Game 157, Mariners at Athletics
Blake Beavan vs. AJ Griffin, 7:05pm
It sure doesn’t seem like it, with the A’s holding on to a playoff spot and the M’s cruising to another last-place finish, but there are a lot of parallels between these two clubs. Neither team was really expected to contend, and both need their pitching and defense to make up for a mediocre/cobbled-together offense. The A’s big trade acquisition, Josh Reddick, has been substantially better than the M’s Jesus Montero, and the A’s young starters acquired in trade (Tom Milone, Jarrod Parker) have been worth about 7 WAR more than Hector Noesi. It’s not exactly apples to apples, as the M’s started the year with several high-paid players and one high-paid Figgins, whereas the A’s were only able to sign Cuban OF Yoenis Cespedes after purging their roster of anyone making decent money. Still, the A’s and M’s have filled out their rosters largely through small free agent deals and trades. The A’s just did a much better job.
To take that comparison a step further, AJ Griffin is the A’s version of Blake Beavan – he’s their physically large/broad right-handed control artist with a ~90mph fastball. Of course, this being Oakland in 2012, Griffin’s been brilliant. I talked about his stuff earlier this month before he shut down the M’s and beat King Felix, so I’m not going to do that again. I’d point out that he’s stumbled in his last two starts, giving up a combined 4 HRs and not making it out of the 5th inning either time, but that may tempt fate. So let’s just say that it’s exceedingly difficult for a righty with an 89-91 fastball to succeed by throwing said fastball in the strikezone so often. Drew Smyly made a huge splash this spring and then scuffled for much of May and June. Josh Collmenter was brilliant last year, and awful this year.
I’d point all of that out, and the A’s would refer me to Tommy Milone, who’s the exact same pitcher as Griffin but from the left side (and pocket-sized) – he’s been an above-average starter all year, and he’s got the same combination of solid K rate, miniscule BB rate, acceptable/so-so HR rate despite fly ball tendencies. Then they’d say that Griffin essentially replaced Bartolo Colon, the guy who essentially did nothing but throw 90mph fastballs over the plate and was bizarrely effective between 2011-12 before his suspension. I don’t know if this particular version of Beane’s shit is going to work in the playoffs, but just as with the Moneyball A’s, what we have here is some unusual shit.
One more thing to keep in mind, especially as the M’s try to continue their HR streak: the A’s home park has played awfully big this season. It hasn’t received as much attention as Safeco’s extreme splits, and with good reason, but the A’s have allowed opponents a .280 wOBA in Oakland, comparable to the M’s opponents’ .275 at Safeco. Both the M’s and A’s have allowed 60 HRs at home, compared to 100 and 81 (respectively) on the road. The A’s staff is still reasonably effective on the road, while the M’s have been below average, but whatever they call the Coliseum now is nearly as offense-sapping as the M’s home park.
4: Montero (DH)
5: Jaso (C)
No Gutierrez a day after being removed from the game after running into the wall in Anaheim hauling in Mike Trout’s drive. Precautionary, we’re told, as we are every time in this situation. And there have been a lot of situations.
Wells hitting 2nd. Huh.
I suppose I should mention that the M’s have a new Director of Pro Scouting, Tom Allison, who came over from the Diamondbacks organization. This was the spot Carmen Fusco held until his firing 2 years ago in the wake of the Josh Lueke trade (the Cliff Lee deal, not the John Jaso deal). This isn’t to be confused with the scouting director, or amateur scouting side of the shop; Tom McNamara’s still there, doing his thing. This can be an advisory role, and that’s the way the M’s have seemed to use it. Perhaps Zduriencik merely got tired of giving his new advisors the “special assistant GM” description and decided to go back to “Pro Scouting Director” instead. In a little over a year, the M’s have added Joe McIlvaine, Pete Vuckovich as special assistant GMs and promoted Roger Hansen to the same role: player procurement. In addition to this group, they still retain three pro scouting coordinators, and now it seems that those scouts will report to Allison. The M’s have added a *lot* of people to pro scouting, but I don’t think that’s reflective of any grand strategy or ‘freezing out’ Tony Blengino or anything. Zduriencik just seems to love old scouts and guys he worked with in Milwaukee and New York, and so he’s hired a bunch of them.
This isn’t the only model for a pro scouting director. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the Astros use Kevin Goldstein, who wasn’t a pro scout and was employed by Baseball Prospectus before joining Sig Mejdal’s staff. Still, it’s easy to overthink a move like this. The role’s been empty for two years and no one’s really noticed. There’ve been solid trades and awful trades during the pro scouting interregnum, and there’ll be hits and misses in the years ahead. But here’s hoping Tom Allison helps the group and helps the M’s turn the corner.