By Jason Wojciechowski on April 18, 2011 at 12:30 PM
The season is young yet, as Game 14, played Friday night and watched by me last night after Game of Thrones, did not even mark the 10% point in the year, but some trends have emerged that were in evidence in this game:
Offense-- it's so pitiful I have to cross it off. Three garbage runs in the bottom of the tenth when the game was already decided gave Oakland a sheen of respectability in this game, but the truth is that the team scored one run in regulation.
Andy LaRoche, every-day player and double-play machine.
Brian Fuentes makes me angry.
Bob Geren's bullpen usage saddens me. In this case, using Balfour in the eighth inning against against two lefties and Fuentes in the ninth against Miguel Cabrera. If Geren would just take the opportunity presented by the absence of Andrew Bailey to run a sensible bullpen, playing matchups at the end of the game with this lefty-righty combo, I'd be so much happier (and the A's might have won this game).
Box & Notes
Coco Crisp hit the grounder that likely destroyed any A's hopes of mounting a crazy comeback in the tenth: with the bases loaded and nobody out, after three straight singles, Crisp could manage just a second-pitch ground ball to first base. The Tigers only got one out on the play, and a run scored, but Oakland needed a lot more than that with the bottom of the order having done their jobs to set the table for the top of the order to act on it.
David DeJesus had his third good game of the year (2/4 with a walk on April 5 and the same on April 10), but none of his hits was especially well-struck. His singles were well-timed, resulting in three RBI (and a team-high in WPA), but I'm more of a process guy around here, so I have to give Friday's Offensive Player of the Game to:
Kurt Suzuki.1 Three singles against three different pitchers, just one out made, and he hit the ball a lot more sharply than DeJesus did. Maybe that's DeJesus's style, binking and booping singles all over the yard and using his speed to move around the bases at a better clip than most, and it's undeniable that over their careers, DeJesus has been the better offensive performer than Suzuki, but in this game, I liked the hard-hit balls off Suzuki's bat better.
Hideki Matsui got unlucky, hitting two balls sharply up the middle, but the Tigers were playing him in a soft shift, so both resulted in outs rather than singles. Worse, the first one was a double play.
Cliff Pennington was out at second on a steal attempt in the fifth inning by more than I've ever seen a good base-stealer be thrown out by. Pennington went 29/34 last year in the steals department and was 107/128 in the minors, but Alex Avila threw him out by about six feet. I didn't see a replay, but Ray Fosse said that he was leaning back toward first, and may have even take a step back that way, before he took off for second, and thus should have simply decided not to run on that pitch. He who hesitates is lost, of course.
Brandon McCarthy was brilliant as he has been in each of his starts so far, the only downside being some long at-bats that drove up his pitch count so that he was unable to keep Brian Fuentes out of the game.
Look at Grant Balfour's ball:strike ratio and look at that for Brian Fuentes. Further, look at their stuff and note that even when Balfour misses his spot (which is more than I'd like), his fastball comes with enough heat and movement that it's tough to hammer it. When Brian Fuentes leaves a pitch up to Miguel Cabrera, it's a homer. When Balfour does the same thing, maybe it's a homer or maybe it's a foul ball because Cabrera is a split-second late on the swing.
Brad Ziegler pitched too well for his own good, getting a horribly weak tapper up the third base line with one out and the bases loaded while it was still a 4-1 game. If the ball is hit a skosh harder, LaRoche can start an easy 5-2-3 double play. Instead, he has to charge, barehand, and try to make an impossible throw home just to get one out, which he can't do, and two runs score on the throwing error.
This isn't to say that Ziegler pitched extremely well and was entirely full of bad luck -- the Victor Martinez single that took the game from 3-1 to 4-1 was solid, and the Alex Avila single to give the Tigers their final run of the inning was also hit well. (Note the side of the plate that both these guys were batting from and Ziegler's long history of platoon splits.) Still, I hope that Ziegler himself and Bob Geren both realize that the submariner pitched a decent game.
Standings: (3) Barton; (2) Crisp, Suzuki, Willingham; (1) Jackson, Matsui, Pennington ↩