6/11-6/13 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

Stark: Yankees "already have interest" in Ricky Nolasco
Draft Signing Updates: Jagielo, Clarkin, Katoh
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

I think we’re all still smartin’ a bit from that four-game, two-walk-off loss sweep in Oakland last season. That was as bad a series as I can remember. Thankfully, that’s in the past and the Yankees will only spend three games in the O.co Coliseum in 2013.

What Have They Done Lately?
Even though they’re coming off two straight losses to the White Sox, the Athletics are the hottest team in baseball. They’ve won 18 of their last 23 games and are 38-27 with a +41 run differential overall, and they’ve spent the last week or so trading first place in the AL West with the Rangers.

The A’s were one of baseball’s most potent offenses earlier in the season, but they’ve cooled off a bit and currently own a team 102 wRC+ with an average of 4.7 runs per game. Those rates are still pretty damn good, but not elite like they were a few weeks ago. Oakland’s only injured position player is IF Scott Sizemore, who got all of six plate appearances before re-tearing a knee ligament. He’s done for the year.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Manager Bob Melvin employees one of baseball’s best leadoff hitters in CF Coco Crisp (139 wRC+), best number two hitters in 2B Jed Lowrie (125 wRC+), better number three hitters in LF Yoenis Cespedes (115 wRC+), and best cleanup hitters in 3B Josh Donaldson (152 wRC+). Donaldson, who was always expected hit, has really broken out this year now that he’s no longer catching full-time. Dude can mash.

The rest of Oakland’s lineup is a hodgepodge of platoon setups. Brandon Moss (117 wRC+ vs. RHP) and Nate Freiman (146 wRC+ vs. LHP) share first base duties while John Jaso (108 wRC+ vs. RHP) and Derek Norris (98 wRC+ vs. LHP) split time behind the plate. Both OF Chris Young (64 wRC+) and Josh Reddick (66 wRC+) have been awful, but OF/DH Seth Smith (114 wRC+) has been very good. IF Adam Rosales (91 wRC+) has been playing shortstop regularly of late while IF Eric Sogard (81 wRC+) comes off the bench. The A’s can score some runs.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Bartolo Colon
I have to admit, I didn’t think Colon would still be hanging around the league in 2013 even after returning to the league the Yankees in 2011. The 40-year-old has been very good this year, pitching to a 3.14 ERA (3.29 FIP) in 77.1 innings spread across a dozen starts. He doesn’t strike anyone out anymore (5.35 K/9 and 15.2 K%), but his ground ball rate (45.2%) is strong and his walk rate (0.70 BB/9 and 2.0 BB%) is outrageous. Bart has walked six batters all year. Six! As you probably remember, Colon is all about the fastball. He uses his low-90s four-seamer and upper-80s two-seamer a combined 85% of the time, mixing in the occasional low-80s slider and low-80s changeup. It’s worth noting he has a rather large platoon split: righties have been held to a .240 wOBA, but lefties have gotten him for a .336 wOBA. Bart held the Yankees to three runs in 5.1 innings a few weeks ago.

Straily. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Straily. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Dan Straily
Straily, 24, has replaced the perpetually injured Brett Anderson in the rotation and has managed a 4.67 ERA (3.16 FIP) in nine starts. That’s the fifth largest ERA-FIP gap in baseball (min. 50 IP). He’s a fly ball pitcher (35.5% grounders) with a decent strikeout rate (7.62 K/9 and 20.6 K%), though he does limit the walks (2.60 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%). Straily relies primarily on a low-90s four-seamer to setup his mid-80s slider and low-80s changeup, though he’ll also mix in the very rare low-80s two-seamer and mid-70s curveball. The slider is his go-to offspeed pitch. The Yankees saw Straily a few weeks ago and like Colon, he held them to three runs in 5.1 innings.

Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Jarrod Parker
The 24-year-old Parker had a dynamite first full season in the show last year, but he’s taken a step back in 2013: 4.68 ERA and 5.04 FIP in 13 starts. He’s been way better of late, rattling off six consecutive quality starts coming into this series. Parker’s core peripheral stats — 6.6 K/9 (17.1 K%), 3.60 BB/9 (9.4 BB%), and 44.3% ground balls — are nearly identical to last season, but he’s suddenly turned into a homer machine (1.44 HR/9 and 13.5% HR/FB). I have to think those numbers will come back to Earth a bit playing in the Coliseum. Parker is a true four-pitch pitcher, using low-to-mid-90s two- and four-seamers to setup his low-80s slider and changeup, so it’s no surprise he has no platoon split. The Yankees did not see the young right-hander when the two teams met a few weeks ago, though he held them to one run in eight innings on two separate occasions last year.

