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2024 Season | Series #7 | A's @ Guardians | April 19-21, 2024

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Wham with the Right Hand

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The Guardians return home after a successful 4-3 road trip to New York and Boston to face the Oakland A’s, who they beat 3 games to 1 in the opening series on the west coast. The Guardians hammered the A’s by a cumulative score of 29-11.

Since that series the A’s have regained some respectability with a record of 7-8, including a 4-2 mark on the road. The A’s are 1-6 against Boston and Cleveland, who rank 1st and 4th in ERA. The A’s are very weak offensively and they don’t do well against strong pitching.

The A’s have been two teams this year. When Paul Blackburn starts they are 4-0. When anybody else starts they are 4-11. The Guardians catch a break this series because Blackburn pitched Wednesday and will not face them. Blackburn has a 1.08 ERA and shut out the Guardians for seven innings in the only game the A’s won in their opening series.

The Guardians will also miss JP Sears, who has the second best ERA in their rotation at 4.35. The Guardians will face the three worst ERA’s in Boyle, Wood, and Stripling, who are all between 5.32 and 8.10. The chances of this happening are 1 in 9, if I’m not mistaken. Lucky us.

These will be the final games of the season between these teams. Too bad. The weather report looks good with little chance of rain.

The A’s are awful at the dish, ranking 29th in runs per game at 2.95. Four of their wins have been by one run. They rank from 24th to 29th in every significant offensive category. They’re 29th in on-base percentage, 25th in ISO, 25th in extra-base hit percentage, etc. They do nothing well offensively. Their team batting average is .209 and OBP is .276.

Tyler Nevin is their best hitter so far at .303/.712, but 9 of his 10 hits are singles. He has 3 RBIs in 12 games. Shea Langeliers leads in home runs with 4 and RBIs with 9.

J.D. Davis was their best hitter against us in Oakland, going 5-for-13 with two home runs. He is out and will miss this series. Lucky us.

The A’s are much better in the pitching department, ranking 9th in the majors in ERA at 3.72. However, if you remove the numbers of Blackburn and Sears, who will both miss this series, the team ERA is 4.59, which would rank 24th.

The A’s rank 23rd in WHIP but 9th in ERA which shows they are doing a great job of stranding runners. In fact, they lead the majors in stranding runners in scoring position at 4.4 per game. They also lead the majors in opponents’ home run percentage, although that’s partly because they’ve played 13 of 19 games at home. Their ballpark has been the 3rd hardest to homer in over the last three years and it’s even tougher in March/April.

A better number is the fact that the A’s rank 27th in opponents’ extra base hit percentage, and that’s including Blackburn’s numbers.

In summary, the A’s allow a lot of baserunners but have been very good at stranding them and not allowing home runs, so their ERA is pretty good.

In the first series the Guardians hit .290/.832 as a team. Fry, Gimenez, Josh Naylor, Kwan, and Rocchio all had an OPS over .930. The Guardians scored 29 runs in 4 games despite hitting only two home runs. Their OBP was .376 and they stole 8 bases. Their batting average with RISP was .357 in the games they won. They were 1-for-7 in the game Blackburn started.

The Guardians have hit one home run every 53 at-bats on the road and one every 20 at-bats at home, so maybe we’ll see a few dingers this weekend.

McKenzie, Allen, and Bibee will go for the Guardians, in that order.

Triston is off to a rocky start with a 6.23 ERA. His three starts have been very bad, very good, and very bad, so hopefully he’s due for a very good start. He has not faced the A’s this year. His biggest problem has been issuing 12 walks in 13 innings. He’s allowed more walks than hits.

In his last start against the Yankees, Triston walked the first two batters of the game and they both scored. The next two innings he didn’t walk anybody and allowed no runs. In the 4th he once again walked the first two hitters and they both scored. Four of the six runs he allowed were on base due to walks.

The A’s swing and miss at a higher percentage than any team in baseball. They are 10th highest in chase rate. This looks like the perfect team for McKenzie to pitch against and help him get back on track, but he needs to start throwing more strikes and be ready to go in the first inning.

A report came out by Jason Lloyd and Zack Meisel that Triston tore a ligament in his right elbow last June. He opted for rest and rehab rather than surgery and he says he has not felt any pain. But his command and his fastball velocity are down, raising the question of whether the ligament is OK and whether he can get back to pitching effectively without getting surgery. This start might go a long way to answering that question since the A’s are an awful team at the plate. If he can’t dominate this team…

There are three factors that can signal an issue with the UCL: a loss in velocity, loss of location and discomfort.

We’ve definitely seen a loss in velocity and location. Maybe he’s just rusty and the velo and location will come back with more work. Or maybe this is as good as he can pitch without surgery. We need to find out soon.

