Archive for Athletics

Athletics Complete Roster Construction with Adam Dunn

When I recently wrote about Adam Dunn for this site, the circumstances were a bit different. That was about Adam Dunn pitching. This is about Adam Dunn becoming a member of the Oakland Athletics via trade, because that is exactly what happened on Sunday. As you know, Dunn was traded to the A’s in exchange for minor leaguer Nolan Sanburn. Just like Adam Dunn pitching, Adam Dunn playing for the A’s just seemed like something that eventually had to happen. The A’s were one of the first teams to really value the OBP/power guys. Adam Dunn is the posterchild of the high-OBP, high-power mold.

And so now, here we have it. Adam Dunn is a member of the Oakland Athletics. It’s no secret why they traded for him. It was no surprise when they traded for him. The trade was completed on August 31, the last day a player could be acquired and still be eligible for a team’s playoff roster. The A’s got Dunn for the playoffs. The A’s got Dunn to hit homers in the playoffs. We’re not in the playoffs yet, but here’s what Adam Dunn did in his first at-bat with Oakland:
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A Day In The Life of John Jaso’s Concussion

“I wake up fine,” said John Jaso of his relative morning clarity, as he recovers from a concussion he suffered when a mid-August pitch rattled his face mask. “As the day goes on, I get all the visual stimuli and start getting foggy.” And this he said after a relatively good day gave him the encouragement to pronounce he’d be back this season, and probably soon.

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Ninth Circuit Court Leans Toward MLB In Dispute Over Antitrust Exemption

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments today on the existence and scope of Major League Baseball’s exemption from federal antitrust law. The arguments arose in the city of San Jose’s federal antitrust lawsuit against MLB over the league’s failure to allow the Oakland Athletics to build a new ballpark in, and move to, San Jose.

San Jose sued MLB last summer claiming that the league’s rules creating exclusive operating territories for teams — and requiring a three-fourths vote of owners for an existing team to move into another team’s territory — violate federal antitrust law. Upon MLB’s motion, the federal district court in San Jose dismissed the city’s claims on the grounds that MLB enjoys an exemption to federal antitrust law dating to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1922 decision in the Federal Baseball Club case. That decision was based on a view that baseball was a game, and not a business, and thus not subject to antirust law.

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Sam Fuld and Completing the A’s

I’m going to tell you something you’re not going to like. You’re going to think this is stupid, and you’re going to want to dismiss this as rubbish, but, I mean, let’s just get right to the point. If nothing else, this is where we’ll start. Early Thursday, the A’s gave up Yoenis Cespedes and more for Jon Lester and more. A little later Thursday, the A’s gave up Tommy Milone for Sam Fuld. Losing Cespedes opened up a spot in the outfield; adding Fuld plugged it. Here is a fun fact:

Career

Cespedes: 2.9 WAR / 600 plate appearances
Fuld: 2.5 WAR / 600 plate appearances

Obviously, Cespedes has a thousand times more natural talent. Obviously, Cespedes has more potential and a higher ceiling. Obviously, Cespedes is younger. Obviously, that’s a little deceptive because Fuld has spent a lot of time as a defensive replacement. Obviously, we can trust the defensive metrics only so much, and obviously, Cespedes is the more marketable player since he has some of the purest right-handed power in the sport. But here is the general message: Sam Fuld is not far and away an inferior overall player, compared to Yoenis Cespedes. At least, they’re somewhat close. And this year, specifically this year, Fuld’s been worth the same WAR in a fraction of the time. So you can see why the A’s are happy to get Fuld back, a few months after designating him for assignment.

