Three Bridge Sports Bay Area Sports: All Day, Every Day Fri, 04 Oct 2013 16:07:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Week 5- Win 2 Fri, 04 Oct 2013 15:48:21 +0000 Jim Turvey 9709070156_3d18e357b8

(Photo Courtesy of zennie62)
Terrelle Pryor is back. Everyone rejoice!

by Jim Turvey



It seems like more than two weeks ago that the Raiders had just beaten the Jags, and that result, mixed with their solid showing against the Colts in Week 1, had Raiders’ fans secretly thinking about a possible playoff team. Here we are, just two weeks later, and although the narrative still seems positive, the results haven’t been there. Week 3 was an expected loss to a Broncos team that is looking more and more like it could possibly run the table this year (how nice would it be if they tried to finish their 16-0 regular season against us in Week 17, and we took them down, but that’s getting way ahead of ourselves), and although the loss to the Redskins last week wasn’t great, it also came without our entire starting backfield. This week Pryor returns, and as of writing this, McFadden and Reece are questionable. Reece has returned to practice, and although McFadden has not, Allen said that he may not need to practice Friday to still play on Sunday.

This week’s game takes place in Coliseum, and because the A’s have started their playoff run (based on message boards, it seems that I’m one of the few Raiders’ fans glad that the A’s are still playing) the game won’t start until 8:35pm. So get out your redbull(vodka)s and get ready to stay up a little late this Sunday to see the Chargers come to town.



The Raiders obviously have a lot of experience against division opponent, San Diego (cue now overused, “Whale’s Vagina” joke, who am I kidding, that could never be overused). Despite home-field advantage, the Raiders are currently four to five point underdogs against a Chargers’ team that has put up better than expected results this season. The Chargers have defeated two NFC East teams (although how much is that really saying), and lost by a field goal a piece to the supposed-contender Texans, and the up-and-coming Titans. Last season the Raiders lost both games to the Chargers but only by a combined eleven points.


When the Raiders have the ball

With the return of Terrelle Pryor behind center, hopefully Raiders’ fans will be treated to a much more dynamic and fun-to-watch offense this week. Last week saw seven sacks of Matt Flynn, as he did his best impression of the Statue of David, doing everything in his power to take the sack.

There’s more good news, however. The Chargers currently own the third-worst defense by yards per game, and the absolute worst defense as rated by DVOA. This means Pryor and the boys should be able to move the ball well on the Chargers, via the run and the pass.

The key to the Raiders’ offense will be their ability to score touchdowns in the redzone. We know they will be able to move the ball, but settling for field goals will be killer in what looks to be a high-scoring game. The Raiders currently sport a less than impressive 46.15% touchdown rate in the redzone; the Chargers are currently holding teams to a 58.33% touchdown rate in the redzone. Both of these rank in the bottom half of the NFL, and whoever can improve in that aspect this game will likely reap big benefits from it.

One target that I believe Pryor can look for in the redzone more often is Mychal Rivera. I don’t say that just because I’d love to see his sister’s reaction to another touchdown (well, maybe that’s part of the reason), but because his large frame lends perfectly to the redzone. Texans tight ends were able to decimate the Chargers for three touchdowns in Week 1, and looking to Rivera near the endzone may be huge for Pryor.


When the Raiders are on defense

The key to stopping the Chargers will most certainly be in slowing down Phillip Rivers. In the Chargers two wins, he has topped 400 yards each game. In their two losses, he has thrown less than 400 yards combined. The key to shutting down Rivers may well be in actually shutting down Antonio Gates. Once again, the yardage tells the story, as Gates has 260 yards receiving in the Chargers’ two wins and only 94 yards receiving in their two losses. Gates also had nearly twice as many targets in those two wins, meaning that the Raiders will really need to stick to Gates in order to slow down this potent Chargers’ passing attack.

Naturally, the key match up this game will be the Raiders’ linebackers on Antonio Gates. Kevin Burnett will most likely draw a lot of the coverage on Gates when they are in their base 4-3 defense, as he is the Raiders’ main pass-coverage linebacker. This is no easy task, as Rivers looks to Gates with great frequency, especially near the endzone. The Raiders have actually done a pretty good job against opposing tight ends so far this year, allowing only 16 catches and 181 yards according to ESPN. However, they did allow touchdowns to tight ends in each of the first three weeks. Gates, himself, has found the endzone each of the last two weeks, and Burnett as well as the rest of the Raiders keeping him out of the endzone will play a large part in their success on Sunday.


Can the Raiders special teams give them an edge?

Sadly, this section may soon have to be renamed, “Can the Raiders special teams not cost them this game?” seeing as they currently have the 28th ranked special teams according to DVOA. As excellent as Marquette King has been punting the ball, his holds really do seem to be an issue that needs to be cleared up, and cleared up quickly. The team is saying all the right things, but with yet another missed field goal last week (albeit from 52 yards), the Raiders really need to find a fix to this problem. This week has the makings of yet another close game, and another missed field goal would be killer.



