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Wrap: Cleveland 4, Oakland 3. A’s 18-17 (2nd Place, 3 1/2 games back)
After a good road trip to New York it is depressing to come into Cleveland and drop three straight and hopefully avoid a four game sweep tomorrow afternoon. It hurts even more to lose a game due to a controversial call as tonight’s went. First off let’s say this: the Indians could have won this ballgame. Adam Rosales‘ home run/double was not the be all and end all of this game. It would’ve left the score tied 4-4 from which a myriad of possibilities could have occurred. Of course even if this game had somehow given the A’s the lead, being in Cleveland the Tribe would have had a chance to win regardless. But what hurts is not being given that chance to win. Angel Hernandez flat out missed a home run call when Rosales in the top of the ninth belted a game-tying home run to left field off Tribe closer Chris Perez that clearly hit the railing above the wall and above the yellow line signifying a home run. This was a no doubter. Everyone watching the ComcastBayArea broadcast could see that quite clearly and indisputably. How this could go unnoticed by Hernandez and the umpiring crew is criminal. I have no clue what view they were watching but this call could not have been more cut and dry and Bob Melvin‘s ejection was fully earned as he had every right to be enraged. The reaction even of the fans who both seem to be upset they did not catch a home run ball and upset that their hometown Indians seemingly blew a game was completely ignored as well. The A’s “lost” this one and it is a shame. While there are calls to have Bud Selig force a restart of the game from that point on with the game tied, I doubt that that happens no matter how many people cite George Brett‘s pine tar game.
Masterson had his sinker working as he had a 66.7% GB% in this game allowing just four hits in his seven innings on the hill. The A’s only extra base hit of the game was Rosales’ “double”. The A’s went 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position stranding eight. One guy A’s fans have become loathe to see come up with two outs and a run scoring opportunity presenting itself has been Barton freshly recalled from Sacramento. But Barton came thru in the top of the fourth hitting a single to plate Cespedes and Moss and stake the A’s out to a 3-0 lead. The only hitter with multiple hits was Smith who went 2-for-5 with a run scored. However Smith was also the opposite of Barton and did not come through in the clutch stranding two runners in scoring position with two outs.
Griffin didn’t look so great in this ballgame. Six and two-thirds innings on the mound yielded six Indians hit including solo home runs by Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana as he walked just two and struck out just four. The big problem being the big flies really as otherwise Griffin’s pitching while far from spectacular would’ve likely sufficed for a win. On the year he now has 6.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 but a concerning 1.4 HR/9 that skew his FIP to a 4.57 contrary to the lower 3.83 ERA. There are a few concerns here, first and foremost his BABIP has ample room to grow from .250 and all his peripherals are worse than last year when they stood at 7.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9. That said Griffin has shown flashes of brilliance and everyone is entitled to a bad outing or two. Doolittle knows nothing of bad outings these days and nor does Cook as both looked great in their respective third of an inning and inning of work. Cook pitched a perfect eighth striking out two to bring his K/9 total to 10.7 K/9. He now sports a 1.69 ERA and 1.92 FIP as he has been lights out and worth 0.4 WAR a total that bests tonight’s starter Griffin at just 0.3 WAR.
Smith even though the clear zero is Hernandez and his blown call. Smith ended the game with the bases loaded and the A’s needing to score one run. It isn’t usual that you’ll give the zero to a player who had the best offensive night of anyone arguably, but when the game was on the line Smith failed to come through. Rosales had his home run/double, then a rattled Perez hit Sogard with a pitch. Jaso walked to load the bases. Smith came up took a strike before grounding out to Perez to end it. That’s a zero. Sorry, Seth.
The A’s will call up Daric Barton as they place Josh Reddick on the disabled list with a wrist injury stemming from his colliding with a wall in Houston the first weekend of the season. Reddick’s injury clearly was more serious than initially thought, first off because here it is putting him on the DL a month later, and furthermore because let’s take a quick look at his production (or lack thereof) this young season: .152/.266/.250 with a .240 wOBA and 48 wRC+ in 109 trips to the plate with just one home run making him worth -0.1 WAR on the year. This of course is a far cry from the guy who last year hit .242/.305/.463 with 32 dingers a .326 wOBA and 108 wRC+ to go with his 4.5 WAR.
