Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Eye on the A's" Report re Dan Otero

The A's bullpen recently set an Oakland record of 29 2/3 consecutive innings of scoreless relief. C.S. Soong spoke recently with relief pitcher Dan Otero, and produced this report:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Eye on the A's" Report re Eric O'Flaherty


C.S. Soong spoke recently with relief pitcher Eric O'Flaherty in the Oakland A's clubhouse, and prepared this report: 


Friday, July 25, 2014

Easy Pickings

The Oakland A's thumped the Houston Astros yesterday, giving starter Jeff Samardzija something he rarely got from his Cub teammates earlier this season: gobs of run support. And yes, Samardzija sparkled over eight innings in the 13-1 victory, but one shouldn't conclude too much from that: of the four Astro hitters slotted second through fifth in the lineup, none entered the contest with a batting average over .212. (I'm not sure I've ever seen those kinds of numbers slotted that high up in a big-league batting order before. My guess is that Sonny Gray would have gladly pitched on three days' rest for the opportunity to pad his statistics against the punchless 'Stros.)

Six games have now been started by either Samardzija or Jason Hammel, both acquired by Oakland on July 4, and in those contests the A's are 3-3. Sure, it is, as they say, a small sample size, but I imagine the A's, and their fans, were hoping for better. Plenty of season left to see how it all unfolds.

The decisive blow in yesterday's game was delivered by Brandon Moss, who cranked his third career grand slam in the sixth inning. Now, remember when the A's started Daric Barton instead of Moss against left-handed pitching? The assumption was that Moss, a left-handed stick, could hit righties but not lefties. But Barton is, of course, long gone, and Moss is now an everyday starter (as he should be, and as he should have been long before), and it's instructive to look at Moss's current-season splits against righties and lefties. You might expect Moss's numbers to be much better against right-handed pitching, but you'd be wrong. Moss's batting average and on-base percentage against righties are .262/.344. Against southpaws, his numbers are better: .284/.360. Pretty eye-opening. Thank goodness the days of platooning Brandon Moss are over.



Posted by C.S. Soong

Friday, July 11, 2014

Straight A's Thus Far

Six weeks ago A's manager Bob Melvin told me he doesn't like four-game series. They're difficult to win, he said, and the fourth game usually takes the place of an off day. But after sweeping a four-game set against Toronto and taking three of four from the Giants, Melvin and the rest of the high-flying A's have little to complain about. Oakland's record now stands at 58-34, which means that for 23 consecutive days, the A's have had the best record in the major leagues.

If you find that impressive, check out these facts and figures (most of them compiled by the A's public relations staff):

* Oakland has outscored the opposition by 147 runs; the next two closest teams are the Angels (80) and the Nationals (56).

* The A's have posted a winning record in thirteen consecutive months. That equals the longest such streak in Oakland history (Sept. 1970 to Sept. 1972). The last time the A's had a losing record in a month was May 2012.

* The A's have owned the best record in the American League every day since May 31.

* The A's have gone eleven consecutive road series with a .500 or better record. The last time they lost more games than they won in a road series was over a year ago, when they went 2-5 (against Texas and Seattle) from June 17 to 23, 2013.

* Over the last eight games, A's starters are a combined 6-1 with an ERA of 1.04.

* Oakland's outfielders have 25 assists, which equals the A's total from all of last year.

* Since the beginning of the 2012 season, the A's have compiled the best regular-season record in the majors (248-168). The next best record belongs to Atlanta (240-176).



Posted by C.S. Soong

Friday, July 4, 2014

Don't Trust the Ump?

Should a baseball player always trust a call made by an umpire? Well, you would think that, at the very least, he shouldn't be penalized for doing so. But that's exactly what happened in Thursday night's game between Oakland and Toronto.

In the second inning, with a Blue Jay on every base, Anthony Gose hit a grounder to A's first baseman Nate Freiman. Freiman made an effort to tag Munenori Kawasaki, who was on his way to second, and then threw to catcher Stephen Vogt, who stepped on home plate without tagging Edwin Encarnacion racing home from third base.

First-base umpire Vic Carapazza ruled Kawasaki safe – he didn't see Freiman apply the tag – and Vogt, apparently seeing Carapazza's safe sign, believed that all he had to do was touch the plate to record the out at home.

Vogt logically trusted Carapazza's call. But Toronto manager John Gibbons challenged the call, and won. Which meant that while Kawasaki was called out, Encarnacion was declared safe at home plate; once Kawasaki was tagged, the force play was no longer in effect and Vogt needed to tag Encarnacion to record the out.

