More strikeouts mean more pitches, Chaz Roe's slider, Young player and defense, and more...
Good day, and welcome to a special Independence Day edition of Everything You Could Have Learned This Week. This series has its origins in the American Revolution, in fact: My great great great great great uncle, Ebenezer MacDonald, was an old town crier back in Northampton, Mass., and he used to do something much similar to this every Saturday afternoon, standing in the town square and reciting all the week's new baseball knowledge for the townspeople to hear. Well, that was until the British cracked down on Ebenezer, afraid the new knowledge he was spreading would embolden the citizens to rise up against the old RBI and wins-dominated regime of old. In fact, an important part of the First Amendment to the Constitution can be attributed to Ebenezer. During the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, when Ebenezer happened to be in town for business, he opened a window at Independence Hall and shouted from the outside: "Don't forget to include a part about the freedom of assembly for the purpose of the dissemination of baseball knowledge!"
Yasmani Grandal had a poor reputation for working with pitchers; now he doesn't. How did he get here?
In general, when you think of catchers leading a pitching staff for a playoff team, it's not the youngsters who come to mind. Names like current managers Brad Ausmus and Mike Matheny come to mind. Backstops like Yadier Molina or Russell Martin are the go-to active examples. Cubs manager Joe Maddon came to the North Side in the offseason, and along with his arrival, the team added two veteran catchers—Miguel Montero and David Ross—in an attempt to jump-start its ability to compete. It's worked thus far, and Maddon knows that developing a young catcher is a process, one that can be difficult for a team with playoff aspirations.
"When guys come to the big leagues as a catcher, they're so ill-prepared regarding calling a game, understanding a game, understanding a lot of stuff, because they don't do that in the minors," Maddon recently said. "You do it on a much smaller level; it's primarily a situation where you're trying to take care of physical fundamentals, as opposed to mental fundamentals. If you have a special catcher and a really good catching instructor or program in the minor leagues, that's essential. Because to me that's one of the hardest things, it's like a quarterback in the NFL, reading a defense. They talk about how it takes five years to really understand that stuff; it takes a couple years for a catcher to understand exactly what's going on. It may sound overblown, but it's true. I really think that coming into this moment, if you have somebody to really prepare you to understand what's going on here; 60 feet, six inches I know, 90 feet to the bases I know, the gun readings, everyone has seen that. But the game could not be any more different [up in the big leagues]."
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How confident should we be in teams that have greatly increased/decreased their playoff odds from the start of the year?
About a week and a half ago, a gem of an edition of the Joe Sheehan Newsletter landed in my inbox. Joe’s topic du jour was the Mets, whose hot start he had dismissed somewhat ruthlessly back in April, and whose fans had pushed back pretty hard. (The Mets had fallen back to .500 at the time of the piece, and they’re back there again now.) Joe didn’t confine himself to the Mets alone, though. His thesis, a favorite of his (and—by no coincidence—mine), was that we tend to underestimate the degree of fluctuation in performance teams and players can experience, even over significant chunks of a season. A snip:
I've been accused of the Gambler's Fallacy, over and over again, and I don't buy it, because baseball teams are not dice and baseball games are not independent trials. Baseball teams do play better sometimes and play worse sometimes; that those stretches are not predictable at all doesn't make them any less real. The Phillies scored 19 runs in ten games, then lit up the Cardinals for nine, the Yankees for 11 and the Yankees again for 11 more. That's baseball. The Mets went 13-3 and then 23-33. That's baseball.
Helping you set your fantasy rotation for next week with a look at the two-start pitchers.
Down the stretch (to the All-Star break) they come! It’s fittingly another tale of two leagues for the first half’s final scoring period, as the NL is flush with options while the AL sees a huge logjam of mediocre starters piled up in the “consider” bin. Forty options in all are spread across the table for you this week, with three squads (ARI, BOS, and TEX) playing just five games and running no two-start options, while the Mets continue to work off a six-man rotation.
It’s important to note that this week’s schedule is one of the most fluid of the season and very much subject to change, as teams will invariably shift things around to give guys additional rest heading into the break. Keep your eyes and ears open before setting your lineup for the week!
Put away those other hot young things: Manny Machado is already a star.
Before this season, Manny Machado finished eighth in BP's preseason AL MVP polling. He received four third place votes, from Ian Frazer, Bret Sayre, Jon Shepherd, and yours truly. That's more love than I expected Machado to get, especially coming off a season shortened by two knee injuries (one to each knee), back issues, and a groin strain. That was before the season, though.
Of late, there's been a lot more chatter, and for good reason. He's not only one of the best young third basemen now, he's one of the best players period. Machado seems to be blossoming into a superstar, one who very well could join players like Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera in the ranks of the game's elite.
See who front office members and scouts would tab as the prospect they'd start a franchise with at second base
A friendly reminder on how this works. I asked three scouts and two front-office members the following question: If you could start your franchise with one player at each position, what player would you take? I then asked those scouts/front-office members to submit an MVP-style ballot at each position, with the first place vote counting for five points, second place for four, etc.
If you want to get people excited about prospect talk – and why wouldn’t you? – do not open the conversation with second baseman. Very rarely do elite prospects start their route to the big leagues on the left side of the keystone bag; as they usually don’t move over until it’s “proven” that they cannot handle shortstop.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey and Mets righty Gabriel Ynoa.
Hitter of the Day: Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays (New Hampshire, AA): 4-6, R, HR, 2 K.
You didn’t forget about him, did you? After stumbling in the majors this season (despite being my preseason pick for AL Rookie of the Year—oops!), Pompey is back where he probably should have been all along. Simply put, the Blue Jays rushed him. At just 22, Pompey was a late bloomer to begin with, and once he took the Florida State League by storm, the Blue Jays fast-tracked him in an attempt to fill a hole at the major-league level. He got just a half-season in High-A ball, just 31 games in Double-A, and just 12 in Triple-A before reaching the majors. Despite his success in the minors, it was too much. He was in over his head this spring, and still a mess after being demoted to Triple-A. He’s still technically rookie-eligible (and thus technically still a prospect by our standards), and more importantly, he’s still just as talented as ever, as a potential up-the-middle and top-of-the-order dual threat.