Three Bridge Sports » Jim Turvey Bay Area Sports: All Day, Every Day Wed, 09 Oct 2013 02:08:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Quick Hit: Game 4 Rant Wed, 09 Oct 2013 02:04:27 +0000 Jim Turvey 800px-Oakland_Coliseum_1980

(Photo Courtesy of Coliseum should be a madhouse on Thursday

by Jim Turvey




Well, that sucked. Whether it was that dickweed fan costing Reddick a chance to catch Victor’s fly ball (and yes, Reddick would have caught that ball), the multiple blown leads, the bullpen blow up, the bases loaded, no one out, Houdini act that Scherzer pulled, the ball Reddick bobbled off Jackson’s broken bat blooper, Melvin making a few questionable decisions (I would have loved to see Callaspo one batter earlier), or just Jhonny Peralta – it all sucked. The A’s fought and fought, especially from the offensive side, but just didn’t have enough to steal Game 4, and wrap up the series.

Now the series goes back to Oakland. Words can not describe how fired up I am for this game, and I’m pretty sure every A’s fan feels the same way. Between Jhonny PEDralta, Victor’s pussy-Rage, and whoever that idiot in the first row of the right field bleachers is, my dislike for the Tigers has never been greater. Game 5 gives the A’s the chance to take down Verlander (hopefully Colon can repeat Gray’s one up of Verlander from Game 2) in what should be a madhouse Coliseum crowd that I would give a nut to be able to attend.

Down with Verlander. Down with Detroit. Down with fricken Peralta. Let’s win Game 5.

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List Of Over/Under Prop Bets After Last Nights’ Game Mon, 07 Oct 2013 16:42:00 +0000 Jim Turvey by Jim Turvey



Over/Under 1,435,376,134- Times better Terrelle Pryor is than Matt Flynn

Over. Way over. Watching Pryor last night – even when he slowed down in the second half – was more of a treat than ever after having seen Flynn work last weekend. It’s nice to know that Allen made the right decision this season.


Over/Under 6.5- Wins for this year’s Raiders

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, but with both Pennsylvania teams and both New York teams still left on the schedue, the Raiders could pretty well find themselves back at a respectable total in the win column by the end of the year.


Over/Under 1,999.5- Times announcers will mention that Pryor was Al Davis’ last pick during his career

Over. But that’s not a bad thing. Pryor can hold onto this nugget with pride as Davis was known for taking risks that often paid off in spades. Hopefully Pryor is just the next in line.


Over/Under 0.5- Games in his career that Khalif Barnes has been able to avoid committing a penalty

Take the under.


Over/Under 1.5- Oakland Pro Bowlers this season

Since we’re in a Vegas mood, let’s list some odds for Raiders’ players in the Pro Bowl:

Charles Woodson- 2-1;  Marcel Reece- 5-2;  Marquette King- 4-1;  Terrelle Pryor- 5-1;  Lamarr Houston- 5-1;  Denarius Moore- 15-1;  Matt Flynn- 999-1


(Photo Courtesy of Jeffrey Beall)
Marcel Reece is looking to have another Pro Bowl season


Over/Under 14.5- “Catfish” taunts targeted at Manti Te’o by drunken Raiders’ fans after a full day of tailgating

I’m hoping over. (Editor’s note: just saw this)


Over/Under 30.5- Coverage (in seconds) of this game on ESPN all of Monday

I’ll go with the over, but just barely, and the focus were almost certainly be on the cool time lapse video of the stadium being reconstructed


Over/Under 2.5- NFL experts who said the AFC West would have the most combined wins in football by Week 5

Certainly the Chiefs and Broncos are helping the division’s record, but the Chargers and Raiders have both exceeded expectations and helped the division become possibly the best in the NFL.


Over/Under 22.5- East Coast viewers still awake by the end of this game at nearly 2:30am

Well, I make one (humblebrag), but I’ll still take the under.


Over/Under 17.5- Jock straps of the Chargers’ pas rushers that Pryor left on the ground in the first half, while the Chargers tried – without any luck – to slow him down

Over. Pryor was at his absolute slipperiest in the first half, looking like a prime Culpepper or McNabb. The second half, the Chargers seemed to reign him in a bit, but he still is as good as nearly any quarterback in the league at extending the play.


Over/Under 23.5- Raiders rank in this week’s NFL power rankings

I’ll take the under (which I guess means better!), but barely. I think that Pryor has won some people over, and I think that 23 seems like a reasonable rank for the Raiders to slip into.


Over/Under 99.5- Weeks since optimism has been this high for Oakland Raiders’ football

On November 27th, 2011, the Raiders sat at 7-4, and were in first place in the AFC West. As you remember, they would go on to falter down the stretch, and lose the division to the fighting Tebows, and since then optimism hasn’t always been high. However, with the way that Pryor and the defense looked, plus the fact that the special teams is starting to make good plays (how annoying was that field goal block turned first down?) has many Raiders’ fans feeling great about the future.


Over/Under 2.5- Head coaching offers Raiders’ assistants receive this off season

Jason Tarver, Greg Olson, and Tony Sparano have done outstanding jobs under Dennis Allen as the Defenisive, Offensive, and O-Line Coordinators respectively this season. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to worry that they are doing such good jobs that other teams are going to take notice, and try to snatch them up. Hopefully we can keep them around for another couple seasons, however.


Over/Under 0- How many of Phillip Rivers’ teammates actually like him



Over/Under 8.5- On a scale of 1-10, the importance of not going three-and-out on the drive immediately after the Chargers made the game 24-17

The field goal that they eventually got was obviously huge, but taking those extra few minutes off the clock were quite important as well. And even though it didn’t seem to slow down the Chargers’ momentum on offense they had to be much more rushed, which led to River’s sloppy passing and the ensuing turnovers.


Over/Under 1.5- Field goals inside of 50 yards that Janikowski misses the rest of the season

This may be aggressive, but it seems as though King and Janikowski may have finally figured out whatever issue with the hold was leading to Seabastian’s struggles earlier this season. By hitting from 47 and 50 yards out, Janikowski helped restore faith among Raiders’ fans in their kicker.


