Archive for Oakland Athletics
The Yankees just finished a series with a team they typically dominate, and now they’re welcoming another one to the Bronx. The Athletics have won just five of 31 games against the Yankees since the start of the 2008 season, and they’re already 1-5 against them this year. That domination, homes.
What Have The Athletics Done Lately?
Although they lost Sunday, the A’s are actually pretty hot, having won four of their last six games against AL East competition. Okay fine, it was the Orioles and Blue Jays, but it still counts. They’ve scored just seven runs in the last four games though, the story of their season. The Athletics are well below .500 at 57-70 with a -24 run differential.
Athletics On Offense
When Oakland was in town a few weeks ago, it was former Yankee Hideki Matsui that did most of the damage. He went 7-for-13 with two doubles and homer in the three games, and he’s hitting .372/.424/.543 in 33 games since the All-Star break. Josh Willingham is also coming in hot, with a .277/.354/.675 batting line with nine homers in his last 22 games. Recent call-up Brandon Allen (part of the Brad Ziegler trade) is hitting .379/.424/586 in limited time. Those three are the meat of the order, the guys with some pop that can drive in a run even when no one’s on base.
At the top of the order you have Jemile Weeks (.289/.319/.402 with 14 steals in just 64 games) and Coco Crisp (.268/.324/.380 with 37 steals), two guys that will run at will. Further down in the lineup you have David DeJesus (.229/.315/.367), Kurt Suzuki (.230/.291/.381), Scott Sizemore (.235/.333/.358), and Cliff Pennington (.258/.317/.348). Conor Jackson will work his way into the lineup against left-handers as well (.274/.352/.381 vs. LHP). Bench pieces Eric Sogard (.176/.243/.265), Ryan Sweeney (.283/.358/.356), and Landon Powell (.176/.257/.235) don’t pose much of a threat. The trio of Matsui, Willingham, and Allen can do some damage, but the rest of the offense can be pitched too without much of a concern.
Athletics On The Mound
Tuesday, RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. Bartolo Colon): Other than being a fine follow on Twitter, McCarthy has had a nice comeback year after dealing with injuries for several years. His 2.83 FIP is off the charts, though his ERA (3.74) is much more pedestrian. McCarthy is all about avoiding walks (1.30 uIBB/9) and getting ground balls (47.1%), and he’ll occasionally mix in strike three (5.87 K/9). He’s a big dude (6-foot-7, 200 lbs.) and he uses his size to get good downhill plane on his 90-ish mph fastballs (both two and four-seamer). A high-80′s slider is his third pitch (really second counting the fastballs as one entity). McCarthy’s a tough assignment, he might sneak up on the Yankees.
Wednesday, RHP Trevor Cahill (vs. CC Sabathia): Poor Mr. Cahill, he just can’t beat the Yankees. Hell, forget about beat them, he can’t even put together a half-decent start against them. Cahill is 0-4 in four career starts against New York, allowing 28 runs in 18.2 IP for his career and 14 runs in 8.2 IP in two starts this year. That’s pretty rough. The righty is a sinker-curveball-changeup pitcher, typically getting a ton of grounders (56%) and just enough strikeouts (6.51 K/9). Four games spread out over the last two years is nothing, but you have to feel confident whenever the Yankees step in the box against Cahill.
Thursday, RHP Rich Harden (vs. Phil Hughes): The Yankees have been scouting Harden’s recent starts, and now they’ll get a(nother) first hand look at him. He held the Yanks to two runs in 5.2 IP at the end of July, but he walked four and threw 104 pitches. Harden’s coming off his best start of the year, an eleven strikeout, two hit gem against the Jays last over the weekend. He’s still primarily a fastball-slider guy, but he’s mixing in his strikeout splitter more and more these days as he gets further away from his latest arm problem.
Bullpen: All-Star closer Andrew Bailey (2.23 FIP) is back from injury and as good as ever, allowing Grant Balfour (3.27 FIP) and Brian Fuentes (3.92 FIP) to work roles more suited to their abilities (setup, basically). Lefties Craig Breslow (3.36 FIP) and Jordan Norberto (3.18 FIP in a small sample, also part of the Ziegler trade) will matchup with righties Fautino De Lo Santos (3.29 FIP) and Bruce Billings (just 3.2 IP to his credit since being called up). It’s a solid relief corps overall, especially in the eighth and ninth innings.
