Lost on the Road
by Ken Arneson
2006-04-11 19:58

Dan Haren has a blog now, and his most recent entry is titled ‘Lost’ on the Road. Suggestion for Mr. Haren: if you’re going to write titles that are prescient, try calling your next blog entry, “A’s Win Again”, or “Pitching with Perfect Control”, “I Threw a No-Hitter”. Haren and the A’s indeed “lost on the road” tonight, 7-6 in Minnesota.

In Haren’s first two starts this year, he has suffered from the same problem that plagued him at the beginning of 2005: the big inning. Early last year, he would get into jams, and then find himself unable to stop the bleeding. An inning where he should allow one or two runs suddenly became five, six, or seven-run innings. If he gave up five runs in a start, all or nearly all of those runs allowed would come in one inning. Otherwise, he’d shut the opposition down.

In his first start, he hung a breaking pitch to Gary Sheffield for a three-run homer. Tonight, the big inning struck Haren again. Five straight hits, an out, and then a fat, hit-me fastball to Tony Batista (why throw Batista anything anywhere close to the strike zone?) and a 4-0 lead turned into a 6-4 deficit that the A’s never overcame.

I guess the good news is that somewhere around the middle of June, Haren stopped letting these rallies get out of hand, and he was excellent the rest of the season. Whatever the problem is, we know Haren can get over it. Hopefully, this time it won’t take him two months to make the correction.

* * *

On the offensive side, Eric Chavez is on fire in April for the first time in his life. Chavez hit two home runs tonight, giving him five for the year. Maybe it’s practicing his leg kick in Arizona (which he never did before for some unfathomable reason, waiting until the regular season to start using it). Or maybe the comfort of having Frank Thomas hitting behind him has kept Chavez from trying to “do too much”, as the old saying goes. Whatever the reason, it’s a good sign.

If Ken Macha is true to his word that the “players write the lineup”, however, Chavez may not have Frank Thomas batting behind him much longer. Thomas isn’t hitting a lick. He’s getting hittable pitches, and either swinging through them, or popping them up. I don’t think Thomas is done as a player, but I do think he wasn’t quite as ready for the regular season as the A’s were hoping. His timing looks all off.

The alternative, though, is Dan Johnson, and he hasn’t hit anything, either. Johnson is 0-for-2006. So I guess it’s a race. First one to start hitting anything gets to keep his job.

Comments: 3
1.   scarface
2006-04-12 00:55

1.  Hey, any of you guys know why someone doesn't come and talk to Haren in the middle of his 5+ hit streak in the 3rd inning? Guy just lost 6 runs in the blink of an eye. Might be the one time when you actually want the pitcher to work a bit slower, try a pitch or two out of the zone.

Seems to me that all the Twinsters were advised that his first pitch or the next would be IN the strike zone, and were swinging aggresively (good scouting of team philosophy or something? I know Blanton was that way last game). And Haren didn't have enough movement in the zone to induce the kind of contact that he wanted. Maybe.

Burns me to see Macha sitting there chewing the cud (or gum, whatever) passively. I guess we really need Haren to learn how to handle adversity? Otherwise, it might make more sense to deep into our supposedly deep 'pen at early signs of serious trouble in the game.

2.   Shaun P
2006-04-12 07:32

2.  For the first time in 5 years, I do not have Eric Chavez on my fantasy baseball team. I decided that, perennially waiting-to-happen MVP candidate or not, third base was deep enough this year that I did not need to spend a high draft pick on Mr. Chavez.

I am convinced that this is at least somewhat responsible for his hot start.

3.   Todd S
2006-04-12 08:28

3.  If you'd like further reason to hope, Derek Lee was a notorious slow starter...until last year.

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