Some things in life are awesome regardless of context. If you hit the $50 jackpot on a slot machine, it doesn't matter that you lost $300 leading up to that point; the victory is still just as sweet, and it will still enable the horrible gambling addiction in your brain. When you catch that green light at the last second, it doesn't bother you when the cars behind you catch up at the next red light; by golly, it felt awesome to just barely make it through that last intersection and theoretically save all that time. Ice cream is always delicious, no matter how fattening it is (unless it's flavored like black licorice).
So it goes with today's Cactus League game against the Giants. Sure, it doesn't count in the standings, none of the stats matter, and neither team was necessarily concerned with winning the game. But at the end of the day, the A's had absolutely demolished the Gnats, and if that doesn't make you absolutely ecstatic then you might be reading the wrong blog.
The wind was blowing out in Scottsdale today, and the result was a bit of a slugfest. The two teams combined for 5 homers and 17 runs. I am going to dispense with the play-by-play entirely, and just tell you about some key players.
Tommy Milone: Today's game was quintessential Milone. He made it into the 6th inning, struck out 4 against one walk, and gave up a handful of hits. Since the hits were mostly singles (along with one solo homer), he had a good game. Thanks to his low velocity, Milone will always be hittable; it's when those hits are ringing doubles and multi-homer games that he will get in trouble. Oakland played without a DH today, so Milone got three trips to the plate; he singled off of Tim Lincecum and came a couple feet short of a homer off of Shane Loux.
Yoenis Cespedes: If you're the type of person who worries about Spring Training stats, and you were worried about Cespedes up to this point, then you can rest easy. He had a monster day today, and he looked every bit like the electric slugger from last year. In his first at-bat, Lincecum hung an inside pitch and Cespy blasted it into the left-field seats for his 3rd homer of the spring. He later added a sharp single up the middle, and another line drive down the left-field line. His swing looked great, he hit the ball hard, and everything is going to be fine.
Eric Sogard: Keebs had another huge day in Arizona. He went 3-for-3 with a walk, somehow raising his spring average above 1.000 (actually: .538). He hit two sharp, line-drive singles, and homered off of Loux. There's really nothing else this guy can do right now. He's playing at an insane level this spring...but it's not going to matter.
Listen, it's not that I don't like Sogard. The dude wears glasses in the Major Leagues and is descended from cookie-making elves. How can you not root for him? He also has excellent plate discipline and plays solid defense up the middle. However, I still just don't see him making this team, or playing a significant role in 2013. Sure, he'll get his time as a short-term injury replacement, but I don't foresee a situation in which he makes the Opening Day roster or spends a large amount of time in Oakland this year. There are just too many players ahead of him on the depth chart.
Even if Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore both start in AAA, I still think that Oakland would go with Adam Rosales as the utility infielder on Opening Day. Rosey is also having an insane spring (more on him in a moment), and he's out of options; the only way to keep both players is to demote Sogard. Furthermore, it's not like Sogard is a young player who just hit his stride; he'll turn 27 this year, so the lackluster hitter we saw the last couple seasons is probably not far from his true ability. Finally, spring success is not a new thing for him; he hit .302 last March with 3 homers, and still put up an OPS+ of 32 in 108 Major League plate appearances.
Adam Rosales: Rosey came to bat twice today and homered off of career minor-leaguer Dan Otero. That's his third homer this spring, to go along with an 8:5 BB:K ratio in 45 plate appearances. If Sogard gets extra consideration for a monster spring, then so does Rosey, and so does Andy Parrino (1.102 OPS). (Note: Sogard has an even more impressive BB:K ratio of 6:2, but this was his first homer.)
Daric Barton: After a promising start to the spring, Barton is once again struggling to do anything with the bat. He walked twice in 5 trips, but that still remains his only consistent offensive weapon. In the type of Spring Training battle where spring stats might carry weight, Barton is now sitting directly on the Mendoza Line with a .200 batting average. Whether you care more about that, or about his .455 OBP and BB:K ratio of 11:4, probably says a lot about your preferences as a baseball analyst. He also flashed his usual leather at 1st base, picking a couple of low throws and making a nice swipe tag on an errant throw from 2nd to complete a double play. Anyway, we have an entire thread for heated Barton discussions, so let's talk about him over there.
John Jaso: Dude can hit. He tripled to the opposite field off of Santiago Casilla, and singled up the middle against Otero (who, to be fair, didn't retire any of the 6 batters he faced). He also threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt, so let's all remember that he's supposed to be a below-average defender.
Seth Smith and Josh Donaldson: Two more of Oakland's regulars had good days at the plate, as each reached base three times. Unfortunately, two of Smith's hits were ground ball singles, and the other was off of "No Outs" Otero, so I have to take his day with a grain of Arizona salt. Similarly, Donaldson had an infield single and a hit off of Otero, but at least he drew a tough walk against Lincecum! Oh wait, it turns out that's not very hard to do anymore either. Hey, it's better than going 0-for-5!
Jed Lowrie: He didn't do much of note at the plate, but he made a couple of nice plays in the field. As excited as I am about his bat, it's only useful if he's at least an average defensive shortstop (or 2nd baseman).
Sean Doolittle: Doolittle sat consistently at 93 MPH, hitting 94 on one pitch (last year, his fastball averaged 93.6). His control was a little off, as he hit a batter and walked another without striking anyone out. He also allowed a homer to Cole Gillespie. All in all, not a great day for Doo. If I may coin a term:
DooDoolitte - Sean Doolittle, when he has a bad game.
Let's see if it catches on. Actually, let's hope it doesn't catch on because Doolittle is awesome and won't actually have that many bad games. But it's nice to know that we have that nickname in our back pockets, as insurance. (Maybe a statement that we have DooDoo in our back pockets wasn't the best phrasing, but you know what I meant.)
Tim Lincecum: If I were a Giants fan, I would be worried about Timmy. His velocity is still down, he's still too wild, he still works too many 3-ball counts and loses too many 0-2 counts, and he still hangs too many meatballs. Sure, he struck out 5 batters in the first two innings, but he also recorded only 9 outs in his 79-pitch outing. Hard to know what to make of him, but it seems at least possible that he might find himself in long relief again at some point in 2013. Or, this is all irrelevant and he'll come out strong in April. I sure wouldn't bet on it, though, after his trainwreck of a 2012.
And that's a wrap! A's rule, Giants drool, Cespy is cool. Also, the Giants commercials are just the worst thing ever. If the Mariners have the industry benchmark in awesome TV commercials (which they do), then the Giants are on the other end of the spectrum. FTG!