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  • Top 20 Shortstops for 2020 Fantasy Baseball

    Posted 1 hour ago

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    Wasn’t that long ago that we were screaming about how terrible the shortstops are and how the sky is falling and how red wine is good for your health and you were like, “What if I put grenadine in my vodka?” Maybe it comes with age, but if you’re around long enough you know these things go in cycles. For a few years, middle infidels are terrible, then corner infidels are in that sinking boat. As of now, shortstops are stupid stacked, and the top 20 shortstops for 2020 fantasy baseball are an absolute joy for at least twenty of the twenty but, as always, this is going much deeper. So, here’s Steamer’s 2020 Fantasy Baseball Projections for Hitters and 2020 Fantasy Baseball Projections for Pitchers. All my 2020 fantasy baseball rankings are under that thingie-ma-whosie, and I mention where all tiers start and stop, and all shortstop projections are mine.  Let’s get to it!  Anyway, here’s the top 20 shortstops for 2020 fantasy baseball:

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  • MLB news & notes: sign-stealing takes center-stage

    Posted 3 hours ago

    Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    The Astros’ sign-stealing scandal has taken over the offseason narrative. 

    Welcome to ‘Marty’s Musings’, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the happenings in the baseball world. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the news and notes throughout the game, and highlighting this week’s key pitching matchups.

    This week, MLB endures the most offseason negative press since the steroid scandal. The implications of the Houston sign-stealing story continue to trickle down to other teams.

    News & Notes

    3 – Teams that have lost their manager in response to the Houston Astros sign-stealing investigation. A.J. Hinch is out in Houston, Alex Cora is out as Boston’s manager, and Carlos Beltran parted ways with the Mets last week.

    0 – Games managed by Beltran, who New York hired three months ago to lead the team. Due to his involvement as a player during the sign-stealing scheme of 2017, the Mets essentially fired him for being a potential distraction going into 2020.

    1 – Year deal that Alex Gordon and the Kansas City Royals are supposedly close to entering the week. Although nothing is official, Gordon came up with Kansas City, and has only played there in his 13-year career. It would be fitting for him to end his career as a Royal for life; stay tuned as more details on the contract emerge.

    2020 – The year in which an MLB team hired their first female coach. The Giants hired former Sacramento State All-American softball player Alyssa Nakkan to Gabe Kapler’s staff last week. Hopefully we’ll see more opportunities for women in MLB coaching in the coming months and years.

    92 – Million dollar, four-year deal the Twins signed Josh Donaldson to last week. The 34-year-old took a pillow contract from the Braves last season after an injury-riddled 2018. Last season he helped the Braves win the NL East by hitting 37 homers and posting a 132 wRC+ last season.

    73 – Days until Opening Day.

    ***

    Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano

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  • Top 2020 Prospects: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

    Posted 6 hours ago

    The hardest decision to make about this prospect list is not who occupies the top spot but how to alphabetize the team’s name. I’m not sure a dumber thing has ever existed in the world of phraseology than The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Just. Stop. 

    Although, big empathy for playing in a division with the Astros. 

    My take coming into this was that the Angels have been on a very strange stretch for a long time. Kind of aimless. I was going to knock the Will Wilson sale. Who drafts a guy 15th just to sell him so you can move a bad contract? It doesn’t get much worse than that, in my opinion, and good on the Giants for raising their hand, taking the dead money and cutting Zack Cozart, who it looks like they might resign. Why do that? He’s a trade-able asset now. Maybe the Angels should’ve done that.

    My take right now–after the hellstorm that is our baseball world–is that maybe they’ve finally got a chance. They’ve never had a real chance in that division–at least not for a long time now–because on the one hand you have Billy Beane in the prime of his career, and on the other you have the land of infinite cheating. Texas too has been extremely sharp for periods of the past decade and seems particularly sharp to me right now.

    So it’s a tough road whether or not a cyborg squad populates the division. They’ll need to get something out of their pitching development program to have a chance, but the Dylan Bundy gambit could turn out better than the twin cores of Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey. The Angels are not without interesting pieces in the system, but the vast majority of future impact is on the hitting side. 

