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Monday, May 17, 2021

Baseball America [$]: ‘It’s Awful’: Sloppy Play Rampant Across Minors After Unprecedented Layoff

Hitters are working to get their timing back. Pitchers are struggling with command and control issues. As of mid May, 41% of all plate appearances in the minors are resulting in a walk, strikeout or hit-by pitch (the MLB rate is 34 %). Both the current walk rate (12% of all plate appearances) and the current strikeout rate (28% of all plate appearances) are far beyond the rate ever seen before at any time in the minor leagues. In 2019, the minors set previous highs with a 24% strikeout rate and a 9% walk rate. So this year, another 9% of plate appearances are resulting in walks or strikeouts.

Put in different terms, if a minor league pitcher is walking 4.5 batters per nine innings and striking out 11 per nine innings, he’s right on the minor league average in both categories, even if both the walk rate and the strikeout rate seem sky high to anyone who has been watching baseball for a while.

But it’s not just walks and strikeouts. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, full-season minor league teams had either a .976 or .977 fielding percentage every year. This year, the collective fielding percentage is sitting at .970. Low-A understandably always has the lowest fielding percentage among full-season levels, but its current .961 fielding percentage is 10 points worse than its worst performance of the previous three seasons.

“Live game speed is probably the biggest adjustment right now, especially defensively,” said a fourth scout. “The game is getting fast on some guys.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 17, 2021 at 03:02 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: minor leagues

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: May 17, 2021 at 04:27 PM (#6019237)
We have met the enemy and he is us.
   2. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: May 17, 2021 at 04:34 PM (#6019240)
Low-A understandably always has the lowest fielding percentage among full-season levels, but its current .961 fielding percentage is 10 points worse than its worst performance of the previous three seasons.

Perhaps guys who in the past would have been playing Rookie or short-season A-ball are having to play full-season A now.
   3. Hombre Brotani Posted: May 17, 2021 at 04:39 PM (#6019242)
This doesn't tell me that players are bad, it tells me that coaching is bad.
   4. The Duke Posted: May 17, 2021 at 04:40 PM (#6019243)
Maybe guys showed up at their single A assignment and found out their team was AAA now
   5. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 17, 2021 at 04:52 PM (#6019248)
Baseball is ####### up everything.
   6. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: May 17, 2021 at 08:56 PM (#6019286)
In 2017, 2018 and 2019, full-season minor league teams had either a .976 or .977 fielding percentage every year. This year, the collective fielding percentage is sitting at .970.


So about 1 extra of every 200 playable balls per team is leading to an error. What's that, maybe one extra error a week? All you need is a couple guys at Class A playing like Jeter did there at 19 years old with 56 errors (average of 4 errors every 9 games).
   7. winnipegwhip Posted: May 18, 2021 at 09:12 AM (#6019358)
From the article

“It’s god awful,” said one pro scout. “Tons of strikeouts, bad at-bats, bad defense. Sloppy play in general and lots of plodding games. It’s hard to watch.”

It’s not that players didn’t work during their extra-long layoff, but with baseball there are aspects that can easily be worked on alone (increasing strength, velocity, bat speed, power) and others that can’t easily be replicated without getting out on the field and getting into game or game-type situations.

“I know what minor league guys did for 18 months,” said a second pro scout. “They trained to increase velocity and spin and they trained to increase exit velocity. That’s it. No one picked up a glove.”


Even if a player did pick up a glove, there’s no easy way to work on the timing required to know whether to try to throw to second or third on a ground ball or take the easier out at first base. A catcher can catch some bullpens, but that doesn’t replicate the experience of managing a game. And not every catcher has had pitchers around to practice receiving low-90s sliders.

“We grade tools. A lot of things about playing the game are skills,” said a third scout. “Skills require practice. Baseball is a game sport, not a practice sport. The pandemic has exposed a lot of things. One thing it has exposed is the limits of just the lab. You have to play games to get a feel for the game.”
   8. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: May 18, 2021 at 09:20 AM (#6019360)
“It’s god awful,” said one pro scout. “Tons of strikeouts, bad at-bats, bad defense. Sloppy play in general and lots of plodding games. It’s hard to watch.”

Wait.... is the scout talking about minor league games or Major League Baseball here?
   9. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: May 18, 2021 at 10:06 AM (#6019369)
The holocaust that eviscerated the minors has reduced the number of low-minor teams in New York State to two: the Brooklyn Cyclones and my Hudson Valley Renegades. There were six NYS teams in the old New York-Pennsylvania League last season; a total of 23 cities in NY state (not all at the same time, of course) have had teams in the NY-Penn.

Sad, really.
   10. Karl from NY Posted: May 18, 2021 at 02:59 PM (#6019423)
There's also the Long Island Ducks, depending on your definition of low-minor.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: May 18, 2021 at 06:02 PM (#6019471)
One thing it has exposed is the limits of just the lab. You have to play games to get a feel for the game.

It's almost as if several levels of minor leagues might be useful. I wonder if Manfred would consider that.
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 18, 2021 at 08:09 PM (#6019507)
“The game is getting fast on some guys.”
Just bring them up to the majors then. Problem solved.
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 18, 2021 at 08:11 PM (#6019509)
“Skills require practice. Baseball is a game sport, not a practice sport. The pandemic has exposed a lot of things. One thing it has exposed is the limits of just the lab. You have to play games to get a feel for the game.”
This kind of reeks of "something the old guard wants to be true" rather than "something that is true."
   14. McCoy Posted: May 18, 2021 at 10:17 PM (#6019536)
Does seem a little silly. A left fielder that might get 4 chances a game needs to stand out in left field for 70 minutes to get a feel for the game?

There’s teamwork stuff and all but there’s plenty of practice and drills you can do. Whether players making peanuts during a pandemic can afford to devote all their time to that is another question.
   15. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: May 19, 2021 at 12:29 PM (#6019640)
“Skills require practice. Baseball is a game sport, not a practice sport. The pandemic has exposed a lot of things. One thing it has exposed is the limits of just the lab. You have to play games to get a feel for the game.”


That statement rings true to a certain extent. I do think "the lab" has its limits - for hitters, facing live pitching and pitch sequencing is important, and vice versa for pitchers. I think you can get 90%, maybe 95%, of the way there in fielding just with practice. However, the ball is going to come off the bat differently in game situations and of course situational awareness is tough to duplicate. But it does seem like it would be a lot easier to work on hitting (bat speed and strength) and pitching (arm strength and spin rate) in a pandemic world. Fielding drills are going to need at least one other person willing to work with you, and probably two.

I do think that "baseball is a game sport, not a practice sport" is probably an overreach. Baseball seems like a practice sport more than most other sports where teamwork and on-field chemistry play a lot bigger role.

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