Over/Under 25.5- Games since the Raiders last forced five turnovers in a game

We’ll end with an objective and real “over.” The last time the Raiders forced five turnovers was against the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, and was the week before the aforementioned 7-4 start to their season. Hopefully the Raiders can do it again sooner than 26 games from now.


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ALDS Best of Three Mon, 07 Oct 2013 14:06:59 +0000 Jim Turvey 7660319702_a067c418f0_z

(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
Jarrod Parker will look to bounce back for today’s early start

by Jim Turvey



With the A’s and Tigers splitting the first two games of the series in Oakland, the ALDS has now moved to a best of three series. Unfortunately because Detroit was able to win in Oakland, in this “best of three” series the Tigers now hold home-field advantage. Let’s look back at the weekend, as well as look forward to the next two games in Detroit.

In the first two games, offense has been at a premium for both sides, and as such both games have been close. Detroit deserved Game 1, and Oakland deserved Game 2, finally pushing across the decisive run in the bottom of the ninth. As noted, both games were tight (especially Game 2, which will go down as one of the best ALDS games of the last decade), so it makes sense that there were both negatives and positives to come out of the weekend for the A’s.


Positive Trend- Sonny Gray’s arrival

On Saturday night, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, Sonny Gray out-dueled Justin Verlander in a game in which Verlander had his best stuff. Verlander had a bit of an off year in 2013, but when he is locked in, he is still one of the five best pitchers in baseball, and on Saturday he was certainly locked in. However, locked in as he may have been, he was no match for 23-yeard old Sonny Gray. Watching Gray pitch had the feel of watching a young semi-star make “the jump” to star status. In addition to pitching incredibly, he had an “ace vibe” emanating from him all night; I think part of it was the hat. Now obviously one great game, doesn’t make a bona fide star, but out-dueling Justin Verlander in a must-win playoff game is a very good start. If the A’s do go on to win this series, and do so in five games, I would feel great about having Sonny Gray as the Game 1 starter of the ALCS. That wasn’t the case before the playoffs started, but I’m all in on Gray now.


Disturbing Trend- A’s strikeouts

Through two games, the A’s have totaled 29 strikeouts. This blog has done its’ best to help with forward thinking baseball ideals, one of which being that strikeouts are not as bad a result as historically thought of, however, 14.5 strikeouts per game is a bit high. The biggest thing a strikeout hurts is the ability to move a runner over, and in a series as low scoring as this one has proven to be, moving a runner over can often be of great importance. Part of the A’s high strikeout totals can be attributed to facing Scherzer and Verlander, two of the top four strikeout men in the AL this season. However, the trend has spilled over to the bullpen, and if the A’s continue at this pace, they will almost certainly cost themselves a big run at some point. Certainly Chili Davis, and the A’s staff will have mentioned this before today’s game.


Positive Trend- Miggy’s sapped power

Miguel Cabrera’s production may not seem like the most positive trend for A’s fans, given that he has as many hits as any other Tigers’ player, and drove in the first run of the series, but from what I have seen, it appears as though he isn’t 100%. His swing doesn’t have the normal torque he gets, and if Cabrera can be held to singles all series, that will be an enormous advantage for the A’s. Knock on wood.


Disturbing (but also positive) Trend- My forecasting abilities

Before Game 1 I had Yoenis Cespedes pegged as the A’s player who would most likely struggle off of Scherzer. Of course he had the A’s only two extra base hits of the game, and his two-run home run provided the only runs of the game. This is a trend I can’t really complain about, of course, as being wrong about projecting A’s struggles is really a win.


Positive Trend- Home-field advantage

Yes, the A’s lost their home-field advantage by dropping Game 1, but man was the crowd for both games awesome. If the A’s can steal one in Detroit, even if it means facing Scherzer again in Game 5, that Game 5 crowd will be a huge advantage.


Future Forecast

With the A’s needing to take one in Detroit, they will send Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily out to the mound the next two nights to try to send the series back to Oakland. There will be a more in depth Game 4 preview, but let’s quickly break down Game 3.


What should worry the A’s

Game 3 is, on paper, a definite pitching advantage for the Tigers. Anibal Sanchez had an incredible season, and could have given teammate Max Scherzer a run for his money for the AL Cy Young if he hadn’t missed time in June, limiting his starts for the season to 29. He still managed to win the AL ERA crown, and struck out 17 Braves back in April, a foreboding sign given the A’s struggles making contact so far this series.

Jarrod Parker on the other hand, finished up a season that even the best RCT (yes, I am abbreviating Roller Coaster Tycoon) fan would have been proud of. He started off the year dreadfully, an April start against these Tigers being the worst in a group of seven starts in which he owned a 7.34 ERA. However, directly after this stretch, he would make nine consecutive quality starts, and allowed two or fewer earned runs in 16 of his next 22 starts. Furthermore, he only gave up more than three runs in one of those games. Unfortunately for A’s fans, however, he finished the year up with two more duds in his final three starts, and may not have the full faith of A’s fans right now.


What should worry the Tigers

On paper Game 3 seems like it shouldn’t worry the Tigers too much. But that’s exactly what the A’s want. Not too many folks had Sonny Gray out dueling Justin Verlander before Game 2, and often times the A’s save their best performances for when it is least expected. The A’s bats are also due to wake up, which means that even if Parker isn’t able to pitch a gem, hopefully he can get some run support. A high scoring game would tend to favor the A’s with the Tigers’ bullpen already showing its’ weakness this series. Outside of Benoit, the Tigers don’t have too many reliable arms, and the earlier the A’s get to those pitchers the better. Crisp, Moss, and Donaldson all seem due for extra base hits, and Game 3 would be the perfect time to break out, after leaving the spacious confines of Coliseum.



While the match up on paper seems to favor the Tigers in Game 3, as the old saying goes, “that’s why they play the games.” There are definitely some A’s hitters due to break out, and Parker has shown in the not-too-distant past that he is capable of producing like the top pick that he was. Overall, I think Game 4 might be the better chance to steal a game in Detroit, but really whenever the bats come alive will be the best time. It certainly could happen in Game 3, and that would be huge for the A’s.