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  • Are Defensive Concerns Holding Up the Outfield Market?

    Posted 12 hours ago

    Last winter, a 26-year-old Bryce Harper — a former No. 1 overall pick, MVP winner, and the 13th-most valuable player in baseball since his debut — hit the free agent market for the first time in his career. Because of his combination of age, pedigree, and the peak he’d shown in 2015, the bidding war for his services was expected to be as feverish and exciting as any in baseball history. The reality, however, was much different. Only a few teams ever emerged as serious contenders, and a deal didn’t get done until February 28, six days after the first spring training games began. He got his record contract, with the Phillies signing him for 13 years and $330 million, but it took the whole winter for him to secure it.

    The forces that conspired to delay Harper’s signing were numerous. As a whole, the free agent market developed more slowly than any in recent memory, sparking rumors of collusion and swelling existing suspicions of how committed teams were to prioritizing wins over maximizing profits. But there was also the pressure placed upon Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, to negotiate the record-breaking monster contract people had been forecasting for them for years, as well as genuine concerns about whether Harper’s actual on-field play lived up to his fame and financial desires. There was little question about the bat, of course — his career 140 wRC+, 14.8% walk rate, and 184 homers made him one of the most fearsome hitters in the game. But his defense was a real issue after a horrific 2018 that saw him finish with the second-worst DRS total (-26) and the worst UZR (-14.4) of any outfielder in baseball. There are fickle defensive ratings painting an unclear portrait of how much a fielder is really contributing, and then there is a near-unanimous statistical case for a player’s glove being a dangerous liability. In 2018, Harper seemed to fit into the latter.

    One year later, it seems those awful defensive numbers for Harper weren’t terribly predictive of his actual abilities. In his first season with the Phillies, he went from -26 DRS to +10 and -14.4 UZR to +10.0. In some respects, it was the best defensive season of his career. But while the numbers Harper displayed in the field in 2018 haven’t turned out to be prescient, the way his market played out as a result of them might have been.

    This winter’s free agent market has stood in stark contrast to the previous two. The winter meetings saw all three of the star free agents get swept off the board in quick succession, and players up and down the class have gotten contracts that exceeded expectations. Players who have previously been snubbed in this setting have been rewarded. Older free agents have also been rewarded. Non-playoff teams from previous seasons have been big spenders. Overall, this has been an exciting winter for fans and a lucrative one for players. That is, with one exception.

    After the Twins’ signing of Josh Donaldson this week, just three of the first 30 players from our Top 50 Free Agents list remain unsigned. They are all outfielders.

    2020 Steamer Projections for Free Agent Outfielders
    Player FA Rank Age AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
    Marcell Ozuna 7 29 .276 .344 .503 119 3.1
    Nicholas Castellanos 11 28 .275 .331 .489 111 1.4
    Yasiel Puig 18 29 .267 .335 .478 110 1.9

    That grouping is rather conspicuous, as there were just six outfielders in our top 30 free agents to begin with. One of those, J.D. Martinez, was only included because of the possibility he would opt out of his contract, which he eventually chose not to do. Aside from him, there were the above three, plus Brett Gardner (No. 21) and Avisaíl García (No. 30). Gardner, at 36, was widely expected to return to the team he has spent his entire career with, which became reality when he signed a one-year, $12 million guarantee with the Yankees. Garcia, 28, signed a reasonable two-year, $20 million commitment with the Brewers after finishing just the second season of his career with more than 1 WAR. Those two are good players, but for various reasons, they didn’t enter this offseason expecting to sign a major contract.

    The top three, however, were seen as having a much better chance of securing a significant deal. Ozuna and Puig have amassed 20.3 and 18.0 WAR, respectively, over their careers, and are both just 29. Castellanos has been worth just 10.4 WAR in his career, but he is just 27 and is coming off his two best seasons, including his most recent stint with the Cubs that saw him slash .321/.356/.646 over 51 games for a 154 wRC+. Kiley McDaniel projected Ozuna to land the biggest deal of this bunch at four years and $70 million, but Castellanos (four years/$56 million) and Puig (three years/$39 million) were also expected to do reasonably well.