This one seems like a classic Raiders’ win. With the extremely late start, and the fact that it isn’t the real Sunday Night Football game, and even on top of that, the fact that it will be airing on NFL Network, means that they can win and ESPN can sufficiently ignore their victory. I think the Raiders’ secondary will find a way to pressure Rivers and Burnett and co. can hold Gates to manageable yardage. Pryor returns strong, and even if McFadden is out, Jennings can manage to be serviceable out of the backfield. Raiders 30-24 (Yes, Janikowski makes three field goals)

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Tweets From The Bay: 10/4/13 Fri, 04 Oct 2013 15:42:06 +0000 James Each week the Three Bridge staff is scouring the Twitternet to bring you the best tweets from the Bay Area’s pro athletes. Every Friday we publish the best: be they hysterical, sad, or downright motivational.

We start things off with one of the hottest players on the best Bay Area team at the moment…


Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 5.00.14 PM


The A’s aren’t even playing the Red Sox (yet), but Josh Reddick is already calling them out? Let’s just hope Reddick doesn’t end up like Chris Brown in Stomp The Yard.


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It looks like our A’s Walkup Music Bracketology might need a playoff bracket. HHH or Stone Cold? No wrong choice.

Apparently the entire Niners team watched the movie Don Jon this week, because nothing gets you pumped for Sunday Night Football like seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt masturbate 30 times in 90 minutes.

Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 5.07.30 PMScreen shot 2013-10-03 at 5.12.43 PM Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 5.12.24 PM


You too, Alshon? Just for the record, here’s a list of Alshon Jeffery’s last eight tweets… (I know he plays for the Bears)


Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 5.58.18 PM


The only time Alshon logs in to Twitter is to tell his followers “God bless you,” or to urge them to watch Gordon-Levitt masturbate and see Scarlett Johansson’s curves (spoiler alert: you don’t even see her boobs).


Screen shot 2013-10-04 at 11.33.59 AM

Apparently all the JGL “O” faces inspired Boobie.

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Woahh, Andrew. Let’s not get crazy here. An actual volcano with onions? Benihana’s NEVER does that.


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I think this is Anthony Dixon’s version of “God bless everyone have a nice day.”


Didn’t like the tweets this week? Want to see some new faces? Let us know who we should keep an eye out for.

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ALDS- Tigers @ Athletics- Game 1 Preview Fri, 04 Oct 2013 14:07:48 +0000 Jim Turvey 6979838210_23e197a653_z

(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
Bartolo Colon takes the ball Game 1 against Max Scherzer

by Jim Turvey



Three Bridge Sports is going to try to have a re/pre-view of each game of the A’s postseason with combined analysis of the previous game and the upcoming one. Since this is the first game of the A’s postseason it will not have a review section of course, which only means that the preview can be more in-depth.

The road to the World Series starts tonight when the Tigers come to town. The A’s won the right to host Games 1,2 and 5 by staying ahead of the Tigers in the final weekend. In fact, that final weekend was highlight by the Tigers pulling off an impressively poor feat. They were swept by the Marlins, only totaling three runs in the series, and getting no-hit in their final game of the season. The series was one of only two Marlins’ three game sweeps of an opponent this season, and the first since the beginning of June.

The last time the Tigers and Athletics met the A’s took three out of four in Detroit (and had a 6-3 lead in the ninth in the final game before imploding). Previously in the year, the A’s lost two out of three at home, but that was all the way back in April. These results can’t tell us too much, seeing as the sample size is nearly as minimal as it can get, but it’s still nice to know that we took the regular season against these guys. Game 1 features possible AL Cy Young winner, and 21-game winner, Max Scherzer versus possible AL Weight Champion, Bartolo Colon. Scherzer obviously had a very solid year, finishing at 21-3, but that was due in part to some strong run support, and a little bit of luck. The two pitchers had the two highest win totals in the American League.


When the A’s are batting

Bob Melvin loves to play match ups and platoon as much as any manager in the big leagues, which making projecting their line up a little tricky – for opposing managers, as well as mediocre sports writers. With Scherzer being right-handed, Moss and Reddick will likely find spots in the line up with Young (thankfully) riding the pine to start. The big question mark is whether Yoenis Cespedes will be ready to start. Since the line up has a few question marks as is, let’s take a look at who matches up best with Scherzer and who may struggle against him.

Scherzer has a pretty good repertoire of pitches, adding a curveball this season to a fastball/slider/changeup mix he previously had. Scherzer used his fastball less than ever this season, but still threw it a relatively high 56% of the time. His fastball averages over 93 mph, but his strength lies in his changeup and slider coming in at nearly the exact same speed – 84.5 for his slider and 84.6 for his changeup. His slider in particular has been brutal this year, with opposing batters hitting only .128, and slugging only .182 against the pitch this year. Scherzer used his slider predominantly against right-handed batters, and predominantly used it to break down and away from right-handed batters, which is standard.

So before we get to which A’s hitters may have success off of Scherzer, I think it’s necessary to comment on what every A’s fan is certainly thinking – maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing if Cespedes missed out on Game 1. Any fan who has watched Yoenis this season can tell, just by watching, that the low and away slider has been a weakness of his. He seems incapable of laying off of it, even if it is thrown consecutive pitches. Cespedes has also struggled more against hard-throwing pitchers this season, slugging only .343 against power pitchers vs. .496 against finesse pitchers. All things considered, Cespedes is actually one of the better A’s to be questionable for Friday’s game against Scherzer (late update – it appears Cespedes will be starting tonight, oh well).

