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Eyeball Scout: Observations 2 Weeks In

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics
It’s all about process...
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

So here we are, 2 weeks into the season, which is of course 5.4 weeks in because 13 games is like 35.1 games and all this math is giving the Eyeball Scout a headache. So let’s just talk about what I’ve seen so far...We’ll alternative the more positive and less positive takes...

Sean Murphy

Murphy’s batting numbers are not good so far (.174/.321/.304), but I have actually liked what I have seen. It’s important to remember, with rookies, that often there is a learning curve before they put up good numbers, and what I have seen in terms of process suggests to me that Murphy is on way to being a solid big league hitter.

In particular, I love how quiet, and how quick and level, his swing is. It results in a lot of hard hit balls, though so far many of them have been foul or right at a fielder. I also feel like Murphy has shown good knowledge of the strike zone — in some cases better knowledge than the home plate umpires — and right now it is costing him but long term it will pay off.

Meanwhile, behind the plate Murphy’s arm has been “as advertised” and the quick release time is a huge plus as well. He has some work to do moving laterally to save pitches (I’ve noticed he’s actually better on balls in the dirt than on errant pitches that don’t bounce), and on pitch framing, but there is much to love about his catching skills.

Marcus Semien

Semien’s poor start at the plate (.179.207.232) is not a fluke or the product of bad luck. Semien is pulling off of pitches, which is a double-whammy when he repeatedly chases balls several inches off of the outside corner.

Clearly Marcus is trying to practice exemplary social distancing by putting 6 feet between his left foot and the pitch, but then he really needs to come to the plate with a 72” bat. Or he could revert to 2019’s plate discipline, which had him walking at a robust 11.6% rate and not this year’s paltry 3.7%.

Joakim Soria

So far this season, Soria’s stuff looks as good as it’s been in an A’s uniform. He is painting the corners at 92MPH and then dropping tantalizing curves in at 70 MPH, and while he has a tendency to hang that curve he gets so far in front of the batter’s swing that he almost always gets away with it.

Soria’s robust mix of pitches, speeds, and arm slots have certainly shown up statistically so far: he is working on 6.2 IP of scoreless ball for the season with 11 K.

Mike Fiers

There are some warning signs around Fiers, even though the A’s have won each of his 3 starts.

First off, Fiers has never been a pitcher who relied on velocity, but it’s worth noting that his fastball so far this season is averaging just 88.1 compared to last season’s 90.8 MPH. That 2.7 MPH drop off is not trivial. Perhaps it’s explained by the short camp and interrupted spring training(s), but it could also relate to Fiers being 35 with about 1,100 big league innings under his belt.

Where this has shown up most obviously is that Fiers is simply not striking hitters out. This was, in fact, quite literally true in his first start when he left after 4 IP without recording a K. For the season, Fiers has now thrown 16 IP with 5 K, which is positively Blackburnian. And not sustainable.

I’m not suggesting we should worry that Fiers is going to stop having terrific success, because he hasn’t been all that great as is — his ERA stands at 5.63 after 3 starts. But if the velocity and K-rate stay where they are, Fiers might soon pine for the days when his ERA was south of 6.00.

Other quickie-notes for your responses and observations:

- Burch Smith’s fastball gets on hitters quickly, allowing it to play up from the already solid 92-95 MPH. Do you think he’s for real or a fun 2-week success story?

- Austin Allen’s swing has looked a bit long and slow to me, but then he launched that HR so what do I know? Behind the plate, I have noticed that he seems adept at framing. He also looks a bit slow releasing the ball on throws to 2B.

- Mark Canha has become one of the toughest at bats in the league. He is threatening to vie for “one of the best Rule 5 pickups in the non Johan Santana/Josh Hamilton division”.

Thoughts? Agreements? Disagreements? Additions? Vitriol for the team heading to the Coliseum tomorrow night? You don’t have to pick just one.