Back by popular demand, and by "demand" I mean at least someone said something at some point, let's look at Bob Melvin's part in a tough start to May -- one in which the A's had one win all month going into Friday night's 13th day of the month. Ouch.
Of course so many of Melvin's decisions lately have been "Someone has to pitch this inning. Who is literally available?" or "Which 9 bodies are available to play at different positions? There aren't? OK, how about Alonso at 3B?"
Sticking With "Alonso 8th and Semien 9th"
With Yonder Alonso heating up and Marcus Semien remaining one of the A's most potent threats, the A's stuck with their scrappy speed guys, Coco Crisp and Billy Burns, at the top of the order with Alonso and Semien at the bottom. There is a case to be made for leaving Semien alone when he is being successful in the 9-hole but especially with Danny Valencia and Jed Lowrie hitting the DL the A's need every bat they can get.
Even though he is far from his prime, Crisp still gives you the types of at bats you look for from your leadoff man but if you want a "double leadoff" presence you can drop Billy Burns to #9 and still get that -- just with Semien getting the extra at bat each game over Burns. Against RHPs, move Alonso up to the #2 spot where he really belongs and bring Semien up a bit to see more RBI opportunities. Something like (right now):
Crisp - LF/DH
Alonso - 1B
Reddick - RF
Davis - LF/DH
Vogt - C
Valencia - 3B
Semien - SS
Coghlan - 2B
Burns - CF
I like some of the potential the double-leadoff gives you but I also like some OBP/"see a lot of pitches" guys setting the table, and I think this lineup gives a better balance of the two. Yes Alonso started so badly it's sometimes difficult to see him as a good hitter, but he is now batting .351 in May with a .419 OBP.
Quick Hook For Surkamp / Slow Hook For Hill
Given the state of the A's bullpen by the time Eric Surkamp made his Wednesday start at Fenway, I thought Melvin would try to squeeze every pitch he could out of the journeyman lefty. Instead, sensing a shot at stealing a win Melvin yanked Surkamp in the 3rd inning with the A's trailing just 4-3. Of course it didn't work out as Ryan Dull served up a two-run HR the next inning, Oakland never scored again, and the A's lost by the 13-3 blowout score one associates with Eric Surkamp. But it was still a worthwhile gamble.
Melvin's other gamble did work out and that was to allow Rich Hill to continue in the 6th last night despite a leadoff double and despite the fact that Hill was already at 105 pitches. Hill's stuff was still good and it was important that the bullpen had only 9 outs, not 12, to procure. Those last 3 outs Hill saved the bullpen were big and as it turned out Hill not only held the lead but even stranded the runner at 2B to keep Oakland in front 6-3. Good call.
Mostly, Melvin's hands have been tied by the team's poor play combined with head-scratching moves by the front office. Jesse Hahn was not only sent down for this turn through the rotation but can't come up in time for the start on May 17th (Tuesday) that is also a few days too soon for Henderson Alvarez, who will make his final rehab start on Sunday.
Yet another spot that must be filled by pitchers other than Gray-Hill-Hahn-Manaea-Graveman-Alvarez, even though the 15-21 A's can ill afford to toss away any games these days. Did you know that Eric Surkamp has now made 2.5 times as many big league starts as Jesse Hahn has?
Meanwhile the team has had a long reliever in the mix for exactly one day this season and we do want to take this moment to thank Zach Neal for playing.
I'm just thankful the A's have had, on the roster, all season, a poor hitting defensive zero whose base running speed is measure in units of continental drift. Billy Butler: the rare player who makes you pine for Eric Surkamp.
Nonetheless the A's are on a one-game winning streak, Valencia is back, Alvarez is on the way, and a lot can happen in 126 games. Agree or disagree with my assessments? What do you feel have been Melvin's best and worst moments so far in May?