Lately I've been toying with euphemisms. There are certain words that have such a negative connotation to them that their mere mention can derail conversations and ideas. As an example, I coach a sixteen year old baseball team, and one word with a bad rep in that context is 'conditioning.' Nobody really likes the idea of half an hour of cardio work after practice, and telling players that we're going to do some conditioning is a sure way to produce eye rolls and glum stares. But a simple euphemistic turn of phrase, such as referring to the very same activity as 'body sexifying,' inspires a couple of chuckles and gives the team an entirely different and more productive attitude.
This is a long way of saying that I think the term 'series preview' generates a similarly disinterested reaction. The concept behind the idea of a series preview is strong: we're all going to watch some of the series and it's nice to know who we'll be playing against and how they're doing this season. But this is also information that can be obtained rather easily from a number of sources, and ends up feeling somewhat stale and redundant in the end. So, I'm going to mix it up a little bit. I've changed the title (good start!) and now I'm also slightly altering the content. Instead of a conventional preview, I'm just going to talk about three things that are either fun/interesting or are worth paying attention to over the next few days.
1. The ascension of Brandon Moss: Prior to this past June, Moss's career as a big leaguer was underwhelming. He had some experience as a fourth outfielder for the Pirates and Red Sox but he didn't hit for much power or get on base enough to start regularly. After an unproductive 2009 with the Pirates, Moss accumulated only 31 major league plate appearances in 2010 and 2011.
But Moss has been a new man this year. After bopping fifteen homers in fifty games for Triple A Sacramento, Moss has caught fire for Oakland. He's homered ten times in eighty-six trips to the plate, good for a .718 slugging percentage thus far. He's striking out more than ever now (31%) but the high home run, high strike out rate skillset can work in the mold of an Adam Dunn type. With that in mind, it will be interesting to monitor Moss. With less than 100 PA's on the year, Moss is very much in small sample size territory, but he's always had good raw power and he's now tapping into it regularly. So keep an eye on Moss this weekend: he might be a name to pay attention to in the future.
2. Tommy Milone is a different pitcher at home: Tomaso Milone has one of the more ho-hum pitching lines in the American League. In sixteen starts, Milone has posted a 3.73/4.52/.4.31 ERA, FIP, and xFIP. He's a classic Vargas type, a flyballing lefty without an out pitch, surviving in a big ballpark at home and getting crushed everywhere else.
Actually, Milone is doing far more than survive in Oakland. Despite striking out just nineteen hitters in six home starts, Milone has compiled a preposterous 0.99 ERA. He's been the ultimate pitch to contact arm, combining a tiny number of strikeouts with just eight walks and one home run. To put it another way, Milone has faced 169 batters in Oakland and 140 of them have put the ball in play. If you are among those bemoaning the uptick in strikeouts that characterizes modern baseball, Milone is the pitcher for you. He's obviously benefitting from the large dimensions of the Whatever-It's-Called-These-Days Coliseum, but he's still due for some serious regression and it would be nice if the Mariners helped get things back to normal tonight.
3. Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes are turning into the core we all wanted Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak to be: As painful as that is to type, Reddick and Cespedes are quickly becoming a thorn in the side of American League pitchers. Cespedes is a rookie and Reddick is enjoying his first chance to play every day and both are taking advantage of their opportunity. The two have combined for a total of nearly thirty homers and four wins above replacement in the Oakland outfield. It's a shame that Ryan Cook vultured the A's all-star bid as either Cespedes's power or Reddick's solid all around game would have been entertaining to watch in Kansas City. The jury is still out on Cespedes as an outfielder, but whatever his future position, the two should anchor Oakland's lineup
for years to come until Billy Beane blows the team up again in a year or two.