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Game #23: Don’t Fight Fire with Fiers

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Kendrys Morales pitched and fans are running wild! What’s happening in Oakland, Ray Fosse?

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Oakland Athletics Kiel Maddox-USA TODAY Sports

Scouting Report: Kendrys Morales, RHP

Pros

  • good composure
  • unpredictable pitch location
  • throws as hard as Mike Fiers

Cons

  • poor strike zone command
  • tendency to hit batters and load the bases
  • throws as hard as Mike Fiers

You know it’s bad when what you’re most excited to write about is your first-baseman’s pitching appearance. And even that couldn’t go right!

I wrote before the game that, for better or worse, Mike Fiers will be pitching every fifth game. Tonight doesn’t change that, which means A’s fans have no choice but to remain patient with our Opening Day starter. In the meantime, we’ll continue picking apart his performance as we await 2018 Mike Fiers’ reappearance. Here are some of the most glaring stats from his start today:

  • He allowed four hits with an exit velocity over 100 mph: two doubles and two home runs. The average pitch velocity on those four hits? A whopping 83.7 mph!
  • Going into the game, he carried a 44.3% GB rate; today, he only got a groundball 28.6% of the time. Flyball pitcher or not, that’s too many balls in the air.
  • Blue Jays batters only whiffed four times against Fiers. Two of those times were against his hardest pitches of the night: two 91 mph four-seamers.

I know we can’t ask Fiers to all of the sudden throw as hard as Lou Trivino, nor should we have to since he’s had success as a soft-thrower. But it’s clear — and this applies to Marco Estrada as well — that a sub-90 mph fastball is not going to work in today’s MLB. Guys are now trained to pick up on 100 mph pitches that are moving from one end of the plate to the other. An 89 mph fastball straight down the middle, to a hitter, must seem like watching a lovable but fragile senior citizen walking across a busy intersection. “Good morning, fastball. Would you like help getting across the diamond before being launched into the stands?”

Now, I could be wrong. Maybe Fiers has more of a command problem than a velocity problem. He’s allowing more walks than he has in the past and too many of his pitches are going to hitters’ sweet spots. But a little more kick can’t hurt it, can it?

Unfortunately, we can’t say many more positive things about the A’s offense today. For what was supposed to be a top-five lineup, it sure hasn’t looked like it recently. After obliterating opposing pitchers in Baltimore and Texas, the team has played four games in a row without scoring more than two runs. Unless they have a rotation full of aces and a bullpen stocked with closers, two runs ain’t gonna cut it. Someone not named Matt Chapman needs to get going.

Let’s it end this with the funnest of facts: There were more fans storming the field today than there were A’s players crossing home plate. If the team keeps struggling like this, they might end up with more fans on the grass than in the stands.