Throwing Downhill

Chapter 1: How to recognize a very good pitcher from a very long ways away indeed

Dan Haren has been the best pitcher in baseball so far this year, but he didn’t have his best stuff today. He’s a pitcher who is always around the plate, pounding the strike zone, throwing strike after strike. But on this afternoon, his location was off, he was throwing more balls than usual, running long counts, throwing 24 pitches in the first inning, and reaching 75 pitches after four. Although the Rangers had only managed one run off Haren early in the game, and his opposing pitcher, John Koronka looked very very hittable, I began to worry that the A’s might lose this game in the end. Haren looked like he would hit his pitch limit shortly after five innings, the A’s would need three-to-four innings of work out of their quite shaky bullpen to win the game. But then, the field tilted.

It happened in the fifth inning. What had been an uphill struggle for four innings, suddenly reached a peak and started racing effortlessly along like the cake of Gloucestershire cheese in today’s scoreboard highlight of choice. A five-pitch inning was followed by a seven-pitch inning, and the next thing you knew, Haren had stretched his one last inning to three, and ended the day with eight innings pitched and only one run allowed.

And that’s how to recognize a good pitcher. When he starts the game with an ERA below 2.00, has a bad day, and still manages to lower his ERA after the day is over: that’s when you have a very very good pitcher indeed.

Continue reading

MLB Team Names in Swedish

In full appreciation of this map of the Stockholm Subway system, where all the Swedish place names are translated into literal English, I present the 30 Major League team names, translated into literal Swedish, listed in Swedish alphabetical order.

Which team is which, I’ll leave it for you to figure out in the comments.  No fair spilling the beans if you can already speak a Scandinavian language, though.

Björnungarna
Bryggarna
De Idrottsliga
De Klippiga
De Kungliga
De Landsomfattande
De Modiga
De Röda
Fäderna
Gyllingarna
Indianerna
Jänkarna
Jättarna
Nötskrikarna
Parkvaktarna
Rockorna
Röda Fåglarna
Röda Strumporna
Sjömännen
Sjörövarna
Skallerormarna
Spjutfiskarna
Stjärnorna
Storstadsinvånarna
Tigrarna
Tvillingarna
Undvikarna
Ungstona
Vita Strumporna
Änglarna

Better To Be Inside Paris Hilton Than Outside Matt Morris

Few things are less exciting than sleeping, but Sunday’s A’s-Giants game may have been one of them. I arrived back in the Bay Area after my 11-hours-jammed-into-a-French-sardine-can flight from Europe Saturday afternoon, and headed out to the Coliseum the next day still zonked by jet lag. A good nap would have been more valuable to me than watching Matt Morris put the A’s bats to sleep for nine innings with his assortment of well-located slop. On another day, I may have been able to appreciate Morris’ craftsmanship, but on this day, I was simply bored.

I would have much preferred to have seen Barry Zito’s return to the Oakland Coliseum on Friday night than this game. That would have had some emotional resonance worth remembering. Unfortunately, with a 4AM CET game time and a 10AM flight out of Charles de Gaulle Airport (which, I must add, seems to have been designed by committees of Microsoft engineers rather than Jonathan Ive), I spent the entire game sleeping inside Paris Hilton.

If I had to relive one of these–either the night inside Paris Hilton, or the day outside Matt Morris, I suppose I’d take the sleep. But really, aside from the relief of finally returning to home and family, I’d rather just forget the whole weekend. Here is pretty much the only thing worth remembering from Sunday’s game, Travis Buck’s triple off the centerfield wall:

And that’s enough of that. To me, personally and for the Oakland A’s, 2007 has been just dragging along, starting, stopping, unable to kick into gear for one reason or another. It’s time to get a move on. Let’s get this party started.

Street Shut Down

Tomorrow, the Champs Elysées will be closed for the inauguration parade for newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy. I’ve never seen a presidential inauguration parade before, so the thought did occur to take advantage of this opportunity and go hang out behind one of the crowd barriers I witnessed being erected earlier today all along Paris’ most famous boulevard. But since there have been some violent protests following the election results, I think it’s probably safest to keep my 80-year-old mother away from that scene. We’ll probably go check out some museum exhibits instead.

Oh, wait…you probably wanted to read about a Huston Street being shut down, not a Paris street being shut down. About that…well, yeah, it figures, doesn’t it? Is there anything really intelligent to say about all these injuries at this point? "Fire so and so, blah blah blah…" I suppose, maybe, whatever. I don’t really know where to start to assign blame on this. The volume and diversity of injuries on this team is pretty much unfathomable. It’s like trying to communicate something complex to someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you. They don’t make sense, you don’t make sense, so you just kind of wave your hands and shake your head and shrug your shoulders, and sigh, and move on and hope for better luck with the next person you meet. Remind me never to express any optimism ever again.

Des Things Are Looking Upp!

Obelisk

Bonjour, mina ladies et monsieurs! Oh, låt mig tell you, jag am så confused maintenant.

Min mother fyllde 80 years old last week, et som present, min brother et I decided to take her till Paris. She’s always wanted att se Paris, mais she hade jamais been här before.

Nu, je suis här, trying att juggla three langues at once: speaking Swedish to min bror och mor, trying to drudge up le French je haven’t used since mon high-school classes 20 years ago to parler till shopkeepers et waiters et such, et only when that fails (as den ofta does), reverting back to Anglais. I har never had des problem att juggla deux langues, but le third har tied up min tunga et mon brain into complete knots.

As en resultat of ce voyage, jag n’ai pas anything brilliant att dire om les Athletiques d’Oakland. Jag har not seen un game for över en vecka. Mais je read les box scores på webben, so det seems like les Athletiques are doing pas mal. Oui?

