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Open Game Thread: Game 135 - A's vs. Twins

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Boasting their first two-game win streak since July 10-11, the A's send Dan Meyer to the mound tonight against Kevin Slowey of the Twins at the Coliseum.

Slowey dominated the A's on Aug. 19, striking out 12 and walking one en route to a 13-2 Minnesota win.  It wasn't a fluke; Slowey boasts one of the game's best K to walk ratios at 96-17.  That's a whopping 5.65 strikeouts for every walk.

At age 24, Slowey has really come into his own in his second big-league season, posting a 3.74 ERA and 1.07 WHIP after his pedestrian rookie year.  Whether the credit belongs on his shoulders or the Twins' defense, undeniably the key difference has been his hit prevention.  In '07 Slowey allowed 82 hits in 66.2 innings; in '08 he's allowed only 120 in his 127.2 innings of work.  He's also lowered his HR rate significantly. 

While Slowey has enjoyed a dominant sophomore campaign, his counterpart hasn't been nearly as successful.  Spanning two appearances, Dan Meyer has allowed nine runs in his last eight innings of work, and now sports a 5.95 ERA in his 19.2 innings of big-league work this year.  Meyer will be out of options in '09 and is no doubt in a bid to earn a roster spot for next season with his performance in final month. 

Meyer is arguably under more pressure to perform than any other pitcher on the team at this point. The combination of his contract status and continued disappointing performance mean that this start or one in September could be his last with the team, or even his last in the league.  He has to produce, and I'd love to see a quality outing tonight.  It's easy to root for a guy who has overcome major injury obstacles, fighting to save his once-promising career.

Another easy-to-root-for Athletic?  How about Rajai Davis?  I'm irrationally excited to see a guy with a hellish  .666 OPS get a chance to play almost every day, now that Carlos Gonzalez has been optioned down to AAA.  The team has clearly decided that Davis is going to get an opportunity to audition for the starting CF job.

Their games couldn't be more different, but I've long had a soft spot for Davis in the same way I do for Cust - as players with often-underappreciated skills who were given up on by several organizations, and could become (and have, in Cust's case) serviceable big-league regulars.

The more Davis plays, the harder it is for his defense to hide under the radar.  He had another brilliant catch last night, and the stats back up what our eyes are seeing.  Davis' defensive numbers this season, even in limited time, have been incredible.  He's played 340 innings in CF, roughly 1/3 the amount of a full-time starting center fielder.  And yet in that time, he's made plays on 32 balls out of his zone (OOZ).  That means that he's gotten to a ball out of his zone at a terrific rate of once per every 10.6 innings played (1:10.6).  That figure is tremendous - signficantly better than Andruw Jones' rate of 1:12.5, Carlos Gomez' 1:12.1, Carlos Beltran's 1:12.73, or Adam Jones and Aaron Rowands' rates of 1:17.9.  Those are some serious defensive heavyweights there, and Davis' Hardball Times defensive numbers in '08 trump them all.  If he had played enough innings, Rajai would also comfortably be the Revised Zone Rating leader amongst CFers if he qualified with his RZR of .962.  That figure would also be the best qualifying RZR in the entire major leagues, although it's not appropriate to compare those figures across positions, because they each yield different average scores and top CFs tend to grade out highest.

I sure enjoy watching him play.  I hope he can hit well enough to finally stick and enjoy a career path like Dave Roberts, who didn't become a big-league starter until age 29 and yet still made a pile of money in his career.  In Davis' case, like Roberts, it seems like it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Tonight's lineups, including Davis batting leadoff for Oakland:

D. Span rf 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .308
N. Punto ss 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .293
J. Mauer c 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .317
J. Morneau 1b 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .308
J. Kubel dh 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .273
D. Young lf 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .282
B. Harris 3b 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .260
A. Casilla 2b 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .296
C. Gomez cf 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .253
 Totals 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  
 Oakland
  AB R H RBI BB K LOB Season Avg 
R. Davis cf 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .276
B. Crosby ss 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .249
R. Sweeney rf 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .291
F. Thomas dh 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .236
J. Cust lf 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .226
K. Suzuki c 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .284
D. Barton 1b 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .217
J. Hannahan 3b 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .222
E. Patterson 2b