Archive for Oakland Athletics
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
The Yankees have outrighted right-hander Sam Demel to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. Both Ben Francisco and Jayson Nix were added to the 40-man roster in the wake of this move and the earlier David Aardsma move. Demel was claimed off waivers from the Astros earlier this week, but it’s no surprise he was cut so soon.
In other news, right-hander Dan Otero has been claimed off waivers by the Athletics. He had been designated for assignment to clear a spot for Demel. The Yankees grabbed Otero off waivers from the Giants earlier this week.
The Yankees just announced a series of roster moves, so let’s recap…
- Mariano Rivera passed his physical, so his one-year deal worth $10M guaranteed is official. He’ll receive $500k for ALCS MVP, $1M for World Series MVP, and $1M for the Rolaids Relief Award according to Ken Rosenthal.
- The Yankees claimed right-hander Jim Miller off waivers from the Athletics. The 30-year-old pitched to a 2.59 ERA (4.74 FIP) in 48.2 innings for Oakland last year. He owns a 2.42 ERA (4.42 FIP) with big strikeout (8.10 K/9 and 20.4 K%) and walk (5.12 BB/9 and 12.9 BB%) rates in 63.1 career big league innings. He’s a fastball-slider guy.
- Jayson Nix has been re-signed to a new one-year contact, avoiding arbitration. Chad Jennings says it’s a $900k deal, which is exactly what MLBTR projected.
- The Yankees designated both Nix and Mickey Storey for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster for Rivera and Miller. Nix agreed to accept the assignment to the minors if and when he clears waivers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It all started with the trip out to Oakland. The Yankees were in fourth place with a 23-21 record when they arrived at the Coliseum in late-May, but they swept that series and have since won 34 of 47 games to vault into first place in the division. This weekend they’ll be in the East Bay for a four-game set.
What Have They Done Lately?
The A’s are on fire. They walked off with a win over the Rangers yesterday and have won four of five since the All-Star break. If you back to the first of the month, they’ve won ten of their last 12. At 47-44 with a +13 run differential, Oakland is in third place in the AL West and is right in the mix for one of the two Wild Card spots.
Although they average just 3.8 runs per game, the A’s have scored 51 runs during this 12-game hot streak (4.3 per game). Their best hitter all season has been Josh Reddick (140 wRC+), who leads the club in every meaningful offensive statistic. Big money signing Yoenis Cespedes was out with a hand injury the last time these two clubs met, but he’s healthy now and brings 134 wRC+ to the cleanup spot. It’s been a while since they’ve had a middle of the order that powerful; you probably have to go back to the Milton Bradley/Frank Thomas/Nick Swisher trio in 2006.
Recent call-ups Brandon Moss (159 wRC+ in 104 PA) and Chris Carter (243 wRC+ in 36 PA) have hit the snot out of the ball lately, adding some depth to the lineup. Seth Smith (128 wRC+ vs. RHP) and Jonny Gomes (146 wRC+ vs. LHP) form a mean DH platoon while Coco Crisp (80 wRC+) is flanked by Reddick and Cespedes in the outfield. Infielders Jemile Weeks (75 wRC+), Brandon Inge (68 wRC+), and Cliff Pennington (53 wRC+) haven’t done much of anything, ditto backstops Kurt Suzuki (40 wRC+) and Derek Norris (56 wRC+). Spare infielder Brandon Hicks (49 wRC+ in limited time) hit the walk-off dinger yesterday.
Thursday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP A.J. Griffin
A former college reliever turned starter, Griffin will be making his fifth career big league start tonight. He’s pitched to a shiny 2.63 ERA (4.65 FIP) in his first four starts (24 IP) with less than stellar rate stats: 6.00 K/9 (17.2 K%), 2.25 BB/9 (16.5 BB%), 1.50 HR/9, and 39.4% grounders. My expert analysis says his .194 BABIP will correct at some point. The 24-year-old sits right around 90 with his four-seamer fastball, but his upper-60s (!) curveball is his bread-and-butter. Here, check it out. Griffin also throws low-80s sliders and changeups.
Friday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Tommy Milone
The Yankees didn’t do anything to debunk the whole “can’t hit soft-tossing lefties they’ve never seen before” narrative by scoring just two runs off Milone in 6.2 innings back in April. Part of the Gio Gonzalez trade, Milone owns a 3.54 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 18 starts this season, relying on control (2.05 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%) more than anything else. He doesn’t strike guys out (5.98 K/9 and 16.2 K%), doesn’t limit homers (1.26 HR/9), and doesn’t get ground balls (39.4%). A mid-to-upper-80s fastball sets up a wide array of offspeed pitches, including a changeup right around 80, a mid-70s curve, and a mid-80s cutter. The changeup is his top secondary pitch and he has a reverse split because of it, so stacking the lineup with righties only helps him out.
Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Jarrod Parker
Everyone’s talking about Mike Trout and rightfully so, but Parker is having himself one helluva rookie campaign as well. The 23-year-old right-hander came over from the Diamondbacks in the Trevor Cahill trade and has pitched to a 3.16 ERA (3.49 FIP) in 91 innings across 15 starts. His strikeout rate is solid (7.02 K/9 and 18.9 K%) and he limits homers (0.40 HR/9), but he will walk guys (4.05 BB/9 and 10.9 BB%) and give up fly balls (39.3% grounders). Parker works off his two low-to-mid-90s fastballs (two and four-seamer) and mixes in low-80s changeups and sliders. The Yankees have never seen him and he’s had some really good starts against good teams — like this one, this one, and this one — so this will be an interesting one.
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Bartolo Colon
The Yankees tagged their former teammate for six runs in six innings back in May, but otherwise Colon has provided the A’s with a 3.88 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 111.1 innings this year. His strikeouts (5.50 K/9 and 14.6 K%) are way down from last year, though his ground ball (47.7%) and walk (1.46 BB/9 and 3.9 BB%) rates have improved to help mitigate the damage. Bartolo remains a fastball-only pitcher, though he’s mostly low-90s with a four-seamer and upper-80s with the two-seamer now. Those 95s and 96s of last year are a thing of the past. Colon will break out a low-90s slider and low-80s changeup but very rarely. Handful of times per start, if that.
Manager Bob Melvin ran through half his bullpen yesterday, including closer Ryan Cook (2.77 FIP), right-handed setup man Grant Balfour (3.63 FIP), and left-handed setup man Sean Doolittle (0.76 FIP in limited time). The recently recalled Evan Scribner (2.37 FIP) has pitched his way into higher leveraged work despite only making seven appearances. Lefty Jordan Norberto (4.15 FIP) is more of a multi-inning guy than a specialist while Jerry Blevins (3.89 FIP) is that one batter matchup southpaw. Right-hander Jim Miller (4.47 FIP) rounds out the seven-man bullpen. Oakland had Monday off and none of their relievers have pitched in even two straight games, so the bullpen is fresh.
The Yankees’ relief corps got a much needed break yesterday thanks to Hiroki Kuroda‘s rain-shortened complete game. The late-game guys, particularly Rafael Soriano, had been worked pretty hard since the All-Star break. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact reliever usage and both Athletics Nation and Beaneball for the latest and greatest on the Athletics.
The Yankees have claimed right-hander Danny Farquhar off waivers from the Athletics and optioned him to Double-A Trenton. Brett Gardner was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Farquhar, 25, is very well traveled. He was drafted by the Blue Jays, traded to the Athletics for Rajai Davis, traded back to the Blue Jays for David Purcey, then claimed off waivers by the Athletics before coming to New York. He has two career big league innings to his credit, both coming with Toronto last season. Back in 2010, Baseball America said he threw a 92-94 mph four-seamer and an 88-92 two-seamer in addition to both a slider and curveball. Here’s some old video. Farquhar is strictly a reliever and one without much success above the Double-A level.
The Yankees are kicking off their first of two trips to Oakland and the West Coast this weekend. They’ve won 22 of 28 games against the Athletics over the last three seasons, including 10 of 12 on the road in California.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Athletics are flirting with .500 at 22-23, though their -20 run differential is the third worst in the AL. They just lost two straight to the Angels but had won two straight before that. They lost two straight before that and … well you get the idea. Teams sitting near .500 tend to alternate wins and losses.
At 3.40 runs per game, the A’s are the lowest scoring team in the AL this season. Their 77 wRC+ is the second worst in baseball to the Pirates, ditto their .287 team OBP. Former Red Sox Josh Reddick has been their best offensive player by far, with a 143 wRC+ and 11 homers to his credit. Yoenis Cespedes is on the DL with a hand injury and his 112 wRC+ is sorely missed. Seth Smith (106 wRC+) is the only other player on the club with at least 120 plate appearances and above league average production to his credit.
Leadoff man Jemile Weeks (75 wRC+) is off to a terrible start just like his brother, and the number two spot in the lineup has rotated between Coco Crisp (28 wRC+) and Cliff Pennington (64 wRC+) for the most part. With Cespedes out, cleanup duties behind Reddick belong to Smith and Jonny Gomes, who is destroying left-handers (147 wRC+) and holding his own against righties (109 wRC+). Brandon Inge has hit well since being released by Detroit (126 wRC+) but no one really expects him to keep that up. First baseman Daric Barton (86 wRC+) and catcher Kurt Suzuki (48 wRC+) have just stalled out after promising starts to their careers.