Right off the bat, it’s important to note that while left-handed batters didn’t have a ton of success against Scherzer this year, they certainly had more success than right-handed batters (a .092 edge in slugging). Part of the reason for that is a previously mentioned, Scherzer’s top pitch, his slider, isn’t nearly as valuable when breaking in on lefties. The good news is with their flexible roster, the A’s can put quite a few left-handed bats in the lineup. With Lowrie, Moss, Reddick, Vogt, Sogard or Callaspo, and possibly even Barton or Smith, the A’s can really score big on the left-handed platoon. Now the question becomes, which of these lefties handles power pitchers the best?

According to baseball-reference, only Reddick and Moss do better against power pitchers, and only Moss really thrives against them (with a .578 slugging percentage). This is once again not a surprise given his ability to go to the opposite field with great power throughout this season.

Overall, the A’s match up decently with Scherzer thanks to their ability to platoon heavily. I also think Moss will be able to crank at least one extra base hit, hopefully one that clears the wall.


When the Colon is pitching

As has been noted previously on this site, Bartolo Colon relies on his fastball at a historically unprecedented rate. This season, Colon threw his fastball over 85% of the time, and what makes Colon’s fastball special is the movement on it. His fastball only comes in at an average rate of just over 90 mph, but averages nearly six inches in horizontal movement, and his “sinker” averages nearly ten inches of horizontal break.

While the Tigers certainly have a solid lineup, the real task comes down to limiting Fielder and Cabrera. Let’s take a look at how each of these two stack up against Colon.

Colon is a bit harder to profile than Scherzer because his skill set is so unique. We’ll take a look at how they have done in the past against Colon, but with such a small sample size there’s only so much to be projected.

In this case, that’s a good thing because Cabrera and Fielder both own an average of .500 or better against Colon, with twelve hits in a combined twenty-three at bats. In fact, the Tigers’ roster as a whole has an average of .321 with a slugging percentage of .524. However, as noted this sample size is far below the point at which it could be considered statistically relevant. Only Torii Hunter has more than 26 at bats off Colon, and many of those came when Colon was a totally different pitcher.

One seemingly disconcerting fact about Miguel Cabrera is how well he handles pitches in on the hands. Read Jonah Keri’s piece, here, and if you don’t read it, at least check out some of the graphics. Actually, maybe don’t if you’d prefer to avoid sadness. There is some good news out of this however, as Colon typically stays on the outside edge of the zone while pitching to both righties and lefties. Cabrera is still a good hitter on the outside edge, but not nearly as dominant as he is on the inner half.

Scouting Colon is one of the hardest jobs in baseball, considering his pitch repertoire and reliance on just one pitch. Looking back on just this year, the Tigers managed four runs in twelve innings off Colon, with Bartolo receiving two no decisions. Even scouting the Tigers’ offense is difficult right now, with Miguel Cabrera supposedly playing through severe pain, and the club fresh off of being no-hit. I believe we’ll know much more about this side of the game after tonight’s affair.


What’s the verdict, Fertile Myrtle?

I believe the A’s will be able to get three runs off of Scherzer, and at least one more off of the Tigers’ bullpen – a relative weakness that will be covered as a part of another preview. There are questions abound for when the A’s are in the field, but I believe a less than 100% Cabrera, and the home field advantage will push the A’s to a 4-2 victory in Game 1.

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#15 Washington at #5 Stanford Preview Thu, 03 Oct 2013 12:00:54 +0000 Jim Turvey 6323351506_c0b036ccf3_z

(Photo Courtesy of brianc)
The Cardinal plays host to #15 Washington who derailed their season last year. Can they get revenge?

by Andrew Skaggs



When: Saturday, October 5th 7:30 pm PT

Where: Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, CA


As I outlined in Tuesday’s article “The Season Starts Now”, Stanford football is entering the pivotal stretch of their 2013 season. Saturday’s matchup features two undefeated, top-15 teams in Stanford and Washington. Last year, it was the Huskies that derailed the Cardinal’s undefeated season in Seattle by the score of 17-13. Revenge will certainly be on the mind for Stanford, as Washington has much more on the line this year, including Rose Bowl aspirations. The winner of this game establishes themselves as the second best team in the Pac-12 North and allows them to keep pace with No. 2 Oregon.


When Washington has the ball

Washington’s offense under senior QB Keith Price is operating as efficiently as it has in years. The Huskies rank 5th in the NCAA in total yards, averaging 574 per game. Price seems to be putting it all together this season as he is completing 72.3 % of his passes to go along with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. Washington RB Bishop Sankey has rushed for 607 yards in just four games, providing balance to a potent Huskies offense. Defensively, Stanford is a veteran unit that has a lot of big-game experience. Led by LB Shayne Skov and S Ed Reynolds, the Cardinal are allowing 19.5 points per game. This Stanford defense has a history of performing well in important games, something they will look to continue on Saturday. In last season’s matchup, Stanford allowed just 17 points, but only scored 13 on offense.

Edge: Push


When Stanford has the ball

Despite averaging less passing and rushing yards per game than Washington, Stanford is averaging 41.3 points per game, good for 24th nationally. QB Kevin Hogan is coming off his best game of the season against Washington St., throwing for 286 yards and three touchdowns. This game may have helped prove to critics that the Cardinal can win via the pass or the run. When it comes to the run, Stanford still performs at a high level, led by RB Tyler Gaffney who is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Washington’s defense is playing at high level this season, allowing just 10.8 points per game. Facing Stanford’s offense will present a challenge unlike any they have faced thus far. If the Huskies can stop the run and pressure Hogan into mistakes, they will have a good shot in this game.