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Week 5- Win 2 Fri, 04 Oct 2013 15:48:21 +0000 Jim Turvey 9709070156_3d18e357b8

(Photo Courtesy of zennie62)
Terrelle Pryor is back. Everyone rejoice!

by Jim Turvey



It seems like more than two weeks ago that the Raiders had just beaten the Jags, and that result, mixed with their solid showing against the Colts in Week 1, had Raiders’ fans secretly thinking about a possible playoff team. Here we are, just two weeks later, and although the narrative still seems positive, the results haven’t been there. Week 3 was an expected loss to a Broncos team that is looking more and more like it could possibly run the table this year (how nice would it be if they tried to finish their 16-0 regular season against us in Week 17, and we took them down, but that’s getting way ahead of ourselves), and although the loss to the Redskins last week wasn’t great, it also came without our entire starting backfield. This week Pryor returns, and as of writing this, McFadden and Reece are questionable. Reece has returned to practice, and although McFadden has not, Allen said that he may not need to practice Friday to still play on Sunday.

This week’s game takes place in Coliseum, and because the A’s have started their playoff run (based on message boards, it seems that I’m one of the few Raiders’ fans glad that the A’s are still playing) the game won’t start until 8:35pm. So get out your redbull(vodka)s and get ready to stay up a little late this Sunday to see the Chargers come to town.



The Raiders obviously have a lot of experience against division opponent, San Diego (cue now overused, “Whale’s Vagina” joke, who am I kidding, that could never be overused). Despite home-field advantage, the Raiders are currently four to five point underdogs against a Chargers’ team that has put up better than expected results this season. The Chargers have defeated two NFC East teams (although how much is that really saying), and lost by a field goal a piece to the supposed-contender Texans, and the up-and-coming Titans. Last season the Raiders lost both games to the Chargers but only by a combined eleven points.


When the Raiders have the ball

With the return of Terrelle Pryor behind center, hopefully Raiders’ fans will be treated to a much more dynamic and fun-to-watch offense this week. Last week saw seven sacks of Matt Flynn, as he did his best impression of the Statue of David, doing everything in his power to take the sack.

There’s more good news, however. The Chargers currently own the third-worst defense by yards per game, and the absolute worst defense as rated by DVOA. This means Pryor and the boys should be able to move the ball well on the Chargers, via the run and the pass.

The key to the Raiders’ offense will be their ability to score touchdowns in the redzone. We know they will be able to move the ball, but settling for field goals will be killer in what looks to be a high-scoring game. The Raiders currently sport a less than impressive 46.15% touchdown rate in the redzone; the Chargers are currently holding teams to a 58.33% touchdown rate in the redzone. Both of these rank in the bottom half of the NFL, and whoever can improve in that aspect this game will likely reap big benefits from it.

One target that I believe Pryor can look for in the redzone more often is Mychal Rivera. I don’t say that just because I’d love to see his sister’s reaction to another touchdown (well, maybe that’s part of the reason), but because his large frame lends perfectly to the redzone. Texans tight ends were able to decimate the Chargers for three touchdowns in Week 1, and looking to Rivera near the endzone may be huge for Pryor.


When the Raiders are on defense

The key to stopping the Chargers will most certainly be in slowing down Phillip Rivers. In the Chargers two wins, he has topped 400 yards each game. In their two losses, he has thrown less than 400 yards combined. The key to shutting down Rivers may well be in actually shutting down Antonio Gates. Once again, the yardage tells the story, as Gates has 260 yards receiving in the Chargers’ two wins and only 94 yards receiving in their two losses. Gates also had nearly twice as many targets in those two wins, meaning that the Raiders will really need to stick to Gates in order to slow down this potent Chargers’ passing attack.

Naturally, the key match up this game will be the Raiders’ linebackers on Antonio Gates. Kevin Burnett will most likely draw a lot of the coverage on Gates when they are in their base 4-3 defense, as he is the Raiders’ main pass-coverage linebacker. This is no easy task, as Rivers looks to Gates with great frequency, especially near the endzone. The Raiders have actually done a pretty good job against opposing tight ends so far this year, allowing only 16 catches and 181 yards according to ESPN. However, they did allow touchdowns to tight ends in each of the first three weeks. Gates, himself, has found the endzone each of the last two weeks, and Burnett as well as the rest of the Raiders keeping him out of the endzone will play a large part in their success on Sunday.


Can the Raiders special teams give them an edge?

Sadly, this section may soon have to be renamed, “Can the Raiders special teams not cost them this game?” seeing as they currently have the 28th ranked special teams according to DVOA. As excellent as Marquette King has been punting the ball, his holds really do seem to be an issue that needs to be cleared up, and cleared up quickly. The team is saying all the right things, but with yet another missed field goal last week (albeit from 52 yards), the Raiders really need to find a fix to this problem. This week has the makings of yet another close game, and another missed field goal would be killer.



This one seems like a classic Raiders’ win. With the extremely late start, and the fact that it isn’t the real Sunday Night Football game, and even on top of that, the fact that it will be airing on NFL Network, means that they can win and ESPN can sufficiently ignore their victory. I think the Raiders’ secondary will find a way to pressure Rivers and Burnett and co. can hold Gates to manageable yardage. Pryor returns strong, and even if McFadden is out, Jennings can manage to be serviceable out of the backfield. Raiders 30-24 (Yes, Janikowski makes three field goals)

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ALDS- Tigers @ Athletics- Game 1 Preview Fri, 04 Oct 2013 14:07:48 +0000 Jim Turvey 6979838210_23e197a653_z

(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
Bartolo Colon takes the ball Game 1 against Max Scherzer

by Jim Turvey



Three Bridge Sports is going to try to have a re/pre-view of each game of the A’s postseason with combined analysis of the previous game and the upcoming one. Since this is the first game of the A’s postseason it will not have a review section of course, which only means that the preview can be more in-depth.

The road to the World Series starts tonight when the Tigers come to town. The A’s won the right to host Games 1,2 and 5 by staying ahead of the Tigers in the final weekend. In fact, that final weekend was highlight by the Tigers pulling off an impressively poor feat. They were swept by the Marlins, only totaling three runs in the series, and getting no-hit in their final game of the season. The series was one of only two Marlins’ three game sweeps of an opponent this season, and the first since the beginning of June.

