Hi! I haven’t posted an article in quite a few weeks as I have been working hard with my editor to get my novel, “Contract Year,” ready to submit to agents and publishers. It’s going well but slowly, so I’m not there yet. I didn’t want you faithful readers to think I have abandoned ship, so here I am with an update on what the A’s have done since I last wrote.
The A’s management implied that the winter might be quiet, but it has been anything but. Nothing blockbuster-like–they don’t have that kind of money to spend. So here, in no particular order (as they say on Dancing with the Stars) is a rundown of the moves the A’s have made:
Jack Cust resigned with the A’s for a purported $2.65M with incentives that could earn him more than he was paid last year. More on this later.
Tommy Everidge was designated for assignment, taking him off the 40-man roster to make room for Cust.
Justin Duchscherer signed a 1-year incentive-laden contract for 2010, worth approximately $5.5M if he achieves all of his incentives.
He says he’s 100% and has resolved his off-field issues that were largely triggered by the stress of being injured, his divorce and being so far away from his son who lives in Philadelphia.
Coco Crisp was signed to a 1-year deal ($4.5M) with a club option for 2011 ($5.75 with $500K buyout). He can play anywhere in the outfield.
Santiago Casilla was released.
Bobby Cassevah, 24, was acquired from the Angels in the Rule 5 draft for $50,000. A right-handed relief pitcher who pitched at Double-A in 2009 and must stay on the 25-man roster all year or be returned to the Angels for $25,000.
Beau Vaughan was selected from Texas Rangers in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft under the same conditions as Cassevah.
Michael Taylor, a Phillies prospect, was acquired in a multi-team trade that sent Brett Wallace to Toronto. He attended Stanford and is a semester shy of a degree in political science.
And he’s a slugger! A “potential monster talent” according to Billy Beane, he’ll probably be vying for the left field spot with Scott Hairston.
Infielders Jake Fox (26) and Aaron Miles (32) were acquired from the Cubs for Pitcher Jeff Gray (Sniff!) and 2 minor leaguers. Fox played all 4 infield positions with the Cubs last season, batting .259 with 11 homers and 44 RBI’s in 82 games. He will provide a good backup to Eric Chavez at 3rd. Miles has played most of his MLB games at 2nd base and some at shortstop, but struggled last year with injuries batting a career low .185. He had a .317 season in 2008 with St. Louis.
Jeff Gray going to the Cubs is a great opportunity for him since they need a power arm in their bullpen, and I am very happy for him.
The Sniff in the previous paragraph is because he has become a friend and I will miss him on the A’s. The very best of luck to you, Jeff!
Pitcher Jay Marshall was claimed off waivers by the New York Mets. Bye Bye.
Nomar Garciaparra, Bobby Crosby, Adam Kennedy, Brett Tomko and Jack Cust filed for free agency.
Okay, now let’s talk about Jack Cust. He wasn’t tendered a contract by the A’s and filed for free agency on Dec. 12th. Thank God, most of us A’s fans thought. No more strikeouts when we need a hit.
But our relief was short-lived. He signed a new deal with the A’s on January 7th. He must not have gotten any serious bites on the FA market.
$2.65M is a lot for someone who led the American League in strikeouts the last 3 years and gave us all apoplexy whenever he stepped up to the plate with runners in scoring position. But he did post a .240 batting average, 25 homeruns and 70 RBI’s. He looks good on paper, but awful on the field.
Frankly, I would have preferred keeping Tommy Everidge on the 40-man, than signing Jack Cust. He’s only 26 years old, enthusiastic, has pop in his bat, can actually take the field (1st base) and is a helluva lot cheaper! Go figure!
Chris Carter (1st base/outfield, finished 2009 with the River Cats) was named the A’s organization’s Minor League Player of the Year for the 2nd year in a row, and received the MiLBY Award as the overall minor league baseball (all organizations) Hitter of the Year, and the Texas League MVP.
His overall stats for 2009 were: .329, 28 homers, 115 RBI’s (2nd in minors), 179 hits (led minors), 310 total bases (tied for 1st). He’ll be giving Daric Barton a run for his money at spring training.
Someone stole the Banjo Man Stacy Samuels‘ banjo after he absentmindely left it on a sidewalk in Fairfax, CA.
