Archive for Tigers

Sunday Notes: The Voice of the Indians Flirted with a Pigskin Tiger

Tom Hamilton has been the radio voice of the Indians since 1990. Very early into that tenure there was a chance — albeit a small one — that he would move on and spend the bulk of his career elsewhere. How might that have happened? In the winter following Hamilton’s second year in Cleveland, the Detroit Tigers inexplicably informed iconic broadcaster Ernie Harwell that 1991 would be his final season in the booth.

“Ernie told me that I should apply for the job, or at least go if I got called,” Hamilton explained. “I felt uncomfortable about that — nobody wanted to see Ernie have his career end that way — but he came to me and said that I should. The Tigers did call, so I interviewed even though I didn’t really have an interest. Not only was I happy in Cleveland, I didn’t want to be the guy following Ernie.”

Rick Rizzs, who is now in Seattle, ended up getting the job. Predictably, he wasn’t well-received. While Rizzs was, and remains, a quality baseball play-by-play announcer, that means little when you’re stepping into the shoes of a legend.

Another Wolverine State sports legend made Hamilton’s reluctant interview more than worthwhile. Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: Tyler Clippard Sees a Save-Opportunity Disconnect

In all likelihood, Tyler Clippard’s numbers are better than you realize. In 696 career relief appearances encompassing 752 innings, the 33-year-old Toronto Blue Jays right-hander has a 3.17 ERA. Moreover, he’s allowed just 6.5 hits per nine innings, and his strikeout rate is a healthy 10.0. Add in durability — 72 outings annually since 2010 — and Clippard has quietly been one of baseball’s better relievers.

He also has 68 saves on his resume, and the fact that nearly half of them came in 2012 helps add to his under-the-radar status. It also helps explain the size of his bank account.

“My biggest jump in salary was the year I had 32 saves, and that was essentially the only reason,” explained Clippard, who was with the Washington Nationals at the time. “My overall body of work was pretty good, but numbers-wise it wasn’t one of my better seasons. I had a bad stretch where I had something like a 10.00 ERA, so I ended the year with a (3.72 ERA). But because I got all those saves, I received the big salary jump in salary arbitration.”

Circumstances proceeded to derail the righty’s earning power. The Nationals signed free-agent closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $22M contract, relegating Clippard to a set-up role. While Soriano was saving games, Clippard was being paid less than half that amount while logging a 2.29 ERA and allowing 84 hits in 141 innings. Read the rest of this entry »


Job Posting: Tigers Internship Opportunities

Please note, this posting has three internship opportunities.

Position: Baseball Analytics Intern

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Key Responsibilities:

  • Assist with importing, cleaning, and preparing of baseball datasets.
  • Assist with the design, development, testing and support of proprietary data collection and decision-support systems.
  • Design ad hoc SQL queries.
  • Assist with statistical modeling of baseball data.
  • Execute exploratory research and analysis as directed.
  • Review public research on a regular basis.
  • Provide support for important events such as the Rule 4 Draft, the trade deadline, contract negotiations and salary arbitration.
  • Support Baseball Operations, Scouting and Player Development with ad hoc requests.
  • Other duties as assigned by members of the Baseball Operations Department.

Minimum Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • The ideal candidate must be at least a college senior or recent graduate (within 6 months).
  • Demonstrated familiarity with SQL querying and database design principles.
  • Demonstrated knowledge with of baseball-specific data, modern statistical techniques and sabermetric analysis.
  • Familiarity with R/Python and/or other software applications/languages used for statistical calculations and graphical representations.
  • Experience with software development, including requirements definition, design, development, testing, and implementation, a plus.
  • Experience with ETL processes that integrate multiple data sources, a plus.
  • The ideal candidate must have excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • The ideal candidate must have excellent organizational skills.
  • Highly motivated with excellent attention to detail.
  • The ideal candidate must be available full-time.
  • The ideal candidate must be available to work evenings, weekends, and holidays as dictated by the baseball calendar.
  • Willing and able to relocate to the Detroit metro area.

Working Conditions:

  • Office Environment
  • Some evening, weekend, and holiday hours will be required.

Duration:
January/May 2019 through December 2019.

To Apply:
To apply, please use this link.

