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Monday, April 06, 2020

Sunday Notes: Keston Hiura Can Hit, But The Book He’d Write Would Be Boring

The first time I interviewed Keston Hiura was over the phone. This was a few months after he’d been taken ninth overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2017 draft. Kiura was playing for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and he called at the assigned time from a Midwest League ballpark after batting practice. I don’t recall which ballpark.

I was in Lowell, Massachusetts at a New York-Penn League game that had already started. It was loud at LeLacheur Park, so I talked to Hiura from the relative quiet of a stairwell down the left-field line. The interview went well. I found the former UC Irvine Anteater to be both forthcoming and articulate.

The second time I interviewed Kiura was at the Brewers spring training complex, four weeks ago. Standing face-to-face — closer than the six-foot distance now deemed necessary — I accused him of being boring.

Truth be told, the pertinent ground had already been covered. In our earlier long-distance conversation we’d gone over the toe tap into a high leg kick, the inside-out swing with a high finish, the way he kept both hands on the bat. For good measure, we’d touched on his patience-paired-with-aggression approach.

For those who want to hear about unpaid bets from the 1980s, players who spent a year playing baseball in Japan, and the manager we hate this most.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Sunday Notes: MacKenzie Gore is a Power Pitcher Who Doesn’t Hunt Punchouts

What will possibly be the last of these for quite some time:

MacKenzie Gore struck me as a straightforward sort when I talked to him in San Diego Padres camp last Sunday. Polite but not loquacious, the 21-year-old southpaw perfunctorily answered each of my inquiries about his repertoire and approach. This is something he’s used to doing. As baseball’s top pitching prospect, Gore gets more than his fair share of media attention.

I didn’t walk into the conversation expecting to glean a boatload of fresh insight. I’m familiar with the scouting reports — all glowing — and as a FanGraphs reader you likely are as well. Even so, an opportunity to hear directly from the horse’s mouth wasn’t something I wanted to pass up.

A look at some numbers before we get to his words. In 20 starts last year between high-A Lake Elsinore (this in the hitter-friendly Cal League) and Double-A Amarillo, Gore logged a 1.69 ERA and won nine of 11 decisions. Moreover — this is the eye-popping part — he had 135 strikeouts, and allowed just 56 hits, in 101 innings.

“I’m a guy who attacks the zone with his fastball,” Gore told me. “I’m going out there looking to throw a lot of innings, so I’m trying to get people out early. I’m trying to throw the least amount of pitches possible.”

 

QLE Posted: March 16, 2020 at 01:08 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: andrew vaughn, mackenzie gore, michael chavis, nick madrigal, statistics, sunday notes

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Spring Training Stats Only Almost Mean Nothing

All winter long we wait for spring to arrive so that baseball may begin again. And then once it starts and our precious stat columns begin being filled in Florida and Arizona, we spend most of the preseason assuring each other that none of it matters: The success is a mirage, achieved against a lower caliber of pitching, and the struggles are the result of experimentation and readjustments.

No need to panic. No need to celebrate. Let’s all just sit here in the sun and be happy that baseball has returned, while making sure to maintain an appropriate emotional response to afternoons full of practice games. Stat farming, percentage calculating, theory formulating, tantrum throwing, sadness having; that’s all for the regular season, as the nightly pace of baseball wears us down to the nub.

Here in spring training, we’re safe from such things. Unless! We cross that arbitrary threshold that we’ll say is right about now. Context is important in the preseason, if nothing else is, and in the case of two veterans, their spring performance has made the regular season in front of them a little more interesting.

Let’s just say it: Chris Davis looks amazing. And to echo what’s probably being said in his own head, who even cares why? Davis has to muscle his way out of a deep, deep hole into which the Orioles threw a base salary of $23 million last season as part of his seven-year, $161 million deal that will see him make over $1 million a year through 2037.

In certain regards, the same points could be made about minor league statistics, at least in the sense that their meaning is far different than it is at the MLB level.

 

QLE Posted: March 12, 2020 at 01:57 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: chris davis, didi gregorius, spring training, statistics

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sunday Notes: Dodgers Prospect Kody Hoese is Calm, Cool, and Collects Hits

Kody Hoese exploded last season at Tulane. In a breakout junior campaign that saw him shoot up draft charts, the right-handed-hitting third baseman slashed a preposterous .391/.486/.779, bashing 23 home runs along the way. Duly impressed, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Hoese with the 25th pick of the first round.

