As "small sample theatre" becomes "medium sample theatre," some of the A’s who are playing a lot so that Oakland can "see what it has" are revealing more and more of who they are, what they have, and what they lack.
While acknowledging that Healy will probably settle into being primarily a pull hitter, the Eyeball Scout has always urged Healy to use right-center field as he did with one of his base hits last night.
If he gets accustomed to, and adept at, driving outside pitches to right-center Healy is going to be far more difficult for pitchers to master. He won’t hit a lot of HRs the other way but there are many singles and doubles to be enjoyed off of pitches away that pitchers leave up in the strike zone. Just that threat will prevent pitchers from getting him out without using the inner half of the plate, where Healy has shown quickness and great power to turn those offerings around.
One thing I have noticed with Healy, but it is improving, is that he has often taken a very hittable first pitch strike only to flail at bad balls once behind in the count. He is adjusting by not always letting a good first pitch go by and I think that is the right approach for him — he is not geared to troll for walks so much as he is geared to punish mistakes and to force pitchers to make tough pitches rather than steal easy strikes.
The weakest aspect of Healy’s offensive game, statistically, has been his walk rate. Healy currently sports a slash line of .257/.282/.460 and if that .282 were .040 points higher you would have a really (realy?) good hitter. However, I’m not too concerned at this point because two factors have played a big part in suppressing Healy’s walk rate.
One is simply that in a small sample two walks are a lot, and twice Healy has taken a very borderline 3-2 pitch that was called strike three when it could have gone either way. Turn just those two "coin flips" into walks and the OBP jumps .017 points right there. And it was good to see Healy taking, rather than hacking, on a close 3-2 pitch he thought was a ball.
The other is that Healy has succumbed to the temptation to bail pitchers out when he gets into a hitter’s count. Healy has chased a few 3-1 pitches that far from being "hittable strikes" were probably not even strikes at all. He acknowledged this recently and that is a good sign.
In sum, Healy’s best approach is to "grip it and rip it" on every hittable strike, on any count, and to be patient and selective when in the driver’s seat. That approach, combined with the willingness to drive outside pitches the other way, could serve Healy well. I’m still cautiously optimistic on him.
There’s coming crashing back to earth and there’s Jake Smolinski, who at one point was seemingly mashing everything and everyone. Don’t look now but Smolinski’s season slash line is a rather pedestrian .268/.332/.425, the result of an abysmal August (.188/.278/.250 in 48 ABs).
What’s really going on is that Smolinski is getting exposed to RH pitchers and they are not his friend. Platoon splits in small samples mean even less than platoon splits in large samples — which tend to be noisy and over-rated — but it’s hard to ignore splits this dramatic:
vs. LHP: .338/.400/.618
vs. RHP: .225/.290/.306
What the A’s are learning is what they probably already knew or suspected, and that is Smolinski is an excellent platoon partner on the short side of the platoon. And an every day player he is not.
One reason is that in contrast to Healy, the Eyeball Scout notes that Smolinski does not naturally have a good opposite field swing. He is best suited to pulling the ball, using the middle of the diamond on over, and that is more difficult to sustain against RHPs who can break pitches away. Smolinski is hitting a lot of balls to 3B and SS right now, along with hacking early in the count, and it is all falling apart for him as he suffers from over-exposure to a group of pitchers against whom he doesn’t really have the tools.
Smolinski continues to hold his own in CF, so let’s take a look at Jaycob Brugman’s progress against RHPs at AAA. The 24-year old who, by the way, has now hit safely in 23 of his last 26 games, continues to mash RHPs to the tune of .315/.360/.479 for the season. The Eyeball Scout looks forward to seeing him play CF, and try his hand against RHPs, in Oakland by September.
Muncy is, like Smolinski, a hitter whose swing simply isn’t geared for "all fields" hitting. Shifted like a dead pull hitter, Muncy is just that and I’m not sure he is someone whose approach can be changed without a complete retool. He kind of is what he is.
What that is, unfortunately, is a bit of an "empty OBP" hitter who has both an excellent eye and a willingness to get into deep counts. He has more power than, say, a Daric Barton or even a Yonder Alonso, but not that much. He doesn’t appear to be someone who will slug much over .400, if at all, and with the number of hits the shift takes away you’re probably looking at a batter whose true talent level lies in the .240/.320/.360 range.
That would be ok if Muncy were a defensive wizard, but what he offers in some versatility he lacks by being special anywhere on the diamond. The Eyeball Scout sees Muncy as a competent 1Bman, a below average RFer mostly due to his lack of foot speed, and a poor 2Bman mostly due to the fact that he shouldn’t be playing there but for some reason continues to play there anyway.
Overall, Muncy gives you a "good at bat" just not one that leads to a terrific amount of actual success. And his bat is his best feature. So I can’t say that I’m too bullish on him going forward as more than a good "26th guy" on the roster, otherwise known as "cromulent AAAA filler".
Finally, for no extra charge, a note about Stephen Vogt. Throughout the season the A’s have taken much well-earned heat for being last in the league in drawing walks, last in OBP, lacking patience at the plate. Khris Davis’ sub-.300 OBP has sometimes been cited, Yonder Alonso’s strange lust for putting first pitches in play, but seldom is Vogt’s name mentioned.
Vogt has walked 22 times all season and enters tonight’s game with a .272/.318 /.433 line. Last night, though he hit the pitch far (and foul) he swung at a 3-0 pitch that didn’t even look to me like it was a strike. I’m not sure any hitter has shown any more of an allergy to walks than Vogt and it would behoove him to make pitchers work a bit harder to get him out. He can do better than to be a "dangerous hacker".
Welcome to the big leagues, Chad Pinder! You get to face Chris Sale. See you at 4:10pm...