“Who ARE these guys?” Sox ALCS Foe, Oakland Daze

The impending 3-game series in Oakland will be the last time the Sox play the Athletics in 2013—in the regular season; but the odds makers say it is very likely these teams will meet again in the Post-season.

If the playoffs began today, how would the Sox do against this team of mostly-unknowns?

For those Red Sox fans who look at the A’s roster and say:

“Who ARE these guys?”

We will present a tutorial on the most successful/least known team in baseball.

 

 

- – - – - – - – - -  CLIP AND SAVE FOR ALCS  – - – - – - – - – -

Before the first pitch this season, the Sox were 28-1 to make it to the World Series:

WORLD SERIES ODDS
Blue Jays              14/1
Red Sox                28/1

[Betvega odds: http://www.betvega.com/world-series-odds/]

As we predicted back in February:

Red Sox Could Win AL East Flag 

We said: “The media will use “The Surprising Sox” as the 2013 storyline.”

[http://bosoxinjection.com/2013/02/04/how-red-sox-could-win-the-al-east-crown/]

And, last February, the 2012 A’s were viewed as a “fluke” and the Angels and Rangers were the odds-on favorites to win the AL West this season.

2013 WORLD SERIES ODDS*

Angels  12/1

Rangers 12/1

A’s     18/1

[Betvega odds: http://www.betvega.com/world-series-odds/]

Now the legal bookies at Betvega have revised their odds:

Team

Open

JAN 2013

FEB 2013

MARCH 2013

APRIL 2013

MAY 2013

JUNE 2013

JULY 2013

TIGERS

8/1

10/1

9/1

8/1

8/1

13/2

13/2

13/2

CARDINALS

20/1

25/1

22/1

20/1

18/1

12/1

8/1

15/2

BRAVES

16/1

16/1

12/1

16/1

16/1

8/1

8/1

8/1

RED SOX

28/1

25/1

28/1

28/1

30/1

12/1

15/1

11/1

RANGERS

12/1

12/1

14/1

15/1

16/1

11/1

17/2

11/1

A’s

18/1

30/1

30/1

33/1

30/1

18/1

22/1

12/1

PIRATES

40/1

50/1

50/1

60/1

66/1

50/1

25/1

12/1

REDS

12/1

14/1

14/1

12/1

12/1

12/1

12/1

14/1

ORIOLES

28/1

40/1

40/1

40/1

30/1

25/1

18/1

16/1

NATIONALS

17/2

9/1

8/1

17/2

7/1

9/1

12/1

16/1

BLUEJAYS

14/1

15/2

7/1

7/1

8/1

22/1

33/1

16/1

AZ DBACKS

40/1

45/1

50/1

60/1

60/1

33/1

20/1

22/1

SF GIANTS

10/1

14/1

12/1

12/1

12/1

12/1

12/1

22/1

DODGERS

12/1

17/2

8/1

17/2

9/1

15/1

33/1

22/1

ANGELS

12/1

17/2

9/1

17/2

9/1

18/1

28/1

25/1

YANKEES

11/1

15/1

12/1

15/1

20/1

16/1

18/1

25/1

TB RAYS

25/1

22/1

25/1

22/1

16/1

25/1

18/1

25/1

 

Upon further review, the bookies now like a Tiger vs. Cardinals 2013 World Series and they improved the “Surprising Sox” odds from 28/1 to 11/1 and the “Who ARE these guys? A’s” improved from 18/1 to 12/1, but with the Rangers a buck better at 11/1; the over-paid Angels have gone down, like the setting, sullen So-Cal sun from 12/1 to 25/1.

If the odds’ prognosticators have it right, as we turn into the second half of the season, it would mean that the top four teams for the AL playoffs would be the “Giant-Tamed Tigers,” the “Surprising Sox,” the “Under-Armed Rangers,” and the “Oakland Ensemble.”

Tomorrow the slightly favored [11/1] for the World Series Sox engage the “buck down” [12/1] Oaktown crew in a 3-game series; Boston and Oakland beat reporters will read portents of the Fall into the final 2 games to 1 result, but the now-recalculated Vegas touts will stand pat with the odds.

Let’s take a look at this team that is very likely to be a Sox opponent in the AL Playoffs this post-season.

OAKLAND

Pre-All-Star game, CBS Sports rated the A’s #1 in MLB

No need to try and explain it. They just win … and win … and win some more.

The Sox were rated #4

They were .500 (43-43) at the All-Star break last season. It was the brutal second half (26-50) that buried them.

 

The team with the best record over the past calendar year?

Oakland, but they are rarely even in the discussion about the best teams in baseball.

In addition to the excellent Billy Beane farm system, that keeps sending starting pitchers to Oakland, their success is also due to the depth of the roster and masterful mixing and matching by affable manager Bob Melvin.

