Documenting the Athletics – From Philadelphia, to Kansas City, to Oakland and Finally to Fremont
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The Athletics season is winding down and unless they win out, it’ll be their first sub-.500 season since 1998.Â You wonder if Billy Beane is losing it.Â I’d still rather have him in there then anyone but with the whole Moneyball thing, it’s like everyone is on to us and it’s had somewhat of an effect.Â Still, there’s some positives heading into 2008.
Namely, the rotation.Â Dan Haren is an ace in the true sense of the word and if not for a mediocre second half, he’d be in the talk with the other Cy Young contenders.Â Joe Blanton is a very formidable number two guy.Â Throw in a solid Chad Gaudin who can get that walk rate down and the A’s have a solid front three in rotation.Â After that though, it’s kind of iffy and it’s the back end of that rotation that the A’s have to work on.Â Rich Harden is the wild card.Â He’s looking a lot like a Kerry Wood where when he’s in there, he’s good but it’s just not very often.Â At this point, while we can’t write Harden out, it’s hard to factor him into the team’s plans.
Jack Cust has obviously been the huge surprise and in just 116 games, he has a team high 28 homers and 78 RBIs.Â If given an entire season, he probably would have struck out 200 times but the near 100 walks and the .413 OBP are all very acceptable.Â
Nick Swisher has been solid too.Â He had those tough middle months but an .854 OPS is nothing to scoff at.Â He also picked up his 100th walk and that’s the first time he’s reached that milestone.
So there’s some potential studs in place, the A’s just have to do a good job building around them.Â The whole Milton Bradley thing kind of blew up in their face but what can you do.Â It’s hard to blame the front office for making that kind of move with a volatile player.
Eight games left.Â I’ll be watching, but it’s always tough when you have to say, “Maybe next year.”
The Athletics have started off their second half of the season with two more losses and that brings their losing streak to five games.Â They’re now eleven back of the Angels in the loss column and nine back of the Mariners in the loss column and if the Athletics don’t start winning soon, even one of their historically impressive second halves won’t be able to bring them back.
What’s been rough is how their offense has abandoned them.Â Three runs once in a while might win you a game, but if that’s all you can put on the board (and three is the most in this five game losing streak), you’re going to lose more then you win even with a Cy Young contender like Dan Haren.Â
One of their problems has been Jack Cust has fallen off of a cliff.Â In the five game losing streak, he has just one single with nine strikeouts.Â He’s still stuck on fifteen, which is good for the team lead, but he has just two so far this month and in his last ten games, he’s seen his OPS go down by almost 100 points.Â And where has Nick Swisher gone.Â It looks like a lot of those homers he hit last year have been doubles but his batting average has definitely come back down to earth.
Joe Blanton gets the start tonight and I think this is the game where the A’s end their losing streak.Â Dan Haren throws tomorrow so with the A’s big one-two pitching punch, they can still salvage a split in this series.
The Athletics ended their five game losing streak last night with a nice offensive performance over the Indians.Â The score was 9-0 by the second inning and Jack Cust belted his thirteenth homerun and he drove in five in the win.Â Â Six players had multihit games and all nine regulars got at least one hit in the game.Â Shannon Stewart had a game high four hits and three runs and Lenny DiNardo was able to coast to his second win of the season.
The bad news is, while the A’s were busy losing, the Mariners were busy winning, the A’s now sit three games back of them in second place and eight games back of the Angels for first.Â And this also takes into account the Angels embarrasing sweep at the hands of the Royals.Â And five games seperate them and the Indians for the Wild Card so the A’s have their work cut out for them.
They can make one of those games up against the Indians this afternoon as the finale in their four game series starts in less then an hour.Â Joe Blanton will take on a suprisingly good Paul Byrd.
Rich Harden came back on Monday and then had to leave the game.Â He’ll be shut down until at least this weekend but this is pretty discouraging because an almost healthy Harden would make a great compliment to the Blanton/Haren duo.
