Scouting The Trade Market: Oakland Athletics

T-Clip. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
T-Clip. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

For the first time in the Billy Beane era, the Athletics are a truly awful team. They come into today with baseball’s worst record at 14-28 — they’ve never lost more than 88 under games under Beane and only six times have they lost more than 80 games since the took over as GM in 1998 — thanks in part to a dreadful 2-13 record in one-run games. Their bullpen has blown many leads so far this year and it’s sabotaged their season.

Depending on who you ask, Beane and the A’s may or may not be willing to trading away players soon. Joel Sherman says it could happen while Ken Rosenthal says not so fast. Given Beane’s history of being ultra-aggressive, my guess is he would start trading away players today if someone makes a good offer. The real question is whether other teams are willing to act without first giving their internal options a try.

Brian Cashman and Beane are reportedly close friends, but they don’t get together for trades very often. Just three in fact, with one being last summer’s Jeff Francis for cash swap. That doesn’t mean they’re unwilling to make trades with each other, of course. The A’s have some useful players they figure to market should they continue to fall out of the race, and a few of them are impending free agents who could help the Yankees down the stretch. Let’s look.

RHP Tyler Clippard

It’s kinda weird to think about the Yankees trading for a reliever, but Clippard is no ordinary reliever, he’s a workhorse late-innings guy any team would love to add to their staff. The 30-year-old righty has a 2.50 ERA (4.26 FIP) in 18 innings this season with some major decline in his underlying performance. Check it out:

K% BB% GB% IFFB% Soft% 1st Pitch Strike% FB velo
2012-14 27.8% 8.8% 31.4% 17.7% 20.5% 61.9% 92.2
2015 20.3% 10.8% 19.6% 12.1% 13.7% 58.1% 91.2

Clippard has always been very unique. In addition to striking batters out he has been an extreme pop-up pitcher, getting lots of soft contact in the air that results in easy outs. That 17.7% infield fly ball rate was easily the highest in MLB from 2012-14. (Kelvin Herrera was second at 14.9%). Clippard’s .228 BABIP in over 200 innings from 2012-14 is no fluke. It’s a direct result of all those pop-ups.

For whatever reason, Clippard is getting fewer pop-ups this season, and the combination of an ultra-low ground ball rate and lower than usual pop-up and soft contact rates indicate he’s giving up more scary fly balls. He’s also behind in the count more often based on his first pitch strike percentage. Between that and the mile an hour that’s gone missing from his fastball, it somewhat explains why his peripherals took a step back. Clippard’s had to come in the zone in hitter’s counts more often.

The question is whether this is a blip or a permanent thing. Clippard’s thrown a ton of high-pressure innings over the years — he leads all relievers in innings (411.1) and ranks 20th in leverage index (1.50) since 2010, so he’s pitched in a lot of stressful situations. The workload could finally be catching up to him now. Relievers are weird like that. They just start to go south without warning.

Clippard is owed $8.3M this year, so he’s not cheap, and he will become a free agent after the season. Beane could say he is willing to make Clippard the qualifying offer and thus wants something worth more than a supplemental first round pick in return, which is believable. Even if this diminished state is not a fluke, Clippard could still help the Yankees’ bullpen, which lacks a third option behind Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.

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

LHP Scott Kazmir

It really feels like a matter of when Kazmir will get traded, not if. He’s another impending free agent — he’s owed $11M in 2015 and seems like a great qualifying offer candidate to me — and Kazmir should have big value now that he’s shown his success is no fluke following his improbable comeback. Remember, he was out of baseball entirely in 2012 due to arm problems.

