As usual, there’s plenty to discuss around baseball. So let’s jump right into some news from around the league ….
- After years of (50%) self-proclaimed and (50%) genuinely-earned excellence, the St. Louis Cardinals appear to finally be looking up at the Chicago Cubs with some envy. The Cubs, as we know, are coming off back-to-back playoff seasons (the first of which featured the Cubs knocking the Cardinals off in the NLDS), and a World Series win. They didn’t lose much this offseason, and figure to be good once again in 2017.
- At FanGraphs, Travis Sawchik examines the Cardinal’s apparent attempt to “Keep up with the Joneses,” but praises them for their restraint. Aside from a couple of big-ish moves (primarily signing Dexter Fowler), the Cardinals have resisted the urge to try to “keep up with the Cubs.” Had they done so, they may have put themselves in a worse position than they are in now (and maybe would have made things even worse than that in the long run).
- Of course, there are areas in need of improvement – namely, defense and baserunning – according to Sawchik, but the Cardinals have already begun to address those problems in practical, low-risk ways. 2017 might not be the Cards’ season on paper, but they’ve done well not to overreact to the Cubs’ success, and that’s not nothing.
- The brother of new Miami Marlins Pitcher Edinson Volquez has tragically passed away in the Dominican Republic. Reportedly, after being involved in an early-morning fight with two brothers, Brandy Volquez, Edinson’s brother, was stabbed to death in a barbershop. I’ll leave this terribly sad story at that, and offer this USA Today article to those interested in further details.
- Former Cubs farmhand Brandon Guyer (who was traded by the Cubs to the Rays along with Chris Archer and others in exchange for Matt Garza) has agreed to forego both of his remaining arbitration eligible seasons with a two-year deal from the Cleveland Indians. In total, he secured $5 million across 2017 and 2018, with a $3 million club option in 2019, as well. If you don’t remember Guyer from the trade I brought up, you might recognize his name from his .300/.563/.400 slash line for the Indians in the 2016 World Series, including a big hit off of Aroldis Chapman late in Game Seven.
- MATH and SCIENCE ALERT: At The Hardball Times, David Kagan takes a significant (albeit conveniently chart-aided) dive into the physics behind (upper case) Barreled Balls. Traditionally (or rather, statistically), a ball is considered officially “barreled” if it was struck with the specific exit velocities and launch angles that historically led to a minimum of a .500 batting average and a 1.500 slugging percentage. To Kagan, however, there’s a more to it than that (namely, top spin, back spin, and side spin). And a whole lot more.
- Rangers reliever Jake Diekman, who suffers from ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease), will miss at least half of the 2017 season due to surgery. He was originally diagnosed with the illness when he was just 11 years old, but has since achieved a lot, including bringing attention to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America with an awareness campaign called “Gut It Out.” Best of luck to Diekman, who just avoided arbitration with the Rangers last Friday (agreeing on $2.55 million), and we hope to see you back out there soon.
- Remember, money is not an unending resource in MLB, and the scope of an organization’s budget is not limited to the team’s payroll. Specifically, this could be a rather unfortunately-timed, forced decision for the Nationals:
#Nationals still have interest in both Wieters & Holland..but they are way over budget on Spring Training Complex making decision difficult
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) January 18, 2017
- In a tweet that might soon be deleted, Bryce Harper responded to Bowden’s report with this: “Matt Wieters/Greg Holland > Team Store! #NatsNatsNatswoooooo.” Harper has thoughts on spending priorities.
- If I asked you to pick the Major League park with the most-extreme home run factor, I’m guessing you’d immediately jump to say Coors Field. And to an extent, you’d be right. Coors Field has traditionally been the most hitter-friendly ball park in baseball for a while now. But what if I reminded you that home run factors work in both directions. In other words, an extremely unfriendly hitter’s park could have a more (negative) extreme park factor, than a friendly one. Would you change your mind with this information, or stick with Coors?
- Well, at FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan points out that the distinction actually belongs to AT&T Park – home of the San Francisco Giants. Last year, for example, that stadium carried a FanGraphs park factor of 84 (or 16% below average (100)). Coors field, on the other hand, was tied with Great American Ball Park with a park factor of 113 (or 13% above average). More on the explanation, history, and effect at FanGraphs.
- The Dodgers and the Twins have long been connected via rumors over Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. The Dodgers need offense, particularly the type that can hit lefties, and have an opening at second base. The Twins are trying to get all they can out of an asset (Dozier) who appears to be at his maximum value. Unfortunately, those talks have been publicly referred to as “stalled,” and there’s no indication of anything happening any time soon. So, Dave Cameron took a shot at finding the Dodgers a second basemen elsewhere and came up with some interesting ideas.
- Among the many options, the Rays’ Logan Forsythe and the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar lead the list, but it is the third option you’ll find most interesting (not necessarily in a good way): the Cubs’ Javy Baez. Although Cameron admits that this is almost certainly not going to happen (for more reasons than I care to get into here), the fit between the two teams – Cubs have an extra second basemen, the Dodgers have young, talented pitching prospects close to the Major Leagues – is undeniable. Of note, Cameron does not believe top Dodgers pitching prospect Jose De Leon (the center piece in the Dozier talks), alone, would be enough to net Baez.
- At Baseball is Fun, we watched in awe as the new White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech fired a training ball a whopping 110 MPH. Even if he wasn’t technically pitching at 110 MPH, it’s pretty wild to see.
- Have you ever wondered what the worst season of baseball’s best players looked like? At Baseball is Fun, I examined the worst season from Hall of Famer Ted Williams, and was surprised to learn … it wasn’t all that bad (even if it was far off his video-game career numbers).