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After playing a pair of four-game series against division rivals, the Yankees head back home to take on some of the lesser teams in baseball. In the next 10 games they’ll play Oakland, Seattle, and Baltimore, taking them right into August. First up is Oakland, against whom the Yankees are 19-3 in the last three seasons.
What the A’s Have Done Lately
Surprisingly enough, Oakland has played pretty well since the All-Star break. They came out swinging against the Angels, taking three of four, before splitting a pair with the Tigers. They averaged five runs per game in that stretch, which is just slightly better than their 3.52 runs per game this season. It’s actually far more surprising that they beat up on Anaheim, since Anaheim has one of the best, if not the best pitching staff in the league.
A’s on Offense
Despite the recent outburst, the A’s still have one of the league’s worst offenses. As mentioned, they’ve scored just 3.52 runs per game, which is 13th in the AL, with only Seattle trailing. It’s also about 0.8 runs per game below the league average. Of course, they play in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league, so it’s expected that their hitters are a certain degree worse than they would be if they played elsewhere. Yet even when we adjust for their park in Batting Runs Above Average, they’re still at -59.4, which is — you guessed it — 29th in the majors, with only Seattle trailing. (Though they trail by 30 runs.)
It’s no surprise that Josh Willingham’s name has come up often in trade talks. He’s been Oakland’s best hitter this year, putting up 4.3 runs above average. While that number is park-adjusted, I’m not quite sure it adequately compensates a player for a park as poor as the Oakland Coliseum. He’s hitting .240/.315/.427 right now, which is below his career numbers in every regard. Coco Crisp has been the other veteran who has provided positive run value. His .265/.315/.385 line might not look like much, but compared to his teammates it’s golden.
Two youngsters have stepped up for Oakland this season and have provided positive run values despite having fewer PA then other starters. Jemile Weeks has stormed onto the scene, hitting .308/.342/.406 in his first 153 big league plate appearances. He’s never really hit for power, even in the minors, but he did have a good walk rate down there, which could help him maintain his value as his BABIP regresses a bit.
Earlier this season the A’s acquired Scott Sizemore from the Tigers for a song, and he’s actually produced positive value as an Athletic. In 125 PA he’s hit .261/.328/.414, which, again, would translate to much better numbers elsewhere. He’s part of the A’s MO, which is to acquire decent on-base guys who have no semblance of power. I get it, in a way. Their stadium suppresses power, so you might as well try to build clubs in different ways. Not that it has worked, really.
The rest of the A’s hitters are having years ranging from pretty bad to completely crappy. They have gotten rid of two of their worst offensive detractors, Mark Ellis, traded to the Rockies, and Daric Barton, optioned to the minors. While the A’s have replaced Ellis with Weeks, they haven’t gotten much out of Barton’s replacement, Chris Carter. He has tons of potential to hit with power, but he’s managed just four extra bases in 110 career PA, all of them coming last year.
A’s on the Mound
While the A’s have the second worst offense in the league, their pitching staff has allowed the third fewest runs in the league. Again, this is greatly an effect of their ballpark, and a trip to the Stadium could be a humbling experience. They’re without one of their best, Brett Anderson, who recently underwent Tommy John Surgery. But the Yanks will still run into two of their very good young starters.
Friday: RHP Trevor Cahill. His year hasn’t gone as well as his first few starts might have indicated, but Cahill is on his way to another fine year in the majors. It’s pretty impressive for a 23-year-old who broke in at age 21. His strikeouts are up, but so are his walks. It leads to a slightly worse ERA and slightly better peripherals than last year, which is good on the whole. But for this year it can still come back to haunt him. It certainly did earlier in the year against the Yankees, when he walked five and gave up four runs. Last year he faced the Yanks twice and gave up 15 runs in 10 innings. He’s been very good lately, giving up three or fewer runs in four of his last five stars, including one 7.2-inning, 2-run start against the scorching Texas Rangers.
