By Jason Wojciechowski on May 1, 2015 at 9:04 PM

A's 7, Rangers 5
SP: Scott Kazmir (6 IP, 3 R, 8 H+BB+HBP, 6 K)
WP: Dan Otero (1/3 IP)
Homers: Mark Canha (3), an impressive off-field shot
Record: 10-14
Standings: Fourth in the AL West, 6 1/2 behind Houston, 3 1/2 behind Tampa Bay for wild card

  • Since when can Josh Reddick not catch a simple fly ball?

  • Relatedly, since when does every batter make extremely square contact off of Scott Kazmir? (Comment written after the Kyle Blanks homer.)

  • Prince Fielder sure swings hard when he gets a pitch directly into his happy zone. Maybe, Kazmir, don't give him pitches directly in his happy zone?

  • It is my opinion that if a pitcher wants to have a good game he should not give up doubles off the wall to the 2015 version of Shin-Soo Choo.

  • Colby Lewis isn't actually this good. The A's should stop letting him get to two strikes, IMO.

  • I learned so much about gardening.

  • Does Brett Lawrie hit more foul balls per swing than anybody in baseball? I could look this up but I'll instead leave it as an exercise for the reader.

  • Given Lawrie's swing, I have to imagine the fastball up he got from Neftali Feliz in the eighth inning to hit his go-ahead double was a mistake. This is another issue I haven't investigated, numbers-wise, but give a player with a line-drive off-field swing a fastball up and he's going to hit a line drive to the opposite field. But he kept fouling off slider after slider, and he took a slider way outside and checked his swing on a close on too, so eventually Feliz had to throw one pitch different to see if he could get a different result or set up a different result on a subsequent pitch. Too bad for Feliz that that's where his fastball ended up.

  • Mark Canha getting called out on his stolen base in the eighth was absurd. Elvis Andrus plainly lifted his foot off the bag. Like plainly and obviously. Not even close. Nice job by Andrus to do it subtly enough to fool the ump in real time, and ideally Canha would have slid in a way that didn't put him in that position, and on replay, frankly, to be honest, despite my "plainly," it's actually hard to tell whether there is force being exerted on the foot or whether the glove simply follows a lifting foot, but the way Canha's foot plummeted back to earth when Andrus removed his glove makes it pretty clear that the only reason Canha's foot was in the air was because it was resting on Andrus' glove. (I wrote all of this pre-replay. Let's see how it goes!)

    Man, that's bullshit.

    Well, as the telecast later explained, whether a runner is pushed off the bag is nonreviewable. That's probably as it should be for the reason I mentioned above: it's generally not going to be possible to determine the difference between the glove following the body and the glove pushing the body. In this case, it probably was, but this was a weird case, and similar cases probably aren't worth jeopardizing an overall valuable rule -- put the call in the hands of the review staff and they're liable to start looking for things they can't see in order to make a call that seems valid.

  • Thank god we got a classic "middle of the infield, Andrus messes with Beltre as he catches a popup" play in the ninth. Bless those two so much. They're simply the best.

  • Good job, A's!


By Jason Wojciechowski on April 25, 2015 at 4:51 PM

The above image does not show Chris Bassitt's first major league pitch, thankfully, as he debuted last year for the White Sox, but it does show the result of his first pitch as an Oakland Athletic. Not great!

Astros 9, A's 3
LP: Kendall Graveman (4 2/3 IP, 6 R, 10 H+BB, 1 K)
Homers: What's the point
Record: 8-11
Standings: Fourth in the AL West, three games behind Houston, 2 1/2 behind New York for second wild card

  • Bassitt was all over the place in relief of Kendall Graveman. He threw about 58 percent strikes, but missed badly on a number of pitches and didn't seem to consistently, or really anything close to consistently, hit his targets. Unless his targets were Chris Carter (one HBP), Jed Lowrie (one HBP), and the backstop (the wild pitch described above). Watching the way he pitches, it doesn't feel like a surprise that he can't maintain consistency -- there are a lot of moving parts, some herky-jerky-ness, and just generally a weird set of mechanics to the untrained eye. Once we get a little more data, we should look at Bassitt's release point consistency. Hypothesis: it won't be good.

