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Weekend Thoughts

Posted by davefowkes on 04/18/2009

A wide variety of thoughts to get me through my weekend:

–It was very interesting listening to the entire Bay Area jump ship on the Sharks Friday. Thursday was clearly a big disappointment for one and all. But I am clearly in the minority thinking that San Jose played okay. They need to play better of course, but it is not like this series is over. Most importantly the Sharks must solve their problems on the power play. If they can get that corrected they will win game 2 and go on to win this series. If they can’t score on the power play, well, let’s just say that would not be good.

–The Sharks must be more decisive on their shots. They had enough shots on net but they were not quick and the goalie and the defense was ready for the shot. The Sharks need to get more movement in the offensive zone. If they can get the defense and goalie moving, those Shots will be far more effective, especially on that power play.

–I still like the look of this young A’s pitching staff. Taking 2/3 from Boston was very nice. The only loss was Brett Anderson who only gave up two runs in 7 innings but lost when the bullpen blew up in the 8th inning and Tim Wakefield was throwig a no-hitter into the 8th inning. Trevor Cahill goes again today but so far his first two starts have been very good. Dallas Braden has got the job done so far. If the hitters can keep up with the pitchers, the A’s have a shot to contend.

–Eric Chavez hurt in the first week. There is a stunner. Notice, at first it was a day off. Then a series. Now he hopes to return on Monday. That is Eric Chavez for you. Hopefully Bobby Crosby continues to improve now that he is getting a few days in a row in the lineup to work on his defense and improve his hitting.

–Too early to say “I told you so?” The Giants are as good or as bad as their starting pitching. So far that pitching has been pretty poor. Tim Lincecum with two bad outings, the Big Unit looking old and Barry Zito looking like Barry Zito. That is enough to lead to an 0-6 road trip. Last night Jonathan Sanchez stepped up with a great outing, and the Giants win. As goes the staring rotation, so goes the Giants!


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A’s pitching off to okay start

Posted by davefowkes on 04/11/2009

The big question coming into the season for Oakland was how would the young pitching staff hold up. Early results are optimistic!

I loved what I saw from 21-year old Brett Anderson last night in his major league debut. Sure he took the loss, but in making his debut in the A’s home opener, he only had one bad inning! Anderson gave up five runs in the second inning. But the other five innings he pitched, he did not give up run. He was 1-2-3 in the first. He did not get himself in a lot of trouble. He was one bad inning from having a great debut! 21-year old pitchers will struggle at times. So to see Anderson come up with a game like that last night, it certainly provides plenty of hope for his future.

Trevor Cahill struggled a bit more in his debut in Anaheim. I did not have the opportunity to watch the game, but as I followed online you could tell he was struggling with his control. Five walks are too many to be giving up regardless of your age. That said, despite his struggles, Cahill fought through it for five innings, and he was an unearned run away from leaving the game with a lead. As his emotions settle down and he gets used to the fact that he is now a major league pitcher, his control should improve.

The “veterans” of the staff also had nice debuts in Anaheim. Dallas Braden was far from special but 6 innings of 3 run ball will win him some games this year. Dana Eveland also suffered from lack of run support while he was on the mound, but he looked like he was ready to take a step forward from last year. Consistency is what killed Eveland last year, so judging him on one game is unfair.

With the offense apparently ready to step up from the last couple of years, these young pitchers should have more run support then their predecessors. We obviously can’t make too much from one game or one start, but I did like what I saw this week and it does give me much hope for the season!

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Opening Day Thoughts

Posted by davefowkes on 04/07/2009

Baseball plays for real now! A couple of quick notes from the first day and a half of action:

–So they A’s spent all this money on offense and what does it buy them? Three hits! Whoa! I know it is just one game but that was not what the A’s nation wanted to see on opening night. A 3-0 shutout and just getting three hits. At least it was newcomers Matt Holliday, Orlando Cabrera and what appears to be a healthy Eric Chavez who got them, but I think we all expected more.

