By Jason Wojciechowski on May 26, 2015 at 8:25 PM

Finally! Sean Doolittle has come back! To Oakland!

Okay, frankly, he's not the most Maivian player on the A's (that, with all due respect to Josh Reddick, is probably Brett Lawrie), but it's good to have the A's ace reliever back on the squad. In case you've been under a rock, what he's done over the last three seasons:

2.97 175 25 179.0 131 61 12 32 209 2 693 130 2.20
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/26/2015.

He strikes everyone out, never walks anybody, doesn't give up homers, and just generally pitches like an ace reliever. Here, you want a cool list?

Rk Player FIP IP
1 Craig Kimbrel 1.52 191.1
2 Aroldis Chapman 1.67 189.1
3 Greg Holland 1.83 196.1
4 Kenley Jansen 2.09 207.0
5 Sean Doolittle 2.20 179.0
6 Jake McGee 2.31 189.1
7 Koji Uehara 2.32 174.2
8 Matt Harvey 2.33 237.2
9 Andrew Miller 2.37 133.1
10 Clayton Kershaw 2.39 662.0
11 Danny Farquhar 2.42 126.2
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/26/2015.

That, friends, is a list of all pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched and at most a 2.50 FIP from 2012-14. It is, in other words, a cool list. As I promised.

There are some reasons to worry about Doolittle's return. Specifically, his velocity, which normally goes like this:

Word on the street is that he's more in the 90 range in his rehab. Everyone loses velocity over time, and you use the tactics at your disposal to make up for it. Not everyone, however, loses 5 mph overnight. Doolittle hasn't sounded worried in his quotes, and thinks the velocity will come with more work; he also believes that his movement and deception are still there. I'm always less optimistic than ... well, than basically anybody, but I certainly hope he's right on all fronts and that he's back to the 95 mph beast we've come to know and love.

Angel Castro heads out to Nashville to make room for Doolittle. He threw three innings for the A's in his stint, walking three, striking out three, and giving up one homer. Also five other hits. This all added up to just one run, but that's not a distinguished run of work overall, which isn't surprising given his pedigree and past minor-league work, though it is, of course, a bit sad. He's on the 40-man roster now, so the money he'll get in the minors is a lot better than what he'd get otherwise, and as a human matter, I hope that 40-man roster slot means he gets a few more shots to throw some major-league pitches before it's all over, but we shouldn't expect much. That's baseball, tragically enough.


By Jason Wojciechowski on May 23, 2015 at 4:42 PM

Yesterday, I made some noises about how Andy Parrino would get sent back to Triple-A when Kendall Graveman came up to start today's game against the Rays. That was dumb. I was an idiot. (This isn't news to you.) I knew Coco Crisp was going on the DL. I knew the A's needed a roster spot for Graveman. This is called math: 1 + 1 = Coco Crisp.

Anyway, putting aside my dumbassery, the effect of Crisp's absence on the team is more about not-adding than subtracting. He managed two weeks' worth of games before heading back to the DL, and he didn't hit at all (.044/.173/.067), so returning to a Fuld/Gentry - Burns - Reddick outfield is, mentally, more of a return to the new normal than it is a "what will the A's do now?!" That's not to say it doesn't hurt the team, because a healthy Crisp is better than Cram Fultry, and it would be a nice luxury to have Saig Genuld, capable of playing all three outfield spots and occasionally doing something halfway positive at the plate, in a reserve role.

One hopes we're not looking at the end of Crisp's career. Word is he's not having surgery on his neck because to do so would mean the end of his career, so he'll instead rehab and rest and muddle through the best he can. It's been a fun ride with the A's, a late-career semi-renaissance during which he's generally played good defense in center field (+28 Total Zone runs from 2010 to 2013 before falling off the face of the earth in 2014; +15 FRAA over the same period) and hit well enough to make that defense something of a luxury (105 OPS+ from 2010 to 2014) while running the bases with controlled abandon (160 steals to 26 caught; +17 Baserunning Runs by Baseball Prospectus), all while a "3" was the first digit of his age. Sure, he hasn't been healthy (118 games played per year, with a high of 136), but the A's knew that going in -- it's why they initially got him for less than $11 million over two years and the re-signed him for three more years at rates that undersold his per-inning talent.

