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June 19, 2017

What You Need to Know

Every Man Wants to Be a Macho Man

by Ashley Varela


The Weekend Takeaway

The designated hitter vs. pitcher hitting debate is one for the ages (well, at least the last 44 years of the ages). Until you see Bartolo Colon set PETCO Park ablaze with his first career home run or Madison Bumgarner muscle two moonshots on Opening Day, it’s difficult to make a compelling case against the undeniable offensive bonus a polished, professional hitter brings to the lineup.

No matter how avid the DH defender, however, there’s one thing on which both sides can agree: There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a #PitcherWhoRakes.

This weekend saw two hybrid hurlers, starting with Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija.

On the mound, Samardzija has had a quiet, decent run in 2017. His 4.81 ERA masks several tough-luck losses, including a four-hitter against the Twins last week, and his current 2.88 DRA has greatly improved on the 3.83 mark from his 2016 run. At the plate, meanwhile, Samardzija’s luck has been, for lack of a better term, lackluster, with an .074/.074/.111 batting line through his first 28 plate appearances of the year.

His fortunes reversed during his start on Friday, taking opposing rookie starter Antonio Senzatela deep in the fifth inning:

Samardzija’s 446-foot, two-run shot was the longest by any major-league pitcher in the Statcast era, surpassing even Jake Arrieta’s 440-footer last April. He didn’t fare so well on the mound, though, taking his ninth loss of the season after giving up eight runs on 11 hits and striking out just four of 29 batters.

Elsewhere in the National League, the Mets turned the spotlight on their own hard-hitting pitcher. Jacob deGrom took the hill in Sunday’s series finale against the Nationals, hoping to follow his first complete game of the season with another gem. He pulled the Mets back from the brink of a four-game sweep with eight innings of one-run ball, limiting the Nationals to three hits and two walks in his sixth win of the year.

The crowning moment, however, arrived early in the third inning:

The ball registered a projected 379 feet, just skimming the wall in left field for the Mets’ first run of the day. It marked deGrom’s first career home run, as well as the club’s first pitcher-driven home run of 2017. He’ll still need three more homers to catch fellow starter and hair rival Noah Syndergaard, however, who leads the team with four career blasts.

Quick Hits from the Weekend

Eddie Butler knew what was coming when the Cubs donned two-toned throwback jerseys for the Pirates’ annual Negro Leagues Heritage Game on Saturday. It didn’t surprise him when, prior to the first pitch of the Cubs’ eventual 9-5 win, home plate umpire Will Little accompanied the club trainer to the mound with a pair of scissors:

According to MLB rule 3.07, an umpire can dictate when parts of a pitcher’s uniform are “too distracting” to the opposing batter. While the rule specifically mentions white and gray pitcher’s gloves, it is thought to extend to the rest of the pitcher’s outfit as well. White sleeves are a definite no-no, as they can interfere with a batter’s ability to spot the ball out of the stretch.

Perhaps the umpiring crew failed to notify the Cubs of the rule before the first pitch, or perhaps they simply assumed Butler would be wearing a modified throwback uniform. Whatever the case, the spontaneous tailoring session satisfied the requirements for Butler’s getup, freeing him to pitch to his third no-decision with four runs, four hits, and three walks in 5 2/3 innings.

***

Of all the wild and wacky ways to score a run, an inside-the-park home run isn’t really that weird or wacky. It does have that edge-of-the-seat feel to it, however, which is what made Orlando Arcia’s first career inside-the-parker so thrilling on Saturday:

The last time a Brewer managed to touch all the bases without hitting one out was in April of 2012, when Norichika Aoki bounced a line drive just over the outstretched glove of Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez dove for the ball a second too early and was forced to slow-jog out to the warning track, where he not only failed to pick up the ball on the first try, but tossed it wide of home plate:

***

The Angels suffered more than a 3-1 loss during Friday’s series opener—they temporarily cost Cliff Pennington a friendship, too. Pennington bided his time until the bottom of the sixth inning, lifting a 3-1 fastball just over the right field scoreboard for the Angels’ first and only run of the night:

The home run signified two firsts for the pair: Pennington’s first home run of the year and the end of Ian Kennedy’s first perfect game attempt. The Royals right-hander was flawless through 5 2/3 innings, utilizing just seven pitches to escape the second inning and distributing four strikeouts before Pennington broke up the bid in the sixth. While it wasn’t a start of historic proportions, the two-hitter was a welcome change of pace for the starter, who was riding a six-game slump leading up to his outing and currently sports a 5.70 DRA on the year.

Following the game, Kennedy told reporters that he reached out to his former teammate once the perfecto was snapped. “I told him he’s a terrible friend and I was deleting his phone number,” Kennedy said.

***

Nolan Arenado may not have been the first to hit for the cycle in 2017, but he did it with more panache than any of his fellow competitors. While the Rockies went for the sweep on Sunday, Arenado kicked things off with a first-inning triple that slipped right out of Joe Panik’s glove:

In the fourth, he punched a single to right field for his second hit of the night, reaching third base again via Mark Reynolds’ single and getting stranded again when Giants starter Ty Blach fanned Carlos Gonzalez to end the inning. An RBI double in the sixth brought the third hit he needed to complete the cycle, snapping Blach’s shutout and putting the Rockies on the board with their first run of the afternoon.

The rest of the lineup followed suit, knotting the score 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth when Arenado approached the plate for his final at-bat, one that Hollywood itself couldn’t have scripted better:

Defensive Play of the Weekend

If we were to write up a textbook on defensive execution, Manny Machado’s perfect (i.e. precisely accurate; exact; having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be) relay to first base would likely be featured in Chapter 1:

In Chapter 2, where we might explore the fundamental mistakes made during defensive plays, we would find this inadvertent (i.e. not resulting from or achieved through deliberate planning) blooper from Christian Vazquez:

What to Watch on Monday

The Indians and Orioles will kick things off on Monday, sending Corey Kluber (3.14 DRA, 86 cFIP) toe-to-toe with Dylan Bundy (5.37 DRA, 110 cFIP) for the first of a four-game set in Baltimore. The teams haven’t met since last July, when the Orioles executed a three-game sweep after taking Kluber down 5-3 in the series finale. Bundy, however, is on shaky ground after a string of rough starts, and hasn’t pitched out of the sixth inning in any of his starts this month (7:05 ET).

Rookie right-hander Hector Velazquez (8.01 DRA, 128 cFIP) will take the bump for the Red Sox as they try to unseat the Yankees from first place in the AL East. Velazquez is slated for his second major-league start after Brian Johnson hit the disabled list with a left shoulder impingement, and will look to regain some equilibrium after getting shelled with five runs and nine hits during his big-league debut last month (8:15 ET).

Ashley Varela is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ashley's other articles. You can contact Ashley by clicking here

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