Mining the News (7/5/24)

• Here is a must-read article from The Athletic on the difference between AAA and the majors. Here is an example of how Jackson Holliday may be performing fine in AAA but the reason he was exposed in the majors has not been addressed so he hasn’t been promoted.

Back in Triple A, Holliday now has an .895 OPS, but the Orioles are not rushing him back to Baltimore. Teams, perhaps more than ever, are having to dig into underlying numbers and trying to determine what is real and what is not.

“There’s so many more details that get exposed in the big leagues that we try to look at a little deeper when we’re looking at Triple-A players,” Hinch said. “It’s not easy, because we don’t want to create the notion that statistics don’t matter or (how) you perform doesn’t matter, because it does. But it’s not always the end-all, be-all.”

American League

Angels

Carlos Estévez made some changes to be more consistent with his release point.

Estévez, however, has fixed the problem. On Wednesday, he was named the American League reliever of the month for June. At one point, he retired 26 consecutive batters over more than a month. The 31-year-old has been elite, allowing just two baserunners in June. And just in time for the trade deadline.

He’s credited the improvement to a mechanical fix that makes his fastball and slider have more consistent release points. He’s also had a more consistent feel of his off-speed pitches, and doesn’t feel the need to rely as heavily on his fastball.

Here are some examples (picked because of the number of pitches thrown)

April 29th

June 25th

Some differences can be seen. Maybe.

Astros

• The manager plans on using his high-leverage relievers to close out games when winning by four or more runs. Additionally, the team warms up several relievers at once which might cause the bullpen to wear down.

Generally, high-leverage relievers are reserved for leads of three or fewer runs, though forward-thinking franchises and managers are flexible. Houston’s circumstances have forced Espada to be that and more.

“It’s just more trying to make sure we secure that win. We do have some guys in the back end of our bullpen — even our middle relievers — that I feel comfortable giving the ball to at any moment of the game,” Espada said Wednesday.

“For me, it’s not philosophical, it’s just we’re in a position that we need to try to get to .500. We have guys that are rested, so we’re trying to just secure those wins.”

Scott awoke Sunday as one of just 16 relievers who has already thrown 40 innings this year. He added two more during Houston’s extra-inning win against the Mets, lowering his ERA to 1.49. Factor in how many times Scott has warmed up without entering a game and he’s among the most taxed relievers on the team. Espada is far more prone to double-barreling relievers in his bullpen than Dusty Baker, adding another wrinkle to this quandary.

Warming up two pitchers at once means the club is prepared for any in-game scenario, but how much it affects the arm that isn’t summoned is a legitimate question. Balance is needed. Montero’s pitching more like someone making $11.5 million would help, too.

Blue Jays

• The manager wants George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Justin Turner at the top of the lineup.

Schneider has expressed the goal of having the top of Toronto’s order return to Springer, Bo Bichette, Guerrero and Justin Turner, who was placed on the paternity list Wednesday. During the offensive struggles, the Blue Jays manager has reimagined the lineup many times, but he has previously spoken about how, in an ideal world, he would close his eyes and fill out the first four in his batting order.

Of those four, only Bichette continues to slump, though he hit a double in Wednesday’s loss and Schneider has been persistent that he believes the shortstop will turn things around soon. Whether it’s soon enough is another matter. For now, Spencer Horwitz, who has hit .288/.420/.470 in 22 games since he came up on June 7, has occupied the No. 2 spot.

With his desire, I expect anyone else (e.g. Horwitz) currently hitting in the top four to be moved down once one of the four has a hot few games.

Rangers

Josh Smith could see some time in the outfield. Also, Josh Jung will be the DH once he returns.

Bruce Bochy has said that Smith could get some outfield reps when Jung gets back, and he’s shown himself to be a versatile defender at multiple positions. It’s also likely that Jung will be eased back into it and will receive a lot of DH time, while Smith remains at third base, at least to start.

