9/21-9/23 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

Mailbag: Grilli, Ross, Villanueva, Peavy, DH
RAB Live Chat
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Blame the Athletics. The Yankees’ second half slide all started out in Oakland, with a four-game sweep that featured four one-run losses. The Bombers have started to right the ship these last two weeks and now the A’s are coming to the Bronx for three games. I think payback is on everyone’s mind.

What Have They Done Lately?

Although they hammered the Tigers yesterday, Oakland lost three straight prior to that and four of their last seven overall. The A’s are no pushover; they’re within shouting disaster of the Rangers in the AL West and are just one game worse than the Yankees at 85-64 with a +74 run differential.


(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The Athletics have a middle of the road offense, featuring a team 96 wRC+ with an average of 4.3 runs per game. I think they have the offense people think the Yankees have, meaning homer-reliant (172 HR, ninth in MLB) with a super-low batting average (.236, 29th in MLB). They will draw some walks but generally just sit around waiting for the long ball, far more than the Yankees have this year.

Oakland’s two best hitters this season have been Josh Reddick (114 wRC+) and Yoenis Cespedes (134 wRC+), the latter of whom just crushed the Yankees during the four-game set in July. Coco Crisp (108 wRC+) has been solid at the leadoff spot and Chris Carter (140 wRC+) has hit the snot out of the ball since coming up at midseason. Josh Donaldson (94 wRC+) and Stephen Drew (61 wRC+) hold down the left side of the infield. The various platoon bats including Jonny Gomes (162 wRC+ vs. LHP), Seth Smith (125 wRC+ vs. RHP), Brandon Moss (155 wRC+ vs. RHP), and catchers Derek Norris (59 wRC+ vs. LHP) and George Kottaras (124 wRC+ vs. RHP).

The list of September call-ups is quite lengthy and is highlighted by former everyday guys Daric Barton (82 wRC+), Cliff Pennington (64 wRC+), and Jemile Weeks (75 wRC+). Pennington never actually went down, but Drew gets the majority of the playing time at short these days. Infielder Brandon Hicks, outfielder Collin Cowgill, and utility man Adam Rosales round out the rest of the bench.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jarrod Parker
The 23-year-old Parker picked a bad year to be a good rookie. Guys like Mike Trout, Yu Darvish, and Cespedes mean he will be a Rookie of the Year afterthought despite a rock solid 3.54 ERA (3.48 FIP). He doesn’t miss a ton of bats (6.64 K/9 and 17.7 K%), doesn’t walk a ton (3.24 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%), and doesn’t get an overwhelming amount of ground balls (44.1%). I suspect he’ll be a Matt Cain type down the road in that his actual performance is greater than the sum of his peripherals. Anyway, Parker is a two fastball guy, sitting in the low-to-mid-90s with both the two- and four-seamers. His money pitch is a low-80s changeup that he’ll throw to both lefties and righties. A low-80s slider is a distant fourth pitch. Parker dominated the Yankees earlier this season, holding them to one run in eight innings.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Travis Blackley
Blackley, 29, is well-traveled. He was a hotshot prospect with the Mariners once upon a time, but after flaming out he wound up pitching in his native Australia as well as Mexico and Korea. He resurfaced in the big leagues this season, and has pitched to a 3.65 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 98.2 innings as a swingman. He’s a ground ball (47.3%) guy who limits walks (2.46 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%), though he isn’t a threat to strike many people out (5.93 K/9 and 16.3 K%). Blackley is a four-pitch guy who will sit right around 90 with his four-seamer, backing it up with a mid-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and a mid-70s curveball. The Yankees didn’t see him earlier this season, and it’s worth noting that right-handers (.296 wOBA) have much more success against Blackley than lefties (.249 wOBA). He’s starting this game because Brett Anderson suffered a season-ending oblique injury earlier this week.

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP A.J. Griffin
One of four rookies in the Athletics’ rotation, the 24-year-old Griffin has been superb (2.45 ERA and 3.50 FIP) since coming up at midseason. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher (38.2% grounders) who won’t walk anyone (1.55 BB/9 and 4.4 BB%) and will miss enough bats (7.23 K/9 and 20.5 K%). A big, slow, upper-60s (yes, 60s) curveball is Griffin’s moneymaker, a frustrating little floater that catches everyone out in front. His fastball sits in the upper-80s and he’ll also mix in low-80s sliders and changeups. Griffin has a bit of a reverse split (.227 wOBA vs. LHB and .265 vs. RHB) and he held New York to two runs in six innings back in July.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Bullpen Status
There’s no such thing as a short bullpen these days, not with tight division races and September call-ups crowding the roster. Closer Grant Balfour (3.42 FIP) hasn’t pitched in a week, but setup men Ryan Cook (3.21 FIP) and Sean Doolittle (1.31 FIP) both pitched yesterday. Doolittle, a left-hander and former first baseman, is especially ridiculous, with a 12.34 K/9 and 1.86 BB/9 since being recalled a few months ago. Nearly 40% of the lefties he’s faced as a big leaguer have struck out. The guy has been crazy good.

Righties Pat Neshek (3.04 FIP) and Evan Scribner (3.32 FIP) join southpaws Jerry Blevins (4.22 FIP) and Jordan Norberto (3.91 FIP) in the middle innings. Blevins is the specialist, Norberto the multi-inning guy. The crop of September call-ups includes righty Jesse Chavez, lefty Pedro Figueroa, righty Jim Miller, and righty Tyson Ross. The Athletics are carrying 34 total players at the moment, so they’re certainly taking advantage of the expanded rosters. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the details on the Yankees’ relief corps, then check out Athletics Nation and Beaneball for the latest on this weekend’s opponent.

