Mining the News (8/27/21)

American League

Astros

• For José Urquidy to join the rotation, he’ll need to be fully stretched out.

All signs point to Urquidy’s being activated shortly after active rosters expand from 26 to 28 in September. The question will then become how the Astros manage six starting pitchers in the regular season’s final month leading into the postseason.

“You’ve got to come back first. … We’ll start thinking about that the closer he gets,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said Sunday. “I certainly want him back as soon as possible. But I don’t want him back to only go four or five innings because that puts a lot more pressure on my bullpen. I’ve already got two guys who are kind of five-inning guys. We need a seven-inning guy, potentially a seven-inning guy.”

In his first AAA start, he threw 49 pitches (4.0 IP).

Luis Garcia is already getting his pitch count limited.

Moving back to a six-man rotation would also be an easy way for the Astros to spread out Luis Garcia’s starts amid his career high in innings (116 2/3 and counting). Garcia’s average fastball velocity has dipped from 93 mph earlier in the season to 92 mph in August. The extra day or two of rest would probably benefit him. Another option would be to skip one of Garcia’s starts altogether.

The Astros have already limited Garcia’s pitch count. They’ve taken him out with fewer than 90 pitches in his past seven starts. In the most recent start, Garcia was pulled with a pitch count of only 70, his lowest since April. A lot of the damage against him this season has come after he’s reached the 75- or 80-pitch mark in an outing. As for his postseason role, he projects best as a two-times-through-the-order starter.

• The team plans for Jake Meyers to be the center fielder going forward even when Chas McCormick returns from the IL.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said on Tuesday. “But this is a situation where we’re glad we have him. McCormick, he did a great job for us. More is better than fewer. But right now, (Meyers is) going to continue to play, and he’s played center field pretty well, which is his natural position more than McCormick, whose natural position is more in the corners.”

So far, Meyers is hitting .316/.344/.526 with 3 HR and 1 SB.

Guardians (maybe)

Triston McKenzie’s turnaround came from attacking the strike zone more.

It’s been a simple formula for McKenzie: Work ahead in the count and force the opposition to guard against any of three pitches, all of which he’s finally throwing with conviction following a 10-start stretch marred by walks and nibbling around the strike zone and clobbered fastballs.

The numbers agree with the above narrative. Before being demoted he had a 56% First Strike rate and 42% Zone%. Since returning to the majors, it’s a 69% F-Strike% and 50% Zone%. His walk rate dropped from 8.3 BB/9 to 1.5 BB/9.

Mariners

Mitch Haniger has been able to stay healthy because he plays some DH.

Haniger has certainly benefited from the Mariners giving him time off his feet defensively. He’s made 28 starts as the designated hitter and is actually hitting 30 points higher (.279) as a DH than when he’s in right field (.249).

“Physically, we’ve tried to stay very consistent throughout the season to give him the DH days, so he can get off his feet, to keep him going,” Servais said. “It’s been really good. It’s been great to have him healthy. We need him down the stretch.”

Rangers

Spencer Howard is working on a new slider grip. And he throws a little shade on the Phillies pitcher development process.

Spencer Howard had a rough outing on Thursday, lasting just two innings and allowing five runs on as many hits, striking out three and walking one. Partly to blame for the immediate results: a new slider grip, as he said he had been working with the Rangers pitching coaches to help differentiate the slider and cutter. It’s easy to look at the ugly numbers and call it a failure, but Howard says he recognizes that the plan is bigger than just one game.

“I could have kept doing all the things I was doing in Philly and trying to get better in the wrong way, I guess? Like trying to polish a turd? Or I could scrap that, put my faith in these guys in this organization, and just really get to work on becoming the best version of myself that I can be.

Red Sox

Garrett Whitlock is getting consideration as the closer.

In the meantime, Cora has other options he can go to in the ninth. Garrett Whitlock and Hansel Robles replaced Barnes in relief on Monday and Tuesday, and the Red Sox won both games.

“We’ve got some capable guys there. We saw what Hansel did yesterday. Obviously Whit can get outs late in games,” said Cora. “There are other guys who are intriguing — Garrett [Richards]. We’ll attack today and then make decisions after that.”

Royals

Brady Singer is trying to improve on his changeup.

The changeup is going to unlock more success for Brady’s sinker and slider.”

