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Karstens throws an 83-pitch shutout; Pirates alone in 1st place

Posted by John Autin on July 16, 2011

Friday night in Houston, Pittsburgh's Jeff Karstens needed just 83 pitches to blank the Astros and lift the Pirates into 1st place by percentages points, thanks to losses by the Cards and Brewers. Karstens allowed 5 singles and no walks, with 2 Ks, and threw only 19 balls in his 2nd career shutout. He faced just 30 batters, thanks to a pair of DPs started by the rookies on the left side of the infield, Chase d'Arnaud and Josh Harrison.

  • The last 9-inning CG on fewer than 83 pitches was June 12, 2009 by Luke Hochevar (80 pitches, 3 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, 23 balls).
  • The last 9-inning shutout on fewer pitches was July 1, 2008 by Aaron Cook (79 pitches, 5 hits, no walks, 21 balls).
  • The Astros went 1-3 with runners in scoring position, raising Karstens' BA with RISP to .145 (9 for 62).
  • No batter has driven in a baserunner with a hit off Karstens since Chase Utley's ground single on June 3 -- a span of 51.2 IP.Β In his previous 6 starts, Karstens allowed 9 total runs, on 7 HRs and a pair of groundouts (one was a DP and both were unearned).
  • In his last 8 starts (gamelog), Karstens is 5-0 with a 1.26 ERA. He hasn't allowed more than 3 ER in his last 15 starts. He's 8-4, 2.34 on the season, despite allowing 17 HRs in 107.2 IP; all but one were solo shots.
  • For a 9-inning game, it was the lowest verified pitch total by the Pirates since Doug Drabek threw an 80-pitch shutout on Sept. 30, 1990, for his 22nd win in his Cy Young Award season.

In other Bucs notes:

  • Pittsburgh is 9-1-3 in their last 13 series; the only loss was a 3-game sweep in Cleveland.
  • Andrew McCutchen had the biggest hit, a 2-run triple in the 3rd. In his last 20 games, McCutchen is batting .343 with 20 RBI and an OPS over 1.100, and the Pirates are 13-7. McCutchen may be the toughest active RHB to double up; he has just 3 GDPs this year and 12 in his entire 350-game career. His career rate of GDP in 6% of DP opportunities is about half the MLB average.
  • Rookie OF Alex Presley scored twice out of the leadoff spot. Presley, who was leading the AAA International League with a .336 BA when called up, is hitting .357 with 11 runs in 14 games, and a .975 OPS.
  • Neil Walker had the "GWRBI" with a 1st-inning single, and leads all MLB second basemen with 60 RBI. Walker is hitting a modest .263 and slugging under .400 overall, but .327/.513 with runners on base.
  • It was the 6th team shutout of the year for the Pirates (matching their total of last season) but their first in 31 days, since Karstens started a combined 4-hit whitewash of Houston in a 1-0 win.

49 Responses to “Karstens throws an 83-pitch shutout; Pirates alone in 1st place”

  1. Bill Says:

    It's worth noting that the one non-solo HR Karstens allowed was actually in a surprise extra inning relief appearance. In 16 starts he's allowed 16 HRs, all solo.

  2. Thomas Court Says:


    That is amazing. Some pitchers either get lucky when runners are on base, or they just make sure not to serve up a fat one when there are runners on. I always think about Jim Palmer's incredible ability to pitch with the bases loaded. Batters against Palmer with the bases loaded had:

    213 plate appearances, 184 at bats, 36 hits, only 5 doubles, 1 triple and NO home runs. That is a .196 average, .230 OBP, .234 SLG. Batters had a .464 OPS with the bases loaded against Palmer? That is incredible.

  3. Dave Says:

    2 strikeouts
    If the Astros got hits earlier in those ABs the pitch total would be in the mid 70s

  4. Mark Says:

    We here in Pittsburgh are pinching ourselves with giddy-ness -- we're cautiously optimistic, we'll take it as long as it lasts (but still...first place! Pennant race, trade deadline, oh my!).

