Sunday Notes: Jon Perrin Wants to Show David Stearns Who’s Boss

Regular readers of this column may recall the law school aspirations of Milwaukee Brewers prospect Jon Perrin. When he was featured here in May 2016, the Oklahoma State graduate was dominating Midwest League hitters — he’d fanned 47 and walked just one in 36 innings — but he was nonetheless contemplating saying goodbye to baseball. Perrin had applied to Harvard Law, and if accepted he was “probably going to be out of here.”

As we later reported, that didn’t happen. Perrin received a letter of rejection from the prestigious institution, and went forward with his pitching career. Harvard’s loss is proving to be Milwaukee’s gain. The 24-year-old right-hander spent this past season with Double-A Biloxi, continuing his stingy ways. In 105-and-a-third innings, he issued 21 free passes while fashioning a 2.91 ERA.

Perrin was pleased with his performance.

“I feel I proved that I can get advanced hitters out,” said Perrin, who relies heavily on his sinker. “A sub-3.00 ERA at the Double-A level is nothing to spit at. I had some up and downs and fought through an injury, but was able to finish on a strong note. I can’t complain.”

His Juris Doctor plans haven’t gone away. They’re simply on the back burner. Perrin was accepted into the University of Kansas’s law school program this past spring, and while he’s “100% committed to baseball,” he knows that a playing career only lasts so long. Once the spikes are hung up, he’ll begin his legal studies in his home state.

“It’s still a goal of mine, so it’s just a matter of when I’m actually ready to attend,” explained Perrin. “I’ll have to reapply, but the Dean told me that I’m a really strong candidate, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Hopefully I’m going to play for a long time in the major leagues, and it doesn’t happen until I’m in my 30s, or even my 40s.”

Perrin can see himself returning to baseball with a law degree in hand. If he does, he’ll likely want to “work on the labor side, possibly with the Players’ Union.” Joining a front office would be another option. Would he consider one day working for Brewers GM David Stearns?

“No,” said Perrin. “David Stearns would be working for me, right?”

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Unlike Travis Shaw’s former team, the Milwaukee Brewers didn’t get to experience playoff baseball this year. The over-achieving-and-youthful crew fell one excruciating game short of a National League wild card berth, and Shaw was a big reason they came as close as they did. Acquired from the Red Sox prior to the season, Shaw slashed .273/.349/.513, with 31 home runs.

In late September, I asked him how his new environment differs from his old.

“For one thing, the clubhouse vibe is different,” answered Shaw. “In Boston, you have the constant media — about 20 media people traveling — and here you have three traveling reporters. It’s super loose. This is also a younger team. Everybody is in kind of the same boat as me — they’re either just going into arbitration or they’re pre-arb — so there’s a lot of determination and drive in this locker room for guys to prove they’re everyday major league players. At the same time, most of the guys are super laid-back.”

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At his introductory press conference, Alex Cora opined that “too close to players doesn’t exist.” According to the new Red Sox manager, it’s important to recognize that they’re human beings and “you have to talk to them and see how they feel.” Cora is planning to encourage his coaching staff to “get close to the players,” which he said was done in Houston.

Cora wants his charges to be close to each other, as well.

“It can’t be only a baseball relationship,” said the erstwhile Astros bench coach. “You have to care about each other. That’s the most important thing… at the end of the day, baseball is baseball and you have to win games, but there’s more to it.”

Fun will be an expectation, and that includes music in the clubhouse after wins.

“Play music and enjoy the moment,” said Cora. “Winning a big-league ballgame is hard, and if you don’t enjoy it, it’s going to get to the point where it’s, ‘blah, this not fun.’ We have to celebrate the win.”

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Over the past four seasons, Lorenzo Cain has slashed .300/.352/.437, with 45 home runs and 96 stolen bases. He’s also amassed 56 Defensive Runs Saved while manning center field for the Kansas City Royals. And while he’s heading into his age-32 season, any decline in athleticism is being offset with improved plate discipline. Cain’s walk rate has risen three straight seasons, and this past year’s .363 OBP was a career high.

