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Hindsighting: Sad To Be Right, Happy To Be Wrong

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics
“Aussie what you did there.”
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“Hindsighting” may not be a word, but if Oscar Wilde can introduce the world to the notion of “Bunburying” and then a century later Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs can bring “Blindspotting” to popular culture, I would like to think I can get away with gerundifying a noun. That’s right: I invented the word “gerundifying” to justify inventing the word “hindsighting,” none of which really provides analysis of the A’s off-season moves. So let’s get to that, shall we?

The concept of “happy to be wrong” was invented in 2015 when scores of A’s fans, myself included, watched in horror as Marcus Semien played shortstop (or should I say, shortstop played him) and we all turned to our dogs, cats, and empty rooms, timidly, to ask “They’re not going to keep playing him there, right?”

Fast forward to 2019 and it’s truly phenomenal to watch Semien and try to remember what 2015 looked like. Not only has Semien made all of one error in 52 games, not only does Fangraphs have his DRS at +6 and his UZR/150 at +18.7, Semien is more than passing the eye test, looking fluid, taking the best angles to field and throw, displaying soft hands (which I think the Pointer Sisters quite like) and a strong — and accurate — arm.

Never has being wrong felt so right, and as we look back to some recent moves the A’s made that made me go “Hrrrmmm” — or even give it the full Dennis Eckersley “Yuck” — some have vindicated the “Hrrrmmm/Yuck” reaction while others have made me look blissfully silly, and I couldn’t be more pleased...

Liam Hendriks

Hendriks is on a great run that has reached 10 straight scoreless appearances. Over those 12.2 IP, Hendriks has allowed 8 hits, walking 3 and striking out 13, leaving his season ERA at a puny 1.30.

I would have non-tendered him, just because I don’t believe he is a strong high-leverage choice and usually you can find a reliever, for league minimum, who can provide decent innings in medium or low leverage. But the A’s certainly do not have a reliever hanging out at AAA who could reasonably be expected to approximate what Hendriks has done.

My take on Hendriks is that while his 93-94MPH fastball is “strangely hittable” and his command not especially strong, when he is dialing the fastball up to 96-97MPH it takes him to a different level. Suddenly his fastball is not as much “on a tee” and hitters are more likely to commit early and chase the slider. Lately Hendriks has been throwing 96MPH and the results show it.

Sitting behind the plate last night, Hendriks’ fastball looked pretty electric and while I still wouldn’t recommend bumping into the set-up role I think he is quite a luxury to have behind 4 other RH relievers (Treinen, Trivino, Soria, Petit). He has definitely been worth his relatively modest $2.15M salary.

Fernando Rodney

I won’t belabor The Fernando Rodney Experience because the fugly numbers speak loudly for themselves. (Those would be: 0-2, 9.42 ERA, 14.1 IP, 20 hits, 12 BB, 14 K, 2 HR, and that 2.23 WHIP everyone’s always going for.)

In the off-season I felt the A’s single biggest blunder was the decision to exercise Rodney’s $5.25M option and I think it’s fair to say that if the front office could use hindsight, instead of ‘shrooms and a teaspoon of unwarranted hope, they would probably decline that option.

Brett Anderson

I’ve never fully bought into Brett Anderson v2.0. Version 1.0 threw mid-90s with a wipeout slider and didn’t have a history of systematically stubbing every toe, every vital organ, falling off the mound after throwing a pitch and then reaching frantically for his Medic Alert button.

So I wasn’t overjoyed when the A’s brought him back last year, nor when they re-upped for 2019, but I have to say that while he hasn’t been brilliant Anderson has been one of the A’s more consistent SPs and has given them a fair combination of quality and quantity, leading to his being a 5-game winner through 10 starts.

Anderson has also come into 2019 quite truly “in the best shape of his life” and stiff necks aside appears poised, potentially, to stay healthier than usual. And for a team whose depth has disappeared with the losses of Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, Jesus Luzardo, and even for the start of the season Chris Bassitt, Anderson’s presence has been a positive in shielding Oakland’s rotation from “moar Brooks”.

Mark Canha/Kendrys Morales

I was always puzzled, and not thrilled, by the decision to bring Kendrys Morales in when Mark Canha was ready, willing, and able to step in full time at 1B. By all accounts, Morales’ time here did provide some non-statistical value, as players applauded his clubhouse presence and suggested he helped them with their own hitting.

What Morales was not able to do, until the very end of his stint with the A’s, is help the team on the field with much of anything beyond “some hard hit outs to go with the other ones”. More troubling than Morales’ lack of offensive or defensive prowess was the benching of Canha who, when getting regular at bats, can be a force.

What this week has reminded us is just how good Canha can be when he plays every day. The RH slugger now has 6 HRs in his last 9 games and is proving once again that when he gets it going he is not a platoon player — he can hit anyone and everyone when he’s hot. And he usually gets hot when he plays regularly.

Morales would have been nice bat to have off the bench as a depth piece, but I still wish the A’s had given the every day gig to Canha — and then if he went on the IL, as he did at one point, Morales might have been there to step in. But it should have been Canha’s job to lose.

Robbie Grossman

Having offered two “glad I was wrong” examples and two “sorry I was right” examples, I leave you with one in the middle. I still can’t quite figure out Robbie Grossman and his role on this team, but I also recognize him as being a useful player at a very reasonable salary.

Should you sign a guy whose career OBP against LHPs is .375, and then make sure he doesn’t get any at bats from the right side? Is his .241/.343/.366 slash line against RHPs more than you could expect from the cheaper Nick Martini, or worth benching the far better fielding Chad Pinder?

That being said, just as Hendriks is a luxury to have at the back of your bullpen Grossman is a luxury to have as your 4th-5th OFer and once Martini went down the value of depth went up — and there was Grossman. Plus the A’s had lost Jed Lowrie and were seeking more hitters who could grind out at bats and maintain a decent OBP. And heaven knows they were looking for guys who could hold a bat in the left-hand batter’s box.

I still don’t know quite what I think of this one, so I’m going to say that at the time I was confused and in hindsight I’m merely puzzled. Now let’s run that winning streak to 8.7 and call it a day!