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An SB Nation blog for Oakland Athletics fans



Updated: 2017-06-27T21:05:09-07:00

 



Game #77: Healy Slams A’s to 6-4 Win

2017-06-27T21:05:09-07:00

The young A’s came out in an impressive win against a very, very good Astros team. Too bad Liam Hendriks and Santiago Casilla didn’t get the memo. Sean Manaea had quite possibly the shakiest 1ER performance in the history of pitching, but he somehow endured 52⁄3 innings against a deep Astros lineup. Meanwhile, Ryon Healy hit his first career grand slam to take this game despite the machinations of Liam Hendriks and Santiago Casilla. Manaea Survives Sean Manaea yielded 9 hits and 3 walks while striking out only 3, yet he somehow managed to wriggle his way in and out of trouble for nearly 6 innings. He did not have a single 1-2-3 inning and gave up a leadoff hit in most innings...and yet somehow the Astros managed only the 1 run. Part of that is thanks to bad baserunning - in each of the first two innings, the ‘stros held a runner at third base who ultimately did not score. One of those instances was laziness on the part of Marwin Gonzalez (failing to run out a hit even Billy Butler could have scored on), while the other was a highly questionable call by the third base coach. Either way, it gave Manaea the help he needed. Time and again, Manaea came through and got outs when the situation felt hopeless. He gave up a couple more hits but escaped in the 3rd, then got into some serious hot water in the 5th after loading the bases with 0 outs. Manaea dug down and yet again got the outs he needed - first a (RBI) double play by Evan Gattis (on a ball well out of the strike zone on a 3-0 count), then a groundout from Evan Gattis doppelgänger Brian McCann to end the inning. That Manaea gave up only 1 run in a bases loaded, 0 outs situation against this Astros squad - and moreover, against Evan Gattis - is nothing short of a miracle. Yet more trouble in the 6th. Manaea got two outs, then gave up singles to Bregman and Marisnick before being yanked in favor of Ryan Madson. Madson eventually struck out Springer after a long at-bat. Two more stranded for the 'stros. Despite the 1 earned run, and despite this being a very good Astros lineup, I found Manaea’s performance tonight worrying for two reasons. One, his issue wasn’t that the Astros were beating him by being amazing hitters, but primarily because he just wasn’t pitching very well. He was hanging hittable pitches and throwing lots and lots of balls. Two, and perhaps more worrying to me, was his velocity. We never really got a taste of mid-90s Manaea, but his velocity was poor today even by his recent standards. His fastball was sitting 90-91 and hitting 92 at most according to GameDay. Maybe someone who knows more about pitching mechanics than me can explain why his velocity is so low, especially when it’s been said that the radar guns around MLB are running hotter than ever this year? A’s with the Bat Oakland’s first run came in the 2nd inning. Khris Davis was hit by a pitch in the arm. Alonso struck out, but Khris just managed to steal second at the same time. Then some more heads-up baserunning by Davis, as he advanced to third after Fiers spiked a ball well in front of home plate. Ultimately Bruce Maxwell came through (one of three hits for the young catcher tonight), grounding a ball right up the middle and into the outfield to drive in Khris and put the A’s on the board first, 1-0. Barreto hit a pitch at eye-level deep into the outfield and for a moment it looked like he was Gattis’ing (I will never forget that godawful hit), but it fell on the opposite field warning track to end the inning. In the 6th, Joyce and Jed singled to put runners on the corners with one out. AJ Hinch opted to let Mike Fiers stay on the mound even though he was at about 100 pitches. Khris Davis hit an unfortunate pop-out on a very hittable pitch, but Yonder Alonso walked to load the bases with two outs. This time Hinch went to the Astros bullpen, selecting righty James Hoyt to face Ryon Healy. At first it looked like the right call - Healy was swinging at some questionable pitches, spoiling a couple of potential ball fours. But somehow, inexplicably, catcher Bri[...]



Game Thread #77: A's at Astros (2)

2017-06-27T19:43:05-07:00

(image)

NO COMEBACKS

We're up 5-1 in the top of the 7th. It's up to the bullpen now.




Game #77: A's at Astros

2017-06-27T19:37:13-07:00

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The Astros face our (almost) final form.

It's best not to look at our record against the Astros in the last year or so. Just don't think about it. Reflect on our wonderful rookies. Ponder Franklin Barreto homering in his second MLB at-bat, as if it was fate. Think about how surprisingly great Chad Pinder has looked in right field. Feast your mind on how dope this team is going to be in a year or two. And hey, maybe we can also squeak out a couple wins this week against an impossibly hot Astros squad. It's bound to happen sooner or later.

