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An SB Nation blog for Oakland Athletics fans

Updated: 2016-10-21T08:16:13-07:00


Forecasting Sonny Gray's future using historical comps


Will he be more like Charles Nagy, or Ricky Romero In 2015, Sonny Gray was the A's lone shining light. After a rookie season in which Gray's electric stuff lit up the playoffs and a second season in which he took another step forward, Gray seemed to solidify himself as an ace in 2015, finishing third in Cy Young voting. There were some questions regarding Gray's ability to miss bats and his stamina as he faded down the stretch, but there was never a doubt that he was an asset. Then, 2016 happened. Gray was downright bad and a guy who was once the cornerstone of a young rotation was the leading cause of disappointment for a team that couldn't do anything right. One of the first questions you have to ask when thinking about the viability of a 2017 playoff run is which Gray will we get. The difference between Gray's 2015 and 2016 is the difference between an ace and a fringe major leaguer, and could easily be the difference between 82 wins and a playoff berth. What does history have to say? The power of the Play Index If you're a fan of baseball history or of throwing hours of your life down an internet rabbit-hole, the Play Index from Baseball Reference is for you. With the power of said tool, we can look at all the players similar to Sonny Gray. I defined that as players who put up between 5-8 bWAR in a single season before their age 27 season and followed said season with a season worth 1.0 bWAR or less, since the DH era began in 1973. It's a bit arbitrary, but it should give us a nice idea of how common or rare this is while also not taking hours on end for me, which I know is most important for you. Basically, we're looking to see how often young pitchers fall off a cliff, and how they respond in the season following. How often has a pitcher pulled a Sonny Gray? I've defined pulling a Sonny Gray as a starting pitcher who put up 5 or more bWAR but less than 8 bWAR in a single season before the age of 27, then following it up with a season of 1 or fewer bWAR. That's to make sure the pitcher is nearly elite and young, and should signify that the dropoff isn't the result of a pitcher being past his physical prime. With that loose definition of "pulling a Sonny Gray" in mind, there have been 19 instances of pitchers doing so since the DH was implemented in 1973. Of those 19, ten never recovered, six turned into serviceable, albeit lesser pitchers, and three returned to their former glory. Sonny Gray As a reminder, this is how Sonny Gray's past two seasons have gone. 2015: 5.8 bWAR, 31 GS, 208 IP, 2.73 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 2016: -0.5 bWAR, 22 GS, 117 IP, 5.69 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 The tragic cases I've read enough Harry Potter to know you always end on a positive note, so let's start out with some of the sad, cautionary tales. Of the 19 players fitting the criteria, 10 didn't return to any level of success. They are Roberto Hernandez, Ricky Romero, Matt Harrison, Steve Busby, Craig McMurty, Matt Young, Mike Norris, Jhoulys Chacin, Oliver Perez, and Joe Kennedy (Rest in Peace). An example: Ricky Romero Season 1: 6.3 bWAR, 32 GS, 225 IP, 2.92 ERA, 7.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 Season 2: -1.4 bWAR, 32 GS, 181 IP, 5.77 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 5.2 BB/9 A common theme among players on this list is a lack of control. That makes sense, as to attain a 5 bWAR season, you have to have great stuff and to attain a season with less than 1 bWAR with that kind of stuff, you have to have a major problem. That problem has often been an inability to locate, and Ricky Romero went from electric starter to guy who couldn't hit the broad side of an Angel Hernandez strike zone. Like Gray, Romero was known for his electric stuff and most believe there was never a physical ailment that caused his demise. While Gray did see an increase in walks, his demise wasn't entirely control based: he still threw strikes, by and large. The return to serviceable Of the 19 pitchers to pull a Gray, 6 of them returned to being serviceable. This again is a bit arbitrary, but all of these guys were fixtures in starting rotations, putting up average numbers and overall being as[...]

Chip Hale to return to Oakland A's as 3B Coach



Out with the old, in with the old.

In Ron Washington's vacancy, Chip Hale will be returning to the Oakland A's to coach third-base.

Hale was the A's bench coach during the 2012-2014 playoff run. He has a long history with Bob Melvin, previously working with him in Arizona during Melvin's first managerial stint.

Most recently, Hale was fired as a manager of those same Diamondbacks along with GM Dave Stewart. Hale was in a true no-win situation, and in spite of leading a team that overachieved in many aspects, he was unable to survive Arizona's organizational overhaul.

While Hale is well known as the losing manager of the hapless D'backs front office, he's better known for being involved in one of the most famous baseball bloopers of all time. He's the guy hitting the ball in the video below, and is at least partially responsible for the death of that poorly constructed wall.

