By Jason Wojciechowski on March 31, 2014 at 10:56 PM
I've spent the last goodness even knows how long trying to get the A's-Indians game to work in the MLB.tv archive. It has been so far fruitless. The stream crashes in the Flash player (which is nice and likely in the long run will not be nearly as frustrating as NexDef) every couple of minutes, and it's impossible to find your way back to the spot you left it in. So this leaves me with the substandard iPad player, which doesn't have the "clickable linescore" that the browser version has, meaning that you just have to drag the little bar around to try to get where you want to go and can't effectively skip the between-innings breaks, even streaming.
In any event, notes as I view:
You know the phrase "put on a clinic"? Usually you say that someone puts on a clinic in a good thing, like "he put on a shooting clinic" when a basketball player hits 15 of his 20 field goal attempts. Well, John Jaso put on a horrific-framing clinic in the first inning, and we should get used to that. Glen 'n' Ray talked a bunch about how Sonny Gray wasn't missing by much, but neglected to mention Jaso's wild stabs at the ball on even the simplest pitches. I'm not a scout, and I'm influenced by the stats we have available to us, but I'd like to think that even I could recognize in the absence of said stats that Jaso is costing his pitchers strikes (runs).
Jason Kipnis is beefy.
Yoenis Cespedes opens the year by whiffing on a slider eight feet outside. I guess we're in for a season, eh.
The loving portrait of the Coliseum's new food, with salivating discussion and shots of a bunch of craft beer taps, was the highlight of the broadcast. Do all baseball booth teams love food as much as Glen 'n' Ray? Or is it their thing? I can't imagine baseball without Ray demanding Dippin' Dots.
It's kind of amazing how hard it is to run a crisp rundown. Sonny Gray did a nice job in the fourth inning of grabbing the comebacker and then making the correct initial play of sprinting directly at the baserunner, but then he threw the ball to Josh Donaldson too early, which allowed the runner to stay alive long enough to let the runner on second move up to third. End result was taking 2-3/1 out to 1-3/2 outs, but not as good as it could have been. Compared to 1-2/2 outs, it's about four hundredths of a run. That's not much, but if you do it 25 times, that's a run! Do it 250 times and ... okay, fine, it's just not much in general. Still: the basic rules of the rundown were drilled into my head so long ago and have surely been even more drilled into these players' heads, and yet they still make many of the same mental mistakes that high school players make. It's hard! Remember that that's my point here -- not that MLB players are dumb, but that it's hard.
Cespedes' second time up, he pulled off a slider that was over the plate though probably on the outer half and popped it up on the infield. He was pretty well fooled and out in front and got nothing at all on the swing, and obviously got well under the ball to boot. Sliders! Throw him sliders.
I'm comfortable saying that Brandon Moss would not have made the play that Daric Barton made on Nyjer Morgan's bunt in the fifth inning. On the other hand, I'm comfortable saying that Brandon Moss might hit literally 10 to 15 times more homers this year than Barton.
The good ol' Josh Reddick Reputation almost certainly saved the A's a run in the sixth inning as a soft liner to right with Michael Brantley on second resulted in runners on the corners rather than Brantley attempting to score. He was already pretty well around third by the time Reddick even got to the ball. (And then the exciting multilayered play on the next batter solidified Reddick's save -- was Jaso blocking? Would replay overrule the call on the field, that Brantley was out and that Jaso didn't block? (Half of this was uncontroversial -- Brantley was tagged long before he got to home, but he was certainly impeded by Jaso. The new home plate rules are going to take some interpretation for a while before we understand what will be called blocking and what won't. Here, Jaso's foot was in front of the plate, but, as Glen 'n' Ray pointed out, it appeared that there was a "lane" to the outside that Brantley could have taken. We're learning!))
So many comebackers with runners on third! Two for the A's (on defense) and one for the Clevelands. Weird.
I like how pitchers who are known for "one pitch" actually wind up with such mastery of that pitch that it's effectively many pitches. Look at Luke Gregerson's slider(s), Bartolo Colon's fastball(s), Mariano Rivera's cutter(s). I'm not putting those all on the same quality level, but they share a certain similarity in the sense that talking about Gregerson's (singular) slider doesn't really do it justice, given his ability to throw it in various locations and with varying amounts of break. Want an illustration? On 0-1, Gregerson threw something at 77 mph that kiiiind of looked like it broke away from the (batting) lefty Nick Swisher, so it might have been a changeup, but you couldn't tell just from watching -- Glen 'n' Ray were mystified. Was that another slider? Who knows!
Gregerson, by the way, came one pitch away from an immaculate inning -- he had two three-pitch strikeouts and got an 0-2 flyout to Coco Crisp in center that, had it gone for a strikeout instead, would have allowed him automatic and immediate entry into the Baseball Hall of Hating Steroids.
Glen at one point said that Justin Masterson is "a big strong fella" and then added "so he's probably not going to get tired." That seems like a leap.
Sean Doolittle's first pitch of 2014 was a slider? Why! Why? Why. Don't do that. Why. (I take no position on effectiveness. I just like one-pitch pitchers. See above.)
Okay, fine, actually, after the dominant whiff-action Doolittle worked to blow through the eighth inning after the leadoff single, I take it back: it is about the effectiveness.
Interesting: with Rzepwhatever, a lefty, pitching in the eighth and Daric Barton due up first, Bob Melvin declined to pinch-hit with Alberto Callaspo. It worked out for Barton, as he smacked a hard single on the ground up the middle. I wonder whether Melvin will make a habit of this. I wonder whether Melvin believes in the reverse splits.
Also interesting: despite running with Barton against a lefty and therefore not really having a spot in which to meaningfully use Alberto Callaspo, Melvin went with Nick Punto against Rzepwhomnonce rather than Callaspo. Punto's the better defensive player, obviously, and maybe you don't want to burn two players for one spot, and you're really only going to use one of them (neither is going to pinch-hit for Jed Lowrie or Josh Donaldson), and you can always shift Punto to shortstop in the event of an emergency, whether he's already in the game or not, so I guess I'm not terribly surprised that Melvin would take the defense over the offense. Query whether the result would be the same if Barton had led off with a triple, thus creating a situation where making contact is worth more than anything.
Josh Donaldson's 8th inning single was the world's longest single. That was a friggin' bomb. An absolute monster.
Also? World's worst baserunning by Daric Barton by failing to go halfway, especially once Nyjer Morgan turned his back on the infield. Awful. Awful.
Jim Johnson is big.
The big single by David Murphy in the ninth against Johnson was still on the ground. It was fairly sharply hit, but that same sharpness is what makes it an easy double play if the angle changes by a few degrees. That's life as a groundballer, really, and you can't even blame this one on the infield defense, since Murphy hit the ball through a Barton-Punto hole, not a Moss-Callaspo (say) one.
Let me just note, having not noted this anywhere else, that the A's signing Joe Blanton is hilarious.
I think Glen called Jim Johnson "a strikeout pitcher"?
I'm a little surprised, two-run game with runners on and one out or not, to see Bob Melvin not just ride his closer and let him work out of the damage on Opening Day. Interesting, though I hope it's more interesting in a "let's all sit around and ponder this" way than a "reporters are going to ask him about this every single day until his brain flies out of his head and takes a hike" way.
Here's how I sum up this game: shit happens.