A’s Trade Watch

Only looking at the major leaguers traded this offseason:

Dan Haren:      4-1, 3.13 ERA, 37.1 IP, 29 K,  7 BB
Dana Eveland:   3-1, 2.48 ERA, 29.0 IP, 21 K, 12 BB
Greg Smith:     2-0, 2.88 ERA, 25.0 IP, 16 K,  8 BB
Joey Devine:    2-0, 0.96 ERA,  9.1 IP,  8 K,  3 BB
Mark Kotsay:    .268/.333/.390
Nick Swisher:   .221/.376/.349
Ryan Sweeney:   .254/.284/.317
Marco Scutaro:  .200/.351/.250

Oakland at Angels, 7:05pm, Smith vs. Joe Saunders

Big Hurt is Back

It’s official: the A’s have signed Frank Thomas.

For now, the A’s will let Mike Sweeney and Thomas co-exist on the roster. Hard to understand how long that can last. But for now, to make roster room, Travis Buck was placed on the 15-day DL; Eric Chavez was transferred to the 60-day DL.

Meanwhile, I’ll be at the game today.   Will Thomas be in the lineup?   I have an extra ticket, if anyone wants to go. Email me by 11:30am if you want it.

Twins at Oakland, 12:35pm

Geren Gripes

Ah, nothing says "the baseball season is really here" than your first, good heart-felt second-guess. Last night gave me my first good one.

I’ve been getting annoyed at how bad Bob Geren has been at recognizing when Joe Blanton is running out of gas. There was a breakdown of the A’s on Hardball Times yesterday where Jeff Sackmann wrote "Blanton has been pedestrian", which if you look at his basic stats (1-4, 4.32) appears to be true, but that’s been misleading. Joe Blanton hasn’t been pedestrian, he’s been fabulous. The problem is that Geren has removed Blanton after he’s run out of gas in all but one of Blanton’s six starts this year.

Compare Blantons’ last half-inning of work to all the earlier innings so far:

vs.   1st X      Last <1
IP ER IP ER

BOS 5.0 0 0.2 3
BOS 5.0 1 1.0 1
CLE 6.0 0 0.2 2
CLE 7.0 1 0.2 5
SEA 7.0 4 1.0 0
MIN 7.0 4 0.2 1
All 37.0 9 4.2 12

Before his last inning, Blanton has an ERA of 2.19. In his last inning, Blanton’s ERA is 23.14. Methinks Mr. Geren needs to do a better job of removing Blanton before damage is done.

Last night’s loss was particularly annoying, as Blanton was approaching 100 pitches, it was a tie game with one out in the 8th inning, and three of the next four batters were left-handed. Perfect time for Alan Embree, wouldn’t you think? Not if you’re Bob Geren, apparently. Blanton gave up hits to two of next three batters before Embree came in and gave up the single which won the game for Minnesota.

C’mon Geren, wake up:

Twins at Oakland, 7:05pm

Optimizing the DH

The A’s are 12-8 so far, despite getting almost no production out of their primary projected power source, Jack Cust. The A’s are dead last the majors in hitting home runs–only seven combined homers for the entire team.

The Blue Jays’ release of Frank Thomas makes it worth a look to see if the A’s can get better production out of their DH spot than they’re getting from Cust. Perhaps Cust is just a one-year wonder–teams have figured out that Cust only hits fastballs, and are giving him nothing but soft stuff until he adjusts, and he might not adjust.

So let’s take a look at the options for the DH slot: Cust, plus Mike Sweeney, free agents Thomas and Barry Bonds, plus, just for the heck of it (since there are calls for his head in New York), Jason Giambi.

All five of these guys have similar profiles: low batting averages, lots of walks, high slugging percentage. Let’s look at their PECOTA projected and current 2008 stats, both overall and by handedness:

 

Overall:   projected          2008 to date
---
Sweeney: .259/.321/.428 .275/.356/.333
Cust: .242/.389/.467 .157/.368/.255
Thomas: .258/.364/.488 .167/.306/.333
Bonds: .246/.420/.494 ---
Giambi: .234/.362/.453 .109/.288/.283


vs LHP:
---
Sweeney: .266/.332/.422 .391/.483/.435
Cust: .216/.362/.395 .143/.368/.286
Thomas: .273/.387/.518 .143/.250/.357
Bonds: .234/.397/.449 ---
Giambi: .214/.338/.413 .000/.400/.000


vs RHP:
---
Sweeney: .251/.309/.389 .179/.233/.250
Cust: .246/.396/.477 .162/.367/.243
Thomas: .253/.351/.461 .174/.321/.326
Bonds: .253/.437/.508 ---
Giambi: .241/.377/.492 .125/.265/.325

If you look by projections alone, clearly Mike Sweeney is the worst of the bunch. His projected OBP is far lower than any of the other four candidates. And yet, Sweeney is the only one of the five who is doing anything at all this season: he’s clobbering LHP. Nobody’s doing anything against RHP, although Cust has at least been taking his walks.