Saturday: RHP Rich Harden. It will be around 100 degrees in an afternoon affair, so of course Harden is going against A.J. Burnett. Harden has made just three starts this year, and while he has avoided the walk, issuing just four in 18 innings, he has also allowed four homers in that span. He can still strike ‘em out, but it appears he’s lost most of his arsenal, which doesn’t play well against a dynamic lineup such as the Yankees. Which, of course, means he’ll below through them and we’ll be in for a short afternoon. Which means, in turn, that both he and Burnett will walks six and an equal number of people at the Stadium will spontaneously combust. In all seriousness, it’s hard to get a read on Harden. He’s been so injured lately that no one really knows what’s going to come next.
Sunday: LHP Gio Gonzalez. It’s been quite a year for Gonzalez, whose ERA is is a full run lower than it was last year. His peripherals are a measure better, too, because he’s striking out more hitters. But he’s still walking batters, giving up homers, and getting ground balls at similar rates, which are the only aspects that hold him back. Still, it’s hard to argue with a 2.33 ERA. He’s had a few clunkers along the way, including a four-inning, seven-run performance against the Rangers in early July (though only three runs were earned). He’s allowed four or more runs just five times in 19 starts this season, though one of those was to the Yankees back in June. In four of his last five starts he’s gone at least seven innings and has allowed zero or one run.
Bullpen: The A’s have had some turnover in their bullpen, but overall it’s a quality unit, with an AL-leading 2.93 ERA. They also have the second-lowest bullpen FIP in the AL at 3.28. (Guess who’s in first?) The only drawback is that they’ve had 38 meltdowns, which ranges closer to the middle of the pack. Brad Ziegler leads the way with a 1.80 ERA andd 2.42 FIP, while Andrew Bailey has been awesome in his limited time (2.00 ERA, 2.35 FIP). Grand Balfour, Craig Breslow, and Joey Devine have also done a good job keeping other teams at bay in the later innings.
Recommended A’s Reading: Friend of RAB Jason Wojciechowski’s Beaneball.
After having multiple run leads in all three games against the Mariners and losing two of them, the Yankees are heading down to the Bay Area for a three game set against the Oakland Athletics. These two teams have quite a bit of recent-ish history, like Jason Giambi, Scott Brosius, and the 2000 and 2001 ALDSes. The Yankees won nine of the ten games against the Athletics last year, including five of six in Oakland.
What Have The Athletics Done Lately?
The A’s are coming off a three game sweep of the Orioles, outscoring the orange birds 16-8 over the weekend. They had lost seven of nine before that, including six straight at one point. Overall, the Athletics are right at .500 with a 27-27 record, dead last in the division even though their +12 run differential is second best.
Athletics On Offense
Eh, they don’t really have much of an one. Despite several notable offseason additions, the A’s have the third worst team OBP (.307) in the AL and they average just 3.65 runs per game. The problems start right at the top, where leadoff man Coco Crisp gets on base just 30.7% of the time and number two hitter Daric Barton gets on base just 32.6% of the time (.393 OBP for Barton last year).
The remade middle of the order features David DeJesus (.247/.323/.385), Josh Willingham (.244/.328/.446), and True Yankee™ Hideki Matsui (.266/.282/.346), and those three aren’t exactly Gonzalez-Youkilis-Ortiz. Kurt Suzuki (.250/.314/.372), Mark Ellis (.213/.249/.295), Cliff Pennington (.259/.312/.341) and Kevin Kouzmanoff (.220/.262/.347) round out the rest of the lineup, though we might see lefty Ryan Sweeney (.320/.414/.413) and righty Conor Jackson (.264/.349/.345) is various matchup situations. With a team batting line of .241/.307/.351 on the season, facing the A’s is almost like facing a lineup of nine Derek Jeters. Think about that.
