By Jason Wojciechowski on August 30, 2013 at 9:07 AM
Opponent: Tampa Bay Rays
Starting pitchers: David Price vs. Jarrod Parker
First pitch: 7:05 PT
A's in the West: Second place, 3 back of Texas, 14 1/2 ahead of Anaheim
A's in the Wild Card: Second wild card, 1/2 game behind Tampa Bay, 3 1/2 ahead of Baltimore
Baseball Prospectus playoff odds: 21 percent division, 62 percent wild card
You miss two days of blogging while the A's are beating up the Tigers (and resume blogging the day after a painful, horrendous, awful last-second loss) and you miss the team's wild card odds skyrocketing, I guess. (If adding 17 percent is skyrocketing, but I think it is when that 17 percent happens over just a few days.) This also gives me a little distance, in a weird way, because instead of just looking at last night's game, when Grant Balfour picked up his first blown save of the year despite being handed a three-run lead, I'm pondering the last three, which means that I'm simultaneously carrying in my mind and giving equal weight to the 14–4 drubbing of Doug Fister et al. (featuring Brett Anderson's first major-league save!) as I am to a narrow loss in which the Tigers made like the A's and did not have a lead until the final batter.
Which is to say that if we consider this game in the context of the series and think about the squad for which we rootrootroot taking three of four on the road from the best run-differential team in all of baseball, it's not so bad.
(Until the thought starts creeping back about how amazing a four-game sweep of the best run-differential team in baseball would have been. Then we get depressed all over again.)
If anybody on the A's can go toe-to-toe with David Price, it's Jarrod Parker. Which is not the same thing as saying he can go toe-to-toe with Price, who has weirdly reinvented himself the year after winning a Cy Young, halving his walk rate (and leading the league in walks per nine) while simultaneously slicing about 1 1/2 strikeouts per nine off his record. The result, with a slight uptick in his homer rate and BABIP, is the second-best FIP of his career (though a quarter run behind 2012) and an ERA in line with his (excellent) career average. His velocity from last year to this year:
But if you're going to lose velocity and you have a good defense behind you (Tampa Bay is sixth in baseball at turning batted balls into outs, fourth after adjusting for park), then ranking fifth in baseball among qualified starters in the rate of pitches you're throwing in the strike zone is not the worst idea. In case you're not following, that's where David Price ranks. Price was a strike-thrower last year, too, ranking 15th of 88 qualifiers in zone rate, but there's a lesson here in just how big a difference in the ultimate stats pushing two pitches out of every 100 inside the strike zone that used to be outside can make.
Jarrod Parker has been so good over the part of the season not called April that you might not worry about
but I'm a worrier, so I worry. Is it intentional? Maybe it's intentional and he's trading velocity for command but
at least as to in/out of the strike zone, I don't know if I identify a pattern.
Control and command, of course, are different things, and "he's not throwing more strikes" doesn't mean "he's not throwing better strikes" and it also doesn't mean "he's not throwing strikes in the right count and balls in the right count" and it also doesn't mean "he's not throwing sharper breaking balls or getting better movement" (though for what it's worth, I looked at the pitch-movement charts too and didn't see anything worth posting) but with all that said, let me just let you know, as one does when one has a blog, that I've added another thing to my plate in terms of worrying about stuff.
Prediction: A's win.