Archive for Residency

Jaime García Is Fine with the Bullpen

This is Cat Garcia’s final post as part of her FanGraphs residency. She is a freelance baseball writer whose work has appeared at The Athletic, MLB.com, the Chicago Sun-Times, La Vida Baseball, and Baseball Prospectus, among others. She is a Chicago native and previously worked at Wrigley Field before becoming a full-time freelancer. Follow her on Twitter at @TheBaseballGirl.

It’s been a long journey for Jaime García. Over the course of a 10-year career, he has battled back from three major surgeries. The Cardinals sent him to the Braves in the 2017 offseason, and he was traded twice more before the season was done. He signed with the Blue Jays this past February but was designated for assignment at the end of August after putting up a 5.93 ERA and a 5.23 FIP in 74 innings of work. A day later, García signed a minor-league deal with a Chicago Cubs team in the thick of a pennant race.

The question was, what would García’s role be in Chicago? He had lost his job as a starter in Toronto and was sporting a less-than-ideal ERA. But García came with one asset that stood out to the Cubs — a strong slider that looked brilliant out of the bullpen.

“I feel like… being in the bullpen has allowed me to feel pitches a lot better and finish pitches better,” García told me when I spoke to him. “I think that’s had an impact on my slider. You only have to pitch an inning, and even if you’re not feeling 100% or you’re fatigued, you just keep going out there and kind of feel things better, and it’s only for an inning or two.”

Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey was quick to point out the uniqueness of García’s slider.

“The ability to get it under a right-handed hitter not just a left-handed hitter,” Hickey said. “A lot of times, those left-handed relief pitchers that have the breaking ball use it primarily versus the left-handed hitters. But he’s certainly able to get up under the right-handed hitter very well.”

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Eugenio Suarez Is Always Adjusting

This is Cat Garcia’s second post as part of her September residency. She is a freelance baseball writer whose work has appeared at The Athletic, MLB.com, the Chicago Sun-Times, La Vida Baseball, and Baseball Prospectus, among others. She is a Chicago native and previously worked at Wrigley Field before becoming a full-time freelancer. Follow her on Twitter at @TheBaseballGirl.

The Cincinnati Reds have been surprisingly interesting in 2018. Not interesting in the way your typical contending ball club might be, but interesting in some curious ways. They started off the season with an MLB-worst record of 3-15. They fired their manager, Bryan Price, after four seasons with the club. And in an unexpected move, they acquired struggling former-ace Matt Harvey from the Mets in early May.

In the middle of all of that, there has been a significant — and likely longer-lasting — bright spot. As FanGraphs’ own Jeff Sullivan recently wrote, third baseman Eugenio Suarez has continued to build upon his impressive 2017 breakout season. Suarez’s 133 wRC+ is currently tied for ninth-best in the National League. He’s already hit a career-high 32 home runs this season, and he currently has the 12th-highest ISO in the NL, just two points behind Travis Shaw.

And while his .322 BABIP is his highest since 2015, it isn’t so far off his career norms, and there is reason to believe his healthy batting line isn’t just the result of good batted-ball luck. As Sullivan pointed out in his piece, Suarez is making much harder contact than he has previously. His .373 wOBA is a career-best, while his xwOBA suggests it could even be a bit better.

Suarez told David Laurila earlier in the season that he hadn’t made any adjustments to his swing. But it seems there has been a new development on that front, one that has contributed to Suarez’s success.

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How Xander Bogaerts Has Kept the Pace

This is Cat Garcia’s first post as part of her September residency. She is a freelance baseball writer whose work has appeared at The Athletic, MLB.com, the Chicago Sun-Times, La Vida Baseball, and Baseball Prospectus, among others. She is a Chicago native and previously worked at Wrigley Field before becoming a full-time freelancer. Follow her on Twitter at @TheBaseballGirl.

You have to feel for Xander Bogaerts. During a season in which he’s hitting .291/.362/.524 — good for a career-best 134 wRC+ and 4.8 WAR — he’s just the third-best position player on a Red Sox team stacked with young, homegrown talent. Throw in Chris Sale, arguably the American League’s best pitcher, and it is easy to understand how Bogaerts has managed to get a bit lost in the shuffle.

Before this season, Bogaerts put up a career line of .283/.339/.409, with a .326 wOBA, a 101 wRC+, and 16.8 total WAR. In 2018, Bogaerts has taken a step forward. I spoke to Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers about what he thinks has made the difference for Bogaerts this season.

“I think it’s just the consistency with his lower half,” Hyers said. “Last year, I think he felt he got a little too narrow, he was reaching for balls on the outer half and just didn’t have that stability. This year, he came in, he talked to me in the offseason and he said, ‘This is what I want to do, and I want to improve this because I hit too many ground balls last year. [I want to] have better posture,’ and from spring training on, he’s done that.”

Hyers is right. Take a look at Bogaerts’ batting stance from 2017.

Here is his stance in July of 2018.

Bogaerts is more closed off in the latter of those, which allows him to get into his legs more and maintain athleticism in his swing. According to Hyers, the adjustment has helped Bogaerts lay off pitches outside the zone and allowed him to be more selective.

Notice where Bogaerts’ legs are in this at-bat from 2017:

Now, look at his stance from this at-bat in 2018. His legs are much closer together and kept underneath him, as Hyers pointed out:

“I agreed that he needed to stay more upright,” Hyers said of what he felt Bogaerts needed to work on in the offseason. “I think when his legs got underneath him he stayed more upright, he had good posture so he could utilize the frame that he has… I think when you have that stability, it helps you see the ball better, and it’s kind of those simple-but-consistent cues he has that have helped him.”

And that wasn’t his only adjustment. “Last year, he got in the habit of chasing sliders away,” Hyers said. One scout who has seen Bogaerts mentioned that staying in an athletic position allows hitters to maintain balance, which is key versus offspeed pitches. That’s something Hyers said the two worked diligently on over the offseason. And the changes appear to have paid dividends: after years of posting swinging-strike rates of roughly 15% against the slider, Bogaerts has recorded a career-low mark of 12.1% in 2018.

“I think my motivation is the team that we have and trying to be as good as all the other guys on the team,” Bogaerts told NBC Sports in August. “You don’t want to stay back. I mean, we’ve got a couple guys, MVP [possibilities] on our team hopefully. That’s in the conversation, and I mean, you don’t want to be too far behind them.”

