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A's Sunday Summary MLB

Pache Getting To Work

We always refer to this time of year as the off-season; however, that’s only accurate when it comes to the baseball action in MLB.

The Australian Baseball League is in its Third Round of the 22/23 season, with former Oakland A Josh Reddick playing for Perth Heat in what will be his final competition before retiring.

You will also find a whole bunch of Major Leaguers and Minor League talent in the Caribbean Winter Leagues, primarily in Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rico, LVPB in Venezuela and The Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana, known as LIDOM, in the Dominican Republic.

One of the players getting some at-bats in LIDOM is a native of Santo Domingo Centro: Cristian Pache.

The A’s centre-fielder unfortunately epitomised how Oakland’s 2022 season unravelled. Just as we knew it was going to be a rough year in the win-loss column, we also knew that Pache came from the Braves with a reputation of being an elite centre-fielder, but needing plenty of development at the plate. The hope, for both the team and for Pache, was that there would be improvement over the season and encouraging signs of things to come.

That wasn’t quite what happened.

Although Pache’s fielding was as outstanding as advertised, he never found any sort of rhythm at the plate. Despite manager Mark Kotsay giving him plenty of time and encouragement to work through his struggles, by June 30th he was hitting only .159/.203/.224 and the team had no choice but to demote him back to Triple-A.

He put up a much better line in 41 games in Vegas, hitting .248/.298/.389 with 4 HR, although it still wasn’t quite at the level you would like to see from a player trying to force his way back onto the Major League roster.

Pache is far from unique in finding it hard to deal with the quality of breaking balls and off-speed pitches as he moves through the Minors. You don’t get far in the professional hitter ranks if you can’t catch up with a good fastball, but what separates the maybes from the Major Leaguers is how they cope with the so-called secondary pitches.

That doesn’t mean you have to be just as good at hitting those pitches and in fact even some of the best hitters have quite a drop in their production off non-fastball pitches. You’ve got to be able to hit them well enough to keep the pitcher honest and, most importantly, you’ve got to develop the pitch recognition and discipline at the plate to force the pitcher to either come at you with the fastball or give you a free pass to first base.

When we look a bit deeper into the statistics there is a case that Pache did suffer some misfortune at the plate during 2022.

His batting average on fastballs was .192, but his expected Batting Average was .276, just as his expected Slugging percentage of .361 was .100 higher than what his actual slugging percentage turned out as (.264).

You have to be careful when looking at ‘expected’ stats as they don’t tell the whole story (e.g. if Pache had been getting better results then pitchers would have started pitching him differently etc); however, at a basic level they give you an idea of how lucky or unlucky the hitter was.

In this case, Pache’s ability to hit fastballs hard didn’t produce the results you would normally expect and part of that genuinely will be a case of hitting into some bad luck.

We all know how important confidence is for an athlete, especially a young player trying to find their feet, so perhaps if the baseball gods had been more on his side then Pache may not have fallen into such a hole and found a better approach at the plate.

That’s not how things work, though. Coping with failure is a big part of the game and Pache was like a driver sat in a car spinning its wheels in the mud hoping that if he jumped on the accelerator pedal enough times he may finally gain some traction and race clear of danger. Time and again Pache was behind in the count 0-2 within a blink of an eye from chasing after bad pitches (accepting that’s easy to say watching on TV from the comfort of your sofa). No one knows any of this better than Pache himself.

Pache is playing for Estrellas Orientales (Oriental Stars) in LIDOM, alongside former A’s teammate Christian Bethancourt.

His season debut came on Monday against Tigres del Licey where he went 3-for-4 with 2 doubles and he then went 1-for-5 against Toros del Este on Tuesday. Pache sat out the team’s game on Friday against Aguilas Cibaeñas, whose line-up included former A’s favourite Yoenis Cespedes and former A’s Minor Leaguer Frank Schwindel.

In truth, Pache’s stats from his time in LIDOM won’t tell us all that much. What matters is that he uses the off-season to re-set and then is able to work with the A’s hitting coaches during Spring Training.

His fielding is so spectacularly good that he doesn’t need to be an impact hitter to be a quality everyday Major Leaguer. He does need to be able to contribute at the plate, though. The joy of watching him patrol centre field at the Coliseum, and the infectious joy he shows when playing the game, means that we all want him to come good.

Whether he can or not will be one of the key stories to follow in the A’s 2023 season.

