If 50 games can be relied on, in 2018 the A’s are going to play .750 ball outside the division and still miss the playoffs — unless they decide not to have any starting pitchers, in which case they will somehow cobble together 6-9 innings from their relievers every day and never lose. It’s enough to send the Eyeball Scout searching for a therapist who deals with “Confuzzled Cornea Syndrome”.
Win, lose, or draw, though, the A’s have plenty of intriguing young players who make each game fascinating to watch and analyze, and for that Dr. E.S. is grateful. (Speaking of “grateful,” here’s a word to the wise: when using a slicer to grate potatoes for homemade potato chips, leave the side of your thumb out of it. With these kinds of injuries, you would think I was a major league baseball player.) Here is a look at three of the A’s less experienced big leaguers and what the Eyeball Scout, all 2 eyes and nine fingers of him, sees...
Gossett had one of the best starts of his career on Tuesday night, though admittedly he had set the bar low. Nonetheless he was legitimately good enough to win, so naturally he lost because AL West. The line read 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
True to his excellent line, I thought Gossett pitched very well, certainly well enough to offer renewed hope that he can be a decent back-end SP. The first two times through the order he really didn’t throw the “improved changeup” we had heard about, but when he started mixing it in later in the game I would agree that it looked like a potentially effective pitch.
My critique of Gossett has generally been two-fold, and the two are related. One is that despite profiling as a “control pitcher type” he has not shown very consistent ability to throw any of his pitches where he wanted. The other is that after throwing several excellent pitches he will make a deadly location mistake, and that he just makes too many of these mistakes to survive.
On the first matter, I thought there was improvement in Gossett’s overall ability to throw strikes and throw them in good spots. That is encouraging. On the second matter, Gossett certainly did not get burned on any mistakes but I will note that he threw quite a few sliders in the upper half of the strike zone that would not have surprised me had they been whacked hard and far. However, they were taken for strikes which means either they had some deception not evident to the viewer or the Mariners simply missed out on some golden opportunities.
Ultimately, because the high sliders were taken for strikes Gossett’s slider was effective. I would caution, though, that if he throws his slider 33% of the time, as he did Tuesday night, he is inevitably going to leave a bunch of sliders up in the zone and some of those are going to get launched. In other words, he is playing with fire to throw a pitch so frequently that he does still tend to leave up in the zone.
Perhaps Gossett used his changeup less because he faced an unusually low number of left-handed batters (only two were in the lineup), but I think he needs to trust and establish that changeup both against LH and RH batters so that he is not forced to throw so many sliders. Tuesday night he was at about 50% fastballs, 33% sliders, 12% changeups (and a few curves), but going forward I would hope he would establish his fastball a bit more and mix the changeup in more, for closer to a 55%/25%/20% ratio.
Gossett’s next start will be huge for him, because he is trying to show that Tuesday’s start was a trend and not a blip. I still have concerns, but if he throws the changeup more and it proves to be an effective weapon then I will be more optimistic. If the hope is that he can throw 30 sliders a game and not hang 5 of them, let’s just say I have yet to see it.
Relievers are volatile and hard to predict going forward, and in Trivino’s last outing Wednesday he struggled a bit, but let me just say that in contrast to most of the relievers the A’s have tried in recent years I think Trivino is “the real deal”.
Start with his fastball, which comes in at a legit 97-98 MPH and does not suffer from Frankie Montas “fast but straight-and-hittable” syndrome. It’s a plus pitch that batters are forced to respect by starting their swing early.
The pitch that really excites me, though, is the cutter. Many pitchers have cutters these days but few actually have ones that are very good — so often you will note that the pitch that most often burns a pitchers is a flat cutter. Trivino’s is excellent, thrown hard at 92-93 MPH and with late action that misses the barrel or the bat entirely. It is deceptive and at times wicked.
Recently we haven’t seen much of the big curve he unleashed to end his first big league inning, but it’s an important “back pocket” weapon due to its change of speed off of two high octane offerings, and Trivino has demonstrated that he can throw it for a strike. It makes for a complete arsenal of “nasty, nastier, and oh-that’s-just-not-fair”.