If there was a guy to shut down the Astros, it would be Sean Manaea. Somebody posted a comment within the last 24 hours that the Astros are 9-11 against lefty starters (I'm sorry I can't remember who pointed that out). As you may know, Sean Manaea is a lefty, and a pretty darn good one at that. So that bodes well.

Pitching for Houston is Mike Fiers. That doesn't bode well, because Mike Fiers is pretty good. Fiers has gotten better as the year has gone on, settling in to a 1.72 ERA over his last five starts. Yikes. Yonder Alonso is batting .500 against him in his career though, so maybe he can bust out of his slump tonight?

Ryon Healy is at third. Get ready.




Athletics at Astros: Take Two

2017-06-27T05:52:41-07:00

While the A’s were in Chicago reaping the benefits from their youth movement in the form of a sweep of the White Sox, the Astros were in Seattle, winning two of three games and doing what the team has done all season. Just this last week, the Astros swept the A’s in four games rather handily in each game, and should only be even tougher competition while playing in front of their own home crowd, but the A’s may not be road pushovers anymore with Barreto and Chapman (eligible to return to the A’s on Thursday) leading the team. · Houston: 52-25 · Anaheim: 41-39 · Seattle: 39-39 · Texas: 38-38 · Oakland: 34-42 The Astros have completely dominated the AL West this season, their record within their own division the best in all of baseball at 25-11 on the season. This interdivisional dominance is a strong factor in both the huge lead the Astros have in the division as well as a partial explanation as to why each of the other AL West teams have struggled so mightily to stay above the .500 mark and instead have hovered around .500 all year, never gaining or losing much ground from an even record. The Angels, currently sitting just two games over the break-even point, are the only other team in the division with more wins than losses against their closest rivals, and that 17-15 record is why the Angels have been able to get to two games over. The A’s actually have more wins than losses against AL Central and AL Eastern competition, with 9-7 and 11-7 records respectively, but like the A’s well-known road play issues, the A’s have severely underperformed when playing against teams from the AL West, to the tune of a paltry 12-23 record through the (more or less) halfway point of the season. The A’s are 1-8 specifically against Houston this year, but stand to perform better moving forward when they have their top prospects in the lineup rather than overmatched stopgap veterans. The story of the Astros hasn’t changed in the last week. The team still is coping with a slew of injuries to their starting pitching, though Lance McCullers has returned to the starting rotation to give it a sizeable boost, and the team has been relying on what have been career minor leaguers and AAAA guys to patch up the rotation while their guys get healthy. While this strategy spelled doom for the A’s the last couple of seasons, the Astros pitching hasn’t skipped a beat, as the fringe replacements have been embracing their role on the team and running with it. Who’s Hot/Not One of the replacement starting pitchers is a former A’s AAA farmhand, Brad Peacock, who was originally acquired by the A’s to bolster what would become the historic 2012 starting rotation, but his role on the team never came to fruition and he was traded in the following offseason. Peacock has mostly pitched out of the bullpen for Houston, but when injuries opened up a spot in the rotation, he was first in line to take his chance. Since gaining a starters’ role, Brad Peacock has been striking out nearly fourteen batters per nine innings and is fixing to be a long term solution for the rotation. Also, Brad Peacock is a fresh new father, and will be returning from the paternity list in this series against the A’s to make his first start in ten days. The Matchups Tuesday, 6/27 @ 5:10 – Sean Manaea vs Mike Fiers Wednesday, 6/28 @ 5:10 – Jesse Hahn vs David Paulino Thursday, 6/29 @ 11:10 – Jharel Cotton vs Brad Peacock Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games on NBCSCA. Thursday’s day game is on MLB Network. All games are on MLB.tv. How the A’s Win the Series The Astros have been tough on the A’s all year, but day is a new day and each series is a new series. As dominant as the Astros have been all year, the team is just 11-9 when facing left-handed starting pitchers, and Sean Manaea may currently be the best starter in the A’s rotation. In the first game of this series, he will be facing veteran Mike Fiers, w[...]