Curiously, the A’s and Billy Beane call up Barton who needed to be added to the 40-man roster, proving that their love affair with the high walk, no power first baseman may not yet be over. Barton after being DFA’d had spent the season in Sacramento and there he hit .287/.422/.465 with three home runs in 128 trips to the plate. He also featured an 18.8% walk rate, a .402 wOBA and 137 wRC+ so here is hoping he has turned the corner (again). Brandon Moss will be moved to outfield duties, dramatically improving the quality of the infield, but probably dramatically decreasing the defensive quality of the outfield. Unfortunate that these outfield injuries happened when they did because I’d much rather see Casper Wells than Michael Taylor.
Surprisingly to make the addition to the 40-man roster the A’s rid themselves of lefty Jordan Norberto. That move was surprising, again Jesse Chavez lives to see another day. Norberto is presently on the MiLB disabled list and his injury, never good news for a pitcher is an elbow strain. The injury has limited his time with the club as he has thrown just one and a third miserable innings across three outings for the River Cats sporting a 40.50 ERA and 12.95 FIP as he has walked seven and struck out four among the 16 batters he has faced. Norberto came to the A’s at the 2011 deadline in the deal that sent Brad Ziegler to Phoenix in return for Norberto and Brandon Allen. Norberto’s achilles heel has always been his lack of control (5.8 BB/9 in his career) but last year was a good season for him in the A’s bullpen as he put together 52 innings with 8.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 for a 2.77 ERA and 3.90 FIP. In his career his ERA is an even 4.00 and his FIP is a decidedly higher 4.78 for a career total -0.1 WAR.
A’s assistant-GM David Forst says that the A’s are open to re-signing Norberto on an MiLB deal which explains technically at least, why he was released as he could not be designated for assignment or put on waivers being on the disabled list.
There is a cool site called Diamond Mines run by the National Baseball Hall of Fame where they have (an awful search engine, but) really cool old scouting reports on players. Poking around it you can find some interesting things and while this seems best suited for offseason posts its a cool new discovery so I will post something from it now. This is a scouting report from Dave Littlefield (who would go on to be the GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the period where they were criticized for getting signable players as opposed to the best players with the first overall selection of Bryan Bullington whom Littlefield labeled a future #3 starter in the “Moneyball draft”) of one Jason Giambi who would of course be the offensive staple of the A’s lineup at the end of the previous millenium and beginning of this one. But what did Littlefield think of Giambi on Valentine’s Day 1992?
“Big body w/pretty good bat, future 1B-LF, disappointed w/def play @3B, plays hard but tools (except for bat) are short, future 3A journeyman, maybe bat off bench”
Littlefield, who at the time was working for the Montreal Expos, also rated Giambi’s future hitting ability as “average”, power as “below average” and dedication as “fair”. Of course Giambi exceeded Littlefield’s 3A joyrneyman, maybe bat off bench expectations making his MLB debut a little over three years after this scouting report on May 8, 1995. In 2000 he would make his first All Star team and also win the MVP hitting .333/.476/.647 with a 7.7 WAR season in spite of his poor defense which Littlefield correctly pegged at “below average”. Giambi of course is still playing with Cleveland now and in his career has thus far amassed 50.1 WAR and 431 home runs while hitting .280/.403/.522 with a .398 wOBA and 143 wRC+. Maybe he could’ve been used as a bat off the bench?
It is well known that the A’s are one of the more frugal teams in the American League and in baseball as a whole. Only the two Floridian teams and Houston have lower payrolls than the Athletics of Oakland who currently sit at a “mere” $61,964,500. The Los Angeles Times has an interesting graphic where you can compare teams salaries position by position against one another. It is interesting stuff and worth messing around with if you have some spare time. What was interesting is just seeing how many places the A’s actually have a more expensive position than other teams which at times is surprising but owing to the rules in baseball that suppress young players’ salaries it often happens when one wouldn’t expect it.
For example, the A’s versus the Angels where comparing the ten positions (pitchers aren’t differentiated according to role, plus the designated hitter), the A’s have more expensive players at three of the ten positions: left field, center field and designated hitter. That is largely because the A’s have Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Seth Smith there while the Angels feature pre-arbitration Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo at those positions, wheras the Angels’ pitchers earn more than the entire A’s team at $63,831,250.
With Texas the A’s again outspend their rivals at three positions: left field (Cespedes beating out David Murphy), center field (Coco trumping the duo of Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry) and first base where Brandon Moss and Nate Freiman trump the salary earned by Mitch Moreland.