The last time the Tigers and Athletics met the A’s took three out of four in Detroit (and had a 6-3 lead in the ninth in the final game before imploding). Previously in the year, the A’s lost two out of three at home, but that was all the way back in April. These results can’t tell us too much, seeing as the sample size is nearly as minimal as it can get, but it’s still nice to know that we took the regular season against these guys. Game 1 features possible AL Cy Young winner, and 21-game winner, Max Scherzer versus possible AL Weight Champion, Bartolo Colon. Scherzer obviously had a very solid year, finishing at 21-3, but that was due in part to some strong run support, and a little bit of luck. The two pitchers had the two highest win totals in the American League.


When the A’s are batting

Bob Melvin loves to play match ups and platoon as much as any manager in the big leagues, which making projecting their line up a little tricky – for opposing managers, as well as mediocre sports writers. With Scherzer being right-handed, Moss and Reddick will likely find spots in the line up with Young (thankfully) riding the pine to start. The big question mark is whether Yoenis Cespedes will be ready to start. Since the line up has a few question marks as is, let’s take a look at who matches up best with Scherzer and who may struggle against him.

Scherzer has a pretty good repertoire of pitches, adding a curveball this season to a fastball/slider/changeup mix he previously had. Scherzer used his fastball less than ever this season, but still threw it a relatively high 56% of the time. His fastball averages over 93 mph, but his strength lies in his changeup and slider coming in at nearly the exact same speed – 84.5 for his slider and 84.6 for his changeup. His slider in particular has been brutal this year, with opposing batters hitting only .128, and slugging only .182 against the pitch this year. Scherzer used his slider predominantly against right-handed batters, and predominantly used it to break down and away from right-handed batters, which is standard.

So before we get to which A’s hitters may have success off of Scherzer, I think it’s necessary to comment on what every A’s fan is certainly thinking – maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing if Cespedes missed out on Game 1. Any fan who has watched Yoenis this season can tell, just by watching, that the low and away slider has been a weakness of his. He seems incapable of laying off of it, even if it is thrown consecutive pitches. Cespedes has also struggled more against hard-throwing pitchers this season, slugging only .343 against power pitchers vs. .496 against finesse pitchers. All things considered, Cespedes is actually one of the better A’s to be questionable for Friday’s game against Scherzer (late update – it appears Cespedes will be starting tonight, oh well).

Right off the bat, it’s important to note that while left-handed batters didn’t have a ton of success against Scherzer this year, they certainly had more success than right-handed batters (a .092 edge in slugging). Part of the reason for that is a previously mentioned, Scherzer’s top pitch, his slider, isn’t nearly as valuable when breaking in on lefties. The good news is with their flexible roster, the A’s can put quite a few left-handed bats in the lineup. With Lowrie, Moss, Reddick, Vogt, Sogard or Callaspo, and possibly even Barton or Smith, the A’s can really score big on the left-handed platoon. Now the question becomes, which of these lefties handles power pitchers the best?

According to baseball-reference, only Reddick and Moss do better against power pitchers, and only Moss really thrives against them (with a .578 slugging percentage). This is once again not a surprise given his ability to go to the opposite field with great power throughout this season.

Overall, the A’s match up decently with Scherzer thanks to their ability to platoon heavily. I also think Moss will be able to crank at least one extra base hit, hopefully one that clears the wall.


When the Colon is pitching

As has been noted previously on this site, Bartolo Colon relies on his fastball at a historically unprecedented rate. This season, Colon threw his fastball over 85% of the time, and what makes Colon’s fastball special is the movement on it. His fastball only comes in at an average rate of just over 90 mph, but averages nearly six inches in horizontal movement, and his “sinker” averages nearly ten inches of horizontal break.

While the Tigers certainly have a solid lineup, the real task comes down to limiting Fielder and Cabrera. Let’s take a look at how each of these two stack up against Colon.

Colon is a bit harder to profile than Scherzer because his skill set is so unique. We’ll take a look at how they have done in the past against Colon, but with such a small sample size there’s only so much to be projected.

In this case, that’s a good thing because Cabrera and Fielder both own an average of .500 or better against Colon, with twelve hits in a combined twenty-three at bats. In fact, the Tigers’ roster as a whole has an average of .321 with a slugging percentage of .524. However, as noted this sample size is far below the point at which it could be considered statistically relevant. Only Torii Hunter has more than 26 at bats off Colon, and many of those came when Colon was a totally different pitcher.

One seemingly disconcerting fact about Miguel Cabrera is how well he handles pitches in on the hands. Read Jonah Keri’s piece, here, and if you don’t read it, at least check out some of the graphics. Actually, maybe don’t if you’d prefer to avoid sadness. There is some good news out of this however, as Colon typically stays on the outside edge of the zone while pitching to both righties and lefties. Cabrera is still a good hitter on the outside edge, but not nearly as dominant as he is on the inner half.

Scouting Colon is one of the hardest jobs in baseball, considering his pitch repertoire and reliance on just one pitch. Looking back on just this year, the Tigers managed four runs in twelve innings off Colon, with Bartolo receiving two no decisions. Even scouting the Tigers’ offense is difficult right now, with Miguel Cabrera supposedly playing through severe pain, and the club fresh off of being no-hit. I believe we’ll know much more about this side of the game after tonight’s affair.


What’s the verdict, Fertile Myrtle?

I believe the A’s will be able to get three runs off of Scherzer, and at least one more off of the Tigers’ bullpen – a relative weakness that will be covered as a part of another preview. There are questions abound for when the A’s are in the field, but I believe a less than 100% Cabrera, and the home field advantage will push the A’s to a 4-2 victory in Game 1.

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Can The A’s Get Some Hardware? Wed, 02 Oct 2013 17:11:21 +0000 Jim Turvey 7666552804_63598bdcc2_z

(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
Bob Melvin and Bartolo Colon each have their eyes on some 2013 AL hardware. One is much more likely than the other

by Jim Turvey



During the last decade or so, the Oakland Athletics have done pretty well in loading up their trophy case with MLB awards. Bob Melvin won Coach of the Year last season, three of the last nine AL Rookies of the Year have been A’s, and if we go back to 2002 the A’s had both the MVP and Cy Young winners in the same season. So what’re the chances the A’s can add to their collection this season? Let’s take a look at the options


The “not going to happen”- AL Cy Young- Bartolo Colon

Let’s start with the fact that Colon is not going to win an MLB sanctioned award in the same year that he was named in the Biogenesis report.

