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Lack of clutch performances suggest change is in the wind

A's GM Billy Beane has made to moves to tear up the roster, but it was at about this time in 2012 he did so, with great success.

A’s GM Billy Beane has made to moves to tear up the roster, but it was at about this time in 2012 he did so, with great success.

The A’s have built their entire season on statistical oddities, but none is quite as off the wall as having the worst record in the American League – 25-39 after Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Angels – while having outscored their opponents.

Albert Pujols homered in the first inning off A’s starter Kendall Graveman, and that was it for this one, Oakland’s 18th loss in 22 one-run games.

When the A’s win, they often win big, as they did Thursday in a 7-0 win over the Rangers. When it comes to close games, however, the A’s have minimal success despite having outscored opponents 265-257.

Oakland has been shut out six times while A’s pitchers have thrown nine shutouts. In the losses, the A’s were one swing away from at least tying the game in five of them, the exception being a 13-0 loss to the Twins on May 6.

It’s a much different story when you look at the shutouts the A’s have thrown. Final scores in the shutouts the A’s have won have included 12-0, 10-0, 8-0, 7-0, 5-0 (twice), 4-0 (twice) and 3-0.

Scores like that are the reason the A’s have more runs scored than allowed. But a 12-0 or 10-0 victory only counts for one victory. When it’s crunch time, this team hasn’t gotten it done.

You can see that in the A’s record in one-run games, now 4-18. The last three losses have all been by one run.

Those numbers are not all about the offense, although the hitters have bogged down plenty with the game one the line. The bullpen with its 5-15 record, has contributed mightily to the one-run loss stat, as has the American League’s worst defense.

It’s just these kinds of chaotic performances that will induce a general manager to start cleaning house, although A’s GM Billy Beane has made no moves in that direction yet.

But it’s worth noting that three years and a week ago, Beane began scuttling what the A’s had in what was a disappointing season – eight games under .500 and nine games out of first place in the American League West. He did it by bringing up reliever Sean Doolittle, then outfielder-turned-first baseman Brandon Moss from Triple-A in the space of three days. Later that June they added catcher Derek Norris to the mix, called up starter A.J. Griffin for the first time and brought in first baseman Chris Carter.

As the summer wore on, catcher-turned-third baseman Josh Donaldson, pitcher Dan Straily and shortstop Stephen Drew were brought in.

The team that was at one point 13 games out of first place, turned around, kicked into gear and won the American League West.

It’s hard to see that happening this year – the winning the division part, that is. The freefall collecting of new faces, that’s easy to see.

 

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Samardzija happy to be with White Sox, but a little disappointed A’s didn’t keep roster together for 2015

Jeff Samardzija says A's would have been a force in 2015 if the team had been held together.

Jeff Samardzija says A’s would have been a force in 2015 if the team had been held together.

Jeff Samardzija came back to the Coliseum as a member of the Chicago White Sox Friday, his first visit since the 2014 season ended with Samardzija due to pitch Game 1 of the American League Division Series for the A’s, a game that never happened.

With Oakland holding a 7-3 lead in the eighth inning and an 8-7 lead in the 12th inning in Kansas City, the A’s couldn’t hold off the Royals in the Wild Card game. That ended Oakland’s season.

And if you think injuries are costing the A’s now, Samardzija said losing catcher Geovany Soto, now a teammate with the White Sox, in the second inning and center fielder Coco Crisp late in the game cost the A’s a trip to the World Series.

“If we win that game, there’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to the Series,’’ Samardzija said. “The momentum going to the winner of that game was something else.’’

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A’s look at Viciedo after taking Hassan in waiver claim; Butler/Reddick team wins Friday’s situational hitting trophy; Crisp enters ditigal age with Coco’s Fro Patrol app for iPhone

A's Billy Butler, left, and Josh Reddick walk off the field with winning trophy from today's situational hitting competition (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

A’s Billy Butler, left, and Josh Reddick walk off the field with winning trophy from today’s situational hitting competition (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

It seems that the A’s are in the market for a little more pop in the person of outfielder/third baseman Dayan Viciedo.

That’s the word from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, two days after the Chicago White Sox signed infielder Gordon Beckham and designated Viciedo for assignment. Chicago has 10 days to trade or release Viciedo.

Going after Viciedo makes a bit of sense from the A’s point of view. He hit 21 homers for the Sox last year and 25 three years ago. Oakland is in a bit of a power vacuum with the losses over the last seven months of Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes.

Vicideo, a right-handed hitter, could fill in as the left fielder over the current pairing of Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry, but the A’s defense would take a hit. And the offense would, too, because Viciedo doesn’t walk much and his .294 on-base percentage over the last three years offsets the 60 homers he’s hit in that spell.

But he is young, just 25, so he seems to have some upside the A’s find appealing. The Blue Jays reportedly also have some interest.

