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Friday, August 12, 2005

Sifting Through The Ruins

Yesterday's loss deserves more contemplation than I gave it at the time, for not only does it expose the thinness of the bullpen, it also exposed Mike Scioscia's less-than-ideal utilization thereof. As Matt Shugart commented upon earlier in the year in alt.sports.baseball.calif-angels, K-Rod's on pace for a much lighter load, 30% fewer innings than last year, since becoming closer. With the bullpen in such dire straits, you'd think he could have pitched in (pardon the pun) in the eighth as well facing the top of the A's order. One possible justification for the lighter load, however, might be that he was in winter ball again in this previous offseason and so started with more innings on his arm than the Angels might have liked.

Another problem that the Angels faced, pointed out by Tim Brown in the Times, is that once Anderson's gone, there's really no compelling reason to pitch to Vlad. Kotchman may have had three taters against the AAAA pitching the Devil Rays offer year in and year out, but no way does he manhandle the A's staff, not yet anyway.

The really sad thing for the Angels is that they played themselves into a place where a simple game of catch could beat them, where Mike Scioscia had no choice but to summon his closer in a tie game on the road, where one marginal call would lead to one half-effort and one mad sprint from third base. Sadder still, the Angels know they beat Rich Harden, and had Barry Zito and Joe Blanton beaten, and have second place to show for it.

And in the loss that gave the series to the A's, Guerrero saw four pitches and took two swings. On the first, he homered to left-center field. On the second, he flied out to left. In between, he was walked intentionally when the A's option was to pitch to rookie Casey Kotchman, and in the seventh and ninth innings he was walked intentionally in front of Bengie Molina.

In Garret Anderson's absence, Kotchman, Molina and Steve Finley were left with some critical at-bats. And although Finley doubled home two runs for a four-run lead in the seventh, he spent most of the afternoon popping out.

Now everybody is expending a lot of energy convincing themselves Finley is in a four-month slump — and not a career's-over inevitability — while outfielders Jay Payton, Preston Wilson, Eric Byrnes and Matt Lawton all changed franchises in the past few weeks.

Finley, of course, now looks like he's done, and the Angels look like patsies for failing to do something about their obvious deficiencies. That includes batting Kennedy ninth when he clearly presents a better option at or near the top of the order. One thing that's become increasingly frustrating over time is that Scioscia appears to be making out his lineups as though he were still stuck in 2002, and none of the players involved had changed. Newsflash: Eckstein is gone, Erstad's no longer much of an offensive threat, and sans protection, Vlad's gonna get the Barry Bonds treatment. It's the same problem Scioscia has with the bullpen, and he needs to snap out of it.

Part of the problem, of course, is that this is actually a pretty rickety team, and for that the blame rests squarely with Bill Stoneman. I'm pretty sure I don't agree with Richard when he writes that "if Erick Aybar is the club’s starting shortstop in 2008, something went disastrously awry." Maybe. What if he's hitting .298/.379/.506? Guys turn into pumpkins all the time, but they also do not. For a top ten guy in baseball's top system, Aybar oughta be flippable, not for some measely short reliever, but something a little better than that. Else, you'd better get a stone cold ace. (And really, Richard, Kyle Farnsworth doesn't qualify as help.)

So far as fixing the bullpen is concerned: L.A. Seitz had an excellent suggestion, and that is to drop Kelvim Escobar into the bullpen in the swingman role. He's done it, Santana hasn't, and it's only for a little while -- through the end of the season, anyway.

WRT the offense: the Angels have two hopes here, and they're named Kotchman and McPherson. Dallas has to come up big once he returns; Kotch likewise. I'm not sure either one will, not this year, anyway.

At last, I recall the ultimate (some would call it final) solution: Fire Bill Stoneman. It's a drastic one, but I would also add: who else to get here?

The most annoying part is all the jeering and haw-haw-haw-ing from the smartypants SABR crowd, not to mention the more obnoxious Oakland fans. As we got to see last night, there are more than a few elements in green and gold who have no class whatsoever. (Not that all or even a majority of Oakland fans are thus, but wins like this one seem to draw the imbeciles out of the closet, or from under rocks, or wherever it is they spend their time when not shadenfreudeing.) Don't get so cocky, kids. There's a lot of baseball left to play. And a first round to lose in. Still.

Update: James Click with a very balanced look at last night's disaster:

Yesterday's game will likely be seen as the culmination of months of inevitability, the once moribund Oakland squad finally overtaking their more free-swinging opponents to gracefully ride off into the sunset. It's not that cut and dry. The A's and Angels have seven more games against each other as the season winds down, but the A's have been the best team in the division for two-and-a-half months. They won't continue playing .800 ball, but with their easier schedule--the A's have most of their remaining games against the Central while the Angels still have to play the East--it's Oakland's division to lose.

Comments:
When I wrote "if Erick Aybar is the club’s starting shortstop in 2008, something went disastrously awry" I was thinking more of Brandon Wood than Erick Aybar turning into a pumpkin. Of the Angels' quads, Aybar is my least favorite (which is to say, he'd be a top-5 prospect in every other system), so I don't see much chance of him ever starting for this club.

The question I keep asking: Why do we need four middle infield prospects within a year of each other?
 
As an eternally pessimistic A's fan, bandwagon braggarts who come out of the woodwork after a single victory really tick me off. I'm constantly baited by Angels fans at work whenever the Halos beat the A's, yet when the A's win I refrain from trash talking, because it's idiotic to pretend that the team I root for is some dominant, unbeatable force simply because they won a particular game or series.

I didn't even take much joy out of yesterday's victory, because it reminded me all too vividly of the kind of absurd, surreal pratfalls that the post-2000 A's fall victim to every time they have a chance to win a playoff series.
 
"And really, Richard, Kyle Farnsworth doesn't qualify as help."

Farsworth: 2.53 (ERA)/.204 (BAA)/11.27 (K/9)

Donnelly: 4.04/.235/7.16

Who would you rather have had in yesterday's game? (And it wouldn't have cost the Angels Erick Aybar, either. Something like Dusty Bergman and Steven Shell would have gotten it done, perhaps even less.)
 
Aren't you better off having Vlad walked every PA? A 1.000 OPS is hard to beat.
 
Wow, a front-page cite. Cool!

Ok, so Tim Brown thinks that the Angels should have made a deal for Jay Payton, Preston Wilson, Eric Byrnes or Matt Lawton.

Agreed FInley is at the end--I figured last September was a swan song--but are any of the names listed above really better than on-roster or in-system talent?
 
Farnsworth is a flaky reliever who can bring high-90's heat but melts in the postseason, and drinks and screws his way through the regular season. He's not any good over any two-year stretch and hardly an answer for a team in contention.
 
Oh, Rob...

Don't mention the A's recent ALDS futility. It's hurts me very much.

All kidding aside, I believe this if the A's make it to the playoffs they will advance.

Besides from Zito, Duke, Rincon, Hatteberg, Chavez and Ellis the rest of the team does not have that monkey on their back.

Looking at replays of the "sulk-off" that pitch could have gone either way. Smart pitching though, Chavez has had trouble with the outside stuff, but for K-Rod to be sulking on a botched strike one is a little too much.
 

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