Position: Baseball Software Development Intern

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Key Responsibilities:

  • Assist with importing, cleaning, and preparing of baseball datasets.
  • Assist with the design, development, testing and support of proprietary data collection and decision-support systems.
  • Design ad hoc SQL queries.
  • Assist with the day-to-day operations of data warehousing and modeling processes.
  • Assist with documentation of current processes.
  • Assist with the collection of bug information for all processes and user-facing systems.
  • Provide support for important events such as the Rule 4 Draft, the trade deadline, contract negotiations and salary arbitration.
  • Support Baseball Operations, Scouting and Player Development with ad hoc requests.
  • Other duties as assigned by members of the Baseball Operations Department.

Minimum Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • The ideal candidate must be at least a college senior or recent graduate (within 6 months).
  • Demonstrated familiarity with SQL querying, database design principles, and object-oriented programming concepts.
  • Demonstrated familiarity with either C# and/or Java plus web application design in a Windows environment. Knowledge of Angular is a plus.
  • Familiarity with R/Python, Shiny, and/or other software applications/languages used for statistical calculations and graphical representations, a plus.
  • Experience with software development, including requirements definition, design, development, testing, and implementation, a plus.
  • Experience with ETL processes that integrate multiple data sources, a plus.
  • The ideal candidate must have excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • The ideal candidate must have excellent organizational skills.
  • Highly motivated with excellent attention to detail.
  • The ideal candidate must be available full-time.
  • The ideal candidate must be available to work evenings, weekends, and holidays as dictated by the baseball calendar.
  • Willing and able to relocate to the Detroit metro area.

Working Conditions:

  • Office Environment
  • Some evening, weekend, and holiday hours will be required.

Duration:
January/May 2019 through December 2019.

To Apply:
To apply, please use this link.

Position: Minor League Baseball Information Intern

Location: Lakeland, Florida

Job Description:
This position is designed to assist with day-to-day department activities, projects, presentations and overall organization.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Utilization of STATS software to chart, upload and download game information.
  • Act as main video personnel for both Gulf Coast League teams.
  • Assist in day-to-day video operations during Spring Training.
  • Daily management of data collected from various affiliates throughout the Minor League season.
  • Preparation of advance scouting documentation prior to each series.
  • Assist scouting staff with video needs from local and televised games and workouts.
  • Recording of any on-field activity as requested by Tigers staff.

Minimum Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • The ideal candidate must be at least a college senior, recent graduate (within 6 months).
  • The ideal candidate must have excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • The ideal candidate must have excellent organizational skills.
  • The ideal candidate must have excellent attention to detail.
  • The ideal candidate must have excellent knowledge of general baseball concepts.
  • The ideal candidate must be available full-time.
  • The ideal candidate must be willing to work longs hours, including days, nights, weekends and holidays.
  • The ideal candidate must be have excellent computer skills, including proficiency in Microsoft Excel.
  • Bilingual in Spanish a plus.

Working Conditions:

  • Office Environment
  • Some evening, weekend, and holiday hours will be required.

Duration:
February 2019 through October 2019.

To Apply:
To apply, please use this link.


Elegy for ’18 – Detroit Tigers

Michael Fulmer represents one of the final potential trade chips on Detroit’s roster.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

Detroit’s contention window didn’t just close in 2017, it dramatically shut on the team’s fingers, the paramedics arrived and kicked them in the groin, and then everything caught on fire. I have zero problems regarding the 2006-14 team as a dynasty even if they failed to to win a championship. At their best, they were as dangerous a team as the Tigers of the mid-1980s.

The Setup

The Tigers squeezed out an 86-75 season in 2016, but they were also clearly a team on the downswing, with most of the key contributors approaching free agency, well into their 30s, and sometimes both things. With a 56-48 record at the trade deadline and sitting just 4.5 games back in the AL Central, the Tigers did precisely nothing, likely a result both of a farm system weakened by previous trades and a lack of understanding between the front office and ownership about what lay ahead for the team.

In this case, rather than a stubborn inability to agree, the discord (such as it was) was a product of owner Mike Ilitch’s interest in winning a championship before his passing, a fact which his age (he was 87 at the time) dictated must occur sooner than later.

This après moi, le déluge was, of course absolutely justified — even if it wasn’t necessarily great for someone who’d remain a fan of the Tigers into the 2018 and -19 seasons. After all, this is a sports team. The only consequences for unwise spending in the present are (a) fewer wins in the future and (b) slightly fewer millions of dollars for the billionaire’s heirs.