By WAR, Bogaerts is currently the third-best American League shortstop, behind only Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons. Bogaerts is still only 25 years old and has the rest of a young career to continue his improvements. For now, though, he’s demonstrating progress, and the adjustments he made in the offseason appear to be working. If the trend continues, Bogaerts just might force us to pay him the attention we’ve so happily bestowed on his better-known teammates.


Which Pitchers Are Doubling Up to Start an At-Bat?

This is Nate Freiman’s fourth post as part of his August residency. Nate is a former MLB first baseman. He also played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and spent time in the Atlantic and Mexican Leagues. He can be found on Twitter @natefreiman. His wife Amanda routinely beats him at golf. To read work by earlier residents, click here.

On June 7, 2013, I got the start against Chris Sale in Chicago. Roughly 22,000 people were there to see us beat the White Sox 4-3 on a Josh Donaldson sixth-inning grand slam.

I was on deck when Donaldson homered, and consequently faced a very angry Sale. He started me off with a slider. The pitch appeared to start more or less in the first-base dugout before catching the better part of the outside corner. Then he threw a changeup. I was geared up for 97. I buckled and took a second called strike. I was down 0-2 and still hadn’t seen the fastball. If you’re concerned about catching up to the fastball, the key is to slow down and think, “Be on time.” Hopefully that doesn’t translate to start a little early. That’s when you chase the back-foot slider.

Sale’s next pitch was 97 mph at the top of the zone. It looked even harder because I hadn’t seen the fastball. Strike three swinging. I got soft-soft-harded.

In my last post, I mentioned that at-bats are “path dependent,” meaning that each pitch is going to depend on the previous pitch. It’s nice to know what percentage of fastballs a guy throws. It’s really nice to have it broken down by count. Luckily there’s a really cool graphic for that on Baseball Savant. Here’s what it looks like for Blake Snell:

The chart shows that Snell throws 45.4% fastballs in 0-1 counts. In those counts, sometimes he got ahead with a fastball and sometimes he got ahead with offspeed. Do the pitches that came before it matter? Because soft-soft-hard is merely one example of a three-pitch sequence. I was curious whether MLB pitchers have measurable pitch-sequencing tendencies in other counts, too.

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What Are Pitchers Throwing with Runners on Base?

This is Nate Freiman’s third post as part of his August residency. Nate is a former MLB first baseman. He also played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and spent time in the Atlantic and Mexican Leagues. He can be found on Twitter @natefreiman. His wife Amanda routinely beats him at golf. To read work by earlier residents, click here.

One of my favorite people in baseball is Tom Tornincasa. He was my hitting coach in the Double-A Texas League in 2012. Apart from being a great coach, he kept the clubhouse loose. Ask anyone who played for him; they’ll know what I mean.

At about 6:50, we’d be stretching on the foul line, and he’d walk out with his notebook.

“Straily.”

That was the start of our advance scouting meeting.

“Ninety to ninety-four, slider, changeup. Sixty percent fastball, thirty percent slider.”

Dan Straily led the minor leagues in strikeouts that year, spotting his fastball to both sides of the plate and mixing in an almost unhittable slider — unhittable in that it was un-layoff-able — that he’d throw in any count. He was in the big leagues that September.

“One more thing. He sucks.”

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How Much Does Height Affect a Hitter’s Zone?

This is Nate Freiman’s second post as part of his August residency. Nate is a former MLB first baseman. He also played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and spent time in the Atlantic and Mexican Leagues. He can be found on Twitter @natefreiman. His wife Amanda routinely beats him at golf. To read work by earlier residents, click here.

Being a tall hitter came with its drawbacks. Long arms, lots of moving parts. Eight-hour bus rides starting at 11pm. Getting pitched inside. (In fairness, I saw thousands of pitches and only suffered two broken hand bones.)

And yes, the low strikes. My entire career, anytime I’d get a low strike called there would be someone from the dugout yelling, “He’s six-eight!” Hopefully, by that time, it wasn’t news to the umpire. My hitting coach in A-ball told me to wear my pants Hunter Pence style. Above the knees. He figured the umpire would see the bottom of the zone better. I figured that would get me ejected.

So I can honestly say I sympathize with Aaron Judge. Travis Sawchik has done great work on Judge’s relationship with the bottom of the zone. It makes sense that a guy that big is a strike zone anomaly, but do other guys have the same problem? I used Statcast data to investigate.

The MLB pitch data features anywhere between 50 and 90 columns of information for every single pitch thrown. One of them is “sz_bot,” or strike-zone bottom. I used this number to adjust the strike zone for each hitter. The problem is, sz_bot varies. Of the hitters who have seen at least 500 pitches in 2018, the top of the zone measurement (sz_top) has an average range of 2.8 feet, while the bottom of the zone (sz_bot) varied an average of 3.4 feet.

Most of this is due to random outliers. One of the columns for David Freese, for example, suggests his strike zone on one pitch extended up 11 feet. To address this, I took the median strike-zone top and bottom for each hitter instead of the average.

Once determining the approximate strike-zone boundaries for each hitter, I isolated somewhat arbitrary window at the top and bottom of the zone. The window at the top of the zone is simply every pitch that is coded as being at least half the diameter of the baseball above sz_top. The bottom window is every pitch located between half a ball below sz_bot and one foot below sz_bot. The batters receiving strike calls on these pitches are, in theory, those who are the greatest victims of low strike calls.

Most Called Strikes on Low Pitches, 2018
Batter % of Low-Pitch Strikes, 2018
Aaron Judge 19.1
David Peralta 16.6
Justin Bour 14.5
Lucas Duda 13.5
Christian Yelich 12.0
Yasiel Puig 11.3
Jake Lamb 11.3
Jordy Mercer 11.2
Cameron Maybin 11.1
Gregory Polanco 10.7

Not surprisingly, Judge is way ahead. In fact, there’s a statistically significant difference between him and Peralta, who’s still ahead of everyone else in baseball. These guys also happen to have an average height of 75.4 inches, or a little over 6-foot-3.

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The Minor-League Strike Zone Is Objectively Different

This is Nate Freiman’s first post as part of his August residency. Nate is a former MLB first baseman. He also played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and spent time in the Atlantic and Mexican Leagues. He can be found on Twitter @natefreiman. His wife Amanda routinely beats him at golf.

Editor’s Note: a version of this work was recently presented at SaberSeminar 2018.