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Red Sox Focus on 2015 in Jon Lester Trade

Breaking up is hard to do. Jon Lester is without a doubt one of the 10 best pitchers in Boston Red Sox history. Since he returned to full-time duty with the Sox in 2008, he made 80 more starts than any other Red Sox pitcher. He was one of three players still around from the 2007 World Series championship team. Trading him is going to sting in a way that hasn’t stung for Red Sox fans since Manny Ramirez was traded, or depending on your feelings towards Ramirez, since Nomar Garciaparra was traded. But this wasn’t a typical trade, and getting Yoenis Cespedes back in return for Lester and throw-in Jonny Gomes does take some of the sting out of this deal, and signals to the Sox fan base that they aren’t looking to rebuild.

Cespedes is the power bat the Red Sox have been coveting. It was the one thing, as Buster Olney noted this morning, that isn’t really plentiful in their otherwise stacked farm system. His powerful bat, combined with good defense, makes him a player that really isn’t going to be available on the free-agent market this winter either. Giancarlo Stanton wishcasting has been a thing in Boston for some time, but in order to land Stanton, the Sox would have hard to part with enough prospects that it would have been close to a zero-sum return. They didn’t exactly get the next-best thing — Stanton ranks eighth in isolated power this season, while Cespedes ranks 27th — but considering what they had to give up, it might as well have been. It’s only for one year, as thanks to the contract he signed, Cespedes must be non-tendered, so there will be no compensation pick if he hits free agency after the 2015 season.

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Jon Lester and the A’s Fascinating Big Bet On 2014

Well, this was probably not what we thought a Jon Lester trade was going to look like. After speculating about which team would unload their farm system for a rental, the answer is none of them; instead, the A’s used Yoenis Cespedes to land the Red Sox ace, and picked up Jonny Gomes as a replacement for the right-handed slugger they just traded away. This is a fascinating deal from a lot of angles, but let’s focus on the A’s side of things for a second.

Very clearly, the A’s believe that they can win the World Series this year, and are aligning their roster to give themselves the best chance to do that. And this is probably the perfect storm for the a team in the A’s position to go for it; the Red Sox are bad, the Yankees are mediocre, the Phillies are awful, and the Cubs and Mets are still rebuilding. There is no $200 million behemoth standing in the A’s way this year, at least not unless the Dodgers get to the World Series, and it isn’t clear that the Dodgers are better than the A’s anyway. The Angels and Tigers are still around, but the Angels might have to play their way in through the Wild Card game, and the Tigers pitching staff looks a little less fearsome than it has in past years.

The A’s are in go-for-it mode not just because of their own roster this year, but because this is the kind of year in which it makes sense for a small-market team to push their chips and try to take advantage of the league’s parity. It’s why Jeff wrote that Lester to Pittsburgh would make sense. The door is open for a low-revenue team to have a parade this winter, and the A’s are responding to that opportunity by trying to kick the door in.

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A Side Benefit of the Jeff Samardzija Blockbuster

I learned of the Jeff Samardzija trade at an Independence Day house party. That’s how long ago that deal took place, and most people have moved on. They’ve turned their attention to potential trades. We analyzed the Oakland-Chicago deal rather thoroughly, first with Mike Petriello, then with Tony Blengino. It seems like there shouldn’t be a whole lot left to say — the A’s paid steeply to try to win a World Series; the Cubs bolstered a position-player stockpile that’s not so easy to bolster. Classic, fascinating midseason blockbuster.

And I agree there’s not a lot left to say. But I do have one thought I want to throw on top of the others. It concerns a potential side benefit for the A’s — a side benefit they might not have even considered to be a benefit at the time. This is about the nature of how the deadline works, and how this particular deadline could be shaping up.

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The All Star Game’s Fast Fastballs and Slow Curves

As a starting pitcher, you get to the All Star Game by dominating with a full array of pitches. You’re built to go deep into games and see lineups multiple times. You scout the opposing hitters and it’s all a lot of work. Then you get to the All Star Game, you break from your routine, you have to come in for a short stint, and you can air it out.

It’s a situation ripe for fastballs.

