Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Resurgent A's. Here are a couple of articles I'll want to hang on to, if the A's make it to the playoffs. First from Tim Kurkjian (I'm highlighting the most important parts):
Two of the brightest general managers in baseball, Oakland's Billy Beane and Cleveland's Mark Shapiro, were speaking to each other recently.

"Billy told me we were giving the sabermetricians fits,'' Shapiro said with a smile.

Indeed. The Indians were on a pace to become the first team in history to finish 10 games under .500 despite outscoring their opponents by 50-plus runs. And the A's, well, their numbers don't make much sense, either.

Through Thursday, the A's lead the American League West by 5½ games. They are 17 games over .500 and have outscored their opponents by only 24 runs. Run differential always has been a leading indicator of a team's effectiveness: The 1927 Yankees outscored their opponents by 376 runs, an astounding 2.7 per game. Only two teams in history -- the 1997 Giants and 1984 Mets -- won 90 games in a season in which they were outscored. The A's have an outside chance to become the third team to do that.

The A's are last in the majors in slugging percentage, doubles and batting average with runners in scoring position, are tied for last in batting average and are 21st in runs scored.

"And we're first in [hitting into] double plays,'' Beane said, laughing. "Usually you have to have a lot of baserunners to do that. We are a complete freak show.''

So how are they in first place? Pitching and defense. Through Thursday, the A's are fifth in the majors in ERA and fourth in fielding percentage.

"The numbers tell me that (a) our defense is that good, and (b) it must be really good in situations, also,'' Beane said.

The A's have a deep, versatile bullpen that holds the AL's lowest percentage of inherited runners scored -- and that's having all their best relievers healthy for about only one week this season. Closer Huston Street is on the disabled list with a mild groin strain, but the return of Justin Duchscherer and Joe Kennedy from the DL has helped stabilize the pen again.
Read it all here.

The second article is on pitcher Esteban Loaiza in the A's win over Boston last night:
Esteban Loaiza threw seven scoreless innings against the Red Sox, and over his last four starts he's allowed only one earned run in 30 2/3 innings, for a 0.29 ERA. No other pitcher has allowed as few as one earned run in as many as 30 innings over four starts this season. Four pitchers did it last year: Jae Seo, Chris Carpenter, Mark Buehrle and Kenny Rogers.

Loaiza's run may remind some of Cory Lidle's season for the A's in 2002. Loaiza had a 6.41 ERA in 87 innings before his hot streak began. Lidle had a 5.15 ERA in 113 2/3 innings in 2002, then did not allow an earned run in 38 innings over next five starts, and only one earned run in 45 2/3 innings over his next six starts.

Besides those two A's pitchers, no one else in the last 30 years has had a run of four starts with zero or one earned runs in at least 30 innings, after having an ERA over 5.00 in at least 75 innings on the season when the streak began.

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