Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
"We think this is our worst club over the next five years. You'd better beat us now." -- A's General Manager Billy Beane, after his club lost to the Yankees in five games in the 2000 ALDS.

"I beg to differ." -- Hack writer John Gizzi, March 5, 2004.

The 2004 Oakland A's: 20 Questions With John Gizzi (JG) and an Anonymous Interviewer (AI)

AI: Twenty questions?! Don't most of these previews posit three key questions? Can you really squeeze 20 out?

JG: Yup. That's three right there. I'll have no trouble killing 17 more.

AI: Then let's start with the obvious: what is your take on the Billy Beane epoch? Did you buy into that Moneyball business? You know, the book written by that guy who invented the Internet? What's his name? Al Gore?

JG: First of all, Al Gore never said he invented the Internet; that was a vicious lie circulated by the liberal media, where "liberal" means "spreader of untruths and misquotes." At any rate, the furor over Moneyball has been over-hyped -- to the delight of Michael Lewis' bank account, but less so to Jeremy Brown, Chad Bradford, and Scott Hatteberg, three of the book's stars. Any good story needs, well, a story. Lewis found one, and he told it well. He was not trying to pitch a business model, per se; he was, like most writers, trying to sell a book or two million.

But this does not diminish the message of the book: that the A's have mastered the art of building a competitive team, despite an impecunious owner who keeps the A's budget lower than it needs to be, and despite annually turning over all-star-calibre talent. Consider, again, who the A's have lost the past three seasons: Johnny Damon, Jason Isringhausen, Billy Koch, Ray Durham, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Ramon Hernandez, Cory Lidle, and others. No matter how adept a GM is at finding talent, that is a long list of contributors, and it's expanding; it is unlikely the A's can keep Eric Chavez, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. At least one, probably two, of those players will be wearing different uniforms in two years. Fortunately for A's fans, new talent waits, at least from the mound. Joe Blanton may be further along than Rich Harden, because, unlike Harden, Blanton's control has been sensational in the minors. And a continuing strategy of drafting low-risk college players -- but still ones with high ceilings -- should, in theory, keep the faucet on.

However, there are things to worry about. The much-heralded 2002 draft class has been nearly as disappointing as it was hyped. (More a bit later.) And if we're going to apply the law of averages and the luck factor to explain why the A's keep losing in the playoffs, then we must apply it to the success the club has had with their prospects. Given that the A's have produced Jason Giambi, Tejada, Chavez, Hernandez, Hudson, Mulder and Zito in the last six years, they're due for some flops. Jose Ortiz has already fizzled, so has, at least offensively, Mark Ellis (who was not picked by the A's, however), and, if we stick to the odds, it's not unreasonable to suggest that Bobby Crosby, Harden, and Blanton, their three best prospects, could follow. Intuitively, I expect all three to be OK. But I thought Ortiz and (insert rookie pitching flop of your choice) would be fine, too. Basically, with rookies, you can think you know, but, as we all know, youneverknow. You know?

On the other hand, notice who has not departed since 2000: Mulder, Hudson, and Zito. We could pit The A's Succeed Because Of The Big Three vs. The A's Win Because Of Billy Beane theories against one another in a 36-hour caged death match, held in four feet of boiling black mud filled with starving piranhas, but it's impossible not to acknowledge that a solid portion of Beane's reputation has been earned at the behest of these three pitchers. And that's partly accurate: unlike any of the A's star position players, all of the Big Three were drafted under Beane's tenure -- and not by accident. Out of the group, arguably only Mulder, a number-two pick out of Michigan State, possessed big-league star potential: Hudson was "too short," and Zito's fastball was speed challenged. So it's no surprise that Beane coveted Zito and Hudson, along with the more talented Mulder. Beane prefers players who others don't value as highly as he does.

But don't take my word for it. Take Billy Beane's. Erubiel Durazo is the obvious "Beane favorite," but there are others: Jeremy Giambi, Ted Lilly, Chad Bradford, Scott Hatteberg, Bobby Kielty, et al. What do these players all have in common? The perception that they were undervalued, or unappreciated, by their former club. While it's true Bradford has been an asset in the bullpen, he also the cost the A's a talented catcher (Miguel Olivo), so he's not free talent in the sense a AAAA-hitter like Billy McMillon is. Lilly was hardly free, either: while the A's received other compensation (eventually Durazo, for instance), Lilly essentially cost the A's Franklyn German, Jeremy Bonderman, Carlos Pena, Jason Arnold, and John-Ford Griffin. It's true that none of those players are stars -- yet. Bonderman is on his way, Pena is still young enough to get much better, and Griffin, if he ever stays in one place for two years, will be Paul O'Neil without the solid defense. Every team trades prospects for immediate help, and sometimes those players make it -- and with gusto, as with Jeff Bagwell. But many other times they don't, making the policy of pennant-race trades worth the future dent, especially if they net a championship.

Or maybe you've forgotten T.J. Mathews, Eric Ludwick, and Blake Stein, the three players the Cardinals traded for Mark McGwire? St. Louis did not win a World Series title, but McGwire is a player worth surrendering the future for. (Not now, but he was in 1997.) But since the 2001 season, the A's have not acquired anyone of that calibre in their mid-season trades, nor in their off-season adventures: not Curt Schilling, not Randy Johnson -- nobody since Johnny Damon, who is not on Johnson or Schilling's level, came over from the Royals. Part of this, obviously, is because of budget limitations: Steve Schott is not going to pay somebody millions for half a season. Further, as I say above, it's not like McGwire helped St. Louis win the World Series, and the Astros didn't get out of the first round with RJ. Nonetheless, if you're going to sacrifice part of the future by trying to improve the present, what's the point of receiving unproven talent in return? Why trade two unprovens with upside, like Pena and Bonderman, for one, like Lilly? (Especially one with the baggage Lilly had.) Alternatively, if it's too much to ask to get a McGwire-level rental, then what's wrong with a Dye-type rental? Or, as the Red Sox did, a Scott-Williamson-type borrowing? Jose Guillen fit this bill last year, but Guillen was playing over his head with the Reds, and while he didn't cost much nor hurt the A's, he didn't provide the A's the thumper they needed, either, a problem that become more acute because they failed to add another mid-level bat to complement him. I do not suggest that a hitter like Vladimir Guerrero would have made the difference against the Red Sox; Chavez's Winfield-esque 1-22 was a bigger factor than not having Vlad.

Which brings up an interesting discussion. One gets the impression that, even if he could, Beane wouldn't want to rent Vladimir Guerrero. Immediately after The Moneyball saga, some theories emerged, or were re-hashed, as to the real reason Beane turned down the Red Sox GM job.

1) Beane could no longer use the small-market, small-budget crutch.
2) He enjoyed being the big fish in the small pond. The press in the Bay Area for the most part has deified him, but he same could not be said for the notoriously vicious Boston media.
3) Finding cheap and undervalued talent, swindling other general managers, and drafting players that few other people showed interest in were what drove Beane more than anything else, like the person who shops at thrift stores not so much for the goods, but rather for the thrill of the bargain. While it's easier to shop at The Gap, and the quality is better, it's not as much fun as dredging the aisles of your local Goodwill.
4) Etc.

