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Now that blackouts and viruses are behind me, the Advance Scout returns. The Oakland A's hit town for a rare wraparound four-game series that features a bonus Monday night affair after Sunday's matinee. Obviously, the visitors have a lot to play for, as they lead Boston by a scant game for the wild card and trail Seattle by only three in the West -- thanks to the solid efforts of Messrs. Towers and Hendrickson, of course.

The Athletics aren't firing on all cylinders right now, as they usually are in August and September. Several hitters are slumping, and others are only recently beginning to rouse themselves from their season-long underachievement. Plus, the strength of the club -- the rotation -- is on the limp, with Tim Hudson hopeful of pitching Sunday and Mark Mulder likely out for his next two starts.

But the White Elephants' bullpen has been simply fantastic of late, as they've preserved leads, picked up injured or faltering starters, and held the fort so as to facilitate several recent late-inning rallies. The Jays will have to jump on Halama and Lilly early, and hope that Hudson's not quite well while the Cy Young incumbent is merely Decent Barry tonight, as opposed to Stellar Barry.

Of course, all of us here at Batter's Box are looking forward to the input of resident A's expert John Gizzi, who politely declined the opportunity to be this weekend's Scout because of a pressing social obligation -- I don't remember if it was Amnesty International or the Make-A-Wish Foundation; Gitz will have to fill us in with specifics.

Meanwhile, although the Jays and A's currently share a strong relationship and a common theory of management, it wasn't too long ago that the clubs were postseason rivals, with the Jays breaking the cycle of Oakland's playoff dominance once and for all in '92. With that in mind, I thought I'd remind Mr. Gizzi of a sign I saw at Game 2 of the ALCS at SkyDome, which applies with equal force today: "Oakland Fans Are Athletic Supporters."

On to the Advance Scout!

