• October 3, 2017 at 7:50 AM

    Susan Slusser covers the possibilities of some shifts in the A's coaching team that could be necessitated by Chip Hale leaving for a managerial position, with a particularly good chance that he might be the next manager of the Mets. With Mark Kotsay needing a landing spot on his return to the team next year, it might even be best to hope that Hale does get such a job so that the bench coach spot opens back up for Kotsay.

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  • August 22, 2017 at 8:36 AM

    Two links in one day. What's this blog coming to.

    Smash that link, BP subscriber or no, to read Bryan Grosnick's take on the Chris Hatcher acquisition. My take is that, if anything, Grosnick is too optimistic about Hatcher's 2018 upside. His last good year was 2014; his last useful one was 2015. He's been fine in 2016 and '17, but certainly not late-inning-arm fine – more like rosterable fine. The question is less "will Hatcher be a valuable player for the A's in 2018" (answer: 35 percent shot?) and more "did the A's need to give up a goodie in order to get him" (answer: I guess it depends on what they were planning to do with that international-money slot in the first place). There are Hatchers and Hatchers and Hatchers on the free-agent market every offseason, in theory, though it's certainly nicer to go into the winter needing one of those guys and not three; on the other hand, it's also nice to be able to sign amateur talent.

    I guess the weird part is the perpetual question of what this team is supposed to be in 2018. The Astros aren't going anywhere, so you're not going to slip into a division title with an 81-win team that gets lucky; you can still get a Wild Card that way, but you're competing with 10 other teams for that honor. And is there even the skeleton of an 81-win team here? With mid-rotation starters Sean Manaea and Kendall Graveman at the top of the rotation, and wish-on-a-star pitchers Jharel Cotton and Paul Blackburn and Daniel Gossett at the back end? With exactly one guy on the current roster who you could picture being an All-Star on his own merits in 2018 (Matt Chapman)?

    Hatcher doesn't seem bad, as these things go; it's more that I still don't know why these things are going.

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  • August 22, 2017 at 8:29 AM

    Yes, this blog still exists. Technically. In any event, hit that link if you're a Baseball Prospectus subscriber for the Monday Morning Ten Pack – it has a couple of paragraphs on Brett Siddall, an outfielder for Stockton, by Wilson Karaman, for my money the best writer going on the prospect side at BP, and a brief look at Kevin Merrell, a 2017 late first-rounder out of the University of South Florida. Siddall lacks a starters upside, per Karaman, but could be a nice find as a former 13th-round pick, while Merrell is a speedy athlete with little power but good patience and bat control.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 6:26 PM

    Andrew Triggs has gone under the knife and had his hip labrum repaired. He won't be back this year. This sucks for Triggs, who was trying to establish himself as a full-time starter after a weirdly good six starts in 2016 opened that door. He doesn't miss bats, but he does keep the ball down, and the result had been, by Baseball Prospectus' DRA, a pretty good MLB starter: His 4.06, which is now his season-ending figure, ranks between Brandon McCarthy and Jose Quintana among established starters on the leaderboard.

    Assuming he comes back at full strength in spring training, and further assuming that the medical team doesn't feel that starting is what caused the hip injury in the first place, there should still be an opportunity for Triggs in 2018. He'll still be a minimum-salary player, so there's no reason for the A's to worry about money, and only Sean Manaea and Kendall Graveman should be considered locks for the 2018 rotation, among players currently on the team. Jharel Cotton and Daniel Gossett have struggled, Sonny Gray seems likely to be traded, and who knows with Paul Blackburn and Chris Bassitt. I'd hoped that Frankie Montas would be pushing his way into that role by now, but: well. And Jesse Hahn? Sigh, Jesse Hahn.

    Of course, if Gray is traded (or Sean Doolittle, or Yonder Alonso, or Jed Lowrie, or any combination of those guys), the return could include someone who would slot into next year's rotation, or at least compete for a spot soon, like Manaea and Cotton coming back in the Ben Zobrist and Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trades. It's all as in flux as it ever is, but this A's team isn't bursting at the seams with talent that can stop a potentially solid pitcher like Triggs from making his mark next year.

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  • June 25, 2017 at 2:58 PM

    The Brewers were not one of the teams I'd listed as having room for Stephen Vogt, and it's not yet clear what the corresponding 25-man-roster move is going to be. It looks, from the Roster Resource page, like they had 39 on the 40-man, so they won't to make a move there. The team has Manny Piña hitting just fine and Jett Bandy ... well, not, and Bandy's defensive numbers aren't blowing anyone away either. Plus he has an option remaining. So I think we've found our answer to Milwaukee's roster question.

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  • June 25, 2017 at 12:14 PM

    Here's the first part of Melissa Lockard's review of how the top 50 A's prospects have done so far this year.

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  • June 24, 2017 at 10:52 AM

    The fans will miss you, too, buddy.

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  • June 22, 2017 at 9:31 PM

    Well, first, let's start with the minor news: Matt Chapman has hit the disabled list with an infected knee. Matt Olson is up to replace him. This sucks for Chapman, of course, and it sucks for the A's defense for the next week or so, as Ryon Healy will remain the third baseman until Chapman comes back (or until morale improves), but it's not a long-term issue. It's an injury, and injuries happen. Good teams deal with them. The A's ... well, the ship sailed.


    Far sadder: Stephen Vogt's A's tenure is almost certainly over. He never really figured out the whole framing thing behind the plate, which was fine-ish when his TAv was .287, .286, or even .262, as it was the last three years. It is not even close to fine when his TAv is .230, as it is this year. He's 32 already, which on the one hand feels totally natural because his style and appearance made him seem perpetually mid-30s, but on the other hand really snuck up because he didn't get a full season in the big leagues until he was 30. That age is relevant because it lowers the odds of a bounce-back, or, put another way, raises the odds that this is the new normal.

    Now, it's not just that Vogt has had a rough year; that part gets him DFA'd, but guys get DFA'd and stay in the system all the time. It's also that Vogt might not be done, can nominally catch, and is making a smidge less than $3 million this year that seems likely to end his A's career, as there must be some team willing to claim him, even though he's out of options. Look at this helpful Baseball Reference page, for instance, and note the following catching situations around the league:

    • Washington could cut Jose Lobaton and his 22 OPS+ (and his $1.5 million salary)
    • Tampa Bay could option Derek Norris and his 59 OPS+
    • San Diego could option Luis Torrens and his 43 OPS+
    • the White Sox could option Kevan Smith and his 65 OPS+
    • Toronto could option Luke Maile and his -8 OPS+
    • Cleveland could option Roberto Perez and his 26 OPS+
    • St. Louis could cut Eric Fryer and his 28 OPS+ (and $675,000 salary)

    However much Stephen Vogt has struggled, he's still struggled his way to a 76 OPS+. I only looked at the bottom half of teams in catching bWAR; it is certainly likely that there are teams in the top half who don't have a great backup (e.g. the Yankees with Austin Romine). Even if there are only seven teams that might claim Vogt, and even if there's only a 10 percent chance for each of those seven of doing so, that still works out to a 52 percent chance he gets claimed. Expand the pool to 10 teams, and it's 65 percent. To half the league and it's nearly 80 percent. If it's a 20 percent chance of claim by each of seven teams, then there's overall nearly an 80 percent chance of a claim.

    But maybe it's not 10 percent, and maybe it's not seven teams, because I haven't mentioned defense yet. By Baseball Prospectus' framing numbers, Lobaton has generally come out positive in his career. Norris is mixed and has been in the red so far this year. Torrens has been negative this year but it's his first year in the majors, so the sample is small. Smith is around average. Maile is generally above average. Perez grades out extremely well. Fryer is a mixed-ish/average-ish bag. The teams all surely have their own opinions about the defensive abilities of their current players, and of Vogt, but the point is that even the players Vogt out-hits, and even the ones he out-hits substantially, might out-defend him enough to outweigh the hitting, and particularly to outweigh the need to make a change in the clubhouse for the sake of what you hope will be an upgrade.

    So maybe it's not hopeless after all, because if Vogt does clear waivers, he'd have the option of electing free agency, but by doing so he'd forego the remainder of his salary. If he accepts a minor-league assignment, he'd stay paid.

    All told, though, it seems more likely than not that some team will want Vogt at the cost of some player at the end of their 40-man roster, plus using an option on their current backup. (Or their current starter, if we're talking about Norris.)

    Maybe it's premature, then, but I think it's worth lamenting now. It's sad to see him go. The referee costumes, Chris Farley impressions, Disney show tunes, the extra-base pop, the hustle, the fact that he's a classic Athletic in the vein of Matt Stairs and John Jaha and, I don't know, like Geronimo Berroa ... all of this added up to make him a fan-favorite, and a personal favorite. If I ever redo that list of 25 Favorite A's Ever, I'm certain he'll make the cut. But now, without even 500 games with the A's under his belt, he's made a whole different kind of cut.

    Goodnight sweet prince.

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  • June 20, 2017 at 6:58 AM

    I think you see fewer top guys going unsigned under the current signing rules than you used to (everyone knows there's a limited pot of money and you can pretty well figure where the team's max lies going in), but it's still good news for the A's that they've signed their top pick in this year's draft.

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  • June 19, 2017 at 7:34 AM

    Read up on the A's first 11 picks (the picks that make up the normal bonus pool, that is) at the link.

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  • June 4, 2017 at 10:09 AM

    Or at least that's the assumption. Matt Olson has been recalled and Daniel Mengden optioned back to Nashville, leaving the A's with four starting pitchers and therefore an empty spot for Friday's game. It seems entirely likely, then, that Jeremy Koo is right and Olson is here to give the A's an extra bat for a few days, after which he'll be optioned back out when Jesse Hahn is activated from the disabled list and slotted back into the rotation.

    With Yonder Alonso continuing to crush the ball, one can't imagine Olson (or anybody else) getting much time at first base. Olson could send Matt Joyce to the bench once or twice this week, and nobody would consider it much of a loss; on the other hand, Joyce is a better player than he's acted like for the first two months, and if the A's want to get out from under his contract, he's going to have to show something in the next two months to make himself a viable trade candidate.

    One could also contemplate a game or two off for Trevor Plouffe and his 77 OPS+, with Ryon Healy playing third base, leaving the DH spot open, ideally for Khris Davis, with Olson slotting into left field. Healy himself is back to the Healy we saw last year; after bottoming out with a .650 OPS on May 3, he's hit .327/.351/.617 in 27 games since. That's a grand total of four walks in 111 plate appearances, sure, but it's looking like that's the price we'll pay for his power; he's more Khris Davis than Chris Davis.

    UPDATE: Jesse Hahn will start Tuesday. With Olson arriving from the airport too late to start today's game (boy, it sure was nice when the Triple-A team was just up the road in Sacramento...), it's probable that means he'll start on Monday at best, and then head back down. Oh well!

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  • May 28, 2017 at 12:29 PM

    As we've all been noting for the last few days, and as was clearly inevitable, Kendall Graveman is heading to the DL, with Daniel Mengden up to take his place.

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  • May 27, 2017 at 9:21 AM

    Susan Slusser's gamer from the A's win over the Yankees on Friday includes injury updates on Kendall Graveman and Jesse Hahn, with the update being: they're both very likely to hit the disabled list. Jharel Cotton is still coming up to start today, so it's a near-certainty that one of them will be on the DL, but Slusser notes that neither traveled with the team to New York, so odds are good that both will be off the roster in short order.

    Of the three guys I mentioned in yesterday's post to take Hahn's slot (with Cotton taking Graveman's), Slusser reports that the A's are going to call up Daniel Mengden. My worry about his readiness, with him averaging five innings per start, is muted a little because, as Slusser notes, he threw seven innings in his start on Tuesday. The bigger concern, of course, is that he just wasn't very good in the majors last year. He missed bats at a fair clip, but he had a lot of runners on base via both the walk and the hit, and the homer rate wasn't stellar either, particularly for a guy who pitches in Oakland.

    The A's still aren't in last place because they're three losses ahead of Seattle, but remember the reason that Seattle is at the bottom of the listings: their rotation has been decimated by injury. It's not quite Seattle-bad for the A's, since Sonny Gray came off the DL before this Graveman-Hahn spate hit, leaving three of the Opening Day five available at any given time, but the more you have to dig into your Triple-A depth for starters, the fewer games you're going to win. That's why they're Triple-A depth.

    EDIT: A more recent update is here, noting that Hahn has indeed hit the DL, and that a decision on Graveman will be made tomorrow. It's weird for the A's to be simultaneously saying, "We've got to be even more cautious with Graveman since this is a reoccurence" and, "No decision yet," but I guess that's just the game.

    At least Yonder Alonso is taking batting practice and should be back soon.

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  • May 26, 2017 at 1:08 PM

    Jharel Cotton is going to come up to Oakland (or New York, I guess) and pitch on Saturday against the Yankees. That's going to necessitate a roster move. Normally you might think, "I guess this means Jesse Hahn is going to hit the disabled list because he came out early from his starts with some triceps issue last time," and normally you'd be right. The problem is that Kendall Graveman was going to start tonight and he's been scratched, without word (yet) about why.

    The mind runs wild with speculation and conjecture about both Graveman (who's already missed time with a shoulder injury) and Hahn being hurt simultaneously, which would force the A's to, aside from adding Cotton, pick from Zach Neal (already a member of the big-league bullpen), Paul Blackburn (decent but likely hit-lucky numbers at Nashville), and Daniel Mengden (good numbers in four starts in Triple-A, but may not be fully back from his offseason foot surgery yet, as he's averaging just five innings per start) to fill out the rotation.

    There are lost years and there are depressing lost years. Graveman was supposed to be a bright spot for the A's, and a hoped-for bounce-back from Jesse Hahn was something else to watch. Looking for continued improvement from Marcus Semien and watching the always-entertaining Sean Doolittle were two others. At this point, depending on what the story is with Graveman and Hahn, all that entertainment value, all that fun factor, might be sitting at home hoping to get back on the field.

    At least we've still got Sonny Gray.

    EDIT: An update at the link says that Graveman's shoulder is sore. Sigh.

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  • May 25, 2017 at 9:12 AM

    Bobby Wahl is hurt, and it's a shoulder strain. This sucks for Wahl, who made his big-league debut this year and had struck out eight hitters in 7⅔ innings, albeit with poor control numbers (four walks, a hit batter, two wild pitches). Bob Melvin referred to him having both shoulder soreness and biceps tendinitis; one hopes it really does just amount to a few weeks of rest getting him right and ready again, but one also despairs.

    Zach Neal, who threw 70 extremely high-contact innings last year (247 balls in play out of 281 batters faced), is up for the first time in 2017. He was pitching fine in Nashville, runs-allowed wise, but he K/9 rate is still under four, which is astounding. Wish for the best, for him and the team, and expect the worst in the big leagues.

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  • May 23, 2017 at 7:11 AM

    Susan Slusser has a look at when and how the A's are likely to start promoting their young folks from Nashville to the majors, including Franklin Barreto, Matts Chapman and Olson, and Bruce Maxwell. Barreto is the easiest: He's the best position player in the A's minors and he's blocked only by Jed Lowrie, who is a veteran, a pending free agent, and a guy whose .283 TAv to start this season could make him attractive to a team with an infield need, like Baltimore, Anaheim, or anyone whose second baseman gets hurt in the next two months.

    Chapman and Olson are tougher, especially since, for different reasons, nobody's sure whether they'll hit in the majors. Also, though, the A's corners are stocked up just fine, what what with Ryon Healy, Trevor Plouffe, Yonder Alonso, Matt Joyce, Khris Davis, and Mark Canha all hanging around. The only obvious trade candidate in that group is Plouffe, though it may be tempting to try to cash in on Alonso's startling power before the league adjusts to his adjustments and it call comes tumbling back to the 102 OPS+ Alonso we've all known and loved for the last five years. But of course a team looking to buy Alonso (Angels? Yankees? Rangers? Astros?) will have the same thoughts, from the flip side of the coin; if the A's believe that what Alonso is doing is real, they can let him stick around for another year, consolidate his gains, reap the benefits for the fans of having a real first baseman with real first-base power for the first time since Brandon Moss in 2013, and still trade him for goodies if they're not in contention next year.

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  • May 21, 2017 at 12:12 PM

    Unfortunately, the return of John Axford happens just in time to see Ryan Dull hit the disabled list with a knee injury. The imaging already shows no structural damage, though, so that's good.

    Susan Slusser's story also mentions that Sean Doolittle is working his way back and, despite it being another shoulder injury, it's maybe not as big a deal as in times past. The talk is a mid-June return.

    Dull hasn't been as top-notch as he was last year, to say the least, but he's still had a trusted, high-leverage role. That means his injury leaves a hole, and I'm curious to see whether Axford, who hasn't pitched this year and who was good/fine last year, in line with his career norm, or Liam Hendriks, who struggled early but has allowed a .466 OPS with a 15:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 13 games (14⅔ innings), will fill it. Personally, I think Hendriks has earned it so far, and that Axford should be given a little breathing room to make sure he's all there before taking the toughest assignments. It's worth noting that Hendriks may have already moved up the trustedness scale: in four of his last six appearances, the leverage index was over one, including the extra-innings game against the Angels, in which he pitched ahead of Dull.

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  • May 1, 2017 at 7:13 AM

    Happy May. Here's Tim Eckert-Fong's dive into the stats on how Andrew Triggs has succeeded thus far.

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  • April 25, 2017 at 8:00 PM

    The A's made a couple of roster adjustments at the edges prior to opening their series against the Mike Trouts in Anaheim:

    • Rajai Davis has hit the disabled list because of the hamstring strain that's already kept him out of the lineup for the last few days. Because of retroactivity and the fact that it's a 10-day disabled list (still weird, but a good weird) means he can come back May 2. I think. Depending on whether that's the 10th day or ... whatever, I'll let the mathematicians do the heavy calculations.
    • In his place, the A's called up Ryan LaMarre, who was just acquired a few days ago from the Angels to bolster their outfield depth.
    • Cesar Valdez has returned to the roster as a long reliever; he was just optioned, but he's technically taking Davis' roster spot, so he can come back to the majors without waiting out his 10 days you normally have to be in the minors after an option.
    • To make room for Valdez on the 25-man, Raul Alcantara, who doesn't have any options, was designated for assignment. One would guess he will be relatively promptly waived. It's anybody's guess whether he will be claimed.

    With Jaff Decker a left-hander starting in center in Davis' absence, it's a fair-guess that LaMarre will be his platoon partner against any lefties the A's happen to face in the next week. He could also theoretically give Matt Joyce a rest against a lefty, or pinch-hit for Stephen Vogt, Yonder Alonso, or Joyce against a late-game lefty, although in the cases of Vogt or Joyce, I'd probably rather just have them take the at-bat than give it to a guy whose bat is a little light to be a consistent major-leaguer. Even for Alonso, he's hitting .292/.370/.563 in the early going this year, and while anyone can hit for 54 plate appearances, he looks, without digging too hard into this, like he's swinging out of his ass; normally you wouldn't say that's a good thing, but we're talking about a first baseman whose lack of power was on the verge of driving him out of the league entirely, so he may as well sell out for power and see if it works; it's not like anything else was.

    Oh, and there's also Matt Olson, another lefty, on the bench and presumably getting the occasional start; he's another one where I'd rather just have him take the at-bat against the lefty, with the added developmental rationale on top of the question of who the better hitter is.

    In any event, all that adds up to LaMarre not being of much use on offense. On defense, though, he's probably a useful late-game sub for Joyce, Olson, or Khris Davis, since none of those three are what you'd call defensive savants. (Decker can serve the same role on the days he doesn't start, or he can play center late and push LaMarre to a corner, depending on how Bob Melvin et al. view the relative defensive abilities in question and the value of in-game continuity at a position.)

    On the pitching side, it's a little sad to see Raul Alcantara already at the "DFA'd because he's out of options and he's not good enough to stick around as the seventh or eighth or ninth man in the bullpen" stage of his career. It's weird to be out of options at 24, but that's what happens when you sign at 16, then lose a year-plus to Tommy John surgery. He's young enough that this might not be all that he is or ever will be, but we're also talking about a guy whose bat-missing was light all the way up the chain: his best single-season K/9 was 7.1 at two levels of A-ball in 2013. He worked his way to the majors by limiting walks, but if he can't replicate at the highest level some version of what he did in the minors, he's just going to bounce around as a ninth starter/11th reliever until he gets bored of that and heads off into the sunset.

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  • April 21, 2017 at 7:53 AM

    Here's unfortunte news from the minors: Daulton Jefferies, the A's second-round pick last year, is headed for Tommy John surgery. Jefferies is a right-handed pitcher out of UC Berkeley who apparently fell out of the first round because of a shoulder injury early in his draft season. He's small, listed at just six feet and 180 pounds, so he's already hving the kinds of issues you worry about with a pitcher who doesn't have prototypical size. had him ranked as the A's eighth-best prospect and Baseball Prospectus ranked him seventh. My Baseball America book is ... over there, and I've got a cat on me so I don't want to go get it. Sorry.

    Jefferies will turn 22 later this year, and based on typical Tommy John recovery times, could be 23 before he makes his return (though his August birthday means this is his "age-21 season"). He was pitching at Stockton this year, but he threw just seven innings before hitting the DL, so on a level-a-year developmental schedule (not that there's any such thing as a normal developmental schedule, but just taking this as a benchmark), he's probably looking at Stockton in 2019, Midland in 2020, Nashville in 2021, which means hopefully the majors in his age-26 season. He'll also hit the period of a prospect's life when a team has to put him on the 40-man roster or risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft "earlier"1 and that period can be disruptive if you actually get selected in the Rule 5.

    All of which is to say, on top of the fact that TJ still doesn't have a 100 percent success rate, especially in terms of return to the same effectiveness the pitcher had before the surgery, that I'm glad Jefferies got $1.3 million in a signing bonus already, because whatever odds a player has to overcome just to make the majors in the first place, those just got a little longer for Jefferies.

    1. Unless there's an injury exemption, like a one-year delay because of major injury, built in? I couldn't find anything but I didn't look very hard. The theme of this morning's post is: laziness! 

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  • April 17, 2017 at 9:03 PM

    Proving that sometimes you should just listen when Susan Slusser tries to hint things at you, and proving that a pitcher who leaves a game early with soreness in every last part of his body is not bound for good news, Kendall Graveman is hitting the disabled list with a shoulder strain. He made the requisite noises about how the 10-day DL changes things, it should only be one start, etc. etc., but look at the listed reason again: shoulder strain!

    I'm not even going to get into Marcus Semien's wrist issue turning out to be a fracture that will keep him out until June, and we can only hope he returns to being himself; wrist injuries can be problematic that way.

    One wonders whether the Bruce Maxwell call-up is a temporary situation. On the one hand, the team could call up Paul Blackburn to take Graveman's start and demote either a reliever or Maxwell. On the other hand, there's Raul Alcantara right there, already on the roster.

    In any event, in the meantime, hopefully we won't see too much of Stephen Vogt catching. Things could basically look like this:

    C: Maxwell / Phegley
    1B: Healy / Alonso
    2B: Lowrie / Pinder
    SS: Rosales / Pinder
    3B: Plouffe / Healy
    LF: Davis / Decker
    CF: Davis / Decker
    RF: Joyce / Decker
    DH: Vogt / Davis / Healy / Plouffe

    I wouldn't be against a more-or-less-strict platoon at catcher; as to the rest, I mainly want to see Healy and Pinder in the lineup every day, moving around defensively, with most of their time coming at the expense of Alonso and Rosales.

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  • April 16, 2017 at 10:08 PM

    Part of Susan Slusser's story about Marcus Semien hitting the DL notes that Bruce Maxwell, lefty-hitting catcher, will be called up to the A's, with a pitcher heading out to make room. I'm curious whether it's Daniel Coulombe, Frankie Montas, or Door Number 3, but what I'm even more curious about is how game situations and lineup decisions play out with Stephen Vogt, Josh Phegley, and Bruce Maxwell all hanging around.

    The big obvious benefit of Maxwell's presence is that Bob Melvin can start Vogt at designated hitter sometimes without fear of losing his DH if he wants to pinch-hit or pinch-run for the starting catcher, or if there's an injury.

    One also wonders, or maybe one just hopes, that this move is really about the marginalization of Yonder Alonso. Granted that he's had a solid start to the year, we know what he is now, and what he is is an adequate hitter generally, a bad hitter given his position, and the best first-base glove on the team. If we start seeing more lineups with Ryon Healy at first, Trevor Plouffe at third, and Vogt DHing, I'm not going to count that as a bad thing.

    We could run through a whole bunch of possibilities, but Slusser's comments to me on Twitter a few minutes go imply that maybe we're not talking about a reliever being sent down after all. She was cryptic, but maybe it's actually a starter hitting the disabled list? If Graveman's weird total-body tightness or whatever he felt is going to cause him to miss time, then the A's can bridge the gap between now and his next scheduled start, on Wednesday, with a position player.

    Look, I don't know. Let's just go to sleep and see what happens tomorrow.

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  • April 2, 2017 at 6:01 PM

    Nico would start the year with Ryan Dull at closer, on the basis of his superior consistency. I think it's ... interesting to label a pitcher who has had one year and change in the big leagues more consistent than the guys behind him. In the absence of a strong opinion on this stuff, acknowledging that the roles change throughout the year based on performance, injuries, and a variety of other issues, and while generally reserving my right to protest that an inning is not a role, here is how PECOTA sees the relievers stacking up:

    Best reliever: Liam Hendriks
    Backup best reliever: Sean Doolittle
    The next four: Ryan Madson, Ryan Dull, Santiago Casilla, Daniel Coulombe, Frankie Montas
    The mopup guy: John Axford

    Supposing that's a true statement of the actual abilities of those pitchers, here's what I'd do:

    Designated ninth-inning guy: Madson
    Andrew Miller role: Hendriks
    Backup Andrew Miller / eighth inning: Doolittle
    Middle relief, matchups, etc.: Dull, Casilla, Coulombe
    Long relief: Montas
    Mopup: Axford

    Madson's plenty good enough to lock down the three-run leads in the ninth the A's will never have. Hendriks, if you believe PECOTA, is a beast, and he's a beast without any history of closing, so the team can plausibly just throw him to the wolves of the "no role" role without him complaining. The rest slot in basically as needed.

    Obviously, religious faith in any one projection system isn't the best approach for your health, but you get the idea.

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  • April 2, 2017 at 2:33 PM

    Alex Hall has a breakdown over at Athletics Nation. I don't think I disagree with anything. It does, as both Hall and Susan Slusser have said, seem very like that we'll see Decker while the month still starts with "A" because of his May 1 opt-out clause and because Mark Canha isn't a center fielder and because the owners surely aren't going to provide enough folding chairs to actually house all the bullpen asses.

