6/13-6/15 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

The Coliseum was actually kinda nice before Mount Davis. (Baseball Feelings)

The Coliseum was actually kinda nice before Mount Davis. (Baseball Feelings)

The Yankees are coming off a pretty awesome three-game sweep of the Mariners in Seattle, and now they head down to the Bay Area for three games against the AL-best Athletics. These are the Yankees’ final three West Coast games of the regular season. Oakland won two of three in the Bronx last week.

What Have They Done Lately?
Since that series in Yankee Stadium, the A’s took two of three from the Orioles and lost two of three to the Angels. They still own the very best record in the league at 40-26, and their +130 run differential is the best in baseball by a mile. The Giants have the next highest at +59. That’s what happens when you score the most runs (336) and allow the fewest runs (206) in the game. The A’s are a powerhouse.

Like I said, Oakland leads baseball in runs scored. They’re excellent on a rate basis as well, averaging 5.09 runs per game with a team 111 wRC+. Manager Bob Melvin is currently without OF Josh Reddick (75 wRC+), who is on the disabled list with a knee injury. He is not eligible to be activated this weekend. Other than that, the A’s are healthy.

Yoenis the Menace. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Yoenis the Menace. (Getty)

OF Yoenis Cespedes (125 wRC+) is the team’s biggest name player, but 3B Josh Donaldson (140 wRC+) and 1B/OF Brandon Moss (155 wRC+) are their most productive regulars by a rather large margin. Donaldson does come into the series riding a 1-for-28 (.036) slump, but for some reason that doesn’t make me feel any better about facing him this weekend. The catcher platoon of C John Jaso (133 wRC+) and C Derek Norris (151 wRC+) is insanely productive. You can run on them though — runners are 41-for-47 (87%) in stolen base attempts against the duo.

OF Coco Crisp (129 wRC+) and SS Jed Lowrie (92 wRC+) are pretty much the club’s only two other regular players. The rest of the lineup is based on platoons and matchups. OF Craig Gentry (81 wRC+), C/OF Stephen Vogt (113 wRC+ in limited time), 1B Kyle Blanks (155 wRC+ in limited time), and IF Alberto Callaspo (78 wRC+) are all useful when used properly. IF Nick Punto (99 wRC+) has been solid, IF Eric Sogard (44 wRC+) less so. As we saw last week, this lineup is rather relentless. If nothing else, they make the pitcher really work for his outs.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP David Phelps (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (vs. NYY)
Believe it or not, the Athletics have only two homegrown players on their entire roster. The 24-year-old Gray is one of them. He has emerged as the staff ace since making his debut late last year, and this season he owns a 2.83 ERA (3.47 FIP) in 13 starts and 86 innings. His strikeout (7.53 K/9 and 20.3 K%) and walk (3.24 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%) numbers are not eye-popping, though he does excel at getting ground balls (55.3%) and keeping the ball in the park (0.63 HR/9 and 9.4 HR/FB%). He doesn’t have a platoon split either. Gray works in the low-to-mid-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs, and will occasionally mix in an upper-80s cutter. A power low-80s curveball is his moneymaker. It’s nasty. He’ll also throw some mid-80s sliders and changeups per start. The Yankees did not face Gray in New York last week.

Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (vs. NYY)
Kazmir, 30, has brought his career back from the dead these last two years following all sorts of arm problems and a stint in an independent league. He has a 2.20 ERA (2.94 FIP) in 13 starts and 82 innings with solid to excellent peripherals across the board: 7.68 K/9 (21.9 K%), 1.87 BB/9 (5.3 BB%), 0.55 HR/9 (6.3 HR/FB), and 49.3% grounders. It’s worth noting that while his platoon split is kinda small, Kazmir has been quite a bit better at home (.237 wOBA) than on the road (.268 wOBA). The O.co Coliseum is a good place to pitch. Kazmir sits in the low-90s with his sinking two-seamer and will occasionally hump it up to 94-95. We saw a little of that last week. He still throws his low-80s slider but has since added an upper-70s changeup and mid-70s curveball to his repertoire. Kazmir struck out ten and held the Yankees to two runs in 6.1 innings a week ago.