* Oakland's four-game winning streak was snapped by a withering Red Sox attack last night, as Rich Harden got lit up en route to a 14-5 defeat ...
* As BB's own John Gizzi (pronunciation guide: think a hybrid between "Jiminy!" and "Yahtzee!") has noted time and again, the A's are simply a lousy offensive club ... At 252/321/411, the A's are second-last in average, third-last in OBP and fourth-last in SLG in the American League ... Despite being sixth in the AL in home runs, Oakland is 11th in runs scored ... Moreover, for a club playing in a pitcher's park, they're no better on the road at 246/320/410 ... Scott Hatteberg admitted that the club has been in an offensive funk, but hoped that their four-run rally against Byung-Hyun Kim on Wednesday might snap them out of it ...
* But pitching is, of course, another story ... Since the All-Star Break, Oakland's staff has boasted a sterling 3.35 ERA -- even after last night's debacle -- and has allowed just 263 hits, far and away the stingiest hit rate in the Junior Circuit ... Overall, the A's check in at 3.56 as a team, leading the AL in ERA and fewest hits allowed ...
* All-Star Keith Foulke has been terrific all season, and has allowed single runs in just two of his last 17 appearances ... He has an excellent 16/72 ratio, and has allowed just 46 hits in 67 innings ... He's 33/5 in save situations ... His durability has been much-appreciated by the A's. Ken Macha: "I've been asking a lot out of Foulke and he's been tremendous. The guy's been a horse. He should get a lot of credit for the success we've had" ...
* Reigning Cy Young winner, Barry Zito, gets the start tonight ... This season, his walks are up, and his strikeouts are significantly down ... He's struck out six or more just six times -- and walked four or more six times ... Zito was good in April and May but has been merely decent since then; his August numbers look better than they should, since eight of his runs allowed have been unearned ... He is still tough on righties, holding them to a .224 average against ... He's won his last two decisions after suffering five straight losses between wins ...
* Jose Guillen has cooled off of late, going 1 for his last 16 (.063) ... He did go deep, though, off of both Hendrickson and Bowles last Sunday. The ordinarily hard-working Guillen decided to take batting practice off and relax before Sunday's game -- and it worked ... After gaudy (and of course, park-inflated) 337/385/629 numbers at the Great American Small Park, Guillen's not exactly been lion-like at the Coliseum, entering tonight's game at 256/298/436 as a Swingin' A ... Macha is still happy with Guillen's contributions, given his solid defence and his positive impact on "the clubhouse mix," in Macha's words ...
* Outfield mate Terrence Long isn't getting it done at the plate while batting .245 with a .293 OBP ... He has just 25 walks and 3 steals all season ... T-Long did rock Doc on Sunday, though, going 3-for-4 with a single, triple and home run ... He's a career .313 hitter against Toronto ...
* After a shaky spell in late June and early July, Chad Bradford is back on track, with only one (unearned) run allowed in August ... The submarining righty's line on the month: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K ...
* Scott Hatteberg is having a poor August at 214/276/286, with no home runs ... On the season, he's only hit nine out of the park and is slugging just .381 ...
* Reigning MVP Miguel Tejada is 6 for his last 17 (.353), but hasn't had the monster month necessary to undo his 161/230/286 April ... Accordingly, he's at a decidedly un-MVP-like 258/309/430 ... His 15 errors are third-most among AL shortstops, behind Julio Lugo and Chris Woodward ... He did, however, snap a 16-game homerless drought on Wednesday ...
* Eric Chavez has scored in his last four games, and has 33 multi-hit games this season ...
* Jim Mecir finally tossed a respectable mop-up inning last night, after getting lit up in his first two appearances since being re-activated earlier in the month ...
* Chris Singleton went 0-for-Boston and is slugging just .367 this season ...
* Saturday's opponent, John Halama, has been a serviceable swingman this season ... His last start was July 12 against Baltimore, as he lasted five innings in a game Oakland went on to win 5-3 ...
* Have you come to seek the Grail? ... Erubiel Durazo has been compared on Box threads to David Segui lately -- a far cry from the "Johnny Mize" predictions many had made when Durazo finally scored a full-time gig ... Rubi has been extremely patient at the plate, as expected. But at 261/383/440, that's simply not the slugging Billy Beane envisioned when he traded a package of Arnold and Griffin -- or Pena, German and Bonderman (less Ted Lilly), depending on your perspective ... He's dramatically improved against lefties this season, but his .447 slugging against righthanded pitching is well below his career .527 ... He is, however, on pace for more than 100 walks ... Durazo has been leading a triumvirate of himself, Eric Byrnes and Frank Menechino in a rigorous extra-batting-practice campaign ...
* And my, how Byrnes needs it ... On June 29, Byrnes went 5-for-5 and hit for the cycle in a 5-2 victory over the Giants, raising his season totals to 336/401/577 and winning support for his bid to play in the All-Star Game ... But he went on to have an unspeakably bad July (095/152/176) -- so bad that he lost his starting job ... August has not been any kinder. He was at a cool 059/059/059 until he finally registered a double and triple last night at Fenway ... Can he heat up again and provide the bat the A's so desperately need? ...
* Sunday's opponent, Tim Hudson, has had only one subpar outing over his last ten starts ... He's holding opposing hitters to just a .199 average, simply outstanding for a starting pitcher ... Hudson has had eight quality starts that have resulted in no-decisions ... Ken Macha calls Hudson "the guts of our pitching staff" ... Carlos Tosca: "He can be unhittable" ... He'll be on seven full days' rest as a precaution after being beaned by a Dave Berg line drive last Saturday ... Hudson was scared by the initial numbness from the blow: "I couldn't feel it at first and thought, 'This isn't good'" ... Hudson had some fun at reporters' expense on Saturday after the game. He began his press conference with "All five fingers are broken..." before he lost his straight face ... Hudson's 1.35 ERA in July topped the majors ... It's obviously no coincidence that Hudson has pitched best down the stretch, when the A's always excel. He's hasn't lost in August since 2001 ...
* Carlos Hernandez is slugging .448, a solid number for an excellent defensive catcher ... He supplied all of the A's' offense on Tuesday night, as his clutch three-run shot helped defeat the Red Sox 3-2 in a huge victory at Fenway ...
* Situational lefty Ricardo Rincon has had his shaky moments this season, but he's been rock-solid of late, with nine consecutive scoreless outings ... In fact, he's only allowed hits in three of those outings -- and six of them have been (do you hear this, Mr. Tosca?) an inning or more ...
* Monday's opponent, Ted Lilly, appeared to be finally finding some consistency before he got tagged by Boston on Wednesday for six runs on ten hits in 3 1/3 IP ... It was his eighth appearance allowing five or more runs, but his first since July 20 ...
* Mark Ellis made his return to the top of the lineup last night ... He's scored at least one run in five of his last six games ... He snapped a 51-game homerless drought with his shot off of Lurch on Saturday ...
* The A's called up Mike Wood, a 23-year-old righthander out of the University of North Florida, to provide some emergency long relief ... Billy Beane resisted the temptation to call up Joe Blanton: "[W]e're not ready to play that chip, yet" ...
* Adam Piatt has been 1-for-2 with a single and a strikeout in a pinch-hitting role for Tampa Bay ...
* Jermaine Dye is getting close to returning from his painful separated shoulder ... Team trainer Larry Davis said that Dye was "doing very well" and has participated in hitting, throwing and fielding drills ... Expect a return around Labour Day, and a rehab stint in AAA Sacramento to begin sometime this week ...
* Mark Mulder, who often gives the bullpen needed rest thanks to his nine refreshingly economical complete games, has been bothered by an inflamed hip since the all-star break ... First, he was unable to field his position properly, but Mulder pitched through it ... Then it began to affect his pitching motion, so the A's shut him down ... Oakland is confident that he'll only miss two to three starts ... Beane: "This is part of the deal...We've had the healthiest pitching staff in baseball the last two seasons, so we've been lucky" ...
* Billy Beane, when asked about any potential psychological problems his club might face after losing three consecutive playoff series: "I'm not real big on psychology...I'm big on something you can measure" ...

