Mining the News (6/20/23)

General Notes

• I keep reading about hitters who are reworking their swing with several examples in this article. What I rarely see mentioned is this example of Nolan Arenado constantly working on it. Maybe the difference between great major league hitters and the rest is that the great bats might always be adjusting.

What those same awestruck fans didn’t see before the pivotal moments of the Cardinals’ most thrilling victory of the season was that, while numerous teammates ran for the postgame buses to get a start on a couple of weekend nights in New York City, Arenado remained behind Friday and Saturday to pound balls in the batting cage.

“They care,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said of the postgame work between two players with a combined 14 All-Star Game appearances. “The game ended, everybody showered, and you’ve got last year’s MVP [finalists] in the cage, still taking swings and trying to figure some things [out] and trying to make sure [they] can help us the next day.

Rarely is there a time when Arenado is not thinking about hitting. His work is intentional, not accidental. He’s blessed (with talent), but equally obsessed. He’s a great hitter and an even better worker.

Teammates marvel at his consuming obsession with his swing

American League


Reid Detmers is feeling better about his slider.

“I just feel like I have better feel of my pitches now,” Detmers said. “The slider shape is where I want it to be. I trust it a lot more than I did earlier in the season. But also throwing the curveball and the fastball location, it’s been a big deal too.

“There’s still some innings where (the slider) is a little shaky. But that’s every pitch. Every pitcher in here will say that one of their pitches will not be as good one inning as the next. I can deal with that.”

Jaime Barría got in shape this offseason, added fastball velocity, and increased the effectiveness of his pitches.

It’s an opportunity he earned — increasing his fastball velocity and the effectiveness of his off-speed pitches. All after dropping 12 pounds in the offseason.

Barria’s fastball averages 92.9 miles per hour, up from 91.9 last season. He’s topping out at around 96, and hitting 95 far more regularly than he did a year ago. The fastball also has more movement on it. And while it doesn’t have overpowering velocity, Barria has the ability to control it, making it a very effective weapon.

He said it sets up his other pitches. Opposing batters are hitting just .156 against his slider, more than 100 points better than last year. Barria’s changeup is generating a 40 percent whiff rate, a significant jump from years past. He said he throws two different sliders, which allows him to mix up velocity and movement and generally can control which one ends up as a strike.

He said he committed himself this offseason. Changed his diet, his workouts. Changed how much time he put into his craft. He started using weighted balls — an exercise that helps add velocity. All of it in the name of having the type of year that he’s having now.


José Abreu thinks that he has fixed his swing.

One day earlier this month, Abreu arrived for work and told Cintrón “hey, I got it.”

“He found himself cutting his swings off. His bat has to be under, more on the same plane, a flat bat,” Cintrón said after Wednesday’s 5-4 win against the Nationals. “He felt that one day, then I helped him with his lower body, how to position himself in the batter’s box. He was going too forward instead of staying behind. His back leg connected with his head and shoulders and everything. That was the click.”

The tweaks have allowed Abreu to take off. He struck three more hits, drove in two more runs and hit his first home run as an Astro at Minute Maid Park during Wednesday’s win against Washington.

Hunter Brown will have his workload limited (e.g. start skipped or six-man rotation) at some point this season.

There is still no talk of an innings limit for Hunter Brown, but Dana Brown acknowledged on Wednesday the coaching staff has discussed skipping his turn in the rotation or going back to a six-man rotation as his workload grows later this season.

“There are ways that we can minimize some of the innings,” Dana Brown said. “Which is what we’re going to plan to do. But he looks really healthy. I mean, he’s throwing up to 97 (mph) and it looks like he’s going to be able to post as a workhorse. So hopefully he can continue that and we’ll monitor the innings as we continue to move forward.”


Hogan Harris has been decent (2.57 ERA, 4.29 xFIP, 6.8 K/9, 0.82 WHIP) since being recalled. His overall stats are rough because of an appearance in April when he only got one out while allowing 6 ER with 5 BB and 0 K. His walk rate is just 1.6 BB/9 since that appearance by filling up the strike zone.

“It feels like he’s always on the attack,” A’s catcher Shea Langeliers said of Harris. “He does a good job of mixing speeds, and really just goes straight after guys. He doesn’t really mess around. Sometimes we get ahead in the count and he’s still throwing strikes, which is why they sometimes get hits. But you’ll take that over anything else. He’s aggressive in the strike zone. He’s done a good job.”

I don’t think he’s a must-roster but more of a streaming option.


