While we’ve been giving our take on the A’s this week, there’s another side to the story. That side is wrong, but it exists, and it’s the side of the few remaining fans the A’s have left. So, I virtually sat down with one of them to see what they were thinking on a variety of topics. Our guest today is David Wiers (twitter), formerly a writer at FanGraphs and fantasy correspondent for MLB.com who owns a Daric Barton shirsey and now works for STATS.
ZS: As a fully trained and professional baseball journalist, I've heard it's best to start out easy and go from there. So, does your team feel the need to live down to the expectations of a club that literally wallows in its own filth? This is my theory.
DW: First, allow me to clarify, as far as I know, only once did our stadium literally leak filth. There was a second time, but it happened in the away dugout or clubhouse, and those little slugs known as the Yankees were in town. I think that particular leak was planned, and I approve of said plan. Secondly, our expectations are to have a couple fireworks nights, a decent showing on Star Wars Day and literally nothing else. That is our bar. I hate life.
ZS: Even with Rajai Davis back in the fold after six seasons elsewhere, the A's could probably use an outfielder or at least a DH. Who could make sense for them?
DW: The A's could use almost anyone with a pulse at DH and OF. I mean, Rajai isn't going be socking dingers for us in the World Series this year (we'll probably lose in the ALDS, amirite??) and he's a platoon guy at this point. As for DH, we have options, but hoo-boy are they uninspiring. Or, if they're inspiring, they make me want to drink. Bleach, that is.
ZS: The A’s have been rumored to being going after Trumbo. Other than him, who do you like for a reasonable signing?
DW: I hope it isn't Trumbo. I wouldn't hate Alvarez or even Valbuena on short deals.
ZS: Who saves the most games for the A's this year?
DW: Hendriks. We (will hopefully) trade Doolittle for something and Madson for anything, so the job will probably fall to Axford or Hendriks, the the latter being my pick to lead the A's in saves. With 17.
ZS: Marcus Semien has had some problems with defense at shortstop. The numbers say maybe he was better last year, to the point where he could actually be an average defender. What adjustments did he make, and what does he need to do to continue to improve?
DW: The biggest adjustment Semien made was the A's getting Ron Washington back. If we're going by the eye test the "yips" in his throws seem to have all but disappeared and he is much more settled during throws. Semien had a bit of happy feet, which of course, will end up with you having the occasional Chuck Knoblauch-type throw into the third row. By the UZR, Semien climbed to -3.4 per 150 this year after an absolutely shocking -10.4 in 2015, and Wash was re-hired by the A's in late May of 2016. Correlation doesn't equate causation, but Wash is an absolute wizard with infielders. UZR isn't perfect and neither are errors, but for throwing errors, Semien trimmed things down from 18 in 2015 to 8 this past season, and he played more games and more innings at short in 2016. The improvement is real, and I think he can stick there, especially given the defensive questions of Barreto.
ZS: Where do you stand on the Ryon Healy debate? Is he at least a quality big leaguer, or is he a one-hit wonder who will falter this year?
DW: I loooooove Healy's ability to drive the ball when he makes contact; however, I'm not sold on his contact rates. Using Daren Willman's Barrels and then Barrels per PA, Healy's 6.7-percent barrel rate last year was (marginally) better than Cespedes, Rizzo, Turner, Ramirez, Kyle Seager et al, but Healy's poor strikeout to walk ratio will kill his BA and OBP. I think his defense best suits a first base role, but for now, he's okay at third. He might cost us a handful of runs there, but it isn't like we're within shouting distance of the playoff anyways. If he hits .250/.320/.480, I'll be more than happy.
ZS: How long of a leash does Yonder Alonso have, and will Matt Olson get the first shot at replacing him?
DW: I think he'll be around til June, and if he isn't hitting (hint: he won't be) he gets cut. Yes, Olson gets the first crack.
ZS: I’m actually surprised they kept him. Any idea why they'd do that? Last gasp at an upside play?
DW: YEAH ME TOO, maybe because ownership hates the fans? My only guess is they think he can get back to posting a .360 OBP and their internal defensive numbers love him a hellova lot more than the public data.
ZS: How long will Sonny Gray be in an Oakland uniform?
DW: At least until June. He'll have to rebuild his perceived value before we ship him off. I'd be shocked if he's healthy AND lasts the entire season with us. It'll be one or the other.
ZS: If (when) the A's are out of contention, who are the team's top trade candidates who could fetch a real return?
DW: Doolittle is a big prize, despite health issues. He's a power lefty with no significant platoon split and he's under control for 2017-18 + two option years. This season is Vogt's first Arb year, and he still has surplus value until at least Arb 3, so I could see him getting moved. We could flip either Davis, but given the power numbers Khris puts up, I think we'll move him as his numbers are loved by arbitration and this is also his first year going through that process. Lots of young pitchers would draw interest, Manaea, Montas and Cotton for example, but we'd be silly to move them now.
ZS: After more than a couple failed seasons, is there anything Billy Beane could do to get fired, other than acknowledging that he enjoys the Billy Beane's Siri twitter account?
DW: The Beane Siri account, though it rarely tweets, is run by an absolute genius. Whomever they are, I hope they know I fully appreciate the work they put into it. Also, Beane is a minority owner of the A's, so I'd be pretty shocked to see him get sacked. Forst, on the other hand, is someone who I think is — for lack of a less cold-blooded word — expendable.
ZS: Final prediction: how many games will the A's win, and what place will they finish in the AL West?
DW: Well, we won 69 games last year, and in 2015 we put up a .420 win percentage. If Xbox Live has taught me anything, it's that those two numbers are in fact "dank," as the kids say. I suppose we'll keep the dank train rolling and we'll put up back-to-back 69 win seasons. We'll finish fifth. Sigh.