Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

Hughes could face hitters this week
Yankees will stay on rotation despite off day
Robbed. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

After having multiple run leads in all three games against the Mariners and losing two of them, the Yankees are heading down to the Bay Area for a three game set against the Oakland Athletics. These two teams have quite a bit of recent-ish history, like Jason Giambi, Scott Brosius, and the 2000 and 2001 ALDSes. The Yankees won nine of the ten games against the Athletics last year, including five of six in Oakland.

What Have The Athletics Done Lately?

The A’s are coming off a three game sweep of the Orioles, outscoring the orange birds 16-8 over the weekend. They had lost seven of nine before that, including six straight at one point. Overall, the Athletics are right at .500 with a 27-27 record, dead last in the division even though their +12 run differential is second best.

Athletics On Offense

He's the Hit-deki, you know. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Eh, they don’t really have much of an one. Despite several notable offseason additions, the A’s have the third worst team OBP (.307) in the AL and they average just 3.65 runs per game. The problems start right at the top, where leadoff man Coco Crisp gets on base just 30.7% of the time and number two hitter Daric Barton gets on base just 32.6% of the time (.393 OBP for Barton last year).

The remade middle of the order features David DeJesus (.247/.323/.385), Josh Willingham (.244/.328/.446), and True Yankee™ Hideki Matsui (.266/.282/.346), and those three aren’t exactly Gonzalez-Youkilis-Ortiz. Kurt Suzuki (.250/.314/.372), Mark Ellis (.213/.249/.295), Cliff Pennington (.259/.312/.341) and Kevin Kouzmanoff (.220/.262/.347) round out the rest of the lineup, though we might see lefty Ryan Sweeney (.320/.414/.413) and righty Conor Jackson (.264/.349/.345) is various matchup situations. With a team batting line of .241/.307/.351 on the season, facing the A’s is almost like facing a lineup of nine Derek Jeters. Think about that.

Athletics On The Mound

Monday, RHP Trevor Cahill: Last year looked like a fluke, given a .236 BABIP and a 56% ground ball rate. The extremes of those two stats usually don’t go together. The 23-year-old righty has shown that he’s legit by repeating his dominance this year, using a 7.07 K/9 and 57.2% ground balls to carve through lineups. Cahill’s approach is pretty simple; he pounds the zone with low-90’s sinkers pretty much all day long, though he’ll occasionally bust out a low-80’s changeup and an upper-70’s curveball to get swings and misses. The Yankees have roughly him up in the past, but that was before Cahill took a step forward and turned into one of the best pitchers in the AL. He’s everything we wish Ivan Nova could be.

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Tuesday, LHP Brett Anderson: A personal fave, Anderson employs the same strikeout (6.90 K/9) and ground ball (62.3%) heavy approach as Cahill, just with his other arm. He throws two fastballs in the low-90’s, using his sinking two-seamer a little more often than his four-seamer, but his money pitch is the slider. It’s absolute death on lefties and Anderson will throw the low-80’s offering more than 46% of the time, so he’ll go to it in any count. A curveball and changeup fill in the gaps, but he just uses them as show-me pitches more than anything. When healthy, which wasn’t often last year, Anderson’s the best pitcher on this staff, even better than Cahill.

Wednesday, LHP Gio Gonzalez: The Athletics have a pair of guys named Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso in their rotation, yet somehow the Yankees will run into their top three arms this series. Go figure. Gio’s the strikeout guy on the staff (9.10 K/9), though he also gets a decent amount of grounders as well (50.6%). The problem is that he’s shown a tendency to walk quite a few (4.04 BB/9), and we’ve seen the Yankees take advantage of that a few times over the last two seasons. Gonzalez goes to the mound with three true pitches that he uses almost equally: a low-to-mid 90’s four-seamer (30.0%), a low-90’s two-seamer (32.4%), and a big breaking curveball right around 80 mph (32.5%). About one in every 20 pitches will be a fosh changeup. Gio’s a bit of a wildcard, he’s the kind of guy that could walk six in five innings or whiff a dozen in nine. But again, the Yankees have had some success against him the last few times they’ve seen him.

