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Friday, February 16, 2007


THE 2007 PITCHING STAFF: The Bullpen

Let's get on with the relievers on the 40 Man Roster and the Non-Roster Invitees.


Kiko Calero is the A's premier right-handed specialist and true set-up man. Calero is one of the most unnoticed pitchers in MLB. Calero is chocolate to left-handed hitters and the A's have attempted to combat that with another THREE MIKES approach with left-handers. Calero is terrific starting off an inning and throwing fewer than 20 pitches in an inning. This is very achievable when you throw slider-fastball-back up slider and get a K. Calero has a great K rate - and that should remain stable.

WHAT DO I THINK: Calero appeared in 70 games last season and there's no reason he shouldn't top that mark again in 2007.

Santiago Casilla formerly known as Jairo Garcia has fallen so far so fast that it is amazing how much age really blinds scouts and analysts alike. Garcia has already dropped behind Marcus McBeth. Other pitchers will step over him this spring and into summer.

WHAT DO I THINK: It makes me wonder why lying about your age doesn't bring the false outrage as "steroids" (PED's is the correct term) with the traditional media.

Justin Duchscherer is an incredibly valuable pitcher and player. Duchscherer has a great pickoff move and a curveball that varies as much as Oprah Winfrey is annoying. Many, FINALLY, are asking the question why Duchscherer shouldn't get the ball every 5th day as a starter. Previously the A's were about exposing him to hitters a 3rd time through the batting order because his "stuff" didn't lend itself to the starter's role. When your breaking ball, change-up, fastball, make-up, pickoff move, defense and hair is better than Barry Zito all that is left to judge is what arm they fling the ball at the plate. The A's need to lock-up Duchscherer long term and they need to do it now. He is devastating to both left-handed and right-handed hitters. I have always been a big fan of Duchscherer's and had the chance to speak with his dad and Jason a few years ago. The only drawback with Duchscherer is his injury history and the propensity of his back to seize up at inopportune times. Still - I'd take Duchscherer over Rich Harden. The hidden value of Duchscherer and the trade value of an overvalued Rich Harden is an easy move to make.

WHAT DO I THINK: Duchscherer and Calero provide the best 1-2 relief punch in baseball making Huston Street's job that much easier.

Scott Dunn is strictly AAA fodder. This isn't such a bad thing. You can make a pretty good career as a reliever in AAA. But at some point you have to look at the odds of earning a big league paycheck on a regular basis.

WHAT DO I THINK: Dunn stays in Sacramento unless the A's bullpen suffers and outbreak of SARS. That's not a knock on Dunn - just reality.

Alan Embree isn't so much a risk as he is a moderate question mark. And if you can explain to me what I mean by a moderate question mark; you're smarter than I am. Embree is effective against left-handed and right-handed hitters. The upside is he's cheap. The downside is he is 37 years old. Further on the downside is that he has a history been the least used reliever the A's will have on the roster in 2007. It's really difficult to determine in February how Bob Geren is going to use him.

WHAT DO I THINK: Embree gives the A's a yeoman effort or blows up on impact. Nothing in between.

Ron Flores has no bigger fan club that the few of us who live in Sacramento. Flores made his way up the A's system and he's been given the back of the hand by the A's front office. Rather than bring up Flores the A's went out and got Scott Sauerbeck, Brad Halsey and Randy Kiesler. The kid needs regular work and hopefully since Ken Macha has been banished back to the wasteland of the Pennsylvania badlands Flores will get a chance to shine.

WHAT DO I THINK: Geren's use of Flores will determine his overall value. But you have to root for a kid that was screwed by Ken Macha more often than A's fans, in general, by Macha.

I'm listing Chad Gaudin here again as he is mostly likely a reliever in 2007 unless injuries (did I just jinx Harden or is that an oxymoron?) hit the starting rotation. Gaudin was key down the stretch and with Duchscherer also able to pitch multiple innings allows Geren to have a quick hook and not worry about the bullpen stretch a 3-4 inning stint to 4-6 on back-to-back nights.

WHAT DO I THINK: Gaudin becomes trade bait after a fast start in April and May.

Brad Halsey. Not a fan. Just not dominate enough. He's not even the Kirk Saarloos of lefties. Halsey is just not a major league pitcher. He's a lefty and left-handed hitters had a .405 On Base Percentage and .925 On Base Plus Slugging percentage against him last season.

WHAT DO I THINK: Halsey is in Sacramento for most of 2007.

Joe Kennedy irks me just because of Joseph P Kennedy. But that's not really his fault. But much like Jared Leto in Fight Club; he's too...blonde! Kennedy threw 35 innings in 2006 and the A's paid him $2.4 Million to do it.

WHAT DO I THINK: Kennedy either gets traded or he's a divot in the A's continual bad trade sequences.

Shane Komine is just a great story and I think only Kevin Goldstein is more excited than I about the first possible all Hawaiian battery of Komine and Kurt Suzuki. Komine has a million pitches from a dozen different angles and he could be a 5th start on most teams. He really needs to be a 5th start or he just isn't much valuable coming out of the pen. He doesn't have a great K rate or groundball/flyball ratio. But he is effective. He put Nebraska baseball on the map and he threw so many pitches it nearly cost him a shot at a professional baseball career. He got the big scar and he's hoping last year was just working through the floating cartilage.

