Mining the News (4/17/21)

American League

Angels

Shohei Ohtani’s “weakened lower half” led to some of his struggles last season.

That exact type of pitch flummoxed Ohtani so much last season, when a weakened lower half caused him to bail out of the box constantly and shuffle his feet to the point that manager Joe Maddon joked that a seatbelt should be strapped on him. Opposing pitchers fed Ohtani a steady diet of velocity inside to set up changeups and breaking balls away, knowing that he was struggling to cover the plate.

This should be easy to check if true (and it is). Here is his slugging percentage for 2020 (Ohtani is an LHH, right side of graphs).

And that for 2021

So .667 SLG is quite a bit bigger than a .091 SLG.

Athletics

Jed Lowrie was not allowed to have an operation with the Mets.

Rojas confirmed that he was aware Jed Lowrie wanted to undergo knee surgery last year, but the Mets manager called that the extent of his knowledge. Instead, Rojas continued, most of his talks with Lowrie revolved around the infielder’s comfort with various knee braces, which he was attempting to use as temporary fixes that would allow him to play.

A source confirmed last week that the Mets would not allow Lowrie to undergo surgery while under contract with the team. He did so shortly after the season instead, then signed with the A’s and responded with two home runs and a .333 batting average over his first dozen games. Lowrie entered Wednesday’s play leading the league in games played after appearing in zero with the Mets in 2020.

Now that he’s healthy, he’s hitting .360/.439/.560 with two home runs.

Royals

Brad Keller tweaked his mechanics after his first two starts.

“I couldn’t throw that hard with the mechanics I was working with in the first two starts,” Keller said. “I feel like now with some of the adjustments that we made, it made it easier for the ball to come out cleaner.”

The right-hander’s newfound form allowed him to be himself in the strike zone and use his ability to throw with overpowering movement, according to Matheny, instead of trying to paint the corners.

I dug through all the pitch info and his “adjustment” has his fastball spin back to his previous norms.

Date: 4-seam rpm
2020: 2349
4/1/21: 2262
4/8/21: 2301
4/14/21: 2366

Hunter Dozier is still dealing with a thumb injury.

The thumb initially “blew up,” Dozier said, referencing the swelling. The Royals gave him time to heal, and throughout Dozier’s mindset was this: “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Injuries happen. Just battle through it.”

He returned April 7 in Cleveland but went 0-for-4. The next day, in Chicago, he went 0-for-3. The thumb was still hurting at that point. He wore a batting glove with a cast underneath, which he wasn’t used to. Wanting a better feel, he tried a gel pad with tape, which didn’t give him much protection. Now he’s wearing a rubber Direct Protect cushion and the thumb has improved.

Dozier is not hitting (.167/.231/.208) with no Barrels and his Max EV is 9 mph below last season (110 mph vs 101 mph). All that is in line with his quote. I looked up the Direct Protect cushion, and he’s wearing one in this image. I tried to find him wearing it in a video with no luck. I see that the thumb is still bothering him as he favors it at the end of this video.

With Dozier struggling, he’s likely headed to some waiver wires. Keep checking in to see if he still wearing the guard. Once it’s gone, his production might take off.

Tigers

Spencer Turnbull should start sometime next week.

Turnbull, whose alt-site start against the Cubs in South Bend, Ind., on Sunday was shortened by rain, will pitch four or five innings, according to Hinch. That could put him on track to rejoin the Tigers’ rotation for next week’s homestand against Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

White Sox

Reynaldo López is close to joining the White Sox’s rotation.

Reynaldo López, who was scheduled to start against the Cubs in an alternate training site game Tuesday, has been progressing well, per Katz.

“His last outing before he left spring, he was up to 95 [mph], which was great,” Katz said. “He’s been working hard on his lower half as well. All the reports back have been really positive.”

Yankees

Clint Frazier is going to play a lot, except when Brett Gardner plays.

Boone explained that he wanted to insert another left-handed hitter in Brett Gardner, who also started twice over Frazier against right-handed pitchers during the weekend series at Tropicana Field.

“Frazier rakes, and he’s going to rake,” Boone said. “But we have a really good player in Gardy, too. Let’s make more judgments on these things when we have a month or two of body of work. … Bottom line is, Gardy is going to play a lot, whether he spots in center, whether he gets starts in left. I like the way he’s playing as well, so they’re both going to end up playing a lot. As I tell him, Fraz is going to be a really good player for us.”

Basically, they are in a platoon but Boone hasn’t got the b… guts to say it.

National League

Cardinals

Looks a lot like 2019.

Pirates

Gregory Polanco is trying to shorten his swing.

Polanco was benched on Monday, getting what manager Derek Shelton called a “work day” to devise a slump-busting plan with hitting coach Rick Eckstein. On Tuesday, Polanco was held out to avoid a tough matchup against lefty Blake Snell.

“He’s able to compete and shorten his stroke but also drive the baseball,” Eckstein said a couple of weeks ago. “It’s still a work in progress, but I do know that Gregory has shown some things, an upside that we’ve all been waiting to see.”

Isn’t the time to make major changes is the off-season and Spring Training and not during the season? Or am I wrong?

Rockies

C.J. Cron thinks he’s struggling since he’s hitting under the lights for the first time.

In 158 career Spring Training games, Cron has batted .331 and compiled a .977 OPS. But in March/April regular-season games, Cron has hit .234 (his second-lowest monthly average to his .232 in June) with a .674 OPS (his lowest).

Playing under the lights could be a factor. Well, maybe.

“I didn’t play one night game [this spring], and you play obviously a ton of night games during the season, so you’re going to need time to kind of have your eyes adjust to that,” Cron said. “I don’t know.

“It’s just different, Spring Training and the season. It’s really hard to compare the two. I really don’t have an answer, unfortunately.”

I’ve read worse excuses for sucking.





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 three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Those Pro Hitter “Direct Protect” pads are worn by tons of players. They’re not meant for injury recovery, so he may just keep using it even after he’s healthy. It keeps the bat in your finger tips and gives better control.