Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: A’s 65-50   White Sox 51-62

GAMETIMES: Friday 2:10, Saturday 6:10, Sunday 1:10

TV: WGN Friday and Sunday, NBCSN Saturday

THE RIGHT GREEN AND GOLD: Athletics Nation

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

A’s Spotlight

The A’s continue their rare week-long stay in Chicago as after an off-day they will decamp to the Southside for the weekend, after a perfectly even series at Wrigley that basically coin-flipped to the Cubs. Each had a blowout, and Monday’s tilt came down to a gust of wind/loud fart from the bleachers to keep Marcus Semien‘s game-winning homer in the park. The Sox meanwhile go from beating up on the remedial class in Detroit to playing a team with real stakes again, a transition that could cause whiplash in some.

Not much could have changed for the A’s in four days, obviously. They still have issues in the rotation, though Tanner Roark and his strike-heavy ways will try and change that again on Saturday. The Sox will see Mike Fiers, whom I will never believe is good but keeps putting up good numbers, including leading the league in batting average against when trailing in the count somehow. Is he the worst pitcher to have two no-hitters to his name? The A’s have two of the names in the discussion, with Homer Bailey still nursing the contusions and lacerations the Cubs put on him on Wednesday.

The pen took a couple bumps too, as Blake Treinen continued his season-long wander through the forest on Wednesday as well. Lou Trivino hasn’t seen last year’s heights either, and it’s mostly on what Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria, and especially Liam Hendriks can do. The A’s sit only a half-game behind the Rays for the second wildcard spot, and it feels like if they’re going to make up that game hinges on whether they can find another arm or two out of the pen to be a blackout, or if they can get some more help from the rotation than just five innings of not setting any fires (no pun intended nor welcomed). Again, they’re still hoping that A.J. Puk and/or Jesus Luzardo, two kids that will be in their rotation next year, can recover from injuries and provide help from somewhere in the season’s dying embers. When you’re Oakland, this is the kind of thing you do.

The lineup remains fine, though barely. Matt Chapman is in something of a swoon, with a wRC+ of 0 the past couple weeks. Semien is picking up the slack of late, and Mark Canha has chipped in, but this is not a bash-and-crash outfit. They score just enough, they catch just enough, and the pen generally holds the lid down even if it’s popping up and pulsating. They get through by the skin of their teeth.

For the Sox, it’s basically about maintaining a couple rolls. Reynaldo Lopez has an ERA under 3.00 since the break, and everyone is hoping this is his coming out party. He shut out the A’s over six innings last time he saw them, and while walks have been an issue his past two starts he’s been able to dodge the alarms. Still, the Sox would like to see him complete the sixth instead of just get there as he has the past couple outings. Giolito has found his dominating best in the last two starts as well after getting brained by the Twins. The Mets and Tigers aren’t exactly dynamic offenses, but at the moment neither are the A’s.

Tim Anderson and James McCann had great series in Detroit, and McCann especially needed it. An odd Friday matinee kicks it off, and starts a stretch where the Sox will see a lot of playoff contenders. The Astros are in after this, and they’ll see the Twins twice and Braves once before August is out. Fine test if nothing else.

Baseball

   VS.

 

RECORDS:  A’s 50-41  White Sox 42-44

Game Times: Friday 9:05/Saturday & Sunday 3:05

TV:  Friday & Saturday NBCSN/Sunday WGN

Still Bashin’ Bros: Athletics Nation

PITCHING MATCHUPS:

Game 1: Mike Fiers vs. Chevy Nova

Game 2: Chris Bassit vs. TBD (Probably Dylan Cease)

Game 3: Brett Anderson vs. Reynaldo Lopez

 

PROBABLE A’S LINEUP:

1. Marcus Seimen – SS

2. Robbie Grossman – LF

3. Matt Olson – 1B

4. Khris Davis – DH

5. Matt Chapman – 3B

6. Josh Phegley – C

7. Ramon Laureano – CF

8. Mark Canha – RF

9. Franklin Barreto – 2B

 

