Dispiriting as last night's result was, it's at least understandable and acceptable. King Felix is rapidly evolving into one of the elite power pitchers in the league. It's a credit to Swisher that he was able to get around on one in the first.
But when a pitcher like HoRam sidles up, straw in his teeth, thumb hooked in his overalls, and slings a bucket of slop at the A's, and we're unable to punish him for it, I gnash my teeth and wail in anguish.
Relying solely on my imperfect recall of the radio broadcast, I'd like to connect one Ken Korach comment, and one Korach call, from today's game:
Somewhere around the top of the fifth inning: "You know, talking to Ty Van Burkleo, if you're going to look for an offspeed pitch, you have to really commit to it for the entire at-bat."
Top of the eighth inning: "Johnson -- strike three looking, right down the middle."
Now, in the abstract, I'm a big defender of the principles of plate discipline and waiting for a pitch you can drive. Those are time-honored, Ted Williams-tested and -approved methodologies in the science of hitting.
However, what we seem to have with these Athletics batters is an obstinate institutional agenda to hew to ideological precepts at the expense of facts and conditions on the ground.
I certainly wouldn't advocate the Mariners' team approach -- they made Gaudin seem much, much better than he actually was today. Despite the accolades by the A's announcers, Gaudin was mostly fortunate that the Mariners were so impatient. A more disciplined team, willing to wait for Gaudin to walk a few batters and then pounce on the flattening-out sliders and hung/mislocated pitches would probably have knocked in 7 or 8 runs and increased Gaudin's pitch count by 50%.
The A's seem to have a rigorous program of avoiding pitch-to-pitch adjustments -- and this discourages real adjustments at-bat to at-bat, in favor of the interminable wait for the ideal pitch -- with the exception of the shrinking handful of gritty veterans who are allowed/encouraged to go off-message and swing early in the count, despite their almost total absence of power.
The A's, rather than jumping on mistake pitches, overchallenge themselves by demanding the perfectly imperfect pitch.
It's almost as if the A's have esoterically refined their offense to succeed not against league-average pitchers, or below-league-average pitchers, but against AAA league-average pitchers.
There's a sense in which designing your offense to succeed against the largest possible pool of likely opposing pitchers (observing the talent-distribution laws of the bell curve) is logical: over the course of a season, the team will likely face far more ABs against mediocre pitchers than against great ones.
But for whatever reason, this approach is not working for the A's.