Should pitchers be going up the ladder on low-power hitters or is that a danger zone?
The game of baseball moves like ivy, spreading upwards and outwards toward opportunity, consistent and chaotic. There are times in this growth where it tangles with itself, spins into contradictions. For years it drove managers to madness when their pitchers walked batters, and yet the batters themselves were encouraged by the same coaches to put the ball in play, show enough courage to take the bat off the shoulder. That seeming inequality grew as a consequence of a different priority, the valor of the productive out, available to the hitter and not his opponent.
As the culture of the game slowly grew to accept the walk and its benefits, another bias lingered: the idea that ground balls were beneficial to pitchers, while opposing hitters were often taught to swing downward on the ball and achieve that exact same result. The same cultural preference, of the ball in play (especially that vaunted achievement, the grounder to the right side with the runner on second), also promoted this strangely inconsistent set of philosophies. But batted-ball data and research has proven the benefits of not only swinging for line drives, but even putting the ball in the air compared to the grounder so long thought superior.
While home run totals have experienced a meteoric rise over the past two seasons, stolen bases have followed an inverse trend, especially during the last five years. Here’s an oversimplification: After major-league teams swiped just 2,505 bases in 2015, the lowest single-season total since 1974, they managed just 2,537 thefts league-wide in 2016.
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Is there reason to expect any offensive production besides steals from the Reds center fielder?
It’s an old adage in baseball that speed-centric players should keep the ball on the ground to best access the inherent advantage that speed provides a hitter. Plus-plus speed puts extreme pressure on the infield defense to quicken their fielding motions and their internal clocks, forcing miscues and free bases. Moreover, speed-centric players typically lack usable game power, so it’s a better strategy to put the baseball on the ground—either to find a hole or to leg-out an infield single—rather than hit a harmless flyball that completely negates the speed advantage.
Which is worse for the pitcher: having Billy Hamilton on first, or David Ortiz on second?
On April 16th, Johnny Cueto singled against Francisco Liriano, which brought up Billy Hamilton, who grounded weakly to shortstop Jordy Mercer, which sets up a question we don’t ask very often but, in this case, must: Should Mercer have taken the out at second, or ignored Cueto and thrown Hamilton out at first?
The Reds' ace tosses another shutout, the Mets use a brand-new starter for the second straight day, plus other recaps and previews for the weekend.
The Thursday Takeaway
The Padres and Reds played two on Thursday, with the first matchup pitting Johnny Cueto and Ian Kennedy against each other in a matchup between baseball's ERA leader and its FRA leader.
Nick Bacarella mentioned in yesterday's WYNTK that Cueto entered Thursday as the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela to start a season with eight starts of at least seven innings pitched while allowing two or fewer runs. That streak continued after Cueto tossed his second shutout of the season on Thursday, and he is now the first starting pitcher since 1914 to start a season with nine such starts.
Scouts' takes on Jose Abreu, Johnny Cueto, Billy Hamilton, Eddie Butler, and other interesting players.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike.
Ervin Santana debutes for the Braves, plus more replay controversy, Hamilton and Harper, and what to watch today.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Strike, strike, strike, strike… okay, fine, I’ll spare you the next 16. But that’s how Ervin Santana began his Braves career: with 20 consecutive strikes, and 28 of them in his first 29 pitches.
Despite what everyone says, some early performances do make a difference.
Pretty much every article you’ve read between Opening Day and today has started with the caveat that there’s no point in drawing meaning from the statistics that are about to be presented, but then going ahead and presenting them anyway. In the end, the articles either draw a meaningless conclusion (they warned you at the beginning though) or waffle on what, if anything, any of their contents mean (nothing, they told you up top).
While I can only concur that the statistics that have been accrued since opening day (Salvador Perez has a 25 percent walk rate in six games, despite a career 4.5 percent walk rate) are at this point meaningless in a data sense, they are meaningful in that they matter to managers. I’m not going to draw any conclusions about a player’s evolving skillset or change in approach, so much as I am highlighting players who have either bought themselves or potentially cost themselves some rope, in the eyes of their manager. This has a very tangible effect in the fantasy world, especially in deeper leagues, where players who merely rack up at-bats are worth something.