Well, Game Six Sucked…

bacci

A lot of Giants fans were preparing to pop champagne corks last night. I was prepared for some manner of craziness, like a Jarrod Dyson fountain shot to tie the game in the late innings, or Mike Morse legging out an inside-the-park home run. As I wrote yesterday, Game Six of the World Series tends to lend itself to the absurd.

What I wasn’t expecting was one of the most epic beatdowns in World Series history. Being on the receiving end of it is a sobering experience, even for someone who was pounding beer after beer to act as a numbing agent for the effects the carnage on the TV. The game was over by the end of the second inning. Giants fans wanted glory; they got, as Mike Krukow likes to put it, what the bird left on the rock. On the bright side, better to get blasted out of the game early than lose in heartbreaking fashion a la The World Series That Shall Not Be Named.

Throw pre-game analysis out the window for Game Seven. This is all-hands-on-deck, everything-but-the-kitchen sink baseball. If the Giants can find a legal way to chopper in Robb Nen and have him throw a slider to Salvador Perez, you’d damn well believe they’re going to do it. Hell, trot Mo’ne Davis out there. I doubt she could do any worse than Jake Peavy last night.

One thing I will say: I’d rather have Tim Hudson going in a Game Seven than Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie shut down a flat Giants offense in Game Three, but he wasn’t particularly impressive doing it. He didn’t strike anybody out and he gave up a lot of line drives that found gloves. The three-headed Herrera/Davis/Holland monster will be on red alert the second the Giants string a couple of hits together off of Guthrie and the Royals should really only realistically be expecting four good innings out of him.

Likewise, Hudson will be on a short leash tonight. Hudson has a more impressive resume than Guthrie but he hasn’t been very good since the middle of August and the Royals looked like they were seeing his pitches well in Game Three. His pitch-to-contact approach makes me nervous, to say the least, but Guthrie’s general career-long mediocrity would make me nervous if I were a Royals fan, too.

Of course, the X-factor could be Madison Bumgarner, who, unless Twitter is lying to me, is invading the nightmares of every Kansas City Royals hitter on the roster. It’s unclear exactly how long or in exactly what context Bumgarner can go tonight, but if you believe the swarms of froth-mouthed voices on the Internet, he’s guaranteed to enter the game at some point if it’s close. Whether it’s a good idea or not is up in the air. Bumgarner threw 117 pitches just three days ago, so fatigue could be a factor, and there’s always the ever-present injury risk if he’s being stretched too far. I guess flags fly forever in the end, and Bochy would be hard-pressed to give a good explanation for why he didn’t use his best pitcher if the Giants lose the game.

It’s the last game of the season, and the last Giants game of the season. That’ll be good for my nerves, at least. This 2014 Giants team has caused me maybe more dry heaves than any team in recent memory. At least in 2013, they sucked, but they were stress-free. If I’m at work tomorrow online shopping for a new TV with a cast over my hand, you’ll know how Game Seven went.

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Giants on the Brink of Another World Championship

peeves

As the sun rises on October 28th, 2014, the San Francisco Giants find themselves one win away from their third World Championship in five years. From 1958 to 2009, there were no rings by the Bay. Zero. Zip. Nada. Only a line drive dying in Bobby Richardson’s glove, Dusty Baker’s premature surrender of a game ball to Russ Ortiz, and a whole lot of heartbreak.

Those days are long gone. With the chance for a third title, Giants fans have forgotten those decades of postseason ineptitude and are now just plain greedy. Giants fans are quickly usurping the legions of drunk Yankees followers and Red Sox Nation in the quest to become the fan base with the largest and most obnoxious sense of entitlement. And that’s perfectly fine by me.

Coming off of an utterly dominating Game Five start by Madison Bumgarner, the Giants are poised to close out the World Series in Kansas City in Game Six. They’ve got two shots to do it, starting with veteran Jake Peavy going up against rookie Yordano Ventura in a game that the Royals will be playing with all hands on deck.

Before all of you Giants fans start coming down with fake food poisoning symptoms right in time to miss work for the parade in San Francisco, just remember that Game Six is, historically, the game where shit goes down. Many of the most famous World Series games ever were Game Sixes, and many of those games were punctuated by utterly tragic turns of the screw that devastated entire fan bases. Giants fans themselves know all about the psychological damage that a Game Six can bring about.