That being said, Colon does deserve plaudits for his season, and hopefully will show up on a few ballots. His 18 wins and 2.65 ERA both ranked second in the American League. Wins are becoming near sacrilege to mention in comparing players among baseball statisticians as they are (rightfully) considered archaic and team oriented. That being said, the voters for MLB awards have shown themselves to be slightly archaic, so maybe this is Colon’s best chance.

More up to date metrics also show Colon as having a great year. First, there’s the fact that no AL pitchers had more shutouts, and only three AL pitchers had more quality starts. His FIP was sixth in the AL, which although helped by the massive foul grounds is an impressive feat. Where Colon’s case starts to fall apart is in the fact that he no longer can dominate a hitter like the typical Cy Young winner would. His 117 strikeouts were only good for 44th in the AL, and even though his WHIP was 12th in the AL, that’s a far cry from Cy Young material.


The “what could have been”- AL Rookie of the Year- Sonny Gray

Gray wasn’t called up until July 10th of this season, and for good reason. The A’s always like to play the arbitration game with their rookies, and the A’s rotation wasn’t in need of Gray just yet. However, when he came up he made an immediate impact. Gray was moved into the rotation on August 10th, and made ten starts between then and the end of the season. He finished the season with 64 IP, a 2.67 ERA, a 2.70 FIP, 1.5 WAR, and more than a strikeout per inning. He established himself as a possible postseason contributor, and had way more composure than would be expected of a 23-year-old rookie.

At this moment, Wil Myers seems to be the likely AL ROY, and Myers himself had to wait until June 18th to debut. Myers is deserving of the award, but the 2.4 to 1.5 WAR edge that Myers holds over Gray would undoubtedly been erased if the two had seen equal amounts of playing time. Myers played in 88 games; meaning if he played in a reasonable 150 games, at that pace, his value would have been at 4.1 WAR. Gray, on the other hand, only made ten starts. If we turn those ten starts into 30 starts, a reasonable whole season figure for a pitcher, his value jumps to 4.5 WAR, assuming he were able to keep the same pace. Given that his batting average on balls in play allowed was at .276 (the league average is just below .300), and his left on base percentage was 74.9% (the league average is just above 70%) it doesn’t seem unimaginable that he could have kept up this pace.


The “so under the radar that it’s now a bit over mentioned”- AL MVP- Josh Donaldson

ESPN has a lot of problems, but one of the beauties of it is that when they get on board with a progressive sports’ movement it catches on quick. Such is the tale of WAR and baseball. The statistic itself has been around for longer than one would think based on the WAR boom that has occurred in the last year. This has, of course, been the result of ESPN turning into “WARmongers” promoting the statistic every possible chance. This can be a little annoying especially since there are so many other fun statistics to play around with out there (I’m a sucker for ERA+ and OPS+ myself), but it has helped to get players like Josh Donaldson noticed.

Just a few years ago, a third baseman for the A’s with a .301 average and 24 home runs would never be in the discussion for MVP. However, thanks to a little WAR (now listed on the main statistical page for MLB on ESPN), Donaldson is getting the credit he deserves. In fact, he may be getting a little bit more credit than he deserves. Now here me out, I’m as much of an A’s fan as anyone else, but saying that Donaldson has had a better year than Miguel Cabrera strikes me as a little odd. Granted Donaldson is an excellent fielder, and Cabrera is a human sieve at third, but is the difference enough to make up for the difference in their offensive production?

According to WAR – yes. Donaldson finished the year 8.0 WAR (it’s worth noting that lists 8.0 WAR and above as “an MVP season”) to Cabrera’s 7.2 WAR. In fact, Donaldson only trailed fellow AL West phenom Mike Trout who was worth 9.2 WAR, leading the league with ease for the second straight year. As much as I consider myself with the times in terms of modern baseball thought, one idea that I still haven’t grasped is giving the MVP to a player on a losing team. I get the concept behind it, but for my money, I don’t know if I would even consider myself an MVP if my team was sitting out October. I think this has to do with the idea put forward by SABR president Vince Gennaro in his book “Diamond Dollars,” which states that each win from 81-90 is exponentially more valuable, whereas wins 0-80 are less valuable.

So for this discussion let’s limit the debate to Cabrera and Donaldson. Here’s a mini breakdown of their 2013 seasons:


Donaldson 89 24 93 .301 .384 .499 148 289 15 1.8 113 4.7
Cabrera 103 44 137 .348 .442 .636 187 353 19 -1.4 155 6.7


It’s pretty easy to see here that while Donaldson had an awesome year, his offensive numbers can’t compete with Cabrera even though Miggy was hurt or missed work most of the last month (he had just two extra base hits from August 27th to the end of the season). The Runs Created (RC), Win Probability Added (WPA), and On-base plus slugging (OPS+) that comes with park and league adjustments all go to show that his numbers are not just the result of being surrounded by a more talented group of hitters than Donaldson.

Donaldson’s only real hope comes from the fact that he is a borderline Gold Glove third baseman, and compared to Miggy, he’s Brooks Robinson. Personally, I don’t think this is enough, and I don’t think the voters will either.


The “legitimate chance to repeat”- AL Manager of the Year- Bob Melvin

What Melvin has done with the team the last two seasons has been incredible. He’s rejuvenated the A’s, and managed to exceed even the most hopeful A’s fans dreams with two straight division titles in a top-heavy AL West. If anything, Melvin’s case this year is hurt by the fact that he won it last year, meaning the team is an already established feel-good story. This leaves room for Terry Francona, Ned Yost, or even John Farrell (although thinking of the Red Sox as a feel-good under-dog story makes me want to vomit everywhere). I believe Melvin has once again done the best job using platoons, utilizing advanced scouting, and getting the most out of his talent, and personally think that the AL Manager of the Year should just be a coin flip between Joe Maddon and Melvin every year until they prove us wrong. Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the new guys will replace Melvin this year. Just as long as it’s not Farrell, on the basis that he did some incredible turn around job on a team that spends over $150 million, I’m all right with that.


