The Oakland Athletics followed one of the most entertaining opening day games with a true dud of a game on Tuesday in their 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers. The offense was absent and gave first time A’s pitcher Jesse Hahn no run support to back up his respectable first outing.
Where did the offense go wrong on Tuesday night? The first pitch.
19 batters had first pitch called strikes in a game that only had 33 plate appearances which means 57% of the game, the Oakland Athletics were behind the count on the first pitch.
It has become a common strategy to let the first pitch go by without swinging and this strategy makes a lot of sense the first time through the lineup. Letting one go gives the batter an opportunity to get a ball or, worst case scenario, get a good feel for where the pitchers strikes are landing. On the second or third time through the lineup, though, batters need to start swinging at pitches they think they can hit.
The graph on the right indicates the called strikes from Tuesday’s game. While some of these strikes are questionable (a couple down pretty low, a few off to the left), there are a handful that are right down the middle and are, at the very least, pitches that batters should be taking swings at.
Obviously, there are other factors at play her. If the pitches drop late, the batter may think it’s going to be a ball and freeze up but that is why you let a pitch go in the first at bat and start swinging later. By the second time through the lineup, it was clear where these pitches were going and guys should have been swinging more.
The 2015 Oakland Athletics are not going to be a home run powerhouse and will be much more reliant on extra base hits, sacrifice RBI’s and bloop singles. The only way you get those things is by taking swings at balls that are right in the hitters sweet spot. This chart, which does include Texas’ called strikes, proves that batters are watching good pitches pass them by.
Plate discipline is incredibly important for the Oakland Athletics but if this season is going to be a successful one, the team is going to have to swing on the first pitch if it’s a hittable pitch because it may be the only good pitch they see for the entire at bat.