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HomeBaseball5 Issues I Preferred (Or Didn’t Like) This Week, June 9

5 Issues I Preferred (Or Didn’t Like) This Week, June 9

Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports activities

5 Issues was off final week whereas I gallivanted across the nation on trip. Nicely, I’m again, and I’ve been furiously watching baseball to make up for the time I missed on the highway. As such, a few of these gadgets are going to be amalgams of some video games as a result of the identical themes saved calling out to me. As all the time, this column was impressed by Zach Lowe of ESPN, whose basketball columns are among the greatest within the enterprise. We’ve received lots to cowl, so let’s get began.

1. Sudden Pitching Duels
Final Thursday, the Rockies and Diamondbacks confronted off in Arizona. The pregame forecast: runs galore. Zach Davies introduced his 5.68 ERA to bear for the Diamondbacks (with a 5.65 FIP, it’s not like he’d been catastrophically unfortunate) whereas Connor Seabold took the mound for the Rockies (5.94 ERA, 5.79 FIP).

Naturally, each pitchers got here out in positive kind. Davies began shakily however recovered to put up three straight scoreless innings. In the meantime, Seabold couldn’t miss; well-located fastballs helped him escape his first jam of the sport to finish 5 scoreless innings:

The great instances didn’t maintain going – each groups scored two runs within the sixth to chase the opposing starter – however only for a second, Davies and Seabold did their greatest impressions of aces. I like that form of sport, the place you present up anticipating a shootout and get a tense duel as an alternative.

I used Davies and Seabold for instance, however when you watch a variety of baseball, you’ll come throughout these video games everywhere. The Tigers and White Sox mixed for a measly three runs in final Saturday’s sport, a conflict between Reese Olson and Mike Clevinger. Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson they aren’t – however when you choose your GIFs effectively, any pitcher can look dominant:

Sean Manaea (and opener John Brebbia) carried out an analogous trick in opposition to the Pirates final week, solely to be matched inning-for-inning by Johan Oviedo:

In the long term, these sterling begins aren’t the norm for any of those pitchers. That’s why they’ve chunky ERAs and why their managers have the bullpen on velocity dial. In reality, as I watch these video games, I maintain anticipating the opposite shoe to drop, regardless that among the lineups they’re going through are themselves susceptible to mediocrity. A 1-0 conflict between, say, Max Scherzer and Zack Wheeler is enjoyable to observe due to the mastery on show. A 1-0 conflict between Davies and Seabold is enjoyable to observe as a result of it would flip right into a observe meet at any given second, with an infinite parade of runners crossing residence plate.

It’s good to subvert expectations each now and again. I wouldn’t need each matchup between fifth starters to go this manner. Nobody would – there wouldn’t be a lot run scoring if the unhealthy starters had been persistently that good. However as an occasional deal with, journeymen and rookies firing on all cylinders places a smile on my face.

2. Batters Flinching Away From Strikes
Hitting is tough. Pitchers throw 1,000,000 miles an hour and all have wipeout secondaries. The sport may really feel sluggish within the mixture, however every particular person pitch is a split-second choice. Deciding whether or not or to not swing is a fancy selection made in about as a lot time because it takes for a single heartbeat.

With that disclaimer out of the best way, it’s time for a confession: I love the pitches the place hitters recoil as if a pitch is about to hit them, just for it to carry the strike zone. It will all the time be humorous to me:

Standing in in opposition to these excessive lefty arm slots doesn’t look enjoyable to me in any respect. The ball should seem out of skinny air and at a daft preliminary place. It’s one factor to observe hitting, and one other completely to observe a tough projectile fly at your hip at excessive velocity and never recoil.

There’s additionally the traditional “I’m going to put on this fastball, aren’t I?” flinch:

I get it. If Corbin Burnes was throwing close to me, I’d be in a fetal place, protecting my organs as greatest as I might. They’re asking these guys to swing at these pitches? I hope they’re getting hazard pay. Based mostly on Frazier’s face after that pitch, he most likely hopes so too:

I don’t have any nice analytical secrets and techniques to glean from these. I don’t assume that batters who flinch carry out any in a different way from those that don’t. I don’t even assume there’s a lot distinction between ducking out of the best way of a fastball and having your mind bent by an enormous breaking ball:

However this column is about issues I like in baseball, and seeing that the instinctual response {of professional} hitters, with their years of coaching and elite reflexes, continues to be roughly just like what I’d do in the identical scenario will all the time deliver me pleasure. To be honest, although, that’s the place the comparability ends. In contrast to me, they do a variety of harm after they don’t flinch:

3. Ke’Bryan Hayes, Heating Up Unusually
I is likely to be the most important Ke’Bryan Hayes believer on the planet. In every of the previous two years, I’ve ranked him aggressively on our Prime 50 commerce worth lists. I like his pristine protection, the type that makes performs like this appear commonplace as an alternative of unattainable:

I additionally love his bat-to-ball abilities and uncooked energy; he’s not an enormous man, however he persistently places up top-tier exit velocity numbers whereas making a variety of contact. He’s been within the prime quarter of all large league hitters for hard-hit fee yearly of his profession. However regardless of that, his final three seasons have produced wRC+ marks of 87, 88, and 88. For no matter motive (cough groundball fee cough), he simply hasn’t been capable of translate his hard-hit batted balls into energy.