So as it looks now, this might not be the year for the A’s to get any individual hardware. They will certainly draw votes in every category, and Donaldson and Melvin do have legit cases, but maybe it’s for the best that the emphasis be on a certain different piece of hardware this season. One that’s a little more team oriented and hasn’t been around Oakland since 1989. One that would certainly trump winning any of these awards, and one for which we start the chase on Friday.

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Le Jeu Dangereux Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:59:40 +0000 Jim Turvey 7998493097_edbcbd1a83_z-2

(Photo Courtesy of june10459)
McFadden looked good before an early exit

by Jim Turvey



I never took French, but something told me that “the dangerous game” would sound better in French. This week’s recap is going to be exactly that, the most dangerous game any sports’ fan can play – the “What If” game. It’s a game that can haunt fans for weeks, months, or even years. It can haunt baseball teams – what if the Tigers hadn’t been given the first two games of the ALDS at home last year even though the A’s were the higher seed? It can certainly haunt football teams – what if Tom Brady wasn’t a protected little diva who got lucky that a bogus “tuck rule” just implemented gave officials the opportunity to let him and his UGGs get into field goal range? It can even haunt my fantasy teams – what if the Royals offense had simply scored one run in the first nine innings of last Sunday’s game? See, isn’t this game fun?

Yesterday was a classic day filled with “What Ifs” for Raiders fans. Let’s take a look at some of them, and see what might have happened.


What if Terrelle Pryor had been given the start?

This is a very generous “What If,” given that I could have gone with, “What if Matt Flynn had any pocket presence whatsoever, like seriously any at all?” or even, “What if Matt Flynn were able to play quarterback at an NFL replacement level?” but those seemed a bit harsh. Instead, let’s focus on what could have been, given that starting Pryor was actually possible, and those previous two “What Ifs” now seem impossible.

First, let me say that the Raiders did the right thing by keeping Pryor out.

Pryor is seeming more and more like this team’s future at quarterback, and when the guy says he can’t remember parts of last week’s game (even if it was tongue-in-cheek), and has to wear sunglasses on the sideline during the game, it’s best he not line up across from Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. However, if we hypothetically had faced the Redskins in another week, when Pryor was ready to go, there’s little doubt in my mind that the Raiders would have won this game.


(Photo Courtesy of

Matt Flynn seemed to do the impossible on Sunday, which was take coverage sacks behind a supposedly porous offensive line. He held onto the ball fooorrreevvveerrr, and screwed the Raiders out of good field position a couple times by doing so. Pryor could have at least gotten back to the line, and I believe turned some of those coverage sacks into positive runs, that at least could have helped in the field position battle which occurred for most of the game. Flynn did throw one touchdown, but it came right after he threw a ball directly into Orakpo’s hands, and got lucky that it was dropped. Other than that one drive, Flynn was pretty useless.

It’s a lot to say that one player could be worth ten points, but when the position is quarterback, and the other option is Matt Flynn, it’s not really that much of a stretch. There is also a lot to be said for Pryor’s attitude yesterday. Despite being ruled inactive, he was coaching receivers on the sideline, not giving up, and even getting onto the field to break up skirmishes. I have to say, I wasn’t a Pryor believer at the beginning of the year, but man I couldn’t have been more off base. I think he could be the real deal for the Raiders going forward, and I can’t wait to have him back in the starting line up.


What if Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece (and about ten other Raiders’ players) hadn’t gone down with injuries?

There are a lot of sports’ terms that become more and more familiar the more frequently you watch sports. One of those terms is “war of attrition.” Well, yesterday’s game defined the phrase war of attrition, as both teams seemed to lose a player (and not just random special teams’ players) every few minutes. The biggest names for the Raiders were arguably McFadden and Reece.

In Friday’s preview of the game I pegged the run game as the most important aspect of the game – it turns out I was wrong. I overestimated Flynn’s ability to manage a game, and now have gone 180 degrees to thinking that although important, missing McFadden and Reece wasn’t as big as missing Pryor. Rashad Jennings certainly didn’t gash the Redskins’ defense like those two could have, but his work catching the ball out of the backfield, along with Flynn putting them in too many 2nd and 3rd and longs meant that DMC and Reece weren’t as essential. In fact, his 116 yards from scrimmage to go along with his huge punt block in the first quarter probably make Jennings the player of the game for the Raiders.


What if Marquette King really is the reason for Janikowski’s struggles this season?

Sea-bass hasn’t been his normal self this year, and while some of that may be the result of reaching the age of 35, it seems likely that something else is up. There seems to be evidence that King’s holds are certainly different than Lechler’s, and maybe this is just an adjustment period for the kicking game. However, one would think that by Week 4, the adjustment period is over, and the holder is what he is – and King doesn’t seem to be the right answer as the holder. My personal suggestion that I have had previous to this game, is to have Flynn hold, but after this week my guess is that he would catch the snap, and not put down the hold until he had taken the sack.

Whatever the answer is, the Raiders need to fix it quickly because they are good enough to be in a lot of close games, and the Janikowski misses are really taking their toll.


What if Dennis Allen had chosen to kick a field goal with three and a half minutes to go?

This one is a little hairier because I understand the logic behind going for it. It may be the closest the Raiders would get to the end zone, and with a touchdown needed at some point, why not trust your that your quarterback can fall forward to get you the first down? Here’s the thing though, with Reece and McFadden out of the game, it put the onus on Flynn, and relying on Flynn is not a good idea. Once the Redskins got the stop, the defense just wasn’t the same. That 3rd and eight conversion was a killer, and the defense, which had such a nice flow to it early in the game, just didn’t seem like the same unit. If Allen kicks the field goal instead (assuming King gets the hold right for a Janikowski make), then it keeps the defense motivated by knowing that their team is only down by one score. This “What If” is certainly more controversial than the others, but I think it was one of the few mistakes Allen has made this season.


