Mining the News (5/29/24)

Note: While you might not care one bit about Bryce Miller (Mariners), read the article on his splitter and how it is three different pitches. Guys who can manipulate pitches like he can, might be able to get away with fewer pitches.

American League

Astros

Joey Loperfido will work on playing first base in the minors.

During spring training, Loperfido himself said the team never hit him groundballs on the back fields. He started just seven Triple-A games at first base before his promotion. He worked with bench coach Omar López to learn the nuances of the position during his time with the major-league team, but the coaching staff never felt comfortable testing it.

Monday, Espada said he envisions “kind of the same” division of playing time for Loperfido during this stint in Triple A, which includes first base “three or four times a week.”

• According to their manager, José Abreu and Jon Singleton will split time at first base.

Espada didn’t commit to Abreu getting everyday at-bats at first base going forward, but it’s likely the Astros will play him as much as they can to see if the changes he made while he was in Florida and during two games this weekend at Triple-A Sugar Land have made a difference.

• José Abreu has been working on his swing during his demotion.

“I was wrong. The most important thing is acknowledging that — be humble and be where your feet are — and get back to where it needs to be,” Abreu said.

“I was wrong on my swing. The games sped up on you too much and sometimes it’s tough to see where you’re at. I saw videos and everything, but I didn’t see it. But now, (hitting coach Alex Cintrón), Brantley, Bagwell, Rene, we all have a good group and we found it. I hope I can show it right away, but it’s baseball and it’s a process. Hopefully I can get there.”

Mariners

• Bryce Miller can manipulate his splitter to get three different pitch types.

Miller’s splitter is more similar to a knuckleball than you might realize. It’s a very low-spin pitch, which gives it the tumbling action that makes it so hard to hit.

Miller is averaging just 828 rpm on his splitter, the seventh-lowest spin rate for any pitch type in the Majors in 2024. Waldron’s knuckleball, of course, is the lowest, at 240 rpm.

“The different movement makes it harder to command, but I think with the lack of spin, it just kind of tumbles, and if they don’t know that it’s gonna come in on them, or if it’s just gonna dive, that helps me,” Miller said.

No matter how much it breaks horizontally, though, or in which direction, the hallmark of Miller’s splitter is its depth, which is exactly what he wants. His splitter averages 40.5 inches of drop, which is almost five inches more than an average splitter, when comparing Miller to pitchers with similar velocity and release point. That puts Miller near the top of Statcast’s splitter vertical movement leaderboard.

Rangers

• The team thinks Evan Carter is too passive at the plate.

“They’re throwing [Evan Carter] strikes,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “They know he has really good discipline, and they’re attacking the zone. He’s probably not as aggressive as he needs to be there. You don’t want to chase pitches, but at the same time, when you take as much as he is, you have a hard time pulling the trigger. It tells me he’s trying to be too disciplined up there and he’s got a lot of thoughts going on. We really, hopefully wanted to clear it up a little bit and get him back to being who he is and get a good swing going.”

“When at the plate, you’re there to hit,” Bochy said. “Walks are great, but it’s OK to swing the bat. It’s all right. You can’t just keep talking. There has to be adjustment. With Evan, it’s just getting back to being the guy we saw last year being great. If you’re a little too passive, when you get your pitch, you’re not ready to hit it. You gotta be ready to hit every pitch and then not swing, versus the other way around.”

Red Sox

• The team doesn’t like it when an opposing player bunts.

The topic? Bunting. The inning began with Milwaukee’s Blake Perkins bunting for a single before Brice Turang sacrificed him to second.

“I probably said some things under my breath that were kind of directed toward that inning. I’ll let y’all determine what those things were,” Martin said. “Heat of the moment, they bunted twice. You see they bunted there at the end of the game. I don’t know. I didn’t like it. I know it’s part of the game, but it is what it is.”

Boo hoo.

Tigers

Colt Keith has reworked his swing.

Keith, then, reverted to an old tactic. When he has struggled in the past, he likes to implement a toe-tap to settle down his movements and aid his timing.

“Timing and keeping my head still and simple,” Keith said. “Less moving parts.”

Soon after Keith altered his swing, the results started coming. It started with a couple of singles in Cleveland. He had a four-hit game last week in Arizona, then two three-hit games in Kansas City.

Twins

Jose Miranda will stay in the majors when Royce Lewis is off the IL playing mainly first base and designated hitter.