    At the end of the local broadcast last night, they also mentioned that Karstens is the first Pirates pitcher to win 5 straight decisions since Matt Capps in 2006. Strikes me as just another representation of the futility that it's been 5 years, let alone that Capps was a reliever -- I shudder to think how long it's been since a starter did it (Todd Ritchie? Jeff D'Amico? Fransisco Cordova? The recently-appearing-in-other-threads Zane Smith?).

    It also looks like he actually hasn't allowed more than 3 ER since April 17, his first start of the season (which, uh, another website, reports leaves him with 15 straight now <= 3 ER).

  5. BSK Says:

    Looking over the Pirates, some things stand out...

    (None of these seem to be updated with yesterday's results)
    Pythag Record of 46-44, within 1 of their actual record
    Outscored opponents by 8 runs
    4 starters with OPS+ over 100; 4 others over 85
    2 starters with ERA+ over 125; 3 others over 85
    5 starters with at least 15 GS
    4 relievers with at least 40 IP and ERA+ over 110
    23 Rtot on defense
    9.8 WAR from batters, 9.1 WAR from pitchers

    It appears that the Pirates, at least this year, are very much for real. I don't know that they are WS contenders or if they'd be in the playoff hunt in a more competitive deivision (SRS of -0.1), but they certainly profile as a legit above .500 team. I'm happy for the fans. Hopefully the management can continue to make decisions to build on this year's success.

  6. BSK Says:

    To clarify on that last number, I worked off the premise that a replacement level team would win about 45 games. After 110 games, we'd expect that team to have about 30 wins. Add the players' total WAR to that and you get 49 wins, just two of their total. So the contributions on the field match their record pretty close. This team is no fluke, at least in terms of results.

  7. Neil L. Says:

    Mark, Karsten's gamelogs for this year in BBRef confirm that it is 15 straight starts, 16 appearances, with <= 3 earned runs, including last night's game.

  8. donburgh Says:


    According to Paul Zeise's game story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the last starter to win 5 straight decisions was Ian Snell, also in 2006.

  9. Neil L. Says:

    JA, thanks for shining the spotlight on Jeff Karstens. Although I was aware of him in general, I was not appreciative of how good his season has been.

    Looking at his career, I wonder what has led to his breakout season this year, if that is the word for it. His WHIP for the last two seasons was 1.481 and 1.410, whereas this year it is a career-low 1.031, fuelled mainly by a reduction in H/9. ERA the last two seasons was 5.42 and 4.92 compared to his current 2.34.

    How do you cut your ERA in half in one season while compiling over 100 innings pitched? Has he developed a new "out" pitch that he is throwing this year? Different approach on the mound? New pitching coach or catcher calling for different pitches?

    Jeff Karstens is much less hittable this year than in other seasons. There must be a reason. It is not just pure luck.

    However, he is approaching his career high in IP already so I wonder what the second half holds for him.

  10. stan cook Says:

    They were minus 1.8 runs per game last year and are slightly positive this year.

  11. Neil L. Says:

    BSK, I appreciate the Pirate details you provided. It helps in dissecting their successful season.

    What I take from your post, is that Pittsburg is not doing it with smoke and mirrors, but with contributions to wins from a variety of sources. It looks like their pitching is a bit important than their offense, since they are under the league average in RPG.

    I notice also, BSK, that Pittsburg's OPS with RISP is 0.088 higher compared to non-RISP plate appearances. Just checking a couple of other teams this season, Boston is 0.005 lower and Toronto is 0.046 lower in the same situations.

    The point being, that Pittsburg has scored runs very efficiently with a limited offense this year. Timely hitting like that, though, is likely to revert to normal over the full season, I think.

  12. John Autin Says:

    @4, Mark -- Thanks for the correction; I've fixed the post. Enjoy your pennant race!

