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Elephant Rumblings: Opening Day lessons for the rest of the A’s series in Philly

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Oakland Athletics v. Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It’s the weekend, Athletics Nation!

The Athletics took a loss on Opening Day for the second year in a row. The game wasn’t a complete drubbing though, the A’s put up a fight after getting used to Aaron Nola’s repertoire. While their successes weren’t enough to put a W on the board for the first game there are still a few things that if repeated, could lead to success over the weekend.

Strike while the park factors are hot:

Citizens Bank Park is the sixth-most hitter-friendly ballpark in the majors, and those factors have only been getting stronger year-over-year. A big bonus for the A’s specifically is the fact that in both left and right field the outfield walls are as far as ten feet shallower than in Oakland. This has already provided a direct benefit to the A’s, as Chad Pinder’s home run yesterday was hit 386 feet and would have dropped on the warning track at the Coliseum.

Citizens Bank Park’s outfield fences (in grey) compared to the Coliseum
via Baseball Savant

The Phillies’ park is very homer-friendly and the A’s have plenty of swing-happy hitters. The symmetry of the porches also means that the advantage is open to both lefties and righties (and switch-hitting Jeds).

Trouble with the curve:

Aaron Nola took advantage of the A’s with his knuckle curve. It’s a go-to out pitch for Nola, who has success getting it to land in the lower-right corner of the strike zone. Nola threw his knuckle curve for nearly a third of his pitches yesterday, and it also generated the most swing-and-misses of any of his repertoire. The only hitter that seemed to be immune to the knuckle curve was Seth Brown, who was able to generate contact on 60% of the ones he saw, including hitting the last knuckle curve that Nola threw 407 feet into right field.

Today, the A’s face Phillies starter Kyle Gibson, who’s repertoire features a sinking curve for an out pitch, just like Nola. On Sunday the A’s are up against Zach Eflin, who (you guessed it) has a get-out-of-jail curve as well. Both pitchers also have sliders that are their second-most used pitch, especially Eflin who relies on his slider a quarter of the time. Against both starters the Athletics hitters’ best chance will be to ride the fastball. Both pitchers’ fastballs average in the low 90s, meaning the A’s shouldn’t be too overmatched by speed. A’s batters watched a majority of fastballs in the zone come in without swinging on Friday, but to take advantage of increased exit velocity and home run chances they should lay off the stuff with movement and sit fastball for the weekend.

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