Local Sports – Martinez Tribune https://martineztribune.com The website of the Martinez Tribune. Thu, 19 Sep 2019 04:34:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.3 Canha’s 11th inning walk-off gives A’s 1-0 win in pitchers duel https://martineztribune.com/2019/09/18/canhas-11th-inning-walk-off-gives-as-1-0-win-in-pitching-duel/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/09/18/canhas-11th-inning-walk-off-gives-as-1-0-win-in-pitching-duel/#respond Thu, 19 Sep 2019 02:19:12 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13194 BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER Mark Canha’s 11th inning double drove home Jurickson Profar with the only run of the game, breaking up a pitchers duel and giving the A’s a 1-0 win over the Kansas City Royals Wednesday afternoon at the Coliseum. Canha laced a 1-2 sinker from Royals reliever Jessie Hahn into right field to …

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BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

Mark Canha’s 11th inning double drove home Jurickson Profar with the only run of the game, breaking up a pitchers duel and giving the A’s a 1-0 win over the Kansas City Royals Wednesday afternoon at the Coliseum.

Canha laced a 1-2 sinker from Royals reliever Jessie Hahn into right field to score Profar, who had walked to open the inning before stealing second base. It was the A’s 10th walk-off win of the season.

The win, Oakland’s eighth in nine games and 13th in their last 16, was the A’s 92nd of the year and put them a season high 31 games over .500. It also helped them extend their lead in the battle for the top Wild Card seed in the AL to 2.5 games over the Rays and Indians pending their games tonight.

 

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Oakland’s Mark Canha celebrates his 11th inning walk-off single with Matt Olson (28) Wednesday afternoon at the Coliseum. Canha’s hit gave the A’s a 1-0 win over the Kansas City Royals.

 

A’s starting pitcher Homer Bailey set the tone, shutting down the Royals on just three hits in seven innings while striking out a season high 11 against his former team. Kansas City starter Danny Duffy was just as good, only allowing two hits over seven innings while striking out seven. Yusmeiro Petit, Jake Diekman and J.B. Wendelken pitched an additional four scoreless frames while striking out eight, giving Oakland pitchers 19 strikeouts for the game.

 

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Oakland second baseman Sheldon Neuse completes a fifth inning double play during the A’s 1-0 11 inning win over the Kansas City Royals Wednesday afternoon.

 

After an off day Thursday, the A’s return to action at the Coliseum Friday for a three game series against Texas to conclude their regular season schedule at home. Mike Fiers (14-4, 4.09) is scheduled to face the Rangers Mike Minor (13-9, 3.33) in the opener.

GAME NOTES:

Following the game, Oakland announced that Blake Treinen will be shut down for the remainder of the regular season due to a stress reaction in his back.

The A’s finished the season 25-8 against AL Central opponents. It’s the second year in a row they’ve beaten up against the division, after going 26-8 last year. They also finished with a run differential of +89 in the 33 games in 2019.

After his performance Tuesday night, Liam Hendricks now has 116 strikeouts as a reliever this season, passing Rollie Fingers (115 in 1975) for most strikeouts by an A’s reliever in a single season.

A’s starting pitchers are 13-1 over the last 28 games dating back to August 20th.

Wednesday’s win was Oakland’s 50th of the year at home, tying their 2018 total with three games remaining. It’s the third best home record in the American League.

 

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Longoria leads Giants past A’s 5-4 to take Bay Bridge series https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/25/longoria-leads-giants-past-as-5-4-to-take-bay-bridge-series/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/25/longoria-leads-giants-past-as-5-4-to-take-bay-bridge-series/#respond Mon, 26 Aug 2019 02:53:12 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=13006 BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER The San Francisco Giants took down the Oakland A’s 5-4 to take the Bay Bridge series before a crowd of 47,321 at the Coliseum Sunday afternoon. Evan Longoria’s three RBI’s led the Giants to a sweep of the two game weekend series in Oakland, enabling them to win the annual crosstown series …

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BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

The San Francisco Giants took down the Oakland A’s 5-4 to take the Bay Bridge series before a crowd of 47,321 at the Coliseum Sunday afternoon.

Evan Longoria’s three RBI’s led the Giants to a sweep of the two game weekend series in Oakland, enabling them to win the annual crosstown series three games to one as the Athletics fell a 1/2 game off the pace behind Tampa Bay in the ultra competitive AL Wild Card race.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER San Francisco’s Evan Longoria blasts a third inning home run for his 1,000th career RBI during the Giants 5-4 win over the Oakland A’s Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum.

After San Francisco jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second, the A’s quickly bounced back with three runs of their own. Mark Canha took a pitch from Giants starter Logan Webb, in just his second Major League appearance, over the right field wall to get Oakland on the board. Back-to-back doubles by Jurickson Profar and Corban Joseph followed by a Chad Pinder single made it four consecutive hits to give the A’s a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the frame.

Longoria wasted no time tying it, blasting a Brett Anderson pitch 414 feet to deep center for his 17th homer of the year. It was also his 1,000th career RBI. The game would remain tied until Canha hit his second home run of the game in the in the fourth to give the A’s a 4-3 lead.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Oakland’s Mark Canha watches the flight of his second inning home run Sunday afternoon against the Giants. Canha would hit another homer in the fourth, his 22nd of the season, but it wasn’t enough as San Francisco earned a 5-4 win.

The advantage held up for Oakland until the seventh when a Longoria single off Blake Treinen drove in Brandon Crawford and Donovan Solano to give him three RBI’s on the day. Solano finished with a perfect day at the plate, reaching base in all five of his appearances with three singles, a double and a walk. The two runs proved decisive as Will Smith came on to pitch a scoreless ninth for his 30th save of the season.

Following the game, Oakland boarded a flight to Kansas City where they’ll begin a three game series with the Royals tomorrow night. Homer Bailey (11-8, 5.06) takes on KC’s Brad Keller (7-13, 3.95) in the opener. Meanwhile, the Giants will return to the friendly confines of Oracle Park for a brief two game set against the Diamondbacks, with Tyler Beede (3-7, 5.82) facing off against Arizona’s Alex Young (5-3, 4.04) at 6:45pm on Monday night.

GAME NOTES:

After 23 years of inter-league competition, Oakland now owns an 8-5 edge in Bay Bridge season series wins over the Giants with ten ties.

Sunday marked Bruce Bochy’s 4,000th game as a Major League manager, making him just the eighth to accomplish the feat. Next up is Sparky Anderson at 4,030, who Bochy should pass on the final weekend of the season.

Mike Yastrzemski’s eight home runs in August are just two shy of the franchise’s All-Time record for most HR’s in a month. Bobby Thompson hit 10 in 1947, a mark tied by Willie Mays four years later, both while the franchise was in New York. Orlando Cepeda is the only Giants rookie to hit nine homers in a month during the San Francisco era.

With 17 home runs and 47 RBI’s, Yaz is on the verge of becoming just the fourth Giants rookie to hit at least 20 homers while driving in at least 50 RBI in a single season. Only Dave Kingman (1972), Jim Ray Hart (1964) and Cepeda (1958) have accomplished the feat.

