Three Bridge Sports » MLB http://www.threebridgesports.com Bay Area Sports: All Day, Every Day Wed, 09 Oct 2013 02:08:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6 Quick Hit: Game 4 Rant http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/08/quick-hit-game-4-rant/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/08/quick-hit-game-4-rant/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 02:04:27 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=987 800px-Oakland_Coliseum_1980

(Photo Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)
O.co 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 O.co 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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ALDS Best of Three http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/07/alds-best-of-three/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/07/alds-best-of-three/#comments Mon, 07 Oct 2013 14:06:59 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=970 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 O.co Coliseum.

 

Verdict

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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ALDS- Tigers @ Athletics- Game 1 Preview http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/04/alds-tigers-athletics-game-1-preview/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/04/alds-tigers-athletics-game-1-preview/#comments Fri, 04 Oct 2013 14:07:48 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=948 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? http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/02/can-the-as-get-some-hardware/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/02/can-the-as-get-some-hardware/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 17:11:21 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=922 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 O.co 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 baseball-reference.com 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:

 

R HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS+ TB GDP dWAR RC WPA
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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Follow-Up of Hunter Pence’s New Contract http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/02/follow-up-of-hunter-pences-new-contract/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/02/follow-up-of-hunter-pences-new-contract/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 15:45:11 +0000 Andrew Bantly http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=907 "Curtesy of SD Dirk"

“Courtesy of SD Dirk”

by Andrew Bantly

 

 

Back on September 24, 2013 I wrote a piece that previewed the contract breakdown between Hunter Pence and the San Francisco Giants. As I do not work in the Giants front office I could only estimate the deal from my research. So let’s see where I was right, and wrong…

To begin, Hunter Pence signed a $90 million dollar deal over 5-years that was officially announced last Sunday before their last home game against the Padres where, with typical Hunter Pence dramatics, Pence hit a bases-loaded walk-off single to win the game.

Now to review I stated, in my prior piece, that Pence would get around $51 million for 3 years. It must be stated that when thinking about this deal I assumed the Giants would be careful, maybe overly careful, with their money. With memories of Barry Zito’s contract just now starting to fade away, Giants fans have a sensitive stomach when it comes to new contracts. With that said, the Giants organization must find a way to compete, without spending great amounts of money, with the Los Angeles Dodgers who spend like the US Government.

Let’s do some math for a moment.

$90 million ….

Divided by 5 …

Equals $18 million dollars per year.

Ok ready.

Hunter Pence is going to make, on average, $18 million dollars each year for the next five years. Currently, that is exactly how much Pence is worth, in this market. I thought it would be around $17 million, so seeing the $18 million mark was no surprise. I mean come on now, what is one million dollars anyway… But in all actuality, to sign a top market player for under $20 million dollars is a victory in it’s own right.

Well let’s ask one more time, is Hunter Pence’s truly worth $18 million per year?

OF COURSE!

This is a guy who played and started in every single game this season for the Giants — the first time this has happened since Alvin Dark back in 1954. Since 2008, he has played in, on average, 158 games each year. He is a durable athlete to say the least. A career .285 hitter who averages, since 2008, 24.67 home runs and 91 RBIs proves that he can produce and is worth the money. So yeah, he is worth the $18 million, because his production in the next 2-3 years should be worth the whole 5-year contract. He is even more valuable than that because if the Giants couldn’t make a deal with Pence and they lost this kind of production in right field, it would cause a big problem in their lineup on a daily basis.

But the 5 years…

Ok, that might have been a bit grim. But still, it’s a little long.

Pence turns 31-years-old next April and 5 years seems a little elongated.

Though Pence is a very durable athlete, it is very unlikely at the age of 35, in his final season, he will be a productive starting player. But I could be wrong; there is always a chance. But it’s an immensely small chance. His first 3 seasons should see a productive Hunter Pence, though less and less each year. But in his final 2 seasons in this new contract he will probably not be the guaranteed starter. Why? Because players who’s production and success rely directly on their athleticism and reaction skills, simply don’t age well. So in his final two seasons, at the age of 34 and 35, he will be in question and, possibly, in his final year be competing just to make the roster. But remember, this is a short-term thinking team.

But…

Look who else is on the market? Ok…

-Jacoby Ellsbury

-Shin-Soo Choo

-Nelson Cruz

-Carlos Beltran

Only Jacoby Ellsbury is younger than Pence, and only by 5 months. With that, each one of these players will be getting similar contracts with Shin-Soo Choo likely getting more money in his next contract. If one asked, what’s wrong with Nelson Cruz or Carlos Beltran joining the Giants instead? Yea sure these are two great hitters, but seeing Beltran back in San Francisco is HIGHLY unlikely as he left on his own. And Cruz is an awful fielder that would cost the Giants valuable runs.

“One more year, $26 million more than I thought Pence would get by signing early. I never learn — in baseball, money is free.” Ray Ratto

So yes, Ray Ratto and I agree that 4 years would have been best. But Hunter Pence’s new contract fits well with the Giants and how they have to make production in this market.