GM Billy Beane has built a balanced team; they don’t excel at any particular aspect of the game, but succeed by being just-above-average-enough across the board. Of the 30 MLB teams, they’re 12th in home runs, 8th in runs scored, 10th in on-base percentage and 11th in offensive WAR.

Their young starters are no All-Stars or league-leaders yet, but they are competitive and in almost every game;  they’re 8th in K/BB, 7th in ERA and 10th in pitching WAR.

“El Viejo” Bartolo Colon [40] and (11-3, 2.78 ERA) will be Oakland’s only All-Star representative, but that tells you that this is a team of young grinders, who believe in each other and pick each other up.  What a contrast to the aging, individualist, Yankees.

                  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> FLASH <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Sources report that the A’s ace, Bartolo Colon, may SOON be suspended by MLB–possibly for 100 games– for alleged used of PEDs.

“Major League Baseball will seek to suspend about 20 players connected to the Miami-area clinic at the heart of an ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, possibly within the next few weeks.” ESPN

Colon’s name was among those found in the company Biogenesis of America documents.

Colon’s suspension last year was for a failed drug test (testosterone) while this potential 100-game ban would seemingly be for a different reason.

                  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> FLASH <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

As division champs in 2012 the young pitchers ran up impressive stats before the All-Star break; 24 GS, 10-9, 3.43 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.3 WAR, but they are even better thus far this season:

17 GS, 11-3, 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 3.1 WAR.

The lowest ERA in the AL [3.66]; Sox [3.96]

Closer Grant Balfour saved his 41st consecutive last Monday, breaking Dennis Eckersley’s all-time franchise record.

Yet the 2013 A’s are not last year’s team, which had outstanding young starters, but very little punch in its batting order compared with their 2013 projections:

BA      SLG%    OBP       HRs     RBIs        Rs        SBs

2012    .238     .404        .310        195       676         713       122

2013    .248*   .401*   .324*     190>    788>    842>    92>

[* = first half of 2013, > = projection derived by doubling half-season stats.]

A ten percentage point gain in BA is significant; the SLG% is a wash; the OBP is +14 percentage points; HRS a wash.

But, the added power, as indicated by +112 RBIs and +129 Rs, should be enough to win a lot of games out of the remaining 82.

Yet, as our Oakland source* notes:

“They don’t steal many bases although the can run and should run more.”

Just 30 SBs is a major drop for a young team, where Bartolo Colon very rarely is on base.

Oakland is currently ahead of the Sox by 3 HRS [94-91].

SBs? “Lead Sox”  NOT! [as in the metal].

Sox lead AL with 70 SBs; Oakland is #17 in MLB with 46.

BA?

Sox #2 in MLB .279 behind Tigers .280.

A’s #20 in MLB .248.

PITCHING:

ERA        SVS        KS           WHIP     BBs         K/W       BAA

Red Sox                 3.96        18&        776         1.35         321^^    2.42        .252

A’s                          3.66^     26           627         1.19         223^      2.81        .243+

[^ = #3 in MLB; ^^ = #28 in ML. & = last in AL.  + = #2 in AL.]

The ERA and K/W stats show the A’s pitching is better and the Sox SVs are low.

A’s source* says:

 “The most notable phenomenon is how solid they are as a team. Bob Melvin and the coaches have instilled their young team with confidence they can win against anyone and come back from huge deficits. In other words, they are in a game for 27 outs, much like the Yankees in any given year.

Offensively, Rosales can step up, Moss can, Jaso, Donaldson and Lowrie can tie a game, or put them in the lead. Cespedes, Reddick, Crisp and Seth Smith are [power] threats at the plate. While no one player on the team really stands out, everyone in the lineup can get hot and go 3 for 4. They don’t excel at the plate, but string together big innings when needed.

Pitchers know that a two or three run deficit doesn’t put them out of the game.  This is a major contrast to seasons in the recent past of awesome rookie pitchers and no offense.

 The young arms are not “lights out,” but they can give you quality starts that give you team a chance to win a lot of games. I am concerned that Colon at 11-3 -2.78 ERA may wear out in the 2nd half.

Balfour, whose current stats maybe exceed his talent (ERA 1.82 WHIP 1.10, 22 saves) doesn’t terrify hitters like Mo or Pap or Nathan.

 [On defense]They get out of tough spots and avoid the big innings. Most of the errors are not costly. [But] although Crisp can fly in Center, several shoulder surgeries gives him a weak arm. Cespedes seems to misplay a lot of fly balls which should be caught, but end up rolling to the fence. With more experience in left, he may improve.   Although he frequently makes spectacular catches that make the MLB “MUST C” highlight videos, Reddick has dropped more than his share of fly balls right to him.

I’d say the A’s are too solid for a sustained losing streak (compare the Giants of late) and seem to win big series.”

