Just one game (perhaps one inning) to shrug off ... or a sign of what’s to come?
The results have been striking. Batters are not swinging and missing Sale’s pitches in the same way — his swing and miss rate is all the way down to 9.2 percent. Hitters are not chasing his pitches out of the strike zone like they did. And even when they do chase, they’re connecting a lot more often. For the first time in his career, Sale is not striking out at least one batter per inning.
And the overall result? Well, for the first nine starts of the year, Sale was impossibly efficient. He started the year 9-0, completed three of those games (he threw a 99-pitch complete game) and posted a 1.58 ERA. The league was hitting .163 against him.
In the 10th game against Cleveland, though, he only lasted 3 1/3 innings and gave up seven hits and six earned runs. Cleveland went 7-for-17, a .411 average if you are scoring at home.
Of course, every pitcher will have a bad game now and again, and that might be the only thing that happened Tuesday. But here’s the question: Was Sale’s bad game INEVITABLE? Here’s what I mean: Sale’s shift in pitching tactics is based on a very simple premise. He wants hitters to make more contact. Sure, he still wants to get some strikeouts (he has 69 Ks in 71 2/3 innings, so we’re not talking about slow-pitch softball here) but strikeouts are hard on the arm, they require a lot of pitches, they are not always cost-effective. Sale wants, instead, for hitters to make light contact — ground balls, pop-ups, soft line drives — and for the White Sox defense to get the outs.
For nine games, this worked in a historic way. Nine games in, opponents’ batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was .197. How amazing is that? No pitcher in the record books has EVER held hitters a sub-.200 BABIP for a full season. When hitters put the ball in play, they will hit around .300; it has been that way for 20-plus years. One of the more prominent theories in baseball right now is that starting pitchers, no matter how good, do not have much control over BABIP. After bat meets ball, this theory goes, it is up to the team’s defense and the hands of destiny to determine whether it becomes a hit.
The Kawano brothers seem to be listening. They occasionally smile or nod their heads but do not speak, so it is hard to guess what they are thinking.
On a bright Saturday morning, Yosh and Nobe sit near the window in a day room at their nursing home, the sunlight etching fine shadows across their wrinkled faces. Family has gathered around to tell stories from the old days.
Like the one about Sandy Koufax and the trash can. Or the boat out to Catalina Island, where the Chicago Cubs used to hold spring training before the war.
“Baseball was everything to them,” says Frank Kawano, who is Nobe’s son. “They loved the game.”
The brothers were never professional ballplayers. Yosh spent five decades in the major leagues as clubhouse manager for the Cubs, and Nobe held the same job for almost as long with the Dodgers.
Losing has a way of grating on you, though, and with the Twins a MLB-worst 11-34 heading into Wednesday’s game against Kansas City, there’s been plenty of losing to go around. That may have been what led to the incident Bremer described to Fargo, North Dakota radio host (on 970 AM WDAY) Mike McFeely last week:
Surprisingly, Bremer said one player has confronted him this season about being too critical of the team. Bremer wouldn’t name the player.
“I make it a practice to go in the clubhouse every day and go down on the field, so if a player has a complaint about something I’ve said on television they have that opportunity,” Bremer said. “I was confronted in the clubhouse in the last homestand. I didn’t say what I wanted to say, which was, ‘Well, play better and the commentary will be more positive.’ You can’t mask the fact this team is a quarter of the way through the season with 10 wins.”
Bud Selig: It was a tight race. Every time McGwire hit a home run, Sosa would hit one right back.
Tony La Russa: Sometimes, McGwire would hit a home run, and when he finished rounding the bases, a fist would punch through his stomach, and the crowd would scream in horror as Sammy Sosa clawed his way out of Mark McGwire’s body and revealed that the home run had just been hit by Sosa in a clever disguise. Then, the real Mark McGwire would come out of the dugout and wave, and everyone would have a good laugh. Then, a fist would punch through Sosa’s stomach and a second McGwire would claw his way out of Sosa’s body, and the two McGwires would keep laughing while the rest of the crowd stared in silence.
Kerry Wood: On more than one occasion, Sosa would hit a home run, but then the umpire would smell the ball and it would smell like Mark McGwire, and so the home run would count for McGwire instead. They were in a tight race the whole year.