No doubt there is some truth in all of these -- number one reeks of small-mindedness, however -- but for my money, the idea that Beane simply enjoys the challenge makes the most sense. He'd rather get somebody like Lilly -- someone who has "potential," somebody who has been overlooked and tossed aside needlessly by his former organisation(s), somebody who's relatively unheralded -- and then bask in the adulation when Lilly becomes a star. Heck, we'd all bask, but hopefully privately. The trade to get Jason Isringhausen and Terrence Long -- who, for some reason, was considered a real prospect despite mediocre minor-league numbers -- by offering up Proven Closer Billy Taylor, the Keith Foulke/Billy Koch swap, the Durham acquisition, these are the hallmarks of the Old Billy Beane. Jermaine Dye has since become very expensive, to say nothing of his health problems. But Dye, like Damon and Durham, was already a proven, productive major-league player, if not quite McGwire-esque. The future was swapped for the present, not for the future.

But something has altered, subtly, in the Beane approach. The new-and-unimproved Billy Beane, the one of the last two years or so (the Foulke trade notwithstanding), seems more obsessed with a "How can I swindle Kenny Williams this time?" / "I'll show everyone how clever I am" mentality. This latter attitude reached the level of absurdity with the Jeremy Brown selection in the 2002 draft; though Brown has terrific on-base skills and may yet be a useful major-league player, all indications were that he would have been available after ten rounds at least. This seems pretty obvious, but the concept of objectively finding undervalued talent is significantly undermined if you pay too much for somebody. This, perhaps, more than anything, is the new constant to the Beane administration: not power and patience, not pitching and defense, but rather Beane's quests, his self-titled "Holy Grails." It is true that the individuals in question have similar styles, but it's beyond that now, and the alternative baseball media has absorbed it like sweet rain falling on the Oklahoma desert in 1939.

In many ways, Beane is the James Joyce of GMs. In Joyce's Ulysses, there are literally hundreds of unsolved passages, esoteric literary allusions, and insider local colour. Was this Joyce's intent to send people scrambling for answers? Probably much of it was, especially the literary magic Joyce weaves; and in general, very little in a controlled environment like fiction is accidental. But what if much of it is just accidental? What if Joyce never intended anything beyond what's on the page? Language for the sake of language? Weird for the sake of weird?

Like Joyce scholars and average readers do when they encounter something odd in Ulysses, even if there's nothing there -- the cigar being, it turns out, a cigar -- Beaneheads start searching for deeper meanings behind some of the puzzling pick-ups. There was no doubt that Chris Singleton was not going to hit in Oakland, but we kept reading how Beane "knew something we didn't," how Singleton might yet turn it around. When the A's re-signed Scott Hatteberg, many bloggers and Primates suggested, at best, that Beane now values players who take lots of pitches, or, at worst, that Beane "knows something we don't" about why Hatteberg struggled. When the A's acquired Mark Johnson from the White Sox, BP could scarcely be contained. Writing ESPN.com's 2003 A's Hot Stove Heater, Gary Huckabay described Johnson as a "Beane favorite," and added that if Hernandez didn't start hitting, then he'd be watching "a lot of (Mark) Johnson." In giving the A's lineup, Huckabay had Johnson listed as the starter, with Hernandez at back-up. For the BP 2003 book, the scouting report on Hernandez included this sound-byte: "With Beaneís theft of Mark Johnson from the White Sox, [Hernandez is] going to have to do something with the bat in order to keep the lionís share of the playing time, despite his solid defense."

Theft? Including his 27 at-bats with the A's, Johnson has now logged 906 at-bats in the majors. He has a career OPS+ of 65. He has 16 career home runs. His highest slugging percentage for a season is .382. Whatever Beane and Huckabay saw in Johnson remains a mystery, because every statistic you could possibly use indicated that Johnson would have no value as a starter, and very little value as a back-up, save for the ability to draw an occasional walk. Johnson is a straw man here, because it was Foulke, not a career-back-up catcher, who was the target of that trade. The point, though, is that while it is true that teams undervalue many players, it also true that teams overvalue many players. Moreover, Beane has been stubborn to let go of players he personally has invested in, like Terrence Long, Hatteberg, and John Jaha.

Much is made of the A's "bad luck" in the post-season, and of the luck factor in general in the playoffs, but I am not here to re-hash that debate. That Adam Melhuse had to pinch hit for Dye in the ninth inning in game five of the ALDS, putting the A's 2003 season squarely on the inadequate shoulders of Long, was the culmination of two distinct Beane failures: the failure to acquire an additional bat other than Jose Guillen at the all-star break as insurance against Dye's injury-riddled body, and the failure to accept that Long was a sunken cost. BP and other analysts are keen to point out that Beane is a master at finding free talent, but they are less keen to point out that Beane seldom uses that free talent. Instead of finding another Hatteberg or giving the first-base job to Koonce, Beane re-signs Hatteberg. Instead of giving McMillon a job in LF, Beane keeps Long around all season. Instead of finding a free lefty-masher in the minors, he plucks Eric Karros from the FA file. Instead of using free talent like Melhuse behind the plate, Beane signs Damian Miller (granted, for defensive purposes). If Ted Lilly is so good, then why give up on him after just one-plus year? It wasn't a financial decision, because Mark Redman signed for about what Lilly would have made. And how come the A's could do no better than Kielty, a player who regressed as a hitter last year (.244/.358/.400) while playing in two hitters' parks? Because Kielty, like the player Beane traded for him, like Durazo, like Johnson, like McMillon, like Koonce, like Long, like Hatteberg, is a "Beane favorite." I would be far more optimistic of Kielty's prospects if one of Beane's other "favorites" had thus far warranted their coveting. Hatteberg had value for one year, but even that was modest success (OPS+: 111). (I don't include Foulke here, because he was a successful pitcher long before Beane got him.)

Bill James and his disciples have sunk their noses into the game and extracted new and useful methods to evaluate talent. In particular, the strongest Jamesian tenets are: controlling the strike zone; cobbling together bullpens on the cheap; scouring the minor leagues for free talent to use, not just acquire; valuing college players, especially pitchers, more than high-school kids. It may not seem like it, but this resonates with me, and BP is the best baseball Web site around -- and it's not even close. Even my employer, ESPN.com, is inferior. But we've reached the point where it is no longer a case of "Beane knowing something we don't." It's now "The analyst community not only knows something everyone else doesn't, but they also know something Beane doesn't." Neither is accurate. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a lousy hitter (Singleton) is just a lousy hitter. The analyst community, particularly BP, would be better served by applying the same critical lens it applies to the Pirates, Royals, and Braves, while giving the A's and Beane credit where it's due, because there is much credit to go around in the organisation.

Everything I've said must be qualified by the hard reality of the A's limited financial resources; they can't just run out and trade for Alex Rodriguez if Chavez gets hurt. One cannot ignore this truth when directing analysis toward the A's. But this fact has its limits, and it has little or no relation to the hyperbolic praise Beane elicits for a supposed strength: finding undervalued talent, and then using it. This method is the right one for the A's to undertake, but the truth is that the A's seldom use those players, and, when they do, we're gradually discovering that they were undervalued for a reason: they're not very good.

AI: OK, then. Are we ready (finally!) for the 2004 season?

JG: Yes, but not before a brief look at the 2003 season.

AI: Ugh. What happened to the A's last year?

