Upon my request for an interview, Alex Hall of Athletics Nation informed me that he had already answered some questions for Steve, but he was kind enough to answer my non-duplicate questions, too. It would be silly to block readers from more information, so here it is. Game one of the three-game series has already come to pass, but Alex's answers still offer some fine insight into the Yankees' opponent.
Q & A
Andrew: Oakland's pitching staff has gone from a stellar 3.48 ERA last year that ranked second in the league to 3.74, which while still above average is not quite as good. Their FIP has stayed roughly the same at 3.87 and 3.89. Do you attribute the ERA change to ERA's randomness, or have you noticed anything different in the pitching this year?
Alex: It's tough to compare last year's rotation with this year's, since there are so many new faces. Gone are Brandon McCarthy and a handful of scrubs (Tyson Ross, Graham Godfrey, etc.), and in are full seasons of Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin. Brett Anderson has been a non-factor so far this year, which is troubling, and Jarrod Parker had a horrendous start to the season. Overall, though, the young starters are making progress in their sophomore campaigns - Parker has turned things around and looks like the top-end starter he was last year, Tommy Milone makes up for being hittable by limiting the walks and keeping the bases empty ahead of the big hits, and Griffin is a good bet for a quality start on any given day. Also, Bartolo Colon is pitching out of his mind (but not that much differently from last year).
A lot of that increase in ERA comes from the poor Aprils of Anderson and Parker, and neither Anderson nor Bad Parker are in the rotation anymore. The bullpen has been about as good as it'll ever be, so they might decline a bit, but overall I would expect to see the team ERA go down slightly by season's end.
Andrew: The pitching matchups in this series are Bartolo Colon vs. CC Sabathia, Dan Straily vs. Phil Hughes, and Jarrod Parker vs. Hiroki Kuroda. Which starter do you think the Yankees might struggle most against? Which matchup gives you the most confidence?
Alex: Look out for Dan Straily. He's made serious strides this month, and he recently out-dueled Yu Darvish and Madison Bumgarner in consecutive starts. He hasn't allowed a homer in his last five outings, his control has greatly improved, and he seems primed for a breakout season. Colon has been unreal this year, but the left-handed power bats in New York's lineup could potentially have a field day with him. Parker has thrown six straight quality starts and just beat Chris Sale in back-to-back outings, but even he is not as hot as Straily is right now.
Andrew: Which Oakland player might catch Yankee fans by surprise?
But also, Josh Reddick. His struggles are well-documented, and I went more in-depth about him with Steven Goldman, but he has looked like a different player since his return from the DL. He's hitting the ball hard again and he's still a defensive whiz in right, but he's added patience and plate discipline to his resume. Don't feel bad if the Yankees give up some key hits to the .189/.286/.299 Reddick, because the stats simply haven't caught up with his recently improved performance.
Andrew: What has been your favorite moment as an Oakland A's fan during the past 20 years?
Alex: For this, I am going to link you to a piece I contributed to for the Baseball Continuum. They asked a bunch of writers to share their favorite baseball memories, and here is what I wrote. Everyone should check out the full article, too, because there are lots of neat stories in there. (The article is linked here.)
I’ve seen Marco Scutaro hit a walk-off homer against Mariano Rivera, I witnessed Miguel Tejada‘s walk-off bomb in the 18th game of Oakland’s 20-game winning streak, I went to Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS (which Oakland sadly lost in front of a raucous crowd), and I even worked over 50 home games one season on the Athletics’ promotion crew alongside the mascot, Stomper. However, nothing compares to visiting the set of the film Moneyball.
During filming, there was an open call for folks to come sit in the Coliseum stands for the scenes which included game action. Walking into the stadium in 2010 and seeing the 2002 A’s and Royals warming up on the field was an absolute trip, even if all the actors were a foot too short and Jeremy Affeldt was throwing right-handed. I saw names on jerseys that I hadn’t thought about since high school, watched plays from a game that I’d seen live 8 years previous, and then stayed on for the next shift until the wee hours of the morning. My friends and I didn’t end up in any of the scenes in the final cut of the film, but by that time we didn’t care – the experience itself was rewarding enough.
Maybe it’s lame that my favorite baseball memory didn’t occur in an actual game. However, much of the appeal of baseball is the way that it connects adults to their childhoods, to the Little League games of yesteryear and the lazy summer days listening to Bill King on the radio. Sitting on the set of Moneyball was like stepping into a time machine and re-visiting my senior year of high school. Nothing can beat that feeling.
Thanks to Alex for his responses. Be sure to check out that link to baseball memories, too--there are some fantastic stories in there.