One prospect dominates the present and future of lefty pitching, while another southpaw is falling off the wagon.
For this series, I will be shuttling you through the minor leagues to discover the best talents at each position and ranking them in tiers according to skill, current and future ability, and whether the player in question is from Texas. Need to catch up on how I’m doing the rankings and the top right-handed pitchers? Take a look at Part I.
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Those who don the tools of ignorance don't just need physical prowess.
When it comes to evaluating low-level talent behind the plate backbone of the process is formed from observing the body and the natural movement(s) of the body—just like all other position evaluation. Baseball isn’t black and white, and players don’t always arrive wrapped in prototypical packages. This is especially true for catchers. When you think of a catcher’s build, what body type comes to mind? Let me guess: Shortish, with bulbous aspects of the frame (stocky); thick wrists; fullback body. Sound about right? You might think this represents the ideal, but ultimately it comes down to how the body works rather than how it measures out.
When evaluating a catcher, I care more about the athleticism, coordination, and strength involved than the inherent physical characteristics [read: height/weight]. Not every player carries weight well, or projects to carry weight well, while others inhabit bad bodies that somehow allow the requisite quickness and agility for the position to shine through. You can’t judge the body in isolation; you need to see the body walk the runway to see how it moves. Basic point: Just because the body doesn’t look the part doesn’t mean the body can’t perform the role. Basic Point #2 (which is really Basic Point #1 repackaged): Catchers can be fat.
When looking for an infielder or outfielder, what do scouts look for in terms of body, skills, and glove work?
It’s not easy to evaluate defensive tools, especially at the amateur ranks or the lower levels of professional baseball. Good defense is a product of sound fundamentals established through instruction [read: proper instruction], raw physical ability, and refinement through repetition. It takes time to put the total defensive package together, assuming a competent package is even possible. This is what I want to do: I want to look at each position, break down the specific physical attributes that are necessary to excel at each position, and look at the process of projecting those attributes. In part two (you knew that was coming), I want focus on catchers and game-calling, something that I think is one of the most misunderstood and undervalued aspects of the game.
First Base: First base is, first and foremost, an offensive position. The modern game suggests if the bat is above average, the value provided by the glove is gravy. While I agree with the offensive weight attached to the position, I’m of the belief that good defense at first base is more than just gravy, and trust me, I love gravy.
The Yankees' pitching coach delves into his use of statistical analysis, the importance of consistency, and his work with A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes.
When the Yankees hired Larry Rothschild this past offseason, they brought one of the game’s most highly-respected pitching coaches aboard. The 57-year-old Rothschild had spent the last nine years as the pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs, part of a professional career that began over three decades ago. A big-league pitcher for parts of the 1981 and 1982 seasons, he later became the first manager in Tampa Bay history, holding that position from 1998-2001.
Red Sox minor-league pitching coach Bob Kipper recalls his major-league playing experiences.
Before he became a highly-regarded minor-league pitching coach, Bob Kipper lived the dream that he now helps others pursue. The 46-year-old erstwhile left-hander spent eight seasons in the big leagues, and while his record was humble—27-37 with a 4.34 ERA and 11 saves—he considers himself privileged to have simply earned the opportunity. Taken eighth overall in the 1982 draft by the California Angels, Kipper was traded to Pittsburgh three years later and logged the bulk of his 247 career appearances with the Pirates. He has been a pitching coach in the Red Sox organization since 1999, and he spent the 2010 season mentoring hurlers in Double-A Portland.
It's important at this point to let The Process continue on its course.
General manager Dayton Moore has talked about the process of building a winner for so long that it has become a bit of a running gag among the team's fans. When they refer to the Royals' perpetual rebuilding on messages boards and such, they give it the capitalization process, referring to it as The Process.
I have seen the future, and its name is FIELDf/x. OK, so we kind of knew that. But today, FIELDf/x started to seem a lot more real, and even more exciting than I’d imagined. You may have noticed that BP had a man on the scene at Sportvision’s PITCHf/x summit whose liveblog was actually live. So why am I doing this, when Colin already did? Well, for one thing, Colin arrived fashionably late, and I was all over those first 14 minutes that he missed. For another, his computer died before a lot of the fun started. And for still another (this is a third reason, now), I thought it might be fun to do a Simmons-style quasi-liveblog (written live, published later) that would free me from worries about frequent updates, and allow me to write at length. Most likely that length turned out to be a good deal longer than anyone has any interest in reading, but if you’re determined to catch up on the day’s intriguing events without sitting through eight hours of archived video, you’re welcome to peruse what lies below. If you’d like to follow along, here’s an agenda, and here’s where you should be able to find downloadable presentations in the near future.
Here we are in sunny California, home of the cutest girls in the world, if the Beach Boys are to be believed (I gather there’s also a more recent chart-topper that expresses a similar view). Okay, so by “we,” I mean the attendees at the 3rd (annual?) Sportvision PITCHf/x summit, held at the Westin San Francisco in—you guessed it—San Francisco. I, on the other hand, am watching from the other end of the continent, via a webcast that dubiously claims to be “hi-res,” despite being blurry enough to make deciphering text an adventure (I guess “hi-res” is relative, in the sense that there are even lower resolutions at which it could’ve been streamed). And sure, maybe the Beach Boys weren’t thinking of this particular gathering when they extolled the virtues of California’s beach bunnies. But never mind that—it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon here in New York, and how better to spend it than to watch a video of some fellow nerds talk about baseball in a dark room some 3,000 miles away? Well, to describe the experience at the same time, of course. Let’s get this quasi-liveblog started.
Various people throughout baseball talk about the importance of the Tigers' long-running double play duo.
“Tram” and “Sweet Lou." The longest-running double-play combination in baseball history, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker played 1,918 games together from 1977-95, the most ever for American League teammates. During that time they combined for 11 All-Star berths, seven Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger awards, 4,734 hits, and 429 home runs. They were, quite simply, the heart and soul of the Detroit Tigers for nearly two full decades.