Since the game was a loss it makes sense that most of the questions so far have been negative, but there were some positives to the game. Let’s quickly take a look at some of the more hopeful “What Ifs.”


What if the Raiders’ secondary has made an actual improvement on third down defense?

The Raiders’ secondary looked solid all game, especially on third down. They only gave up four passing third down conversions, and were able to harass RGIII on many of those attempts. This has been a weakness of the Raiders’ defense this year, so hopefully this improvement can be more than just a one-week phenomenon.


What if Tony Sparano ends up being one of the best off-season coaching signings?
This may seem like a strange question given that his offensive line just allowed seven sacks, but in all honesty most of those sacks were on Flynn. Even the few times he was under quick pressure, Pryor could have evaded the one defender. As a whole, I have been pleasantly surprised that the Raiders’ patchwork offensive line has actually held up relatively well. Once this line returns to full health, this could actually become a strength of the club, and I think it speaks to Sparano’s value as a coach.


What if the Raiders had a really hot, celebrity fan, who loves rooting for her brother?


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Week 4- Win 2 Fri, 27 Sep 2013 17:29:10 +0000 Jim Turvey 5126854505_1b581e4e6c_z

(Photo Courtesy of Jeffrey Beall)
Could Marcel Reece help open up the Redskins for Darren McFadden? Hopefully

by Jim Turvey



Monday Night wasn’t pretty for the Raiders as they lost pretty handily to the Broncos, and quite possibly lost their starting quarterback for this weekend. Even though there were a lot more negatives than positives, there a few positives to take out of the game. Pryor’s connection with Denarius Moore gave them their first real big pass play of the year. Even if it was the result of a minor gaffe on two defenders’ parts, it still was nice to see. Matt Flynn also looked solid in his very brief play at the end of the game, something we will touch on later. McFadden was able to punch it in from the 1 yard line for the second time this year, giving him more rushing touchdowns from the 1 yard line this year than he did from 2009-2012. He also proved himself the most valuable passing running back in the NFL yet again, completing a touchdown pass on an excellent play call from Greg Olson.

Not to pull a “Skip Bayless” and use shock journalism mixed with huge overreactions, but this week seems to be the turning point in the season for the Raiders. Week 1 was more about feeling out how Pryor would run the team than the result, although the result led to Raiders’ fans having some hope for the season. The next two weeks, the Raiders played arguably the worst team in football and arguably the best. These are not the type of teams that a team can judge itself on. The Raiders performed as expected, beating the Jags and losing to the Broncos.

This week, however, offers much more of a litmus test for the rest of the season. At 1-2, if the Raiders win they would be looking at a pretty good chance of having a respectable season, and maybe even finishing around .500. If they lose, however, the momentum from those first two weeks of the season is now even further away, and with the week-to-week nature of the modern NFL, momentum can be lost easily. With that being said, let’s take a look at how the Raiders can win this week’s match up against the Redskins.


When the Raiders have the ball

Without a doubt the Raiders best offensive weapon this year has been Terrelle Pryor. The NFL has yet to create a statistic like WAR (Wins Above Replacement) that baseball has to track a player’s total contributions to his team. If I were to guess, however, I would say that Pryor has been worth about as much as the rest of the offense combined. He has 822 of the teams’ 1,105 total yards, and has a quarterback rating of 86.7. Obviously if he can’t play (which seems likely at the time I write this) it is going to be a big obstacle on the road to victory. Luckily for the Raiders, however, they have a pretty decent back up in Matt Flynn, who was brought in to be the starter this off-season. With the offensive line looking at least a little better than the train wreck it was supposed to be (all the credit in the world to Tony Sparano on that one), along with the Redskins owning the second to last rated pass defense so far this season, I actually am relatively confident Flynn will have a solid game. The problem with Flynn was never that he would lose you a game; it was the question of whether or not he could really win you a game.

That’s why I think the key to this game is actually Darren McFadden, Marcel “The Shell” Reece, and the run game. With Flynn likely playing as the game manager he is, it will be up to the run game to really put some distance between the Raiders and the Redskins. The Redskins also own the second worst run defense in the NFL so far (these stats are only three weeks’ worth, so sample size has to be considered) meaning that McFadden should be able to get some room to run. McFadden has been maddeningly inconsistent so far. Week 1 he rushed for 48 yards on 2.8 yards per carry. Week 2 he rushed for 129 yards on 6.8 yards per carry. Finally, on Monday he rushed for 9 yards on 0.8 yards per carry. None of these results are even close to each other, so it’s really hard to figure out what to make of his play this year.

One key to springing him for yards on Sunday, I believe, will be to use Marcel Reece waaaay more. If Terrelle Pryor is indeed out, the onus will be much more on DMC to get the ground game going, and this is where Reece can help out. No Offensive Coordinator is going to hand the ball off to his fullback 20 times in a game, but if Reece got 10-15 carries Sunday to go along with 20-25 for McFadden, I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that.


When the Raiders are on defense

Before the season, many Raiders’ pundits – myself included – thought that the defense would be the stronger unit of the team, and their best chance to be respectable. Through three games, however, that has not been the case. While their defense ranks 16th in opposing passing yards and 17th in opposing rushing yards, there are some disturbing numbers that underlie those ranks. For one, the Raiders’ secondary has been completely incapable of creating incompletions. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 76.5% of their passes, by far the highest (meaning worst in the eyes of the Raiders and their fans) in the NFL. If Chad “the guy who backs up Blaine Gabbert” Henne is removed, that number jumps up to 83%, an incredibly high number. Granted, Luck and Manning are two if the best quarterbacks in the league, but RGIII is no slouch in this category, finishing fourth in the NFL with a 65.6 completion percentage last year, and that number has only dipped to 63.3 this season despite his struggles so far.

The Raiders’ secondary has also not yet intercepted a pass, a trend that has to change if they are going to continue to allow completions at such a high percent. Part of the reason that opposing quarterbacks have completed such a high number of their passes is that Raiders’ Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver often has the secondary blitzing to create chaos in the backfield. This is all well and good when it can create actual pressure like in parts of the Colts’ and Jags’ games, but against a quarterback as mobile as RGIII this may be a more difficult game plan. RG-Knee has certainly not looked his normal self this season, and this may be the best hope for the Raiders’ to slow him down. If they can hold his completion percentage around his season total, while bringing pressure with the secondary, the defense should have a pretty good day, and hopefully force Griffin into some bad throws. I think the key match up here will be the opposing coordinators, Jason Tarver and Kyle Shanahan, matching wits, and trying to stay one step ahead of the other.


