This season is old enough to know better, but some early hitting performances really stand out.
I know it’s still too early in the season to draw meaningful conclusions about much of anything because my beloved Twins have a winning record, but we are far enough along that only seven hitters with 100 or more plate appearances are beating their 90th percentile PECOTA projections by at least 200 points of OPS. Two of those seven, Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman, are great hitters off to especially strong starts, leaving five genuine, out-of-nowhere surprises among full-time position players. By the end of the season they may all have turned back into pumpkins, but in the meantime my curiosity is piqued.
Ryan Zimmerman credits Daniel Murphy with his comeback season, but can learning from teammates break bad too?
The big story of the Nationals' season so far (other than that guy who got a save the other day) has been the resuscitation of Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman, who has battled injuries for the past few years, reached double digits in home runs for the month of April. According to a story that should probably be called “apocryphal,” Zimmerman’s renaissance can be credited to deep, late-night conversations with teammate Daniel Murphy. Murphy had one weird trick that he suggested Zimmerman might try this year: swing up. Apparently, it worked.
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Can whatever got into Daniel Murphy get into Ryan Zimmerman and, maybe some day, Eric Hosmer?
The revelatory figure responsible for changing at least one player’s career first appeared in early August, 2015. It showed itself to an unsuspecting and inconspicuous soul—don’t they all?—who knew himself in concrete terms. Having accepted both the immense gifts that allowed him to ply his lucrative trade, and the limitations that grounded him on a certain level of it, this Daniel Murphy fellow was to be the protagonist of our tale, even if there was no way he could have known it at the time.
The first shock, of course, was seeing the translucent image of himself emerge from his equipment bag (on a decidedly upward trajectory). But, lacking the wherewithal to question this presumed hallucination about its nature and origin, the shock that Murphy remarked upon was its familiar but incongruous wardrobe.
The challenges of the regular season are more obvious for college coaches, yet the fall is where things start to come into focus.
I’ve said in this space before that coaching is essentially the practice of making adjustments in the best way possible, and Brian O’Connor, head coach of the 2015 College World Series champion Virginia Cavaliers, would agree.
Time heals all wounds, but in Washington's case, it will also inflict them.
You’d think Bryce Harper’s comeback from his latest long-term injury would be cause for unbridled celebration, and in some contexts, it has been (see the standing ovation Harper received from the fans at Nationals Park before his first plate appearance on Monday). However, the 21-year-old outfielder’s return also been cause for consternation. Harper’s presence, coupled with Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing problems from third, have given the Nats more qualified position players than they have open positions, which has made everyone around the team wonder: Where will they put their surplus player(s)?
Most teams suffer from the opposite issue—too few productive players—so the Nationals’ quandary is an example of the proverbial “good problem to have.” Still, it seems as though there’s no easy answer, and so the discussion has staying power. Twice last month, two weeks apart, I appeared on MLB Network’s MLB Now; both times, Washington’s positional logjam was a featured topic, and both times, the panel was split over what manager Matt Williams should do. The discourse in print hasn’t been much more decisive.
Given his sterling 2.86 ERA after shutting down Chicago on Monday night, explaining the greatness of Dodgers starter Zack Greinke comes pretty easy. Even with declining velocity—his average fastball has dropped from 94 mph to 91.7 mph since 2007—few pitchers consistently contribute at the same level.
But in 2013, there’s an aspect of Greinke’s performance that cannot be ignored. After going 1-for-2 with a walk against the Cubs on Monday, the Dodgers starter is now hitting .340/.426/.383 this season. He’s not merely baseball’s only starting pitcher posting better-than-average hitting numbers, he’s leaps and bounds ahead of his peers.
The tater trots for July 23 (and the weekend): Mike Napoli hits a bomb, Carlos Gonzalez takes a stroll, and Chase Utley edges out Josh Rutledge.
It's been a few days since the last Tater Trot Tracker post. And though I was able to time each trot over the weekend, I missed highlighting a few special home runs. The biggest homers of note came on Saturday, when Cole Hamels served up a home run to Matt Cain in the top of the third inning and then, in the bottom of the inning, Cain returned the favor to Hamels. It was the first time two starters had hit home runs in the same inning since 1990. Hamels, who had never hit a home run before, won the race between the two pitchers, besting Cain's 21.51 second trot with a 21.13 second trot of his own.
With 81 games in the books, Ben looks at which players are most likely to outperform, or underperform, their first-half results.
According to most sources, the start of the season’s second half is still more than a week away, but technically, it’s already upon us. All but two teams have played at least half of the games on their schedules. That means that most players have already accrued about half of the counting stats they’ll have at the end of the year, enough to give us some sense of whether their seasons are shaping up to be disappointments or successes.
Of course, some players have already left the bulk of their hitting behind them, while others are about to break out. Last season, Dan Uggla went into the All-Star break batting .185. After action resumed, he upped his average considerably, hitting .296 in the second half. Dexter Fowler played so poorly in the first half of 2011 that he was forced to spend a remedial month at Colorado Springs. After returning in mid-July, he hit .288/.381/.498, swatting all five of his homers and swiping 10 of his 12 stolen bases. On the other end of the spectrum, Jose Bautista hit 31 of his AL-leading 43 home runs before the break, and his teammate Adam Lind completely collapsed after June, following up a .300/.349/.515 first half with a .197/.233/.356 second-half showing.