Canha’s two home runs extended his season total to a career high 22 long balls.

 

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Yanks resilience thru injuries fashions best record in the Majors https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/20/yanks-resilience-thru-injuries-fashions-best-record-in-the-majors/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/20/yanks-resilience-thru-injuries-fashions-best-record-in-the-majors/#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2019 07:15:58 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=12938 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ The New York Yankees come to town to play a three game set with the A’s Tuesday night, bringing with them the best record in baseball and a stranglehold on the AL East division. The A’s continue to battle for a Wild Card berth, one game behind Tampa Bay, and if they …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

The New York Yankees come to town to play a three game set with the A’s Tuesday night, bringing with them the best record in baseball and a stranglehold on the AL East division. The A’s continue to battle for a Wild Card berth, one game behind Tampa Bay, and if they were able to win that one game elimination match, they’d likely match up against the Yankees in the ALDS. Given the injuries that have plagued the Bronx Bombers in 2019, it is astounding that they hold such a lofty place in the standings.

The Yankees have been historically unfortunate with regard to their injuries in 2019.  Starting third baseman Miguel Andujar only got 47 at bats before going down with a shoulder injury, and is out for the year.  Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has not played since 2017. Starting shortstop Didi Gregorius missed the first 70 games of the season recovering from elbow surgery.  Leftfielder Giancarlo Stanton has missed all but nine contests thus far.

The starting outfield of CF Aaron Hicks (59 games), RF Aaron Judge (65 games) and LF Stanton (9 games) has played in a combined 133 games of a possible 363 this year.  Hicks and Stanton are currently on the IL, and are not certain to return before the end of the season. Players such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion and first baseman Luke Voit are both currently out of action and might not be activated before the playoffs begin.

Starting catcher Gary Sanchez has missed 35 games with two different injuries. Their ace, Luis Severino hasn’t thrown a single pitch in 2019. Each of their projected 2019 rotation members: CC Sabathia, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka, and Severino have missed starts and/or been on the IL. Key setup man Dellin Betances has also been out all year. In all, through August 16th, the Yankees have lost 1930 player days to the IL this year, which represents a total of $62 million in payroll that has been unavailable to them (data courtesy of Spotrac). Both of those figures are the highest in the league this year by a significant margin.

The Yankees have the best record in baseball at 83-43, and are running away with the AL East. With all the injury issues they’ve had this year, how can that be possible ?  The answer lies with the largely unknown players who have stepped up to help replace the injured Yankee stars, almost all of whom have performed at levels far exceeding their career norms.

Marcus Thames is the New York hitting coach, and he’s been on the job since the start of the 2018 season.  His primary mantra for his hitters: “Make sure you swing at strikes.” Phil Plantier is the hitting coach for the Yankees AAA affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. In a radio interview with Sweeny Murti on WFAN New York, Plantier notes that “making subtle tweaks in their work” was instrumental in helping his charges at AAA ascend to the majors with an approach that would be effective immediately.

As one might expect, neither Thames nor Plantier has been particularly specific about the nature of the adjustments their pupils have adopted, but it is very clear that whatever they’ve advised, it has paid dramatic dividends. Both men deserve credit for working with players who have arrived from other teams over the past two seasons, helping to elevate their offensive output and arguably fueling the Yankees success despite their unprecedented injury woes.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER After three highly uneventful seasons to start his career before joining the Yankees in the off-season, Gio Urshela has hit .336 with 18 home runs and 66 RBI’s in 2019. His career totals prior to coming to New York were eight home runs and 39 RBI’s.

Third baseman Gio Urshela, 27, was a glove first prospect who never found his footing as a hitter in the majors with both Cleveland and Toronto. At AAA in 2017, he hit .266/.321/.374 for the Indians with six HR and 34 RBIs. He was traded the following May to Toronto for a player to be named, and was then purchased from the Jays by the Yankees in August of that year. In his major league career with Cleveland and Toronto, in 466 AB’s, he hit .225/.267/.315 with eight HR and 39 RBIs.

Since becoming a Yankee, Urshela has been a different hitter: .342/.383/.587 with 18 HR and 66 RBIs in 339 at bats. His batting average would lead all of baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the title, and is the best in the majors among hitters with at least 300 AB’s. He has improved in every facet of his game, and has arguably been more productive for the Yankees than Andujar, the man he’s replacing, who hit .297/.328/.527 in 2018. Urshela credits Plantier for helping him hone his swing when the Yankees acquired him in 2018, focusing on trying to utilize his legs to help generate power.  It’s certainly working for him.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Mike Tauchman’s unexpected production for the Yankees has been a testament to the teams depth as it survived a rash of injuries. He’s batting .289 with 29 extra base hits and 42 RBI’s after entering the season with only 52 games of Major League experience.

With slugging outfielders Judge and Stanton missing large portions of the season, the Yankees figured to be hard pressed to replace their productivity. But Mike Tauchman, who was acquired in March from Colorado for a minor league pitcher, has filled in capably. Despite a minor league track record that showed promise, Tauchman hadn’t been able to stick in the majors, hitting just .153/.265/.203 in 69 AB’s for the Rockies through his age 27 season. Surely, a player who couldn’t flourish in the thin air of Coors Field wouldn’t improve after leaving that environment. Yet that is exactly what happened. At 28, he’s hit .289/.372/.554 with 12 HRs and 42 RBIs for the Yankees, a batting rate that is better than that of Stanton’s 2018 season (.266/.343./.509).  Plantier has also been instrumental in helping Tauchman develop his swing at the AAA level, helping to fuel his 2019 breakout in the Bronx.

Cameron Maybin, 32, arrived in New York in April of 2019. The team purchased his contract from the Indians, who had signed him less than a month earlier after the Giants released him, hoping he might be a solution to their outfield productivity woes. He never played a regular season game for either Cleveland or San Francisco, but he’s been a revelation for the Yankees.  He’s hitting .312/.390/.526 in his 173 ABs for New York, levels that are dramatically better than his .257/.325/.376 career marks.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER After playing for the Marlins in 2018, Cameron Maybin was released by both the Giants and Indians before the start of the regular season, but he’s found a home in the Bronx, batting .309 while filling in for the injured Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks in the Yankees decimated outfield.

Perhaps the most remarkable transformation has occurred with infielder D.J. LeMahieu, 31, who has played at least 20 games at first, second and third base for the Yankees, covering for injured players all over the diamond in 2019. He was signed as a free agent following the 2018 season, after fashioning a strong presence in the NL as a Gold Glove second baseman for the Rockies. In his NL career, spent almost entirely with Colorado, he hit a respectable .298/.350/.406 with a total of 49 HRs over eight seasons.

