Athletics

Will a different hitting approach equal more runs for the A's in 2017?

Will a different hitting approach equal more runs for the A's in 2017?

OAKLAND — After collecting hits and runs by the bunches for much of the Cactus League schedule, the A’s wobbled to the spring training finish line as an offense.

They scored just four runs total in getting swept by the Giants in the Bay Bridge Series, capped by Saturday’s 6-3 loss in which No. 4 starter Andrew Triggs looked shaky for the second outing in a row. Not that the annual exhibition series is ever an indicator of what’s to come in the regular season, but A’s manager Bob Melvin would have liked a better showing against the rival club.

“I didn’t particularly care for the last three games,” Melvin said. “That’s not the way we want to end the spring.”

The A’s did swing the bats a little better Saturday, after mustering just one run total over two nights at AT&T Park. As the season opens Monday night with a four-game home series against the Los Angeles Angels, it’s the beginning of a test to see if Oakland really can transform into a different offensive club as Melvin hopes.

Last year, the A’s were the lowest-scoring American League team primarily because they struggled so much getting on base. Their .304 on-base percentage was last in the league, and the lowest by an Oakland team since 1979. To that end, the A’s are embarking on quite the challenge:

Become a better on-base team without having significantly changed the offensive personnel in that part of the game. Right fielder Matt Joyce is the only new addition who arrives with a track record as a high on-base percentage guy.

So the A’s focus all spring was on becoming a more patient team at the plate, working counts more and taking more walks. Taking the entire 34-game exhibition schedule into account, the results were encouraging.

The A’s entered Saturday fourth in the Cactus League in walks (131) and on-base percentage (.353). Melvin liked what he saw in his hitters in that department.

“I do like the at-bats,” he said Saturday morning. “I do like the fact that everybody’s bought into it for the most part, understanding that that’s what we have to do to be successful. Sometimes it’s just bringing in a couple guys that (could) increase that. It rubs off on the other guys.”

He’s referring primarily to Joyce, the nine-year veteran who shapes up as a critical piece for the A’s. He’s batted anywhere from first through third in the order this spring, and it was interesting that he hit leadoff Saturday with Rajai Davis down in the ninth spot.

“It’s one of our lineups,” Melvin said. “It might not be Monday’s lineup, but it’s one of our lineups.”

Surely, Davis will see his share of time in the leadoff spot too. His speed is a huge threat once he gets on base, but getting there is the issue. His career .314 on-base percentage does not mesh perfectly with how the A’s are hoping to improve this season offensively.

Joyce, who got on base at a .403 clip as a part-time player last year with Pittsburgh, hit just .196 this spring but entered Saturday tied for the Cactus League lead with 14 walks. He was asked how his approach changes based on whether he’s hitting first, second or third.

“I think it just depends on the game, depends on who’s pitching, depends on the situations that present themselves,” Joyce said. “You just have to watch the game and dictate what your approach is going to be and what you’re trying to do depending on those situations. For me, I still wanna be aggressive on pitches that I’m looking for early in the count and have that aggressive mindset.”

**

Triggs gave up a grand slam to Nick Hundley in the fourth inning Saturday and also hit two batters. In his final two spring starts combined, the right-hander allowed 14 hits and 12 earned runs over 7 1/3 innings.

“He’s got to throw the ball over the plate a little more precisely at times,” Melvin said. “His breaking ball wasn’t as consistent as it normally is, and therefore he threw a little bit of a hanger to Hundley.”

Triggs felt he had a productive day in that he wanted to work on his cutter, and he thought he threw some good ones.

“I accomplished what I was trying to do,” he said. “The results obviously need to be better than what they were. But in terms of pitch selection and getting ready for Thursday night, I was pretty pleased.”

 

Deion Sanders explains why Kyler Murray should pick baseball over NFL

deionsandersgiants1995ap.jpg
AP

Deion Sanders explains why Kyler Murray should pick baseball over NFL

If anyone knows what Kyler Murray is going through right now, it's Deion Sanders.