Edge: Stanford


Bottom Line

Both teams are riding high at 4-0 entering this matchup, one that looks to be one of the best of the weekend. Washington was able to shut down Stanford’s offense last season in an impressive defensive performance. With the experience and talent on both sides of the ball, this game should be fun to watch. Whichever offense has the best game plan will come out on top in this one.

Prediction: Stanford 35 Washington 21

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These Sleeved Jerseys Must Be Stopped Wed, 02 Oct 2013 17:13:24 +0000 James by Mikey Hlebasko

I advocated earlier on this website for the Warriors to be pioneers of offensive basketball. They have indeed done this, but not with the right meaning of offensive. You see, the Warriors were the first NBA team to make the switch to a sleeved alternate uniform, and the rest of the league is quickly following suit.

The Lakers and Clippers have both recently unveiled sleeved alternates, and the Warriors have unveiled their second design. The Warriors’ design is just a sleeved version of their home whites, but the Clippers’ new jerseys are new entirely, and would actually be a gorgeous design if it didn’t make them look like Louisana Tech Woman’s Basketball circa 1982. Add in that the shorts feature one of the few truly innovative uniform design elements in recent years (nautical flags spelling out LAC) on the shorts, and sleeves have gone from being just an annoyance to depriving us of unique and beautiful basketball uniforms. The worst part of this is that the NBA is pitching it as some great innovation, when the aforementioned Lady Techsters were doing it 30 years ago, and Evansville wore sleeved throwbacks from the 1960’s as recently as 5 years ago.

Because this is America, I usually hate to begrudge a company doing their best to make money. But the sleeved jersey cash grab by the NBA has caused too much damage for me to stand idly by. So, I propose we all sign this petition and give the government something they can agree on amidst all the fighting that has led to the government shutdown. Sign the petition here and prevent the NBA from ruining basketball jerseys forever.

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Can The A’s Get Some Hardware? Wed, 02 Oct 2013 17:11:21 +0000 Jim Turvey 7666552804_63598bdcc2_z

(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
Bob Melvin and Bartolo Colon each have their eyes on some 2013 AL hardware. One is much more likely than the other

by Jim Turvey



During the last decade or so, the Oakland Athletics have done pretty well in loading up their trophy case with MLB awards. Bob Melvin won Coach of the Year last season, three of the last nine AL Rookies of the Year have been A’s, and if we go back to 2002 the A’s had both the MVP and Cy Young winners in the same season. So what’re the chances the A’s can add to their collection this season? Let’s take a look at the options


The “not going to happen”- AL Cy Young- Bartolo Colon

Let’s start with the fact that Colon is not going to win an MLB sanctioned award in the same year that he was named in the Biogenesis report.

That being said, Colon does deserve plaudits for his season, and hopefully will show up on a few ballots. His 18 wins and 2.65 ERA both ranked second in the American League. Wins are becoming near sacrilege to mention in comparing players among baseball statisticians as they are (rightfully) considered archaic and team oriented. That being said, the voters for MLB awards have shown themselves to be slightly archaic, so maybe this is Colon’s best chance.

More up to date metrics also show Colon as having a great year. First, there’s the fact that no AL pitchers had more shutouts, and only three AL pitchers had more quality starts. His FIP was sixth in the AL, which although helped by the massive foul grounds is an impressive feat. Where Colon’s case starts to fall apart is in the fact that he no longer can dominate a hitter like the typical Cy Young winner would. His 117 strikeouts were only good for 44th in the AL, and even though his WHIP was 12th in the AL, that’s a far cry from Cy Young material.


The “what could have been”- AL Rookie of the Year- Sonny Gray

Gray wasn’t called up until July 10th of this season, and for good reason. The A’s always like to play the arbitration game with their rookies, and the A’s rotation wasn’t in need of Gray just yet. However, when he came up he made an immediate impact. Gray was moved into the rotation on August 10th, and made ten starts between then and the end of the season. He finished the season with 64 IP, a 2.67 ERA, a 2.70 FIP, 1.5 WAR, and more than a strikeout per inning. He established himself as a possible postseason contributor, and had way more composure than would be expected of a 23-year-old rookie.

At this moment, Wil Myers seems to be the likely AL ROY, and Myers himself had to wait until June 18th to debut. Myers is deserving of the award, but the 2.4 to 1.5 WAR edge that Myers holds over Gray would undoubtedly been erased if the two had seen equal amounts of playing time. Myers played in 88 games; meaning if he played in a reasonable 150 games, at that pace, his value would have been at 4.1 WAR. Gray, on the other hand, only made ten starts. If we turn those ten starts into 30 starts, a reasonable whole season figure for a pitcher, his value jumps to 4.5 WAR, assuming he were able to keep the same pace. Given that his batting average on balls in play allowed was at .276 (the league average is just below .300), and his left on base percentage was 74.9% (the league average is just above 70%) it doesn’t seem unimaginable that he could have kept up this pace.


The “so under the radar that it’s now a bit over mentioned”- AL MVP- Josh Donaldson

ESPN has a lot of problems, but one of the beauties of it is that when they get on board with a progressive sports’ movement it catches on quick. Such is the tale of WAR and baseball. The statistic itself has been around for longer than one would think based on the WAR boom that has occurred in the last year. This has, of course, been the result of ESPN turning into “WARmongers” promoting the statistic every possible chance. This can be a little annoying especially since there are so many other fun statistics to play around with out there (I’m a sucker for ERA+ and OPS+ myself), but it has helped to get players like Josh Donaldson noticed.