Normally, you’d say forget the small sample size of 20 games–believe the projections. However, since all five of these players may be considered to be possibly in the final year(s) of their career, you need to make a judgment on whether the player has anything left in the tank or not. Any one of them could fall off the cliff at any time. Sweeney’s the only one who is showing any positive evidence that he hasn’t already fallen off the cliff.

In the end, I think the A’s will just stick with what they have. Bonds is a headache I don’t think they want to deal with. Cust has better projections than Thomas against RHP.  The difference between Sweeney and Thomas against the few LH starters the A’s would face in the AL West (Saunders, Washburn and Gabbard–one per team), particularly given the performance so far, might not be so big that it’s worth the extra salary it would take to bring in Thomas. Plus Sweeney is the backup first baseman now that Dan "Crab-Man" Johnson is gone, and he vastly outperforms Thomas in that defensive role. But given the positive history of Thomas’ one year in Oakland, the idea of bringing him in is certainly tempting.

 

Tonight: Twins at Oakland, 7:05 pm. Livan Hernandez vs. Joe Blanton.

A’s Tie Obscure MLB Record!

With Chad Gaudin picking up the victory in last night’s 13-2 win over Kansas City, the A’s have now won 10 games on the season, each with a different winning pitcher. The 10 wins with 10 different winning pitchers to start a season ties the MLB record held by the 1973 Chicago Cubs and the 1992 California Angels.

No team has ever gotten their first 11 victories with 11 different pitchers. The 2008 A’s could become the first team to ever accomplish that feat, if somehow either Santiago Casilla, Keith Foulke, Andrew Brown, Kirk Saarloos, or Huston Street (or some other pitcher not currently on the roster) is the next A’s pitcher to earn a victory. Today’s attempt:

Royals at Oakland, 1:05pm

Miggy The Liar

It’s too bad for the cable news networks that Miguel Tejada isn’t running for President. They’d have a field day with this guy, tearing his character to shreds. First the steroid accusations from Rafael Palmeiro, then the Mitchell Report where Adam Piatt ratted him out as a steroid user, and now this: Tejada has been lying about his age for oh-so-many years. He’s a full two years older than previously acknowledged.

I can’t find it anywhere online, but I’m certain Miguel Tejada was asked about age-gate issues back when Luis Vizcaino got caught fudging his age in 2002, but I can’t recall or find exactly what he said about it. Tejada was fortunate that year to be in the middle of a three-year visa when all the age-gate scandals broke, so he was apparently able to evade the issue with the press on a technicality.

He could have confessed then, when all the fuss was going on, but he didn’t. And he expects us to elect him President? Shame on you, Miguel Tejada!

Interesting that the two main characters in Moneyball, Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta, each have had on their resume a much-criticized decision to let players go, who later were revealed to be quite tainted.

Beane has been criticized often for choosing Eric Chavez over Miguel Tejada. Sure, Chavez hasn’t turned out great, but knowing what we know now, anybody would make that same choice.

Meanwhile, Paul DePodesta’s legacy is tied to the trade that brought Brad Penny (and others) to the Dodgers for Paul LoDuca, Guillermo Mota, and Juan Encarnacion. LoDuca was revealed to be a big steroids consumer, as was Mota. Encarnacion was clean, but vastly overpaid. Great trade, or greatest trade?

Now take a look at the team Billy Beane had when he took over as GM of the A’s in 1997. That team had Tejada, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, and Scott Spiezio. There’s a group of guys with some deep moral convictions, eh?

Yeech. I rooted for this group of dingbats. I followed them. I bought their product, helped pay for their salaries. Does that lack of judgment, by association, disqualify me to be President? I think it might. Drat.

 

Mariners at Oakland, 7:05pm

Forget Rebuilding, Win Now

It’s absurd, really. The Oakland Athletics have the best record in the American League, half a game ahead of Kansas City and Baltimore. Who’da thunk that before the season started? Who thinks the standings will look anything like this at the end of the year? Well, apparently, the A’s do.