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In addition to the Hale news, it's been reported by Susan Slusser and confirmed by the organization that the rest of the A's coaching staff will return. There apparently was some question about the continued employment of some of those coaches who oversaw the A's disappointing 2016, but the likes of Curt Young, Darren Bush, and more will once again don the green and gold.

Welcome back Chip! We have missed you.

Trade Daze Episode 9: Dog Daze II



Every athlete deserves a chance to shine

Never underestimate an athlete's desire to get better. Like Wash did for Semien, every athlete deserves the same commitment and patience as they find their own path to success ...


Some just take more patience than others.

Contending in 2017? How Do You Get Better On “Both Sides Of The Ball”?


I liked Tim Eckert-Fong’s article asserting that the A’s can contend in 2017 because I like optimism, I want the A’s to contend in 2017, plus Tim seems like a swell guy. In reality, though, the tl;dr version of the article of why the A’s can go from worst to first, from highly flawed to highly awed, is "Hey, it does happen." It does and more often it doesn’t. The problem the 2017 A’s face, specifically, is that they were terrible on defense while also being terrible on offense. (The pitching was nothing to write home about either, but on paper the quality and depth look to be promising going forward.) The A’s infield offers a look at the conundrum Oakland faces in trying to improve its squad significantly before the arrivals of Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto (please hurry!). On the left side of the infield you have players, in Ryon Healy and Marcus Semien, who offer legitimate bats for the position but give some of it back on defense — in Healy’s case the bat is better but the defense worse; in Semien’s case the defense was closer to average but the bat wasn’t gang-busters like Healy’s. Then on the right side of the infield, in Yonder Alonso and Joey Wendle you have the kind of defense you want in order to compete but you give up a lot of offense. So where do you get better? Do you upgrade your hitting at 1B and only get worse on defense where you are already bad? Or do you upgrade your defense somewhere at the expense of an offense that was already last in the league in runs scored? Hey, I hear Sam Fuld is available! Obviously what you want are players who both hit well and play good defense, and guess what? Those guys are, well, very expensive if you don’t already have them early in their career. (That reminds me ... Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto: please hurry!) I would love to see the A’s add someone like Dexter Fowler, but the reality is that precisely because he is good at more than one or two things Fowler, a fast switch-hitting OBP machine with some pop and good defensive skills, is probably going to be priced out of the A’s range. Watching the playoffs has only been more painful because you always think your players are better until you see some real ones. Semien and Wendle are fine, but how they stack up next to Lindor and Kipnis? The Cubs are just really, really athletic and the 2016 A’s...weren’t. So here are some truths we know: the 2017 A’s need to get more athletic and need to play better defense. This would be an easier fix were Oakland coming off of a season in which they were "middle of the pack" in runs scored. But they weren’t. Last in OBP, last in runs scored. Granted they had only a half season of Ryon Healy, but still they were dead last so you would want to improve the offense at positions like 2B, CF, RF — positions where you can’t easily hide poor defense. Aha, so get rid of defensive butcher Danny Valencia...and now your offense just got a bit worse... No I am not offering a lot of answers because I don’t really have any, other than eagerly awaiting the talent that is now one step from the big leagues. Splurging uncharacteristically on a "both sides of the ball" player would be one avenue, be it a free agent or an international gamble. I will also point out that moving Healy to 1B improves his defensive value while not losing his bat, but that move likely will not come until Chapman arrives. Another way to go is to emphasize offense heavily at the corners and defense heavily up the middle. Perhaps a team with, say, Joey Wendle and Jarrod Dyson, up the middle would be complementary with corners of, say, Healy and Brandon Moss. That’s potentially affordable because Dyson and Moss are more "one way" players. I’m not sure how else you get better on defense and still score more runs, while keeping your overall budget under $100M. Thoughts? Other than: please do hurry, Chapman and Barreto! [...]

MLB Playoffs 2016: ALCS Game 2, NLCS Game 1



Two LCS games on the docket for Saturday.

Blue Jays vs. Indians

ALCS Game 2 (Indians lead 1-0)

Pitchers: J.A. Happ vs. Josh Tomlin

Time: 1:08 p.m.


Yes, in a postseason full of elite, dynamic pitching, that’s Happ vs. Tomlin, a pair of nondescript past-30 veterans, for Game 2 of the ALCS. And yet, they both had quietly productive years (ERA+ of 134 and 106, respectively), as well as solid (if short) ALDS outings. Game 1 was a pitching duel decided by a single homer, so will any big bats come out today?

