Worst. Air strike. Ever.
First and foremost, Happy Easter or whatever you might celebrate. Even Sunday is worth celebrating: Yay, Sunday!!!! Boo, no baseball. Ridiculous. You can schedule games at 2am and 3am but not on Easter Sunday? Oy.
OK, onto my early observations, conveniently located after the jump...
* Coco Crisp should be in CF with Cespedes in LF. Not only does Crisp get great reads and great jumps, meaning balls like Ichiro's triple are fly outs, but perhaps more importantly Crisp's arm plays better in CF than in LF -- or should I say, plays worse in LF than in CF.
Why? Simply because a fair number of hits fielded by the CFer will allow the runner to go 1B to 3B even if the CFer has a good arm. In LF, however, runners cannot go 1B to 3B on most hits unless the LFer's arm is especially weak. So in CF, Coco's arm is a liability at times but it's more of a problem in LF because runners are taking liberties they can't usually take.
Much as I like Coco -- and I do, based on his endearing personality, his wanting to play in Oakland, and the contributions he has made to the A's -- his value really lies in his ability to play a really good CF. Coco's career OBP is a very pedestrian .329 and he slugs around .400. In LF, he's Juan Pierre or Scott Podsednik: A COFer with not enough plate discipline or power to be anything good offensively, who is not in a position to make a great impact defensively, and whose noodle arm negates a lot of the defensive value he does provide. Since you can't unsign him, put him in CF where he can make an actual contribution and allow Cespedes to learn the new stadiums and hitters out of the spotlight of CF where the ball finds you too often.
* The A's bullpen is as weak as I can remember in a long time. I actually think that when you factor in health, Grant Balfour will be as good as Andrew Bailey was, given that Balfour is a very good reliever in his own right and can be expected to stay healthy.
However, the A's have lost Balfour from the set-up mix and behind him there just isn't much. In previous years, the A's have had relievers who had a track record of success, from Michael Wuertz and Joey Devine to Brad Ziegler and Craig Breslow. Now? You have "talented throwers, not pitchers" in Fautino De Los Santos Ryan Cook, Andrew Carignan and Jordan Norberto, along with the "4 years into his steady decline" Brian Fuentes and the "decent" Jerry Blevins. That's a crew heavy on right-handed throwers and average lefties.
* Partly as a result of their shaky bullpen, and also due to their "young" defense that has been exceptionally prone to poor plays that are not listed as errors in the box score, I foresee the A's losing a lot of close games this season. I don't think they'll be blown out a lot, as their starting pitching should be decent overall and their hitting looks to be a bit more competent than we've seen in recent years.
I see the A's hanging in there, but coming up a run or two short a lot of times, looking back at the "play that wasn't quite made" or the "inning that got away" and leaving us to ponder "What if only...?" I've already found myself doing that a lot, and it's only April 8th. I think the A's will be fun to watch, and basically competitive -- but still not successful in the won/lost column.
* Just a prediction for tomorrow: I predict that Tommy Milone will not walk Jeff Francoeur.