    Decker isn't on the 40-man, but that's not a major obstacle: The A's will get their first 40-man move for "free" this year because Chris Bassitt can go to the 60-day disabled list; he's definitely not going to be back before June 1. It's maybe worth noting, however, that if the A's believe in Jaycob Brugman, they could let Decker walk and count on Brugman, who is already on the 40-man, as the eventual backup center fielder.

    One interesting question is who the 13th pitcher on the staff is, i.e. who gets sent down when Decker is needed/wanted; or, alternatively, who gets sent down when Sonny Gray comes back. It's a fair bet that Raul Alcantara only made the rotation because of Gray's injury, but Alcantara is out of options, so he'll probably head to long relief, unless he's outpitched Andrew Triggs in the meantime and it makes more sense to move the latter back to relief.

    Of the guys already in the 'pen, the Madson-Axford-Doolittle-Casilla axis aren't going anywhere. Doolittle can theoretically be optioned, but I can't imagine it; if he's healthy, he should be in the majors. The other three aren't even eligible to be optioned. Of the rest, only Liam Hendriks is out of options. If there's room in the Nashville rotation for Frankie Montas, it might make sense to send him there to continue his development, but if he's going to pitch in relief either way, I'd rather keep him around and send down Daniel Coulombe instead, unless he's off to a hot start and Ryan Dull isn't.

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  • March 26, 2017 at 9:57 PM

    I don't know if I missed this in Slusser's story earlier or if it's a new addition, but it looks like Alejandro De Aza isn't going to make the team and is therefore going to opt out of his contract and hit the free agent market. What's less clear is whether this is because the A's are going with Jaff Decker as their fifth outfielder or whether they're seriously going to run with Mark Canha as the backup in center and take an eighth reliever instead. Either way, I'm a little surprised not to see De Aza make the team as a lefty who can at least fake center a little bit backing up the right-handed Davises in the outfield. I don't know whether Decker has an opt-out, but if he doesn't, you'd think you'd start off with the guy who does have one, see how that goes, and then if it doesn't really work, fall back on Decker later on. It's not as if, after all, the 25th guy is going to make or break the A's season.

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  • March 26, 2017 at 3:03 PM

    Zach Kram from The Ringer looks at a trio of A's pitchers that the headline of the piece compares to Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson. The trio does not include Sonny Gray, which is wild; instead, he's talking about Jharel Cotton (sure), Sean Manaea (I can see it), and Andrew Triggs (what). Cotton and Manaea have pedigree and performance for days, and the A's have them because they had good veteran players (Rich Hill, Josh Reddick, Ben Zobrist) available to trade for them.

    Triggs, by contrast, despite having a prototypical pitcher's build (6-foot-4, listed at 220 pounds) was drafted three times, topping out in the 19th round, went from Kansas City to Baltimore three years later for cash, and then came to the A's when the Orioles waived him. He was an end-of-game reliever in the minors, so he wasn't viewed as a total nobody, but he also started precisely once in his minor-league career. He throws 91 mph. He's 28.

    He does keep the ball on the ground, and DRA says his performance last year was not a mirage, leading to 1.2 WARP, which plays out over a 200-inning season to Jake Arrieta's 2016 WARP. I swear I didn't pick Jake Arrieta intentionally, because he's the obvious comparison: an Orioles flop who changed teams and turned into a star at age 27-28. It's too perfect. One difference, of course, is that Arrieta had been a fifth-round pick, a far sight from Triggs' 19th round, and he was twice a top-100 prospect while in Baltimore's system. The potential was there and it was obvious, and the Orioles failed to develop it. Triggs, by contrast, comes entirely out of nowhere, even to the A's, who only put him in the rotation when they basically ran out of real starters.

    I'm happy to hope, of course, and I think Triggs' sinker and some of his pitch-by-pitch metrics leave room for optimism, but in the end, putting him on a list of the next Hudson-Mulder-Zito, two of which were very high draft picks who lived up to expectations, and one of which was a moderately high draft pick who exceeded them, is a bridge too far. Frankie Montas is coming. AJ Puk is coming. Grant Holmes is coming. Andrew Triggs? Let's see him get through more than six heavily monitored starts before we start anointing him.

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  • March 26, 2017 at 10:29 AM

    This just makes official what Susan Slusser had already figured out yesterday: Jesse Hahn lost the battle for a rotation slot and will head to Nashville to try to work his way back. I'd say it remains to be seen, and put all the "I have doubts" tone into that phrase that you can muster, whether he does indeed make it back as a starter.

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  • March 26, 2017 at 10:24 AM

    Even if it were a major injury, if there's anywhere the A's can withstand an injury, it's in the infield. They've already got Ryon Healy hanging around to DH when he should be playing first or third, plus they'll have Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder and Renato Nunez in the minors, plus there's Adam Rosales and his 17-position flexibility (family blog! family blog!) on the bench, plus two of their best prospects are high-minors infielders Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman, plus, hell, there's always Josh Rodriguez if the glass really needs to be broken.

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  • March 25, 2017 at 10:56 PM

    I have a hard time disagreeing with basically anything going on here.

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  • March 25, 2017 at 8:16 PM

    Susan Slusser notes that the it sure looks like Andrew Triggs and Raul Alcantara have won the last two slots in the rotation, behind the clear 1-3 of Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, and Jharel Cotton. Sonny Gray's injury opened up at least a temporary slot that gave Jesse Hahn some breathing room, but he's been unable to capitalize and instead has continued his miserable 2016 into 2017 by allowing 15 runs in 15 1/3 innings this spring.

    It's never too late for a pitcher, but it's hard to see where Hahn goes from here. He has an option, so he's a lot easier to send down than Alcantara, and given that he was beaten out by the five guys listed above, he'll be at best seventh in line for the rotation when Gray returns. Then you figure you've got Chris Bassitt and Daniel Mengden coming back from their own injuries at some point, Frankie Montas hopefully transitioning into the rotation in 2018, and Daniel Gossett and Grant Holmes rising through the ranks, and even with the inevitable injuries and trades and all the rest, Hahn's performance is only going to merit so many more looks. Plus I guess there's even Paul Blackburn? Granted that Hahn's lasted in the rotation competition to the end of the spring, how many players is he ahead of on the 40-man at this point? Probably Daniel Coulombe, maybe Bruce Maxwell ... I think that's it. The 38th guy on the 40-man is a guy who gets designated for assignment in July with some frequency. Maybe that's for Simon Castro or Gossett, maybe Jaff Decker, maybe even Matt Chapman. Maybe it's for a new acquisition.

    Whatever the final blow is, we're sure a long way from a promising half season in 2015, a 3.75 DRA in nearly 100 innings that had us dreaming on a very solid third starter for four, five, six years. Pitchers. Injuries. SMH.

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  • March 25, 2017 at 7:51 PM

    Susan Slusser's piece today has a lot of praise for Matt Chapman, including from Marcus Semien, Bob Melvin, and Trevor Plouffe. Some wild comparisons are bandied about (by the A's, not Slusser), though of course not in a "he's this good now" way. (Plouffe is specifically quoted with that caveat.) One of those comparisons is to Nolan Arenado, which is natural because they were high school teammates. What's interesting about the Arenado comp, though, is that the Rockies star was a bat-first player; sure, he was a high school shortstop, but what prospect infielder wasn't? His 2011 BP Annual comment referred to his defense as "solid"; in 2012 his glove was "nothing special"; then he hit the big leagues, where he's put up eye-popping defensive numbers in every metric, not to mention the eye test. (To be clear, this wasn't a BP blind spot: Baseball America in those years said he could move to first base due to a lack of athleticism and slow feet, and then, after he dropped 20 pounds, called his range "average.")

    Chapman, by contrast, has the 98 mph arm and good feet, which he pairs with power potential and serious questions about his hit tool. A .300 ISO in Triple-A is cool and all, but if you're a .197 hitter at that level, you're not a big-leaguer. Obviously, 85 plate appearances of .197 hitting doesn't mean you're a .197 hitter, but the fact is that Chapman hasn't so far proven that he's going to make enough contact in the majors for his glove to play, even with the power.

    I'm not saying he's not a good prospect, and we can't solely scout the stat line, but it's worth noting that there's still plenty of crash-and-burn possibility here.

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  • March 24, 2017 at 10:26 PM

    Start getting hyped for Lazarito, everybody. He's coming, and he's friggin' huge. (How many 6-foot-2, 210-pound, 17-year-olds do you know?)

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  • March 20, 2017 at 9:23 PM

    It's not good. Susan Slusser's brief item runs it down well, and, if anything, she's generous: when you figure in the framing, Stephen Vogt is anything but average, and Rajai Davis is probably average in left field, but he's going to be exposed at 36 as a regular center fielder. The highlight of the article is the coaches struggling to find something nice to say. Mike Aldrete's "if you can call it a strength" is the line of the spring.

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  • March 19, 2017 at 10:18 PM

    This is a good overview of where things stand on the pitching staff and at the three-ish spots where there was some (emphasis on "some") uncertainty about who the starter might be. Nothing is shaking out in surprising fashion, up to and including the fact that pitchers are getting hurt. That is, after all, what pitchers exist to do.

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  • March 19, 2017 at 12:30 PM

    It was always going to be nearly impossible for Gossett to make the team out of spring training. He's not on the 40-man roster, so his arbitration and free agency clocks haven't started yet; in a season when the A's don't look like they're aiming for the top of the AL West table, that means he'd need about eight injuries and exceedingly impressive performance to make the Opening Day squad, and even then, you've got to figure the team would pull the Kris Bryant on him and start him off for three weeks in Triple-A before calling him up so that he doesn't reach a full year of service time by the end of the year, thus effectively giving the team seven years rather than six before free agency. (It sucks, but until some incentives are put in place to avoid this, it's how teams are going to operate.) You've got to figure Paul Blackburn, Ross Detwiler, Zach Neal, and probably Raul Alcantara were all ahead of Gossett coming into the spring, on top of the five expected starters and Jesse Hahn. But once the Super Two deadline passes (see last parenthetical), if Andrew Triggs has to be demoted back to the bullpen, or there's another injury, or Jesse Hahn hasn't recovered his form, or Jharel Cotton is struggling, we could see Baseball Prospectus' no. 8 A's prospect in the majors. I suppose I should add him to the list of Little Optimisms.

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  • March 19, 2017 at 12:07 PM

    It will be negatively impacted if his oblique injury causes him to lose more than a few days. From his perspective, that sucks—it's the difference between the major-league minimum and whatever his contract calls for if he doesn't make the roster, probably a delta measured in six figures. From the team's perspective, I think it's enough to point out that they're choosing between Decker and Alejandro De Aza for a roster spot and leave it at that.

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  • March 18, 2017 at 3:58 PM

    He's also worked hard to become a legitimate major-league player, is liked in the clubhouse, yadda yadda yadda. The important part is that he's a homebrewer, which is something the A's definitely needed on the squad.

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  • March 18, 2017 at 12:46 PM

    Joey Wendle isn't able to play right now because of a shoulder problem. There's no actual damage, he says to Susan Slusser, but it's enough to keep him from throwing or doing anything other than some drills. It's these fringe type of players who most cannot afford to get hurt in the spring—if he was going to make the roster, he was going to have to do some major damage with the bat to convince the team they'd rather keep him around despite the fact that he doesn't play shortstop, and instead cut Adam Rosales loose. This is particularly so given that he's being chased from the bottom by Chad Pinder, who can make Rosales expendable by virtue of his positional flexibility, and Franklin Barreto. Wendle's in a squeeze, and it's hard to see a path toward playing time for him even if he's healthy and ripping line drives in spring.

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  • March 16, 2017 at 10:08 PM

    Susan Slusser quotes Bob Melvin and Stephen Vogt talking up Franklin Barreto. It seems like Barreto's been on his way forever, but that's only because it's been forever since Josh Donaldson wore the green 'n' gold. Sigh. In any event, the A's consensus top prospect gets praise in the article for doing everything well, and Slusser mentions that he can play both short and second. I had sworn that the A's started playing him in center last year, but his Baseball Reference page calls me a liar; he did play outfield in Venezuela in 2015, but it was all shortstop for the A's, and even all infield in the Arizona Fall League.

    The A's have a weird glut of second basemen, with Jed Lowrie, Adam Rosales, Chad Pinder, and Joey Wendle all on the roster. Rosales plays everywhere, and Pinder is specifically talked up in this article in terms of his potential to be the next Rosales, but Wendle and Lowrie are pretty much just second basemen. This makes for an interesting dilemma for the A's when Barreto is ready this summer, although I guess it's likely to be one of those problems that works itself out: if Lowrie is hitting at his 2014-15 pace, he can be traded, even if just for salary relief; if he's hitting at his 2016 level, he can be cut and nobody would blink. And if he's hurt and Wendle or Pinder are playing second, they can be optioned. Even to the extent there's something approximating a hard call to make, you don't let players like Lowrie, Pinder, and Wendle stand in the way of Barreto.

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  • March 16, 2017 at 10:03 PM

    Here's Susan Slusser on Ryan Dull and the A's bullpen just stacked full of guys who used to be better than they are now. (Putting aside, one hopes, Sean Doolittle, who I pray can come back fully healthy and be again what he once was. The other guys, Father Time just got ahold of them is all.)

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  • March 9, 2017 at 6:10 PM

    Remember how I said I wasn't optimistic about Sonny Gray, because I was worried as all hell that he's hurt, or going to get hurt, and that it's just going to be a pileup of misery for him and, by extension, for us this year? Well.

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  • March 9, 2017 at 5:59 PM

    It's spring training, so nothing matters (as opposed to when nothing matters just generally), but it's worth noting that Matt Joyce has a career .341 OBP, to Rajai Davis' .314. Now, that's with Joyce not leading off most of his career, and he describes it being a tough thing to do, something that doesn't make him as comfortable as hitting lower in the lineup, so that's a relevant factor, but is it 27 points of OBP relevant? Is it "he'll figure out how to hit in that spot by hitting in that spot" relevant? This is why Bob Melvin gets the big bucks and I get a blog.

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  • March 8, 2017 at 9:49 AM

    Spring training is for experimentation, and if Canha can fake center, that's one fewer full outfielder the A's need to carry (considering Adam Rosales is a seven-position wonder, and there's always Stephen Vogt), but do the odds of this turning out well seem high to anybody? Slusser refers to Canha running well, and he did steal seven bases in 2015, but my recollection is less that he runs well than that he's not a complete slug, i.e. he's plausible in a corner outfield spot. And "plausible" is all he ever was in my view, because it's not just about speed, but about a whole host of skills and tools that add up to a good defender.

    As usual, this isn't about the A's trying to find a way to get from 88 wins to 92 and therefore the playoffs, so there's only so much it matters, but it sure would seem to matter to the poor pitchers, who are going to have a hard enough time.

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  • March 7, 2017 at 7:53 PM

    I have a thought for Ryan Madson: if you're 36 and a pretty good pitcher as it is and you've got like four pitches already and the splitter makes your elbow hurt, then don't throw a splitter ever again. I realize that being a competitor and always pushing for something new, some edge, some way to stay a half-step ahead of the hitters is the way the great players, or at least the major-leaguers, become the great players/major-leaguers, but at some point, the cliche about your body telling you what it's capable of starts to sound like sage advice.

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  • March 7, 2017 at 7:19 PM

    So this is what despair feels like.

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  • March 5, 2017 at 9:34 PM

    No, okay, I'm doing A Thing, but Stephen Vogt knows a lot more about pitching that any of us ever will, and if he's talking up Cotton, well, that presumably means ... okay, actually, what it means is he's a good teammate who always has a good word to say about a fellow Athletic.

    In any event, Cotton is one of the players I'm legitimately excited about for this season. Things aren't going to go well for the A's this year, and I don't think any of us have any illusions about this. So here, for what it's worth, is my list of Little Optimisms:

    • Jharel Cotton, just generally
    • Rajai Davis stealing bases
    • Stephen Vogt hitting topspin singles
    • Marcus Semien's all-around competence
    • Josh Phegley's occasional starts
    • Sean Manaea, just generally
    • Sean Doolittle, just generally, and on Twitter
    • Ryan Dull, just generally
    • Franklin Barreto's July callup
    • Matt Olson's injury fill-in performance that requires the A's to think very hard about whether they want to keep Yonder Alonso around

    The sore-thumb name from the list is Sonny Gray. The problem is that I'm not actually optimistic. I'm anxious as all hell. I'm worried that something is deeply wrong, that last year wasn't a fluke, that it's all over for him, that the cornerstone is actually a depressing millstone. I don't want any of this to be true but it's sure going to make my poor tum tum hurt for at least the first two months, unless he proves he's back to being the Sonny Gray we all thought he was before 2016.

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  • March 5, 2017 at 9:11 PM

    Jane Lee's article makes the point, without saying it expressly, that Brugman's going to get the job in center at some point by default: Jake Smolinski isn't a major-league starter, and Rajai Davis isn't a center fielder. That leaves Brugman, who probably won't hit enough to succeed at the highest level, seeing how he hasn't even quite had Smolinski's success level in the minors.

    He also spells his name wrong. Even Smolinski gets that part right.

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  • March 4, 2017 at 5:10 PM

    The A's has some! (I don't.)

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  • March 4, 2017 at 3:24 PM

    I hope to see Stephen Vogt atop the leaderboard for spring training steals in three weeks.

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  • March 4, 2017 at 2:43 PM

    Jane Lee notes that Jakey-Smo is slowly coming back from a shoulder injury. As reserve outfielders go, I can't imagine any of us are getting all that worked up one way or another about the options. Alejando De Aza could hit once upon a time, but if he was ever a center fielder, he isn't one now. Smolinski probably can't hit period, and the 2016 eye test didn't make clear to me one way or the other whether he's a valid option in center, either. Given that the A's are going to be starting a real stretch in center in the first place in Rajai Davis, and two defensively challenged players in the corners, and maybe carrying Mark Canha on the bench, you'd think you'd like someone with a glove to be hanging out. Does that point to Smolinski over De Aza, especially since the latter would cost someone their 40-man spot? I don't know. Then again, I'm not even a blogger, much less an actual analyst of baseball, so I guess you wouldn't expect me to know, would you?

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  • December 26, 2016 at 4:40 PM

    Jane Lee has a look at the A's catching situation as we head into a new season. isn't big on criticism, so she declines to mention that Stephen Vogt's last good pitch-framing performance, by Baseball Prospectus' numbers, was at Triple-A in 2013. She does mention the praise Bruce Maxwell gets back there, and his Triple-A numbers (+31 in just over 10,000 pitches received; Vogt received 6,700 pitches last year, to give you a sense of what a full season looks like) back up the reputation. Let's say Maxwell is a +10 framer in the majors and that their differences on blocking and throwing don't amount to anything at all, and that Vogt's last two years represent something like his full-season ability, then starting Maxwell over Vogt this year is going to net the A's 20 runs right off the top.

    It gets a little more complicated from there, though, because Vogt in 2014 and '15 was a good enough hitter to start, not just a good enough hitter to start at catcher, which means the A's are going to find him at-bats, and that means you have to play the games of dominoes in putting him in the field. "Luckily," the A's corner outfielders aren't much with the leather, either, but even more luckily, Billy Butler isn't on clogging up the DH position anymore, so there's a natural place for Vogt to play without having to shift a lot of players around and worry about defense.

    What seems to me that you want to do is platoon Maxwell and Josh Phegley, with Maxwell naturally taking the long side of the platoon, thereby also creating a defensive boon because Phegley has been pretty poor by the framing numbers himself, DHing Vogt (and having him play the corners when Bob Melvin wants to semi-rest someone else at DH for a day), and having Vogt serve simultaneously as the injury-replacement catcher. When Phegley gets hurt again, the A's can call up Renato Nunez or Max Muncy or whoever they like instead of replacing him with a catcher, and let Vogt take over as backup catcher, playing in the field or DHing as often as Melvin is comfortable having him do so when he's not catching.

    If two catchers get hurt, then you're looking at calling up Ryan Lavarnway or Matt McBride, which is painful, but name me a team for whom it would not be painful to have two catchers hurt.

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  • November 12, 2016 at 2:52 PM

    The "finally" in the title is not a "good riddance." I don't know who was more to blame for the dust-up between Valencia and Billy Butler last season, and it's hardly like the bad vibes either or both created were responsible for the lost season the team experienced—there's plenty of blame for that to go around, like Sonny Gray's weird season, Sean Doolitte's injuries, 532 plate appearances of Yonder Alonso, the total lack of a credible center fielder, 14 different starting pitchers having at least five starts, and Ryan Madson, John Axford, and Liam Hendriks pitching below their ideal or expected levels. No, the "finally" is because we all expected Valencia, who's eligible for arbitration for the third time and hit well enough to get a raise on last year's $3 million salary while remaining such a bad defensive player that he's probably not worth that, to be traded last year at the first trade deadline, or maybe during the waiver-trade period. Instead, he stuck around and played some outfield and a little first base while Ryon Healy, 2017 MVP, grabbed hold of the starting third base job and shook it in his teeth until it was dead.

    The return in the intradivision (gasp!) trade is Paul Blackburn from the Mariners, not to be confused with soft-tossing right-handed prototypical Twin Nick Blackburn, who it appears has not played organized ball since 2013. The A's new Blackburn was a deep supplemental first-rounder (56th overall) by the Cubs in 2012 out of a southern California high school. He's worked his way up a level per year, pitching all of last season as a 22-year-old at Double-A, split between the Cubs' and Mariners' squads, the latter after coming over as a secondary piece in the Mike Montgomery–Dan Vogelbach extravaganza of late July.

    The report from Christopher Crawford at the time was that he's a no-stuff pitchability guy with three okay deliveries but enough command and strike-throwing ability to be a fifth starter.

    If I've done my math right, Blackburn has to be added to the 40-man roster this year or the A's risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft (because the 2017 Rule 5 will be the fifth Rule 5 draft after he signed as an 18-year-old), and it seems like a safe bet that someone would take a shot on him and throw him into their fifth-starter competition in the spring. That could work out with the A's getting him back at the end of the spring, but it's disruptive to their ability to get a look at him, to evaluate him for their own rotation and bullpen, and so forth. I would, therefore, expect the A's to 40-man him in the next week—Jeremy Koo says the deadline is this week and I trust Jeremy on these matters. The A's currently have 36 on the 40, and it sure would be strange to pick up a guy they could shortly lose and then not protect him.

    That said, if the roster looks in March like it does now (rofl) he's probably a long shot to break camp as a starter with the A's when we can probably lock in a Gray-Manaea-Graveman-Cotton front four, leaving a Triggs-Hahn-Mengden-Neal(?)-Overton-Montas(?)-Alcantara competition for the last slot. All those same guys, plus Daniel Coulombe and some others are also presently in a battle for two rotation spots behind what I think it's safe to call five locks: Madson, Doolittle, Dull, Axford, Hendriks. As usual, this is all a moving target, in part because that's baseball and in part because that's Beaneball. (Hey!)

    As for Valencia's "spots," the currently rostered adequate players for the four corners are Healy, Alonso, Khris Davis, Matt Olson, Mark Canha, and maybe Renato Nunez. Figuring Stephen Vogt to stick around but also figuring that Stephen Vogt is costing 13 runs a year behind the plate, according to Baseball Prospectus, we might see him transition back toward an outfield/first base/DH slot himself. Which is to say: even without adding a Eric Thames type (which does intrigue me), and even if the A's were to pass Alonso's anemic bat off on some other unsuspecting sucker, there's plenty here to credibly fill out a lineup and not have to forfeit any games.

    EDIT (16:29) -- changed Marcus Thames to Eric. Marcus Thames is not playing baseball any longer. Bless up, @hollinger.

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  • November 12, 2016 at 8:00 AM

    Susan Slusser has some ideas about what the A's might do and not do, with the latter column including trades of Sean Doolittle, Sonny Gray, and Stephen Vogt. This is still the A's, so anything could happen at any time, but it is nice to see someone who usually has the pulse of the A's making soothing noises about the A's likelihood of trading some of their few bright spots.

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  • September 20, 2016 at 10:19 PM

    If Gary Sanchez is getting consideration, so should Healy! Yes, certainly. But let's not go too crazy with the argument, seeing how Sanchez, in 56 fewer plate appearances entering tonight, had a 45-point OBP advantage and a 164-point slugging advantage over Healy. In True Average terms (park-adjusted, linear weights–based, .260 is average), Healy is at .307 to Sanchez's .341. This means that Sanchez has created about three more runs with his bat than Healy despite the plate-appearance deficit. Healy's running out of time to make up that gap, even before you get to the fact that Sanchez is doing all this at catcher, and in particular as a catcher whose framing numbers have been good three years running, while Healy is still finding his way as a third baseman.

    So yes, definitely, of course, consider Healy, and consider Sanchez, but I still consider Healy behind Sanchez, and therefore I think Healy falls off my American League Rookie of the Year ballot, which goes Michael Fulmer, Gary Sanchez, Sean Manaea.

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  • September 19, 2016 at 8:33 AM

    Baseball Prospectus has a "player I'm most excited to see in the Arizona Fall League" feature up from their prospect staff today, and Derek Florko picked A's middle infielder/center fielder Franklin Barreto, noting the 20-year-old's strong second-half hitting and the athletic tools that could add up to a playable defender at shortstop. Whether there's a place for Barreto to play at short given that he's already had a taste of Triple-A and Marcus Semien has not even hit his arbitration paydays yet is another question.

    Then again, much as we all love Semien, he's also a 25-year-old with a .298 OBP this season and a .302 career mark. The whole package plays at shortstop because of his power (5.5 bWAR over the last two years, and I don't want to hear it about WAR -- it's a thumbnail apples-to-apples figure to illutrate my point in a single parenthetical without needing 20 data tables) but he's a good player, not a franchise cornerstone. That OBP, though, may limit the number of teams that would want to take him on in trade, so he may be more valuable to the A's staying right where he is for a few more years while Barreto plays center field. It's not as if, in these times of Brett Eibner and Jake Smolinski, that position is exactly locked down. Jaycob Brugman may bristle at my contention that the minors don't hold any superstars at the 8 either, but facts, including a .438 slugging percentage in Triple-A, are facts.

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  • September 9, 2016 at 10:43 PM

    I'll be honest with you: I thought Fernando Rodriguez hadn't pitched for the A's yet this season. Turns out he threw 40 innings at a slightly lower quality than we've come to expect from the middle reliever before going down with a shoulder strain. Now comes the news that he's had some sort of inscrutable surgery on some muscle, tendon, or other element of his physical corpus. He already wasn't going to pitch again this year, say the reporters relaying the news from the front office. He can't throw for four months, which means January, which means six weeks before spring training begins, which means maybe he'll be a little delayed, and if there are any setbacks or other A's-like issues, who even knows what his 2017 will look like.

