Mining the News (6/6/24)

• Driveline has adjusted its Stuff model with a major change boosting up sinkers.

Again, this can likely be tied back to the fact that the purpose of these two pitches is different. 4-seams are generally better at generating whiffs, while sinkers are better at generating ground balls. With whiffs being harder to get as batters have adjusted to higher velocity around the league, the sinker profile becomes more valuable than 4-seam at lower velocities.

• Eno Sarris discusses the pitch mix changes for five starters including Tylor Megill.

The single most predictive stat for a pitcher’s success is fastball velocity. Then you go through all the other things that matter like extension (how close to the plate the pitcher releases the ball), vertical movement (or ride), release point height, spin and the rest. But if you make the fastball go brrr, you can mitigate a lot of flaws on the rest of the list. In Megill’s past couple starts, the fastball was going brrr again.

Whenever Eno says “brrr” on a podcast, all I can think of is this classic from Maddox.

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American League

Angels

Nolan Schanuel has been playing with a thumb injury for a couple of weeks.

Schanuel recently said he injured his thumb while hitting in the batting cages in Houston during the Angels’ three-game series from May 20-22. He has been in a slump recently, going 2-for-23 over six games before missing the series in Seattle. He said he tried to play through the injury but it wouldn’t get better and it was affecting his swing. An MRI revealed there was no structural damage.

Kevin Pillar will remain in a part-time role so he doesn’t get “stale”.

Despite his otherworldly start offensively, the Angels have utilized Pillar in more of a platoon role, starting him mostly against left-handers. Pillar hasn’t been an everyday player in nearly three years, and they don’t want to overplay him despite his hot bat. They also are mindful of the development of Adell and Moniak, who both need consistent at-bats this year.

“We need to try to get Moniak going,” Washington said. “Pillar knows he’s not going to be on the field every day. But I’m not going to let him get to the point where he’s stale, to the point where he loses what he had. But there will be times where he has a good night and he’s not playing the next day.”

Stale? What is he? Bread?

Astros

José Abreu plays better with an off day.

Until Sunday, Espada had been coy about Abreu’s playing time and how he plans to proceed at first base. Upon his return, Abreu said he spent his career as an everyday player and had put himself in a position to do it again. Abreu has started five of Houston’s seven games since his return.

All three of Abreu’s hits, including his solo home run on Saturday, arrived in games that immediately followed an off day. During Abreu’s resurgence last October, team officials and coaches cited the plethora of postseason off days as one factor for Abreu’s increased production.

I examined this quote in more detail in a previous article.

• Without being prompted, the GM mentioned A.J. Blubaugh and Jake Bloss as rotation options.

Lauer and Henley would likely be the first calls if Houston needs another starter in the immediate future, but Brown also bragged about both AJ Blubaugh and Jake Bloss. Bloss has made just six starts above High A. Blubaugh has made just 10 appearances and tossed 45 innings at Triple A.

Blue Jays

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will get more starts at third base.

“It’s really going to be a lot of fun today to see Vladdy playing third base, but that’s been something we’ve been working on collectively. He’ll get some starts there,” GM Ross Atkins said Sunday on MLB Network Radio. “He’s got an incredible ability and feel for the game of baseball. I think his arm and his hands will allow him to play some third base for us. That’s another way to deploy a lineup that maybe creates a little more offense.”

Manager John Schneider said Guerrero could start at third “a couple days out of a week and a half,” but he reiterated that this isn’t a position change. So many factors outside of Guerrero’s own plan need to line up for it to be a third-base day — particularly a good matchup for Turner and Vogelbach — but it looks like the Blue Jays are now comfortable with Guerrero’s side of the bargain.

Guardians

Daniel Schneemann worked on raising his launch angle.

Schneemann decided to focus on lifting the ball more this winter, which has resulted in a noticeable change in power and pop. His 10 homers in Triple-A were the second most by any of Cleveland’s Minor League players, so it was no surprise when he finally got his chance to play in the big leagues on Sunday.

Here are his launch angles from the past two seasons.

Year (Level): LA
2023 (AAA): 8.0
2024 (AAA): 14.7
2024 (MLB): 15.8

Mariners

Victor Robles will only be used against lefties.

Robles was not in Tuesday’s starting lineup, but is expected to be installed as soon as Thursday’s series finale against lefty JP Sears — or if any favorable matchups surface before then, as manager Scott Servais indicated.

“He told me to just be ready, especially when we’re facing a lefty,” said Robles, who will be in the mix with righty-hitting outfielders Mitch Haniger and Dylan Moore, the latter of whom is seeing more time at second base while Jorge Polanco is sidelined.

Over his career, Robles has a .727 OPS vs LHP and .642 OPS vs RHP.

Rangers

Wyatt Langford only faced fastballs during the offseason and struggled with pitchers who threw him other pitch types. Additionally, he has struggled as the DH.