Chavez. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Chavez. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Sunday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (vs. NYY)
The Athletics have a knack for finding productive pitchers in weird places. Chavez, 30, was literally purchased from the Blue Jays two years ago, and he’s since gone from long man to starter because of the injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Through 13 starts and 80 innings, he has a 3.04 ERA (3.59 FIP) with very good strikeout (8.33 K/9 and 22.0 K%) and walk (2.36 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%) rates. The ground ball (44.9%) and homer (1.01 HR/9 and 11.3 HR/FB%) numbers are a bit less impressive. Chavez does not have a big home/road split like Kazmir, but lefties (.339 wOBA) have had much more success against him that righties (.247 wOBA). As a starter, Chavez sits in the low-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs, and a tick below that with his cutter. A low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball are his two secondary pitches. The Yankees managed to push across four runs in six innings against Chavez last week.

Bullpen Status
Melvin’s bullpen is led by closer LHP Sean Doolittle (1.18 FIP), who has 44 strikeouts and one walk in 31 innings. That is kinda nuts, especially since he was a first baseman as recently as early 2012. (Doolittle is the other homegrown player.) RHP Luke Gregerson (2.54 FIP) handles most of the setup work now that RHP Jim Johnson (4.04 FIP) has flopped. Former Yankees property RHP Dan Otero (3.39 FIP) will also see high-leverage innings. New York had him for about three days between waiver claims last spring.

The rest of the bullpen includes LHP Fernando Abad (2.42 FIP), RHP Ryan Cook (4.27 FIP), and long man LHP Jeff Francis (5.05 FIP). The Athletics were off yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be in mid-June. Masahiro Tanaka and Chase Whitley took the ball deep into the game the last two nights, so the Yankees’ bullpen is decently rested as well. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then head over to Athletics Nation and Beaneball for the latest and greatest on the best team in the game.

Categories : Series Preview
  • Axis of Mike

    I’m expecting us to get shellacked tonight, so a win would be a nice surprise. If Kuroda pitches his best we have a chance in that one, and I think the As will feast on Nuno’s stuff. Even just 2 of 3 would be amazing.

  • pat

    How is Scott Kazmir only 30? Did he start aging backwards?

    • willie w

      Born: January 24, 1984 in Houston, TX (Age 30.140)

      • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

        I’m sure he was playing more on the fact that he has been around forever.

        • vicki

          true. debuted in 2004 at twenty. youngest opening day starter since doc in 2006. bottomed out at twenty-six. washed-up has-been starting for the sugarland skeeters (with the rocket!) at twenty-eight. feel-good come-back story at thirty. epic.

          i gotta get me a skeeters jersey.

    • ChuckIt

      That’s 30 in MET years

  • willie w

    the yanks need to hire the people who put together the A’s and let Cashman go.

    • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

      Because they look good now. Before this reemergence they missed the playoffs several years in a row.

      • Chris

        willie w. Another inaccurate statement regarding Cashman. I live in the SF Bay Area and other than the Raiders, the last fan you want to be is an A’s fan. They spend little money, trade their best players away for draft picks and minor league talent and they could care less about their fans. I could give you all the statistics on non-playoff years, early exits, trades etc, however instead of making a 16 word statement regarding the ineptitude of a more than billion dollar organization, I’ll let you look it up to educate yourself.

        They are a well run organization, and we should remember Billy Beane was given a small ownership stake a few contracts ago. That said, they do a great job putting teams together, especially this year. They will try to win a World Series in the next 2 years, then blow it up again if they don’t.

        • willie w

          guess what,,, I have lived in the bay area for years

          • vicki

            well, that settles it.

            • BrianMcCannon

              I laughed.

              • Yankee$

                Me too.

      • Paisa

        Yep. There were plenty of people out here who very frustrated with Beane a few years ago.