    But all three are still jobless in the second week of January, and it’s worth discussing because of what they share in common — not just with each other, but also with the most famous outfielder to sit through a stalemate last winter. Like Harper, there is little to quibble about with the bats of Ozuna, Castellanos, and Puig. Each of them have turned in at least four straight seasons of above-average offense. But any team willing to make a major commitment to one of these players must consider all aspects of their respective games, and each of these three enter 2020 with serious questions surrounding their defense.

    Defensive Statistics, 2019
    Player DRS UZR OAA (Percentile) Outfielder Jump (Percentile)
    Marcell Ozuna 2 5.7 -8 (3rd) -1.4 feet (35th)
    Nicholas Castellanos -9 -5.2 -7 (6th) -2.4 feet (13th)
    Yasiel Puig 0 -0.7 0 (39th) -2.8 feet (6th)

    OAA and Outfielder Jump are Statcast metrics, with the former using a catch probability formula to calculate how many outs a fielder makes above or below what’s expected by the average fielder, and the latter measuring how many feet in the right direction a fielder covered in the first three seconds of a pitch being released. Because of the more advanced technology involved, they’re intended to capture details that other metrics don’t.

    That extra scrutiny is bad news for all three of these particular players, one of which looks good using common defensive statistics, one of which already graded pretty poorly, and one of which graded about average. We can start with Ozuna here. In McDaniel’s writeup of his free agency case, he noted that front offices regard his defense as being below average, despite what his DRS and UZR figures show. When confronted with Statcast data, we can see why. Out of 318 players who played outfield at some point in 2019, just 11 of them did more damage to their teams on an OAA basis than Ozuna.

    That stands in sharp contrast to not only other advanced defensive stats, but also the way Statcast itself graded Ozuna just two years earlier. In 2017, his OAA was in the 84th percentile in Miami. Over two years in St. Louis, however, Statcast’s perception of his defense plummeted. The conflicting data here, combined with the notorious untrustworthiness of one-year defensive samples, make it difficult to draw a conclusion over what kind of defender Ozuna truly is. But he didn’t exactly do himself any favors with the eye test, and if MLB’s own data is showing red flags about him being a liability, the apparent wariness from front offices makes some sense.

    In the case of Castellanos, there is no such ambiguity. After posting an astonishingly poor -64 DRS over four seasons at third base, Detroit moved him into the outfield, where he didn’t fare much better. He’s been worth -28 DRS over just two seasons in right field, a bleak picture that Statcast data more or less reaffirms. No one in baseball was close to reaching the depths of his -24 OAA in 2018, and while he improved upon that this past season, that improvement simply moved him from the worst in the game to merely 21 spots from the worst. As good as Castellanos can be at the plate, there just isn’t any way to get around the liability to he is on defense.

    Puig’s standing here is a bit more complicated. By UZR and DRS, he’s been average to solidly above throughout his career, peaking at +18 DRS and an 11.8 UZR in Los Angeles in 2017. Those numbers are very good, but they are also very much an outlier in his career. And like Ozuna, Statcast has regarded Puig’s defense as being much worse than other numbers suggest, placing his OAA in the 29th percentile in 2017 and the 10th percentile in 2018 before his more pedestrian performance last year, and giving him consistently awful grades on jumps.

    Beyond the murkiness of Puig’s defensive ratings, however, is the question of how much a team might be able to coax improvement out of him. According to a report by Andy McCullough in April of last year, Puig was known to rip up positioning cards given to him by Dodgers coaches, or otherwise simply ignore them. There’s no telling how much more receptive he was to help in Cincinnati or Cleveland, but it’s hard to imagine a report like this not having a real effect on clubs’ interest in him. Teams are shifting at an ever-increasing rate, and emphasis on lining fielders up in the optimal positioning, even on a pitch-by-pitch basis, has never been greater. If Puig is willfully underprepared in addition to having an iffy glove in the first place, that puts him at a significant disadvantage before the pitch is even thrown.