Kazmir, 31, has a 3.08 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 49.2 innings this season while his peripheral stats are sorta all over the place. Some are trending in the right direction, some aren’t. Here’s the important stuff:

K% BB% GB% Soft% Hard% FB velo Whiff%
2013 24.1% 7.0% 40.9% 16.5% 32.8% 92.3 10.2%
2014 21.1% 6.4% 43.8% 15.6% 25.2% 90.9 9.4%
2015 23.7% 9.2% 45.5% 14.6% 23.4% 91.6 11.3%

The strikeout and swing-and-miss rates have held fairly steady yet Kazmir’s ground ball, soft contact, and hard contact rates keep getting better. Obviously it’s still early and this could (and probably will) even out as the season progresses, but teams won’t get a chance to see that before making a trade. That’s a risky thing about midseason trades — some percentage of the decision will be based on sample size performance.

Kazmir doesn’t have the wipeout slider he once did, injuries took that away, but he’s a more complete pitcher now, using two-seamers and changeups to keep hitters off balance rather than overpower them. The Scott Kazmir we watched shove all those years with the Devil Rays is long gone. He’s a much different pitcher now yet just as successful. His injury history is worrisome but the whole impending free agency thing removes long-term risk.

I get the sense Kazmir is going to be an extremely hot commodity at the trade deadline. He’s effective, doesn’t come with a big contract like Cole Hamels, and probably won’t require as big a prospect package as Johnny Cueto. Surely some of his success is O.co Coliseum aided — that’s a great place to pitch, fly balls go there to die — but not all of it. Kazmir’s a quality pitcher who would give the Yankees a big boost the same way he would most other teams.

UTIL Ben Zobrist

Zobrist. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Zobrist. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Zobrist was a really good player who was never quite as good as WAR made it seem — his ability to play just about every position, while valuable, screwed up the defensive metrics. Between his offense and his admittedly above-average defense, I think he was more of a 3-4 WAR player than a 5-6 WAR player like the numbers say, but that’s just me.

Anyway, Zobrist turns 34 next week and his age is starting to show up in his offense, particularly his power. He went from 40 homers and a .202 ISO from 2011-12 to 22 homers and a .125 ISO from 2013-14. Poof. Power’s gone just like that. Luckily, Zobrist is still a high-contact hitter who draws walks — about as many as he strikes out, in fact — so he still mustered a .273 AVG and a .354 OBP from 2013-14.

So far this year Zobrist is hitting .240/.304/.400 (93 wRC+) with the Athletics, but that’s only in 56 plate appearances. He jammed his knee sliding into a base in late-April and had to have it scoped. He’s expected back in a week or two. I imagine Beane and the A’s will showcase Zobrist for a few weeks to prove he’s healthy before moving him in a trade, where he figures to be in demand given his on-base ability, switch-hitter-ness, and versatility.

Unless they unexpectedly give up on Didi Gregorius, the only position where the Yankees could make an upgrade is second base, the position Zobrist has played more than any other in his MLB career. Even if he’s not as good as WAR says, Zobrist would be a huge upgrade on Stephen Drew at the plate and maybe even an upgrade in the field, but the first part is the most important. That’s even factoring in his disappearing power. The ability to hit for average and draw walks would be welcome.

* * *

The Yankees seem to prefer rentals for in-season trades, so the A’s are a natural trade partner. It’s very tough to get an idea of what it would cost to acquire Clippard, Kazmir, or Zobrist because Beane is so unpredictable though. This past offseason he went quantity over quality in the Josh Donaldson and Jeff Samardzija trades, targeting specific players to fill specific needs. Beane did the same when he traded Dan Haren and Gio Gonzalez as well. Every once in a while he’ll go for the big prospect (Trevor Cahill for Jarrod Parker) but not often.

Out of these three players, I’d say the Yankees would benefit most from Zobrist, then Kazmir, then Clippard. Clippard was one of the worst trades of the Cashman era but I don’t think acquiring him now makes it any better. Bullpen help is toward the bottom of the shopping list give the team’s internal options. Zobrist would be a clear upgrade at second base and Kazmir would help the rotation. I think the Yankees will wait to see how Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova return from injuries before pulling the trigger on a trade for a starter though.