Bud Selig: At first, fans only cared about McGwire, but once Sosa also became a contender, all America cared about was seeing Mark and Sammy together. One day at a press conference, a reporter yelled, “McGwire and Sosa are married!” and I said, “They’re actually not,” and the reporter said, “Then what’s the point of even being alive?” People loved their friendly rivalry.
Manager Lee Fohl of the Cleveland Indians does not agree with Clark Griffith that cigarets are bad for professional ball players.
Griffith is deadly opposed to cigarets and his players know it, for any member of the local club caught smoking a cigaret is fined $10.
Fohl said: “You’ve got to show me where cigarets ever harmed a ball player. I will admit that perhaps they would be better off without smoking, but I don’t believe it hurts them much…In the first place, you can’t stop an inveterate cigaret smoker by threatening to fine him. He is going to smoke—that’s all there is to it. I have placed no ban on cigaret smoking—all I ask for is that my men play good ball; if they don’t I’m through with them.”
Fowler has been one of the premier leadoff hitters in baseball, hitting .314 with a .435 on-base percentage, including five homers and 21 RBI. He has the third-highest WAR among NL position players, and the Cubs, not coincidentally, are 29-14.
Yet, he was available 10 days into spring training when the Cubs signed him to a one-year, $13 million contract, because teams were so intent on retaining the first-round draft pick they would have forfeited to sign Fowler, one of 16 players who rejected a $15.8 million qualifying offer…
You can go on and on. It was no different for shortstop Ian Desmond, who had to switch positions and go to the Texas Rangers as an outfielder on a one-year contract. The only offer second baseman Howie Kendrick received all winter was a two-year deal from the Los Angeles Dodgers, who merely brought him back. Outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton had to wait almost the entire winter to find jobs, with Cespedes likely to opt out and test the market again next winter.
This at best is incomplete analysis, especially for a guy who quotes Fowler’s WAR; at worse, it’s just bad.
We don’t know what Fowler was asking for. For his career, he’s about a 2 win player; $13M is a decent deal, but $13M + a pick isn’t. There’s no way I’d pay him more, or for more years. The same could be said for Desmond.
Kendrick wasn’t any good last year, and is a middle infielder in his 30s. Buyer beware.
But the worst is lumping in Cespedes and Upton. According to USA Today, Cespedes is the 7th highest paid player in MLB this year, and Upton is #20. In no way were they hurt financially by the rules.
In Tuesday’s rematch, Harvey surrendered a career-high 20 total bases before departing. Of the 90 pitchers to make at least nine starts this season, he is one of four to fail to reach the seventh inning at least once. The others are Michael Pineda, Wily Peralta and Shelby Miller.
The Mets had implored Harvey to fire his fastball more forcefully on Tuesday than in previous starts. And Harvey actually had his best velocity of the season in the early innings, registering as high as 96 mph with his fastball. But he missed on changeups to Zimmerman and Rendon, when they belted consecutive solo homers in the fourth. And his velocity dipped and he had a “different” delivery, according to Collins, while allowing three runs in the fifth.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Major League Baseball pitchers who throw a high percentage of fastballs may be at increased risk for Tommy John surgery, according to research at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Researchers suggest that throwing fastballs nearly half of the time puts pitchers at risk of injury to their elbow. MLB pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery threw on average 7 percent more fastballs than pitchers who had no surgery.
Researchers found no statistical differences in other pitch types like curveballs, sliders and change-ups. They also found no correlation between pitch velocity and risk of injury.
The findings are published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery.
“Our findings suggest that throwing a high percentage of fastballs rather than off-speed pitches puts more stress on the elbow,” says Robert Keller, M.D., chief resident in Henry Ford’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery and the study’s lead author. “This leads to elbow fatigue, overuse and, subsequently, injury.”
Log onto any mainstream website or media outlet (certainly any program within the ESPN empire) and 30 seconds cannot pass without extreme statistical analysis, which didn’t exist 20 years ago, hijacking the conversation. But not in “BlackWorld,” where never is heard an advanced analytical word. Not in urban barbershops. Not in text chains during three-hour games. Not around office water coolers. Not even in pressrooms or locker rooms where black folks who make a living in the industry spend all day and half the night talking about the most intimate details of sports.