    The specific defensive questions these players are facing are different in each case, but they could all be considered legitimate red flags. Every free agent is flawed in some way — age, health record, platoon splits, decreased velocity, you name it. There is always a devil’s advocate position to take, a reason not to sign pretty much anybody. But the fact that this specific red flag exists in all three remaining big-name free agents is uncanny enough to wonder what it might tell us about the way teams value outfielders with defensive concerns.

    If you do some squinting, you can see this kind of pattern beginning to unfold over the past couple of offseasons as well. We’ve already discussed Harper, but we can also consider the free agencies of Michael Brantley and A.J. Pollock last winter. They entered free agency at roughly the same age, had compiled nearly identical WAR totals over their past five seasons, and had both missed considerable time in recent seasons due to various injuries. Brantley held the advantage at the plate — a 130 wRC+ over his last five seasons compared to Pollock’s 119 — but Pollock had been a very good defender, with +22.6 defensive runs above average over his last five seasons, while Brantley was a very poor defender, standing at -26.9. As for the resulting contracts, Pollock got four years and $55 million from the Dodgers while Brantley settled for two years and $32 million from the Astros.

    The winter before also provided evidence of caution around outfielders whose defense might be viewed as suspect. Martinez entered his free agency as one of the elite hitters in the game, but he was widely known to be a defensive liability. The terms he signed for lined up pretty well with expectations, but he wasn’t signed until late February. In a less extreme but still interesting case from that same season, Lorenzo Cain hit the market after posting the worst defensive ratings of his career — still decent numbers, but a sharp decline from where he’d been in previous seasons. He wasn’t signed until late January.

    But if outfield defense really is scaring teams off, the question is why? Is the danger of losing a few outs in that part of the field really enough to offset the extra runs you’d get by having one of these powerful bats in your lineup? Can there be that much correlation between team success and sound outfield defense?

    Top 10 OAA Teams, 2019
    Team OAA
    Nationals 29
    Astros 14
    Padres 10
    Rays 9
    Brewers 8
    Phillies 7
    Dodgers 5
    Athletics 4
    Royals 4
    Yankees 3

    Oh, the top two defensive outfields in baseball literally played in the World Series against each other, and seven of the top 10 made the playoffs. The top of the standings in other outfield defensive categories are similarly clogged with playoff teams. It’s hardly a breakthrough to tell you that the best teams in baseball tend to play good defense, but what’s interesting about these standings in this particular case is the lack of playoff teams near the bottom. None of the worst 10 teams in baseball by DRS or UZR made the playoffs, and only two of the bottom teams by OAA did. One of those was the Twins, who set a major league record for homers, and the other was the Cardinals, who had far and away the best infield defense in baseball. It’s really difficult to win when you’re giving away outs, and signing one of these free agent outfielders will mean trusting them not to do that over lots and lots of innings on defense. You only have three outfielders playing at any given time, of course. If one of them is dragging the group down with his glove, it’s very difficult to compensate for that.

    It’s worth noting that defense might not be the only reason these players remain available. Maybe they’re all waiting for one of the others to establish some kind of market price by being the first to sign, or they simply have unreasonable demands. On a case-by-case basis, Ozuna might be just a two- or three-win player annually instead of a four-to-five-win player, Castellanos doesn’t walk a lot, and Puig was a pretty poor hitter for large portions of last season. But it isn’t as though other hitters on the market this winter didn’t get paid despite having similar flaws. Donaldson’s age, Yasmani Grandal‘s potential aging curve as a catcher, and Mike Moustakas’s limited on-base skills didn’t stop them from landing major contracts from hopeful contenders.

    In time, Ozuna, Castellanos, and Puig will all sign contracts, and could very well get the money they were expected to get all along. But they’re officially the last of the major players to be negotiating, and it’s difficult to ignore what all three share in common and what it could mean for similar players going forward.

