Dull loss tonight? No baseball tomorrow? This is dire. It calls for some eyeball analysis of the first 10 games, in which we have learned, well, nothing about the AL West. Except that Nelson Cruz homers a lot, but we kind of already knew that.
Tyler Clippard has not been razor sharp so far with the A's, not in spring training and not so far in the regular season. It's not that he's been terrible but he has yet to show himself to be the pretty dominant pitcher he has been since 2009. My eyes tell me why, and a quick look at Fangraphs seems to back up what I see.
To my eyes, Clippard has been throwing his changeup too slow. The changeup needs to get behind the swing, but when it is thrown too slow it may get the batter out in front initially, but then the batter is able to readjust. The difference can be subtle -- literally a couple miles per hour -- and watching Clippard I keep feeling like he needs to be throwing his changeup a bit harder.
So I checked Fangraphs tonight and guess what? Here are the listed velocities for Clippard's changeup:
2010: 81.0 MPH
2011: 80.8 MPH
2012: 80.9 MPH
2013: 80.0 MPH
2014: 80.4 MPH
2015: 78.4 MPH
That's a pretty significant 2-3 MPH difference.
Now, Clippard threw a beautiful changeup Monday, to Jose Altuve, that had the "harder changeup" look I've been waiting for. I think the Comcast gun showed it at 79 MPH, but I'll bet it was in fact more like 80-81 MPH. Watch the radar gun in Clippard's upcoming appearances and if you see the changeup hit 80 MPH that's a good sign. If it's at 78 MPH he's pulling the string too much and he's going to be in trouble.
A couple other notes while we're at it...
Kendall Graveman's sinker dives as advertised and his shaky control the first two starts is attributable to nerves, as he has a consistent track record in the minors of throwing strikes early and often. What has underwhelmed me, to put it mildly, is the vaunted cutter that supposedly elevated Graveman from fringey single-A prospect to fast-tracked #4 SP.
This is actually a good thing. Presumably, the good cutter is there and if it surfaces in Oakland as it did throughout A, AA, and AAA last year, Graveman figures to be a very solid SP. As is, Graveman is struggling (and make no mistake he has struggled in both starts, just with different results) because he has been largely absent any secondary pitches.
Whatever Graveman has accomplished thus far he has done on the strength of the sinker. The curve has occasionally looked good, the changeup mostly serviceable, and the cutter meh. I suppose it's always possible that Graveman was a mirage in 2014, but more likely those pitches will surface again as complementary to the devastating sinker and strikes will follow. And outs, many of them. I'm still bullish on Graveman.
He puts the "can" in Canha and the "mark" in "on the mark". Mark Canha can hit. However, he is not the .500 hitter he was after 14 electric at bats that nearly produced 3 HRs including a grand slam. In fact he's not even a .400 hitter ... or a .360 hitter ... or .333 ... .324 ... .306 ... Ah, regression, you bastard.
So what is Mark Canha, really? I do believe he is exactly what the A's got him to be and that is a big league hitter who can mash left-handed pitching. But don't be surprised if he settles into being the platoon player he was acquired to be. In fact we're already seeing it as his recent 0 for 9 -- with some flailing at bats that looked every bit 0 for 9 -- can attest.
I think it's great that Bob Melvin is giving Canha every day playing time because Canha earned it with his hot start and Coco Crisp's absence leaves a hole in LF that needs to be filled right now. But I wouldn't worry about any logjam upon Crisp's return. If nothing else has changed, you'll see Coco take the "vs. RHP" at bats away from Canha and that will be a good thing. Because I think Canha is going to keep raking against LHPs but I doubt he is truly an every day player. And that's ok.
Discuss. Or dance the macarena. Those are your only two choices.