Welcome back to the Weekend Preview!
After a tough series in which the Red Sox split a four-game set against the Twins, they stay home to face an opponent with it’s own set of maladies and setbacks. For the first and only time on the Weekend Preview, here are the Oakland Athletics.
Oakland Athletics – Current Record: 23-33 – Projected Record: 77-85
The 2014 season hasn’t been kind to the A’s. Their main addition, Ben Zobrist, was out for over a month with a meniscus tear in left knee. Marcus Semien, despite his hitting, has committed so many gaffes & errors in the field that his WARP hasn’t yet reached 1.0. Any further talk about the A’s’ issues will usually include the words “underachieving”, “injured” and “disappointing”. However, the A’s arrive in Boston fresh off a sweep of the Detroit Tigers, and with seven victories in their last ten games, Oakland might be able to make a strong June push.
Scott Kazmir vs. Wade Miley, Friday, 7:05 p.m. EST
Kazmir is in the midst of a very solid year. He’s cut down on the contact he’s allowed, induced more whiffs and grounders, and all of that combined has given him an ERA just south of 3.00. Not a bad pitcher to have in your rotation, even with the concerning shoulder injury. There are some cracks in the armor, though. Kazmir’s FIP is a full run higher than his ERA, sitting at 3.89. That’s due to a low .260 BABIP against, and a 79% LOB%. There’s even some concern when it comes to the strikes he throws. Kazmir has thrown less than half his pitches in the zone, a drop from the last couple seasons where it was over 50%. He’s relied on the whiffs to offset the lack of control, which has worked to a point, but a 3.86 BB/9 has been the result. Scott Kazmir hasn’t been bad, but he’s been effectively lucky, and a shoulder injury is just the kind of thing to make you worry about him going forward.
Wade Miley is the proud owner of the most dramatic contrast between April & May 2015. Just take a look at this ridiculousness:
- April: 15.2 IP, 8.62 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 10/11 K/BB.
- May: 38.2 IP, 3.49 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 23/9 K/BB.
If that isn’t amazing enough, let us not forget Miley’s last outing against the A’s, which saw him strand roughly two bazillion runners in seven innings. Yes, that number is approximate. No, I still don’t believe it either. By now, you know what to expect with Miley: fast worker, quick innings, mild volatility. Let’s see if that luck still holds.
Jesse Chavez vs. Joe Kelly, June 6th, 4:05 p.m. EST
Chavez started the season as a reliever, but due to ineffectiveness on the back end of Oakland’s rotation, he’s been given a chance to start again. So far, he’s been pretty good. He’s getting a solid amount of strikeouts with few walks, and has posted a 2.11 ERA with a 2.67 FIP. Solid, right? Unfortunately, he’s got the same underlying issues as Kazmir. A drop in pitches in the zone is again being offset by an increase in whiffs, and a .269 BABIP & 76% LOB% might hold up as a reliever, but Chavez will struggle to keep it at that level as a starter. His impressively low 0.30 HR/FB, while good, isn’t sustainable, and you can expect to see some more gopherballs as the season goes on.
Has anything screamed “CONVERT ME TO RELIEVER” more than Joe Kelly? The guy has good velocity with movement down in the zone, but he looks like starting just isn’t for him. Unlike Miley, Kelly got even worse after April, sporting a 6.53 ERA and a 5.03 FIP in May. It’s always nice to have a guy who can consistently hit 96 on the gun and get grounders 50% of the time, but when he’s this bad as a starter, you have to consider other options. Currently, Kelly totes a 5.83 ERA and a 4.37 FIP, which – if we’re being nice – is pretty mediocre. The time spent while he’s pitching would be well-spent being used to find someone to take his spot in the rotation.
Kendall Graveman vs. Clay Buchholz, June 7th, 1:35 p.m. EST
Graveman looks and pitches like back-end filler. He strikes out few, walks just as many, and nothing else really sticks out other than his solid 50% groundball rate. A 5.56 ERA, combined with a 5.26 FIP, won’t amaze anyone. He has yet to go past six innings in a single start. Graveman should probably be used as a benchmark for the Sox offense – if they can’t succeed against him, then there really is cause for concern.
Buchholz, like Miley, pitched one of the most dominant months we’ve seen from him in May. A 3.31 ERA, 3.43 FIP, and a one-point drop in BB/9 cumulated in some of the most impressive starts we’ve seen from the Texan. As Matt Collins has said, Buchholz really is pitching very well, despite what we’ve grown accustomed to. All his peripherals are pointing in the right direction, and we’ve seen the progression. To be honest, the only thing he really needs now is the Boston offense to wake up – the Red Sox have scored just 11 runs in his last six starts.
With no Ike Davis, the A’s have resorted to using Stephen Vogt as a solution to everything along the first base line, which has worked out quite well thanks to Vogt still putting up stratospheric hitting numbers regardless of position.
Billy Burns – CF – S – .323/.368/.435, .297 TAv
Ben Zobrist – LF – S – .222/.304/.383, .255 TAv
Stephen Vogt – C – L – .308/.405/.579, .366 TAv
Billy Butler – DH – R – .264/.314/.370, .258 TAv
Josh Reddick – RF – L – .300/.376/.506, .327 TAv
Brett Lawrie – 3B – R – .281/.311/.397, .259 TAv
Marcus Semien – SS – R – .277/.319/.432, .271 TAv
Mark Canha – 1B – R – .230/.312/.393, .270 TAv
Eric Sogard – 2B – L – .253/.282/.294, .217 TAv
That standard lineup tallies 4.29 runs per game, placing it in the middle of the pack in the MLB and the AL. Despite the ineffectiveness of Butler and the black hole that is the bottom of the lineup, these guys don’t have any issues in scoring, and have actually scored more runs than they’ve allowed, suggesting that they’ve been underachieving so far.
Both teams haven’t played to their expected levels of excellence, and both will try to return to those levels this weekend. I’m not saying that they’ll be fun games to watch, but if the Red Sox can squeak out a series win here, it might buck the sinking-ship feeling that much of the fanbase has been experiencing.
Photo by Kelley L. Cox/USA Today Sports Images