The way baseball is played has changed, so it's time to change the way we treat beanballs.
In his postgame remarks Sunday, Matt Barnes swore up and down that he didn’t mean to throw at Manny Machado. That was a fairly transparent lie, and also a fairly blameless and understandable one. Admitting to intentionally throwing at any batter roughly doubles the suspension a pitcher can expect. Barnes was just saying what he needed to say, in order to lose as little of his paycheck as possible.
He did say one thing that seemed eminently sincere, though: that he didn’t mean to put the ball anywhere near Machado’s head. I have no trouble believing that. In fact, I actively accept it. Most players acknowledge the role of beanball wars and even (unfortunately) embrace that form of vigilantism. They believe their judicious, tactical firing of baseballs at one another keeps the scales of justice balanced and prevents all-out brawls of the kind we saw more often 30 years ago. However, nearly every player also acknowledges that hitting a player anywhere near the head is a dangerous and damnable error, whether intentional or not.
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It was on purpose. Barnes denies it was on purpose, and you’re free to believe him if you want, but come on. Come on. We’re adults here. We know when other adults do stuff we’d tell kids not to do. This is that stuff. Barnes threw the pitch because Machado injured Dustin Pedroia on Friday on a bad slide. It wasn’t on purpose. Machado said it wasn’t on purpose. Pedroia said it wasn’t on purpose. Barnes said, Let’s be stupid anyway.
Freshly promoted Rockie Nolan Arenado comes off the list, which welcomes Jhoulys Chacin and Cameron Maybin, among other newcomers.
One of the greatest things about baseball is that it provides a venue in which to be surprised by something new every day. And with that comes responsibility. Today, we live in a baseball age where there is so much information available—whether it’s statistical or visual. And, sure, we’ve gotten smarter about the game as we’ve had more available to us, but it’s on all of us to not let our pre-conceived notions dictate what we see on the field and in the box score.
On Friday night, fellow BP Fantasy writer Mike Gianella and I attended a game between the Double-A affiliates of the Red Sox and Yankees in Trenton. I made the 75-minute trek down mostly to see two things: Xander Bogaerts hit and Matt Barnes pitch. We had a great time at the game, but as baseball is wont to do, the game showed us something we were not expecting to see. Even an act as simple as watching a minor-league game can end up staring down your expectations like Zack Greinke after hitting Carlos Quentin with a pitch. All you can do as an analyst or a fan is to take a step back and not just blindly charge the mound dripping with pre-conceived notions.
Cody Buckel, RHP, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
Buckel’s start has included 16 walks in just six innings over three appearances. It’s early, but the extreme control issues are a troubling sign for a pitcher who issued only 48 free passes in 144 2/3 innings between the High- and Double-A levels last season. Buckel’s overall stuff has been fine; he touched 96 mph during a recent start in Frisco. But a number of scouts have been quick to point out the 20-year-old’s defeated body language on the mound. His mechanics have also been highly inconsistent, with one scout saying, “He’s making a lot of little adjustments on the mound, but every adjustment needs another adjustment.” If the control issues persist, it’ll be interesting to see if the Rangers eventually let Buckel work things out in the bullpen or move him to a more controlled environment in extended spring training. —Jason Cole
Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
The top pitching prospect in the organization got off to a rocky start in Double-A, lasting just 1 inning and 2 1/3 innings in his first two outings. But the right-hander rebounded nicely with six efficient innings, allowing five hits while striking out seven. Barnes’ heater operated 91-95 mph, with plenty of late life and movement when thrown down in the zone. The 22-year-old showed how he can use his fastball, reaching for extra velocity when needed, pounding both sides of the plate throughout the outing, and creating the steep, downhill angle that pushes it toward a plus-plus pitch. Barnes was a strike-throwing machine with the offering, which allowed him to churn through the lineup with relative ease. What stood out more, though, was his trust in an improved changeup. The pitch has become a viable offering and graded as average to solid-average. The 83-85 mph change showed arm-side fade, and occasional cut when the righty threw it to the glove side. What kept batters at bay was seamless arm-speed between his fastball, creating deception that had hitters in front when Barnes mixed it in sequences. This pitch should go a long way to proving he’s on his way to fulfilling a projection as a solid third starter. —Chris Mellen
The Baseball Prospectus 2013 Top 101 Prospects, by Position, by Organization, and by Age
Yesterday, Jason Parks and the Baseball Prospectus prospect crew released our Top 101 Prospects of 2013, also newly available in printed form in the now-shipping Baseball Prospectus 2013 annual. The festivities were wild and raucous for all, perhaps tempered slightly for fans of the Chicago White Sox. Here is the Top 101 list displayed by position, by organization, and by prospect age. Enjoy!