Cole Irvin might have moved back into the rotation.

Irvin rebounded to retire four of the next five batters, including three by strikeouts to boost his K total for the day to four. After giving up a leadoff single to No. 9 hitter Nick Madrigal in the fifth, Irvin was pulled and manager Brandon Hyde turned the game over to his bullpen.


• To take a step forward, Luke Raley quieted his swing.

Laurila: What were the needed adjustments?

Raley: “I needed to be more efficient to the ball, so I did everything I could to minimize movements at the plate. I brought my hands closer to my body, more into my launch position, instead of having them away from my body and then having to get them there. I also banged my leg kick and went to just a straight stride, which I felt could help me keep keep my head more still and recognize pitches earlier. Those are the two big ones, my hand placement and minimizing my leg movement.”

Red Sox

Adalberto Mondesi has hit a plateau in his rehab. One guy a lot of people are wondering about, and we’ve had dribs and drabs of updates, is Adalberto Mondesi. Usually a torn ACL doesn’t take this much recovery time. Alex Cora was saying he’s not really doing baseball stuff right now. What can you tell us about his condition?

Bloom: It’s not that he’s had a re-injury or anything like that. It’s more that we haven’t really been able to get him past that plateau to where we can progress him into game activity. We’ve been working hard to get strength back in that leg. But there’s been this recurrent soreness that we haven’t really been able to completely knock out. So right now, we’ve eased off the activity to be able to do that, and hopefully we’ll be able to progress it. It’s really just getting through that plateau. If we’re able to get through that to where he’s feeling good, then we can get into games, but we just haven’t gotten there yet.


Aaron Judge is at least out for another month.

The second shot could mean that the first shot was effective in treating the other ligament and that the discovery of the second injured ligament could mean Judge’s swelling has subsided significantly, according to Dr. Spencer Stein, a sports orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Health, who hasn’t treated Judge but has treated similar injuries.

“Overall,” Stein said, “this is normal.”

The doctor added that he thinks Judge could be back on the field in about a month.

“My concern is that it’s turf toe type injury,” Stein said, “which is an injury on the bottom of the foot, which certainly takes time. So they’re on top of it, which is a good sign, but they just have to keep an eye on it.”

Anthony Volpe got back to his old swing.

In a side-by-side comparison against Volpe’s at-bats from earlier in the month, the changes indeed do not appear drastic; Volpe’s feet have moved slightly, and he seems to hold the bat more perpendicular to the ground, correcting what he said were “just some bad habits.” But it feels right to Volpe, who noted that the edits “definitely” helped.

They seemed to pay immediate dividends in Tuesday’s Subway Series opener against the Mets at Citi Field. Batting against Max Scherzer, Volpe pounded a slider down the third-base line for a run-scoring double, part of a five-run fourth inning. In the sixth, Volpe stroked a drive toward center fielder Brandon Nimmo and was credited with a double by a generous scoring decision.

National League


Cody Bellinger still can’t sprint.

It’s easy to connect the dots from Bellinger starting at first base Tuesday night at the beginning of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa. Cubs manager David Ross said it’s a way to reduce the stress on Bellinger’s left knee, which he injured while making a spectacular catch at the wall May 15: “The only thing that has bothered the knee is just the all-out sprint.”

Don’t expect many stolen bases from Bellinger.


Zac Gallen made a small delivery adjustment.

Pitching coach Brent Strom encouraged Gallen to step a little more toward the third-base side of the rubber in his delivery, which keeps his shoulder closed a little longer and prevents him from flying open.

That adjustment appeared to pay dividends.

“I was kind of coming undone on my delivery,” Gallen said of why the adjustment needed to be made. “The ball was having a tendency to cut and didn’t have the greatest life. It wasn’t really creating great leverage. The longer I can stay closed coming down the mound, I can kind of force myself to create leverage. So I think I was more so trying to just exaggerate throwing over there [during my bullpens], so that way in the game, I might be able to find a happy medium.”


Julio Urías and Daniel Hudson will rejoin the team in 10 days.

The light at the end of the tunnel for the Dodgers’ beleaguered pitching staff is getting closer, and now they can circle it on the calendar. Julio Urías and Daniel Hudson are set to rejoin the team during its three-game series in Kansas City from June 30-July 2, Manager Dave Roberts said Sunday.


Jacob Amaya has made a small swing adjustment.