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

1. Leury Garcia – SS

2. Yoan Moncada – 3B

3. Jose Abreu – 1B

4. James McCann – C

5. Eloy Jimenez – LF

6. Jon Jay – RF

7. Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

8. Ryan Cordell – CF

9. Zack Collins (hopefully)- DH

 

 

So now begins the back nine of what can be considered a fairly successful first half for the White Sox, despite the sub .500 record.  There are a couple of storylines that bear watching, mostly the usage of the younger members of the Sox roster from here on out.  Kicking off the 2nd half is a series against the Oakland A’s, a team with playoff aspirations and the record to back it up.  They’re currently locked in a battle with the 2 Texas based teams, jockeying for position in the AL west.  The smart money is on the Astros to sew it up on the back 9, and the regression monster finally coming for the surprising Rangers.  This leaves Team Moneyball to take their standard spot as the other AL wild card team, destined to be smoked by Tampa Bay or Boston.

The A’s have made it this far mostly living off their surprising starting pitching, anchored by Mike Fiers and the surprising Frankie Montas, though I guess it’s not THAT surprising since he just got popped with an 80 game suspension for performance enhancers.  Fiers actually has been one of the better AL starters since May, tossing a No-No earlier.  He currently sports a respectable 3.87 ERA, with a 1.10 WHIP.  He doesn’t strike many people out, but he keeps the ball in the yard, especially at the canyon-esque Coliseum he calls home.  He’s also a giant dickhead, and is probably upset he’s missing out on a chance to throw at Tim Anderson’s head.  Brett Anderson and Chris Bassit have also been solid, even if most A’s fans couldn’t pick them out of a police lineup.  Their bullpen is also lights out, and is set to eclipse the 6.0 WAR they put up last season during their surprising wild card run.  Fangraphs currently has them as the most successful pen in the majors so far this season.  Closer Blake Treinen has for the time being lost his spot to Liam Hendricks due to a rotater cuff strain, but should resume the gig now that he’s off the IL.  He wasn’t exactly lights out before the strain, however, posting a 4.17 ERA and blowing 4 saves.  His slider, which had been his out pitch in previous years, has been ditched for a new cut fastball.  Apparently it’s not cutting enough, because it’s being hit harder than any other of his offerings.

The A’s hitters, while not the murderer’s row offered up by the Dodgers or the Twins (ugh.  Really?), can still hurt you top to bottom.  They currently sit right in the top third of the league in hitting according to Fangraphs, and the team BABIP actually shows they’ve been the victim of some bad luck thus far.  Matt Chapman leads the way again, building off his impressive breakout season last year.  He’s already knocked out 21 dingers thus far, and maintains an .887 OBPS, which is exactly the type of player that gives Billy Beane night sweats.  Khris Davis, though hampered by some injuries so far, continues to provide pop in the heart of the lineup.  Old Friend Marcus Seimen continues to provide much improved D up the middle, and has added a little pop to his game, slugging .105 above his career average.  Even though Timmy has SS locked down for the future, this trade still stings seeing what Seimen has turned into.

As for the Sox, while it was fun seeing Giolito, McCann and Abreu in the All Star game (despite Jose going GIDP in his only at bat) it’s time to get back to doing what they do best: sit just below .500 while playing entertaining baseball for most of the time.  With no starter officially listed for Saturday yet, one would have to assume it would be start #2 for Dylan Cease.  If not, I guess we get to see more of Hoss Detwiler, though Covey may be available as well.  I’d much rather Covey slot into long relief, as it seems to be his destiny on this club.  Nova gets the start tonight, and it will be interesting to see if he can build on the little streak he had for himself before the break.  With 2 of the 3 A’s starters set to be RHP, this would be a good time to give Zack Collins a few starts either behind the dish or at 1B to give Jose a breather.  Will it happen?  With Palka being sent back down, you’d think so but we shall see.   Having a few extra days off will probably help a few of the Sox starters, as nagging injuries to Leury and Yoan could’ve used the extra time.