Thao confirmed as new Oakland Mayor

As rumoured last week, Sheng Thao has now been confirmed as the new mayor-elect for the City of Oakland. Thao was elected by a narrow majority of just 682 votes over Loren Taylor and held her first press conference outside the City Hall on Wednesday.

Thao’s campaign drew in part on her own experiences of the homelessness struggles that are rightly a major concern in the city, as the Guardian.com’s news report states:

Just 15 years ago, Thao was living in her car with her infant son. She had just escaped an abusive relationship and had nowhere to go. This week Thao, 37, became the first Hmong American woman to lead a major US city, the youngest Oakland mayor in 75 years and the first renter to hold the position

The Guardian.com

The report goes on to state that “Over the past five years, Oakland saw a steeper rise in homelessness than any other city in the Bay Area” and this of course plays into some of the tensions around the A’s proposed development at Howard Terminal. Whilst there are valid arguments to support the wider benefits of investing tax-payer dollars into the project, it’s understandable that the optics of potentially doing so continue to be controversial.

Thao’s previous position has been the straight forward one: she wants the project to go ahead but the deal has to be right for Oakland, not just for the A’s owner John Fisher. Coming from a country where public funds wouldn’t be used in this way, largely because we don’t have a sports franchise system that allows teams to threaten relocation, it’s a stance that is hard not to support regardless of how much we all want the team to stay in Oakland.

Thao has lots on her ‘to-do list’ and that will likely include resolving the Howard Terminal project one way or another in the first half of 2023 rather than letting it continue to drag on.

Over to you, Fisher.

Around the Bases

First: Aaron Judge’s Free Agency tour began this past week across the Bay where the San Francisco Giants rolled out the red carpet for the Linden, California native. Whilst a return to the New York Yankees still seems the likeliest outcome – the Yankees not being able to re-sign the reigning AL MVP, and by far their most popular player, would cause a complete meltdown in the Bronx – the Giants figure to be a strong candidate for at least one of the big-ticket free agents on the market this off-season.

Second: There is something very comforting about the annual off-season tale in Anaheim, where the Angels make some moves, the national media hypes them up, and then they fall woefully short of the play-offs. It’s funnier when the A’s aren’t hopeless too, but it’s always worth a chuckle anyway. The Halos have been the most active MLB team so far this off-season, signing pitcher Tyler Anderson to a 3-year, $39M contract, trading for third baseman Gio Urshela from the Twins and then this week adding outfielder Hunter Renfroe in a trade with the Brewers. Will it work this time?

Third: The competition for ‘Cheapest Team of the Off-Season’ has taken an early turn as the usually frugal Pittsburgh Pirates have jumped into the free agent market and agreed a deal with first-baseman Carlos Santana. Although it’s only a one-year deal worth $6.75M, the stakes are so low in the Cheapo Challenge that the investment may take the Buccos away from the other misers. It looks unlikely that the A’s will agree to a free agent contract worth more than that amount of money. The question is whether our entire free agent spending goes above that figure?

Home: The MLB London Series returns in 2023 with the postponed 2020 match-up between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals at the London Stadium. Pre-sale ticket offers go live for MLB Europe subscribers on Monday.

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Podcast UK Schedule

New Week, New Challenges, New Podcast

All things considered, a 5-4 win-loss record from last week was about par.

The A’s were on a horrendous slide having lost nine games in a row, so to recover from that by winning four of five against Detroit was very important for morale.

The Angels were always going to be a very different proposition to the toothless Tigers, especially playing them four times in three days. A 2-2 split would have been a good return, so whilst losing three of four was disappointing, it all added up to a steady week to build on.

The schedule gets no easier, with three home games against the Minnesota Twins (who swept us in a three-game series just over a week ago) and three more against the Angels.

I reviewed last week’s action, and previewed the upcoming Twins series, in a YouTube live-stream yesterday evening. You can find that here, including a few button-pushing production mishaps along the way!

A slightly more polished version has been published as a podcast. You can find that on all the usual podcast places or direct here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/865651/10621796

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UK Schedule

A’s Schedule This Week: 13th September

We desperately needed to have a positive home-stand last week to put us firmly in the Wild Card running. It looked like that was on the cards heading into the top of the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers on Saturday, but everything went downhill from there.