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Whom The All-Stars Are Looking Forward to Seeing

Because of  interleague play, many of this season’s All-Stars have already seen who’s on the other side. But there’s a unique opportunity to see the best of the other league on one field in Minnesota. So I asked some All-Stars if they were looking forward to a particular matchup today.

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How Much Better Does “The Trade” Make the A’s?

There is something to be said for getting the jump on the trading deadline. You get an opportunity to set the market, rather than react to it. Making a big move for pitching in advance of the trading deadline has other, salient benefits, such as the ability to get an extra start or two from your newly acquired arm(s) as you restructure your rotation going into, and out of the All Star break. This rings especially true to me personally, having been with the Brewers the year of the C.C. Sabathia trade, when we wound up needing almost every exceptional start and inning he gave us.

The A’s jumped the gun on this year’s deadline, getting not one, but two of the premier available arms, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, albeit for a hefty price. The A’s are obviously playing for now – so how much better does this deal make the A’s in the short term, and does it materially increase their chances of finally bringing home some hardware this fall? Read the rest of this entry »


The A’s, Royals, and Going For It

On Friday night, the A’s traded top prospect Addison Russell and some stuff for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Mike Petriello did a great job of writing up the transaction, highlighting the pros and cons on both sides of things. Well, at least on the A’s side, because getting a prospect of Russell’s quality basically leaves this as a deal with no real cons for the Cubs. It might or might not work out — the nature of baseball makes this true of every decision ever made — but landing an elite young middle infielder in exchange for a player who has out-priced his own value and a rent-a-veteran is a huge win for the Cubs.

In fact, the inclusion of Russell in the deal led some pretty smart folks to compare this trade to one of the more controversial trades in recent history.

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The A’s and Cubs Blockbuster Trade

We all knew Jeff Samardzija was going to get traded. We all knew Jason Hammel was going to get traded. We all knew the Oakland A’s were in the market for a starting pitcher. Perhaps, in retrospect, we should have expected some convergence of these things we knew. But I don’t think anyone expected that any team would kick start the July trading season by picking up both Cubs starters. Perhaps even fewer figured that a prospect like Addison Russell would be on the move, and I’m assuming that just about nobody could have seen a scenario in which the A’s traded Russell for a starting pitcher who wasn’t David Price.

It’s a shocking trade, one that changes the landscape in a few ways, but there’s a lot happening here, so let’s not gloss over the specifics:
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Athletics To Play In Oakland At Least 10 More Years — Or Not

For years, the baseball world has been waiting for Commissioner Bud Selig to say something definitive about a new home for the Oakland Athletics. On Wednesday, he finally did. The reaction was anything but definitive.

The A’s have been negotiating a lease extension with the Oakland-Alameda County Joint Powers Authority, the entity that operates the Oakland Coliseum complex. The current lease expires at the end of this next season. Despite all the problems at O.co Coliseum — the sewage, the water leaks, the outdated scoreboard — the A’s need a lease extension because they have no where else to play for the foreseeable future.

Lew Wolff and Gap Inc. heir John Fischer led an investor group that bought the A’s in 2005. Wolff is the managing partner and the public face on the team’s efforts to locate, finance and build a new ballpark — efforts which so far have been unsuccessful. .

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Sean Doolittle: Throwing High, Hard and Historic

You know the Sean Doolittle backstory by now, most certainly. The short version for those just joining us is that Doolittle was a first-round pick in the 2007 draft as a first baseman, made it all the way to Triple-A in 2009, then missed more than two years with knee and wrist injuries before converting to the mound full-time in 2012. He made it to the big leagues that year, was a successful setup man in 2013, and now he’s spent the last month as the closer for the best team in baseball.

Oh, and he’s also doing something you’ve never seen before. There’s that, too. Doolittle has struck out 50. He’s walked one. One. Vidal Nuno also has 50 strikeouts; he’s walked 22. We do a lot of complicated math here, but sometimes it’s easy. That’s a 50/1 K/BB. It is, unsurprisingly, the best seasonal K/BB of the more than 27,000 pitcher seasons of at least 30 innings we have in the database. (If you prefer K%-BB%, it’s only the fourth-best ever, but only second-best in 2014 alone. You go, Dellin Betances.) That it’s all but certainly unsustainable over a full season isn’t the point; the point is that this is a real thing that’s happened, and we need to understand why.