Athletics On The Mound
Monday, RHP Trevor Cahill: Last year looked like a fluke, given a .236 BABIP and a 56% ground ball rate. The extremes of those two stats usually don’t go together. The 23-year-old righty has shown that he’s legit by repeating his dominance this year, using a 7.07 K/9 and 57.2% ground balls to carve through lineups. Cahill’s approach is pretty simple; he pounds the zone with low-90′s sinkers pretty much all day long, though he’ll occasionally bust out a low-80′s changeup and an upper-70′s curveball to get swings and misses. The Yankees have roughly him up in the past, but that was before Cahill took a step forward and turned into one of the best pitchers in the AL. He’s everything we wish Ivan Nova could be.
Tuesday, LHP Brett Anderson: A personal fave, Anderson employs the same strikeout (6.90 K/9) and ground ball (62.3%) heavy approach as Cahill, just with his other arm. He throws two fastballs in the low-90′s, using his sinking two-seamer a little more often than his four-seamer, but his money pitch is the slider. It’s absolute death on lefties and Anderson will throw the low-80′s offering more than 46% of the time, so he’ll go to it in any count. A curveball and changeup fill in the gaps, but he just uses them as show-me pitches more than anything. When healthy, which wasn’t often last year, Anderson’s the best pitcher on this staff, even better than Cahill.
Wednesday, LHP Gio Gonzalez: The Athletics have a pair of guys named Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso in their rotation, yet somehow the Yankees will run into their top three arms this series. Go figure. Gio’s the strikeout guy on the staff (9.10 K/9), though he also gets a decent amount of grounders as well (50.6%). The problem is that he’s shown a tendency to walk quite a few (4.04 BB/9), and we’ve seen the Yankees take advantage of that a few times over the last two seasons. Gonzalez goes to the mound with three true pitches that he uses almost equally: a low-to-mid 90′s four-seamer (30.0%), a low-90′s two-seamer (32.4%), and a big breaking curveball right around 80 mph (32.5%). About one in every 20 pitches will be a fosh changeup. Gio’s a bit of a wildcard, he’s the kind of guy that could walk six in five innings or whiff a dozen in nine. But again, the Yankees have had some success against him the last few times they’ve seen him.
Bullpen: The A’s are a model pitching and defense team, so they unsurprisingly have a strong bullpen that got even stronger yesterday when they welcomed All-Star closer Andrew Bailey back from the disabled list. We’re all familiar with the hard throwing setup man Grant Balfour (10.22 K/9), who joins the slider happy Michael Wuertz (9.88 K/9) to give manager Bob Geren a pair of high strikeout options in the late innings. Craig Breslow has been even more anti-LOOGY than Boone Logan (LHB are hitting .400/.424/.533 off him), though Geren could always turn to fill-in closer Brian Fuentes (.250/.308/.333) in those spots. The rest of Oakland’s pen is occupied by Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler, a pair of low arm slot (in Ziegler’s case, submarine) righties that do their best work against batters of the same hand. It’s the kind of relief crew that can create matchup nightmares in the late innings, and just about all of them miss bats.
Last week I explored the possibility of the Yankees pursuing Japanese righthander Hisashi Iwakuma, noting that I wasn’t thrilled about his low strikeout, pitch-to-contact approach. I still implored the Yanks to submit a moderate bid, $8-10M or so, just in (the unlikely) case that he fell into their laps for a lower than expected price. With the bidding now closed, we know that three AL West teams – the Rangers, Mariners, and Athletics – submitted competitive bids, but it’s those small market A’s that won out. All they have to do now is work out a contract with the player.
Over the weekend Ken Rosenthal reported that the A’s, already flush with young pitching, were likely planning to move one of their excess starters for a bat if they landed Iwakuma. They desperately need offense, as their .315 team wOBA was fifth worst in the league. That’s what happens when you have and just four (!) guys who hit more than eight (!!!) homers. The Yankees, as you already know, are in the market for a starting pitcher or two. The younger the better, and that’s what the A’s have plenty of. Let’s break them down quickly…
The 22-year-old Anderson (23 in February) would be the guy to target in any trade talks with Oakland. Acquired from Arizona in the Dan Haren swap, his rookie year in 2009 featured a 3.69 FIP in 175.1 innings, good for 3.7 fWAR. He’s able to generate groundballs (52.4% career) with his low-90′s heater and miss bats with both a slider and curveball (7.70 K/9 in ’09), but Anderson spent two lengthy stints on the disabled list with a strained flexor tendon and inflammation in his throwing elbow this season. The injury complicates things, as does the four year, $12.5M contract they signed him to last April, but this is the most talented player on Oakland’s pitching staff.