To end with a fun fact, in 2001 at the age of 36 Barry Bonds signed the same 5 year, $90 million dollar contract with the Giants. Frankly, that contract worked out great for the Giants.

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Anagramming the A’s http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/30/anagramming-the-as/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/30/anagramming-the-as/#comments Mon, 30 Sep 2013 15:59:22 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=896 7673312652_bef75089a0_z

(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
If you see Brandon Moss coming your way with a hot iron, please run

by Will Begley

 

 

As the leaves start to change from green to gold (or in Northern California, as the grass starts to change from gold to basically the same shade of gold), the mind of every baseball changes from honest, objective measures of players—homers, OPS, and wOBA are basically it—to the metrics that really tell us something about their character. I refer, of course, to anagrams of their names.

In the words of A’s legend Reggie Jackson, “You can tell a lot about a ballplayer by [what you get when you’re bored one day and you rearrange the letters in his name]. I myself happen to be [JOE GINGERSACK].” Indeed, when Reggie was clubbing by the bay during the ‘70s, he used that very pseudonym to pick up women in numbers that make Wilt Chamberlain’s ghostwriter weep for shame. But the glorious three-peats of the seventies are past and gone, and a new Oakland club is taking its own run at eternal glory, leaving the question on every fan’s lips: what can you tell about the current A’s by their anagrams?

Brandon “BRANDS MOONS” Moss was evidently the cruelest pledge director in Phi Delta Theta history, and Sonny “NOSY, ANGRY” Gray is not as affable or detached as he seems in interviews. The pitcher who presents the least confidence in his abilities when addressing young autograph-seekers is Hideki Okajima (“HI KID! I AM A JOKE.”) The most supportive of the Balfour Rage dance is Ryan Cook (“AY, ROCK ON.”) The most unusual hobbies are those of Dan “ANT RODEO” Otero and Eric Sidney Sogard (“YES, I DIG RED ACORNS.”) Jose Canseco is never far from the gaze of his countryman Yoenis Cespedes (SEES P.E.D. ICON? YES.) No one better embodies the green-collar ethos of the Moneyball years in Oakland than Chris Young (NO RICH GUYS). Tommy “LINE TO MY MOM” Milone writes home most often.

Numerous A’s players have deeply held opinions of public transit in the Bay Area (Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART). Grant “FRUGAL ON BART” Balfour saves money with the monthly pass; authorities get the most concerned emails from Brett Anderson (“RE: DENTS ON BART”). Some of the newer members of the club aren’t exactly BART-savvy; Alberto Callaspo remains unclear about BART’s identity and nationality (BART’S A LOCAL POLE). Daric William Barton uses his commute to act out carnivorous childhood fantasies (“I’M A WILD BART CAR LION!”), but Bartolo Colon finds going to the park by public transport laughably plebeian (“O.CO ON BART? LOL”). One imagines he would also chuckle, however, at how Sean Doolittle gets to games (ON A TOILET SLED). You get a totally ludicrous name if you anagram Coco Crisp (COCO CRISP).

To conclude, best of luck to the 2013 Oakland Athletics, Western Champs. Or, as it says on Billy Beane’s desk, MATH PERCENTS LAW: I SACK A’S ON THE DL.

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What The Final Weekend Means For The A’s http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/26/what-the-final-weekend-means-for-the-as/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/26/what-the-final-weekend-means-for-the-as/#comments Thu, 26 Sep 2013 16:58:56 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=860 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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Pence and Lincecum Offseason Preview http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/24/pence-and-lincecum-offseason-preview/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/24/pence-and-lincecum-offseason-preview/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 20:15:11 +0000 Andrew Bantly http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=821 by Andrew Bantly

 

With only 6 games left there is no doubt that the Giants are thinking about next season. Well, they’ve probably been thinking about next season since the end of July when, all of a sudden, the defending champs were 10 games out. Even though this season the Giants were, and I guess still are, the biggest disappointment in the MLB, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be competitive next season. The Giants, though probably not the favorites, will be expected to be in contention for the division title and wild card spots.

But…

They need to sign Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum.

"Curtesy of Don DeBold"

“Curtesy of Don DeBold”

Let’s start with Pence. No doubt between the two soon-to-be free agents Pence is more valuable and more needed to the Giants. Pence is a guy who could put up 30-30 numbers and has proven over his 7-year career that he is a very (VERY) durable player who has played in over 150 games in every year except for his rookie season. Hunter Pence has hit 25 home runs with 93 RBIs this season while maintaining a .286 BA and stealing 21 bases.

With Pence-like numbers every team will be interested, but there is no team with more need than the Giants. And luckily for the Giants, Pence likes playing in San Francisco. A Pence-less Giants will cause all sorts of problems. They already have a HUGE hole in left field, but having two holes in the corner outfield position would be devastating. These two positions are, traditionally, run-producing positions that the Giants can’t afford to be without.