    He's not a free agent yet, and he only made $1 million this year, so the A's should be able to keep him around if they want to pay him, I don't know, $1.5 million? I'm curious to see whether the A's tender him a contract. On the one hand, even for the A's, $1.5 million is nothing; on the other, he's unoptionable, and the A's are already looking at, barring trades (but also barring acquisitions), Madson, Dull, Doolittle, Axford, Hendriks, and maybe Triggs. Then there are the youngsters who may or may not hack it in the rotation: Cotton, Alcantara, Mengden, Bassitt, Overton, Montas. Given certain relative rotation locks (Manaea, Gray, Graveman), the rotation overflow could end up in the 'pen, which means less reason to carry an injured 100 ERA+ guy at three times the league minimum.

    And yet, again, it's $1.5 million, and most of that rotation overflow can be optioned to Triple-A. This is why David Forst gets the big bucks and I'm on my couch watching Stan Wawrinka while I scribble in vim.

    Let me just ... this is rude, but like I said, I'm on my couch and it's 11pm and I'm feeling ornery. I hate the way injury information is reported. I think delving deeper into a player's injuries in the specific is kind of gross and weird and there's no reason fans have any right to know any of this. What's shared is, I think, already more than really needs to be shared; the model should probably be the minor leagues, where a lot of times there's no announcement, there's no discussion, there's just a guy on the disabled list instead of the active roster.

    But given that we live in a world in which lots of injury information is disclosed and reported, I think we could be doing a lot better than reprinting press releases. Again, it's not about delving into the specifics for a particular guy; it's about contextualizing from past injury information and providing functional explanations of what was injured, how it was injured, what that injury means for baseball motion, how the rehab looks, etc. Beat writers have a lot on their plates, digital-driven deadlines, and no medical training, so I get why they're not doing this, but isn't it weird that since Will Carroll left us, there's nobody filling this gap? Say what you will about Carroll, but the man had comparables for days.

    Seeing as how I'm not eager to volunteer for this duty, I'm probably being unfair and just whining about wanting all the things for free.

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  • September 9, 2016 at 9:01 AM

    If you want to know how Ryon Healy went from "maybe he could be a pinch-hitter?" to "every-day 2017 third baseman," Eno Sarris has got your back at FanGraphs with a look at his swing changes, including video, an interview with Healy, and the physics of it all.

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  • September 6, 2016 at 9:55 PM

    I've got ... well, no, Susan Slusser's got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that the A's don't have anything to play for in 2016, so every additional "he won't play again in 2016" piece of information that comes out neither adds nor subtracts anything from this year's bottom line. The bad news is that the players are playing for 2017 (and beyond) roster spots and salaries, and that being injured is shitty, and that for someone who wants to play baseball for a living, it's probably cold comfort that you get paid even if you're hurt because, well, you want to play baseball for a living. Plus, like I said: 2017.

    So the latest 50-foot pile of garbage: Andrew Triggs and Henderson Alvarez are done for 2016.

    This is particularly heartbreaking for Alvarez, who's spent all year trying to work his way back to build on the promise he showed in his All-Star 2014 season. Instead of that, even for a partial season, he may be facing more surgery, and he's definitely facing more rehab. The injuries hit for Alvarez before he reached free agency (and right as he hit arbitration eligibility), so he doesn't even have the comfort of having cashed in before it all went to hell. He's made just shy of $10 million in his career, so who knows, maybe even after taxes and agent fees, he could decide that another year of the pain and suffering of rehab isn't worth it, and he'll just retire to a life of careful leisure -- no big purchases, no wild investments, live off the interest, you know. But as I said at the top: baseball player! Not so many players get this far without some combination of love for the game and intense competitive instincts. Twenty-six leaves an awful lot of empty space, and there are only so many prestige TV dramas to catch up on. I try not to think about Mark Prior's desperate end, so instead I'll just root for Alvarez as hard as I can from here on out, regardless of where he signs for next season.

    Triggs is hopefully a different story, in that he's having a back problem that, as Slusser says, was previously fixed in 2014 with a cortisone injection, and it's really just a timing issue that means that the same treatment doesn't make sense here on September 6. Triggs had himself a mini-breakout this year, pitching non-disastrously enough out of the bullpen that he was called to join the starting rotation on August 11. (He also made a three-inning start on June 18.) Over his four starts, not counting the final, abbreviated go that he left after one inning with the back issue that has now shut him down, he managed a 2.91 ERA, with 20 strikeouts and just one walk (plus one HBP) in almost 22 innings. The superficial signs of regression are there (.228 BABIP; just one homer allowed on 50 balls in the air), and while it's tempting to say that anyone can succeed in 20 big-league innings, that's not really true: any big-leaguer can succeed in 20 big-league innings, and some Quad-A players can too, but there's a suggestion here that the 19th-round pick might actually belong, if not as the next Justin Masterson exactly (and that's not faint praise; sure, he was only really good in 2011 and 2013, but he also made 184 big-league starts and 30 million big-league dollars), then not definitively as not the next Justin Masterson either. Here's hoping Triggs makes it back in 2017, because "who knows what he might be" is a damn sight better fate for a ballplayer than "we know exactly what he might be, and that's a Triple-A reliever."

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  • September 6, 2016 at 9:22 AM

    Here's Baseball Prospectus' scouting report on Jharel Cotton, who will start for the A's on Wednesday. From Wilson Karaman's write-up, you'll want to keep an eye on Cotton's delivery leading to command issues, and on whether he can succeed in the majors with only a mediocre curve by employing a changeup that can get to 70 on the scouting scale.

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  • August 17, 2016 at 9:06 AM

    If you want to know what Sean Manaea has been working on, in terms of his changeup grip and his breaking ball consistency, Eno, from the fourth paragraph on, has got you covered.

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  • August 15, 2016 at 9:55 PM

    Susan Slusser has some quotes with Coco Crisp, his agent, David Forst and Bob Melvin about the fact that, as we near the end of a season in which Crisp needs to play 130 games for his $13 million option to vest, and in which he has not yet been hurt, he is not playing at all against left-handed pitchers (Davis-Smolinski-Eibner has been the lineup against portsiders, though there have only been three of those since July 26) and he is not getting any "cheap" games off the bench by pinch-hitting or coming in late as a defensive replacement, pinch-runner, or what have you. Crisp has six games all year off the bench, and the last one was on June 15.

    Morally and ethically, there are two tacks we can take as fans. We can note that Crisp is not a $13 million player any longer, that nobody would pay him that sum as a free agent, even on a one-year deal, this coming offseason, and that the A's of all teams can ill afford to pay $13 million to a player who won't provide that amount of value in on-field production. We can therefore be happy that those funds will be allocated in 2017 to players who will contribute more on the field than Crisp will and that the A's will thereby win more baseball games, which is what we hope for. We can note that he hardly played last season because of injuries.

    Alternatively, we can say, as Crisp did, that the point of the 130-game marker in the option was to mitigate the risk of Crisp being hurt, and to, in a sense, reward Crisp if he was healthy enough to play that number of games and good enough to be in the lineup. We can therefore conclude that the A's dicking around with his playing time is taking $13 million out of the pocket of someone who's done everything in his power to earn that $13 million, and that generally we don't look kindly on people not receiving money they've earned. We can point out that the A's participated in the drafting of the option as an either-or proposition such that it is partially irrelevant how many games Crisp played in 2015.

    You know where I'm going to fall on this. I'd like to hope that you fall on Crisp's side as well. Watching a team that wins baseball games is fun, sure, and we invest ourselves in these sports teams in the hopes that they'll give us whatever little chemical rushes we get in our brains when they emerge victorious. But how can wins and losses in a game possibly compare to the basic question of did this person get paid what they earned? We go to the park to have fun; Coco Crisp goes to the park to earn his living. The size of that living is immaterial, and the size of the living he's earned prior to 2016 is just as much so. If he's done what he needs to do under the terms of the contract to continue earning that living in 2017, we simply do not get to live with ourselves rooting for our team to sit him down so that our team can win a few more games next year.

    I'm speaking in a certain amount of abstraction here because I want to talk about the principles and ideals by which we should evaluate this situation. The actual evaluation is yet to be litigated, and the contentions on both sides are myriad. Would Crisp even be in a position to approach 130 games if the A's hadn't so carefully managed his playing time all year? Has Crisp actually earned additional outfield starts in August when Khris Davis, Danny Valencia, Billy Butler and Jake Smolinski are all outhitting him? And when Crisp doesn't really have the defensive chops anymore to make up that difference? And when he's only 7-of-11 on the year stealing?

    But on his side, isn't it weird that he never pinch-hits for Smolinski against a right-handed pitcher or comes in on defense for Valencia? Doesn't that fail the sniff test, and thereby call into doubt the other explanations? If the A's are really into the "gotta evaluate the kids" portion of the year, then why does Khris Davis, who is under team control and about whom everything is already known, start all but one game in July and August? Where's Yonder Alonso's rest in favor of Valencia or Max Muncy, with Tyler Ladendorf getting more time all over the field?

    How do you balance those arguments? Who wins? I don't know. I don't know who's got the better of it, but I do know that we need to be asking the questions, and that Crisp is 100 percent in the right to be asking those questions, and that the MLBPA would be 100 percent in the right if it takes a hard look here and maybe even files a grievance.

    I think, just as a final point, it's important to remember that contract law has the notion of the "implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing." I don't know whether the A's have breached that covenant, and I frankly don't do enough naked contract law to talk about the particulars and boundaries, but I did want to flag that it's lurking out there, inexorably, so that even if you don't agree with my moral/ethical stance as laid out above, you'll have to face the fact that, contractually, the A's can't move the chess pieces around to their heart's content; they have, instead, a requirement to, basically, uphold the spirit of the deal, and to treat Crisp fairly, not taking advantage of every little opportunity to avoid their obligations under the contract.

    Maybe this will all moot itself by Crisp reaching 130 games played, and the A's will just pay up and use Crisp as a fifth outfielder next year. I can't imagine things working out that happily, though, so I suspect this battle will keep raging right on through the next six weeks and then maybe into the offseason, a grievance, a settlement, etc. etc. etc. And then we'll all move on except that the billionaires will find a new way to screw the players and we'll put ourselves through these contortions yet again. And then after that. And after that. Ad nauseam.


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  • August 13, 2016 at 10:12 PM

    Andrew Bailey has signed a minor-league deal with the Angels. You probably know about the injured mess he's been since the A's traded him away in the Josh Reddick deal, but he actually looked like he might be making it back this year, hitting the Phillies' Opening Day roster after coming to camp as a non-roster invite, but while he struck out over a man per inning, he also gave up a bunch of dingers, pushing him to 17 allowed in 85 MLB innings since 2012, and the Phillies designated him for assignment on August 2 and released him on August 6. He was designated so the Phillies could call up Luis Garcia, who was literally a barber, so who knows what the future holds for the former Rookie of the Year.

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  • August 11, 2016 at 9:44 PM

    Susan Slusser's got some injury notes, including good news that Jesse Hahn looks on track to be back at the minimum, around August 20. For a team that has had games started by Andrew Triggs, Zach Neal, and Ross Detwiler the last three days, even someone who's struggled as Hahn has this year should be a welcome sight.

    Slusser also notes that Sean Doolittle should make it back at some point, which is great just from a sort of fan perspective. Obviously late-game options aren't a big deal on a losing team, but Doolittle is a bright spot in terms of the at-home experience, sitting on the couch. I'd like to see him back.

    On the other hand, Bob Melvin's comment about Henderson Alvarez seems about as close to me to saying "there's no way he pitches this year" as he could say without actually saying that. "I've got my fingers crossed" isn't really a thing you hear management say when they're actually planning on seeing someone pitch.

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  • August 2, 2016 at 8:20 PM

    Susan Slusser tells us that Jesse Hahn will come up to pitch Thursday in Rich Hill's vacated rotation spot. It was, not just in retrospect but also yesterday, the obvious move, not only because Daniel Mengden was too recently optioned to come back but also because Daniel Mengden might not have enough control to be a major-league starter. Maybe it would have been fun to see Raul Alcantara get a shot, but he only just got called up to Nashville at the end of July, and he didn't get there by pitching lights-out at Midland. And then there's Jharel Cotton ... and, well, I don't have a great reason why they couldn't just call him up. MLB service time, I guess, putting him a step closer to free agency than they need to put him, but you know how I feel about that kind of consideration, lost season or no.

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  • July 20, 2016 at 9:40 PM

    Baseball America's roundup of transaction notes that the A's released Carson Blair last week. Blair got into 11 games for the A's last year, which puts him way over the median for a 35th-round pick. He's still only 26, and he's a catcher, so he can probably hang around for a while bouncing around and backing up in the minors if that's the life he wants to live.

    In his honor, let's do some draft fun facts:

    • Despite being the last pick in his round, he's the only 2008 35th-rounder to make the majors;
    • No 35th-rounders from any subsequent drafts have made the majors, not counting players who didn't sign and who were drafted again in subsequent years;
    • Remember A's reliever TJ Mathews? He was drafted in the 35th round in 1990, didn't sign, then went in the 36th round two years later.

    Here's the list of major-league 35th-rounders from prior years:

    • Michael Blazek, 2007, current mediocre Brewers reliever;
    • Antoan Richardson, 2005, outfielder with 21 plate appearances across 2011 and 2014;
    • Drew Macias (real name: Andres Apolonia Macias), 2002, outfielder with 115 PAs from 2007-09;
    • Darren Clarke, 2000, 1 1/3 innings in 2007 with the Rockies;
    • Dusty Brown, 2000, 46 PA as a catcher from 2009-11, and one appearance as a pitcher;
    • Cal Pickering, 1995, 264 PAs at first and DH from 1998-2005, and a 96 OPS+;
    • Brad Holman, 1990, 36 1/3 innings out of the bullpen for the Mariners in 1993, and three saves, with a 119 ERA+;
    • Hilly Hathaway (real name: Hillary Houston Hathaway), 1989, 63 innings in 12 starts from 1992-93, with 12 strikeouts;
    • Steve Cooke, 1989, 549 2/3 innings from 1992-98, mostly as a starting pitcher for the Pirates; one third-place vote for Rookie of the Year in 1993, and a career 97 ERA+;
    • Hector Ortiz, 1988, 284 PAs from 1998-2002 as a catcher;
    • Jimmy Myers, 1987, 14 innings out of the bullpen in 1996;
    • Steve Hovley, 1966, 1,152 PAs from 1969-73 as an outfielder; and
    • Don Shaw, 1965, 188 1/3 innings from 1967-72 as a reliever (one start).

    So that's the whole list: 14 major-leaguers who were drafted in (and signed out of) the 35th round. Putting them in loose order of impressiveness of career, I'd say it looks something like: Cooke, Hovley, Shaw, Hathaway, Blazek, Pickering, Holman, Ortiz, Macias, Brown, Myers, Blair, Richardson. You could flip-flop Blair and Richardson if you want on the basis of the fact that the latter hung around long enough to get two different stints in the majors. Blair's still got time to solidify 12th place, though, and even to move up to the top 10, though I can't imagine him surpassing Ortiz's 284 plate appearances over a five-year period.

    Blair is the best 1,072nd pick of all time, though, and the best player out of Liberty Christian School in Argyle, Texas, the latter being a lovely Fort Worth suburb of 3,000 souls.

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  • July 19, 2016 at 10:24 PM

    Yonder Alonso has hit better in the last month or so than he hit to start the year. This prompted a Susan Slusser comparison to Mark Kotsay, who came over from the Padres in a trade over a decade ago and started slow.

    The note is just about hitting, so this isn't a criticism of Slusser, but I think it's important to note that Kotsay was at the time a good defensive center fielder and thus didn't even need to hit all that well to deserve his spot in the starting lineup. Alonso is also a slick defender, but it's at first base, a position where teams also play Mike Piazza and Danny Valencia when they're out of other ideas.

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  • July 17, 2016 at 11:17 PM

    Michael Baumann's essay on Rich Hill at The Ringer is worth a moment of your time. Or eight moments, if Medium's little tool at the top that tells you how long a story is works right. (It doesn't; it just makes you feel bad no matter whether you read something faster or slower than the time allotted by the tool. What's wrong with a good old-fashioned word count, anyway?)

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  • July 15, 2016 at 8:41 PM

    At the link, you can see John Hickey (picked because he was the first one I found -- Bob Melvin told the same story to everyone) relaying that with Ryon Healy coming up to the majors, he'll be the team's main third baseman, which has the effect of pushing Danny Valencia into a supersub role, which is kind of a hilarious spot for someone with his serious defensive limitations: He'll play first, left field, and designated hitter while presumably (though Hickey doesn't say this) picking up third base time whenever Healy's not playing.

    We can do two things with this information: We can scream and cry about how Valencia is the A's best player and why are the A's so dumb, what are they doing, they're wrecking his trade value; or we can presume competence and make some guesses about the thought process that isn't being fully shared. If you've been to this blog for more than five minutes, you know I prefer the latter mode of analysis.

    The first thing to note is that Danny Valencia is really not very good at defense. You don't have to buy DRS or UZR, which have him in the double digits below average already (and DRS has him on pace for a historically bad season, a Ryan Braun-type season), in order to conclude this, and you don't have to believe in the infallibility of your eyes, either. You can note his reputation, which has always been bad, and add to that some eye test (which, speaking for myself, grades him out as "wtf"), and dash in a sprinkle of stats at the end. The conclusion, then, is that he's taking runs back off the board (or putting them on for the other team -- same difference) with his glove. As well as he's hit, you can't just look at the team-leading OPS and declare him the team MVP.

    The second thing to note is that he's hitting .304 coming into Friday's game. Over 1,923 plate appearances in the majors from 2010 to 2015, he batted .267. That 35 points matters because Valencia, for all his positives, doesn't walk. For his career, including this year-long revival he's engaged in over 2015-16, he's walked in 6 percent of his plate appearances. He's not setting hacking records, but he's not beating down doors with his OBP either. This matters looking forward: if he's now a .300 hitter, then he's also an .850 OPSer; if, however, we should expect him to hit more like .270 going forward, then you chop more than 60 points off the OPS, which drops his stat line from Evan Longoria to Brian Dozier. Dozier's a good player! But he's not Longoria.

    The third thing to note is that Valencia is 31 and has been in professional baseball since he was drafted in 2006, and in the majors since 2010. Teams that are interested in acquiring him will send scouts to look at him because that's what teams do, but everyone has a pretty good idea what he is right now. Those teams will be trying to figure out whether he's turned the corner and will now hit .290 to .300 for the foreseeable future, or whether he's made some adjustment to which pitchers should be expected to adjust back soon, or some other conclusion entirely. The A's have had the most and the closest looks at him, in the cage, in the clubhouse, and on the field, and thus have the best idea of what other teams are going to see when they do their evaluations.

    That last point is most relevant to the worry that the A's are lowering Valencia's trade value by cutting into his playing time. Any acquiring team is going to know what they're getting with Valencia, on offense and defense and, most likely, in the clubhouse. There are no warning signs to be had here, not two weeks from the trade deadline. If the Astros (or whoever) wanted Valencia a week ago, there's no reason to think they'll want him less now (put the Gurriel signing aside) because the A's are only going to play him 75 percent of the time instead of 90. It's not reasonable to think that in 2016 teams operate with that level of irrationality and emotional thinking.

    The first two points are relevant to the idea that it's dumb to sit the team's best player. Valencia is a good player, but he's not an MVP candidate. He wasn't really an All-Star snub. He's a powerful right-handed hitter on the wrong side of 30 who isn't adding anything to the team's ledger unless he's got a bat in his hands. He's also extremely likely to be traded, so the lost value to the A's, even if he's not traded until the deadline itself and even if he sits more often than I guessed above, is going to be on the order of 25 plate appearances. That's our sturm und drang. One twenty-fourth of a season's worth of hitting.

    I don't mean to be a scold. You can be whatever kind of fan you want to be, and air whatever grievances you want to air. You can do The Wave. It's just helpful, maybe, in terms of our own sanity in this utterly irrational enterprise of fandom, to dig past "team-leading OPS" and "right-handed power" when we think about whether we're happy with our team's management or not.

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  • July 15, 2016 at 8:30 PM

    Baseball Prospectus has a quick writeup on Ryon Healy's call-up. Crawford notes that while Healy is large, he's a hitter, not an all-or-nothing masher. Unfortunately, he also notes that Healy's not really a third baseman. I won't comment on the semicolon usage in the article.

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  • July 11, 2016 at 9:27 AM

    Today's Minor League Update at Baseball Prospectus includes a quick note by Chris Crawford on Dillon Overton, who put up a very nice line in his start on Sunday (two runs in seven innings, no walks, six strikeouts). Crawford basically says "don't worry about that awful MLB introduction." Overton never was going to be and still will not be a star, but there's still hope that he can be a legitimate major-leaguer.

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  • July 10, 2016 at 1:17 PM

    Baseball America's midseason Top 100 list was released on Friday. Just one Athletics prospect, Franklin Barreto, made the list. Sean Manaea was also on the preseason list, at no. 48, but there's no shame in his graduation. BA's no. 3 A's prospect before the year was Matt Chapman, who has shown impressive power in Double-A (and did so in the California League last year, which is easier to do), but is striking out a lot. We don't scout the stat line, etc. etc. etc., but a .230 batting average in the Texas League is rather alarming.

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  • July 9, 2016 at 5:54 PM

    Here's Baseball Prospectus' midseason Top 50 prospects. Franklin Barreto slots in at no. 35, with the same story as ever: He's gifted at putting bat on ball, but his approach isn't all the way there yet, and his future position (and defensive ability at that position) is unknown.

    There's also an Honorable Mention list that you should check out, though it doesn't have any present A's on it. (It's the next 10 in no order.)

    Check back on both of these articles after July 31 to see if the A's pick up any of these youngsters in return for Rich Hill, Josh Reddick, Jed Lowrie, Danny Valencia, or anyone else they might trade.

    But not Sean Doolittle. I continue to refuse to admit the possibility.

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  • July 9, 2016 at 5:42 PM

    The final entry of this week's Baseball Prospectus Ten Pack on prospects is a Wilson Karaman writeup of Richie Martin, who has spent the year at High-A Stockton. The takeaway is essentially that he's an all-glove, little-hit player, though the glove is premised on a level of athleticism that perhaps can give us some hope that he can improve the bat. He's still a couple of years away, of course, and with Billy Beane's tendencies, who knows whether those few years will see him remaining in Oakland's system.

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  • June 11, 2016 at 4:09 PM

    I missed Daniel Mengden's debut because I fell asleep because I'm useless. If you are also useless, or you would like some context for what you saw, click over to Baseball Propectus to see what Brendan Gawlowski has to say about him.

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  • June 10, 2016 at 8:20 PM

    August Fagerstrom has a look at the A's team defense over at FanGraphs. It's bad, folks.

    Fagerstrom relies on DRS and UZR for the most part, which are black-box stats based on black-box data, but the intent is to capture far more than can be captured by simple stats based on publicly available data. By those simple stats, it's worth noting that the A's are bad, but not quite as historically so -- they're only third-worst in the league at turning batted balls into outs. (Adding a somewhat black-box-y gloss to that, Baseball Prospectu publishes a park-adjusted version of that metric; the A's rank sixth-worst in that.)

    I don't know what the truth is. I do know that the eye test, which Fagerstrom notes he can't effectively apply, seems to confirm the stats. Billy Burns has speed but his routes and jumps seem questionable; Coco Crisp isn't what he used to be, and his arm remains a major negative; Jed Lowrie is more or less surehanded, but he's never had range; Marcus Semien has worked hard on his hands and arm, but seems to have inherent limits on his range; Danny Valencia is a slugger; Billy Butler is quite poor, even to someone who remembers Jason Giambi. The bright spots are the always-good Josh Reddick and the very slick Yonder Alonso, and Reddick has of course missed the last few weeks with his busted wrist, while Alonso is someone whose bat doesn't leave anyone in a hurry to stuff him into the lineup. I never really got a handle on Chris Coghlan's defense, but that's Chicago's problem now; on the other hand, it's hard to imagine that Max Muncy, who's going to be learning the outfield more or less on the fly, is going to improve on the job Coghlan was doing in right field, and to the extent Muncy has to play any third base, well ...

    I never thought I'd hope so hard for a Sam Fuld comeback.

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  • May 31, 2016 at 8:52 PM

    The Brewers, who selected Colin Walsh from the A's in this winter's Rule 5 draft, have designated him for assignment. Other teams will get a chance to claim him on waivers, but they'd have to keep him subject to the same Rule 5 ... uh, rules, i.e. they'd have to keep him on the 25-man roster or the disabled list or else waive him themselves. If he clears waivers, the Brewers will offer him back to the A's, who can take him back for half the price the Brewers paid for him (the A's got $50,000 for him and can buy him back for $25,000).

    Walsh is 26 already, so he's more the "can he stick and help us in a reserve role" Rule 5 pick than the "hyper young guy who's not ready for the bigs who we'll try to stash on the bench or in the bullpen" type, the latter of which don't really exist in quite the way they used to. He came out of the Cardinals' system, but they released him after 2013. He signed with the A's and hit well, if very underpowered, in half a season's worth of plate appearances mostly at Double- and Triple-A. Then he broke out, in a way, in 2015, spending the whole year at Double-A and slashing .302/.447/.470. That on-base percentage is not a typo. He walked 124 times.

    He was a 25-year-old second baseman in Double-A, though, so the A's didn't add him to the 40-man. The Brewers took him and used him mostly at third base, but he hit as you'd expect someone with his skill mix to hit: .085/.317/.106. Again, the OBP is not a typo. He walked or struck out 37 times in 63 plate appearances.

    If the A's wind up getting him back, there's not really room for him at Triple-A, with Joey Wendle, Josh Rodriguez, Renato Nunez, and Ryon Healy all on the team at his positions, though perhaps he could play left field -- the Sounds only have three outfielders on the roster at the moment. Midland makes even less sense: there are already two pretty good prospects playing shortstop at the level, Yairo Munoz and Franklin Barreto, and Matt Chapman is the third baseman. The outfield isn't quite as impressive a group, so again perhaps he might fit there. Of course, if the A's really don't have a place for him, this might mean they'd rather work out a trade for him (probably for cash considerations) that would allow the Brewers to keep him and option him to the minors.

    Then again, it would have to pain Billy Beane, of all people, to let a guy with Walsh's on-base skills go for practically nothing. He's like the non-catching Jeremy Brown!

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  • May 31, 2016 at 8:43 PM

    Eric Longenhagen, FanGraphs' prospect writer, has a look at a few A's prospects (among others) in extended spring training, most notably Dakota Chalmers, last year's third-round pick. Longenhagen saw him show off mid-rotation stuff, though as you'd expect from a player this young, his command isn't anything close to major league–ready, and even long term, his size/stamina may make him a reliever.

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  • May 31, 2016 at 8:37 AM

    If you've got a Baseball Prospectus subscription, click on over to see what Wilson Karaman has to say about Stockton Ports infielder Mikey White, the A's 2015 second-round pick, and what Chris Crawford has to say about Richie Martin, also a Stockton infielder, and the A's first pick last year. Crawford is much higher on Martin than Karaman is on White, in part based on the hitting, but largely on defense; where Karaman sees White as a second or third baseman down the line (plenty of arm, not nearly enough first step), Crawford praises Martin's defense at short and thinks his glove will be strong enough to make him a daily feature of a major-league lineup even if he is a no. 9 hitter.

