Thursday, February 22, 2007

New A's minor league site coming soon

As already mentioned by Ryan Armbrust over at The Pastime, he and I are partnering on a new A's minor league site over at MVN. We'll be covering all the A's minor league affiliates throughout the minor league season. We've got a lot of ideas for the site and will let you know once it's up and running, which should be soon.

And be patient here at Condition Oakland, soon I'll have (I hope) a much better looking site at its own domain. It's just a matter of (again, I hope) a few weeks before it becomes a reality.

Spring Training is Here!

Sorry for the lack of posts. Several reasons:

1. I can't stand the new Blogger.

2. Been super busy at work.

3. Did I mention I dislike the new Blogger?

4. I am in the middle of transitioning my blog to its own domain. This will accomplish several objectives: getting away from Blogger (did I mention I don't like the new Blogger?), allow me more control over the site's layout and improve the design, and allow me to introduce (hopefully) more features. Originally I stopped posting because I thought the change would be imminent, but circumstances have delayed me until sometime in March, so I figured I better go back to posting here until everything is transitioned.

Anyways, anything I post about Spring Training may be old news to some of you, but let's go 'round the blogosphere:

Blez has an excellent interview with the new A's manager, Bob Geren. He certainly seems more talkative than Macha and at this time does not appear to be a robotic construct - he actually expresses emotion and independent thought! Part I. Part II. Part III. He also has a nice Q & A with A's prospect Brad Ziegler. Here's an excerpt:

At the time I was with the Phillies, there were major differences in the philosophies. The Phillies seemed to draft more high-risk, high-reward guys...guys that threw hard but needed a lot of refinement to get to the upper levels. The A's tended to draft more polished pitchers who weren't necessarily projected to be future aces but were much closer to helping out a big league ballclub.

I, personally, think that translates into better minor league teams - and, thus, better player morale. The Phillies short-season team in Batavia, NY, hasn't had a winning record since 2000. In 2003, when I was there (I pitched 6 innings of relief that summer), we were 30-45. Conversely, every team I've been on with the A's has made the playoffs (excluding my one-month stint in Sacramento last year - and that team finished 12 games over .500).

Elephants in Oakland breaks down the bullpen. I like his take on The Duke, my personal favorite:

Many, FINALLY, are asking the question why Duchscherer shouldn't get the ball every 5th day as a starter. Previously the A's were about exposing him to hitters a 3rd time through the batting order because his "stuff" didn't lend itself to the starter's role. When your breaking ball, change-up, fastball, make-up, pickoff move, defense and hair is better than Barry Zito all that is left to judge is what arm they fling the ball at the plate. The A's need to lock-up Duchscherer long term and they need to do it now.

Susan Slusser reports on what's really on everyone's mind at Spring Training over at The Drumbeat: How do they look and how much do they weigh?

Street has been particularly proud of his weight gain as he pushed 200 pounds. He checks daily and noted a one-pound increase one morning. At a reporters' behest, he took off his shoes, and was precisely at 200.

Joe Blanton, whose weight always seems to be a focal point, told Street that the scale in the A's weight room is actually heavy by 7 pounds, because he said he was 247 at the doctor's office and 254 at the A's complex. He and Street decided to go whichever weight suited them best, so Blanton is sticking with 247 and Street with 200. Or 201 with his shoes on.

And over at The Pastime, my soon to be writing partner (more on that in my next post) has a post on Guys to Root For: Marcus McBeth

After reading Mychael Urban’s interview with Marcus McBeth, the first selection in the “GTRF” category was easy. McBeth, as many Oakland fans already know, was an outfielder selected in the famous 2002 “Moneyball” draft. After three years in the system carrying subpar offensive numbers, McBeth was on his way out of baseball. He approached his pitching coach, and asked if he could work his way towards converting to being a pitcher. McBeth worked his butt off to make the move to the mound, and he’s been far more successful on the rubber than he was at the plate.

McBeth, out of nowhere, developed what could accurately be described as the best changeup in the Oakland system.

Also be sure to click on Mychael Urban's interview of Marcus McBeth.

Ken at Catfish Stew can't wait to get his season tickets, being sent via....Canada? Ryan (aka The Pastime, who is a writing fool - is there anywhere you don't write? Don't get me wrong, it's all good, keep it up, just wish I could manage my time like that - I'm jealous) Armbrust also beats me to a post I was going to do speculating about which players will make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training.

So who will be participating in this high-stakes game of musical chairs? To discover that, let's work backwards. Who's a lock to make the 25-man roster? I'll assume that the A's decide to carry 12 pitchers out of Spring Training, for the sake of argument.

- - -

Pitching Locks (9 out of 12):

Rich Harden
Dan Haren
Joe Blanton
Esteban Loaiza
Joe Kennedy
Huston Street
Justin Duchscherer
Kiko Calero
Alan Embree

Fielding Locks (9 out of 13):

Jason Kendall
Mike Piazza
Eric Chavez
Bobby Crosby
Mark Ellis
Nick Swisher
Milton Bradley
Mark Kotsay
Shannon Stewart

- - -

That leaves us with three pitching slots, and four openings in the field.

I am with Ryan on Gaudin making the bullpen, and Halsey has a good chance as well, although he could get traded. Still have no idea on the third spot, it seems odd to put Jay Marshall, who has never pitched above High A.