That’s just not the type of hitter any inconsistent lineup can afford to send down, especially given how little production the Twins have received from bat-driven positions. Twins first basemen and designated hitters rank 21st out of 30 teams in OPS, and those are the two other spots Miranda can fill while also continuing to see time at third base when Lewis gets a day off.

“His shoulder is in a good spot, the range of motion, the strength,” Tingler said. “That’s what we’re seeing. We look at the swing, it’s very similar to 2022. He’s got a very good swing, a flat swing. He’s able to hit the fastball up in the zone, and then when he’s staying back, he can hit the secondary pitches as well. I think the main thing is the shoulder is in a good spot.”

Yankees

Jasson Domínguez will be assigned to AAA once off the IL unless a regular is struggling in the majors or on the IL.

But the Yankees have made it clear that they have no intention of rushing the 21-year-old back to The Show, and with a crowded outfield in the Bronx, Domínguez could be ticketed for several more weeks of riding buses in the high Minors.

Trent Grisham is the club’s reserve outfielder, and though he has just two hits in 36 at-bats (.056), it makes little sense to have Domínguez in the Majors without the ability to offer significant playing time. Designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton is also punishing baseballs regularly, much healthier than he was at any point last season.

Thus, it’s likely that the Yankees will option Domínguez to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when his rehab assignment expires, providing more development time for a player who only logged 37 plate appearances at the Triple-A level last season — at least, until an opportunity to contribute opens up in the Bronx, or until rosters expand in September.

National League

Brewers

Brice Turang has no desire to hit home runs.

Laurila: I’ve had hitters tell me that their approach has evolved from trying to hit line drives up the middle to trying to hit line drives over the center fielder’s head; they want to elevate the ball. Is that the case for you?

Turang: “Certain people want to. I don’t. I want to be able to catch it out in front, which elevates the ball, but if I can stay low up the middle — line drives up the middle — then as I work my way farther out, those bullets start going in the air.

“I want to be a gap-to-gap guy, a run/speed guy. As you get older, you start hitting balls… I mean, you work in the gym, you’re lifting and getting stronger, but I’m not a big power guy, so what’s the point in me trying to hit the ball in the air? I’d rather work low, gap to gap, doubles, steal bases — stuff like that — and from time to time I’ll clip one. I mean, I have it in there. I have the power to hit homers, it’s just that I’m not trying to.”

Sal Frelick’s shoulder has been bothering him for a while.

Hustle and grit has been part of Frelick’s story this season. In Spring Training, he worked on converting to third base, since that was where he might fit on a roster stocked with outfielders. Frelick did so much work with infield instructor Matt Erickson on footwork around the bags and throwing from angles different than the over-the-top delivery he was used to as an outfielder that he developed a sore shoulder that has probably impacted his early-season production at the plate. The Brewers put Frelick on a pitcher’s arm care program to get healthy again, and that’s made a difference, thought he’s “not anywhere close to 100 percent.”

Cardinals

Steven Matz won’t be able to pitch until the end of June.

Now it appears Matz will miss closer to two months instead of two weeks. After receiving a second injection, Matz was cleared to play catch over the weekend. Based on the usual timeline, he likely won’t be built up to start until the end of June. While that’s a problem, the Cardinals have a much bigger issue: Despite having four weeks to find one, the Cardinals remain without a viable fifth starter.

Zach Thompson is reworking his delivery in AAA.

Thompson is back in Triple-A Memphis, retooling his delivery after he lost significant velocity off his pitches.

Nolan Arenado is not happy with his swing.

“It’s bad. The swing is not good, my swing is not good,” Arenado said after an 0-for-4 day at the plate dropped his batting average to .258. “I’ve been working on it and trying to figure this thing out, but my swing is not good.

“I’m a guy that pulls the ball in the air and I haven’t done that all year. I don’t know what the answers are. I’ve got to continue to try to find it. I can see the difference of when I was good and when I’m not, but trying to apply it in games right now is really hard for me.”

“I think it’s a mixture of mechanics, but mentally it’s been frustrating,” said Arenado, who stressed that past back and wrist injuries aren’t to blame. “I mean, I’ve gone through struggles, but I’m still able to hit the ball in the air. But what I’m going through now is something that I’ve never gone quite like this. But my at-bats have been just terrible.

Cubs

• The team is expecting Shota Imanaga to throw 170 IP this season.

The Cubs could have pushed Imanaga’s outing back by one day and had him start on Saturday at Busch Stadium. Counsell instead saw the rainout as an opportunity to offer the rookie sensation some extra rest, opting to move his start back to Wednesday against the Brewers in Milwaukee.