LeMahieu’s NL batting levels were inflated by his play at Coors Field, where he had an 834 OPS compared to a 681 OPS in road stadiums, and many teams were hesitant to pursue him as a free agent, fearing his projected output would suffer outside of Coors Field. The Yankees were not concerned, signing him to a two-year, $24 million deal in January of this year. In addition to his trademark defensive prowess, he’s proved a prescient acquisition for New York. He is hitting .339/.386/.543,leading the AL batting race. His 21 homers and 86 RBIs are already career bests, and the season still has seven weeks remaining. Like many of his teammates in the Bronx, LeMahieu is producing at levels that are far better than his prior established norms.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER In his first season with the Yankees since signing as a free agent, D.J. LeMahieu leads the Majors with a .339 average. If he wins the batting title he’ll be the first player in MLB history to lead both leagues in hitting.

SO, what is happening to turn these players into monsters in the Bronx ?

One of the possible explanations for the changes demonstrated by the Yankee hitters this year comes from a hire they made in January of this year.  Linsdey Adler of The Athletic interviewed Dillon Lawson, the minor league hitting coordinator for the team, who has been implementing his theories on pitch recognition throughout the organization.  Adler reveals that Lawson and his colleague, Dr. Peter Fadde, a professor at Southern Illinois University, have developed a program that helps hitters hone their reactions to pitches.

The goal is to identify pitches that a hitter should swing at, and those they should let pass, as early as possible in the ball’s flight towards the plate.  One drill reportedly utilized by Lawson has hitters watching video of pitches being thrown. The video feed is halted before the pitch reaches the plate, and the hitters are responsible for identifying the type of pitch they just saw. The intent is to develop visible cues that hitters can recognize in the way a pitcher changes his arm, wrist or hand position to deliver that particular pitch, allowing them to build a mental inventory of pitches that they can store for future plate appearances. Could these types of drills help explain some of the marked improvements in their hitters in the major leagues?

Regardless of how the Yankees are getting their hitters to maximize their talents, the results are startling. Credit should rightfully go to the players themselves, who are putting bat to ball with admirable discipline, unleashing beautifully violent swings with career best outcomes. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that random chance or luck has been the primary driver of the stunning improvement shown by the Yankee players filling in for the team’s panoply of injured stars. People like Marcus Thames, Phil Plantier and Dillon Lawson all deserve to be recognized for helping to bring an organization-wide hitting philosophy to the franchise, and for having the skill to translate those paradigms into practical drills and mechanical adjustments that have been the engine behind the success of the Yankee hitters who have stepped up when the opportunity arose.

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A’s use small ball to take third straight from Houston 8-4 https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/17/as-use-small-ball-to-take-third-straight-from-houston-8-4/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/17/as-use-small-ball-to-take-third-straight-from-houston-8-4/#respond Sun, 18 Aug 2019 03:27:59 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=12932 BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER Chris Bassitt and the A’s overcame a shaky start before settling down to pitch six strong innings Saturday afternoon and help Oakland to their third straight win over the Houston Astros by a score of 8-4 at the Coliseum. With the win, the A’s have now shaved four games off of Houston’s …

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BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

Chris Bassitt and the A’s overcame a shaky start before settling down to pitch six strong innings Saturday afternoon and help Oakland to their third straight win over the Houston Astros by a score of 8-4 at the Coliseum.

With the win, the A’s have now shaved four games off of Houston’s division lead in the past four days to cut their deficit to 6.5 games while reaching a season-high 19 games over .500. Oakland continues to trail Tampa Bay by 1/2 game in the battle for the AL’s second Wild Card spot.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Chris Bassitt delivers a pitch during the A’s 8-4 win over Houston Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum. Bassitt allowed three runs in six innings to improve his record to 9-5.

Bassitt (9-5, 3.61) needed 30 pitches to work out of a bases-loaded first inning jam, and gave up a pair of runs in the third after allowing three consecutive hits to open the inning before settling down to complete six innings on 116 pitches.

It was also a five run third inning that broke open the game for Oakland. Four consecutive singles to start the frame followed by a bases-loaded walk to Matt Chapman tied the game. Another single by Matt Olson put the A’s up 3-2. A two run single by Mark Canha to drive in Chapman and Robbie Grossman extended the lead to 5-2 as Oakland finished the frame with six hits, all singles.

Astros rookie Yordan Alvarez continued his assault on Major League pitching with a pair of solo home runs. In just 51 games, he now has 19 homers to go along with 54 RBIs.

The two teams will be back at it Sunday afternoon at 1:05 PM with the A’s going for an unlikely four-game sweep. Houston’s Zack Greinke (12-4, 2.91) will be on the mound for the Astros trying to become just the third active pitcher to reach 200 career wins while Brett Anderson (10-8, 3.95) is scheduled to take the hill for Oakland.

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Astros pitching magic continues to dominate AL opponents https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/14/astros-pitching-magic-continues-to-dominate-al-opponents/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/14/astros-pitching-magic-continues-to-dominate-al-opponents/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 05:24:36 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=12859 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ With Houston enjoying a 9.5 game lead over the A’s and rolling to a third straight division title as they arrive in Oakland for a four game weekend series, the Astros pitching philosophy has become the cornerstone of their sustained success in the AL West. But what does their organization know about …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

With Houston enjoying a 9.5 game lead over the A’s and rolling to a third straight division title as they arrive in Oakland for a four game weekend series, the Astros pitching philosophy has become the cornerstone of their sustained success in the AL West. But what does their organization know about the art of throwing a baseball that the rest of the league has yet to figure out?

Righthander Aaron Sanchez was traded on deadline day this year from Toronto to Houston, jumping from a team that was 27 games out of first place to one with the best record in the American League. He had other reasons to be excited about his change in employers. The Astros organization has developed a well-earned reputation for taking talented pitchers and immediately making them better, sometimes dramatically so. If ever a pitcher required such a makeover, it was Sanchez, who had the worst ERA (6.07) and most losses (14) among all hurlers who had thrown at least 100 innings in 2019. Surely, the Houston magic would be put to the test trying to turn Sanchez around.

In his first start as an Astro, Sanchez threw six hitless innings against Seattle, striking out six and allowing only two base-runners, both on walks. His new teammates completed the final three innings without allowing any hits, and Sanchez was a part of history: the 12th no-hitter for the Astro franchise, and just the 14th such event (a combined no-hitter) in baseball since 1901.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Aaron Sanchez delivers a pitch for the Blue Jays earlier this season prior to being dealt to Houston. With Toronto, Sanchez was 3-14 with a 6.07 ERA, but after throwing six no-hit innings in his Astros debut, he’s 2-0 with a 0.87 ERA since his trade.

It’s only a single start, and that’s not nearly enough to draw any rational conclusions. If Sanchez feat were an isolated occurrence, it would be chalked up to random variation-a professional pitcher who had all the stars align for a single glorious night. The Astros, however, have achieved incredible results with newly acquired pitchers of all types and levels of skill. How are they doing it ?

When the Astros trade for a pitcher, or sign one as a free agent, they have a formal meeting with him. The franchise presents reams of data, high speed video, heat maps and mechanical optimization suggestions designed to maximize the unique gifts and skills of that particular player. There is no cookie cutter approach in Houston. The pitcher still has to take the ball and make it dance, but the Astros make sure they are using the best weapons they’ve got, and minimizing those that have proven less effective. Each pitcher gets his own plan, and starting from the lowest rungs of the organization, that approach has led to unprecedented success on the mound in Houston.

