By Jason Wojciechowski on April 18, 2012 at 7:35 PM
I write from a hotel in an undisclosed location, having just had the chance to watch last night's A's win over the Angels. Since tonight's game has already started (that's my cut-off for full vs. short recaps), some bullets:
Brian Runge's strike zone was enormous. You probably could have fit two whole Molinas in that thing. Dan Haren made the best use of it of anyone who pitched, of course, and he got some Glavinian strike calls as the night wore on. Daric Barton took exception to a strike three call at one point, and, sure, the ball was probably outside, but it was also in basically the same spot as about ten other pitches that had previously been labeled strikes.
Daric Barton's homer was nice to see, by the way. He doesn't have a lot of power, but when Haren left a splitter out over the plate, it made me happy that Barton was able to do something with it besides line a single or double. First basemen really should be able to punish mistakes, at the very least, and while this homer wasn't exactly punishing in quality (it went out down the right-field line, and Hit Tracker measured it at just 366 feet, not even a warning-track shot had it gone to a gap), it still resulted in a run.
Tyson Ross was impressive in a lot of ways. I counted twenty-one balls in play against him, seventeen of which were hit on the ground. That's a tremendously fantastic ratio. He didn't walk a single batter, so his mediocre strikeout rate (just three in 24 batters) mattered less. He also threw about 2/3 strikes, which is probably the biggest key for Ross. His mechanics don't seem conducive to consistently pitching in the zone, so when he's able to do that, given the movement he gets on his nasty sinker and the velocity on his fastball, he can be pretty damn good.
Josh Reddick's arm is a wonder to behold. I wrote at Baseball Prospectus facetiously about Coco Crisp's arm being my favorite tool in baseball (it's just so hilarious), but outside of Yoenis Cespedes's power, Reddick's shoulder-mounted laser might be my favorite thing to watch in this young season. He's got four assists already, and he made a gorgeous pin-point throw to third to get Albert Pujols trying to get there from first on a single in the fourth. Pujols is slow, sure, but it still look a hard, on-the-money throw to get him, and that's exactly what Reddick did. Ray Fosse was downright delighted by the play, and I join him in those feelings.
Kevin Jepsen is not a bad reliever, and the contrast of styles between him and sinker/slider guy David Carpenter (who I'd never seen before, largely because he is a rookie with 4 2/3 innings under his belt) could have made for a stalled-out eighth inning. Instead, the A's capitalized on Jepsen's wildness, putting Cliff Pennington and Jemile Weeks on base via the walk before Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and Yoenis Cespedes went single-double-single to turn the A's frown (deficit) upside down (into a lead).
His player card says it was his second stolen base, but Cespedes's steal in the eighth was the first I remembered seeing. He got a good jump and Carpenter has a high leg kick, so his speed carried him into second on a headfirst slide with only a nominal attempt to actually make a throw-and-tag on him. Erick Aybar received the toss from Chris Iannetta, but mostly just stood there to make sure that Cespedes didn't over-slide the bag or something.
The best part is that Cespedes stole the base so forcefully that he busted his belt in the process. The man is even a beast on his accessories.
Josh Donaldson made some nice defensive plays, and also screwed up a throw in the eighth pretty badly, making Daric Barton have to jump and allowing the runner to reach for no good reason. If I had to guess, I would say that Donaldson is probably an adequate defender coming in with solid range to his left and an ok arm. The problem so far has been his hitting. It's just 29 trips to the plate, so it's far too early to make any judgments, but I'm pretty sure we all miss Scott Sizemore right now.
I'm really really liking Ryan Cook.