Today's Lineups

Ezequiel Carrera - LF Rajai Davis - CF
Josh Donaldson - 3B Jason Kipnis - 2B
Edwin Encarnacion - 1B Francisco Lindor - SS
Jose Bautista - RF Mike Napoli - 1B
Troy Tulowitzki - SS Carlos Santana - DH
Russell Martin - C Jose Ramirez - 3B
Michael Saunders - DH Brandon Guyer - LF
Kevin Pillar - CF Lonnie Chisenhall - RF
Darwin Barney - 2B Roberto Perez - C
J.A. Happ - LHP Josh Tomlin - RHP

* * *

Dodgers vs. Cubs

NLCS Game 1

Pitchers: Kenta Maeda vs. Jon Lester

Time: 5:08 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Blue vs. blue, in a battle of two classic franchises. Note that the Dodgers made the NLCS and the Giants didn’t.

New Oakland A’s stadium closer than ever after Vegas Raiders stadium funding approved


If all goes according to plan with the Raiders and Warriors, the Athletics will soon be the sole tenant of the Oakland Coliseum complex. The Nevada Legislature approved $750 million in public financing for a planned $1.9 billion stadium, with the remainder to be paid by the Raiders and the family fortune of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval is expected to sign the measure on Monday. The City of Oakland and Alameda County intend to work up a plan to keep the Raiders that will try to involve the investment group headed by former NFL stars Ronnie Lott and Rodney Peete, reports the San Francisco Chronicle’s Phil Matier and Andy Ross, but such a plan will somehow have to work without the level of public funding promised by the State of Nevada. Sometime in September, the Lott-Peete investment group and the City of Oakland came to a 90-day memorandum of understanding with the City of Oakland to negotiate the possible sale of the Coliseum’s land to the investment group, reports David Debolt of the East Bay Times. The MOU, however, is not the sort of exclusive negotiating rights agreement the City handed to Floyd Kephart that was a huge waste of every party’s time. Let’s face facts here. Las Vegas has put down a big down payment on the Raiders, and the City of Oakland and Alameda County are still trying to knock heads together to even have a coherent proposal to offer the NFL that also somehow avoids spending taxpayer money on anything other than infrastructure improvements. With the Golden State Warriors set to move to the Chase Center in San Francisco for the 2019-20 NBA season and the Raiders on track to move into their new Vegas digs for the 2019-20 NFL season, the A’s will soon be the only team left at the Coliseum site. The A’s played the waiting game, and they’re about to “win.” Timeline A little over a year ago, when the Raiders were contenders to move to Los Angeles with either the Chargers or the Rams, I outlined a timeline for constructing a new baseball-only stadium to open for the 2020 season at the Coliseum site. The L.A. plan involved the Raiders moving down south immediately, playing either at the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl temporarily. The Las Vegas Raiders, however, plan to stay in Oakland through the 2018-19 NFL season, using both of the one-year lease options it has with the Joint Powers Authority. It’s not clear whether the A’s would be allowed to break ground on a new stadium, as Mark Davis has made it clear he would not want stadium construction work interfering with Raiders game traffic. If the Raiders are approved to move to Las Vegas in January, the A’s will have the certainty to start laying down plans to build at the Coliseum. It’s possible under either scenario for the A’s to open the 2021 season at their new stadium, though it’s not inconceivable the A’s might have to start part or all of 2021 at the Coliseum. Let’s consider two possibilities at the Coliseum site, then: (1) The A’s can build their stadium even with the Raiders sticking around for awhile January 2017: NFL owners approve the Raiders move to Las Vegas, starting in the 2018-19 season, by a three-quarters vote. Winter 2017: The A's present a plan, promising financing from Major League Baseball, to construct a stadium in the Coliseum parking lot while requesting land sale and infrastructure assistance from the City of Oakland and Alameda County. Fall 2017: The City of Oakland and Alameda County, after negotiations, approve a deal to sell Coliseum land and make infrastructure improvements around the Coliseum for a new ballpark. Fall 2018: Ground breaks on a new baseball-only stadium. The Warriors are still playing in Oracle Arena and the Raiders start their final season in Oakland while the A's play at the Coliseum. Groundbreaking for AT&T Park was December 11, 1997 for opening in March 2000, so we’ll use 27 months as our tim[...]

NLDS Game 5: Rich Hill starts for Dodgers vs. Nationals



One more LDS game left, and then we can move on to the League Championship Series. Last year, three of four Division Series went to a Game 5, but only one did so this time around.

Dodgers vs. Nationals

NLDS Game 5 (Series tied 2-2)

Pitchers: Rich Hill vs. Max Scherzer

Time: 5:08 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Hill got roughed up in his first playoff start (4⅓ ip, 4 runs), but then so did Scherzer (6 ip, 4 runs, 2 HR). These guys are both elite strikeout artists, though, so either one could go lights out at any moment. Hill will be on short rest, so rookie phenom Julio Urias and the L.A. bullpen will surely get lots of work.

