The A’s have been awful in August, but they’ve also had a pretty tough schedule. The only sub-.500 team they’ve played this month is Detroit, who aren’t exactly patsies themselves. By contrast, they’ll only play three games in September against a team (the Angels) currently above .500.
Uh, oh. Justin Duchscherer has injured his hip. I’m assuming it’s the hip he had surgery on last year. Bad news, for two reasons: one, I like the guy and want him to succeed. Two, a recurrence to an old injury hurts his trade value a lot. If I guy injures something and then gets it fixed, that’s fine, but if he injures it twice, he’ll probably injure it three times.
The A’s signed Brett Hunter, their seventh-round pick out of Pepperdine, just before yesterday’s signing deadline. Hunter is a top-two-round talent who fell because of injury concerns. But he spent the summer pitching for a collegiate all-star team, and pitched well enough to convince the A’s he was healthy enough to play.
Brett Anderson started for the US against Canada, and yielded four runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. But like Trevor Cahill the day before, Anderson ended up with a no-decision.
Trevor Cahill was the starting pitcher for the US in today’s Olympic ballgame against Cuba. He got a no decision, pitching five innings, allowing two runs on six hits and four walks, striking out three.
I witnessed an end of an era today: Brad Ziegler’s consecutive scoreless innings streak ended at 39 and whatever innings. Ziegler didn’t have good stuff today: the Rays hit several balls hard in the previous inning, but they were caught at the warning track.
His luck didn’t last another inning.
He gave up a single to Akinori Iwamura. Then that lovely swing of B.J. Upton connected:
The line drive shot into the left field corner, and the runners were off to the races:
Jack Cust didn’t pick up the ball cleanly, and Iwamura came around to score the first run ever against Brad Ziegler:
And the streak was over. The Rays took the lead 5-4. It was the first time I’ve ever seen the home team fans give a relief pitcher a standing ovation after giving up the lead:
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That’s what A’s fans will remember about this game. But for teams that are still in the AL pennant race, this play is probably more significant:
Troy Percival fielded a bunt by Mark Ellis and sprinted over to tag him out. Percival injured his leg on the play, and had to leave the game. His replacement yielded the tying run, and the game went to extra innings. The Rays won the game in extra innings, but if Percival is out for any extended period, that could be the injury straw that breaks the Rays’ back. I’m rooting for the Rays, so here’s hoping Percival is OK.
Another tidbit I noticed that I didn’t include in my wrap up of last night’s game: Brad Ziegler throws his first two warmup pitches on the mound using his old overhand motion before he switches to the sidearm delivery.
I had plenty more important things to do, but when my brother-in-law called this afternoon and said he had seats he couldn’t use right behind home plate, I thought, hmm…Gio’s Oakland debut, Pennington’s first game, could be interesting. OK, I’ll go. Here’s the wide angle view of the seats I had:
From this short distance, you get a much more realistic sense of the impressive speed of the game at the major league level. How any batter ever manages to discern ball from strike, and make any sort of contact at all off these pitchers throwing over 90mph is a minor miracle. And then to recognize the difference between that and a changeup before it’s too late? It looks so much easier on TV than up close and personal. Also, foul balls should be renamed "Death Missiles". They’re absolutely terrifying as they go whistling overhead or slam into the screen in front of you.
Cliff Pennington has been called up to be the A’s new third baseman, replacing the severly slumping Jack Hannahan at 3B. Pennington doesn’t have much power–he profiles more as a shortstop offensively–but anything would be better than Hannahan at this point.
Hannahan was hitting .222/.307/.333 for the year, but only .136/.191/.159 over the last two weeks. Pennington was hitting .297/.426/.386 in 236 at-bats in Sacramento.
Lenny DiNardo was sent back to AAA to make room on the 25-man roster, and Brooks Conrad was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Pennington.
Melissa Lockard takes a look at Dan Meyer’s future. Money quote:
Meyer’s biggest mechanical flaw, according to A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson (who I spoke on Saturday morning with about Meyer for Scout.com), is that he has a tendency to fail to finish some of his pitches, which causes the pitches to stay up in the strike-zone. We saw that on Saturday night on the three homeruns. However, when Meyer was finishing his pitches, his stuff was very difficult for the Tigers’ hitters to handle. He got a lot of groundballs and was able to keep the hitters off-balance, for the most part. In addition, he worked at a much better pace than he did last season and generally looked a lot more confident on the mound.