Just a few years ago, a third baseman for the A’s with a .301 average and 24 home runs would never be in the discussion for MVP. However, thanks to a little WAR (now listed on the main statistical page for MLB on ESPN), Donaldson is getting the credit he deserves. In fact, he may be getting a little bit more credit than he deserves. Now here me out, I’m as much of an A’s fan as anyone else, but saying that Donaldson has had a better year than Miguel Cabrera strikes me as a little odd. Granted Donaldson is an excellent fielder, and Cabrera is a human sieve at third, but is the difference enough to make up for the difference in their offensive production?

According to WAR – yes. Donaldson finished the year 8.0 WAR (it’s worth noting that lists 8.0 WAR and above as “an MVP season”) to Cabrera’s 7.2 WAR. In fact, Donaldson only trailed fellow AL West phenom Mike Trout who was worth 9.2 WAR, leading the league with ease for the second straight year. As much as I consider myself with the times in terms of modern baseball thought, one idea that I still haven’t grasped is giving the MVP to a player on a losing team. I get the concept behind it, but for my money, I don’t know if I would even consider myself an MVP if my team was sitting out October. I think this has to do with the idea put forward by SABR president Vince Gennaro in his book “Diamond Dollars,” which states that each win from 81-90 is exponentially more valuable, whereas wins 0-80 are less valuable.

So for this discussion let’s limit the debate to Cabrera and Donaldson. Here’s a mini breakdown of their 2013 seasons:


Donaldson 89 24 93 .301 .384 .499 148 289 15 1.8 113 4.7
Cabrera 103 44 137 .348 .442 .636 187 353 19 -1.4 155 6.7


It’s pretty easy to see here that while Donaldson had an awesome year, his offensive numbers can’t compete with Cabrera even though Miggy was hurt or missed work most of the last month (he had just two extra base hits from August 27th to the end of the season). The Runs Created (RC), Win Probability Added (WPA), and On-base plus slugging (OPS+) that comes with park and league adjustments all go to show that his numbers are not just the result of being surrounded by a more talented group of hitters than Donaldson.

Donaldson’s only real hope comes from the fact that he is a borderline Gold Glove third baseman, and compared to Miggy, he’s Brooks Robinson. Personally, I don’t think this is enough, and I don’t think the voters will either.


The “legitimate chance to repeat”- AL Manager of the Year- Bob Melvin

What Melvin has done with the team the last two seasons has been incredible. He’s rejuvenated the A’s, and managed to exceed even the most hopeful A’s fans dreams with two straight division titles in a top-heavy AL West. If anything, Melvin’s case this year is hurt by the fact that he won it last year, meaning the team is an already established feel-good story. This leaves room for Terry Francona, Ned Yost, or even John Farrell (although thinking of the Red Sox as a feel-good under-dog story makes me want to vomit everywhere). I believe Melvin has once again done the best job using platoons, utilizing advanced scouting, and getting the most out of his talent, and personally think that the AL Manager of the Year should just be a coin flip between Joe Maddon and Melvin every year until they prove us wrong. Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the new guys will replace Melvin this year. Just as long as it’s not Farrell, on the basis that he did some incredible turn around job on a team that spends over $150 million, I’m all right with that.


So as it looks now, this might not be the year for the A’s to get any individual hardware. They will certainly draw votes in every category, and Donaldson and Melvin do have legit cases, but maybe it’s for the best that the emphasis be on a certain different piece of hardware this season. One that’s a little more team oriented and hasn’t been around Oakland since 1989. One that would certainly trump winning any of these awards, and one for which we start the chase on Friday.

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Follow-Up of Hunter Pence’s New Contract Wed, 02 Oct 2013 15:45:11 +0000 Andrew Bantly "Curtesy of SD Dirk"

“Courtesy of SD Dirk”

by Andrew Bantly



Back on September 24, 2013 I wrote a piece that previewed the contract breakdown between Hunter Pence and the San Francisco Giants. As I do not work in the Giants front office I could only estimate the deal from my research. So let’s see where I was right, and wrong…

To begin, Hunter Pence signed a $90 million dollar deal over 5-years that was officially announced last Sunday before their last home game against the Padres where, with typical Hunter Pence dramatics, Pence hit a bases-loaded walk-off single to win the game.

Now to review I stated, in my prior piece, that Pence would get around $51 million for 3 years. It must be stated that when thinking about this deal I assumed the Giants would be careful, maybe overly careful, with their money. With memories of Barry Zito’s contract just now starting to fade away, Giants fans have a sensitive stomach when it comes to new contracts. With that said, the Giants organization must find a way to compete, without spending great amounts of money, with the Los Angeles Dodgers who spend like the US Government.

Let’s do some math for a moment.

$90 million ….

Divided by 5 …

Equals $18 million dollars per year.

Ok ready.

Hunter Pence is going to make, on average, $18 million dollars each year for the next five years. Currently, that is exactly how much Pence is worth, in this market. I thought it would be around $17 million, so seeing the $18 million mark was no surprise. I mean come on now, what is one million dollars anyway… But in all actuality, to sign a top market player for under $20 million dollars is a victory in it’s own right.

