Mining the News (6/9/22)

• Here is my latest Voit-Muncy player list that points out under the radar AAA hitters who are above average in strikeout rate, walk rate, flyball rate, and isolated power.

Voit-Muncy Hitters
NAME Team PA Age BB% So/PA GB% ISO wRC+
Alex Call Cleveland (AAA) 170 27 14% 18% 29% .200 141
Alex De Goti Astros (AAA) 225 27 12% 16% 41% .193 103
Brendon Davis Angels (AAA) 159 24 11% 19% 37% .221 96
Brian O’Keefe Mariners (AAA) 103 28 14% 16% 37% .250 152
David MacKinnon Angels (AAA) 207 27 14% 18% 37% .306 156
Drew Ellis Diamondbacks (AAA) 169 26 18% 20% 35% .184 100
Greg Bird Yankees (AAA) 160 29 14% 23% 41% .169 95
Isaac Paredes Rays (AAA) 113 23 12% 17% 36% .221 120
Jacob Nottingham Orioles (AAA) 108 27 16% 20% 37% .306 152
Jason Martin Dodgers (AAA) 193 26 13% 25% 38% .247 125
Kyle Stowers Orioles (AAA) 193 24 11% 24% 42% .301 137
Mark Mathias Brewers (AAA) 127 27 13% 19% 37% .215 154
Matthew Batten Padres (AAA) 199 27 15% 19% 32% .234 135
Miguel Vargas Dodgers (AAA) 249 22 13% 17% 32% .193 119
Nick Maton Phillies (AAA) 175 25 14% 22% 30% .221 120
Nomar Mazara Padres (AAA) 152 27 14% 19% 41% .273 172
Royce Lewis Twins (AAA) 153 23 12% 21% 43% .221 151
Sean Bouchard Rockies (AAA) 137 26 13% 21% 36% .310 156
Shea Langeliers Athletics (AAA) 207 24 12% 22% 40% .233 115
Triston Casas Red Sox (AAA) 156 22 15% 22% 35% .209 115
Vincent Pasquantino Royals (AAA) 223 24 12% 14% 34% .351 156
William Benson Cleveland (AAA) 220 24 16% 25% 40% .210 128

Alex Bregman says he has different swings for different pitches.

Laurila: You brought up swings when we chatted informally yesterday. How many do you have?

Bregman: “I think you’ve got to have a lot of different swings if you want to be able to cover every pitch. I don’t think you can cover an elite four-seamer up in the zone and an elite sinker down in the zone with the same swing, You have to either make an eye adjustment on where you’re trying to swing, or you need to have a swing adjustment on how you’re trying to hit that pitch. The [bat] path you take is going to be different for those two pitches.”

I’m not sure if this information is actionable, but maybe it’s possible to eventually figure out if a hitter has different hot zones (i.e. different swings) and them how having more swings is helpful.

American League

Athletics

Cristian Pache is trying to raise his launch angle.

So what might be causing Pache such poor luck? One key factor is his launch angle. Among qualified Major League hitters, Pache’s average launch angle of 3.5 degrees ranks 11th lowest in MLB (minimum 75 plate appearances). This means that despite the hard contact, he’s frequently hitting the ball on the ground.

How does one correct this flaw? Everidge says it should be an easier fix for Pache now that he’s increasingly started directing his balls in play to center and right field. The last piece of the puzzle is to get more lift on his swings, something the two have been working on constantly over the past couple of weeks through extra pregame work in the hitting cage.

Mariners

Robbie Ray just reintroduced his sinker.

At Minute Maid Park, arguably the most hitter-friendly venue in the Majors, walks prove costly because the threat of a multi-run homer constantly looms. So Ray opted for a “new look” when he returned for the third inning. He dropped in a few changeups and curveballs, but the more notable selection was for a two-seam fastball (also classified as a sinker), which he completely replaced his four-seamer with the rest of the way.

The sinker has gotten poor results with a 38% GB% and 4% SwStr%.

Kyle Lewis will get many off days when he’s on the roster.

Sunday’s decision, per manager Scott Servais, was the result of a combination of factors — it was a day game after a late night game, a cross-country trip to Baltimore loomed and an off-day on Monday would allow Lewis two full days of rest. But it also underscored that the Mariners will be easing up on the gas pedal with the slugger periodically, at least for now.