In 2011, I was playing at High-A for the Padres. I’d graduated from the Midwest League to Lake Elsinore in the California League. (They have the cool storm-eyes logo, but it scares my toddler so my old hats are in boxes.) Since we were so close to San Diego, we got lots of guys on MLB rehab assignments. I was a senior sign making $1,300 a month, so it was huge when someone like Orlando Hudson came through and bought us Outback.

During their assignments, every MLB guy got The Question: “What’s it like up there?” The best answer I ever heard was, “Chuck E Cheese for adults.” O-Dog, as Hudson was known, had a pretty strong reply, too: “Better balls, better lights, and a better zone.”

In this case, “better zone” means two things. The first is size. (“That’s outside!”) The second is consistency. (“That’s been a strike all day!”) And O-Dog was right: the umpiring (just like the play on the field) does get better as you go up. We’d be in some cramped clubhouse, playing cards, and eating our $11 PB+Js, watching the big club, when a pitcher would inevitably yell, “That’s a strike!” And maybe it was… by Northwest League standards.

But those standards are different than the ones at higher levels. For example: have you ever seen a check swing get overruled? I have. In Boise, back in 2009. The hitter at the plate checked his swing, and the umpire responded by yelling, “Yes he did!” After the batting team complained, however, the home-plate umpire decided to appeal to his colleague at third base, who ruled it not a swing. I’ve never seen something like that before or since.

It’s no secret that the umpiring in the majors is superior to the sort found in the minors. It’s also no secret that part of the superior umpiring is a smaller, more well defined zone. But what about the different levels of the minors? Does the strike zone get smaller at each level? Does it get more consistent? I wanted some answers.

Building the Model

In order to get them, I needed minor-league TrackMan data. That data is all proprietary, but one team sent some of it to me on the condition of anonymity. (If anyone from that organization is reading this, thank you again!) The org in question sent me a sample of 20,000 taken pitches divided across the four full-season levels. The team trimmed the data to contain only horizontal and vertical location, pitcher and batter handedness, count, and a binary “strike” or “ball” call. There was no other identifying information.

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Pace-of-Play Proposals Could Be Hostile to Innovation

This is Alexis LaMarsh’s first piece as part of her July Residency at FanGraphs. Alexis is a communications student at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. She enjoys breaking down numbers and exploring the cultural side of baseball. She has written for her own site, Pinch Hero, as well as Cardinals blog St. Louis Bullpen. She plans to present research at Saberseminar in August. Alexis can also be found on Twitter @clutchmarp.

With action on the field subject to an increasing number of starts and stops and the average time of game climbing in recent seasons, commissioner Rob Manfred has stressed taking active steps to reverse the trend. In 2018, MLB implemented new pace-of-play rules, including mound-visit limits and timers on inning breaks and pitching changes, part of a continuous effort that has been underway since 2015.

The effects on game length are still unclear. Per Baseball Reference, the average time of a nine-inning game last season was three hours and five minutes. Thus far in 2018, it’s down to two hours and fifty-nine minutes. In a recent interview with The Athletic, Manfred credited the league’s recent rule changes for the dip in game time, as well as improvements in the game’s pace, though his comments to that effect were relatively vague.

While it’s certainly possible that this year’s initiatives have led to slightly shorter games, Manfred’s claim suggests that he is perhaps missing a larger, more critical point: more than any superficial pace of play component, what happens at the plate appears to ultimately decide the pace and length of games. The current trends on the mound and in the batter’s box suggest that there may be a limit to the efficacy of pace-of-play initiatives. That’s of particular concern in light of the drastic steps the league has discussed to further address the issue. In service to the goal of shortening games and increasing action, MLB may end up adopting a posture that is hostile to innovation.

Part of the pace-of-play issue is what’s being thrown. In the past 16 years (for which the data is available on FanGraphs), fastball usage has trended downward, while offspeed and breaking-ball usage have trended upward:

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Finding the Next Edwin Díaz

This is Jake Mailhot’s fourth post as part of his May Residency at FanGraphs. A lifelong Mariners fan, Jake now lives in Bellingham, Washington, just a little too far away from Seattle to make it to games regularly, which is sometimes for the best. He is a staff editor at Mariners blog Lookout Landing. He can be found on Twitter at @jakemailhot. Read the works of all our residents here.

Among the various career arcs in professional baseball, the conversion from starting pitcher to reliever is one of the more common ones. It’s a last resort for aging veterans and a tried-and-true way to get the most out of middling starters. But when a talented prospect is moved to the bullpen, there are bound to be questions. It has been generally understood that a starting pitcher is more valuable than a relief pitcher, so teams are usually more conservative with their prospects, often letting them at least try to work things out as a starter before pulling the plug. But in an era when relievers are throwing more innings than ever before, a high-octane reliever might prove to be more valuable than just another starter.

Back in 2016, the Mariners moved one of their best pitching prospects from the rotation to the bullpen. Edwin Díaz took to the conversion quickly and was in the majors a few weeks later, completely skipping Triple-A. He was soon installed as the Mariners closer and has been one of the best relievers in the majors since. His already excellent fastball velocity received the usual boost from shorter stints on the mound, and his slider has developed into a plus-plus pitch.

It was a risky move for the Mariners. Instead of letting the 22-year-old try to develop his changeup in the rotation, they shifted him to the bullpen and aggressively promoted him because the major-league team needed bullpen help desperately.

I wondered if any other teams had tried something similar. Below you’ll see the results of a very specific query: every relief pitcher who has thrown at least 10 innings in the majors and had been a starting pitcher in the minors as recently as last year. To narrow the field even further, these pitchers all recorded fewer than five innings pitched in Triple-A and have posted an average leverage index greater than 1.25 when entering the game.

Recently Converted Minor-League Starters
Name IP K% BB% ERA FIP
Jordan Hicks 27.2 14.2% 14.2% 1.63 4.02
Brad Keller 22.1 14.6% 7.9% 2.01 3.46
Justin Anderson 15.2 30.9% 13.2% 3.45 4.20
Seranthony Domínguez 11.2 35.1% 0.0% 0.00 1.14

It’s an interesting list. Jordan Hicks, the man with the fastest fastball in all the land, sits atop it with almost 27 innings pitched and just 16 strikeouts to his name. Then we have a Rule 5 pick, Brad Keller, who has recently been in the mix for high-leverage innings in the Royals bullpen. Moving on. Justin Anderson wasn’t a highly regarded pitching prospect in the Angels organization, but he has added more than 6 mph to his average fastball velocity out of the pen and given Mike Scioscia another option in his constant closer carousel. This article was almost about Anderson. But the final name on the list is far more intriguing — and not just because of his 80-grade baseball name.