A 3-3 split hasn’t blown our chances, but it has let a good opportunity to gain ground go to waste. That’s especially the case bearing in mind we won what should have been the ‘harder’ series of the two against the Chicago White Sox 2-1 , only to then continue our disappointing form against the Rangers.

We can’t change those results now; what we can do is recognise that this is now the most important week of our season.

We have 19 games left, finishing up with a combined seven against the Seattle Mariners and six against the Houston Astros. We come into this week on a 77-66 win-loss record and I’m sticking with my plan that we need to be aiming for 90 wins, now requiring a 13-6 record the rest of the way.

Put another 3-3 week together against the Royals and Angels and that leaves us needing an extremely difficult 10-3 record against the Mariners and Astros; in other words, basically no real margin for error at all. Take advantage of what should be lesser opposition by going 5-1 and that changes the equation to 8-5 over our more challenging rivals, still no easy feat but definitely possible.

In short: this week will determine if we’ve got a decent shot at pulling this off or if we’ll be left hoping for a near-miracle end-of-season run.

Kansas City Royals (A)

Season series so far: 3-1

Looking at the series against the Royals, it puts into context why dropping those final two games against the Rangers was so frustrating.

Although KC have had another difficult rebuilding season at 65-78, they’ve grown into it and actually have a winning record since the All-Star break (29-25). Their recent form shows that the Royals team we’re facing in this series is better than their season record suggests, so they are going to be no pushover.

The current probable pitchers are as follows (although I would prefer to see Daulton Jefferies get the start in Game 3 in place of Blackburn):

  • Gm1. Frankie Montas – Jackson Kowar
  • Gm2. Sean Manaea – Mike Minor
  • Gm3. Paul Blackburn – Carlos Hernández

LA Angels (A)

Season series so far: 12-4

We all know how it works: every pre-season the media talk up the Angels and yet somehow consistently they find a way to be less than the sum of their parts. Losing Mike Trout for an extended period obviously has been a big blow, but even accounting for that it’s been another disappointing season for the Halos.

We have taken full advantage of their frailties so far this season and need to make sure we carry that on here.

  • Gm1. Cole Irvin – José Suarez
  • Gm2. James Kaprielian – Jaime Barria
  • Gm3. Frankie Montas – Packy Naughton
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UK Schedule

A’s Schedule This Week: 14th June

(Sorry, forgot to post this yesterday …)

LA Angels (H)

Season record: A’s have won 4 of 7

Gm1. Sean Manaea – Dylan Bundy
Gm2. Frankie Montas – Andrew Heaney
Gm3. Cole Irvin – Griffin Canning

NY Yankees (A)

Season record: Yet to play

Gm1. James Kaprielian – Jameson Taillon
Gm2. Chris Bassitt – Domingo Germán
Gm3. Sean Manaea – Jordan Montgomery

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A's Sunday Summary

The Big Inning

Every sport has its own quirks and attributes that make it unique.

With baseball, what marks the game out is that the action is separated into 18 pieces (usually) of three outs. The slate is clean at the start of each half-inning and is wiped clean again at the end of it. Within every half-inning, the job of the hitting team is to make the most of what they can with those three outs and for the pitcher it’s to try to limit the damage knowing that any base-runners disappear when the third out is made.

This may come across as baseball basics, but it is the main thing that stands out as I sit with a mug of coffee on this Sunday morning and ponder the A’s 4-0 loss against the Angels yesterday.

The linescore tells the tale: zeros all the way across the board except for the top of the fifth inning where a big fat “4” stands out like a sore thumb.

The catching error by Aramis Garcia that allowed the first run to score loomed large over the whole game, which was a shame for a relatively inexperienced catcher to have to deal with. What was interesting after the game was Frankie Montas’s admission that he let that one play get the better of him.

“I just got caught up in the moment,” Montas said. “As a pitcher, you need to keep your head straight. I got a little mad, and I shouldn’t get mad at my teammates for that”.

MLB.com

It says a lot about Frankie’s maturity that he was prepared to admit to that, as he knows as well as anyone that what he did is exactly what coaches at all levels constantly tell players to avoid. Don’t let an inning get out of hand. Don’t let a fielding error affect you on the next play that comes your way. Don’t dwell on a bad at-bat.

All of this is much easier said than done. That’s especially the case for someone like Frankie who has not had a lot of luck going his way this season. Perhaps there was a sense of ‘here we go again’ that led to him over-throwing in the rest of the inning before he could sit back down on the bench and compose himself again?