Oakland’s bench is just unfathomably bad. Part-time DH/first baseman Kile Ka’aihue is the bright spot with an 89 wRC+, but backup catcher Anthony Recker (26 wRC+), extra outfielder Colin Cowgill (-1 wRC+), and corner infielder Josh Donaldson (-11 wRC+) have been inexcusably bad. I have no idea how you can carry two guys with negative production like that on your bench. Infielder Adam Rosales has one single and four walks in his eight plate appearances. I know the Yankees have been dreadful offensively, but sheesh. This is what a below average lineup really looks like, folks.
Friday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Tyson Ross
With three starters — Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson — on the DL, the Athletics’ rotation is patchwork at the moment. Ross has pitched to a 5.73 ERA (4.07 FIP) in seven starts with few strikeouts (4.54 K/9 and 11.2 K%) and too many walks (3.82 BB/9 and 9.4 BB%). He does get a healthy amount of ground balls though (55%). Ross has a very funky, upright delivery that adds deception to his low-90s two and four-seamers and mid-80s slider. He doesn’t have much of a changeup, so it’s basically the two fastballs and one breaking ball. The Yankees briefly saw him out of the bullpen a year or two ago.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Bartolo Colon
Colon threw a complete game shutout for the Yankees in Oakland on Memorial Day last season, and now he’s looking to turn the tides this Memorial Day weekend. The hefty right-hander has a 4.09 ERA and a 3.95 FIP through ten starts, right in line with what he did last season (4.00 ERA and 3.83 FIP) despite the move out of Yankee Stadium and the AL East. Colon’s strikeouts are way down (5.55 K/9 and 14.6 K%) but so are his walks (1.46 BB/9 and 3.8 BB%). His ground ball rate (44.1%) is identical to last season. He’s still primarily an all-fastball guy, though he now sits right around 90 with the four-seamer and in the upper-80s with the two-seamer. His velocity this year is consistent with his second half fade last year (four-seamer and two-seamer). Colon has a slider and changeup, but as you know he rarely uses them.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Tom Milone
Part of the Gio Gonzalez trade, Milone is another low strikeout (4.99 K/9 and 13.9 K%), low walk (2.18 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), moderate ground ball (44.2%) type. It’s like the Twins are spreading. Anyway, Milone is a classic finesse lefty. He sits in the mid-to-upper-80s with two and four-seamers and uses an upper-70s changeup as his go-to offspeed pitch. A mid-80s cutter and a mid-70s curveball are rarely used fourth and fifth offerings. Soft-tossing rookie left-handers usually give the Yankees fits, especially if they’ve never seen them before, but they did take care of business against Will Smith on Wednesday night.
With a 2.57 ERA and a 3.74 FIP, the Athletics boast one of the game’s most effective bullpens. Setup man Ryan Cook (2.69 FIP) is the only pitcher in baseball who has spent the entire season on the active 25-man roster and not allowed run. His scoreless streak is up to 22.2 IP. Brian Fuentes (2.79 FIP) replaced Grant Balfour (4.28 FIP) at closer after he had some rough outings a few weeks ago. Those three are manager Bob Melvin’s go-to relievers in the late innings.
Travis Blackley (1.63 FIP in six innings), Jerry Blevins (4.61 FIP), and Jordan Norberto (3.00 FIP) give Oakland three more lefties in addition to Fuentes. Blevins is a specialist but Norberto has the stuff to face both righties and lefties, which he’s been doing all season. Blackley had been out of baseball and playing all over the world until resurfacing this season, so his role hasn’t really been defined yet. Jim Miller (3.99 FIP) is the only other right-hander in their bullpen. Like the Yankees, the Athletics had yesterday off so their entire bullpen is fresh. For the latest and greatest from Oakland, we recommend Athletics Nation and Beaneball.
Last week we took a nice long look at the teams who figure to be the Yankees’ primary competition this season, meaning the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Angels, and Rangers. There are eight other clubs in the American League though, and the Yankees are going to play those eight teams quite a bit more than the five other contenders. Most of those eight teams aren’t very good, but every game counts the same.
Rather than doing a boring old offense/defense/pitching preview for each of those eight non-contenders, I decided to have a little fun with this one and put together some haikus. I encourage you to leave your own in the comments.
No pitching, few bats.
Buck is all talk and no bite.
Don’t dare dis Flanny!
Chicago White Sox
Rebuild or contend?
Kenny can’t seem to decide.
I wish we had Danks.