  • Graveman had almost exactly the same ball-strike breakdown as Bassitt: 71 pitches, 40 strikes for the former; 71 pitches, 41 strikes for the latter. Graveman only walked one, but that's because he put a lot of meatballs into the zone for the Astros to whack. The pitch to Altuve was flat-out egregious.

    The question 16 1/3 innings into his Oakland career, is whether Graveman should even be in the major leagues. The A's could give any number of players a shot in the rotation: Bassitt, Jesse Chavez, and Arnold Leon are all available right now, and Sean Nolin will presumably pitch again at some point.

    This is all a short-term problem, though, because in a month, at the outside, Jarrod Parker should be back, and, as underwhelming as Drew Pomeranz nearly always is, he's at least not putting up complete stinkers every time he takes the mound, so Graveman looks at this point like the pitcher who will have to head out to Nashville to make room.

    The other part of the question is where, missing Ben Zobrist for a month-plus, Coco Crisp for another month, and Sean Doolittle for some unclear amount of time, the A's should fall on the competition-development spectrum. This isn't to say the A's should pack it in, trade Scott Kazmir and Tyler Clippard, and move on with their lives, but it is to say that, given the relative upsides of Graveman and, say, Leon, the A's might be justified in asking not "who gives us an extra percentage point or two chance to win in May 2015" but instead "what course of action is most likely to help Graveman reach his mid-rotation upside for the next six years?"

  • The A's now have to choose between Mark Canha, Cody Ross, and Craig Gentry in the outfield against right-handed pitchers. Canha's hit well to start the year, but that's not a great set of options. Melvin went with Ross today. It was fine except for his dropped fly ball in left field. It wasn't an easy play (that was Reddick's horrifying dropped fly earlier in the same inning) but I'm completely comfortable calling the play an error and not a hit, if we're going to continue to insist on these silly distinctions.

  • Max Muncy's first big-league hit was a solid single up the middle. Good job Max Muncy.


By Jason Wojciechowski on April 25, 2015 at 9:51 AM

Ben Zobrist has hit the disabled list with a torn meniscus in his knee. He missed a few days, tried to designatedly hit last night, and apparently it didn't go so well, so now he's on the DL. I have to imagine that Zobrist is likely to go under the knife at this point, and the reports are that it would be a three- to six-week injury in that case, so the lack of backdating won't come into play. (UPDATE: Surgery it is.)

Up in Zobrist's place is Max Muncy, the A's fifth-round pick in 2012 and the consensus no. 18 A's prospect heading into the season. That's a spot ahead of Mark Canha, for whatever that's worth. (Nothing, really. These ranks aren't anywhere near finely grained enough to, even in the aggregate, give people meaningful actual ranks.) Muncy is a corner infielder, mostly a first baseman, and a lefty hitter. He's not going to play over Ike Davis at first, especially not with the latter hitting .353/.414/.490 to start the year, and he's not going to DH over Billy Butler. In fact, it's unclear where Muncy fits at all, given that both he and Eric Sogard (the other second baseman on the team besides Zobrist) are lefties.1 Tyler Ladendorf would have been a better fit, particularly as he's already on the 40-man, but he's on the disabled list in Nashville.

The real question, then, is: why not Joey Wendle? He had a mediocre year at Double-A last year, but still showed enough that the A's liked him for Brandon Moss, and it's not like Muncy set the world on fire: a .264/.385/.379 line is nobody's idea of a top corner prospect. And then the obvious point: the A's don't currently have a very good option to play second base against lefties.

Service time issues don't seem likely to be in play, given that regardless of whether it's Muncy or Wendle coming up to the majors, they're sure to be optioned back down to Nashville as soon as Zobrist is ready to come back, so nobody's likely to accumulate enough time to wind up with Super Two status down the road.

Obviously scouting comes into this more than stats, though, and maybe the A's evaluators just don't think Wendle is ready to succeed in the majors.