Despite turning over their closer, centre fielder, and DH (not that John Jaha/David Justice/Olmedo Saenz was hard to replace), the A's didn't lose much momentum from the year before, winning 96 games and the AL West by three games. Ramon Hernandez had a mild coming-out party (.273, .331, .458, 21 homers), and Erubiel Durazo reached base at a .374 clip, even if his power numbers were somewhat disappointing (.430 slugging, 21 HRs). Tim Hudson (74.8 VORP) was one of the top starters in the league, and Mark Mulder was right with him (57.1 VORP, nine complete games in 26 starts) until a hip injury shut him down in August. Keith Foulke (43/48 saves/ops) showed Kenny Williams who was boss, and strong pitching overall -- the A's gave up the second-fewest runs in the AL -- made up for a lackluster offense that finished ninth in the AL in runs scored.

On the down side, Ellis took a step or six back as a hitter (.248/.313/.371), Hatteberg was below replacement level at first base (.253/.344/.383), and the outfield of Dye (.172/.261/.253), Long (.245/.293/.385), and Singleton (.245/.301/.340) was the worst in the majors. Only Eric Byrnes' strong first half keeps the crew from being considered as one of the worst in the history of the game. Ted Lilly beat the bad teams (10-1 against teams with losing records), didn't beat the good ones (1-9 against teams with winning records), and was inconsistent all year, not finding a groove until late August. And, finally, for the fourth straight season, the A's could not get out of the first round of the playoffs, discovering new unpleasant ways to break their fans' hearts. Their streak of nine straight losses in games where they could close a series out is not one to tell your kids about.

AI: Let's turn to 2004. Who's come and gone?

JG: Tres bien.

HipSquare
Eric KarrosMiguel Tejada
Marco ScutaroKeith Foulke
Damian MillerTerrence Long
Mark KotsayRamon Hernandez
Bobby KieltyJohn Halama
Arthur RhodesJose Guillen
Mark RedmanJeremy Fikac
Chris HammondMark Johnson
Mike Neu
Chris Singleton
Ted Lilly


Projected lineup

LF Bobby Kielty/Eric Byrnes
CF Mark Kotsay
3B Eric Chavez
RF Jermaine Dye
DH Erubiel Durazo
1B Scott Hatteberg/Eric Karros
SS Bobby Crosby
2B Mark Ellis
C Damian Miller

AI: Wow. Will it be as bad as it looks?

JG: Yes and no. BP's Dayn Perry broke down the A's offence earlier this year, and the basic conclusion was that, even with the departures of Hernandez and Tejada, the A's offense is going to be better in 2004. Consider the following charts, using BP's VORP (value over replacement player):

Pos.	Player	2003 Vorp
C Ramon Hernandez 30.3
1B Scott Hatteberg 6.9
2B Mark Ellis 8.6
3B Eric Chavez 55.8
SS Miguel Tejada 50.4
OF Terrence Long -8.5
OF Eric Byrnes 19.7
OF Chris Singleton -2.3
OF Jermaine Dye -20.6
OF Jose Guillen 4.1
DH Erubiel Durazo 32.2

Total 2003 176.6




Pos. Player 2004 Vorp
C Damian Miller 5.0
1B Scott Hatteberg 8.8
2B Mark Ellis 15.4
3B Eric Chavez 50.7
SS Bobby Crosby 18.1
OF Mark Kotsay 19.6
OF Bobby Kielty 16.7
OF Jermaine Dye 3.8
OF Eric Byrnes 15.0
OF Billy McMillon 4.2
DH Erubiel Durazo 22.6

Total 2004 179.9


Three more runs is hardly cause for celebration, but at any rate it is not three fewer runs. What this really indicates, as Perry notes, is just how mediocre the unit was in 2003.

AI: Can I interrupt here? If you adjust for park, weren't they league average?

JG: I'm glad you brought that up. Adjusting for park effects is a necessary tool when comparing individual players -- and should be required knowledge for all agents and front-office people -- but it's virtually useless when you're comparing teams, because the games aren't played on neutral fields. To say the A's offense was "average when you adjust for park" is technically accurate, but it doesn't really tell us anything, and you rarely hear "if you adjust for park, the A's pitching isn't as good." Even if the A's offense has improved, ever so slightly, they will not be competing against the 2003 team. They will be competing primarily against the Angels, whose offense will be significantly better even if Troy Glaus continues his slide into mediocrity. So, yeah, when you take the A's offense and stash it in a vacuum, it's average; when you place it in the harsh world of Vladimir Guerreros and 81 games in a pitcher's park, it doesn't look so hot.

AI: Whatever. Just give me some more numbers, will you?

JG: As you wish.

StartersABHRAVEOPBSLUGVORPWinsEQA
Bobby Kielty38315.254.351.43716.71.6.283
Mark Kotsay43913.275.347.43319.61.9.279
Eric Chavez54230.280.350.51350.74.8.300
Jermaine Dye28110.242.317.4073.80.4.259
Erubiel Durazo40120.254.358.46022.62.1.291
Bobby Crosby29110.254.323.42118.11.8 .268
Scott Hatteberg3829.259.347.3858.8.8.268
Damian Miller2178.228.302.3765.0.5.245
Mark Ellis4589.255.325.37815.41.5.257
Others
Billy McMillon, OF1826.249.328.4114.2.4.265
Eric Karros, 1B2688.259.321.4114.9.5.257
Eric Byrnes, OF42016.262.323.44515.01.4.273
Adam Melhuse, C1506.233.317.4035.3.5.258
Graham Koonce, 1B1688.220.328.4011.9.2.264
Marco Scutaro, INF2136.262.337.41213.91.3.269


What is striking about these projections for 2004 is how many A's -- no fewer than five regulars -- project scarcely above replacement-level. A fledgling A's offense is not a new trend, however, if we allow three years (2002, 2003, this year) to represent a trend. You can quibble with the revisionist history -- the idea that suddenly offense doesn't matter in Oakland -- but you can't quibble with the facts. The A's offense has lagged for two years running, and this year's crew will be no different. I'm skeptical that Kielty will reach even those modest expectations, and we really don't know what to make of Dye or Durazo, especially Dye. And Chavez may yet produce that MVP season we all suspect lurks inside him, but we ought not to predict those things. Again. All in all, though, there is little variance in that lineup: not much up or downside. If Crosby follows A's rookie trends, that projection is right on. Chavez, younger and more talented when he was a rookie, provides a decent enough comp for Crosby: Chavez produced a .247/.333/.427, 13 HR campaign, in 356 at-bats. If Crosby can do that, the A's will take it. They certainly don't want a repeat of the Ortiz disaster, when the pre-season pick for AL ROY lasted but 42 at-bats before getting shuttled to Sacramento, and, eventually, to Colorado. If Ellis or Crosby struggle too much, scrappy Marco Scutaro is next in line to take the job. Scutaro has already been hailed as the "next Beane find," so it's best to temper our expectations of him should he get the call. PECOTA indicates he's better than Ellis, but I don't think Scutaro plays defense as well, and that's what the A's are all about now, right? Right?

But even if nobody meets expectations, it's nothing to get all huffy about if you're an A's fan, because of their . . .

Pitching

The A's have it, and they have lots of it. PECOTA's pitcher projections seem out of whack, so take them how you will. For instance, Hudson's VORP drops from 74.7 VORP in 2003 to 45.6 this year. While Hudson may in fact decline, any drop will not be as steep as PECOTA seems to think.