Coming off of Bumgarner’s instantly-legendary performance in Game Five, the Giants have all of the momentum. However, if you think they’re going to just waltz their way to a celebration on the Kauffman Stadium field, think again. Here is a list of memorable (and crazy) Game Sixes, just from the past 30 years (beginning with the last time the Royals were in the Series, of course).

1985: The Cardinals had a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game Six, and three outs would mean a World Championship, their second in four seasons. However, a blown call on a ground ball (thank you, Don Denkinger), a dropped pop up, a single, a wild pitch, and another single gave the Royals a shocking win. They then drubbed the Cardinals 11-0 in Game Seven.

1986: The Red Sox had a two-run lead in the bottom of the tenth inning with two out and nobody on. They were one measly out and, at several points, one measly strike away from their first championship since 1918. Then the baseball gods decided to stick it to the Sawx for yet again. The Mets lined three straight singles to plate a run, then a wild pitch by Bob Stanley tied it, then Mookie Wilson chopped his fateful ground ball toward Bill Buckner and…well, the rest is history.

1987: The Cardinals, yet again, went into Game Six with a 3-2 series lead, this time against the Twins. Once again, they blew it. St. Louis got out to an early 5-2 lead, but with the Metrodome rafters quaking with ear-shattering crowd noise, the Twins came storming back with the help of home runs from Don Baylor and Kent Hrbek. Minnesota then won Game Seven behind the pitching of Frank “Sweet Music” Viola.

1991: This World Series between the Twins and Braves ranks as one of the greatest of all-time, and Game Six ranks as one of the classic games of all-time. With the Twins down in the series and on the brink of elimination at home, Kirby Puckett’s tenth inning home run (highlighted by Jack Buck’s all-time great home run call) capped a see-saw battle and evened the series. It set the stage for the now-legendary Game Seven, in which the Twins prevailed 1-0 behind an iconic ten-inning shutout from Jack Morris.

1993: Mitch Williams, meet Joe Carter. The Phillies looked like they were going to force a winner-take-all game, but Carter sent a fastball into orbit in the bottom of the ninth with two on to end the Series. The home run propelled Williams into a fine career screaming obscenities at Little Leaguers.

2002: The Game We Shall Not Speak Of. Team X held a 5-0 lead over Team Y in the seventh inning of this Game Six. Nine more outs would give Team X their first championship since 1954. Instead, Team Y came storming back to win 6-5, and then went on to win Game Seven, saddling Team X with one of the most embarrassing in-game collapses in World Series history. The following season, the Game Seven losing pitcher for Team X went upside some old man’s head with a golf club, further cementing his eternal exile from the good graces of Gia…I mean, Team X fans forever. Now excuse me, I’m going to go cry into my pillow for two hours.

2011: The Rangers came within one strike of a Game Six victory that would have given them the World Series, but David Freese smacked a double just over Nelson Cruz’s outstretched glove to tie the game for the Cardinals in the bottom of the tenth inning. Freese later homered to win one of the most insane Game Sixes in postseason history. The Cardinals won Game Seven and the series; the Rangers are still waiting for their first championship.

That list doesn’t even include 1975, when Carlton Fisk famously sent one deep into the night to force a Game Seven against the Reds. The point is, weird stuff happens in Game Six. Weird, wild, eerie stuff. If the Giants are going to add trophy number three to the display, they’re going to have to earn it. The Kansas City crowd will be rocking, the game will be crazy, and history tells us that if something odd and potentially devastating happens, it’s going to be in Game Six.

–The Giants will roll tonight with Jake Peavy, who has a bit of a checkered postseason history. Peavy started Game Two and was spotty but mostly effective, eventually taking the loss when Jean Machi and Hunter Strickland allowed his inherited runners to score in an ugly sixth inning. Peavy was lights out after coming over to the Giants at the July trade deadline, but he’s been shaky this October. He hasn’t lasted past the sixth inning in any of his three postseason starts. With a rested Yusmeiro Petit and, potentially, Ryan Vogelsong, that might not be the end of the world. Bruce Bochy will have a quick hook with Peavy tonight if it’s clear early on that he’s not on his game.

