Cleat Geeks

A’s “Bullpenning” The Wild Card Game

The Oakland Athletics are going to start the Wild Card game tonight at 7:08 on TBS with a relief pitcher.

A pitcher with no wins in the regular season.

A pitcher cut from the 40-man roster in June who spent two months toiling in the minor leagues.

He is right-hander Liam Hendriks. And he is going to be entrusted with beating the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, and sending the Athletics to the post season with a win, though he probably wont be around long enough to qualify for the win.

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Photo by; USA Today

Oakland manager Bob Melvin has been scrambling because of injuries to starting pitchers Jharel Cotton, Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Paul Blackburn, Andrew Triggs and Daniel Gossett . Yet, the A’s finished second in the AL West at 97-65, their best record in 16 years. But, 45 of their 97 wins came from their relievers who went 45-16.That would give the A’s the second-most bullpen wins in big league history behind Tampa Bay’s 54 this year.

Hendriks, a 29-year-old in his third season with Oakland, started for Minnesota (2011-14) and Kansas City (2014) before Toronto converted him to the bullpen in 2015. He had a 7.36 ERA in 13 relief appearances this season when he was designated for assignment on June 25 to clear a roster spot for Edwin Jackson.

Then 40-38, the A’s went on to win their next six games and 11 of 13.

“Apparently I’m a pariah,” Hendriks said jokingly.

After 21 appearances with Triple-A Nashville, he was brought back on Sept. 1 when active rosters expanded to 40. Not only are the A’s going this uncharted non-traditional route, but the only starter expected to be on Oakland’s roster Wednesday is Edwin Jackson.

Hendriks will be only the fourth pitcher to commence a postseason game after a regular season of no wins, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Virgil Trucks started twice for Detroit in the 1945 World Series after returning from World War II and making one regular-season appearance. Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo returned from a torn knee ligament in 2008 and St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter came back from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in 2012.

 “The reason that we started looking at this is because we’ve had so many injuries in our rotation, and we’re just trying to do the best possible thing that we think for a particular day,” Melvin said. “We’re just trying to do what’s best for us…. We’re trying to figure out who goes where to benefit the strengths of our team.”

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Photo by; The Mercury News

 Melvin did not divulge his pitching plans beyond Hendriks and said his club’s roster for the Wild Card game has not even been settled yet. He noted the distinction between a “bullpen game” — using a series of relievers in 1- and 2-inning stints — and using Hendriks as an opener before turning to a traditional starter for multiple innings, in the role the pioneering Tampa Bay Rays call “the bulk guy.” He did not commit to either strategy for Wednesday’s game. His best starter this season, Sean Manaea, endured season-ending shoulder surgery in September.

At a media session Tuesday reserved for the Oakland Athletics’ starting pitcher in Wednesday’s AL Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium, two players appeared at the podium. Right-handers Liam Hendriks and Blake Treinen represent the front and back ends of the bullpen mix A’s manager Bob Melvin intends to ride into the ALDS: Hendriks is the opener, Treinen the closer.

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Photo by; MLB.com

Let’s hear from both the “opener” and the “closer. “Obviously it’s still a new thing to us a little bit, but we’ve had enough success with it over the last month or so that we’re going to give it a whirl,” Hendriks said. “The bullpen has been throwing a lot more, and it’s just another concept of that. Instead of the starter going six and handing it over to the bullpen or going five and handing it over to the bullpen, now we’re just reversing it.”

“In today’s game, I think there’s been a struggle between old-school mentality and sabermetrics, and this is a way to kind of incorporate sabermetrics with effectiveness,” said Treinen. “We have guys in the front office that do a lot of research to put us in the best situations for success, and I think it’s our job to put some faith in them. We’ve got the arms to make this make sense.”

