By Jason Wojciechowski on June 10, 2011 at 2:00 PM
I only have so many "gee, that was a shitty game"'s in me. I'd talk about Bob Melvin, except there's nothing to talk about -- he's just a guy, likely no better and no worse than Bob Geren at the actual task of managing. He's probably not Dusty Baker and he's surely not Earl Weaver, not that Billy Beane would ever hire one of those guys in the first place. As Rob Bowen said on Twitter, Beane wants a middle manager in that position. We all read Moneyball, though, so I hope Bowen doesn't think he's shocking us with these incredible revelations.1
What I came up with in terms of major injuries during Geren's tenure: Rich Harden, Joey Devine, Andrew Bailey, Josh Outman, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Justin Duchscherer, Ben Sheets. (Do let me know if I've missed anyone. Joe Kennedy doesn't count.) Being generous to Bowen, Geren can be said to have broken five of those guys: Devine, Bailey, Outman, Anderson, and Braden. The other three, Harden, Duchscherer, and Sheets, arrived in Geren's care as damaged goods. Nobody would have gotten anything different out of them. So at best, you've got five pitchers, three of which are entirely starters (and thus cannot have had their roles jerked around, as Bowen claims was done). Furthermore, Devine and Bailey are both back and pitching well, and Outman is at least back and pitching. So even if you assume the worst about Anderson and Braden, you're down to two pitchers that Geren has "ruined." Now, that would be two too many if it were true (which it's not), but the point of this exercise isn't to actually assess Geren: it's to show that Rob Bowen is saying ridiculously unsupported things. And to that, I say: QED.
I did disagree with two of Melvin's moves last night, but both were pretty minor, as all disagreements with managers are going to be when the team loses by five. First, I would not bat Cliff Pennington second. The gap between best and worst lineups is relatively small, and the rest of the A's lineup isn't so egregiously wrong as to have a Pennington-second order be anywhere near a theoretical worst (e.g. reverse order by hitter quality), but still: Cliff Pennington came one out away from having one more plate appearance than Josh Willingham, Conor Jackson, and Hideki Matsui. That shouldn't happen. (And I say this as someone who likes Pennington and thinks he still has some more growth. He's not going to be Jose Reyes, but he can be a key part of the next good A's team.)
Second, I would have left Trevor Cahill in the game. Cahill was pulled with the A's down five. Per Fangraphs, teams in the position the A's were in (five-run deficit, bottom three, bases loaded, two out) have won 6.7% of the time. I'm not sure that's enough to go chasing after, especially since, the A's offense being what it is, you'd probably adjust that percentage downward a bit. (Although the A's bullpen strength might mean that we'd expect fewer insurance runs to score, so maybe the adjustments for the particulars of this team's makeup end up being a wash.) Whether the odds were 7%, 10%, or 3%, though, I'd rather have squeezed another inning out of Cahill, getting him to his normal pitch count and saving an inning in the pen.
This is particularly true because, as hard as the White Sox hit some balls off of Cahill, and as much as his wildness was in full effect, two of the Chicago hits in the third inning were the weakest bullshit infield singles you've ever seen in your life, Hit Tracker says that Adam Dunn's homer wouldn't have left the yard in 19 parks, and even A.J. Pierzynski's solid single up the middle was here inches from being caught as a comebacker by Cahill himself. The difference between the Sox scoring three runs in the inning and scoring none, in other words, was minuscule.
The point, of course, is not to make excuses for Cahill, whose overall performance was still subpar. The point is that I hadn't seen enough lack of effectiveness from him to justify putting more innings on a bullpen that's had a lot of work lately.
Quibble over. On to the
Box & Notes
Crisp would have had a much more reasonable (but still negative) wRAA figure for the game had he not been picked off by Mark Buehrle in the third inning. If he'd stolen the base he was trying to steal when he was nabbed, it would've been even better!
I blame his weak game on the fact that all of his hair has been cut off. I can only assume that this was done by malicious agents acting at the behest of the Texas Rangers, because there's truly no other reason why such a majestic head of hair should be removed.
The worst kind of bad decision is the kind that works out well. Hello Cliff Pennington and your single and walk in four trips in your first game batting second! The single wasn't hit very hard, but props to Pennington for working Buehrle in that at-bat -- after going down 0-2 on a foul bunt, he worked to 3-2 (with three fouls) before hitting a pretty good pitch on the outside corner for a grounder that Gordon Beckham couldn't manage to haul in.
There was a neat dugout shot during pregame of Mike Gallego miming a "take the ball out of the glove to the short wind up and throw" that an infielder has to do. I really liked it. I have no idea what Gallego's rep is as far as working with infielders on their defense (will Cliff Pennington give his Gold Glove statue to Gallego like Eric Chavez did for Ron Washington?), but it was still cool to see.
