You’d imagine a team with 12 wins on June 4 would have its fair share of worries. Heading for a record number of losses, the A’s 12-49 are probably best defined by the following stat, and let’s face it, while it’s hard to surprise anyone with a stat when a team has been this bad, even so this particular stat it’s kinda impressive.
The 2023 Oakland A’s are now 1-25 in daytime games. Phew. While they are a stout 11-24 under the lights.
1-25, friends. HA HA HA.
Regardless, the good news is that tomorrow’s game is a night game in Pittsburgh, although the sun will still be shining at 4:05 pm PDT at home. That means the A’s have more than a 3.8% chance to prevail!
What are some of the learnings that help explain a team that is on pace to go 32-130? Obviously, free agent signings haven’t helped much, as Aledmys Diazco, Jace Petersuck, Drew Sucinksi, Shitaro Fujinami and Tremor May have contributed negative value. But they will not be present when the team intends to be at least competitive.
For me, Langeliers has been one of the big disappointments of 2023, as he seemed to have some “Sean Murphy lite” qualities that, even if he wasn’t a star in the making, made him a potential defensive receiver (because of his reputation in the minor leagues) with power to all fields.
Well, the arm plays — Langeliers leads the league with 16 runners caught stealing and was even at 17 for a few moments until replay ruled otherwise — but every other aspect of Shea’s defensive play leaves a lot to be desired.
Langeliers’ pitching framing categorizes as elite…mind bad, and this matches the eye test that sees him “stealing strikes” from his own pitchers time and time again. It doesn’t seem too difficult to catch a pitch and at least hold it for a moment for the umpire to see, if not catch it at the angle that allows the glove to catch as much of the plate as possible, but that skill has eluded the A’s catcher. .
This is of course when he catches the pitch. A key insurance run scored just today when a third strike went past Langeliers on a pass that allowed a running back to score from 3B.
When it comes to errant shots, Langeliers often fails to move his body laterally, looking for shots to the backhand side. This has allowed for many wild pitches that a more agile receiver could have avoided.
Meanwhile, some patterns are emerging on the plate. Nobody swings through fastballs in the zone quite like Langeliers, and of late he’s been expanding the zone to swing through quite a few fastballs out of the zone as well.
And while it’s true that when it makes contact, the ball jumps hard and away from his bat, those results are few and far between: Langeliers currently sits at .217/.286/.383 with a 29.1% K rate. .
According to Fangraphs, Langeliers has posted -0.1 WAR so far this season, which seems about right. For a headliner in the Matt Olson trade and the impetus to “break away from” Sean Murphy, his progress thus far has been unsettling.
There are a lot of things to like about Ruiz, who has been a relatively bright spot in a dismal season, but there are also a lot of red flags. Ruiz’s initial reactions to fly balls remain poor, raising legitimate questions about whether CF is a position he can hold onto.
Fangraphs now have Ruiz, for the season, at -17.5 UZR and -12 DRS, the latter of which represents pace to finish at -32 DRS in 162 games. That’s… beyond horrible.
At the plate, since he lacks power, Ruiz’s value lies in his ability to get to base where he later has a lot of utility. But Ruiz’s OBP has settled to .331 and he only has the strength to get hit by 12 pitches (also a pace of 32 for the season).
Worryingly, Ruiz has a BB rate of just 3.9% to go along with his .082 ISO. You have to hit a LOT of singles to top that combo. And you better play defense.
What potentially saves both Ruiz and Langeliers is that they are both rookies who have the opportunity to improve in all facets of their game. But let’s just say there’s ample room for improvements that are frankly essential if either one is going to be part of a competitive A’s team.
Do not misunderstand. The most brilliant tactical manager blessed with the Midas touch could have the A’s in a world beating 15-46 or something. It is a bad team that whatever they do, the club will most likely lose.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that Kotsay has proven to be one of the worst tactical coaches I can remember in a long time. He is, as you’ve probably noticed, absolutely obsessed with platoon matches as if getting the platoon advantage is the be all and end all.
Flash back to May 25 when he intentionally walked Jarred Kelenic to load the bases, with rookie Garrett Acton on the mound in a tied game. Kotsay overlooked the problem of walking the bases loaded on purpose: putting the reliever’s back against the wall with no room to work. To no one’s surprise (except perhaps his manager), Acton walked Eugenio Suárez to force in the go-ahead run.
Now fast forward to today, when Sam Moll came on in the bottom of the eighth with runners on 2B and 3B, one out, and the game tied 5-5. On the plate? Luis Arraez, who goes on to lead the world in .392 batting average with the uncanny contact skills to strike out exactly 5% of the time this season.
So what does Kotsay do? He draws the infield and throws to Arraez (probably because “it’s a left-on-left matchup!”). THIS is when you intentionally walk to load the bases. As if to drive home the point, after Arraez’s single to give the Marlins the lead, Moll struck out the next two batters.
And then there’s Kotsay’s infatuation with the bunt, as if the A’s have such a hard time scoring runs that they should do everything they can to play for a run, even in situations where The Book notes that run expectation doesn’t get much better. by going out on purpose.
He plays with Ruiz, the only hitter he has who has excelled hitting with RISP and who leads the team in batting average. He bunts to play for the tie when he has a lousy bullpen, and when a sacrifice brings up especially terrible hitters, sometimes the #8 and #9 hitter, to try to get a run.
It’s simply a “lack of game sense” combined with “lack of understanding of the odds” that is alarming, or at least would be if the team were playing for anything other than record levels of futility.
Anyway, just a few wasted thoughts to darken your night after the mandatory defeat of the day. I’ll try to have some sun to throw at you next time!