Luck is the Residue of ... blah blah blah

By Jason Wojciechowski on September 5, 2004 at 7:08 PM

The A's got a little lucky against the Blue Jays last night, scoring two runs on wild pitches late in the game to close a 5-3 gap. Of course, they made up for that luck by pounding the Toronto bullpen into submission in the ninth, scoring four more runs after Nick Swisher trotted home to make the tally five-all, the last three on a bases-loaded double by Eric Byrnes. Of course, the A's got a little help on that ball as well, since it might've been catchable by Reed Johnson, but he actually started toward the infield, rather than away from it, and then saw the ball go over his head. Somebody tell Reed that your first step as an outfielder is always toward the fence.

In fact, if Johnson had caught that ball, the game would have gone to the bottom of the ninth at 6-5, which is the score I called yesterday. Damn him.

What the score reflects, though, is that I had the right instincts about Mark Mulder's performance. He gave up five runs in six innings, though he did strike out five and get nine ground ball outs. Thankfully, the Oakland bullpen has been absolutely untouchable these days, and Ricardo Rincon, Chad Bradford, and Chris Hammond threw three shutout innings following Mulder, with Hammond taking the win.

That bullpen aside, though, Mulder is really starting to worry me. I think we can count a guy with a 3.90 ERA out of the Cy Young race, especially since Curt Schilling has now tied him for the AL lead in wins, with 17. Johan Santana's strong second half also has to be considered, because it'll be fresher in the voters' minds.

That's all pointless, though, because the reason Mark Mulder pitches is for the A's to win ballgames, not for him to win hardware, and, while the A's have still been winning, it's only because they've only scored fewer than five runs in one of his last seven starts (and that was the one game out of those seven that they lost, a 10-3 whomping by Kansas City). It's disheartening to see two of the four aces having to rely on the offense to get them wins, especially after one of them was in Cy Young form early in the year and the other won actually won the award two years ago.

Mulder's really got to get straightened out by the playoffs, because four and five runs in six innings to the Blue Jays and Devil Rays is going to translate to earlier exits and bigger deficits against the Red Sox. I'd hate to see the A's put all their chips on Tim Hudson starting twice and hoping they can steal one of the other three games.

Eric Chavez had a three-walk day, bringing his season total to 80, tying him for the league-lead with Gary Sheffield, despite having about 110 fewer plate apperances than The Sheff has. Those 80 walks give him a .410 OBP, which is third in the league, behind two guys who are batting .345 and .379 respectively: Melvin Mora and Ichiro.

I wonder if Mora is going to get any MVP consideration. His OPS is second in the AL only to Manny Ramirez, and while it's pretty batting average driven, that doesn't matter in value discussions. From a pure VORP perspective, Mora has been the most valuable player in the league this year, with a <1 VORP edge over the aforementioned Ichiro. Manny's a bit down on the list, not so much because his hitting hasn't been great, but because he's a left fielder. Actually, given the relatively weak crop of AL hitters this year (more on that in a second), Johan Santana would be an excellent MVP candidate. He trails Mora by 0.1 VORP, and he's certainly going to be more visible than the Baltimore third baseman down the home stretch.

Back to those hitters: By VORP, the top eight position players in baseball are in the National League. Of course, with the second-best player of all time over there, the Senior Circuit has an automatic advantage, but not everybody on the list is in Bondsly range: above Mora are such luminaries as Adrian Beltre and Mark Loretta.

The Competition

Back to the pennant race. Texas finally won a game, beating Boston 8-6, and it really shouldn't even have been that close. The Rangers led 8-1 before Jeff Nelson and Ron Mahay gave up five runs in the seventh inning. Of course, this just allowed Francisco Cordero to collect his 42nd save of the year and made the Boston faithful get their hopes up, only to see them dashed. Just like what's going to happen in the AL East. The Yankees are stumbling and the Red Sox are playing their asses off, and the lead is down to 2.5 games for the New Yorkers, but Boston won't catch them. You heard it here first.

Anaheim also won another game, as Jason Davis pitched pretty much as expected, giving up three runs in five innings (though just one earned), leaving the game in the hands of his bullpen, which put the thing out of reach by allowing three late runs while Scot Shields was holding down the Indians for three scoreless innings following Jarrod Washburn's relatively early exit (he threw five innings despite giving up just one run on two hits).

Well, that explains it. The game recap mentions that Washburn was fresh off the DL, so the Angels probably didn't want to extend him too far.

In addition, the game also featured a nasty invasion of gnats. I love it when that happens, but it's got to be gross for the players and fans. Maybe there's something biblical to be said here.

The Competition

Rich Harden gets the ball against Ryan Glynn, a former Ranger making his first major league appearance since 2001, in about two minutes. Put this all together: Glynn hasn't sniffed the majors in almost three years, he's got a career ERA of 6.42, and he couldn't even hack it with the Rangers, and you've got a recipe for a fun day for the A's offense. Sensible prediction is something like 9-4.

Ryan Drese throws against Curt Schilling in the Texas-Boston game, and Schilling will be trying to take the league lead in wins. I say he'll get it, despite Drese being the Rangers's ace, as the Red Sox win 5-2.

Finally, Anaheim faces off against Cleveland in the ESPN Sunday Night game, with John Lackey pitching against Jake Westbrook. Lackey has the ability to be very bad and Westbrook can be really good, especially when he's getting a lot of ground balls. That doesn't mean Lackey will be bad, or that Westbrook will be good, but since these predictions are as much about hope and faith as they are about actually making money betting on baseball, I'll take Cleveland 7-3.

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