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When Lance McCullers Stops McCullersing

This is Jake Mailhot’s third post as part of his May Residency at FanGraphs. A lifelong Mariners fan, Jake now lives in Bellingham, Washington, just a little too far away from Seattle to make it to games regularly, which is sometimes for the best. He is a staff editor at Mariners blog Lookout Landing. He can be found on Twitter at @jakemailhot.

Earlier this year, Jeff Sullivan wrote a pair of articles, each about a pitcher who appeared to be McCullersing. That term, of course, is a reference to Lance McCullersJr., who in 2016 began throwing his excellent curveball more often than his fastball. He’s led all of baseball in curveball usage since then. He wound up throwing his curveball an astonishing 75% of the time in Game Seven of the ALCS last postseason. That appearance was peak McCullersing.

He started off this year throwing his curveball around the same amount as last year, 48% of the time. But when the calendar flipped to May, something changed. Just look at this graph of his secondary pitch usage in 2018.

That’s… interesting. In his start last night (not included here), McCullers threw his curveball around 40% of the time. That’s pretty normal for him. But it’s been less normal for him of late. In his start against the Angels last Monday, McCullers actually threw more changeups than curveballs, the latter pitch representing just 21.4% of his total count for the night. The last time his curveball usage fell below 30% was all the way back on August 3, 2015, during his rookie year.

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Sean Manaea Is Slowing Everything Down

This is Jake Mailhot’s second post as part of his May Residency at FanGraphs. A lifelong Mariners fan, Jake now lives in Bellingham, Washington, just a little too far away from Seattle to make it to games regularly, which is sometimes for the best. He is a staff editor at Mariners blog Lookout Landing. He can be found on Twitter at @jakemailhot.

Fastball velocity is one of the main factors at which analysts look when attempting to predict pitcher injuries. When a pitcher suddenly starts throwing slower than before, alarm bells start ringing. Sometimes it’s nothing; more often than not, though, it’s a pretty bad sign. Having said that, let me present — without any other context — a velocity chart for a starting pitcher from 2016 through this season.

That’s a pretty disturbing downward trend. But as far as we know, this pitcher isn’t injured. In fact, he might be the healthiest he’s been in his major league career — and he’s thrown a no-hitter this year as proof. If you haven’t guessed already, the pitcher in question is Sean Manaea. He’s throwing slower than ever before and thriving.

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Edwin Díaz Has Been Nearly Unhittable

This is Jake Mailhot’s first post as part of his May Residency at FanGraphs. A lifelong Mariners fan, Jake now lives in Bellingham, Washington, just a little too far away from Seattle to make it to games regularly, which is sometimes for the best. He is a staff editor at Mariners blog Lookout Landing. He can be found on Twitter at @jakemailhot.

There has been no shortage of remarkable relief performances during the first month of the season. Jordan Hicks and Tayron Guerrero are playing a game of one-upmanship with their fastballs. Josh Hader is striking out basically everyone he faces. Adam Ottavino resurrected his career in an abandoned storefront. But the most impressive performance of all might be what Edwin Díaz accomplished in April.

The ninth batter Díaz faced this season was also the first to actually put the ball in play — he’d struck out the first eight. Seven appearances into the year, he finally gave up his first hit, a single to Jed Lowrie. He gave up just one other hit the entire month. Among pitchers who’ve thrown 10 or more innings, possesses the fourth-highest swinging-strike rate and has produced the lowest overall contact rate when batters actually swing. If you prefer more traditional accolades, he’s also leading the majors in saves. His performance earned him the April AL Reliever of the Month Award. Any way you slice it, Díaz has been pretty great so far.

Díaz has shown flashes of dominance like this before — his 2016 rookie campaign was good for 1.9 WAR on the back of a 2.04 FIP — but he’s always been a little too erratic for his own good. Some of his success in April came despite the inherent chaos of slinging a projectile at 98 mph. He’s already walked nine batters and hit three more, and he’s given up a pair of home runs in May already. A quick look at his plate-discipline stats reveals that Díaz is throwing in the strike zone at the lowest rate of his career, around six and a half points lower than last season. And he isn’t really inducing any more swings on those pitches out of the zone — in fact, batters are swinging far less often at his pitches overall. But again, when batters do swing, they just cannot make consistent contact. Díaz’s contact rate of 55.2% is better than Aroldis Chapman’s, Josh Hader’s, and everyone else’s.

So what has made Díaz so effective this year when he does find the zone?

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Is Baseball Ready to Love Dick Allen?

This is Shakeia Taylor’s fourth and final piece as part of her April Residency at FanGraphs. Shakeia is an avid baseball fan and baseball history enthusiast. Her main interests include the Negro Leagues and women in baseball. She has written for The Hardball Times and Complex. She hosts an annual charity bartending fundraiser for Jackie Robinson Day, all of tips and raffle proceeds of which are donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Though not from Baltimore, she’s still an Elite Giant. Shakeia can also be found on Twitter (@curlyfro).

“I believe God Almighty hisself would have trouble handling Richie Allen.”

–Phillies interim manager George Myatt, 1969

Despite a somewhat itinerant career and a relative lack of notoriety, there’s some evidence to suggest that Richard Anthony Allen was among the best players of his era. From the moment he debuted, Dick Allen made an impact, nearly helping the Phillies win their first National League title since 1950 in his rookie season. His professional baseball resume features a .292 career batting average, including seven seasons of .300 or better. He won the 1964 Rookie of the Year award and the 1972 MVP award. He posted a .534 career slugging percentage, which ranks second best among qualified players during his career. During the period in which he was active, Allen also produced the eighth-highest WAR among all position players — more wins than Hall of Famers Lou Brock or Willie McCovey or Willie Stargell recorded during the same timeframe, despite all benefiting from more plate appearances than Allen.

While Allen was noted for his talent, he also developed a reputation as one of the most controversial players in the game. He arrived for games hungover and would smoke in the dugout. He was often fined for showing up late or not showing up at all. He was known as a “divisive clubhouse guy.” His attitude would shape future perceptions of him, changing the way fans viewed him as a player.