There are a few ways to crystallize the importance of Singer’s implementation of the changeup.

On the season, his changeup just one swing-and-miss on 69 attempts. Not good.

Tigers

Zack Short shortened his swing.

Short’s swing is more compact now, with less of a loop. He’s trying to punch at the ball a little more, keeping his arms tight. The trick for Short, and the reason behind all the extra swings, is finding the balance between staying on top of the ball and not pounding the ball into the ground.

“It’s uncomfortable sometimes when it’s in the big leagues that you’re doing it, and everybody’s watching,” he said. “Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, this guy can’t hit.’ But when you’re trying to change at the highest level, it’s hard.”

Short is making those changes in the Majors because his defense is valuable enough to exercise patience. He started three inning-ending double plays Friday, including one to send the game to extra innings. He also had an acrobatic throw from the hole to take a hit away from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the sixth inning.

He’s been struggling while implementing the changes by hitting just .095/.167/.190 in August.

Daz Cameron is still playing through a toe injury.

Though Cameron had cooled off a bit from his hot start, he was holding his own against the Major League pitching when the injury happened. The sprain lingered more than a month and still hasn’t completely gone away.

“There’s going to be soreness,” Cameron said, “but as far as it healing, it’s enough for me to go out there and perform. There’s times when some days it’s sore, but a toe injury is just like a jammed finger. It’s a lot better, though.”

National League

Cubs

Nico Hoerner will play shortstop once healthy.

Cubs manager David Ross said Sunday that Hoerner will be the everyday shortstop moving forward. Ross may move Hoerner around the field for lineup and playing time purposes, but for the most part, Cubs fans will get to see Hoerner at the position Chicago hopes will be his for the foreseeable future.

“[It’ll] be nice to get him back and see what he can do at shortstop,” Ross said. “Getting a regular look at him there would definitely be nice for us.”

Nationals

Erick Fedde has learned a new curveball grip with good results so far.

A curveball grip Fedde learned earlier this month from rookie left-handed reliever Sam Clay was key. The breaking ball, which Fedde is now gripping on a different seam, generated a miss on nine of 21 swings. He threw it 38 times but it was only put in play on four occasions.

The pitch will not be what cements Fedde’s future in the Nationals’ rotation. He will need more outings in which he avoids a big inning and more innings in which he moves quickly through hitters. But it is a step in the right direction.

Phillies

• If Alec Bohm is going to get promoted, it’ll be to start every day.

Rosters expand to 28 players on Sept. 1, but it is not a guarantee that Bohm rejoins the team then, even though it seems like he could provide an offensive spark off the bench.

“I think when Alec comes back, he’s going to play every day,” Girardi said. “That’s what we expect.”

Pirates

Ke’Bryan Hayes is not stealing bases because he doesn’t want to reinjure his wrist.

But after a left wrist injury sent him to the 60-day injured list, Hayes didn’t want to test his wrist with slides into second when he was still trying to gain confidence in it simply by being able to power an aggressive swing.

“I typically like to slide headfirst whenever I steal, so that was why I kind of, in the back of my mind, I kind of didn’t want to hurt anything with that,” Hayes said. “But yeah, just finding the right time to go, the right counts to go, stuff like that.”

Mitch Keller no longer throws a curve.

Keller all but scrapped his curveball, which he’s paired with his slider to give a different look to his breaking stuff. Against a right-handed-heavy lineup, he also threw his changeup only once. It was virtually all fastballs and sliders on Friday, and they played.

It was never close to being an average pitch with a 7% SwStr% and 45% GB%.

Reds

Nick Castellanos has been dealing with a wrist injury this month.

Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos’ right wrist hasn’t been 100 percent since he returned from the injured list on Aug. 5. But Castellanos, who was out for 12 games with a microfracture after being hit by a pitch on July 16, hit a home run in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Cubs.

“It starts by not being so hard on yourself,” he said. “At least, I can speak for me; everybody’s path to getting back is different. I come back and I want to be better than I was when I got hurt, right off the bat. Sometimes, you just have to be patient with yourself and allow yourself to catch up to the speed of the game and get back to where you feel good, regardless of results. That’s the most important thing.”

Before going on the IL, he had a .965 OPS. This month it’s still a respectable .889 OPS.





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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ahduth
1 year ago

A “little” shade, tell us how you really feel Spencer.