NOTE: Today's A's-Astros game has been postponed due to rain, likely to be made up on Thursday, September 7th (an off day before the A's and Astros begin a 3-game series in Oakland).
It’s lucky that the eyes are among the most adaptable and resilient organs. Friday night’s game had the Eyeball Scout gouging out his left eyeball with a rusty pair of scissors, then the second half of Saturday’s game forced the Eyeball Scout to grab a nearby serrated knife and carve a "sad emoji" design into his right eyeball.
The last two games have left A’s fans with natural questions, such as: Why can’t the Eyeball Scout get new scissors and more practical silverware? It is precisely queries like this that the Eyeball Scout intends to fully ignore while discussing specific players.
Don’t panic about Healy’s hitting, as atrocious as it has been of late. If the stats, which fully match the approach, have you queasy, just take a gander at some video and stat sheet of Khris Davis last year around April 16th. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t permanent.
It looks to me like Healy is battling himself more than he is battling pitchers. He is in his own head, taking cookies and flailing at predictable chase pitches, he is fouling back pitches he should be mashing, and it won’t last forever. The league has adjusted to Healy and he has to adjust back — mostly by swinging at the right pitches, not swinging at so many pitches, and not psyching himself out. It will happen.
My long-range concern is not that Healy is a half-season wonder, but more that he could settle into being a dangerous hacker rather than a truly accomplished hitter. That concern is still on the table, but what I see right now is not a bad hitter so much as a good hitter going through a wretched phase.
I wish I felt as sanguine about his defense. I never thought Healy could make it as a 3Bman but I have been quite optimistic that he could be an average defensive 1Bman, which is his more natural position. The way he went after Trevor Plouffe’s two poor throws Friday night, the way he fed Jesse Hahn in the Texas game, the way he has stabbed at a couple tricky-hop grounders, Healy does not look like a natural 1Bman and this is the position he has the most experience playing.
So far Healy’s defense has not resulted in many errors charged to him, but so many of the errors charged to others have been on plays where very likely Yonder Alonso records an out. Even if not, Alonso would look like a 1Bman rather than like a DH faking it on the field.
In sum, I am not overly stressed out about Healy’s horrific stretch of batting but I have new-found concern about whether he can be an average defensive 1Bman. And I really, really wish Ron Washington were still around.
What we have seen so far this season from Manaea is very moderate velocity (mostly sitting at 92-93MPH) and poor control, with flashes of brilliance and the consistent ability to rack up Ks.
The Eyeball Scout sees the lower velocity, the poor control, and the inconsistent results as likely all relating to the same issue: inconsistent mechanics, specifically the release point.
Manaea throws from a 3⁄4 angle but if you drop down a little too far with that delivery, you can lose a tick on your fastball and the pitch is more apt to sail (if you’re a LHP that will be high and outside to a RH batter). I suspect that at times Manaea is releasing from his optimal angle, where his fastball is both electric and controllable, as well as indistinguishable from his changeup. However, I think at times he is getting under that optimal angle, which results in balls sailing without particular deception or control.
The good news here is that mechanical issues are far less worrisome than health issues, and I don’t think that Manaea’s middling velocity — and some of that could just be that it’s April and not July — suggest a physical malady. I also don’t think that Manaea generally lacks the ability to pound the strike zone; this is the same guy who finished the season walking just 17 batters in his 78 IP after the All-Star break. But any pitcher needs to maintain a consistent and repeatable delivery in order to succeed and the Eyeball Scout suggests this may be Manaea’s cross to bear.
I really like Decker, who I am officially nicknaming "Jaffy Duck," naturally pronounced "JEFF-y DECK". Watching his 4 at bats on Saturday, what stood out is how long he sees pitches. This allowed Decker to spit on several borderline pitches that either moved out of the strike zone or just missed.
The risk, of course, of seeing pitches longer is that you will be late on them when you swing. Perhaps not coincidentally, Decker’s hits went to the opposite field but some of that relates to where he was being pitched (away) and to his willingness to use the whole field.
Decker’s patience, discerning eye, and ability to assess pitches late into their path, should serve him well. I also appreciated his strong and accurate throw to 3B, and am not overly concerned about his over-running a base hit for an error — I doubt that will be any sort of a pattern and overall he had a heck of a debut game.
I just hope the A’s find a spot for him in the lineup more than occasionally, because in contrast to so many of his teammates Decker seems to have something meaningful to offer both at the plate and in the field. That may be as much as referendum on his teammates than it is a send-up of Decker, but given the current roster I think there’s a place for Jaffy Deck in the lineup on a regular basis.
Finally, I will say that I support the A’s move of selecting Chad Pinder to replace Marcus Semien, even though I am far from a Pinder believer and the fan in me wants to see Franklin Barreto. This is a 10-day gig and while Barreto’s day will come soon it is not mid-April. Patience, grasshopper (toasted, I might add). I fully expect to watch Pinder chase sliders away from RHPs and to try to make at least one throwing error each game. So be it for 10 days while Semien recovers — let Barreto master 2B and make a one-way trip to The Show in about 6 weeks.
Eyeball Scout out.