Remember Billy Beane’s old idea that you take the first two months of the season to evaluate where you are, two months to fix your problems, and then go for it in the last two months? Well, throw that out the window. Two months? Try two weeks. The A’s are going for it now. They think they can win this year. Yesterday, they DFA’d Rule 5 pick Fernando Hernandez and brought up Kirk Saarloos. You don’t do that–replace a young pitcher with plenty of upside with a mediocre pitcher without any upside–unless you’re placing a lot of value on the here and now.

I thought that the A’s would be the last sports franchise on earth to fall victim to the illusions of small sample sizes. It’s only 13 games into the season–and only three games into Hernandez’ major league career–so it’s pretty early to jump to conclusions: that the A’s are competing for a playoff spot, and that Hernandez isn’t ready for the majors. And yet, that’s obviously what the A’s are saying here.

Greg Smith did his best Kenny Rogers impression last night, and befuddled the White Sox. Can he keep it up all year? Will Dana Eveland keep his ERA under 2.00? I doubt it, but we’ll give it another look-see today. Eveland will try his best to keep the A’s from tying a major-league record by winning today’s game.

Athletics at Chicago White Sox, 11:05am

A’s Set Team Record: Updated!

The A’s lead the AL with eight victories this year, yet oddly, no single pitcher has more than one win. This is a new team record for Most Consecutive Different Winning Pitchers To Start A Season.

So far, Rich Harden, Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland, Alan Embree, Fernando Hernandez, Joey Devine, Joe Blanton, and Lenny DiNardo have each recorded exactly one win.  Update: Add Greg Smith! Make it nine different pitchers with exactly one win!

The old team record was seven, set by the 1991 version of the Oakland A’s. The first seven pitchers to record a victory in 1991 were Dave Stewart, Joe Slusarski, Mike Moore, Kirk Dressendorfer, Dana Allison, Bob Welch, and Steve Chitren. Moore ended the streak by notching his second win of the season on April 17th. The A’s were 7-1 during this streak, the only loss being recorded by Bob Welch in the second game of the year.

The major league record (going back to 1920) is 10, held by two teams: 1973 Chicago Cubs (Bob Locker, Jack Aker, Rick Reuschel, Bill Bonham, Fergie Jenkins, Ray Burris, Burt Hooton, Bill Virdon, Larry Gura, Milt Pappas–streak broken by Reuschel) and the 1992 California Angels (Don Robinson, Mark Langston, Jim Abbott, Joe Grahe, Chuck Crim, Scott Lewis, Steve Frey, Julio Valera, Scott Bailes, Chuck Finley–streak broken by Grahe). The 1966 Pittsburgh Pirates had a streak of nine, while seventeen other teams besides the 2008 A’s have run up a streak of eight. The most recent was the 2007 Yankees.

The A’s can tie or break the MLB record if their next two or three victories come from this group of winless A’s pitchers: Santiago Casilla, Keith Foulke, Huston Street, Chad Gaudin (who blew his chance yesterday), and Greg Smith.

Smith takes the mound tonight hoping to extend the streak. He opposes Mark Buehrle, Nick Swisher, and the Chicago White Sox.  Update:  Success!  They are now one short of the MLB record!

Athletics at Chicago White Sox, 5:11pm

Game 13: If You’re Happy and You Know It

My nine-month-old daughter figured out how to clap her hands this week. The A’s haven’t lost a game since. There’s been a lot of applause going on around these parts lately.

Thing is, I can’t really figure out why this is happening. They’re on a five-game winning streak, they’re in first place by a game and a half, and the only home run they hit in those five games was Bobby Crosby’s shot last night. They’re not really hitting out of their heads–there’s not a single regular with an OPS over .900. Crosby and Ellis are in the .800s, but Cust, Hannahan and Buck are all in the .500s. There’s not really one thing you can point at and say, that’s the reason. And yet they’re scoring runs and winning games. It’s a different offensive hero every day, it seems. Clap, clap.

Pitching and defense, pitching and defense.  Clap, clap.

Today’s game against Cleveland is in a weather delay. We’ll see if the game gets played. If it does:

Athletics at Cleveland, 10:05am

 

 

Game 12: Slip Slidin’

It’s the first hot day of the year here in Northern California, up over 80 degrees.  The weather’s too beautiful to be sitting inside in front of a TV watching Lenny DiNardo pitch.  Instead, it was a perfect day to break out the Slip ‘N’ Slide for the kids:

The A’s are in first place all by their lonesomes. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts, but I think I’d be happy today even if they weren’t.