The Rotation (2003 VORP, 2004 VORP)

Tim Hudson (74.7, 45.6)
Barry Zito (54.8, 33.1)
Mark Mulder (57.1, 35.6)
Mark Redman (33.6, 21.9)
Rich Harden (11.2, 15.1)

The supporting cast

Arthur Rhodes (unknown)
Chad Bradford (22.8, 20.7)
Jim Mecir (-.6, 4.8)
Chris Hammond (17.9, 12.3)
Ricardo Rincon (15.1, 9.4)
Chad Harville (-.7, 4.5)

For some reason, PECOTA does not like the A's rotation, predicting steep declines for the Big Three, and a modest one for Redman. I don't know what to make of that. At any rate, PECOTA or no PECOTA, simply put, this is one of top three staffs in baseball, aided by their home park and by a superior defense, two trends that won't change this year. Zito's 2003 workload is worrisome -- he threw the most pitches in the majors last year -- but the bottom line is that he's as hard to hit as ever (.221 BA against), and the other peripherals were solid, with the exception of a declining K rate. Nothing solid to panic about, however. Meanwhile, Hudson and Mulder form a dynamite 1-2 punch at the top. When Mulder is on his game, he's as dominating as Pedro Martinez, with less effort, because Mulder does not rely on strikeouts; he'll carve a 4-1 complete game, using 88 pitches, giving up literally two hard-hit balls in the process. Hudson out-pitched Mulder last year, but if M-squared stays healthy, he'll be one of the top five starters in the AL. In other words, right next to Hudson and Zito. Right with his teammates.

Adding Redman seemed like overkill, but when you consider that he only cost the A's Mike Neu and a throwaway pitching prospect (Bill Murphy), the deal makes more sense. Last year, Redman dramatically spiked his K rate (from 4.83/9 to 7.13/9), which paved the way for his 14-win season; if that trend is for real, the A's Front Four will be the best in baseball. Though Redman stands 6'5", he is not a hard thrower. His fastball stays in the mid-80s, which he supplements with a big, sweeping breaking ball; he's also very aggressive and is not afraid to pitch inside. In short, he's every thing Ted Lilly isn't, and even if his numbers take a small hit from facing nine hitters instead of eight, Redman will be an improvement over Lilly. Filling out the fifth spot in the rotation is your basic Grade A prospect, Rich Harden. Anything can and often does happen to rookie pitchers, and if it all goes as it should, Harden will get dinged around in the first half of the season, especially if his command struggles. But if he makes adjustments, as Barry Zito did in his first full year in the majors, Harden will hit his stride in time to supplant Redman as the number-four starter. He's got to get better control of the strike zone, however; if he can't trim one walk per start, he'll be back in Sacramento -- which is better than San Quenton, for example, but a clear downgrade from the vivacious San Francisco Bay Area.

The bullpen also looks solid, if a bit lacking in power pitchers. Assuming Rhodes is healthy, he'll seamlessly replace Keith Foulke, and there's no reason to suspect Bradford will decline. Jim Mecir is not likely to stay healthy, much less return to form, so it's best not to expect much from him. Ricardo Rincon is good at what he does, Chris Hammond is nothing special, and Chad Harville has been inconsistent, but the main thing the A's have going for the bullpen is that their rotation is so good. They won't need much more than Rhodes, Bradford, and the occasional situational relief from Rincon. Because he was a Rule 5 selection, Frank Brooks was assumed to be another Beane "theft," but I doubt he makes the roster, what with three lefties already in place. And if he does crawl aboard, he'd replace fellow Rule 5er Mike Neu. In other words, strictly mop-up work, ma'am. In addition to getting a hitter or two at the break, Beane likes to upgrade the bullpen, so don't be surprised if there is a power arm down here come August. Justin Duscherer, assuming he's not traded, may also see some work in long relief. More than likely he will be traded because he's out of options, and I doubt he would clear waivers. Nobody in the minors is good enough or ready to go yet, though it's not inconceivable that we'll see Blanton in September.

AI: A fine segue to my next question. Everyone knows about the 2002 A's draft, but are there other prospects we should be aware of?

JG: Well, let's not gloss over that 2002 draft. If you're going to puff out your chest, like Beane has, you better expect some flak.

(16) Nick Swisher (.230/.334/ .380, 5 HR, 287 at-bats, AA Midland; .296/.418./.550, 10 HR, 189 at-bats, A Modesto)
(24) Joe Blanton (133 IP, 110 H, 19 BB, 144 K, A Kane County; 36 IP, 21 H, 7 BB, 30 K, AA Midland; 7 HR combined)
(26) John McCurdy (.274/.331/.365, 4 HR, 515 at-bats, A Kane County)
(30) Ben Fritz (77 IP, 83 H, 34 BB, 77 K, 3 HR, A Modesto)
(35) Jeremy Brown (.275/.388/.391, 5 HR, 233 at-bats, AA Midland)
(37) Steve Obenchain ((92 IP, 104 H, 33 BB, 49 K, 6 HR, A Kane County and A Modesto)
(39) Mark Teahen (.283/.377/.380, 3 HR, 487 at-bats, A Modesto, repeat year)

When you look at these numbers, it's apparent that the reason the A's didn't have many people in the various top prospects list is not so much from a Moneyball backlash, but from a simple lack of talent. If these hitters have anything in common with their partners at the big-league level, it's in their massive mediocrity. There is control of the strike zone, which is good, but there is little power, which is bad. Swisher and Brown, in particular, were disappointments, because Midland is the Coors Field of AA ball. In general, so far nobody but Blanton has really stepped forward -- and how! -- from the 2002 class, which is not a good trend, because when you have seven of the first 39 picks, you should be looking at three or four Grade A prospects, and so far just Blanton projects as such. Ordinarily, if you can develop one solid regular every other year, you're doing all right; if you get one per draft, you're ahead of the game. But that model suggests the standard model: one pick per round, and the A's had essentially seven years' worth of first-round picks. Given the confluence of Moneyball, Beane's perceived arrogance, and the sheer number of high draft selections in the 2002 draft, it's not unfair to expect at least half that crew to not only make it, but also to make it big. It's still very early, of course, but so far the 2002 draft has the makings of a good 'ol fashioned flop. Neither pitcher Brad Sullivan nor shortstop Omar Quintinalla, the A's top two picks in the 2003 draft, played enough to warrant discussion here.

Fearless Prediction

AI: OK, we've heard enough about Bliz-Blaz and Him-Ham already. Get to the bloody point.

JG: My gut and heart tell me that Miguel Tejada is worth 10 games in the standings, and when it's come to the A's the past four years, my gut has been right a majority of times. But, for this year, the numbers tell me it's just lingering bitterness about my favourite player leaving. The offence, while no juggernaut by any measure, will be at least as good as last season's. Their pitching, which is the very definition of the word juggernaut, will also be at least as good as last year, and if Harden develops quicker than expected, the rotation will be the best in the majors, the Red Sox, Yankees, and Cubs notwithstanding. Whether the A's win the AL West again depends on how good the Angels are, and, to a lesser degree, what Seattle and Texas do. The Mariners are neither as bad as some are saying nor as good as Bill Bavasi would have us believe. But they will be competitive, and the Rangers, even sans A-Rod, have claws.

No matter. Even if this team is, on paper, worse than the 2000 team, it is very good, and with their superior pitching and defense, the A's are looking at 96 wins again.

AI: Do you really think the A's will win 96 games?

JG: Yes.