  13. John Autin Says:

    @9, Neil -- I wouldn't go so far as to say that the apparent improvement by Karstens is "just luck," but there's a strong case that luck has played a big role. In particular, both his BA on balls in play and his performance with runners on base are way better than his career rates, and it would take a much bigger sample to convince me that they are sustainable.

    But he does deserve credit for his outstanding walk rate, 1.5 BB/9, which ranks 2nd in the NL. That's a strong building block that can help him sustain this success even if his BAbip and BA/RISP regress toward his career rates.

    And of course, since he's a Yankee castoff, I'm pulling for him. πŸ™‚ That 2008 deadline deal for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady looks worse all the time....

  14. John Autin Says:

    As impressive as Karstens has been, it's also fair to mention that he's feasted on Houston, allowing 1 run in 22.2 IP over 3 starts, with no walks and 1 HR. With their impatient approach and general lack of power (next-to-last in both walks and HRs), the Astros are a perfect patsy for his style.

  15. Neil L. Says:

    Nice observation, JA, on Karstens' Houston starts. I agree with you about Houston being the perfect foil for a control pitcher.

    "And of course, since he's a Yankee castoff, I'm pulling for him."
    Tich, tich, JA. No gloating about bad Yankee personnel decisions! πŸ™‚

    I was wondering about how he got away from the Yankees when I was looking at his player page. But you can't really blame the NY management for trading him based on his first two ML seasons.

    Has player development ever been an organizational strength for the Yankees?

    Pardon, Stan, but I don't understand your post.

  16. stanmvp48 Says:

    Neil. The Pirates were outscored by that margin last year and I was pointing out the dramatic and perhaps unprecendented improvement.

  17. Neil L. Says:

    Stan, that could explain a difference in a pitcher's W-L record from year to year, but not an improvement in ERA or ERA+. Karsten's ERA+ was 81 last year and 160 this year! Why?

    JA, has provided a partial "explanation" in post #13. Although I don't totally understand the significance of BABIP, I took John to mean that Jeff Karstens has benefitted from having a good defense behind him and by having a lot of his hard-hit balls finding defenders' gloves.

  18. John Autin Says:

    @17, Neil -- I think that partial, tentative, possible explanations are all we can hope for from a ~ 100-IP sample.

    It does appear that Pittsburgh has played very good defense thus far, with a team dWAR of 2.6 -- most of that coming from SS Ronny Cedeno (1.3 dWAR) and CF Andrew McCutchen (1.1 dWAR). That's quite a reversal (so far) from last year's team total of minus-9.1 dWAR.

    Still ... small sample. But I would like to see Karstens pitch.

  19. KCRoyals15 Says:

    I looked in Play Index at fewest pitches in 9 inning CG, and it said 39, 42, and 52 as the first 3. Of course I'm not gonna shell out $36 to find out who the first 8 names are so would anyone mind telling me the first 8 names on that list?

    Criteria filled in here:

  20. KCRoyals15 Says:

    Ok that link didnt work

  21. John Autin Says:

    @19, KCRoyals15 -- All of those pitch totals you noted either are incomplete (data missing for one or more pitchers), or apply to shortened games. That's why I had to use the weasel-word "verified." πŸ™‚

  22. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    @ 15,
    Yanx have been pretty great at player development, just not for pitchers.
    Really, the only "big free agent" they have playing the other eight is Tex.

    C - Martin (FA, injury case) and Cervell (org)
    1B - Tex
    2B - Cano (org)
    3B - Alex (traded for Soriano, who was org)
    SS - Jeter/Nunez (org)
    LF - Gardner (org)
    CF - Granderson (traded for Jackson, Coke, Kennedy, all org)
    RF - Swisher (traded for Wilson Betemit, which is just funny)
    DH - Posada (org)

    As a fan, though, I would love to see them just stick their young pitchers out there and let them figure it out. I still remember the trade of Bob Tewksbury for Steve Trout. This sort of thing has been going on a long, long time.

  23. Neil L. Says:

    Voomo, good post, thank you. So the Yankees are more patient with developing position players than with young pitchers?