Here’s a look at a number of pitchers that have seen huge leaps in performance upon being acquired by the Astros, as well as one who came up through their organization and saw similar transformations:

Collin McHugh was struggling. The Mets had drafted McHugh in the 18th round in 2008, then traded him to Colorado for Eric Young Jr. in 2013. The Rockies put him on waivers that winter, and the Astros scooped him up in December 2013.

In his four years with the Mets and Rockies, the righthander didn’t fare well, but the Astros saw something in his skill set, and they thought they could mold his arsenal and yield far better outcomes. They were right.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Collin McHugh had an 0-8 record with an 8.94 ERA before arriving in Houston. With the Astros, he’s 57-35 with a 3.67 ERA.

In McHugh’s case, the Astros asked him to stop throwing his fastball quite so much, and to feature his curve and slider more frequently. In his time with the Mets and Rockies, McHugh would throw his fastball 52% of the time, and his slider and curve a combined 38% of the time. The Astros got him spinning breaking balls 55% of the time, dropping his fastball usage to 40%. They also were able to coax more heat from McHugh when he did feature his fastball. In his final year before being waived by the Rockies, McHugh averaged 91.0 MPH with his fastball. In 2014, his first with Houston, that same pitch was coming in at 92.4 MPH.  That season McHugh went 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA, finishing fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

The following year, he would go 19-7, 3.89, and finish eighth in Cy Young balloting. The Astros waiver claim turned into a true ace-caliber starting pitcher by flipping his pitch usage and featuring his breaking pitches more than his fastball, and by adding velocity to all his offerings. He began striking out significantly more hitters, and was more effective across the board.

Charlie Morton’s career was at a crossroads. Following the 2016 season, his ninth in the big leagues, the 32 year-old righthanded starting pitcher was a free agent. In April of that year, he had torn his hamstring running to first base, and had surgery to repair the injury, missing the rest of the season. Still, the Astros believed that his best days were yet ahead of him, despite his age and the hamstring issue. Once again, they were right.                    

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton, a former Astro, was 46-71 with a 4.54 ERA and an average of 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings before arriving in Houston. In his two years with the Astros along with the 2019 season with the Rays, he’s 42-14 with a 3.21 ERA while averaging 10.7 K’s per nine innings.

Morton’s velocity increased from 95.4 to 96.0 in 2017, but it was his power curve that the Astros really focused on. In his years in the National League, Morton couldn’t get lefties out, and he had allowed the highest batting average against lefties (.301) of any right-handed starter in all of baseball. By increasing his velocity and changing the shape of his curveball, the Astros reaped a significant benefit. In 2017, Morton allowed lefties to hit .172 against him, the best in the major leagues among right-handed starters. In Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, it was Charlie Morton closing out the game for Houston, throwing the last four frames in his team’s title clinching 5-1 victory against the Dodgers. He was on the mound when the franchise won its first championship, a year after wondering if his career might be over.

Righthander Gerrit Cole was the top overall pick in the draft by the Pirates in 2011 out of UCLA. He was a scout’s dream, featuring premium velocity, great control and durability. The 6’4” righty would debut in the majors with Pittsburgh two short years later, pitching at a very high level during his five years with the club. In January 2018, he would be traded to Houston for a package of young players. The Astros were banking on their ability to maximize pitching potential, even in a player who had already excelled in the majors. They were not disappointed.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Gerritt Cole had a 59-42 record with a 3.50 ERA and 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings with Pittsburgh prior to signing with the Astros. In less than two full seasons with Houston, he’s 29-10 with a 2.87 ERA while increasing his strikeout rate to 12.7 per nine innings.

The Astros turned a great starting pitcher into an elite one. The Astros believed Cole should rely more upon his breaking pitches than his fastball to gain effectiveness and deception. His pitch mix changed from throwing 60% fastballs and 30% breaking pitches to 56% fastballs and 40% curves and sliders. Under the Astros tutelage, his fastball velocity ticked up from 96.3 in his last year with the Pirates to its current 97.3, and Cole began striking out hitters at a career high level. His 276 whiffs in 2018 were a career best, and second in the American League. In 2019, Cole is striking out 12.9 hitters/9 innings, good for the fifth best rate in baseball history. He finished fifth in 2018 Cy Young voting, and is a safe bet to match or improve that performance this year.

Justin Verlander’s career was already on a Hall of Fame trajectory in the summer of 2017. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2006, and was a six time All Star. He had claimed a Cy Young Award and an MVP in 2011 with the Tigers, but had never won a championship. In late August of 2017, the Tigers called to inform their 34 year-old ace they had a trade in place to send him to Houston. His contract allowed him to veto any deal, but with minutes to go at the August 31st deadline for postseason roster eligibility, he reluctantly agreed to accept the move to the Astros. The righty would make five regular season starts for the Astros, winning each of them (5-0, 1.06), after going 10-8, 3.82 for Detroit. He would go 4-0, 1.46 in the ALDS and ALCS, and was named the MVP of the latter series, leading the Astros into the World Series against the Dodgers. Though he was 0-1, 3.75 in the Fall Classic, he celebrated a championship with the Astros, watching fellow teammate Charlie Morton close out Los Angeles before mobbing him on the mound.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Justin Verlander was already on a Hall of Fame trajectory with Detroit, but since being traded to the Astros his ERA has dropped from 3.49 to 2.52, while his walks per nine innings have decreased from 2.7 to 1.7 as his strikeouts have increased from 8.5 to 12.1.

The Astros managed to refine Verlander’s repertoire, and, in his age 34 and 35 seasons, have seen him post career best WHIP, walk rate and strikeout rates. Unlike McHugh, Morton and Cole, however, there isn’t an obvious change in Verlander’s pitch utilization.  According to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, the Astros used super high-speed camera work to isolate how his grip on his slider could be optimized, creating more tilt. Verlander increased his slider usage slightly, from 18.3% before the trade to 22.2% since. The results speak for themselves. The franchise helped him improve markedly at an age when most pitchers, even the elite ones, are running out of gas.

Ryan Pressly had enjoyed a consistent, at times dominant, career as a reliever for the Twins. On July 27th, 2018, the righthander was traded by Minnesota to the Astros for a pair of low-level minor league prospects. From that date on, Pressly has been one of the best bullpen arms in the American League.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Ryan Pressly had a 3.75 ERA while averaging 3.1 walks and eight strikeouts per nine innings while pitching for the Twins. Now in his second season with Houston, he’s fashioned a 1.57 ERA and lowered his walks to 1.6 while increasing his strikeout average to 11.7 per game.

The Astros asked him to do two things: pitch up in the zone, and throw his high spin rate slider even more than he ever had. He increased his use of his slider from 18% to 28% of his pitch mix, and threw his fastball far less often, but it was elevated when he did utilize it. The Astros had done it again.They made a good pitcher an outstanding one by simply coaching him according to what their analysis said would be best for him.

