Mining the News (5/4/23)

MLB

• Pitchers with sweepers might have problems getting out opposite handed hitters.

That’s the big flaw with the sweeper. It had the second-biggest platoon split among all the pitch types — the difference in production between same- and opposite-handed hitters is the second-largest in baseball over the last two years.

So what do you do with a pitcher that has a great weapon against same-handed hitters and needs something for opposite-handed hitters? Scan down to the bottom of that list. The oldest answer in baseball: Get a changeup. The changeup is still the best way for a righty to get lefties out.

American League

Angels

Anthony Rendon’s power might be down because of an early hit-by-pitch.

“I do think the power’s coming,” Nevin said. “We saw it in spring training. I’ve seen [Anthony Rendon’s] hips and hands a little more loose and free the past five or six games. Everyone keeps saying he’s going to get one here, get one there. He just missed a couple in Milwaukee. I’m not worried about it.”

Nevin said he felt a hit-by-pitch that Rendon took on a fastball by Toronto’s Jordan Romano during the first home series of the season could have impacted Rendon’s power.

He’s just not getting around like he used to with his Pull% dropping from the low 40%’s to 31% this season. Follow the monthly values on his splits page to see when he has returned to his old form.

Astros

• Alex Cintron, the Astros hitting coach, thinks José Abreu has some mechanical issues with his swing.

Abreu said his problems are not mechanical. Cintrón [Astros hitting coach] disagreed. The two men are studying Abreu’s swings over his final four seasons with the White Sox and comparing them to some he took this April.

Cintrón acknowledged Abreu is not recognizing pitches well, but also sees a problem with his hands and head. Abreu’s head is going back in his swing and his hands are going down, Cintrón said, causing Abreu to use his whole body to get to the baseball instead of his hands.

“He’s going too far back and he has to go around the ball,” Cintrón said. “When you have to go around the ball, the (swing) gets long and the exit (velocity) is going to be bad. He’s chasing pitches because his body turns and head turns. He’s not recognizing pitches. But it’s about mechanics. It’s nothing about him. When that fixes and that clicks, it’s game over.”

Abreu has no power. He has a career 91 mph avgEV but down at 87 mph this season. Also, his career 46% HardHit% is down to 36%.

Mauricio Dubón is trying to hit more line drives and groundballs.

Dubón does most of his damage on a line or on the ground. Too much of his contact last season came in the air. After the Astros acquired him from the San Francisco Giants, Dubón took 216 plate appearances and had a 30.5 percent fly ball rate. He hit .208 after arriving in Houston as a .260 lifetime hitter. Coaches saw a player overswinging and trying to extract power where none really exists. Dubón has 18 home runs in 272 major league games.

“He’s staying more inside the ball,” hitting coach Alex Cintrón said. “In the past, he was trying to hit balls out of the ballpark and drive the ball in the air. Now he understands that he can do that in the game, but if he stays in the middle or to the opposite field, he has a lot more chances to get on base and get hits.”

After last season, Dubón met with a group of Astros baseball operations officials. He averaged an 84.7 mph exit velocity on the 221 balls he struck in play. Staffers showed him the effect an extra mile per hour or two would have on his contact. Dubón scarfed down 5,000 calories a day in response and reported to spring training at 190 lbs. He had weighed 165 at the time San Francisco dealt him to Houston.

Dubón’s average exit velocity is up to 86.2 mph through three weeks of the season, but the direction and type of his contact are far more crucial to his success.

Athletics

• The A’s think Ken Waldichuk needs to throw his changeup more.

“I think he’s got conviction to his changeup,” manager Mark Kotsay said of Waldichuk. “We saw that tonight. The changeup is a really good pitch. It disrupts the timing of the hitters. If you’ve got a good changeup, it makes your fastball play up, which I think we saw tonight. Hitters’ timing was off.

“He really commanded the baseball and threw strikes,” continued Kotsay. “I don’t know the percentage of changeups tonight, but I’m going to assume that it was a lot more than his previous outings.”

“It’s definitely big to have,” Waldichuk said of his changeup. “It moves away. I feel like my fastball gets some good carry. My slider breaks in. To have something that carries, breaks in and moves away, that’s really big and crucial to success.”

While the team context wasn’t the greatest, I liked Waldichuk coming into the season because he featured a 94-mph fastball and two non-fastballs with a 14% or greater swinging-strike rate.

He had fallen apart this season (7.26 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 1.65 WHIP). He has lost over 1 mph on his fastball (10% SwStr% to 6% SwStr%) with his slider (16% SwStr% to 7%) down almost as much.

With his other pitches degrading, he revamped his change by adding velocity and the pitches swinging-strike rate is up from 14% to 20%. But he only throws his changeup 15% of the time. No idea why.

Guardians

• Peyton Battenfield’s got a near elite cutter.

When a pitcher first reaches the big leagues, there’s little information for opponents to collect in preparation to face him. The longer Battenfield sticks around, maybe we’ll start to see some adjustments being made. For now, his cutter looks like one of the most dominant pitches in the game.

In his first start, Battenfield’s cutter induced 12 whiffs out of the 20 swings batters took against it. On Tuesday, he got 11 more whiffs on 31 swings.

“They didn’t like it at all,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said, when asked about Battenfield’s cutter. “They didn’t love facing him. It’s a different approach. It’s one of the highest release points, and the ball moves a little bit. I think more than what they said with their words, they said with their actions. We didn’t get a lot of great swings against him. But we got one.”