  24. stanmvp48 Says:

    I wasnt' talking about Karsten's improvement I was just making a general point about how much the team has improved-which I think may be unprecedented.

  25. John Autin Says:

    @22, Voomo -- Fair point. But doesn't A-Rod technically count as a free agent, since he opted out of the contract the Yankees acquired in the trade? B-R lists him signing with NYY as a free agent in December 2007.

    In a broader sense, I think the case that can be made against Cashman's front office is not about player development, but about trades and contracts.

    For instance, while Granderson's having a terrific year and has accumulated 6.2 WAR since 2010, the jury is still out on the trade that brought him to NY at a total cost of Ian Kennedy (5.5 WAR), Austin Jackson (4.5 WAR) and Phil Coke (well, they can't all be gems). Kennedy and Jackson still have salaries close the MLB minimum, while Granderson -- who's 30 years old -- is making over $8 mil this year and will cost about $25 mil over the next 2 years (if the Yanks pick up his 2013 option).

  26. Daniel Says:

    I'm just glad there's a blog post about the Pirates this season. I'm here in the burgh taking in the excitement like it is sunshine. I got a nice tan from it now. πŸ™‚

  27. John Autin Says:

    @26, Daniel -- "The glow from that fire can truly light the world" -- or at least the neighborhood around PNC Park. πŸ™‚

  28. Richard Chester Says:


    I did a PI search for fewest pitches and here are the results and I have no way of knowing if any are verified.

    John Fulgham 39
    Eric Rasmussen 42
    Rick Reuschel 52
    Roger Craig 61
    Steve Rogers 63

    In Fulgham's game he faced 29 batters with 0 BB and 5 SO. The minimum number of pitches is 29 + 0 + (5 x 2) = 39. The only way he could have thrown 39 pitches is if all the batters who did not walk or strikeout swung and put the ball into play on the first pitch which is so very extremely unlikely. Ditto Rasmussen, I have not checked the others.

    The acknowledged record is by Red Barrett on 8/10/44 with 58 pitches. He faced 29 batters with no walks or strikeouts so that could be a valid number.

    BTW I am not a PI subscriber but I was able to retrieve that list. You have to use your ingenuity.

  29. bluejaysstatsgeek Says:

    When I was a kid, before there was the Expos, The NL team that I cheered for was the Pirates. Geographically, they were the closest, and growing up in the Hamilton area, I kind of view Pittsburgh as a sister city, due to the steel industries we both had. After the demise of the Expos, I stopped following the NL, other than to see if my old team was showing any signs of life.

    I guess I'm going to have to start following them again.

  30. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    Yeah, you could definitely count Rodriguez as a free agent, seeing that he had a ridiculous contract that the Rangers were trying to unload, and that nobody but the Yankees would have taken it.

    Then he OPTS OUT of his ridiculous contract, announcing it during the last game of the World Series, which was utterly class-less.

    And Then, the Yankees give him the most idiotic contract in the history of baseball, not including Zito and Hampton and Chan Ho Park.

    So, yeah.

    As for the Granderson question, agreed that Kennedy is turning out to be really good. The Yankees knew he was really good. He was touted right there with Hughes when they came up. I seem to remember him making the kind of not-humble, entitled statements that simply do not go over if you are a Yankees rookie. They cut him loose. So that is kind of a wash.

    Coke was a Loogy, which on other occasions the Yankees Over-value, as Karstens plus others were thrown away for a Loogy.

    So it really is Jackson for Granderson.
    And the money doesnt matter.
    The question is who would you rather have. Jackson is intriguing, but I'd take Curtis.

  31. John Autin Says:

    Voomo, I followed everything except how Kennedy's lack of humility is justification not only for "cutting him loose," but also taking him entirely out of the equation in assessing the trade. I just can't agree that it boils down to Jackson for Granderson.

    I mean, the Yankees are looking at a postseason run this year with exactly one reliable starting pitcher, pending a deadline deal. When you total it all up, they might have been better off with the mediocre Jackson in place of Granderson, and Kennedy in the rotation.