Marcus Semien and the Surfeit of Shortstops

2017-06-26T17:47:32-07:00

With Marcus Semien poised to return to the squad soon, who should Oakland’s everyday shortstop be? And by that I mean, what will the entire 25-man roster look like in a month? I sat down with the intent of writing about who Oakland’s everyday shortstop is going to be. It’s a simple enough question - with Marcus Semien rehabbing and due to return to the major league squad within the next couple of weeks, who will field shortstop between Semien, Barreto, Pinder, and Rosales? Unfortunately I forgot the advice of the wise Carl Sagan: If you wish to make an infield from scratch, you must first invent the universe. Looking at those four names (or really three, because let’s be real, Rosie shouldn’t be part of the equation) just made me realize how many other questions must be answered in order to figure out who Oakland’s shortstop will be on August 1, when the trade deadline has passed. Is Chad Pinder a shortstop, a utility player, or a right fielder? If the latter, can he take over right field from Olson? But might that leave Olson blocked at 1B by Alonso? Maybe we can keep Alonso while ditching other veterans like Jed Lowrie. So does that mean Franklin Barreto is already our everyday 2nd baseman? As you can see, there’s a lot to unravel here. More than I expected when I started writing this. The Sure Positions: C and 3B I don’t think there is much question here: Bruce Maxwell and Josh Phegley are our primary and backup catchers, respectively. Matt Chapman will be playing third base. 1B: What Light Through Yonder Competitive Window Breaks? The options here would be Healy, Alonso, and Olson. Healy has an iron glove (-30.9 UZR/150, though the bulk of that un-value comes at 3B). Basically, if this team wants a serious chance at being a contender next year and wants to shed the shackles of incompetent defense, Healy should be DHing 5+ days a week. So that leaves veteran Yonder Alonso and rookie Matt Olson. In my opinion, the A’s should strive to keep the veteran. I don’t need to describe Yonder Alonso’s incredible 2017 season so far, as the All Star votes speak for themselves (keep voting before Thursday! The alternative is Eric Hosmer!). I don’t necessarily believe that the numbers he has put up so far are sustainable, but I think the adjustments are real and that Alonso has finally taken the step (or in this case, the leg lift) forward to utilize his power. And I just love the guy on a personal level. If he could be locked up on something like a 3/33 deal, I would love to see the A’s jump on it. That would leave Alonso as the primary 1B, with Olson and Healy covering approximately once a week each, depending on pitcher handedness. On Chad Pinder The above plan essentially forces Matt Olson to be the full-time right fielder. So what happens to Chad Pinder? Pinder, despite spending the vast majority of his time in AAA at shortstop, has looked surprisingly competent in right field so far. He has taken good routes and shown off a legitimate cannon for an arm that has already saved the A’s a couple of runs. While I have been genuinely impressed by Pinder in RF, I still have doubts that his bat can handle an everyday role. Despite the dingers, it’s important to keep in mind that Pinder put up a 96 wRC+ at AAA this season (in 7 games), and a 93 wRC+ last season (in 107 games). Maybe his hit tool has become something real, but despite his hot streak, I’m going to assume he’s still a slightly below average hitter overall and thus not someone we want in the lineup every day - at least not against righties. So that leaves Pinder playing the utility role, covering RF and 2B and SS as needed and serving as a useful player off the bench. So Who’s Our Everyday Shortstop? I’m getting there, I’m getting there. So at this point, with Pinder established somewhere on the Sogard-Zobrist spectrum, we’re down to the returning Marcus Semien and the hot young phenom Franklin Barreto for the [...]