What will he get in the free-agent market this winter? That remains to be seen, but there’s a decent chance he’ll end up providing more value for the money than the bigger names who will be inking new contracts. As for Cain’s own name, it would be a lot better known had he not spent the lion’s share of his career in Kansas City.

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Drew Pomeranz has thrown a higher percentage of curveballs than any qualified pitcher in each of the last two seasons. The Red Sox southpaw threw his signature pitch 39.2% of the time in 2016, and 37% of the time this year.

Following his club’s ALDS ouster, I asked Pomeranz about the slight downtick, which was accompanied by an increase — 47.6% to 55% — in fastball usage.

“It was mostly about not being so predictable that just I’d throw a curveball 50% of the time,” explained Pomeranz. “My fastball was maybe a better pitch to some people from a standpoint of changing things up, because we see the teams in our division so often. I also don’t think the break of my curveball was as consistent this year. There were times it didn’t feel as good coming out of my hand.”

What can we expect going forward?

“We’ll see,” said Pomeranz, who has gone through stretches where he did throw 50% knuckle curves. “I don’t think I’d been throwing it too much, or anything. I’ve used it based on however we deemed it was needed, and I would think we’ll keep doing that.”

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The plethora of high-velocity hooks Lance McCullers, Jr. threw this year (47.4% in 118-and-two-thirds innings), brought to mind something one of Bert Blyleven’s former teammates told me this summer. According to Lee Stange, Blyleven “was kind of a three-quarters pitcher and he had a hard curveball, kind of a combination curve-slider. It was different kind of curveball.”

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How do hitters prepare against a pitcher who likes to attack with a heavy dose of a particular breaking ball? According to James Rowson, one of the methods takes place in the batting cage before the game.

“You start by doing your homework on video to see what he’s going to be throwing against you,” the Minnesota Twins hitting coach told me this summer. “If it’s a guy who’ll be throwing a left-handed curveball, you may hit more curveballs off the machine. Some guys want that visual. They don’t want the first one they see that day to be in the game.

“Certain players will work that into their routine, although other guys like to stay consistent with their work and not veer from their usual pattern. Their approach is also going to affect how they get ready. If their plan is to basically look fastball middle and adjust from there, not seeing anything spinning won’t bother them as much.”

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Some pitchers will prepare in a similar way during their between-starts bullpen sessions. They’ll visualize specific hitters — at times they’ll have a coach stand in the box — as they’re delivering the ball. They’ll also focus on specific pitches they want to throw to specific hitters. James Shields has been doing it for years.

“I think about who I’m going to be facing and what I’m going to do,” said the veteran righty. “I’ll pitch my bullpen — maybe toward the end — like I’m facing a couple of their hitters. The focus is on counts, like first-pitch strikes and 1-1 counts, and what I’m going to do on a two-strike count. I’ll sequence that way.”

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Circling back to Lee Stange, one of his teammates with the 1962 Minnesota Twins made his only big-league appearances that year. Jim Manning pitched in five games, allowing four runs in seven innings of work.

That Manning reached the major leagues isn’t particularly noteworthy, but the fact that he’s not the only person from his hometown to do so is. Dick Pole, who played for the Red Sox and Mariners from 1973-1978, also hails from Trout Creek, Michigan. The Upper Peninsula village has a population of 375 and gets upwards of 150 inches of snow annually. Both attended Northern Michigan University, which doesn’t field a baseball team.

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In May 2016, shortly before he played his last professional game, Marlon Byrd offered an interesting opinion on Chase Headley. When I shared that the switch-hitting third baseman told me his left-handed stroke isn’t as conducive to pull-side power as his right-handed stroke, Byrd surmised the reason why.

“His right hand is his more dominant hand, but your top hand is your power-slot hand,” said Byrd. “That probably helps him going the other way left-handed. If he could figure out how to strengthen that back hand, and slot it better, maybe that would help him pull the ball with more power in Yankee Stadium.”

Victor Rodriguez, who earlier this week was named Cleveland’s assistant hitting coach, feels it’s more a matter of hand-in-handedness.