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Is Jake Arrieta the New Jesse Chavez?

Corey Kluber gave us Kluberization: the ditching of a bad four-seam for a better two-seamer. Dallas Keuchel gave us The Keuchel Excercise: the turfing of a bad curve for a better slider. Is Jake Arrieta following the Jesse Chavez Legacy? It certainly looks like he’s in the process of a major change in his pitching mix, and it might be what allows him to finally make good on all the promise that he’s shown to date. It should at least help him improve his command.

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Yoenis Cespedes’ Run-Saving Right Arm

Yoenis Cespedes‘ defense currently ranks third in the MLB, according to UZR/150. Here’s how the third-most valuable fielder in baseball sometimes likes to play routine outfield grounders:

cespymisplay2

cespymisplay1

How in the world is this guy third-best defensively in anything? Because this is how he makes up for those gaffes:
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Sinkers, Change-ups and Platoon Splits

You’re a pitcher? You need a change-up.

That automatic response seems reasonable enough given the state of modern pitching analysis. You’ve probably heard it plenty of times about pitchers like Justin Masterson or Chris Archer. After all, the change breaks away from opposite-handed hitters and helps pitchers neutralize platoon threats.

But you know what? There’s another pitch that breaks away from opposite-handed hitters: the two-seamer or the sinker, whatever you want to call it. And yet lefties love sinkers from righties. So why do two pitches with similar movement have such different results?

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“I Wish We Could Get Guys Like That”

Weird things about baseball fascinate me. One of those things is the concept of discarded players. Every once in awhile, you’ll see a player doing well and think to yourself, “Hey, wasn’t he on our team at one point?” David Carpenter is one such player. Watching him face the Red Sox this week, I couldn’t help but think that it would be sure nice if the Sox had him right now instead of Craig Breslow. Sure, the world will keep on spinning, and Carpenter wouldn’t make or break the 2014 Red Sox, but every little bit counts, and the Red Sox gave him away for free after just five weeks on the roster. In situations like these, we often jokingly say (or at least I do), “Hey, I wish we could get guys like that!”

I don’t mean to pick on the Red Sox, because every team does this. If you scan rosters, you’ll find one such player on just about every roster. And originally, my intention was to run down that list and look at them all individually. But then I got a look at this trade. On July 31, 2010, the Atlanta Braves traded Gregor Blanco, Jesse Chavez and Tim Collins to the Kansas City Royals for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. Take a look:

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Oakland’s One-Hit Wonder

Something wacky happened in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. When something wacky happens in baseball, @cantpredictball is usually on the case. I’ll let them (him? her?) begin the storytelling:

You don’t need me, or cantpredictball, to tell you that’s rare. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, teams that get one-hit have won just 62 baseball games in 100 years. That’s just the ninth time it’s happened in the last decade. Oakland had never done it in its 45-year tenure as a franchise.

What’s funny about the game, besides the Athletics being victorious with one hit, is that if you look at the win expectancy chart, you really can’t even tell when that hit came. Go ahead, see if you can tell:
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When Should You Be Allowed to Bunt?

Quick answer: whenever you feel like it. Longer answer: to follow.

You’ve already had the entire weekend to forget about last week, and over the weekend, there was an incident involving Carlos Gomez and Gerrit Cole that cleared the benches and that will lead to suspensions. So you’re forgiven if you don’t remember much from Friday, but from Friday, I’d like to present to you a sequence of events. Prior to the Gomez sportsmanship incident, there was a sportsmanship incident in a game between the A’s and the Astros with Jed Lowrie and Bo Porter right in the middle.

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