Shannon Stewart has seven hits and five runs in the past two games and he has nine hits in the past three.Â So just against the Indians, he’s seen his batting average rise almost twenty points.Â Hopefully that trend continues today.
Nick Swisher hasn’t a hit homerun since June 16th so we’re talking about an almost two week drought.Â This would be a nice day to end that run with one, or maybe even two or three long balls.Â Â He’s also seen his OPS dip well below .900 since the series with the Mets and it’d be nice if he could get back to what he was doing in May (.333/.444/.563).
I love these player profiles that Baseball Prospectus does and this week they take a look at A’s reliever turned starter Chad Gaudin.Â You get a run down on everything and everything the guys done, both in the majors and the minors.
I have to say, I never expected Dan Haren would be this good for this long of time.Â I always thought he’d be a decent pitcher but he’s been nothing short of phenomonal this year.Â Probably his most impressive number is how he’s simply dominated left handed pitching despite throwing from the right side.Â He’s held left handed hitters to a .151 batting average this year and this reverse platoon split is evident in his career numbers (.232 batting average against lefties versus .268 against righties).Â Â He’s also 6-0 at home despite actually having better numbers on the road.Â Still, you’re looking at a guy who, if the ballots came out today, should win the Cy Young.
And not to be outdone, Joe Blanton has put together a season that’s been pretty goodÂ He’s on pace to set career highs in just about everything while his walk rate is comfortably down.Â He’s also averaging seven innings start, which in this day and age is pretty impressive.Â And with two complete games, he’s shown he’s able to work deep into the games and give the pen a much needed break.
With Haren and Blanton as a nice one-two punch, the A’s have by far the best ERA in the American League. Only the Padres are better in all of baseball.Â So even when you combine that with a mediocre offense, the A’s should be primed to compete with the Angels all season.Â They sit just six games back (five in the loss column) but the surprising Mariners are right there as well.Â The Wild Card is even closer with the A’s being three games back of the Tigers.
Next up is going to be one of those weird series.Â The Mets are a good team but they’ve been ice cold in June.Â And the A’s have to travel to the east coast so this could be one of those series that could go either way.Â Lenny DiNardo gets the start in the opener tomorrow and he’ll face Tom Glavine.Â We’ll also have Milton Bradley back from the DL (again) so hopefully that will give the team a boost.Â The Angels play the Pirates, who aren’t the doormat the used to be so hopefully they can swipe a game (or two or three) over the weekend.
The A’s have been rolling.Â Unfortunately, the Mariners have been the hottest team in baseball andÂ the Angels haven’t been too shabby either.Â So despite winning eight of ten, the A’s have actually lost ground on the Mariners and picked up just one game on the Angels.Â Still, there’s a lot of games to be played and a five game deficit, while formidable, is far from insurmountable.
The emergence of Shannon Stewart has been a very nice story for the A’s.Â And while his slugging percentage is just .341, he leads the team with 31 runs and he has a very impressive 24/20 walk to strikeout ratio.Â And after struggling in April, he’s played very well since then.Â Both of his homeruns have been with men on scoring position and when you factor that in, he has an impressive .842 with RISP.Â He’s even better with two outs and men in scoring position with aÂ .414 batting average.
Danny Haren continues his run at a Cy Young.Â He’s won five straight starts and he hasn’t given up more then two runs in either of them.Â And a 76/21 strikeout to walk ratio will help do that trick, as will a .179 batting average against. Oddly, he’s been death on lefties with a .147 batting average against.
And for those of you who are Bobby Crosby fans, he was profiled over at Baseball Prospectus.Â It’s one of those great columns where you learn everything and anything about his playing career.
I still owe you a Jack Cust profile but in the meantime, he warranted a mention in this Baseball Prospectus column.Â
It’s hard to believe it’s been three weeks.Â Baseball Historians had some system wide problems that prevented me from posting but not a whole lot has changed during that time.Â The A’s now hover a game above .500 and they sit tied with the Mariners and just two games back of the Angels.Â Not ideal, but also not completely horrible.
