7/9/09

Posting Announcement

 Posting's been light the last few days; we apologize for that, but our internet at home's been knocked out and far be it from us to pay for Starbucks' services. Anyway, we're gonna be on vacation for the next month or so and as such we expect light posting during that time.

Sorry about that, but we'll be back in a bit.

7/6/09

Scott Hairston Traded to A's

The A's, perennial deadline dealers, made a move to acquire OF Scott Hairston from the Padres today, sending RHPs Craig Italiano, Ryan Webb, and a player to be named later downstate in return.  

We love this deal for the A's.  Couldn't be more enamored with it, really.  The A's have been scuffling on offense this year, and their outfield has been as much a factor as any other spot on the field.  Matt Holliday leads the team with a 1.4 WARP, but even that's far below what expectations the team - and we - placed on him.  Between Travis Buck, Jack Cust, Ryan Sweeney, and Rajai Davis, the team simply hasn't gotten enough production from what are supposed to be productive spots, and as a result are 11 games out in the weakest division in the league.

So, they bring in a guy who's hitting .270/.331/.504 in the last two years, and in Petco Park no less.  A guy who's OPSing .911 this year and can play right or center better than anyone else the club might run out there, if you need further qualifications.  Hairston, at 29, is no spring chicken, but 93 career homers in the minors and a .323/.400/.568 line in the minors suggest a bat that's capable of contact, patience, and power that simply hasn't gotten enough of a chance.  Indeed, the outfield's been one of a few sources of decent players for the Pads in the last few years, so we can see where Hairston would have trouble breaking in.  But now he's going to have a chance to play full time, and really show us what he can do...finally. And, since Hairston is under team control until 2011, this isn't just a one-season deal; should the A's young pitching develop quickly, as they expect will happen, then Hairston will be in place to help lead the charge for future divisional crowns.

And when you consider what they had to give up - two relief prospects and a PTBNL, you have to love the deal even more.  Relief prospects are a dime a dozen, and unless the PTBNL is someone great, then you kinda have to think that the Padres got fleeced here.  Which is really a critical error, considering that they're in full rebuilding mode and should be looking to get the best possible return for whatever veteran prospects they want to shed.  If you're trading away a guy with a .280/30 HR bat, you don't ask for a couple relievers - righties, no less - in return.  Get someone who can make an impact!  We know Billy Beane is the genius that wrote Moneyball and all, but sheesh, how does the guy pull away a piece like Hairston for a song?  Oakland's home park isn't much better than Petco in terms of offensive friendliness, but Hairston's shown the ability to put up numbers wherever he hits.  And in a division like the AL West, even an 11-game deficit isn't insurmountable.  This is a great pickup for Beane and the A's, and we'll be watching with great interest to see if Hairston can't help make up for some of the regression some of their young pitchers - Dallas Braden, we're looking at you - are sure to face in the second half.  It's gonna be a close one out west, folks!  Try to stay awake for their games.

7/2/09

On Pitch Counts

Yesterday, while watching Baseball Tonight - specifically, the Braves-Phillies highlight - the hosts mentioned that Jair Jurrjens had a no-hitter going through 7 and that Bobby Cox had said after the game, something to the effect of "I'm actually glad they broke up the no-hitter; I was concerned about his pitch count." The hosts then mentione that Jurrjens threw 97 pitches through 7 innings.

We - and we really can't put this strongly enough - hate pitch counts. This is not based on some old-school notion of "pitchers should be manly men who throw 400 innings a season like the good old days! Ed Walsh never would've come out of a game after 6 innings!" No, this is based on the idea that, to quote Herm Edwards, You Play To Win The Game. If your pitcher is dominating the WFC to the tune of a no-hitter through 7 innings, and he's showing no signs of tiring, don't pay attention to his pitch count. 100 is not some magic number whereby your pitcher's arm is going to fall off should he dare throw another pitch.

We know we're not breaking new ground here, which is in part why Cox's quote was so distressing. Countless pitchers, media types, and bloggers with much more of a head for research and numbers work than ourselves have gone on record saying things to the effect of: too much importance is placed on pitch counts these days. If a guy is struggling, it's hot out, he's having to nibble at corners all day, etc, then he might not be effective past even 75 or so pitches. If a guy's on cruise control, his stuff's all working, the slider's sludding, etc, then he shouldn't have a problem running it up to 120 pitches.

To wit: the idea of pitcher protection, according to the Hardball Times article linked above, came about around 15 years ago. And ever since then...well, pitchers are still getting hurt. It's a wildly violent, unnatural motion, pitching is, and no amount of pitcher protection is going to change that. You can ride a guy like CC Sabathia, and he won't get hurt. You can ride a guy like Mark Prior, and he will. Baby a guy like Ben Sheets, and he'll get hurt. Baby a guy like Roy Halladay and you're shooting yourself in the foot. It's a delicate science, to be sure, but we would argue that a basic tenet of pitching is to use your starters as much as possible. They're starters because they are more skilled at their craft than relievers; that's why they're handed more innings.

What we really want to say is this, and it's mostly directed towards the inimitable Bobby Cox, one of the greatest managers of all time: if your young stud pitcher is cruising, no-hitter or not, don't get the bullpen up just because he's nearing a hundred pitches. Stop making us question your acumen! This is twice in the last week.

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