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A’s Reeling From A Putrid First 48 Hours

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MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics
“I think my 3B coach is in RF...”
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Hopefully the A’s just played their two worst games of the year, because if the Eyeball Scout sees much more like Thursday’s and Friday’s efforts he is going to have to go full Oedipus and gouge his eyes out. At least in Oedipus’ case, he got some.

The next time the A’s decide they should try to sneak a high fastball past Alex Bregman, they should increase their chances of success by trying instead to sneak a sunrise past a rooster. But that is just the tip of the epic fail iceberg that was the season’s first 48 hours.

Friends keep trying to reassure me by reminding me that it’s a long season, to which I reply, “Well if they play like this it sure will be.” Having spent 3 hours a day being vaguely irritated, let me offer some constructive advice:

Jesus Luzardo

Luzardo is getting beaten almost exclusively on his fastball, and this is partly because he is underutilizing his changeup. Luzardo’s changeup is pretty elite and has great deception, which makes it a highly effective pitch but also one that makes his fastball play better when he does throw it.

Luzardo threw his changeup 12% of the time last night, but should be closer to 20% in order to keep that pitch in the very front of the batter’s mind.

Matt Chapman

Chappie looks pretty lost at the plate and it looks to me as if he is pulling off pitches, which is why he is fouling off pitches right down the middle.

The quickest remedy is to think “right-center field” and this happens to align with Chapman’s strength: When he is at his best, he is often driving a lot of balls to right-center.

We will know Chapman is back when we see a double lofted off the high wall.

Reliever Choices

Obviously it is challenging to manage a bullpen well when most of your relievers pitch badly. Jake Diekman gave up two runs in 2/3 of an inning last night, and in doing so became the most effective LH reliever yet.

The only move I have really taken issue with was Thursday night, when Melvin selected Yusmeiro Petit to try to wriggle out of a 2 on, 1 out jam. It’s great that Melvin has so much trust in Petit, and seems to think he’s a fine choice for a mid-inning jam, but this is simply not the right use of a “crafty, durable, versatile reliever”.

Petit is valuable for his ability to pitch multiple innings, pitch often, and provide mentorship for the rest of the bullpen. But for a “janitor” (Melvin’s term for a reliever who inherits a mess and cleans it up), you need someone who misses bats and/or dominates same side hitters, and Petit is neither.

Lou Trivino is a good option, whereas Petit is better off given a clean inning. Thursday night, Melvin used the right pitchers but in the wrong order. Live and learn, I hope.

Fundamentals

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the A’s first two games has been the complete lack of basics that go back to Little League.

There is no excuse for the gaffe Elvis Andrus committed when he allowed Jose Altuve to tag up from 3B on basically an infield pop up. No, Andrus wasn’t caught off guard because Altuve tagged up unexpectedly — Altuve only tagged up when he saw that Andrus was lackadaisically getting under it flat-footed and not preparing himself for a throw.

The proper play is simply to act as if the runner could be tagging up, to get behind the ball and catch it preparing to throw. This is just basic fundamentals, and it was embarrassing to see a 12-year veteran approach it like a 12 year old who who doesn’t listen at practice.

And Karma has bitten Ramon Laureano for the stupid that is mistaken for hustle: diving head first into first base, which only slows you down. Laureano was not only out on a bang-bang play in which he might have been safe had he run through the bag, he hurt his hand and became the third key player in a week to go down (Trevor Rosenthal, Sean Murphy, and now Laureano).

Earlier on his triple, Laureano slowed himself down by watching the ball as he ran, instead of watching third base coach Mark Kotsay. We see this mistake all the time, but A’s coaches need to address it.

How to catch a pop up, how to run to first base, and how to run the bases: these are Little League skills, and the A’s can do better.

Moving Forward...

Let’s hope Cole Irvin has some magic today, because while there are no “must-wins” in game 3 of a 162 game season, a win would go play a long, long way to raising the spirits of deflated A’s fans. I do believe the A’s will have a lead sometime this season, and I can’t wait.