Doolittle. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Doolittle. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Athletics were off on Monday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be. Melvin’s end-game trio of closer RHP Grant Balfour (3.75 FIP) and setup men RHP Ryan Cook (1.92 FIP) and LHP Sean Doolittle (3.14 FIP) have been as good as any in baseball. RHP Pat Neshek (3.58 FIP) and LHP Jerry Blevins (3.00 FIP) do the matchup thing while LHP Hideki Okajima (6.89 FIP in very limited time) and RHP Jesse Chavez (3.07 FIP) do everything else. Yes, Okajima is back in the league.

Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is in good shape, though both David Robertson and Mariano Rivera pitched in the final two games of the Mariners series. Even with yesterday’s off-day, I can’t imagine Girardi would use them both for all three games against the A’s if needed. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the latest of the relievers, then check out Athletics Nation and Beane Ball for the latest and greatest on the Athletics.

Stark: Yankees "already have interest" in Ricky Nolasco
Draft Signing Updates: Jagielo, Clarkin, Katoh
  • Robinson Tilapia

    Hey, at least we’re not facing the guy with the clown curveball again.

    A’s pitching always scares me. It’s like they have an underground factory of overachieving young pitchers that self-distruct upon switching uniforms.

    • MannyGeee

      Dallas Braden didn’t get the memo about waiting to change uniforms before self-destructing.

    • trr

      seems that way…I’d say maybe it’s a product of pitching in a big stadium (with all that foul ground!) but that’s probably too simplistic.

  • Brandon Mauk

    This certainly will not be easy. The A’s are probably better than they were last year

  • Hassey

    It’ll be interesting to see who plays the outfield during the sun-game on Thursday…eh, who am I kidding, we know exactly who’ll be out there

  • Darren

    For you younger guys on RAB, it may be hard to believe, but in the late 80’s and early 90’s Yankee fans had good reason to be very jealous of the Oakland teams. Not just the McGwires and Cansecos in their Bash Brother prime, but very good players like Carney Lansford, Terry Steinbach and even Walt Weiss.

    Maybe cause of the Billy Martin and Reggie connection or the cool ugly unis but I always has a nice psot for the A’s teams and felt bad when they were atrocious. That being said, I hope we can extend their losing streak another few games and get on a nice big roll ourselves.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      You should have a nice spot for them because they have to play in that shithole of a stadium as well.

      ’89 WS was on ESPN Classic yesterday. Got to watch Canseco’s GS in the first against Tim Belcher all over again.

      • 461deep

        Yes the OC is not the greatest ballpark. Alternately, Cashman saves all his big lefty hitters DNA so he can clone future ones to keep scrapping the concrete above the WB Mason sign at YS. CC has looked good lately but team will need to score more as they are not playing the
        B-12 challenged Mariner lineup for awhile.
        AL East should have a very competitive and exciting race. Toronto should even improve to make a run at .500 once Reyes and Lawrie return especially if Johnson pitches okay.

      • Henry Krinkle

        That was the 1988 World Series, fwiw.

      • Darren

        Unfortunately, the A’s stadium is about 1000 times nice than the new Yankee Stadium. I went to a game there and it was totally fine, very enjoyable and you can even get a glass of chardonay if that’s your thing without a special pass or paying $1,500 for the right. The ushers don’t eyeball you like you’re Andy Dufresne trying to escape SHawshank, and your eyes aren’t assaulted by a bullpen that looks like a car dealership.

        I would much rather watch a game there than the hellhole in the Bronx.

        • Havok9120

          You, sir, are basically alone in that. Even the anti-Yankee sections of the press has never tried to claim something that outlandish. And not many of their fans seem to agree either.

          • Darren

            Have you ever been to Oakland Coliseum? I don’t know why it gets such a bad rap, although granted it’s been a few years since I was there. The old Yankee Stadium blew it away, but the new is a giant pile of crap.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              The Oakland Coliseum is a cavernous shithole with seating so far away from home plate that you might as well be on the other side of the bay. Easily one of the worst stadiums in baseball.

