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The ball Bo Bichette of the Blue Jays belted out of Boston’s Fenway Park April 22 landed near the now-closed Lansdowne Street gym where father Dante met Bo’s mother during the summer of 1991 . . .
Ex-Met Steven Matz, now with Toronto, is thriving now that he’s started throwing his slider again at the suggestion of Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker . . .
Since re-signing with Washington for seven years and $245 million in 2019, Stephen Strasburg – soon to turn 33 – has pitched a grand total of 15 innings . . .
Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, though physically sound, is completing a seven-year, $210 million deal but will be 37 July 27 and won’t get such a large contract again . . .
Not counting Toronto’s spring training park in Florida, the smallest permitted capacity in Covid Year 2 was Fenway Park, which opened the 2021 season with a fan cap of 12 percent (4,500) . .
The Oakland A’s: Games 17 Through 39
By Rich Campbell
Welcome to the second edition of my monthly look at how the 2021 Oakland A’s season is unfolding.
Before looking at the results from the last 23 games, let’s widen the lens and take a quick look at who has been with the team all of the seasons of the current streak of making the season every year since 2018.
On the position player front, the core is made up of Matt Chapman (14.8 fWAR), Matt Olson (9.1), Mark Canha (8.9), Ramon Laureano (8.6), Stephen Piscotty (4.3) and Chad Pinder (3.1).
Pitchers who have been with the team since 2018 are: Chris Bassitt (5.0), Frankie Montas (4.3), Sean Manaea (4.3), Yusmeiro Petit (2.7), Mike Fiers (2.1) and Lou Trivino (1.0).
So 12 players have been in Oakland the last three years and are still here as the team hunts its fourth consecutive playoff appearance. While fans often bemoan the low- budget A’s for not “holding on to their players,” maybe that narrative does not hold up under scrutiny.
Record Recap: When we last gathered, the A’s were 9-7 and riding an eight-game winning streak. That streak stretched five more games to reach 13 wins before losing to John Means in Baltimore April 23.
Since April 20, the A’s are 14-9 after completing a three-game series with the Red Sox in Boston. Their record stands at 23-16 heading into the weekend series versus the Twins. The A’s are in first place by two games over the Astros. Fangraphs gives the Athletics a 51.5 per cent chance of reaching the playoffs.
Stat Nobody Saw Coming: Yusmeiro Petit (4-0) leads the club with four wins after 39 games, tied with starter Frankie Montas (4-2). Petit has been a key member of the Oakland bullpen since 2018, a year in which he went 7-3. Can he reach double digit wins in 2021? Time will tell.
Roster Churn: Players who have debuted since April 20 are: catcher Austin Allen, who briefly replaced Aramis Garcia as backup catcher and has since been sent back to AAA; Mike Fiers, who made two starts before landing back on the injured list; and James Kaprielian, who made his season debut with a five-inning outing on May 12, recording his first career win.
Regression To The Mean Candidate: Last month’s candidate Elvis Andrus enjoyed the predicted uptick in productivity with a slash line of .217/.270/.275 since April 20, which does not sound great but represents a vast improvement over his .127/.167/.182 stats through the first 16 games. Andrus is even in the midst of a modest six-game hitting streak.
This month’s candidate is Seth Brown, who is likely to cool off. His Fangraphs wRC+ of 133 - meaning he is performing at an offensive level 33 per cent higher than league average in his last 16 games - is likely unsustainable.
Old Guys Report: The aforementioned Petit has been stellar all year and leads the AL in appearances with 19. Sergio Romo has been sharp after a bumpy start to the season, allowing just one run in his last seven appearances. Jed Lowrie has cooled off after a hot start, slashing .216/.275/.338 in his last 20 games. Amazingly, he continues to play almost daily at age 37 after missing nearly all of the last two seasons. Mitch Moreland also continues to play regularly, mostly at DH, at age 35.
Coming Up: After completing a stretch of 25 games outside the AL West, the squad turns its attention to 16 consecutive games within the division after this weekend’s series in Minnesota. That stretch concludes June 2 and includes games against the Astros (3), Angels (7) and Mariners (6).
Rich Campbell is a Marketing Professor at Sonoma State University by day and A’s fan by night. He has previously been a sports business contributor at Forbes.com and his academic writing has appeared in Sport Marketing Quarterly. You can find him on Twitter @RichCampbellPhD.
On Sunday Night Games, Scott Boras, and More
By Dan Schlossberg
Random thoughts in the middle of the second month:
Sunday night games are awful for multiple reasons:
1. Too much competition – televised and otherwise – for the entertainment dollar
2. Games end too late because they start too late
3. Results and box scores probably won’t make AM papers in the eastern two-thirds of the country
4. It’s often too cold or to wet to play in April, May, and September – half the season
5. Team announcers sound better and are better prepared than ESPN announcers
Scott Boras remains the most successful agent, at least in the eyes (and pocketbooks) of his clients. The California-based agent netted $160 million in commissions after securing $3.2 billion for his clients for 2020, when he negotiated deals for Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon. Agent fees are capped and regulated by player associations with the top commissions allowed by MLB at 5 per cent . . .
Because owners and players could not agree, the DH is again confined to the AL and the playoffs are back to 10 teams after a one-year experiment with a 16-team format. The union rejected the expanded post-season idea three times in the belief it would prevent clubs from spending money on high-priced veterans at the July 31 trade deadline . . .
Teams with Alex Anthopoulos as general manager have won four consecutive division titles (Toronto 1, Atlanta 3) . . .
At age 32, reliever Shane Greene, seeking more years and more dollars after a pandemic payroll panic, went from $6.5 million last year to a pro-rated $1.5 million this year, signing with the same team (Atlanta) . . .
Counting Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning gem, five no-hitters in five weeks means MLB will break its single-season record of seven . . .
Loved this anecdote from Dave Berger’s Take Me Out to the Ballgame: Jim Barr of the Angels missed pitching in the 1979 AL playoffs after breaking his right hand on a toilet seat. Seeing a fan holding a sign that said “The Angels Are No. 2,” Barr tried to swipe it away — not realizing the message was scrawled on an actual toilet seat!
Still learning the ropes of this posting platform at age 73, thanks to fellow HTP editor Elizabeth Muratore for sharing her knowledge of technology and to IBWAA co-chair Daniel R. Epstein for his words of support.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has been a Braves fan since 1957. In addition to Here’s The Pitch, he contributes to forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and more. He is also the author of 38 baseball books. Complain to him at email@example.com.
The Giants made a good move in signing veteran lefty Alex Wood, 3-0 and 1.50, with an average of 10 strikeouts per nine innings, three starts into this season (after 1-4 and 5.96 over the last two years) . . .
Miami’s Trevor Rogers, maybe the best lefty in the NL, started 3-0 and 0.75 with 32 strikeouts, six walks, and an opponents’ batting average of .195 . . .
Underrated at the start, the rambunctious Red Sox were leading the American League in runs scored, batting, slugging, and OPS the last time we looked . . .
With Justin Verlander out with Tommy John surgery, 24-year-old righty Christian Javier has saved Dusty Baker’s Astros with a 3-0 start and two runs allowed in his first 20 1/3 innings . . .
In addition to opening its stadium to maximum capacity, the Texas Rangers have suspended sales of grilled rattlesnake sausage on a hoagie roll, a 2019 concessions staple that could return next year . . .
Fred Tenney, player-manager of the 1905 Boston Red Sox, was not only an Ivy Leaguer (Brown) but also the off-season baseball coach at Tufts.
Know Your Editors
HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.