Easy dude. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Bullpen: The A’s are a model pitching and defense team, so they unsurprisingly have a strong bullpen that got even stronger yesterday when they welcomed All-Star closer Andrew Bailey back from the disabled list. We’re all familiar with the hard throwing setup man Grant Balfour (10.22 K/9), who joins the slider happy Michael Wuertz (9.88 K/9) to give manager Bob Geren a pair of high strikeout options in the late innings. Craig Breslow has been even more anti-LOOGY than Boone Logan (LHB are hitting .400/.424/.533 off him), though Geren could always turn to fill-in closer Brian Fuentes (.250/.308/.333) in those spots. The rest of Oakland’s pen is occupied by Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler, a pair of low arm slot (in Ziegler’s case, submarine) righties that do their best work against batters of the same hand. It’s the kind of relief crew that can create matchup nightmares in the late innings, and just about all of them miss bats.

Recommended Athletics Reading: Athletics Nation and Beaneball

Hughes could face hitters this week
Yankees will stay on rotation despite off day
  • Xstar7

    A lineup of Derek Jeters? Dear god.

    • Esteban

      Yeah, not one player slugging over .500, and only three over .400 (Willingham .446, Sweeney .414, Crisp .404).

  • CMP

    The Yankee starting pitching is going to have to step up since the offense is probably in for a rough time against those guys.

    Out of the first 6 games of this trip, the Yankees will have run out the inferior starter in 5 of them, usually not a recipe for success.

  • Avi Atkin

    “With a team batting line of .241/.307/.351 on the season, facing the A’s is almost like facing a lineup of nine Derek Jeters. Think about that.”

    Sadly, we’re not facing nine Javier Vasquezes. I’m really concerned about the Yankees being bogged down in close matchups with these guys. That’s not a formula for a sweep.

    • Jerome S.

      I could see the Yankees scratching across 3-4 runs at least in each game. I mean, think about it, with this lineup it’s one bad pitch and all of the sudden it’s a home run. There’s really no one on the A’s who could do that.
      And let’s keep in mind that even the best pitchers melt down.

      • Esteban

        Let’s keep in mind, DOOOOOOM.

      • Avi Atkin

        On your first point, Willingham is the type of guy who can be a game changer. Still, I’m more concerned about the A’s getting on base and stringing along a few runs. The A’s can put up 3-4 runs.

        Secondly, I absolutely agree. The Yankees are going to get to some of these pitchers. I trust this offense to make things happen over the course of this series.

        The most important thing in my opinion, when playing these inferior West Coast teams is jumping out early. I hope Teixeira can keep slugging HR’s.

        • Jerome S.

          “I’m more concerned about the A’s getting on base…”


          But I see what you mean.

          • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

            The A’s probably won’t get on base too often. I think Bartolo will go out and dominate with his moving pitches and Freddy Garcia will keep them off balance with his slow stuff. Also, even bad AJ can look good against the A’s.

  • first time lawng time

    I just hope nobody walks across the pitcher’s mound. Otherwise it could be WW III.

  • first time lawng time

    Big stadium = few homers.

    That + Oakland’s pitching = what should be a sleepy offense.

  • Esteban

    Over/ under on the number of comments saying: should of (have) kept Matsui/ The Yankees need clutch hitters like Matsui

    I’ll set the line at 16 for the series.

    • http://deleted Total Dominication

      If you include sarcasm, than well over.

  • Steve H

    Cahill struck out 9.9/9 innings in the minors, I hope no one was actually wishing Nova would be anywhere near this. I get the comp with velocity and approach, Nova just has never missed bats. Cahill’s emergence in the K department makes sense based on his track record.

  • CMP

    Nova struck out 7.1/9 in AAA, now it’s down to 4.5.