Royals

Michael Massey will keep missing time while dealing with a chronic back issue.

Twice this year, Massey has been on the injured list with a lower-back injury, a chronic issue that he’s dealt with before and will likely have to manage. On June 24, he returned to the Royals’ active roster with a caveat: He would only serve as the designated hitter in games until he’s ready to play second base. The reason is because Massey’s point of injury was when he bends forward and backward, not when he’s rotating his back side to side.

“Now, what does it look like coming back?” head athletic trainer Kyle Turner said. “We’re not going to send him out there every single day. It might be go play a day, take a day off to DH. Some of that will be determined by matchup stuff, where he fits and what it does with the other part of the lineup. That’s the complexity of doing it here, whereas in Triple-A or Double-A, we set a schedule and the player just follows that plan.”

Yankees

• The Yankees don’t see any obvious issues with Luis Gil.

“I don’t think it’s a fatigue issue,” Boone said. “I think it’s a little-out-of-sorts issue and having a harder time correcting on the fly.”

The manager added, “He’s having a hard time self-correcting when he gets out of whack, and then the mechanics start to go a little bit. I thought overall the (pitch) profiles were better tonight. But still work to do.”

It’s time to throw the bulls**t flag. Over Gil’s last three starts, he has a 14.90 ERA (8.21 xFIP), 5.6 K/9, and 8.4 BB/9. I’m no rocket scientist but Gil can’t find the strike zone. Here is a graph of his Zone%, K%, and BB%.

His struggles to find the strike zone started before this three-start stretch but now the results match the underlying stats.

The lack of control might be from him dropping his release point.

The only times his four-seamer has averaged under 5.75 ft has been the last four games. His slider and change release points are also down.

On top of that, he’s been struggling to maintain his velocity throughout a start. While he did a better job of maintaining his velocity in his last start, his velocities were tanking in the start before that.

His slider is losing almost 4 mph.

With his velocity dropping, his pitch results degrade quickly.

Luis Gil SwStr% for Different Pitch Types
Pitch type MPH SwStr% Cnt
FF 94 5.7% 35
FF 95 6.8% 88
FF 96 10.3% 194
FF 97 15.4% 214
FF 98 14.9% 161
FF 99 16.7% 30
SL 85 4.8% 21
SL 86 5.7% 53
SL 87 24.1% 54
SL 88 18.2% 44
SL 89 12.5% 24

He’s at his best when his fastball is at 96 mph or higher and his slider is at least 87 mph.

Putting it all together. He can’t throw strikes. His release point is dropping. He can’t maintain his velocity over a start. Threw fewer than 30 IP combined over the past two seasons.

He’s likely fatigued and I would not be surprised if he doesn’t throw until after the All-Star break to give him a refresher.

National League

Cardinals

• The team is considering going with a centerfield platoon once Tommy Edman returns from the IL.

Nootbaar’s versatility allows for both defensive formations, and we’ll likely see a combination. Where it gets more complicated is when Edman returns. Siani is too valuable of a center fielder to sit every day, but Edman is also a strong option. The Cardinals are mulling a center-field platoon as an option, though it would be a platoon of the position and not of the players. What does that mean? Essentially, Siani can start in center against right-handed starting pitchers and Edman in left, and Edman would still be in the starting lineup on days Siani starts.

Dodgers

• The team is considering keeping Miguel Rojas at shortstop once Mookie Betts returns from the IL while Betts plays second base.

“I would, I would,” manager Dave Roberts replied when asked by Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times whether he’d consider keeping Rojas his everyday shortstop when Betts returns. “I don’t think anyone can debate the level of shortstop play from Miguel Rojas. Some of it is contingent on the timeline for Mookie’s return and where Miggy is physically and how things are going. But to your question, would I consider it? Absolutely.”

