Hey, everyone. You may or may not know by now that one common usage of the BP Annual is to play a little game where you eliminate contextual information and have people try to guess who the player might be. This game has been around mostly in podcast (or in-person) form, but we thought with baseball on hiatus we’d bring it to our electronic pages. Feel free to make your guesses in the comments. We’ll update tomorrow (or later) with correct answers. You can order the Annual and play this game (or just plain enjoy it) in your home, your spouse’s home, or your gazebo here. Shouts to the now defunct Defensive Indifference podcast for introducing me to it.
1. _____ has now surrendered 113 homers over the past five seasons, ranking him 23rd among big-league pitchers. (For reference, he’s 43rd in innings during that span.) He has a tantalizing skillset, including a mid-90s fastball and four secondary pitches. The best one, the changeup, is a true swing-and-miss offering (16 percent whiff rate) and protects him from platoon-heavy lineups. But that home-run problem lingers, and has been the difference between a potential mid-rotation starter and somebody who has to scrap to hang onto a rotation spot. The _____ hope a change of scenery can reverse his fortunes—at least long enough to drum up trade interest.
2. “You could have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t do the right thing, then nothing happens.” DeNiro’s bus-driving father character in A Bronx Tale could have been talking about _____, assuming you translate “the right thing” to mean focusing on defensive fundamentals and making more contact to help channel peerless natural athleticism, power and double-plus speed into consistent production. The only thing consistent in _____’s game has been its inconsistency at the plate and in the field, and now that he’s spent much of the last two seasons dealing with recurring elbow problems, we’ve seen a whole lot of “nothing happens” lately. Guys that whiff in over a third of their plate appearances rarely put it all together over the long haul, but a healthy _____ could still tease out a .280/.330/.500 line in some future peak season and then draw years of paychecks from teams waiting in vain for him to repeat it.
3. Using The Ball as an explanation for an unexpected 2019 power breakout is fast becoming a tired, intellectually lazy argument. Forget the banality of everyday, materialist realism—we need myths to describe what happened to _____, who was an unassuming utility infielder with 10 career home runs and a .366 slugging percentage in over 900 major-league plate appearances coming into last season. He promptly went gonzo and jacked 16 bombs in a half-season until he launch-angled some extreme exit velocity off of his shin and succumbed to a broken tibia. Was the power a Faustian bargain? Icarus flying too close to the sun? While the _____ are filled to the brim with tantalizing storylines heading into 2020, one of the low-key more interesting ones will be the next installment of the myth of _____, even if The Ball ends up being the all-too-prosaic denouement to the tale.
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