Ilitch passed away before the 2017 season, but there were no big offseason additions — unless you’re the world’s biggest Brendan Ryan or Alex Avila fan. The team managed to lurk around .500 into early June, 29-29 representing their final .500 record, but the club struggled after that, going 18-28 in the period from then to the trade deadline, and I don’t think any analyst (and I doubt anyone internally) really thought Detroit was going anywhere.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: Mike Clevinger is Channeling Trevor Bauer

Mike Clevinger has been channeling Trevor Bauer. Not just in terms of effectiveness — the long-maned righty has a 3.11 ERA and a 9.3 strikeout rate — but also with competitiveness and ingenuity. While the Cleveland Indians teammates aren’t exactly two peas in a pod, Clevinger is certainly being influenced by his mad scientist of a rotation mate.

“He’s a wealth of knowledge, and a really good resource, especially with our new cameras and stuff like that,” Clevinger said of Bauer, who uses 2,000-frames-per-second video to parse the movement and spin of pitches. “We have the same mindsets and goals on the mound. It’s never going to be a completed process. For us, it’s always going to be ‘What’s the next step? What’s the next move to get better? What’s the next level to take it to?’ Throw harder. Make it nastier.”

An 80-MPH slider is one of Clevinger’s nastiest pitches, and while Bauer didn’t play a role in its development, he has broken down its nuts and bolts. Read the rest of this entry »


Should We Adjust How We Evaluate Pitching Prospects?

Evaluating pitchers is a real challenge. A combination of experience and knowledge can help one to better understand how variables like velocity, spin, and pitch mix translate to the majors. Even with that information, though, the influence of other factors — like injury risk, like a pitcher’s likelihood of responding to mechanical or mental adjustments — creates a great deal of uncertainty.

Nor is this a challenge that faces only prospect analysts like myself and Eric Longenhagen: even front-office execs who have the benefit of substantial resources — in the form both of data and personnel — have trouble reliably projecting outcomes for otherwise similarly talented young arms.

In my role as a talent evaluator both with FanGraphs and with a few major-league clubs, the question of how best to assess pitchers is obviously one to which I’ve returned with some frequency. In my recent efforts to get some final looks at certain top pitching prospects, however, I began to rethink how Eric Longenhagen and I should approach rankings this offseason. Three prospects, in particular, help to illustrate my concerns.

Tigers righty Matt Manning was the ninth overall pick in 2016, is an athletic 20-year-old who stands 6-foot-6, and was promoted to Double-A last week. In addition to that, he sat 94-96 and hit 98 mph in my look, mixing in a spike curveball that flashed 65 on the 20-80 scale. The positives here are numerous, and very few other minor leaguers could match even a few of these qualities.

Read the rest of this entry »


Daily Prospect Notes Finale: Arizona Fall League Roster Edition

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Note from Eric: Hey you, this is the last one of these for the year, as the minor-league regular season comes to a close. Thanks for reading. I’ll be taking some time off next week, charging the batteries for the offseason duties that lie ahead for Kiley and me.

D.J. Peters, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: Double-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45+
Line: 4-for-7, 2 HR, 2B (double header)

Notes
A comparison of DJ Peters’ 2017 season in the Cal League and his 2018 season at Double-A gives us a good idea of what happens to on-paper production when a hitter is facing better pitching and defenses in a more stable offensive environment.

D.J. Peters’ Production
Year AVG OBP SLG K% BB% BABIP wRC+
2017 .276 .372 .514 32.2% 10.9% .385 137
2018 .228 .314 .451 34.0% 8.1% .305 107

Reports of Peters’ physical abilities haven’t changed, nor is his batted-ball profile different in such a way that one would expect a downtick in production. The 2018 line is, I think, a more accurate distillation of Peters’ abilities. He belongs in a talent bucket with swing-and-miss outfielders like Franchy Cordero, Randal Grichuk, Michael A. Taylor, Bradley Zimmer, etc. These are slugging center fielders whose contact skills aren’t particularly great. Players like this are historically volatile from one season to the next but dominant if/when things click. They’re often ~1.5 WAR players who have some years in the three-win range. Sometimes they also turn into George Springer.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tigers Prospect Brock Deatherage on Coming Alive After the Game Beat Him Up

This past weekend’s Sunday Notes column included a section on Brock Deatherage, a self-described “country boy from North Carolina” who aspires to be a farmer after his playing days are over. As promised within those paragraphs, we’ll now hear much more from the 22-year-old Detroit Tigers outfield prospect. More specifically, we’ll learn the reasons behind his poor junior season at North Carolina State and how that experience made him a better player today.