Can our special teams create an edge?

Like our defense, our special teams started the year as a supposed strength, but has actually been a weakness so far this season. According to DVOA, the Raiders currently sport the 4th worst special teams unit so far this season. I think this assessment is a little bit harsh, especially with Marquette King showing he was indeed the right choice at punter (currently leading the league in punting average), but they have certainly not been as strong as Raiders’ fans would hope for. In a game due to be pretty close, if our special teams can return to form they could definitely provide an edge.



Even if Pryor sits out, this seems like an entirely winnable game. I am a bit concerned that Raiders’ fans almost seem too confident based on articles, and message boards I have read, but having faith in your team is never a bad thing. I see Flynn managing the game, allowing the running game, and one big turnover, to be the deciding factor.

Raiders 27 Redskins 24

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What The Final Weekend Means For The A’s Thu, 26 Sep 2013 16:58:56 +0000 Jim Turvey 7660319702_a067c418f0_z

(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
Jarrod Parker makes a big start for the A’s on Saturday

by Jim Turvey



With just a weekend series against the Mariners remaining, A’s playoff baseball is right around the corner. As much hype as the AL Wild Card race has received, the race for the top-three seeds in the American League is pretty close as well. The A’s currently sit two games behind the Red Sox, and one game ahead of the Tigers. With such few games left this may sound like each team is a sure bet to stay in that position, but there are quite a few scenarios that could throw a wrench in the system.

First of all, the top-seeded Red Sox play the most difficult team this weekend (the Orioles), and the third-seeded Tigers play the easiest team this weekend (the Marlins). Because the A’s own the tiebreaker with the Tigers (they took four out of seven games this season), the A’s would have to either get swept while the Tigers won two out of three, or lose two out of three while the Tigers swept the Marlins to drop to the three seed.

Looking up, it gets a little more complicated. Tim Britton did a pretty good job breaking down the scenarios here, but a few days have passed since then so some updates are needed. The A’s split their six games with the Red Sox this season meaning that the tiebreaker would go to divisional record. The Red Sox currently hold a one game lead on the A’s in this category, BUT if the A’s were to catch up those two games that they currently trail over this weekend, they would pass the Red Sox. For example, the A’s currently sit at 42-31 in the AL West, and the Red Sox are at 43-30 in the AL East. If the A’s were to sweep the Mariners, and the Red Sox were to lose two out of three to the O’s, the A’s would hold a 45-31 to 44-32 advantage in divisional record (the same advantage hold true if the Red Sox got swept, and the A’s took two of three).

Here’s the thing, though – the A’s have struggled all year against the Mariners. They are 6-10 against the Mariners, and haven’t won a series in Seattle all year. The Red Sox have also struggled against the O’s, but making up those two games may be difficult this weekend. Holding off the Tigers should probably be the A’s first priority. If the A’s can take two out of three this weekend it would guarantee them at least the second seed in the AL, and thus home-field advantage against the Tigers in the first round.

As of right now, the A’s rotation seems to be in perfect shape for the end of the year. Their top three starters – in name at least – Colon, Parker and Gray are slated to make the three starts this weekend. This means that they get their three top pitchers throwing with their seeding on the line, and with Game 1 of their ALDS series not starting until Friday October 4th, they can start the series with their top guns yet again, giving Melvin plenty of options.

Now some A’s fans may remember last year, and worry that holding off the Tigers for the two-seed may not be a good thing seeing as the Tigers defeated the A’s who were the higher seed in the 2012 ALDS. The Tigers were able to win the first two at home, and then steal Game Five on the road and move on to the ALCS. However, MLB has returned to the 2-2-1 ALDS series format meaning that home-field advantage is once again an actual advantage (arguably even more of an advantage than in a seven game series). The Tigers got lucky last year in that they were given the first two games at home despite the lower seed. This happened because the two-wild card format was only implemented after the schedule for the year had been set, but this year those first two games would be in Oakland along with Game Five, an enormous advantage to hold.

All things considered, the A’s find themselves in a favorable position headed into the final weekend. It would be nice if the Marlins and Orioles could provide the A’s with a little help, but with their top-three pitchers slated to throw, and the fact that they control their own destiny for the two-seed, the A’s should feel good heading into the playoffs.

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Quick Hit: The A’s Repeat As AL West Champions Tue, 24 Sep 2013 18:16:17 +0000 Jim Turvey


(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
Bartolo Colon and the A’s have won our hearts, along with the AL West, yet again

by Jim Turvey

The Oakland Athletics once again reign supreme in the AL West. Yes, those A’s that sport a payroll of less than $70 million, fifth lowest in all of baseball. Yes, those A’s whose top paid player has contributed all of 0.2 rWAR through the 2013 season. Yes, those A’s whose “ace” is only paid $3 million, and yes, those A’s that seem to call up another rookie pitcher every week, only to see him have a quality start no matter what. Yes, those A’s who embody team baseball.

No, not those Rangers who have now collapsed in September for the second straight year – after collapsing in October the year before that. No, not those Rangers who took the division lead in August, and had all of baseball predicting they would never look back. No, not those Angels who play in the second biggest market in baseball, and sport a payroll double the A’s. No, not those Angels that have arguably the world’s most dynamic player, the only player in baseball worth more than Josh Donaldson this year. No, not those Astros who, well, yeah…

The A’s have now won five of the last twelve AL West titles, and have, in the words of Frank Sinatra, done it their way. They’ve had contributions from everyone up and down the roster, and are at the cutting edge of platooning, and defensive shifts. They continue to out produce teams with far greater resources than their own because they understand how baseball should be played (and in a greater sense, managed at the top levels).

Next up is a likely match up with the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS. The Tigers have a top-five payroll, and arguably the best hitter in the world right now. So naturally the A’s will feel good about their chances.

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