“He needed to make a little bit of a swing adjustment for him to be successful up here, so credit to the guys down there for helping Amaya get to where he is right now,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “Defensively, we knew he’d be really good. Making the routine play. But I think the swing adjustment that he made is real, and credit to him that he took advantage of it.”

• Amaya will backup Joey Wendle at shortstop with Jon Berti getting most of the starts at third base.

Schumaker said Amaya would mostly back up shortstop Joey Wendle, with Jon Berti assuming the bulk of the reps at third base in Segura’s stead.

“He’ll make some spot starts, defensive replacement kind of thing,” Schumaker said.


Tommy Pham decided to prove to the team he could hit right-handed pitchers.

Per Pham’s recollection, Showalter showed Pham a sheet of paper that the 35-year-old later would say opened his eyes. At the time, the Mets were set to play three games against the Cubs and another three against the Rockies. According to Pham, out of the six probable starting pitchers that appeared on the page, numbers from the Mets’ analytics team suggested Pham, a right-handed batter, should start just once, against the Cubs’ Drew Smyly, a lefty. Forget Pham’s solid history against right-handers Marcus Stroman and Jamesson Taillon. From Pham’s perspective, the paper told him that regardless of his prior success, he couldn’t help the team win. And that didn’t sit right with him. Thus, he decided to do something about it.

“From that day, it was always my point now to prove a good ‘eff you’ message to our analytics department to show them that I can hit righties,” Pham said. “You don’t get the career that I’ve had by only hitting lefties. So, now, I am trying to prove a f—ing point.”

What the hell was he doing before getting pissed off?


Brandon Marsh and Cristian Pache are likely in a platoon.

Marsh finished April near the top of the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Pitchers made adjustments. Regression was natural. But Marsh has yet to apply the proper fix. He’s hitting .198/.286/.248 since May 1. The Phillies added Cristian Pache, who returned from knee surgery, to the active roster over the weekend and he could steal time in center.

It’s an interesting dynamic. Marsh, at the very least, will be part of a platoon.


• The Reds are in for a makeover with Joey Votto and Jake Fraley coming off the IL.

With De La Cruz getting most of his time at third base, and TJ Friedl having cemented himself in center field, Senzel is going to move around the field in a super-utility role where he can play third base, second base and all three outfield spots.

“I show up and they tell me where I’m at. And that’s where I’m going to go,” Senzel said. “Because we’ve got a really good club and got a lot of talented players. And we need everyone to contribute, and I anticipate probably moving around.”

Steer, who has played mostly first base this season, will likely shift to left field but also could move around the infield. His bat has become too valuable to keep out of the lineup.

“I’m just doing what it takes to stay in the lineup,” Steer said. “I know [Bell] has got a lineup in his head that is best for this team and helps us win ballgames. If that’s me at first base, me at left field or any other spot, that’s the guy I will be and continue to be — play where I’m asked.”

Bell will have one more decision to make after Votto returns from his rehab assignment at Louisville. Where should he bat in the lineup? Votto has normally batted second, third or fourth throughout his Hall of Fame-caliber career. But batting him ahead of speedsters such as Steer, McLain, Fraley or De La Cruz would slow them down if Votto is on base ahead of them.

Don’t be surprised if Votto bats sixth.

“It’s a matter of days, no matter how you look at it,” Bell said of the veteran’s return. “We will see him soon.”

Here is the first lineup with Votto.

They faced a lefty so it’ll be interesting to see if/how it changes against a righty.


Randal Grichuk tried a bunch of stuff, hated it, and went back to his old habits.

In normal times, Grichuk may have given the bats a longer try. But he was playing catch-up after missing Major League camp. He pointed to one of the players who inspired him to visit the lab — the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt, last year’s National League Most Valuable Player.

“Same thing happened with Goldschmidt,” Grichuk said. “Goldschmidt went there before last season and he said the bat they gave him wasn’t the one he would have liked or picked, but he said, ‘I’m going to stick with it.’ With me, the bat they gave me wasn’t one I would’ve picked, but obviously there were reasons behind it.

“If I hadn’t had the surgery, I truly think I would have stuck with it. But it kind of threw me off physically, and I think hitting is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.”

The bat wasn’t the only project he abandoned this year. Early last season, Grichuk switched from contact lenses to glasses, partly to combat Denver’s dry climate. He found himself going back and forth on day and night games, and had trouble finding flip-downs to fit the glasses. This year, he has found contact lenses that work in any conditions.

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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1 year ago

You have Bellinger as LAD, rather than CHC.

1 year ago
Reply to  craigbwolf

Bellinger must have read this…