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  • Sunday Notes: Red Sox Prospect Triston Casas is Brobdingnagian (and Emulates Joey Votto)

    Posted 1 day ago

    Triston Casas continues to grow, and not just developmentally on the field. The top prospect in the Red Sox farm system recently told a trio of reporters, yours truly included, that he’s put on 10 pounds of muscle, and gained nearly an inch in height, since the end of the season. Just a few days past his 20th birthday, the 2018 first-round pick is now 6’ 5″, 255.

    Casas comes by his size naturally. Asked about his lineage, he explained that his father is “about the same size height-wise, but has put on a little weight and is bigger than me in terms of roundness.”

    The hulking youngster is surprisingly agile and well-rounded for someone of his stature. While his long-term position will almost certainly be first base, Casas was drafted as a third baseman and has seen time at both infield corners since turning pro. His athleticism also makes him a candidate for left field.

    His role model is a first baseman.

    “I emulate Joey Votto as much as I can,” said Casas, who swings from the left side. “He’s my favorite player. I actually choke up on the bat from the first pitch. Every at bat. And with two strikes I’m 4-5 inches up the bat. If you’ve never seen me play, there are pictures with me way up the pine tar.”

    There is also footage of the former Plantation, Florida prep propelling baseballs long distances. As Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel wrote in his prospect profile, Casas “participated in multiple home run derbies during his amateur summers, and posted gaudy exit velocities during team pre-draft workouts.” They placed a 65/70 on the young slugger’s raw-power grade.

    His patience is also a plus. Much like the player he most admires, Casas is willing to accept a free pass if a pitcher doesn’t want to challenge him. His walk rate last year — 11.8% at low-A Greenville — wasn’t Votto-esque, but for a teenager in his first full professional season it was in no way a red flag. There’s swing-and-miss in his game, but Casas isn’t a hacker.

    “I feel that getting on base, walking, is a huge part of the game,” Casas said of his approach. “If a good pitch to hit doesn’t come, I’ll take my base. And having patience in the box not only helps you get on base by walking, it helps you pick out pitches when you do decide to swing.”

    His swing hasn’t changed markedly since he left the amateur ranks — it’s still built for loft — but there have been some subtle tweaks. Quality of competition has necessitated them.

    “It definitely has [changed],” Casas said. “Facing professional arms versus facing guys in high school — facing 95-mph fastballs in every at bat — you have to change a little bit of your physical approach. I’m trying to be shorter to the ball. I’ve reduced my leg kick. I’m trying to get on plane with pitches a little earlier. Little things.”

    That would be little things from a large man. Make that a large, young man with a promising future. Casas is coming off a season where he slashed .256/.350/.480, with 20 home runs, and if all goes to plan he’ll more than match that production at the highest level. Given his Brobdingnagian attributes, that’s especially true in the power department.

    ——

    Sticking with the Red Sox, Alex Cora’s replacement will inherit more than a talented team in turmoil. He’ll also find himself dealing on a daily basis with one of the game’s largest and most challenging media contingents. Addressing questions from a knowledgeable horde of scoop-hungry reporters is an obligation that has tripped up more than a few Boston managers over the years.

    With rare exception, Cora handled that job adroitly. Congenial and refreshingly forthcoming, he regularly offered thoughtful and informative quotes. Obtuse and evasive responses such as “manager’s decision” — hello Bobby Valentine — were few and far between, as were the frustratingly close-to-the-vest answers that John Farrell typically provided. And more than the media has been appreciative of Cora’s candor. An ever-engaged fan base has been, as well.

    Is media-friendliness a meaningful quality in the club’s unexpected managerial search? I asked that question, in so many words, to two of the people spearheading the effort.

    “Absolutely,” answered Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy. “Dealing with the best, the most robust, media corps in baseball is important. I’ve worked in other markets and there’s nothing quite like the coverage of baseball in Boston. You have to be able to deal with the media, have relationships. It’s really important.”