As the years have passed, though — and as his Hall of Fame case has been evaluated and re-evaluated — those perceptions have shifted, giving way to a more complete understanding of what he endured. Many attribute his “bad attitude” to the racism and mistreatment he suffered in the minor leagues, an unfortunate trend that would follow him to the Phillies clubhouse.

Allen suffered through more unfortunate chapters that I can recount here, but perhaps the defining one came before a game on July 3, 1965, when Allen got into a brawl with Phillies teammate Frank Thomas. According to late Daily News writer Bill Conlin, the fight stemmed from an incident a week earlier when Thomas jokingly asked Allen, “Hey, boy, can you carry my bags to the lobby?” The fight solidified Allen’s bad reputation; his life in Philadelphia became hell. The city was still dealing with the effects of the 1964 racial riots and many white people sided with Thomas. The team put Thomas on irrevocable waivers. Fans began to boo loudly after Thomas, in a radio interview, said that Allen should’ve been punished, too. Allen’s left shoulder was injured in the fight with Thomas, making it difficult to play third base. He was moved to left field. The booing turned to death threats, which turned into fans throwing things at Allen on the field. He began to wear a helmet in the outfield to protect himself from further injury.

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The Underappreciated Legacy of Larry Doby

This is Shakeia Taylor’s third piece as part of her April Residency at FanGraphs. Shakeia is an avid baseball fan and baseball history enthusiast. Her main interests include the Negro Leagues and women in baseball. She has written for The Hardball Times and Complex. She hosts an annual charity bartending fundraiser for Jackie Robinson Day, all of tips and raffle proceeds of which are donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Though not from Baltimore, she’s still an Elite Giant. Shakeia can also be found on Twitter (@curlyfro). She’ll be contributing here this month.

A statue of Doby outside Cleveland’s Progressive Field.
(Photo: Erik Drost)

Larry Doby entered the league 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson’s debut, making him the second Black player in Major League Baseball. Ever. The second person to do something is often forgotten. This past weekend, MLB’s 30 teams celebrated Jackie Robinson Day, marking Robinson’s debut in 1947. No such day is designated to celebrate Doby’s career. Indeed, Doby’s legacy has often been overshadowed by Jackie’s, but it is one that deserves to be remembered on its own.

Lawrence Eugene Doby was born on December 13th in Camden, South Carolina. As is common for many born in that time, it is unclear precisely in what year he was born, 1923 or 1924. His birthday is listed differently depending on the source. In what this writer would like to think was the universe acting on his behalf, Larry’s father, David, met his future wife, Etta, while playing baseball on the street in front of her home. During his early years, Doby spent much of his time with his grandmother due to his parents’ marital issues. When Larry was eight years old, his father died. Four years later, Etta and her young son moved to Paterson, New Jersey.

In Paterson, Doby was a multi-sport athlete, achieving success in baseball, basketball, football, and track. He even played baseball for the Smart Sets, a Black semi-pro team, during summer breaks from school. As a senior in high school, he accepted a basketball scholarship at Long Island University-Brooklyn. But before he enrolled, at age 17, he joined Abe and Effa Manley’s Newark Eagles.

Many speculated during his Negro Leagues career that it would possibly be Doby, and not Jackie, who would break the color barrier. Jackie bested him by three months, but Doby circumvented the minor leagues entirely. Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck finalized a deal for Doby with Effa Manley, the Eagles’ business manager, on July 3, 1947. He paid her a total of $15,000 — $10,000 for taking him from the Eagles and another $5,000 once it was determined he would stay with Cleveland for at least 30 days.

Doby was regarded as “a Negro good enough to play major league ball,” writes Dr. Louis Moore in an article titled “Doby Does It! Larry Doby, Race, and American Democracy in Post World-War II America” from the Journal of Sport History. On July 5, with Cleveland on the road in Chicago, he made his debut against the White Sox in the first game of a doubleheader. In his only at-bat of the game, he struck out. Though he started the second game of the double-header, he would not start another the rest of the season. While good play is no guard against a determined racist — Robinson enjoyed a successful debut and still received terrible treatment from fans and players — Doby’s struggles brought out white opposition. Like Jackie, Doby wasn’t allowed to stay in the same hotels or eat in the same restaurants as his team. He was subjected to racial slurs from fans, opposing players, and even teammates. He was called “coon,” “jigaboo,” and “nigger.” Opposing players would spit in his face when he slid into second base.

Moore notes that,

[b]y the end of the year, his batting average dipped to a dismal .156, and many white fans claimed Doby did not have the goods. For whites, he became a symbol of the limitations of economic integration in post-World War II America. In other words, Doby took work away from a white man.

By all accounts, including his own, Doby took the racism he faced and channeled it into aggression on the field. He admitted that sometimes that aggression meant he swung too hard and missed a pitch. Despite his place in history, Doby felt lonely and isolated. “There’s something in the Bible that says you should forgive and forget,” Doby told the New York Post in 1999. “Well, you might forgive. But boy, it is tough to forget.” However, he was undeterred.

Doby went on to have a successful major-league career. In attempt to make Doby more comfortable in his second season, Veeck removed five players from the team who had been “discourteous” to him. Doby played the outfield full time and batted .301, becoming a major contributor to Cleveland’s pennant victory. He was the first African-American to hit a home run in the World Series, a series that Cleveland went on to win. Doby ultimately became a seven-time All-Star and put together five 100-RBI and eight 20-home-run seasons. In 1978, the same man who gave him his shot as a player in the major leagues hired him to manage his Chicago White Sox, making Doby just the second African-American manager in major-league history.

Doby recalled in a 1997 New York Times interview:

When Mr. Veeck signed me, he sat me down and told me some of the do’s and don’ts. He said, ‘Lawrence’ — he’s the only person who called me Lawrence — ‘you are going to be part of history.’ Part of history? I had no notions about that. I just wanted to play baseball. I mean, I was young. I didn’t quite realize then what all this meant. I saw it simply as an opportunity to get ahead. Mr. Veeck told me: ‘No arguing with umpires, don’t even turn around at a bad call at the plate, and no dissertations with opposing players; either of those might start a race riot. No associating with female Caucasians’ — not that I was going to. And he said remember to act in a way that you know people are watching you. And this was something that both Jack and I took seriously. We knew that if we didn’t succeed, it might hinder opportunities for other Afro-Americans.”