The A's hit a lot of tappers and weak stuff against Mark Buehrle, but Josh Willingham declined to participate in this. That he finished with no hits wasn't really an upset, because his balls in play weren't line drives, but he did make fairly solid contact each time up (until the eighth, when he whiffed against Jesse Crain). It's the little things that keep me going here.
Kurt Suzuki for leadoff man! He hit two solid singles in the game and scored after each one, in the second on back-to-back singles by Matsui and Rosales and in the seventh on Matsui homer.
Suzuki also got Alex Rios stealing third in the seventh inning with Brad Ziegler on the mound, giving Ziegler the awesome "2/3 of an inning pitched, one batter faced" box score line. It was a pretty good throw, right on the bag, though it did short-hop Rosales, who had to make a nice scoop-and-tag to get the out.
Hideki Matsui was really the only A's player with a reported problem with Bob Geren to have a good game in Bob Melvin's premiere, hitting the homer and single mentioned in the previous bullet. This is exactly as meaningless as firing Geren in the first place. Or, hell, exactly as meaningless as hiring Geren a few years ago.
The second inning was a complicated mix of hits, outs, and walks, so it's impossible to untangle Adam Rosales whiffing on Omar Vizquel's foul popup near the dugout from the rest of the events. How does the inning go if he makes the catch? The immediately obvious thing is that Vizquel doesn't hit a sacrifice fly three pitches later, but does that matter as the inning goes forward?
Anyway, it's not like it was an easy play that Rosales biffed. It was a fairly low pop in someone else's park (i.e. Rosales isn't as familiar with the location of the dugout as he would be in Oakland), so he had to sprint over while trying to keep an eye on both where he was on the field and the ball at the same time. I can't blame him. (Derek Jeter would have caught it, though.)
David DeJesus hit two singles in four trips in yesterday's game. In today's, the lineups for which are streaming by on Twitter as I write this, he is sitting the bench. When Bob Geren did this, he was the subject of scores of mocking tweets. I'm only saying!
Jemile Weeks had the bloopiest of bloop singles in the ninth for his first big-league RBI, swinging hard enough that Alex Rios initially broke back on the ball before realizing that it was just a weak pop.
Weeks, by the way, had a three-hit game in #63 against the Orioles, which I missed because I felt ill after running and went straight to bed. I may have to go back and watch it this weekend, though, if I can find the time, because this is the A's second baseman for the next six years, right? I don't want to have missed his first triple, double, hit, and multi-hit game of his sure-to-be-long-and-illustrious career.
Obviously an 8/20 in the "outs" field of my box score isn't good, and neither is one whiff on 73 pitches, but the White Sox hit four infield singles in twenty batters. That's absurd. One was on a weak tapper to SS/3B by Gordon Beckham on which the runner crossing in front of Rosales might have slowed him down a bit, one was the squib down the 3B line with the bases loaded that Cahill made the lunging play on, falling on his pitching shoulder in the process, and the other two were tappers by Omar Vizquel and Juan Pierre in the third inning.
Cahill beat himself with wildness, for sure, but we shouldn't forget that he also managed, on four different occasions, to get such weak contact that the batters should have slunk back to the dugout in shame, calling themselves out for being so awful rather than trying to beat out the hit to first.
This really should be a rule.
This was a pleasantly surprising outing from Bobby Cramer, which makes it especially sad that he was optioned out in favor of tonight's starting pitcher, Graham Godfrey, after the game. Someday the A's will give him his shot to start again, right? (I say this not because I think he's any good, but because it's fun to root for the guy.)
Brad Ziegler probably has a number of two-for-one appearances in his career, being an extreme groundballer out of the bullpen who has been called on in double-play situations with some frequency, but I wonder how many of those came because of a caught-stealing followed by an out. This likely would not be hard to research, but I can't give it the time right now.
Brian Fuentes basically got Bob Geren fired, and this is how he greets his replacement? Single, single, sac fly, homer. He did strike out A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rios to end the inning, but that was after he let three runs in. That's pretty much the definition of Brian Fuentes on the A's this year, isn't it?
After Adam Dunn's homer, he fist-bumped Omar Vizquel. I thought it was a bat-boy at first.
When Trevor Cahill was doing some warmup throws after falling on his shoulder in the second inning, all I could think was "Why is Bob Melvin even out there watching this? Does he have any idea what Cahill's mechanics are normally like? Shouldn't he just tell the trainer and pitching coach to go out and deal with it?" These are the weirdnesses of dealing with a mid-season manager change for the first time in my A's-fan life.
Let me just note here, because I've been saying it on Twitter, but that's a pretty impermanent medium, that I think Rob Bowen is being a total dumbass about this. Put aside the "oooohh, Beane doesn't want a real manager, I'm giving you hot DISH here!" He's been claiming repeatedly, without naming any names, that Bob Geren ruined "a dozen pitcher's [sic] careers". This is pretty easy to check, of course. ↩