“If you’ve got power you’ve got power,” said Rodriguez. “It’s quickness. Power is quickness, and you’ve got to use both hands to create the quickness that allows you to drive the ball. You’re going to guide the swing with the bottom hand, and the top hand is going to drive the ball. But they have to work together. If one takes over from the other, then you create around-the-ball or under-the-ball. It’s about putting both hands together and focusing more on quickness than on power.”

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Oakland Athletics special assistant Grady Fuson has been awarded the 2017 Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award, for distinguished service in player development. Fuson began his career as an area scout with the A’s, in 1982, before going on to serve as an assistant general manager, and as a vice president of scouting player development. He’s also worked for the Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres.

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Two Sundays ago, Kansas City Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre shared a story from his father’s playing career. Jim Lefebvre went on to manage three teams, and the proud son has stories from those experiences as well.

“When he got hired to manage the Mariners (in 1989) he would speak every day during spring training,” related KC’s radio voice. “He would do it on the pitcher’s mound. My dad’s not very tall and he wanted everyone to see him. He also wanted to see who was paying attention to what he was saying. They ended up calling it ‘The Sermon on the Mound.’

“The following year I was sitting next to him in the dugout when Ken Griffey, Sr. and Ken Griffey, Jr.. played together for the first time. I heard something with my own ears that few people will ever here at a Major League Baseball game. I heard the on-deck hitter say to the hitter at the plate, ‘C’mon dad.’ I remember getting goose bumps.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At Driveline Baseball, Michael O’Connell explored pitch grips and changing fastball spin rate.

Daniel Flores, a 17-year-old Red Sox prospect who got a $3.1 million signing bonus last year, succumbed to cancer earlier this week. Alex Speier and Aimee Ortiz wrote about the tragedy for The Boston Globe.

McCovey Chronicles‘ Grant Brisbee doesn’t think the San Francisco Giants are going to spend much money on free agents this offseason.

At Hall of Stats, Adam Darowski responded to a Jon Heyman column about Hall of Fame candidates.

At Bless You Boys, Ryan N. Blevins opined that the Detroit Tigers should retire Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker’s numbers.

According to Jim Allen of The Kyodo News, Shohei Otani would like to be a two-way player in MLB, but knows he can’t do it on desire alone.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Warren Spahn had 356 wins and 356 hits with the Braves. He had four wins and four hits with the Mets. He had three wins and three hits with the Giants. (thanks to @BravesStats for bringing this to my attention.)

Hugh “Losing Pitcher” Mulcahy became the first MLB player drafted into the armed forces for World War II when he was inducted in March, 1941. He returned to the big leagues in August, 1945.

Negro League players who served in the military during World War II include Joe Black, Leon Day, Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, Buck O’Neil, Jackie Robinson, Goose Tatum, and Hank Thompson.

In his age 22 and 23 seasons (1943-1944), Detroit Tigers outfielder Dick Wakefield slashed .328/.405/.477. He then missed the 1945 season while serving in the Navy. After returning to the big leagues, Wakefield appeared in just 398 more games, slashing .268/.391/.426.

Rick Reuschel had a 114 adjusted ERA and gave up 221 home runs in 3,548 innings. Catfish Hunter had a 104 adjusted ERA and gave up 374 home runs in 3,449 innings.

Babe Ruth came to the plate 10,623 times and hit 714 home runs. As a pitcher, he faced 4,896 batters and allowed 10 home runs.

From 1916-1925, Jack Tobin of the St. Louis Browns had 1,399 hits and struck out 160 times.

Eddie Yost had 1,863 hits and walked 1,614 times. Manny Sanguillen had 1,500 hits and walked 223 times.

Joey Votto had 36 home runs and a .454 OBP this year. Rougned Odor had 30 home runs and a .252 OBP.

Cactus Keck and Bubbles Hargrave were battery mates with the Cincinnati Reds in 1922 and 1923.

We hoped you liked reading Sunday Notes: Jon Perrin Wants to Show David Stearns Who’s Boss by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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