By Jason Wojciechowski on April 18, 2014 at 12:46 AM

People ask me, "What do you do on an off day?" I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and watch pedestrians like a total creeper.

By Jason Wojciechowski on April 8, 2014 at 1:06 AM

I got home late and therefore was unable to watch the entire baseball game, but I did catch a few innings. Notes!

  • I'm told that the average instant replay league-wide is about a minute and a half. I feel unlucky because it seems every A's replay I catch has gone multiple minutes, especially when you factor in the manager dicking around and the umpires all chatting before the review even gets underway. If the mean league-wide really is 90 seconds or so, then I withhold criticism and chalk my experience up to small-sample bad luck. I would like to know where that number begins, though. Again, from the moment the manager's foot hits the dirt, what delay are we talking about?

  • That's also aside from the question of managers chatting with umps for long enough to find out whether they should challenge. Solutions abound. Every trip onto the field is a challenge, say, though that's unfair because sometimes a manager needs an explanation of what was called before he can know whether to challenge. We've all seen plays where the big man comes charging out less angry than genuinely confused about what's happening. I'm not giving up the fight on scrapping the challenge system and having a replay ump send a "hold on a sec" signal. This horse ain't dead yet.

  • Can the A's face Kevin Correia every game? He threw a couple of meatballs that the A's walloped and lined and did all sorts of ugly things to. Even Derek Norris got a hit. Against a righty! It can happen!

  • I didn't see Scott Kazmir's first start and, as you know by now, I don't really dig spring training, so this was my first look. I understand that his opening start was a little more impressive. His stuff looked good, better than my mind's eye had him, but his control wasn't really at its top rank, much less his command. There were a few hard-hit balls, though as with Jim Johnson, there was a fair amount of stuff hit on the ground. A single early on that got past Jed Lowrie jumps out, mainly because I think other shortstops, even those short of Andrelton Simmons in the #rig department, would have gotten to the ball. It just didn't look that deep in the hole! though it was, as I said, well-struck. But such is measuring defense by the eyes, especially as a nonexpert.

  • Kazmir did dominate Joe Mauer, so that's nice. Also Kazmir is handsome. Who's more handsome, Sam Fuld or Kazmir? Maybe it's Gentry? Also Kazmir got better as I was typing this post, moving the ball in the zone and controlling at-bats, getting a couple of bad swings from the Twins. Feh, look now, I'm starting to get optimistic.

  • I understand it's maddening to watch a guy hit directly into the teeth of the shift, but is there much more fun than watching someone hit into the teeth of the shift and beat it anyway? Brandon Moss smashed a hard ground single in this game that did just that, and it delighted me. I'm not worried, long term. He's done some bunting, he'll still have his power on flies ... I'm okay with Moss' shift approach is what I'm saying.

  • I do not like watching Jed Lowrie play defense. It pains me. Every play is nerve-wracking. Every ball he runs around and one-hands or throws on the run or backhands, gah. I'd love to have him back for 2015-17 to play second base, but I can't see that happening. Someone has to play short for the Yankees, after all, and they've long since forgotten good defense, so Addison Russell will have to team with someone else in the middle infield.

By Jason Wojciechowski on April 5, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Susan Slusser raises the question of whether Sam Fuld will get designated for assignment after his impressive spring and 3-for-9 start to the year, including a near inside the park homer, when Craig Gentry comes back. The obvious answer is "yes" because the roster doesn't seem to make sense any other way, what with there not being any playing time available for Fuld if he and Gentry are both around and with nobody else having options, unless the team wants to send down Eric Sogard and go with lineups that look something like

v. LHP

C: Norris
1B: Barton
2B: Punto
SS: Lowrie
3B: Donaldson
LF: Fuld
CF: Crisp
RF: Gentry
DH: Cespedes

v. RHP

C: Jaso
1B: Barton
2B: Callaspo
SS: Lowrie
3B: Donaldson
LF: Cespedes
CF: Crisp
RF: Reddick
DH: Moss

Is removing Reddick from the lineup against lefties worth the defensive hit you take by having Callaspo at second? Does it make sense, as a matter of managing personalities, to essentially remove Reddick from the lineup against lefties in favor of another lefty, Fuld? Can you send down Sogard without risking full-scale revolt from the fans and the clubhouse? They did Nerd Power Night!

So let's assume Sam Fuld hits the waiver wire. What's the 4th/5th outfield situation look like around the league, keeping in mind that Michael Taylor cleared waivers but also keeping in mind that Michael Taylor is a bat-first player who teams would view differently than the jack-of-all-outfield-trades guy that Fuld is, the legit center fielder who can play the corners well, who can pinch-run, who can start for a week at any position without killing you in any phase of the game if need be. Per MLB Depth Charts, here's what's going on:

Baltimore: Delmon Young, Steve Pearce, and sorta Steve Lombardozzi. Pearce is out of options. They'd have to designate for assignment someone like Steve Johnson to make room for Fuld, and they've got a couple of outfielders on the disabled list as well. They could also swap in Fuld for David Lough as the lefty half of the left-field platoon. Plus we know Baltimore loves the scrap heap.