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A Haiku for the Rest of MLB [2015 Season Preview]

Does Donnie like Haikus? Of course. (Presswire)
Does Donnie like haikus? Of course. (Presswire)

Opening Day is now only three days away. We’ve spent the last four weeks previewing the Yankees and the upcoming season, and yesterday we broke down the rest of the AL East. Today we’re going to wrap up ourĀ 2015 Season Preview series with a quick preview of the other 25 teams in baseball. After all, the Yankees are going to have to try to beat those teams this season too.

If you’ve come here looking for a serious preview post, you’re not going to get it. It’s Friday afternoon, Opening Day is right around the corner, and this year’s preview series is over. Instead, we’re going to have some fun and preview those other 25 teams in Haiku form. I encourage you to tell me how much my haikus suck and to make some of your own — pro tip: use the Haiku Counter to make sure you have the right number of syllables — and leave ’em in the comments. Enjoy.

Atlanta Braves
Traded their best bats
For a whole bunch of pitchers
They know scoring’s down?

Arizona Diamondbacks
Is Nuno their ace?
The answer just might be yes
Payback for ’01!

Chicago Cubs
Bleachers aren’t ready?
No prob, Bryant won’t notice
He’s in Iowa

Chicago White Sox
D-Rob and Melky
Back together in ChiTown
Growing ugly beards

Cincinnati Reds
Good enough to win?
Nah, not in that division
Can we have Cueto?

Cleveland Indians
Brantley is awesome
Kluber is really great
World Series pick? Eh

Colorado Rockies
Troy’s still a Rockie
Kyle Kendrick, OD SP?
Wait for ski season

Detroit Tigers
Miggy, Price, V-Mart
Lots of stars and real big names
Bullpen still a mess

Houston Astros
I don’t understand
You won “process World Series?”
That doesn’t exist

Kansas City Royals
Pennant last season
Volquez is replacing Shields?
For real? Yeah, for real

Los Angeles Angels
They have that Trout guy
I wish the Yankees had him
It’s Teixeira’s fault!

Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw is the best
Donnie Baseball gets his ring?
If not, just blame Puig

Miami Marlins
Paid Giancarlo
They’re going for it again
When’s next fire sale?

Milwaukee Brewers
They all hate Ryan Braun
But not as much as A-Rod
This team is boring

Minnesota Twins
Phil’s still homer prone
Nunez’s helmet still falls off
Just like the old days

New York Mets
Take back New York, huh?
Orange and blue like the Knicks
But with fewer fans

Oakland Athletics
Ballpark is ugly
Beane traded everyone again
What’s a Stephen Vogt?

Philadelphia Phillies
Rebuild? Finally!
Cole will be traded real soon
Then skip to next year

Pittsburgh Pirates
Cervelli pumps fist
McCutchen cut his dreads
A World Series team?

St. Louis Cardinals
Contender again
Such a boringly good team
Gets boring haiku

San Diego Padres
Kemp, Upton, Myers, Shields
But what about Yangervis?
Solarte Partay!

San Francisco Giants
The World Series champs
But it’s an odd number year
So no repeat then

Seattle Mariners
You can have Robbie
You are still stuck with Jack Z.
Yankees win the trade

Texas Rangers
Could this be the year
That Elvis Andrus will hit?
Hah, made myself laugh

Washington Nationals
Awesome rotation!
Future Yankee Bryce Harper
Has nice ring to it

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.

Offense
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.

6/3-6/5 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The soft part of the schedule is over. The Yankees had their fun with the Mets and Pirates and Cubs and White Sox and Twins of the world (8-8 in 16 games, great job!) these last few weeks, and now it’s time to deal with the elite. The Athletics are in the Bronx for the final three games of the homestand and they bring the best record in the league with them.

What Have They Done Lately?
Like I said, Oakland has the best record in the AL at 35-22. Their +115 run differential is just about double the next best in baseball. Seriously. That’s what happens when you score the most runs (296) and allow the fewest runs in baseball (181). Some combination, huh? The A’s just swept a three-game series from the Angels, but before that they actually lost six of eight.