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  • May 24, 2016 at 6:52 PM

    Congrats to me.

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  • May 23, 2016 at 7:46 PM

    It will in fact be Zach Neal, who is already on the 40-man roster, coming up to make a start for Sonny Gray on Wednesday. He's probably far from guaranteed to get a second start, given that the A's still have their other options at Triple-A if he pees the bed, and in particular given that Eric Surkamp will be past the 10-day rule problem by the time the second start comes around. Indeed, I wonder whether we might see Neal optioned back to Nashville immediately after the start, replaced by J.B. Wendelken, who would then be optioned on Monday to make room for Surkamp.

    Neal could probably avoid that fate if he throws a no-hitter, though. No pressure, Zach.

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  • May 23, 2016 at 10:01 AM

    This is a fantastic Q&A by Tim Britton with Rich Hill. It's free at Baseball Prospectus. Hill talks about the matching of his curveball to his fastball, deception, why velocity isn't the end of all things, and why conviction matters.

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  • May 22, 2016 at 1:15 PM

    As you've probably heard by now, Sonny Gray is now on the disabled list with a strained trapezius. I don't know what that is because I've never worked out a day in my life, but based on "strained," I'm going to guess it's a muscle.

    In any event, Jeremy Koo has, at the link, a good look at the three most likely suspects to replace Gray. The A's called up Daniel Coulombe as the immediate replacement to add to the bullpen's depth in the meantime, which means that Eric Surkamp can't come up because of the 10-day rule; he was optioned on May 17th and the A's will need their Gray-replacement starter before May 27th. As Koo implies, Zach Neal, despite little upside, is likely the pick. The A's would have needed lots of things to go right this year to make a playoff run, and instead nearly everything has gone wrong, from injuries to slow starts for Stephen Vogt and Chris Coghlan to regression (?) from Billy Burns. (Obviously it's not all doom and gloom: Josh Reddick has played exceedingly well, Rich Hill is fantastic, and the bullpen has been untouchable.) Therefore, there's little reason to push Daniel Mengden (or even Dillon Overton) on a faster timetable than their personal developmental needs require. If Mengden's ready, great. If he's not, well, what's the hurry?

    Neal also doesn't require a 40-man move. That's not the biggest deal in the world because the A's have a "free" one still available, with Mark Canha, who's out for the year, still on the 15-day disabled list for the moment, but it would be nice to "save" that move for when the A's really need it, e.g. if another starting pitcher gets hurt and the A's feel forced to call up Mengden or Overton, or if a catcher gets hurt such that they need Bryan Anderson.

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  • May 20, 2016 at 10:34 PM

    Arnold Leon is headed to Korea to pitch for the Samsung Lions. He'll get $500,000 to play there, which I don't think he was making after being outrighted off the 40-man roster by the Blue Jays.

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  • May 20, 2016 at 10:10 PM

    (From a couple of weeks ago.) Nate Freiman, who'd been with the Long Island Ducks, one of the premier teams in all of independent baseball (or at least it sure seems like it), after being cut by the Nationals, signed with the Red Sox. In 35 PA at Double-A since (nine more than he had in Triple-A for Washington), he's hit .370/.429/.630. Six-foot-Nate ain't done, folks!

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  • May 20, 2016 at 9:40 PM

    Eno Sarris has this piece about the quack machine that brought Ryan Madson back to life, which mainly reminds me of the Hulu show The Path, which I recommend. It's about a cult. ("It's not a cult!")

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  • May 14, 2016 at 11:01 PM

    Grant Brisbee is right that the A's are bad right now. The question is whether his reasons are right. He points out the bad defense, the resources spent on the bullpen, the roster churn, and the apparent lack of plan that we can glean from the transactions. To those:

    • I can't really say anything good about the defense. It's not good. By Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (i.e. by solely asking whether batted balls are turned into outs, and adjusting that for park), they're merely below average (19th in MLB) rather than horrendous, but that ignores things like outfield arm (Crisp, Davis) and catcher stuff that can make a difference.
    • The bullpen contracts look weird for a cash-strapped team. You had to pay \$12 million per year on top of Sean Doolittle for Ryan Madson and John Axford? But it's worth asking where else that money should have gone. Maybe you can sign Mike Napoli and Mat Latos, with a little room to spare, but there's not a lot out there at the A's positions of massive need (first base, DH, starting pitcher) that you can get for \$12 million. (Maybe that money should have gone to winning the bid for Byung-ho Park? That's a tough process to second-guess.) In any event, Grant doesn't make too much of this, so I won't either; he points out that the expenditures have worked out so far.
    • The roster churn is sure something, but I don't know what it is, and Grant notes that he doesn't know what it is, either.
    • I can't really put any stock in anybody outside any organization being unable to discern a plan. Maybe there isn't one! But not every team is in the business of telling us what it is, and in any event plans tend not to survive contact with the enemy. That's not to say plans aren't important, but it is to say that when we examine the totality of a team's conduct, it's not easy from the outside to create a narrative when X and Y were driven by the team's internal narrative while A and B were driven by the sudden need to take certain action in the face of exigent circumstances, whether those circumstances came in the form of opportunity or loss.

    What this all adds up to for Grant is concern that the A's aren't building well from within. I think this concern can be overstated because the state of the A's system is bad after so many trades of good, or at least useful, prospects (Daniel Robertson, Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, Jacob Nottingham). The 2009-11 drafts were brutal for the A's, though, and 2014-15 aren't looking much better, though we can certainly pin our hopes on Matt Chapman. Of course, the 2013-15 drafts were depressed by the A's success in 2012-14, and even when they've been bad, they've never been Astros-Cubs bad: the last time they had a single-digit first-round pick was 1999. On the other hand, their one-in-four success rate when they've had top-half picks (Jemile Weeks, Grant Green, Michael Choice, Russell) is nothing to write home about, particularly given the necessity that they nail those picks in order to compete with the teams that have actual funding.

    All of which might bring me back again, though, to the most important notion about the A's not so much being their failures at tactic X and Y but rather their refusal to engage in the teardown strategy. This isn't to say the strategy always works (Houston's 2016 is certainly still up in the air), and I certainly find it distasteful, but the dollars and players that have been spent by the A's the last few year in the name of acquiring enough talent to not let the team sink into the muck (Axford and Madson, Billy Butler, Khris Davis, Ben Zobrist, Rich Hill, Marcus Semien, Brett Lawrie, Tyler Clippard) is a different commitment than we've seen at various times from Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington, and Cincinnati.

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  • May 14, 2016 at 6:50 PM

    Jeff Sullivan has this look at Sonny Gray's breaking pitch(es) at FanGraphs. There's a good breakdown of the PITCHf/x data, including the locations Gray has been working in this year. Stop before you get to the pitch-type linear weights at the end.

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  • May 8, 2016 at 6:28 PM

    Ben Reiter at Sports Illustrated has this cool profile of Josh Reddick, who on the one hand is a pending free agent and on the other hand likes George Michael, WWE, and interacting with the wild denizens of the right-field bleachers.

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  • May 6, 2016 at 8:03 PM

    Danny Valencia was activated from the disabled list today after missing the minimum amount of time, as expected, with his hamstring strain. Tyler Ladendorf was optioned back to Triple-A having made two plate appearances during the call-up. He did play seven innings at second base and pinch run four times, stealing a base once, but all told, the mix of pitchers the A's faced over the last two weeks was not conducive to getting a right-handed bat into the lineup. For more on that, see the "confusion" over Billy Butler's lack of playing time.

    It is worth asking why the A's called Ladendorf up at all given that the opposing-starting-pitcher situation was entirely predictable. Defensive flexibility is nice and all, but wouldn't Max Muncy have given the A's a more useful option off the bench? Or Andrew Lambo to play outfield or DH a couple of times? Or, hell, give Joey Wendle a quick call-up? He's not really hitting in Triple-A, but neither was Ladendorf, and at least Wendle bats from the good side of the plate.

    I guess before I get too far down this rabbit hole I should stop and thank Jobu and all the other deities that the A's didn't call up a 29th pitcher instead.

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  • April 30, 2016 at 7:45 PM

    Not all torn UCLs result in Tommy John surgery, but that's still not a phrase anyone wanted to hear about Chris Bassitt. Depressing.

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  • April 29, 2016 at 10:36 PM

    Jane Lee twote earlier this evening that Sam Fuld, who's already spent all year on the disabled list, will pass the rest of the year there as well: He'll have rotator cuff surgery. Fuld's on the 60-day DL, so this is likely the last we'll hear of him before he hits free agency this offseason―there won't be some roster move a few weeks from now to clear 40-man space for someone else, because that space was already cleared.

    Fuld was going to have a tough time cracking this A's roster even if he'd come back at full strength―he's obviously not playing ahead of Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Khris Davis, and he really should not be playing ahead of Billy Burns either. Would the A's have optioned Mark Canha to keep Fuld? That seems unwise unless they want to commit to either Billy Butler or Yonder Alonso at first base against lefties, each of which options is unattractive for different reasons. I think the "hope," if you can call it that, is that Fuld's return might have coincided with someone else's injury. If, for instance, it's between Fuld and, say, Andrew Lambo or Jake Smolinski, then sure, keep the guy who's out of options and plays stellar defense and see how things go from there.

    Anyway, it's all moot, backward-looking hypotheticals that are even more pointless than your average baseball blogging.

    Much more fruitful is that we now also get to fret over Chris Bassitt, who hit the DL with a strained elbow and then revealed that he's had pain all year. The classic line is that soreness is normal and pain is bad. In practice, at the levels of exertion we're talking about for professional athletes, that distinction has to be difficult to pin down, so I can't really blame Bassitt for not speaking up before now. One hopes he's not headed for some serious surgery, but one way or another, elbows are no bagatelle, and Bassitt's stuff has reportedly been woeful of late, so here's hoping, more than believing, that he'll make it back at 100 percent, and soon.

    In his absence, we'll see Jesse Hahn on Saturday. He had a blister issue that supposedly made the difference between calling him up and picking Sean Manaea instead, but that looks like a bit of a weird excuse now that he's coming up to pitch a mere day later.

    What all this adds up to, with Sonny Gray being Sonny Gray, Rich Hill continuing to pitch, somehow, like one of the better starters in the league, and the exciting Sean Manaea, is that maybe Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman only have to be fourth-starter-level pitchers for the A's to sum up to a pretty dang good rotation. Pair that with a bullpen that has been quite nice (fourth in FanGraphs FIP, driven by an incredible 1.7 walks per nine) and an okay defense and you've got a recipe for run-prevention. The offense is... well, it's the A's. But if the AL West continues to scuffle, who knows what might be enough.

    In any event, one last transaction: Andrew Triggs is back again (at least for one game―I'd assume he'll head back to Nashville for Hahn) and Matt McBride has been optioned. So all keeping McBride from Japan cost the A's is three days of major-league salary (and meal money) and most of a season of 40-man money. As I said, there are a lot of facts we don't know, but it sure looks, right at this moment, like McBride is losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars despite no legitimate chance to have an impact in the major leagues. That's great stuff. Just makes you feel really good to be a sports fan.

    What really galls is the excuse-making from the writers initially about his call-up―oh a third catcher is going to help Bob Melvin get to use both Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley in the same lineup? Neat! Neat how that works with that third catcher in Nashville! To leave behind the sarcasm for one sentence: I'm glad Susan Slusser got behind the story and told us about the Japan offer and the opt-out situation. There are moves behind the moves sometimes, and the teams sure as shit aren't going to be the ones telling us about them. Same as the reporters last year credulously telling us that Kris Bryant's defense needed work, if you're just a mouthpiece for the organization, there's no point―the team's already paying people to do that job.

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  • April 28, 2016 at 9:43 PM

    Nobody seems to be sure, but if he keeps going the way he has the last two starts, the Henderson Alvarez/Sean Manaea question may resolve itself a whole different way. (That way being Chris Bassitt hitting the DL or heading to Triple-A is what I'm getting at here.)

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  • April 27, 2016 at 10:56 PM

    Let's talk about Susan Slusser's report that Matt McBride's call-up came in the face of an offer from a Japanese team and McBride's contract that would have let him opt out of his deal with the A's to pursue that offer. We have to first acknowledge that the money involved in all of this is a mystery. I think it's fair to assume that McBride is making the major-league minimum in the big leagues (i.e. he wasn't a big enough deal free agent to negotiate a contract that paid him more in the event he was called up). Outside of that, though, we don't know two key figures: does his contract call for higher pay than the CBA's minimum for time spent on the 40-man but not in the majors? And what was the Japanese team's offer?

    What's obvious is that the Japanese team was going to pay McBride more than he was making when he was not on the 40-man, or else there wouldn't be any reason to make the offer. And it seems likely that the offer was for more than the high-five/low-six-figures minimums set for 40-man players in the CBA, because \$90,000 or \$120,000 or what have you just isn't the scale on which the major professional leagues work. The average salary in NPB is quite a bit lower than in MLB, but that average is itself quite a bit higher than the minor-league salary set in the CBA. But a key question that remains is whether the Japanese offer was for, say, $750,000, such that the A's calling McBride up actually cost him money. Based on this table at NPB Tracker, and deflating McBride's Triple-A numbers a bit because he's spent so much time at Colorado Springs, he seems to fit clearly in the \$400,000 to \$1,000,000 band, maybe even toward the high end of that given that he can catch. (One wonders whether the language barrier mean he'd be an outfielder in Japan, however.)

    So while we don't know for sure, it seems entirely plausible that the A's are in fact costing McBride money by calling him up. This will be magnified if, as is likely to happen at some point this year, maybe soon or maybe not, he is optioned back to Nashville and thus reverts to the sub-MLB minimum salary. McBride's somewhat tepid response to the question about how he felt being called up may support this idea, though I'm quite likely overreading things and trying to discern tone from text where there's none to discern.

    But this does still leave us with a third fact: is he actually happy about being called up vs. going to Japan? Was the offer so much greater that it's worth disrupting his life and family and moving somewhere with an unfamiliar language, culture, style of baseball, and so forth? Is McBride one of those guys who would actually wholly embrace the experience, learn the language, treat the whole thing like cultural enrichment rather than a burden to be borne? We don't know, and we're not going to know. Even insiders aren't likely to know because he's surely smart enough not to burn any bridges by complaining.

    But let's suppose that he would rather be in Japan. Have the A's done anything wrong by calling him up? Obviously they have not violated any rules in doing so―McBride had a contract with the A's that obligated him to play for them if he wanted to get paid and permitted the team to assign him throughout their system, including to the majors if they wanted to. The opt-out was negotiated with some specified terms, and the A's made their decision to call him up knowing what those terms were.

    As you know if you know me at all, though, I don't think that's the end of the story. I think we should absolutely hold the A's to some standard of fairness beyond the simple black-letter rules, particularly where we're talking about a player who is not, even in a tight division, going to make the difference between the playoffs and sitting at home in October (if he were such a difference-maker, he wouldn't be on a minor-league deal), one who the rules of baseball kept from getting the fair-market value of his labor for many years, one who is running out of chances to build himself a little financial cushion before he has to move on to the next phase of his life, a phase for which the last 10 years of his life have not really prepared him, given that the skill he has been working on this entire team is just baseball.

    Even if you don't think the A's opt-out-motivated decision here is some kind of moral monstrosity (and I don't think it is, in the scheme of things, and considering that McBride will make $500,000 per year while he's in the majors, not to mention that sweet meal money), I hope we can spare a thought for McBride and all the fringe guys like him, and recognize that he's had to deal with a lot of things we'll never really comprehend, had his career defined by his employers in a way that those of us in normal jobs that we can quit whenever we want to find the same job with a different employer haven't experienced.

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  • April 24, 2016 at 2:11 PM

    Susan Slusser suggests that Eric Surkamp's struggles (or, to put a finer point on it, exactly the mediocrity that's limited him 71 MLB innings in seven-plus years as a professional) could spell the end of his time in Oakland in short order. Jesse Hahn's probably not out of the woods yet―he'd pitched well in his first three games in Nashville, then gave up three runs on seven hits and three walks in just 3⅓ innings today. The question is whether the A's keep living with Surkamp not even getting through five innings every five days, taxing the bullpen and leading to near-automatic losses in the name of Hahn's development or whether they call Hahn up now and let him take his lumps and get coaching from the MLB staff―even bad Hahn is probably at worst equal to Surkamp, so I'm not sure there's any effect on the MLB team's chances here.

    The other thing the A's could do, especially since they just need to cover about three weeks until Henderson Alvarez is ready, is call up Sean Manaea now. For whatever it's worth, he's pitched well in his 18 innings in Nashville, and they could give him a taste of big-league life now, then send him back down when Alvarez arrives. I'm not here to advocate for players getting paid less money, but to the extent the A's are worried about Super Two status, three weeks now vs. later isn't going to hurt that. Of course, you run the risk, to the extent this the word "risk" really fits here, of Manaea going all 1999 Tim Hudson and essentially forcing the team to leave him in Oakland. There was a time when it seemed teams wanted to call players up exactly when they were ready so they'd never have to go back down, but particularly with pitchers, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore―the most recent example is the Rays calling up top prospect Blake Snell to make a spot start on Friday.

    Manaea would require a 40-man move, but there are any number of those available―Felix Doubront can go on the 60-day disabled list, as can Eric Sogard, plus there are expendable or outrightable players at the back end of the roster anyway (Max Muncy, Andrew Triggs; you might consider Surkamp himself in this category).

    Some of this is complicated by, as Jeremy Koo points out, the fact that weather may cause the A's to need a sixth starter soon, and that sixth starter could easily be Manaea.

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  • April 11, 2016 at 6:00 PM

    This had started to feel inevitable, but you always hold out hope that an elbow injury won't be that elbow injury. Alas, in Doubront's case, it was not to be. The A's will live the life they were always going to live with Eric Surkamp and Jesse Hahn and Sean Manaea and Fernando Rodriguez and J.B. Wendelken and Andrew Triggs and whoever else cycles through long relief and the no. 5 starter role this year. For Doubront, though, it's not so simple—he's set for free agency after 2017, and he's now likely not to pitch in the majors until midway through that season, which leaves his free agency platform (assuming he makes it back at something like full strength, which is not even in itself a safe assumption) a mere couple of months. You hope, for his sake, that it's a good couple of months, that he can capitalize on that to grab himself a decent deal heading into 2018 and then maybe one or two more decent deals before he's done. He is, to be fair and honest, a fringe big-league pitcher at full strength, though, so with this surgery, he may have just waved goodbye to his last guaranteed major-league contract. One hopes it isn't so, as a matter of the human being at the heart of this athletic performance, but it's a brutal league.

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  • April 6, 2016 at 7:19 PM

    It was all but a foregone conclusion that Eric Surkamp would get the call to start Friday in place of Felix Doubront, but now it's official. Jane Lee mentions that Jesse Hahn was an option, and John Hickey has been saying the same thing, but because he was optioned within the last 10 days, calling him up was only going to be possible if some other player went on the disabled list and Hahn was the replacement. With nobody else hurting, at least as far as we know right now, that means the list of possible pitchers was something like:

    • Surkamp
    • Chris Smith
    • Raul Alcantara

    I can't tell you the first thing about Smith beyond that he's 35 years old, and the only thing in Alcantara's favor as far as getting the start would be that he's already on the 40-man roster.

    Presumably Andrew Lambo will be optioned back out to Nashville when Surkamp comes up, seeing as how he didn't make the team, really, and was called up only once Doubront hit the DL. Surkamp's call-up will also require a 40-man move―as always, this is a matter of guesswork. Andrew Triggs is my guess, as a reliever recently claimed on waivers and a 27-year-old who has only barely reached Triple-A. There's some talk that RJ Alvarez could be moved to the 60-day, but it seems like his surgery was minor enough that this would keep him out too long. Henderson Alvarez also seems too close to returning, especially after a good simulated game today, to put on the 60-day. Max Muncy and Tyler Ladendorf are the other 40-man members who look relatively expendable.

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  • March 20, 2016 at 10:02 PM

    Here's a nice piece from Christina Kahrl at ESPN on Sean Manaea and how impressive he's been so far in camp. He's very much catching Bob Melvin's eye, and it sounds like there's no reason he won't be up with the A's as soon as the Super Two deadline passes.

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  • March 11, 2016 at 8:42 PM

    This sucks so much and I hate it.

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  • March 11, 2016 at 2:05 AM

    Craig Edwards has this very useful breakdown of the stats, in a sense, of the qualifying-offer system. For example, what percentage of QOs were given to players that the team developed in-house?

    The upshot of looking at these numbers is that the ideal QO system, which rewards teams for developing players in house and compensates them when they can't afford to keep them (the idealized Rays/A's model), is not the system that exists.

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  • March 10, 2016 at 5:04 PM

    Jeff Sullivan has a pitch-comp piece at FanGraphs today noting that the characteristics of Jesse Hahn's curveball are very much like those of Adam Wainwright's, and now I'm mad because it's March and the hopeful part of my brain, which to be fair is a very small part, is convinced that Hahn is about to rip off a Cy Young season and lead the A's to glory and joy.

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  • March 5, 2016 at 3:06 PM

    To help you, my dear fellow A's fans, get ready for a brutal year of throwing in left field, here's Jeff Sullivan reviewing Khris Davis' four career outfield assists. If you don't want to click, just know that three of them are, in a sense, accidental, and even the fourth, if we were assigning credit, would go something like "Khris Davis 15%, Jean Segura 85%."

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  • March 5, 2016 at 12:46 PM

    Dan Johnson has rejoined the Tampa Bay Rays as a knuckleball pitcher.

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  • March 5, 2016 at 9:15 AM

    This is the first interview I've seen with Grant Desme (now Frater Matthew) since his retirement. I'll be honest – I didn't find it entirely compelling, but maybe you will.

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  • March 1, 2016 at 9:53 AM

    A collection of Tony Phillips fun facts from Jerry Tapp at Today's Knuckleball. Up my alley.

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  • March 1, 2016 at 9:12 AM

    Russell Carleton contributes his ideas on how to fix free agency and the amateur-acquisition process in MLB. Putting aside, as always, my basic contention that the draft is immoral, I really like Russell's middle idea, that we set a wins floor and every team below that floor gets the same bonus pool, perhaps with a lottery to determine what order those Really Bad Teams pick in. The goal is to make sure that a team that sees itself as a 70-win squad doesn't say "screw it" and throw away all its good players in order to beat the other 70-win teams to 59-win ignominy and the first-overall pick. There are surely unintended consequences here, but at first blush, it seems like a neat idea, a more limited version of the NBA's draft lottery that applies baseball's (stupid) pool money system to that general idea.

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  • February 27, 2016 at 6:14 PM

    Susan Slusser has a piece on Jesse Hahn, his risk for Tommy John surgery, and his nixed slider. An anonymous scout weighs in favorably on the slider issue.

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  • February 27, 2016 at 6:09 PM

    Jeremy Koo has this excellent look at how the A's playing-time situation could shake out with Coghlan playing nearly every day while still getting everyone else the at-bats we all figure they'll get. His table-based approach to these questions this off-season has been one of my favorite things. It makes much more sense to approach them this way, I think, than to worry about the primary lineups, because over the course of the year, the primary lineup gets thrown out the window more often than not.

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  • February 27, 2016 at 10:44 AM

    Meg Rowley has another in a long line of excellent pieces at, this one about player expression. It ranges over the Marlins' new and the Yankees' old bans on facial hair, Jonathan Papelbon's dumb t-shirt, Daniel Murphy's reaction to Billy Bean, and, most importantly, our best response to all these things.

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  • February 26, 2016 at 9:46 PM

    Michael Baumann has this interesting piece at Yesterday's Curveball (I think?) tracing the A's recent trade trees and netting them all out. The Donaldson and Russell trades are almost certainly unsalvageable, but Billy Beane & Co. have made out pretty decently in the other chains.

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  • February 25, 2016 at 10:57 PM

    This isn't A's-related, but Guy Molyneaux has this interesting piece at positing that umpires are essentially acting in accordance with Bayesian principles as at-bats go on, and that this, not underdog-based explanations, is why the strike zone changes in different counts.

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  • February 22, 2016 at 8:42 AM

    Baseball Prospectus 2016 co-editor Patrick Dubuque has this piece on highlighting the wide range of possible outcomes for Jesse Hahn, as illutrated best by a five-WARP spread from the top to bottom of his PECOTA projections.

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  • November 21, 2015 at 9:33 AM

    Meanwhile, the widely rumored trade of Jesse Chavez has gone down, as the A's sent him to Toronto for Liam Hendriks. You'll recall that Chavez has a history of pitching well in the rotation but not, perhaps, having the stamina to go 200. You'll also recall that Matt Swartz's arbitration model projects Chavez will earn $4.7 million in 2016. That's a bit rich for the A's blood for a swingman, especially a swingman who, despite warm and fuzzy feelings from A's fans, has put up an A.J. Griffin–esque 101 ERA+ over the last two seasons. Chavez was a lot of fun, certainly, a pint-sized overachiever whose glove slaps were among the best in the game, but Bivid Beast aren't here for your amusement. (Which is too bad.)

    Then again, maybe they are: Liam Hendriks is Australian and Grant Balfour and Travis Blackley were certainly a barrel of laughs. Hendriks has one more season of minimum-salary eligibility, so the A's save themselves $4 million off of 2016's payroll in the swap, and get three more years of team control overall because Chavez is due for free agency after next year. Hendriks is 27 and on his fourth major-league team, but only just had his first good year in the majors last season, after Toronto put him into the bullpen. From 2011 to 2014, Hendriks started 34 games (out of 39 total), basically a full season's worth, and racked up a not-nice-at-all 69 ERA+. He didn't miss bats, he gave up bombs, and he didn't even manage to luck into run support (3–15 record). That experiment over, Hendriks struck out 10 per nine in the bullpen last year while walking just 1.5 and allowing three homers in 65 innings. He threw two 95 mph fastballs and an 88 mph slider.

    So why would the Blue Jays trade all that good stuff for one year of Jesse Chavez? One thing is that you will notice I did not mention a changeup. In 112 plate appearances last year, lefties smacked Hendriks for a .746 OPS. He stuffed righties, obviously, or else his overall numbers would have been better, and .746 doesn't sound that bad, but .746 was above the lefty league average last year, which is not something you want to see from a late-innings reliever. Which is just to say that Hendriks isn't a late-innings reliever so much as a righty platoon pitcher. Those aren't quite a dime a dozen, not at Hendriks' level of ability (.499 OPS allowed to right-handed hitters), but they're not all that rare either.

    Ability isn't static, of course, and maybe the A's think they can teach Hendriks something to, if not stop lefties, at least make him a more valid setup man–type option, because at the moment, given the rest of the A's options, Hendriks is probably the eighth-inning man behind Sean Doolittle, unless it's Fernando Rodriguez, in which case he's the 7th-inning man, and in either event, he's not a middle reliever.