By the way, the A's bullpen shuffle caused by Jesse Hahn's blister has resulted in some transactions I haven't talked about yet: Hahn is still on the roster, and just needed to skip a start (at least for now), which means Jesse Chavez took a turn in the rotation (which, by the way, is why it's so great to have Chavez around), which means the team needed (or, really, wanted) someone who could go long in the bullpen, which means R.J. Alvarez got sent out for Arnold Leon, who made his big-league debut in Anaheim on Wednesday (I was there!), who then himself got sent out for Chris Bassitt, I guess/think because Bassitt wasn't on turn to start on Wednesday the way Leon was? I don't actually know. Leon pitched in a blowout, and Bassitt isn't any more likely to get high-leverage work.

Oh, and in all this, Eury De La Rosa got designated for assignment because the A's needed a 40-man spot for Muncy. I'd had Chad Smith as more likely to go before De La Rosa but that turned out wrong. There's potential here that he's not good enough to get claimed on waivers, but, as he's optionable, it seems likely that there's some team out there that can move someone to the 60-day DL or figure De La Rosa is worth DFAing2 someone else.

Also, Jarrod Parker has been sent on his rehab assignment; those are capped at 30 days, so unless he has a setback that requires the A's to re-DL him, he'll be back with the A's before the calendar turns to June. Exciting? I guess! Kendall Graveman's struggling right now, so it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to option him to Triple-A to see if he can figure out how to succeed in the majors. Parker's no ace, but in this rotation, he's probably the no. 4, and that's a decent position to be in.

  1. The answer today, for what it's worth, is that Muncy is playing third base with a righty on the mound. Lawrie sits. I can't imagine the A's will be willing to forego Lawrie's defense at third every time they face a right-hander, so this is probably more a "get him in the lineup for his debut" situation, as Bob Melvin has noted in the past he likes to do, than a sign of things to come. 

  2. DingFA? 


By Jason Wojciechowski on April 21, 2015 at 12:49 AM

I went to tonight's game with Bryan Murphy and Jake Sundstrom of twitter fame, so I don't have a lot of analysis to impart (we sat in the upper deck, though in row B nearly behind the plate, so I was happy with the seats) beyond that Matt Shoemaker doesn't seem like all that good a pitcher, that Stephen Vogt is completely on fire, and that Jake has a whole boatload of really bad opinions, not least the one where he's a Giants fan.

I probably won't have anything at all to say tomorrow, as I'll be blacked out from the game. Wednesday, though, back to the stadium, so more upper deck thoughts coming your way.


By Jason Wojciechowski on April 19, 2015 at 1:13 PM

The moment that reignited a war.

A's 2, Royals 4
SP: Scott Kazmir (7 1/3 IP, 2 R, 8 H+BB+HBP, 5 K)
LP: Eric O'Flaherty (2/3 IP, 2 R, 3 H+BB, 0 K)
Homers: Maybe they would have won
Record: 6–7
Standings: 2nd in AL West, 0.5 behind Houston, 1.5 behind Boston for wild card

  • Craig Gentry and Mark Canha looked completely dominated by Danny Duffy in the first inning, whiffing on multiple fastballs, before Duffy lost his control and walked men to the corners (Ben Zobrist stole second and took third on a wild pitch / passed ball to Billy Butler) before Cody Ross stung a liner to center that happened to travel directly into Lorenzo Cain's glove. The same sequence with one out gets a run in. The same sequence with 15 degrees difference toward left field off Ross's bat gets a run in. It's baseball!

  • Ross got it back in the bottom half when Mike Moustakas hit a very solid liner to left on Scott Kazmir's first pitch, just a few steps to Ross's left.

  • Cain getting hit in the damn foot by Kazmir in the bottom of the first on a fastball that he probably just pulled is a great illustration of why The Beanball Wars are absurd. It seems very likely that Kazmir did not hit Cain on purpose, and that he did not aim for his ankle in doing so. But the result of all this is warnings to both benches, a lengthy delay, Ned Yost and Dave Eiland being tossed, though it was unclear for a long time who got run because it was all based on chirping from the bench. All of this for an HBP that looked a lot worse than it was because Cain tried to jump over the pitch and went to the ground when he got hit anyway.

    Even if Kazmir did do it on purpose, here's a hot take for you: booing the other team for doing what your own pitcher did just yesterday is trash and you should feel like a bad person for doing it.

