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An SB Nation blog for Oakland Athletics fans

Updated: 2017-02-21T16:06:13-08:00


Oakland A's 2017 Community Prospect List #25: Bobby Wahl closing in on MLB chance


We’re nearing the end of our Community Prospect List, but there are still a few spots left! Bobby Wahl made his way onto the A’s 40-man roster this winter, and now he’s also made his way onto our CPL. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between their % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up): Franklin Barreto, SS (+67%) Matt Chapman, 3B (+26%) A.J. Puk, LHP (+38%) Jharel Cotton, RHP (+60%) Frankie Montas, RHP (+12%) Grant Holmes, RHP (+27%) Matt Olson, 1B/OF (+10%) Bruce Maxwell, C (+9%) Daniel Gossett, RHP (+53%) Max Schrock, 2B (+9%) Richie Martin, SS (+34%) Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+4%) Renato Nunez, 3B/LF (+14%) Norge Ruiz, RHP (+16%) Lazaro Armenteros, OF (+5%) Dakota Chalmers, RHP (+6%) Chad Pinder, IF (+5%) Jaycob Brugman, OF (+10%) Joey Wendle, 2B (+23%) Yairo Munoz, SS (+18%) Logan Shore, RHP (+30%) Heath Fillmyer, RHP (+23%) Raul Alcantara, RHP (+23%) Bobby Wahl, RHP (+11%) For the third straight year, Wahl is hanging out in the mid-20s on the CPL — 21st in 2015, down to 29th in 2016, and now 24th this year. His power arm has held AN’s attention for a while, but relievers have a lower ceiling and so it makes sense that he’s never higher than this. Meanwhile, Wahl has moved all the way up to Triple-A, and he was even added to the 40-man roster this winter for Rule 5 protection. He put in two strong years in Double-A Midland with better than 10 K/9, and served as their closer last season before his brief promotion to Nashville. He has serious late-inning potential in the bigs with his upper-90s fastball. Of course, there are obstacles to overcome. His injury history is long, and he’s hit the DL each of the last three seasons with various ailments. He was mostly healthy last year, but still landed on the shelf just before the Triple-A playoffs. And even when he’s able to take the mound, his walk rate is a bit high — around 10% in Double-A (4 BB/9) and up past 14% in Triple-A (6 BB in 9⅔ ip). But if he can work past the injuries and the walks, then, well, here’s an idea of his best-case scenario: Since I'm in a predicting mood, I'll throw out another one: Bobby Wahl will be the A's closer by year-end.— Melissa Lockard (@oakclubhouse) November 18, 2016 For those of you who forgot your headphones at work, the TL;DR is that Hahn sacrificed movement for velocity last year. Here are the numbers. The sinker was indeed much faster and it did sink significantly less. His control was roughly the same (actually hitting the zone), but his command took a serious step back, something anyone who watched two seconds of Hahn could tell you. As you can tell from his zone profiles, he threw the ball right down the middle more frequently in 2016 than 2015 and lived higher in the zone. By and large, Hahn was throwing worse quality pitches, specifically sinkers, into worse locations. Those two factors could easily be fixed by a small release point change While the sinker could be fixed, the slider isn’t coming back. It’s unclear exactly why Hahn was so much worse in 2016, and while the command was no doubt a big factor, the missing put-away pitch could have had just as big an impact. Which Hahn will we see in 2017? Jesse Hahn’s stuff is good enough, even without a slider, to be an effective big league pitcher. It isn’t good enough to live in the heart of the zone, especially if it’s going to move with far less movement than it did before. But Hahn moving back to his old release point could mean more movement, better command, and a pitcher who can succeed like he did before. Can he stay healthy while doing so? Hahn doesn’t need to get all the way back to his 2015 form to be worthy of a starting spot, and making a slight change might get him there. Spring Training, commence. [...]

A Good Sign: Melvin Embracing The “4-5 out” Save/Hold


In Alex Hall’s Friday post, A’s manager Bob Melvin was quoted twice. To Jane Lee he suggested he might not be wedded to having one closer and to Susan Slusser he indicated he felt the luxury of stretching out his best relievers to get 4-6 outs. Let’s analyze... It has long been observed that "closer by committee" does not work — it basically never does — but to some extent this is a "correlation is not causation" issue. If you had 3 terrific closers on your roster, I am confident that the trio of Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Aroldis Chapman could manage to hold down most every lead even if selected by virtue only of a three-side coin flip. "Closer by committee" does not work because managers only go to it when they don’t have any great relievers worthy of owning the 9th inning role. So of course, committees of "three ok-but-not-great relievers" always fail more than good closers do. However, if you are selecting from among plus relievers to handle 9th inning duties, or your highest leverage situations, then picking the best matchup or freshest arm can be a fine idea. With Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Liam Hendriks, and Ryan Dull in the mix, along with Santiago Casilla, John Axford and possibly Daniel Coloumbe, Melvin truly has a chance to select from relievers who are well suited to pitching in high leverage. Even if you aren’t big believers in each and every one of those relievers, surely if you picked from who you feel are the best four, or the four with the hottest hand/having the best seasons, you would be in pretty good shape. Meanwhile, Terry Francona’s expert use of Andrew Miller in the 2016 post-season, and to some extent Joe Maddon’s use of Aroldis Chapman (until he arguably overdid it), may have finally revolutionized the game to emphasize using your best relievers in the most crucial moments, not just in the latest moments, of a game. Will we finally all realize that "9th inning" needs to give way to "most important inning or batter" as the time it is essential to have your best relievers in the game? This brings us to the epiphany that the game’s most critical moments don’t usually happen at the start of an inning. Innings always begin with the bases empty and no outs, for some reason that perhaps Fangraphs can analyze and report back on, but in the middle of innings suddenly not all innings are equal. There are clear "crossroads moments" in games where you can clearly see that the difference between a double and a strikeout, or between a single and a double play, is going to change the game very likely in way that will render the following innings relatively unimportant. Based loaded, one out, in a game you are leading by one run in the 7th. 2B and 3B, 2 outs, in a game that is tied in the 8th. The game is on the line now more than it probably will be at any time. This is why your best relievers generally should not be saved — pun intended — for a given inning, so much as they should be employed to fight the biggest fires before continuing on since they are already in the game. Francona did this masterfully with Miller, whose 4-6 out appearances sometimes began in the 6th inning, sometimes the 8th, depending on the situation in front of Francona. This strategy is not just for a short series; it’s the right way to utilize your best relievers. The good news for 2017 A’s is that Melvin has a lot of "better than just decent" relievers at his beck and call (although none of them happens to be Rod Beck). The great news is that Melvin appears to be up for the shrewd tactic of focusing on extinguishing fires as a top priority. Here’s the insight that seems to have eluded so many managers for so many years: Who finishes innings is more essential than who starts innings. Folks, all innings start the same. All innings do not, however, progress the same. In his two seasons, Ryan Dull has limited RH batters to a career slash line of .168/.184/.332, which is sensational. I want to see Dull come in to face a RH batter with a lead or tie hanging t[...]