Probable Batting Orders

vs. LH

4 Ellis/7 Long
9 Guillen
5 Chavez
6 Tejada
DH Durazo
2 Hernandez
3 Hatteberg
7 Byrnes/4 Ellis
8 Singleton

vs. RH

7 Long
9 Guillen
5 Chavez
6 Tejada
DH/3 Durazo
2 Hernandez
3/DH Hatteberg
4 Ellis
8 Singleton

Pitching Probables

Friday: LH Zito vs. Halladay
Saturday: LH Halama vs. Walker
Sunday: RH Hudson vs. Escobar
Monday: LH Lilly vs. Lidle/Towers

Bullpen Usage

Long: Harville R, Wood R
Short: Mecir R, Neu R
Setup: Bradford R, Rincon L
Closer: Foulke R

Advance Scout: Athletics, August 22-25 | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Matthew Elmslie - Friday, August 22 2003 @ 04:27 PM EDT (#93872) #
a sign I saw at Game 2 of the ALCS at SkyDome, which applies with equal force today: "Oakland Fans Are Athletic Supporters."

I thought that sign was 'Kubek and Costas = Athletic Supporters' (the sign was shaped like a jockstrap and had green and gold trim), in response to Costas's comment of the previous game, "Elvis has a better chance of coming back than the Jays [in that game]". (This was in '89.) I suppose someone could have reused the joke in '92.

Best sign I remember from that era (from a playoff game broadcast on CBS):

Gitz - Friday, August 22 2003 @ 05:33 PM EDT (#93873) #
Mike, I was holding a fundraiser in honor of my own Make-a-Wish Foundation. Regrettably, the lovely lasses from last night did not consent to make any donations to my particular dream, even after I told them money was not necessary. They happily would have accepted my money of course.

On a separate note, does anyone know the cure for the deadly combination of Kamikazees, Long Island Iced Teas, a few beers, and conversation involving 20th century French philosophy? The alcohol question is for me; the philosophy question is for any poor soul within ear shot of my debate -- mostly with myself, as Craig astutely predicted would happen a few nights ago -- about the value of Derrida or Foucault.

To repeat: I need a life.
Gitz - Friday, August 22 2003 @ 05:34 PM EDT (#93874) #
Excellent work as always, Mike.

I have additional questions for Bauxites, and some assignments for you as you get your second look at the A's this year. Put aside the books for the weekend and really watch this club; I think you'll enjoy the experience.

