Oakland Athletics traded RHP Shintaro Fujinami to Baltimore Orioles for LHP Easton Lucas.
When the Orioles picked up Fujinami to unofficially kick off deadline season (I hear you yelling about Aroldis Chapman but June trades don’t count), former BPer and current CBS Sports author R.J. Anderson made a keen observation:
So far…that hasn’t been the case. It’s also been a total of two outings, so we shouldn’t come to any firm conclusions. What we should note, though, is basically everyone’s reaction to this deal was more about how the Orioles are going to adjust Fujinami to take advantage of his potent stuff, rather than if they could salvage something from a guy with a 8.57 ERA at the time of the trade.
Fujinami had already started pitching better in relief with Oakland (5.94 ERA), but there seems to be some significant low-hanging fruit to pluck for Baltimore, as Anderson noted above—given the Whiff% difference, it would make sense to lean on the splitter more frequently. Even if there is some erosion in whiff rate as he ups the usage, the results would likely improve in aggregate.
Beyond that, and again keeping in mind how small the sample is, the Orioles appear to be tweaking Fujinami’s slider:
|Team||Pitch||N||Max||Avg||H Mov||V Mov||VAA||Spin Rate|
It’s only the two pitches, but they’re both sweepers and have the additional two-plane break to show for it (plus a few added RPM). Fujinami threw both a more traditional slider and a sweeper in Oakland, but our limited view in Baltimore has him focusing on the latter. It makes sense, too: the splitter is fairly immune to platoons as a pitch in general, but Fujinami needs something that moves gloveside to induce chases from right-handed batters.
Things haven’t gone to plan in the early going, with Fujinami surrendering a run in each of his first two appearances. But the early going is less the point, even with Baltimore fighting for the division title at the moment—they can slot their recent acquisition into low-leverage situations, let him find what works there and potentially have a weapon later in the season. Just look at what Yennier Cano has been able to do. —Craig Goldstein
Seattle Mariners placed OF Jarred Kelenic on the 10-day injured list. Left foot fracture.
“I just feel terrible,” the 24-year-old Kelenic told reporters, as he wiped away tears and fought to steady his voice. “Especially for the guys. I let my emotions get the best of me, and… I just… I just let them down.”
“Yikes,” Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims called earlier, “Took it right down the pipe.” Which wasn’t technically true; Jhoan Duran froze the Mariner on a backdoor slider that hooked back over the outside of the plate, a clear strike but also a good one. That ended a nine-pitch at-bat for the first out of the ninth, the tying run in what would be a 6-3 loss. In frustration, Kelenic returned to the dugout, kicked a water cooler, and broke a bone in his foot. He won’t need surgery, but he’ll wear a boot for an extended, if unknown, period.
It’s generally accepted that emotional endurance is just another skill for a professional athlete to train and master, another invisible number in their internal ratings. It’s just part of the deepest contradiction in all of sports: We expect our heroes to be tough, but we also want them to be sorry for disappointing us. The only way out is to never fail. Kelenic has failed more than most; since May 1, he’s hit .230/.303/.370 for a middling ballclub that established no real fallback option for him. He hasn’t hit a home run since June 9. His DRC+ is literally unpublishable, because I don’t want to get yelled at for bringing attention to it.
Kelenic let his emotions get the best of him, and in so doing committed the sin that most fans pride themselves for. In April, that same youthful exuberance led to his early-season breakout; now, it’s the cause of his breakdown. His contrition is real, but as he grows older and wiser the tears will stop coming. Not because he’ll outgrow them, but because he’ll understand the real truth: that everything gets consumed by the narrative, and that Kelenic himself, the brash young man and the wounded young man and the tearful young man, don’t really matter. You don’t get to be human as a professional athlete, at least not while the clock’s running. That’ll only let someone down, usually someone you never agreed to owe. —Patrick Dubuque
Texas Rangers selected the contract of RHP Alex Speas from Triple-A Round Rock.
You may or may not remember Speas from the 2016 draft, where he was popped in the second round as a hard-throwing righty the Rangers could dream on. While he always had the stuff to miss bats, Speas’ bouts of wildness held him back. He hung around through the absence of a minor league season in 2020, reaching as high as Double-A in 2021, where he managed an 11.25 ERA in 12 innings, walking 21 batters (but striking out 23). He left organized baseball last year, opting instead to coach Little League in South Carolina. The experience, seeing the energy the children had for the game, restored his own—his joie de vivre returned, and so did Speas. Slotted right back at Double-A, where he stalled out in 2021, the big righty dominated thanks to a wipeout slider: an 0.64 ERA, 47 punchouts in 28 ⅓ innings and the big difference—only 13 walks. His promotion to Triple-A was short-lived, as he amassed fewer than 10 innings before receiving the call to the majors.
His first outing was 1 ⅔ innings of pure glory, as he struck out three All-Stars (Wander Franco, Randy Arozarena, and Yandy Díaz) in a scoreless, high-leverage outing. He sits 99, but will lean on that slider more than anything, while mixing in a firm cutter. That’s the stuff (reliever) dreams are made of. —Craig Goldstein
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