Boston: Can't imagine them carrying Fuld over Jackie Bradley or Mike Carp.

New York: Ichiro is in the Fuld role. No chance they replace him, though they could go with two catchers instead of three (they're currently carrying both Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine behind Brian McCann) and designate someone like Cesar Cabral or Preston Claiborne for assignment.

Tampa Bay: Logan Forsythe, Brandon Guyer, and Sean Rodriguez are the bench players, and I could see them preferring Fuld to Guyer, especially since, if they end up losing Fuld at some point, they've always got Kevin Kiermaier in the minors.

Toronto: Also carrying three catchers (Dioner Navarro, Erik Kratz, Josh Thole, with Thole the knuckleball receiver), so you could see them dumping Kratz to pair Fuld with the more offense-minded Moises Sierra as backup outfielders.

Chicago: Leury Garcia, Paul Konerko, and Dayan Viciedo is the bench. I don't see much chance here.

Cleveland: Currently has an eight-man bullpen? What? Why?

Detroit: The Tigers have Tyler Collins and Don Kelly backing up a solid starting corps. Collins is apparently not much of a defender, and you really don't want to play Rajai Davis or Torii Hunter in center.

Kansas City: This is a pretty good outfield, with Jarrod Dyson and Justin Maxwell, both out of options, on the bench.

Minnesota: They've got Jason Bartlett in a backup outfield role along with Chris Colabello, who seems pretty DH-y. With Jason Kubel at DH and Eduardo Escobar as backup infielder, I'd take Fuld over Bartlett, but I'm not, as you might have realized, a general manager, so who knows.

Houston: Alex Presley is on the roster in the Fuld role, and maybe you prefer Presley, or maybe you at least prefer not not to make a fuss and hassle just to upgrade from Presley to Fuld for the 23rd spot on the roster on a team that isn't intended to make the playoffs this year.

Anaheim: Collin Cowgill is the backup outfielder, and apparently has options remaining. If that's true, I wonder whether adding Fuld and having Cowgill as minor-league depth might make some sense for the Angels.

Seattle: They have Willie Bloomquist.

Texas: We know they love the ex-A's. They could option Michael Choice, but then they wouldn't really have a platoon partner for Mitch Moreland. They could option James Adduci, but then ... well, actually, they should probably option James Adduci.

Atlanta: This bench seems pretty okay to me: Tyler Pastornicky, Ryan Doumit, and Jordan Schafer can all play some outfield. Schafer is an outfielder, and is out of options to boot. My guess is they pass.

Miami: They've only got one outfielder on the bench, and it's Reed Johnson, but he's right-handed, which is nice with Christian Yelich hitting lefty. On the other hand, you'd probably prefer Fuld to Johnson on defense. On the other other hand, I think making a waiver claim costs money.

New York: There's only one reserve outfielder but three infielders (Wilmer Flores, Omar Quintanilla, Josh Satin). I might take Fuld over Satin.

Philadelphia: John Mayberry, reasonable prospect Cesar Hernandez, and Tony Gwynn, Jr. are the bench outfielders. I don't know what to say.

Washington: I love this outfield. With the starting team of Span, Harper, and Werth, where do you even find time for Scott Hairston and Nate McLouth? I don't see any room.

Chicago: Ryan Kalish and Justin Ruggiano is a nice pair, far as Kalish has fallen. They could option Kalish, but I don't know.

Cincinnati: Do you prefer Fuld to Roger Bernadina enough to make a move?

Milwaukee: There's also a Schafer here (Logan), and the rest of the bench isn't going anywhere.

Pittsburgh: Maybe over Josh Harrison, given that Clint Barmes is already here, but Harrison is more versatile.

St. Louis: The lefty backup outfielder is Jon Jay.

Arizona: It's just Tony Campana, but he is real real fast. Fuld might not be gritty enough.

Colorado: Corey Dickerson is a nice lefty bench outfielder.

Los Angeles: Maybe they DFA Matt Kemp? Maybe!

San Diego: Carrying three catchers, which doesn't seem sustainable.

San Francisco: Fuld vs. Gregor Blanco is another of those "who knows, but is it worth making a change to find out?" situations.

So the reasonably strong possibilities appear to include Baltimore, the Yankees, Tampa, Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Anaheim, Seattle, Texas, the Mets, Philadelphia, and San Diego. That's 13 teams, and even if I've got some wrong, let's assume I've got them wrong in both directions so that there are basically 13 slots for Fuld in the majors. Let's further suppose that I've vastly overestimated the likelihood that those 13 teams claim him, so for each team, there's actually only a 10 percent chance that they put in a claim. Do the math and that works out to only a 25 percent chance that Fuld is not claimed by some team.

