Lexus in Oakland to see how much sporting events impacted their dealership. The traffic generated on event days was in fact detrimental, so Magnussen pleaded with the A's and the city to figure out a way to mitigate that impact on weekends. The obvious way at first would be to have Saturday games at 7 p.m. instead of 1 p.m.

Read the whole thing, lots of good stuff, as usual.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Drumbeat: Live blogging the Fremont City Council meeting tonight

You can read the whole thing here. Excerpts:

5:49 p.m. Mayor Bob Wasserman said the question he was asked the most is who would pay for police services at the ballpark. Wolff said the A's would pay for police and ambulance services, as they do now at the Coliseum. He said two of the three Coliseum tenants pay for these now, and Wasserman responded "Guess which one doesn't?" to laughter.


6:12 p.m.:.........Wasserman asked about the team name, and Wolff responded "Whatever it is, it will be 'AT Fremont', and not 'OF Fremont.' "

The Pastime: 2007 Pitching Projections

And just like that, The Pastime has just posted his 2007 Pitching Projections based again on combining the projections from 4 systems (PECOTA, ZiPS, CHONE, Bill James).

I was surprised to see that no one is very high on Chad Gaudin, who came out of nowhere to pitch solidly all season long as one of the A's best relievers. I'm also hoping Joe Blanton can pitch better than projected and Rich Harden can do better than 131 innings. Loaiza is surprisingly projected to have a great year (compared to last year's dismal numbers) and Huston Street projects to have an awesome season.

Head on over to The Pastime for the complete list.

UPDATED: Even better, he has now included weighted versions of the same lists, weighing them in accordance with how well each projection system performed in 2006.
Weighted Batters
Weighted Pitchers

The Pastime: 2007 Offensive Projections

The Pastime has put together a great piece of work that must have taken considerable time and effort: combining 4 different projection systems (PECOTA, ZiPS, CHONE, Bill James) into one unified projection of the A's offense for 2007. Because, as he puts it, "I figure it’s better to have four experts reach a compromised consensus on how something will turn out, than to rely on just one or another." Dude, you have outdone yourself and you are spoiling A's fans - you know come 2008 I will be looking for the same thing from you again.

I haven't had time to look over the data he used and how he analyzed it to come up with his projections, but you can see the results by clicking on over to his website here. He also cross-posted his link in a diary at Athletics Nation, which you can find here. Like him, I have always been a Dan Johnson fan and was also surprised to see how high he projects. I like the addition of Mike Piazza but was never too high on him, but if he can hit 16 2B and 15 HR in roughly 300 AB then I will be more than happy. Most of the players projections are not too surprising, although I am personally a little higher on some than others.

Anyways, this is an invaluable service, be sure to head on over to The Pastime, take a look, and thank him for all his work. Can't wait to see the pitcher projections.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Erstad to the A's? UPDATE: Not happening

UPDATE: As per Ken Rosenthal at FOX Sports, it ain't happening.

Ok, somewhat old news, but once again I was out of town last week and had no access to a computer or the internet. (Being an internet junkie that was not an easy thing to cope with). Anyways, the big news recently is that Darin Erstad of the Angels has been offered a one year contract with the A's.

While some A's fans are skeptical of this move and some are downright hateful, I think it's a smart move on the A's part, provided the contract is relatively cheap, as it will only add to the A's depth. With the rash of injuries the A's experienced last season, both at the major AND minor league levels, depth is needed and is one of the reasons the A's had yet another successful year and made the playoffs in 2006. While not a fun problem to deal with, having too many players to fill a limited number of positions is better when injuries come rolling around. Hopefully the A's won't have to deal with the injury bug like they did in 2006 and can keep their key players in the field, but should anyone go down they should have plenty of more than adequate backups to fill in the gaps:

CF - Mark Kotsay, Milton Bradley, Darin Erstad
LF - Nick Swisher, Bobby Kielty, Darin Erstad, Milton Bradley
RF - Milton Bradley, Nick Swisher, Darin Erstad
3B - Eric Chavez, Antonio Perez, Marco Scutaro (slim chance, but still an option)
SS - Bobby Crosby, Marco Scutaro, Antonio Perez
2B - Mark Ellis, Marco Scutaro
1B - Dan Johnson, Nick Swisher, Mike Piazza, Darin Erstad, Erubiel Durazo
C - Jason Kendall, Adam Melhuse, Mike Piazza

As for Erstad's numbers, the offense isn't too pretty, but then again neither was Jay Payton's when he first came over, although I like Payton's overall numbers better than Erstad's. One thing not to overlook is Erstad's defense, which is above average. While Erstad will most likely be used as a situational and back up player, he is more than adequate for the role and this move would only add to the A's already significant depth.