Of course the big story has been Jack Cust, who’s hit six homeruns in the last seven games.Â I want to take a closer look at Jack Cust so you know where he came from.
Dan Haren has been the hard luck pitcher because despite an awesome 1.64 ERA and a 48/14 strikeout to walk ratio, he sits at just 3-2 on the season.Â In his last start a couple of days ago, he threw eight shutout innings yet the A’s still lost.Â Joe Blanton has also done a nice job so the pitching has been there.Â The injury to Huston Street will hurt but hopefully the rest of the pen can get the job done.
Still, the A’s need to win this afternoon just to salvage a split with the Royals, who have the worst record in the American League so you can look at this as a blown chance.Â After this, is the annual battle of the bay with a three game interleague series against the struggling Giants before the A’s hit the road.Â The Angels have to contend with a tough Dodgers team so this weekend is the time to make a move.
I have a feeling this is going to be one of those weird seasons.Â The A’s lost two to the Mariners and fell from their perch.Â And to add insult to injury, they’re not back to .500.Â That’s what happens when you don’t get any offense.
And yesterday, the A’s got no offense.Â A great start by Joe Blanton was wasted as the A’s were shutout on three hits.Â Blanton went the distance and he gave up two runs on six hits and Shannon Stewart had two of the A’s three hits.
Today’s game wasn’t much better because two runs isn’t going to cut it either.Â Joe Kennedy gave up one run in five innings but the bullpen was knocked around for three runs with Kiko Calero giving up two of those and taking the loss.Â Mark Ellie had two hits, a run and an RBI while Shannon Stewart finished with two hits and a run in the 4-2 loss.
Things should improve this weekend because the Devil Rays roll into town for three games.Â I like our chances in this series and if the White Sox can take care of the Angels, maybe the A’s can get back into first place.
These little two game road series are a pain but I’ll take this one because they rolled into Baltimore and took two against the Orioles.Â In yesterday’s game, the A’s jumped all over Erik Bedard for five runs in the fourth inning and while the pen let the Orioles back into the game, the Athletics never gave up the lead and won it 6-5.Â Dan Haren improved to 2-2 and he gave up just one run on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.Â Nick Swisher had the big day at the plate.Â He homered twice and drove in three runs.
In today’s game, the A’s got a nice outing out of Dallas Braden in his major league debut.Â He gave up just one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts.Â Todd Walker singled, drove in a run and scored.Â Mike Piazza walked twice, scored and drove in one.
So regardless of whether the Angels can take care of the Tigers in extra frames, the A’s will remain in first they head back home for two against the Mariners.Â Joe Blanton will take on Jarrod Washburn in the opener.
The AL West is pretty crazy so far.Â The A’s sit at 9-9, yet they’re tied for first place with the Angels.Â Not that long ago, the Mariners were first and now they’re in last, but they’re just two games back of first.Â Got it?Â To sum it up, things are tight and so far, nobody has broken away.
The A’s got some serious offense on Friday.Â Travis Buck, Shannon Stewart and Nick Swisher all went yard with Buck driving in five runs and Stewart drove home four.Â Milton Bradley picked up just one hit in the 16-4 win but he walked four times and scored three runs.Â Joe Blanton picked up the win and he improved to 2-0 on the season.Â He gave up three runs on seven hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in six innings.
Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.Â On Saturday, the Rangers shut out the A’s on just three hits.Â All three hits were singles and Nick Swisher reached base three times with a hit and two walks.Â Joe Kennedy took the loss despite five solid innings.Â He gave up one run on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts in five innings of work.
Then yesterday, Justin Duchscherer blew a 3-1 lead and gave up three runs to make it a 4-3 loss.Â Chad Gaudin gave up just one run in six innings and for his troubles, he didn’t get a decision.Â Shannon Stewart was the hitting star.Â He went two for five with a homerun and two RBIs.
Next up is two against the Orioles in Baltimore.Â Normally I’d be optimistic but the Orioles have played some good ball lately.Â Danny Haren will take on Erik Bedard in tonight’s matchup.
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