It would appear that the Astros can take established major league pitching talent and, using their processes, coax better results from those players than they’ve ever produced. If the franchise can do that with the pitchers that it imports, it would seem logical to postulate that the team would be able to scout, draft, and develop its own minor league talent with similar success.  Not surprisingly, this is exactly what’s happening. Their minor league pitchers (from rookie ball through AAA) have more strikeouts than the hurlers of any other franchise in baseball. Of their top six minor league affiliates, four (AA Corpus Christi, A+ Fayetteville, A Quad Cities, Short Season A Tri City) lead their leagues in pitching strikeouts. At Fayetteville, the pitchers there have struck out 231 more batters than the second place staff. This is a system wide trend, and those players eventually matriculate towards the majors, or are used as trade chips (like the ones that netted Zack Greinke from Arizona) partially because they have gaudy minor league strikeout and velocity figures that are coveted by rival organizations.

One final story: Righthander Josh James was a 34th round pick by the Astros in 2014 out of Western Oklahoma State College. Over his first four minor league seasons, James featured 88-91 MPH fastballs, and reached AA Corpus Christi in 2017, where he had a 4.38 ERA and struck out 8.5/9. During that season, he began to use a CPAP machine for treatment of sleep apnea, and began feeling less tired, more able to work out, and healthier in general. In 2018, his fastball was regularly clocked in the high 90’s, and he rocketed through the Astros system, making his major league debut in September last year, a game in which he threw several pitches at 100 MPH or more. The Astros might rely upon complex data and modern motion capture video technology, but they also know their pitchers personally and professionally, and sometimes the key that unlocks major league potential is as simple as a good night’s sleep.

The Astros have figured out something that the rest of baseball has yet to master: How to develop and optimize pitchers. They have a few foundational pillars that seem to recur in their success stories. They get their pitchers to throw with better velocity. They encourage pitchers to use their breaking pitches more, and their fastballs less. When they do have pitchers throw their fastballs, they usually want them to target the upper parts of the strike zone. They teach their draftees how to increase the spin rate on their breaking pitches, and they prioritize that metric when drafting or trading for pitchers. Quite simply, they ask their pitchers to use the best and most effective pitches they throw more frequently, and use the ones that aren’t as good less often. They communicate that information very directly to their mound corps, and they back up the suggestions that they make with high-end proprietary data. The proof of the efficacy of their methods is all over the pitching leader-boards and standings.

Making these deductions may demystify the Astros wizardry to some degree, but the glory is in the details. How the Astros develop better spin rate and velocity throughout their minor league system and among their major league staff is not at all apparent, and they aren’t likely to share their secrets any time soon. Until such time that their methodology comes to light, and is copied throughout the game, it is left for their opponents to adjust to these new pitching paradigms and to render them less befuddling. The Astros will continue to outperform the competition in the meantime, leveraging their advantage on the mound into first place finishes-leaving the A’s and the rest of the AL West gasping in their vapor trail.

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Former mate Parra’s three run homer haunts Giants in 4-1 loss https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/07/12842/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/07/12842/#respond Thu, 08 Aug 2019 02:19:01 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=12842 BY RICK PORCARO The Giants post season hopes were dealt another blow Wednesday afternoon as they fell 4-1 to Washington, completing a three-game series sweep for the Nationals. Washington didn’t waste any time jumping on Giants starter Shaun Anderson (3-4, 5.33), manufacturing a run in the first on a Juan Soto RBI groundout after Trea …

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BY RICK PORCARO

The Giants post season hopes were dealt another blow Wednesday afternoon as they fell 4-1 to Washington, completing a three-game series sweep for the Nationals.

Washington didn’t waste any time jumping on Giants starter Shaun Anderson (3-4, 5.33), manufacturing a run in the first on a Juan Soto RBI groundout after Trea Turner and Adam Eaton opened the game with back to back singles. 

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Washington’s Gerardo Parra celebrates his three run third inning homer as he crosses home plate during the Natonals 4-1 win over the Giants Wednesday afternoon at Oracle Park.

But the real damage came two innings later when former Giant Gerardo Parra blasted an Anderson pitch 380 feet into the left center field bleachers to give the Nats a 4-0 third inning lead. Released by San Francisco on May 7th with a paltry .198 average after 30 games, Parra signed with the Nats two days later and has batted a solid .287 in 56 games with 36 RBI’s.

Nationals starter Joe Ross (2-3, 6.75), a native of Oakland, threw six shutout innings against the Giants, only allowing three hits while striking out five. The Giants only run came in the ninth when a Brandon Crawford double knocked in Kevin Pillar, who had been hit by a pitch one better earlier.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Washington’s Joe Ross delivers a pitch during the Nationals 4-1 win over the Giants Wednesday afternoon at Oracle Park. Ross pitched six shutout innings, allowing only three hits while striking out five to earn the win.

With the win, Washington solidified their grip on the NL’s top Wild Card spot while the Giants fell four games off the pace. It was their sixth loss in their last seven games and ninth in their past 13.

Another team San Francisco is chasing, Philadelphia, arrives for a four game series starting tomorrow night, with Phillies ace Aaron Nola (10-2, 3.60) facing Madison Bumgarner (6-7, 3.92) in the opener.

GAME NOTES:

With the win, the Nationals took the season series from San Francisco 5-1.

Today, August 7th, was the 12th anniversary of Barry Bonds 756th home run, making him the All-Time Major League leader.

On Tuesday, San Francisco announced that they placed second baseman Joe Panik on unconditional release waivers after six seasons with the Giants. If the former Gold Glove winner clears waivers, he will become a free agent and have the option to sign with any team.

The Giants also announced the acquisition of relief pitcher Ryan Dull off waivers from the A’s. Dull, 29, will report to the Giants’ top minor-league team in Sacramento.


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A different perspective on the trade deadline – five years later https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/04/a-different-perspective-on-the-trade-deadline-five-years-later/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/04/a-different-perspective-on-the-trade-deadline-five-years-later/#respond Sun, 04 Aug 2019 08:23:22 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=12806 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ Most of the attention around the trade deadline is rightfully focused on the teams that are in contention for a playoff berth, and whose roster machinations in search of the perfect combination of talent and opportunity drives the news cycles in late July. It was wonderful theatre for fans and baseball chroniclers …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

Most of the attention around the trade deadline is rightfully focused on the teams that are in contention for a playoff berth, and whose roster machinations in search of the perfect combination of talent and opportunity drives the news cycles in late July. It was wonderful theatre for fans and baseball chroniclers alike, ruminating on the various merits of the Zack Greinke trade, the Marcus Stroman deal and the fascinating Trevor Bauer/Yasiel Puig/Taylor Trammell swap, the latter being a three team collaboration.

It bears mention, however, that the teams that aren’t in win-now mode, and who trade their free agents to be, star players and bullpen pieces to those hungry teams at the top of the standings, can reap significant rewards during the deadline frenzy if they are patient.