Deatherage is thriving in his first taste of professional baseball. In 231 plate appearances between the GCL, West Michigan, and (most recently) Lakeland, the left-handed-hitting speed burner is slashing .329/.383/.512 with six home runs and 16 stolen bases. He’s doing so after being selected by Detroit in the 10th round of this year’s June draft, one year after choosing to return to school rather than sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Deatherage discussed his tumultuous penultimate collegiate campaign, and how he subsequently turned things around, prior to a recent game.

———-

Brock Deatherage: “I had a pretty tough junior year. I started the season really well — I was hitting .400-plus — but then I kind of ran into a little wall. I was having some good at-bats, a lot of hard contact, but balls weren’t falling. From there, the mental side of the game kind of took over. I obviously knew it was my draft year, and I was projected to go pretty high, so I started to press at the plate. A lot of those little mental things started piling on, piling on.

“Then I started to make physical adjustments. I tried everything. I widened out. I shortened up. I stood up taller. I leg-kicked. I started open and strided in. I started with my hands a little bit lower, a little higher. I was trying everything to get out of that funk, but you can’t go in there and hit one way and then show up the next day and hit another way. Basically, I was trying to figure out what worked for me rather than sticking with what got me there and just working through it. I kept making all of these changes and adjustments, and it obviously didn’t work.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: Older and Wiser, Clay Buchholz is Excelling in Arizona

Clay Buchholz has been rejuvenated in Arizona. Signed off the scrap heap in early May — the Royals had released him — the 34-year-old righty is 6-2 with a 2.47 ERA in 12 starts since joining the Diamondbacks. He twirled a complete-game gem on Thursday, holding the Padres to a lone run.

Health had been holding him back. Buchholz has battled numerous injury bugs over his career, particularly in recent seasons. Cast aside by the Red Sox after a tumultuous 2016 — a 4.78 ERA and a six-week banishment to the bullpen — he made just two appearances for the Phillies last year before landing on the disabled list and staying there for the duration. Frustration was clearly at the fore.

Truth be told, he’d rarely been his old self since a sparkling 2013 that saw him go 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA — and even that season was interrupted by injury. Given his travails, one couldn’t have blamed him had he thrown up his hands and walked away from the game.

That wasn’t in his DNA.

“No, this is what I do,” Buchholz told me earlier this summer. “I wasn’t ready to give it up. And while this offseason I told myself I wasn’t going to go through the whole minor league deal again, I swallowed my pride and did that for a little bit. It was for the best, because it helped me get to where I’m at now. It feels good to be able to go out there and throw without anything going on, mentally or physically.”

Buchholz made five starts in the minors before being called up, and he did so with a glass-is-half-full attitude. Read the rest of this entry »


The Manager’s Perspective: Lance Parrish on Embracing Opportunities

Lance Parrish embraces the opportunity to help young players chase their dreams, and he’s doing so in the organization where he made six of his eight All-Star appearances. The 62-year-old former catcher manages the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Low-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Parrish broke into the big leagues with Detroit — the Motown home of Aretha Franklin — and went on to play for 19 seasons.

Parrish joined the coaching ranks shortly after hanging up his shinguards, and he became a minor-league manager soon thereafter. As fate would have it, he later found himself on the outside looking in, wondering if he’d ever get back in the game. He was skeptical that would happen, but then the Tigers came calling. He couldn’t be happier.

———

Lance Parrish: “When it was getting toward the end of my playing career, Sparky Anderson told me that if I had the desire to stay in the game, his recommendation was to go right into it as soon as my playing days were over. I think he was trying to give me a heads up that it’s not that easy to stay out for any length of time and then get back in whenever you feel like you want to get back in. He said, ‘If I were you, I’d jump right into it and see if it’s something you want to do.’ I took his advice.