AI: Really?

JG: Yes.

AI: 96 wins?

JG: Yes.

AI:Then if they make the playoffs, how will they do?

JG: Sorry, you've already surpassed your quota.

AI: But . . .

JG: Thank you, come again.
2004 Oakland Athletics Preview | 43 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Pistol - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 10:08 AM EST (#52090) #
Neither pitcher Brad Sullivan nor shortstop Omar Quintinalla, the A's top two picks in the 2003 draft, played enough to warrant discussion here.

I really liked the Sullivan pick. I was actually hoping that the Jays would take him with their 1st pick (Hill was my 2nd choice FWIW). Sullivan was great his last 2 years in college and then got hit around in a couple of starts right before the draft and apparently some teams were scared off because of that. I'd take him over Blanton.
Mike Green - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 10:13 AM EST (#52091) #
Wonderfully entertaining. The A's will live and die with their pitching. We're about to find out how valuable Rick Peterson, their former pitching coach was. My gut tells me that he was very valuable, and that PECOTA has it right.
Joe - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 10:35 AM EST (#52092) #
http://me.woot.net
What if Joyce never intended anything beyond what's on the page?
`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

As a Jays fan, you have to wonder just how much of the Oakland brain trust resided in our own J.P. Ricciardi. After all, haven't the questionable deals in Oakland ("Beane knows something we don't, dammit!") started since J.P. was hired in Toronto?
Coach - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 11:25 AM EST (#52093) #
A most enjoyable read, Gitz.

I'm quite sure the A's will win the West again, but will also stop short of predicting them to win a playoff round. I wonder if they are practicing baserunning in camp?

Everything I've said must be qualified by the hard reality of the A's limited financial resources; they can't just run out and trade for Alex Rodriguez if Chavez gets hurt. One cannot ignore this truth when directing analysis toward the A's.

This is true for all but a handful of teams. However, with so much talent in the rotation, Oakland could survive an injury to their #1 starter a lot better than most other postseason hopefuls, and with the possible exception of Chavez, they don't rely on irreplaceable position players. So they're still in better shape for the long haul than other teams with limited budgets.

By comparison, if (heaven forbid) Doc develops a blister, or Vernon Wells gets turf toe, and they are out for any length of time, the Jays' chances go from "possible" to "extremely remote."
robertdudek - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 11:32 AM EST (#52094) #
I would say Ray Durham was as good or better than Johnny Damon.
robertdudek - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 11:42 AM EST (#52095) #
The Athletics paid 350K for Brown. They wasted money on McCurdy, Swisher and all the other high draft picks other than Blanton, but not on Brown. I think the only reason they drafted Brown so high is that they had so many picks, blew their money on the other guys and only had enough left to pay 6th round money. So they found someone who was willing to take 6th round money who they also thought could be a productive big leaguer. Voila - Brown.

If Brown can catch at the major league level (big if) he's going to be a better hitter than nearly every #2 catcher in baseball and a fair number of #1s.

But I concur that, overall, for the amount they spent on their first 7 picks (the equivalent of about three B.J. Uptons), it doesn't look like they've gotten much in return.
_Cristian - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 12:21 PM EST (#52096) #
Great summary John. I learned a bit and laughed a bit more, which is how I like it. I know the 20 questions have been used up but I have a few more that maybe you could answer.

How long of a leash do you think Dye will have this year? Of course a completely healthy Dye will outproduce the projection you have for him but how long will the A's wait and see which Dye they have on their hands? Is there any chance that Byrnes will steal Dye's at bats? Of course, a concurrent question would have to be: are the A's willing to forgive Byrnes for his playoff gaffes?

That should take you to question 24 if I'm not mistaken.
Craig B - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 12:33 PM EST (#52097) #
By comparison, if (heaven forbid) Doc develops a blister, or Vernon Wells gets turf toe, and they are out for any length of time, the Jays' chances go from "possible" to "extremely remote."

I have to disagree. If "any length of time" means something like "40 games", we're talking about two wins, more or less (more likely less). I don't see two wins as making that much difference.
Craig B - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 12:35 PM EST (#52098) #
Even if the A's offense has improved, ever so slightly, they will not be competing against the 2003 team. They will be competing primarily against the Angels, whose offense will be significantly better even if Troy Glaus continues his slide into mediocrity. So, yeah, when you take the A's offense and stash it in a vacuum, it's average; when you place it in the harsh world of Vladimir Guerreros and 81 games in a pitcher's park, it doesn't look so hot.

Gitz, this preview is great, but I don't understand this at all. Sorry.
_Oggman - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 12:51 PM EST (#52099) #
Even if the A's offense has improved, ever so slightly, they will not be competing against the 2003 team. They will be competing primarily against the Angels, whose offense will be significantly better even if Troy Glaus continues his slide into mediocrity. So, yeah, when you take the A's offense and stash it in a vacuum, it's average; when you place it in the harsh world of Vladimir Guerreros and 81 games in a pitcher's park, it doesn't look so hot.

Gitz, this preview is great, but I don't understand this at all. Sorry.


Could it be that he meant, relative to the Halo's the A's offense has gotten worse? But that wouldn't take into account that the offences of there other division rivals (Seattle and Texas) have gotten worse as well.
robertdudek - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 12:54 PM EST (#52100) #
"To say the A's offense was "average when you adjust for park" is technically accurate, but it doesn't really tell us anything, and you rarely hear "if you adjust for park, the A's pitching isn't as good." (Emphasis mine)

Come again?

It tells us that the A's offence was average. Nothing more, nothing less. And if anyone is talking about the A's pitching and how good it really is, and they don't talk about park effects and defence, then they aren't addressing the issue.

Park effects are REAL. They exist. No one can pretend to objectively evaluate a player's performance without taking them into account.
robertdudek - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 01:08 PM EST (#52101) #
I guess I'm picking on you today, Gitz. But ...

"What is striking about these projections for 2004 is how many A's -- no fewer than five regulars -- project scarcely above replacement-level."

Who might those be, and what are replacement level EQAs by position? As far as I understand, a .260 EQA is defined as average. Replacement level would change according to position, perhaps as follows: SS - .228, C =.233, 2B = .238, 3B = .243, CF = .246, RF = .253, LF = .255, 1B = .261, DH = .263

The average replacement level in my scheme turns out to be .242 to .244, which might be a little high. Dye and Hatteberg are the only regulars that are really close to replacement level. Prospectus' replacement levels seem to be even lower than the ones I listed - e.g. a catcher who posts a .226 EQA is given a 0 RARP.
_Shrike - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 01:09 PM EST (#52102) #
Who's this Joyce fellow? What are all these obscure, unexpected literary references?

Good stuff!
_S.K. - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 01:37 PM EST (#52103) #
I love reading Gitz talk about the A's, because it's fascinating to watch a man's head fight so fanatically against his heart.
This preview was full of insight, humour, and contradiction. I think it was one of the most thought-provoking 'season previews' I've ever read, even though it didn't really follow the traditional format. Don't stop caring, man.
_Young - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 01:49 PM EST (#52104) #
Wow.... I must be biased towards Moneyball.

But until you can come up with substantial evidence that the majority of the other second round picks taken after the wasteful picks of Brown or Teahen. I just don't see how people can explain it as a wasted pick.

