The season just began and yet it is about ⅛ over already. It goes fast except when it goes slow (which is when you're losing). 20 games in, we can certainly see what has happened and much of it has been frustrating. What should we expect, from various individuals, in the next ⅛ of the 2015 campaign?
Brett Lawrie at the plate
Lawrie got off to a bad start at the plate, but I anticipate that he will get it going in these next few weeks. If one characteristic defines Lawrie it is his high intensity that makes him a great spokesman for Red Bull. Oh he isn't actually doing product placement for Red Bull? Wow, could have fooled me!
If anyone was going to be prone to "trying too hard," and failing as a result, with a new team and fan base, it's Lawrie. Couple that with the fact that he has generally been a slow starter at the plate anyway and you have a recipe for early disaster.
Lawrie has been uncharacteristically chasing lots and lots (and lots, I might add) of bad breaking balls, but we are already beginning to see this shift a bit. He had a pretty good at bat to end Friday night's loss, and probably got the biggest hit of the day today in what might have been an A's win had Lawrie not tried too hard to make an unmakeable play instead of securing the sure out at 1B.
Look for Lawrie to relax, settle in, and get hot at the plate. He has the talent and I believe it is his turn to get hot as Stephen Vogt and Billy Butler inevitably return to earth.
Marcus Semien at SS
Semien has been enigmatic at SS, making most of the routine plays and then botching one, showing excellent range and then failing to complete the play, generally looking good and then missing 2B or dropping a line drive. He has definitely been somewhere between great and awful.
Going forward, there is reason for optimism in that ultimately most of his errors or mistakes have come from bad decisions, and those generally stem from a lack of experience. He has rushed when he had time, tried to focus on the out at 1B before securing the out at 2B, and so on. These are correctable mistakes, unlike problems such as a lack of range or a weak throwing arm.
At the same time, the more I see Semien the more I feel like his body plays "tall and bulky" -- even though at 6'1" 195 lbs it is not especially so for the position -- and that this is what often works against him. It takes him time to get low to the ground and his first step is not as quick as his next ones, both casualties of a larger frame. Obviously it is possible to be tall and be a great SS, as Cal Ripkin Jr. is Exhibit A, but in general Semien moves like someone too tall/bulky for the position, and I foresee limitations stemming from how slowly he adjusts from "getting low" to "resetting". Is that fixable? Maybe, but somehow it just seems like it is part of "who he is".
Overall, look for better judgment leading to fewer "unforced errors/mistakes" but also look for him to work hard to get to solid, defensively, not excellent.
The cream always rises, and the sludge falls. What we've seen early is what we'll get going forward: Kendall Graveman's time is not now, Jesse Chavez was always, and continues to be, worthy of a spot in the rotation, Drew Pomeranz is a fastball/curve pitcher without great command.
The additional problem with Pomeranz is that he doesn't get you deep into games. I liked Tommy Milone partly because while he was no ace he was going, most of the time, to get you 6+ IP even if he gave up a few runs. A typical Milone start was 6⅓ IP, 3 ER, which is no great shakes yet is the type of effort that will get you a win on a day like today. It's part of why Milone is now 34-23 for his career and why 20 pitch/inning SPs tend to be liabilities that show up even after the SP has left the mound for the day.
Don't get me wrong, Pomeranz is more than fine for a #5 SP in that his flaws are pretty much the ones that characterize a #5 SP. But I continue to believe that until he uses his changeup more than 4% of the time (his current rate) he will be your basic #5 SP.
In contrast, I really believe Chavez is the real deal and should stay in the rotation long-term. Did you realize that in his first start he threw his cutter 92-93 MPH with great movement? That's getting into Mariano Rivera territory! I don't know what his velocity will look like as he continues to start, but I do believe he will continue to be a solid member of the rotation.
So those are some of the expectations I have for the next 20 games. They come with just a small disclaimer: Everything I say here might be completely and utterly wrong, because baseball.