Offense
Again, the Athletics have scored the most runs in baseball (5.19 per game), and their team 115 wRC+ is obviously sky high. Manager Bob Melvin’s lineup is mostly healthy, though 1B/OF Brandon Moss (160 wRC+) and OF Josh Reddick (75 wRC+) are a little banged up with nagging calf and knee injuries, respectively. They sat a few games this weekend and are expected to return to the lineup soon.

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

OF Yoenis Cespedes (116 wRC+) is Oakland’s big name on offense, but 3B Josh Donaldson (161 wRC+) is their best all-around player by a rather large margin. The catching platoon of C John Jaso and C Derek Norris (both 149 wRC+) is unfairly productive, and SS Jed Lowrie (110 wRC+) hits enough to make up for his occasionally sketchy defense. Oh, and OF Coco Crisp (115 wRC+) is one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball.

The A’s have an incredibly deep bench loaded with platoon options, including OF Craig Gentry (93 wRC+), 1B Kyle Blanks (144 wRC+ in limited time), IF Alberto Callaspo (96 wRC+), and IF Nick Punto (93 wRC+). IF Eric Sogard (52 wRC+) is the weak link. He’s been losing playing time at second to Callaspo and Punto. C Stephen Vogt was just called up and allows Melvin to pinch-hit liberally for Jaso and Norris to get the platoon matchup. They hit homers, they steal bases, and they draw walks. It’s brutally effective.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (vs. NYY)
Kazmir, 30, turned his successful comeback attempt with the Indians into a two-year, $22M contract with the Athletics over the winter. He has a 2.36 ERA (3.02 FIP) in eleven starts and 68.2 innings this year, though his strikeout rate (6.85 K/9 and 19.9 K%) is way down compared to even last season. His walk (1.70 BB/9 and 4.9 BB%) and homerun (0.52 HR/9 and 5.6 HR/FB%) rates are way down and his ground ball (49.2%) rate is way up. Kazmir has a reverse split so far — righties have a .248 wOBA while lefties are at .290 — and he’s been much better in the spacious O.co Coliseum (.237 wOBA) than on the road (.275 wOBA). No longer the mid-to-high-90s flamethrower he was with the (Devil) Rays, Kazmir now operates right around 90 mph with his sinking two-seam fastball, and he still throws that nasty low-80s slider. He is still throwing his upper-70s dead fish changeup and has added a mid-70s curveball to his repertoire this season. It’s hard to believe that after all those arm injuries, Kazmir is not only back in the show, but he’s back and is damn good too.

(Rick Yeatts/Getty)
(Rick Yeatts/Getty)

Wednesday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (vs. NYY)
When the A’s lost Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to Tommy John surgery in Spring Training, the pulled the 30-year-old Chavez out of the bullpen and stuck him in the rotation. The result? A 2.78 ERA (3.55 FIP) in eleven starts and 68 innings. Only the A’s, man. Chavez gives up some more homers than his teammates (1.06 HR/9 and 12.9 HR/FB%), but otherwise his strikeout (8.47 K/9 and 22.7 K%), walk (2.38 BB/9 and 6.4 BB%), and ground ball (47.0%) numbers are all very good. Lefties (.327 wOBA) have hit him much, much harder than righties (.246 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. Chavez bounced around the league for a few years — he was the guy the Rays traded to the Braves for Rafael Soriano back in the day — but after joining the Athletics he dropped a ton of weight and took his career more seriously. Now he’s in a contender’s rotation. Baseball, man.