The Royals will counter with Yordano Ventura. Ventura allowed a leadoff home run to Gregor Blanco in Game Two but settled down after that, for the most part. He’s got grade-A stuff and has the potential to dominate, but rookies are rookies. He could just as easily flame out and lose control, and you can be sure Ned Yost will have his bullpen on red alert at the slightest sign of distress. The last time the Giants faced a rookie starter in a World Series game was 2002, when John Lackey shut them down in Game Seven. Shudder.

The Giants will get a big boost by being able to put Mike Morse back in the lineup at designated hitter. Kansas City will likewise get added thump to their lineup with Billy Butler slotting back into their DH spot. Butler had one at-bat in the three games in San Francisco (a fact that Yost is getting raked over the coals for), and it was a meek strikeout against Madison Bumgarner. The Royals will also put Nori Aoki back in the lineup, giving them an offensive upgrade at the expense of outfield defense, but right field in Kauffman Stadium isn’t nearly as tricky as at AT&T Park, so it may not make a whole lot of difference.

The Giants have two chances to win this, but they should (and will) be playing this like it’s Game Seven. If the Royals win tonight, they would have all the momentum going into Game Seven at home, and the history of teams playing in Game Seven after losing Game Six on the road is a dark one.

When the Giants beat the Phillies in the 2010 NLCS in six games, Bochy managed the sixth game like he was going to be facing a firing squad if he had lost. After the game, he told the press that he had absolutely no interest in playing in a Game Seven. That probably goes for tonight, too. The prospect of playing a Game Seven with the momentum back on the Royals’ side is a nightmarish one. Expect the unexpected tonight, and expect both teams to play this game like there is no tomorrow.

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Giants-Pirates Wild Card Rundown

crawcraw

If the 2010 Giants were “Torture”, then the 2014 Giants are “Vomiting In My Mouth a Little”. The Giants just finished a thoroughly frustrating roller coaster ride of a season where they combined stretches of utter dominance with weeks where they barely resembled a major league team. One week they’d look like a 100-win behemoth, the next they’d look like the local beer league softball team who had somehow stumbled drunk onto a real baseball field. On June 8, the Giants sat at 43-21, ten games up on the Dodgers, and looked primed to cruise to the NL West division title and maybe even their first 100-win season since 2003.

Then things fell apart. The Giants went 22-30 in June and July and coughed up their lead to the Dodgers faster than you could say “Yasiel Puig bat flip”. Hitters stopped hitting, closer Sergio Romo shat the mound in epic fashion (particularly in one nightmare weekend against Colorado), Angel Pagan and Matt Cain got hurt, and Tim Lincecum continued to disintegrate. By August, it looked like the Giants were ready to fall out of contention altogether, sinking to 63-57 at the summer’s lowest point.

Luckily, the team rebounded, as Buster Posey regained his MVP bat, midseason acquisition Jake Peavy dominated upon his arrival, and rookie Joe Panik gave the Giants some much-needed .300 hitting after the team had gotten zilch from second base all year. The Giants chugged into the playoffs a mess, with an up-and-down offense and only two truly reliable starting pitchers, but they made it, and they’re hoping that the small sample size magic of postseason baseball can bring them their third World Series title in five seasons.

It’d be tempting to blame the Giants’ struggles this year on injuries again. Angel Pagan missed a huge chunk of the season again with a back injury, Matt Cain went down at midseason with bone chips in his arm, and Brandon Belt played in only 61 games after having his thumb broken with a pitch and then suffering from a concussion. Mike Morse also missed most of September with an oblique injury. So, yeah, the Giants dealt with their fare share of injuries for the second year in a row, and that certainly didn’t help them.

Except that I just don’t think that the injuries merit all that much blame for the Giants’ crappy mid-summer play when all is said and done. The Angels, Orioles, Nationals, and Cardinals all suffered a number of injuries yet sailed into the playoffs. Hell, the Dodgers went without Clayton Kershaw for three weeks and they turned out just fine. Let’s make a quick list of little facts that probably had a lot more to do with the Giants stumbling to the finish line after their hot start.