    Still and all, though, I have to say that Liam Hendriks is more than I thought the A's might get for Jesse Chavez and is, further, an indication that the A's aren't (and thus may never be) in teardown mode; surely some team (and maybe the Blue Jays themselves) could have offered some Low-A live arm for Chavez rather than someone who will help Oakland win games in 2016.

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  • November 21, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    As was reported widely last week but as was not relayed on this blog, the A's have signed left-handed starter Rich Hill to a one-year contract. Hill is 36 and had a nice run as a starter from 2006 to 2008 for the Cubs before injuries began to take their toll. He then dazzled in 20 bullpen innings for the Red Sox in 2012, had a weird year with Cleveland in 2013 (12 K/9 but seven BB/9 as a LOOGY: 63 games, but just 39 innings), spent most of 2014 in the minors, and then had four excellent starts back with Boston last year. In those four starts, he was a fastball-curve pitcher without a ton of velocity (90-91 mph average), but the curve was one of the biggest in the game, ranking 27th in vertical movement out of 207 pitchers who threw at least 100 curves last year. Despite that, it did not generate a notable percentage of swings or whiffs, though it did induce grounders 64 percent of the time it was put in play, which ranked 37th in that same population.

    Nobody should look at Hill and be excited that Davilly Forbeane found a no. 2 starter to replace Scott Kazmir, but for $6 million, at the cost of wins on the open market these days, if Hill manages 180 innings as a no. 3/4, he'll have been worth the bucks.

    The signing cost the A's A.J. Griffin, in terms of 40-man moves, as Griffin was designated for assignment. You know his injury saga, and you are hopefully aware that even in 2013, he had a 101 ERA+, decent walk and strikeout numbers being offset by a league-leading homers total despite pitching half his games in Oakland. On a good team, that's a no. 4 starter. Getting that for cheap is pretty good. Getting that for an arbitration salary, even one depressed by two years of not pitching, is less good. The DFA presumably signals that the A's are going to nontender him anyway, and it seems entirely plausible to me that nobody will claim Griffin on waivers and the A's can keep him on a minor-league contract. It also seems plausible that someone is willing to pay what little he'll get in arbitration (Matt Swartz's model projects the league minimum) to take a chance on a solid starter.

    The other two moves were Rule 5–related, as the A's added Joey Wendle and Jose Torres to the 40-man at the cost of Fernando Abad and Craig Gentry. The latter two were terrible last year and are in their arbitration years. Wendle, notwithstanding Jane Lee's pronouncement that he was "terrific" last season for Nashville, is a decent prospect at best, but also someone who's probably a finished product and has starter upside at second base. Not good starter, but starter. There are 30 of them, after all.

    Jose Torres is a little less familiar. He didn't make my Consensus Top Prospects list last year, which doesn't mean that I had an opinion on him but does mean that not a single prospects list (, Sickels, FanGraphs, BP, BA) named him. He's 22 and spent most of the season in Low-A Beloit as a reliever striking out nearly 10 men per nine innings, which I suppose is enough for the A's to fear that someone could grab him and make him their seventh bullpen man. This is perhaps justifiable given that he is a lefty who throws hard.

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  • November 12, 2015 at 7:31 AM

    Susan Slusser has the story. The main odd thing here is that the A's had an opening at first-base coach, not bench coach, having hired Mike Aldrete away from the Cardinals last year and signed him to a two-year contract to be the bench coach. Aldrete moves to the first-base spot, a step down, at least in theory. (It isn't clear that the hierarchy means as much as perhaps it used to in terms of manager hiring, what with the Mike Matheny/Walt Weiss trend of hiring ex-players off the street, the increased idea of moving between front office and field positions (A.J. Hinch, Dan Jennings, Gabe Kapler), and the interviewing of non-bench coaches for managerial spots.) The answer might be as simple as baseball's "permission to interview" rules: teams will grant permission for an under-contract coach or front-office type to interview for a higher position in another organization. First-base coach may not be considered "higher" than the hitting coach position Kotsay held with the Padres, and therefore the A's had to interview him for bench coach or else they couldn't talk to him at all, and they preferred to have Kotsay and Aldrete on the staff in some roles, even if those roles weren't the 100 percent ideal arrangement.

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  • November 11, 2015 at 9:00 AM

    So he says at the general manager meetings. This is sort of a sensible plan in a world in which your best reliever, Sean Doolittle, may have already blown through all the bullets he's going to fire (and maybe not! Certainly hopefully not, but you have to plan for the possibility) and your best reliever after that is ... uh, Drew Pomeranz? I guess Jesse Chavez if you don't need him in the rotation.

    On the other hand, the team is also exceedingly weak either in left field or at first base, wherever Mark Canha isn't standing (and it's not like Canha is Paul Goldschmidt; and don't talk to me about Jake Smolinski), and isn't super hot at second base (even counting Brett Lawrie as the starter there, with Danny Valencia at third base, and who knows if that's even a full-season solution in any event). And those are the obvious-upgrade spots. Sonny Gray is the only All-Star talent on the roster, as the next tier (Stephen Vogt, Josh Reddick, Billy Burns, Marcus Semien) falls more in the range of above average (though Semien might have some untapped upside and Burns could add some value by learning the league and bumping his on-base rate and stealing more and better). So the question becomes less "where is the weakness on the roster?" and more "do you want to focus time, energy, and money on the bullpen on a team that won't have an 88-win projection at the start of next season?"

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  • November 10, 2015 at 10:08 PM

    I still think the whole "finalist" thing for awards that they do now is silly, though that's probably more of a linguistic objection than anything legitimate -- we don't typically use "finalist" to mean "person who is in the top three of the voting but we haven't announced the full voting results yet." MLB's sin is not thinking of a better word, I guess.

    In any event, we do now in fact know that Sonny Gray is in the top three of the AL Cy Young Award voting, along with Dallas Keuchel and David Price. The race isn't quite as fun as the NL's "WHO THE HELL KNOWS" threesome, but hey

    Stat 1st 2nd 3rd
    DRA Gray Keuchel Price
    PWARP Keuchel Price Gray
    cFIP Sale Carrasco Price
    FIP Sale Price Carrasco
    fWAR Price Sale Keuchel
    RA/9 Keuchel Price Gray
    bWAR Keuchel Price Gray

    Keuchel threw 12 more innings than Price and 24 more than Gray. Because Gray doesn't blow away the field in the rate stats (his DRA lead is slim), that innings gap is fatal. Sale, who threw 2/3 of an inning more than Gray, suffers the same fate, but also loses out because of bad performance in the clutch -- Sale allowed an OPS+ 22 points better than the league average overall, but eight points worse than league average with runners in scoring position. Eight points worse than league average doesn't sound like a lot, but consider that we're talking about Chris Sale.

    In any event, Keuchel probably deserves this win, but it won't be any kind of travesty if Price pulls it out.

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  • November 9, 2015 at 7:57 AM

    If you have a Baseball Prospectus subscription, you can see Chris Crawford's notes on the AFL's Fall-Stars game. Sean Manaea makes an appearance, and Crawford says that he could make a significant impact in 2016.

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  • August 7, 2015 at 10:35 PM

    Christopher Crawford asked five industry sources to rank their top-five first basemen in the minor leagues. There's a close battle at the top, but our obvious interest here is how Matt Olson did, and the answer is: ehhhh. Olson was mentioned by two of the five sources, but ranked fifth on each list, thereby finishing tied for last with Cleveland's Bobby Bradley on this list. "Last," of course, doesn't mean "last" but rather "eighth."

    Eighth-best first-base prospect is an okay but not exactly stellar place to be. Assuming half of a top-100 list will be pitchers, and then assuming (wrongly) that the position-player half is evenly distributed around the eight defensive positions, that puts Olson somewhere in 57-64 range for position players, i.e. just off the top-100 overall. Of course, up-the-middle players will always be favored in prospect rankings, so Olson's real ranking, based on this understanding of his place in the first-base constellation, is probably quite a bit lower.

    This is fitting given that (a) neither Baseball America nor Baseball Prospectus had him in the top 100 this offseason, despite placing him 73rd and (b) in leaving the Cal League, Olson's power has fallen back from a .543 SLG to .423. The average MLB first baseman is slugging .449 this year, which means that the average starting first baseman will be quite a bit higher -- that .449 figure is dragged down by fill-ins and backups and all sorts of other randos. And of course Olson's .423 is not in the majors. Clay Davenport's translations convert Olson's SLG all the way down to .392. Now, that's a translation, not a projection -- the point is what you'd expect from Olson if you called him up right this instant, not what you expect him to do after another year and change in the minors, learning how to hit, growing physically, and doing all the other things prospects do. Still, scouting the stat line, and even recognizing that Olson is young for his league, even if you use "ideal prospect age" rather than simply average age playing in Double-A, I don't know that I'd be predicting the next Ryan Howard. (Don't laugh -- from 2005 to 2011, Howard posted a 139 OPS+.)

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  • August 7, 2015 at 10:00 PM

    Not exactly timely at this point, but Kiley McDaniel has this summary of Casey Meisner, the minor-league pitcher the A's got back for Tyler Clippard. The short version, though the article is free so you may as well click yourself and watch the video that McDaniel posted along with the text, is that Meisner has mid-rotation upside and room to fill out physically that gives some hope that he could reach that upside. This seems like a pretty good bet for two months of a sub-elite reliever.

    From 2009 to present, among relievers with at least 300 innings pitched over that span, Clippard ranks 29th in FIP (FanGraphs version), sandwiched between Francisco Rodriguez and LaTroy Hawkins. Hence "sub-elite." FIP probably undersells him because over that span he's allowed just a .229 BABIP despite nearly 500 innings pitched, but his RA doesn't add up to elite either. Not that he's not excellent -- the very fact that he has nearly 500 innings of relief over the last six-plus years attests to that -- but there's a clear gulf between him and the actually elite relievers like Koji Uehara, Kenley Jansen, and Greg Holland, to say nothing of Craig Kimbrel.

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  • August 7, 2015 at 9:09 PM

    The A's picked up Low-A relief pitcher Dawrin Frias, who you have to search Baseball-Reference for as Darwin Frias, from the Mets to complete the Eric O'Flaherty trade. Frias has not had good results this year despite being an old-for-his-level reliever and, moreover, is a minor-league free agent after this season, having already spent seven years on minor-league rosters in the Mets' system.

    The worst thing about this is that Eric O'Flaherty will father no Athletics.

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  • August 4, 2015 at 8:25 PM

    Granted that I wasn't expecting the A's to designated Eric O'Flaherty for assignment a few years ago, once that happened, I was expecting the best case to be that he'd get claimed by someone on waivers, freeing the A's from paying his salary. (What good that does anyone not named John Fisher I don't know.) Instead, the Mets have agreed to send the A's a player to be named later or cash in return for O'Flaherty's services. So that's something!

    Also, Max Muncy got optioned out to make room for the newly claimed Danny Valencia, who says he's not a second baseman, which makes me wonder what on earth he is on this team, with Brett Lawrie entrenched at third and a reasonably full outfield. Lefty-mashing left fielder?

    Also also it was Jake Smolinski who lost the Coco Crisp sweepstakes, getting optioned to make room for the returning left fielder. And Pat Venditte lost his own sweepstakes, getting optioned himself rather than activated back to the 25-man roster after his rehab assignment.

    The A's are looking downright unsettled, roster-wise, as we move into the final stretch of the season. I guess now is not the time to worry about chemistry and continuity in favor of just making sure everyone is where you want them in terms of getting looks for 2016. O'Flaherty had no place on the 2016 team, surely; Felix Doubront and Valencia, who knows. Maybe!

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  • August 2, 2015 at 3:03 PM

    I guess that solves the mystery of what the A's would be doing in the starting rotation. Maybe if Aaron Brooks had been bombed yesterday, we'd see him heading somewhere else and Felix Doubront would be hitting the rotation, but in the aftermath of his fantastic start, Doubront will head to long relief, with R.J. Alvarez being optioned out to make room.

    Coco Crisp, the story also notes, is with the team but not yet active, so no roster move for him yet. He and Pat Venditte are apparently set to be activated tomorrow.

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  • August 1, 2015 at 7:06 PM

    The A's long local nightmare of not having Coco Crisp to lead off (?) and play left field will end Sunday. Here's hoping this stint in the majors last a little longer than the last one did for Crisp.

    The easy move will be to option Max Muncy, as Susan Slusser notes at the link, but that also means no backup infielders. Looking at the available reserves on the roster, optioning Muncy would appear to make Mark Canha the emergency third baseman, with Eric Sogard backing up shortstop and Brett Lawrie backing up second base. On the one hand, that's not ideal. On the other, Earl Weaver always said that your backup shortstop should be at Triple-A, and this is just an extension of that. If Muncy is the least useful player, and he probably is, then bite the bullet and take the risk, especially since the wins don't actually matter anyway.

    Felix Doubront is also supposed to be added tomorrow. He'll be the sixth starter on the roster, so Chris Bassitt could head out. Alternatively, Bassitt or Doubront could hit the bullpen and Dan Otero could be sent out. I'm probably least in favor of fewer MLB innings for Bassitt because it's still not entirely clear what he is and whether the A's should count on him for the next four years. A six-starter rotation also might not be the worst idea for the next two months, given the youth of Sonny Gray, Kendall Graveman, and Bassitt, the tendency of Jesse Chavez to wear down, and the goal of auditioning as many pitchers for 2016 roles as possible.

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  • July 27, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    Today's Baseball Prospectus Ten Pack has writeups on a couple of A's prospects, Low-A shortstop Yairo Munoz, who Brandon Decker says has a bad approach and will need to be a third baseman down the line, and High-A starter Brendan McCurry, who has risen from the 22nd round to become a legitimate major-league prospect, according to my neighbor Wilson Karaman. If you've got a subscription, head over and check out the full writeups.

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  • July 26, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    The writer whined that Billy Beane traded Scott Kazmir because the season was going nowhere and blamed that season going nowhere on Beane trading "five All-Stars." One of those All-Stars, Yoenis Cespedes, was traded last year for a better player in an attempt to push deep into the playoffs with a team that should have been able to withstand the loss of offense in trade for an ace pitcher.

    All-Stars 2 and 3, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris, have 92 and 89 OPS+'s this season for their new teams. Ike Davis is outhitting the former and the Josh Phegley–Stephen Vogt combination is absolutely crushing the latter. (Phegley of course benefits from platooning, but his line also destroys Norris' even when limited to vs. LHP.)

    All-Star 4, Jeff Samardzija, has a 95 ERA+. He's been outpitched by, among others, Jesse Chavez, Kendall Graveman, and Jesse Hahn.

    All-Star 5 is the only All-Star Ostler mentioned by name, Josh Donaldson. He's having another marvelous year, another MVP-candidate year, and if you think Donaldson's marvelous MVP year would, especially when paired with the aforementioned weak performances of the other All-Stars, would turn the A's from 11 games under .500 to 11 games over, leaving them tied with the Astros for first in the West, you should probably stick to writing about something other than baseball.

    And so it goes, 'round and 'round, the San Francisco Chronicle's great Wheel of Emptyheadedness.

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  • July 25, 2015 at 1:38 PM

    Billy Burns should be back soon but will not start wearing a cup (what), and Sean Doolittle is throwing from flat ground. He'll head to a mound this week.

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  • July 24, 2015 at 9:02 PM

    The Baseball Prospectus Transaction Analysis has R.J. Anderson on the Astros' end of things and Wilson Karaman with in-person reports on the new A's prospects. He's bullish on Nottingham in particular:

    When you add up the elements here there's the makings of a realistic 55 Major League catcher and the potential for a true Role 6 if it all comes together. That's a rare bird indeed, and a reflection of Houston's aggressiveness in making a push this year that they were willing to sacrifice him from their system to do it.

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  • July 24, 2015 at 9:13 AM

    AVM got a mention in Moneyball as the stats company providing information to Paul DePodesta. Ben Lindbergh at Grantland digs into its history and profiles its founders, a couple of finance-industry guys named Ken Mauriello and Jack Armbruster. AVM applied outcome-independent principles long before anybody else did so.

    “They’d always say, ‘Well, it comes out in a wash,’” Armbruster says. “The hard liner that’s caught, but then a soft hit. We were showing them it usually does, but it doesn’t always come out in a wash. There’s always going to be that one player out of 20 who’s going to be pretty far off from what the numbers are showing. And there’s going to be one guy in the league who’s just off the charts. You need mathematics to understand that. To understand that if you flip a coin 20 times, it could come up heads 16 times. It doesn’t mean it’s a very talented coin. It’s the randomness of life.”

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  • July 23, 2015 at 5:23 PM

    As Jane Lee writes, the A's now have two holes in their rotation, in a sense, as they're down Scott Kazmir and the previously but still recently injured Jesse Hahn. It looks like the obvious choices to fill those slots, Drew Pomeranz and Chris Bassitt, will in fact fill those slots.

    I would guess that the next injury (or trade of Jesse Chavez?) will give us Sean Nolin in the rotation, but there's still Cody Martin as well, and the more trades that happen, the more likely there are to be holes on the 40-man roster that could be filled with Triple-A starters. Dare we even say Barry Zito's name? (There's also Brad Mills.)

    I'd say Arnold Leon, too, except that he hasn't made a start since May 15th in the PCL. He's pitched out of the bullpen in the majors, of course, but even after he was sent down to Nashville in June, he's spent the last month pitching as a reliever even there, and doing it reasonably well: in 13 innings in relief since June 21st, he's struck out 10 and walked not a batter while allowing a .520 OPS.

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  • July 23, 2015 at 5:07 PM

    As usual, Grant finds an angle that makes me mad that he can write something like this in like an hour, basically writing about what Kazmir, Houston, and Oakland say about baseball and leaving the analysising to others. It's sort of like what I try to do at this blog, except at an A+ level rather than my Bush-at-Yale maunderings.

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  • July 23, 2015 at 4:58 PM

    Continuing the link roundup, here's Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs on the Kazmir trade. There's an interesting bit on Nottingham's spray charts showing that he may have legitimate power, not just low-minors pull power, which is encouraging. I don't know the data source of that spray data (in the sense that I don't know where MLB Farm gets its ball-in-play data, how accurate it is, etc.), but even if we're talking about humans putting down dots on a screen approximating where the ball landed, the roughness of that type of charting is okay -- after all, we're just looking at whether Nottingham appears to hit the ball to right field with some measure of authority, not his average fly-ball distance or anything so fine-grained as that.

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  • July 23, 2015 at 4:43 PM

    Kiley McDaniel says at FanGraphs that Jacob Nottingham is now a 50 future-value guy, which would put him in six to 10 range of a current Astros prospect list. Given the relative strengths of the A's and Astros' systems, that makes Nottingham, what, the A's third-best prospect right now? Renato Nunez is having a pretty good year a level ahead of Nottingham, though. Fourth?

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  • July 23, 2015 at 4:37 PM

    My favorite Texas-based baseball writer has his Kazmir-Nottingham take at Grantland, including the following, which is fully correct:

    Nottingham … actually, let’s stop for a second and address something important. A’s fans get dumped on because the Coliseum shows up empty on TV, and that’s a disservice to them. It’s one of the worst, and least accessible, ballparks in the country, and Oakland doesn’t have a Yankees-size fan base. But A’s fans are passionate and creative, and loud as hell when the park is full. They’re great.

    So having said that, let me say this to A’s fans, as a community: If there isn’t some Robin Hood–themed nickname for Jacob Nottingham by the time he reaches the big leagues, you guys don’t deserve a major league franchise. I don’t care what it is, but this is a meatball over the plate as nickname opportunities go.

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  • June 2, 2015 at 8:09 AM

    Eric O'Flaherty returns from the disabled list, earlier than I thought he was due back, in time for the A's six-game swing through Detroit and Boston. Detroit is extremely right-handed: Of their active hitters, only Anthony Gose and Tyler Collins are full-time lefties (Andrew Romine is a switch-hitter) and neither of those are exactly strike-fear-into-the-hearts-of-managers types, so O'Flaherty will have limited tactical use for the next three days, though at his best, he's almost certainly a better option against all batters, not just lefties, than Angel Castro.

    The Red Sox these days are also largely lefty-less, with only David Ortiz batting from that side. He, of course, is absolutely worth targeting -- not that he becomes a bad hitter against lefties, but his career split is about 160 points of OPS. Boston also has Brock Holt and Carlos Peguero from the left side, but I'm going out on a limb to guess that Bob Melvin's not going to burn O'Flaherty on Brock Holt \o/.

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  • May 25, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    Ben Zobrist is back from the disabled list a month after he went there. The return spells the end of Craig Gentry's second go-around this season, a stint that saw him play just one game (and, of course, go 0-for-3). Sending down Gentry instead of Andy Parrino presumably sets up Zobrist to play left field against left-handed pitching while Parrino mans second base to keep Eric Sogard away from lefties. Sending down Parrino would presumably have set up the reverse -- Gentry in left and Zobrist at second. (There's still Mark Canha, but playing him in left against lefties leaves first base to Max Muncy and degrades the defense, so I don't see that as a realistic option, especially because Canha has cooled off significantly after his hot start. Not that anyone saw that coming.)

    What this does leave is either Eric Sogard or Sam Fuld sitting against right-handed pitching. (Or, theoretically, Billy Burns, with Fuld shifting over to center, but Burns has hit well enough that I'm assuming he'll be the everyday center fielder for the most part.) This is fine -- even with the platoon advantage, neither of the two is a big enough threat to worry that they're wasted on the bench. My guess is that the loser of this battle is Sogard because the Fuld-Zobrist defense gap probably tilts in favor of Fuld, while Sogard-Zobrist is much closer. It would be easier to figure out how this is going to go if Zobrist were in the lineup today, but he's not. His value as a backup is still higher than Gentry's, so there's no real waste in terms of activating him a day "early," but it's kind of weird and striking to see a starter activated from the DL and not start.

    Anyway, the whole situation appears to leave Sogard in a pure backup role, which has been an unusual thing for the A's to have on their roster the last few years, but has happened a bit more often this season, in no small part because of Zobrist's presence.

    The move also gets the disabled list down to 10, with Sean Doolittle hopefully back soon to reduce it back to single digits.

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  • May 23, 2015 at 9:34 PM

    They're not even below average.

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  • May 20, 2015 at 11:53 PM

    Sean Nolin, who, you'll recall with some chagrin, was 1/4 of the return for Josh Donaldson, appears headed for Tommy John surgery.

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  • May 10, 2015 at 3:22 PM

    I missed this before I posted the Edward Mujica analysis, but Jarrod Parker apparently broke his medial epicondyle:

    There will be surgery, and it's not yet known how bad that is going to be -- a quick fix and he can get back to his rehab, but delayed? Or, because, as you can see in the picture, the bone is right in the elbow, did the break also screw up the ligament that was repaired during the Tommy John surgery? Here's a roundup of some of the medical stuff from Athletics Nation.

    We're at the point now with Parker where you just have to root for him to make it back to pitching competitively at all, if that's what he wants to do. It's a lot of pain and a lot of boring-as-hell rehabilitation ahead for him, after a year of that already, after a prior year of it after his first Tommy John surgery, and at some point, especially if you start thinking that your arm and body just aren't suited for this pitching thing, you wonder if the value proposition favors moving on with your life now. Parker's 26, and odds are good that he's not going to get to the "free agent contract for untold millions" stage of professional baseball. He could go to college or get into coaching or scouting or do whatever he wants to do and just save himself the trouble. Mark Prior retired after the 2013 season, but his last game in the majors was August 10, 2006.

    On the other hand, you could have said this to Brandon McCarthy around 2009 or 2010, and while he just had Tommy John surgery a couple of weeks ago, he's also currently on a four-year contract for $48 million. Kerry Wood converted to the bullpen in 2007 and made almost $30 million from then until the end of his career.

    And then, of course, putting aside monetary rewards, there's the fact that even if Parker sticks to it and doesn't make it as well as McCarthy and Wood made it, if he follows the Mark Prior path, he'll still only be in his early 30s when he hangs it up and I'm here to tell you as a 33-year-old that early 30s isn't old. Parker will still have the rest of his life in front of him at that point, and, sure, he won't have made much money or done a lot of fun stuff in the meantime, but he'll have made a go of it, and if you only get to live once, you know, why not? On the one hand, putting in all this work to play a game might seem foolish; on the other hand, putting in work to get paid to play a game for a living is the least foolish thing I can imagine.

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  • May 8, 2015 at 6:45 PM

    A.J. Griffin has been shut down with shoulder discomfort during his rehab, which seems like a really bad thing. You can spin it as a good thing if you want, and say "well at least it's not the elbow he's rehabbing" and, no, sure, it's not, but (a) shoulders are a much more difficult thing and (b) if we're looking at a cascade situation then who cares that it's not his elbow, because if his shoulder is busted, then he can't pitch just as much as if it were his elbow.

    The "upside" here is that realistically the A's could not have been counting on Griffin for more than half a season of fourth-starter work in 2015 anyway. Maybe he's got more upside than that, but probably not. And that, coming back from injury and without stunning stuff in the first place, was probably his 75th percentile projection. Median was maybe 12 starts with a 95 ERA+? Something. I don't know. Whatever it is, they're not in the same place that, say, the Rangers will be next year with Yu Darvish, a legitimate ace coming back from surgery.

    In happier news, Angel Castro has been added to the 40-man roster and called up to the majors. He'll replace R.J. Alvarez on the 25-man and Alex Hassan (DFA'd) on the 40. Castro was drafted out of an Oklahoma junior college back in 2006, he's been released a couple of times, he's pitched in Mexico and Japan, he's pitched for six different organizations in the U.S., he's 32, and now, finally, he'll pitch in the major leagues. He's never had a comment in a Baseball Prospectus annual. He was drafted three spots behind Mike Minor (who didn't sign and later went in the first round) and 12 spots ahead of Daniel Murphy (who did sign, but who reached the big leagues for good just over two years later and made the All-Star team last year).

    Baseball, what I'm trying to tell you is, the thing is, baseball is weird.

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  • May 1, 2015 at 7:47 PM

    Coco Crisp coming back to the A's in about a week would be great. Cody Ross was never going to be more than a stopgap and he hasn't exactly carped the diem in his brief time in an Oakland uniform, so there will be neither performance nor emotional reasons to worry about cutting him and letting him try to find another team to catch on with. Crisp, meanwhile, can resume his place in the outfield and at the top of the order, pushing Sam Fuld to a more appropriate place at the end of the batting order (or, I guess, hitting second, which is almost worse than him hitting first, but we'll let that play out before we start criticizing -- yeah, I did just go royal, what of it) and Mark Canha to a more appropriate place in the constellation of lineups (playing almost exclusively against lefties with occasional fill-in duty in left field when Crisp needs a breather).

