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Small Sample Theatre: Eyeball Scout's Pointless Observations

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I say "pointless" because any eyeball analysis of two games is essentially drivel. Though in fairness, I am really adding these games to several meaningless games I also saw in March.

"No pasta...no pasta..."
"No pasta...no pasta..."
Norm Hall/Getty Images

The danger of engaging in "small sample theatre" is that you will conclude that Brett Lawrie's best career game will come when he strikes out 4 times on 13 pitches. No, Lawrie is not as bad as he looked last night. Nobody is as bad as Lawrie looked last night. It was, however, one game. An epically horrid one at the plate, but still just one game. Lawrie will be fine; but how about the rest of them?

Marcus Semien

Perhaps my biggest quest is to form a definite opinion on Marcus Semien's defense at shortstop relative to that of his predecessor, Jed Lowrie. What has struck me most, so far, is realizing how low a bar Lowrie set. Many balls Semien has reached are ones I'm not sure Lowrie would have flagged down, yet they are also not ones I wanted to throw Semien a parade for reaching. Lowrie's pasta-diving made me downright gluten intolerant, but there was also his propensity to three-hop routine throws to 1B even when Brandon Moss did not call for "medium baby bouncies".

So my initial conclusion that Semien will at least be an upgrade from Lowrie is more of a condemnation of Lowrie: He was really bad. Semien's range seems ok, his arm strength is evident, and so far his accuracy has been fine. I'm still not entirely sold on his footwork or his first step, and on one three-hopper he fielded successfully he looked uncomfortable -- I think the ball found him more than he found the ball as he cradled it, juggled it, but then at least made a strong and accurate throw to 1B.

Probably the most promising attribute I have seen from Semien is that he does appear to be adept at turning the DP. Both on balls hit to SS and to 2B, I have liked what I have seen from him. Just average range, a strong arm, and good DP skills might be enough to ensure that Semien can play an average shortstop. It is certainly a step up from Lowrie; the question is how many steps?

Jesse Hahn

I knew Hahn had a darting fastball and a signature curve, but what impressed me most last night was how good his changeup was. The combination of a heavy sinker, thrown in the low '90s, a solid changeup at 85-86 MPH, and the Griffinesque slow curve which, thrown around 75 MPH, gets behind the batter's swing even when they try to stay back, could elevate Hahn into legitimate #2 SP territory.

Last night Hahn overthrew a couple curves, resulting in the HBPs, and perhaps didn't bury his offspeed offerings enough to Prince Fielder. But this is a guy who can go for the strikeout and get it, can go for the DP and get it, and can throw the pitch you guess is coming and you still can't square it up. If he stays healthy, Hahn is going to be very good.

Ike Davis

I did not expect Davis to be as slick fielding as he has shown so far. Monday night he was greatly aided by Sonny Gray's rare athleticism to get to 1B quickly and set up like a 1Bman, or we might be talking about how Davis, like Moss before him, ranges too far to his right to chase balls Eric Sogard can get. That being said Davis made the plays to perfection and then made several more excellent plays, including scoops of low throws.

At the plate, while I appreciate Davis' on base skills and how routinely he gets deep into counts, combining his comments at BlogFest ("When I walk it feels like a hit") and watching him both in the Cactus League, the Bay Bridge series, and the first two games in Oakland, he really does come across as someone trolling for walks more than you would like to see.

I have seen Davis take very hittable pitches not only to open at bats but even 2-0. On a team with plenty of slugging an "empty OBP" approach would play better and it would be more useful if he were batting #2 -- as perhaps he should bat ahead of Ben Zobrist and Billy Butler. As is, I would prefer that Davis be a bit more ready to ambush the hittable pitches he has let go by. If nothing else, it will keep opposing pitchers out of the middle of the plate which will lead to more walks. Which, yes Ike, are just like hits other than not advancing as many runners or yielding as many total bases.

I'm looking forward to the big league debuts tonight of Mark Canha and perhaps Tyler Ladendorf and I promise not to cast permanent judgment on them prior to at least the 6th inning. Because the "small sample eyeball scout" is nothing if not fair.