Thursday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. OAK) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
Pomeranz, 25, was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, and he has since been traded for Ubaldo Jimenez and Brett Anderson. He opened the season as a long reliever, but moved into the rotation a few weeks ago because Dan Straily was really, really bad. Pomeranz has a 2.37 ERA (4.28 FIP) in 38 innings spread across five starts and nine relief appearances so far this season. His strikeout (8.29 K/9 and 22.7 K%) and ground ball (49.0%) rates are very good, his walk (4.03 BB/9 and 11.0 BB%) and homer (1.18 HR/9 and 13.5 HR/FB%) rates a little too high. He has absolutely crushed lefty batters (.236 wOBA) while righties have been a bit more successful (.292 wOBA). Pomeranz also has a massive home (.219 wOBA)/road (.340 wOBA) split. As a starter, he’ll sit right around 90 with four and two-seam fastballs, which he throws almost 80% of the time combined. An upper-70s/low-80s curveball is his top secondary pitch, and he’ll mix in a few show-me mid-80s changeups per start. Pomeranz went from Coors Field to the O.co Coliseum, which is like a hitter going from Citi Field to Yankee Stadium. Just a much friendlier environment.

Norris, Doolittle, and their beards. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Norris, Doolittle, and their beards. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Bullpen Status
In a very out of character move, the Athletics traded for a big money closer in RHP Jim Johnson (3.66 FIP), and he has been a total bust (6.55 ERA). LHP Sean Doolittle (1.26 FIP) has taken over as closer with RHP Luke Gregerson (2.63 FIP) as the primary setup man. RHP Dan Otero (3.54 FIP), who was Yankees’ property for about three days between waiver claims last spring , also gets some high leverage work.

Believe it or not, the A’s are only carrying eleven pitchers right now, so the only guys in the bullpen are LHP Fernando Abad (2.23 FIP) and LHP Jeff Francis (4.06 FIP in limited time). RHP Ryan Cook (3.88 FIP) is expected to come off the disabled list very soon, and I assume that will put an end to the five-man bench/six-man bullpen experiment. Vogt seems most likely to go down. Oakland was off yesterday, so their bullpen is rested. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen, then check out Athletics Nation and Beaneball for everything you need to know about New York’s opponent for the next three days.

Update: The A’s activated Cook and placed Reddick on the 15-day DL with a hyper-extended knee this afternoon.

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

(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.

Offense
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.

5/3-5/5 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

Reggie Jackson and Josh Reddick. Peas, pod, etc. (Jason O. Watson/Getty)
Reggie Jackson and Josh Reddick. Peas, pod, etc. (Jason O. Watson/Getty)

The Athletics haven’t had much success at the latest incarnation of Yankee Stadium. Since the building opened in 2009, the reigning AL West champs have won just five of 19 games in the Bronx, winning just one of six total series. Oakland will be The House The Boss Built for three games this weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?
Although they lost their last game, the A’s just took two of three from the division rival Angels. They had lost three straight series before that, all against AL East opponents. Oakland won 12 of their first 16 games, but they’ve since dropped nine of their last 13 games. All the winning stopped as soon as they had to play teams other than the Mariners and Astros. Funny how that works. The Athletics are 16-13 with a +20 run differential, good for second place in the AL West.

Offense
Manager Doug Melvin’s squad is the highest scoring team in baseball, with a 5.59 runs per game average and 112 wRC+. Those are the best and third best marks in baseball, respectively. CF Coco Crisp (156 wRC+) is on the DL with a hamstring problem while CF Chris Young (81 wRC+) is day-to-day with a quad problem. He only plays against lefties anyway. SS Hiroki Nakajima and 2B Scott Sizemore are on the DL and have not played at all this year. You won’t see them this weekend.

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

With Crisp and Young out, OF Yoenis Cespedes (118 wRC+) will man center field. He just came off the DL himself after dealing some hand issues. SS Jed Lowrie (158 wRC+) and 1B Brandon Moss (142 wRC+) give Cespedes some support in the middle of the lineup while 3B Josh Donaldson (146 wRC+) and LF/DH Seth Smith (141 wRC+) help from further down in the order. The A’s also have an insanely productive catching platoon featuring lefty John Jaso (100 wRC+) and righty Derek Norris (121 wRC+). So jealous.