Earlier in the day Oakland did make a roster claim, adding outfielder Alex Hassan from the Orioles and put Griffin on the 60-day disabled list to make room.

The A’s had claimed Hassan from the Red Sox on Nov. 17, but lost him to a claim from Baltimore about a week later.

Hassan, who made his big league debut with the Sox last year by going 1-for-8, hit .287 with a .378 on-base percentage at Triple-A last year. He also had a .326 slugging percentage.

 

–The A’s had an atypical day Friday, skipping batters vs. pitchers and closing out with a situational hitting.

The win went to a team led by Billy Butler and Josh Reddick, the winners walking off Field 1 at Fitch Park with a trophy of sorts – a coffee maker and an MC Hammer bobblehead cobbled together by minor league hitting coordinator Greg Sparks.

Butler put the trophy above his locker after the workout.

“We struggled in situational hitting last year,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. He said that Ike Davis was “perfect when I saw him,’’ and added that Butler, Reddick, Fuld and Gentry all had good days.

“That’s something I can do,’’ Davis said. “You give up some outs, and that hurts your batting average, but it’s OK as long as it helps the team.’’

 

–Coco Crisp took a step into the digital world Thursday night, launching a game app for iPhones call Coco’s Fro Patrol.

The idea is to catch as many fly balls in the outfield as possible while dodging obstacles including gum and trash cans.

He got 150-plus viewers overnight, including former A’s first baseman Daric Barton, who ranks third on the early leaderboard. Crisp is first; his mother ranked fifth early in the day Friday.

“I could have launched it last year, but I wanted to make it as perfect as possible,’’ Crisp said. The concept was his, although he needed the help of web designers to get the program off the ground. “I know there will be some people who will find little faults with it, but it’s starting in a good place.’’

The game is free, although there is the possibility of expenditures depending on how fast and how deep into the game a player wants to get. The player gets one free “umpire’’ per day, while more can be purchased.

Crisp is a longtime gamer who has been trying to pick up college-level programing classes the last couple of years.

Some of his A’s teammates, who learned about the launch Thursday and Friday, were experimenting with it Friday morning.

 

–Saturday and Sunday see the A’s scheduled for back-to-back intrasquad games, but there is a good chance of rain, particularly on Sunday.

–Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and Raul Alcantara threw bullpen sessions Friday while the rest of the staff took the day off from bullpens. All three seemed to come through the process well, although Griffin has a bruise on his left (non-throwing wrist).

–Jason Pridie, the only non-roster outfielder in camp before Hassan was claimed Friday, figures to get plenty of spring starts with the A’s looking to have Coco Crisp ease slowly into playing shape. Oakland figures Crisp only needs a couple of nine-inning games to be ready for the season. Also likely to get outfield time are infielders Tyler Ladendorf, Alden Carrithers, Matt Olson and Andy Parrino.

–The A’s signed a new four-year radio deal with 95. FM The Game that will see the A’s games broadcast there through the 2018 season. The A’s have been on 95.7 since 2011.

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Headley had chance to join A’s; that money will stay in play; Korean shortstop Kang is not among those likely to get it

Eric Sogard is the only remaining member of the 2014 A's infield still with the team after free agency Jed Lowrie signed Sunday with Houston.

Eric Sogard is the only remaining member of the 2014 A’s infield still with the team after free agency Jed Lowrie signed Sunday with Houston.

In trading Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Jeff Samardzija this off-season, the A’s have made it very clear that they are going younger in 2015. And, as a byproduct, they are seeing their payroll obligations much reduced.

But they A’s were willing to chase at least one expensive free agent, Padres’ third baseman Chase Headley, this time around. I wrote about the possibility when the Donaldson trade went down. And when the third baseman signed a four-year $52-million deal Monday with the Yankees, Ken Rosenthal of Fox confirmed via Twitter that Oakland had indeed made a competitive offer for Headley early on.

While no one now will get from the A’s as much as they were willing to offer Headley, the A’s still have money to spend in free agency.

But despite the rumors that persist on the internet, Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang will not be one on the Oakland shopping list. Kang was posted Monday, but at the winter meetings, A’s general manager Billy Beane made it clear the A’s were not interested.

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Indians interested in prying Brandon Moss away from A’s

A's first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss is being sought by the Indians.

A’s first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss is being sought by the Indians.

The A’s are talking with the Indians in a deal Cleveland hopes will land them first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss.

A source close to the A’s said no deal was imminent, but it’s possible something could happen by the end of the week.

It was just last week that the A’s traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto for young veteran third baseman Brett Lawrie (24) and three Blue Jays prospects.

It seems that any deal involving Moss would likely follow the same course, Oakland getting younger and adding depth at the high minor league level with the hope that they’d get contributions from the newcomers sometime in 2015.

Moss, 31, is coming off surgery five weeks ago to repair hip damage and is currently on crutches, but his surgeon, Dr. Thomas Byrd, said after the Oct. 23 surgery that Moss should be good to go come spring training.