To put it in another way, Russ Adams of the Jays, despite being ranked in some circles as a top prospects, was still lingering in double A last year. Brown hit 275/390/391 vs Adams' 277/349/387 (numbers from BP). Is Adams a failure then? By your arguments I would have to say yes, since A) he was drafted earlier B) the Jays paid him a higher signing bonus. And by all accounts, the defense of both players are mediocre at best...

But of course that isn't true. Adams is still a good prospect for the Jays, just as Brown is a good prospect for the A's.

What I'm trying to say is that the 2002 draft is still early to see results. I guess it is OK to dismiss certain players if they haven't shown anything now that it is 2004 (i.e. still playing low A ball with bad peripherals). But unless your team is blessed (or bad) enough to get a top 10 pick, a Teixeira/Prior type player doesn't just fall into your lap. You know the type, the player who doesn't need anymore minor league experience to be successful in the MLB.
_Gwyn - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 01:50 PM EST (#52105) #
PECOTA's pitcher projections seem out of whack...

They do indeed. The top 20 pitchers from last year are projected to see their VORP scores decline by an average 0f 15.33. Only Vazquez, Mussina and Schilling are projected to improve.
_perlhack - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 02:36 PM EST (#52106) #
Robert, I don't think Gitz was saying park factors are irrelevant, but rather that park effects don't matter when comparing one team in successive seasons (if you make the assumption that park effects are nearly constant, which isn't necessarily true).

Put another way, if you compare the 2003 and 2004 A's hitters, whether you adjust for park or not you'll get similar results. At least, that's how I interpreted those comments.
Gitz - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 02:45 PM EST (#52107) #
Robert,

I think I meant to say below average, not below replacemet level. And I like it when you pick on me, because it usually puts me in my place. Good work!
Mike Green - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 02:57 PM EST (#52108) #
The A's big three starters are not a monolith. Mark Mulder has been very consistent and good over the last 3 years. Objectively, there is no reason to expect a decline. Tim Hudson has improved over the last 3 years, by reducing his home run rate, while keeping his K and W rate relatively constant. Again, objectively there is no reason to expect a decline. Barry Zito has had declining K and increasing W rates over the last 3 years, but his ERA has not yet suffered. Objectively, he is likely to decline this year.

Subjectively, as I said earlier, my feeling is that all three have benefited from Peterson's advice. I expect Zito and one of Mulder/Hudson to be off their prior performances this year. On the other hand, Rich Harden might be better than any of them this year.
_R Billie - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 03:42 PM EST (#52109) #
I think Harden is a lot more stuff than polish at this point. He just can't locate his pitches yet like the other three can, at least that's what I observed this past season. He could take a big step forward or he could feel his way through for another season. He's a pretty special number five starter though.

I think it is still too early to draw conclusions on the 2002 draft though I think the Jays knew they weren't getting much power in Adams; they expected him to be a competent onbase hitter with good defence in the middle infield. And so far there's little reason to believe he can't be that, though it might not be at short.

Brown is a little different because his defensive potential is much more limited. If he can catch then he's fine as a bargain pick. If not he'll have to produce more power than he did last year, plain and simple. $350,000 may or may not have been a good price to pay for Brown. That may be 6th round money but it may also be that he would have taken a discount on even 6th round money. He seemed quite happy just to be drafted. There are players in the 6th or 7th round who sign for $50K or less (see Danny Core of the Jays signed to $25K). The A's taking him with a first rounder was definately a statement. What exactly the statement was remains to be seen.

While they were making that statement, a player like Jeremy Reed slipped by all seven of their high draft picks. And Toronto's first two picks to boot, though the Jays probably don't regret taking Bush in the second round.
robertdudek - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 03:42 PM EST (#52110) #
perlhack ...

Well yes, but I don't think Gitz's comments were strictly limited to those which addressed whether Oakland's offence is improved or not.
_Tom - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 03:52 PM EST (#52111) #
http://www.elguaposghost.blogspot.com
One thing not mentioned so far is the A's ability to keep the Big 3 relatively healthy. I am not sure what impact Peterson had on this, the Big 3 themselves or just pure luck. But two of the three seem to be ending.
robertdudek - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 04:28 PM EST (#52112) #
Aaron Hill was the best player in the strongest conference in college baseball. I expect him to hit like an above average third baseman and I don't think the Jays will regret taking him.
Craig B - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 04:38 PM EST (#52113) #
Robert has given me an excellent teaser opportunity to announce my upcoming article detailing brand new statistical evaluations for college hitters and pitchers - which will include data on every hitter and pitcher who played Division I baseball in 2002 and 2003.

He's right of course - Hill was the best player in the SEC (in 2003), and probably the best hitter.
Gitz - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 08:01 PM EST (#52114) #
Robert,

Of course park effects matter, and I mention in the very same paragraph that you refer to that ballpark effects are an indispensible when comparing individual players. (I hope Mike Cameron's agent, for example, was shrewd enough to use them in his pitch.) Individuals can take their talents elsewhere and either have their statistics improve or suffer because of their new park. I'm dense, but even I can figure this out. But the reality is, when you're talking about overall team offensive capability, the argument is diminished because games aren't played on neutral fields. And it's good for water-cooler discussions to say, "The A's offense isn't as bad as you think because they play in a tough home park; put them in Fenway and you'd see a different team." That's the point. They don't play in Fenway, they play at -- ugh -- Networks Associates Coliseum. My comment regarding the Angels/A's is as Oggman suggests: compared to the Angels, the A's have not improved as much, and perhaps even the modest gains the A's will make this year will be off-set somewhat by the Angels. What I wanted to do was line up both team's lineups, with various predictive indicators -- yes, using park effects -- but I didn't want to take anything from the Angels preview, which will no doubt be excellent.

I understand, of course, that the A's play 81 games on the road; no doubt the hitters they have are better in away games, and the road numbers would provide better indicators of true ability. What I should have done is a home/road split comparison, (I know, for instance, that Durazo was slightly better at home last year), which no doubt would have made me look like an idiot (more like an idiot?) At any rate, that would have required more work, less rambling, and actual prep time. These things are difficult to accomplish when you wait until the last minute.

Looking forward to your piece, Craig!
robertdudek - Friday, March 05 2004 @ 08:34 PM EST (#52115) #
Gitz,

In all honesty, I don't know what you're getting at. Yes the A's play half their games in a pitcher's park, and it takes fewer runs to win in those games. The overall offensive "capability" of the team is the same whether the team plays in Oakland or Kansas City - it's just the number of runs scored that changes. It seems to me that when one is not fixated with raw numbers, but instead tries to determine what those numbers mean, this whole issue melts away.

You label their offensive performance as "lacklustre", adding that they finished 9th in runs scored in the AL in 2003. But in reality they were average (because of park). I suppose "average" and "lacklustre" could be the same thing, but the former is a more neutral term and the latter seems to paint a more dismal picture. You characterize Hatteberg's offensive performance as "below replacement level", yet Prospectus (the stats you've focused on) lists his EQA as .258 and gives him a +5.5 RARP - poor certainly, but not below replacement level.

I'm not sure what a comparison to the Angels has to do with anything, other than the idea that the Angels will be Oakland's most serious divisional threat, instead of the Mariners. Oakland's ballclub was head and shoulders better than Anaheim in 2003 - it behooves the Angels to try to catch up. And they spent a lot of money in that vein, something the A's were apparently unable to do.

