I predicted Ike Davis would be key for the Oakland Athletics in 2015, however I never expected it to be as a member of the bullpen.
I’m joking, really. But there is a lesson to be learned from Davis’s surprise inning of work in last night’s embarrassing 14-1 loss at the hands of the rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: just throw strikes. Davis threw nine pitches and six of them were strikes.
Get ahead in the count. Trust your stuff. Get batters out.
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Pitching can sometimes be as simple as that.
I’m going to pick on rookie starter Kendall Graveman. I think Graveman can be a star. In spring training he showed exactly why Billy Beane acquired in exchange for Josh Donaldson. In three regular season starts, however, Graveman looks lost in the woods. At times he gets ground balls as he should and the defense behind him lets him down. Other times he allows line drive base hits. And when he isn’t allowing singles through the infield holes he’s walking batters on four or five pitches.
The major league average strike percentage is 64. Graveman’s strike percentage in 2015 is 59.3. This isn’t a huge gap, but a few more strikes here and there can really make a difference.
I was in attendance in Anaheim for his start Monday night and he did not look good. He threw a first-pitch ball to 8 the of the 16 batters he faced.
He is a pitch-to-contact pitcher with a ground ball-oriented repertoire, throwing balls and walking batters is counterproductive to his strategy.
For guys like Graveman and R.J. Alvarez throwing strikes is key. Graveman needs contact to make outs and Alvarez cannot get behind batters if he wants to coax swings and misses on his electric slider.
The Oakland rotation and bullpen are full of talented pitchers. But their talent won’t lead to effectiveness if they aren’t throwing strikes.