–Dallas Braden was okay which is just what I expect from him. He should have a better year than his past but he just does not strike me as the shut down ace of your staff. I am looking forward to Trevor Cahill’s debut tonight and Brett Anderson’s debut on Thursday!

–Apparently the Giants can hit! In a game that may have been rained out, it was the pitchers that got rained on. Nice explosion from an offense that needs all the momentum it can get. Nice to see Travis Ishikawa start out strong. Bengie Molina looked sharp. And Aaron Rowand seems past his bad spring now that the games count for real?

–Tim Lincecum did not look good. I worry about that NOT at all! It just goes to show you how meaningless these long spring trainings can be because in the first month in cold environments, often bad weather, and sometimes just bad pitching, even great pitchers look terrible. Lincecum was off his game, but how about Brandon Webb? How about CC Sabathia? When these guys struggle in June we’ll talk, until then, this is still spring training for some pitchers.

–That said, anytime the Giants win when Lincecum struggles is huge!

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It’s All About Pitching In Oakland (My A’s Preview)

Posted by davefowkes on 04/04/2009

It is pretty easy to figure the Oakland A’s out this season. If their young pitching staff comes through, their 21-year olds turn into phenoms, the A’s will shock the world and run away with the west! But if the young guns need seasoning, if nobody in the rotation steps up to realize the hype, then this season could go down as one of total disappointment that finds the A’s near the bottom of the league!

Yes, there is a huge range for what could lie ahead for Oakland. That range will be narrowed by the greatness or not so greatness of guys named Dallas Braden, Dana Eveland, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Josh Outman, Sean Gallagher and Gio Gonzalez. A’s fans hope they have a big three of the future, but the reality could be they just have young pitchers.

The irony of the A’s is that they spent money this off season, and they have brought in many veteran players to score some runs. But on the mound they are goig to be as young as they ever have been. Braden and Eveland are both 24, Anderson and Cahill both 21. The starting rotation has 16 career wins combined. If this was Kansas City we would be scared! But in Oakland, there is a lot of faith in their young pitching and in their potential. Sky is certainly the limit for guys like Anderson and Cahill. Gio was the top prospect last year and when he fully recovers from injury I am guessing he will be in line for another shot at the rotation should one of the top five guys go down.

Sean Gallagher has been a disappointment since coming over from Chicago in the Rich Harden trade. But he will start in the bullpen in long relief and if he can get his control back will also push for starts if any of the other starters fail.

Josh Outman arrived in the Joe Blanton trade and has surprised many by earning the fifth starters spot. Is he ready for the big leagues?

Dana Eveland was hit and miss last year. He certainly can hurl the ball but can he control where he throws it? He looks like he maxes out about a #3 type pitcher. Dallas Braden stuns all by getting the opening day nod. He has bounced up and down from the minors, to the A’s, and from the bullpen to the starter’s mound. Can he find consistency?

Then of course there are the potential phenoms. Cahill and Anderson are the real deal! But taking that step from prospect to real deal is a huge step. There will be a lot of pressure on these kids and the A’s need them to respond.

And of course I have not even mentioned the “ace” of the squad, Justin Duchsherer who will be out until May. At that point the A’s I am sure will look at their successes. If anyone is struggling, Duke goes back into the rotation, but if everyone is doing well, look for the A’s to try to save his arm by returning him to the bullpen.

The bullpen should be a strength, but the closer position is hardly a guaranty. Brad Ziegler will get the first shot to defend the position he finished the year at last year. Ziegler was great in his rookie season but his style is probably better served in the set up role. That said, nobody could score on Ziegler last year, so until they do, why mess with success? Joey Devine starts on the disabled list and I am worried if they will really get much from him this year. His arm does not sound in the best of shape. I love Santiago Casilla in a set up role. If Ziegler can close the door, the A’s bullpen should be good.