I used to be on the point of bump Hayes down my preliminary commerce worth listing this yr – after which he went and did this:

Clearly, I used to be again in instantly. However a barely deeper dive into what Hayes is doing raises extra questions than solutions. For instance, let’s overlay that wRC+ graph together with his hard-hit fee:

I barely even know the way to consider this one. Hit the ball arduous much less often and revenue? It doesn’t add up. It will get weirder if you add in groundball fee:

What’s occurring? Nicely, when he hits the ball within the air, he’s hitting the snot out of it. Although his total hard-hit fee is down, that’s not the case if we glance solely at balls hit within the air. Right here’s his common exit velocity on balls hit within the air over the previous two years. This season begins round statement 200. He’s hitting the ball tougher than ever – when he will get it off the bottom:

Apparently, the identical can’t be mentioned of his grounders. He’s exhibiting way more pop when he elevates, however his common exit velocity on grounders is in direction of his profession lows, which explains how he’s getting extra out of his contact regardless of a decrease total hard-hit fee:

Is Hayes lastly tapping into his energy? I’m hardly an neutral observer, however I’m getting excited. Hitting the ball arduous and within the air has all the time been a wrestle for him. He’s been a worthwhile participant regardless of that. If he can recapture even a fraction of the facility on contact he displayed in a white-hot 2020, he is likely to be a power to be reckoned with within the Pittsburgh lineup.

Usually, I’d say that he doesn’t should be. A slick-fielding third baseman with common offense is already a worthwhile participant; Hayes was price three wins above substitute final yr regardless of an anemic .244/.314/.345 batting line. However the Pirates want some success to cope with their shoestring finances. Hayes turning right into a famous person on a discount contract might be the precise break they’ve been ready for over the previous few years.

4. Gary Sánchez’s Second Fifth Act
I used to be residing in New York when Gary Sánchez broke into the majors, and it’s not hyperbole to say that his rookie season was the most important story on the town. He appeared like the following Yankees famous person, and maybe due to that reminiscence, I’ve all the time anticipated him to have somewhat extra within the tank. As he vanished to Minnesota, after which to the land of minor league free agent offers, I couldn’t fairly imagine it. He was so good when he was good.

This yr appeared prefer it is likely to be the final of Sánchez’s main league profession. He began the yr in Triple-A with the Giants, then opted out of his minor league deal to signal with the Mets and pursue a possibility opened up by numerous accidents. That lasted all of seven plate appearances; Tomás Nido’s return meant Sánchez received designated for task. What an ignominious finish for the one-time toast of New York.

Solely, it wasn’t the top. AJ Preller’s Padres had been an ideal match for Sánchez: Preller loves buying prime worldwide prospects from the center of the final decade (examples: Nomar Mazara, Jurickson Profar, Rougned Odor) and San Diego’s catching scenario is a large number. Sánchez received a shot, and he’s operating with it.

He’s all the time had this type of straightforward energy. That’s not doubtful:

Neither is his throwing arm; he’s already thrown out two would-be base stealers. Likewise, the holes in his sport are the identical as all the time. He’s an detached blocker (he’s already racked up a handed ball and two wild pitches in San Diego) who strikes out too usually. We’re not a Garenaissance right here; to paraphrase the late Denny Inexperienced, he’s who we thought he was.

For the Padres, that is likely to be sufficient. Luis Campusano, Brett Sullivan, and Austin Nola have mixed for -1.1 WAR this yr. In plain English, they’ve been terrible, and Campusano’s harm. The Padres are, as ever, constructed round a number of stars and a variety of hope. Depth is tough to come back by if you commerce your total minor league system for main league roster upgrades.

Sánchez isn’t going to complete the season with a 169 wRC+. He’s not going to win an MVP or something like that. I’m not even positive he’s a first-division starter. However he’s a productive member of an thrilling staff, one thing I completely didn’t see coming this winter, and notably not this spring as he spun the minor league contract wheel. What a enjoyable rebound.

5. Reds Fever: Catch It
I didn’t come into the 2023 season anticipating a lot from the Cincinnati Reds, however they’ve sneakily became probably the most thrilling groups in baseball already. It’s not simply all-world prospect Elly De La Cruz, although it’s partially him. I imply, take a look at this residence run:

Heck, take a look at this triple:

However De La Cruz isn’t the one motive to observe this Reds staff. Matt McLain is driving a totally unsustainable BABIP to a white-hot begin of his personal, and he’s taking part in stable shortstop protection whereas he’s at it. Jonathan India is in the midst of a bounce-back season and nonetheless is likely to be operating out of locations to play as a result of the Reds merely have too many infielders. Spencer Steer appears like the true deal, Joey Votto is likely to be again quickly, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand is setting Triple-A ablaze in a call-up audition. Their infield is jam-packed with thrilling gamers.

Are they a completed staff? Most positively not. The pitching employees behind Hunter Greene is stuffed with query marks, although Andrew Abbott ought to assist there. Their outfield is usually full of placeholders; Jake Fraley and Stuart Fairchild most likely gained’t be components of the following nice Reds staff. Jose Barrero and Will Benson seem like fringe contributors at greatest. Tyler Stephenson is doing much less and fewer catching, however he may not have the bat of a DH, notably given the infield muddle the staff is coping with.

These are causes to not imagine within the Reds as a critical contender simply but, however they aren’t causes to keep away from watching them. They’re a lot enjoyable proper now. Youth actions are a blast, in my expertise; the great video games can really feel like events because the gamers feed off of one another. Benson’s walkoff blast in opposition to the Dodgers, the second consecutive sport the Reds closed out within the backside of the ninth, was superior:

It’s been a tough decade for Cincinnati followers, with a two-game playoff cameo within the 2020 season their solely postseason motion for the reason that Dusty Baker period that noticed three playoff berths from 2010-13. Given the state of the pitching employees, I don’t assume the playoffs are within the playing cards this yr. However brighter days are forward, and between the younger cores of the Reds and the Pirates, the NL Central appears to be on the upswing for the primary time in fairly some time.



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