    “It’s a factor,” added Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom. “I don’t want to place it on a list, as far as where it ranks, but it’s obviously important. It’s one of the many critical responsibilities of a manager. Obviously, managing the group — managing the players — in many different aspects, is the overarching goal. But the manager is a leader of our organization, a public face of our organization, That makes it an important aspect of this job.”

    Given the public-perception challenges the Red Sox are currently facing — being sanctioned by MLB would only exacerbate them — a strong media presence in the manager’s chair is seemingly more important than ever. As Bloom put it, Cora’s replacement will be a public face of the organization. In a market like Boston’s, that matters.

    ——

    RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

    Jackie Robinson went 22 for 44 against Al Brazle.

    Larry Doby went 40 for 61 against Willard Nixon.

    Hank Thompson went 17 for 38 against Bob Friend.

    Roy Campanella went 20 for 40 against Vern Bickford.

    Monte Irvin 15 for 29 against Howie Fox.

    ——

    Jordan Hicks was throwing some serious gas before blowing out his elbow last summer. Prior to going under the knife, the St. Louis Cardinals closer was averaging a torrid 101.2 mph with his heater. As opposing hitters can attest, the word “finesse” doesn’t exist in Hicks’s pitching vocabulary.

    According to one of his former minor-league teammates, that wasn’t always the case. Carson Cross — now a pitching coach in the Milwaukee Brewers system — recalls Hicks dabbling with an ill-advised approach back in short-season ball.

    “He’s kind of a funny character,” explained Cross, who was the young flamethrower’s throwing partner in 2016. “Being a few years older, I was basically told to mentor him. At the time, the biggest thing we were stressing was, ‘Dude, you frickin’ throw 99 mph; throw the ball over the middle of the plate and you’ll be fine.’ He was trying to be a ‘pitcher’ — trying to refine his art — and we were like, ‘Dude, listen. You have a cannon.’”

    In other words, Hicks needed to be what most young hurlers are taught not to be. Rather than being a ‘pitcher,’ he needed to be a ‘thrower.’

    The following spring, Cross watched Hicks sit 101 in his first live outing. Finesse, to whatever extent it had previously existed, had been drummed out of the 20-year-old’s system. Cross’s reaction to the triple-digit bullets he was seeing? “OK. This is going to be special.”

    ——

    I was standing alongside my colleague Eric Longenhagen when he asked Jerry Dipoto about Seattle’s pitching-development strategy during November’s GM meetings. Here is what the Mariners’ front-office front man had to say in response to that inquiry:

    If I had to point to one thing, it would be being cognizant of the way our pitchers… how to get them moving down the hill quicker, rather than the more traditional ‘How to get balanced over the rubber, maintain body control.’ It’s more, ‘Gathering ourselves and going.’

    “We’ve had a fundamental shift in our belief system. And it didn’t happen overnight. It was a shift from 2017, to where we are today. The way we’re teaching it, the way we’re scouting it, the way we’re seeing it develop, has changed so much. As a former pitcher who was always taught the value of ‘balance and go,’ this has been a paradigm shift for me, emotionally. I’m watching what these guys do, and I marvel. I just try to stay out of their way and let smart people do their jobs.

    ——

    NEWS ITEMS

    The San Francisco Giants have added Alyssa Nakken to their big-league coaching staff. With the organization since 2014, Nakken played softball at Sacramento State and has a master’s degree in sport management from the University of San Francisco.

    The Chicago White Sox have hired Danny Farquhar as the pitching coach for their Carolina League affiliate, the Winston-Salem Dash. The 32-year-old right-hander pitched for five teams from 2011-2018 before having his playing career derailed by a brain aneurysm.

    The Chicago Cubs have hired Casey Jacobson as their Coordinator of Pitching Development. Jacobson has been working as an instructor at Driveline Baseball and has coached at Augustana University, and at Macalester College.

    The Boston Red Sox have promoted Shawn Haviland to Pitching Coordinator, Performance. The Harvard graduate was drafted by Oakland in 2008 and went on to play nine minor-league seasons.

    The Seibu Lions have become the first top Japanese team to sponsor a women’s club. The new team will begin play in April. (per Jim Allen.)

