So, there are many things to discuss on the table this morning.
- Tonight's game finds the A’s trying to improve their record as they take on the Royals, in a match-up that features Danny "Cy" Haren vs. Gil "I’m earning my money so far" Meche. Game time is at 5:10. Since the game is televised, we’ll be sure to post screen shots of Jennifer as they are shown.
- The Warriors try to even their best-of-seven series tonight in Utah at 6:00 PM.
- Looking at the standings, do you wonder how in the world the A’s are in first place?
From ESPN’s Page 2 on Monday:3. If the A's make the playoffs, it'll be Billy Beane's biggest magic act yet.
Only three teams have scored fewer runs per game than Oakland so far. In Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, Chris Snelling hit leadoff, Dan Johnson hit cleanup and Jack Cust hit fifth. The following players are on the disabled list: Rich Harden, Esteban Loaiza, Milton Bradley, Mike Piazza, Mark Kotsay and Bobby Kielty. Bobby Crosby's hitting below .230. Eric Chavez's OBP is below .300. So how can the A's, a team with a lineup that looks better suited for the PCL than the AL West, be sitting at .500, just a game out of first place and in contention?
Start with the pitching. Oakland owns the second-best ERA in the majors. Even after accounting for their pitching-friendly home park, it's hard to quibble with the A's team strikeout-to-walk rate (best in the AL) or its team OBP allowed (best in MLB). In the past, observers were split on whether the A's deserved credit for finding three aces to lead the staff at once in Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, or whether they were lucky. But today's A's staff is a study in scouting and player acquisition skills. The ace is Danny Haren, a 26-year-old Cy Young candidate plucked from St. Louis in the Mulder deal -- one of the most lopsided trades any team has made in years. Crack set-up man Justin Duchscherer was a soft-tosser and failed starting pitching prospect picked up off the scrap heap and converted to bullpen gold. Chad Gaudin has been a staff saver so far, posting a 2.70 ERA and just two homers allowed in 33.1 IP -- he was acquired for a player to be named later from Toronto after the '05 season. Lenny DiNardo (1.93 ERA) was claimed off waivers from Boston this winter. Joe Kennedy (2.48 ERA) came over in a trade with the Rockies two years ago (though Eric Byrnes has done well for himself since leaving the A's in that deal).
Still, the A's have lost more than their three aces. Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada are also long gone, and the new crop of homegrown hitters expected to replace them -- led by Chavez and Crosby -- has failed to produce any legitimate stars. As a result, the A's have attacked the trade market lately. They acquired Ryan Langerhans from the Braves to patch the outfield. They flipped him to the Nats for Snelling -- a talented player who suffered through a ton of injuries in Seattle and got a raw deal in D.C., but could still pan out and become a good full-time outfielder -- a few days later. They picked up Cust, a one-time stathead favorite now pushing 30 and given what might be his last chance. They grabbed J.D. Closser, another one-time highly regarded prospect who was buried in the minors before Beane came calling. The A's even traded with the Reds to get Chris Denorfia, a multi-position outfielder with a broad range of offensive skills who also happens to be out for the season after reconstructive elbow surgery.
The Angels still have more talent, and should be considered the favorites in the West. But give Oakland an A for effort -- Beane is turning over every rock he can to stay in the race.
- We can discuss how a major league 'hitter' goes from hitting .300 or well-above, to having the lowest slugging percentage of any player, ever (well, it certainly feels like it). Is Kendall hurt? Off the juice? Simply wearing down?
- Also, feel free to discuss AN Day 4, and how far you are traveling to be there, and how fun it’s going to be. An updated diary will be posted with more information soon, if you would still like to come.
- And of course, official AN business: What are we calling Christopher Doyle Snelling?