By Jason Wojciechowski on May 1, 2005 at 4:20 PM
Mike Hargrove said after last night's loss to the A's, "We have the bases loaded in the eighth and ninth innings and only score one run. That's a tough way to win a ballgame." Funny, that's what I've been telling the A's for about three weeks now.
The A's and M's split the first two games of their series, so the rubber game is today, with Barry Zito going against Joel Pineiro. If Zito were nobody, would a year and a month of struggling to throw strikes and keep the ball in the park have him relegated to Sacramento? Probably. But because he's Barry Zito, and there's supposedly some hidden great pitcher in there, we keep waiting around for him, letting him start and letting the A's lose 20% of their games before they've even taken the field.
Ok, that's harsh, because the A's do win sometimes when Zito is on the mound. He did, after all, managed an 11-11 record last year. He's 0-4 this year, though, and the A's lost the game in which he got a no-decision. Maybe Oakland should have taken Ben Sheets after all.
Oh, Jason Kendall? How's that whole throwing out runners thing going? Sure, you have an excuse, because one of the stolen bases yesterday was of home (!) on the back end of a double steal, but still, you allowed two steals of second in two tries. That means that for the year, you've got a .625 OPS and you've caught 10.7% of the runners who've tried to steal on you. Why, exactly, are you taking home $10.5 million again?
Maybe, just maybe, the A's are ready to come out of their collective slump. Ten players got into the game yesterday for Oakland and four of them are hitting below .200 for the year. Sure, that's awful. But it's also better than the last time I did this count, when just four out of ten were above .200. And before you go all stathead-y on me and start spluttering about on-base percentage, just realize that the four players who are hitting under .200 have OBP's of .276, .276, .293, and .263. So no, they're not walking enough to make up the difference.
All of that said, the A's had six different players earn their way on base more than once yesterday, including Mark Kotsay's five-hit performance. Combine that decent work out of the bullpen (Octavio Dotel's blown save in the ninth notwithstanding) and you've got a recipe for wins.
For some reason, the A's seem to think this formula is a secret, but I'm pretty sure all of baseball, stathead front offices or not, have figured out that if you pitch, hit, and play defense (two double plays, no errors), you'll win some games. Maybe I should write a book and send it to Ken Macha.
Keiichi Yabu, in earning his second major league win, threw a scoreless inning in just eight pitches despite walking a batter. That's impressive.
Big update today, including the A's in the Leaderboards report, since it's Sunday.
Most Valuable Pitcher, 4/29: Dan Haren, who had a quality start (three runs in seven innings) and even struck out nine batters for good measure. Sure, he walked three, but the real reason the A's lost was lack of offense, as usual, as that juggernaut Mariner pen of Thornton, Putz, and Villone combined in the middle innings to shut the A's down. Ugh.
Least Valuable Pitcher, 4/29: Ricardo Rincon, who gave up a homer to the first batter he faced.
Most Valuable Offensive Player, 4/29: Nick Swisher, with a vanilla 1-3 with a walk, which tells you how well the A's offense did that day.
Least Valuable Offensive Player, 4/29: Marco Scutaro, who hit into a two-on, no-out double play in the fourth.
Most Valuable Pitcher, 4/30: Octavio Dotel, who worked out of a jam in the eighth, then again in the ninth, despite giving up the tying run.
Least Valuable Pitcher, 4/30: Kiko Calero, who faced four batters, got one out, and left the bases juiced for Dotel.
Most Valuable Offensive Player, 4/30: Mark Kotsay (duh), with five hits, including the game winner.
Least Valuable Offensive Player, 4/30: Eric Byrnes, who got a classic LVOP: a bad day directly behind a guy having a good day. If you're 0-4 and the guy in front of you is 5-6, you know you're going to wind up with a bad ARC score for that day.
The only change at the top of the ARC Standings is Ricardo Rincon moving into a tie for first in most LVP's.
For the season to date, from the ARC page, we see that Rich Harden and Juan Cruz have been the top and bottom pitchers, respectively, while for hitters, it's been Mark Kotsay and Eric Byrnes. None of which should come as a surprise. The only real race is for the bottom of the hitter pack, where Byrnes, Eric Chavez, Erubiel Durazo, and Nick Swisher are all involved in a big scrum for the honor.