Now, in the first year of what seems likely to be a two-year extension (he'll need 550 PA or 130 games played in 2016 to vest the 2017 option; after this season, he'll have reached those figures twice in six years and just five times over his full career), the injuries may have caught up and pushed his total contributions to the point where you rue the money and roster spot committed to him.

Hopefully this is overreaction borne from sadness at seeing him headed back to the disabled list so soon after he got to the team in the first place, but it's where the mind tends to go when examining the arc of Crisp's career.


By Jason Wojciechowski on May 22, 2015 at 8:12 PM

The A's have been, and will continue to be, busy around the edges of their roster since the last update here. In no particular order:

Edward Mujica took a batted ball off his hand, broke his thumb (apparently mildly, though tell that to Mujica's thumb), and somehow made a play on the ball to get the out before being removed from the game and basically sent straight to the disabled list. Arnold Leon had already come to the roster in place of the injured Drew Pomeranz, presumably on a short-term assignment until Pomeranz's slot in the rotation came up again and the A's brought up Kendall Graveman to make the start and sent Leon back down. Now, with Mujica getting the A's back down to seven relievers, they could have stayed the eight-reliever course and called up Chris Bassitt, RJ Alvarez, or Ryan Cook and re-optioned either that guy or Leon for Graveman's start.

Instead, for reasons not immediately obvious to me, they went for a position player, adding Andy Parrino to the 40-man roster. To make room, they had to take Tyler Ladendorf, still out with a broken ankle, off, which meant putting him on the 60-day disabled list, which means that he accrues service time and is paid major-league money, rather than minor-league money. According to Jeremy Koo, Ladendorf gets this money and service time retroactive to his injury (or, presumably, retroactive to whatever date the disabled list move is retroactive to). I haven't researched this, but it makes sense and I have no reason to doubt it.

Ladendorf's service time isn't really an issue -- he's on the career path to be a free agent by dint of designation for assignment after he runs out of options, not by getting to arbitration and six-year free agency. The money, while not some kind of burden, isn't nothing: the minimum minor-league salary for a 40-man roster player with at least one day of major league service is $81,500, adjusted by a COLA over 2014; the minimum major-league salary is $500,000, also adjusted by that COLA. Let's just call it $500,000 and $81,500, to make things easy. Ladendorf hasn't appeared in a game since April 20th, so let's suppose his DL stint (and pay) is retroactive to April 21st. Adding all that up, Ladendorf appears to be owed about $70,000. That's not a bad chunk of change! (Assuming everything I'm assuming is right, including that there is in fact retroactive pay.)

Anyway, the loss of Mujica is unfortunate. He'd looked fine, decent, solid, useful. The A's bullpen can, at this very moment, use fine, decent, solid, useful relievers. Arnold Leon may or may not be fine, decent, solid, useful. Odds are against it. Odds are he's replacement-level.

The loss of Pomeranz is more unfortunate for him, as a human being, than it is for the A's as a team that would like to win baseball games. He's pitched to an 89 ERA+. Baseball Prospectus' new pitching metric, DRA, likes him better, pegging him at 3.70 in a league scoring 4.26 R/9, which is nice mid-rotation work. Still, he hadn't done that much over his eight starts to raise serious hopes that he'd be worth an arbitration investment next season vs. filling the slot with Sean Nolin, Graveman, Bassitt, or whoever Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard bring back in trade next month. (What?) You can't have too much pitching, sure, but you can have too many injuries, and Pomeranz has spent a fair amount of time on the DL the last two and a half years.

