By Jason Wojciechowski
on April 18, 2015 at 4:12 PM
A's 5, Royals 0
WP: Jesse Hahn (5 1/3 IP, 0 R, 4 H+BB, 0 K)
Homers: Josh Reddick (1)
Standings: First in AL West by 0.5 games; would face winner of Baltimore vs. Kansas City in ALDS
Jesse Hahn "did a nice job" / got lucky avoiding a run in the third inning. The jam wasn't entirely of his making, as he gave up what should have been a single to left field that Ben Zobrist just blew into a double, and that Sam Fuld blew into a triple -- Zobrist whiffed on gloving a ball that, on replay, it looked like he should have had, and Fuld did a turnaround jumper-type throw back to the infield that never quite made it to the infield, winding up in short center, instead. Infante never stopped running until he got to third. It was Little League all around. Hahn, though, got a grounder right to shortstop on a drawn-in infield, then a grounder back to him. Getting grounders is his job, so good job, but as we saw yesterday with Sonny Gray, getting grounders is only half the battle -- getting a fortunate angle on those grounders is the other half. The third out was obtained on a bit of a screamer to right field that was right at Josh Reddick -- he had only to move back a few steps to make an easy catch, but the ball came off the bat loud.
I was talking with a Twitter friend about Yordano Ventura and Glen Kuiper's typically joyless comments about his extra leg kick "just isn't necessary" and how I liked Ventura's steez. Then he threw at Brett Lawrie and I changed my mind. Beanballs are stupid. (Beaneballs are amazing.) Throwing at people is stupid. Walking toward the guy you just hit hoping that he'll come out at you is complete horseshit. You hit the guy. That sent the message. The ball's in his court now.
The Kansas City fans' reaction to the HBP was also typically classless, where by "typically" I refer to "American sports fans," not any particular city or sport. We're all horrible people and we deserve the misery of only 1/30 of us getting to celebrate a championship every year.
Blisters are so annoying. Sixty-five pitches through 5 1/3 innings and Hahn's reward is that he can't go further. Suuuuucks.
I'm here for Jesse Chavez. If he's going to throw 96 out of the bullpen, then I'm going to advocate for him taking the eighth-inning role. Anybody can work long relief. (That's not true. I don't care.) Chavez managed 11 swinging strikes out of 57 pitches and I'd swear that every one of them was on a fastball.
By Jason Wojciechowski
on April 18, 2015 at 2:23 PM
A's 4, Royals 6
SP: Sonny Gray (6 IP, 4 R, 12 H+BB, 5 K)
LP: Dan Otero
Homers: Ike Davis (1), Stephen Vogt (2, 3)
Standings: T-2nd AL West, 0.5 behind Angels
Sonny Gray wasn't the sharpest he's ever been, but he also wasn't the dullest. Multiple ground balls went for hits just out of the reach of defenders, the big Sal Perez double in the sixth that led to the Royals taking a 4-3 lead went off Brett Lawrie's glove, and so forth.
Speaking of Lawrie, I don't know how I feel about his slide in the bottom of the sixth that knocked Alcides Escobar out with a leg injury. It was late and it was off the bag (which is the reason he was out, actually -- he either never touched the bag on the way through, or he touched the bag barely but came off it, allowing a tag to be applied), but every slide on a possible double play is late and off the bag. The slide was well in line with the major-league average slide. The problem is that no double play was going to happen because the ball tipped off Jeremy Guthrie's foot and made it a close play just to get an out at second -- forget first. The question is whether Lawrie should have known that in the heat of the play. As it turned out, a straight popup slide into second might have resulted in him being safe, much less the batter, but, as noted, you always slide into the defender, not the bag, if you're at all close. So I don't know.
One thing I note is that Omar Infante was very close to the play and didn't really react to Lawrie at all. Infante put his hads on his head because he knew Escobar was hurt, but he made no aggressive move toward Lawrie. And in light of Lawrie's apparent concern for Escobar, there was no need to start something ... but here came Sal Perez anyway. Infante's lack of reaction doesn't conclusively absolve Lawrie; nor, though, does Perez's reaction conclusively convict him. (On the other hand, and for what it's worth, Mike Moustakas apparently gestured for Lawrie to leave the field while Lawrie was checking on Escobar.)
Fortunately, the injury was only a mild knee sprain and bruise.