Using a committee of relievers to cover all nine innings, better known as “bullpenning” has been an increasingly common strategy across the league over the past few years, especially when clubs find themselves short in the starting rotation due to injuries. But the Rays established the role of “the opener” as recently as mid-May of this year, when they tabbed longtime late-inning right-hander Sergio Romo to pitch the first innings of back-to-back games against the Angels’ righty-heaving lineup. That club’s immediate and resounding success with the strategy swiftly turned it from a quirky novelty to a viable game plan, and teams like the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Twins soon followed suit.  Image result for al mlb wild card game oakland yankees

“If there’s any other team to do it, it’s the A’s,” Hendriks said, referring to the club’s long-held reputation for innovation in the sport. “We’ve been ahead of the curve on a whole lot of things, so it’s just another way that hopefully we’re ahead of the curve. We’ll see how many teams do it next year.”

Hendriks served as Oakland’s opener eight times in September alone, and threw only one inning in seven of the eight starts. Plenty of postseason teams have pulled starters early in games in the past, but Wednesday’s game likely marks the first time in MLB history a club has opened a game expecting no more than two innings out of the man on the mound.

“As far as the historical part, I don’t think we’re thinking too much about that,” Melvin said. “Maybe there is something to that if you’re a fan or you’re looking at this as the first time it’s happening in a playoff game, I believe, but we’re kind of past that right now, and we’re just kind of focused on the game.”

Despite having a league-low payroll and using a starting rotation largely comprised of retreads from the league’s scrap heap for much of the season, the A’s won 97 games in one of the sport’s most competitive divisions to earn their spot in Wednesday’s Wild Card game. Their bullpen threw 641 1/3 innings in the regular season — the third largest workload of any relief group in baseball history, trailing only a 2012 Rockies team that experimented with using a four-man starting rotation for protracted outings and this season’s unprecedented Rays group. Oakland’s bullpen finished with an excellent 3.37 collective ERA and the league’s best Win Probability Added (WPA).

The Oakland Athletics are baseballs version of a Cinderella team in the annual NCAA basketball tournament. I love those type of teams, those type of stories, and as I stated in earlier articles for this website, Kris Davis is one of my new favorite players and I will be on a big time hunt to get his autograph during this coming spring training season. The only difference in the basketball Cinderella team and the Athletics is that the A’s are wearing glass cleats.

The Call to the Majors, Week Ending June 20

June 14, 2018

Player Position From Team To Team
Chris Bassitt Pitcher Nashville (AAA) Oakland (MLB)
Carlos Ramirez Pitcher Nashville (AAA) Oakland (MLB)
Nick Rumbelow Pitcher Tacoma (AAA) Seattle (MLB)
Robert Whalen Pitcher Tacoma (AAA) Seattle (MLB)

 

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June 15, 2018

Player Position From Team To Team
Corban Joseph Infielder Norfolk (AAA) Baltimore (MLB)
Tanner Scott Pitcher Norfolk (AAA) Baltimore (MLB)
Tyler White 1st Basemen Fresno (AAA) Houston (MLB)
Brandon Maurer Pitcher Omaha (AAA) Kansas City (MLB)
Kyle Farmer C/Infielder Oklahoma (AAA) Los Angeles (NL) (MLB)
Jake Jewell Pitcher Salt Lake (AAA) Los Angeles (AL) (MLB)
Felix Pena Pitcher Salt Lake (AAA) Los Angeles (AL) (MLB)
Eduardo Paredes Pitcher Salt Lake (AAA) Los Angeles (AL) (MLB)
Merandy Gonzalez Pitcher Jacksonville (AA) Miami (MLB)
Taylor Motter INF/OF Rochester (AAA) Minnesota (MLB)
Jonathan Loaisiga Pitcher Trenton (AA) New York (AL) (MLB)
Luke Voit 1st Basemen Springfield (AA) St. Louis (MLB)
Jose Trevino Catcher Frisco (AA) Texas (MLB)
Brandon Mann Pitcher Round Rock (AAA) Texas (MLB)
Yohander Mendez Pitcher Round Rock (AAA) Texas (MLB)

 

 