Does this mean they should keep him? I don't think the odds of him being claimed are going to go down as the year goes on (though they might not go up either), so holding on to him for a later opportunity to waive him wouldn't really make sense. It's really a plain Sogard vs. Fuld question in terms of the 25-man roster, and I'm, in light of the rest of the roster makeup, not seeing a great argument for Fuld in that case. Root for the 25 percent, I say.

By Jason Wojciechowski on April 5, 2014 at 12:17 AM

Sports Publishing was kind enough to provide me with a review copy of David Fischer's new book, Facing Mariano Rivera, which came out on March 4th. It's a slim volume and a quick read, and it would make a nice addition to the library of certain baseball fans -- Yankees followers, Rivera partisans, people who like owning a copy of every baseball book they can get a hand on.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the book terribly highly for the more general fan or for the analyst. It is a collection of quotes from players who have batted or pitched against Rivera along with quotes from a few other people (managers, e.g.). So far, neat idea. The problem is in the execution, which shows no real effort at putting together a cohesive book. The quotes are arranged so that outfielders who batted against Rivera are kept in a distinct section from infielders, and within those sections, the hitters are sorted alphabetically. Why? I have no idea. There are any number of arrangements that make sense -- players could be ordered by hand by the editor based on themes or to create a narrative arc or chronological order would make a lot of sense so you could see how batters who faced Rivera in 1998 might differ from those facing him 10 years later. What does not make sense is separating outfielders from infielders (do they hit differently?) and ordering them by name.

The book also evidences little concern for avoiding repetition and, frankly, boredom. It seems that the extent of the insights into Rivera from most hitters amounts to "he throws over pitch real real good" or "he's an even better person than a pitcher." There are only so many times you can read those ideas before you lose interest, and I passed that point as a reader at best a third of the way through the book. There are tidbits here and there about players moving up in the box to try to get to the cutter before it broke (which I think doesn't really work, as a matter of physics) or using different bats, either because they don't want their precious lucky bats to get splintered or because they change their approach slightly against Rivera. And then there are essentially counternarratives that if you go about changing your approach this radically against him, you're letting him get in your head.

Fischer does include some players who had famous hits against Rivera, or random nobodies who happened to hit him well, which is nice, but these players, you will be unsurprised to learn, have no magic answers to how to solve the problem of hitting that cutter. They just happened to do it here and there. Many admit that their hits were bloopers that fell in.

tl;dr: Collector's item for the misty Mariano fan: sure; useful book for the rest of us: less so.

By Jason Wojciechowski on April 4, 2014 at 12:31 AM

The scare quotes don't mean anything disrespectful about Coco Crisp's big hit, much as it was a wall-scraper of the highest order. Then again, wall-scrapers are what he does, and in any event this was Oakland at like 11pm in April -- that was probably a 480-foot moonshot in Arizona. Remember Josh Donaldson's rocket the other night? The one that hit the top of the wall in center field and that Daric Barton fouled up with atrocious baserunning? That ball, I'm convinced, would have left any other yard in the game.

In any event, my point is just that I'm bored of the term "walk off" so I put it in quotes.

I'm of two minds about this game, which I didn't watch with my usual care because I was working and needed to finish a brief before I went to sleep. The first mind is that the A's outclassed the Mariners, hitting balls hard, earning scads of walks, and just never really breaking through because of the vagaries of timing. The second mind is that Jesse Chavez, good as his final numbers look, seemed on the brink of disaster while he was in and needed the bullpen to do its A's Bullpen Things to win and then plus the Mariners' first run came through sheer unadulterated incompetence on the part of Alberto Callaspo and Nick Punto. And I think about Nick Punto's absurd head-first slide into first on that close play in whatever inning it was. And I think about Brandon Moss boinking a baserunner with a throw after Sean Doolittle picked him off. But I also think about the Mariners' ridiculous TOOTBLAN when they wound up with two runners on third at the same time.

So I don't know. Lots of derp in the game is what it boils down to, but the bullpen throwing, what did it come to, seven shutdown innings to win it? That covers a lot of ills.

Hey, did you notice the pitch that Yoenis Cespedes hit for a triple? It was a fastball in the strike zone. I persist in failing to comprehend why this ever happens.

Sam Fuld sure is exciting. Thing I'm not looking forward to: when Craig Gentry comes back and struggles in his first four games and a bunch of people start whining about how they never should have cut Fuld. Fuld is so good at defense, though. I know they say Gentry is good, but I just can't imagine someone improving on Fuld's combination of jumps and speed. He's just always there when the ball is.

I don't know who's pitching tomorrow. I guess it's Milone for the A's? I don't know. With any luck I will be in Rancho Cucamonga. (Nobody's ever said that before.)