Athletics at Cleveland, 4:05pm

Game 10: Awesome A’s 2Bs

Interesting result from Baseball Prospectus today: Dan Fox’s has ranked all fielders from 1957-2007 using his new fielding stat, SFR. The top three second basemen are all Athletics:

Name                Span         Balls     SFR    Rate
Dick Green 1963-1974 4281 102.0 1.18
Mark Ellis 2002-2007 2680 67.7 1.18
Mike Gallego 1986-1997 2117 50.5 1.16
Mark Lemke 1988-1998 3602 90.2 1.15
Jose Oquendo 1986-1995 2473 45.2 1.11

That’s highly unusual. Green, Ellis and Gallego are/were all fantastic fielders, but it makes you wonder if there’s some kind of hidden park factor going on here. Which would make sense if we were talking about first or third basemen with all the foul territory for popups (Eric Chavez is third amongst third basemen behind Brooks Robinson and Jim Davenport), but I doubt second basemen catch enough foul popups to make any difference here.

Maybe the first basemen play a step closer to the lines in Oakland in order to cover the foul territory? That would turn more balls that can normally be taken by either but are typically cut off by the first baseman into the responsibility of the second baseman alone. I dunno, that’s just a guess, though.

I wonder what would happen to those rankings if you split them home/road?

And speaking of road:

Athletics at Toronto, 4:07pm

Game 9: Greg Smith Needs a Nickname

Greg Smith, who like Dana Eveland came over in the Dan Haren trade, replaces Dan "Crab-Man" Johnson on the roster, and Justin Duchscherer in the rotation. Since Smith is replacing the Crab-Man, I think it’s natural to turn to crab predators in search of a nickname:

Crabs are frequently preyed upon by halibut, dogfish, sculpins, octopus, otters, sea turtles, and even other species of crabs. Young crabs may sometimes be eaten by their own species. Crab larvae might be eaten by pretty much anything that eats plankton.

What the heck is a sculpin?

Greg "The Octopus" Smith? Greg "the Otter" Smith? "Dogfish" Smith? "Halibut" Smith? "Cannibal" Smith? Hmm…combine those last two and it sounds like a movie character. Greg "Fava Beans" Smith?

Athletics at Toronto, 4:07pm

Game 8: Who Stole My Cheese?

This game was originally scheduled to be a matchup of Rich Harden and A.J. Burnett. There would have been some serious cheese being thrown in that matchup. But alas, Harden has some sort of lat/side/back soreness and won’t pitch until Saturday. Or so they say.

On one hand, I’m glad they’re treating Harden with kid gloves, taking no chances with any sort of discomfort whatsoever. Perhaps they’ve learned a lesson. Twice before we’ve seen Harden feel some discomfort, and then continue to pitch in the game for half an inning or so, and then promptly go on the DL for weeks and/or months.

And yet: in his last start, Justin Duchscherer experienced some discomfort, continued to pitch in the game for half an inning or so, and then promptly went on the DL thereafter.  Perhaps the A’s need to learn their lessons more universally.  To complete this round of injury-prone pitcher musical chairs,  Chad Gaudin trades places with Duchscherer on the roster and gets tonight’s start in place of Harden.

Athletics at Toronto, 4:07pm

Game 7 Chat: Taxonomy

In the spirit of looking away, I’m doing my taxes this afternoon.  It irks me that I have to spend a full day of my life each year filling out all these forms, even though my taxes are pretty much the same every year.  I’d gladly pay more taxes in exchange for all those days back.  This is the computer age, doggone it.  All that data should go electronically to the IRS, and it should fill out the forms for you, and all you should have to do is check a box and say, "yeah, that’s right."  10 seconds of your life every year, and that’s it.  How much of our nation’s productivity is lost to this manual process that needn’t be manual?

Meanwhile, Joe Blanton gets his third start of the season, facing Cliff Lee.

Indians at Oakland, 1:05pm

Game 6 Chat: Da? Na. Si? Si!

The A’s scored four runs in an inning last night, while I had left the room to change a diaper and Stewmate Philip Michaels left his TV to go shopping. The key to the A’s offense, obviously, is to not pay any attention to it.

So let’s not pay attention as the A’s take on all-star starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia. Before the bottom of each half inning I shall declare a new activity besides watching the game that I am focused on. Meanwhile, Dana Eveland makes his first start as an Athletic. He pitched great in spring training. What are the odds that Eveland ends up having a better year than Dan Haren?

Indians at Oakland, 1:05pm