Four in a row

By Jason Wojciechowski on July 13, 2003 at 3:24 PM

Here are the recaps of the last four games, all A's wins:

In the first game, newly recalled David McCarty popped a couple hits, and the pitching was very solid. Finally, a decent game out of Ted Lilly (5 2/3 IP, 3 RA), even though he gave up 10 baserunners and only got one strikeout. The bullpen was great, though, with only an intentional walk by Chad Bradford (through Friday, the A's second best reliever by ARP, about a run and a half behind Keith Foulke) and a hit by Jim Mecir (the team's third best reliever by ARP) being allowed. Everybody got on base at least once, and the only player without a hit was Eric Chavez, who walked twice, though one was intentional.

That day also saw Seattle get beat by Baltimore.

Game two was all Mark Mulder, once again. The man is, basically, a hell of a pitcher. A complete game in a hundred and five pitches, one run in the first, one in the ninth, just six baserunners (one walk), five strikeouts, and another win in the books.

Eric Byrnes finally had a day off (not that I've exactly been calling for one or anything, but he had played quite a few in a row), meaning that Terrence Long led off for the first time in awhile. Surprisingly, he actually got a hit.
Scott Hatteberg had three hits, including the only non-single of the day for the A's (a double), and Billy McMillon (why David McCarty, or Terrence Long for that matter, is getting play over this guy, I don't know) had a hit and two walks.

Seattle also lost again, so the A's made up another game.

Game three was all Tim Hudson. He threw a lot of pitches (he could use some Mulder tutorials in efficiency, but not everybody is a freak like he is), but not an obscene number (115), especially considering that the All-Star break is coming up, so he'll get some rest. Most importantly, he gave up three hits, one walk, and got nine strikeouts, the most he's had all season.

Even better, the offense actually gave him a little help this time, though it would have been nice to deliver a little more cushion than two seventh inning runs. No Athletic earned an unintentional walk, and Eric Chavez was the only player to reach base more than once, with a hit accompanying his walk. Three of the A's five hits were doubles, though, and Chavez and Tejada pulled off a double steal, so some things happened to mitigate the general lack of offense.

However you look at it, though, the A's are just not hitting. They're 18th in runs scored, between Minnesota and Cincinnati, 23rd in OBP, between Milwaukee and Cincinnati, 19th in slugging, between the same two teams, but reversed, 21st in OPS, tied for 15th in homers, tied for 8th in doubles, and tied for 24th in triples. Lest you think Al Davis Stadium is driving the numbers down, the A's are 22nd in EqA. There are some talented hitters here, but they're just not getting the job done:

  • Jermaine Dye is among the worst hitters in the league, though at least he has the injury excuse. A 416 OPS, .157 EqA, and -13 RARP are downright ugly, though, injury or not. If nothing else, Dye should not have garnered the 166 PA's necessary to rack up those -13 runs in the first place;
  • Miguel Tejada's sub-.300 OBP is resulting in a .256 EqA, leaving him a very mediocre 11th among shortstops, behind such luminaries as Angel Berroa and Carlos Guillen. Let the Bobby Crosby era begin!
  • Scott Hatteberg's power has disappeared, and his batting average has tumbled from last year, so even though he's still walking, he's only about 4 runs above replacement for his position. As a comparison, Joe Vitiello's got about as many RARP, but in just 15 PA's, to Hatte's 362. Ouch;
  • Eric Chavez is walking at a decent rate, but his batting average is about 20 points below his career norm, and his power is off, too, even more than can be explained by the BA drop. He's 9th among a weak crop of third basemen (Corey Koskie? Morgan Ensberg?) in RARP;
  • Mark Ellis has also seen his power and average go away, though he is also walking at a decent rate. Perhaps a hot start to the major leagues raised expectations unfairly for him;
  • Erubiel Durazo hasn't hit for the power that everyone thought he would, so while he's been the team's best OBP source, they were also counting on him to be a little more of a masher, I think;

I can't do this anymore. It's too depressing. I'll just hope it gets better as it gets warmer. It's already July, though, so I don't know how much warmer it's going to get.

Finally, the fourth game, last night. John Halama got a start, though it's believed that Rich Harden is going to come up to the majors after the break, so Halama shouldn't get too comfortable. I don't know if that's such a great idea, though. Pitching is not this team's problem, and even Halama and Harang have been serviceable out of the fifth slots in the rotation, essentially pitching as a 7-8 inning tandem every fifth day, and, while not doing a great job, occasionally keeping the team in the game. Yesterday, for example, Halama threw five innings, gave up three runs (one earned), no walks, and then handed it over to the bullpen, after which the A's scored some runs to give Jim Mecir the win.
He only threw 78 pitches, and probably could normally have gone one more inning.
What more do you want from your fifth starter?

If Harden is all he's cracked up to be, then great, improvements in any aspect of the team are going to help push for the playoffs. But if he's going to take some lumps, wouldn't you rather have those lumps taken in spring training and early next year, rather than down the stretch this year? I certainly would.
Every game is worth the same amount in the standings, so early games next year aren't less valuable than late ones this year, but if nothing else, not starting his service clock for a few more months could be helpful. The A's are the last team I'd accuse of being unaware of that leverage they hold over players, though, so I'll just forget it and trust they know what's best, and enjoy the Four Aces era (and if Ted Lilly could ever pull his considerable talent all together, Five Aces).

The offense was pretty abysmal again, managing just one walk and five hits, though that was good enough for five runs since two of the five hits were homers, and both homers came with men on base (a three-run shot for Terrence Long and a two run, tie-breaking job for Scott Hatteberg).

The A's three best relievers (Bradford, Mecir, and Foulke) combined for four innings of work, giving up just two hits (one by Bradford and one by Mecir) and throwing only 40 pitches. All three of these guys are great because they're so efficient, they can run up relatively high inning counts without getting as tired as others might. Foulke, especially, seems to be the master of the three-up-three-down eight-pitch save.

For the third time in four games, the Mariners lost, so they're sliding back to the A's some here (finally), leaving Oakland four games back of first place (and 4.5 up on Anaheim). Boston, though, has won five straight, so the A's are still two back of them for the wild card. Anaheim is the third place wild card team, as well.

At 53-39, the A's are exactly where they were last year, five games ahead of 2001, and three ahead of 2000. In other words, they're doing pretty well. What about adjusted standings? The A's have been a tiny bit lucky (about a game's worth) and Seattle has been a little bit unlucky (less unlucky than the A's are lucky). The bad news for the second half is that the Angels are really about four games below where they "should" be, so the combined five games or so difference in luck means the Angels "should" actually be in second with the A's just a hair behind. If the luck evens out, the Angels could go on a run of wins in the second half. Of course, the A's may make their trademark trade and go on a trademark run of their own, so we'll see what happens. Either way, it'll be interesting.