    If he doesn’t change something and start missing some more bats, he’s gonna be a 5/6th starter or long reliever at best unless he gets traded to the NL.

  • FIPster Doofus

    Too bad the Yankees didn’t sign Balfour instead of Soriano.

    • Kosmo

      Balfour and Downs instead of Fleecediano and SOREano.

      • Jerome S.

        No way bro. None of those deals were good.

        • FIPster Doofus

          Nothing wrong with two years, $8.1 million for Balfour. Three/15 for Downs isn’t bad either. Those two combine to make less than Soriano, which only adds to the lunacy of Soriano’s contract.

          • Jerome S.

            Two/eight for Balfour is probably the best, you’re right
            It might even be “good”.

            I just have a complex that prevents me from supporting multi-year deals for relievers.

            • FIPster Doofus

              I hear you.

        • Kosmo

          2 yrs 8 mil for Balfour
          2 yrs 8 mil for Feliciano
          Soriano 3 yrs 35 mil
          Downs 3 yrs 15 mil

          Explain why “none of those deals were good“?

          • CMP

            Out of the FA signings of Balfour, Downs, Fuentes, Benoit, Feliciano and Soriano, so far

            Benoit has been fair with an FIP of 3.12 and 0.3 WAR
            Fuentes has been mediocre with an FIP of 3.64 and 0.2 WAR
            Balfour has been mediocre withan FIP of 3.80 and 0.1 WAR
            Downs has been good with an FIP of 2.61 and 0.4 WAR
            Soriano has been shitty with an FIP of 4.85 and -0.1 WAR
            Feliciano hasn’t thrown a pitch.

            The 2 Yankee signings have been the worst by far and overall with the exception of Downs, none of them has been great this year though only through 1/3rd of a season.

            • Mike Axisa

              Downs has been on the DL twice already. The first two months of a multi-year deal tell us nothing. All four contracts are likely to suck in the end.

              • CMP

                My point was so far, none of them have been anything great. You probably could have shopped from the bargain bin of baseball relievers and gotten similar production for a fraction of the cost.

  • Kered Retej

    I’ll be at both today’s game as well as Wednesday’s game vs. the A’s. Hope to see a bunch of Yankee transplants to the Bay Area!

    • Avi Atkin

      Enjoy the game!

  • pete

    worth noting: (possibly a new section for future series previews):

    The A’s infield defense is good. Like, crazy good.

    • Avi Atkin

      If we’re talking about pure defense (which the Gold Glove truly doesn’t) then Kouzmanoff/Pennington/Barton are the best defensive players at their position in the AL.

      • CMP

        Though 1/3rd of a season this year, Kouzmanoff’s UZR/150 is -6.9, good for only 13th in the majors.

        Surprised to see David Wright dead last at -27.7 and A-Rod 2nd at 15.9.

      • Thomas

        Last year they were, the best by UZR. This year (SSS), those 3 have actually been among the worst in the AL by UZR (as well DRS and RZR).

        • Avi Atkin

          Yep SSS is in play here. I think over the past 3 years, they’ve been among the best in the game.

  • Charles

    Get out on top in the first couple innings like we did in Seattle and we can take 2/3 or even sweep, imo Oakland’s offense is worse atm than Seattle, we just caught a team in a hot streak with 2 of the best young pitchers on the mound in 2 days, I’m not concerned this series at all.

  • Charles

    Anyone thinking about inquiring on Luke Gregerson if Soriano is going to miss significant time? The guy is eligible for Arb after this year, but it’s only his first time so he can’t make much imo, plus with San Diego so desperate for offense it might be easier to pry him loose.

    The reason I think this is if Soriano misses 2+ months, then Joba/Robertson will get worn out, another arm could never hurt.

    • Zack D

      What offense are you giving them?

  • Real Deal Fan

    Let’s trade for Gio Gonzalez. He has not signed an extension. I read somewhere he is not happy in Oakland and wants out.