If Trivino has a weakness, and it reared its head yesterday, it’s an occasional wobbling of control, but he is far from wild and he is not afraid to be aggressive in the strike zone. I think he will have occasional bouts of wildness but nothing untoward.
Ultimately, my biggest concern with Trivino is just the usual: health. Pitchers who throw 98MPH and torque a high octane cutter may be more vulnerable to arm problems than the average pitcher, and the average pitcher is probably going to get hurt. But so long as he stays healthy, I think Trivino is arguably the best relief pitcher (who wasn’t a 1Bman) that the A’s have promoted from within since the likes of Huston Street, and one of the best young relievers they have had in the mix in years. Color me excited.
We know who Fowler is supposed to be at the plate: few walks, much contact, some pop, maybe a .280/.320/.430 type of hitter. We know he is supposed to be fast enough to be the A’s first true base stealing threat since Rajai Davis. We know that scouts are mixed on his ability to stick as a true CFer.
At the plate, Fowler started slow but lately has shown a bit more and bit more. The aggressiveness shows in his tendency to expand the strike zone, but so far his ability to make hard contact has now shown up in a high BABIP — it currently stands at just .226. If the balls he does hit he starts to hit harder, finding more holes, that alone could get Fowler to where he needs to be. It’s probably more likely than hoping he will reinvent himself as a patient and discerning hitter.
The speed is real. Fowler is just 3 for 5 in his SB attempts, but that is largely because Mike Zunino took a great jump by Fowler and a terrible pitch to throw on, and somehow parlayed it into a perfect throw that nabbed Fowler. Otherwise, the A’s CFer would be 4 for 5 and that’s both a very good percentage and likely one Fowler is capable of sustaining. As has been noted elsewhere, within a step or two Fowler is already at full speed. He also seems able to read a pitcher’s move well enough to get his start towards 2B just before the pitcher begins his delivery, and most often he is attempting steals off of a very good jump.
CF continues to be a bit of a tough one to forecast long term. I love the way Fowler goes back on balls, be it to left-center, right-center, or over his head. He glides gracefully with intuitively smart angles and routes and I feel a high level of confidence. We have to see how his reads are on balls in front of him, as he struggled in Toronto but has not played enough games absent dome/turf considerations for me to really judge.
I do agree with those who say he’s a natural CFer, but the bar for defense there is high and the question remains: can he get the reads/jumps, and show the closing speed, necessary to make “almost all the plays” rather than “many of them”? One concern I once had was whether Fowler had the flat out foot speed for the position, but watching him on the bases I think he has answered that with a resounding yes.
For what it’s worth (which is nothing), in the tiny sample so far Fangraphs likes his defense (+1 DRS and the “grain of salt, SSS” +43.6 UZR/150. Hey, it’s better than bad numbers in irrelevant small samples.
Overall, Fowler may not be a great hitter by numbers or wRC+, but even so he could be a good complement to the “low BA, good OBP, high K” middle of the order (Davis, Chapman, Olson). The A’s need some guys who hit a lot of singles and Fowler, even if he hacks a bit too much, could be one of those guys. In fact he’s a great candidate for a team that wants to follow the lineup order of The Book and put a “second leadoff guy” in the #5 spot. Though I prefer Fowler leadoff to 7th, 8th, or 9th, The Book would say, and I might have to agree, that perhaps the best order (against RHP) actually looks something like:
Joyce - LF
Lowrie - 2B
Olson - 1B
Davis - DH
Fowler - CF
Chapman - 3B
Piscotty - RF
Semien - SS
Lucroy - C
This puts Fowler partly in a spot for some RBI hits, but also makes him somewhat of a leadoff batter for the second half of the order, where you might manufacture some runs with guys less likely to be part of a big inning. (This is even more pronounced if you switch Chapman and Fowler.) It also breaks up some of the swing and miss TTO in the middle of the lineup, which might be a good thing. Food for thought.
Which Eyeball Scout report is most insightful/accurate?
This poll is closed
They are all right on
They are all way off