What all of this means is that Vogt should not, in this instance, have trusted the ump's call. He was, in a sense, penalized for doing so, and so were the A's. Is this unfair? Certainly A's manager Bob Melvin thought so, and the A's played the rest of the game under protest. (Which turned out to be moot, since the A's prevailed 4-1).

If there's a lesson to be learned, it's apparently this: Play as if the ump might be mistaken. Assume as little as reasonably possible. In this instance, tag the runner at home plate even if it seems unnecessary.

Now, all of that is much easier said than done. Players have reflexes rooted in a common-sense understanding of how baseball is played. But a new era has begun. In this brave new world of replays and challenges, a little distrust may in fact go a long way.


Posted by C.S. Soong



Sunday, June 8, 2014

Home Attendance Matters

After Sunday's 11-1 win in Baltimore, the Oakland Athletics' road record stands at 22-12, best in the majors and significantly better than the club's home record of 17-12. Now, 17-12 is nothing to sneeze at -- only two teams have fewer home losses than the A's -- but given what's been said, by A's manager Bob Melvin and by some of his players, about how much the club values and feeds off of large home crowds, I decided to go back and see how the A's have fared when they've drawn robust numbers at home.

The official carrying capacity of the 0.co Coliseum is listed at 35,067. I decided to define a “large home crowd” as one that fills at least two-thirds of the stadium. (That's in a sense an arbitrary figure, but I think not an unreasonable one.) Two-thirds of 35,067 is 23,378. So how have the A's performed in home games with an official attendance figure of 23,378 or more?

The numbers are eye-opening. Ten of the 29 A's home games to date have drawn more than 23,378, and Oakland's record in those ten games is a glittering 8-2. That is to say, they've got an .800 winning percentage in front of large home crowds (which far exceeds their overall .619 winning percentage to date). Equally striking is the A's home record when attendance drops below 23,378; in those contests, the A's are a lackluster 9-10. To repeat: the A's are 8-2 when they draw large home crowds and 9-10 when they don't.

There are, of course, many ways to slice and dice a club's performance. But the crowd-size factor cited here indicates that less-than-robust home attendance just might be the weak link in the A's season to date. And it makes one wonder: How good, how much better, could the A's be if they consistently packed the Coliseum?


Posted by C.S. Soong

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Oakland Raiders Welcome Rookies and Un-drafted Free Agents

                        Oakland Raiders Welcome Rookies and Un-drafted Free Agents

Although no games have been played yet the 2014 - 2015 football season is definitely under way. Now that the draft is done fans are anxiously awaiting to see if their team made the pick that will put them over the top and/or bring them back to respectability.

Today marked the beginning of mimi-camp for the Oakland Raiders rookies and un-drafted free agents. After several years of disappointing draft picks it looks like this year the Raiders have drafted wisely and found players who can make immediate and positive contributions, like linebacker Khalil Mack, the Raiders’ 1st round pick, selected at number 5 overall. They’ve also prepared for the future with the 2nd round selection of quarterback Derek Carr, who many believe could develop into one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL. Head Coach Dennis Allen spoke about Carr saying, “Derek Carr was a guy we thought very highly of going into the draft. We thought he’s a first round talent as a quarterback. You never really know exactly how things are going to work out, but it worked out in our favor.” 

Another draft pick of note is offensive lineman Gabe Jackson, a 3rd round pick who could step in and provide immediate help. After the first day of mini camp Coach Allen noted “Gabe Jackson, I thought, did a nice job inside.”

Another name garnering a bit of attention at the rookie mini camp is George Atkinson III, the un-drafted running back from Notre Dame who is also the son of Raider legend George Atkinson. When asked about the running back, Coach Allen remarked “He’s a talented athlete, he’s got a lot of speed, and he has the ability to help us on special teams also. I think any time you have a chance to get a legacy, somebody who has Raider bloodlines... those guys understand what it means to be a Raider. We were pleased that we were able to bring him in here.”

The first day of practice didn’t reveal much, but Coach Allen was pleased overall, stating “...first day of practice I was impressed with the way the guys came out here to work. We’ve still got a couple of more days to work and we’re looking forward to it. I’m excited about the acquisitions that we made in the off season.”  “We’ll go back, we’ll look at the tape. We’ll evaluate it. We’re not making any quick decisions here; this is an evaluation process. We feel good about the guys we’ve acquired We feel like they’re gonna be able to come in and help us this year” 


---- Greg Bridges
      05/16/14