This is the best offense we have seen in Oakland in years. Everyone talks about the infield but I love the outfield. Matt Holiday was of course a great pick up. I look for great things from Ryan Sweeney in center field though. He showed flashes last year but had trouble staying healthy. If he can do that, and avoid a sophomore slump, I think he could be a key to the A’s offense this year. Jack Cust will DH and play right field with help from Travis Buck. Cust so frustrates me with his strikeouts, but his power can not be overlooked.

The infield is as deep as ever. Jason Giambi, Mark Ellis, Orlando Cabrera and (a healthy?) Eric Chavez with Bobby Crosby and Nomar Garciaparra ready to go when needed. I am not a believer in Chavez anymore but when he does go down to injury I do expect a big year from Crosby. A contract year, his benching, good off season training, I think Crosby could surprise a lot of folk if he can get on the field. The DH rotation of Cust, Giambi, Garciaparra should keep a quality bat in the lineup every day and provide ample rest for the older folks.

In conclusion, I like the A’s to score a lot more runs this year! But the reality of the season still comes back to their starting pitching! Statistics would indicate they can not get lucky with all 5 young pitchers being great. The odds say if 2 of them are great, that would be a wonderful find.

When you balance out this, that and the other, I will say the A’s are competitive this season even with a young staff. I will go with 84 wins and second place behind an Angels team that eventually gets healthy and buys themselves another division crown.

I could be right, I could be very wrong, but the reasoning will be clear: As the A’s starting pitching goes, so goes the A’s successes or failures! It is quite cut and dry!

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Bye Bye Duchsherer

Posted by davefowkes on 03/27/2009

I am certainly not surprised but it is definitely disappointing. Susan Slusser of the Chronicle is reporting that Justin Duchsherer is going to have arthroscopic surgery on his injured elbow and that will likely cost him at least the month of April. With that, the Oakland A’s lose their best starting pitcher and probably get a lot younger in the starting rotation.

Duchsherer has been battling injury for nearly his whole career. He could be considered the pitching version of Eric Chavez in my book. Great if he is out there (okay so great may be a strong work for Chavez) but they can not get him out there enough. This spring he has battled an elbow injury. Every couple of weeks he would go out and give it another try only to fall short again. This week he tried a minor league game but had to shut it down early because of soreness. So now it is time to go under the knife and see if they can figure out what the problem is.

Hopefully for Duchsherer and the A’s it is just scar tissue, or swelling, or something easily fixed. But if doctors find something worse, well let’s just say that would be trouble!

So where does this leave the A’s? It appears Dallas Braden will make the opening night start. Braden was a top prospect a couple of years ago but in two years of bouncing between Sacramento and Oakland he has yet to establish himself. He brings six career wins with him to the mound. Dana Eveland and Sean Gallagher will be the next two pitchers. Eveland showed flashes of something last year, but his inconsistency cost him by the end of the year. Gallagher came over from the Cubs in the Rich Harden trade but did not distinguish himself. Between the two of them they have 16 career wins.

With neither Josh Outman nor Edgar Gonzalez establishing themselves and Gio Gonzalez missing time due to injury, it is looking more and more like top prospects Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill will make their major league debuts. It would be a shock if Anderson did not, Cahill seems to be a little more of a question mark.

There is a TON of potential in that rotation, but it really is a scary starting five for a team that is hoping to contend in the AL West. The A’s spent money and upgraded their offense in the off season, but now they find themselves very unknowing when it comes to pitching. If the hyp is the real deal, the A’s will soar! But when was the last time five young pitchers all hit their hype!

Duchsherer is a very good pitcher when healthy but given last year’s struggles, it was a big gamble of the A’s to not bring in a veteran pitcher to help anchor the squad. So for now, it appears the A’s will send out one of the youngest rotations in the Major Leagues, and let’s see what happens! It should be fun to see the youngsters for the first month, but without success, it could get ugly early!