Joe Boyle goes for the A’s. Boyle is a 24-year-old right-hander with six career starts; three coming last year. He’s 6’7”, 240 pounds. This season he was blown up in his first start but in his next two he was great, allowing one earned run in 10 innings. He has not yet gone beyond 5 innings and 87 pitches. He has not faced any Guardian hitters.
 
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Great write up, WHAM.

On Sunday, McCann will probably be the Oakland catcher. He has thrown out only one of nine base runners...something to watch for.
 
If somebody would have told me in late March that at this point in time....

Bieber would be gone...

Williams hadn't pitched yet...

Jose was off to the worst start of his career...

Cookie had been our best SP...

BUT...

We had the best record in the AL...

The second highest run differential...

Were six games ahead of Minnesota...

Were 8-4 vs NY-Boston-Minn-Seattle, with nine of those games on the road...

I would have told his nearest relative to put him in an institution.
 
If somebody would have told me in late March that at this point in time....

Bieber would be gone...

Williams hadn't pitched yet...

Jose was off to the worst start of his career...

Cookie had been our best SP...

BUT...

We had the best record in the AL...

The second highest run differential...

Were six games ahead of Minnesota...

Were 8-4 vs NY-Boston-Minn-Seattle, with nine of those games on the road...

I would have told his nearest relative to put him in an institution.
It's incredible how well they've done considering everything that's gone wrong. It's not like most of the roster got off to the best start of their careers in the same year and we're just waiting for the regression. It's kind of the opposite - a lot of guys are well below their norms.

You didn't mention Stephan, who was supposed to be our setup man, going down for the year and also no innings from Hentges or Karinchak.

Yes, Jose is off to a bad start (.238/.658), but it's not as bad as it looks. He has 16 RBI's in 19 games and is hitting .326 with runners on base. His problem is that with nobody on base his on-base percentage is a shocking .167. It's like he focuses better when he has an RBI opportunity.

What gets me excited is that Freeman, Bo Naylor, Laureano, and Florial are all hitting under .200 and Will Brennan is at .208. All of them are underperforming. All of the starters except Cookie are underperforming. I think it's very realistic to expect both the starting pitching and run production to be better than it has been so far.

Does anybody think those five guys are going to hit under .200 the rest of the year? Or that Jose will hit .238 this year? Or that Bibee and Allen will have ERA's around 5.00?

OK, we have a few overperformers that will come back to the pack. Kwan won't hit .354 and Fry won't hit .308. Josh probably can't continue hitting .323, although he hit .308 last year so that number isn't totally out of the question. But we have more underperformers than overperformers offensively.

The scary thing is that Williams will be back and he could easily be our ace now that Bieber is gone. The wild card is McKenzie and his 6.23 ERA. Does he just need more time after essentially missing all of last year or is something fundamentally wrong and this is who is he is?
 
I compared how well the Guardians are hitting situationally compared to last year to see if they are significantly overperforming. The results are interesting.

With the bases empty the G's are actually worse than last year.

2023: .246/.307/.376/.683 (ranked 26th)
2024: .214/.282/.352/.634 (ranked 27th)

With the bases empty on-base percentage is what you want and we're down 25 points this year. The biggest individual dropoffs from last year are:

Jose - down from .357 to .167
Gimenez - down from .305 to .239
Brennan - down from .281 to .125

Nobody else is dramatically different from last year except Josh Naylor - he went from .329 to .405. Josh is our best guy at getting on base with the bases empty! He's our best rally starter.

I expect both Gimenez and Jose (especially Jose!) to improve their on-base percentages with nobody on to about where they were last year. Since they normally bat 2nd and 3rd, this will put more runners on for Josh and whoever bats 5th.

It's a different story with runners on base and in scoring position.

Runners on:

2023: .256/.710 (ranked 27th)
2024: .297/.808 (ranked 7th)

What happened there? Is this sustainable?

Runners in scoring position:

2023: .245/.691 (ranked 27th)
2024: .318/.817 (ranked 8th)

Another big jump. Sustainable?

Runners in scoring position, two out:

2023: .211/.644 (27th)
2024: .232/.709 (14th)

Not as big a jump, but significant.

Runners in scoring position, less than two out:

2023: .273
2024: .376

I had to do the math on this one since it's not a listed stat. Obviously the Guardians feel the pressure with two out as the batting average with RISP drops from .376 to .232 when you know the inning is over if you make an out.

So we're seeing big jumps with runners on and especially runners in scoring position with less than two outs. There's a small improvement in the RISP/2 out situation, and a decrease in on-base percentage with the bases empty.

I doubt the G's continue to hit .376 with RISP and less than two out. In fact, I'm sure of it.