It may surprise Sox fans who bemoan all the men left on base to discover that Boston leads the AL in RBIs with men in scoring position, while Oakland ranks 6th.

Since the Oakland franchise emphasizes Strike Zone discipline and OBP, it is no surprise that they lead MLB in BBs [339], but it is surprising to note that the team in the #2 slot is the Sox with [338] BBs.

Our source* says: “They leave a lot of guys on base in scoring position…in important at bats and seem to be increasingly swinging at pitches out of the K-zone, which is antithesis of Moneyball that emphasizes Strike Zone discipline and OBP” and he is right on the money:

Batters striking out?

The Sox are #4 MLB in KOs [753] and #1 in the AL.

The A’s are #11 MLB in KOs [684] and #4 in the AL.

This year their rotation is anchored by 265 lbs of “El Gordo Viejo” Colon and features a young crew of home-grown hurlers:

RK

Player

Team

W

L

     ERA

G

GS

SV

SVO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

AVG

WHIP

1  Colon, B OAK 12 3     2.69   18 18 0 0 120.1 118 36 36 9 15 66 .259 1.11
2  Milone, T OAK 8 7      4.11   18 18 0 0 114.0 113 57 52 19 26 85 .253 1.22
3  Griffin, A OAK 7 6      3.94   18 18 0 0 114.1 103 53 50 18 27 91 .236 1.14
4  Parker, J OAK 6 6      4.04   18 18 0 0 107.0 95 51 48 16 38 74 .242 1.24
4  Straily, D OAK 6 2      4.28   14 14 0 0 80.0 64 39 38 7 26 66 .217 1.13
6  Blevins, J OAK 5 0      3.47   40 0 0 4 36.1 32 15 14 4 10 31 .239 1.16
7  Doolittle, S OAK 3 2 3.26 40 0 0 3 38.2 32 14 14 3 6 35 .221 0.98
8  Neshek, P OAK 2 1 2.30 30 0 0 0 27.1 28 9 7 2 11 22 .262 1.43
9  Anderson, B OAK 1 4 6.21 6 5 0 0 29.0 32 22 20 3 15 29 .276 1.62

[ED. NOTE:  Although Parker is only 6-6 this season, he was 13-8 [3.47] last year and he promises to be a solid #2 SP, possible ace, for many years.]

http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=519105#gameType=%27R%27

SURPRISED PARTIES

Red Sox:

Ortiz (.994 OPS, 17 HR, 61 RBI) in just 70 games.

Just passed Harold Baines for most hits by a designated hitter after the Red Sox’s 11-4 victory vs. the Mariners.

Emergency Closer Koji Uehara (40 G, 1.93 ERA, 12.8 K/9)

John Lackey is arguably the team’s best pitcher. He’s 6-6 with a 2.80 ERA and the best WHIP (walks plus hits per inning) of his career at 1.146

Daniel Nava [.296 with an. 827 OPS, 10 HRs, 51 RBI], which trails only Ortiz and Napoli.

Athletics:

None has been bigger, in every way, than the 40-year-old version of Bartolo Colon “El Gordo Viejo” could be one of the oldest pitchers to reach 20 wins in MLB history, as he sits at 11-2 through the month of June.

Josh Donaldson: .317 AVG, 15 HR, 57 RBI, .385 OBP

The Oakland closer, Grant Balfour, has successfully converted his last 40 save opportunities, which ties him with Dennis Eckersley for the longest streak in A’s history. His line reads perfect: 22-of-22 in save tries with a 1.82 ERA, 22 Saves, 35 K.

KEY IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED

OAKLAND

Since Jemille Weeks has become a disappointment like brother Rickie, econd base has been musical chairs with Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard, Cliff Pennington and Jed Lowrie.  Pennington was traded, Lowrie took over at SS and Rosales and Sogard have each struggled offensively.

In 2012, this was an area of weakness in Oakland and it has not improved this year and it will be critical to the A’s Playoff drive this year.

Fortunately, Oakland has a ready solution: Grant Green.

Like possible HOF second baseman, Jeff Kent, Green is a Cal Berkeley alum, but, since graduation and drafting, Green has been shifted to every position but except pitcher, catcher and right fielder by Billy Beane.

Green’s bat will play anywhere and after 206 games at Triple-A, Green is hitting .305 with 26 home runs and 124 RBI.  He is a natural second-baseman, with 86 of his Triple-A games there.

Our Bay Area sources say that Green will step right into the gap at Second and own it and will remind fans there of Jeff Kent with his gap power, as a solid regular, power hitting 2b, and potential All-Star.