“At first, I kind of moonlighted as a minor-league catching instructor with the Kansas City Royals, when Bob Boone was their manager. That was in 1996. Then I went to the Dodgers. In 1997 and 1998 I coached in San Antonio, Texas, in Double-A. My first year there, Ron Roenicke was managing and we won the Texas League. That got me off on the right foot, and I learned a lot from watching Ron manage. Ron is very astute when it comes to details. I learned about managerial style, how to relate to players, structure — he’s a very structured guy — things to work on throughout the course of a baseball season.

Read the rest of this entry »


How Blaine Hardy Stumbled Upon a Vulcan

Blaine Hardy believes in the value of “screwing around with things.” That’s how the 31-year-old Detroit Tigers left-hander learned how to throw one of his best pitches. Tinkering while playing catch, he discovered a vulcan.

His career was at a crossroads at the time. Five years after the Kansas City Royals took him in the 22nd round of the 2008 draft out of Lewis-Clark State College, Hardy was treading water in the minors. As a low-round pick with a nothing-special fastball, he needed either to dd a new pitch or to improve the quality of one he already threw. With a who-knows-what-you-might-stumble-upon mindset, he kind of did both.

Hardy, who will be on the mound for the Tigers tonight, has made 22 appearances on the season, 12 of them as a starter. He has a record of 4-4 to go with his 3.53 ERA, and he’s thrown the pitch in question nearly a quarter of the time.

———

Blaine Hardy: “I’ve always had a good changeup. Growing up, my dad didn’t want me throwing a curveball or slider — anything with spin — nor did my pitching coach. They said, ‘Just keep it straight. That’s going to help your arm in the long run.’ I was like, ‘Well, alright. So, what are we going to work on?’ Well, a changeup, obviously.

“I basically threw a circle change to start. I learned how to simulate my arm speed to my fastball, and it was a very good pitch for me. It looked exactly like my fastball and would just die a little bit.

“For whatever reason, over the years it kind of straightened out. I was tweaking certain grips to try to make it a little bit slower, a little bit slower, a little bit slower. People would talk to me about trying to dip my back side, which I tried, and it didn’t feel right. Nothing seemed to work. Finally — this was around the time the Royals released me and the Tigers picked me up (in 2013) — I switched to a modified split. It’s not with the main fingers, but rather the ring finger and the middle finger. It’s what’s been called ‘a vulcan.’

“Basically, I was screwing around with every grip I possibly could, and I stumbled on that one. I threw it, and it went straight down. I was like, ‘I want that.’

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: Niko Goodrum Got Comfortable and Became a Tiger

Niko Goodrum has been a find for the Tigers. His 232/.297/.435 slash line is admittedly ho-hum, but he’s providing plenty of value with his versatility and verve. Reminiscent of Tony Phillips, the 26-year-old former Twins prospect has started games at six positions. In his first Motor City season, he’s served as both a spark plug and a Swiss Army Knife.

He came to Detroit on the cheap. After toiling for eight years in the Minnesota system, Goodrum arrived as minor league free agent with just 18 MLB plate appearances under his belt. He’s more than earning his league-minimum money. While the aforementioned offensive numbers are pedestrian, the switch-hitter has driven his fair share of baseballs up gaps. His 24 doubles and 12 home runs rank third on the team, and he’s legged out two triples to boot.

Goodrum recognizes that his ability to play all over the field is a major reason he’s getting an opportunity with the rebuilding Tabbies. Another is that he’s finally found himself.

“I’m not searching anymore,” Goodrum told me. “I think that when you’re trying to find your identity of who you are, including what type of hitter you are, the game is a lot harder. When you believe in the things that are in you, your ability will start to show.”

Goodrum feels that corner was turned two years ago. Read the rest of this entry »


Rick Porcello on Losing and Then Rediscovering His Curveball

Rick Porcello has a plus curveball. That wasn’t always the case. He could really snap one off in his amateur days, but then something strange happened. Shortly after signing with the Detroit Tigers, who drafted him 27th overall in 2007 out of a New Jersey high school, Porcello found that the pitch had gone missing.

When I talked to the 29-year-old Red Sox right-hander recently, the plan was to include him in my ongoing Player’s View: Learning and Developing a Pitch series. As it turns out, the story behind his hook merits a longer look than can be folded into three or four paragraphs. A tale of disappearance and recovery is not only compelling, it takes time to tell.

——

Rick Porcello: “When I was a teenager I had a really good curveball. It was something that came naturally to me. Then, when I got into pro ball, I didn’t have a good one in my first start, and I didn’t have a good one in my second start. It turned into this thing where it wasn’t there all year. I completely lost it. But I did have a really good sinker and a really good changeup, so I was fortunate enough to make the big-league team the next year.

