Note: You may have noticed I am not writing as much right now. You may also have noticed that Oakland’s teachers and educators are on strike. I am part of the “big bargaining team” negotiating with the district (I am representing the 50 counselors in OUSD) and it is an exhaustive process right now that is consuming most of my available time and energy. Once the strike is settled, I will be able go back to giving AN the attention it deserves. This article was written prior to Sunday morning’s game and thus reflects stats from before today’s series finale.
The A’s are 0.3-eleventeen gazillion because of historic failures by the rotation, a lousy bullpen, and too many “representative product” position players who are allergic to the Mendoza line.
Yet there really are building blocks emerging for a team that is eagerly awaiting the arrivals of Tyler Soderstrom and Zack Gelof from AAA and for the significant potential Lawrence Butler and Denzel Clarke offer in AA.
Today the Eyeball Scout offers observations about whether a couple of the bright spots we have seen so far are “nice stories amidst the horror” or might actually be “keepers” for a contending team...
Without question, from the standpoint of making games interesting to watch in a losing season Ruiz has been one of the highlights of the young season. But it’s also important to remember that Rajai Davis was just that in 2010.
As far as how good he appears to be, to me Ruiz has been a mixed bag with plenty of pros but also some worrisome associated cons.
Pro: The much ballyhooed speed is real. Ruiz has gotten on base enough (.340 OBP) to parlay his speed into a league leading 16 SB in 17 attempts. That puts Ruiz on pace to steal 74 bases this season, while doing so at a 94% success rate. That speed has also manifested itself in offering CF range at a position in which closing speed is an essential trait.
Con: All that speed has not, in a 34 game sample, produced results in CF. (Fangraphs has him at an alarming -6 DRS.)
Ruiz seems to think he has to dive for balls he has the speed to run down by using his elite closing speed. Sometimes he looks like that 9 year old kid at the park, slowing down so he can be forced to dive for a ball he could have just put in his hip pocket. At other times, Ruiz is forced to use that speed to overcome a bad read. All of this can, hopefully, be explained by his relative inexperience in CF but he is certainly very much a work in progress.
Pro: Ruiz has shown the ability to work long counts and appears to be a hitter who could produce a high BB rate, which is an essential trait for a leadoff hitter with blinding speed but not a lot of power.
At times Ruiz has impressively laid off chase pitches or taken very close pitches in which he channeled his inner Jed Lowrie to spit on, and he has often sustained these qualities with 2 strikes.
Con: None of this has translated yet into an acceptable BB rate, as Ruiz currently sits at 2.8%. For perspective, noted hacker Ryon Healy ended his career at 4.7% and the much maligned Jordan Diaz currently sits at a career 2.4%.
Ruiz may be skilled at getting to ball 3 and at avoiding strike 3 (his 17.2% K rate is good), but he has yet to begin walking at anything but a terribad rate.
Pro: I really like Ruiz’ ability to hit to all fields, turning on mistakes to rip them to LF, using the whole field to knock balls up the middle and spray them to RF, and especially his ability to go “inside out” by staying “inside the ball” and guiding inside pitches to RF. It’s an approach that predicts Ruiz can hit for a decent BA despite his low exit velocities (currently 85.8 MPH average).
Con: I worry a lot about Ruiz’ lack of opposite field power. RFers are playing him shallower and shallower, and what you don’t see is balls getting hit over their heads. (Ruiz did hit one to right-center Saturday night that chased the OFers near the warning track and that was maybe the most encouraging “off field power” I have seen so far.)
Ruiz appears to be a hitter who can produce good exit velocities to LF, but who can only “find holes” with middling to poor EVs to the off field. This has produced an .078 ISO that translates to .352 SLG.
What does this all add up to? I guess you would have to say that Ruiz is currently a lot like Rajai Davis was his entire career, but with upside to develop his CF defense, his ability to draw walks, and his “power swing” to keep defenses honest.
He has certainly been fun and exciting, and he is a “keeper” — for now.
First let’s take a moment to appreciate how great Noda’s first 5 weeks in the big leagues have been. Despite being a rookie, Noda has a .263/.427/.488 (.915 OPS) slash line that would make even Matt Olson jealous, a truly elite 20.2% BB rate, and 1B defense that has shown good hands and great range chasing foul fly balls (a strength the Coliseum only highlights).
What the Eyeball Scout also loves about Noda is that despite his large and somewhat bulky frame he has good speed and a keen ability to go 1B to 3B on base hits. He also seems to have good hands at 1B on difficult to handle ground balls.
Obviously if Noda were to put up these kinds of numbers every 5 weeks he would be a star. The question is: what are his weaknesses that will be exploited and will force him to adjust back? Here’s what I’m seeing...
The knock on Noda, as a prospect, was that you could beat him with high octane fastballs and while that is true (perhaps a tradeoff for seeing pitches so long and not chasing very many changeups) I see a different glaring weakness pitchers are going to exploit more and more.
Noda’s kyrptonite, as I see it, is the hard slider or cutter under the hands from a RHP. If you throw it off the plate, starting it on the inside corner, despite his incredibly patient and discerning eye Noda will usually take an empty swing at it.
Look for pitchers to throw that increasingly to Noda and we will see how he adjusts. There is certainly swing and miss in his game, along with some called third strikes that reflect that patience is only usually a good thing, that has produced a strikeout in 1/3 of Noda’s plate appearances.
But the other 2/3? Oh man this guy has been good. He’s on pace for 4.8 WAR right now and has a chance to force Tyler Soderstrom to think about moving to the outfield if he doesn’t stick as a catcher. We might have 1B solved for a few years here.
I wish I could write more (cough Brent Rooker is awesome cough) but real life calls and if there is anything more dysfunctional than John Fisher, Dave Kaval, and the current state of the Oakland A’s it’s Oakland’s school district and I need to go continue to be part of that fight on behalf of Oakland’s children, teachers, and educators. Talk to you soon, I hope!