Seattle is an interesting foe as the A’s beat them at four positions salary wise. Right field where the combo of Josh Reddick and Chris Young outearn Michael Saunders, shortstop where Jed Lowrie and Hiroyuki Nakajima beat out Brendan Ryan (though the Times has Robert Andino at second base, if you move him to shortstop the A’s still have more payroll there and it would also leave things at second base unchanged too). First base sees the A’s spending more on Moss and Freiman than the M’s spend on Justin Smoak and then the A’s also edge out Seattle at the backstop where John Jaso and Derek Norris earn $289,200 more than Jesus Montero and Kelly Shoppach collectively.
Houston with the lowest payroll in baseball, just north of $26M, make the A’s look like huge spenders with Oakland having a higher payroll at every position except one: first base where Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace, both former A’s themselves, earning more than Moss and Freiman. As it stands right now money clearly doesn’t mean much as the A’s find themselves second in the standings despite being fourth in funding.
Wrap: Oakland 5, New York 4. A’s 18-14 (2nd Place, 2 1/2 games back)
The A’s take the series against New York, first time they’ve taken two out of three from the Yankees in the Bronx since August of 2011 (the one loss in that series being that awful 22 run debacle) . Turns out when Yoenis Cespedes, who homered, is in the A’s lineup the A’s this season are 13-4, with a 95-50 record since he joined the club and he has been in the lineup as per MLB.com. Regardless it wasn’t all Cespedes today as the club put together a solid showing to win.
Lineup vs. Andy Pettitte: Adam Rosales SS, Derek Norris C, Jed Lowrie 2B, Cespedes CF, Josh Donaldson 3B, Nate Freiman 1B, Luke Montz DH, Seth Smith LF, Michael Taylor RF.
The A’s were powered by the home run in this game: Montz had a solo shot in the fourth, Cespedes a two-run dinger in the sixth, and Donaldson the go-ahead in the top of the eighth. Montz had a nice day for himself going 2-for-4 his other hit being a double that also came off of Pettitte. Freiman struck out against Pettite with the bases juiced in the first inning as a part of a 1-for-4 day. Freiman is sticking around as a Rule V pick with a .243/.326/.378 slash line and has been worth -0.2 WAR today. Tough situation today for Freiman but I still have to say I like the little I’ve seen. Remember this is a kid who has previously not played above Double-A. The other hit of note is Josh Reddick coming in and getting a double off of Boone Logan having come in as a defensive replacement for Taylor who went 0-for-3 (still hitless in 2013) upping his season slash line to .148/.267/.250. The home runs were important (as they always are, but particularly so in this game) as the A’s couldn’t put together runs on their own going a pathetic 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Appearances: Dan Straily, Jerry Blevins, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour.
Straily looked alright until the sixth inning when running out of gas it seems after 85 pitches (60 of them strikes) he allowed a single to Robinson Cano and later walked Travis Hafner. (Overall on the day, he had five and a third innings pitched tagged for three runs on four hits with three walks and four stirkeouts) Blevins came in but was awful allowing both inherited runners to score, first Cano on an Ichiro Suzuki double, and later Hafner on a Lyle Overbay single that also would score Ichiro. On the year Blevins had previously been good with inherited runners with only two of the ten scoring. Doolittle pitched a perfect seventh earning the win care of Donaldson’s blast in the next half inning. Cook meanwhile got himself into trouble with singles to Hafner and Ichiro before pitching himself out of a mess. Balfour did the same thing allowing a single to Brett Gardner and intentionally walking Cano after a wild pitch moved Gardner to second, before finally getting Vernon Wells out on strikes to end the game. Not the prettiest of games from the pitching staff but overall not terrible as the A’s pitchers combined for nine innings of four earned run, nine hit, four walk and eight strikeout baseball, a recipe I imagine would work more often than not.
Gonna go with Montz. Cespedes had the biggest home run in terms of runs, with his being a two-run shot, but Montz was the only hitter with more than one hit. Donaldson’s home run while the go-ahead was worth just as many runs as Montz’ and Montz having a day with a double and home run narrowly wins to be the hero.
Wrap: New York 4, Oakland 2. A’s 17-14 (2nd Place, 2 1/2 games back)
The fourth was not with the A’s today as they fell to the Yankees 4-2 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It was a case of too little, too late as the A’s could not figure out Phil Hughes who earned his first win of the year as he went eight innings allowing just four hits while walking two and K’ing nine. He gave way to Shawn Kelley who provided no relief at all allowing a hit to Yoenis Cespedes before the A’s even managed to tag Mariano Rivera for that inherited runner along with an additional run the game ending with Adam Rosales as the tying run up and Josh Reddick stranded on second base.