Who knows for sure, but what we do know is that the inning unravelled and the A’s never really threatened to get back into the game. The Angels’ starting pitcher Alex Cobb did a great job over seven innings; however he was helped by the fifth inning fiasco.

Whilst the slate is wiped clean at three outs, the runs scored before then do have an impact on what comes next. Cobb was looking too commanding to be given a nice cushion to work with and he took full advantage.

Hopefully the A’s can quickly put that loss behind them and come back to claim a 3-1 series win on Sunday.

Sunday’s game

It’s a 1.07pm start at the Coliseum today, making for another 21.07 UK-time first pitch.

Cole Irvin is on the mound for the A’s and it will be a good test for him. He started really well for us this season before hitting a bit of a bump in his last two outings, with his start on Tuesday against the Mariners being his shortest outing (4.2 IP) since his first start of the season.

This will be the first time he has faced the Angels, so he has the opportunity to get back on track against a team that hasn’t seen him before.

Return of the Messiah

Meanwhile, Bob Melvin confirmed yesterday that Jesús Luzardo will be activated from the Injured List today and be part of the bullpen. Luzardo never seemed to get into any sort of rhythm with his pitching before his bizarre injury, so in a strange way it may have been a blessing in disguise in just giving him a bit of breathing space to clear his mind and get back to basics.

The bullpen move appears to be a short-term thing, just based on us wanting him back on the roster sooner without him getting a full bunch of rehab games in beforehand.

It’s been a real feature of the team so far this season that the pitching staff has had the type of friendly one-upmanship rivalry that you love to see. Don’t be surprised if Cole Irvin sees Jesús in the bullpen, thinks “you’re not taking my spot” and puts in a strong outing today.

I’m sure Luzardo will be back in the rotation fairly soon though and expect him to be back to the Jesús we were all hoping to see this season.

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UK Schedule

A’s Schedule This Week: 24th May

The Oakland A’s are coming off a somewhat frustrating 3-3 week. Going .500 when playing at home to the Astros and away to the Angels is a decent return from those games, but the way it turned out was disappointing.

Having won the opener against the Astros, losing that series 2-1 was a shame following the 0-4 thumping they gave us at home to start the season. Then against the Angels, two excellent wins to start the series were soured a little by letting a 4-0 lead disappear yesterday and us having to put the brooms away without sweeping anything up.

We have a home-stand to look forward to now, though, with our first games of the season against Seattle and then another series against the Angels.

Seattle series

The youth movement in Seattle is starting to make it to the Big Leagues with star outfielder prospect Jared Kelenic having been called up a couple of weeks ago. The provisional pitching match-ups are as follows:

Gm1. Frankie Montas – Yusei Kikuchi
Gm2. Cole Irvin – Logan Gilbert
Gm3. James Kaprielian – TBD (Chris Flexen?)

It’s not yet clear who the Mariners will be starting in Game 3, the day-game we can enjoy in the British evening; however, it should be James Kaprielian’s turn for the A’s. Kap is a great story, made all the better by his Dad’s reactions in the crowd when watching his son pitch, so that should be a treat.

Angels series

Mike Trout is going to be on the sidelines until mid-July at the earliest recovering from his calf strain, so we will continue to get the benefit of not having to face him whilst recognising the negatives of not getting to watch one of the best ever doing his thing. We probably will get to see Shohei Ohtani pitch though, as he’s scheduled to make his return to the mound on Friday.

Gm1. Chris Bassitt – Alex Cobb
Gm2. Sean Manaea – Shohei Ohtani
Gm3. Frankie Montas – José Quintana
Gm4. Cole Irvin – Dylan Bundy

Quick apology!

As regulars will have noticed, I have been neglecting the blog over the past few weeks. I do have a good excuse for that in having been busy working on a couple of A’s UK-related projects that have taken up my ‘blog-writing’ spare time. Hopefully I’ll be able to launch one of those very soon, but will be back blogging more regularly in any case.

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Game Report

Good news and (slightly) bad news

The A’s lost on Friday, but A’s fans won overall.

The LA Angels won the Cactus League game at Hohokam 7-3, with Shohei Ohtani showing off his stellar stuff on the mound in the process and the Halos boshing three home runs in their victory.

