Hitters like Miguel Sano, Marcell Ozuna, and Starlin Castro refuse to make things easy on pitchers.
We are, inarguably, living in the Golden Age Of Offensive Platitudes. Russell A. Carleton tossed out several of them in one recent column: “Sit fastball. Swing hard. Strikeouts don’t matter.” The Pirates say “OPS is in the air,” which is really just the Cubs’ “there’s no slug on the ground,” but stood on its head. Josh Donaldson wants you to “just say no to ground balls,” which is unimaginative but clear enough.
Modern offense comes down to launch angle and exit velocity, and to maximizing extra-base power (especially home runs) in order to make up for an unabating upshoot in strikeout rate. To be a great hitter in the modern game is nowhere near easy, but it’s fairly simple. Most teams, and many individual players, have dedicated themselves to breaking down hitting to the simplest set of basic ideas possible, so that batters can adapt to the unprecedented velocity and sheer stuff of modern pitchers as deftly as possible.
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Two sluggers, linked by nothing but some time to kill on a Tuesday night in May.
It’s about 9:05 on a Tuesday night in May.
Last Tuesday, May 30, to be exact. The Marlins are playing the Phillies. When it started, 16,241 people had paid to enter Marlins Park and watch in person. Some other, harder to discern number of people had come home, from work or school or the airport, and flipped to the game on television. Some portion of those—fewer than half, to be sure—had found the Marlins’ broadcast wherein Rich Waltz and Todd Hollandsworth would guide them through some low-stakes action.
The push and pull between hitters and pitchers is changing.
Unique pitching lines typically don’t tell us anything about baseball, not in the sense of helping us understand the current state of the game anyway. They might tell us something about the expanse of possibility within the confines of the game, or about nature of the individual pitcher making that small bit of history. But very seldom are these lines worthy of including in a hypothetical time capsule.
Carlos Martinez’s start against the Yankees on April 15 doesn’t seem likely to offer a representative picture of any version of baseball—past, present, or future. It does, however, allow us to spend a moment in that unlikely—but possible—world where real, familiar phenomena progress to their illogical extremes. Like an episode of Black Mirror that edges too close to the realm of the believable.
After plenty of ups and downs, the Marlins outfielder is setting himself free.
We live in a Golden Age of player development. Teams understand their players—and especially their young, talented players—far better than they used to understand them. Just as importantly, though, players understand themselves far better than they used to. In this era dominated by strikeouts, defensive innovations, and so many home runs, with all the technological and instructional resources available, there is no good reason (other than wanting makeup, the kind that prevents one from taking full advantage of those resources) for a team to give up on a talented player.
Stardom is always one turned corner away, and there are more intersections at which to make such a turn than ever. For Marcell Ozuna, there have been a few wrong turns. He came up way back in 2013, and has shown flashes of brilliance in every season since. He’s a fine defensive outfielder, though better suited to a corner spot than to center field. He possesses a strong arm, and he pairs his natural power at the plate with a good enough instinctual approach to get by. He’s battled inconsistency, insufficient contact, and a vulnerability to right-handed pitching, but the talent has always been obvious.
On the fourth episode of DFA, Bryan, R.J., and Shawn discuss the Marlins and the difficulty of rebuilding a rotation from nothing at all. After that, the guys cover the Mariners' slow descent into madness, which obviously had an effect on them as well, as they spent too much time riffing on Adam Rosales.
It's Baseball Prospectus's newest podcast: DFA! Host Bryan Grosnick (Baseball Prospectus), co-host R.J. Anderson (CBS Sports), and producer Shawn Brody (Beyond the Box Score, BP Mets) are talking about all the transactions and roster moves that make MLB go. From trades and signings to callups and disabled list stints, DFA is here to provide analysis and commentary on all things baseball.
On the fourth episode of DFA, Bryan and R.J. discuss the Marlins and their rotation choices after the untimely death of staff ace Jose Fernandez. After injuries to Wei-Yin Chen and Edinson Volquez, is the team too flawed to move forward, or can their vaunted bullpen shoulder the load. Then it's on to talk about the Mariners once again, as James Paxton's injury reminds us to never love pitchers, and Mike Zunino's demotion gets the guys talking about the devaluation of pitch framing. Finally, during our batting practice segment, things get a little weird when the topic of Adam Rosales randomly comes up.
Eric Roseberry, who writes for our fantasy team, hosts a podcast called On Baseball Writing. Counterintuitively, the topic is writing about baseball. I’m not writing this to plug the podcast (though it’s really good!), but to point out that in January, Eric interviewed Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs. He asked Carson one of his standard questions about how to get started in baseball writing, to which Carson replied: “Start your own dumb blog.”
At what point do expectations cease mattering? And why is Tom Koehler part of this story?
Let me first say that I don’t know which advertising conglomerate came up with the idea that explains the omnipresent hand-wringing over Michael Pineda, and I wouldn’t thank them if I did—their actual intended result is so breathtakingly insulting to the intelligence of the general public that it cancels out any value of this incidental discovery. Nonetheless, a bit of wisdom is glinting off the surface of the cultural eyesore they brought into our world, so we might as well use it.
Surely, you’ve seen them. The commercials. There is apparently only one way to reinvigorate an automobile manufacturer’s brand, and that is to record a bunch of “normal people”—aka bad actors—acting very surprised that a car that meets the standards of their 30-second inspection could possibly be created by a brand they implicitly thought to be a terrible manufacturer of cars.
Traded from the Reds to the Marlins, Dan Straily is an example of how new pitching data can help change a repertoire.
For nerdy baseball fans, the worst trade of the offseason was the Reds’ swap of Dan Straily to the Marlins. That’s not because there was an especially egregious mismatch in value in the deal; it was because the move separated Straily from the Reds’ beat reporters.
Just before being dealt, Straily spent almost an hour on a podcast with Zach Buchanan, one of the Reds writers for the Cincinnati Enquirer (and author of the Reds chapter in this year's Baseball Prospectus Annual). It was a delightful listening experience: wide-ranging but detailed, relaxed, smart. They talked about hunting and (ironically) what it’s like to be blindsided by a trade. My favorite discussion centered on the trip to Driveline Baseball from which Straily had returned just before the interview.
Jeffrey Loria, as you may have heard, is selling the Miami Marlins. Nothing’s finalized, but it appears that one of baseball’s most, um, notable owners is going to receive $1.6 billion for a team that cost him $158 million in 2002. (I know, it didn’t really cost him that. Hang on, I’m getting there.)