Mining the News (7/19/23)

American League


Logan O’Hoppe should return in late August.

The initial timeline was four to six months, which meant O’Hoppe could be out through September. But O’Hoppe, ranked as the club’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 29 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline, made it his mission to return on the sooner end of that spectrum. And he’s now on track to potentially return at some point in late August, which should be a boost for the Angels.


Chas McCormick has been working on pitch recognition, especially sliders.

Standing taller in the batter’s box, along with a new drill from assistant hitting coach Jason Kanzler, has refined McCormick’s pitch recognition while helping him lay off down-and-away sliders. He had a negative-7 run value, hit .119 and whiffed 43.6 percent of the time against sliders last season. This year, he’s hitting .333 against sliders with a 35.9 percent whiff rate and a run value of three.

Last season, McCormick had a 19% SwStr% against sliders. This season it’s down to 17%.

Cristian Javier is trying to regain some fastball velocity but failing.

Javier’s fastball velocity remained lower than last season, but he’s never been a pitcher whose success is predicated on throwing hard. Deception, elite vertical ride and a consistent release point are more crucial to his success than any radar gun reading.

Still, Javier’s diminished velocity prompted some concern within the team throughout the first half. Before the All-Star break, the team believed a mechanical flaw within Javier’s lower half caused some of his stuff to decline. After Sunday’s start, Javier said he did make some mechanical changes, but did not specify what kind.

On Sunday, Javier averaged 92.9 mph on the 51 four-seamers he threw. Javier sat 93.8 mph last season with an average spin rate of 2,354 revolutions per minute. Javier threw just three four-seam fastballs on Sunday that eclipsed 2,354 rpm. Mike Moustakas mashed one of them for a second-inning solo home run.

With his fastball velocity down over 1 mph, his fastball’s swinging-strike rate dropped from 13.3% to 11.8%.


Beau Brieske will pitch out of the bullpen for the rest of this season.

Once Brieske finally understood what was wrong, there was a long rehab to get his arm back to normal. And then, by the time he was close to ready for a return to the major leagues, the Tigers concluded Brieske fit best as a reliever rather than a starter (manager A.J. Hinch, though, said he would not rule starting out of Brieske’s future).

To prep him for the new role, the Tigers did not tell Brieske in advance what days he would be throwing. They wanted to prepare him for the unpredictable nature of life in the bullpen. They also wanted him to get acclimated to pitching in a variety of scenarios.


Carlos Correa is struggling with velocity.

Through their work, Correa and Popkins found a routine and a rhythm. But when they tried applying the same routine this season, it didn’t produce the right feeling.

“We were searching again, which you really didn’t anticipate,” Popkins said. “(The routine) was pretty nails last year and it was like, ‘This is the base.’ But some of the stuff with the heel and movement-wise, those things weren’t really working. We kind of had to play around.”

What they discovered was Correa was susceptible to overpowering velocity. Through June 29, Correa carried a .273 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) against fastballs and an Expected Weighted On-Base Average (xwOBA) of .335.

I don’t buy the claim for several reasons. First, it’s the second year in a row that he is seeing fewer fastballs (52% to 49% to 47%). Second, his 6.3 SwStr% on four-seamers is just below his career average of 6.6%. Finally, his .855 OPS against four-seamers is closer to his career value (.913 OPS). He is just himself.

National League


Brandon Woodruff will make three to five rehab starts.

Woodruff still has plenty of boxes to check, including stretching back out after not pitching for more than three months. With that in mind, Counsell said the team has mapped out Woodruff’s rehab schedule to include five starts, though it could be as few as three — which would put Woodruff back in early August.


Matt Mervis is working on “small mechanical adjustments” in AAA.

The Cubs are trying to win games right now and Mervis is working on very specific but small mechanical adjustments with Iowa hitting coach John Mallee. He’s also focusing on getting back to making the type of swing decisions that helped him get to the big leagues in the first place. To work on these specific details of his game, Mervis has to play every day. The Cubs prefer that not happen with the pressure of trying to perform and stick in the big leagues.

They also believe they aren’t in a position to give Mervis the regular playing time he needs, so instead he’s doing so at Triple A. The message being sent is that the Cubs aren’t at the point of the season where development trumps trying to win.

Ian Happ wants to start hitting fastballs again.

Happ’s slugging against fastballs is at a career-low .348 this season. Before this season, he had never been below a .400 slugging percentage on fastballs, and for the most part, he’s been hovering around or well above .500. In April, he slugged .556 on heaters. Since then, he has had a rough .286 slugging percentage on all fastballs.

“Getting him back to a getting-on-the-fastball mentality will help,” Ross said. “There may be some sacrifice of plate discipline with that for a minute. But I thought yesterday was some good positive signs of the rhythm of where he’s at to get back on that heater.”

