I feel like it’s the days before Jon Lester made his final decision, and I’m trying very hard not to get my hopes up for Jim Harbaugh. The rumors are flying that he’s coming back to Michigan to be the head coach, which would be all kinds of awesome by me. But I don’t want to get burned. Must remain calm until he’s standing at the podium.
- Carson Cistulli writes about Brandon Webb, who remains one of the most fascinating baseball stories in recent memory: came out of nowhere to be utterly dominant for a six-year stretch, suffered a serious shoulder injury, never pitched again. Cistulli’s piece is most interesting for its discussion of the first part of the story – Webb’s emergence from relative minor league obscurity to huge success in the big leagues. Why was Webb so underappreciated in the minors? Well, it probably had a lot to do with his fastball, which never even averaged as much as 89mph in the big leagues (when he was dominating). That’s an exceptionally rare trick, because, like it or not, velocity and success are heavily correlated. Cistulli’s piece is a great read.
- As a Cubs fan, I know where your head is going immediately: Kyle Hendricks. Certainly, there are some similarities (not an elite prospect, excellent command/control, great sinker, sub-90s velocity). But I’d be cautious about drawing parallels for two reasons: (1) as pitchers, the two aren’t that similar, in large part being that Webb had an all-time elite sinker in his prime (his 64.2% career groundball rate would have led baseball last year – he did that for his entire career (yes, he has the highest career groundball rate in history, to the extent the data is available)) and he still struck guys out at a better-than-league-average rate; and (2) Webb is notable precisely because he’s the exception to the rule. In other words, it’s possible Hendricks could be a huge exception, but that is definitionally unlikely. Hoping on Hendricks as a quality mid-rotation starter is reasonable (and would also make Hendricks quite exceptional – I’m optimistic he can be). Hoping on him to be the next Brandon Webb is not.
- All that said, though: Webb’s story – before the shoulder injury – is a reminder that guys can surprise you. It’s one of the great things about baseball. (It’s also a reminder – after the shoulder injury – that it can all be over in an instant.)
- Vine Line continues to count down the top moments of 2014, and they just got to the John Baker Game.
- I’ll probably discuss this more in a Lukewarm Stove, but it’s worth noting now: Hiroki Kuroda has elected to return to Japan. That leaves the Yankees’ current rotation as Masahiro Tanaka (a cough away from TJS), CC Sabathia (possibly done), Michael Pineda (serious shoulder issues in the past), Nate Eovaldi (could be good, could be average), and Chris Capuano (Chris Capuano). Sure seems like they’d be heavily in the market for an inexpensive fifth starter type for depth purposes – and the Cubs are loaded with them.
- Thanks to George Mukhobe, kids are playing baseball in Uganda.
- META: Do you ever use the “Recent Comments” box on the right-hand side of the site? When it works, I figure it’s helpful for folks to see what conversations are going on, but, the thing is, it often doesn’t work properly (for technical reasons around which I’ve done my best to work – but this is as good as it gets). It takes up site resources, so, unless it’s really popular out there, I’m probably going to sunset it soon. Speak up if you just can’t live without it, even in its current, not-so-perfect state.