1) Watch Erubiel Durazo carefully. Have you ever seen a mightier swing result in more weak ground balls to the infield? I am not of the mind that the "lack of protection" or the Oakland Coliseum are the two reason he's struggling. As I wrote earlier, he's hitting better at home than on the road, for whatever 200 at-bats will tell us. We'll have a better idea by next year -- increased sample size, after all -- of Durazo's true ability, but he's now 29-years-old with 1400 plate appearances under his belt. We may be seeing his true ability in terms of his power; his batting eye is not in question. Whatever the case, it's folly NOT to admit that Durazo has been a disappointment, and that blame lies squarely on Billy Beane's shoulders for making us believe a Jim Thome-clone had found a home in Oakland.
2) When Eric Chavez, Miguel Tejada, and other A's get ahead in the count -- say, 3-1 -- they will swing roughly 75 percent of the time no matter where or what the pitch is. (This is anecdotal, so, please, someone give me the numbers.) This is what makes Scott Hatteberg somewhat valuable: he will gladly take the walk rather than hit an easy come-backer (by Chavez) or lazy foul pop-up (by Tejada).
3) I'd like everyone's take on Ted Lilly. You know mine. Please respond in essay form, using the journalistic pyramid style, if you will.
4) How can a man -- Terrence Long -- have such a pretty swing but be such a lousy hitter? He's one of the worst -- if not THE worst -- regular in the majors, and his continuing presence in the A's lineup is at least as mysterious as the mind-bending conundrum of why girls have to use the restroom in group form.
5) Pay close attention to Mike Neu. One of the reasons, I believe, his minor-league numbers look so good is because he throws so few strikes, and minor-league hitters don't have the patience of major-league ones. His change-up rarely falls in the strike zone -- as should be the case -- but ML hitters simply have to lay off it, because he doesn’t have the equipment to throw the ball near the middle of the plate. I am highly skeptical of the value of keeping a player on the roster who only appears in blowout losses or wins, as Neu has done, for the most part, this year. Specialization is specialization, whether it's a LOOGY or whether it's Mike Neu.
6) So has Scott Hatteberg simply been "unlucky" this year -- as some Beanites suggest as the reason why the A's doled out unnecessary millions on Hatte -- or is he really as mediocre (at best) as his numbers suggest? Opinions are welcome, in Haiku form if the mood whacks you, though I prefer iambic pentameter myself.
7) Defense. How do the A's, on the whole, look defensively to you? Eric Chavez is a legitimate gold-glover, and Miguel Tejada and Mark Ellis are above average. But what of the OF? How important will the defense be come playoff time (assuming the A's are there)? Do the A's handle the "fundamentals" better than the Blue Jays.

The last series with Oakland I was on vacation/traveling, and was therefore not really available to discuss my A's. For good or ill, I'm here now, so feel free to ask me any questions you want; I may have insight you don't -- or I may not. Either way, I love talking about the club, because it's one of the few topics -- that and chocolate chip cookies -- on which I can legitimately be referred to as an "expert." If you're really lucky, on Sunday or Monday I'll have a more in-depth essay about what I think of the Beane approach -- and, by extension, of course, the J.P. model. I'm sure you'll find it fascinating material, and I'm sure you'll recommend it to everyone you know. Well, at least the ones you don't like …
Mike D - Friday, August 22 2003 @ 06:12 PM EDT (#93875) #
I accept your challenge, Gizzi.

Hatteberg Haiku

Walks and power, cheap?
Not after his new contract:
More cash, less power.
Craig B - Friday, August 22 2003 @ 06:14 PM EDT (#93876) #
Of course, all of us here at Batter's Box are looking forward to the input of resident A's expert John Gizzi, who politely declined the opportunity to be this weekend's Scout because of a pressing social obligation -- I don't remember if it was Amnesty International or the Make-A-Wish Foundation; Gitz will have to fill us in with specifics.

Tyffany Million Retrospective at the Hi-Lite Adult Theater downtown.
Craig B - Friday, August 22 2003 @ 06:17 PM EDT (#93877) #
Slugging average falls
"Pickin' Machine" makes errors
No more Fall Classics
Gitz - Friday, August 22 2003 @ 07:38 PM EDT (#93878) #
Good zing, Craig.

Love the Haikus, but doesn't Hatteberg have to have played in ONE Fall Classic before he can be said to have no "more"?
Dave Till - Saturday, August 23 2003 @ 08:25 AM EDT (#93879) #
A Hatteberg haiku, with all the poetic beauty of a telemarketing call:

How to get rich quick
When you can't hit for power:
Get your name in print.

Or this:

Work hard for your team
Obey the teachings of Beane
You don't need home runs

And, lastly, this:

Lesson to be learned:
Good things come to those who wait
Not to those who hit

I will not give up my day job.
Advance Scout: Athletics, August 22-25 | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.