-Tim Lincecum was, frankly, terrible…again. His 74 ERA+ would have been dead worst in the NL if he had enough innings to qualify. That’s a 73 ERA+ over the past three years, folks.

-Mike Morse, brought in for his power, hit 13 home runs through June 5. He hit just three more after that.

-Sergio Romo started blowing leads like it was a fad in May, and was booted from the closer role. He regained his effectiveness when used as a ROOGY, but I’m not sure anybody really trusts him in a more expanded role anymore.

-Tim Hudson was brilliant to begin the season, but his ERA in the second half was 4.73, and 8.72 in September. It appears as if the BABIP monster bit him in the butt hard, and he’s a shaky option as a postseason starter right now.

-The bench, for the most part, contributed next to nothing all season. Gregor Blanco was a solid fourth outfielder, but he was pressed into regular service with Pagan out and he’ll be the team’s regular center fielder in the playoffs. Other than Blanco, there was a whole lot of nothing, as bench players hit .234/.295/.313 on the year. Joaquin Arias, Tyler Colvin, and Juan Perez, in particular, provided little at the plate.

The Giants will have Gregor Blanco and Travis Ishikawa as starting outfielders, and either Ryan Vogelsong or Yusmeiro Petit as their fourth starter should they advance in the playoffs. Gulp. Basically, if the Giants want to win it all, they’re going to have to do a lot of odds-defying, and they’ll have to conjure up some serious magic juju. Hey, it happened before, first in 2010 when Cody Ross hit like Joe Dimaggio for three weeks and then again in 2012 when the Cardinals forgot how to field baseballs and Barry Zito became a world-beater for two starts. Anything is possible.

The Giants do have to be confident going into tomorrow, with their unqualified ace, Madison Bumgarner, going up against the Pirates in Pittsburgh in the NL Wild Card game. Not only is Bum the team’s best pitcher, he was extra-tough on the road this year, going 11-4 with a 2.22 ERA. He also has a history of big game success, having made dominant starts in both the 2010 and 2012 World Series. One of Bumgarner’s worst starts came at home against the Pirates in July, but that was back at the point when the Giants were giving games away like kittens.

On the flip side, the Pirates will be going with Edinson Volquez, and the Giants have to be somewhat encouraged by this. Volquez had a solid year, but he’s just a season removed from being one of the worst pitchers in baseball, and his control problems are well-documented.

He posted a shiny 3.05 ERA this season, but his 4.15 FIP suggest that something was rotten in Denmark, namely that Volquez was getting very lucky on balls in play and in the air. He did post the best walk rate of his career, but I’d much rather face him in a do-or-die than, say, Gerrit Cole. Also, for what it’s worth, Volquez got lit up in his only postseason appearance back in 2010.

The Pirate offense is worrisome. They finished fourth in the NL in runs, they boast one of the most dynamic hitters in baseball in Andrew McCutchen, they had five hitters post an OPS+ over 120, and they’ve been red hot for the past month. However, they were worse against left-handed starters this year, and of course Bumgarner is one of the best around.

The Giants have an imposing middle of the order with Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Belt, and can trade body blows with the Pirates should this turn into a slugfest. The Giants finished right behind the Pirates in total runs scored despite playing in a park even less friendly on hitters. Let’s put it this way: I’d rather be going against the Pirates’ lineup with Bumgarner than against the Giants’ bats with Volquez.

Well, I’ve got my Costco-size tub of antacids ready for guzzling tomorrow. This is the part where being a baseball fan ceases to be enjoyable and instead becomes an exercise in psychosis. If the Giants have anything at stake in October, I’m pretty sure I’m a frightening person to be around. If Juan Perez makes an at-bat with the game on the line tomorrow night, I shouldn’t be allowed around sharp objects. It’s a catch-22: if the Giants keep winning, they get closer and closer to another championship, but that merely prolongs the deterioration of my mental well-being.

The Pirates are tough cookies but Bumgarner has been a road warrior his whole career and the Giants have had their bats going for the past few weeks. I think the Giants will get a bunch of runs off of Volquez early and then, because they can never do things the easy way, barely hold on for a 5-4 victory and a date with the Nationals.

