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Eyeball Scout: What Did, And Didn't, Sink The A's Opening Night

Someone give that man a COMPASS.
Someone give that man a COMPASS.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Just a quick post-game analysis of an interesting, and also in many ways disappointing, Opening Night performance by the Oakland A's.

Did the error, charged to Mark Canha but also the result of poor footwork, a bad arm angle, and a sailing throw by Marcus Semien, cost the A's the game? No, not really. If the A's complete that play -- and if Yonder Alonso is at 1B or if Semien's fundamentals are better, they do -- the inning is over with the score 2-0 and Rich Hill goes back out to the mound to pitch start the 4th inning.

Folks, Rich Hill was bad. He was going to give up a couple more runs until he was yanked, whether it was in the 3rd or in the 4th, earned or unearned on the ledger. From his first pitch, Hill had no idea where the ball was going and his fastball was a less-than-electric 90-91 MPH. He wasn't easy to hit (even when he hangs his curve, it has so much vertical and lateral movement that it is not easy to hit), but he looked like Dontrelle Willis out there and unless you're talking about his rookie season that's not a compliment.

The offense was fine. Three runs is all you can hope for against Chris Sale and while you could say the A's wasted a leadoff double (Billy Butler), Sale is fully capable of getting back-to-back strikeouts to work himself out of a jam. It happens. The A's offense and the A's bullpen both look fine to me.

What is going to define -- and could sink -- the A's is the starting pitching (I'm still optimistic overall), the defense and the fundamentals of the game. I'm less optimistic about the latter two because these were huge issues throughout spring training and as the calendar turned to the regular season these problems persisted front and center.

That key play on Melky Cabrera's roller up the middle is precisely what separates good defensive teams from poor ones. It's not the routine plays, nor the web gems, that define you -- it's the plays a lot of guys make and a lot of guys don't. Bottom line: that play has to get made. And it wasn't. As for the also important pickoff error, it continues a trend that began in the Cactus League of the A's pitchers committing errors like they are going out of style.

Then there's Billy Burns, misreading a fly ball to CF as he did all spring and getting trapped off of 1B because he started to steal and then inexplicably stopped and tried to scamper back to 1B. These mistakes decide games every bit as much as the errors that lead to unearned runs in the score book.

What did I ultimately get out of the A's season opener? The offense will have some depth and some fight. The bullpen is massively improved for real. Rich Hill is a scary mess, porous defense and poorer fundamentals can be found far too many places around the diamond. And it's ultimately that last observation that worries me the most. So much so that in hindsight, I think Alonso should have gotten the call at 1B, platoons be damned.

I vote "defense first" until the defense stops being such a chronic drag on the team. And pack a lunch for Sonny Gray. Now we might have something.