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A’s Finding It Hard To Win With Half The Plate

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MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics
Make THEM flinch, not US.
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Fixing what ails a big league team is not easy, and anyone who tells you otherwise should be sent packing. However the Eyeball Scout has two observations to put forth today, and they have a certain symmetry.

For the A’s to take an important step forward, their hitters need to reclaim the outer half of the plate while their pitchers need to reclaim the inner half.

Hitters

It has been noted that the A’s hitters are being dominated on the slider so far this season, and this makes sense because while they have batters capable of using the whole field effectively, currently this is a group that is getting itself out on pitches away.

It’s not that we want Chapman, Murphy, Olson et al to become opposite-field singles hitters, it’s that once you show you can stroke the outside pitch the other way not only do you steal a few hits, you force pitchers not to rely on punching you out with the same sliders away again and again.

Control the outer half of the plate and you force pitchers to come inside where their mistakes more often leave the yard or lined up for extra base hits. Part of why the A’s are hitting So few homeruns (3 in 8 games) is that they are not forcing pitchers to throw riskier pitches often enough.

It may seem counterintuitive that spraying a single the other way is a pathway to launching homeruns, and yet it is all about controlling both halves of the plate.

Pitchers

Oakland’s pitchers have a different problem, that is their inability to take control of the inner half of the plate. This has been perhaps most evident in Yordan Alvarez’ success against, in particular, the A’s LHPs.

Alvarez, like his teammates and the Dodgers’ hitters, can dig in and extend his arms freely. I am not an “old school,” knock-’em-down type, but a pitcher does have to own the inside part of the plate and that means sometimes moving a hitter off the plate.

Make Alvarez flinch, and he is far less effective against LHP, far less effective against junk away. The A’s don’t need to start any beanball wars, but they do need control of both sides of the plate. Right now opposing hitters are far too comfortable in the box, and it shows in their swings and in their success.

So as you watch tonight’s game, and the ones that follow, keep an eye on on how the A’s hitters manage pitches away and how A’s pitchers manage pitching inside. And if you see A’s hitters spraying the ball the other way, and see A’s pitchers moving hitters off the plate, I predict you will also see the A’s begin to outscore their opponents on a much more regular basis.