The A’s Great Start: I have held my breath and refrained from doing a blog post, afraid I would jinx the A’s, who are off to their best start in many years. Alas, last night the Mariners, whom they had beaten 4 times this year already, found their bats and shutout the A’s 3-0.
The 0-0 tie was broken by a 3-run homer by Milton Bradley in the bottom of the 8th off Brad Ziegler, who got tagged with the loss.
But let’s put this in perspective. The A’s are now 6-3 on the season. That means they are on pace to win 108 games. Wishful thinking, I know. It probably won’t happen, but losing last night is not the end of the world.
One bright spot last night was a phenominal play by Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of 7th inning. Ziegler uncorked a wild pitch far off the 1st base side of the plate, sure to slam into the backstop. With Chone Figgins on 2nd base, Kurt lunged to his left, somehow stabbed the ball out of the air, spun around and fired a rifle shot to 3rd, right on the bag.
Kevin Kouzmanoff was waiting for it and tagged the speedy Figgins out. Bob Geren said, “I don’t think there’s another catcher who makes that play. That was flat-out amazing.” .
It was the second spectacular play Kurt has made against Seattle this year. 5 days earlier in Oakland, he tracked a foul flyball to the steps of the visiting dugout and caught it as he slid down the dugout steps. “He continues to do amazing things athletically, acrobatically,” said Geren. “He’s revolutionizing that position. He’s athletic as a catcher can get. It’s really fun to watch.” The play made ESPN’s 10-best plays of the day highlight reel last night, coming in at #2! You’ll probably get to see a replay tonight during the rubber game of the series with Seattle.
So the A’s are off to a great start. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the rest of the campaign. It is certainly a better first week of the season than we’ve seen in a long time.
Next Article: Meeting Bob Feller
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.
I Can Post Articles on My Blog Again! My last blog post was on June 16th. The next day Comcast hooked up the last leg of my Triple Play package, and I dutifully logged in to mlblogs.com, went to “My Profile” and followed the instructions for changing my email address. I blythely hit the “Submit” button. I’m not much of a techie so I felt a real sense of accomplishment.
A couple of days later, I decided to post a new article on my blog and logged in using my new email and password. Up came an error message that stated in angry red: “Authentication Error: Email and/or password invalid. Try again.” Hmm. Maybe the change didn’t go through, so I tried to log in using my old email address and password. Same result. I tried other email and password combinations to no avail. Oh no, I couldn’t log in. Disaster! I can’t post any more articles?
I quickly emailed mlblogs.com and explained my plight. To make a long story short, after 3+ weeks of emails and phone calls back and forth to 4 or 5 different people, most of whom kept telling me to log in using the old email address (which I kept telling them I couldn’t do), I found Jacob Wilson who understood what happened. Bless his heart, he imported my blog with all prior articles, comments and photos into my new email account. So I am back and writing again on all things A’s.
The A’s Team We Were Hoping Has Finally Showed Up! Wow, the A’s won a series, and against the Tigers, the AL Central’s leading team. Yahoo!! I attended Monday night’s 7-1 victory in which Brett Anderson pitched scoreless ball into the 6th inning, when he walked two.
The usually-reliable Michael Wuertz came in and gave up a double to Gerald Laird to score one of those walks, marring Brett’s great outing. The A’s bats came alive in the 4th inning when Matt Holliday singled and Jason Giambi walked. Kurt Suzuki doubled in Holliday and Ryan Sweeney singled in the G man, giving the A’s the lead for good. The guys added on the rest of the runs in the 5th and the 6th inning, highlighted by Mark Ellis’ first homer of the year, a two-run blast, and another two runs on Sweeney’s 3rd of the season.
Small ball added the last run in the 8th.
Yesterday produced a 5-1 win to give the A’s the series win over Detroit. Highlights included Dallas Braden
pitching 7 innings of 5-hit, 1-run ball,
followed by 2 shutout innings from Brad Ziegler who now has the set-up role,
and Andrew “Daily” Bailey, the team”s closer to everyone but Manager Bob Geren.
The day’s offensive fireworks came on 2 homers from Jack Cust (14)
and Jason Giambi (11)
scoring 4 runs between them. Detroit’s only run came in the top of the 2nd on a double from Gerald Laird, driving in Ryan Raburn who had singled.
I like this team. I hope they continue to show up. Maybe the much-hoped-for warm weather has finally arrived.
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.