“There was a lot going on, a lot more than I like [with my swing],” Langford said. “I’d say the biggest thing is kind of getting back into playing. Guys start throwing different pitches at you. In the offseason, you’re used to just hitting one pitch, and it’s a fastball, really, so getting back on time, fixing the timing of everything and seeing pitching, I think that definitely played a part in it throwing off my timing a little bit. So I’m just getting back to that.”

With Evan Carter, Leody Taveras and Adolis García mainly holding down the three outfield spots, Langford has been the Rangers’ designated hitter in 20 games compared to 15 appearances in left field, entering Sunday. The 22-year-old acknowledged that DH-ing almost every day has been an adjustment for him, especially at this level.

He has struggled against slower pitches with curves, changeups, and splitters having between a 14% and 19% SwStr%.

The DH quote is malarky with him posting a .656 OPS as the DH and .502 OPS when in the field.

Red Sox

Ceddanne Rafaela has been reworking his swing.

On Tuesday in Baltimore, Rafaela tried something different to spark his offense. For the past month in the batting cage, Rafaela had been practicing a new stance in which he brought his hands down a bit, angling his bat upward, rather than holding his hands above his head and his bat flat, almost parallel to the ground. The new stance was designed to allow him to get into his swing quicker and catch up to fastballs. The process of getting a feel for the new stance, locking in cues and timing was gradual, but Tuesday, hitting coach Pete Fatse suggested to Rafaela he was at a point to try the adjustments in batting practice.

Tigers

Mark Canha is playing through a hip issue.

However, Canha’s status is also a question mark after he was scratched from Friday’s lineup due to soreness in his left hip.

“It’s been bothering me for a week or so,” Canha told reporters, including Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. “It was getting worse and worse and today was the pinnacle. It got to a point where I had to shut it down.”

Twins

Jose Miranda will play all over the field with Royce Lewis back.

Though he’ll lose playing time at third base to Lewis, who is a superior defender, Miranda is healthy again and one of the team’s top performers hitting with runners in scoring position. The Twins can rotate Miranda between both infield corners and designated hitter to keep him in the lineup.

“We’re going to move him around and find ways to get him in the lineup most days,” Baldelli said.

• The team’s high-leverage pitchers will only throw one inning at a time. The rest of the arms are expected to throw multiple innings.

During those previous MLB stints in 2024, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli had been firm in asserting that any relief pitchers not in his leverage group would have to throw multiple innings — even Alcala, who was coming off nearly two full seasons lost to elbow and forearm issues — and Minnesota used the right-hander accordingly in lower-leverage situations.

But in Alcala’s last two outings, the Twins have used him for one-inning stints to protect leads — and, notably, he’s been pulled after only one inning each time.

“He’s working his way into the leverage mix,” Baldelli said. “That’s it. What he was throwing [Thursday] was — and I think the outing before, too — that was not what we had seen from him previously.”

“Three weeks ago, his fastball was 92, 93, 94,” Baldelli said. “And then he was throwing 99 [Thursday], touching 100. If we want the guy to throw 99, we probably shouldn’t be throwing him 45 pitches an outing expecting him to come in when we need him to.”

White Sox

• Players on the team like to “pick Pham’s brain”.

Young White Sox players often pick Pham’s brain, which he appreciates and understands, as he is considered a consummate professional for his preparation and focus.

“Guys are still learning what it takes to be a big leaguer, how to be a better big leaguer,” Pham told me during the White Sox previous homestand. “Guys are asking me a ton of questions, which, I look back at when I was in their shoes — I was asking Matt Holliday a ton of questions.

The four most popular discussion points are:

  1. Dollar-for-dollar, what are the best strip clubs.
  2. How to fight an assailant who is wielding a knife.
  3. The in-and-outs of high-stakes fantasy football leagues.
  4. Best gyms to get into fighting shape.

Yankees

• The team thinks Anthony Rizzo’s struggles are timing-related.

Both Boone and Rowson believe Rizzo’s struggles at the plate are timing-related. Rowson said Rizzo’s inconsistent timing has led to him being unable to square the ball up. Poor timing is what led to Aaron Judge’s struggles in April. That’s why the Yankees think Rizzo can still turn around his numbers.

“When your timing’s not right, you would expect some of those things to not be right in line with your norms,” Rowson said of Rizzo’s numbers. “That means you’re not getting the ball right where you want to or you’re a little early or you may be a little late, and all of a sudden that’s gonna affect how you hit the ball, how the ball comes off the bat. All those things will be results of your timing being a little inconsistent.”

• The team is expecting Clarke Schmidt back in August.

Boone said Schmidt will be shut down from throwing for four to six weeks. Rehab will follow as the Yankees build him back up. Realistically, the earliest Schmidt could return is August.

National League

Braves

• The team believes Jarred Kelenic’s swing is almost right.

“As far as the evolution of [Kelenic’s] swing since he’s had our uniform on, it’s really heading in the right direction,” Seitzer said. “I like where it’s going. I feel like with his strengths and vulnerabilities, it’s putting him in the best position to where he’s able to barrel balls more often. And to leave off-speed, leave chase pitches alone more often, which I’ve already seen since he went to this stance in Chicago. I wasn’t there, but I watched the first freakin’ game and I was like, ‘On my gosh, what’s he doing, that looks awesome!’”


