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April’s Questions Answered

May 1, 2011

Let’s review the questions I posed before April and see how things shook up.

1. How will the A’s deal with the temporary loss of Andrew Bailey?

Gotta say, I nailed this one on its head. Way back prior to the season beginning – though Brian Fuentes was named closer I expressed concern writing,

“Fuentes is a LOOGY, his splits are terrible. It will be an adventure anytime that he enters the game in a save situation with a right-handed hitter up. This job should be going to either Grant Balfour or Michael Wuertz. So long as Fuentes is in the closer role, the A’s will miss Bailey.”

Couldn’t have been more correct on this. While Wuertz would miss time with injury, Balfour truly has been the better pitcher. Fuentes, has struggled with command (4.2 BB/9), struck out far fewer than usual (7.6 K/9 in 2011, 9.8K/9 career), yet remarkably has a better FIP than ERA (3.66 to 4.15). He has a 1.67 SD/MD ratio, which isn’t particularly inspiring from your “closer”. With respect to the LOOGY comment, the at-bat that stands out still was Miguel Cabrera‘s home run that spoiled a 1-0 Brandon McCarthy start against the Tigers at the then Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, but his splits don’t lie why doesn’t Bob Geren look at this and change course?

vs. L .147 .268 .235 1.47
vs. R .333 .333 .500 4.23

2. Will Hideki Matsui start to hit?

I expected a slow start and to a degree Matsui delivered and it was slower than his usual .271/.366/.432 mark. I guessed he’d be at .240/.320/.370 and he ended up at .242/.303/.374 so I wasn’t too far off. I expected more walks. So we got what was expected, lets see if he continues to climb. His approach is good however, he is mentoring young players, his value goes beyond just his stat line though we want a marked improvement there.

3. How will Geren use the bench?

His use of the bench has been interesting. He frequently pinch-hit for Kevin Kouzmanoff and Cliff Pennington. He liked Conor Jackson and Ryan Sweeney as his primary pinch-hitters and for a while it seemed he would begin to give Andy LaRoche starts at third though that changed. I suggested that Mark Ellis be regularly rested in favor of LaRoche he was not with Ellis playing in 26 of the first 27 games despite owning an atrocious .191/.232/.287 slash line. Likewise, I suggested Barton will never receive time off yet he has, and at very inopportune times (like when he starts to show signs of life in the batter’s box). I thought Kurt Suzuki should get every fifth day off and he hasn’t missing only four games including one because of his paternity leave. This despite the fact that realistically Landon Powell has been one of the surprise strong hitters for the A’s, in his only seven games of work he owns a .273/.407/.364 mark.

4. Will quick starts by Chris Carter and Tyson Ross begin to build “backup quarterback” sentiment amongst fans?

I guess this question was dependent upon them coming off to quick starts. Tyson Ross got called up care of an injury to Michael Wuertz then a rotation opening care of an injury to Dallas Braden. Chris Carter‘s .173/.323/.346 line with two home runs added on doesn’t have anyone clamoring to have him inserted in the A’s lineup though the lack of firepower in Oakland still has people hoping Carter can bring his services west down I-80 a bit.

5. Will Trevor Cahill come back to earth?

Happily no! I wrote of Cahill,

“It’ll be interesting to see how much Cahill regresses, and it’ll be very pleasantly surprising to see him not regress, immensely surprising if it happens with no real change in his K/9 or BB/9 rates.”

He has not regressed. He still sports a healthy split between his ERA (1.88) and FIP (2.87) but his FIP is good for 9th in the AL as we start play in May. Impressive and the explanation for this shift is his K/9 going from 5.4 in 2010 to 7.8 thus far in 2011. The question now is can he keep it up?

6. How important is a fast start?

I said it’d be very important, yet others stumbled out of the gate as well. So beginning May the AL West looks like this:

Texas 16 11 .593
Los Angeles 15 12 .556 1
Oakland 13 14 .481 3
Seattle 13 15 .464 3.5

Don’t think too many would have expected it to be so close. I said a key thing for the A’s was getting separation from the Angels and they didn’t do that, instead trailing them by two games. However a three-game deficit on May 1 is nothing to be overtly alarmed about. A quick start would’ve went a long way but this isn’t disastrous and if the A’s can keep playing .500 ball on the road (8-8) they will be in good shape come September.

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