So the winter hasn’t been exactly quiet. I think overall the A’s will be an exciting team to watch this coming season. Most of the has-beens are gone except Cust, the rookie pitchers from last season aren’t rookies anymore and should settle down and make up a great starting rotation with Justin Duchscherer back in the rotation, and both the outfield and the infield have been strengthened. I can’t wait for spring training to startin 5 or 6 weeks when the pitchers report. The position players report a week later. Take me out to a ballgame!
I went to the A’s game on Thursday, Sept. 17th, and although the announced attendance was 10,873, there were no more than five or six thousand people in the stands. What’s going on here?
Ticket holders are staying home: The only explanation for the disparity between the paid attendance and the butts in the seats is that people are buying tickets but staying home in droves. In this economy, I would think they wouldn’t buy the tickets in the first place. A friend suggested that the season ticket holders may have given up on the team. That also surprises me as season ticket holders are usually the most loyal fans, since they have to cough up large amounts of money before the season has even started. All I know is that it is a shame that the team is being sent a message that the fans don’t care, especially when they are playing well.
The A’s Are Playing Great: The A’s have won their last 6 games, and 11 of the last 13, most games against teams contending for their division. So it got me thinking about the A’s team and player statistics, to see if that might explain why the A’s seem to be in such disfavor with the fans.
Won-Loss Record: As of the end of play yesterday (Sept. 19th), the A’s have won 70 and lost 78 games, for a winning percentage of .473, ranked last place in the AL West, and 18 games behind the Angels. But with that won-loss record, if the A’s were in the AL East, they’d be in 3rd place ahead of both the Blue Jays and the Orioles, and if they were in the AL Central, they’d be in 4th place ahead of the Kansas City Royals. We could talk about the relative strengths of the divisions, but you get my point. It’s not good, but it’s not all that bad.
After the All Star Break: The picture is much rosier for the 2nd half of the season. The A’s have won 33 and lost 29, for a winning percentage of .532. In fact, since May, the A’s have won 51 and lost 49, for a winning percentage of .510. Folks, that’s playing over .500 ball! If the A’s keep playing like they have over the last 2 weeks, they could even finish the season over .500, which everyone has said all year would be a great achievement, given the team’s youth and the team’s dismal first two months.
But let’s look at the statistics more closely:
Runs Scored vs. Runs Allowed: During the first half of the season, the A’s won 37 and lost 49 (.430). They scored 361 runs (4.2 runs/game) but allowed 401 runs to score (5.3 r/g). That tells you all you need to know about the first half of the season.
During the second half of the season so far, the team has scored 320 runs (6.2 r/g), but have allowed 285 runs (5.5 r/g). They young pitchers have learned how to avoid the big inning for the most part, some have added new pitches to their arsenal, and the walks are way down. Brett Anderson has emerged as the Ace of the rotation, and Cahill and Gonzalez have been strong of late. But the hitting and scoring has picked up considerably as shown by the runs scored stat for the 2nd half.
Team Stats of Note: Notwithstanding the A’s fans’ apathy, the team is by no means at the bottom of the 14 teams in the AL in most categories. If you want to talk about a bad team, I suffered through the A’s first year in Kansas City as a child when they won 63 and lost 91 games (154-game season back then). One especially ugly game took place on April 23rd of that year in which the A’s lost to the White Sox by the score of 29-6. They stank, yet the fans came out to the games. But I digress.
Here are some bright spots from this season:
Hitting: The A’s typically rank 8th, 9th, or 10th in most hitting categories, meaning that 4-6 teams were worse than the A’s in most hitting categories. The do rank high in at least 1 statistic: 5th in sacrifice flies! The only hitting category they rank last in is in home runs–no big surprise there.
Fielding: In most categories the A’s rank in the middle of the pack. They have had the fewest passed balls (chalk that up to Kurt Suzuki!)
They rank 4th in put-outs, innings played on the field, and caught stealing percentage (Suzuki again).
Pitching: The A’s pitching staff are the youngest in average age (25.8 years), 4th in team shutouts and 12th in wild pitches made. They have the 5th lowest team ERA (4.28) ahead of the Yankees (6th) and the Angels (10th), and 5th in intentional walks, as well as 7th in strike outs, 8th in saves, 9th in runs allowed, and tied with Boston for the fewest home runs allowed.