June 16, 2018

Player Position From Team To Team
John Lamb Pitcher Salt Lake (AAA) Los Angeles (AL) (MLB)
Franklin Barreto Infielder Nashville (AAA) Oakland (MLB)
Yacksel Rios Pitcher Lehigh Valley (AAA) Philadelphia (MLB)
Jack Thompson Pitcher Lehigh Valley (AAA) Philadelphia (MLB)
Pierce Johnson Pitcher Sacramento (AAA) San Francisco (MLB)
Ryan Rua Outfielder Round Rock (AAA) Texas (MLB

 

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Photo by; FanRag Sports

June 17, 2018

Player Position From Team To Team
Luke Jackson Pitcher Gwinnett (AAA) Atlanta (MLB)
Shane Bieber Pitcher Columbus (AAA) Cleveland (MLB)
Evan Marshall Pitcher Columbus (AAA) Cleveland (MLB)
Wily Peralta Pitcher Omaha (AAA) Kansas City (MLB)
Rosell Herrera Outfielder Omaha (AAA) Kansas City (MLB)
Adalberto Mondesi Infielder Omaha (AAA) Kansas City (MLB)
Scott Barlow Pitcher Omaha (AAA) Kansas City (MLB)
Adrian Houser Pitcher Colorado Springs (AAA) Milwaukee (MLB)
Josh Lucas Pitcher Nashville (AAA) Oakland (MLB)
Yovani Gallardo Pitcher Round Rock (AAA) Texas (MLB)

 

 

June 18, 2018

Player Position From Team To Team
Rob Zastryzny Pitcher Iowa (AAA) Chicago (NL) (MLB)
Clint Frazier Outfielder Scranton/Wilkes Barre(AAA) New York (AL) (MLB)
Austin Davis Pitcher Lehigh Valley (AAA) Philadelphia (MLB)
Jose Osuna Outfielder Indianapolis (AAA) Pittsburg (MLB)
Kelby Tomlinson 2nd Basemen Sacramento (AAA) San Francisco (MLB)
Ricardo Rodriguez Pitcher Round Rock (AAA) Texas (MLB)

 

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Photo by; McCovey Chronicle

June 19, 2018

Player Position From Team To Team
Caleb Joseph Catcher Norfolk (AAA) Baltimore (MLB)
Robby Scott Pitcher Pawtucket (AAA) Boston (MLB)
Jackson Stephens Pitcher Louisville (AAA) Cincinnati (MLB)
Heath Filmyer Pitcher Omaha (AAA) Kansas City (MLB)
Freddy Peralta Pitcher Colorado Springs (AAA) Milwaukee (MLB)
Tim Peterson Pitcher Las Vegas (AAA) New York (NL) (MLB)
Pierce Johnson Pitcher Sacramento (AAA) San Francisco (MLB)
Lourdes Gurriel 2nd Basemen Buffalo (AAA) Toronto (MLB)
Jefry Rodriguez Pitcher Syracuse (AAA) Washington (MLB)

 

June 20, 2018

Player Position From Team To Team
Johnny Barbato Pitcher Toldedo (AAA) Detroit (MLB)
Mitchell Walding Pitcher Leigh Valley (AAA) Philadelphia (MLB)
Jake Barrett Pitcher Reno (AAA) Arizona (MLB)
Adam Frazier 2nd Basemen Indianapolis (AAA) Pittsburg (MLB)

As you can see by the list, most of the players that were called up to the Major Leagues in the past week have been pitchers. A lot of the time, these are just one or two day call up’s because someone in the bullpen was overworked. There were no players called up this week that were in the top 50 prospects to begin the year.