Well let’s ask one more time, is Hunter Pence’s truly worth $18 million per year?


This is a guy who played and started in every single game this season for the Giants — the first time this has happened since Alvin Dark back in 1954. Since 2008, he has played in, on average, 158 games each year. He is a durable athlete to say the least. A career .285 hitter who averages, since 2008, 24.67 home runs and 91 RBIs proves that he can produce and is worth the money. So yeah, he is worth the $18 million, because his production in the next 2-3 years should be worth the whole 5-year contract. He is even more valuable than that because if the Giants couldn’t make a deal with Pence and they lost this kind of production in right field, it would cause a big problem in their lineup on a daily basis.

But the 5 years…

Ok, that might have been a bit grim. But still, it’s a little long.

Pence turns 31-years-old next April and 5 years seems a little elongated.

Though Pence is a very durable athlete, it is very unlikely at the age of 35, in his final season, he will be a productive starting player. But I could be wrong; there is always a chance. But it’s an immensely small chance. His first 3 seasons should see a productive Hunter Pence, though less and less each year. But in his final 2 seasons in this new contract he will probably not be the guaranteed starter. Why? Because players who’s production and success rely directly on their athleticism and reaction skills, simply don’t age well. So in his final two seasons, at the age of 34 and 35, he will be in question and, possibly, in his final year be competing just to make the roster. But remember, this is a short-term thinking team.


Look who else is on the market? Ok…

-Jacoby Ellsbury

-Shin-Soo Choo

-Nelson Cruz

-Carlos Beltran

Only Jacoby Ellsbury is younger than Pence, and only by 5 months. With that, each one of these players will be getting similar contracts with Shin-Soo Choo likely getting more money in his next contract. If one asked, what’s wrong with Nelson Cruz or Carlos Beltran joining the Giants instead? Yea sure these are two great hitters, but seeing Beltran back in San Francisco is HIGHLY unlikely as he left on his own. And Cruz is an awful fielder that would cost the Giants valuable runs.

“One more year, $26 million more than I thought Pence would get by signing early. I never learn — in baseball, money is free.” Ray Ratto

So yes, Ray Ratto and I agree that 4 years would have been best. But Hunter Pence’s new contract fits well with the Giants and how they have to make production in this market.

To end with a fun fact, in 2001 at the age of 36 Barry Bonds signed the same 5 year, $90 million dollar contract with the Giants. Frankly, that contract worked out great for the Giants.

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The Season Starts Now: Stanford Football Tue, 01 Oct 2013 18:47:00 +0000 James Stanford Football

(Photo Courtesy of Daniel Hartwig)

by Andrew Skaggs



Stanford has steamrolled through its first four opponents by the tune of 165-78. The win over No. 22 Arizona State was nice and all, but for the most part an undefeated first month was the expectation for the No. 5 team in the country. While the Cardinal took care of business in September, the way they handle October and the first week of November will determine the fate of their football team. Will they become a major player in the National Championship race? Will they lose one game and “settle” for another BCS Bowl appearance? Or will they collapse like we haven’t seen before and fall back in the competitive Pac-12 North? On the morning of Friday, November 8th, we should have a pretty good idea about all of this.

Stanford’s next 5 opponents:

Saturday, October 5th vs. #15 Washington

Saturday, October 12th @ Utah

Saturday, October 19th vs. #12 UCLA

Saturday, October 26th @ Oregon State

Thursday, November 7th vs. #2 Oregon

The gauntlet begins this weekend in Palo Alto as Stanford hosts the 15th-ranked team in the country in Washington. I will have an in-depth preview of this game on Thursday, so I won’t go into detail about this matchup until then. Stay tuned.

Trap Games

Wedged in between Stanford’s three home games against top-15 opponents are a pair of “trap games” that could present problems for the Cardinal. If Stanford can get past Washington on Saturday, they travel to Utah with a potential top-10 matchup looming just a week later against UCLA in Palo Alto. If you looked up “trap game” in the sports dictionary this there would be a picture of this 5-game stretch for Stanford. Utah is 3-1 with impressive victories over in-state rivals Utah State (lost by 3 at USC) and BYU (beat Texas 40-21). The fact that the game is in Utah is no joke either, as the altitude is always a factor and the Utes are known to have a raucous crowd (albeit a sober raucous crowd).

Coincidentally, Utah’s only loss of the season came at the hands of Oregon St., the other “trap game” on Stanford’s schedule. This time Stanford travels to Corvallis after hosting UCLA a week prior and just 11 days before the “Game of the Year” in the Pac-12 where Stanford hosts Oregon in a primetime Thursday night game. The Beavers entered the season ranked in the top-25 only to lose to FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington on opening weekend. Oregon St. QB Sean Mannion is averaging 403.6 passing yards per game to go along with 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions. While both Utah and Oregon St. don’t matchup to Stanford in terms of talent and coaching, the location of these games as well as the timing in between big games could present a problem for the Cardinal.

Big Games

The October 19th matchup against UCLA will more than likely feature two top-10 teams and have major implications on the Pac-12 title race as well as BCS Bowl implications. The Bruins travel to Utah this Thursday before hosting Cal next weekend. Two wins would put them at 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in Pac-12 play, including an impressive victory at Nebraska on September 14th. The Cardinal and the Bruins both feature impressive sophomore quarterbacks in Kevin Hogan and Brett Hundley. This matchup has turned into the premiere matchup between Northern California and Southern California as Cal and USC are going through rebuilding stages.

