Harden wins his first

By Jason Wojciechowski on July 27, 2003 at 3:25 PM

Rich Harden threw seven innings with just 98 pitches and got four (!) double plays in the game, all in the first four innings. Here's the recap at ESPN.

Harden's looking more and more like the real deal. In two seven-inning starts, he's given up a total of two runs on eleven hits (all singles) and three walks with seven strikeouts. That's a 1.29 ERA. The first start was against Kansas City, who, despite what I said earlier, the Royals are actually seventh in baseball in run scoring. The Angels are a middle of the pack team, at 14th. Both teams basically score five runs a game, and Harden kept them to a little more than one (prorated) apiece.

Does two games mean anything in the long run? No, of course not. This is a very small sample we're talking about. At the same time, he did not come in and struggle. He's not dominating, striking a lot of guys out, but he's keeping runs off the board and giving the A's victories. If he hasn't blown up by the end of the year, we'll look for a new name for the pitching staff as the Big Three (a lame name anyway) era ends.

The game was also a nice display offensively for the A's, as they got 15 hits and two walks. I'm very happy with Billy McMillon's play, as he went 3-5 including a leading-off-the-game homerun. That pushes his batting average over .300, and he's got a .414 OBP. He's started the last four games for the A's and gotten on base in all of them. That .414 OBP makes him a natural, obvious choice to lead off. The fact that he keeps getting replaced late in the game makes me figure he's not a great defensive player, but who cares? Jeremy Giambi was a successful leadoff hitter last year, and he's a bad adventure story waiting to happen in the outfield.

Here's my ideal lineup day-in and day-out right now:

  • Billy McMillon - LF
  • Scott Hatteberg - 1B
  • Erubiel Durazo - DH
  • Eric Chavez - 3B
  • Eric Byrnes - RF
  • Miguel Tejada - SS
  • Ramon Hernandez - C
  • Mark Ellis - 2B
  • Chris Singleton - CF

Singleton's not a great hitter, but he's performed better than Terrence Long this year (312/371 vs. 298/394 in OBP/SLG), and he's certainly a better defender in center field. That's really the only contest in the lineup, as I'm certainly not going to start Frank Menechino over Ellis, Tejada, or Chavez, and Adam Piatt, despite still getting very little opportunity to show whether he can hit or not, hasn't hit in the chances he has been given. I'd use him as the first outfielder off the bench, though, reducing Long to a defensive replacement for McMillon in the late innings.

Dave McCarty can be pinch-hitter number two until Jermaine Dye comes back, at which point Dye becomes pinch-hitter number two. Dye has been one of the worst hitters in the major leagues, and I'd rather him just sit around working on his swing than hurting the team down the stretch. It's not going to happen, of course, but I really hope the outfield is constituted as above for the rest of the year (unless the A's do make a trade for J.D. Drew or Brian Giles, in which case I'd move Byrnes over to center and put the new outfielder in right.
Unless, of course, Byrnes was included in the trade (a possibility I've read about), in which case Singleton gets to stay in center).

Looking at the batting order, though, the hitters are really bunched by lefty-righty-ness. It goes LLLLRRRRL. That sucks. Lineup changes don't really matter as long as you're not intentionally trying to make things terrible, but that's over the long run. Bunching up hitters like this leaves the A's vulnerable to late-game reliever tactics. Let's make it like this, then:

  • McMillon - LF - L
  • Byrnes - RF - R
  • Durazo - DH - L
  • Chavez - 3B - L
  • Tejada - SS - R
  • Hatteberg - 1B - L
  • Ellis - 2B - R
  • Hernandez - C - R
  • Singleton - CF - L

That looks much better.

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