WHAT DO I THINK: Komine is in Sacramento (where I can interview him).

Jay Marshall is an interesting case. The A's picked him up in the Rule V draft and there was static that he was traded to Tampa Bay for Ryan Goleski. Goleski, it was later learned, was acquired for cash considerations (REMINDER: Need to make that "...AND CASH CONSIDERATIONS FAN CLUB" banner). It was also later discovered that Goleski had a serious wrist injury and that was not revealed by the Indians. But that's a post for next week. Back to Marshall. In talking with Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus Marshall is a left-handed Chad Bradford. And that's just not the fact that their fingers scrape the ground when they pitch. Bradford was drafted by the White Sox and not valued. Marshall was drafted by the White Sox and has lingered on their rookie teams for years.

WHAT DO I THINK: The A's may not be able to keep Marshall on the 25 Man Roster but they may work a deal with the White Sox to keep him. Two years ago the A's had lefty Tyler Johnson in camp after being selected in the Rule V Draft - they ended up returning him to the Cardinals. Johnson wasn't ready - but Marshall has a huge upside. Plus, Brad Ziegler and Marshall would give the A's double-barrel submarine action. Start thinking of your naval nicknames and sayings.

Marcus McBeth is the worst hitter ever to become valuable to the A's. McBeth was always lauded for his arm in the field. When McBeth was stinking up the batter's box as a position player the A's had him take a left turn and head to the mound. McBeth is a pure strikeout pitcher and that has its own intrinsic propensity for failure. Then again, when hitters can't touch the ball things work out as well. McBeth has a terrible groundball/flyball ratio. Unless he can develop some sink on his fastball and develop a true change-up he's be destined for a closer role or nothing. Short relievers often come in the game with nobody on base. Closers more often than not start an inning.

WHAT DO I THINK: McBeth is pushed to pitch 50-60 innings and if he can develop a secondary plus pitch to go with his explosive fastball the A's may has the best bullpen in all of MLB in 2008.

Dan Meyer. Every time I hear or read that name I think of John Cusack (Lane Meyer) in BETTER OFF DEAD Meyer is the last remaining hope that the Tim Hudson trade will pay off even a little.

WHAT DO I THINK: You can only cross your fingers and hope that Dan Meyer becomes Dan Meyer.

David Shafer got everyone up in a bind when the A's traded Kirk Saarloos to the Reds and got the minor league closer in return. Shafer did throw up decent counting numbers in AA last year. Like McBeth. Shafer has terrible groundball/flyball rates. Historically, minor league closers and short reliever prospects don't work out. Remember Joe Valentine? In 2002; Double-A All-Star, Baseball America 1st team Minor League All-Star, Southern League All-Star. Flamed out in Sacramento and was involved in two big trades:
  • 2002

  • Traded by White Sox with Mark Johnson, Keith Foulke and Cash to Athletics for Daylon Holt, Neal Cotts and Billy Koch.

  • 2003

  • Traded by Athletics with Jeff Bruksch and Aaron Harang to Reds for Jose Guillen.

WHAT DO I THINK: Shafer starts off with Midland in AA and then he and Marcus McBeth battle for the closer role over then next 18 month.

Huston Street is dreamy and all but when you blow 11 saves as a closer you irritate a lot of analytical and practical people. Ken Macha used Street like a remote control with dying batteries. Hoping that if he shook it and rattled it enough he could get a few more clicks. Street was overworked in the first few weeks of the season and the A's paid for Ken Macha's idiocy the rest of the season.

WHAT DO I THINK: Street coasts through 2007 with his set-up men being more valuable than he is. Not a knock on Street but his supporting cast will simply outshine him. The A's sign Street to a 4 year $12 Million extension.

Jason Windsor was a great story in 2006. Winning game after game in AA and again in AAA. When he appeared in an A's uniform things hit a wall. Oddly Windsor had stellar numbers against lefties in 2006 at the minor league level. Righties clobbered him. More than likely due to Windsor's repertoire. Windsor is an off-speed pitcher and relies on a spotting fastball to keep hitters honest. Windsor may not have big league "stuff" but he does have a big league competitive nature. Windsor, like Komine, nearly cost himself a professional career pitching 24 hours a day seven days a week in the College World Series. Cal State Fullerton was rewarded, but the A's and Billy Beane weren't happy their draft pick was being used as super glue to hold a team together.

WHAT DO I THINK: Windsor, rather than Komine, becomes the A's 6th starter/swing man. Windsor starts off in Sacramento and is in Oakland by the middle of May.

Jay Witasick is a waste of a uniform, a waste of money and not a waste of my time writing about him.

WHAT DO I THINK: Witasick is granted his outright release in the last week of spring training.


The A's have one of the better bullpens in MLB and their importance is only magnified by the A's inability to score runs. If the A's bullpen can get in rhythm in April the A's might be able to avoid their idiotic and stupefying lack of competence in wining games in April and May.

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