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Let’s get into some news from around the league …

  • Late last night, Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) revealed that Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips recently (November) used his no-trade rights to block a trade to the Atlanta Braves. Apparently, the Braves tried to acquire Phillips while they were in the process of signing free-agent (and former Pirate) Sean Rodriguez, and with the completion of that deal (and presumably the revelation of the blocked trade), their pursuit of Phillips cooled. Phillips blocked a trade to the Nationals last year, so clearly he’s not too keen on being dealt. Away from the Reds. For some reason.
  • Speaking of the Pirates, they’ve apparently dedicated themselves to a pitching strategy revolving around velocity. At FanGraphs, Travis Sawchik writes that in Neal Huntington’s first season as the Pirates GM (2008), the team averaged 90.9 MPH with their fastball, which was 19th best in baseball. In 2015, they took over the top spot with 94.0 MPH – a record at the time – and finished second in 2016 with an average fastball velocity of 93.4 MPH. And for what it’s worth, their 3.72 team ERA ranked 7th across those two seasons. More on how they accomplished this at FanGraphs.
  • Although we like to think of Anthony Rizzo as the Hit By Pitch king of the Major Leagues – indeed, he led the league in 2015 and finished sixth in 2016 – former Cubs’ farm hand Brandon Guyer actually led the league on a rate basis both in 2016 and since his debut in 2011. But even if it weren’t for Guyer, Rizzo still wouldn’t end up “on top.” According to Neil Weinburg, the second-place “HBP King,” is actually the Marlins’ Derek Dietrich. Amazingly, while the rest of the league is getting hit by 0.23% of all pitches thrown, Dietrich has managed to get hit by 1.26%. This “skill” has turned his mediocre 7.8% walk rate into an impressive 13.6% BB+HBP%. It’s not a pretty way to get on base, but it certainly works. Guyer and Dietrich are extreme outliers in this regard.
  • Speaking of HBPs, I ran a little poll on Twitter to see if Cubs fans had a sense of which starting pitcher (and recent Cy Young Finalist/winner!) was the biggest offender. The resulting, final votes – 1) Arrieta, 2) Lester, 3) Hendricks, were quite amusing, and also entirely off-base:

  • As I’m sure you’re aware, Pirates second baseman Jung-Ho Kang was investigated by Chicago police after a sexual assault allegation last July, but his off-field problems don’t quite end there. Last month, Kang was arrested after driving under the influence (and crashing his car and fleeing the scene) for the third time since 2009. Now, because of those, and perhaps other issues, the manager of the Korean World Baseball Classic team has kicked Kang off the roster. It’s (more than just) a shame, but hopefully it can be a necessary wake-up call.
  • Some awesome news if you’re looking for a job in baseball: eight Major League teams (the Angels, White Sox, Reds, Rockies, Yankees, Padres, Blue Jays, and Nationals) are hiring. The position: In-game Social Media Coordinator. If you think you are a “creative, witty writer and Tweeter,” you should go ahead and apply! If you are truly interested, I’ll encourage you to check out the @Cubs Twitter handle for an ideal example of how that position is done right. Apply here!
  • At MLB Trade Rumors, Matt Swartz has begun a series wherein he’ll be breaking down and investigating some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. First up, he tackles Jacob deGrom and Carlos Martinez. Both are first time eligible and both have a chance at receiving the highest first-time total for a pitcher in baseball history ($4.35 million). The Cubs have four arbitration eligible players heading into 2017 (Pedro Strop, Jake Arrieta, Hector Rondon, and Justin Grimm). Arrieta is projected, by MLBTR, to make the most – $16.8 million – in his final trip through arbitration. We’ll see if Swartz tackles his deal – which could plausibly lead to a contract extension – soon.
  • ESPN’s Chris Berman is assuming a new position within the company after the NFL season, wherein he will make on-air appearances and “serve in public-facing roles on ESPN’s behalf.” So far as it relates to baseball, that means we will no longer be hearing the “Back, back, back!” call from Berman at any future Home Run Derby – his long-time post.

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