  32. John Autin Says:

    @28, Richard -- I think your point was that those ultra-low pitch totals from the Play Index are bogus, and if so, I concur. For example, the Fulgham game of August 17, 1979, which somehow generates as a 49-pitch shutout via the Play Index, actually has no pitch counts in the box score; I can only surmise that the "49 pitches" could be the sum of those selected batters in the play-by-play for whom valid counts are available. In other words, it's meaningless:

    I think all pitch totals before 1988 (and even some afterward) should be viewed skeptically until we can see that the box score & play-by-play are complete.

  33. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    John, I'm not saying that it makes sense or is smart, at all.
    There is the science of assessing ballplayers, which you find in places like this website. And then there is the way that the new york yankees handle their young pitchers, which is the point of this karstens-tangent.

    Kennedy came up, looked good, got overhyped, got injured, said a few things he shouldn't have, and was summarily dismissed. At least that is how it pieces together from what the media reports. My point is that looking, in retrospect, with the use of the WAR statistic, at what value Ian Kennedy MIGHT have brought to the yankees in 2011 is just not reality. The Yanx wanted the best centerfielder they could get, right now, and they got him.

    I have a question on that last point, though.
    Granderson seems to be a pretty great fielder. But his dWAR for this year and last is 0.0
    Blutarski's GPA. 0.0

    What gives?

  34. John Autin Says:

    Voomo -- OK, I think I get it: you're describing how the Yankees view things; you're not necessarily agreeing with them.

    As to Granderson's fielding prowess and his dWAR, and intending no snarkiness whatsoever, I ask: When you say he seems to be a pretty great fielder, what are you basing that on? If it's eyewitness observation, well ... Anyway, I don't have any independent sense of his defense based on what I've seen of him in pinstripes, but his basic defensive stats just haven't been impressive in the Bronx; his range factor has been below average. His dWAR ratings with Detroit were pretty good, no more than that. He hasn't won any Gold Gloves, whatever that's worth. I'm certainly not saying that's the beginning and end of the story, but I don't know where else to find the evidence of his excellence in CF.

    I'll say this: There's no question in my mind that Gardner is a much better ball-hawk than Granderson.

  35. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    John, I'm basing the idea that Granderson is an excellent centerfielder on the fact that Gardner is playing Left Field. The truth is that I dont live in New York anymore and I dont own a television. The only baseball I actually see anymore are highlight clips on (except for October, when I do, of course, make an effort to find a TV).

    So, no, I have no evidence, other than my unwillingness to believe that my team is playing guys at the wrong positions. Of course, Gardner batted seventh today, and he usually bats ninth. Honestly, when you've been a fan for over three decades you're pretty much stuck with your team, but I really wish whichever Steinbrenner is in charge would hire Me to be the GM and the Manager at the same time, because the truth is that I really hate the way the Yankees build their team and strategize their team. Hate everything about it. If they had gotten past the Rangers last year I would have been conflicted watching the WS, because seeing a team of nobodies with a couple of stud pitchers win it all was freakin' awesome. Go Giants.

  36. Charles Says:

    @ 28 I was curious about Barrett's 58 pitch record. I found articles from 4 newspapers from June 1946. Barrett was interviewed for a column called My Biggest Thrill published in newspapers around the country and he mentioned the game.

  37. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Voomo, the Yankees put Gardner in LF last season because they intended to platoon him, and didn't want Granderson flipping back and forth between LF and CF. I didn't necessarily like putting Grandy in CF at the time, since I had heard his defense was slipping. However, I think he's played quite nicely in center for the Yanks, and since Gardner does sit against some lefties, I have no problem with the alignment. Gardner is a superb LF and would probably be better in CF than Granderson, but I don't know how much the team would gain.


    My vague memory of Karstens from his brief Yankee tenure is that he looked decidedly unimpressive. I refuse to acknowledge his current success and am waiting for October when his ERA is back over 4.00.

