By Jason Wojciechowski on April 10, 2010 at 10:00 PM
The game is over (probably -- if it's not, I'm screwed because the DVR stopped recording at 9:30), but I'm still watching. I've seen the A's tie the game in the 8th with Daric Barton's single, Ryan Sweeney's double, and Kevin Kouzmanoff's groundout (combined with Ryan Sweeney's really weird baserunning decision -- aggressiveness giveth and aggressiveness taketh away, I guess).
My impression of the game so far is that there've been quite a few hard-hit balls for both teams that have not turned into hits or runs. Hideki Matsui continued to look completely locked in with a scalded line drive to right field, right at Ryan Sweeney. There've been a couple of very sharp ground balls right at fielders. My sense is that the A's have gotten more fortunate on this than the Angels, i.e. the Angels hit Ben Sheets harder than the A's hit Jered Weaver. Of course, this shows in the results as well, since the Halos got three runs off of Sheets, while the Oaklanders have had to do more of their scoring against the bullpen.
Eric Chavez has driven a couple of balls, and, while he still continues to just look completely unhappy on the baseball field, it's nice to see him taking good swings and hitting the ball hard, especially on his 395-foot flyout to center and his solid line drive double down the left-field line.
I'm also starting to have more confidence in Kevin Kouzmanoff. His throwing error in the first game of the year, even though I didn't see it, has weighed heavily on my mind. There's also an aesthetic point: like Matt Holliday, he just looks stiff and awkward in the field and at the plate. His performance, though, belies this -- his swing gets results (and it'd better, because he swings a lot), he gets to baseballs, he catches baseballs, and he throws very well. This, presumably, is why scouting is so hard. Knowing the difference between Ryan Sweeney (he'll be my year-long "sells jeans" example, although I should note that this isn't entirely fair to him -- he's a good ballplayer, a 2-WAR player as a 23-year-old rookie and a 4-WAR guy as a 24-year-old last year (although that total is likely inflated -- I'm not convinced he's legitimately a +24 fielder)) and Kevin Kouzmanoff is hard.
Brad Ziegler also continues to be awesome. I just watched his bottom of the eighth, when he struck out the sound around a two-out single by Howie Kendrick. Kendrick's hit was, of course, a ground ball, but he struck it and placed it well, bouncing it off the mound and into center field. As an extreme ground-ball guy, I'm not sure Ziegler gets enough credit for getting strikeouts -- he was over six per nine in 2009, and CHONE, ZiPS, and PECOTA (the equivalent measure) all figure him for something in the mid-fives this year. That's not a ton, of course, but coupled with his ridiculously low home-run rate (just over 0.25 for his career), result in FIP projections in the 3.5 (CHONE, Bill James) to 3.7 (ZiPS) range. That's a good pitcher. (Ziegler's Fangraphs page.) Last year, that's Brandon League/JP Howell territory. Ziegler's not some hidden Mariano Rivera or something, but he is certainly good enough to deserve the love he gets from A's fans, even putting aside his Twitter account or his appearances on Athletics Nation.
Unfortunately, in the bottom of the ninth, Bob Geren did my least favorite thing of all -- in a situation where a single run sends you back to your hotel unhappy, he doesn't go to his best reliever. Craig Breslow's not bad, but he's no Andrew Bailey. I'd rather see Breslow than Edwar Ramirez, Tyson Ross, or Chad Gaudin, and Ziegler and Blevins had already pitched, but I just don't understand why you leave Bailey on the bench there?
It's impossible to say whether that cost the A's the game, but Breslow did give up the winning run, so ... The bright side of this is that it's not one of those bad decisions that works out well, providing the wrong kind reinforcement. On the other hand, that's probably overoptimistic -- Geren's been doing this by the book for years now, and I don't see any reason why he'd change now.