"Prime Time" is one of the most successful two-sport athletes. He played 14 seasons in the NFL with five teams, was a six-time All-Pro and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Sanders also played parts of nine MLB seasons with four teams, including 52 games with the Giants.

So does the NFL Network analyst believe Murray, whom the A's took No. 9 overall in last year's MLB draft, made the right choice by declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft on Monday?

"If I'm in his shoes, I'm picking up that baseball bat and I'm not looking back," Sanders told ESPN's Cari Champion on Monday night.

Why?

"Because, that's just for me," Sanders said. "Sometimes, I still have regret that I didn't give [baseball] more. But you know, I got a gold [Hall of Fame] jacket in the closet. I'm straight. But I wish I would have given [baseball] more.

"But for Kyler, that's tough at his position, and I don't think he realizes the ridicule you go through once you declare and say, 'I'm going to be a football player.' Now people start talking about your height, your size, what you can't do. He hasn't dealt with that yet."

NFL experts and scouts are torn on the Heisman Trophy winner. Several outlets have released mock drafts that project Murray as a first-round pick. But NFL Network's Ian Rapoport has spoken to some NFL scouts who believe Murray will fall to the second or third round.

Sanders is, excited, though, to see what Murray does in the future.

"I think he can do whatever he wants to do," Sanders said. "He's that type of athlete."

Why Kyler Murray's 2019 NFL Draft decision makes sense for A's prospect

Why Kyler Murray's 2019 NFL Draft decision makes sense for A's prospect

Kyler Murray's heart appears set on playing football.

The 21-year-old officially declared for the 2019 NFL Draft on Monday, which doesn't completely close the door on a professional baseball career with the A's. But the odds aren't in Oakland's favor.

It makes sense when you really think about it. Murray grew up in Texas, where football isn't just a sport, it's a religion. He's probably dreamed of being an NFL quarterback his entire life. Now, that dream can become a reality.

Murray is projected by some football evaluators to be a first-round draft pick, possibly even going in the top 10. How can he turn down that opportunity?

Murray is a special talent, and he clearly has potential in both baseball and football. But let's be honest. At this point, he's a far better football player than baseball player.

In his last baseball season at Oklahoma, he hit .296 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI in 51 games. Those certainly are good numbers, but they're far from great in college baseball.

To put it in perspective, 117 Division I players hit .350 or better last year. Sixty-four players hit at least 15 home runs. While Murray might have an extremely high ceiling in professional baseball, he still must develop a great deal.

That's certainly not his fault. He just hasn't played nearly as much baseball as his peers. Even if Murray did fulfill his potential as a big-leaguer, it likely wouldn't be for at least a few years, as he has a lot of catching up to do.

Meanwhile, on the football field, Murray already is an elite quarterback. He has unbelievable speed and athleticism, not to mention a strong arm. So what if he's 5-foot-9? Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson isn't much taller and has done just fine in the NFL.

Many fans have argued Murray should choose baseball because professional baseball players make more money than football players. That's not necessarily true.

MLB players can make a ton of money but not for several years. Minor-league players make pennies, and young major leaguers earn well under $1 million per year in their first few seasons. The big contracts don't come until much later.

Who's to say Murray definitely will develop into a major-league outfielder? We've seen countless first-round picks fail to materialize the way teams had hoped. Someone can have all the talent and athleticism in the world, but that doesn't mean he can hit a 98-mph fastball or a 12-to-6 curve.

In the NFL, however, first-round picks are paid right away, especially quarterbacks. Last year, Baker Mayfield received a signing bonus of nearly $22 million, and more than $32 million guaranteed after being picked first overall. Fellow top-10 quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen all earned signing bonuses of more than $10 million and were guaranteed over $17 million in their contracts, far more than Murray's $4.66 million signing bonus with the A's.

Of course, Murray's decision really should just come down to which sport he loves more. Unfortunately for the A's, the answer appears to be football. Last month, he was asked if he would rather win a Heisman Trophy or a World Series.

"I'd rather win a Heisman," Murray said.

Maybe we should have listened.