    Colin Willis is slashing .417/.523/.571 for the Australian Baseball League’s Melbourne Aces. The 27-year-old outfielder has spent the last four seasons with the Gary South Shore Rail Cats in the independent American Association.

    Rob Arthur, John Baker, Vince Gennaro, Rob Neyer, Joan Ryan, and Meredith Wills have been announced as speakers for the ninth-annual SABR Analytics Conference, which will be held in Phoenix on March 13-15. More panelists and presenters will be announced soon.

    ——

    Looking back at my unused-quotes folder, I came across a pitching-mechanics tidbit from the 2018 season. I’d asked Cleveland Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger if he had any closing thoughts — a not-uncommon last question in my interviews — and he responded as follows:

    The back leg, the hip, folding properly is important. Getting extended on your back hip loses you a lot of power. That’s something probably 90 percent of pitchers struggle with, and they may not even know it — good results or not. There a few whose hips fold right. The ones who do are throwing really hard, like Edwin Diaz and Craig Kimbrel. I was watching Kimbrel playing catch the other day, and watching his hips roll over and fold in naturally. He was in a good power position where he’s stacked.

    ——

    Former big-league pitcher and pitching coach Dick Bosman shared an interesting observation on Ivan Rodriguez in a book he co-wrote in 2018. According to Bosman, the Hall of Fame backstop “was going to call for a fastball away if there was a runner on first base… Pudge was a great catch-and-throw receiver, but too often his own concerns about the runner on first came at the expense of what the pitcher might throw to the hitter.”

    Bosman coached for the Texas Rangers from 1995-2000.

    ———

    Here is something to appreciate as you try to take your mind off this past week’s cheating scandal. Bill James tweeted it a few days ago.

    There is a basket of baseball gloves in the entryway. For many years my son and I played catch on the sidewalk every day, weather and time permitting. My son went to college 16 years ago. I walk by that basket every day, and I always smile. But it is a lonely smile.

    ———

    LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

    Jayson Stark explained his Hall of Fame Ballot at The Athletic, and as you’d expect, he did so in a smart, detailed fashion.

    Japanese Hall of Fame of Fame voters have once again struck out on Tuffy Rhodes. Jason Coskrey has the story at The Japan Times.

    SportsNet Canada’s Shi Davidi wrote about Shun Yamaguchi, and how the Toronto Blue Jays now have a pathway not only to Japan, but also to South Korea, Taiwan, and other Pacific Rim markets.

    Clinton LumberKings general manager Ted Tornow offered a stern rebuttal to MLB’s Dan Halem regarding the proposed contraction of numerous minor-league teams, three of which are in eastern Iowa. His opinion was published at The Quad-City Times.

    What are the oldest team names in Minor League Baseball? Kevin Reichard supplied a comprehensive list at Ballpark Digest.

    ———

    RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

    Carlos Beltran had 2,725 hits and 4,751 total bases. Chipper Jones had 2,726 hits and 4,755 total bases.

    Andruw Jones had 1,933 hits and 434 home runs. Juan Gonzalez had 1,936 hits and 434 home runs.

    Derek Jeter had 1,082 walks and 1,840 strikeouts. Ozzie Smith had 1,072 walks and 589 strikeouts.

    Omar Vizquel slashed .333/.397/.436, with 36 doubles and 42 stolen bases, in 1999.

    When Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, he reached base in all but three games in which he had two or more plate appearances.

    On January 14, 1940, 1941, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis released ninety-one minor leaguer players from the Detroit Tigers farm system because of what he deemed to be illegal dealings by the front office.

    On January 19, 1900, Boston Beaneaters catcher Marty Bergen killed his family with an axe, then took his own life with a razor. The veteran of four big-league seasons had lost a son to diphtheria the previous April.

    On January 20, 1947, Negro League legend Josh Gibson died shortly after suffering a stroke at a movie theater. Gibson was just 35 years old.