Rounding up all the Lawrie talk: Eric Hosmer thinks it wasn't intentional; Lawrie says he wasn't trying to cleat Escobar and that his foot just came up as he hit the bag; Ned Yost noted that the throw to Escobar was late and doesn't blame Lawrie; Bob Melvin had no issues with the slide (but he wouldn't, would he?); Lawrie doesn't hold Moustakas's gesture against him; Escobar is not being chill and disputes whether Lawrie texted him to apologize. Lawrie showed Slusser the texts, but it might be an old number and now it's a dang mystery who the hell got Lawrie's texts.
Meanwhile, John Hickey's question about whether "there was some concern over the possible reaction of an already inflamed crowd had Lawrie been called safe on top of everything that happened in the play" is a little embarrassing.
Mark Canha looked flat-out overmatched by Kelvin Herrera. On the other hand, the entire league is overmatched by Herrera, and it's not like the A's had any better options available. Pinch-hit Eric Sogard?
On the one hand, Dan Otero took as long as he did to get to the big leagues for a reason. On the other hand, relief pitching is fickle and one or two bad innings, especially early in the year, can really sink your season. If you can tell the difference, well, close this blog and send Billy Beane an email because you're about to be rich.
Stephen Vogt's second homer was majestic.
April 16, 2015 at 11:20 PM
April 16, 2015 at 10:58 AM
By Jason Wojciechowski
on April 14, 2015 at 9:19 PM
A's 4, Astros 0
WP: Kendall Graveman (5 1/3 IP, 9 H+BB+HBP, 0 R, 3 K)
HR: Who needs 'em
Standings: First in AL West, 1 game ahead of Texas; would face winner of Tampa Bay vs. Detroit in ALDS
Sam Fuld's leadoff double was fantastic, a little flip of the bat and a wild amount of luck got a bloopy bouncer on the left field line. Plus, it gave him a chance to stand next to Jose Altuve, which is like the opposite of those Freiman-Altuve photos we all love so much.
How many full-time, power-hitting third basemen would easily turn a 1-6-3 double play into a fielder's choice the way Brett Lawrie did in the second inning? It came to nothing, except in its butterfly effects, but it's impressive to watch him go dashing around the field the way he does anyway. And anyway, it almost came to something because of Josh Reddick's horrifically ugly swinging bunt to beat the shift.
Guess who fell asleep in the eighth inning of this one?
How'd you guess? Did you steal the answer key again?
April 14, 2015 at 1:30 PM
By Jason Wojciechowski
on April 13, 2015 at 9:42 PM
A's 8, Astros 1
WP: Scott Kazmir (6 IP, 6 H+BB, 1 R, 8 K)
Homers: Brett Lawrie (1), Billy Butler (1), Marcus Semien (1)
Standings: First place in the AL West, would face winner of Detroit vs. (winner of Tampa Bay vs. Toronto) in the ALDS
Another day, another blowout. I don't understand this team at all. They're going to finish .500 with the best run differential in history. Their current differential of +24 trails only the 7-0 Royals and the 6-1 Tigers, though it's worth noting, in talking about extremes, that the sadly pitiful Twins are -29. What a division, that AL Central.
We'll wait for the StatCast data, but I'm convinced that Billy Butler's batted ball velocity is going to be higher than anybody else's on the team. Certainly higher than Stephen Vogt's, who it seems hits a pop blooper every single time he comes to the plate. Even when he homers, it feels like a long blooper. Butler, though. He's just a flat-out dang hitter, man.
Scott Kazmir looked about how he always looked: good, but with a side of "why's he finishing so weird, is he hurt, I hope he's not hurt, did he just grab ... no that's just his gum, okay, whew."
Scott Feldman, by contrast, made me wonder how on earth he's a big-league pitcher. I couldn't have hit him, because I'm not even an independent league–quality hitter, but the location, movement, and velocity Feldman brought made me half convinced I was wrong.
Marcus Semien's homer was, as I said on Twitter, completely hilarious. The ball tailed in on him and he took a sort of defensive cricket hack, just trying to make sure his wicket was safe. (I don't know how to play cricket.) The result? An easy homer flying out to the short porch in left field. It's entirely possible that Semien got the ball so square that it would have gone out of any yard, weird hack or no, but it's also possible that was a lazy fly out in 28 other parks and a Wallball single in Fenway.
