Diamond Gnotes on Coco Crisp Gnome Day

Jason O. Watson

After his fast start out of the gate in April with a 1.89 ERA in 6 starts, Jesse Chavez was supposed to have discovered flash-in-the-plan regression-to-the-bleah in May. His 2-3 record was pedestrian, as was his 3.90 ERA. Was it statistical noise, a typical blip, or a sign of things to come?

Seems like it was the middle one. Chavez has rebounded strong and through 15 starts he has the American League's 7th best ERA at 2.71. (Scott Kazmir's 2.08 ERA is 2nd and Sonny Gray's 2.91 ERA is 9th.) Here's closer look at just how good Chavez has been overall:

- Chavez has gone 6 IP or more in 11 of his 15 starts. In the other 4 starts, he has gone 5 IP, 5 IP, 5⅓ IP, and 5⅔ IP.

- Chavez has allowed 2 runs or fewer in 11 of his 15 starts.

- The A's are 11-4 in the games Chavez has started.

What you glean from all this, as you parse his 15 starts from any angle, is that pretty much Chavez will put you in a position where you can win, and will win, about 11 of 15 times. That's a .733 winning percentage. And if you concede that some of those "6 IP or more, 2 ER or fewer" starts can still yield losses, the fact is that in Chavez' poorest efforts he has still left the team a shot to win. One of his "outlier" starts, at Cleveland, was 5 IP, 2 ER. You could do a lot worse!

In reality, Chavez is probably worthy of an All-Star bid and would likely get one were he toiling for a team with no other All-Stars in their back pocket. As it stands, though, the A's gaunt RHP is #3 in every way -- he is still only the 3rd best starting pitcher in his own rotation, and only Gray or Kazmir seem to have any shot at a mid-July date in Minnesota.

Not to be forgotten on his gnome day let's talk for a moment about Coco Crisp, who has had the decisive RBI hit each of the last two games. He may have lost a step -- and that step sure appears to be coming in -- out in CF, but at the plate Crisp is one of those hitters who seems to be getting better with age.

The main knock on Crisp, who has always had great speed and made a lot of contact, has been that he doesn't get on base at the clip you would like to see from a leadoff hitter. Crisp's career on base percentage is a pedestrian .332, but in 239 PAs so far this season? Try a 9th-best-in-the-American-League .379. Crisp's previous career best is the .344 OBP he managed for the Red Sox in 2008. It will be interesting to see where he ends up after a full season in 2014.

Finally, nowhere to go but up for the A's against today's opponent Jon Lester. On May 3rd at Fenway, Lester subdued the A's to the tune of 8 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 2 BB, 15 K. The matchup of Lester against the A's #5 SP Tommy Milone, looks like a mismatch on paper until you consider the "confidence factor": Oakland is taking the field each day right now wondering not if it will win, but how, while the Red Sox are watching a slow motion free fall of their season unfold before their quivering eyes.

Two teams going in opposite directions as the A's go for one of the harder accomplishments in the regular season: A 4-game series sweep. Someone who isn't me will have your game threads, as my broom and I will be at the game.

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