A poor reliever's poor heart broken; Lindor's a hero; Sabathia makes it easier AND harder to trade him; and Arenado does defense.
The Tuesday Takeaway Vinko Bogataj was forever immortalized as the face of “the agony of defeat” on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. His incredible crash on a ski jump slope in 1970 became forever associated with agony and defeat. It was his misfortune that an entire generation learned to cringe and giggle at.
It’s that time of year again. That last week in July when we swear that teams lose all sense of things big and small and ship otherwise valuable prospects in exchange for late-inning relievers who will pitch a few dozen innings over the balance of the season. It’s a formula that the sabermetric community sometimes finds difficult to rationalize. Relievers pitch so few innings and are so volatile that their value is almost certainly lower than that of the prospects dealt for them.
It’s difficult to look at the trade returns for late-game specialists and understand the thought process. The Cubs seemingly traded a king’s ransom to acquire Aroldis Chapman, a pitcher whose performance is only marred by the domestic violence charges that hang over him. Let’s not mince words either; that marring very real and deserved. For the purposes of this article, though, we're be ignoring that component of this trade, not because it doesn’t matter—it matters immensely—but because it didn’t dramatically diminish his value in the baseball world, which is what this article is about.
The Red Sox signed David Price to make, roughly, 210 starts for them. The first tenth have not gone smoothly, but the next nine-tenths remain an open question.
Game 81 is long past, All-Star Week has come and gone, a handful of teams are admitting defeat with sell-offs this week, and pretty much every sample we look at feels like it's of sufficient size. We are deep into the season, which means that many deals that had fans starry-eyed in December are now leaving them wondering what went wrong in the summer.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Ranger Suarez, Conner Greene, Ian Happ, and Scott Schebler.
Prospect of the Day: Ranger Suarez, LHP, Phillies (Short-Season Williamsport): 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R/ER, BB, 5 K
After two years in the now-defunct Venezuelan Summer League, followed by a dominating showing with a 0.65 ERA in 15 appearances in the GCL in 2015, Suarez has continued pitching well as a 20-year old in the NYPL. A quick-armed lefty with an average fastball, two secondary pitches with potential, and a strong command profile, Suarez fired this seven-inning no-hitter while flashing all of these traits. Most scouts view Suarez as a potential back-end starter or lefty reliever down the line.
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If you want a bunch of Zobrists, it helps to plant them early. Are teams doing it?
We live in an era of short benches. Recently, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made news when he admitted that the league office has had discussions about new restrictions for teams around how they can use relievers (and how many). There’s nothing imminent, but Manfred cited the dominance of relievers in recent years and hinted that the move would bring a little offensive spark back into the game. Plus, we all know the complaints about innings where a team uses four pitchers. Because they have eight relievers on the roster.
Jeremy Hellickson aces his audition, the White Sox get to the Cubs' bullpen, and Dave Dombrowski has made so many trades that they're starting to overlap in a kind of baseball version of the grandfather paradox.
One factor in bridging the gap between the minors and majors? Confidence. Not the 2003 Ed Burns film.
Geography isn't always the sole dictator of distance. This is particularly true in minor league baseball stadiums, especially the ones that sit almost tauntingly close to their major-league counterparts. The Kane County Cougars, single-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, play their games at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, Illinois, an outer suburb of Chicago that lies somewhere around 50 miles from Wrigley Field—an hour drive on a good day, or a trip on two commuter trains. But sitting in either dugout and mulling how best to approach baseball players who are barely drinking age, or standing on the mound facing other players fresh out of the amateur ranks, those 50 miles become relative. Sure, they could easily make the drive or take the Metra to the Red Line and hop off at the iconic stop on Addison Street, but they’re still not really there.
Professional baseball’s minor league system is a crucible that tests the fortitude and passion of players and coaches alike, leaving only an opportune few to summit the highest peak. The hoped-for outcome of time spent there is the same for every player, but for most of them, the distance will never be closed. In stadiums where it’s as much about the spectacle as the game, where the stands usually only fill when it’s dollar beer night in the middle of summer, these players are honing a craft that they hope will get them there, even if just briefly. Getting through this crucible requires a learned humility. These players were all the best in their little leagues, the best in their high schools, even the best in their colleges. More often than not, they’re facing equal competition for the first time, and that requires something beyond just filling up a stat sheet in order to succeed. Some bloom of self-belief has to be there, otherwise the mire of team buses and bad hotels separates the wheat from the chaff.
For minor league pitchers, this self-belief can come in part from the experience of pitches that don’t often fail them and the devotion to putting in the work to ensure that that ‘go-to’ pitch is always an ally. When those things don’t work, even temporarily, a well-tested minor league pitching coach might do the trick. In Kane County, that’s Rich Sauveur, whose value comes in part from his own journey through the minor leagues, both as a player and as a coach.