Some funny names,
Asdrubal and Ubaldo?
Not winning this year.
Kansas City Royals
Hosmer is the shizz.
Young pitching ain’t quite there yet.
Mauer and Morneau
Used to be really awesome.
Now they are broken.
Yoenis is here.
Trade all of the pitchers!
Where are the fans?
Felix is the man,
The rest of the team sucks.
I miss Montero.
Toronto Blue Jays
AA the best,
Until he gets Jeff Mathis.
New unis do rule.
Yesterday I took a look at Gio Gonzalez, the Athletics left-hander that might be on the trade market and of interest to the Yankees. Today I’m going to follow up and look at some other members of Oakland’s rotation, since apparently everyone on their roster other than Jemile Weeks is available. I am leaving Dallas Braden out of this post because a) he’s insufferable, b) he’s rehabbing from major shoulder surgery, and c) he’s a soft-tossing, fly ball machine. Not exactly an ideal fit for Yankee Stadium. Here are three other guys in Oaktown’s starting staff…
In terms of raw talent and upside, Anderson is best pitcher on the Athletics’ roster. Unfortunately, he just can’t stay on the field. He missed half of the 2010 season due to a flexor strain and inflammation in his left elbow, then hit the DL with more inflammation this past June before eventually having Tommy John surgery in mid-July. He’s expected back at midsummer, but since control is the last thing to come back after elbow reconstruction, he’s unlikely to be 100% back to normal until Opening Day 2013.
When right, the 23-year-old southpaw (24 in February) can throw strikes (2.23 BB/9) and generate a ton of ground balls (career 53.5%) with a pair of low-90′s fastballs (two- and four-seamer) while missing bats with a devastating low-80′s slider. His strikeout rate (6.94 K/9 with 6.9% swings-and-misses) in 371 big league innings isn’t great, but his minor league numbers (9.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9) and raw stuff suggest he could improve with better health and more experience. Anderson is locked up through 2013 at a reasonable price ($8.5M plus club options for 2014 and 2015), but he’s very risky. The upside is considerable though.
Cahill, 24 in March, broke out in 2010 thanks in part to a .236 BABIP-fueled 2.97 ERA across 196.2 IP. His 4.19 FIP told a much more accurate story, and sure enough, the righty pitched to a 4.10 FIP in 2011 and saw his ERA climb to 4.16 thanks to a much more normal .302 BABIP. He still got a ton of grounders (56% in 2010, 55.9% in 2011), though his strikeout and walk rates climbed more than one full event per nine innings to 6.37 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9 this past season.
A sinkerball specialist, Cahill gets opponents to beat the ball into the ground with a two-seamer right around 90 mph. He backs it up with a low-80′s changeup and a high-70′s curve, and will occasionally mix in a slider. Cahill is signed through 2015 ($28.7M) with club options for 2016 and 2017, so his contract situation is favorable. He has the potential to beef up his strikeout rate (9.9 K/9 in the minors), but he doesn’t really have that go-to offspeed pitch and instead relies on that two-seamer to get outs, one way or the other.
Do you know who led the American League in FIP in 2011? It wasn’t CC Sabathia (2nd) or Justin Verlander (4th). It was McCarthy. The 28-year-old right-hander returned to the big leagues with the A’s after missing most of the 2009 and 2010 seasons with stress fractures in his throwing shoulder. Sure enough, he spent about seven weeks on the shelf this summer with another stress fracture in that shoulder, though he still made it to the mound for 170.2 stellar innings.
McCarthy spoke to FanGraphs’ Ryan Campbell (part one, part two) recently about how he’s reinvented himself following his injuries, specifically by lowering his arm slot, scrapping his curveball, and adding a two-seamer and cutter to go along with a four-seamer and slider. It really is a must read; I can’t recommend it enough. McCarthy misses a few more bats (6.49 K/9 and 7.7% swings-and-miss) with his new approach, and he drastically improved his ground ball (46.7% after years around 35%) and walk (1.32 BB/9 after years north of 3.00) rates. That helped cut down on the homers (as did Oakland’s park) and prolonged at-bats, allowing him to throw fewer pitches per inning and more innings per start.
MLBTR projects a bargain bin salary of $2.6M for McCarthy in 2012, his fourth and final time through arbitration as a Super Two player. He’s risky just because the healthy of his shoulder is such a gigantic question mark, but the cost shouldn’t be exorbitant since you’re only trading for one year of him. I’m a fan, much more than I am of Gonzalez, Anderson, and Cahill in terms of expected production vs. cost (both salary and acquisition). As an added bonus, McCarthy is must-follow on Twitter, one of the few interesting baseball players out there.