I'm not sure about Semien yet overall. I can't get a read on him. I can't get a read on how I feel about him. My own thoughts and opinions are a mystery to me.
Brett Lawrie's homer was very impressive. He crushed the ball, but the slow motion replay actually looked like he put a B+ swing on. I'm no swing analyst, but there was something in his posture at the point of contact that made me think it wasn't the best hack he's ever taken.
Ben Zobrist was magical, smashing hits through/over the shift twice. "Screw your shift" is always a fun game to play. He also almost got thrown out at third base on a fly ball to George Springer because he didn't realize the ball was arriving as quickly as it did -- he saw Luis Valbuena get pulled off the bag by the throw and started to coast a little earlier than he should have, speeding up and taking a last giant step at the end to just get in ahead of the tag. Weird play, but he seemed amused by it, as well he should.
Carl Steward wrote a piece arguing that the A's bullpen is presently a weakness, and it's hard to disagree. I like Dan Otero fine, but he's hardly the model setup man; he's a lot easier to like if he's the "look how good this bullpen is! Dan Otero has pitched crazy well but he's still only in middle relief!" guy rather than your second-best reliever. I'm comfortable with Eric O'Flaherty and Tyler Clippard (early roughness notwithstanding) but the rest of the 'pen has some upside and some downside -- it's not the most obviously solid group around. Ryan Cook turning into a pumpkin is really not a good look for anyone involved.
My not-cousin Asher Wojciechowski pitched in the game for Houston, coming in out of the bullpen and then being optioned after the game, even though he was set to start tomorrow. Former Baby Athletic Brad Peacock will pitch instead. Me, I'm just glad we got Wojciechowski's appearance out of the way.
A fun thing about Jesse Chavez out of the bullpen is that he throws 94.
By Jason Wojciechowski
on April 11, 2015 at 12:08 PM
Mark Canha is tied for eighth in baseball in fWAR. And if you don't think I'm making fun of people who think this is meaningful, well, welcome to the blog.
Here's to Drew Pomeranz making it really hard for the A's to send him to Nashville when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin come back.
April 9, 2015 at 7:06 PM
April 9, 2015 at 7:05 PM
By Jason Wojciechowski
on April 9, 2015 at 6:49 PM
Rangers 10, A's 1
LP: Kendall Graveman (3 1/3 IP, 10 H+BB+HBP, 8 R, 1 K, 2 HR)
Standings: Tied for second in AL West, 1/2 behind Angels
The less said about this one the better in my opinion.
By Jason Wojciechowski
on April 8, 2015 at 10:59 PM
Have yourself a damn day, Mark Canha!
Rangers 0, A's 10
WP: Scott Kazmir (7 IP, 3 H+BB, 10 K)
Homers: Who needs 'em
Standings: Tied for first in the AL West
I don't do the beat writer prewriting thing, typically, but I got home late tonight, so I started the game late, so as of this writing, I'm watching the top of the seventh, with the A's up 9-0. Given all those things, my thoughts are abbreviated:
Scott Kazmir's size and injury history leave me always feeling on edge, and the trainer visit in the middle of this game didn't help those feelings, but gosh, when he wasn't hurting, he was on his pitching game tonight, including throwing his fastball past people at times. It's easy to forget, given this weakened version of Kazmir, that the whole reason we know his name at all is that his arm used to be [fire emoji] [lightning emoji] [fire emoji] [100 emoji]. He's still got some of that going for him, and the double-digit strikeouts tonight showed that.
It's a little sad that Nate Freiman went and got himself Pipped by Canha, but a three-run double for your first big-league hit? Four RBIs in your first game? That's pretty neat stuff. He also made a nice scoop on a long Brett Lawrie throw after the third baseman dove to keep a ball from scooting down the left field line.
Lawrie, by the way, hit the ball with authority to right field on a hanging breaker and also scurried his ass down the line for an infield single later on. I'm back on the bandwagon.
Tyler Ladendorf also got his first big-league hit, which is nice because he's only going to be up as long as Josh Reddick is out. Make that time count!
Cody Ross looked fine. Nothing special. He hit the ball pretty hard for his one hit. He'll be fine, I've decided. Not Jonny Gomes fine or anything, but who is?