I'm also with Ryan on Dan Johnson making the team, a favorite of mine, and the A's front office is high on Johnson, despite a rough 2006. Scutaro definitely makes the team, his value as an infield substitute is simply too high to ignore. I think Kielty will be traded - he is just too pricey for the A's as a part time lefty-masher, the A's have a much cheaper option in Ryan Goleski. And I also agree with Ryan that Perez will make the roster, although he will most likely spend most of his time riding pine or as the occasional pinch runner.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A's get Stewart

The A's finally got a decent right handed bat to replace Jay Payton in the outfield: Shannon Stewart.

Stewart has dealt with plantar fasciitis problems in both feet over the past
three years. The injury limited him to 92 games in 2004. The A's were among a
number of teams that were on hand to watch the injury-prone Stewart work out in
Miami last week.

The right-handed hitting Stewart would join an outfield
that now consists of starters Nick Swisher, Mark Kotsay and Milton Bradley.
Stewart and Bobby Kielty would give the A's two solid outfield backups.
It's a pretty simplistic assumption that Stewart will be Payton's replacement, but really, what else could he be? He is an injury prone player who would most likely benefit from limited playing time as opposed to being a starter. Like Payton, he can play all 3 OF positions competently although the bulk of his time has been spent in LF, where I assume he will most likely split his time with Kielty, barring simultaneous injuries to both Kotsay and Bradley. The injury risk aside, I don't think the A's could have gone out and found someone more like Payton if they tried. Look at the offensive comparison:

3 Years (2004-2006) : Breakdown = BA / OBP / SLG / HR / 2B / BB / K

Shannon Stewart:
0.287 / 0.347 / 0.405 / 0.752 / 23 / 49 / 95 / 136

Jay Payton:
0.276 / 0.320 / 0.409 / 0.729 / 36 / 65 / 89 / 155

The edge goes to Stewart in BA and OBP as he had fewer K and more BB with roughly 300 fewer at bats. Regardless, both are good contact hitters who may not walk a lot but also don't strike out too often. However, one area will Stewart will be a clear advantage is with runners in scoring position:

Stewart - 0.343 / 0.418 / 0.517
Payton - 0.288 / 0.358 / 0.424

Let's look at their defense:

Career : Breakdown = FPCT / RF / ZR

Shannon Stewart:
As LF - 0.984 / 2.05 / 0.874
As CF - 0.978 / 2.46 / 0.877
As RF - 0.971 / 2.56 / 0.816

Jay Payton:
As LF - 0.992 / 2.18 / 0.846
As CF - 0.986 / 2.66 / 0.887
As RF - 0.980 / 2.31 / 0.884

Here Payton has the edge, although Stewart has a better ZR in LF, which is where I assume he will play most of the time.

In fact, while neither player may enjoy it too much, a platoon in LF of Kielty/Stewart would be ideal, and I wonder if Beane & Co. already had this in mind when looking at Stewart, knowing he could be limited by injury. Here are the splits for Kielty/Stewart below:

3 Years (2004-2006) : Breakdown - BA / OBP / SLG / HR / 2B / BB / K

Kielty vs LHP:
0.303 / 0.367 / 0.519 / 17 / 30 / 38 / 54

Stewart vs RHP:
0.299 / 0.350 / 0.424 / 18 / 39 / 61 / 88

As has been mentioned time and time again, Kielty mashes LHP. While Stewart doesn't show a lot of power against RHP, he does show great contact and a decent OBP and certainly has more power against RHP (0.424 SLG) than against LHP (only 0.355 SLG). Perhaps Beane & Co. had all of this in mind when they got Stewart: Kielty should be in the lineup every single day against LHP and Stewart should be thrown in there against RHP.

Overall, I think it's a nice addition and gives the A's plenty of depth in the OF, which is one of the reasons they were able to succeed last season. Not having to play everyday should help keep Stewart off the DL and he can spell Kotsay or Bradley if they go down with injuries. It also makes things easier to juggle 1B/DH roles should Geren want to move Swisher into those spots occasionally.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Pastime: Round Table parts IV, V, and VI

It's been pretty quiet here at Condition Oakland, and the blame completely lies with Sid Meier and his latest incarnation of the famed Civilization franchise, Civilization IV. I am hopelessly addicted, much as I was when Civilization II came out years ago (I hated Civ III). Anyways, I am trying to stay away from the game this week, hiding the DVD deep away in a cluttered drawer and trying to make myself forget where it is so I can keep up with life in general as well as blogging.

Anyways, The Pastime has been putting up further results of his A's offseason Round Table, of which Condition Oakland was a participant, covering a number of questions for A's fans everywhere.

Part IV can be found here and covers the question: Can Mike Piazza adjust to the differences of being a DH facing American League pitchers?

My reply was: hopefully. Blez was also hopefuly with a healthy amount of caution, most of the other participants seemed satisfied that Piazza could do it.

Part V can be found here and covers the question: Is Oakland's defense as good as most people assume, or is it overrated?

I think it's easily as good as most people assume and most of the participants agree on this point.

Part VI can be found here and covers the question: Are we at the end of the steroids era, or just the dawn of the HGH era in baseball?

I was surprised that some participants simply didn't care too much about the issue, a lot of varied opinions on this one.

Thanks again to Ryan @ The Pastime for including Condition Oakland in his roundtable discussion - we'd love to participate in something like this again.