On their planned days off, players typically don’t take part in a pregame routine and don’t stay warmed up throughout the game. In that context, the Mariners calling on Lewis in a pinch would have gone completely against the long-term plan that the team had mapped out with him. That much was clear when, twice asked about the decision following the game, Servais reiterated that “Kyle was not available today.”

Orioles

Tyler Wells will have games when he doesn’t throw as many pitches.

Since Wells threw 88 pitches in six innings on May 30 and 77 pitches and five innings on May 25, Saturday’s outing was gonna be pre-empted. In fact, the Orioles decided pregame they’d pull Wells around the 65-pitch range.

“That was the plan going into the game,” Hyde said. “He was throwing the ball well. He did have two walks during the fourth inning. But with an extra day of rest also here coming up, we’re always gonna side with caution with him this year. … This was gonna be a day of a shortened outing.”

Bruce Zimmermann needs to place his changeup low in the zone. Also, he thought he was tipping his pitches in his last start.

“I think the only time I’m getting hurt with that changeup is when it’s up in the zone, which it’s been a little bit more up as of late,” Zimmermann said. “The back half of this outing, I was able to establish it at the bottom of the zone and through the bottom of the zone, and able to play that one-seam [sinker] off of that. … I kind of wish I had done that from the get-go today.”

“The changeup didn’t have the depth that it had earlier in the season,” Hyde added. “Something to work on, but I thought he did pitch better as the game went on.”

Zimmermann will also take Friday with a grain of salt. Following his last two outings in New York and Boston, during which he allowed nine home runs, Zimmermann met with the Orioles’ pitching brain trust, fearing that he was tipping something off the mound. That resulted in a different delivery on Friday evening — something Zimmermann will continue to work with, knowing it’s difficult to implement such a stark change in one go.

Rangers

• Whenever Leody Taveras gets promoted, it’ll be permanently.

“Leody (Taveras) was probably the other option that got the most consideration,” president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said on Sunday. “Actually, at the time we were having the discussion — we made the decision to bring Steele in the night before last and we weren’t sure Josh Smith was going to be on the IL yet at that point. So (Zach) Reks wasn’t even really an option without an IL (placement). I think with Leody — and we’ve communicated this to him — he’s really close. When we go get him, we want it to be, ideally, for the last time and have him up here for good.”

Royals

Jackson Kowar reworked his fastball.

Kowar threw 36 fastballs in his one big-league outing this season. They averaged 95.6 mph, but hitters batted .600 and slugged 1.200 against them because they essentially dropped and moved arm side almost an equal amount. The more vertical spin compared with sidespin for Kowar’s four-seamer, the more effectiveness his fastball pitch will have, especially against lefties. And the more Kowar could execute effective fastballs in different counts, the better his entire repertoire would be.

“My room for error, for sure, goes up (with the different movement on the fastball),” Kowar said. “As well as, to get to that tilt, my delivery gets to be more linear, which is something I’ve always fought anyway. It’s kind of a two-for-one, which is what I think sold me on it initially.”

Tigers

Javier Báez is struggling with sliders away.

In fact, Detroit signed Báez this offseason thinking he could take the Tigers to the next level. But entering Sunday’s action, he is hitting .190 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. Opposing pitchers have thrown a steady diet of sliders his way, and he is swinging at that pitch.

“I think we are all frustrated,” Hinch said. “The lack of recognition and swinging outside the strike zone is part of what [Báez] has done. It begs for some adjustments [at the plate]. We want better for him. He wants better for himself. We have to get inside the strike zone because the league is obviously going to continue to tease him around the strike zone until he adjusts.”

He’s seen more sliders (35%) than any other pitch and has a 34% SwStr% (26% in 2021) against them. And it’s just that one spot.

Twins

Devin Smeltzer finally got a neck injury fixed.

“It was almost a sigh of relief,” Smeltzer said. “It gave me answers on why I was feeling the way I was feeling. The way the neck doctor explained it was I would have kept rehabbing my elbow over and over again until my neck finally presented itself because my arm was never hurt. It was because of the neck. Once that came out, we were able to just attack it, rehab it, do what I needed to do to get ready. Then velo came back, feel came back, everything came back.”