 

Notable Performances:

Jonathan Loaisiga was called up to the major leagues on June 15th for the New York Yankees. Before he was called up, he pitched in six games in AA and four games in A ball this season. In Single-A Tampa, Loaisiga had a 3-0 record posting a dominate 1.35 ERA. Loaisiga performed just as well in AA for Trenton, posting a 3-1 record with a 4.32 ERA. Loaisiga made is MLB debut on the day he was called up, and he pitched a gem of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He pitched 5 shutout innings allowing three hits, four walks, and struck out six. In Loaisiga’s second start on June 20 against the Seattle Mariners, he pitched 3.2 innings and he allowed 3 runs, on six hits while striking out four and walking two. His season ERA sits at 3.12, in the two games that he pitched.

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Photo by; New York Post

Lourdes Gurriel was called up again to the major leagues on June 19th for the Toronto Blue Jays. During his time in the minor leagues this season, both in Triple A Buffalo and Double A New Hampshire, Gurriel played in 39 games with a triple slash line of .307/.333/.490 with an OPS of .824 and six home runs. Playing up in the majors has not fared for the young Gurriel so far. He is posting a triple slash line of .206/.229/.309 in 20 games while also posting a .537 OPS and two home runs. Gurriel has shown that he can compete in the minors, now he is trying to show that he deserves to be up in the majors, and will hopefully be a part of the Toronto Blue Jays for years to come.

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Photo by SportsNet

A final notable call up for this week is another New York Yankee, and if you follow baseball you’ve heard his name before, outfielder Clint Frazier. There are rumors surrounding Frazier that he will either be a cornerstone of the Yankees outfield for years to come, or he is only being called up so he can audition for other MLB teams come the trade deadline. In 42 games in the minors this year, most of which at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Frazier has played in 42 games posting a triple slash line of .302/.387/.550 with an OPS of .937. Frazier has also added eight home runs to those eye opening numbers. With the call to the Majors, Frazier has played in 5 games this year with a triple slash line of .364/.533/.455 with an OPS of .988. Frazier has been playing well no matter where he goes. This doesn’t seem like a permanent move to Frazier, not yet at least, but sooner rather than later he will be off this list, and in the Majors for good.

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Photo by FanRag Sports

So that’s the Call to the Majors for this week fans. I hope you’ve enjoyed this segment, and hope you aren’t sitting by the phone waiting for your Call to the Majors, it may be a little farther out than some of the players in the Minors.

SABERmetrics Sunday: Matt Chapman An Early Stand-Out Player In 2018

There has only been two weeks of regular season action, but there are players putting up some notable performances. One of them is the Oakland A’s third baseman Matt Chapman. Chapman (24) has begun what will hopefully will be his first full big league season after playing 84 games in 2017. Being on a bad and frankly uninteresting Athletics team, he did not get much attention. While he only put up a .313 OBP, he hit 14 home runs with 19 defensive runs saved at third and was a 2.7 fWAR player in 2017. Chapman also had a .348 OBP and .937 OPS in 49 AAA games in 2017.

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Photo by; SFGate.com

Up until Saturday, he has been an every day player with the Athletics. Like mentioned earlier, it is a small sample size, but Chapman is showing a lot of promise early. Here are the FanGraph stats in his first 14 games this year.

.424 OBP / .698 Slugging / 1.122 OPS / 5 HR / 10.2% BB / 16.9% K / 217 wRC+ / -0.1 UBR / 3 DRS / 2.1 UZR /1.3 fWAR

The kid has been doing it all. Playing a good third base while slugging the ball all over the park and getting on base at a great rate. Oakland is looking at youth to rebuild their franchise into relevance and Chapman could be a key piece. Will he his some rough patches? Yeah, it is inevitable. However the promise looks good.

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Photo by’ SFGate.com

It is hard to see his defense slowing down and he clearly has some pop in his bat. 19 home runs in 98 MLB games along with 80 home runs in the minors. His OBP may drop a bit when pitchers can figure out some weaknesses, he never was a huge OBP guy in the minors (career .327 OBP in minors). Overall the Athletics look like they’ll have a nice power third baseman for the future.

Oakland Released Billy Butler

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle the Athletics have released 1B/DH Billy Butler. The news doesn’t come as any surprise, as Butler has under-performed in both of his years with the A’s and was recently involved in a clubhouse altercation with teammate Danny Valencia in which Butler ended up suffering a concussion.