    Crisp isn't suddenly going to make this look like a playoff team where it hasn't looked anything like that over the last few weeks, but I think he'll make the pieces fit together a little better, a little more naturally, a little more in keeping with their best roles. That's worth being happy about.

    Plus, it's Coco Crisp! Get excited!

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  • April 23, 2015 at 1:00 AM

    It's fun to read these quotes from Arnold Leon and his teammates on his debut. It was also fun being at the yard with various internet baseball nerds, including fellow A's fan Adrian Garro, as Leon came out in a game that was squared away, in a park that has so cleared out due to the blowout that A's fans were generally louder than Angels fans by the end.

    It was also, I must say, a genuine joy watching the ball shoot off Billy Butler's bat live. How absurdly locked in he is.

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  • April 21, 2015 at 12:59 AM

    I was going to say something sarcastic and snide about the linked piece at Swingin' A's arguing that, compared to past teams that responded to fightin' words by winning games, this team lacks fight, essentially because it lost Sunday. I've decided not to be snide and instead say: this is completely dumb. Eric O'Flaherty didn't pitch well and the A's failed to score for many innings before Kelvin Herrera's egregious actions. This has nothing to do with fight.

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  • April 19, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    I don't think Alex is far wrong on the Herrera/Lawrie mess, though I place the blame less on Herrera himself than on baseball -- that is, I think the title of Alex's piece ("Kelvin Herrera is a disgrace to baseball") is inaccurate because Herrera is a reflection of the disgraceful macho culture of baseball rather than an exception to a normally decent society.

    That's a minor quibble, though, because I'd have written much the same thing that Alex did, with just that slight change in emphasis.

    The only other thing I'd say is that I think MLB has long since established the discipline available for throwing at players, instigating fights, violence, etc., and a 15-game suspension isn't that. Yes, it would set precedent, but precedent isn't available to be set anymore -- it's already been set, and the MLBPA would have an incredibly easy grievance to win if MLB tried to unilaterally massively increase the suspensions for this behavior.

    That said, I think there's just as much a player-safety issue here as there is for performance-enhancing drugs, such that if MLB wanted to bargain a higher set of penalties for brawls and intentional HBPs, I think that's something MLBPA should be willing to talk about. You can't legislate away a culture (unfortunately, in this case) but maybe a little here and a little there can help.

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  • April 16, 2015 at 11:20 PM

    I like this very useful off-day roundup of where the AL West stands by Jeremy Koo.

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  • April 16, 2015 at 10:58 AM

    Claire McNear has this fantastic story at VICE Sports about possibly the worst-attended game in MLB history, a desolate 1979 contest between the A's and Mariners in Oakland.

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  • April 14, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    Ken Rosenthal has a quick-hit piece on Billy Beane's efforts to obtain Mark Canha in the Rule 5 draft, including an interesting bit about Dave Stewart's response when Beane called about the no. 1 Rule 5 pick.

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  • April 9, 2015 at 7:06 PM

    Alex Hassan has been passed around the league like a White Elephant gift the last few months, and his travels have not yet ceased, as the A's were unable to sneak him through waivers. Unfortunate for him, certainly, as he now has to pick up and move from where he was expecting to be. Also unfortunate for Jeremy.

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  • April 9, 2015 at 7:05 PM

    Jeremy Koo does a nice job at Athletics Nation reminding us that baseball can be pretty fun. Heartwarming, even.

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  • April 8, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    Good Twitter buddy Manu assigned a Game of Thrones character to every team in the league. Spoiler: the A's are Tyrion Lannister, which I think is perfect and amazing, as is the whole post.

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  • April 7, 2015 at 7:01 AM

    Bob Melvin on Sonny Gray during the no-hit bid:

    "[He was asking], 'Did you hear my walk-up song? Did you like my walk-up song?' In the past I've given him some ideas for walk-up songs," said Melvin.

    He's basically an entirely overeager seven-year-old.

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  • April 7, 2015 at 12:32 AM

    I like knowing that Bob Melvin is very superstitious and Sonny Gray is not, so when Gray is throwing a no-hitter -- culture clash!

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  • March 30, 2015 at 10:48 PM

    It should not be a surprise that the MLBPA is advocating on behalf of Kris Bryant despite negotiating things like signing bonus caps for draftees -- Bryant is going to be a member of the bargaining unit in about two weeks, and would be even sooner than that were the Cubs not to reassign him so as to gain control over his seventh big-league season. That control affects how much money he can get in free agency, and thus how much leverage he has if he wants to sign a pre-free agency extension, and generally the entire course of his big-league career, all of which is well within the union's typical area of concern.

    By contrast, {Insert Your Favorite Draft Pick Here} may or may not be a big-leaguer ever.

    This of course raises the usual issues of the shitty lives that minor-leaguers have and their lack of an effective advocate, and how the MLBPA is in the best position of anyone to try to organize them, but that's a further conversation, and one on which I've been heard, though that piece, one of the first things I was paid for, is lost to the sands of time, sadly.

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  • March 30, 2015 at 10:09 PM

    The core of Alex Hall's argument on Kris Bryant is:

    But it's not illegal, and therefore it's legal.

    This is incorrect as a matter of contract law, especially collective-bargaining contract law. Not everything that isn't explicitly banned by the letter of the agreement is something the employer is permitted to do. I don't know where this misconception came from, but it's time to end it.

    This is not to say that the MLBPA would win a grievance. They might or might not. I know a whole lot of lawyers on Twitter, and of two that I engaged just today on the subject, one called my proposed MLBPA argument tenuous and the other agreed with me that it was at least plausible. I respect both of them based on my (granted, baseball-centered) interactions with them and have every reason to believe that both are very smart, very competent lawyers. There is lots of reasonable disagreement, in other words, on what the outcome would be! Which is to say: It is far from concluded whether MLBPA can manipulate service time this way.


    The union's statement suggests that they will fight this type of thing in bargaining. Prove it. No, seriously, prove it MLBPA. I want you to. End this silly practice. But until that day, don't ever complain about it, because you are the only ones who can change it and you're on the cutting edge of not doing so.

    The italicized portion -- my italics -- is wrong. It's called collective bargaining. It's a two-sided process. The MLBPA can propose to ownership that the rules be changed, and ownership can make counterproposals or reject any change at all or ask for concessions in other areas or any combination of things. It's bargaining. This, the idea that "MLBPA must act!" is also a pernicious misconception that must end.

    Third, the idea that MLBPA should not speak out now because of CBAs it bargained in the past. First, the leadership and membership have changed -- a union is a dynamic thing, one that enters contracts and creates constitutions to which it is held, but still in the end an association of employees, and thus in some sense a new creature every time someone gets fired or retires or quits and someone new takes their place. Second, because we're again not talking about the plain and inarguable letter of the agreement but rather the way in which a team can behave in the absence of specific structures, the union might well believe that it negotiated, in some sense, a different deal than what ownership thinks it negotiated. In the event that ownership is acting on its interpretation, on its view of the contract and the legal world the contract creates, and that interpretation conflicts with the union's own, the union should keep its mouth shut because, hey, the CBA is in effect! No, of course not.

    I'm now closing in on 500 words, so I want to be clear that this isn't aimed specifically at Alex. He's a convenient target because he writes at my favorite A's blog and he wrote some things in the linked post that reflect a larger conversation around baseball and the law that's been raging for a good hell of a long while at this point, and I think that larger conversation is lacking in knowledge of some very significant areas, most notably (1) law and (2) labor.

    As long as I'm here, let me add one more point that is much less objective than the points I've made above: A notion of ethics or even morals is something I think we ought to promote in business rather than celebrating the pure concept of moneymaking above all else. We've created a political-legal-social scheme that allows firms to exist (thrive!) because we've judged the firm a useful construct. Where we go from that starting point (which is a starting point that's more contestable in theory than in practice, but which very much should be contested at least in theory -- but that's an aside, hence the parentheses) is up to us, and it's disheartening for me to see people choose the "firms exist to make money so they should attack all loopholes and possible rule interpretations with extreme prejudice in the interest of making more money" road, when there's a perfectly reasonable alternate road: "firms exist to advance society as a whole and should be constrained by social, and ideally legal, pressures when their moneymaking activities come at too much expense of others." Another way of saying this, I guess, is that I would like us not to say "baseball teams are businesses and so they should be applauded for demoting Kris Bryant" as our starting point. That's not our starting point. That's a moral/ethical choice that has been made from an earlier starting point. Recognition that there are other choices is the first step to reform.

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  • March 29, 2015 at 10:14 PM

    Owen Watson has a nice in-depth look at Kendall Graveman's repertoire at FanGraphs. That sinker looks nasty, and if there's one pitch, besides Mariano Rivera's cutter, on which man can live alone, it's a nasty sinker. (N.B.: That's an untested statement. It's probably not true. But it might be!)

    One note I'd add is that Watson writes that Graveman's sinker "has a lot of sink, but it also has a ton of arm-side run, so much so that it looks at times like a two-seam fastball" and I think that's a distinction without a difference. A sinker and a two-seam fastball are, I believe, the same pitch. Everyone's grip and release differs a little, surely, and everyone's ball behaves differently, on a three-dimensional spectrum of velocity, arm-side run, and sink, but my understanding is that broadly speaking they're the same pitch. Some we might prefer to term a "two-seam fastball" because they're heavier on run than sink, so they seem more "fastball-y," as Watson alludes to with Graveman's pitch, and some we might prefer the opposite. But in the end, the man working in the public sphere who knows more about categorizing pitches than anybody else I know, Harry Pavlidis, eschews any distinction—Pitch Info, which powers the categorizations at Brooks Baseball, has only the "sinker," not the "two-seam fastball."

    None of this is to call Watson out, I want to note; I highly recommend the article. I just think it's worth all being on the same page about terminology.

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  • March 10, 2015 at 11:20 PM

    Michael Baumann asks a great question about Billy Beane: How on earth does he keep coming back every year to deal with the bullshit he's had to deal with, knowing full well that it's bullshit?

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  • February 28, 2015 at 12:29 AM

    There are some simple facts about Dayan Viciedo to keep in mind:

    1. He doesn't hit for enough power to make up for his bad on-base percentage;
    2. Therefore, he doesn't hit enough overall to make up for his bad defense at an easy position;
    3. And while he's young, youth is only meaningful if there's good reason to believe that with age will come improvement, and Viciedo has displayed nothing in his multi-year career providing a valid ground for that belief.

    Susan Slusser notes that "if the price is right" Viciedo could make sense for the A's. On a minor-league deal, the price is right for anybody, so I'd agree there, but there is no amount of money that should guarantee Viciedo a spot on the 40-man roster. I'd rather have every single player currently on the fringe over Viciedo.

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  • February 21, 2015 at 9:16 PM

    Susan Slusser quotes Luke Carlin guessing that Barry Zito was throwing in the upper 80s in his bullpen session. I'd ask Mr. Carlin to stop giving all of us hope, please.

    I would also note that Zito's fastball velocity, according to PITCHf/x, looks like this:

    Year Avg Four-seam Velo.
    2008 85.7
    2009 87.1
    2010 86.6
    2011 84.5
    2012 84.9
    2013 84.2

    So you'll forgive me thinking Zito didn't add three or four mph to his fastball by sitting out a year, regardless of what he did to get his mechanics in order or what have you. He's 37. Age comes for us all.

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  • February 20, 2015 at 8:39 AM

    Just a quick note that Baseball America's Top 100 list is out and Franklin Barreto is the only Athletic to make the list. As for those ex-A's:

    Addison Russell is third
    Daniel Robertson is 66th
    Billy McKinney is 83rd
    A.J. Cole is 91st

    Keep remembering that the A's have been to the playoffs (or in 2014 the "playoffs") the last three years. Keep thinking about that.

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  • February 20, 2015 at 10:23 AM

    Prospecting isn't about stats. Nobody thinks anymore that you can look at a minor-leaguer's numbers and project him accurately using only that line. They're tiny young babies with literal physical growth as well as skills growth remaining, so it would be foolish not to take account of what scouting experts think.

    With that caveat out of the way, it's still fair and important to look at actual performance. Everyone has blind spots, and at some point a player's unsexiness has to recede in the face of consistently good hitting, or vice versa -- sometimes the explosion never comes. Which is why it's interesting that Chris Mitchell, now writing at FanGraphs, has developed KATOH, a minors-only projection system. We'll see, of course, how it winds up faring against other systems that project everybody, like ZiPS or PECOTA, but the theory, if you read Mitchell's series of introductory posts at Beyond the Box Score, is intriguing.

    In what may not come as a shock to you, the A's have a number of players who show up better in KATOH than in scout-based or blended prospect rankings available elsewhere. If you click the link and scroll down, you'll see Matt Olson higher than almost anyone else has him, you'll see Rangel Ravelo in the top 200, you'll see Renato Nunez look better than others seem to think. There's perhaps a love of corner bats here, and maybe the system will turn out not to fully appreciate the defensive/positional limitations of such players, but Franklin Barreto also shows up on the list in the same range that other lists have him.

    Check it out and keep an eye on Mitchell's work going forward, though one suspects if he does it well enough he's not going to be working in public for long.

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  • February 18, 2015 at 12:05 AM

    Kiley McDaniel has his top 200 prospects over at FanGraphs. A's representation is as poor as you'd expect: Franklin Barreto is the only player to get a writeup (the top 142, a/k/a the players with a 50 (average) "future value" rating, get writeups) while Matt Olson, Renato Nunez, and Matt Chapman are all listed as 45 "future value" players and therefore unranked specifically but in the 143-to-200 range.

    McDaniel sees Barreto as a possible utility guy if he needs to be that and, perhaps most importantly for the A's, a fast mover despite his youth because of advanced hitting skills. He sees two future plus tools, but they're his speed and arm, so you can see why he doesn't rank higher.

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  • February 16, 2015 at 10:01 PM

    Whoa, man. Whoa.

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  • February 16, 2015 at 2:16 PM

    Baseball Prospectus' prospect team released its organizational rankings today. It's not behind the paywall, so go get you some.

    The A's come in a miserable 27th, up one spot from last year, and you're not going to hear me complaining about how unfair that is. On the other hand, they're fourth in their division because the Angels continue to be worse than Oakland in this department. The A's have a better excuse, in a sense, because they've been trading all their good prospects. The Angels made the Huston Street trade last year, but for the most part have just struggled to draft and/or develop consistently. (Not that the A's were the Cubs before the Samardzija and Zobrist deals, but still.)

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  • February 11, 2015 at 10:29 PM

    I haven't talked about Hector Olivera here at all, but Jeremy Koo at Athletics Nation linked to a tweet from Ben Badler that mentioned the A's among teams with "a notable presence" at a showcase for Olivera, so I thought I would link it as well. The main thing I want to ask, and I say this not as a criticism of Badler in any way, because he seems to be everywhere and know everything, and he even got big ups from Peter Gammons today on Twitter, but the main thing I don't know is what a "notable presence" means. Is that code for "David Forst was there, not just some low-level scout"? Is it about quantity? Does quantity imply quality because every team only has so many scouts, so if you've got 10 in attendance, that necessarily means that some of them are going to be high-level, at least crosscheckers if not further up the chain?

    I genuinely don't know, and I'm curious, though I understand it's a tweet and generally baseball reporters aren't in the business of doing the gossip pages thing of listing every front-office member in attendance at every baseball event.

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  • February 8, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    Dear Bob Melvin: Please do not hit-and-run more often just because the offense doesn't look as powerful without Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss. I'd much rather you trust your hitters to pick their pitches and your baserunners to pick theirs than gamble on getting the right pitch at the right time and have the hitter cut down on his swing at the same time. Green light the whole team like you've done and let 'em play ball, says me.

    Dear Billy Beane: Please enforce the above.

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  • February 7, 2015 at 1:11 PM

    The A's don't go to arbitration very often—Jane Lee noted that, counting this hearing with Jarrod Parker, they've done it a grand total of three times in the Billy Beane era (which, don't look now, is entering its eighteenth seeason). They've won all three times, though the whole concept of "the A's don't go to arbitration very often" (and, to be clear, this isn't unique to the A's—most teams are avoiding hearings as much as they possibly can these days) is that nobody wins by going to a hearing. Sure, the team saves $650,000 on Jarrod Parker's contract (he filed at $1.5 million, the A's at $850,000), but they have to sit in the hearing, presumably with him present, and tell the arbitration panel about how players with two Tommy John surgeries rarely make it back 100 percent, how his solid track record with the A's (3.73 ERA over two years) is more attributable to defense (3.94 FIP) and park (104 ERA+) than anything special he's doing, on and on and on.

    At least, as a percentage of the amounts at issue, the sides were quite far apart, more justifying a hearing than, say, the absurd Marlins–Mat Latos hearing, which went down over a $9.4 million vs. $10.4 million discrepancy. I know they're the Marlins, but the player and team really ought to be able to settle in the middle on that.

    Anyway, I'm not optimistic that Parker's going to be anything more than a fourth starter for the A's this year, assuming he makes it back in May or June or so, but this is why you trade for Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt and Sean Nolin when you've already got Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz and Arnold Leon hanging around—just churn churn churn through as many guys as you need until you figure out what works behind the Sonny Gray–Scott Kazmir–Jesse Hahn trio.

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  • November 25, 2014 at 9:53 AM



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  • November 24, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    On the one hand, Ike Davis isn't all that good at hitting baseballs relative to what major-league first basemen are supposed to do.

    On the other, neither was Brandon Moss before he came to Oakland (and Davis' major-league stat line is a damn sight better than Moss' was).

    On the other other, Moss can play the outfield, while Davis is limited to first base. Also on this same hand, Moss came on a minor-league deal while Davis, if he stays, will cost something in the low- or mid-seven figures.

    Is a deal coming? Probably, in the sense that with Billy Beane there's always a deal coming. Does this acquisition necessarily mean that a deal is coming with Josh Reddick or Brandon Moss or John Jaso? Not neces-- okay, actually, looking at the roster and looking at the fact that it might be pretty silly to give up anything of value (and losing $270,000 in international slot value is something), it probably is fair to guess that a trade with one of those players is more likely than a trade of Josh Donaldson or, I don't know, Nate Freiman.

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  • November 16, 2014 at 1:59 AM

    Joel Sherman tosses out $4 million as the kind of dollar figure Stephen Drew might have to settle for. If that's true, then I'd very much desire the A's to be the team that gives him that $4 million (or even that the A's be the team that calls him and says "we're offering $5.5 right now, take it or else we'll move on and you'll wind up getting $4 somewhere else later") because by our best understandings, $4 million (or $5.5 million) is well under what teams are paying for a win above replacement on the free-agent market these days, and as utterly crummy as Drew was in 2014 with the bat, he's probably still an adequate fielder and I would bet he can put up something like a 90 OPS+, and as unexciting as all that is, it's not clear what the A's other options are going to be.

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  • November 14, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Chris St. John has been building a minor-league stats system called JAVIER for a while now. The goal is to find a stats-only approach that can given a rough idea of how likely that player is to succeed in the majors. To be clear, St. John does not pretend, and we should not pretend, that this approach, or any stats-only approach, can replace scouting. The value, I think, in a system like this is to compare what the stats system says to what scouts say, perhaps to supplement the scouts, perhaps to find overlooked players whose tools don't excite anyone but who keep producing numbers such that we might expect them to produce in the majors notwithstanding no Troutian physical abilities.

    So what's at the link is JAVIER's top 25 A's under the age of 25 as rated by JAVIER. Note that this includes some established major-leaguers (Derek Norris, Jarrod Parker) but does not include their major-league stats. So Norris is at the top of the heap even without accounting for the fact that he's got a career .274 True Average and 43.6 VORP already in the majors.

    Anyway, take a gander and keep it in mind as Matt Olson, Daniel Robertson and Renato Nunez make their way up the chain.

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  • November 4, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    Farhan Zaidi, who had been with the A's for the last 10 years (and who thus just postdates Moneyball), has been stolen away by the Dodgers with a flashy title (general manager), presumably more salary (as befits both said flashy title and the fact that they're the Dodgers), and a whole new type of challenge (spending gobs of money wisely and making the playoffs basically every year because if you spend $220 million on payroll you'd damn well better). Zaidi becomes, as far as I know, the first general manager in baseball history with a PhD (in economics, from Berkeley). He also becomes, of interest in a different way, the first Muslim general manager.

    The former is intriguing if a bit concerning in terms of the continuing Wall Street-ization of baseball, though it raises fun trivia questions

    while the latter is a legitimately positive step in American culture, and one that hopefully augurs other demographic breakthroughs (first openly gay, first female, etc. etc. etc.) in coming years.

    Zaidi had been the A's Director of Baseball Operations for many years, and recently had the title "Assistant General Manager" added, presumably with a concomitant pay increase, and presumably as part of an effort to keep him from being stolen away by teams eager to lure him by offering a promotion from Ops to AGM. Susan Slusser reports:

    It’s unclear if the A’s would move immediately to replace Zaidi, especially considering that longtime A’s assistant general manager David Forst, Beane’s heir apparent, remains in place.

    It's also unclear whether the A's have anyone in-house who could move up a level. On their front office page, they have a Baseball Operations Analyst, Michael Schatz, but he is quite young, so it's anyone's guess whether he's someone who could be elevated to the Director role. (The obvious rejoinder: we're seeing sub-30 GMs these days, so who's to say what "young" even is anymore.)

    It's a lot of guesswork, all of this, including the guesswork of how Zaidi will do in LA and how the A's will do without him. That he was successful in his job is clear from the fact that, without any particular obvious baseball connections (which is to say that he didn't play at a high level), he lasted 10 years in a front office, but GMing, even under Andrew Friedman, is another kettle of fish. Was he doing work that won't be easily replicated by the next man down the line such that the A's will lose some percentage of their ability to field a competitive team for bottom dollar? Who knows! Even the A's probably don't really know because assessment metrics for front-office jobs aren't exactly obvious.

    So we'll twiddle our thumbs some more the rest of this winter and hope the A's do fine. And here's what I really hope: that if the A's win in 2015, nobody says "see Chip and Chili and Zaidi and Geaney, who cares, big deal" and if the A's lose in 2015, nobody says, "oh goddddd why'd they let Chip and Chili and Zaidi and Geaney go, cheap bastards cost us the playoffs!" There are too many variables.

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  • November 3, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    This counts as old, but Baseball America ran lists per minor league level of the top defensive center fielders as measured by, basically, range factor. Billy Burns does very well, ranking behind only Washington's Michael Taylor among Double-A players and behind just Taylor and the Rockies' David Dahl overall.

    Baseball Prospectus calculates Fielding Runs Above Average for minor leaguers and rated Burns at +8.5 in Midland, so the adjustments that go into FRAA don't make us think any less of Burns than his range factor does.

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  • November 2, 2014 at 8:02 PM

    Susan Slusser has a report on Jed Lowrie's situation with the A's, which boils down to, "It's been fun, Jed, good luck at the next stop." Which was predictable, I guess, even if we were all twiddling our thumbs wondering what kind of odds to put on the A's making a qualifying offer to Lowrie. At $15 million, though, and with the way the QO has been destroying the market for players of his caliber (i.e. not the superstars), there's a real chance he'd accept the offer. That's great from the perspective of "now we have a shortstop" but it's not great from basically any other perspective -- even if $15 million represented a reasonable market value for his services (and it's probably a little high), the A's can't pay national market value for wins and expect to have that add up to enough to get them into the playoffs.

    Slusser has some thoughts about where to get a shortstop now, including the oft-mentioned Stephen Drew, an unnamed Cub, or a Diamondback. Slusser asserts that the Cubs have depth at the position, which is true in the sense that they have Starlin Castro and Javier Baez and Addison Russell, and they do have weakness in their starting rotation (at least until they sign Jon Lester this winter), but what does that leave the A's doing, sending them Jeff Samardzija? I don't see it.

    The Diamondbacks probably present a more intriguing possibility because they could make Cliff Pennington or Didi Gregorius available, leaving themselves with Chris Owings plus whoever they don't trade to man the middle infield, along with Nick Ahmed. Neither Pennington nor Gregorius should cost what Castro/Baez/Russell would cost in trade, which is fortunate because the A's don't have anything left in their farm system.

    Or, hey, there's always Nick Punto.

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  • November 1, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    Eric Chavez is a special-assignment scout with the Yankees now. It makes me a little sad that it's not with the A's, but that's irrational because it's not like his scouting for the A's or the Yankees would have anything other than a marginal effect on my fan experience, and whatever effect it did have would be largely invisible to me. They don't put scouts on TV, at least as long as they're not buying ice cream for players.

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  • November 1, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    The word is, yet again, that Howie Kendrick is on the block. Kendrick has been a quietly above-average player for nine years now, with a career True Average of .270, with a season low of .256 and a high of .290. Which is to say that you know exactly what you've gotten from Kendrick since 2006, but it's also to say that he's 31 now, and you start thinking about how second basemen sometimes get hurt and how good players fall off the table once the clock rolls over into the 3's.

    On the other hand, he's got just one year left on his contract, at just shy of $10 million, so a trade for him would not require a major financial commitment, and in particular would not require the multiyear commitment that the A's seem so incapable of/unwilling to put on their books.

    It's no secret that second base was a weak spot for the A's, especially offensively: by True Average, the .228 mark Oakland second basemen posted was the worst by 23 points, with shortstop's .251 the second-worst. More relevantly, the only teams with worse production from second base were Baltimore (Jonathan Schoop), the White Sox (Gordon Beckham), and Colorado (DJ LeMahieu). There is, in other words, room for an upgrade.

    The questions are whether (a) the A's should spend whatever resources they have upgrading second base as opposed to other positions (shortstop, notably, assuming Lowrie doesn't come back via accepting the qualifying offer, or assuming Lowrie does come back but plays second base) and (b) whether the A's even have enough to get Kendrick. Not every team needs Kendrick, but a potential deal with the Dodgers last season was going to revolve around Zach Lee, as pointed out in the link, and Lee was ranked by Baseball Prospectus as their no. 84 prospect before the season. If the A's have anyone that good, it's Daniel Robertson, who ranked no. 85 in its most recent list, but are the A's willing to trade the last really good prospect they have for one year of Howie Kendrick? Do the Angels even want a shortstop when other teams will be offering pitching?

    In short: it would be neat, but don't expect anything to happen.

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  • October 31, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    I don't see any reason at all to pay Billy Butler 1/8 of the team's payroll to mash lefties on a roster where Nate Freiman and Kyle Blanks already exist, and in a world where lefty-mashing sluggos come practically free. The A's should not, after all, be on the market for a full-time DH, not with John Jaso (hopefully), Brandon Moss, and Stephen Vogt all around to fill the long end of the 1B/DH platoon.

