Some of the latest bits from around the league …
- The Nationals have placed right-hander Stephen Strasburg on the 15-Day Disabled list, retroactive to June 16, with an upper back strain. Strasburg was supposed to start on Sunday, but never made it out of his warmups on Saturday. An interesting revelation from Strasburg indicated that he popped two ribs out of place during a weight-training session early last week, ultimately leading to the back problems over the weekend. The Nationals signed the oft-injured Strasburg to a seven-year/$175 million deal earlier this season; a season in which Strasburg has been dominating. Through 14 starts, Strasburg, 27, has a 2.90 ERA (2.83 FIP) with a 31.9% strikeout rate and a 6.5% walk rate. I suppose he already got his elite level contract, but if Strasburg could figure out how to stay on the field, he’d likely be considered one of the most valuable pitchers in baseball.
- And big news for the Nationals’ rotation: top prospect Lucas Giolito is coming.
- Jose Reyes is getting a chance to return the Major Leagues via the New York Mets, with a start yesterday for the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones. Reyes, you’ll recall, was released by the Rockies on Thursday (just a few weeks after being reinstated from the restricted list following a suspension under the domestic violence policy) before subsequently signing a Minor League Deal with the New York Mets on Saturday. As expected, opinions on the Mets signing Reyes are mixed, at best.
- Something I didn’t expect to write this year: The St. Louis Cardinals have removed Trevor Rosenthal from the closer’s role, after allowing three ninth-inning runs en route to his third blown save of the season Friday. Rosenthal has been the Cardinals’ closer since 2013, and has been one of the best in baseball in that span – for example, he has the most saves in the majors from 2014-2015 (93). Manager Mike Matheny indicated that Rosenthal can work his way back into that role, but it’s something he’ll have to earn and work towards (which is not an easy thing to do in the highest leverage of situations night after night). After posting a 2.10 ERA (2.42 FIP) over 68.2 innings last season, Rosenthal has begun 2016 (24.0 IP) with a 5.63 ERA and peripherals that aren’t much better (4.63 FIP). His biggest issue has been command, posting an almost unbelievable 17.7% walk rate on the season. If you recall, the Cubs faced Rosenthal twice last week and were able to get 2 singles, a double, a HBP and a walk in those two innings (the walk was to Javy Baez, no less!). Rosenthal has continued to strike batters out (30.3%), but a walk rate that high is essentially unusable. No replacement closer has yet been named, but Seung Hwan Oh, Kevin Siegrist and Jonathan Broxton are options.
- Here’s an odd story out of New York: A stray tweet indicating the immediate promotion of top prospect Brandon Nimmo (and demotion of Michael Conforto) came ahead of the Mets plans to actually make the transaction. But because it gained so much traction and attention, the Mets were forced to make the move early, so as to spare Conforto the 24 hours of awkwardness (nice job). In fact, the plan was so poorly executed (because of the leak), that Nimmo wasn’t even at the ball park in time to make the rumored start that spun the entire series of events into action. The Mets were undoubtedly trying to avoid what happened last year in the failed Carlos Gomez trade (Wilmer Flores crying on the field), but I’m not sure they did too much better.
- This is pretty cool, especially because he’s wearing a different color red, now: Albert Pujols has taken sole position of 11th place on the all-time home run leaderboard with 574 homers. On Saturday, Pujols went 2-5 with a solo homer (his 14th) in the fifth inning off of Dillon Overton. Pujols, 36, needs just 10 more to overtake Mark McGwire and 13 more to overtake Frank Robinson on the leaderboards. Given that he’s already hit 14 on the season, I’d say he has a fairly good chance to crack the top ten before October rolls around. I know our love affair with homers sorta faded after the steroid era, but that’s a pretty amazing feat. He deserves the love.
- If you had to guess which offensive stat was the most important to a hitter’s value, would you guess a) batting average b) on-base percentage c) slugging percentage or d) sabermetrics? Okay, that last option should be a joke, but it was actually included as one of the options in a Twitter poll presented by the Houston Astros. It received 16% of the vote, by the way, which was ten percentage points more than slugging percentage. But that’s not the story here (even though it’s hilarious). At Baseball Prospectus, this poll crossed Rob Mains’ screen. First, he laughed at that ridiculous fourth option, but then he sought out the actual answer to the question and wrote about it. If your instinct says OBP, you may be a bit surprised. Check out his article here at BP.
- Speaking of OBP … Moneyball! The premise of Moneyball, in general, was not about the A’s interest in taking walks, avoiding bunts, never stealing bases, or anything of the nature. Instead, at its root, the point was that the A’s were finding ways to get ahead of everyone else, in one way or another. In their particular case, being better at advanced analytics and statistics was their market inefficiency. Teams always have been and always will be looking to exploit the next market inefficiency to their own advantage, which brings us to the Tampa Bay Ray … and virtual reality. Indeed, according to Mobile Strategies 360, the Rays now have a VR simulator that imitates thousands of different pitches from real Major League pitchers. The player, then, is meant to work on their plate awareness and pitch recognition by identifying whether the pitch will be a ball or a strike as quickly as possible. Aside from the Rays, the Pirates may also be using a virtual reality program, but the sense I’m getting is that everyone has been pretty hush-hush. After all, a market inefficiency is only one as long as no one else is using it. Check out Tim Brusveen’s article for more, this is fairly interesting stuff.
- At Baseball is Fun, I wrote about a Marlins Minor Leaguer who hit one of those “Hit-It-Win-It” trucks at the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate stadium, but no one took anything home! Always read the fine print, my friends.
- Lastly, how crazy is this? It’s simultaneously scary and encouraging:
149 pitchers used in MLB this year have had Tommy John surgery, plus 25 more on MLB DL. Currently 28.8% of all MLB pitchers have had TJ.
— Jon Roegele (@MLBPlayerAnalys) June 15, 2016