A win for the Bruins would almost assure them of representing the Pac-12 South in the conference championship and establish them as a serious contender in the BCS National Championship hunt. A win for Stanford would allow them to keep pace with Oregon in the Pac-12 North and assure that theirmatchup against the Ducks would feature two top-5 teams and have HUGE BCS implications.

Speaking of the Ducks, they travel to Palo Alto on November 7th for a Thursday night matchup with the Cardinal. This winner of this game has determined who represents the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl in each of the last three seasons. Stanford derailed Oregon’s National Championship dreams last season, so revenge will certainly be on the minds of the Ducks and their fans. In a matchup of contrasting styles, Oregon likes to push the tempo and score a ton of points while Stanford plays a slower pace predicated on a power run game and stout defense. The winner of this game will almost certainly win the Pac-12 North and most likely get a chance to play in the BCS National Championship barring a setback.

The season starts now for Stanford football as the next five weeks will determine the fate of the season. Strap in your seatbelts for some great Pac-12 football in October and November.

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Anagramming the A’s Mon, 30 Sep 2013 15:59:22 +0000 Jim Turvey 7673312652_bef75089a0_z

(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
If you see Brandon Moss coming your way with a hot iron, please run

by Will Begley



As the leaves start to change from green to gold (or in Northern California, as the grass starts to change from gold to basically the same shade of gold), the mind of every baseball changes from honest, objective measures of players—homers, OPS, and wOBA are basically it—to the metrics that really tell us something about their character. I refer, of course, to anagrams of their names.

In the words of A’s legend Reggie Jackson, “You can tell a lot about a ballplayer by [what you get when you’re bored one day and you rearrange the letters in his name]. I myself happen to be [JOE GINGERSACK].” Indeed, when Reggie was clubbing by the bay during the ‘70s, he used that very pseudonym to pick up women in numbers that make Wilt Chamberlain’s ghostwriter weep for shame. But the glorious three-peats of the seventies are past and gone, and a new Oakland club is taking its own run at eternal glory, leaving the question on every fan’s lips: what can you tell about the current A’s by their anagrams?

Brandon “BRANDS MOONS” Moss was evidently the cruelest pledge director in Phi Delta Theta history, and Sonny “NOSY, ANGRY” Gray is not as affable or detached as he seems in interviews. The pitcher who presents the least confidence in his abilities when addressing young autograph-seekers is Hideki Okajima (“HI KID! I AM A JOKE.”) The most supportive of the Balfour Rage dance is Ryan Cook (“AY, ROCK ON.”) The most unusual hobbies are those of Dan “ANT RODEO” Otero and Eric Sidney Sogard (“YES, I DIG RED ACORNS.”) Jose Canseco is never far from the gaze of his countryman Yoenis Cespedes (SEES P.E.D. ICON? YES.) No one better embodies the green-collar ethos of the Moneyball years in Oakland than Chris Young (NO RICH GUYS). Tommy “LINE TO MY MOM” Milone writes home most often.

Numerous A’s players have deeply held opinions of public transit in the Bay Area (Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART). Grant “FRUGAL ON BART” Balfour saves money with the monthly pass; authorities get the most concerned emails from Brett Anderson (“RE: DENTS ON BART”). Some of the newer members of the club aren’t exactly BART-savvy; Alberto Callaspo remains unclear about BART’s identity and nationality (BART’S A LOCAL POLE). Daric William Barton uses his commute to act out carnivorous childhood fantasies (“I’M A WILD BART CAR LION!”), but Bartolo Colon finds going to the park by public transport laughably plebeian (“O.CO ON BART? LOL”). One imagines he would also chuckle, however, at how Sean Doolittle gets to games (ON A TOILET SLED). You get a totally ludicrous name if you anagram Coco Crisp (COCO CRISP).

To conclude, best of luck to the 2013 Oakland Athletics, Western Champs. Or, as it says on Billy Beane’s desk, MATH PERCENTS LAW: I SACK A’S ON THE DL.

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Le Jeu Dangereux Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:59:40 +0000 Jim Turvey 7998493097_edbcbd1a83_z-2

(Photo Courtesy of june10459)
McFadden looked good before an early exit

by Jim Turvey



I never took French, but something told me that “the dangerous game” would sound better in French. This week’s recap is going to be exactly that, the most dangerous game any sports’ fan can play – the “What If” game. It’s a game that can haunt fans for weeks, months, or even years. It can haunt baseball teams – what if the Tigers hadn’t been given the first two games of the ALDS at home last year even though the A’s were the higher seed? It can certainly haunt football teams – what if Tom Brady wasn’t a protected little diva who got lucky that a bogus “tuck rule” just implemented gave officials the opportunity to let him and his UGGs get into field goal range? It can even haunt my fantasy teams – what if the Royals offense had simply scored one run in the first nine innings of last Sunday’s game? See, isn’t this game fun?

Yesterday was a classic day filled with “What Ifs” for Raiders fans. Let’s take a look at some of them, and see what might have happened.


What if Terrelle Pryor had been given the start?