His cutter is plus with a 21% SwStr% but he can’t get any pitches over the plate right with a 45% Zone% and 5.7 BB/9. He never had walk issues in the minors so I would expect the problem to correct itself or he’s dealing with an injury.

Rangers

Ezequiel Duran might move to the outfield when Corey Seager returns.

If Duran keeps this up, he may have also earned himself more playing time after Seager returns. Where that playing time comes from remains to be seen, though it’s likely somewhere in the outfield.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Bochy said. “These things have a way of working themselves out, but it’s hard to keep this kid out. He’s playing such good baseball and he’s got the speed to play anywhere. So it’s a very workable situation once we get to that point.”

Red Sox

• During the preseason, Jarren Duran changed his hand’s position on the bat.

Duran moved his hands way up in his swing setup. He came to Spring Training hammering the baseball. The World Baseball Classic, during which Duran served as mainly a spectator for Team Mexico, impacted his timing when he returned for the final stretch of camp.

However, Red Sox manager Alex Cora had a message for the center fielder when he was optioned to Triple-A at the end of Spring Training.

“If you go 0-for-20 or 20-for-20, do not change your hands. Stay right there. Use the whole field,” Cora told Duran.

Everything seems to be working for him with his strikeouts down 4.5% points (12% SwStr% to 9% SwStr%). Also, his power has doubled (.142 ISO to .291 ISO).

Twins

• While Byron Buxton might eventually play in the outfield, it won’t be anytime soon.

The hope is Buxton would eventually be able to play some center field this season. Baldelli said he isn’t closing the door on the possibility and Buxton has indicated he’d like to resume destroying opponents’ nights by running down gappers and stealing hits.

For now, Buxton isn’t stressed about the possibility.

Yankees

Carlos Rodón’s back is causing issues thereby hampering his return, but he’s not feeling any pain.

Boone said the Yankees are still figuring out how to best treat Rodón’s ramp-up, whether it’s continuing to pitch through the issue or if additional time off is needed before taking the next step. It’s bizarre that Rodón, apparently, has no pain in the back but yet it’s still causing some sort of issue that he can’t work through as best as he can.

Bizarre situation.

National League

Cardinals

• The team made a few moves because they want to give the outfielders a couple weeks to see what they can do with regular playing time.

“We have to figure out what we have in a couple of these guys,” Marmol said. “And the only way to do that is to take a couple weeks period to see what they do and how they run with it.”

For now, Nootbaar and Carlson are expected to trade off in center field, while O’Neill looks to be the team’s best option in left field. Burleson will continue to see playing time in right field, specifically because of how he started the season. His slash line (.239/.292/.418) isn’t particularly wowing, but Marmol pointed to Burleson’s low BABIP (.246) as an indicator of a player who is seeing the ball well.

“He’s hitting a lot of balls hard right now that are being caught, and he’s still doing well,” Marmol said. “What Burleson is doing is real. What Gorman is doing is real. And when both those guys have run with their opportunity, it makes it a lot tougher to figure out a way to get Carlson and Walker in there consistently enough to know what we have on our hands.”

• The team wants Jordan Walker to work on his swing path in AAA.

When Walker’s historic streak ended and he invariably cooled off, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol proclaimed him to be “human” after all. Walker came into this week’s series in San Francisco just 7-for-35 (.200) in his past 10 games, but of more concern to the Cardinals was his 60.4% ground-ball rate. With 25 hard-hit balls (95-plus mph exit velocity) in his first 20 MLB games, the team wanted to make sure Walker has the correct swing path to get more of those laser doubles and home runs than grounders up the middle. There is little to no concern about Walker’s future with the Cardinals, and both the team president and manager stressed on Wednesday that they fully expect to see him back in the bigs in a matter of weeks, not months.

In the majors, he had a 60% GB% and so far in AAA, it’s at 55%.

Nationals

CJ Abrams is trying to “improve his stride”.

Batting .222 on the year, Abrams had been working in the gym before and after games, hoping to improve his stride direction while waiting for his pitch to hit.

I wasn’t exactly sure what “improve his stride” so I asked a couple of scouts. The scouts think the team wants him to stay in the box and drive his foot (and the ball) forward instead of bailing out to run to first base. Also, there is hope for more contact with this setup, especially on outside pitches.

In his first 15 games, he hit .216/.310/.333. In his next 14, he has hit .277/.306/.447

Phillies

• Scott Boras thinks it will take a few months for Bryce Harper to throw a ball.

“I think he, like everybody else, is a bit amazed at a rapid progression like this,” Boras said. “But the strength tested out. All those things are in place. And Bryce is doing a downward motion, not an over-the-shoulder motion. He’s going to take his time for a couple of months to get back to throwing. So we fully expect his bat speed and all those things … he’s got the physical element of it completed. Without any further injury, he can go full speed. He can stop a swing. His power has returned.”

Reds

Hunter Greene is trying to improve and throw his changeup more.

It was just the second changeup Greene threw on the night and his seventh of the year. It was also just the second time in his brief big-league career that he’s gotten a strikeout on the pitch.

“I was really happy just for myself and my development and the amount of work I put into that pitch and knowing I can execute that pitch moving forward for the rest of the season and beyond,” Greene said after the game, which he left early due to the threat of injury from the comebacker.

He’s up to throwing it 4% of the time this season. He threw it 5% last season. So far the pitch has a 10% SwStr% and 75% GB%.





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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Websmember
1 year ago

You might want to move Dubon to the Astros section.