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2 Weeks In: Eyeball Scout Notes

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Toronto Blue Jays
“Hi ho, Christian thee Bethancourt here...”
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

You don’t need an Eyeball Scout to see that the A’s are 8-6 or that Little Nick Allen is adorable. I’m here to point out the more subtle observations from a pleasantly surprising two weeks of baseball. So here are some very fine points I have noticed, for your reading and commenting pleasure...

Bethancourt’s Kermit The Frog Swing

Christian Bethancourt’s swing intrigues me. Now I’m not a “swing mechanics” guy, but the way Bethancourt swings stands out to me as very odd.

Generally what you want to do is to engage the lower half of your body and rotate the hips so that as you swing, your legs, hips and arms are working in concert to generate strength. But when you watch Bethancourt, you will see him engage his legs and hips and then almost as a completely separate event he hits the ball with a swing that is “all arms” following his already corkscrewed body.

Thus the swing itself reminds me of Kermit The Frog when he is wildly applauding a special guest. Wouldn’t it be better if all these body parts were working in concert? Is anyone else seeing this? Or do I just see the entire world in Muppet?

Bullpen: Wheat/Chaff Report

I once used the terms “wheat” and “chaff” to describe players who were actually worthy and ones who just looked nice in a baseball uni, and it stuck. 2 weeks in, here’s what I’ve seen so far from the A’s collection of unknown castaways whose main credentials on April 8th were “not being named Romo, Diekman, or Petit”.

Wheat (could be keepers):

- Dany Jimenez His slider is filthy and deceptive, and as the last pitch of the game showed it will force batters to focus so much on it they will take fastballs down the middle. Control has been a career issue for Jimenez, but confidence may bring more strikes and he is one of those relievers a batter doesn’t want to face down in the count.

- Zach Jackson His sharp 12-to-6 slider reminds me of Peter Fairbanks and while I don’t expect Jackson necessarily to have a great long career, he seems like the kind of reliever who might have a couple really good seasons on the way to obscurity. The stuff plays.

- Ryan Castellani He’s a sinker/slider guy who reminds me a bit of Jeff Tam, who put a couple strong seasons together out of the blue and then went back to being “some generic sinker/slider dude”.

- Sam Moll Moll has become a legitimately hard thrower (94 MPH) with a big curve, and may have elevated himself from “journeyman” to “actual high leverage reliever”.

Don’t get me wrong, others (Domingo Acevedo, A.J. Puk, Kirby Snead, Jake Lemoine, Justin Grimm) have done some good things, but the above 4 are the ones who have grabbed my attention in the early going.

Nick Allen Cutting The Bases

Good on Ken and Vince for noticing on the radio broadcast: Nick Allen cut the bases beautifully twice in scoring his first big league run. On his double, Allen cut a tight turn around 1B, and then cut the 3B bag expertly again to score on the Sheldon Neuse base hit. A wide turn around 3B and Allen might have been thrown out at the plate. Good to see a rookie doing “the little things” right, especially when he is a little thing.

Let me take this opportunity to repeat my request, to A’s brass, for a promotional night: Nick Allen Troll Doll giveaway. It’s a cute little Nick Allen doll where you can pop off the head and inside...there’s an even smaller Nick Allen doll, where you can pop the head off and inside that...there’s an even smaller Nick Allen doll!

This might be expensive, so perhaps it’s for only “the first 7 fans,” but that should be half the crowd anyway.

Is Sheldon Neuse For Real?

Real or not he’s been a godsend this week, now batting .368 for a team absent Kevin Smith, Jed Lowrie, and Chad Pinder from its potential infield.

I like Neuse’s swing itself, but always felt he was late on fastballs with too long a path to the ball. What I’m seeing right now is that Neuse is offsetting the problem by hitting everything to the right side, which allows him to see pitches that much longer. It’s an approach I wish more hitters took, as I think “trying to pull everything” is kryptonite to so many batters.

Neuse has worn out the RF line, and the right side hole, be it with line drives or seeing-eye bouncers and it is disguising, for the moment, his weakness of needing to “cheat” to the pitch in order to pull it.

Is this sustainable long term? No. Neuse will have to catch up to a decent fastball, and pull pitches without “cheating” to get to them, in order to succeed for more than a week. But man is it coming at a great time.

Meanwhile, Paul Blackburn please continue to make me look foolish for my skepticism, Daulton Jefferies please continue to make us Cal Bears proud, and Sean Murphy please continue to be a god among men. I welcome your thoughts!