MLBits: Evolving Stance on Gambling, Who Is Hurt By Smaller Zone, Brian Wilson's Knuckleball Comeback, More

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MLBits: Evolving Stance on Gambling, Who Is Hurt By Smaller Zone, Brian Wilson’s Knuckleball Comeback, More

Chicago Cubs

Let’s check in on some news from around the league …

  • Rob Manfred attended a Yahoo business summit yesterday, and had some interesting thoughts on the future of sports gambling. Craig Calcaterra has the full story at NBC Sports, but in short, the Commissioner appears to be open to the idea that legalizing sports betting is the way to go. In fact, he thinks it might even be an idea with some legs: “There is this buzz out there in terms of people feeling that there may be an opportunity here for additional legalized sports betting,” Manfred said. “We are reexamining our stance on gambling. It’s a conversation that’s ongoing with the owners.” Well, then.
  • There are obviously some downsides in allowing, much less promoting, gambling on a personal human level, as well as some integrity issues the game might ultimately face, but Calcaterra brings up some interesting, more nuanced points. Despite calling gambling (in general, in his opinion) a “net negative” on society, Calcaterra also believes that prohibitions of any kind tend to be self-defeating and ineffective. I’m on board with the idea that allowing thoughtfully-regulated gambling could be a positive, but there would certainly need to be some safeguards put in place beforehand. This strikes me as a very long-term notion at best.
  • With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement from December and new rule proposals (more on the extra-innings proposal later) leaking out almost every day, I feel as though we’ve discussed the game of baseball a heckuva lot lately. Just the other day, for example, we learned that MLB has proposed changing the strike zone and eliminating pitches on intentional walks. It’s the former that’s drawing more attention, given its potential impact on how the game is played. At FanGraphs, Craig Edwards discusses how raising the strike zone might affect certain pitchers more so than others, and a couple of Cubs are among those names.
  • Specifically, it seems that Jon Lester is among the top 14 starting pitchers who most often (10.2% of the time) work in the lowest part of the strike zone, while Kyle Hendricks is among the top four pitchers who has the most called strikes in the lowest part of the zone. If and when this rule is activated then, we might have to keep an eye on how both of those pitchers change their strategy in response to the new zone and how that change affects their production. For now, keep it in the back of your mind.
  • Matt Wieters, 30, is, among many things – a four-time All-Star catcher, with two Gold Gloves, three 20+ home run seasons, and the ability to hit from both sides of the plate. Matt Wieters is also somehow still a free agent. At Fox Sports, Ken Rosenthal discusses how poor pitch framing stats may have severely depressed his market. “Wieters, according to StatCorner, ranked 68th in framing among catchers who received at least 1,000 pitches last season, saving -7.3 runs compared to the average catcher (Buster Posey was first at +26.8).”
  • Given how highly teams have valued pitch framing in recent years, then, perhaps it’s not much of a surprise. Even still, Rosenthal names as many as eight teams (Orioles, Nationals, Mets, Rockies, Rays, Angels, Diamondbacks, and White Sox) who’d receive a bump at catcher with Wieters behind the dish. And almost all of those teams (with maybe a couple exceptions) will be contending this season. So what gives? Wieters will eventually find a home – he just has to – but Rosenthal doesn’t believe he’ll be able to secure even $50 million in a deal. It’s possible, Rosenthal suggests, that teams might be losing sight of the big picture, thanks to a disproportionately heavy value place on framing. More at Fox Sports.
  • Along with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are new rules about qualifying offers. Among many of those new rules, teams can no longer tender a qualifying offer to a player who’s previously received one. At MLB Trade Rumors, Jason Martinez lists some of the players set to hit the open market as soon as next offseason (though some are much later) who might’ve been tendered a qualifying offer, but will no longer be eligible for one. For the current crop of Cubs, those players are Brett Anderson, Jason Heyward, and John Lackey. Check out the full list at MLBTR.
  • Earlier, we learned that the Marlins may soon be sold, and if you didn’t catch the update, the potential buyer is Charles Kushner, father of Jared Kushner, who is President Trump’s Senior Advisor.
  • Brian Wilson – the former Giants closer, Dodgers reliever, and large beard-haver – is two years removed from his last professional pitch. But now, Tim Brown (Yahoo Sports) is reporting that Wilson is attempting a comeback … as a knuckleballer. In fact, at a recent 30-min bullpen session, Wilson threw almost exclusively knuckleballs according to Brown: “‘That right there,’ Wilson said while pulling off his muck-caked shoes, ‘was an MVP-Cy Young knuckleball. You can write that down, too. No joke.’ He smiled. ‘I can already see myself out there,’ he said, ‘throwing up some waffles.'” A few other pitchers have come back and dominated with a knuckle ball after their careers appeared to be over, so maybe Wilson can do the same. According to Brown, Wilson’s already pitched for at least two teams in the past couple weeks. It’ll be fun to track his attempted comeback. After all, everyone likes a knuckleballer, right?
  • At FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan writes about the possible star, Felipe Rivero, lurking in the Pirates’ bullpen. And Rivero, Sullivan suggests, is an easy sell. At just 25 years old, Rivero is a lefty with three pitches, including a fastball that averaged almost 96 miles per hour and a changeup that’s looking stronger every day. In addition, he’s managed to earn an FIP- of 79 throughout his career. Plus, his K-BB% against righties in 2016 ranked fourth (among lefties who faced at least 100 righties) behind only Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Zach Britton – arguably three of the games best relievers. Sullivan has much more on Rivero at FanGraphs and seems pretty confident in Rivero’s future – something to consider before counting out the Pirates entirely next year, Cubs fans
  • Here’s something:

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami