The Oakland Athletics took care of business against the Angels last weekend by capturing two of three games, and they are now just one game out of first place as the month of August winds down. The offense got back on its feet, though it didn't tally any blowout wins last week, and the pitching is still more hit than miss (or, more miss than hit, looking at it from the batter's perspective). The A's now travel to Houston to try to avenge the series loss they suffered in their last visit at the end of July.
These are the expected pitching matchups for the series:
Mon: Jeff Samardzija vs. Scott Feldman
Tue: Jason Hammel vs. Dallas Keuchel
Wed: TBD (Drew Pomeranz?) vs. Brad Peacock
Shark and Hammel will make yet another attempt to perform like the pitchers who cost the A's a premium price in July. Oakland hasn't announced who will start on Wednesday, but it's expected to be a spot fill-in (likely Drew Pomeranz) so that the Big Four of Gray, Lester, Kazmir and Shark can all pitch in Anaheim starting Thursday.
Feldman and Keuchel each pitched well in their last matchups against the A's. Feldman went seven innings and allowed just one run (though the A's scored six in the ninth to win the game), and Keuchel tossed a complete game and allowed only one run as well. Peacock, on the other hand, got smoked for seven runs and didn't make it out of the fourth in his last try against Oakland. He then got shelled twice more in his next four starts after that. It's starting to look like Peacock might not be that good, and that his part of the Jed Lowrie deal is working out in the Oakland's favor.
1. The Astros made a noteworthy trade at the deadline, sending frustrating starting pitcher Jarred Cosart and fourth outfielder Kike Hernandez to the Miami Marlins in exchange for outfielder Jake Marisnick and last year's No. 6 overall draft pick, Colin Moran. What can you tell us about the 23-year-old Marisnick, both on offense (.299/.313/.377, 94 OPS+) and defense (plus-9 Defensive Runs Saved in 21 games, mostly in center field)?
RD: The Cosart trade brought back value on multiple fronts, but the most immediate was an MLB-ready defensive center fielder. That was something the Astros desperately needed with both Dexter Fowler and George Springer out of the lineup at the time of the trade. Marisnick is a gazelle in the outfield, getting a great first step on balls. His hit tool is where things have fallen apart for him in the past, as he's mostly a slap hitter who looks to beat out ground balls. Our editor David Coleman made a good comparison between Marisnick and the Red Sox's Jackie Bradley, Jr. in a recent article (link below).
It's great to have Jake Marisnick, but it will make things interesting going forward as the Astros' outfield is already crowded. Robbie Grossman, Dexter Fowler, George Springer, Domingo Santana, Preston Tucker, and Marisnick will all have legitimate cases to start or at least be on the major league bench. Where does that leave guys like Marc Krauss, Jesus Guzman, and L.J. Hoes in the Astros' future?
2. Chris Carter caught fire in the second half and already has 30 home runs on the season. He's still striking out a ton (over 30 percent of his plate appearances), and his OBP is still too low (.298), but has he reached a point where his power more than makes up for his deficiencies? Will he still be in Houston in 2015, or do you think the Astros will trade him this winter to cash in on his career year?
RD: Yes, for sure -- power is a rare tool in today's game. Carter has made adjustments to not take as many pitches in the zone and simply put the bat on the ball. As for your second question, I would lean toward a trade this offseason. But, the Astros have shown faith in Carter in the past when it's seemed like the right time to move him. The previously mentioned logjam at outfield may force the Astros' hand.
3. Dexter Fowler is having a career year at the plate in his first season out of Colorado (121 OPS+, 126 wRC+), but his defensive metrics in center field are abysmal. Has he proven to be a worthwhile acquisition for this young team? Have his contributions extended beyond the field in the form of veteran leadership or other intangibles?
RD: Yes on both counts. He has taken young George Springer under his wing and even let him stay at his house after his call-up. The Astros made strong effort to bring in quality veteran players this offseason for every part of the team, like Scott Feldman and Chad Qualls. Fowler has been a leader on the field and in the clubhouse; outside Fowler and Jason Castro, every regular starter is under the age of 25. Someone setting the example of "playing the game the right way" was something the Astros needed, and it's something Fowler gives them.
4. The A's are scheduled to face Scott Feldman, Dallas Keuchel, and Brad Peacock this week. Can you please write us a haiku or a limerick about any one of them?
Dallas Keuchel's Beard.
Mighty it flows as he throws.
As he wins it grows.
Thank you, Ryan, for participating in the Q&A!
The series started 10 minutes ago, Samardzija vs. Feldman. And that's all I have to say about that.