However, no sooner had the game been completed than news was being shared on Twitter that California will start allowing outdoor venues to reopen from April 1st.

Alameda County is currently in the “purple” Covid tier that would only allow gatherings of 100 people, but the team has confirmed that everything points to the area being downgraded to “Red” at some point next week. At that level, venues will be allowed to open at 20 per cent capacity.

That means it’s looking good for the A’s to be able to have an 11,020 capacity from Opening Day. There will be restrictions, of course, around social distancing and changes to the concession offerings (concourse concessions closed and requiring you to order via an app, although food and drink can be brought into the ballpark). I doubt a single person will have any problems with these, though, when the pay-off is being able to back at the Coliseum cheering on the A’s.

Some thoughts on Friday’s game

My current Shohei Ohtani nickname list (“The Sho-Off”, “The Sho-Pony”) will have “Single Knot Shohei” added to it if he keeps up on his poor shoelace-tying form in the regular season! I counted at least three times that he had to stop to re-tie his laces during his otherwise extremely impressive 1.2 innings of work.

James Kaprielian’s start was always going to be overshadowed given his opposing starting pitcher, but he looked really good too. He gave the A’s two solid innings of work against pretty much the Angels’ best line-up, with three strike-outs thrown in for good measure.

Matt Olson demolished another ball for his second big-fly of the week at Hohokam. “O-Bomb” gif has been added to my pre-season “To Do” list.

Next up

Daulton Jefferies will get the start against the Seattle Mariners. First pitch is 20:10 UK time (12.10pm Oakland), although there is no TV coverage so it will be radio coverage today. Thankfully the A’s confirmed yesterday that they have moved away from their limited coverage approach and will now be providing A’s radio commentary for every game from this point onwards.

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MLB

The Friday Baseball Feeling

This is what baseball is all about. The weekend is almost here (actually IS here for us in the UK) and we get to start it off by watching the A’s play some baseball against a division rival.

The LA Angels are the opponents on Friday, with first pitch set for 12.05 Oakland time and 20:05 UK time. The game will be reduced to seven innings and coverage is available via an MLBTV subscription.

Both teams are putting out surprisingly strong starting line-ups considering we’re still in early March and whilst “it’s only Spring Training”, you know both teams will be keen to put down a marker in the first of many games between the two sides this year.

Here are the line-ups:

For the Angels, Anthony Rendon is missing but otherwise that starting line-up is likely to be fairly close to their Opening Day group. Shohei Ohtani, “The Sho Pony” as we like to call him, will be on the mound for the Halos, although don’t expect him to go much more than one inning.

As for the A’s, swap out Pinder for Piscotty and Garcia for Murphy and that would equally be the most probable Opening Day starting line-up.

I’m looking forward to seeing Garcia behind the plate as the former Giant reportedly has impressed the A’s coaching staff so far. He would seem to be in a battle with Austin Allen for the back-up catcher role on the Opening Day roster, assuming Murphy doesn’t start the season on the Injured List, so it will be good to get a first glimpse of what he can do in the Green and Gold.

Chappy is making his first start in the field after three DH appearances this week and watching the “Man Chap” playing at the hot corner is always a treat. We’ll also get to see Mark Canha in the lead-off spot, something Bob Melvin has said may be a good option for us in the regular season.

As for the pitching, James Kaprielian will hopefully get a couple more innings under his belt today. We spoke about him in our latest podcast (Season 2 Episode 5, published yesterday) as the sole survivor from the Sonny Gray trade in 2017. Currently it looks like it will be tough for him to crack the Opening Day roster, but the old adage that you can never have enough good pitching comes to mind and he will surely play a part in the Big Leagues in one role or another this season.

The TV coverage available on MLBTV is courtesy of the Angels’ broadcaster, FSW, so they’ll be the focus of the announcing team, subject to us having the ability to turn on alternative audio and listening to the A’s Cast commentary.

Either way, it should be a fun game to watch.

Categories
Game Report

A’s move to 19-8

Game One against the LA Angels was highlighted by two unexpected outcomes from two pitches.

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Game Report

Catching up

One of the factors we have to deal with whilst following MLB from the UK is that the time difference can get the better of you for a few days.

If you can’t watch the game live in the early hours, nor catch up on it during the day, it can be difficult to keep up with all the action before the next game comes along.

It’s been like that for me over the past few days, but it’s been fun catching up this morning.