Pretty much every Yankee fans knows Braden after his run-in with Alex Rodriguez earlier this year, but we have to acknowledge that the guy is a quality pitcher even if he is a tool. He’s pitched to a 3.77 FIP and 5.8 total fWAR over the last two seasons, but there are drawbacks. Braden is a fly ball pitcher (42.4% career) and doesn’t strike out many batters at all (5.30 K/9 over the last two years) despite a top-of-the-line changeup, and he also missed time with forearm and elbow issues this year. My guess is that this is who the A’s would like to move because his stock is at its high point (woo perfect game!), and also because he’s due for a considerable raise his first time through arbitration this winter.
Cahill started the season in the minors after posting an ugly 5.33 FIP in his first season as a big league starter in 2009, but he came up in April and rebounded very well, finishing the season with a shiny 2.97 ERA in 196.2 innings. The problem is that his FIP (4.17, still good of course) doesn’t agree with the ERA because he only struck out 5.40 batters per nine. The 22 year old is a true sinkerballer (56% ground balls this year, fifth best in baseball), though as we know ground balls go for hits more often than their fly ball counterparts. Somehow Cahill managed to post a .238 BABIP this season, the best in baseball by nearly ten points. The chances of that being sustainable are somewhere between slim and none.
Oakland’s workhorse this year, the well-traveled Gonzalez (he’s been traded three times already) logged a team high 33 starts and 200.2 innings this year, finishing with a 3.78 FIP and 3.2 fWAR. Gio turned 25 late in the season and missed bats at exactly the league average rate this year (8.5% swinging strikes) thanks to his big breaking curveball, but he’ll get himself into trouble with walks (4.13 BB/9) and can be homer prone (1.03 HR/9 career, but 0.67 this year). He’s going to qualify as a Super Two after 2011, so his days of being dirt cheap are numbered.
Born and raised in Hackensack, the 24-year-old Mazzaro was exactly replacement level (0.0 fWAR) in 122.1 innings this year thanks to his 5.13 FIP. He’s the least established starter on their staff but a case could be made that he has the best stuff of anyone besides Anderson, a lively low-90′s fastball and a wipeout slider, plus a nice little changeup. Mazzaro hasn’t figured out how to consistently strike batters out yet (5.81 K/9 both this year and last) and he’s very vulnerable to the long ball (1.31 HR/9), but the equipment’s there.
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I’m assuming that Cahill (coming off a very good year) and Anderson (stock’s down after the injury, and they did just give him a new contract) are off limits, and none of the other three really stand out. The A’s might want to move Braden because of his upcoming arbitration case, but I’m certain that teams will show more interest in Gonzalez. Either way, no one outside of Anderson really fits what the Yankees need, a strikeout starter that an keep the ball on the ground.
Even beyond that, do the Yankees really have the bat to offer the A’s? A Jesus Montero for Anderson swap would a) be pretty cool, and b) make sense for both teams, but the lefty’s elbow issues make it too risky. Brett Gardner isn’t the answer to any team’s offensive woes, and both Curtis Granderson ($8.25M in 2011) and former Athletic Nick Swisher ($9M as part of a contract the A’s signed him too) are likely out of Oakland’s price range. Maybe Brandon Laird makes sense for them on some level, but it’s a stretch to call him MLB ready. Maybe Eduardo Nunez whets their appetite, or Juan Miranda. I wouldn’t get my hopes up though.
You guys get the point. Oakland has a bevy of young and cheap yet flawed (each in their own way) starters, and the Yanks don’t really have the bat to offer up in return anyway. Unless the A’s are willing to sell Anderson for pennies on the dollar (not happening) or the Yanks think they can maximize Gonzalez’s abilities, I just don’t see these two clubs matching up in a starter-for-a-bat trade.