Eyeball Scout Winks At Barreto, Olson, Maxwell

2017-06-26T08:01:09-07:00

The Eyeball Scout recently went on a blind date, even though the word ‘blind’ is a bit upsetting to those named explicitly for eyeballs. The date turned out to be with a girl from the new AN format. The date started slowly because she was unable to authenticate me but finally I convinced her I was really me, only to be told, once we reached the restaurant, that she felt I should check in at the restaurant even though we were already there. Frankly she didn’t look too good but the conversation was even worse. When I tried to speak she would interrupt with "Timeout!" at random moments, which was more than a bit annoying. Then she would tell a story and I would have to point out, "You just told me that twice in a row." Finally I just told her, "You know what? With my internet access, I’m just gonna download some porn." Authenticate that, missy. But the Eyeball Scout is about so much more than authentication and porn. Baseball is fun again thanks to the infusion of young talent that seems to have a sense of how to play the game and also to be able to do it. Here are some small sample theatre observations on three key additions to the A’s roster... Franklin Barreto He’s the talk of the town, Oakland’s highest rated prospect and certainly someone who knows how to arrive with a bang. Barreto’s inaugural weekend included a HR in his second major league at bat, line drive singles to LF and RF, a bloop hit to LF that started the A’s winning rally on Sunday, and numerous opportunities to show his wares at 2B. Of all the hits, to the Eyeball Scout the least impressive was the homerun. It came on a hanging slider from a pitcher, James Shields, who is giving up HRs like they’re going out of style because he keeps throwing hanging sliders. The HR was exciting and wonderful, but hardly evidence one way or the other as to what we can expect from Barreto. In contrast, I was very impressed with his single to LF the next at bat because it came on a pretty good pitch and showed how quick Barreto is on the inner half. He was able to avoid getting jammed by the pitch and turned on it getting the good part of the bat on the ball, and he did it with apparent ease. However, for me the most impressive hit was the single to RF in the 1st inning Sunday. It was a classic demonstration of "staying inside the ball" and as the bat struck through the strike zone "like Cobra," a sharp-yet-easy swing produced an off-field liner in the mold of Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera. That doesn’t mean you should infer comps to Altuve or Cabrera, two freaks of nature who have few peers. Barreto has some weaknesses in his game that they don’t, such as more swing and miss than Altuve and plate discipline as weak as Cabrera’s is strong. But the single to LF and the base hit to RF show the range of Barreto’s abilities and plate coverage, while Saturday’s HR and Sunday’s fly out to the warning track reveal his power. His speed, and natural instincts, were on display as Barreto fled around 3B before Steve Scarsone could pull another blunder and scored on a sharp single to LF with 0 outs -- in theory a risky move but a good one because Barreto knew he could make it and he was right. All 5 tools were on display in one weekend and that’s impressive. Barreto might go as far as his patience at the plate, and fundamentals in the field, will take him, but it would be hard not to be excited at the potential this 21 year old brings. He already looks like he belongs in the big leagues and that’s a function of his confidence and belief in his skills. Overall, the Eyeball Scout saw a raw star who has a chance to become a seasoned star. You have permission to be excited. Matt Olson Matt Olson is a curious case of a player who already possesses most of the attributes necessary to be an All-Star, yet who has a decent chance not even to be all that great. Olson will draw a lot of walks and he will hit a lot [...]



Farm Report: Talking Top Draft Picks with A's Scouting Director Eric Kubota

2017-06-26T05:10:28-07:00

Last week, I took the opportunity to talk with A's scouting director Eric Kubota about the team's top 11 picks in the first 10 rounds of the draft, and I wanted to be sure to share a portion of that interview on Athletics Nation so all of you here would also have the chance get Kubota's take on some of the team's top draft picks. I've included our conversation about the team's selections from the first five rounds: Austin Beck, Kevin Merrell, Greg Deichmann, Nick Allen, Will Toffey and Santis Sanchez. If you'd also like to see what he had to say about 6th-10th-round picks Logan Salow, Parker Dunshee, Brian Howard, Jared Poche and Jack Meggs, as well as last year's top pick A.J. Puk, you can find that here – Eric Kubota Interview. And I also wanted to be sure to mention that I recently posted our podcast with Stockton manager Rick Magnante all about this year's Stockton Ports here – A's Farm Podcast with Rick Magnante Eric Kubota started out his career in the baseball world by interning for the A’s in the mid-‘80s, and he eventually served as the assistant director of scouting and the supervisor of international scouting before succeeding Grady Fuson as scouting director following his departure after the 2001 season. I was eager to get his insights on this year's #1 pick Austin Beck as well as the rest of the A’s top eleven picks from the first ten rounds of the 2017 draft. I spoke with Kubota the week after the draft, just hours before the A’s were set to announce that they'd come to terms with 31 of their 41 draft selections, including 7 of their top 11 picks and, most notably, the team's top pick, outfielder Austin Beck… AF: We wanted to get your take on your top 11 picks from the first 10 rounds of the draft this year. So let's start out with your top pick. I know you guys were kind of surprised last year when pitcher A.J. Puk was available to you with the sixth overall pick. How confident were you that outfielder Austin Beck was going to be available to you with the sixth pick this year, how much did his workout at the Coliseum the week before the draft really impress you, and what was the one thing about him that really most grabbed you? EK: Well, as far as whether we thought he would get to us, we did think there was a club or two ahead of us that really liked Austin…but we thought probably somewhere between #3 and #8 was where he was going to go, so we thought we did have a fair chance of getting him. And the workout itself, more than anything, was the culmination of the spring spent scouting Austin. Austin was a guy our scouts in that area liked a lot. Earlier in the season, we all went in and saw him and liked him. I mean, he's hard not to like. What he does jumps out at you almost immediately. But having him come out to Oakland prior to the draft and having him working out on the field and being able to be around him, it was like the cherry on top of the sundae – it was kind of a finishing touch. And the thing that jumps out at me with Austin is just his natural ability to whistle the bat. I mean, what he can do as far as generating bat speed is something that we don't get to see very often. So that ability really kind of jumps up and slaps you in the face when you see him. AF: Is there anyone you might compare him to? EK: As far as what he can do with the bat, he kind of reminds me of Andrew McCutchen, but physically, he reminds me a little bit of Kevin McReynolds. AF: Moving on to your second pick in the competitive balance round, shortstop Kevin Merrell out of South Florida. He's really known for his speed, and some people think he was the fastest guy in the draft, but how confident are you that his bat will play at the major league level? And even though he played shortstop last year, it seems like there's been a lot of talk about him possibly ending up as a center fielder. How do you feel things a[...]