The A's won last year by putting together an average offensive ballclub, with very good (but not excellent) pitching and excellent defence. And I think they'll attempt to do the same this year. Those same players who are "average" offensively as a group are excellent defensively, hence they aren't really a problem (though I grant that an offensive upgrade in the outfield and first would be helpful). Four years ago, the A's had a great offence, above average picthing and a poor defence - and they were about as good as they are now.

What exactly is the problem with trying to win a different way?
Gitz - Saturday, March 06 2004 @ 03:06 AM EST (#52116) #
OK, you're right, Robert. Nothing wrong with it at all. If you look closely, I do think the A's will win at leaat 96 games. Seems to me I'm on board the program.
_Jabonoso - Saturday, March 06 2004 @ 01:37 PM EST (#52117) #
Excellent work Gitz. Not only a very good A's preview, but a great essay on Beane, a nice review on Moneyball and a very fine humoristic piece.
regards
_Danny - Sunday, March 07 2004 @ 12:18 PM EST (#52118) #
Three more runs is hardly cause for celebration, but at any rate it is not three fewer runs.

That VORP chart is very misleading. It's not fair to compare the 2003 starters' VORP to the projected 2004 starters' VORP if they have different numbers of PA. For example, Hernandez had 483 AB in 2003 while Miller is projected for just 217 AB in 2004. Obviously, A's catchers will accumulate as many PA in 2004 as they did in 2003, so the comparison shortchanges the 2004 A's. PECOTA is very conservative in projecting AB and PA, so the 2004 team you present has significantly fewer PA than the 2003 team did. SInce all of the A's project to be above replacement level, adding PA will add VORP to the 2004 squad.

Scutaro has already been hailed as the "next Beane find," so it's best to temper our expectations of him should he get the call.

This is just stupid. Scutaro isn't good (even though PECOTA and ZIPS both love him) because Beane wanted him? There are some other guys Beane wanted that turned out pretty well, like Bradford, Lidle, Foulke...

Why not judge a player individually as opposed to just noting who likes him?

A fledgling A's offense is not a new trend, however, if we allow three years (2002, 2003, this year) to represent a trend. You can quibble with the revisionist history -- the idea that suddenly offense doesn't matter in Oakland -- but you can't quibble with the facts. The A's offense has lagged for two years running, and this year's crew will be no different.

This is false. Using a park-adjusted measure, EqA, the A's offense was very different in 2002 than it was in 2003. In 2002, the A's had a very good offense, finishing 4th in the AL in EqA. In 2003, the A's finished tied for ninth in the AL, with Baltimore.

Arthur Rhodes (unknown)

PECOTA projects Rhodes to have the second lowest ERA in the AL.

Chris Hammond is nothing special

Over the past 2 seasons, Hammonds has 108 K, 42 BB, and 6 HR, in 139 IP. That's pretty damn good.

but the main thing the A's have going for the bullpen is that their rotation is so goo

The A's had the third best bullpen in the AL last year, according to ARP. NOne of their pitchers were over their heads, so declines are unlikely. The additions of Rhodes and Hammond should cancel out the losses of Foulke and Halama (and his replacement level work).

Frank Brooks was assumed to be another Beane "theft," but I doubt he makes the roster

You really are bitter, no?

In general, so far nobody but Blanton has really stepped forward -- and how! -- from the 2002 class, which is not a good trend, because when you have seven of the first 39 picks, you should be looking at three or four Grade A prospects, and so far just Blanton projects as such.

Three or four grade A prospects out of 7 picks? Are you insane?

Fritz looks pretty good, too.

Ordinarily, if you can develop one solid regular every other year, you're doing all right; if you get one per draft, you're ahead of the game.

Show me a team that develops a solid regular every other year, and I'll show you a damn good team.

Given the confluence of Moneyball, Beane's perceived arrogance, and the sheer number of high draft selections in the 2002 draft, it's not unfair to expect at least half that crew to not only make it, but also to make it big.

What the hell does Beane's perceived arrogance have to do with your expectations of his draftees? You sound like Mariotti or Bayless talking about steroid speculation so that they don't have to make the baseless accusation themselves.

Having 3 or 4 players "make it big" from one draft is unheard of. GO back to the last 10 drafts or so and look at how many top 10 picks make it big. It's much more common for a top 10 pick to fail than it is to make it big.

There is control of the strike zone, which is good, but there is little power, which is bad. Swisher and Brown, in particular, were disappointments, because Midland is the Coors Field of AA ball.

Actually, El Paso would be the Coors of AA, but even that is hyperbole. Midland has a park factor of 1047. Coors Field has a park factor of 1118, or more than twice as extreme as Midland. (numbers from BP2003)

I don't understand how Brown can be seen as a disappointment. Brown hit .275/.390/.391 (.287 EqA) in 2003. The average C in the Texas league hit .244/.316/.367 (.248 EqA). I fail to see how a player who is far above average for his position in his first year in AA is a disappointment.

Any labeling of Swisher as a disspointment, or without power, completely ignores the first half of his year when he hit .296/.427/.550 in high A. Swisher was an average CF in the Texas League.
robertdudek - Sunday, March 07 2004 @ 12:52 PM EST (#52119) #
I view Swisher as a disappointment. For a college hitter to do well in high A in his first full pro year is to be expected. The really good college hitters do well in AA in their 2nd pro (1st full) year.

Swisher walks, but he's got limited power and won't be able to handle centre in the bigs. You think that's good for a first round college outfielder?
_Danny - Sunday, March 07 2004 @ 01:04 PM EST (#52120) #
I think it's folly to dismiss Swisher for 300 mediocre PA his first time in AA. His power still has potential (24 doubles in 287 AA at bats) and his patience is far above average. His main problem in AA was his BA; he hit .230. BA fluctuated more than ISO and BB/rate, and I haven't heard anyone comment on Swisher's inability to hit for average.

I think there's a large area in between "good" and "disappointment," and I think that's where Swisher lies. Swisher was the only college outfielder taken in the first round of the 2002 draft, so I don't really know who to campare him to.
robertdudek - Sunday, March 07 2004 @ 01:07 PM EST (#52121) #
He also struck out a lot more in AA, which is an indication that the better quality pitching was able to exploit his weaknesses. They'll be lucky if Swisher ends up as good as Adam Piatt.
_Danny - Sunday, March 07 2004 @ 01:37 PM EST (#52122) #
Wouldn't you expect a player's raw numbers to decline after being promoted to AA in the middle of the season? Swisher also hit .275/.404/.400 in 80 AB in the AFL.

I think it's asinine to that Swisher's upside is Piatt. You may think he'll turn out like Piatt, but he obviously could be much better. Swisher had a .215 major league EqA last year as a 22 year old. Piatt, 28, has a career .257 EqA. I think Swisher has much more room for improvement than that.
robertdudek - Sunday, March 07 2004 @ 02:32 PM EST (#52123) #
I said they'll be lucky. Of course his "upside" (a useless term) is better than Piatt - they'll be very lucky to get that.