That last sentence is the key to Meyer for me. I exchanged greetings with Meyer at Fanfest just after the Tim Hudson trade, and the guy looked like a scared puppy, totally overwhelmed. Unlike Hudson, who I also ran into once in his rookie season. Although Hudson is physically no bigger than I am, he had a look in his eyes that said, “I’m the big dog around here.” It didn’t surprise me that Meyer was too afraid to admit to his spring training injury his first year in Oakland, or to hear that he sometimes lacks confidence on the mound. Meyer’s just probably not a naturally self-confident guy, but instead probably needs some success to give him the self-confidence to have success. It’s a bit of a catch-22. You could probably throw a bulldog like Hudson into the World Series as a fresh rookie and he’ll be fine, but a guy like Meyer needs to be eased into things. Start him in the bullpen against some lousy teams, and then let him work his way up.
The Mark Ellis trade market has suddenly picked up after couple of key broken bones to contenders. The Diamondbacks recently lost Orlando Hudson for the year, and today, Evan Longoria went down with essentially the same injury: a broken bone from a hit-by-pitch.
Ellis is hitting .231/.317/.361, which isn’t really any better than Orlando’s backup, Augie Ojeda (.257/.358/.324). So even with the defensive upgrade to Ellis, the Diamondbacks might not want to pay the price. Then again, Ellis would be going from one of the most difficult ballparks for hitting to one of the easiest, so his numbers would probably improve. Susan Slusser of the Chronicle adds her weight to this speculation.
This article suggests that the Rays will replace Longoria with Willy Aybar, who is hitting .225/.299/.379. Even with his bad season at the plate, Ellis would still be an improvement over Aybar at the plate, and is an improvement over anybody in the field. Now obviously Ellis isn’t a third baseman like Longoria, but current Rays 2B Akinori Iwamura played third base last year, so the Rays could switch him back. Although I’m not sure why the Rays wouldn’t just play Eric Hinske at third base over Aybar and never mind Ellis.
All of this assumes that Ellis has/will pass through waivers. There is no word on that.
Who will play professional baseball first, cavemen or robots? You know that eventually, mankind will go there. Will our single-minded pursuit of sports glory eventually cause the fall of mankind? How will our civilization end? Like Planet of the Apes? Or like Terminator? Or perhaps we shall create a race of robot/cloned human hybrids to play our professional sports for us, and when they inevitably turn on their human creators, we shall be forced to take refuge in outer space, like Battlestar Galactica. Woe is us.
Ex-A’s report: Bobby Kielty, recently released by the Red Sox, has signed a minor-league deal with the Twins.
Chris Carter (1B/3B/OF-Stockton) and Aaron Cunningham (OF-Sacramento) both make Kevin Goldstein’s Monday Ten Pack ($) at Baseball Prospectus. Goldstein notes that the A’s are moving Carter around trying to find a position for him to settle at, and Cunningham will likely challenge for a big-league job next spring. Cunningham’s task shouldn’t be too hard, considering two outfield roster spots are currently held by Emil (.289 OBP) Brown, and Rajai (.259 OBP) Davis.
Difference between the Dodgers front office, and the Athletics front office, in a nutshell:
"We’ve got young hitters, but you can’t blame all of our woes on young hitters," Geren said. "Some of those young hitters are hitting best on the team."
Related note: the only three A’s batters with a batting average over .255:
Ryan Sweeney: .291
Kurt Suzuki: .286
Carlos Gonzalez: .277
I’m glad Huston Street has some perspective on his recent slump:
"I know I’ve been in the league 23 months, and the first 22 were pretty solid. The last month was the first time I’ve experienced prolonged poor results and it will turn around. … I’m probably not going to see late innings when we’ve got a guy who’s thrown 37 scoreless innings, I understand that. At the same time, I expect that within a month from now, Sept. 10, I will have righted my ship."
There are a lot of clueless athletes with a sense of entitlement who would be outraged by a demotion. At least Street knows he’s been awful this month, and recognizes Brad Ziegler’s accomplishments.
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Meanwhile, the A’s front office apparently expected the A’s to be terrible like this all year long, and were a bit surprised they didn’t. A’s assistant GM David Forst:
"It’s great we got off to a good start and played that well, but, unfortunately, it created some unrealistic expectations outside the organization."
Oops, sorry fans, see those standings, where we’re 9 games over .500? Ignore that. We actually suck. Watch, we’ll prove it to you!
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Reminder: we’ve started running short snippets on the Catfish Stew homepage that don’t show up in the "Hot for the Toaster" list. So check back often, y’hear?
Breaking news from the San Francisco Chronicle: Going 3-21 is "no fun".
Don’t ignore the Never-Heard-Of Guy: I didn’t like the Rich Harden trade at first glance, because in return for Harden and Chad Gaudin, the A’s got three players I’m not too excited about, and another guy I had never heard of.
That "guy" is single A catcher Josh Donaldson. Donaldson had a triple and a home run for Stockton on Sunday, and is now hitting .394/.466/.712 in 114 plate appearances since the trade.
Matt Spencer, the Never-Heard-Of Guy in the Joe Blanton trade, is hitting .353/.411/.576, even after an 0-for-4 yesterday.