Let’s take the Golden State Warriors locker room, for example. I thought the complete stiff-arming of the statistical revolution might very well be generational. Old black folks don’t, but younger black folks might.
I asked Draymond Green, the Warriors star whose new-age game is constantly being defined statistically, if he engages in any advanced analytics conversation either professionally or personally. His answer was emphatic.
“No. Neither. Professionally, I play completely off of feel. I hear people discussing my game in terms of all these advanced numbers. I have no part of it,” Green said. “Even paying attention to it, from a playing standpoint, would make me robotic and undermine my game. I’m supposed to step back behind the line in real time to avoid taking a ‘bad two’? That’s thinking way too much. I don’t get the fascination at all.”
The shuuto isn’t new or unique. Its first introduction to Americans was as “the great equalizer,” the pitch that constantly bedeviled Tom Selleck in Mr. Baseball. Only the name is exotic. In MLB, the shuuto has been thrown for decades, but under a different identity. You know it as a two-seam fastball, or a circle change, or a screwball. It’s any pitch that breaks to a pitcher’s arm side. The shuuto in Japan generally falls somewhere between a change-up and a fastball in velocity, but it’s merely an umbrella term for an entire family of pitches. This unfamiliar term for an extant pitch is a big part of the confusion surrounding the actual gyroball.
It’s a thoroughly redeemable tendency, even if it occasionally leads to a little cross-cultural silliness. New baseball hotbeds with new philosophies are welcomed with open arms. In almost every other slice of society—and in most every other sport—the unknown in demonized. In baseball, it’s romanticized.
QVC Marine Field is one of the most unique venues in NPB. Fans in the upper deck can see the ocean behind the right field wall. The sea can play havoc with the winds, but were calm on this day. It’s an outdoor stadium, but the turf is artificial, which allows doorless Audi convertibles to cart in relief pitchers without breaking the field. The most unique in-play feature is the vast stretch of foul territory; during a game in mid-May a runner advanced to second on a sacrifice fly to the catcher.
I’m not particularly a Marines fan, though they have some fun players. Through an agreement with the Cuban government, select players are allowed to sign with NPB teams without defecting. The Marines have used that pact to sign Alfredo Despaigne, who is considered one of the best players in Cuba. His Baseball-Reference page from his peak years have the gaudiest numbers this side of Barry Bonds (in 2009 he hit .404/.489/.814), and he’s starting his third year in Japan. He’s 5’9″ and has 80-grade raw power…
Steve tells me that the ball in that video hit the lights. As you can imagine, Despaigne is one of the most fun players in all of baseball, anywhere. If the Marines are good enough for Despaigne, they’re good enough for me. In this game, he would go 2-for-4 with two singles and a walk.
Sitting in the ouenseki was intimidating because cheering is not optional, but despite my initial hesitations it was an absolute blast. After the Marines scored, it was a big party:
The family of Gwynn, who played for the San Diego Padres from 1982 to 2001, filed the lawsuit against Altria Group Inc., the company formerly known as Philip Morris. They allege the company induced Gwynn to start dipping when he began college at San Diego State University in 1977 with free samples of their product, knowing its health risks. As The New York Times reports:
For 31 years—1977 to 2008—Gwynn used one and a half to two cans of smokeless tobacco (usually Skoal) per day. It was the equivalent, the suit says, of four to five packs of cigarettes every day for 31 years. Gwynn would dip Skoal immediately upon waking up, the suit said, and sometimes fall asleep with the product in his right lip and cheek area.
There are no damages specified in the complaint, which asks for a jury trial on grounds of negligence, fraud and product liability. Essentially, the complaint says that Gwynn, while in college, was the victim of a scheme to get him, a rising star athlete, addicted to smokeless tobacco, while knowing the dangers it posed to him. The suit says that the industry was undergoing a determined effort at the time to market its products to African-Americans, and that Gwynn was a “marketing dream come true” for the defendants.
Throughout his career, Gwynn was photographed in games with a bulge of dip in his cheeks. And he wasn’t the only player with the habit. Dipping tobacco remains one of the key aspects of the game; young players start the habit as early as high school, The New York Times reports.