Speaking to the media on Sunday, Butler said he doesn’t believe his altercation with Valencia affected the club’s decision to release him, per Slusser.butlervalencia

The Athletics signed Butler, 30, to a three-year, $30 million contract in November 2014. He put up a pedestrian .713 OPS in 2015 and a .733 OPS this season. In 242 trips to the plate this year, , Butler hit only four home runs and knocked in 31 runs. 60 of the 80 times he reached base, he did it via a single or a walk.

As Butler’s playing time has waned, the Athletics have been using Khris Davis, Stephen Vogt and Bruce Maxwell in the DH spot.

Butler has one year and $10 million remaining on his contract that Athletics will be responsible for covering it.

Stop Crying Coco

Veteran Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp believes that Oakland is artificially holding down his playing time to prevent his option from vesting, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Crisp says that he’s “extremely hurt” by the team’s “shady” handling of the situation. While GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin have stated that Crisp is sitting against lefties to afford younger players more exposure, he sees more to it — particularly since he is not being used much off the bench. Crisp’s $13MM option vests at 130 games played; entering today’s action, he had appeared in 93 contests, meaning he’d need to take the field for most of the club’s remaining 43 games to reach the threshold.CocoFro

“I’m healthy, I’m playing hard and this has surprised me,” said Crisp, who noted that he has loved playing in Oakland. “This calls their integrity into question, it’s very sad.” The 36-year-old, who owns a .239/.307/.410 slash on the year, indicated that he may not be interested in playing after this season, adding: “The business side sure makes it hard to love the game, and I’ve loved the game since I was six years old.”

Alright, he says he is healthy, and he is playing hard. Notice, he does not say he is playing well, because he is not. His career slash line is .266/.327/.403 the slash line that is mentioned is well below in 2 of those 3. He has also given the 4 teams he has played with a career average of 32 stolen bases per year. He has stolen a total of 28 bases his last 3 years combined which includes 7 so far this year. Now I understand this season is not complete, but he is down 20 RBI’s and 99 total bases from his career averages. Plus his defensive statistics are even worse. His WAR is only 0.4 and his defensive WAR is currently at -1.2. This is even considering he is no longer a center fielder, he has moved to a corner outfield spot. It is not like Oakland has not paid him well, starting in starting in 2013 he was paid $7 million, in 14 $7.5 in both 2015 and 16 he will make $11 Million each year.

But, next year is a vesting option. A vesting option is usually inserted in the contracts of veteran players in the event that the athletes skills diminish as they get older. Crisp’s skills are obviously diminishing. He is still a serviceable player, but the amount of the vesting option is $13 Million dollars. Crisp has never been paid more than the $11 Million he has earned the last 2 seasons. No smart business is going to pay a person, be it an athlete or not, more money when their skill set will be less. If they do, they won’t be in business very long.

A serviceable player deserves a serviceable salary, not an all time high salary. In my opinion, the Oakland Athletics have every right to not play him and therefore not make the conditions of his vesting option. On the other hand, if Crisp was putting up career type numbers, then he would have an argument if the conditions of his contract were not being met.OaklandAthleticsCenter

With the vesting option, Oakland said, if Crisp is still putting up above average numbers at the end of his contract as his age increases, then we will reward him with the highest pay per season he has ever received. If he is not, then we have a clause in the contract to protect our monetary investment and make that vesting option null and void. And just so everyone is aware, there is a $750,000 buyout that Oakland still has to pay Crisp if they do not allow his option to vest.

Coco, stop crying. There is no crying in baseball. Try playing better, that usually works.