Read the rest of this entry »


Indians Martinize Their Center-Field Problem

The Indians’ center-field woes — which is how you describe it when four players combine for a 55 wRC+ and 0.2 WAR — earned them a spot on the center-field edition of my Replacement Level Killers series. On Tuesday afternoon, however, the club did something about that, acquiring 30-year-old flychaser Leonys Martin from the Tigers in exchange for 21-year-old switch-hitting Double-A shortstop Willi Castro, whom our own Eric Longenhagen called “Cleveland’s most realistic trade chip this summer” back in April.

The well-traveled Martin, who joins his fourth team since the end of the 2015 season — he spent 2016 and most of 2017 with the Mariners before being dealt to the Cubs on August 31 and then signing with the Tigers in December — is in the midst of his best offensive season, hitting .251/.321/.409 with nine homers and seven steals. As modest as that line looks, it’s good for a 98 wRC+, 16 points above his career mark and a strong turnaround from last year’s dismal .172/.232/.281 (35 wRC+) line, a performance so bad that he wound up making 388 plate appearances at Triple-A Tacoma. The uptick in production appears to be the result of a newfound ability to elevate the ball: his current ground-ball rate of 35.6 % is nearly 13 points below his pre-2018 mark and his ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio of 0.77 basically half of what it was. According to Statcast, his average launch angle has increased from 9.4 degrees for the 2015-17 seasons to 16.8, with his xwOBA jumping a neat 100 points, from .264 to .364.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing within Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update — and the updates published by Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels at Minor League Ball — have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
This represents Gonsolin’s third consecutive appearance in this weekly exercise, and it’s possibly his most deserving. Since last Friday’s edition of the Five, the right-hander has made two starts. In 13.0 innings between them, Gonsolin recorded a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 18:3 against 50 batters.

Gonsolin’s profile isn’t the most common sort for a future major-league starter. He was a two-way player in college, not drafted till the ninth round, and features some traits on the mound (pronounced over-the-top delivery, effort) that are atypical for starters. He’s made it work thus far, however. He’s also continued to exhibit a strategies for contending with left-handed hitters, six of whom he faced in his second-to-last start (box).

Here’s a 92 mph slider to a lefty from that game for a called third strike:

And a curveball at the back foot for a swinging strike:

And a change with splitter-type action, also for a swinging strike:

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: Ross Stripling is a Nerd and Jesse Chavez Couldn’t Get High in LA

When I approached Ross Stripling at the All-Star Game media session, I knew that he was in the midst of a breakthrough season. The 28-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander went into the midsummer classic with a record of 8-2, a 2.08 ERA, and a 10.2 K-rate in 95-and-a-third innings.

I didn’t know that he was a nerd.

“Are you taking about things like spin rate and spin efficiency? I’m a believer in that for sure,” was Stripling’s response when I asked if he ever talks pitching analytics with anyone in the organization. “When I got called up in 2016, I thought that what made me good was my high arm angle leading to good downward angle on my fastball, so I should pitch down in the zone. But I tried that, and I was getting walloped.”

Then came a conversation that jumpstarted his career. Optioned to the minors in midseason to help limit his workload — “I was basically down there sitting on innings” — Stripling picked up a ringing cell phone and was soon standing at rapt attention. The voice on the other end belonged to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Read the rest of this entry »


Five Players Who Ought to Be Traded (But Probably Won’t Be)

A Michael Fulmer deal could help the Tigers rebuild their system.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

While the result isn’t always a poor one, the decision to wait for an exact perfect trade is a dangerous game for a rebuilding/retooling team. Greed can sometimes be good, yes, but a player’s trade value can also dissipate with a simple twinge in the forearm.

For every Rich Hill who lands at a new home in exchange for an impressive haul, there’s a Zach Britton or Zack Cozart or Todd Frazier or Tyson Ross whose value declines dramatically — sometimes so dramatically that they become effectively untradable. Even when waiting doesn’t lead to disaster, such as with Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana, teams frequently don’t do that much better by waiting for the most beautiful opportunity for baseball-related extortion. Regression to the mean is real. For a player at the top of his game, there’s a lot more room for bad news than good; chaos may be a ladder, but it’s not a bell curve.