He proceeded to acclimate well to pro ball. The numbers weren’t nearly as loud as they were with the Green Wave, but his .299/.380/.483 line between rookie-level Arizona and the low-A Great Lakes Loons was more than adequate. In terms of getting his feet wet, Hoese did just fine.

Asking Hoese about the sudden-rise path he took from Tulane to top-shelf prospect unearthed no great revelations. The 22-year-old Griffith, Indiana native feels that he simply matured and grew into having a more-advanced approach at the plate. “There weren’t really any mechanical changes, or anything like that.”

Hoese’s setup and stroke are anything but complicated. He presents with a “little-lower-hands slot” and a simple load where he “kind of gets into [his] back side, and then strides.” He tries to stay balanced — “centered through my body, upright” — with minimal head movement. His primary objectives are a consistent swing path and focusing on driving the ball up the middle and to the opposite-field gap.

For discussion of all those stories that we’ve otherwise missed…..


Monday, February 10, 2020

Sunday Notes: MLB Executives Weigh in on the Implications of MiLB Contraction

Almost inexplicably, the proposed contraction of 42 minor league teams has largely become second-page news. Baseball’s biggest story just a few short months ago, a potentially cataclysmic alteration of the game’s landscape has found itself overshadowed by cheating scandals, managerial mayhem, and the controversial trade of a superstar by a deep-pocketed team. In arguably one of the most-tumultuous off-seasons ever, a hugely-important issue lies almost dormant within the news cycle.

Here at FanGraphs, we’re doing our best not to let that happen. My colleague Craig Edwards is taking an in-depth look at the situation — expect those articles in the coming days — and what you’re seeing here serves as a lead-in to his efforts. My own opinions aren’t included. What follows are the thoughts of a handful of high-ranking MLB executives, the bulk of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In the opinion of one GM, lawsuits are likely, if not inevitable. Speaking on the record would thus be an invitation to trouble. Another pointed out that the ongoing discussions are at the league level, and independent of individual teams. For that reason, offering a public opinion wouldn’t be in his best interest.

With no exception, each executive expressed that his organization’s bottom line is to optimize player development, regardless of the structure of the minor leagues. An American League GM put it this way:

“I don’t think [contraction] would change our operations that much in terms of what we’re focused on internally. We want to put the best resources in front of our players, and whether we have 10 minor league teams, five minor league teams, or somewhere in between, we’re going to do the same thing.”

Come for the serious consideration of a major topic- stay for the Greg Maddux stories and notes on player-pitcher records.


Saturday, November 30, 2019

Elias Sports Bureau Boss Seymour Siwoff Had Immeasurable Impact in How We Watch Sports

It’s hard to overstate how significant Elias Sports Bureau is in the way we all watch, read, and learn about sports. Any time you hear something like, “Lamar Jackson is the first player in NFL HISTORY with four TD passes and at least 50 yards rushing in consecutive games,” there’s a high probability that stat originated with Elias. (This one indeed did.)

Jim Furtado Posted: November 30, 2019 at 08:48 AM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: statistics

Monday, October 21, 2019

Could Madison Bumgarner’s bad road stats hurt him in MLB free agency?

Madison Bumgarner is entering free agency at a curious time in his career. The longtime Giants ace has built a legendary reputation, but plenty of question marks also surround the 30-year-old.

Bumgarner proved he’s still a workhorse after missing time the previous two seasons with freak injuries. His 34 starts were tied for the MLB lead, and his 207 2/3 innings pitched ranked second in the NL.

But while looking at Bumgarner’s stats from this past season, one thing stands out that could hurt him in free agency and actually help the Giants if they want to bring back the left-hander.

MadBum’s home-road splits were staggering in 2019. He was a completely different pitcher in front of the home crowd at Oracle Park, compared to pitching away from San Francisco.

Mind you, with free agency working as it has lately, will we necessarily be able to tell much of a difference?

 

QLE Posted: October 21, 2019 at 12:30 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: free agency, home-road splits, madison bumgarner, statistics

 

 

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