Five years ago during trade deadline season in 2014, the names at the top of the standings were different than they are today. In the American League, the division leaders were Baltimore, Detroit and Oakland, with the Angels and Royals looming as threats. In the National League, the Nationals, Brewers and Dodgers set the pace, but the Braves, Giants and Cardinals were all in the mix. Here are some of the interesting transactions that occurred in July and August of 2014 as these teams jockeyed for roster upgrades through trades and waiver claims:

Rich Hill (4-1, 2.55), the ageless Dodgers hurler still pitching effectively at age 39, was purchased by the Angels from the Red Sox on July 1st only to be released by the team eight days later. The Yankees scooped him up on July 16th, and Hill threw 5.1 IP for the Yankees the rest of the year. The Yankees did not retain his services after 2014. With a few adjustments to his mechanics and his pitch mix, Hill would break out as a stellar starting pitcher late in the 2015 season, and has gone 25-15, 2.72 since.

On July 2nd, 2014, the Braves signed international free agent Ronald Acuna Jr. Acuna debuted in the majors at age 20 four years later in 2018, and was that season’s Rookie of the Year. Acuna has hit .291/.369/.527 with 52 HRs, 130 RBIs and 41 stolen bases thus far in his career.

The Diamondbacks traded OF Gerardo Parra to the Brewers for LHP Anthony Banda and OF Mitch Haniger on deadline day 2014. Parra amassed 446 at bats for the Brewers, hitting .312/.355/.482 with 12 HRs, 41 RBIs, and 13 steals. Parra was then traded at the 2015 deadline to the Orioles for current Brewer RHP Zach Davies, who has gone 41-30, 3.98 in his five year stint with Milwaukee. Haniger would debut for Arizona in 2016, but was traded that offseason to Seattle, for whom he has hit .271/.351/.486 with 57 HRs, 172 RBIs and 17 steals in his three year run with the Mariners.

Baltimore added LHP Andrew Miller from the Red Sox on July 31st, 2014. Miller would go 2-0 in 20 IP for the Orioles with a 1.35 ERA, striking out 34 batters and helping to lead Baltimore to the AL East title. He was equally stellar in the playoffs for the O’s, allowing no runs over 7.1 October innings. He would leave Baltimore as a free agent after the 2014 season. Who did the Red Sox receive from the Orioles for Miller ? 21-year-old LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, who has blossomed into a dependable starter for Boston, going 45-30, 4.14 in his five years with the club. Rodriguez won’t be eligible to test free agent waters until 2022.

The Angels, looking for a bullpen upgrade, acquired RHP Vinnie Pestano from the Indians on July 31, 2014. Pestano would appear in 12 games for the Angels that year, throwing 9.2 innings in the regular season and another inning in the postseason for Anaheim. He would also pitch for the team in 2015, his last season in the majors. Over the course of his time with the Angels, Pestano went 1-0, 3.38 in 21.1 IP, and he did help the Angels make the playoffs in 2014. What did those 21 IP cost the Angels ? RHP Mike Clevinger, who debuted with Cleveland in 2016 and has a 34-19 record and 3.33 ERA in his four seasons with the franchise. Clevinger has been incredibly valuable for the Tribe, and he won’t be eligible for free agency until 2023.

The headlines are filled with stories about the big names that have changed teams over the past week or so, but sometimes the parts of those transactions that barely merit a passing glance go on to develop into significant assets for the clubs who relinquished established major league talent to get them. Not all of the prospects-or international free agents-whose names are listed in the transaction columns will go on to fame and fortune. The reality is that very few of the minor league players who switched uniforms last week will end up having careers of any significance in the majors. However, when those players do ascend to the big show, they can pay incredible dividends in the seasons to come for the teams who bet on their potential.

Just five years ago, the Giants beat the Royals in an epic World Series, with LHP Madison Bumgarner playing the hero for San Francisco. The Orioles were in the playoffs, as were the Tigers and Pirates. In 2019, those same teams were trading away some of their best players to contenders, with an eye towards acquiring young prospects that might be part of their next chance at October glory. The Giants seriously entertained trading that hero, one of the faces of their franchise, before relenting and deciding he’ll remain on their roster and finish the season with San Francisco before becoming a free agent. Had Bumgarner been dealt, perhaps another little known prospect could have joined the ranks of the players who made good on their potential, and helped teams at the bottom of the standings move back towards the top.

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A’s best Cardinals 8-3 as Fiers earns tenth win https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/03/12786/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/03/12786/#respond Sun, 04 Aug 2019 05:48:39 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=12786 BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER Mike Fiers pitched 5 2/3 solid innings to earn his 10th win of the season as the A’s scored a 8-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday night at Oakland Coliseum for their fifth win in six games. Oakland took advantage of the early wildness of Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson (10-6, 3.99) to …

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BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

Mike Fiers pitched 5 2/3 solid innings to earn his 10th win of the season as the A’s scored a 8-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday night at Oakland Coliseum for their fifth win in six games.

Oakland took advantage of the early wildness of Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson (10-6, 3.99) to score a pair of runs in both the second and third innings to jump out to a 4-0 lead. 

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Mike Fiers became the first A’s hurler to reach ten wins this season with 5 2/3 innings of six hit pitching in Oakland’s 8-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday evening at the Coliseum.

The A’s quickly loaded the bases with one out in the first inning on a Robbie Grossman single and a pair of walks before a Mark Canha single staked them to a 2-0 lead. Just an inning later, Grossman’s sacrifice fly drove in Marcus Semien who had doubled, and two batters later Semien came around to score on a passed ball to stretch the lead to 4-0. Chad Pinder’s three run pinch hit in the seventh would increase Oakland’s advantage to 8-2.

Fiers (10-3, 3.46) meanwhile was holding St. Louis in check during his 94 pitch outing, allowing only six hits and a walk while striking out four in route to becoming the first Oakland pitcher to reach double figures in victories while recording a career-high eighth consecutive winning decision. He also hasn’t had a losing decision in his past 16 starts. After his departure, following another brief but rough outing by Jake Diekman, Yusmeiro Petit and Joakim Soria each threw scoreless innings before We-Chung Wang gave up a meaningless pinch hit home run to Lane Thomas with two outs in the ninth.

With the win, the A’s remained 8.5 games behind Houston in the AL West, but only a 1/2 game behind Tampa Bay in the battle for the second Wild Card spot. The two teams return to the field to conclude the brief two game series Sunday afternoon at 1:05pm with Tanner Roark (6-7, 4.24) scheduled to make his Oakland debut after coming over from Cincinnati just before the trade deadline. He’ll be opposed by Adam Wainwright (7-7, 4.47).

GAME NOTES:

The A’s made an abundance of roster moves prior to the game highlighted by Stephen Piscotty’s return to the active roster for the first time since suffering a right knee sprain on June 29.

Josh Phegley was placed on the IL with a deeply bruised left thumb while catcher Dustin Garneau was claimed off waivers from the Angels. Rookie catcher Beau Taylor, Franklin Barreto and Daniel Mengden were all optioned back to Triple-A Las Vegas, and Ryan Dull and Andrew Triggs were designated for assignment

Pinder’s home run, his tenth, made him the ninth Oakland player to reach double figures this season. That ties the A’s franchise record set in 2000 and 2017.