In other news, Ron Washington is back to help Mike Gallego coach infielders. Specifically, he's here to work his magic on Marcus Semien, whose error situation took a turn in the last week or two from unfortunate all the way up to brutal and hard to watch. Every A's fan knows the story of Washington coaching up Eric Chavez from a bat-first, indifferent defender into a six-time Gold Glove winner, something that made the difference between a solid, above-average player on the strength of bat and position and a legitimate star, a 30 WAR player from 2001-06, someone whose fWAR for that period ranked 14th in baseball, right in between Bobby Abreu, one of the most underrated players in the game, and Derek Jeter, who I expect you've heard of. (And just behind Jeter is Jason Giambi, who made four All-Star teams and had two top-five MVP finishes in that span.) Every baseball fan, by virtue of Moneyball knows about Washington's work turning Scott Hatteberg from a "catcher" into a decent first baseman. There's some hope here, in other words, that if Semien can be made whole, Washington's the man to do it.

Susan Slusser has also been giving credit to Washington for turning Miguel Tejada from an error-prone space cadet into one of the better defensive shortstops in the league, but I think that's a massive stretch. None of the available defensive statistic suggest Tejada was anything more than a smidge above average at his best, and he may have remained solidly below average. Certainly my memory of my own eye test is that he had a prototypical arm and was solid enough but did not have the kind of range that makes someone into a top-notch shortstop. That said, Tejada did cut down on his brutal rookie error rate (26 in 526 chances, a rate that would have given him 37 in a full season of opportunities), so Washington may have done something there after all. Then again, that most basic of stats, range factor, indicates that, while he simply made fewer errors in 1999 compared to that awful 1998 total, he reached fewer balls from 2000 to 2003 than he did before the millennium turned over. That doesn't end the questions -- hell, it might not even begin them -- but there's a hint of something here that might not be simply about Washington's genius.

And then, of course, turning it back around one more time, there's the fact that Bob Melvin and Billy Beane and whoever else the decision-makers are think Washington can come in and help Semien. There's a human element, in terms of technique and communication and personality and all sorts of other factors, that doesn't simply boil down to "1. Semien has troubles; 2. Washington coaches well; 3. Let Washington coach Semien" because, hey, Mike Gallego has been around a long time, too, and has coached a lot of infielders, too, and was a pretty good defender himself, especially given his physical limitations. So I choose to be optimistic about Washington working with Semien, particularly given the reports that Semien is dedicated to that work.

Anyway, Slusser posted a photo of some work being done:

One curiosity about Washington is that he was available to the A's at all. Here's a successful big-league manager who quit suddenly because of personal issues and he's, in May, an assistant coach at the University of New Orleans? Jeremy Koo suggested that perhaps by the time he got his personal life straightened out, teams had filled all their coaching and managing slots. That's certainly plausible, though this Evan Grant story from February suggests that Washington put the word out that he was available and found no takers. Sure, he apparently cheated on his wife, and sure, he used cocaine a while back, but this is still an 11-year major-league coach, an eight-year manager, a five-year something or other with the Mets before joining the A's. Maybe, at 63, not having been in the minors since at least 1996, he made it clear that it was the majors or bust for him, that he wasn't taking anybody's Double-A managing gig, and maybe that limited his opportunities. It's impossible to say unless he tells us, and as far as I know, he hasn't told us.

Speaking of errors, Hans Van Slooten provided me with a list showing every team back to some early date's number of errors through their first 50 games of the season. Here's the Google Doc. What's clear is that the A's are nowhere near the record. As Owen Watson showed, they are on pace for the record since 2000, but there are some notably error-prone defensive teams, even throwing out the old days, before modern gloves, defensive coaching, and manicured fields. Using the birth year of your humble blogger as a proxy for modern baseball:

Year Team Errors through 50 games
1981 Mets 70
1983 A's 64
1983 Astros 62
1984 Phillies 62
1984 Yankees 61
1985 Dodgers 61
1990 Brewers 60
... 16 teams 58 to 53
2015 A's 52 (pace)

Even if you cut it down to the 21st century:

Year Team Errors through 50 games
2003 Reds 54
2000 Padres 53
2002 Tigers 52
2001 Padres 51
2014 Indians 51

I'm not going to pretend that what the A's are doing is good, but it's worth noting that they're not blowing away history.