Now the Giants have to offer Pence a contract longer than 2 years. Pence, at age 30, won’t return to the Giants or sign to any team for less than 3 years. And Pence will no doubt get multiple 3 or more year contracts if the Giants don’t sign him in their exclusive negotiation period. A 3-year contract would be ideal for the Giants. A short-term contract with Pence will help the Giants compete with the Dodgers in the short-term and not make them suffer in future years. Need I say Barry Zito? … Now a 3-year contract would supply, likely, two solid seasons of production from Pence. If the 2016 Giants had to deal with a “weaker” Pence than what we have seen this season, there would be no problem with the contract. Every contract now-a-days is dragged out longer than what every player can produce because the short-term value is more important to the front office and fans than the long-term.

Currently making $13.8 million a year, Pence would likely be looking for a sum greater than $15 million. It is likely that Pence will sign this offseason a contract for around $17 million, more than he is actually worth but that is the way it goes.

Now, is it worth it for the Giants to spend $17 million on Pence for 3 years?

Hell yea it is!

The Giants would sign that contract in a hurry and fill their right field hole.

Why?

Because any other player similar to Pence is either not available, will cost a heavy penny to get, or will require trading prospects they don’t have. In the case of the Giants not signing Pence, the San Francisco fans will be worried though about wasting prospects… again… Zack Wheeler is still too fresh in our minds.

Now Tim Lincecum is a different, simpler story.

"Curtesy of SD Dirk"

“Curtesy of SD Dirk”

The 2-time Cy Young Award winner who threw a no-hitter earlier this year still has dominating stuff. He isn’t the pitcher who consistently strikes out 12 and throws in the high 90s to triple digits, but Lincecum can throw a dominating game at any moment.

In looking at the 2014 projected pitching rotation we must look at Zito and Vogelsong first. Likely the Giants will pick up the option on Vogelsong and drop Zito’s. With Cain and Bumgarner not going anywhere the Giants rotation needs more. Giants prospect Mike Kickham could very well be the number 5 starter next season if he has a good spring. But the Giants, in order to be competitive, need to have that solid 3rd starter.

Lincecum is by no means an ace as he once was. But is he a number 3 starter? No doubt, in fact he might be one of the most exciting number 3 starters out there.

Lincecum, like Pence, will attract a lot of attention if the Giants fail to sign him in their exclusive negotiation period. Lincecum by no means deserves the big bucks that we see top pitchers making each offseason, though Lincecum will make more money with another, more aggressive, team.

With that said, the Giants should be able to resign Lincecum. Currently making $22 million at the age of 29, Lincecum will no doubt see a pay cut. With that said the Giants and Lincecum will be looking for different contracts. The Giants won’t be willing to sign Lincecum for more than 4 years, but Lincecum is probably looking for a 5 or 6-year deal. But when it comes to the dollar amount, I think both parties will agree. Lincecum is probably worth about $8-10 million a year, but in this market he will get about $11 to $13 million. Obviously better than the $22 he is making now, to the Giants at least.

But unlike Pence, losing Lincecum won’t be the end of the world. There are other options. Starting pitcher Heath Hembree is a prospect who will be up for discussion this spring. Matt Garza, Phil Hughs, Hiroki Kuroda, Paul Maholm, Ervin Santana, Jason Vargas will all be free agents that will be on the Giants’ list if Lincecum, for one reason or another, doesn’t work out.

Though it seems inevitable, the Giants should have a much better season than this year’s disaster if they make sure they can resign and sign where it is needed.

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Quick Hit: The A’s Repeat As AL West Champions http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/24/quick-hit-the-as-repeat-as-al-west-champions/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/24/quick-hit-the-as-repeat-as-al-west-champions/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 18:16:17 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=829

bartolo2

(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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Japanese Home Run King A Good Fit For The Giants http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/19/japanese-home-run-king-a-good-fit-for-the-giants/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/19/japanese-home-run-king-a-good-fit-for-the-giants/#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2013 15:37:45 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=744 by Mikey Hlebasko

 

 

While the A’s make their playoff push, the Giants are beginning to think about next season. Former MLB player Wladimir Balentien, who just broke the single season home run record in Japan, has reportedly become a major target for the Giants this offseason. Balentien was once a top prospect (he played in the Futures Game when it was in AT&T Park), but after a two-run double at Yankee Stadium started his Major League career with a bang in 2007, he quickly faded and was out of the MLB by 2009. He batted .221 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs 511 at-bats. Balentien has since had a renaissance for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, with 31 home runs in each of his first two seasons before his record-breaking output this year of 58 and counting. Balentien is a former top prospect that flamed out and bounced to the Far East to rediscover his mojo – sound familiar? It should to Giants fans, who have seen Ryan Vogelsong follow the same trajectory. Signing Vogelsong was a huge coup for the Giants, and while it would be unwise to expect Balentien to turn into an MLB All-Star like Vogey did, Balentien is certainly worth the gamble at the right price. He also has a very good relationship with Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens, who managed him on Team Netherlands at the 2013 World Baseball Classic and maintains regular contact with him during the baseball season. The Giants are desperately in need of power, and Balentien has plenty of it. Even if he can’t dominate Major League pitching as he has in Japan, he could add a power surge as a fourth outfielder for the Giants. Sabean would do well to take another chance like he did with Vogelsong.

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