Look, his numbers aren't that good ofr his age and level of experience. Compare Swisher's numbers in AA to a fringe major leaguer like Chris Magruder when he was in his 2nd pro year. The scouts don't really like him either (evidence: B.A. does not consider him a top prospect).
_Ignatius - Sunday, March 07 2004 @ 05:17 PM EST (#52124) #
This was good. However, parts of it mystify me as much as parts of Joyce does. How can Rick Peterson and Ramon being gone not vastly affect the big three? Where do you get the five wins that the Tejada-Ellis impossible double plays gave them the last two years? How can Beane help now since he's basically shunned throughout the league because of that g.d. book? Why isn't Ron Washington manager instead of Macha? I love the A's but I think this is an 85 win team, tops. Gone, gone, gone are the days of hammering the East.
Gitz - Sunday, March 07 2004 @ 05:38 PM EST (#52125) #
Danny, if you drop me an e-mail, I can respond to your comments that way. Nobody wants to read another Internet argument.

One quick thing: I didn't have my BP yet, and for some reason I couldn't find Rhodes' PECOTA; that's why it was unknown. I'm a huge Rhodes fan, provided he's healthy, and I've been pimping him hard in my ESPN column.
_Danny - Sunday, March 07 2004 @ 06:55 PM EST (#52126) #
Gitz,

I prefer not to e-mail. If you don't want to discuss my comments in an open forum, that's fine, though I don't understand why you'd write an article here if you didn't want to participate in the discussion. I don't think anyone will be forced to read "another Internet argument"; people voluntarily click on articles and scroll through the comments for just this purpose.

I just read your latest ESPN column. You repeatedly say that players Beane "covets" haven't turned out well, so we shouldn't expect new arrivals to perform well. That is lazy, inaccurate, and wrong. Not only have many players that Beane has acquired performed well, but it's clearly stupid to judge a player based on which GM signed him. You seem to believe in this point to a degree, as you say analysts should be more critical of the A's, but your backlash against Beane contradicts this idea.
Gitz - Sunday, March 07 2004 @ 08:16 PM EST (#52127) #
OK, I've got a few minutes before dinner. I prefer these kinds of discussions in private, but oh well ...

1) I like Billy Beane. A lot.
2) Nearly everynone who reads baseball coverage outside of the mainstream media loves Billy Beane, and has issued every possible platitude in that direction.
3) I did not want to regurgitate how brilliant Beane was in stealing Durham, or getting Lidle, or believing in Bradford. That's all been done 1000 times. We all know it.
4) By "covet" I do not mean "acquire." I've been doing the A's column for a few years now, and I've generally been pleased -- and have said -- with Beane's acquisitions. What I mean by "covet" is the big grin Beane gets on his face when he discusses somebody like Durazo or Kielty. I mean the big grins some analysts get on their face when they think of somebody like Mark Johnson, or Jeremy Giambi, or Mike Neu. When Beane made the trades for Damon, Dye, and Durham (that's a lot of D's!), we didn't hear how they were his "Holy Grail." They were just good trades, and I don't recall Beane getting all puffy about them. That's what I like and respect. But when I start hearing about Holy Grails and such, I expect big things from Durazo, just as I expect big things from Jeremy Brown and Nick Swisher. It's not their fault they've been over-hyped, a fact that's too bad for them. I hope they work out, because the A's could use an impact hitter in their lineup, and soon. Think about this again: SEVEN picks out of 39. Seven years' worth of first-round picks (essentially). That's dynamite, but so far the results have been burnt jello. That's why they're called "expectations" -- I expect a certain something based on what I've read, because I can't get out to see all the prospects in the minor leagues, and when all I've heard comes from Billy Beane (through Michael Lewis' voice, granted), is how wonderfully teriffic these players are, then terrific is what I expect.
5) Billy Beane did not discover Keith Foulke. He was a great pitcher before he came to the A's.
6) Frank Brooks was assumed to be another Beane "theft," but I doubt he makes the roster ... You cut off right before I say "because of the presence of three other lefties."
7) The comment about the "best part of the bullpen" is meant to convey just how good the A's rotation is. On its own, the bullpen will be fined.
8) I'm not bitter. (Well, I am, but not about Billy Beane.) My goal here at Da Box is to put forth an alternative to the Beane worshipping, to play devil's advocate, if you will. I love the A's now, and no doubt my hyper-criticism of them is directly related to Bill James' axiom that fans tend to focus on a team's negatives, not its strengths. Or, no doubt, my criticism is because I'm a contrarian SOB. Because I hang around Web sites that rail against maintstream Derek-Jeter-is-God media assumptions, I feel obligated to point out that the alternative media is doing the exact same thing with the Billy-Beane-is-God mentality. I admit this: my criticism of Beane gets mixed up with my distaste of the blind praise I read about so much. (But I'd rather read that than Phil Rogers, believe me!)
9) I apologize for this, unreservedly, to all of you, and your families.
_sef - Tuesday, March 09 2004 @ 01:45 PM EST (#52128) #
"Given that the A's have produced Jason Giambi, Tejada, Chavez, Hernandez, Hudson, Mulder and Zito in the last six years, they're due for some flops. Jose Ortiz has already fizzled, so has, at least offensively, Mark Ellis (who was not picked by the A's, however), and, if we stick to the odds, it's not unreasonable to suggest that Bobby Crosby, Harden, and Blanton, their three best prospects, could follow. Intuitively, I expect all three to be OK. But I thought Ortiz and (insert rookie pitching flop of your choice) would be fine, too. Basically, with rookies, you can think you know, but, as we all know, youneverknow. You know?"

now then, what's this rubbish all about? "odds"? do the words "sample size" mean anything? and why even compare those three, all of whom have *sustained* a high level of performance in the minors, to Jose Ortiz, who put together *one* good season in a hitter-friendly environment?
Mike D - Tuesday, March 09 2004 @ 07:00 PM EST (#52129) #
Gitz, I think most of us understood exactly where you were coming from. It's to your credit that your response adhered to the Batter's Box level of decorum that makes all of us comfortable here on the site.

Then again, if you're "stupid," "lazy," and "wrong" again, I'm gonna let you have it -- but good.
_nightengale - Tuesday, March 09 2004 @ 09:05 PM EST (#52130) #
Those seven picks were all pretty low, so any idea of the expected yield would have to take that into account.
_TommyR - Wednesday, July 14 2004 @ 04:20 PM EDT (#52131) #
So, JG says the bullpen looks solid and the 2002 draft was a bust. So much for predictions.

The bullpen is to pitching what former Raider Marc Wilson was to quarterbacking. Not one pitcher: Rincon, Mecir, Bradford, Rhodes, Hammond worth a cup of tobacco spit.

But on the so-called 2002 bust draft. Mark Teahen was hitting .335 at Midland before his promotion to Sacramento and subsequent trade to Kansas City. Nick Swisher had hit 16 HRs in 70 games with the Mudcats and averages over one walk per game. He has an OBA over .400. Joe Blanton has struggled but is still a top prospect in Sacramento.
_TommyR - Wednesday, July 14 2004 @ 04:20 PM EDT (#52132) #
So, JG says the bullpen looks solid and the 2002 draft was a bust. So much for predictions.

The bullpen is to pitching what former Raider Marc Wilson was to quarterbacking. Not one pitcher: Rincon, Mecir, Bradford, Rhodes, Hammond worth a cup of tobacco spit.

But on the so-called 2002 bust draft. Mark Teahen was hitting .335 at Midland before his promotion to Sacramento and subsequent trade to Kansas City. Nick Swisher had hit 16 HRs in 70 games with the Mudcats and averages over one walk per game. He has an OBA over .400. Joe Blanton has struggled but is still a top prospect in Sacramento.
2004 Oakland Athletics Preview | 43 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.