The Brewers' Will Smith, a reliever, got suspended for having a foreign substance on his arm. Jokes ensued. This was my favorite:

Here's today's bow tie selfie, with a cameo by the best cat in the world:

Some good non-baseball links: The best song about fat babies; Winston Cook-Wilson on Lil Boosie; and a Storify chronicling a McDonald's date involving a 4channer.


By Jason Wojciechowski on May 17, 2015 at 9:59 AM

Ike Davis has hit the disabled list with a strained quad. I haven't seen anything yet on how long to expect him to be out. On the roster page I've figured basically the 15-day minimum. That's probably hopeful, but at this point in the season, with the team having the worst record in all of baseball (if only this were exaggeration), hope is all we have.

It is worth noting, by the way, that the peculiar distribution of runs the A's have had marks them as one of the unluckiest (in a sense) teams in memory: they are underperforming their Pythagenpat record by nearly six games and their higher-order Baseball Prospectus advanced records by nearly eight games. A team finishing the year eight games under expectation would be considered very unlucky. Managing eight games in just 38 is downright incredible.

Obviously it's not all luck -- as has been detailed repeatedly, the A's bullpen has been terrible. The latest look by Alex Hall at Athletics Nation is worth your time. The stunning stat is as follows:

By my count, the A's pen has now entered 18 different games that could be considered "vulnerable" -- that is, either the game was tied at the time, or the A's led to a small enough degree that a successful outing would earn the pitcher(s) a hold and/or a save. The A's have won five of those games

That's a good recipe for losing close games, and losing close games is a good recipe for underperforming your context-neutral stats.

Losing Davis isn't going to help things. His stats so far are a dead ringer for his promising rookie season, way back in 2010, when he had a .299 TAv, good for 3.8 WARP in the nearly full season he managed that year. He busted up his ankle the next year and it's been downhill ever since, but the talent should have been there to be an above-average first baseman. Even with the demanding hitting standards of the position, the A's platooning plus Davis' return to form made it seem like they may have found yet another diamond in the rough. Or, well, sapphire or something. He's not Paul Goldschmidt or anything. But for less than $4 million in salary plus the international free agent slot money he cost, he absolutely looks like a valuable piece of the A's puzzle. Hopefully this quad strain will keep him out for the minimum, as I said, and he can get right back to the solid hitting and solid defense he'd shown for the first six weeks of the year.

In the meantime, we'll presumably get more Max Muncy. He hasn't played the last three games because the A's have faced a parade of lefty starters, but for the next couple of weeks, I'd hope he'll get the full-time RHP assignment, with Mark Canha, whose trend line looks exactly like you'd expect any hot-starting rookie Rule 5 pick slugger's trend line to look, taking the platoon-vs-LHP role he should have had since Day 1. Muncy only has 21 plate appearances on the year, so I'm not even going to tell you about his stats so far, but he probably doesn't have the power to make first base a good home for him full-time (or even 80 percent-time) in the majors. Still, sometimes a player with patience but limited power can make it work -- who can forget Daric Barton's .393 OBP, .405 SLG, 3.5 WARP season in 2010? Make enough good contact on pitches in the zone to whack some doubles and never ever ever swing at a pitch outside the zone and things can go your way for a while, especially if your power isn't Sogardian but merely weak-for-a-first baseman.

Craig Gentry is also back on the roster to take Davis' spot, but I'm not sure he has a place to play. He could theoretically get some starts in center field against lefties, but there's no real reason to shove Billy Burns aside, and even with the platoon advantage, we're not going to see Josh Reddick sitting against anyone. I'd figure him for a backup to the backup (Sam Fuld) at this point, particularly seeing as how he didn't do anything more with his 40 plate appearances in Nashville than he did with his 40 in Oakland, and I'd expect him to be optioned back out as soon as Ben Zobrist is ready. (Or Davis, if he beats Zobrist back, but my understanding is that Zobrist's return is near enough to imminent to make me search my thesaurus for synonyms that don't quite mean "imminent" but almost mean it. Fast-approaching, let's say. Impending. Brewing. Menacing.)


