Mining the News (5/9/24)

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

• The Red Sox (quote) and Royals have moved from focusing on fastballs to utilizing their best pitches.

“That message at the very beginning was keeping the main thing, the main thing,” said Kevin Walker, who joined the Red Sox as an assistant pitching coach in 2020 and transitioned to bullpen coach the following year. “For each pitcher you have certain attributes that you’re really good at and we want to make sure that you use your best attributes more often.”

With the teams’ successes, I expect the league to go full copycat mode and do the same. For fantasy, I think there might be three actionable items. First, expect the overall offense to drop as hitters see fewer fastballs. Second, batters who can hit secondaries might have more value. Finally, pitchers who have good secondaries and throw their fastballs too much might be good targets for improvement.

• I could put up everything Lance Brozdowski writes when he examines pitcher changes, but I can’t and won’t. What I can do is recommend following his Substack to at least stay even with your competition.

Angels Patrick Sandoval continues to abandon his four-seam fastball. Usage through his first four starts was 31%. Usage in his last 4 starts has been 9%, toggling it down to 3% in yesterday’s gem. In those first 4 starts, the pitch had an xSLG of .502. The main beneficiaries have been his slider and his sinker, which are both up about 10 percentage points in usage. His overall xwOBA has gone from .324 in those first 4 starts down to .191 in his last 4. Smart adjustment by the Angels. Driveline Stuff+ has the four-seam as his worst pitch at 95. His slider is a plus-plus pitch at 133 Stuff+ and the sinker is marginally better than the four-seam at 99 Stuff+.

American League

Astros

Jeremy Peña will not move up the lineup because his manager doesn’t want to disturb his rhythm.

Espada acknowledged Bregman’s extensive history of rebounding from brutal starts but must also consider how any adjustment will impact the rest of Houston’s lineup. One logical adjustment could be moving Jeremy Peña past Bregman and higher in the batting order, but Espada is wary of disturbing Peña’s rhythm during a torrid start to his season.

“I think that’s why he’s having the year he’s having. He’s in a spot where he’s comfortable and confident. I don’t want to mess around with that,” Espada said. “We need somebody behind our top four to drive those guys in and continue to move our offense forward. I think that’s why he’s having some success — he likes that five or six spot.”

Joey Loperfido is still working at first base.

That Espada chose Mauricio Dubón to play first base over Loperfido in the 10th inning of Wednesday’s game again signals the lack of comfort. Jon Singleton’s continued emergence might mean Loperfido remains in the outfield full time, but he has been working with bench coach Omar López on the intricacies of first base. Espada pinch hit for him twice in the Mariners series when Seattle summoned a left-handed reliever, too, opting for a better platoon matchup over testing a prospect in a tight spot.

Red Sox

• The team is focusing on “first-pitch strikes, best pitches in two-strike counts, lowering walk percentage, increasing strike percentage, and limiting barrels.”

First-pitch strikes, best pitches in two-strike counts, lowering walk percentage, increasing strike percentage, and limiting barrels became Boston’s North Star. In spring training, the metrics were tracked and prizes for top pitchers in each category were distributed. It’s continued in-season despite the marathon nature of a 162-game schedule. To maintain accountability, every two weeks players get updates on where they stand in each category. The internal competition has helped the group thrive and sustain success for nearly a quarter of the season.

Twins

Royce Lewis is struggling with this rehab more than his other ones. Right now, he’s just waiting for the torn muscle to reattach.

He sees his friends having fun and pursuing a club record winning streak. He feels like he’s healing from his right quad strain from Opening Day, but the Twins aren’t telling him too much about his recovery as he waits — and he doesn’t like talking to doctors anymore, because all they give him is bad news, it seems, about how he still can’t play baseball with his friends.

“It’s the most challenging rehab I’ve ever had,” Lewis said.

And that’s coming from the guy who spent the bulk of two years recovering from two different ACL surgeries on the same knee.

But now, he’s just waiting until the doctors clear him to play. He’s not sure when that will be. He’s five and a half weeks into what was expected to be a two-month timeline at minimum, but that depends on how he heals. He feels good, but he reluctantly acknowledges that he’s still waiting for the torn muscle to reattach.

Yankees

• When Jasson Domínguez starts rehab, he will be the designated hitter.

Boone offered several key injury updates Tuesday, including the latest on top outfield prospect Jasson Domínguez. The 22-year-old center fielder could start playing in minor-league rehab games within the next two weeks, and when he begins, he’ll likely start as a designated hitter, Boone said.

“He’s been doing all live (batting practice) and all of his defensive stuff,” Boone said. “He’s getting close.”

National League

Cubs

Cody Bellinger is still experiencing pain.

“I wouldn’t say I’m fully pain-free,” Bellinger said. “But with something like this, it takes quite a bit of time to get fully pain-free. Where it’s at, it’s a matter of pain tolerance. And I feel like I’m in a pretty good spot with it.”

• The General Manager wants a set closer.

