Mining the News (5/19/22)

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

General

Yusei Kikuchi was targeted because his fastball velocity was high for a left-handed pitcher.

Kikuchi’s fastball was one of the main draws for the Blue Jays when they signed him, though. A right-hander who averages 95 mph and reaches up to 97 doesn’t raise as many eyebrows, but a starter doing that from the left side certainly does. Kikuchi’s average four-seam fastball velocity ranks him sixth among left-handed MLB starters (min. 25 pitches), and as he continues to see the results, it’s becoming a pitch he wants to throw more and more.

When it comes to fastball effectiveness, I’ve never divided lefties and righties. It’s something I’ll consider in the future.

• Pitchcom (electronic pitch calling device) is mainly being used with runners on base.

“I just used it for the first time tonight,” Braves pitcher Max Fried said late Friday, after giving up a season-high nine hits and four runs in six innings of an 11-6 loss to the San Diego Padres in a series opener at Truist Park. “It was definitely different. I liked it. I really only used it with a guy on second base, just to see if it could speed up some of the tempo and all that kind of stuff. I think I’ll be using it going forward.”

Pitchers are getting another advantage.

American League

Athletics

Daulton Jefferies is only throwing out of the stretch since his May 13 start.

Seeking a remedy to his recent rough stretch, Jefferies smartly made a concerted effort throughout the past week to pick the brain of rotation mate Paul Blackburn, holder of a team-leading 1.74 ERA through six starts. The main takeaway from those conversations for Jefferies was Blackburn’s method of pitching out of the stretch as opposed to the windup for the entirety of his outings. With that insight, Jefferies decided to employ that same strategy on Friday.

Utilizing that Blackburn technique, Jefferies got himself back on track. He pitched aggressively to hitters and produced 46 swings and nine whiffs (swings-and-misses) on his 88 total pitches, usually a sign that he’s at his best.

Guardians

Josh Naylor will likely only play first base to limit further damage to his leg.

Guardians manager Terry Francona said he prefers Naylor at first base not only to improve the outfield, but also to help limit the amount of movement he has as he continues to bounce back from that nasty lower leg injury last year. With Naylor at first, Miller then moves to second, Giménez shifts to short and Rosario will need to go to left field if they want to keep his bat in the lineup. When Naylor returns, expect this to be the plan.

Since he’ll remain in the infield, expect other players to bounce around the diamond.

Orioles

Adley Rutschman will need to show he can handle an everyday schedule before being promoted.

I explained it more in detail in a previous piece, but basically the Orioles want [Rutschman] to catch a few back-to-back games in the minors to make sure he’s ready for four games in five days behind the plate, like the majority of starting big-league catchers. So far, as part of his progression from his right triceps injury suffered in March, he’s caught consecutive games just once — Thursday afternoon and Friday evening.

The Orioles also want to make sure the constant throwing required by a catcher doesn’t re-aggravate Rutschman’s injury. Furthermore, they’d like him to be a little more comfortable at the plate at Triple A — he’s hit .194 with a .649 OPS in nine games with the Norfolk Tides — so when he comes up he’s in a solid groove.

Going through his minor league game logs, he still hasn’t caught three games in a row yet

Twins

Alex Kirilloff will work through the discomfort in his wrist with regular playing time in AAA.

At this point, the Twins say there’s not much more that can be done physically for Alex Kirilloff’s problematic right wrist. They just need the former top prospect to adapt to the wrist’s new post-surgical state, and they feel the right way to do that is with more consistent playing time than what he’ll see in the big leagues.

That’s why the Twins optioned Kirilloff on Saturday to Triple-A St. Paul, where they hope the 24-year-old will be able to regain the form that once had him ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the organization before he established himself as a Major League regular last April.

National League

Braves

• There are no plans for the team to temper Ronald Acuña Jr.’s hard-driving play.

Manager Brian Snitker acknowledged Sunday the team talked to Acuña at some point, “I think last year,” about the issue. But, Snitker added, “You gotta be careful because you don’t want him to get hurt because he’s being careful. You gotta let him go. You just hope we get him back there.”

When asked whether the team might have to get accustomed to Acuña getting banged up, Snitker said, “Yeah, because he plays with his hair on fire. He plays the thing hard. He’s done a really good job managing the (comeback from a knee injury), too. He’s gotten hot, he’s on base a lot, he wants to run, making plays in the outfield. Probably as he gets older and matures, he’ll probably need to scale back some of that a little bit because of the wear and tear on his body.

“At his age, he doesn’t know anything but full speed ahead. But God bless him.”