Blake Treinen hasn’t allowed a run in his last seven appearances going back to July 17. He’s 4-0 with seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings during that stretch.



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Chapman’s eighth inning blast lifts A’s past Brewers https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/01/12763/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/01/12763/#respond Fri, 02 Aug 2019 03:19:18 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=12763 BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER Matt Chapman’s two run eighth inning home run came at a perfect time to break out of a 1-27 slump, giving the A’s a 5-3 come from behind win over the Milwaukee Brewers in a battle of playoff contenders at the Oakland Coliseum Thursday afternoon. The win keeps Oakland 1/2 game back of Tampa …

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BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

Matt Chapman’s two run eighth inning home run came at a perfect time to break out of a 1-27 slump, giving the A’s a 5-3 come from behind win over the Milwaukee Brewers in a battle of playoff contenders at the Oakland Coliseum Thursday afternoon. The win keeps Oakland 1/2 game back of Tampa Bay in the battle for the second American League Wild Card spot.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Matt Chapman’s two-run eighth inning home run helped give the A’s a come from behind 5-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum. It was Chapman’s 24th homer of the season.

Chad Pinder’s third inning home run got the A’s on the board, but it was Chapman’s blast off of fellow All-Star Josh Hader, his 24th of the year, that gave Oakland the three game series against last seasons NL Central champs after the Brewers had built a 3-1 lead an inning earlier.

In just his fourth start for the green and gold, recent acquisition Homer Bailey settled down after a shaky start to pitch six solid innings for the A’s, allowing two earned runs while striking out five. Jake Diekman, acquired from Kansas City on Sunday, wasn’t quite as impressive after coming on in the seventh. Diekman loaded the bases with nobody out, then nearly worked his way out of it before uncorking a two out wild pitch that put Milwaukee up by two.

Mark Canha had another productive game for Oakland, reaching base in all four plate appearances on three hits and a walk while stealing a pair of bases. After the Athletics added an insurance run on a sacrifice fly by Jurickson Profar, Liam Hendriks came on to pitch a perfect ninth inning for his tenth save of the year.

After a rare scheduled Friday off day, the A’s first since October 1980, the St. Louis Cardinals come into town for a brief two game series. Mike Fiers (9-3, 3.54) takes the mound against Dakota Hudson (10-5, 3.88) in the opener on Saturday evening at 6:07pm.

GAME NOTES:

Chapman’s blast was his his 11th go-ahead home run of the season, tying him with the Angels Mike Trout for the second most in the American League. It was also his 24th of the year, tying his career high set in 2018.

Right-hander Tanner Roark, acquired from Cincinnati just prior to yesterday’s trade deadline, is likely to make his Oakland debut Sunday afternoon against the Cards.

Right fielder Stephen Piscotty, out since June 29th, is close to returning and might be back in time to face his former team this weekend. Piscotty played his first three seasons with St. Louis before getting traded to the A’s prior to the 2018 season.


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A’s add, Giants punt at deadline as Greinke, Puig, Bauer move https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/01/as-add-giants-subtract-at-deadline-as-greinke-puig-bauer-dealt/ https://martineztribune.com/2019/08/01/as-add-giants-subtract-at-deadline-as-greinke-puig-bauer-dealt/#respond Thu, 01 Aug 2019 08:15:02 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=12702 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ With the A’s standing at 61-47, holding the second Wild Card position in the American League, just 1/2 game ahead of Tampa and 7 1/2 games behind the West leading Astros in the division race, Oakland GM Billy Beane has made multiple efforts to strengthen his team’s chances of advancing to the …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

With the A’s standing at 61-47, holding the second Wild Card position in the American League, just 1/2 game ahead of Tampa and 7 1/2 games behind the West leading Astros in the division race, Oakland GM Billy Beane has made multiple efforts to strengthen his team’s chances of advancing to the postseason for a second consecutive season prior to the trade deadline.

Oakland traded for Cincinnati RHP Tanner Roark, 32, who is 6-7 with a 4.24 ERA in 21 starts this season. In return, the Reds received OF Jameson Hannah, the A’s 7th rated prospect according to Baseball America. In addition, the A’s will receive cash from the Reds to help cover the remaining portion of Roark’s $10.1 million salary this year. Roark, who will become a free agent following the season, has been both effective and durable during his career. He has a 70-61 record with a 3.66 ERA in his seven major league campaigns, and has never been on the injured list. Roark figures to slot in among the A’s starting pitchers, upgrading their talent and depth at that position for the stretch run.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Two weeks after acquiring Homer Bailey, the A’s added another experienced starter Wednesday when they picked up Tanner Roark from the Reds. Roark was a part of three division champion teams while with the Washington Nationals.

The A’s also acquired an upgrade for their bullpen in lefty Jake Diekman, 32, who was brought west from the Royals for minor league prospects RHP Ismael Aquino and CF Dairon Blanco. Neither Aquino nor Blanco were ranked among Oakland’s top ten prospects at the time of the trade. The A’s bullpen featured lefties Ryan Buchter and Wei-Chung Wang before the trade for Diekman, but neither pitcher has been as effective or dominant as Diekman has been.

Diekman has struck out 13.6 batters per nine innings this season in 41.2 innings (1/3 of opposing hitters), rates far superior to both Wang (4.56) and Buchter (9.85). Diekman also tends to get a higher rate of ground balls, 48.4% vs 31.0% for Wang and 23.1% for Buchter, a skill that tends to have value in the current juiced ball, home run happy environment. The A’s hope that the combination of Diekman, Wang and Buchter will help neutralize opposing left handed hitters as the team battles for a playoff berth. Diekman is also signed inexpensively, earning $1.75 million through the end of the season, with a mutual option for 2020 that would pay him $5.75 million if exercised (or a $500,000 buy-out).

Given that 2019 is the first year featuring the single, unified trade deadline, teams must make all additions and upgrades to their roster prior to August 1st. Beyond that date, only players within the organization can be utilized to improve the roster, making this year’s trade deadline that much more important.

With four teams (Indians, A’s, Rays, Red Sox) within a single game of a playoff berth as the deadline struck, each trade could be the difference between a chance at October glory and a long winter to consider what might have been. Oakland is hoping that their acquisitions of Roark and Diekman will help them make a strong push over the final two months of the season and secure a playoff berth.

Veteran starters on the move

Toronto traded ace starter and New York native Marcus Stroman (6-11, 2.96) and cash considerations to the Mets for two pitching prospects, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER After seven sometimes tumultuous seasons in Cleveland, Trevor Bauer is headed across state to join the Cincinnati Reds after being one of the center pieces of a three team trade.

In a three team mega-trade, the Reds acquired RHP Trevor Bauer, 28, (9-8, 3.79) from Cleveland.  In order to pull off the trade, the Reds gave up their #1 prospect, OF Taylor Trammell to the Padres and OF Yasiel Puig and LHP prospect Scott Moss to the Indians.  The Padres traded OF Franmil Reyes, LHP Logan Allen and prospect Victor Nova to the Indians in the process.  In the end, the Indians received Reyes, Puig, LHP prospect Scott Moss (from the Reds), LHP Logan Allen and 3B prospect Victor Nova (from the Padres) in return for the mercurial Bauer, who made more headlines this weekend after he hurled a baseball over the centerfield fence in frustration after a rough outing in Kansas City.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER After spending the first six seasons of his career with the Blue Jays, New York native Marcus Stroman is headed to the Mets.

