Yes, today’s medley will include some bunting analysis, but first I want to draw your attention to the fact that during the Reagan administration, player A hit a slightly interesting home run and I also want to give an overview of today’s match: the teams will play against each other, with line-ups. Am I doing this correctly? 110 010011 00101 please click.
Anyway, during the offseason, I think I mentioned that without a lot of hitting talent, the A’s were going to have to adopt more “small ball” in order to coax runs. Mark Kotsay may have taken my suggestion to heart, along with the liver and spleen.
Kots seems to be really loving his bunts lately, to the point of perhaps forgetting that in most cases, sacrificial bunts really aren’t the best strategy. Where they make the most sense, in my opinion, are in the following situations:
– When you have a really bad hitter whose few skills include bunting and better hitters in front, a bunt can make a hitter useful who would otherwise likely make the inning worse. Nick Allen, sacrificing in front of the BA heavy hitters (pretend the A’s have one), may make sense.
– In the 9th inning of a tie game, where you are clearly playing for “one and only one” run, the marginal improvement in your “run expectation” by moving a runner to 2B with one out might be worth it.
– I am sometimes enamored with bunting with 2 over and 0 over, because placing runners in 2B and 3B with an out forces the defense/manager to make “winless” choices: play the back of the infield and concede a run even to a routine bouncer for 2B or SS, draw the infield at a time when a single can score 2 runs, or walk the bases loaded and face the next batter with “nowhere to put it.” There are several hitters (Allen, Kemp, Bolt, Stevenson) whose profiles make them relatively poor candidates to help produce a big inning but a good candidate to make a “productive outing” in this situation.
Lately, however, Kots has been buzzing like it’s going out of style. For example, the 7th inning yesterday, when Stevenson led off with a single and Kemp caught him. Granted, that satisfied the premise of trading Kemp for on-deck hitters Brown and Murphy, but the 7th is a bit early to play for a run and the run expectation upgrade is pretty marginal. Also, in Brown and Murphy, you have “high SLG, not high BA” hitters for whom getting a runner from 1B to 2B is less essential.
Ultimately, in this situation, what you’re doing more than anything is “giving up going out.” The A’s had 9 left and Kemp had a great 2-hit day with a few line shots, including the biggest hit of the game.
So yes, the 2022 A’s need to be more creative in producing attacks, and that includes bunting – but only when the situation really dictates that’s the best strategy. They need to run more because they’re not hitting enough, and I’d like to see hit and run used more, if only to force hitters like Allen and Bolt to swing for contact instead from flailing hard to the movement of the caster on each slider.
The best is yet to come
Just a reminder that the “first wave” of young talent (maybe that word should also be in quotes) is not the best wave of young talent – it’s just the group that was ready first.
Kevin Smith is shaping up to be either a utilitarian infielder or a bust, but Zack Gelof is the future starting infielder to be excited about and he’ll likely be seen in Oakland in 2023. compete for a job after spring training in 2023.)
Cristian Pache and Cal Stevenson are excellent defensive CFers with serious questions about their hitting (Pache’s ability to make contact, Stevenson’s ability to drive the ball). But hot on their heels is the electric Denzel Clarke, still in high A but rising fast.
1B has been a “revolving door of bleah” with something like 11 collectively disappointing candidates. If you’re not super excited about Jonah Bride and David McKinnon, Jordan Diaz’s .319/.361/.507 line earned him a AAA promotion at the age of 21 (he turned 22 last week ) and top prospect Tyler Soderstom, now at AA, finally sees a more structured time at 1B.
The future of the A rotation is not Adam Oller, Jared Koenig and Zach Logue. They are, however, Ken Waldichuk, Gunnar Hoglund and JT Ginn (and possibly my “dark horse” SP prospect, Ryan Cusick). Note that Hoglund and Cusick were 1st round picks, Ginn a 2nd round pick, and Waldichuk a 5th round pick knocking hard on the big league door.
So this current group, with the exception of Allen and now JP Sears, is mostly reserved for the best releases coming in the next season or two – at least if things go according to plan.
If you want to ditch 2023 before it arrives, feel free. I will even grant that, in all likelihood, the 2023 A-team, while far more interesting than the 2022 version, will likely lose more often than they win.
But baseball is the most unpredictable game, the sport in which the Giants inexplicably won 107 games last year while this year’s Yankees – once on pace with more than 120 wins, are on a slip of 3 at 14 in which their lineup of “murderers” can’t seem to score points.
If you feel like hoping, instead of giving up in advance, let’s use the Baltimore Orioles as a model. The Orioles lost 110 games last season, so a successful climb might look like ‘only losing 90’… but don’t tell the O’s who are entering a remarkable 62-58 record today, well on their way to finish 84-78.
That would be an astonishing 32 game improvement from season to season, and it’s not like they’re accomplishing it because they’ve gone out and signed a few stars to huge contracts. It was the Texas Rangers, who have since lost 66 of 120 games, plus a coach and a general manager. In fact, at the deadline, the Orioles presented themselves as “salesmen” moving midrange hitter and team leader Trey Mancini with a relentless eye on the future.
I’m not saying the A’s of 2023 will improve by 32 wins, although 2012 and 2018 should have taught us not to predict anything. What I’m saying is: it’s baseball. Let it unfold and expect to see some truly exciting talent soon.
Speaking of which, Sears takes the ball today, armed with a career 4-0, 1.95 ERA in the big leagues. If he’s our #5 SP in a few years, behind Hoglund, Ginn, Waldichuk and Irvin, this team could be more than ok…