In the summer of 2014, Cleveland unveiled a statue of Jim Thome before one was erected for Larry Doby. It was an act many Cleveland fans — and some baseball fans outside of Ohio — viewed as an injustice, not because Thome is undeserving, but because Doby’s should’ve come first. According to Moore, Doby was not just a symbol of hope for Clevelanders, or a good player, but a “reflection of the struggle for economic opportunities.” Black Cleveland residents were fighting for the passage of a Fair Employment Practice Committee law at the same time Doby joined the local ball club.

The FEPC was created after World War II by executive order. It was meant to be an organization in charge of ensuring that private companies that received government contracts for military work did not discriminate on the basis of color. But companies that failed to comply received relatively light penalties that only applied to military spending. Cleveland’s Black population had grown tremendously after the Second Great Migration, and the fight there centered around a desire for more FEPC legislation at federal, state, and local levels. After Doby was signed, local legislators agreed to support FEPC legislation and sent a letter to Veeck for his acquisition of the young outfielder. One could say Doby helped advance with the progress of civil rights in Cleveland both on and off the field.

An unsigned editorial that ran on page 14 of the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Friday, July 4, 1947 titled, “Pulling for Larry Doby” read:

President Bill Veeck of the Cleveland Indians made news again yesterday by buying the clever infielder, Larry Doby, from the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. Veeck is the first American League owner to sign a Negro player. The Brooklyn Dodgers established the precedent by bringing up Jackie Robinson this year from Montreal. Manager Lou Boudreau, we believe, expressed the sentiments of Cleveland fans by saying that “creed, race or color are not factors in baseball success — ability and character are the only things that count. Negroes have risen to stardom in the other sports. If given the opportunity they will do so in baseball. Veeck deserves to be congratulated. The fans will be pulling for Larry Doby to make good.

“He said he never got booed in Cleveland,” Larry Doby Jr. told an interviewer. Not only was Cleveland important to Larry, but Larry was, and is, important to Cleveland.

Robinson broke the color barrier alone, but men like Doby joined the fight for acceptance and respect, and a place for those who would follow them. No telling of baseball’s story is complete until legacies like his are remembered. Larry Doby died of cancer in Montclair, New Jersey, on June 18, 2003. Despite being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves. “Jack and I had very similar experiences,” Doby told the Times in 1997. “And I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t want people to remember my participation.” It is essential to the health of major-league Baseball, even today, that we honor Doby’s wish.


The White Sox Cap and Hip-Hop Culture

This is Shakeia Taylor’s second piece as part of her April Residency at FanGraphs. Shakeia is an avid baseball fan and baseball history enthusiast. Her main interests include the Negro Leagues and women in baseball. She has written for The Hardball Times and Complex. She hosts an annual charity bartending fundraiser for Jackie Robinson Day, all of tips and raffle proceeds of which are donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Though not from Baltimore, she’s still an Elite Giant. Shakeia can also be found on Twitter (@curlyfro). She’ll be contributing here this month.

Given the racial makeup of Major League Baseball, it might seem like baseball’s culture would be largely distinct from hip hop’s, but it isn’t really. Many players warm up to hip-hop music and use its songs as their walk-ups. In 1993, Seattle Mariners superstar Ken Griffey Jr. chose Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” as his walk-up song. The song would eventually become his personal anthem. Roc Nation, Jay Z’s entertainment company, represents baseball players, including Robinson Cano and Yoenis Cespedes.

And the game’s influence has been felt in hip hop, as well. Baseball caps, also known as fitteds, have become a mainstay in hip-hop culture. In a game that can at times feel dominated by pop country music, hip hop’s prominence in baseball — and baseball’s presence in hip hop — offers a foothold for fans of both who wish to see their interests intersect.

The relationship between baseball and hip hop is particularly deep in Chicago. Jay-Z has his Yankees cap, but 90s rap videos were all about the White Sox fitted. It became a symbol of the culture at a time when rap was going mainstream and rappers from both coasts were gaining popularity. The design and color scheme of the cap are simple, yet timeless.

The most ubiquitous White Sox cap design — which is also the club’s current cap design — is actually drawn from the 1948 White Sox logo, and was designed by the grandson of White Sox founding owner Charles Comiskey, Chuck.

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Diversity in Baseball Begins in Little League

This is Shakeia Taylor’s first piece as part of her April Residency at FanGraphs. Shakeia is an avid baseball fan and baseball history enthusiast. Her main interests include the Negro Leagues and women in baseball. She has written for The Hardball Times and Complex. She hosts an annual charity bartending fundraiser for Jackie Robinson Day, all of tips and raffle proceeds of which are donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Though not from Baltimore, she’s still an Elite Giant. Shakeia can also be found on Twitter (@curlyfro). She’ll be contributing here this month.

Sports, for all their faults, are important for many. They’re important in a way we sometimes don’t talk about. One of my friends recently said to me, “Playing baseball as a kid probably saved my life.” It’s been on my mind ever since he said it, because I understand the sentiment. There are kids in many cities and towns across America who would say the same.

My friend, who grew up in a tough urban neighborhood, said baseball saved his life because it gave him something to do. It gave him something to focus on; it kept him off the street. Those statements hold true for many other kids.

I had complained about the lack of diversity in baseball for a long time. I had talked about how people of color and women and girls need better representation in the sport, and I’d done so until I reached a point of exhaustion. Then one day, I decided I would stop talking and try to do something about it.

It started with a Google search for the Little League regional office for my local area. Then came an email to that office with one request:

Hi there, I am interested in helping a Chicago Little League team who may be in need of additional support in the way of equipment and monetary donations. I am hoping you can put me in touch with a coach or two in the city who could use the assistance. I’m happy to answer any and all questions. Thank you in advance!”

My email was answered by Carlton Jones.

Jones is the district administrator for the North and West parts of Chicago, as well as parts of the South side. Jones also serves as the liaison between the leagues, the Central Region Little League HQ, and the International Headquarters in Williamsport. He has been involved with Little League since 2010, but he has served as a coach, manager, or board member in youth baseball since 2003.

“I wanted children from the North Side of Chicago to have the opportunity to enjoy little league baseball and compete in the LLWS tournament, which has five phases, the last two of which are televised.”