Brewers

Kolten Wong is trying to be more selective at the plate.

Too often, in 2-0 or 3-1 counts, he was swinging at pitches on the edges. That, he said, was a product of just trying to get on base instead of being selective and waiting for a pitch he can do more damage on. He started the season 9 for 56 (.161) with 12 strikeouts and one walk. Over the last couple of weeks, though, Wong has made some adjustments and has seen more positive results. In the Brewers’ 18-4 rout last Wednesday against the Reds, for instance, Wong led off the game with a 12-pitch at-bat that ended with a home run.

Wong’s swing percentage has decreased from 48 percent to 43 percent since April 25, but what’s more important is the kind of pitches he is swinging at, and when. He entered play Monday 13 for his last 36 (.361) with five walks and eight strikeouts.

“The biggest thing for me was taking more pitches, being a little more selective,” Wong said. “I always feel like I can cover a lot of balls, and sometimes that can be my downfall. I’ve also been working with the hitting coaches on figuring out how to stay on my backside a little better; I feel like I was jumping on that a little more.

Cubs

Justin Steele is committed to throwing more strikes and staying ahead in the count.

“It’s very important,” Steele said of getting outs on early counts. “The starts that have kind of been not quite as good this year for me have been starts where I have a bunch of 3-2 counts, three-ball counts, a bunch of six-, seven-pitch at-bats.”

“He usually has like one little bump in the road inning that costs him a lot of pitches,” Ross said. “But today, he did a really nice job of just pounding the zone, making those guys earn it.”

In the four games with a 46% Zone% or less, he had a 7.82 ERA, 7.1 K/9, and 7.1 BB/9. In the other three, he had an 11.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, and 1.80 ERA. The issue, for now, is that it’s unknown if he can continuously find the strike zone.

Mets

• It could be the All-Star break before Jacob deGrom returns to the majors.

For now, deGrom remains at least a month away from a return, which represents a best-case scenario; his timeline may wind up becoming more elongated and could easily leak into July, or even the second half of the season. Once he does begin ramping up, deGrom will require three to five Minor League rehab starts in his progression back from a stress reaction in his right scapula, according to pitching coach Jeremy Hefner — a process that will take weeks to complete.

Nationals

Joan Adon has reworked his mechanics in order to throw more strikes.

Manager Dave Martinez had noticed the right-hander’s mechanics were off during that start, so Adon and pitching coach Jim Hickey got together for a bullpen session. Hickey worked to help Adon slow down and solidify mechanics (like staying in his legs) that would get results.

Adon accomplished that goal. He threw 54 strikes out of 84 pitches, including seven first-pitch strikes, and he did not walk a batter all night. It marked his first game without issuing a walk this year, after walking five batters in each of his prior two starts.

“I’ve been working on it this whole week,” Adon said via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “And after the bad start last time with my control and command, with the five walks, it feels good to be able to command the zone today and actually throw a lot more strikes.”

His Zone% in this start (May 17th) was 49%. Only one other time it was over that (55% on April 19th) and he threw over six shutout innings with five strikeouts and two walks.

Padres

Eric Hosmer cleaned up his swing.

Is Eric Hosmer’s production real? He’s attributed his turnaround to Melvin’s confidence in him, but can you provide further insight into his changes and work with Michael Brdar? — Ben L.

His .411 batting average on balls in play, second only to Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, obviously isn’t sustainable. But Hosmer ranks in the top 10 percent of the league in expected batting average. He’s worked with Brdar to lower his hands and shorten his load. So far, the adjustments are paying off.

Rockies

• On May 7th, Randal Grichuk started wearing glasses.

Rockies outfielder Randal Grichuk showed up at Chase Field on Friday with a new piece of equipment that was not only fashionable but, he hopes, functional: prescription eyewear.





Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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TheUncool
1 month ago

RE: fastball velos (and effectiveness) for lefty vs righty pitchers, I’ve long noticed and felt that way and been factoring that in my fantasy play…

airforce21one
1 month ago
Reply to  TheUncool

Does it really matter, though? Has he suddenly started throwing from the other side? I don’t get why this is fantasy relevant. His numbers are what they are.

TheUncool
1 month ago
Reply to  airforce21one

Of course, as usual, there are exceptions seemingly like him… though the original report was about the Jays targeting him to add… while I was mainly commenting about JZ’s general comment about lefties vs righties fastball velo/effectiveness.

You can, of course, continue to ignore that and just let the rest of us have all the lefties w/ (modestly) lower velos (in general) in fantasy… 😉 😎

Last edited 1 month ago by TheUncool