“Way better,” Seitzer said. “For me, all the tinkering and adjustments are heading in the right direction. He’s a little taller, a little narrower with his stance, hands are a little lower. He wanted to get the tension out of his shoulders to stay looser, to where he could stay on the ball more. And it looks so much better.”

Kelenic said with the adjustments he’s made, he’s in a better position to let the ball travel deeper and still drive it up the middle or the other way.

Cardinals

Andre Pallante added a two-seamer.

The difference now, as opposed to earlier in the season when the 25-year-old reliever had a 6.30 ERA in nine relief appearances, was a two-seam fastball that consistently ran in on the hands of righties and kept them from leaning out over the plate looking for his curveball and four-seamer.

Cubs

• The two biggest knocks on Shota Imanaga from scouts were his low-90s fastball and being short.

Ultimately, for some teams, the lack of louder tools made Imanaga feel like more of a risk.

“The availability of pitch data from the Pacific Rim has theoretically made these valuations more sound, but there’s still a leap to take when you can’t hang your hat on high-end velocity,” Zaidi said. “I imagine there are scouts around the game that did see him as a high-end starter in the big leagues, but I suspect that the teams that were highest on him put the greatest stock in their pitch-model valuations.”

But as Cubs manager Craig Counsell likes to say, hitters don’t like anything that they’re not used to seeing, and Imanaga compensates for velocity with a four-seam fastball that drops far less than expected. The effect is often described as “rise.” The rise on Imanaga’s four-seamer is 2.9 inches better than average, per Statcast, so hitters find themselves under the pitch more often than not. That deception has turned Imanaga’s fastball into one of baseball’s best pitches.

Among scouts, there was some concern that Imanaga might not be able to consistently locate that pitch at the top of the zone. He wasn’t accustomed to it because the high strike isn’t called as often in Japan. And if not located well, the pitch will be hit hard. Scouts also flagged workload capacity as a possible issue, given Imanaga’s 5-foot-10 frame and a career high of 170 innings.

Giants

Alex Cobb should be activated in July.

Cobb started taking a nerve medication, gabapentin, and was encouraged last week when he had four consecutive pain-free days and started his throwing progression anew. He hopes to throw off a mound by next week. There’s almost no point in trying to predict a return date at this point, but Cobb is eyeing an activation in July.

Robbie Ray hopes to return around the All-Star break.

There’s no expediting the schedule from here based on team need. Ray will have to keep checking off boxes in order as he eyes a return shortly after the All-Star break in July. The good news is that optimism abounds that he will be the best version of himself when he joins the Giants rotation.

“I think so,” said Ray, who checked in with Giants teammates at Chase Field on Monday. “I feel really good. The ball is coming out really good. All my stuff, I’ve been super happy with the way things have been going. I’m just looking forward to getting into a game.”

Spencer Howard is out of options.

Spencer Howard gave up some loud contact Monday but pitched credibly behind an opener after he adjusted and started to throw early-count offspeed pitches to Arizona’s aggressive, fastball-hunting lineup. Giants manager Bob Melvin said Howard pitched well enough to remain in his role. Critically, Howard is also out of minor-league options.

Phillies

Edmundo Sosa will start getting some outfield reps.

While he’s certainly playing well enough to stick in the lineup, he’s not going to displace Turner when the latter is healthy. Neither Bryson Stott nor Alec Bohm is offering much of an opportunity for Sosa to take over at second or third base. While Sosa has never started an MLB game in the outfield, Thomson suggested over the weekend the Phils could consider playing him in a corner outfield spot once Turner comes back.

“Absolutely [a possibility],” the manager told reporters (link via Alex Coffey of the Philadelphia Inquirer). “If he keeps hitting like this, it’s going to be tough to keep him out of the lineup. So, got to find a spot for him someplace.” The Phils subsequently lost Brandon Marsh to the injured list, leading them to call up the hot-hitting David Dahl to man left field. Nick Castellanos is playing everyday in right field. He has been a rare weak point in the Philadelphia lineup, struggling to a .214/.277/.342 line through 256 plate appearances.

• Teams are using lefty specialist openers to minimize the impact of Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber.

In his 20 appearances this season, Koenig has thrown two innings or more seven times and recorded four or five outs four times. Tuesday marked the fourth time he’s worked as an opener, giving Murphy an option against lineups featuring dangerous lefties up top — such as Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper, for example.

“It’s a strategy — and it’s a strategy because of some of the necessity,” Murphy said. “You don’t want certain guys to face certain guys three times or whatever it might be. You have to have the right ingredients, and I think we do. This might not be the last time you see it.”





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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NCPhilly
10 days ago

I see and appreciate the Pham burn. That guy presents himself as a consummate jackass, whatever else he might be.

aaaaaa000000member
9 days ago
Reply to  NCPhilly

Needless shot and old news.

statix
8 days ago
Reply to  aaaaaa000000

Ok burn police