  38. John Autin Says:

    @37, JT -- I'm mildly disappointed that you begrudge Karstens' success πŸ™‚ -- but I do think he's a lot better suited to his present environs and competition.

    Same goes for Ian Kennedy, who got his 10th win tonight. πŸ™‚

  39. John Autin Says:

    BTW, Johnny, did you happen to see the Gardner catch that I mentioned in my CC story?

    I may have been emotionally invested, since I was just waiting for CC to get out of the game with just 1 run allowed so I could post my piece. But when the ball was hit, I thought for sure it would fall in; then I saw Gardner absolutely flying in to make the catch without much trouble. He seemed to get a great break on the ball.

  40. Johnny Twisto Says:

    For the record, as best I remember, Ian Kennedy's great sin as a Yankee was refusing to acknowledge he had pitched terribly when he had a bad result. He said something along the lines that he had made good pitches which got hit and just had some bad luck. Hopefully Voomo can supplement or correct that. I don't remember seeing the game(s) in question. But failing to "take responsibility" for his suckage would not be accepted by the NYC tabloids. Or, I guess, the Yankees themselves. A lot of times, I hate everything about the organization except the 9 guys on the field.

    Anyway, I don't know if Kennedy would have succeeded as Yankee as he seems to be doing in Arizona, but I hadn't given up on him.

  41. Johnny Twisto Says:

    JA/39, I did, and gave it a cheer. Seemed like a tough play made to look easy, but I don't remember seeing any replays showing where he was set up or his route. (Of course, if he was set up right where the ball landed, maybe that's just brilliant positioning......)

  42. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    Nothing to add, that sounds about right.
    I dont understand the subtle politics of 'saying the right things" be it in a major league clubhouse or in real life. Glad to see that both Kennedy and Karstens are doing well.

  43. DoubleDiamond Says:

    We have to find some way to pair up Alex Presley with Elvis Andrus. Since they are both position players, we can't likely have one homering off the other (unless the other makes a Wilson Valdez type of appearance) like Neil Walker becoming the 2nd player to homer off Thomas Diamond. Neil Walker and Thomas Diamond were picked back to back in the 1st round of the 2004 baseball draft, and I had been waiting for them to have some kind of encounter.

  44. John Autin Says:

    DoubleDiamond, great idea!
    But can't we squeeze Henry "Aron" into the mix somehow?

  45. Daily Links – The Sixteen Inning Blues Edition | Red Sox Hub Says:

    [...] this reads like something from The [...]

  46. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    I once traded a 1970 Hank Allen baseball card for three Canseco donruss rookies to a not-quite-literate kid on my block who i convinced it was Hank Aaron.

  47. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Stan (##10, 16, 24): Early last season, I began tracking the 2010 Pirates' game results because I was interested in two things: first, how well they played against the Cubs versus how poorly they played against every other team, and second, how lopsided their Pythagorean record was compared to their actual record because they were losing nearly all the blowouts.

    Predictably, both topics became less extreme as the season wore on. The Cubs topic became a complete non-issue. The Pythagorean-vs.-actual gap tailed off sharply in the second half, too, as the Pirates began to win a more normal proportion of one-run games and blowouts. Pittsburgh's 30-52 first-half record was more than seven games better than its Pythagorean record of 22.8-59.2. If you're losing all the blowouts, you're a historically bad team, and last year's Pirates certainly appeared to be heading in that direction. The team's record to that point in games decided by five or more runs was 2-23; in games decided by four or fewer runs, it was 28-29.

    The Pirates' actual second-half record of 27-53 was 3Β½ games worse than its 30.5-49.5 Pythagorean record. The team's record in ≥5/≤4 games went from 2-23/28-29 to 9-16/18-37. They were a normal bad team, with better offense and better pitching than the first-half team but a worse actual record because they were playing in a bit of bad luck. Jeff Karstens' 2010 stats show a similar pattern: first half, 2-4, 4.87 ERA; second half, 1-6, 5.00 ERA, but an improvement over the first half in H/9, HR/9, BB/9, SO/9, and WHIP.