This is a very generous “What If,” given that I could have gone with, “What if Matt Flynn had any pocket presence whatsoever, like seriously any at all?” or even, “What if Matt Flynn were able to play quarterback at an NFL replacement level?” but those seemed a bit harsh. Instead, let’s focus on what could have been, given that starting Pryor was actually possible, and those previous two “What Ifs” now seem impossible.

First, let me say that the Raiders did the right thing by keeping Pryor out.

Pryor is seeming more and more like this team’s future at quarterback, and when the guy says he can’t remember parts of last week’s game (even if it was tongue-in-cheek), and has to wear sunglasses on the sideline during the game, it’s best he not line up across from Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. However, if we hypothetically had faced the Redskins in another week, when Pryor was ready to go, there’s little doubt in my mind that the Raiders would have won this game.


(Photo Courtesy of

Matt Flynn seemed to do the impossible on Sunday, which was take coverage sacks behind a supposedly porous offensive line. He held onto the ball fooorrreevvveerrr, and screwed the Raiders out of good field position a couple times by doing so. Pryor could have at least gotten back to the line, and I believe turned some of those coverage sacks into positive runs, that at least could have helped in the field position battle which occurred for most of the game. Flynn did throw one touchdown, but it came right after he threw a ball directly into Orakpo’s hands, and got lucky that it was dropped. Other than that one drive, Flynn was pretty useless.

It’s a lot to say that one player could be worth ten points, but when the position is quarterback, and the other option is Matt Flynn, it’s not really that much of a stretch. There is also a lot to be said for Pryor’s attitude yesterday. Despite being ruled inactive, he was coaching receivers on the sideline, not giving up, and even getting onto the field to break up skirmishes. I have to say, I wasn’t a Pryor believer at the beginning of the year, but man I couldn’t have been more off base. I think he could be the real deal for the Raiders going forward, and I can’t wait to have him back in the starting line up.


What if Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece (and about ten other Raiders’ players) hadn’t gone down with injuries?

There are a lot of sports’ terms that become more and more familiar the more frequently you watch sports. One of those terms is “war of attrition.” Well, yesterday’s game defined the phrase war of attrition, as both teams seemed to lose a player (and not just random special teams’ players) every few minutes. The biggest names for the Raiders were arguably McFadden and Reece.

In Friday’s preview of the game I pegged the run game as the most important aspect of the game – it turns out I was wrong. I overestimated Flynn’s ability to manage a game, and now have gone 180 degrees to thinking that although important, missing McFadden and Reece wasn’t as big as missing Pryor. Rashad Jennings certainly didn’t gash the Redskins’ defense like those two could have, but his work catching the ball out of the backfield, along with Flynn putting them in too many 2nd and 3rd and longs meant that DMC and Reece weren’t as essential. In fact, his 116 yards from scrimmage to go along with his huge punt block in the first quarter probably make Jennings the player of the game for the Raiders.


What if Marquette King really is the reason for Janikowski’s struggles this season?

Sea-bass hasn’t been his normal self this year, and while some of that may be the result of reaching the age of 35, it seems likely that something else is up. There seems to be evidence that King’s holds are certainly different than Lechler’s, and maybe this is just an adjustment period for the kicking game. However, one would think that by Week 4, the adjustment period is over, and the holder is what he is – and King doesn’t seem to be the right answer as the holder. My personal suggestion that I have had previous to this game, is to have Flynn hold, but after this week my guess is that he would catch the snap, and not put down the hold until he had taken the sack.

Whatever the answer is, the Raiders need to fix it quickly because they are good enough to be in a lot of close games, and the Janikowski misses are really taking their toll.


What if Dennis Allen had chosen to kick a field goal with three and a half minutes to go?

This one is a little hairier because I understand the logic behind going for it. It may be the closest the Raiders would get to the end zone, and with a touchdown needed at some point, why not trust your that your quarterback can fall forward to get you the first down? Here’s the thing though, with Reece and McFadden out of the game, it put the onus on Flynn, and relying on Flynn is not a good idea. Once the Redskins got the stop, the defense just wasn’t the same. That 3rd and eight conversion was a killer, and the defense, which had such a nice flow to it early in the game, just didn’t seem like the same unit. If Allen kicks the field goal instead (assuming King gets the hold right for a Janikowski make), then it keeps the defense motivated by knowing that their team is only down by one score. This “What If” is certainly more controversial than the others, but I think it was one of the few mistakes Allen has made this season.


Since the game was a loss it makes sense that most of the questions so far have been negative, but there were some positives to the game. Let’s quickly take a look at some of the more hopeful “What Ifs.”


What if the Raiders’ secondary has made an actual improvement on third down defense?

The Raiders’ secondary looked solid all game, especially on third down. They only gave up four passing third down conversions, and were able to harass RGIII on many of those attempts. This has been a weakness of the Raiders’ defense this year, so hopefully this improvement can be more than just a one-week phenomenon.


What if Tony Sparano ends up being one of the best off-season coaching signings?
This may seem like a strange question given that his offensive line just allowed seven sacks, but in all honesty most of those sacks were on Flynn. Even the few times he was under quick pressure, Pryor could have evaded the one defender. As a whole, I have been pleasantly surprised that the Raiders’ patchwork offensive line has actually held up relatively well. Once this line returns to full health, this could actually become a strength of the club, and I think it speaks to Sparano’s value as a coach.


What if the Raiders had a really hot, celebrity fan, who loves rooting for her brother?


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