I remember reading the book “Freaky Friday” as a child, then enjoying the movie with Jamie Lee Curtis (she was on the screen, not next to me in the theater). The book, published in 1972, is a timeless concept where two people — in this case a mother and daughter — switch bodies and, as any promo will tell you, hilarity ensues.
The hook works whether it’s a mother and daughter, or Brian and Stewie (“ha ha ha, did that dog just say ‘what the deuce’?”), so why not a couple of right-handed relievers? Enter the wacky Oakland duo of Blake Treinen and Liam Hendriks, neither of whom is likely to be played by Lindsay Lohan any time soon.
What Hendriks is doing right now conjures up memories of Treinen’s historic 2018 season, when he was not only dominant and unhittable but did so largely as Hendriks is doing it now: a high octane fastball and a wipeout slider, each so devastating batters are forced to “guess and guess wrong” much of the time. It’s not just the results that evoke “a Hendriks in Treinen’s clothing,” it’s also the repertoire and sequencing, distinguished only by the fact that Treinen used a heavy sinker while Hendriks grips all 4 seams to spin his way to glory.
Perhaps equally remarkable is that in the same blink of the opposite eye, Treinen has morphed into the Hendriks Oakland designated for assignment last year, throwing hard but unable to command his pitches and as a result alternating between balls and hittable strikes. Treinen has recently found himself occupying Hendriks’ 2018 role as a garbage time reliever using mop-up innings mostly to try to find himself.
You could not find two more contrasting relievers in 2018, so what were the odds that each would jump into the other’s body at the same moment. It’s, well ... freaky. If you like transitions, consider that Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan can both throw better than Jurickson Profar. Oh, were we talking about Profar?
Speaking of the A’s switch hitting head case, certainly last night was a low point what with two routine throws to 1B that nearly bounced twice and a poor game at the plate culminating with watching a fair ground ball as if it were foul.
Bob Melvin got burned for his decision to “reward Profar’s recent at bats” by moving him into the #2 spot in the lineup, but really that was a failure on Melvin’s part to see Profar’s at bats for what they were because Jurickson has not, in fact, showed improvement this week. What he has done is to run into 3 pitches, leading to 3 2-run HRs that look great in the box score, while using the same flawed approach that has weighed him down all season.
Profar amazes me in his inability to make basic adjustments, such as his insistence on trying to hit pitches well off the inside corner and his resolute belief that pitches on the outside corner were invented so that batters could pull them. Perhaps most frustrating is to watch Profar swing as if he were meant to be a “TTO power hitter,” taking huge swings and aiming for the right field bleachers.
Profar has been swinging this way lately, and the fact that he hit 3 HRs just reflects that this terrible approach yielded a cluster of successes. He should not have been moved up in the order, because when batting left handed his wild swings, absent plate discipline, and non-existent approach are exactly why he is a .185/.250/.395 “run into a few” hitter whose 67 wRC+ matches the eyeball test.
I don’t know if Profar was pulled after his last at bat because BoMel didn’t want to watch another “changeup in the dirt” throw to 1B with the game on the line, or because Profar’s approach to leaving the batter’s box caught up with his approach in the batter’s box, but as the A’s continue on a key road trip I imagine we will see a lot of Franklin Barreto — whose own hitting approach has left much to be desired, but who offers athleticism, a variety of skills, and if nothing else the raw ability to match up with the stars in Minnesota and Houston.
I am a big fan of baseball IQ, which is why I have quickly gravitated to less physically gifted over-achievers such as the great Mark Ellis and the raw-but-fast-adjusting Ramon Laureano. Profar’s infectious smile and some clutch RBIs have made you want to pull for him, and I am sure he is a nice guy with million dollar talent. But his 10 cent head doesn’t play well in a pennant race and if his baseball IQ reaches 70 he should sell. You wonder if last night was the beginning of the end — or perhaps just a planned defensive replacement with a platinum glove available on the bench.
One up and one down on the trip so far, with only one thing clearly determined: win or lose, these A’s can go toe to toe with the top teams. The Twins are a very good team, but there is no mismatch here. Hopefully, Brett Anderson can “win one for Brody” tonight before he flies home to meet his son, who will be born Monday and will probably injure himself by Wednesday. See you at 4:07pm for the next chapter of “Freaky Friday”...