    So it was apparent in the second half of 2010 that the Pirates were improving. Improving this much? Well, no . . . not that I could see, anyway. Then again, I live in San Diego, and the very same thing happened to our 2010 team that is happening to the 2011 Pirates.

    The Pirates were minus 1.8 runs per game last year and are slightly positive this year. . . dramatic and perhaps unprecendented improvement.

    Dramatic, yes, but not quite unprecedented. The 1999 Diamondbacks went from -147 (-0.9 R/G) to +232 (+1.4 R/G) for a season-over-season improvement of 2.34 R/G. (The 1902-03 Giants improved even a bit more, +2.55 R/G, but that was so long ago it's of questionable value now.) The largest season-over-season improvement in the AL was the 1979-80 A's, +2.04 R/G. Only one major-league team has ever dropped by more than 2.1 R/G from one season to the next: The 1914-15 Philadelphia Athletics, -3.70 R/G (yikes!).

  48. Johnny Twisto Says:

    The '03 Giants received an influx of former Baltimore Orioles, including of course manager John McGraw.

    The '15 Athletics were the victims of Connie Mack's first great player sale, both to raise funds and (perhaps) because the '14 team had thrown the Series.

    The '80 Athletics got a cultural overhaul from Billy Martin.

    Top of my head, not sure why the D-Backs improved so much in those seasons.

  49. John Autin Says:

    JT, I have not heard the allegations you referenced about the 1914 World Series. Can you point me to a source?

    As far as Mr. Mack's first great player sale, I don't think I agree with that characterization.

    First ... As I understand it, Mack just couldn't handle the salary escalation and competition for fan attendance that had been brought by the Federal League. In 1914, as you know, the A's won their 4th pennant in 5 years, but their attendance fell to 5th in the AL, less than 4,500 per game. When pitchers Eddie Plank and Chief Bender jumped to the Federal League in early December 1914, I think that was the impetus for whatever else Mack did that year.

    It's true that Eddie Collins was sold to the White Sox just a few days later. But I can't find evidence of a large-scale sale:

    -- 3B Home Run Baker sat out the 1915 season in a contract dispute, then was sold to the Yanks for 1916. (I'm not sure why he wasn't a free agent, but never mind that.)

    -- SS Jack Barry (certainly the least valuable of the famed "$100,000 Infield") was sold to the Red Sox midway through the 1915 season. B-R doesn't have the dollar amount, but if you look at the rest of Barry's career, it looks like Mack won that deal regardless.

    -- C Wally Schang, 1B Stuffy McInnis and CF Amos Strunk stayed through 1917.

    -- OF Rube Oldring stayed through 1915, was released during the '16 season and did very little the rest of his career.

    -- OF Eddie Murphy, a good young hitter in 1913-14, hit terribly for the A's in the first half of 1915, then was sold to the White Sox and hit brilliantly the rest of the year. (Murphy couldn't stay healthy; he never again played 100 games, and was done before he turned 30.)

    -- OF Jimmy Walsh, a good reserve in '14, stayed through 1915 but didn't hit much, and was traded late in 1916.

    -- P Bob Shawkey (not yet a star) pitched poorly in the first half of 1915 and was sold to the Yankees for a mere $3,500.

    -- P Bullet Joe Bush stayed through 1917 and pitched well the latter 2 years, then was "traded" (sold) to the Red Sox along with Schang and Strunk.

    -- P Herb Pennock, still very green and years from stardom, pitched horribly early in 1915 and was put on waivers, whence the Red Sox claimed him. He didn't blossom until 1919.

    -- P Rube Bressler was a successful 19-year-old rookie in 1914. He stayed with the A's, but his pitching went south, and by 1917 he was back in the minors, whence the Red took him in the Rule 5 draft; his conversion to successful hitter took until 1921.

    I know I'm not deeply versed in the details of the first A's dynasty, but it doesn't really look like a "fire sale" to me. Can you add anything?