              I happen to love YS3. Sit in section 203 and you get the best of everything.

      • gomer 8000

        It’s a fine stadium. In a comfortable seat, I can watch the A’s sweep the Yankees, drink overpriced beer, and have a good time. Are you a baseball fan or an architect?

    • high heat

      Those were some fun teams to watch. In a way, they reminded me of the ’86 Mets: An already good team that added just the right pieces to become a great team.

      There was absolutely no reason on earth that they should have lost to the Dodgers in ’88 or have been swept by the Reds in ’90, but, of course, YCPB, Suzyn.

  • faba

    Interesting use of terminology describing Colon and Straily’s last outings against the Yankees – “held them to three runs in 5.1 innings”. With the Yankees lack of offensive output this season, three runs in 5.1 innings is a breakout game.

  • The Real Me

    I’m not going to predict what individual pitchers may do based on the stadium they’re playing in or the pitching matchups (lose to Bonderman and beat Felix???), but if the Yankees can get a bit of offense (big IF, unfortunately, but I’d take 3 runs over 5.1 innings), 2 of 3 is achievable. A’s have a strong offense, but the Yankees pitching has been great, so maybe they can shut down those big hitters for a few games.

    • Havok9120

      With CC and Kuroda going it’s a decent enough bet, I think. Plus Hughes in a nice, spacey stadium.

      • The Real Me

        I am NOT going to predict outcomes based on matchups or the stadium (last time I did I was way off). However, if I were going to, I’d mention the things you did. :-)

  • The Bastard

    What are the Yanks at for per game scoring?

    • Havok9120

      3.75 I believe.

      • The Doctor

        That’s runs allowed. They score exactly 4 per game on average.

  • trr

    I remember that series last year. a little payback is in order.
    2/3 would be nice….Colon doesn’t walk anybody, but then many of our hitters are up there hackin’ anyway

    If the season ended today, Yanks and Oakland would be the 2 wild cards. Let’s win this series!

  • Pat D

    I’ve had a soft spot for the A’s ever since I saw Moneyball.

    It opened up my eyes to how general managers fly across the country just to discuss middle relievers in trades, how the trade deadline is conducted in one office between two guys, and, of course, how Jonah Hill discovered the secret formula for baseball.

    Oh, and how Jeremy Giambi was one of the A’s offseason targets even though he was already on the team.

    • SDB

      I like Moneyball, but christ, can it have ONE mention of the fact that the As had a pretty good pitching staff that year?

      • Pat D

        Yea, I like the movie in general, too. I was just channeling KLaw with the ridiculous parts of the movie. And I forgot to mention the scene with offering a guaranteed contract to an oft-injured player whom you wanted to change position to one he’d never played previously. That one, too.

        But, yes, out of the various baseball parts that just didn’t ring true for me, the virtual ignoring of the fact that they had Hudson, Mulder and Zito was annoying. Yea, the OBP stuff was important, but it would all have been meaningless in real life if they didn’t have those pitchers.

  • OldYanksFan

    Based on our current offense, these matchups seems more like:

    Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. Cy Young
    Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. Walter Johnson
    Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. Sandy Koufax

  • OldYanksFan

    This is a direct cut’n’paste from LoHud:

    These are the numbers for the lineup regulars for the past seven games.

    CF Brett Gardner .520/.556/.840/1.396
    2B Robinson Cano .120/.267/.240/.507
    1B Mark Teixeira .185/.267/.556/.823
    DH Travis Hafner .222/.300/.556/.856
    3B Kevin Youkilis .211/.250/.368/.618
    LF Vernon Wells .130/.167/.130/.297
    RF Ichiro Suzuki .250/.348/.250/.598
    SS Jayson Nix .353/.421/.412/.824
    C Chris Stewart .357/.471/.357/.828

    Pretty scary eh?
    Thank Mo for PBP-JN and SBU-CS!

  • OldYanksFan

    Also from Lohud, our #5 Draft Pick was:
    (#164) David Palladino
    RHP Howard College
    R/R – 6’9?/230 lbs. – 3/15/93

    Six foot NINE?
    The guy is a freakin giant!