Of course, both of these teams hate winning playoff series, so this one could turn out like that one episode of South Park in which both teams are trying as hard as they can to lose because they don’t want to play anymore. It’ll be kind of like watching the A’s play the A’s in a winner-take-all game (sigh).

The Dodgers reached an NLDS Game 5 last year, and lost at home to the Mets. This is their fourth straight NLDS appearance, but only once in the previous three tries did they move on to the NLCS (where they subsequently lost). Meanwhile, the Nats lost an NLDS Game 5 at home in 2012 (to the Cardinals), and then lost in four games in 2014 to the Giants.

That seems like a great chance to remind you that the Giants lost their own series to the Cubs on Tuesday at home in unbelievably heartbreaking fashion, blowing a 5-2 lead in the 9th while using five relievers in a single frame. It was delicious. Whoever wins on Thursday will play the Cubs in the NLCS starting Saturday in Chicago.

Today's Lineups

Chase Utley - 2B Trea Turner - CF
Corey Seager - SS Bryce Harper - RF
Justin Turner - 3B Jayson Werth - LF
Adrian Gonzalez - 1B Daniel Murphy - 2B
Josh Reddick - RF Anthony Rendon - 3B
Joc Pederson - CF Ryan Zimmerman - 1B
Yasmani Grandal - C Danny Espinosa - SS
Andrew Toles - LF Jose Lobaton - C
Rich Hill - LHP Max Scherzer - RHP

Yes, the Oakland A's can absolutely make the playoffs in 2017


A journey through recent history to remind you that baseball is stupid. The A's were terrible in 2016. While winning 69 games is pretty niiiceeeeee, the A's, from a record standpoint didn't take a step forward. There are reasons to be excited, sure, and we'll delve into those as we get deeper into the offseason. Obviously, teams that win more games are more likely to win more games the next year. It's not exactly ideal that the A's are still 21 wins from a typical playoff number. But while most teams don't make the immediate jump from cellar dweller to playoff team, it does happen. So often in fact, that Grant Brisbee wrote about how odd it is that there's no surprise team this year when every year before has seen a similar yet less awesome version of the 2012 A's. Let's recount. A healing touch, the story of the 2015 Rangers In 2014, the Rangers won just 67 games. The following season, they won the weak AL West with just 88 wins, eventually losing to the Blue Jays in the most bonkers game of all time topped off by a bat flip that still hasn't landed. Their turnaround was less surprising than others, as much of their 2014 struggles were injury induced. That squad saw partial or lost years from some or all of Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, Rougned Odor, Yu Darvis, Derek Holland, Mitch Moreland, Adrian Beltre, Jurickson Profar, and more. Those Rangers turned to noted warm bodies such as Kevin Kouzmanoff, Joe Saunders, and Robbie Ross to play baseball and as it turns out, that strategy didn't work. But in 2015, when those injured pieces healed and managed to stay healthy for an entire year, the Rangers were able to dominate a weak division with the help of some deadline acquisitions. How's that relate to the A's? The A's were certainly injury riddled in 2016, though there are reasons that happened. They're already in better shape in terms of depth for 2017, and their stamina should be improved thanks to a plethora of young players experiencing the length of a 162 game season for the first time. If the A's are to make a 21 win jump like the Rangers did, much of that likely will be due to renewed health. The rise of the tankers, the 2015 Houston Astros Just above the Rangers in those 2014 standings were the Houston Astros, everyone's favorite tanking bunch. Their fourth place finish marked their first non-last place finish in the previous four years, and in 2015, the Astros were thrust into unfamiliar territory, unable to make the very first selection in the big league draft for the first time since 2010. They were also in unfamiliar territory as for the first time in ten years, they found themselves in the playoffs. That 16 win turnaround was largely the product of the youngsters finally panning out after years of mid 50 win teams. How's that compare to the A's? Similar but different. The A's have been objectively terrible in terms of big league success for two years as they've gone through a youth movement. Unlike the Astros, their on field losses weren't deliberate. Subsequently, the A's farm system isn't filled with the sure things of the word like a George Springer or a Carlos Correa, but as well all know, sometimes the key cogs are a little less expected, a la Jose Altuve or Ryon Healy. The plug in a veteran, 2013 Boston Red Sox In 2012, the Red Sox were loaded with solid hitters and abysmal pitchers. In 2013, they plugged in some random dudes that probably had no business playing out of their minds on their way to a World Series victory. It's happened before and it'll happen again, an there's nary a playoff run out there that wasn't fueled by some random guy. Baseball is stupid and that's how things go. The 2012 A's, magic out of nowhere The greatest team every assembled, the A's took a hodgepodge group of rugged men, put them in pajamas, and rode them to an epic AL West championship because baseball is aweso[...]