I also doubt they will continue to hit .318 with runners on base. I think they will do better than last year's .245, however, but .318 for an entire season is unrealistic. The Braves led baseball in this category last year at .284. I think around .270 is possible.

I think they can do better than .232/.709 with RISP and two out. Those numbers would have ranked them 19th and 20th last year. So far this year they're 14th but I think they can improve.

In summary, I expect the Guardians do much better at getting on base with the bases empty the rest of this season as they are below last year's OBP by 25 points. I also expect them to do better with RISP and two out than a .232 BA. But I know they won't continue to hit .376 with RISP and less than two out, and they surely won't continue to hit .318 with runners on.

Their scoring has increased from 4.09 to 5.37 runs per game. Is 5.37 sustainable? Maybe not due to those highly inflated BA's with runners on and with RISP and less than two out. But we should see modest improvements in getting runners on with the bases empty (which has been awful) and in two out with RISP hitting.

We have five guys hitting below .200 and Brennan is at .208. That has to change. OK, maybe Hedgie stays below .200 all season. But Freeman, Florial, Bo Naylor, and Laureano won't. Also, Jose's numbers will improve. He's not a .238/.658 hitter.

If those six players who are well below their norms get back to their norms the 5.4 runs per game number is sustainable, even with a drop in batting average with runners on and with RISP.
 
I compared how well the Guardians are hitting situationally compared to last year to see if they are significantly overperforming. The results are interesting.

With the bases empty the G's are actually worse than last year.

2023: .246/.307/.376/.683 (ranked 26th)
2024: .214/.282/.352/.634 (ranked 27th)

With the bases empty on-base percentage is what you want and we're down 25 points this year. The biggest individual dropoffs from last year are:

Jose - down from .357 to .167
Gimenez - down from .305 to .239
Brennan - down from .281 to .125

Nobody else is dramatically different from last year except Josh Naylor - he went from .329 to .405. Josh is our best guy at getting on base with the bases empty! He's our best rally starter.

I expect both Gimenez and Jose (especially Jose!) to improve their on-base percentages with nobody on to about where they were last year. Since they normally bat 2nd and 3rd, this will put more runners on for Josh and whoever bats 5th.

It's a different story with runners on base and in scoring position.

Runners on:

2023: .256/.710 (ranked 27th)
2024: .297/.808 (ranked 7th)

What happened there? Is this sustainable?

Runners in scoring position:

2023: .245/.691 (ranked 27th)
2024: .318/.817 (ranked 8th)

Another big jump. Sustainable?

Runners in scoring position, two out:

2023: .211/.644 (27th)
2024: .232/.709 (14th)

Not as big a jump, but significant.

Runners in scoring position, less than two out:

2023: .273
2024: .376

I had to do the math on this one since it's not a listed stat. Obviously the Guardians feel the pressure with two out as the batting average with RISP drops from .376 to .232 when you know the inning is over if you make an out.

So we're seeing big jumps with runners on and especially runners in scoring position with less than two outs. There's a small improvement in the RISP/2 out situation, and a decrease in on-base percentage with the bases empty.

I doubt the G's continue to hit .376 with RISP and less than two out. In fact, I'm sure of it.

I also doubt they will continue to hit .318 with runners on base. I think they will do better than last year's .245, however, but .318 for an entire season is unrealistic. The Braves led baseball in this category last year at .284. I think around .270 is possible.

I think they can do better than .232/.709 with RISP and two out. Those numbers would have ranked them 19th and 20th last year. So far this year they're 14th but I think they can improve.

In summary, I expect the Guardians do much better at getting on base with the bases empty the rest of this season as they are below last year's OBP by 25 points. I also expect them to do better with RISP and two out than a .232 BA. But I know they won't continue to hit .376 with RISP and less than two out, and they surely won't continue to hit .318 with runners on.

Their scoring has increased from 4.09 to 5.37 runs per game. Is 5.37 sustainable? Maybe not due to those highly inflated BA's with runners on and with RISP and less than two out. But we should see modest improvements in getting runners on with the bases empty (which has been awful) and in two out with RISP hitting.

We have five guys hitting below .200 and Brennan is at .208. That has to change. OK, maybe Hedgie stays below .200 all season. But Freeman, Florial, Bo Naylor, and Laureano won't. Also, Jose's numbers will improve. He's not a .238/.658 hitter.

If those six players who are well below their norms get back to their norms the 5.4 runs per game number is sustainable, even with a drop in batting average with runners on and with RISP.
Ranks in 2023 and 2024:
SLG- 29th and 12th
OPS- 27th and 13th

Getting awfully close to top 10 in both those categories. No reason they shouldn't continue to improve even if only marginally. Some roster changes could be significant. With this BP and Williams returning to the rotation it's hard not to be excited.
 

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