Brantley & Lowrie Both Having Season Ending Surgeries

Indians manager Terry Francona says outfielder Michael Brantley will have season-ending surgery on Monday. The specifics of the surgery have yet to be announced, and the timeline of his recovery isn’t yet clear, but Brantley had been dealing with shoulder and biceps issues and already appeared unlikely to return in 2016.CI_092314DC-0339.CR2

Brantley had shoulder surgery last November and began the season on the disabled list, then had persistent problems with the shoulder throughout the season. He was also diagnosed with biceps tendinitis in June, and he had surgery last month to remove scar tissue from his biceps tendon.

Brantley has collected just 43 plate appearances this season, batting a mere .231/.279/.282. That’s a far cry from the numbers he posted in his healthy 2014 and 2015 seasons, when he hit a combined .319/.382/.494 and rated among the American League’s best players.

As Francona explained today (via Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes on Twitter), the timing of Brantley’s surgery now is geared toward getting him healthy for next season and presumably beyond. Brantley remains under contract with the Indians for 2017, and his contract contains a team option for 2018.

Indian’s fans hope for a speedy recovery, and have to wonder how much more magical this season would have been with a healthy Michael Brantley.JedLowrie

Athletics infielder Jed Lowrie will undergo surgery to remove a bunion and repair a ligament in his left foot. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season as a result of the procedure. The veteran infielder has struggled with the problem for some time, and attempts to battle through it failed. He’ll have the work done now in hopes of having plenty of time to recover in advance of Spring Training next year.

Lowrie, 32, seemed like a viable trade candidate prior to the foot problem and related struggles. He had been hitting at a fairly typical, roughly league-average clip before suffering through a rough month of July. As things stand currently, Lowrie owns a .263/.314/.322 batting line over 369 plate appearances on the year. Acquired over the winter to help anchor the Oakland infield, Lowrie has also posted below-average defensive ratings.

There’s no question that the foot malady has played a role, as reporters have documented how much of an impact it has had. Hopefully for both player and team, he’ll be able to return to full health in advance of the 2017 campaign. Lowrie is set to earn $6.5MM next year and can be controlled for an additional season with a $6MM club option, which comes with a $1MM buyout.

AL West Predictions #5 Oakland Athletics

The “Moneyball” GM Billy Beane, is now the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations for Oakland and now David Forst is the new General Manager. Will this still be a “Moneyball” kind of team? The team is a mishmash of players, they have traded some of  their good players like Brett Lawrie. And picked up other teams problems like former Royal Ryan Madson and former Padre Marc Rzepcaynski with his 7.66 E.R.A.Yonder+Alonso

According to the A’s website the infield looks like this so far:

1st Base will be a combo of newly acquired Yonder Alonso but when left handed hitting comes into play then Mark Canha will help cover 1st.

Yonder Alonso came over to the A’s from the San Diego Padres in a trade that also brought over Marc Rzepcaynski for Drew Pomeranz and Jose Torres. Alonso’s 2015 regular season totals .282 average, five home runs, 31 RBIs, 50 runs scored and two stolen bases.

2nd Base looks like Jed Lowrie who brings some consistency to the infield and some switch hitting to the batter’s box.

If you love Baseball as much as we do, then take a listen to CleatGeeks as well. You can listen to our weekly baseball podcast called the MLB Headfirst Slide Podcast.

MarcusSemien

Shortstop will be manned by Marcus Semien who is still learning the position but with the help of Ron Washington as the infield coach there is hope for improvement. Semien bring a steady bat to the plate and this will be a counterbalance to the high error totals.

Things to look out for; Sonny Gray will dazzle. Liam Hendriks with his two seam fast ball will sure turn up the heat in the bullpen. Sean Doolittle with bring in some saves. A’s fans welcome back from Houston Jed Lowrie, with some very impressive fielding stats that will help the infield defense.SonnyGray

There are some problems; This team lacks a strong infield, and a consistent left fielder, depth in the starting rotation and has a lack of a bullpen depth as well. There is also an uncertainty as to how the new GM will run the team. This is a difficult and stacked Americian League West Division. Lets not be to negative and say we pick them to finish last,just say this is a rebuilding year for the A’s and they will continue to climb up this list in the coming years.

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