      • Preston

        Being a GM of a small market team and a big market team are totally different things. A GM with a small budget has limited choices, it almost makes it easier intellectually. You horde draft picks, trade established players before they hit FA, you sign reclamation projects and you hope all the dice rolling works out. If it doesn’t nobody says, oh that stupid Billy Beane/Andrew Friedman can’t build a winner with the leagues lowest payroll! When it works you’re a genius. Just because a GM is good at doing that doesn’t mean he’d be any better at giving out big FA contracts or trading prospects for big league players.

        • willie w

          they knew Cepesdes was a better player than Beltran when he got old. only a fool would give beltran the contact the yanks gave him

          the A’s management are better judges of talent than the yankees management

          • FIPster Doofus

            I don’t get the comparison. They weren’t free agents at the same time.

      • ChuckIt

        The A’s always look good regular season . Beane builds the team to put fans in the seats.Small Ball works to that end,but when it comes to WS championships it doesn’t work.FACT.

        • willie w

          fact ?

          we will see

          • Chris

            Fact: The A’s have not been in the World Series since 1990.

        • Taco’s Eskimo Brother

          What part of their offense is small ball right now? They are crushing the ball.

          I think willie w. is like me an interested to see what Beanne and co. can do with a lot of resources behind them. Some GM’s work better with restrictions, they have to be more critical and honest and don’t get to indulge as much, while others are hamstrung by the near zero margin for error.

          Basically I want to see what his MLB the Show teams are like if he plays with a Yankees or Dodgers budget.

        • FIPster Doofus

          This is absolute crap.

        • Paisa

          Hah. Ok, Joe Morgan.

    • FIPster Doofus

      Beane turned down the Red Sox a number of years back and owns part of the A’s. He’s not going anywhere.

  • stuckey

    “Believe it or not, the Athletics have only two homegrown players on their entire roster.”


    Narrative does not compute.

    Draft and player development rules all.

    Logic circuits crashing.

    Neural net shutting dowwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnn….

  • Chris

    I am hoping Kuroda gets the win tomorrow as I will be attending the game. I really hope their bats wake up, last night felt like 15 runs. That is how bad it has been as of late.

    • ChuckIt

      Good luck. I’ll be watching.Maybe I’ll see you.

  • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

    This is going to be a test for this recovering team. All of the games are winnable, but they could all be tough ones. Gray has given up at least 3 runs his last 3 outings.

  • Derek Jeter

    Win 3 straight, making fans feel better, then lose 3 straight to the A’s. Here it comes…..

    • ChuckIt

      They are tough on us,but we are on a roll(albeit small)Without Ellsbury it could be a long weekend.

  • Jacoby Eddarsbury

    I don’t like these pitching match ups at all. The only way they win tonight is if they only let Phelps go 4, Delin for 2, Warren for 1, Kelley for 1, Robertson for 1 and they win 3-2. Phelps is a 4 inning pitcher at best. I think they’ll win Hiroki’s start and that’s it. Jacoby extends his hit streak another 3 games. I really think he can get up to 40 and threaten Joe D.

    • ChuckIt

      That 3man fifth starter ain’t gonna cut for much longer. Start talking to the Cubs.

    • Preston

      Projecting a 15 game hit streak to run to 40 is just par for the course in the crazytown that is EddardWorld.

      • vicki

        yet he doesn’t touch the top-ten insane in this comments section.

  • Darren

    Yanks are gonna sweep. I guarantee it.

    • stuckey

      Second only to the common misunderstanding of what rights the first amendment actually gives you, is misunderstanding of what the word “guarantee” means.

      Darren, what do we all get if they don’t?

      • Darren

        An autographed Andy Fox rookie card.*

        *Autographed by me, not Andy Fox.

        • ChuckIt

          I got one of those already (signed by Me)

          • bas

            But you don’t have one signed by Darren, do you?

  • Steve

    Yankees win means 50% off Papa John’s using code YANKEES6 …. That just solved my dinner problems!

    • FIPster Doofus

      Papa John’s? I think, if anything, it created more dinner problems.

    • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew) RIP Egon

      If you live in NYC and freely eat that slop then your food eating privileges should be taken away immediately.

  • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew) RIP Egon

    Does anyone remember when Sogard was almost voted in as the face of MLB?

  • 461deep

    A’s are very good so this series will be a test without