“This is a proactive move,” Counsell said prior to Saturday’s game. “And it’s really about the innings during the course of the season. We’re tracking towards 170ish innings, and just trying to know that that’s the number. And know that there are very few spots in the schedule where you have a chance to maybe use the schedule to your advantage. This was one of them.”

Diamondbacks

• The team may use an opener if the opposition always uses a set batting order.

Don’t be surprised to see the D-backs go with an opener at other times this year if the circumstances line up just right. It has to be the right scheduled starter for that night — a young pitcher like Cecconi and they have to believe that the opener will give them a favorable matchup against two of the opposition’s first three hitters.

For instance, the Dodgers weren’t going to change the order of the first three hitters in their lineup because the D-backs decided to go with Mantiply. Another team that you could see Arizona employ an opener against is the Phillies, who have lefties Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper among their first three hitters.

Dodgers

Shohei Ohtani is dealing with a hamstring bruise and can’t run at 100%.

Right now, Ohtani is battling a right hamstring bruise and running with a bit of caution through the use of a speed-controlling device — but when he gets back to 100 percent, expect him to continue running.

• Dave Roberts will give Chris Taylor another week to figure things out.

Manager Dave Roberts said he sat down with Taylor last week in San Francisco to talk about Taylor’s 6-for-61 (.098) start. The manager has long been in the former All-Star’s corner and lauded how he’s handled things.

“Man, he’s accountable,” Roberts said this week. “Works hard. Doesn’t make excuses and I think the swing’s getting better. So now the question is what’s best for CT as far as how we can get him the best runway to get back into a normal rhythm. I haven’t done that because there are some other guys that I feel should have opportunities to play. But when I do find opportunities, I’m trying to get him in there and we’ll see how the next week plays out.”

• The manager stated the team will evaluate Gavin Lux at about 150 PA.

Roberts has repeatedly said they’re looking for Gavin Lux to take 150 or so plate appearances before they make a serious evaluation of him. After all, he’s coming off of a significant injury; he was candid last month about the mental hurdles that remain in his rehab. He entered Thursday with 141 plate appearances, hitting .203 with a .558 OPS after a two-hit night (including a triple) Tuesday and a double Wednesday. The surface numbers haven’t been great. The advanced metrics aren’t all that encouraging.

Right now, Lux is at 151 PA and hitting .244/.261/.378 over the past two weeks.

Marlins

Sixto Sánchez is now working out between starts.

Speaking of conversations, Schumaker challenged Sánchez, whose first-inning troubles (MLB-high 19.80 ERA) are well-documented, six days ago.

So Sánchez went to the gym, training room and the playing field earlier. He began throwing with intent in his pregame bullpen, trying to simulate game speed so that he was ready when he took the mound. After two shoulder surgeries, Sánchez learned he must warm up differently.


“It shows what he can do when he warms up properly and trains between starts properly and gives himself a chance to help the team win,” Schumaker said. “[It’s] all we ask for, and I think he did a really good job taking what we’ve been giving him the last couple of weeks and applying it. Again, a tough environment, tough team, five innings, three runs kept us in the game, gave it to our bullpen. I thought it was a really good outing for Sixto, and something that we can move forward with in a positive way.”





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 twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Rick Lipinski
16 days ago

Being 45, I try to chalk things I don’t understand up to being old. But that bunting thing is bizarre.
Bunting is just not a cheap play, full stop.
If you don’t like it, Martin, get of the hill and field your position.

dannyrockmember
16 days ago
Reply to  Rick Lipinski

Agree. I dislike bunting so very much but if you’re on defense stfu and take the free out.

Anon
16 days ago
Reply to  Rick Lipinski

You don’t like it, maybe play the 3B to cover those. It’s kind of like being ticked off that a football team runs screen passes or a basketball team shoots corner 3s or something.

It’s a tie game, late innings and Perkins isn’t exactly a power hitter with a .106 ISO and no XBH since May 4th. He gets on and it rolls over to the top of the lineup with a man on and no outs. Call me crazy, but maybe taking the free base because the Sox are playing back isn’t a bad idea?

MarkZmember
15 days ago
Reply to  Rick Lipinski

Martin is basically the same age in pitcher years.

cubfanjack
15 days ago
Reply to  Rick Lipinski

Completely agree. What a lazy, near cowardly position for Martin to take. Jim Abbott made it to the major leagues as a pitcher with one arm. Teams bunted on him immediately. There’s no crying allowed.