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  • October 31, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    The A's added Tyler Ladendorf to the 40-man roster today. Ladendorf is a middle infielder of little repute who the A's got from the Twins way back in the Orlando Cabrera trade. His 2010-13 batting numbers are pretty pitiful, his OBP topping out at .328 in that span and the SLG at .381, but he turned it up a notch in 2014, hitting .297/.376/.407, though he played just 78 games because of a midsummer drug-of-abuse suspension. Still, he would be a minor-league free agent if the A's didn't add him to the 40-man, and he probably showed just enough at a weak position for the A's for them not to want to have to compete with other teams over a minor-league contract.

    Meanwhile, the A's also claimed Andrew Brown from the Mets. He's a theoretical lefty-masher, though even against them he's managed just a .229/.300/.375 major-league line in 160 career PAs over four years. He has flat-out crushed the ball at Triple-A, though, compiling a .298/.380/.555 line over those same four years, though it's worth noting that three of those seasons were spent in Las Vegas (2) and Colorado Springs (1), which are fantastic places to hit. Still, as minor-league sluggers who might show up and do something weird in 100 emergency PAs go, I'm not unhappy to have him, and it's not like it'll hurt me overmuch when/if the team DFAs him to make room for the next guy. Which may well happen in a month, who knows.

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  • October 30, 2014 at 9:09 PM

    I wouldn't normally do a Beaneball post about the retirement of someone who never played for the A's or has any particular real connection to the A's except of course that Kevin Youkilis plays a bigger part than any other non-Athletic in Moneyball and as we all know nobody thinks about the A's without thinking "Moneyball" so we may as well cover Moneyball-related news just the same as we do A's-related news.

    In any event, I vote that Oakland hire Youkilis as AZL hitting coach when everyone else gets bumped up a level due to the elevation of Marcus Jensen.

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  • October 30, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    So after all the rumors and courting of other teams' hitting coaches, the A's are going to fill their remaining coaching vacancy/vacancies from within. The names:

    • Darren Bush moves from bullpen coach to hitting coach;
    • Marcus Jensen moves from roving hitting instructor in the minors to assistant hitting coach and catching coach; and
    • Scott Emerson moves from roving pitching instructor to bullpen coach.

    That's one coach out (Chili Davis) and two in (Jensen and Emerson) -- the extra space comes from Ariel Prieto not being retained, which makes sense given that, while he was a coach, his main role was as interpreter for Yoenis Cespedes.

    Googling "catching coach" turns up a number of teams who have someone listed in that role: Bill Lachemann in Anaheim, Steve Yeager in Los Angeles, Pedro Grifol in Kansas City. I don't think all of those are dugout coaches though -- teams are only allowed seven uniformed coaches, so when you start counting (batting, asst. batting, first base, third base, bench, pitching, bullpen) you see how you're either going to have to forego that assistant hitting coach or someone's going to pull double duty.

    Of course, double duty is hardly unheard of, especially since base coaching only takes up so much of your time. Ron Washington was always more important to the A's as their infield defense coach than as a third base coach, for instance. And on the other hand, the manager (an ex-catcher, of course, as so many are) just has too much going on, dealing with the front office and the media, keeping track of how his entire roster is doing mentally and physically, figuring out lineups and days off for hitters and who's available out of the bullpen. You can't count on him having time to do blocking drills and pitch-framing practice with the catchers on top of that.

    On the other hand, how important is it to have a guy named "catching coach" in the dugout in-game? Hitting coaches help with mechanics but they also, at least in theory, can help with preparation, scouting reports, plans of attack, adjustments, and so forth. When a reliever comes in midgame, the hitting coach should be a resource. The same doesn't apply as well to a catching coach, so it makes sense to have that person either be nonuniformed or fill multiple roles. The A's have decided to roll with the latter.

    I'm not going to read too much into the hiring (promotion) of a catching coach in the aftermath of Derek Norris' defensive struggles -- he's always been known as a bat-first player, and the entire basis of his prospect status was that he hit like a third baseman, had a strong arm, and ... kinda needed work at the other stuff. All of that appears to remain true. So the question is whether the A's are basically just sick of it and want to take their 26-year-old almost-catcher and make something out of him? Or is it that Jensen is an ex-catcher, so what the hell, let's turn the catching coaching over to him? My guess is that it's more the latter, though I'll listen to evidence the other way.

    Anyway, so, Darren Bush you know as a well-regarded minor league manager who the A's plucked out of independent league managing to be the hitting coach in Stockton back in 2005. Manager in 2007, Double-A in 2009, Triple-A in 2011, bullpen coach in 2013, and now hitting coach. One suspects he will shortly be a bench coach candidate quite soon, and a good managerial candidate not long after that. He's still only 40. Fun fact: He started his playing career in the independent leagues as a center fielder in the Frontier League before the Padres signed him in 2009.

    Marcus Jensen was a first round sandwich pick in 1999 and wound up with 145 major-league games over seven years, but with a .184/.287/.289 batting line. He's an Oakland guy with a career 13 percent walk rate in the minors but, despite standing 6-foot-4, apparently did not have the power you need to keep pitchers honest in the big leagues. He finished his career with two years in the independent Golden Baseball League before joining the A's as a minor-league coach in 2007. He's been in the organization ever since.

    Finally, Scott Emerson was a 40th-round pick in 1991 who pitched six years in organized ball but didn't get past Double-A. He went to the same high school as Curt Schilling. He's been with the A's since 2002 after two years as a low-minors pitching coach in the Pittsburgh organization.

    One interesting note is that because of the A's tendencies in recent years to acquire every single one of their players by either trade or free agency, few members of the current roster played any of these three coaches. The full list appears to be:

    • Josh Donaldson, managed by Bush in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012;
    • Brandon Moss, managed by Bush in 2012
    • Derek Norris, managed by Bush in 2012
    • Eric Sogard, managed by Bush in 2011 and 2012
    • Sonny Gray, managed by Bush in 2012
    • Sean Doolittle, managed by Bush in 2008 and very briefly in 2012
    • Evan Scribner, managed by Bush in 2012
    • A.J. Griffin, managed briefly by Jensen in 2010, and pitching coached and managed by Emerson and Bush briefly in 2011 and partially in 2012

    On other teams, Darren Bush might have his fingerprints on various players on the roster, but not here. Not that it means anything, in terms of a value judgment -- three playoff trips in three years says what you need to know about the A's team-building. (Though the likely fallow period coming may say something as well.)

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  • October 29, 2014 at 10:24 PM

    Here's Steve Adams at MLB Trade Rumors with a lengthy look at how the A's offseason could shake out. Maybe Asdrubal Cabrera! That'd be neat. (Not really. Not very neat.)

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  • October 27, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Mike Aldrete, who has been the Cardinals' bench coach for a few years, will take the same position with the A's. One doubts that Oakland is paying him more, but he's from my neck of the woods (born in Carmel, went to Monterey High School, son was born in Salinas and went to Monterey Peninsula College, where my mom got her AA -- I went to "rival" Seaside High) so apparently the return to northern California is a big deal for him.

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  • October 23, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    It sounds like the A's are being as closed-mouthed as always, but that the list of possible next hitting coaches is basically just Dave Hansen and Dave Magadan. I have no commentary for all the reasons I've already stated.


    So welcome to Oakland, Dave Hansen!

    And if not, I have no idea!

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  • October 19, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    Our main man John Hickey has some more names who might be candidates to replace the departed Chili Davis: Rick Schu (Nationals), Kevin Seitzer (Blue Jays), Paul Molitor (Twins), Marcus Jensen, Greg Sparks and Webster Garrison (all A's minor-league coaches). Hickey mentions the former three because they were all hitting coaches under Bob Melvin in the past. In other words, it appears that Hickey is speculating, not reporting, but sometimes (not just with Hickey), it's hard to tell.

    Anyway, Hickey also notes that "With the hiring of a new manager, Jeff Bannister, all Rangers coaches have been told they are free to explore other options," so that explains the Dave Magadan part. Though it isn't clear what would happen to Magadan if he didn't get a job elsewhere. Is "free to explore" = "we're not renewing your contract"?

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  • October 19, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    Susan Slusser's story about Chili Davis vacating Oakland mentions two possible replacements: Dave Magadan, currently in Texas, and Dave Hansen, in Anaheim. The latter could stay put if he gets the top job for the Angels, which would presumably happen if Don Baylor retires or takes a less demanding job due to his health issues. Magadan has interviewed around, so it's not clear what his place is in Texas -- are they nudging him out the door, is Jeff Banister looking to bring in his own guy, or are they happy to have him back if Texas is where he wants to be?

    In this space is where at other blogs you might find stats about how the Angels and Rangers hit in 2014 and maybe in years past, but, like I said, I don't care. So no stats.

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  • October 7, 2014 at 12:04 AM

    Questions persist about John Jaso's future defensive home mainly because of now-repeated concussions, but the A's should have been asking the questions all along because of his astoundingly poor defense behind the plate. As I've said before, it doesn't take advanced metrics to see his defensive habits that surely drive his coaches mad: the wiggling around behind the plate, the stabbing at the ball, the inability to hold a still target and let the ball softly meet it. That it's taken concussions to force him from behind the plate is sad on a personal level, but baseball isn't losing another Maueresque defensive wizard to the tragedies of brain injury.

    And by the way, I would heavily discount any idea that Jaso suffers particularly at DH. There does appear to be a DH penalty (though debates remain about the extent to which such can be blamed on managers giving half days off to tired or injured players vs. something intrinsically more difficult about DHing itself, even as there are perfectly good reasons for the latter to be true), but Jaso having a poor year at DH doesn't mean he's more susceptible to it for sone reason (though I don't doubt that there are players whose ability to DH is impaired more than average) -- we need more evidence, probably more than we can ever hope to gather.

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  • October 3, 2014 at 12:55 AM

    Mike Petriello at FanGraphs has a good look at some of the questions the A's will face in the offseason.

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  • September 30, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    I know you've been desperately awaiting my Internet Baseball Awards ballot. Here it is. Josh Donaldson is on there.

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  • September 25, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    I don't read Q&A's as a rule because I generally hate them, but this one with Brandon Moss (and drop-in Statler and Waldorf commentary by Adam Dunn) by Eno Sarris of FanGraphs is fantastic. Moss is frank and fully understanding of what kind of player he is and what kind of pitches are his pitches to hit. He also describes himself as sabermetrically oriented and watches a ton of video. (Also, tidbit: Jon Lester watches a ton of video as well.)

    Dunn is a jokester.

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  • September 24, 2014 at 11:47 PM

    Susan Slusser reports that Brandon Moss has been dealing with a severe right hip injury. (That's the front hip for the lefty batter.) She uses the phraes "bone-on-bone," which is always alarming as hell, and says that he'll be having microfracture surgery after the season to correct the problem.

    Moss, as players often do, wouldn't blame his second-half shittiness on his hip, but that's a pretty obvious explanation for him to suddenly stop being able to hit. If you've ever read any swing analysis (Ryan Parker at Baseball Prospectus, for instance, or Jerry Brewer at Athletics Nation) you'll have noticed a lot of focus on what the hips are doing, how powerfully they're doing it, the timing of the movements, and so forth. I'm the furthest thing from a doctor, and even if I were a doctor, I haven't seen Moss' MRI, but it's still pretty easy to imagine how, whether through decreased mobility or simply pain, Moss' swing could have become completely fouled by this injury.

    Also alarming is Moss' prospects going forward. As a late bloomer, the A's were never going to be able to count on him for years and years and years (he's already 30), but as an immobile slugger, perhaps a gentle decline into his early 30s in time for him to become a free agent in 2017 would have made for a nice confluence of skills, cost, and team control. Now the skills part of that equation is in question. A quick google shows that Moss can be expected to be on crutches for eight weeks after the surgery, so being ready for spring training shouldn't be an issue, but what about his mobility and power? Will they come all the way back?

    On the other hand, if Moss is bone-to-bone at this point, is it likely that this is a sudden condition? Or did Moss post a 146 OPS+ from 2012-13 with partially degraded hip cartilage as it was, such that the surgery doesn't need to return him to 100 percent hip effectiveness for him to get back to his All Star–caliber hitting? Maybe Moss will address these questions with the media in the coming weeks or in the offseason. Maybe we'll be left speculating. For now, we're speculating about speculation, but one thing seems very likely: The A's probably cannot count on Moss to suddenly snap out of his "slump" in the next few days and, hopefully, in a deep run into the playoffs. The Moss we have is, for now, pre-surgery, the Moss we most likely have.

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  • September 24, 2014 at 1:52 AM

    Turns out that Billy Beane was the best of trade partners and the worst of trade partners for Kevin Towers. (The worst, coming as it did in the Trevor Cahill trade, weighs quite a bit more heavily, and should only continue to look worse from here on out.)

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  • September 24, 2014 at 12:04 AM

    John Hart is apparently on the verge of coming back to baseball as a general manager for the first time since October 4, 2005. This time it would be for the Braves. It really has been that long since he invented some of the modern concepts of everyday general managing, and it really has been that long since he stepped down to let Mark Shapiro take over as GM in Cleveland.

    Which, come to think of it, may be considered another move he pioneered, the grooming of the understudy, though Sandy Alderson had done the same thing, leaving to a position in MLB's offices, letting Billy Beane take over the top chair in Oakland. In any event, if Hart were to take the reins in Atlanta, it would apparently be with the idea that he would groom yet another successor, after Shapiro and Jon Daniels, this time John Coppolella, a young jack-of-all-trades type with both stats and scouting savvy and an incredible reputation as an up-and-comer within the game.

    It has, just to hammer this home, been so long since Hart left Cleveland to Shapiro that Shapiro himself has already bumped upstairs to the President job (speaking of now-popular front-office moves), with Chris Antonetti taking over as GM. This was Antonetti's fourth season in that role.

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  • September 16, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    Grant Brisbee, you will be shocked to hear, is right about bunting to break up a no-hitter: it's just not a big deal in 99 percent of situations. Occasionally it's a weenie move, but the most that should happen is we call the guy a weenie. And in the fifth inning of a close game with the defensive shift on?


    A's fans already have a position on bunting vs. the shift thanks to the stupid Bo Porter - Jed Lowrie contretemps (and let's just take a moment to savor Jed Lowrie being the A's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award), but just in case you didn't already: if you take your third baseman away from third base, it would be a dereliction of duty for a hitter not to at least ponder the possibility of bunting the ball that direction, regardless of score or anything else. It's the great trade-off, and you don't get to have it both ways. (As Sam Miller has noted, though, that's entirely the point of unwritten rules: using shame to get the other team to act against their self-interest.)

    Anyway, I think a good article to pair with Grant's is Zachary Levine's recent piece at Baseball Prospectus about when a potential no-hitter starts getting real. He uses stats. In this case, we learn from those stats that in games played since 1950, teams have completed no-hitters 2.05 percent of the time when they've not allowed a hit through four innings. That's a pretty miniscule shot that Domonic Brown "took away" by bunting for a hit against Andrew Cashner.

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  • September 16, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    Marc Normandin has the writeup over at SB Nation.

    My HOT NON-A'S TAKE is that prosecuting a mere user of drugs, particularly these drugs, would be completely out of step with anything resembling good drug policy and would be hard to justify as a matter of prosecutorial and investigative time and resources. Rodriguez seems like one of the lamest baseball players around, but wishing jail on him isn't going to fix that and it isn't going to fix the game (assuming you think it's broken in the first place, which is a tough argument to make).

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  • September 15, 2014 at 1:19 AM

    David Schoenfield thinks the wild card lead is (relatively?) safe at this point after a couple of very important wins in Seattle. Objectively, I might agree that the A's are in a good position over their final 13 games, as 10 are against Texas and Philadelphia, with just three against the Angels. As a fan, the last month has been so horrifying that I'm counting on the team going 0-13 and will color myself pleasantly surprised with any other outcome.

    My Mets fan father-in-law today expressed sympathy. It's been a tough time, A's fans.

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  • September 12, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    The A's last seven losses have been by exactly one run. I asked Data Wizard Andrew Koo to help me research that, and he gave me a list of the 15 teams since 1950 that have also experienced periods where their only losses were by one run. And then I wrote 4,000 words about them at Baseball Prospectus. It's free.

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  • September 11, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    Forget this year. I'm done with it. Instead, read this nice profile of Daniel Robertson, the new shortstop of the future and maybe the new best A's prospect.

    Question, though: Addison Russell's calling cards aren't exactly his range and speed, right? So when comparing their tools, knowing Robertson doesn't have Russell's bat (because no middle infield prospect does), isn't it pretty damning to say Robertson doesn't even have Russell's range and speed?

    The flip side is that even if each of Robertson's tools is a touch below (or more) he can still be an excellent prospect because Russell is that good. Like, if you're only 60 percent of Barry Bonds, you're amazing too.

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  • September 9, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    Grant Brisbee looks at five mistakes the A's made to wind up in the position they're in. (Specifically, as to that position: to wind up shitty.)

    Well, that's not quite right. The idea is more generally five mistakes they've made in the last two months, so Brisbee is able to include trading Addison Russell even though that trade (or, specifically, who they gave up in that trade) has nothing to do with their doing well or not. But in any event, it's hard to argue with any of his five points:

    • Jeff Samardzija isn't an ace and paying an ace price for him was probably a mistake (though he's likely an upgrade on whoever would have pitched those innings if they hadn't acquired him, whether that's a tiring Jesse Chavez, an overmatched Dan Straily, or someone else);

    • Leaving their sub-replacement second-base situation alone was probably a mistake, though Billy Beane was likely betting on upward regression from his existing players, and it was justified in the case of Eric Sogard, who's hit .277/.373/.362 since July 20th, with the problem being that a fair amount of that goes on the shortstop portion of the ledger because of Jed Lowrie's injury (which coincided with Nick Punto's, thereby decimating the A's middle-infield offense and defense simultaneously);

    • The A's have probably been unlucky, both in the classic sense of misdistribution of runs and close games not going their way and in the particular distribution of talent across the league in such a way that the three best teams in the American League might all be in their division. Of course, they were probably playing over their heads in the first half, in terms of certain players outproducing their talent, but the Baseball Gods aren't supposed to let individual regression happen simultaneous with a rash of injuries simultaneous with unfortunate distribution. That ain't right, Baseball Gods.

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  • September 6, 2014 at 6:56 PM

    David Schoenfield looks at the history of teams who led baseball in wins at the All-Star break. None of them failed to make the playoffs. Which just means the A's can set a new record if they keep doing shitty!

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  • September 5, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    Zachary Levine looks at the A's propensity under Billy Beane to sign (or, in the case of Adam Dunn, acquire) aging sluggers to play designated hitter. Sometimes it works (Frank Thomas, David Justice), sometimes it doesn't (Eric Karros, Nomar Garciaparra), sometimes it's whatever (Frank Thomas the second time, Mike Piazza, Jason Giambi, Mike Sweeney, Hideki Matsui).

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  • September 4, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    Good stuff from Alex Hall over at Athletics Nation on where Adam Dunn's playing time is going to come from.

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  • September 2, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    The A's may not win the West, but at least they're 1/25th of the way to 25 Adam Dunns.

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  • September 2, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Here's R.J. Anderson's Transaction Analysis, which includes a paragraph on the Adam Dunn trade and notes the possible difficulty juggling the roster if John Jaso makes it back. Color me pessimistic.

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  • September 1, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    David Schoenfield raises a couple of names of interest to A's fans as possible replacements for Bo Porter in Houston: current Mets bench coach Bob Geren, who A's fans of course know and love (it is love, right?) as the manager who took over for the much-maligned Ken Macha and presided over a four-plus-year run of mediocrity that saw the team finish at .500 just once and make the playoffs no times; and current A's bench coach Chip Hale, whose coaching experience also includes Triple-A managing and third-base-coaching for the Mets.

    Geren managed under Billy Beane, of course, and his current job has him working for Sandy Alderson and his crew of stat nerd front office folks (Paul DePodesta, J.P. Ricciardi, Peter Brand), so he can at the very least go along to get along with a the Luhnowians in H-Town. Hale the same, and furthermore he's probably just about due for a gig in any event.

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  • September 1, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    We're starting to see how the roster is going to shape up for September. Most notably, Bryan Anderson, a lefty-swinging catcher, has been added to the expanded roster, so the A's now have literally 17 catchers on the roster. (Proof left as an exercise for the reader.) Also up are Billy Burns for pinch-running and defense and Fernando Rodriguez as a bullpen arm. Nate Freiman and Drew Pomeranz will return tomorrow.

    By the way: Geovany Soto is starting at catcher today rather than Derek Norris, or even rather than Stephen Vogt, which you could do if you wanted Brandon Moss to play first and Craig Gentry to play left. In the latter case, we perhaps see the trading of defense for offense, which may make sense given that the A's have scored four total runs in their last 17 games. (Proof left as an exercise for the reader.)

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  • August 31, 2014 at 10:04 PM

    Hard to argue with David Schoenfield here: the West looks awfully tough to win at this point.

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  • August 31, 2014 at 3:02 PM

    Here's one look at the Adam Dunn trade from the White Sox perspective.

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  • August 31, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    As David Schoenfield writes, unless Yoenis Cespedes was actually the team's mascot and prime motivational force, they're not playing well now because they're not playing well, not because Cespedes is in Boston.

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  • August 29, 2014 at 11:35 PM

    Hey, guess who's hurt again?

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  • August 25, 2014 at 1:30 AM

    Hey. Did you hear the A's have some injuries? We'll Sam Fuld is day-to-day after banging his knee in the outfield. How you like them injuries?


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  • August 24, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    Maybe if I'd checked Susan Slusser's blog first, I wouldn't be sitting here guessing at who's going where. She says that John Jaso is indeed hitting the disabled list because of (ugh) concussion symptoms. This is the second time in as many years that Jaso had missed time with a concussion, and one can only hope that he's able to recover. If his bad catcher defense weren't enough, his newfound proneness to concussions should hopefully spell the end of his days behind the plate. He hasn't played a ton of first base in his career, but maybe he can learn the position this offseason (assuming he's able to recover enough from the concussion to actually work out).

    It's all terrible. All of it. It's terrible.

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  • August 24, 2014 at 11:13 PM

    But hey, on the other hand, the A's acquired Geovany Soto in a trade with the Rangers. Oakland gave up noted prospect Some Bucks. It's not entirely clear why the A's need four catchers except insofar as Bob Melvin is tired of watching John Jaso and Stephen Vogt's attempts to receive pitched baseballs. The A's will need to make a 25-man roster move, and I'm really not sure what those are going to be unless maybe Jaso, who hasn't played the last three games (two of which were against lefties) is hurt. That he didn't start Sunday's game after so much time off might be an indication.

    It appears the 40-man move was transferring Kyle Blanks to the 60-day disabled list. He went on the DL on June 23rd, so the move is purely procedural; he's already been out for 60 days, so this doesn't say anything about how much longer we should expect him to be out.

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  • August 24, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    I missed before just now that Sean Doolittle's "eh, no big deal" twinge in his side has magically transformed into an intercostal strain that has sent him to the disabled list. The sky, she falls. She falls, friends.

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  • August 24, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    Last week, Christina Kahrl had this look at the A's struggles in the last month (or closer to a month and a half now). It's not wrong and it's terrifying.

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  • August 23, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    Sometimes teams are all, "we're not afraid of our rival and we're not going to let them dictate how we behave," and sometimes teams are smart and realistic and recognize that some games matter more than others and swap their rotation around to make sure their best four starters pitch in a critical four-game series against the team that could bump them from the division title into the dreaded anything-could-happen (what what say what) wild card crapshoot game.

    The A's, bless Jobu, are doing the latter.

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  • August 22, 2014 at 11:32 PM

    In checking in on the enemy news, Nathan Aderhold has this look at the Angels' best options to hold down the fort after Garrett Richards sadly went down with what is known in the halls of medicine as a jacked-up knee.

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  • August 22, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    It looks like Kyle Blanks won't be back for a while. On the one hand, the A's have, at least at the corner spots, more players than they know what to do with. On the other hand, Blanks is more versatile than Nate Freiman and likely a better hitter, too. Freiman has options, so the A's wouldn't be losing anything if Blanks completed his rehab as he was scheduled to do. Assuming Blanks does play again this season, I'm curious to see how Bob Melvin balances his time with Freiman, given that we're looking at expanded September rosters before too long.

    Also: big guys just have such a hard time of it with their feet, huh?

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  • August 21, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    Jeff Moore has a scouting report on Billy McKinney. He's big on the hit tool, which he says will take him to the majors, where the rest of his development will determine whether he fits as just a guy or A Guy. (My stealing from Keith Law, not Moore's.)

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  • August 21, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    There are arguments to be made against the shift. This, which essentially boils down to "waaahhh," isn't those arguments.

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  • August 14, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    From a few weeks ago, here's's updated ranking of A's prospects. Note that Daniel Robertson has jumped into the overall MLB top 100 on the basis of his all-around-solid game. New draftee Matt Chapman clocks in fourth while middle infielder Chad Pinder and pitcher Seth Streich have made big jumps up the rankings. Billy Burns has dropped all the way to 17th after beginning the year at no. 9.

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  • August 7, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    Benjamin Morris looked at how much the Red Sox may have lost out by not offering Billy Beane whatever amount of money it took to get him. There are assumptions here, including in particular that Beane's [stuff] would work just as well in Boston's financial environment as Oakland's, but the scale of the numbers means that you can apply a lot of discounts for how dubious you are about the method and still come out to the conclusion that Boston should have made Beane an offer he couldn't refuse.

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  • July 29, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    Chris Mosch looks at changing defensive alignments with two-strikes to better defend hitters with both strong pull tendencies and good bunt abilities. The case study is Coco Crisp.

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  • July 29, 2014 at 8:35 PM

    This isn't A's-related but it is a nice elegy for Ryan Howard by Paul Boye.

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  • July 24, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    Jim Bowden's piece (Insider only) a week ago had the A's aggressively looking for a second baseman but unwilling to part with Daniel Robertson. Apparently some A's scout types like him as much as Russell, which sounds ludicrous unless you think that maybe Russell is like a Derek Jeter type on defense who's going to take away 15 runs on defense even as he provides ___ at the plate. In any event, Renato Nunez, by contrast, is apparently very much on the table.

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  • July 22, 2014 at 11:27 PM

    Michael Baumann's piece on the Astros / Brady Aiken situation is worth a minute. I'm justifying putting it here on this A's blog because the Astros are a division rival. For some definition of "rival," anyway.

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  • July 22, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    Katie Sharp at ESPN has a look at how Sonny Gray has turned it back around after a rough June.

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  • July 19, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    Let's give Huston Street a warm welcome back into the American League West, ideally by hitting about 12 homers off of him in the event he pitches August 22-24, 28-31, or September 22-24. "The unlikely event," he said, smugly, implying that the Angels aren't going to go to the ninth inning with the lead against the A's, thereby dooming Oakland to lose all 10 games by the magic of baseball blogger karma.

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  • July 18, 2014 at 12:59 AM

    The similarities between the swings of Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson are intentional. It's become one of my favorite things to say about the current iteration of baseball: swinging real real real hard may be something like a market inefficiency on the player level.