    Or, also, relatedly, cheering Kelvin Herrera for throwing at Brett Lawrie twice, once so wildly that the ball went feet behind Lawrie, which is good evidence that Herrera shouldn't be throwing at anyone because he might kill someone. Also, if you miss the guy, you don't get another chance. You tried, you screwed it up, you're done. I don't know why this isn't one of the Unwritten Rules in baseball, because it should be.

    All this in a 2-1 game when the team is trying to be a contender.

    Seriously, just stop the whole thing. Stop all of it. The players, the coaches, the fans, can we please knock all of it off? I'm actively disliking baseball at the moment. I don't want to be the guy, but I am the guy who hopes the Royals finish 9–153. I am that guy. This is where I've ended up. (To be fair, I've never liked Eric Hosmer.)

  • Scott Kazmir pitched good. Eric O'Flaherty pitched bad. I wish this had been Tyler Clippard.

  • If Gerrit Cole were on the A's, Kendrys Morales would be getting one in his backside during the next series for pimping the hell out of his double off the wall. Instead he just looks like a doofus for pimping the hell out of a double off the wall. As it should be. How hard is this?

  • Ben Zobrist's left knee is sore. It would be Very Bad for the A's if this were to become a nagging injury.

  • Kazmir's subtle postgame diss of basically the entire Royals clubhouse was pretty good: "I think anyone who has a feel for the game, they would know that it’s not intentional."


By Jason Wojciechowski on April 18, 2015 at 4:12 PM

A's 5, Royals 0
WP: Jesse Hahn (5 1/3 IP, 0 R, 4 H+BB, 0 K)
Homers: Josh Reddick (1)
Record: 6-6
Standings: First in AL West by 0.5 games; would face winner of Baltimore vs. Kansas City in ALDS

  • Jesse Hahn "did a nice job" / got lucky avoiding a run in the third inning. The jam wasn't entirely of his making, as he gave up what should have been a single to left field that Ben Zobrist just blew into a double, and that Sam Fuld blew into a triple -- Zobrist whiffed on gloving a ball that, on replay, it looked like he should have had, and Fuld did a turnaround jumper-type throw back to the infield that never quite made it to the infield, winding up in short center, instead. Infante never stopped running until he got to third. It was Little League all around. Hahn, though, got a grounder right to shortstop on a drawn-in infield, then a grounder back to him. Getting grounders is his job, so good job, but as we saw yesterday with Sonny Gray, getting grounders is only half the battle -- getting a fortunate angle on those grounders is the other half. The third out was obtained on a bit of a screamer to right field that was right at Josh Reddick -- he had only to move back a few steps to make an easy catch, but the ball came off the bat loud.

  • I was talking with a Twitter friend about Yordano Ventura and Glen Kuiper's typically joyless comments about his extra leg kick "just isn't necessary" and how I liked Ventura's steez. Then he threw at Brett Lawrie and I changed my mind. Beanballs are stupid. (Beaneballs are amazing.) Throwing at people is stupid. Walking toward the guy you just hit hoping that he'll come out at you is complete horseshit. You hit the guy. That sent the message. The ball's in his court now.

  • The Kansas City fans' reaction to the HBP was also typically classless, where by "typically" I refer to "American sports fans," not any particular city or sport. We're all horrible people and we deserve the misery of only 1/30 of us getting to celebrate a championship every year.

  • Blisters are so annoying. Sixty-five pitches through 5 1/3 innings and Hahn's reward is that he can't go further. Suuuuucks.

  • I'm here for Jesse Chavez. If he's going to throw 96 out of the bullpen, then I'm going to advocate for him taking the eighth-inning role. Anybody can work long relief. (That's not true. I don't care.) Chavez managed 11 swinging strikes out of 57 pitches and I'd swear that every one of them was on a fastball.


By Jason Wojciechowski on April 18, 2015 at 2:23 PM

A's 4, Royals 6
SP: Sonny Gray (6 IP, 4 R, 12 H+BB, 5 K)
LP: Dan Otero
Homers: Ike Davis (1), Stephen Vogt (2, 3)
Record: 5-6
Standings: T-2nd AL West, 0.5 behind Angels

  • Sonny Gray wasn't the sharpest he's ever been, but he also wasn't the dullest. Multiple ground balls went for hits just out of the reach of defenders, the big Sal Perez double in the sixth that led to the Royals taking a 4-3 lead went off Brett Lawrie's glove,1 and so forth.