The most interesting aspect of these two transactions is the prices paid for pitchers who have similar team control. In return for Bauer, the Indians were able to get two major league caliber starting outfielders (Puig and Reyes) as well as three prospects. In return for Stroman, the Jays received two prospects. Both Bauer and Stroman are eligible to become free agents after the 2020 season. Stroman is making $7.4 million this season, and projects to earn in the area of $14 million in 2020, his final year of arbitration. Bauer is making $13 million this year, and could top $17 million next year via the arbitration process.  Both pitchers are 28 years old. Bauer has a career record of 68-55 with a 3.92 ERA, and is 11-8 with a 3.48 ERA in the past calendar year. Stroman has a career record of 47-45 with a 3.76 ERA, and is 6-13 with a 3.54 ERA in the past calendar year. By most measures, Stroman has a superior performance profile, and is less expensive than Bauer, so why did the Jays return for Stroman pale in comparison to the haul of players the Indians were able to extract for Bauer ? Only the GM’s in this situation know for sure.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Moments after unknowingly bidding farewell to Cincinnati while in the midst of a benches clearing brawl, Yasiel Puig takes his talents, along with 22 home runs and 61 RBI, to the Indians as he’ll try to help Cleveland chase down the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.

The Indians addressed their primary area of need, power in the outfield corners, with the addition of Puig and Reyes, who have a combined 27 HRs and 107 RBIs thus far in 2019. They lost Bauer from their rotation, but they welcomed back RHP Danny Salazar from the IL today, and hope to have RHP and former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber back in their rotation by mid-August. The Indians don’t figure to make it easy for the A’s or the rest of the contenders in the AL to surpass them for the Wild Card lead based on their moves at the deadline.

The Astros acquire ace pitcher in the final minutes before the deadline

The Astros traded three prospects to Arizona from their loaded farm system to snag RHP Zack Greinke, 35, who is 10-4 with a 2.90 ERA this year.  By adding him to the top of their stellar rotation that already features RHP Justin Verlander and RHP Gerritt Cole, Houston is making it very clear that they want to recapture the glory of their 2017 World Series title.

Additionally, Houston also picked up veteran starter RHP Aaron Sanchez along with reliever Joe Biagini from the Blue Jays for OF Derek Fisher. The Astros beefed up their formidable roster even further by adding defensive minded catcher Martin Maldonado.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke was the biggest name moved at the trade deadline. Unfortunately for the A’s, the 35 year old Greinke, who’s won 197 games in his career, joins the rotation of the already loaded Houston Astros.

Activity by the AL contenders

Minnesota upgraded their bullpen by adding RHP Sergio Romo from the Marlins and RHP Sam Dyson from the Giants as they try to hold off the reloaded Indians.

The Rays made a flurry of moves, getting RHP Trevor Richards and RHP Nick Anderson from the Marlins, 2B Eric Sogard from the Jays, and 1B Jesus Aguilar from the Brewers to bolster their pursuit of a playoff berth.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER Jesus Aguilar hit 38 home runs with 108 RBI’s for the Brewers in 2018. Wednesday he was traded to to Tampa Bay Rays, one of the A’s biggest competitors for a playoff spot.

In addition to the trade to get Reyes and Puig, the Indians also added infielder Christian Arroyo and RHP Hunter Wood to their roster.

For the first time in recent memory, the largest payrolls in the AL (Boston and New York) stood pat at the deadline, choosing to rely upon their current rosters to secure playoff berths.

Activity by the NL contenders

Considering that there are nine teams in the National League that are either holding playoff berths or within 3.5 games, there was significant interest in roster improvements at the deadline.

The Giants decided to hold on to both Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, but still participated in multiple deals. San Francisco sent RHP Sam Dyson to the Twins for three prospects while also moving RHP Mark Melancon to the Braves for two RHP prospects, and acquired SS prospect Mauricio Dubon from the Brewers for two more pitchers, LHP Drew Pomeranz and RHP Ray Black. Finally, the Giants added 2B Scooter Gennett from the Reds for a player to be named. Gennett has missed most of the season after suffering a groin injury, but had 50 HRs since the beginning of the 2017 season for the Reds, and should provide the Giants some much needed infield power once he’s able to join their line-up.

The Dodgers, who have the best record in baseball, added middle infielder Jedd Gyorko from the Cardinals, and LHP Adam Kolarek from Tampa Bay.

The Diamondbacks made arguably the biggest deal of the day, sending ace Greinke to the Astros for three prospects, RHP J.B. Bukauskas, OF/1B Seth Beer, INF Josh Rojas and rookie RHP starter Corbin Martin, then acquired RHP Mike Leake from Seattle for 3B prospect Jose Cabellero.

The Cardinals added LHP Tony Cingrani from the Dodgers in the Gyorko trade.

The Cubs added OF Nicholas Castellanos from the Tigers, 2B Tony Kemp from the Astros, and bullpen arms LHP Brad Wieck from the Padres and RHP David Phelps from the Blue Jays as they gear up to battle St. Louis and the Brewers for the NL Central crown.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER The Cubs acquisition of Nick Castellanos from Detroit helps give them some much needed power in their outfield. The 27 year old hit 49 home runs to go along with 190 RBI’s during the 2017-18 seasons.

The Brewers upgraded their roster with RHP Jacob Faria, who was acquired for Aguilar, and the addition of bullpen arms LHP Pomeranz and RHP Black from the Giants.

The Reds made a big splash, adding Bauer as their primary prize, while unloading Puig, Gennett, and Roark as well as top prospect OF Taylor Trammell.

The Braves went all in trying to improve their bullpen, adding RHP Shane Greene from Detroit, Melancon from the Giants, and RHP Chris Martin from Texas.

The Phillies added OF Corey Dickerson from the Pirates to beef up their OF.

The Nationals also fortified their relief corps, adding three hurlers to their bullpen, RHP Daniel Hudson from the Blue Jays, LHP Roenis Elias and former Giant RHP Hunter Strickland from Seattle.

Will any of these deals make a difference?

The trade deadline featured a frenzy of late activity, and a total of 32 transactions were agreed upon in the past five days, as teams feverishly sought to address their perceived shortcomings and to fortify their rosters for the final two months of the season.

At this time last year, the Boston made what appeared to be a pair of minor deals, adding RHP Nate Eovaldi and 1B-OF Steve Pearce to a first place team with the best record in Baseball. Eovaldi went on to pitch masterfully in the postseason for the Red Sox, and Steve Pearce was named the World Series MVP.

All of this seasons deadline participants can only hope that some of the trades made in the past few days will end up having a similar impact on their own future fortunes.

The post A’s add, Giants punt at deadline as Greinke, Puig, Bauer move appeared first on Martinez Tribune.

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