I got my first look at R.J. Alvarez. He's got closer hair, that's for sure. The low release point / drop-down mechanics make me worried that he'll be too susceptible to lefties to actually be a closer down the line, but the arm action isn't particularly long, and his drop-down isn't Eckersleyan or anything, and in any event Eckersley was a pretty damn good closer, so maybe he's not going to give lefties too much of a good luck to be all that worried about.
He didn't seem to have any idea where his slider was going, but that's why he's a reliever, right? There's something jerky and explosive about watching him pitch even though his fastball "only" comes in at 94 or 95, not that much faster than Kazmir, who has that easy rocking-chair lefty heat.
What on earth even happened to the Rangers in this game? They made about 17 errors, couldn't hit a damn thing Kazmir threw, hung pitches to the A's, and just generally all around looked like they, collectively, got called up from Triple-A to fill in for the real Rangers, all of whom are dealing with the flu. At least we got to see Delino DeShields, son of Delino DeShields.
April 8, 2015 at 8:05 AM
By Jason Wojciechowski
on April 7, 2015 at 9:56 PM
Rangers 3, A's 1
LP: Jesse Hahn (6 IP, 3 R, 9 H+HBP, 3 K)
Standings: Tied for last in the AL West, 0.5 behind Houston
Well that was annoying. Jesse Hahn pitched fine, but not great, mostly throwing strikes, though missing fairly badly when he did miss, and the Rangers got their runs without, for the most part, a bunch of big blasts. A bloop here, a Craig Gentry screwup in right field there and suddenly Texas has enough runs for A's-killer Colby Lewis (seriously, what the hell) to do all he needs.
Brett Lawrie was absolutely miserable. I assume it's happened once or twice in the past, but I'm pretty sure I've never seen four strikeouts on twelve pitches before, especially not to an actual hitter. Lewis and Keone Kela and Neftali Feliz threw him breaking pitch after breaking pitch and Lawrie just looked flat-out helpless. Everyone has bad days and if Lawrie had this particular bad day on July 17th, we'd groan and make noise but it wouldn't be that big a deal. I'm trying to convince myself as much as I'm trying to convince you here.
The bullpen (Eric O'Flaherty, Jesse Chavez, Fernando Abad) looked nice, allowing two runners over the final three innings while striking out three (two by O'Flaherty). Chavez put Adrian Beltre on his ass in very Beltre fashion, whiffing hugely on a fastball up and in.
In the seventh, with the A's down two runs, Billy Butler led off with a sharp single up the middle, just out of the reach of Elvis Andrus. It was a very pretty hit. And, it seemed, it was a very obvious spot to pinch run with Billy Burns. The fleet outfielder has few other uses, and the Zobrist-Fuld-Gentry group doesn't need defensively replacing such that you should be saving Burns for that purpose, and the infield is similarly good enough that you're not going to put Burns in left to move Zobrist back into the infield in the late innings, and even if Zobrist isn't as good as Burns in the outfield (he's probably not), he's not someone I'd be willing to take out because of his bat and his flexibility. And you're not saving Burns for pinch-hitting because if he could hit better than anybody in the A's starting lineup, well, he'd already be in the A's starting lineup. So what's Burns's point? To pinch-run! And who more than anyone else on this team, and maybe more than anyone else in baseball, needs a pinch-runner? Billy Butler! And when more than any other time do you need that runner? Late in a close game with stolen and extra base possibilities!
So, yes, no, Burns did not pinch-run, which certainly wound up costing the A's a run because if he were on second instead of Butler when Stephen Vogt lined a single into right field later in the inning, he'd have scored and no two ways about it. Of course, the A's needed two, not one, but who knows from there? Who are we to look a gift run in the mouth? And when Burns's spot came up in the ninth, it's not ideal, but you've got Mark Canha on the bench, and that's not as bad as some teams would have it.
This is a very bloggy obsession for me to have, I admit, but I'm sticking with it. I only wish I could prove to you that I was yelling about Burns not pinch-running even before the Vogt hit. Because I was. You'll just have to take my word for it.
All that whining aside, we might be looking at a very different game had Marcus Semien not grounded into a bases-loaded double play on what would have been ball four in that seventh inning:
I liked Jesse Hahn's stuff.
If Sam Fuld's going to keep hitting triples, I'm going to feel real dumb about complaining that he's too high in the batting order.