Oakland Athletics: Some losses are more painful than others

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 1: Marcus Semien
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 1: Marcus Semien /

The Oakland Athletics fell to three and a half games back of the division leading Houston Astros after a painful loss last night at Tropicana Field.

It was painful to watch, wasn’t it? Baseball at The Trop was never going to be pretty. It may be the only stadium in the country people speak worse of than the Coliseum.

Those ridiculous catwalks. The artificial turf. It was replaced before the start of this season but it still looks like a Putt-Putt course out there. Then you throw in a terrible called third strike on Semien at a crucial moment in the game, and it all became a little too difficult to swallow.

I’m bitter. Forgive me. It’s been an unexpected dream season for the Oakland Athletics, but with winning comes increased expectations. Needless to say, on an evening where the A’s needed a win to keep pace with the Astros, last night was a disappointment.

Blame game

Typically, I’m not a blame the umpire kind of guy. Calls go both ways over the entirety of a season and it’s always been my feeling that it more or less averages out in the end.

But (and there’s always a “but”, isn’t there?), last night’s called third strike on Marcus Semien was too egregious a foul to ignore.

I’ve watched a lifetime’s worth of baseball this season and it may have been the worst called strike I’ve seen yet.

As always, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. Susan Slusser, the A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, provided this tweet during the game last night.

Thank you home plate umpire Larry Vanover. As an A’s fan, I greatly appreciate not only the atrocious called third strike, but also the moment in the game in which you chose to call it.

Eighth inning. Game tied at four. Sacks loaded with one out and Semien at the plate. Mr. Vanover, it wasn’t even CLOSE!

Semien was feeling it and already had two hits in his pocket on the evening. This was a BALL. Semien could have worked a walk or a hit with the bases loaded if the bat hadn’t been taken out of his hands.

Clearly, I wasn’t alone in my feelings on this.  Brodie Brazil, a broadcaster for NBC Sports California, posted this tweet illustrating how our beloved Bob Melvin felt about the call.

I love seeing BoMel get fiery. It was a terrible call at the most inopportune of times and Melvin gave Vanover an earful about it. The only thing Bob Melvin left out was this. (Tweet courtesy of Fox Sports)

I know, I know. It’s the Yankees and we’re not going to think this is funny on October 3rd, but today, it is the perfect representation of how all of us feel!

Rant over. Thank you for listening. I feel better now. Mistakes happen. It’s part of the human element in the game. I just wish I hadn’t seen this one.

Jeurys Familia

La Fama. What’s troubling you sir? Where did the lights out reliever from July go? After finishing July with a 0.00 ERA/.050 WHIP, Familia saw his numbers rise to 4.15 ERA/1.31 WHIP in August, and then to a worrisome 5.87 ERA/1.70 WHIP so far in September.

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I never know which way to go with this blog when it comes to digging deeper into the stats. Some fans truly appreciate taking a closer look, while others, including my wife, would rather slam their fingers in a car door. Sounds extreme but there’s no happy medium here, I’ve checked!

In an effort to appease both groups, I’ll keep this look under the hood brief. There’s several indicators to look at when a pitcher is achieving less than ideal results. Is his speed dropping off? Are batters hitting him harder? Did he start throwing a different profile of pitches? Is it his control?

I took a quick look at Familia using Fangraphs. For those of you obsessed with stats, click on the link and you can graph just about any stat imaginable to look for trends.

It’s not Familia’s velocity creating issues. He’s throwing the ball just as hard as ever. The hard hit percentage he’s giving up hasn’t changed much either over the last three months.

Instead, it’s his control giving him fits. His percentage of pitches in the zone (from that fabulous month in July to what we see now in September) are dropping while his walk percentage has been steadily increasing.

From a casual fan perspective, we’ve all noticed a few more sinkers in the dirt of late. The bottom line is that Familia is struggling to place his pitches. The result has been what you see anytime a pitcher can’t hit his target.

Familia has had stretches of control issues over his career. For a player with a career ERA/WHIP of 2.73/1.21, we know he’ll work through it at some point. The hope is he plays his way out of this before the playoffs. If not, it’s going to be difficult to trust him in high leverage situations.

If Familia doesn’t find his control shortly, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Trivino moved back to eighth inning duties sooner rather than later.

Next. There's no time for regression. dark

13 to go

Our staff ace, Mike Fiers will be on the mound this afternoon. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Dbacks against Houston as well as the Blue Jays against the Yankees. For those of you trying to gauge our chances of taking over the top Wild Card spot, remember that the Yankees have six games left against Boston. It’s going to be a wild finish!  Enjoy the game everyone!