RF Josh Reddick (45 wRC+) usually sits against lefties, but he’s been forced into the lineup everyday due to the Crisp and Young injuries. Right-handed hitting 1B Nate Freiman (70 wRC+) will get into the lineup against southpaws. IF Eric Sogard (73 wRC+) and UTIL Adam Rosales (120 wRC+ in limited time) join third C Luke Montz (98 wRC+) on the bench. Montz has just four plate appearances this year. The A’s lead the big leagues in stolen bases (25), though most of that is Crisp and Young. They’re middle of the pack with 28 homers. Oaktown can score some runs.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP A.J. Griffin
Griffin, 25, had a nice half-season (3.06 ERA and 3.85 FIP) last year, but things haven’t gone as well early in his sophomore campaign (4.65 ERA and 4.70 FIP). He doesn’t miss many bats (6.68 K/9 and 17.4 K%) and is one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in baseball (28.1% grounders), but he does limit walks (2.90 ERA and 7.6 BB%). That’s always a plus. Griffin throws four pitches but is basically a three-pitch pitcher. His upper-80s four-seam fastball sets up a low-80s changeup and a hilarious upper-60s curveball. Here, look at that thing. Griffin throws a mid-80s slider but very rarely, like once or twice a game. The Yankees saw him twice last year, pounding him once (four runs in 4.1 innings) and getting shut down the other time (two runs in six innings).

Bartday. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Bartday. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Bartolo Colon
It’s been a pretty crazy three years for the 39-year-old Colon, who went from off the radar to Yankees reclamation project to Athletics scrap heap pickup to busted for performance-enhancing drugs. He’s pitched to a 3.38 ERA (2.68 FIP) in 32 innings across five starts since returning from his 50-game suspension a few weeks ago. Colon is a strike-throwing machine (0.28 BB/9 and 0.8 BB%), but his strikeout (5.63 K/9 and 16.1 K%) and ground ball (40.8%) rates have slipped a bit from when he was in New York. Low-90s four-seamers and upper-80s two-seamers are still his weapon of choice, as he’ll throw his low-80s sliders and changeups less than 10% of the time combined. Surely you remember him pumping fastball after fastball two years ago. The Yankees saw Colon twice last year and handled him well both times, scoring ten runs in 12.2 total innings.

Sunday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Dan Straily
This is Brett Anderson’s spot, but the Athletics had to put the left-hander on the DL with an ankle problem last week. The 24-year-old Straily is taking his place, having made two previous starts this year. Between this year and last, he owns a career 4.44 ERA (5.66 FIP) with 8.70 K/9 (22.3 K%), 3.02 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), and a 30.9% ground ball rate in 50.2 innings across nine starts. Straily is primarily a two-pitch guy, using upper-80s/low-90s fastball and low-80s sliders just about 90% of the time. Low-80s changeups are his third offering. The Yankees did not face Straily at all last year, so they’re going in blind.

Bullpen Status
Both teams were off on Thursday, so their bullpens are as fresh as can be this time of the year. The Yankees will replace the injured Joba Chamberlain (oblique) with right-hander Preston Claiborne prior to tonight’s game, plus David Robertson is day-to-day with a hamstring issue as well. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details.

As for the Athletics, Melvin had a dynamite late-game trio at his disposal with LHP Scott Doolittle (4.00 FIP) and RHP Ryan Cook (2.24 FIP) setting up closer RHP Grant Balfour (4.78 FIP). RHP Evan Scribner (4.98 FIP) is the de factor long man while RHP Chris Resop (4.68 FIP) is the general middle innings guy. RHP Pat Neshek (4.73 FIP) and LHP Jerry Blevins (2.05 FIP) are the matchup specialists. It’s a solid and deep bullpen, no doubt. My A’s blogs of choice are Athletics Nation and Beane Ball.