Jones’ district, Illinois Little League District 12, or IL-12, has a large geographical footprint. Literally every neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago is serviced. For the West Side, it’s everything north of Cermak. On the South Side, it includes Englewood, Bronzeville, the South Loop, Oakwood, Kenwood, and Morgan Park.

When asked about the current state of Chicago Little League, Jones tells me that “Chicago Little League is a Special Needs league that provides baseball opportunities for players 4-18 and 19-25 that would not be able to play without special accommodations. It was part of Horner Park North-West Little League until it became large enough to be its own league.”

According to a 2015 Wall Street Journal article, 9 million kids between the ages of seven and 17 played baseball in the United States in 2002, but by 2013, that figure had dropped by more than 41%. With participation on the decline, teams and leagues have been forced to either shut down or merge, further constricting access for poorer families and making the sport whiter and more affluent. Baseball is expensive, and that expense is having an adverse effect on the participation of Black and Latino Americans. You need equipment and uniforms. You need fees. You need money for transportation. Teams in economically disadvantaged areas are often forced to apply for grants and fundraise heavily in order to support kids who want to play.

“Our Little Leagues cost anywhere from $25-$50 for basic programming up to $300 for teams that play over a 30-game season,” Carlton explained. “Your typical travel team will cost a minimum of $800, although $1,500 is closer to reality. Include private lessons and special overnight tournaments, and travel ball for a 12-and-under will easily cost in the $3,000-$5,000 range.”

The burden of that expense contributes to the ethnic and racial disparity we see in professional baseball today. The 2017 Racial and Gender Report Card for Major League Baseball reveals the game to be overwhelmingly white. Among the players present on last season’s Opening Day active rosters, 31.9% were Latino and just 7.7% were African-American or African-Canadian. And while those levels are consistent with 201 6– and while the overall participation of non-white players is at an all-time high — they represent a marked drop from the peak of African-American participation in the sport in the mid-1970s, when approximately 27% of players were African-American.

The disparity extends to those who watch the game. As of 2013, 83% of MLB television viewers were white; just 9% were Black. Of that same group, 50% were 50 years or older. Seeing oneself reflected in the game isn’t the only reason people engage with baseball, but it creates an important, lasting link to the sport. And with the current viewing audience increasingly composed of a white and aging demographic, it is vital to the future health of the sport that kids of color and girls develop an interest the game and are able to sustain that interest.

MLB recognizes this and in 2017, along with USA Baseball, established the Dream Series. The objective of the Dream Series is not only to prepare young players for a future in baseball, but to increase diversity across the sport, particularly among pitchers and catchers. The 2017 season saw baseball’s 30 organizations opening the season with just 54 African-American pitchers and five African-American catchers in the minors. The multi-day event coincides with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, and players receive presentations on entering baseball out of high school and through college. Registration is free.

In recent years, the Dream Series has featured top prospects like Hunter Greene, who was taken second overall by the Reds in last year’s amateur draft. It is an important step, but it can’t serve everyone. Many of the players who are invited are well past Little League. MLB has endeavored to support youth baseball and softball in cities with its RBI Program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), but the need for programming targeted at communities of color persists, especially in neighborhoods like those served by Jones’ district.

After I reached out, Jones arranged a meeting with Vanessa Munoz of the Horner Park Thundercats and Luis Medina of Amundsen Park Little League, two administrators for teams that could use a lot of help. For the 2018 season, Horner Park has about 50 softball players in the 12-and-under group, and over 200 players in the high school aged group. For the Amundsen Park team, Jones and Medina are estimating 100-150 players. Both leagues are comprised primarily of Black and Latinx children.

For the last eight weeks, I have shared the stories of these two teams on Facebook and Twitter. Each needs to raise at least $1,000 to cover their charter and insurance fees. Translating that cost into equipment is difficult, as funding to pay for fees, as well as field equipment is needed. Initially, the response was one of excitement, but that hasn’t translated into significant donations. Money has been coming in slowly, but with the season fast approaching, both teams could use an influx of cash. To make the fundraising easier for those interested in donating, Vanessa and Luis have been using the cash app. The process has underscored the challenges these teams and communities face: scattered individual efforts and determined administrators like Carlton Jones, trying to stretch resources to serve as many as children as possible.

Despite the lack of funding, Jones remains hopeful for the future of Little League baseball in Chicago. “Little League is a leadership program that uses the vehicle of baseball and softball to mold the children of today into the future leaders of tomorrow,” he says. “The pride of wearing the LL Patch, representing your park during the tourney season, and being able to play with your friends means the world to these children, as the sport is their life and refuge during the summer. For the parents and community contributing to neighborhood and having something to bond together with is tremendous. One day, one of these leagues will go far in the tournament and make the city proud.”

I hope he is right, and that these teams can find the support they need to flourish. I think about my friend, whose life was perhaps saved by a game. I think about what it means for young kids of color to be able to look up at the majors and see faces that look like theirs. I wonder how long they’ll sustain that connection if the current demographic trends continue. I wonder how long baseball can sustain itself as costs mount, and the audience at home ages. I hope others will try to get more diversity on the field. The health of baseball in the US might depend on it, and a few young lives, too.


The Great Australian Home-Run Spike, Part 3

This is Alexis Brudnicki’s fifth piece as part of her March residency at FanGraphs. Alexis is the Director of Baseball Information for the Great Lake Canadians, an elite amateur baseball program in London, Ontario, Canada. She has written for various publications including Baseball America, Canadian Baseball Network, Sportsnet, The Hardball Times, and Prep Baseball report. She won a 2016 SABR Analytics Conference Research Award for Contemporary Baseball Commentary. She can also be found on Twitter (@baseballexis). She’ll be contributing here this month.

This is also the third installment of a three-part series exploring whether the Australian Baseball League is in the midst of their own juiced ball and bat controversy. In this installment, league officials and the equipment manufacturers respond. You can find Part 1 and Part 2 here.

The Response

Increasingly aware of the way the numbers were adding up throughout the season, the Australian Baseball League’s general manager, Ben Foster, understands the natural inclination for players, fans, and others to draw their own conclusions about what led to the spike in home runs and the offense on a whole.

“One of the great entitlements for sports fans is their right to speculate and to try and figure out why something as unpredictable as sport always surprises us,” Foster said. “As a fan myself, I love to speculate on things like, ‘Will this player or that player have a great year?’ Or, ‘Why did he go to the bullpen in that situation?’ So I do think it is natural for people to speculate about every aspect of the game when they see unexpected results.”

