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View from the Other Side: A’s Questions for Nico of Athletics Nation

Oakland Athletics vs Tampa Bay Rays, 2019 American League Wild Card Playoff Set Number: X162951 TK1

We start a three-game series with the A’s in the beautiful (what the hell are they calling their park this year?) RingCentral Coliseum (that’s gotta be a joke).

The A’s are 26-55, sitting last in the AL West.

They are second-last in the AL in runs scored per game at 3.15 (the Tigers are last at 3.00, Jays are second from the top at 4.75).

On the defensive said they are third from bottom in runs allowed at 4.58/game (Jays are fourth from the bottom at 4.45 runs per game).

I sent off some questions to Nico from Athletics Nation SB’s flagship blog and he was kind enough to answer.

I seem to ask this one every year. What is the status of the ballpark in Oakland? Do you think the A’s will get a new park? Where will they be in five years?

No one knows how it will play out in the “9th inning” but without question, the A’s are closer to a new ballpark than they were with any of their previous efforts. My extremely scientific write up on Saturday gave them a 65% chance of taking it to the finish line. Where will the A’s be in 5 years? In Oakland, somewhere between 66th Ave. and Howard Terminal. Knowing the A’s, probably exactly halfway in between playing their home games for a year in a Bed Bath & Beyond while awaiting the final touches on their new ballpark. Only one infielder will be allowed to set up in the “Beyond” area due to new rules around the shift.

Years after Moneyball, the A’s seem to have found a new form of Moneyball, cut expenses to the bone and make a profit off revenue sharing. What do fans think of Billy Beane and the A’s management at the moment? Is there a way they will field a completive team in the next few years?

”Moneyball” requires shrewd use of a small payroll, not a tiny payroll ordered by terrible businessman who is not even a baseball fan. Perhaps Billy Beane and David Forst hoped to field a competitive team “soon” (2024?), but with almost all the newly acquired prospects either playing poorly, being injured, or both, that seems unlikely unless they pull a miracle from a Frankie Montas deal or perhaps the trade of catcher Sean Murphy. More likely, the team will just try to be good by 2027 when this mythical stadium is now supposed to be finished.

You have a couple of my favourite former Blue Jays prospects. Can you tell us how Kevin Smith (I see he’s on the IL now, what’s the injury?) and Kirby Snead are doing?

Oh jeez. If you think Matt Chapman has been a bit of a letdown, buckle your seat belt and take a generous sip of scotch. Kevin Smith’s swing has looked a bit long and violent, and perhaps as a result it has more swing and miss in it than Chapman’s. Smith’s defense has been very good, but a .180/.216/.302 line with a 27.8% K rate earned him a recent demotion to AAA where he hasn’t hit there either (.224/.274/.239, 21K in 71 PAs in a hitter’s league).

Kirby Snead is more of a “oh give me a break” catastrophe. Start with the fact that he’s apparently an anti-vaxxer, then continue with the fact that he should be barred from entering any country just due to the fact that he can’t pitch. Snead’s stats read a bit like a misprint: 14.2 IP, 21 hits, 11 BB, 8 K, 7.36 ERA. So he hasn’t been, nor apparently has he gotten, a shot in the arm.

Can you give us a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Jays are likely to see?

  • Cole Irvin: Irvin is a fast worker who can get in a groove and run off a string of consecutive batters retired, but who often gets hit hard in the 1st inning until he settles down. He’s a LHP who works both sides of the plate effectively and throws a lot of strikes.
  • Adrian Martinez: Acquired in the trade that sent Sean Manaea to San Diego, Martinez will be making his 3rd big league start. He has a power sinker, a slider, and a “plus changeup” all of which he commanded better against the Tigers in his debut than he did against the Mariners on Thursday. It will be interesting to see how he looks against the Blue Jays as it will be the best lineup he has seen so far.
  • James Kaprielian: A former #1 pick of the Yankees who fought through myriad injuries coming up, Kaprielian has looked better his last 2 starts after struggling much of the season to date. He throws mid-90s with a wipeout slider and a changeup, but tends to leave a pitch or two on a tee and has surrendered 11 HR in 58 IP.

Who is your favourite A’s player to watch?

Recently called-up infielder Nick Allen is nothing short of adorable. He looks like he could be 14, the little boy who begged, “Can I play too? C’mon, can I play?” until the adults wore down and said, “Sure, kid, grab a glove and get out there.” But he has actually been very good, a slick-fielding SS/2Bman who can bunt, hit to all fields, and hold his own in the big leagues by knowing who he is and leveraging his strengths.

Who is the A’s closer and setup men? Do you trust them with a lead?

If we ever have a lead, I’ll let you know.

Dany Jimenez emerged for a while as the A’s “closer” but is currently on the IL with “shoulder owies” so most recently Lou Trivino has moved back into a closing role. Trivino’s season has been nothing short of confounding. In 22.1 IP he has K’d 34, which is pretty elite. He has also surrendered 34 hits, which is gawdawful. The result has been a 7.25 ERA, which is not exactly what you want to see from your closer. Still, Trivino has 5 saves in 6 chances, which is good, but he has somehow been able to absorb 6 losses, which is bad.

As for set up men, Zach Jackson, he of the 25 BB and 43 K in 31 IP, with only 18 hits allowed, has been often unhittable and just as often unable to locate the strike zone without google maps. From the left side, Sam Moll has seen some high leverage on the strength of a slider that leads the league in movement and has carried him to a 2.32 ERA with 31 K in just 22.2 IP. Former #1 pick A.J. Puk looked phenomenal for 2 months until suddenly he did his best Steve Blass impression for 2 weeks and couldn’t even hit the broad side of a barn, scaring three horses and slightly injuring an innocent jockey. He seems to be back on track this week, so we’ll see.

Anything else we should know about the A’s?

Other than being on pace for the worst record of any A’s team since they moved to Oakland in 1968? Maybe that we literally score 0 or 1 runs 1/3 of the time and have a team OBP of .273. We respectfully request that Alek Manoah throw left-handed this evening in order to make for a fair battle. Happy Canada/Independence Week!

Thanks Nico.