Keeping Rojas at shortstop and sliding Betts back over to second base in place of Gavin Lux could deepen the team’s lineup and improve the defense. The Athletic report notes that adding an everyday outfielder would allow the Dodgers to use Betts at second base and go with a platoon of Andy Pages and Jason Heyward in the outfield alongside the new acquisition and Teoscar Hernandez.

Miguel Rojas is dealing with some lower body issues.

So as Rojas hobbled from the training room and past his manager’s office, Roberts stopped the veteran and told him he’d have Sunday off rather than start for the sixth time in seven days and 10th time in 12 games since Betts broke his hand. Rojas agreed.

“I need to recharge my batteries because I’m a player that plays all out, every single day and I feel like I empty the tank,” Rojas said. “I need to refuel.”

Rojas’ production wasn’t the reason the Dodgers bypassed him as their everyday shortstop to open this season. As much as flipping Betts and Gavin Lux in the middle infield boosted their lineup on paper, it also allowed the Dodgers to keep Rojas’ legs under him. The toll of time has taxed him. He missed time with a hamstring strain last April. At different points, Roberts has noted Rojas has been dealing with lower-body ailments — the latest being some lower leg soreness earlier this month that led to another tweak in footwear and pregame and postgame treatment.

Mets

Jose Quintana has been making a few adjustments.

Lately, Quintana (4.57 ERA/4.89 FIP) has performed better after making a couple of adjustments. The ability to do so is a hallmark of his career since he does not throw hard. Over his past three starts, Quintana sought more swing-and-miss and has a 1.65 ERA in 16 1/3 innings with 21 strikeouts, though he lasted just four innings in his last start. He said he has leaned more on his secondary pitches, like his curveball, and has challenged batters inside more frequently.

The biggest adjustment is increasing his curveball usage from 25% to 34%.

Tylor Megill will remain a starter in AAA.

Speculatively, the Mets could use a couple of starters as relievers, but sometimes teams are reluctant to do that because it takes time to build someone back up. Mendoza said Megill, for instance, would continue to make starts in Triple A.

Padres

Jackson Merrill doesn’t plan on selling out for home runs but use the entire field.

Which brings us to the approach that helps him bash baseballs. Merrill is looking to drive pitches to all fields, not wanting to sell out and thus “close off one side.” He wants to, in baseball parlance, hit the ball where it’s pitched. Letting the ball travel is also part of his approach; Merrill views going the opposite way as his “gateway to success with two strikes.” While he understands he needs to improve his 4.5% walk rate and 36.0% chase rate, his 16.5% strikeout rate is comfortably better than league average. More often than not, Merrill gets his bat on the ball.

Making better swing decisions is a current focus for him, and not just when the bright lights come on. He works on his plate discipline during his pregame process.

Xander Bogaerts will be using a new swing to project his shoulder.

Either way, Bogaerts appears to be on or ahead of schedule. He progressed last week to taking on-field batting practice, a significant test amid his recovery. To protect his shoulder, Bogaerts has been using a two-hand finish on each swing. He expects to continue doing so upon his return.

“It feels good. And obviously it’s a little different; my swing has a different feel,” Bogaerts said last week. “But for the most part, even in practice, I normally swing with two hands. So I’m used to that in practice.”

Pirates

Luis L. Ortiz has been working on improving his four-seamer.

When Ortiz was a rookie in 2022, his four-seamer was getting 13.3 inches of horizontal movement. That might sound good, but four-seamers generally do better up in the zone when they have the illusion of rise. Cutting movement kills that illusion, so vertical movement is definitely better than horizontal in this case. This year, his four-seamer is down to 10.6 inches of run, while he’s getting more vertical movement (17.7 inches) compared to last year (16.3).

“It’s been hard work making sure that four-seamer has the spin I want it to have, that movement I want,” Ortiz said, via interpreter and coach Stephen Morales. “It’s been work I’ve been doing the last couple years, and I think it’s in a good spot right now.”





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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hscermember
14 days ago

“Xander Bogaerts will be using a new swing to project his shoulder.”

cries in Corbin Carroll