“When I think back on some very calm moments in my career, having Jonathan Papelbon and Aroldis Chapman back there is a good feeling,” Hoyer said. “I wouldn’t mind getting back to that where you can sort of pack up your stuff in the ninth inning and not have a lot of anxiety. That’s where we all want to be. There’s not many guys in the game you can say that about. Obviously, our job is to trade for one or to sign one, or to develop one. The teams that have those feel really comfortable.”

Dansby Swanson’s knee has been bugging him for a bit.

Before Wednesday’s 3-0 loss to the San Diego Padres, manager Craig Counsell said Swanson’s right knee was “bugging him a little bit” and they’d use Thursday’s off day to get him off his feet for a couple of days.

“He hurt it on a slide on the last day game here against Houston,” Counsell said. “Through the road trip and homestand, it’s not improving. So we’re going to try to get him a couple days here and see where we’re at.”

Dodgers

• With Jason Heyward about to come off the IL, the Dodgers are most likely to demote James Outman or release Chris Taylor.

With Pages here to stay, the Dodgers now have a decision to make with James Outman. Last season, it was Outman who burst onto the scene with a hot April (.966 OPS) before cooling off the rest of the season. This year, Outman has really struggled offensively, with a .169 batting average and three homers. On Monday, the Dodgers had Outman hit ninth for the first time all season. To his credit, the 26-year-old responded by hitting a two-run homer and putting together some of the best at-bats in weeks. Still, Outman striking out in more than one-third of his at-bats is concerning.

If not Outman who makes way for Heyward, which would be understandable given his defense in center, the Dodgers could look to give Chris Taylor a blow of sorts. Taylor has been a key part of the Dodgers over the last few seasons, but his struggles at the plate have become impossible to ignore. Taylor is 4-for-54 (.074) this season, striking out 26 times. Taylor, however, is under contract until the end of the ‘25 season, which makes everything more complicated.

Padres

Joe Musgrove has been dealing with triceps tendonitis for several starts.

Four days after his sharpest start of the season, Joe Musgrove went on the 15-day injured list. The Padres cited right elbow inflammation as the reason. Team officials described the move as precautionary, comparing it to a recent IL stint for Yu Darvish that ended after the minimum 15 days. Musgrove attributed the inflammation to triceps tendonitis, a condition he said he had “worked through for the last couple” starts and at times in previous seasons.

Adam Mazur and Ryan Bergert are the two prospects the team would call up first according to their GM.

The Padres view starters Adam Mazur and Ryan Bergert as two of their readiest prospects, although they still could be weeks, if not months, from reaching the majors. Another Double-A pitcher, 20-year-old Robby Snelling, might be a bit further away.

“They’re definitely on our radar,” Preller said in an interview Tuesday on 97.3 The Fan. “They’re guys we’re monitoring all the time, both for their development and then also their ability to help and progress, whether it’s at Triple A or the big leagues. … I think they’re on that track, and hopefully we’re having more of that conversation here in the next couple months.”

Pirates

Oneil Cruz will need to constantly deal with his ankle injury.

“That’s just something that we’re going to have to continue to work through from the foot and the ankle as we’ve talked about. Last year, a little bit this spring with the medical performance teams and most notably Oneil, we’re going to have to continue to work through. He’s ready to go and he’s in the lineup today.”

Although Cruz is healthy enough to play, Tomczyk said finding a way to keep him on the field is a big focus for him and his team.

“We’ve tried and they’ve tried just about everything,” Tomczyk said. “Those braces are really good, but they’re predominately for proprioception. What I optimally want to do is create a solid foundation, and that begins with the foot intrinsics, the ankle and all the way up the kinetic chain. So Oneil, the rehab team, medical team, performance team are always working on daily exercises to make sure everything is activated, first and foremost, and then strong to prepare him for the demands of the game. In short, we’ve tried everything. Sometimes he tapes; sometimes he doesn’t. We prefer, he’d prefer to wear nothing.”

Reds

Noelvi Marte should return on June 27 and Matt McLain in August.

Noelvi Marte has 46 games remaining on his suspension. The first game he’d be eligible (if there are no more rainouts) to play would be June 27, the team’s first game of a four-game series in St. Louis. He can start a rehab assignment in the minor leagues 15 days before that.

Bell was also optimistic about the possibility McLain could return in August.

Rockies

Kris Bryant’s back is messed up. He’s on my do-not-draft list for next season based on this quote.

“My disks in my back are pretty much dried up — there are a couple of disks that don’t function like they did 10 years ago,” Bryant said. “My facet joints are a little — not a little — they’re pretty severely arthritic and a lot of bone spurs and stuff like that. That’s part of just getting older … that’s the way the doctor explained it to me and I just have to find a way to manage it as best I can.”

In 2022, Bryant dealt with plantar fasciitis in his left foot after he struggled with the back. Bryant’s problems are on the right side of his lower back.

“Sure there is a connection — left foot, right back,” said Bryant, going as far as his medical knowledge would allow.





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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Lance Brozdowskimember
19 days ago

Appreciate the shoutout, Jeff!