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A’s-Royals Wild Card Rundown

lester

A funny thing about the A’s: despite all the losing in the second half of the season, they still finished the year sporting baseball’s best Pythagorean Record, at 99-63. Unfortunately, a lot of that insane run differential was racked up when they were scorching the league in the first half of the season. The fact that their actual record is eleven wins worse isn’t just because of a run of bad luck; they legitimately played like crap in the season’s second half.

There are theories abound for why the A’s suddenly started stinking it up, but I think it comes down to one simple answer: a bunch of guys played way over their heads in the first three months, and they all regressed at the same time in the last two months, and as a result, the team stopped hitting. The A’s hit an anemic .233/.306/.352 in the season’s second half, and hit just 48 home runs after hitting a whopping 98 (!) in the first half. The pitching more or less stayed the same, which isn’t surprising considering Billy Beane bet the ranch by acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester in July. Nope, plain and simple, it was the hitters suddenly not doing hitter-type things that brought the A’s to within one game of an embarrassing collapse.

The power dried up, and then so did the wins, but the drop in offense was probably foreseeable, considering some of the guys who were tearing it up in April and May. Let’s take a quick look at the main culprits in this second half offensive drought.

Derek Norris
Pre-All-Star Break: .294/.402/.474
Post-Break: .245/.314/.324

Norris hit .226 in his first two major league seasons. Kickass beard and all, there was just no way in hell he was going to keep hitting .386, as he did in April. He didn’t exactly tank, but he did start to hit (predictably) like his normal self in the second half, which smarted even more when the A’s other catcher, John Jaso, went down with a concussion for the second straight year.

Stephen Vogt
Pre-Break: .358/.388/.532
Post-Break: .225/.275/.363

I love Stephen Vogt, and he’s done nothing but hit in a lengthy pro career, but .358? No way. Vogt’s ice-cold second half brought his numbers more in line with his 2013 output. He had fans thinking he’d turned into a star hitter for a while, but in the end he’s simply a solid bench/platoon bat and not much more.

Brandon Moss
Pre-Break: .268/.349/.530
Post-Break: .173/.310/.274

The disappearance of Moss’s bat was perhaps the most inexplicable of any of the slumping A’s hitters. After clubbing 21 homers in the first half, Moss hit four…count ‘em, four…after the break. He hit his 23rd home run of the season on July 24th, then didn’t hit another one until September 14th! Needless to say, the sudden ineffectiveness of one of their most reliable power bats absolutely killed the A’s. Moss has bashed 76 home runs in three seasons with the A’s but as a Three True Outcomes type he’s slump-prone, and his sordid second half may unfortunately be an indicator that he’s following the path of so many Jack Custs before him.

Coco Crisp
Pre-Break: .291/.387/.449
Post-Break: .191/.272/.258

The A’s top-of-the-lineup catalyst couldn’t get on base to save his life after the break. His poor hitting was probably at least partially attributable to a nagging neck injury that bothered him in August and September, but certainly also to the fact that he just isn’t a .290 hitter. He hasn’t hit that high in a season since 2005.

In addition, John Jaso got hurt, Jed Lowrie slumped, and Alberto Callaspo couldn’t hit his way out of a paper bag all year. None of those factors helped matters much, but the lion’s share of the blame for the offensive tank job was placed on the trade of Yoenis Cespedes to Boston and the resulting psychologically negative domino effect his absence had on the rest of the lineup. I definitely agree that his presence was missed, but he had a .303 OBP when he was traded. His offensive impact was probably a little overstated, in general.

The A’s stopped winning when they stopped hitting home runs. I mean, they hit a lot of home runs in the first half, at a rate that was unsustainable, given the history of the players hitting them. Maybe if Cespedes stays they keep up the pace, but I have my doubts. Cespedes himself only mustered five home runs in 51 games with the Red Sox, despite playing in a much friendlier park for home runs.

Josh Donaldson and Moss were both on pace to hit close to 40 home runs when the All-Star Break hit. This isn’t the late-90’s sillyball era anymore. Only one player made it to 40 homers this season (Nelson Cruz), and only seven players reached 35. To think that Donaldson and Moss could keep up that pace, in a tough home run park, no less, was probably unrealistic. Also, Norris, Vogt, and probably Crisp were hitting over their heads in the first part of the season. Frankly, it would have been completely shocking if they hadn’t dropped off a bit (Donaldson hit extremely well in the second half, but just not with the same kind of power).