The A’s couldn’t do much of anything until they got to the relievers. They hit 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position which is a recipe for failure. Smith had perhaps the best game of anyone on Oakland going 2-for-4 with a double (the A’s only extra base hit) and run driven in only striking out once. Cespedes also had two hits on is 2-for-4 day with a run scored and two strikeouts. Moss and Jaso were the only other A’s to get hits and both also drew a walk apiece. Donaldson ground into his seventh double play which is now good for second in the American League below the slow moving Kendrys Morales of the Mariners.
Colon facing his former team did not look great in this one. He gave up a home run to Chris Stewart on the second pitch of the third inning and then one to Lyle Overbay on the first pitch of the fifth inning. The call from WCBS on the Overbay home run making me hate Colon even more for giving it up with John Sterling saying something to the effect of Lyle hitting it a mile, and then expressing how he Lyle Lovetts. Gag me. Overall Colon just went five and a third, throwing just 73 pitches before being pulled, striking out just three and allowing six hits along with three runs, all earned. The game gave him an ugly 5.06 ERA and even worse 6.75 FIP so it was far from his strongest outing. That said, he still has allowed just one walk this entire season which came on April 23rd in Boston to Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth inning of that game. It brings his BB/9 this year down to an incredible low 0.2 BB/9. Blevins looked good striking out two of the three batters he faced in relief. Resop followed him and gave up a triple to Eduardo Nunez who was plated by Brett Gardner to further distance the A’s. Resop has quietly not been great this year as he has just two shutdowns and one meltdown but when relievers help the other team distance you from competing even if the game is not all that close at that particular moment it does you a disservice. Resop has 5.4 K/9 (below his career mark of 7.5), 4.7 BB/9 (above his career mark of 4.2) and 0.7 HR/9 (slightly better than his career mark of 0.8). Always someone with a somewhat inflated BABIP, it is much higher this year (.347) than normal (.318) giving him a 4.73 ERA and 4.57 FIP. Wonder if he is someone who could slip through waivers? Scribner pitched fine in his inning of work.
Colon. 73 pitches isn’t very many unless there is an injury we all are unaware of and giving up home runs to Stewart and Overbay, those are just not the guys on this team you want to have beat you. Overall while not a clearly awful outing this was a subtly awful outing and though collectively the bats have much blame for failing to get to Hughes, no one there stands out.
Chris Young who has not played since April 29th, when he went 2-for-4 in the A’s 19 inning win over the Angels, has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left quad strain. Young who has in many ways been supplanted by Seth Smith as the fourth outfielder in the A’s outfield mix, is off to a very slow start with his new club hitting just .172/.277/.391 in his 101 plate appearances this year. His .172 BABIP is largely responsible for the lowered numbers as he has featured a strong .218 ISO with four home runs and five stolen bases for a total of 0.1 WAR. In his stead the A’s recalled Michael Taylor who is hitting .329/.380/.616 with five home runs in 79 plate appearances at Sacramento. Granted hitting at Sacramento or Triple-A Lehigh Valley when he was a member of the Phillies organization hasn’t ever been Taylor’s problem, hitting at the MLB level has. This year is no different thus far as he went 0-for-6 in his brief stint up with the big league club. Taylor “sort of” can play all three outfield spots giving the A’s the same versatility as Young but is primarily a corner outfielder.
Hiroyuki Nakajima, who I felt was a bad signing and who during the spring did nothing to dissuade me of that fact hitting .167/.286/.190 this spring in 49 plate appearances, is headed to Sacramento for a “rehab assignment” where he will be staying for an apparent indefinite amount of time. The A’s have received a .306/.383/.469 slash line with a .372 wOBA and 138 wRC+ out of shortstop this year which is Nakajima’s natural position. Out of second base where conceivably Jed Lowrie could be moved to make room for Nakajima, he has played there the past few nights, the A’s have just got a .236/.302/.323 line with a .278 wOBA and 75 wRC+ still a number better than what Nakajima has put up thus far in his short audition. The fact he is signed to a two-year $6.5M deal means we will see him, but I am glad to see that the A’s aren’t just letting the money or the intrigue dictate where he is playing but instead are allowing the results on the field dictate when he will be in Oakland. I had the same concerns last season with Manny Ramirez and the A’s were prudent and waited to see if he’d be ready instead of just knee-jerk inserting him in the lineup so it is great to see the same patience and reticence being utilized again.