By Jason Wojciechowski on May 11, 2015 at 11:37 PM

I'm getting tired of this.


By Jason Wojciechowski on May 10, 2015 at 2:35 PM

Another day, another new reliever. In a cash or PTBNL move, the A's picked up Edward Mujica from the Red Sox. They cleared a 40-man spot by putting Jarrod Parker on the 60-day disabled list, which doesn't really mean anything about his newest elbow injury, suffered in painful and/or gruesome fashion during a rehab appearance, because his eligibility to return from the DL doesn't substantially change either way.

No 25-man move has been announced, as the team doesn't need to make a move until Mujica reports. Tyler Clippard and Evan Scribner are safe -- beyond their out-of-options status, they've both pitched well (though Clippard's component stats are not up to the snuff of his ERA). Fernando Abad is also out of options, and has probably earned a little longer to try to figure things out. Fernando Rodriguez pitched so well in his first 3 2/3 innings of the year that it'd be disheartening to demote him -- what kind of message does that send? So that means we're down to Dan Otero, who has a good walk rate and nothing else going for him, Chris Bassitt, who's walking the whole world and might be better served starting in Triple-A than relieving in the bigs, and Angel Castro, who has appeared once so far, but who didn't impress anyone around the league enough to give him a shot in the bigs until now, probably for a reason. My guess, sad as this is, is that Castro is going down.

Mujica's glory years are probably behind him:

2011 27 FLA NL 9 6 .600 2.96 67 0 76.0 64 27 7 14 5 63 2 132 3.20 0.8 1.7 7.5
2012 28 TOT NL 0 3 .000 3.03 70 2 65.1 56 24 7 12 3 47 1 132 3.65 1.0 1.7 6.5
2012 28 MIA NL 0 3 .000 4.38 41 2 39.0 36 21 6 9 2 26 1 94 4.53 1.4 2.1 6.0
2012 28 STL NL 0 0 1.03 29 0 26.1 20 3 1 3 1 21 0 376 2.34 0.3 1.0 7.2
2013 ★ 29 STL NL 2 1 .667 2.78 65 37 64.2 60 20 9 5 1 46 1 135 3.71 1.3 0.7 6.4
10 Yrs 22 24 .478 3.79 456 49 513.0 514 229 69 85 18 401 7 103 3.81 1.2 1.5 7.0
162 Game Avg. 3 4 .478 3.79 67 7 76 76 34 10 13 3 59 1 103 3.81 1.2 1.5 7.0
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2015.

That was a pretty good run, including a year as an All-Star closer for a 97-win Cardinals team that lost the World Series to the Red Sox. He started giving up hits last year, though, and so far this year he's failed to strike people out while giving up hits and homers. He's a 2.5-pitch pitcher, with a four-seam fastball and a splitter being the two, and a slider being the half, and his fastball is down over 1 mph from his 2013 fastball.

If there's hope for a Mujica resurgence in Oakland, it goes like this: His splitter actually has about an inch more downward movement than it's had over the last two years, and while his whiff rate on the pitch is down, he's inducing over 70 percent grounders per ball in play on the pitch, but he's also allowed a .360 BABIP. He's kept his ball down in the past, and that hasn't changed:

So a little bit of luck here and there and perhaps the A's will have themselves a solid middle reliever, someone they can count on more than they would be able to count on Castro. Alternatively, my clicking randomly around Brooks Baseball until I see something I can seize on to convince myself that all is not lost doesn't outweigh the combined acumen of the Red Sox front office that decided to designate Mujica for assignment in order to call up Matt Barnes.

Also, today is Mujica's birthday.