Så, how about that Jacques Cousteau?

Malodorous

So I was watching the A’s-Devil Rays game on Sunday, and my six-year-old daughter asks, "Who’s that guy?"

"He’s a new player on the A’s," I said. "Chris Snelling."

"Who??? Chris Smelly???" she replied, in obvious delight at the possibilities.

"No, not Smelly. Snelling. He doesn’t stink, unlike some other A’s hitters I could name."

* * *

When an entire lineup seems to stink, it’s sometimes hard to tell for sure if the entire lineup really stinks, or if the team is just running into a series of good performances by the opposing team. But all it takes is one new player (Dan Johnson) or two (Chris Snelling, Jack Cust) to be inserted into that lineup and not stink, to confirm that, yup, the rest of the lineup stinks.

But even the successes of these three recent additions to the A’s lineup may be misleading. The whole lineup might still stink, but the stench is simply being masked by the even more malodorous pitching staffs of Tampa Bay and Kansas City.

* * *

But who are we to talk? Catfish Stew must not smell too good itself. Consider:

Ken Arneson is currently 4,650 miles away from Ryan Armbrust
Ryan Armbrust is currently 3,900 miles away from Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is currently 7,100 miles away from Ken Arneson.

Nobody on Catfish Stew wants to be anywhere near each other. And clearly, you especially want as much distance as possible from that putrid Ken Arneson fellow. We won’t reveal his exact location to protect the innocent, but this picture was taken by him yesterday high above a remote northern ocean:

 

Keep away from us. Keep far, far away.

Another Instant Trade Analysis

Billy Beane is on a roll! He’s trading and trading and trading and he just can’t stop! Today, he sent Charles Thomas to the Brewers organization in exchange for catcher J.D. Closser.

What’s the point of this trade? I can only guess. Both players were once prospects who showed some promise, but flopped at the major league level. Seems on the surface like a pointless shuffle of bodies.

Here’s my guess. The A’s have two players, Mark Kotsay and Esteban Loaiza, currently on the 60-day DL, who are likely to come off in June. When that happens, two players are going to have to be moved off the 40-man roster, and I’m guessing that one of them is going to be Jeremy Brown. Also, Brown is currently on the DL with a calf strain, so Closser provides catching depth, plus another healthy body in Sacramento.

Either that, or he just wants to give A’s bloggers something to do besides complain about the lousy offense, Nick Swisher’s game-winning home run today notwithstanding.

For completions sake, the Tim Hudson trade is now worth Closser, Brad Halsey, and Dan Meyer.  Given that Halsey’s probably gonna be out of here at some point from his recent whining, and Meyer is just now returning from the injury that has ruined the past two seasons for him, the jury on that trade is still out.

Mulder trade?  See today’s starting pitcher.  Dan Haren is awesome.

Beane Strikes Again

And the winner of today’s injury lottery is…Mike Piazza! Congrats, Mike! Your sprained shoulder has won you a four-to-six week vacation in beautiful Darlington, England, birthplace of railroads, and home of UK Postal Code DL!

So the A’s add even more important depth to their disabled list, but don’t go thinking Billy Beane is satisfied yet. Beane certainly has his faults, but his most redemptive quality as a GM is probably his ability recognize when he’s made a mistake, and correct it quickly. Beane followed his brilliant trade for Chris Denorfia, who is out for the year with Tommy John surgery, by inexplicably acquiring a healthy Ryan Langerhans from the Braves. Recognizing that Langerhans might actually be able to stay in the lineup for an extended period of time, Beane quickly got rid of him, sending him off to the Washington Nationals after only two games in the green and gold, in exchange for former Mariner Chris Snelling. Snelling is actually healthy at the moment as well, but his track record suggests considerably more upside than he has displayed of late. Snelling is probably the only player in the major leagues who can rival Bobby Crosby and Rich Harden for the title as the majors’ second-most brittle player (behind only the incomparable Carl Pavano) and may, in fact, surpass his new teammates. He is apparently so brittle that even the mere mention of his name can send him to the DL–the USS Mariner blog took to calling him "Doyle" in an effort to prevent further injury.

Even though we still don’t know who the PTBNL is going to the Braves for Langerhans, I am positively giddy over this trade. With the exception of the A’s lone albatross, Jason Kendall, the A’s have never had more flexibility and more potential up and down the lineup to do damage to themselves than they have right now. Maybe Snelling will be blinded by his new white shoes and trip and fall over himself. Maybe he’ll bump into one of the invisible people in the locker room, and break a leg. Or perhaps Crosby and Snelling can collide with each other in shallow left field, and take each other out for good in one big bang. The possibilities are endless; the sky is the limit. It’s a great time to be an A’s fan.

This Explains A Lot

A lot of weird things happen to the A’s. Clusters of injuries, massive, team-wide slumps, inexplicable mental mistakes at the worst possible time. All of them quite hard to believe, and quite hard to explain. But it all makes sense now, thanks to Jay Witasick. All this time, there’s been an invisible man in the A’s locker room:

"There’s another man in this locker room, goes by the name of Badger. If the lights were out, it was completely dark, you could see him. You would. It’s like the aura. Actually, if you hold a blue light up to him, he glows a lot."

Badger is a mischievous little gremlin, isn’t he? I wonder if, after putting the entire A’s outfield on the disabled list, he got bored and decided to go poke holes in some Yankee hamstrings, too. Which, given the miraculous Scutaro homer, might lead you to suspect that Badger is a Red Sox fan, except then how would you explain last night’s improbable A’s comeback?

Curt Schilling has a post on his blog about last night’s game, where he discusses everything except the unexplainable comeback. First rule about Badger: don’t talk about Badger.

Oops. What am I doing? Backspace backspace backspace backspace backspace….