So the A’s roll into a one-game playoff having narrowly avoided a near-historic collapse, and boast an offense that has been in a trance since before Guardians of the Galaxy came out. That’s the bad news. The good news? There are only a handful of pitchers in baseball who you’d rather have going in a do-or-die elimination game than Jon Lester.

Lester was brought to Oakland at the trade deadline for this very reason: to start huge games and win them. Lester has been lights out all season and he has more big game experience than just about any pitcher in the big leagues now, having won all three of his career World Series starts (including the Series-clincher for the Red Sox in 2007). A’s fans should feel very confident in resting their team’s season hopes on this guy.

The A’s also get the benefit of facing a Royals team that sports a lineup that just isn’t very good. The Royals are in the playoffs for the first time in 30 years, which is great, but they did so in spite of a pretty crummy hitting attack. They have easily the most impotent offense of any playoff team, having finished ninth in the AL in runs scored and dead last in home runs.

Unlike, say, the Tigers, Angels, or Orioles, the Royals lack a true star-caliber impact bat. Billy Butler used to be their best hitter, but he forgot how to hit this year for some reason and so now they basically have Alex Gordon and a cast of bats you could charitably deem average. No Kansas City player reached 20 home runs (Gordon led the team with 19), and just two of their regulars finished with an OPS+ over 100. They led the AL in stolen bases, but what does that matter if your hitters can’t get on base? To wit: they finished dead last in walks drawn and near the bottom in OBP. Their offense is definitely their Achilles heel.

The Royals will counter Lester with their ace, James Shields, aka “Big Game James”, who was called that before he had pitched a single actual big game with Tampa Bay, so the nickname is a bit ridiculous. However, he’s a tough cookie who won’t play into the patient Oakland lineup’s hands by walking batters, and he’s the type to make short work of a lineup if he gets into a groove.

The Royals also sport one of the most imposing bullpens in history, behind the insanely good troika of Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera. Davis and Herrera threw a combined 142 innings this year without surrendering a single home run. Thats…incredible. Davis in particular was otherworldly, striking out 109 batters in 72 innings and posting an absurd 1.19 FIP. Holland might be the best closer in baseball, but he’s still a relative obscurity. He wasn’t as good as Davis, “only” posting a 1.44 ERA. So, basically, if the A’s get behind early, they’re probably totally screwed.

I think in the end I’d put my money on Lester chewing through this weak Royal offense to put the A’s on top. Shields stays in the strike zone all game and can consequently get homer-prone. I think the A’s will club a couple of early home runs, Lester will dominate thoroughly for eight innings, and the boys in green and gold will prevail tomorrow, 3-0, to advance to the NLDS to take on the Angels.

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Big Donkey To The Rescue

dunnski

Way back in the year 2001, Adam Dunn was one of the more hyped prospects to show up on the major league scene. A star quarterback in high school, Dunn looked to have a promising future in college football at the University of Texas, Austin, but the addition of Chris Simms to the program and the coaxing of the Cincinnati Reds led Dunn to focus solely on baseball. After shredding the minor leagues, the massive Dunn (6′ 6″, 285 lbs) was called up midway through the ’01 season by the Reds, and a lot of prospect mavens believed he had the potential to be the league’s next great pure power hitter.

I recall an incident in a fantasy keeper league I was in that year, when Dunn first got called up. Being a keeper league, Dunn obviously had oodles of value at that point, and managers were on him like sharks on chum. Eventually, some guy essentially blew his load trading for Dunn, then posted a breathless message on the league’s board that Dunn would (I shit you not) become the first 50/50 player in major league history. As in, fifty home runs, and fifty stolen bases. This rant was mostly in all caps, of course. His prediction for Dunn, in case you were wondering, never came to fruition.

The reason I bring all of this up, of course, is because Dunn was acquired by the Oakland Athletics yesterday morning for minor league relief pitcher Nolan Sanburn and some cash to help cover the rest of Dunn’s contract. Dunn was brought in to help the slumping A’s offense and he introduced himself quite nicely to A’s fans, launching a towering home run in his first at-bat this afternoon. The A’s are hoping Dunn’s intimidating power bat can inject some life into a suddenly moribund offense that hit just .223/.301/.345 in August.