Mailbag: Grilli, Ross, Villanueva, Peavy, DH
RAB Live Chat
  • jjyank

    Fantasy question: Do I start Parker tonight against the Yankees?

    • MannyGeee

      yikes… i might, and feel horribly dirty about it

      • jjyank

        Normally I’d probably sit him…but this week is the second round of the playoffs (essentially the ALCS). I am feeling very indicisive about it. The Yankees have been playing better lately, and Parker will have to do it in the Bronx. So I might sit him. I am currently up 13-3 on the week, so it may not be a huge deal.

        • MannyGeee

          On second thought, if you have the SP innings logged for the week, I might sit him and hope to rest on your lead.

          • jjyank

            Yeah, I have a sizable lead in the Innings Pitched category too. I also have 4 wins and 2 quality starts on him as well, so I think I will sit him.

            The Yankee offense better make me look smart.

    • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Kramerica Industries

      I’m kind of in the same boat. Here’s a tangent that none of you will care about:

      There is a 12 start limit in my league, but only if that limit is reached by Saturday. If I have 11 starts through Saturday, I can go crazy on Sunday and start however many I want.

      The sniveling bastard I’m up against this week had the good fortune of naturally having 13 pitchers line up over the course of the seven days, and has had the added fortune of getting excellent performances out of damn near all of them (his line is, like, 7-1, ERA ~2, WHIP ~1.05, and a save from Hanrahan to boot). I’ve had to already start nine guys this week just to keep within shouting distance of him.

      He leads 263-231. We’re both way ahead of the other playoff game and the consolation games.

      Now here’s the problem – I have Carp on the DL coming back today, against the crappy Cubbies, but Carp has hardly had a chance to rehab in live-game situations, he probably has some kind of pitch count, AND first game’s back from major shoulder surgery can be recipe for disaster. My only other starter between now and then is Wainwright tomorrow – my 10th SP this week.

      So I’m left wondering – take my chances with Carp, wait ’till tomorrow to pick up someone like Mike Minor from waivers, or go against my very essence and pick up Jarrod Parker, and then hope like hell the Yankees win this game, like, 2-1, and they scored the winning run against the A’s pen?

      I’ve never played fantasy, and I couldn’t care less about trying for a 3rd place finish if I lose this week. I went 19 and friggen 1 this year. Championship or bust.

      But I have a hard-ass time picking up someone to face the Yankees, no matter how good they are. And Jarrod Parker is out there, and already has had an excellent outing against the Yankees earlier this year to boot.

      Eh, first world problems eh?

  • Better off Eddard

    We don’t want to get into a 1 game playoff with anyone, especially the As so to avoid that we must take at least 2/3. Baltimore is in Boston and doesn’t lose any 1 run and/or extra inning ballgames. Our two aces are pitching, take the series.

  • http://twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

    Worth noting also that the A’s have a sizable home/road split when it comes to pitching. The whole team has a 3.12 ERA at home and a 3.94 on the road, with Parker being one of the biggest offenders (2.94 ERA in 14 starts at home, 4.95 in 12 starts on the road). Blackley has a decent split as well. Griffin doesn’t, but we are talking 30 innings in his case.

  • The Tenth Inning Stretch

    You’re right, it probably would take a shouting disaster for them to catch Texas.

  • TomH

    Very big series, the most important remaining series of the season. It should give some idea of how well the Yankees may fare in the post-season (if they make it). With the Yankees’ two aces going for them, and with the proximity of the A’s to them in wins-losses, it’s hard to imagine how this series could not be gathering all the team’s attention over the next three days. If RISPfail reappears, if CC and Kuroda continue to falter, and if the bullpen stays shaky, then any post-season appearance is likely to be short. It’s time for the Yankees to show the color of their money. This ain’t the injury-riddled, AAAA Blue Jays.

    • CountryClub

      The A’s are the best team left, but every series is important now. I think they need to win every one(inc 3 of 4 from Jays) and probably have to sweep one of the 3 gamers to hold on to the div lead.

      10-3 should do it.

  • MannyGeee

    sweep the ‘nother leg! now is the time to pick up some steam and run into the playoffs with a full head of steam.

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    While we have been winning the feeling is good. But we have been winning without those games in which we spank out 14-15 hits. I cannot remember the last game where we got 12 or more hits or is it me only. The heavy artillery guys have to clean their guns and put them to work in this series. Oakland is no pushover. Nevertheless, we have to try to exact revenge for the humbling defeats that we sustained in Oakland. Here’s hoping for at least two of three.

    • gc

      They also won two of the last three games without relying on a home run. It’s good to know, then, that the team is fully capable of winning games down the stretch even without hammering out 14 or 15 hits. Be grateful for what they’ve been able to do without doing what you’re used to.

      • Jose M. Vazquez

        I am grateful. Thanks.

        • gc

          You’re welcome. So am I.

  • vicki

    cespedes has fallen off a good bit since we saw him last. is it because teams quit pitching to him? he hit everything near the zone when yanks were out west. if the league’s figured him out i hope our staff has taken notes.

  • jesse

    Any news on Coco Crisp? Thought he had to leave Wednesday’s game with pinkeye or something.

  • JoeyA

    This has hardly anyting to do with the post, but is an AL West story nonetheless


    Looks like one writer is suggesting they pull the plug. Winner of this trade is still up for discussion

    • Jose M. Vazquez

      I saw that in last night’s blog. I wondered if Montero is so bad why in the world would anyone give a bounty for him. That is what he’s asking for. As far as the trade goes it is up for grabs but Seattle has a headstart in that Montero has given them a whole season and we have yet to see Pineda.

      • Jose M. Vazquez

        Actually his wRC is 89 which is comparable to Martins 92,Montero’s being at much less cost.

  • William

    The A’s are the best story in baseball.

  • FreeAgentSignee

    Go Yankees! Go for payback.