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  • July 18, 2014 at 12:42 AM

    In even more important ex-A's news, Brett Wallace is now a Blue Jay. Toronto acquired him from Baltimore, where I did not even realize he had been.

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  • July 17, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    In always-important ex-A's news, Trevor Cahill is back from his excursion in the minors. He's still walking the entire world and is probably never going to be the pitcher we hoped he'd be, but at least he's in the majors again.

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  • July 17, 2014 at 12:19 AM

    The basic takeaway from this analysis of Mike Trout's swing by Blake Thomsen is that his mechanics match up perfectly with what pitchers have been taught to do since time immemorial. "Keep the ball down!" say the coaches, except that Trout does all his damage on low pitches and none on high pitches. You adjust your approach to different batters, but it's one thing to throw more sliders or more to one side of the plate against some batters and a whole other to work up, up, up when with almost literally everyone else in baseball you're better off working down. The mechanics of pitching are geared toward delivering the ball down in the strike zone. It's hard to just make that adjustment for one hitter.

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  • July 16, 2014 at 8:45 PM

    This is a fascinating look at the history of "options" in baseball (with Tom Milone as the lede, though the A's link here is shaky -- I'd recommend it regardless of who was in the header image).

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  • July 13, 2014 at 12:22 AM

    Boy, the A's farm system is, uh, not elite in terms of current talent on hand, is it?

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  • July 13, 2014 at 12:14 AM

    Did I say anything here about the Jeff Francis trade? I don't think I did. Big up to Billy Beane for getting something for Francis from the Yankees, even if that something is like $25,000 or a fourth-rate 27-year-old reliever in High-A.

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  • July 13, 2014 at 12:00 AM

    Sam Miller finds the best defensive game of June and it stars our own Josh Donaldson. He uses this as an excuse to look at how Donaldson went from Auburn infielder to Auburn catcher to minor-league catcher to major-league third baseman to incredibly good major-league third baseman. Well worth the click if you have a subscription to BP.

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  • July 12, 2014 at 9:50 PM

    Alberto Callaspo went on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. Andy Parrino is up. I predict that this injury will cost the A's approximately 0.07 percent in their playoff odds.

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  • July 7, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    And the Baseball America midseason top 50 has Russell fifth, ahead of even Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez.

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  • July 7, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    The blogfather, David Schoenfield, looks at the Samardzija trade after Sunday's excellent start.

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  • July 7, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    The Baseball Prospectus midseason top 50 prospects ranking is here and Addison Russell is sixth. /sobs

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  • July 3, 2014 at 8:24 PM

    It's Eric O'Flaherty time in Oakland, finally. Or maybe "finally" is unfair given that he made it back from Tommy John surgery even before (if barely before) the All-Star break. Either way, it's the end of the A's road for Jeff Francis, who was designated for assignment. A variety of things could happen, including him staying in the A's organization, but the odds of that seem low. Given that he wouldn't be on the 40-man roster if he stuck around, in case of injury you'd have to figure that Joe Savery would be ahead of him in line for a 25-man spot if the team is looking specifically for a lefty, and Fernando Rodriguez if they just want a good reliever.

    At least he got that save.

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  • June 28, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Meet the A's newest shortstop and starting pitcher acquired in the most Billy Beane of fashions.

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  • June 24, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    Mike Petriello has this good look at Sean Doolittle's success and how he's done it at FanGraphs.

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  • June 24, 2014 at 10:30 PM

    Some nice news for Renato Nunez, who made the World Futures Game team. Nunez isn't a big-time prospect (he was ranked sixth in the mediocre A's organization by and 10th by Baseball Prospectus), though he does have big-time power. Hopefully this isn't his career highlight, but it's always a possibility. The 2006 Futures Games, for instance, featured Joe Koshansky, Eric Patterson, Josh Fields, Jason Hirsh, Eric Hurley, Nick Pereira, Josh Sharpless, Salomon Manriquez, Yung Chi Chen, Joel Guzman, Anderson Gomes, Trent Oeltjen, and Davis Romero, among others. It also, to be fair, had Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Joey Votto, and an assortment of others ranging from solid to well-above-average. My point isn't to throw shade at the organizers of the event, but simply to note that the future, as it were, is still incredibly speculative.

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  • June 23, 2014 at 9:48 PM

    The mystery of Josh Reddick's activation (specifically, who would need to be cut to make room) has been solved, as Kyle Blanks has a strained calf that has put him on the disabled list. In the 20 games in which Blanks recorded a position played, 17 of them were at first base. He basically started against lefties, though it wasn't a strict platoon (as has been Bob Melvin's wont this year).

    With Reddick returning, this would seem to leave the team some options. Of course, when Reddick plays, he'll be in right field. And when he plays with a right-handed pitcher on the mound, Brandon Moss will 100 percent be in the lineup, most likely at first base. The difficulty is that this leaves one of The Catcher Trio sitting (with the other two splitting catcher and designated hitter), which is a shame given how Reddick has hit the last year and a half, but is not nearly as much of a shame when you consider his defense versus the try-real-hard galumphing of Vogt. I appreciate the hell out of the guy, and I love having him on the team, and it's fun watching him hit, but he's not Reddick in the pasture.

    The question is what to do against lefties. I'd be in favor of Craig Gentry starting over Reddick with Moss and Alberto Callaspo splitting first base and DH. That's not nearly as fearsome a lineup as the one against righties, but that's exactly how you want to build your team, right? Why sign a bunch of lefty mashers when you're only going to get to use them one day in four?

    Once again, though, we're just talking about base lineups, not the everyday configuration. Check out the A's calendar of defensive assignments this year -- players get rest, players have owies, players get pulled for matchup reasons, it's all there. Really, though, all I ask is that we give Reddick a break against lefties.

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  • June 20, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    The A's are first in baseball at turning batted balls into outs and it's not particularly close, so if platooning is hurting their defense, then it must be because they're superhuman at defense normally. I appreciate the theorizing, but a little actual data (no, error totals don't count) can go a long way.

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  • June 20, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    And just like that, here's your 25-man answer -- Evan Scribner is headed back to Sacramento. Relatively predictable. If he wasn't good enough to beat out Jeff Francis for a roster spot three days ago, why would he be good enough now? See you next time, Scrumbles.

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  • June 20, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    The mystery of who would be removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Brad Mills (who is starting today) has been solved: the A's waived Justin Marks and lost him to [drumroll] the Rangers. Duh. It's frankly almost a little creepy at this point, the Rangers claiming everyone the A's waive.

    The 25-man roster move to get Mills on is still a mystery. The lineup card for 22 men listed (nine batting starters, four benchies, eight bullpen, and Mills), which either means a typo (e.g. forgetting to take Jeff Francis off the card), a late-breaking move (e.g. they haven't actually optioned Evan Scribner yet because they haven't decided whether they want to), or, most disastrously, a starting pitcher is going to go on the disabled list.

    I'm not sure what the deadline is to set your 25-man roster before a game, i.e. I don't know whether the second option above is even possible.

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  • June 19, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    Here is why the A's aren't getting Ben Zobrist.

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  • June 14, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    Here is the Baseball Reference page for the pitcher the A's got in return for Michael Taylor. He's 24 in the South Atlantic League and signed as an undrafted free agent. He's a very long shot, good peripheral numbers this year aside. There's real danger of this line of a long trade tree that includes Brett Wallace and Matt Holliday and Carlos Gonzalez and so forth being snuffed out if Sanchez gets released by the A's without ever making enough of a dent to be traded again.

    Good luck to Taylor, though. I don't know that he couldn't be a useful part-timer for a few years if the opportunity arose. He seems, human being-wise, like he deserves it.

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  • June 12, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    I don't want to be mean, but this Yoenis Cespedes piece is like a master class in how not to evaluate defense.

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  • June 11, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    The frame for this piece by Jen Mac Ramos is Justin Duchscherer, but I'd share it regardless -- it's an important blend of personal history and reporting on mental health and baseball. Those of us fortunate enough to be free of anxiety, depression, or other disorders should be aware of what people without such luck go through, and in particular it is nice to see, maybe, little by little, the culture inside baseball turning from "that guy is soft" to "we need to support that guy so he can try to get better."

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  • June 10, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    Sam Miller's take on the Manny Machado suspension (he did not get enough because of the particular tool involved in the fracas) seems right to me. (He would also have suspended Abad, which I agree with as well because I would try to legislate throwing-at-hitters out of the game. Even in the context of the situation as it stands, I'm not sure why he didn't get one game at least. He clearly tried to hit Machado, right? Chen's HBP of Donaldson was at least ambiguous, if suspect.)

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  • June 9, 2014 at 11:52 PM

    David Schoenfield has an appreciation of Sean Doolittle, the ridiculous work he's done, and the completely absurd way in which he's done it (all fastballs, all up in the zone). Don't let it become routine, fellow fans. Baseball is ephemeral, life is fleeting, joy never lasts, it's all darkness and pain in the not-even-very-long run. Embrace Doolittle and celebrate his accomplishments every day. Peace be with you.

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  • June 9, 2014 at 11:43 PM

    Grant Brisbee's take on the Orioles nonsense from this weekend looks right to me. Even the part where he doesn't know the difference between Eric Sogard and Alberto Callaspo. Cut him some slack, he's a Giants fan, the expectations are lower.

    Also: check out the Bert Campaneris GIF at that link. Doesn't it seem like Campy just doesn't react at all until the ball has already smacked him? Did he not see it? Did pitchers throw super-deceptive back then? Mysterious.

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  • June 9, 2014 at 11:25 PM

    In case you missed it, the Diamondbacks have designated Trevor Cahill for assignment. It's too bad, and it evokes weird feelings as a fan -- you're happy that Billy Beane made the trade when he did, taking the heat for trading a supposed young stud for speculative pieces, but you're not happy about why you're happy because Cahill seemed like a nice guy, a good player to root for. Not a goofball like Brett Anderson or a big personality like Grant Balfour, but just a solid dude.

    And so now, after one mediocre season in Arizona followed by one horrific start to a season and then a demotion to the bullpen, he's just an extra piece, someone you designate when you need the 40- or 25-man roster space. He's Evan Scribner.

    I'll be curious to see whether Arizona can swing a trade or get someone to bite on waivers to get out from under his contract. He's got about $5 million still coming to him over the rest of this year and $12 million next year! Plus $800,000 worth of buyouts. So it seems likely that he could get through waivers on price tag alone.

    The new market inefficiency is signing bad players to huge contracts and then DFAing them so you know they won't get claimed. You'll never lose Trevor Cahill unless you want to.

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  • June 9, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    This Ken Rosenthal piece on Brandon Moss has a lot of great bits in it. Moss signed with the A's because he was frustrated with the Phillies and because he wanted to go to the PCL to boost his power numbers so he could get a contract in Japan.

    Moss plays first in part because of Farhan Zaidi (a story that's been told) and in part because Darren Bush, his Triple-A manager, asked him how he could help Moss get to the majors, Moss replied that he'd like to add some versatility by working in at first base, and Bush readily agreed.

    And finally, Moss appreciates the A's stats department, talking about how stats give you the larger picture of a player, in sharp contrast to the sort of "we're just numbers to them" rhetoric you sometimes hear, including from the direction of Houston recently. Surely that's in part Moss' appreciation for Zaidi's role in giving him his shot, but it may also speak to the A's ability to communicate what the stats people are doing and why to the players (and coaches and scouts?).

    Thus is an All Star-caliber first baseman made.

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  • June 8, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    I can't really find much to disagree with in David Schoenfield's take on the Manny Machado dust-up.

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  • June 8, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    Here's a profile of the A's 14th-round pick and how he became a top-notch catcher.

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  • June 8, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    I like the scout's insight that the A's could use a second baseman.

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  • June 7, 2014 at 1:40 AM

    Agent Joshua Kusnick recounts some post-draft negotiations.

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  • June 6, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    Good op-ed in the New York Times from Emma Span on the sexism of softball.

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  • June 6, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    The A's have paid a little money to get Justin Marks, a lefty pitcher, from the Royals. Kansas City had designated him for assignment. He'll head to Sacramento, so no 25-man move, but there will need to be something done on the 40-man roster. Your Official Beaneball Prediction is, in order: Evan Scribner; Joe Savery; Kent Matthes. With the quasi-imminent return of Eric O'Flaherty, another 40-man move will be needed in the not-so-distant future, and with Marks and O'Flaherty both being lefties, I can't imagine that Joe Savery's time in this organization is long.

    Marks, by the way, was an A's third-rounder in 2009 who they sent away in the David DeJesus trade. He's toiled in the minors since then, with just one big-league game (this year) to his credit. He's already 26, and his numbers in the high minors (8 K/9, 4 BB/9, 10 H/9) are nothing to get excited about. He's only this year made the switch to the bullpen, though -- 11 of his 13 appearances in Omaha were in relief, after starting 88 (of 100) games from 2009 through 2013.

    In short, this is nothing to get excited over, which you probably already knew.

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  • June 6, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    I don't normally link to tweets, but Iron Mike Gallego's find from Groupon in his inbox is too delightful not to share.

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  • June 6, 2014 at 1:57 AM

    This is a good rumination by Liz Roscher on why you stick with a losing team. It's obviously not relevant to A's fans these days, but our time will come again, surely, and perhaps unexpectedly soon. Hell, ask Phillies fans how quickly it can all turn around.

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  • June 6, 2014 at 1:49 AM

    Here are your profiles of the first two A's picks of the 2014 draft. Matt Chapman, the first-rounder, seems a little cocky. Just a tad. Also he throws 98, so of course Sean Doolittle is mentioned.

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  • June 5, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    Countering my wild-ass guess that Jim Johnson won't be traded, Susan Slusser says that it's a lot closer to "when" than "if." She adds that the A's are willing to pick up a big chunk of his salary to send him out, which does change things. A $2 million struggling ex-closer is a lot more intriguing on the trade market than a $10 million struggling ex-closer. And if he's really essentially the eighth option in the bullpen, which he might be when Eric O'Flaherty returns, then not keeping him around just because he used to be good is the right move.

    Of course, that's the question: what's his true talent level right now? What is his likely production over the rest of the year? (And did the A's home fans break him and also what kind of amazing shitstorm is there going to be over how the fans drove him out when he does get traded?)

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  • June 4, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Ken Rosenthal's story about how the A's nearly traded Jim Johnson to the Marlins for the 39th pick in the draft is very intriguing. It would have cost the A's some cash, but they'd also have been getting a player back. As Rosenthal tells it, translated into my own words, the A's aren't shopping Johnson, but the Marlins came with an offer they couldn't refuse. With Ryan Cook now back, Eric O'Flaherty coming back, and Fernando Rodriguez being squeezed out to Sacramento, Johnson is looking more and more like a spare part.

    That said, this deal having fallen apart (in favor of the Marlins acquiring Bryan Morris from the Pirates, which tells you a lot, maybe, about where Jim Johnson's stock is), I'd be reasonably surprised (say 55 on the 20-80 scale) to see Johnson traded anywhere else.

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  • June 2, 2014 at 11:43 PM

    Mike Bates writes what in my opinion should be an uncontroversial piece about how ballplayers shouldn't call other ballplayers "girls" in public as an insult and, well, hey, it's sports, so you can guess what the comments section is like.

    (And in case it wasn't clear: don't use "girl" as an insult.)

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  • June 1, 2014 at 11:15 PM

    Maybe the reason Yoenis Cespedes' greatness is understated is because he has a sub-.300 on-base percentage.

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  • June 1, 2014 at 11:10 PM

    The call-up of Stephen Vogt and the simultaneous demotion of Fernando Rodriguez apparently answers yesterday's Ryan Cook question, and the answer does not appear to be "Jim Johnson."

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  • May 31, 2014 at 10:25 PM

    John Shea has a couple of injury rehab updates, including that Ryan Cook pitched a rehab appearance in Stockton tonight. But who loses their spot? The Fernandos (Abad and Rodriguez) have pitched well, Dan Otero shouldn't be going anywhere, and without Jeff Francis, the team has no long man, which may not sound like a big deal to us, but it's something managers fret about, so the team may as well appease Bob Melvin on that front whether the front office feels it's necessary or not.

    Which leaves Jim Johnson. He's an obvious candidate to go get himself sorted out, and count me as not at all a believer in the reality of his home/road splits -- it's always possible the fans have gotten in his head, but it's more likely random variation. It appears that Johnson was optioned in 2007 and 2010, which would mean that he has one more option year for the A's to exploit. However, per the MLB collective bargaining agreement, a player with more than five years of service time has the right to refuse an assignment to the minor leagues. Johnson entered the year just days shy of six years, so he falls in that category. Could the A's convince him to hit Sacramento with a vengeance and get himself ready to return as soon as he proves himself able?

    Maybe! But maybe the pending free agent thinks he's about to turn a corner and sees his future market value as taking a sizable hit if he winds up spending a month in Triple-A. In which case we're probably back to Fernando Rodriguez, which would be a shame.

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  • May 30, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    Ben Lindbergh details the A's five-point challenge communication system after talking with bench coach Chip Hale, though it's starting to look like it'll be more of a two-point challenge system sooner rather than later.

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  • May 29, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    Nothing groundbreaking here for A's fans or anyone else, really, and you'll want to ignore the bits about how the A's have "traditionally" won with platoons and how apparently the only signal for hitting regression is BABIP, but if you want to see the update on how the Jorek Norso catcher platoon is hitting, hit that link.

    I would add that I'm happy that Bob Melvin has essentially been forced by Norris' hot hitting to run with the Jaso-DH / Norris-C lineup I spent way too much time advocating for this winter.

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  • May 29, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    At Baseball Prospectus today is a very optimistic quote from an anonymous scout about Daniel Robertson, essentially saying that his skills and acumen overcome a lack of tools. Second baseman of the future? It would be nice to have some stability at the position, to the extent stability is ever a thing the A's have anywhere.

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  • May 28, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    Meanwhile, Addison Russell is back, and that's nothing but good news. He'll play in extended spring training for a while before heading back to Double-A, where, with any luck, he will pick up where he left off and prove himself ready to take over shortstop in 2015. (With Jed Lowrie re-signing with the A's for three years and $39 million to play second base.) ((Right?))

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  • May 27, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    Reginald J. Anderson examines the A's success the last two years at trading prospects for veterans, a method that is in certain circles frowned on, as RJA notes -- the consensus stat nerd Right Way to Win is to develop your prospects and let them succeed in the majors. As the A's, Yankees, Braves, Rays, Red Sox, and Giants have shown over the last 15 years, though, there is no Right Way to Win.

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  • May 27, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    Russell Carleton looks at the draft and determines that things are even more of a crapshoot than the popular narrative might have it, especially after the first round, when teams basically appear to have no ability, on the whole, to tell who's deserving of what money, at least within tiers (e.g. they might be good at deciding who is a second-round talent vs. tenth-round, but within the second round, who knows). See also the comments from MGL.

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  • May 27, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    Well hey, neat, Josh Donaldson could get voted in to the All-Star Game. Even as a non-homer and even as someone who believes in voting for the best players rather than the best first halves, I'd be for that. He's leading the American League in bWAR and was a legit MVP candidate last year. I wouldn't be mad at Texas and Tampa fans for voting for Adrian Beltre or Evan Longoria, though.

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  • May 22, 2014 at 10:35 PM

    Grant Brisbee points out a couple of the "where'd he come from?" projects that have made the A's so successful.

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  • May 22, 2014 at 8:43 PM

    David Schoenfield queries the Play Index after the A's one-hit win. Turns out this happens only about 2 of every 3 years.

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  • May 21, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    In which Jane Lee has apparently decided to advocate on behalf of Derek Norris. And in which Norris uses the word "comfortability."

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  • May 20, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    Now that's how you do a short piece on baseball fights.

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  • May 19, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    SweetSpot's fearless leader David Schoenfield looks at the A's run of dominance (all year and in particular in the last ten games) and sees a team with 100-win upside. As he notes, you don't project a team to win 100, but if you're looking for a roster in a division where that can be accomplished, you might well be looking for Oakland.

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  • May 19, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    Ray-Jay Anderson reviews the Kyle Blanks trade among a variety of others in his latest Transaction Analysis. He's bullish on it without proclaiming Blanks a franchise savior or anything of the sort.

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  • May 18, 2014 at 7:19 PM

    I don't hate adding Jeff Francis to be the last guy in the bullpen over Joe Savery. It's fine. If he's pitching in a situation where he can have a true effect on the win probability, then things have gone badly wrong in any event. And who knows -- he used to be good!

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  • May 17, 2014 at 12:19 AM

    David Temple's father-son dialogue about where UCLs go when they break is great, A-level work, but the first comment, by Mike Green, brings the whole thing up to A++++.

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  • May 17, 2014 at 12:17 AM

    What has made Jesse Chavez successful? Using the pitches that make him successful.

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  • May 16, 2014 at 10:33 PM

    David Schoenfield doesn't quite consign the Rangers to the dustbin in light of the injuries to Martin Perez and Matt Harrison, but close enough. Much as I don't like feeling cocky about the A's chances (karma!), it's hard to see the Rangers as a threat.

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  • May 12, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    Reggie Anderson covers the A's recent set of pitching moves in his latest Transaction Analysis. (Full disclosure: he linked to this blog.) ((Fuller disclosure: I'd have linked his piece whether he linked to mine or not.)) Read the whole thing if you've got a sub. He's a gem, and he's punchier than usual in this edition of the TA.

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  • May 12, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    Today's Ten Pack at Baseball Prospectus leads off with a nice write up from Jason Parks on Shane Peterson. Parks acknowledges that Peterson isn't a classic hype prospect, but sees future big-league value.

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  • May 11, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    David Schoenfield takes a look around the league at five questions after the first quarter of the season. One fifth of one of the questions is whether Josh Reddick should give way to Craig Gentry even more. At least against lefties, I'm pretty convinced that Gentry-Crisp-Cespedes should be the default outfield.

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  • May 7, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    Russell Carleton on how much to trust early-season run differential. Particularly relevant to the A's, of course.

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  • May 4, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    Russell Carleton finds a statistically significant but surprisingly small effect on pitcher arm injuries from innings count.

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  • May 4, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Raul Alcantara, who is arguably the A's best pitching prospect (though Baseball Prospectus has him behind Bobby Wahl), is done for the year with, you guessed it, Tommy John surgery.

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  • May 2, 2014 at 10:04 PM

    David Schoenfield has ten reasons why the A's were April's best team.

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  • April 22, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    Jeff Sullivan says all the things I'd say about the Jed Lowrie-Astros contretemps, except calmer because he's not an A's fan.

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  • April 22, 2014 at 7:45 AM

    Interesting piece from Russell Carleton, prompted by a Peter Moylan tweet about not letting relievers pitch further after they've worked out of a jam.

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  • April 22, 2014 at 7:38 AM

    Here are the details of the Sean Doolittle extension. The dollars are contingent on which side of the Super Two line he lands on this offseason, so we still can't say with any certainty how much it's worth, though the approximate discount should be the same either way.

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  • April 19, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    The thing is that nobody scores runs against elite pitching. That's the whole point of elite pitching.

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  • April 18, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    Jack Moore cuts right to the heart of the B.S., as usual.

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  • April 18, 2014 at 9:16 PM

    I'm telling you guys, the Jim Johnson trade was all a trojan horse to implement the permanent closer-by-committee, i.e. the sensible bullpen. Billy Beane and Bob Melvin are evil geniuses.

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  • April 18, 2014 at 1:05 AM

    David Roth on the particulars of Eric Young's therapist.

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  • April 18, 2014 at 12:50 AM

    "But I firmly believe baseball is better with fewer player ejections and fewer old man histrionics on the field." Well said, Jack Moore.

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  • April 12, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    I don't want to react with too much triumphalism because I hope Sam Fuld gets a major-league job and I'll feel bad for my fellow human being if he doesn't, but I'm just glad the A's stuck with Josh Reddick despite 31 bad plate appearances over keeping Fuld now that Craig Gentry is back.

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  • April 10, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    The A's moved quicker to take the ninth inning away from Jim Johnson than I thought they would. All hail the closer committee!

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  • April 10, 2014 at 2:22 AM

    The A's had a rhubarb tonight, which they don't do very frequently but which they seem to do only in close or important games. Jane Lee's best quote in her story is definitely the one from Bob Melvin at the end. I also like the Rashomon aspect of Donaldson's version of the events compared to Perkins'.

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  • April 10, 2014 at 2:16 AM

    I'm 100% any movement to get Derek Norris more playing time, but in my opinion it has to push John Jaso to DH, not the bench. I just can't see any argument for lefty Callaspo over Jaso.

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  • April 9, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    I don't usually post actual minor-league news here, but Addison Russell missing at least a month of what is supposed to be his final warm-up for the big leagues is a pretty big deal.

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  • April 9, 2014 at 1:24 AM

    /Josh Reddick puts up 2.7 WAR in 2013 /fans demand Reddick be sent down because he isn't producing

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  • April 8, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    The A's are 15th in this week's ESPN Power Ranking. My blurb is about Jim Johnson and is not very well written.

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  • April 8, 2014 at 2:32 AM

    Guhhh, so the "let's option Josh Reddick" stuff has been given the SuSlu stamp of approval? I just hope the front office knows as well as the rest of us that this is all over Sam Fuld.

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  • April 8, 2014 at 2:26 AM

    If it were anyone but Jed Lowrie (okay, or Coco Crisp), this bruised leg from a hit-by-pitch wouldn't even be a concern. But hey, his name is Jed Lowrie. Who knew?

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  • April 8, 2014 at 2:22 AM

    To make sure we're all on the same page, Coco Crisp missed a day after getting a cortisone shot in his left (glove) wrist. I've hurt my glove wrist before. Squeezing the glove is a mother.

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  • April 4, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    Bryan Murphy has requested that I call him a dick, so here we are.

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  • April 1, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    Am I still laughing about the A's signing Joe Blanton? Yep! (Even if it is a minor-league deal.)

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  • April 1, 2014 at 2:33 AM

    A good roundup by RJ Anderson of some 25-man roster randos. ($)

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  • March 31, 2014 at 9:37 PM

    This is good perspective on the Trout extension, particularly the idea that he should have gotten more.

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  • March 31, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    The first ESPN MLB power ranking of the year is out. The A's clock in eighth.

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  • March 31, 2014 at 1:42 AM

    This is a test of posting from the iPad and Dropbox.

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  • March 30, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    I'd been hoping an Effectively Wild listener would examine the win-total predictions by the season-preview guests. This one did. Superb.

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  • March 29, 2014 at 12:00 AM

    I made a guest appearance at Baseball Prospectus, previewing the AL West with RJ Anderson.

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  • March 26, 2014 at 12:00 AM

    A collection of the best stories by and about Brandon Moss. I love it. The Jed Lowrie one especially -- he talks about "Sugar Salt Fat"! These Stanford guys, man.

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  • March 24, 2014 at 12:00 AM

    Jack Moore's reaction to that weird nonsense faux-analytics piece in ESPN the Magazine.

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