Yes, I don't know why I ever termed this series "Five Quick Questions" because there are never just five and they aren't usually quick. I was originally aiming for five quick questions, but it turns out my curiosity about this team goes beyond those limitations.
This week it's David Feldman, the Associate Producer of A's Baseball on Action 36 Cable 6, who will also be a guest at AN Day at the Coliseum on August 15th.
1. I heard you on Extra Innings once recommending that the A's pursue John Smoltz. I imagine that possibility is nonexistent now that the Braves are back in the hunt for the NL East division title. But do you still think the A's pen needs help or do you think Dotel has made all the other parts better? Do you think Billy will do anything else?
The A's bullpen since the All-Star Break has been lights out. Their success begins at the end, in this case the work of Octavio Dotel. Dotel had a horrible weekend in Cleveland right before the break and spent the three days contemplating how to get better. He has since become a strikeout machine and the Closer the A's really needed. Dotel's success has made the other relievers better just because they now know there is an anchor. The other relievers are also better mentally because they know they won't be asked to close games. The 9th inning is a different beast and not all pitchers are equipped to handle it. That said, since the break, the A's have played all but two games at home. This upcoming road trip will be a true test of the A's pen...games in Texas, New York and Minnesota can always get crazy and the pen will be called on often. I don't think Billy Beane will find much on the trade market that can improve what the A's already have, but if they can get Arthur Rhodes back healthy, that would be like picking up an experienced 8th inning left-handed set-up man and there is nothing wrong with that.
2. Do you think Eric Chavez is the right person to be in the third spot in the lineup? Or do you think that someone like say Kotsay or Hatteberg would be better suited for that role? This is an ongoing debate in the online community, which is why I'm asking you.
Before Chavez broke his hand, I also wondered about his effectiveness batting third. But since he has come back, Chavez has been the perfect #3 hitter. Hitting well over .300 with an on-base percentage of almost .500. Chavez is still the most feared hitter in the A's lineup and by hitting 3rd almost always gets 4 or 5 plate appearances a game. Kotsay has been Baseball's hottest hitter since the end of May and should bat first. Again, guaranteeing him more plate appearances and more chances to be on base when Chavez comes up. Hatteberg, healthy after last season's ankle problems ( which Scott never used as an excuse) has been consistent in the 5 spot. He would also make a very good two hitter but you don't want 3 left-handed batters in a row against most teams. (The Angels being the exception. Can you believe they still don't have a lefty in the bullpen?) McLemore has done a fine job batting 2nd and as the season goes on look for Crosby to get more time there as well. As you might have guessed, I am a fan of on-base pct. Since the book "Moneyball" came out, there has been much talk about OB%. In my opinion there is good high OB% and bad high OB%. Example: Erubiel Durazo. Last Season Ruby walked 100 times and had a .374 OB%. Not bad but all those walks limited his ability to drive in runs. This season Durazo's OB% is actually higher although he has walked only 30 times. He is slugging the ball better has has been a much more dangerous hitter. In my opinion the players who make the fewest outs should bat higher in the order and get the most chances to bat in a game.
3. What has happened to Barry Zito? You probably see him more often than any of us. Any theories? Has the league just figured him out?
Location, Location Location. Zito's stuff is the same...where it's going is another matter. Barry is a three pitch pitcher: Fastball, Change and Curve. In his 4th season now, hitters have come to the conclusion they can't hit his curveball. So they don't even try. Instead always taking the curve hoping that he misses the strike zone with it. Which this season he has done quite frequently. By doing this they turn Barry into a two pitch pitcher...Fastball and Change. Now the batters are just sitting there, zeroing in on one of those two pitches, lately it has been the change, and when they get it, just teeing off. How does Barry fix this.....for starters throwing the curve for strikes, Look back on his Cy Young season and Barry was consistently throwing the hook for strikes and also getting batters to swing at it. Also he needs to work down in the zone more. Barry has always been a fly ball pitcher but he has to get his fastball and change down otherwise he becomes a big fly pitcher.
4. How do you see the division shaping up down the stretch? Do you think the Angels will surge and the Rangers sink as many expect? Where do you think the A's will finish?
When the A's released their 2004 schedule, I saw this upcoming road trip and thought "uh-oh!" Little did I know that all 3 teams would be in 1st place and the A's would struggle so much on the road. I just thought, there are 3 places the A's normally don't play very well and they get them all in a row. At the end of this 11 game trip thru hell I think we will have a better idea of where the A's stand. Just don't go 1-10 or 2-9 because once the A's return home it is 3 weeks of the Tigers, Royals, Orioles and Devil Rays. I think the Rangers starting pitching problems are coming to the forefront and if they don't acquire a quality starter they might start to fade. I say might, because I love their bullpen, all hard throwers and, they are so tough in Arlington. But they can be pitched too. The A's held them to 6 hits over 2 games and they got 1-hit by the Angels on Tuesday night. The Angels are not going away. Bartolo Colon looks more and more like the ace the Angels thought they signed in the off-season. Guerrero and Guillen are a fabulous 1-2 punch and if they have the lead after 6 innings, with their bullpen, the game is usually over. They need Garret Anderson to stay healthy and they could use a more solid 3rd baseman. Figgins is a true pest offensively but is terrible on defense at 3rd. So how does it end up? It could go down to the wire or one team might run away with it. In other words, I have no idea, but it will be fun (or heartbreaking) to watch.
5. What do you think of the talk about the A's building a new stadium in the parking lot? Is this for real?
The plan to build a new baseball-only ballpark in the Coliseum parking lot is in the infant stages. It is for real and the A's owners, for the first time, have said they will invest their own money, $100 million, into the building of the new park. The problem now is where does the other approximate $300 million come from? I think this announcement of intent is a good thing. The A's realize that a move to the south bay is fraught with problems. With the Coliseum site, they don't have to worry about buying the land, territorial rights, and the public transportation infrastructure, since those things are already in place. Still the big question, where does the other $300 million come from. Until we get an answer to that question, no need to worry about losing valuable tailgating space.
Thank you so much, David. We look forward to having you as a guest in person on AN Day. Good luck on the road trip. A's fans are also quaking with trepidation over this 11-game, three city road trip. Maybe the closed-door locker room meeting the boys had after the game today will help. Hopefully.