While the Sox -71 run differential screams 2nd half regression, some of that could be mitigated by having more than 2/5ths of an actual MLB starting rotation.  Either way, I’m hopeful for the future (and a Luis Robert September callup) and excited to see what the trade deadline and the 2nd half brings to the team.  Time to crank it up, fire it up.

Let’s Go Sox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baseball

As far as GMs with the most name recognition in baseball, there are none more famous than Billy Beane.  There certainly aren’t any out there who are played by Brad Pitt in a major motion picture.  Yet what most people don’t realize is that Beane isn’t even the GM of the A’s anymore.  A few years back, Beane was promoted from GM of the A’s to president of baseball operations, and David Forst (his handpicked successor) was installed as GM.  For awhile Beane disappeared from the public eye as Forst gave more and more of the interviews.  This became even more noticeable when the A’s entered into a slide of 3 straight years of finishing at the bottom of the AL West.  Was Moneyball dead?  Was Beane full of shit all along?  Could the A’s pull themselves out of the cellar without a payroll of more than $30 million dollars?  Turns out the answer to all of those was an emphatic “maybe.”

The 2018 season for the A’s resulted in a gigantic turnaround that saw them finish six games behind the 2017 WS winners Houston and score themselves a wild card birth.  Granted, that wild card birth resulted in a 7-2 thrashing at the hands of the Yankees, but at least some life had been shown by the once scrappy team.  The A’s were able to claw themselves back into relevance with timely hitting and a loaded bullpen that was completely rebuilt by Beane and Forst in the previous offseason.  Subscribing to the formula made successful by Cleveland the previous year, they loaded up with Juerys Familia and Shawn Kelley.  They also had Blake Trienen and his career year anchoring them down in the 9th inning.  Fangraphs had them with the 6th best bullpen in the league with a total of 6.0 WAR.  Compared to the previous year when they were 23rd in the league with 1.9 in WAR.  That’s a gigantic turnaround, and (credit where its due) that’s due to some smooth moves by Forst and Beane.

This offseason he started out by prying super utility guy Jurickson Profar away from the Rangers, then adding even more to his misfit bullpen by signing Old Friend Jokim Soria to a 2 year deal.  He also attempted to shore up a weak looking rotation by signing Mike Fiers,  Brett Anderson and Marco Estrada to low cost deals.  He also signed Khris Davis to a long term extension, one of the most expensive contracts ever given out in his tenure with the A’s.

So where did signing all of these “Beane Guys” get them?  Well the A’s rotation, despite most fans needing google to identify most of them, has been one of the best in baseball.  Mike Fiers (yeah, that same guy who exploded Giancarlo Stanton’s jaw awhile back) threw a no hitter earlier, and Frankie Montas and Brett Anderson were on pace for career years. At least until Montas was busted for performance enhancing substances a few weeks back.  Davis is doing Khris Davis things, and the other found talents in his lineup (Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Josh Phegley) continue to hit for both power and average.  Even after all of these years, the A’s are still able to cobble together playoff-caliber teams from the spare parts of other clubs and this season appears to be no different.

All of the above are hallmarks of a Billy Beane-led team.  So while he may not be in front of the cameras now nearly as much as he used to be, his muppet David Forst is clearly still under his orders.  Nothing truly changes with Beane’s thrift shop approach to building and maintaining a MLB franchise.  There’s no doubt it’s had it’s successes, but wins have never translated into attendance for Oakland.  Granted, a fair amount of that blame can be put on their converted football stadium and the continuing haunting of the outfield by the ghost of Al Davis.  Some of that is just the lackadaisical approach to fandom most of the Bay Area takes to pro sports. I would pin most of it on his team’s reliability to flame out in the opening rounds of the MLB postseason.  As it stands right now the A’s are on a collision course with Tampa Bay, the team currently doing Moneyball better than the creator of it, and I would expect Oakland’s journey to end no differently than in past seasons.  You can practically set your watch to it.  So in the end, he can hide behind the scenes, but he can never truly escape the fact that to win in MLB these days, Moneyball alone gets you nothing but an average baseball movie starring Brad Pitt and the guy from the GIF making the “nah man, stop it” motion with his hand.