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A’s could use Lawrie at second if Headley is in their future

Brett Lawrie could be the A's third baseman in 2015, or he could be the second baseman.

Brett Lawrie could be the A’s third baseman in 2015, or he could be the second baseman.

The A’s trade of Josh Donaldson Friday may seem to make little sense when looked at as a solo exercise on the part of general manager Billy Beane.

But if it’s taken as part of a package, the deal in which the A’s sent their All-Star third baseman to Toronto in exchange for four players – including third baseman Brett Lawrie –

Oakland management is high on, could well be part of a series of roster maneuvers that might have a chance to keep the A’s competitive in 2015.

The A’s have lost (or will soon lose) starters Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, reliever Luke Gregerson and shortstop Jed Lowrie as free agents. That’s a load and a half to make up during the winter, and it’s possible it can’t be done.

But there are other options out there.

I heard from a source Friday that the A’s are talking with the Braves about outfielder Justin Upton and/or catcher Evan Gattis, two power hitters who would grace any big league lineup. The cost would be astronomical – starter Jeff Samardzija – but the return would be seriously good.

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Chili looking forward to life in Boston with Cespedes, but he’s confident A’s offense will be productive again in 2014

Chili Davis looking forward to working with Red Sox, but confident A's offense will do well without him.

Chili Davis looking forward to working with Red Sox, but confident A’s offense will do well without him.

Outgoing batting coach Chili Davis said the A’s made a good effort to try and keep him in the organization, but when Oakland couldn’t go to three years on a contract the way Boston did, that started him on the path to joining the Red Sox.

Length of contract was important, but it wasn’t the only reason he’s in Boston. There were expectations that he’d go to the Yankees, but he’d worked in the minor leagues with Boston before joining the A’s under manager Bob Melvin three years ago, and that held some sway, too.

“The A’s tried, but it just wasn’t sufficient,’’ Davis said told this newspaper Monday. “I wanted to know I would be somewhere more than two years.

“Everybody had me going to Yankees because I played there,’’ Davis said. “It was strong for me, knowing (GM Brian) Cashman and (manager Joe) Girardi. What really pulled me the other way was that I had worked for the Red Sox and I was familiar with some of the staff and a lot of the players.’’

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Keeping Donaldson healthy allows A’s to take deep breath

Josh Donaldson's ability to shake off knee injury Friday was a major plus for A's.

Josh Donaldson’s ability to shake off knee injury Friday was a major plus for A’s.

The key playoff Friday’s 6-2 win over Texas for the A’s was a foul ball that didn’t impact the scoring at all.

It did impact third baseman Josh Donaldson, who drove his already-ailing left knee in to the ground in foul territory in pursuit of the Elvis Andrus grounder.

For a few minutes it seemed like Donaldson was hurt badly enough to come out of the game, and the last two games of the season would have been up in the air.

Win or lose the game, the A’s would unquestionably have been sunk if Donaldson was hurt badly enough to come out. He wasn’t and for that the A’s can only be thankful.

“I think everyone was holding their breath right there,’’ pitcher Scott Kazmir said. “He’s a huge part of what we have.’’

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Donaldson’s torrid defense has Samardzija all fired up

Josh Donaldson's play at third base Monday had the A's singing his praises.

Josh Donaldson’s play at third base Monday had the A’s singing his praises.

You get the feeling that Josh Donaldson really wants back into the post-season.

On Sunday he hit the walkoff homer in the 10th inning that gave the A’s a series win over the Phillies.

On Monday he made some spectacular defensive stops in helping control the Angels offense as Oakland won for the third time in four games, the first such stretch for the A’s since Aug. 19-22.

As a result, Oakland seems to have righted the ship and seems to be closing in on a Wild Card berth, although the A’s have a week’s worth of tough baseball ahead of them to make sure it happens.

The play of the day came to close out the seventh inning. Angels’ catcher Chris Iannetta smoked a hard grounder that Donaldson stopped, only to have the ball kick up into the air. He saw the ball hovering, grabbed it out of the air and threw to first for what would be the final out Jeff Samardzija would get.

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A’s woes against lefty starters to be put to test by Angels

How many plate trips can Josh Reddick and other A's lefties expect to get this week with Angels throwing three lefty starters?

How many plate trips can Josh Reddick and other A’s lefties expect to get this week with Angels throwing three lefty starters?

It’s no accident that the Angels are starting three left-handed pitchers against the A’s in a series that starts Monday night at the Coliseum.

There’s nothing much on the line for the Angels, who are in the playoffs as American League West champs, although the more they win, the better positioned they’ll be for having the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The A’s have lost eight of the last nine times a lefty has started against them, and lefty starters have a 2.32 ERA in those games.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin frequently has to leave some of his best power – Adam Dunn, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt and/or Josh Reddick on the bench to get the lefty-vs.-righty matchups that he wants.

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