Game #76: Sonny Powers A's to Sweep 5-3

2017-06-25T14:44:53-07:00

Last 3 Series: Sweep, Swept, Sweep ***Click here to revisit today's Game Thread*** The White Sox may have won today's uniform game, but the A's won the only game that counted in the standings. The A's nearly jumped out to an early lead in the first inning after the first two batters reached base, but Derek Holland was able to work out of the jam. The Sox then nearly took the lead in the bottom half of the first. After Josh Phegley couldn't corral a Sonny Gray offering (a sign of things to come), the ball rolled back to the screen. Phegley picked up the ball on the slide and threw a dart to Gray who arrived at home plate just in time to cut down the speedy Alen Hanson. https://t.co/YkbCR6DNTY pic.twitter.com/0xHYrj4xUa — Cut4 (@Cut4) June 25, 2017 The euphoria would be short-lived as the White Sox took the lead two innings later on an Adam Engel solo home run. The early innings for the A's were marked by hard hits and bad luck. I lost track of how many times the A's made perfect contact, only for the ball to find its way into the back of a White Sox mitt. Chicago added a second run in the fourth. On the pitch before the run scored, Gray spiked a slider halfway into the left-handed batters box. With Jose Abreu on third, Phelgey somehow got around the ball and made an incredible block, saving a run. It was as athletic a play as you'll ever see from a catcher. But on the very next pitch, Phegley was unable to catch a ball that wasn't far from being a strike, and it rolled to the backstop gifting the White Sox their second run. Sonny was masterful all game long against a lineup that I don't think is given enough credit. Aside from Engel's homerun, he didn't make any mistakes and kept the A's within striking distance. I still don't know what to make of his trade value - I have trouble seeing anyone matching the A's valuation - but suffice it to say he did nothing to hurt his value today. And who knows, with the A's youth movement and the lack of available starting pitching on the trade market, you likely won't know that you've watched Sonny throw his last pitch in the Green and Gold until the moment he's traded. Just when you started to worry that the A's were looking at being shutout, the offense came alive. Derek Holland pitched quite well for the Sox, going six strong innings and only allowing four hits. Holland began the seventh and gave up a single to Yonder Alonso before being lifted for a reliever. Bruce Maxwell then grounded out, which was followed by a Matt Olson walk. Rosales reached on a fielder's choice, putting runners at first and third with two outs, but it looked like the Sox might get out of the inning unscathed. Bob Melvin, who to his credit was very aggressive in pinch-hitting on Sunday afternoon, lifted Brugman for Jed Lowrie, and Lowrie immediately validated Melvin's faith in him by driving a double into the right field corner. A's third base coach Steve Scarsone, who was notably less aggressive than Melvin, inexplicably held Rosales at third, and when Rajai Davis struck out in the next at-bat, there was plenty of concern in the forum that the Green and Gold might have blown their only chance. But the A's weren't left losing for long. Franklin Barreto singled to begin the 8th. The next hitter, Ryon Healy, hit a ground ball to third baseman Matt Davidson that should have resulted in a double play, but for once, the A's were the benefactors of poor defense. Khris Davis then drove Barreto in to tie the game, and Alonso gave the A's the lead a batter later. Sean Doolittle pitched a very impressive eighth, and the A's added two more insurance runs in the ninth in the form of Matt Joyce and Adam Rosales solo homers. Santiago Casilla came in to earn the save and immediately yielded a homerun to Melky Cabrera. But to Casilla's credit, he wasn't phased and proceeded to get the final three outs. It was a solid wi[...]