But the league’s GM does not believe that the numbers point to any one thing in particular. Acknowledging that equipment might have been a part of the equation, he does suspect that the standard of baseballs used during the recent season were of superior quality to those used previously.

“I cannot rule out that equipment played a part, too,” Foster said. “But I think it’s an oversimplification of just the baseballs. In conversations I had with players and coaches, many commented on the improved quality of the bats we supplied this season.

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The Great Australian Home-Run Spike, Part 2

This is Alexis Brudnicki’s fourth piece as part of her March residency at FanGraphs. Alexis is the Director of Baseball Information for the Great Lake Canadians, an elite amateur baseball program in London, Ontario, Canada. She has written for various publications including Baseball America, Canadian Baseball Network, Sportsnet, The Hardball Times, and Prep Baseball report. She won a 2016 SABR Analytics Conference Research Award for Contemporary Baseball Commentary. She can also be found on Twitter (@baseballexis). She’ll be contributing here this month.

This is also the second installment of a three-part series exploring whether the Australian Baseball League is in the midst of their own juiced-ball and bat controversy. In this installment, the pitchers respond. You can find Part 1 here.

The Pitchers

For some, the conversation started early.

In the opening weekend of the 2017/18 Australian Baseball League season, 111 runs were scored and 30 home runs were hit. In just 11 games. More than half of those home runs were hit at Melbourne Ballpark, home to the Aces, who hosted the Perth Heat for four contests.

“I noticed a difference in the league in Round 1,” said Josh Tols, a current Phillies farmhand and southpaw for the Aces with five seasons in the ABL under his belt. “There was an abnormal number of home runs hit at Altona in our opening series against Perth. Typically, with the wind at our field, the ball doesn’t get out all that much. Just looking at the home-run numbers after Round 1, you kind of had a feeling it was going to be a long year for the pitchers.”

Other hurlers didn’t begin to notice a difference until a little later.

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The Great Australian Home-Run Spike, Part 1

This is Alexis Brudnicki’s third piece as part of her March residency at FanGraphs. Alexis is the Director of Baseball Information for the Great Lake Canadians, an elite amateur baseball program in London, Ontario, Canada. She has written for various publications including Baseball America, Canadian Baseball Network, Sportsnet, The Hardball Times, and Prep Baseball report. She won a 2016 SABR Analytics Conference Research Award for Contemporary Baseball Commentary. She can also be found on Twitter (@baseballexis). She’ll be contributing here this month.

Juiced or not juiced?

While the question has become a persistent topic of conversation in Major League Baseball of late, similar rumblings about the state of the baseball have begun to pick up steam across the world.

After the six teams in the Australian Baseball League combined for 171 home runs over 119 total regular-season games during the 2016-2017 season, those same squads hit 379 long balls in the same number of matchups during the most recent winter.

A comparison of the offensive stats of the 2016-17 season to the 2017-18 season highlights the shift:

ABL 2016-17 vs. 2017-18 Batting Comparison
Season R/G R H 2B 3B HR K OBP SLG OPS
2016/17 4.78 1138 2053 394 34 171 1746 .339 .388 .727
2017/18 6.51 1550 2343 476 35 379 1999 .361 .495 .856
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
Numbers represent league totals

And the pitching stats diverge similarly:

ABL 2016-17 vs. 2017-18 Pitching Comparison
Season ERA R/9 IP R ER BB WHIP H/9 HR/9
2016-17 4.28 5.08 2016.1 1138 958 812 1.421 9.2 0.8
2017-18 5.93 6.97 2002.0 1550 1320 849 1.594 10.5 1.7
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
Numbers represent league totals

Power numbers went way up, offensive numbers increased in every statistical category across the league, and pitching stats were abysmal, with more runs scored per game than ever before. It was a significant enough difference to inspire the players and fans to speculate on the causes.

The obvious answer in Australia was that the equipment was different. Though there has been speculation about modifications to the baseballs in MLB, the Aussie league’s transition to a new equipment provider — moving from Rawlings balls and SAM BAT sticks to bats and balls from Brett Sports — removes any need to speculate.

Or does it?

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Life After Baseball, Part 2

This is Alexis Brudnicki’s second piece as part of her March residency at FanGraphs. Alexis is the Director of Baseball Information for the Great Lake Canadians, an elite amateur baseball program in London, Ontario, Canada. She has written for various publications including Baseball America, Canadian Baseball Network, Sportsnet, The Hardball Times, and Prep Baseball report. She won a 2016 SABR Analytics Conference Research Award for Contemporary Baseball Commentary. She can also be found on Twitter (@baseballexis). She’ll be contributing here this month.

This is also the second installment of a two-part series exploring the lives of baseball players after their playing careers are over. You can find Part 1 here.

The Scout and the Coach

Rene Tosoni and Pete Orr shared the World Baseball Classic clubhouse with Chris Leroux, learning of his impending stint on reality television as they were about to embark on new careers of their own.

The games Canada played against Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Team USA were Orr’s swan song. The squad’s starting second baseman finished his playing career the previous season after 16 years. He spent parts of eight of those in the majors with the Braves, Nationals, and Phillies. He stayed in shape for a year after his career came to an end with the aim of helping his country’s squad in Miami.

As for Tosoni, he wasn’t sure where the season might take him after Canada’s run at the Classic came to a quick finish. The outfielder had played the previous season — his 10th in professional baseball — in the independent Atlantic League with the Sugar Land Skeeters and had an offer to return. The former Twins outfielder had just spent the entire offseason looking for a coaching job, reaching out to all 30 affiliated clubs, hearing nothing.

In the midst of their playing careers, neither Tosoni nor Orr had given much thought to life after baseball. Tosoni felt that his focus on the game led him to stay on the field as long as he did, and Orr knew that someday he would have to face his future, but both hoped that day would just never come.

“When I was still playing, I didn’t know what I was going to do after baseball,” Orr said. “It was something I kind of feared. I knew it was coming, but I just wanted to keep playing. Then once family and kids got involved, I started to really think about it, and I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do. It is a little scary, but you take it as another challenge.

“I was fortunate. I had a year after I stopped playing; a full year to kind of let it all sink in that I wasn’t a baseball player anymore, so that helped me. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I know I’m going to miss it for the rest of my life, but I’m okay with that, and I think it’s a good thing that I’m going to miss it. I don’t mind.”

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