National League

Brewers

Christian Yelich has struggled with inside fastballs.

It was just a few weeks ago when some wondered if Yelich was turning a corner. It’s a reminder that as rough as things have looked recently, he certainly may have more hot streaks in him. But pitchers have succeeded against Yelich by pounding him inside with fastballs. He has struggled against velocity, and he’s been unable to get the barrel of the bat on fastballs. Moving him down the order may not be much of a solution.

Yelich is not struggling against fastballs, but he’s not been his dominant self. Here are his vs OPS+ over the years on fastballs.

Season: vsOPS+
2013: 148
2014: 184
2015: 171
2016: 151
2017: 186
2018: 209
2019: 213
2020: 216
2021: 118
2022: 144

He’s still way off his peak values and might not recover.

Lorenzo Cain was going to lose playing time before Hunter Renfroe got hurt.

“Mentally, honestly, I don’t know what to do up there right now,” Cain said on Friday. “My swing is kind of all over the place. I haven’t been able to figure things out. They already told me before [right fielder Hunter] Renfroe got hurt that my playing time was probably going to be a lot less. But Renfroe got hurt, so I’ve had to get in there probably more than they want me to right now.

Cain said the word about his planned drop in playing time came from manager Craig Counsell in a conversation several days before the start of the Brewers’ last marathon road trip. But in the first game of that trip, Renfroe strained his right hamstring scoring from first base on a double and landed on the 10-day injured list the next day. Renfroe has been in rehab mode since then and lately has been hitting and running on the field.

I don’t expect him to play much into the future.

Cubs

• Scouts don’t think Nick Madrigal at the strength to be a major league hitter.

Scouts who have watched Madrigal of late pointed out that opponents are “shrinking” the field on him, and perhaps he’s finally reached a level of the game where he’s just not big enough. Through 110 plate appearances this season, Madrigal has just two extra-base hits (both doubles) and a .029 ISO. For batters with at least 100 plate appearances this year, only Tucker Barnhardt has a lower ISO.

One scout who had always been high on Madrigal wondered if he was just flat-out being overpowered. That was never the case for him in the past when he was on Team USA in high school or playing in the Pac-12 in college. Madrigal always looked like he belonged and often thrived against high-level competition. Now he’s struggling to hit the ball with authority and at times doesn’t seem confident at the plate. He continues to say all the right things, but a significant injury followed by extreme struggles can’t be easy to take.

It’s not a good sign when defenses treat you like a pitcher.

Mets

Dominic Smith played through a shoulder tear last season.

Smith told SI.com in March that he played through a small tear of the labrum in his right shoulder last year, and it’s certainly possible there are (or were) some lingering effects of that issue.

Pirates

Mitch Keller has been throwing Clay Holmes’s sinker.

When I talked with Mitch Keller a few days ago about pitches he’d like to steal from other pitchers — look for that story Friday, by the way — he mentioned that Yankees sensation (and former Pirates reliever) Clay Holmes has helped polish Keller’s new sinker.

“Clay and I are friends, so I texted him for a couple of days about it,” Keller said. “He’s helped me with different finger placements to make my sinker move more. Clay’s very smart about the analytics of baseball and pitch design, and he was pretty open about it with me.”

Keller unveiled his sinker in his May 31 start against the Dodgers. It figures to play a bigger role in his arsenal over the rest of the season.

He’s used the sinker for three games and has an 8.8 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, 55% GB%, 2.51 ERA, and 4.37 xFIP during that time.

Reds

Graham Ashcraft is getting more spin on his slider.

After getting Robles looking, Ashcraft spun from the mound and pumped his fist with excitement. According to Statcast, the slider’s spin rate averaged 2,790 rpm, higher than his average of 2,678 and much higher than the league average of 2,403. It averaged 86.5 mph.

“That’s something we’ve been trying to work on over the last couple bullpens,” Ashcraft said. “We just made a quick, small, little tweak on it, keep your hand back and not try to get your fingers off the ball. That made it hard to hit.”

Where possible, I think Ashcraft is a must roster to see where his talent level stabilizes.





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

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equistmember
2 months ago

Brendon Davis is now a Tiger.