By Jason Wojciechowski on May 3, 2012 at 9:00 AM
4-2 wins are the kind that sort of define A's baseball. (Also 4-1 losses.) The A's got an early run on a hard Seth Smith line single after a Yoenis Cespedes double and later, in the sixth inning, had a doubles party, hitting three two-baggers in four batters (the fourth was Kurt Suzuki, who took a pitch off his hand), resulting in three runs and a 4-0 lead that Brandon McCarthy, Ryan Cook, and Brian Fuentes made stand up.
Grant Balfour had the night off completely, so even when a save situation arose in the ninth, he stayed seated. The wisdom of such a course of action is yet another of those "who knows" plays -- Bob Melvin only has limited access to Balfour's psychology, but he's sure as hell got a lot more access than we do. If he thinks that Balfour needed a day (or two, given today's off-day) to clear his head and that such head-clearing would result in better pitching, well, then that's what Bob Melvin thinks.
Brandon McCarthy mostly looked good, despite three walks. So far this year, he's nearly doubled the percentage of batters faced that he's walked (3.6% to 6.6%), but some of that is probably that last year's rate was unsustainable. The 2012 walk rate is still quite acceptable. The more alarming numbers are the strikeouts (13.2%, exactly double the walks, after a ratio closer to 6:1 last year). The ground-balls, per Baseball Prospectus, are also down a tick (48% last year, 45% this year), but I'll wait and see on that one.
When you add all this up, we're still talking about an FIP in the mid-threes and an FRA (Baseball Prospectus's main pitcher rate stat -- glossary entry here) right around league-average, but McCarthy falling from "above to well-above average" to "average to above-average" isn't a terribly hopeful sign if you'd like to see him stay in Oakland a few more years.
That said, we're talking about 1/4 of the starts / innings / batters faced that we're expecting from him, so there's still plenty of time for him to turn it around. It's not quite a "small sample thus it's meaningless" situation, but it's hardly too late for something to re-click with McCarthy and his command.
Yoenis Cespedes's double in the fourth inning was quite impressive because the pitch was a full-count slider that was away from him and not terribly high. It might've been a strike, but it looked to me like a good pitcher's pitch. Cespedes hit it off the Green Monster. Power sure comes in handy sometimes.
Bless Bobby Valentine for asking Marlon Byrd to bunt in the fifth inning, with runners on first and second and nobody out. Two foul balls later, Brandon McCarthy had a free 0-2 count.
Kila Ka'aihue swings hard. Clayton Mortensen victimized him on a changeup late in the game for a swinging strike, but Ka'aihue has been right on top of any mistake pitches pitchers have given him lately. His season OBP is up to .375, though he's still slugging under .400. His scoops at first have looked good, though he's not terribly mobile at the position. I don't know what to think between him and Daric Barton. Ka'aihue is obviously outperforming him right now, but it's 56 plate appearances each. (Weirdly.)
Ryan Cook still doesn't seem to know where his ball is going all the time (the walk to Dustin Pedroia was not pretty, and David Ortiz's double that would have been a homer in many parks was on a pitch right down the middle that you'd never throw to any hitter, certainly not one of Ortiz's stature, literally and metaphorically), but when it's in the places that you generally want pitches, hitters seem to have a lot of trouble hitting it. The slider he threw to Adrian Gonzalez to strike him out with the bases loaded was a thing of beauty.