While Dunn never lived up to my former fantasy colleague’s rather outlandish expectations, he has had a very successful fourteen-year career. Exactly how successful, is a matter of some debate, however. Dunn has blasted 460 home runs in his career (and counting), and he’s had seven seasons with 40+ homers (and two more with 38). Any way you look at it, he’s been one of the most prolific home run hitters of the last decade.

He’s also been one of the most polarizing players in recent memory. In some circles Dunn is seen as a sabermetric darling. In others, he’s viewed as everything that was wrong with baseball in the homer-happy 2000’s. Dunn is one of the most famous Three True Outcome hitters in history, with almost exactly 50% of his career plate appearances ending in a home run, a walk, or a strikeout. This would seem to make him a hero of the sabermetric, mom’s basement stereotype who stays up all night crunching numbers in his underwear between bouts of WOW. Despite some low batting averages, Dunn’s lifetime OBP is .365, and that has generally endeared him to the saber-crowd.

However, there’s also the bad. Dunn broke Bobby Bonds’s single season strikeout record in 2004 (Mark Reynolds has since blown Dunn’s record away), and his strikeout prowess has ranged from a mere nuisance in some years to downright crippling in others. His inability to make contact has led to some perennially low batting averages, which many scribes have argued marginalizes his value. In fact, a number of analysts called his 2012 season (he hit 41 home runs while batting .204/.333/.468) one of the least-valuable 40-home run seasons of all time.

There’s also the issue of his defense. Just click here and look at his work in the outfield, and fight the urge to go take a long, contemplative shower. His glovework in the outfield makes small children weep, and his work at first base isn’t a whole lot better. So, basically, he has zero defensive value, and probably negative value. He’s like a pure scorer/non-defender in basketball who can score 20 points in his sleep while giving up 30. He’s an American League-born player who has unfortunately spent the majority of his career in the NL, and that has helped take away a lot of his overall value as a player. If you really want an example of the horror show that is Adam Dunn in the outfield, take a gander at his attempt to tame right field at AT&T Park last month. Yeah.

So his proponents point to his impressive home run totals and bushels of walks, while his detractors point to his miserable defense and low batting averages. One camp has him as underappreciated, while the other has him as an overvalued lout who is a product of a dying era in baseball. The truth is somewhere in the middle, but Dunn certainly has garnered strong and loud arguments from both sides over the years.

One fact can’t be denied, though: Dunn is one of the most interesting players in baseball (and who can forget this?). The fact that he initiates such a heated debate among fans shows that he is one of the most colorful players around, and it’s no surprise that he finds himself now on an A’s team that has prided itself on collecting an wide assortment of misfits over the past few years. In fact, Dunn is like a decade too late to this team; he would have fit right in on the Matt Stairs/John Jaha A’s of the late-90’s, early-aughts.

The A’s got themselves a seriously flawed player, but one who will still be useful for them down the stretch. He’ll be useful for the simple fact that he’s a presence. The A’s lineup fell into a funk the minute they traded Yoenis Cespedes. Whether that is causation or coincidence is debatable, but the A’s clearly sacrificed some modicum of offensive firepower in building their imposing starting rotation. There’s something to be said for the mental aspect of simply having a player with massive home run pop in the lineup. I’d argue that the Giants got that lift with Mike Morse this season. With Cespedes gone, the A’s lost some of that subconscious boost. With the acquisition of Dunn, they’ve gained it back.

As opposed to Cespedes, Dunn is more of an Oakland type of player. Like Dunn, Cespedes had power out the wazoo, but his plate discipline had deteriorated since his rookie year, and that’s likely what soured the A’s on him. Even with memories of Moneyball fading, the A’s still love them some OBP, so Dunn should slot right in and look right at home in a patient lineup that leads the American League in walks and runs scored.

To some, the acquisition of Dunn reeked of a panic move. That might not be totally untrue, but for the price of a single-A relief pitcher, heck, why not? Again, the A’s have made it clear with the Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija trades that they’re all in this season. If it takes a Dunn to revive the offense and get the team rolling in September and October, it’s worth it.

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