Player Stats of Note: On Friday night when the League Leaders were up on the Diamond Vision Screen, I expected not to see any A’s player’s mentioned. But I was wrong. Here are some top-ten player achievements and some not so great records this year:
Walks: 5th – Jack Cust (88)
Strikeouts: 1st – Jack Cust (167)
Stolen Bases: 4th – Rajai Davis (40)
Caught Stealing: 4th – Rajai Davis (11)
At Bats/Strikeout: 7th – Kurt Suzuki (9.943)
Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (both in the top 10):
Adam Kennedy – .349
Rajai Davis – .337
So why don’t the fans come to the Coliseum? We have an exciting team right now, so we can’t lay the blame on the players. They are playing their hearts out and the games are fun to watch, especially lately. Some possible culprits that I have mentioned before and some new ones are, in no particular order:
- The media paint a gloomy picture. Remember, their unofficial motto is “If it bleeds, it leads!” Translation: bad news gets more ink than good news, which encourages the sports writer to look for the negatives.
- The Coliseum is old, low tech, and not particularly fan friendly. The A’s will be there for the foreseeable future, so fans, GET OVER IT! It’s not that bad and the food and drink are plentiful and good, if expensive. Lew Wolff, you could spend a little money on the Coliseum which would help the fan experience. I have some ideas on that. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Manager hasn’t a clue. I’ve discoursed on that subject before. See my earlier blogs.
- The team has no marquee players. Are the A’s fans so shallow that they have to have a star to get them out to a game? If so, they aren’t true fans of the game of baseball. Get excited about Kurt Suzuki, Mark Ellis, Raj Davis, Adam Kennedy, Ryan Sweeney, and the young pitchers.
Get off your butts and out to the Coliseum! I’m doing my part.
- You freeze your butt off at night games. So bundle up! It’s an easy fix.
It’s a shame that the stands are so empty at game time. I am sure there are more reasons than I have listed. Perhaps you’d like to share yours. Go A’s!!!
P.S. They won again today 11-4, sweeping the Indians! Gotta love this team.
Next Article: Being a Fan Can Be Dangerous.
Yesterday’s Game Against the Twins: Trevor Cahill pitched well initially, but in the top of the 4th inning got into some trouble and gave up a 3-run homer to Joe Crede. Oh, no, not again, must have been going through the fans minds. Not another long losing streak, please? Thankfully, after that Cahill pitched 3 more scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Twins’ starter, Nick Blackburn, completely befuddled the A’s for the first 7 innings, allowing no one past 2nd base.
Jack Hannahan and Adam Kennedy Man Up: In the bottom of the 8th inning, Jack Hannahan, batting in the 9 hole, led off with a triple (has he finally solved the riddle of hitting?) He scored when Orlando Cabrera stroked a single to center field, making the score 3-1 Twins. Then Nick Blackburn left a pitch up in the middle of the strike zone and Adam Kennedy sent the gift over the right field wall to tie the game at 3-3. Brad Ziegler, who had pitched the top of the 8th inning, worked a 3-up, 3-down 9th, keeping the game tied.
Things Start Going the A’s Way: In the bottom of the 9th, Jason Giambi led off with a walk, and was replaced by the speedy Chris Denorfia. Suzuki tried to bunt Denorfia to 2nd base but was unsuccessful in 2 attempts. Then Twins relief pitcher, Matt Guerrier, hit Suzuki, which accomplished the same result. Daric Barton laid down a nifty bunt in front of home plate and the runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd. Now, there were 2 on and 1 out.
Rajai’s First Walk-Off Hit: Manager Bob Geren had told Rajai Davis in the dugout before he went out to the on-deck circle, “You’re gonna win the game.” After Barton was thrown out at first after his great bunt, Raj stepped into the batters box. He dumped the first pitch he saw into right field for a walk-off single, scoring Denorfia and giving the A’s a 4-3 victory and a split of the series at 2 games apiece. That shut down the losing streak at 2 games.
The Battle of the Young Guns: Tonight the A’s move across the Bay to begin a 3-city interleague road trip. The pitching matchup for the first game is stellar: Tim Lincecum (5-1. 2.96 ERA, Opp. BA .235, WHIP 1.211) is going against Vin Mazzaro (2-0, 0.00 ERA, OBA .170, WHIP .923). For those of you who are not familiar with the WHIP statistic, it stands for Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched. It’s a truer measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness than ERA. In all those categories, Mazzaro has the better stats, but he’s only pitched 2 games in the Major Leagues. It should be fun to watch.