A’s note:  The A’s also added a couple of catchers today. Just adding depth, probably nothing that actually affects the opening day lineup. Here is the story:

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A’s: Pitching and Coaching

Posted by davefowkes on 03/25/2009

For the better part of this decade the question in Oakland has been who will hit? This year the strange question will be can anyone pitch?

The A’s made an announcement this week extending the contract of manager Bob Geren for a year. Really that is not a big deal to me. Geren  seems like a decent enough manager, neither great nor bad. That is probably why Billy Beane likes him so much! But while the manager seems set for the next couple of years, the pitching could range from outstanding to horrible.

The big three have been replaced by five questions in the rotation. As of today it appears Dallas Braden is in the starting rotation and may even

Dallas Braden

Dallas Braden

get promoted to opening day pitcher! Justin Duchsherer is clearly a good pitcher but can he stay healthy? Will the A’s move him back to the bullpen to try and save his arm? The A’s really need a healthy dose of Duchsherer this year to contend. After that you have Dana Eveland, a bit of a surprise last year who had his ups and downs during the season as many rookies will. When you watch Eveland pitch you think he probably maxes out as a solid #3 pitcher. But that is if he hits his potential, because he is struggling this spring. Sean Gallagher came to the A’s in the Rich Harden trade but he still relies heavily on the “P” word as well: Potential. So far his results are mixed.

Brett AndersonThen there is the second coming of the Big Three! Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro. I expect all three to be starting next season but what about this season? Can the A’s go into a season in which they bought some heavy hitters only to start a pair of 21-year olds? Mazzaro is already demoted to AAA to work on his game, but he won’t be far down the list of call ups if needed. Anderson and Cahill both sound like superstars in the making but are they ready?

Then there is Josh Outman and Edgar Gonzalez, who feel like a couple of journeymen who certainly won’t instill fear in the heart of the opposition.

The A’s offense should be better with Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, a second year from Ryan Sweeney and anything they can get from the injured brigade of the old school. But even with the new additions the A’s will be in a lot of trouble if they are forced to score 5-6 runs per game just to compete. Oakland is about pitching and right now that is a big question mark.

Given the options, I probably go with Anderson and Cahill early and see how they fare. Even if it does not work out early, they will have a taste of the big leagues and a place to build on at AAA. Match the youngsters with Braden (we have been waiting on him for a couple of years, is he finally ready?), Eveland and Gallagher and see what happens. Gonzalez and Outman can work long relief and provide spot starts for the injured. Duchsherer is of course the wild card that could bump someone back to Sacramento.

The A’s are in a weird place now where they are old at the plate but young on the mound. They need that combination to come strong to keep pace with the Angels. Without the pitching, look for a long season in the East Bay! But if some of these young guns are for real? Watch out AL West!

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Chavez reports, will it matter?

Posted by davefowkes on 02/16/2009

A nice little piece here from the AP on Eric Chavez who reported to camp early.

And being there for one day it has been determined he will sit out the first week of Cactus league:

I am a Chavez fan, I wish him the best, I think if healthy he could really be big in the A’s new potentially potent offense, but I have had it with spring training optimism about Chavvy. To me, it will be news when Chavez actually steps on the field during the regular season and performs to the expectations we have.

Every year it is the same old thing. He starts the season in the lineup, slumps, then reveals he is injured and is battling through them, then goes on the DL and is gone for the season. I am done with the expectations and the A’s should be too. At this point, the A’s should plan on another third baseman. If Chavvy is healthy and comes through that is all bonus time! But Chavez is just unreliable now as an every day third baseman. Keep in mind even when he was playing between injuries his batting average is way down, his strikeouts way up and his overall productivity was just disappointing.

I hope I am wrong but I just feel like we are watching a career ending injury that just is taking a few years to finally sink in. But boy I hope I am wrong because a healthy Chavez with Matt Holiday and Jack Cust could really add some punch to that lineup!

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