  • Speaking of Lawrie, I don't know how I feel about his slide in the bottom of the sixth that knocked Alcides Escobar out with a leg injury. It was late and it was off the bag (which is the reason he was out, actually -- he either never touched the bag on the way through, or he touched the bag barely but came off it, allowing a tag to be applied), but every slide on a possible double play is late and off the bag. The slide was well in line with the major-league average slide. The problem is that no double play was going to happen because the ball tipped off Jeremy Guthrie's foot and made it a close play just to get an out at second -- forget first. The question is whether Lawrie should have known that in the heat of the play. As it turned out, a straight popup slide into second might have resulted in him being safe, much less the batter, but, as noted, you always slide into the defender, not the bag, if you're at all close. So I don't know.

    One thing I note is that Omar Infante was very close to the play and didn't really react to Lawrie at all. Infante put his hads on his head because he knew Escobar was hurt, but he made no aggressive move toward Lawrie. And in light of Lawrie's apparent concern for Escobar, there was no need to start something ... but here came Sal Perez anyway. Infante's lack of reaction doesn't conclusively absolve Lawrie; nor, though, does Perez's reaction conclusively convict him. (On the other hand, and for what it's worth, Mike Moustakas apparently gestured for Lawrie to leave the field while Lawrie was checking on Escobar.)

    Fortunately, the injury was only a mild knee sprain and bruise.

  • Rounding up all the Lawrie talk: Eric Hosmer thinks it wasn't intentional; Lawrie says he wasn't trying to cleat Escobar and that his foot just came up as he hit the bag; Ned Yost noted that the throw to Escobar was late and doesn't blame Lawrie; Bob Melvin had no issues with the slide (but he wouldn't, would he?); Lawrie doesn't hold Moustakas's gesture against him; Escobar is not being chill and disputes whether Lawrie texted him to apologize. Lawrie showed Slusser the texts, but it might be an old number and now it's a dang mystery who the hell got Lawrie's texts.

  • Meanwhile, John Hickey's question about whether "there was some concern over the possible reaction of an already inflamed crowd had Lawrie been called safe on top of everything that happened in the play" is a little embarrassing.

  • Mark Canha looked flat-out overmatched by Kelvin Herrera. On the other hand, the entire league is overmatched by Herrera, and it's not like the A's had any better options available. Pinch-hit Eric Sogard?

  • On the one hand, Dan Otero took as long as he did to get to the big leagues for a reason. On the other hand, relief pitching is fickle and one or two bad innings, especially early in the year, can really sink your season. If you can tell the difference, well, close this blog and send Billy Beane an email because you're about to be rich.

  • Stephen Vogt's second homer was majestic.

  1. Not in an error way. In a "tried to make a tough play and got a glove on it but couldn't get it done, so the hitter got the double he earned" way. 


By Jason Wojciechowski on April 14, 2015 at 9:19 PM

A's 4, Astros 0
WP: Kendall Graveman (5 1/3 IP, 9 H+BB+HBP, 0 R, 3 K)
HR: Who needs 'em
Record: 5-4
Standings: First in AL West, 1 game ahead of Texas; would face winner of Tampa Bay vs. Detroit in ALDS

  • Sam Fuld's leadoff double was fantastic, a little flip of the bat and a wild amount of luck got a bloopy bouncer on the left field line. Plus, it gave him a chance to stand next to Jose Altuve, which is like the opposite of those Freiman-Altuve photos we all love so much.

  • How many full-time, power-hitting third basemen would easily turn a 1-6-3 double play into a fielder's choice the way Brett Lawrie did in the second inning? It came to nothing, except in its butterfly effects, but it's impressive to watch him go dashing around the field the way he does anyway. And anyway, it almost came to something because of Josh Reddick's horrifically ugly swinging bunt to beat the shift.

  • Guess who fell asleep in the eighth inning of this one?

    How'd you guess? Did you steal the answer key again?