With that in mind, I’ve identified five players who might be most valuable to their clubs right now as a trade piece. None of them are likely to be dealt before the deadline. Nevertheless, their respective clubs might also never have a better opportunity to secure a return on these particular assets.

Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Profile)

There seems to be a sense almost that, if the Orioles are able to trade Manny Machado for a great package, get an interesting deal for Zach Britton, and procure some token return for Adam Jones, then it’ll be time to fly the ol’ Mission Accomplished banner. In reality, though, that would simply mark the beginning of the Orioles’ chance to build a consistent winner. After D-Day, the allies didn’t call it wrap, shake some hands, and head home to work on the hot rod. (Confession: I don’t actually know what 18-year-olds did for fun in 1944.)

Read the rest of this entry »


Would Chris Bosio Win a Wrongful Termination Suit?

Last week, Detroit Tigers pitching coach Chris Bosio was fired by GM Al Avila for what was then described as “making an insensitive comment directed at a team employee.” Though he didn’t disclose the nature of the insensitive comment at the time, Avila said that the team has a “zero tolerance” policy for the conduct in question, adding that he holds team employees “to the highest standards of personal conduct on and off the field.”

Later, however, ESPN reported that Bosio was fired for calling someone a “spider monkey.”  The Tigers and Bosio differ, however, on the person to whom Bosio was referring. Bosio insists that “Spider Monkey” is a nickname for Tigers LOOGY Daniel Stumpf, currently on the disabled list. Per USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale:

Bosio insists he was not using the word in a racial and disparaging context, and that it was not directed toward the clubhouse attendant. He says he referring to injured pitcher Daniel Stumpf, a white pitcher from Humble, Texas.

“Someone in our coaches’ room asked me (Monday afternoon) about Stumpf,” Bosio said. “And I said, “Oh, you mean, ‘Spider Monkey.’ That’s his nickname. He’s a skinny little white kid who makes all of these funny faces when he works out.

“The kid thought we were talking about him. He got all upset. He assumed we were talking about him. I said, “No, no, no. We’re talking about Stumpf.’

“And that was it. I swear on my mom and dad’s graves, there was nothing else to it.”

But other witnesses relayed to Ken Rosenthal and Katie Strang of the Athletic a very different story:

Bosio called the attendant, who is African-American, a “monkey,” according to four team sources. The remark was directed toward the young man, who was collecting towels from the coaches’ room at the time, during a post-game gripe session in which Bosio was lamenting about a pitcher.

During this exchange, Bosio made a derogatory comment about one of the Tigers pitchers and then gestured toward the attendant before adding, “like this monkey here,” the sources said. The attendant pushed back at Bosio for the comment, and an additional team employee witnessed the exchange. Bosio was provided an opportunity to apologize to the attendant after his outburst but declined to do so, according to multiple sources.

And Stumpf himself didn’t back up Bosio, either.

Read the rest of this entry »


Daily Prospect Notes: 6/26

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Taylor Hearn, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 23   Org Rank:FV: 45
Line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 R

Notes
Hearn’s peripherals (27.5% K, 9.3% BB) are exactly the same as they were last year when he was in High-A. He’s a little old for Double-A, but that matters less for pitchers and Hearn’s early-career injuries set back his development pretty significantly. He’ll flash a 55 slider and average changeup, and he throws enough strikes to start, though he’s not overly efficient. He was up to 97 last night and projects as a fourth starter or late-inning reliever. Here are his swinging strikes from yesterday…

Read the rest of this entry »


Players’ View: Learning and Developing a Pitch, Part 13

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In the thirteenth installment of this series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Dennis Eckersley, Michael Fulmer, Miguel Gonzalez — on how they learned and/or developed a specific pitch.

———

Dennis Eckersley (Hall of Famer) on His Slider

“I couldn’t throw a curveball because of my angle. I couldn’t get on top of it. That’s all they’d ever tell me. Every time somebody would whistle at me, it would be, ‘Get your arm up! Get your elbow up!’ But a slider came pretty easy. It was just, ‘Turn your wrist a little bit.’

“I went straight from high school to pro ball [in 1972], and all of a sudden my fastball didn’t play. I was in the California League when I was 17, and they could hit. The next thing you know, I’m throwing a lot more breaking balls than I ever did in my life. I didn’t have any choice.

Read the rest of this entry »