By Jason Wojciechowski on July 12, 2008 at 4:48 AM
So Sean Gallagher's currently working with a 9-2 lead in the top of the fifth, which I think is more runs than Joe Blanton had gotten all year before his last start. That's quite a welcome.
More importantly, though, the A's did the right thing with Thunder Matt Murton: he's in the starting lineup today, batting second and playing left field. Wes Bankston, despite hitting quite well, was sent back to AAA. This is simple recognition of a basic fact by the A's front office: Thunder Matt might contribute to a winning A's team next year, while Bankston is unlikely to do so. Of course, with Daric Barton still not really hitting, even halfway into the season, it might have been acceptable to send him down instead of Bankston, but that's again an easy choice for a developing team: play the kids who might be around for five years, not the Quad-A guy who's just as likely to be a Twin next year as an A.
And you know, not to get too optimistic, but with the A's teeing off on Jon Garland and Gallagher racking up seven whiffs through five innings, and even Jack Hannahan getting into the act with a homer, maybe Thunder Matt and Barton will help the A's push this year. The trade might have been a white flag, but that doesn't mean the players will stop playing.
(By the way, how cool is MLB Gameday's rollout of the 3D pitch visualization? It's not perfect, but we're really getting there with this pitch tracking stuff.)
EDIT: I'm an idiot. Wes Bankston isn't an old guy, he's only 24. (Although Jane Lee at MLB.com thinks he's just 22.) I just assumed he was old because he'd been DFA'd and waived by the Rays and Royals. I can see why the A's claimed him: he's still young, and while he's been up and down, he's definitely hit: .289 .385 .513 at A-ball as a 20-year old (repeating the level); .292 .362 .482 in AA at 21. He struggled after being pushed to AAA at 22, and didn't have a good consolidation year at 23. The worry for the A's is that he's abandoned his plate discipline as he's moved up (or else he's one of those hitters that takes bad stuff from bad pitchers at lower levels but gets exploited by better pitchers who are willing to challenge him as he moves up): his walk rates have been 6.8% at 18 in rookie ball; 12.4% at 19 in A-ball (he more or less skipped Low-A); 13.4% repeating A-ball at 20; 19.2% at 21 in High-A; 8.9% the same year in AA; 6.6% at 22 in AA; 4.8% at AAA the same year; 5.9% at 23 at AAA; and 4.5% at AAA this year. Oddly, his ISO's don't seem to track his walk rate, as they've come down from when he was at lower levels, but he's still ISO'ing .216 this year and was at .180 last year despite those bad walk rates. Also, just eyeballing it, his strikeout rates don't seem to have differed at the extreme level that his walk rates have. In short, what's going on with Wes Bankston? Who knows!