RED SOX

Besides the usual desire to keep the rotation healthy, especially erstwhile ace Buchholz (9-0, 1.71 ERA in 12 starts), the Sox need to find a true closer.  Both Japanese penmen, RHPs Uehara and Tazawa, were closers in their home country and may suffice as a closer combo, but Cherington is exploring his options before the trade deadline.

With Phils’ GM Amaro flip-flopping daily about whether his team is a buyer or seller, talk of Papelbon returning to Fenway is just that.

Once the closer solution, Bailey was demoted, but now, after working on his cutter with Pitching coach Nieves, he is optimistic that he can reclaim his former role.

Cherington may be loath to take on Pap’s huge 2-year salary commitment and is more likely to shop for second-tier relievers to bolster his bullpen roster.

With LHP Andrew Miller, who was especially effective against RH batters, headed for season-ending surgery, the Sox, who once had three LHPs in the pen, are now down to just Craig Breslow.

White Sox LHP Matt Thornton could be a possibility; he has been a closer and held lefties to a .163 average. His team mate RHP Jesse Crain, who has been sidelined with a sore shoulder but has a 0.74 ERA may also be changing the color of his Sox. Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves worked with both pitchers when he was the Pitching coach in Chicago.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Perhaps the historical franchise zeitgeist of the Oakland A’s goes like this:

“I prefer to think of the A’s as anti-establishment. Maybe it goes back to “Moneyball.” Maybe even to that early ’70′s crew. But when the Cactus League general managers convened this spring to meet with reporters, only one of them wore Bermuda shorts and flip-flops.” [Tim Brown, Yahoo Expert]

[http://sports.yahoo.com/news/oakland-athletics--singular-all-star-selection-matches-their-underdog-personality-001327526.html]

Our A’s source* avers:

“For me, history is the most cogent for the A’s. They always have a better second half with a young team and strong bench…”

After living in the Bay Area from 1968-2000 and attending many games in Oakland, I think this phrase captures the team’s personality: “Who ARE these guys?”

The East Coast Media bias and the geographical time zone disadvantages, not many baseball fans we able to keep track of “those guys” in the yellow and gold [and white shoes], so, back in 1971, when the team forced its way onto the national scene by playing in the ALSC, the names Bando, Rudi, Tenace, and that scrappy Second baseman, Tony LaRussa, drew the response: “Who ARE these guys?”

Baseball fans who watched the A’s win the World Series the following three years [72.73,74] learned how to pronounce names like Angel Mangual, Ted Kubiak, Pat Bourque, and Vic Davalillo; hey, they even had a Donaldson [John] at 2b.  And, once Reggie Jackson got to talk to the national media, he never shut up.

The team dropped out of the national spotlight until 1981, when the irrepressible Billy Martin took charge of the team and willed it to win 109 games with Shooty Babitt, Rob Picciolo, Mickey Klutts, DH Mark Budaska, and Bob Owchinko and drew this response from baseball fans all over America:   “Who ARE these guys?”

They were back on the national scene again in three consecutive World Series [88,89,90], this time lead by that guy from the 1971 squad, Tony LaRussa and his trusted Indian companion, Pitching coach nonpareil, Dave Duncan and some of the names were a bit more familiar: Mark “The Liar” McGwire, Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson, Dave “Bazooka” Parker, Jose Canseco and a guy out of RF, Billy Beane.

From 2000 through 2003 the Oaktown Crew lost the ALS 3-2 every year; these were the days of Scott Hatteberg, Miguel Tejada, Mark Ellis and Barry Zito.  Somehow they found a way to win; even their manager, Art, wondered Howe.

Except for a blip in 2006 when the lost the ALCS 4 games to zip with Bobby Crosby at SS, DH Frank Thomas, Marco Scutaro, Nick Swisher, Adam Melhuse, Hiram Bocachica, Matt Roney, Mark Kiger, Kirk Saarloos, and, of course, Kiko Calero.  Wait for it…“Who ARE these guys?”

After a five-year Playoff appearance drought, the Oaktown Boyz were back in town last year with a roster of household names:  Cliff Pennington, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, Kila Ka’aihue, Collin Cowgill, Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard, Brandon Allen, Luke Hughes, Tommy Milone, Graham Godfrey, and Sean Doolittle.

And Red Sox fans shouted:

“Who ARE these guys?”

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*Lawrence Singleton, Athletics’ adept, baseball savant, budding Bodhisattva.  In his formative High School years in Butte, Montana, he read the Sporting News and The Village Voice with equal fervor.  He was not a baseball jock, but became an unwavering athletic supporter, when he moved to the Bay Area, where he earned his Master’s Degree in Psycholinguistics.

IMAGE SOURCE: <img width=”316″ height=”195″ alt=”" src=”http://i346.photobucket.com/albums/p436/NnamdiAsomugha21/Sports/OaklandAthletics1974.png”></img><br></br>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: History, Oakland A's, Series Preview, Stats

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