A.J. Griffin changes his repertoire and other links

By Jason Wojciechowski on March 5, 2014 at 11:42 PM

A.J. Griffin is ditching his cutter and in Jane Lee's story about the move, she cites Brooks Baseball, which is a great idea. Though I will note that, influenced by Griffin himself, she says that "According to brooksbaseball.net, 26 of [the homers Griffin allowed] were hit off a fastball -- many of which were breaking pitches, like the cutter, that simply didn't break" and I'm not sure that's true. Here's Griffin's pitch frequency scatter chart:

There is a cluster of pitches in the 85 mph range with less horizontal movement than the clear cutters, but I think it's important to note that they're all labeled cutters but Brooks/Pitch Info. That is, every pitch labeled a fastball that Griffin threw in 2013 came in above 88 mph:

And they had almost exactly the same horizontal movement as each other. It would appear from the data, then, that the 26 homers Griffin gave up on his fastball actually were 26 homers on his fastball, not 26-X homers on his fastball and X homers on attempted cutters mislabeled as fastballs. Unless Griffin was trying to throw cutters and throwing them too hard? I guess this is possible, but Griffin does say in the story, "It was like an 85-mph thing that didn't move." I wouldn't take this literally except that there's sort of a big gap between 85 mph and 88 mph, at least as far as Griffin's pitch types are concerned.

None of this means Griffin should keep his cutter! If it was a bad pitch, and I think he and the A's coaches are in a better position to judge that than we are until we make some major advances in pitch-type values, then dump it! But Griffin's fastball is mediocre irrespective of any breaking pitches not breaking, so don't be fooled into thinking he's suddenly going to cut his homer rate by cutting the cutter.

John Hickey's story on the cutter/change has the A's perspective on the move, which is positive, particularly on what you might call procedural grounds: that Griffin is doing this himself, that it was his idea, bodes well for its likelihood of success and says something positive about his approach to his craft.

The notable tidbit I took away from Jane Lee's story about Michael Taylor is that apparently Sam Fuld is ahead of Taylor on the depth chart. Did we know this already? Did you know this already? It makes a certain kind of sense, in that Fuld is a tremendous defender, and (thus?) can obviously handle center, which Taylor cannot do. On the other hand, the A's starting corner outfielders can also play center, at worst on an emergency basis, so this particular A's roster, with two legit center fielders (assuming health from Craig Gentry) and two backup center fielders, isn't necessarily one that needs another center fielder in the 25th spot on the roster. What it might find useful, given the increasingly likely possibility of Nate Freiman not making the squad, is a right-handed hitter to take at-bats against tough lefties, either starters or relievers, in place of Josh Reddick. Taylor might be a hitter in name only at this point, sadly, but it's hard to let go of the idea that there's some upside left -- the man was a major prospect for a reason, right?

Here's a little more on the John Jaso catcher/DH situation, though I don't think there are any actual facts in that piece that I haven't discussed already. It cites catcher ERA. :(

Cash Kruth has a piece about Albert Callaspo learning first base. I'm not entirely sure that Callaspo playing first against lefties helps anything. Who plays second against lefties in that event? Eric Sogard? If he's on the team, I'd rather have Brandon Moss against a lefty than Sogard. Nick Punto? That's, weirdly, maybe a closer call, but I still think I'd rather have Moss. I won't object to versatility so long as that versatility doesn't result in completely nonsensical lineup decisions make on more than just a "got to get this guy a day off, he's really wearing down" basis.

Jim Johnson is, among other things, an oenophile. I don't know if I spelled that right.

Apparently, for some reason, Jesse Chavez is considered a lock to make the bullpen. He pitched well last year, or at least moderately sorta well, but not well enough to say "whoa man that job is YOURS. Evan Scribner: back of the line, son." I'm voting for Fernando Abad for that one spot, by the way, and damn losing Scribner on waivers because he's out of options. Scribble Jam is going to come back to haunt the A's. Andrew Brown thinks it'll be Joe Savery.

On the other hand, there is likely to be a second spot for at least a little while early in the season, because as I read this, I'm betting Ryan Cook starts the year on the disabled list. There's always hopes and dreams and other nonsense, but I'm not built that way.

Meanwhile, more on the bullpen, this just seems impatient. Humber's going to get cut at some point, and it'll be soon. What's the rush?

The John Shea piece linked above re: Ryan Cook has a fantastic quote from Bob Melvin: "[Stanford guys are] all terrific kids, very smart guys, understand the game. ... They come as advertised as smarts go -- maybe not to the extent of Cal guys." Here's a solid Bob Melvin profile from Bruce Jenkins, which includes interesting bits at the end about Melvin's relationship with Billy Beane.

I repeat: why.

If you want to write for Athletics Nation, go audition. What can it hurt? Of course, the comments section devolves into a flamewar about the ethics of unpaid labor and then a subflamewar about analogies to slavery. Oh and of course someone got banned. It wouldn't be AN otherwise, would it? (And hey, what do you know, it's not the guy throwing around "Marxist" as an insult who got banned but the guy arguing that writing for free is unethical. Neat.)