After barreling fastballs at a 14.8 percent rate in April, Happ didn’t barrel one up the entirety of May. His ground-ball rate on fastballs went from 25.9 percent to 40.7 percent since. It’s a jarring disparity and shows why Happ is focused on trying to attack fastballs again.

When he makes contact with fastballs, he has no power.

Season: vsISO
2020: .254
2021: .274
2022: .255
2023: .109


Michael Grove is adding a cutter.

“I think it has been in his head, and I think that’s a good thing,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “There’s some things you want to keep away from a player and try to protect them. But there’s other times where we’ve talked openly to Michael that he’s gotta get better. … To be a major-league starter, he’s got to be neutral.”

That meant adapting the cutter, a pitch that has become a platoon neutralizer of sorts for pitchers across the staff, from Julio Urías and Evan Phillips now to rookies like Grove. The 26-year-old right-hander threw 18 of them Tuesday night, getting a couple of swings-and-misses while limiting hard contact.

His cutter has been decent with a 12% SwStr% and 44% GB%. His four-seamer is at 4% SwStr% and 32% GB% so there is ro. Since adding the cutter, he has a 4.50 ERA (4.59 xFIP), 7.2 K/9, and 1.55 WHIP. Better but still not acceptable.

Chris Taylor’s knee is still bothering him and he may miss time as the season winds down.

Taylor, and the status of his balky right knee, might make an addition more necessary.

“With where he’s at, we’re kind of hanging in there with it,” Roberts said Monday night of Taylor’s knee, which cost him close to a month with a bone bruise. “It’s not something that we can really bank on. I don’t think anyone can bank on his health the rest of the season. So just being mindful of that — I know our guys are.”

Roberts affirmed Tuesday that the club will be “sensitive” with Taylor’s workload. Taylor said he has to be careful.


Gary Sánchez will start to have his playing time limited in order to stay healthy.

The Padres decided they could no longer afford to have Sánchez catching more than 80 percent of their games, as he had so far in July. They did not designate Nola for assignment because Campusano is returning from thumb surgery and is still unproven as a big-league contributor. So, Nola was optioned for the first time in his career.

“I don’t know that it wouldn’t be good for him to go down there and get some at-bats, because he’s a better player than he’s shown here,” Melvin said. “And the workload’s been pretty extreme for Gary, so Campy’s going to get his share of games, too.”


Rich Hill has added a splitter.

Hill debuted a splitter in the Pirates’ 6-4 loss to the Giants at PNC Park, the first time in his career that he’s thrown the pitch.

“It’s a game of adjustments or continuously trying to get better,” Hill said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been around. I think realizing that there’s room to grow, [and] continue to work on things that I can get better at, that was certainly something that I felt could be added into the pitch mix.”

It’s unclear exactly how many splitters Hill threw on Friday. Baseball Savant did not classify any of the six pitches that Hill threw — curveball, cutter, four-seam fastball, changeup, sinker, sweeper — as a splitter. That said, Hill noted that PNC Park’s jumbotron classified his splitters as sinkers, a pitch that Hill had thrown less than 3 percent of the time this season.

Oneil Cruz is not on pace to return August.

Oneil Cruz doesn’t appear on track to return from his fractured left fibula in August, and the question of when he will return remains up in the air.

“I don’t know exactly what date we’ll see him,” Cherington said. “This is a significant injury that he’s recovering from and he is recovering and he’s doing really well. As you all see, he’s starting to do baseball activity. There’s the physical recovery and then there’s getting back into baseball skills and doing things the way he wants to do them with an ankle that went through a significant injury. So, there’s been adjustments along the way to the timing.”


Nick Lodolo is over a month from returning.

LHP Nick Lodolo (left calf tendinosis) may not return until late August or September, Bell said. He’s been throwing and is no longer in a boot, but Bell said the lefty was a little behind Greene. He is no longer in a boot.


Michael Toglia is trying to be more aggressive at the plate.

Rockies switch-hitting rookie Michael Toglia has traded a discerning eye for an aggressive mindset.

During his earlier 10-game Major League trial, May 15-25, he let too many hittable pitches go by early in counts and batted .174 with nine strikeouts and two walks in 25 plate appearances.

After being optioned back to Albuquerque, Toglia, 24, decided to enter the batter’s box ready to swing. In 25 games before being recalled last week, Toglia batted .280 with eight home runs, four doubles and 28 RBIs.

And swinging hard and mean accomplished what swinging judiciously did not. Toglia, the Rockies’ first-round Draft pick in 2019, has always aimed to provide power and on-base percentage. During his hot streak, he walked a whopping 23 times.

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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