    Players born on this date include Chick Gandil and Rip Radcliffe. The latter has the most hits (1,267) among players with a January 19 birthday. Gandil — one of the eight players who was banned for life following the Black Sox scandal — has the second-most, 1,176.

    Muggsy Bogues, who played 10 NBA seasons as a 5’ 3” point guard, appeared in one game for the South Atlantic League’s Gastonia Rangers in 1991. He played second base and went hitless in two at bats.

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  • The Mike Trout accusation is the end result of baseball conspiracies

    Posted 1 day ago

    Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

    When you can’t believe the official story, you’re wont to believe anything.

    Amidst all of the controversy surrounding the sign-stealing scandal that has sent ripples throughout the league, there have been a number of unintended consequences. For one, the issue with baseball being incredibly cagey about the whole affair means that the internet is the one and only source for any clues into the scandal, including videos breaking down in-game minutia, looking for the possibility of evidence.

    That can be good, in a way. It was Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus who somewhat conclusively proved the trash-banging via audio clips, and the story officially broke when Mike Fiers spilled the beans to The Athletic.

    The difference of course is that those people actually are journalists, and I can’t say with a straight face that I am one myself. That’s why you couldn’t help feeling sucked into the minute-by-minute breakdown on Thursday, which gave us whiplash to find out that not only that Carlos Beltrán’s niece wasn’t actually his niece, but that we later discovered that this was a fake account for none other than Incarcerated Bob, a known entity on the sports online ecosystem, mostly for being half-right on rumors of this nature. Hell, go back to a Colts forum back in 2012 and he’s described as “Seem[ing] to be right about the same amount of times as the weather man.”

    While Major League Baseball claims that the Astros did not wear electronic devices based on their investigation, it’s hard to be sure of the truth. Internal investigations prior to this year were not capable of abating the culture of cheating, so like all scandals, it’s a matter of just wondering who knew what, when they knew it, and why they didn’t act upon it.

    The collapse of our institutions in real-time—economic, political, and social—breeds this kind of conspiracy-making, whether it’s examining shirt creases for devices or examining Comet Ping Pong for signs of the occult, though in a totally different order of magnitude.

    The problem, though, is that there is no shared truth, again because the top-down influence of our institutions is in neon lights saying Y O U C A N N O T T R U S T U S, not the least helped by the fact that the playoffs literally saw a different kind of baseball every day. The end result is that every Twitter identity is a detective, and anything they say is evidence. Now, on to the cautious tale.

    On that same, hectic Thursday, another figure came forward, David Brosius, son of former Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius. Brosius heard some rumors himself from his father, and plainly stated the following: “If you want to read something better, Mike Trout takes HGH for a ‘thyroid’ condition. It’s a loophole he found and the MLB doesn’t make it public because they don’t want fans knowing their best player is on HGH.” He eventually walked back the accusation, saying that “The example I used of Mike Trout does not stem from information from my Dad or sources within MLB and has no evidence behind it. I had no intention of this becoming an accusation against Mike Trout or causing the uproar it did.”

    This even warranted a response from both the league and the Player’s Association, saying in a joint statement that “no major league or minor league player has ever received a therapeutic use exemption for, or otherwise received permission to use, Human Growth Hormone (HGH).”

    My mind is kind of boggled that they even needed to respond. Brosius is an authority of some sort in that he’s the relative of a coach and former player, but he isn’t a league mouthpiece, nor does he actually have evidence to warrant that kind of authority.

    Which just speaks to the level of authority the league actually has on the truth. If people genuinely had trust in the league to administer the game properly, people wouldn’t be investigating the seam of the ball for issues and gasping at every fly ball, or looking at every player’s clothes and actions for clues of cheating. The end result is basically believing anything: if the league is comprised, then it’s not a stretch to say its best player can’t be stained.

    That’s true in an abstract sense; I don’t actually believe this, but you can’t say that any one player is immune to making bad decisions. But what I can say is that it isn’t a good sign—in fact, it’s a total crisis—when the difference between truth and reality are blurred, and you somehow have to sit down and watch a baseball game in April and just hope the audience all sees the same thing.

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