It’s been a tough week. Let’s start out light, then get a little heavy, eh?
Matty D talks to Scott Merkin about increasing his role as a pitcher in the future. It’s something that he’s talked up, but manager Ricky Renteria hasn’t seemed to hot for. At any rate, Davidson makes an interesting parallel, likening hitters pitching to the influx of Swiss Army knife players we’ve seen over the past few years:
Matt Davidson says he could be like Ohtani
"I think that's something in the future there will be a lot more [hitters pitching]. Right now, there are so many utility guys who play tons of positions. It used to be solely kind of the bench role 10 years go. Now, some teams are switching guys every day almost. I could see that in the future."
Over at FanGraphs, Dan Szymborski conducts a post-mortem on the 2018 Chicago White Sox. Come for the odd lead art of Miguel González, agonize through the prediction that the White Sox will do nothing in free agency but find another James Shieldsy starter to eat innings, and stay for the bullish ZiPS read on Eloy Jiménez (228 homers and 20.9 WAR through 2025, with comps including ... GULP ... Miguel Cabrera):
Elegy for ’18 – Chicago White Sox | FanGraphs Baseball
The computer did project a 1-in-455 chance that the White Sox would make the playoffs. That’s not because the roster was actually all that strong, but simply because the future is uncertain and the team did have some players who could conceivably catch fire. It didn’t happen, as was the likely result, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have. Baseball and Calvinism don’t mix.
Also at FanGraphs, David Laurila has a pretty sweet conversation with Reynaldo López, with Coop coming in with a cameo. Some nice info here, including how Max Scherzer tutored him. Particularly inspiring is López’s quest to become a “smart” pitcher. I still see López with the most ace potential on this team, beyond that of even Carlos Rodón or Michael Kopech. And no, I am not simply seduced by his delightful smile:
Reynaldo Lopez’s Quest to Become a Smart Power Pitcher | FanGraphs Baseball
With a fastball that averages 96 mph and has touched triple-digits, Lopez also qualifies as a power pitcher. The suggestion that he’s morphing into a “smart power pitcher” prompts an appreciative smile. “Before, I was just a thrower,” affirmed Lopez. “Now I’m a pitcher. I know that I have a good fastball — I have good velocity — but I also know that I can be more effective mixing my fastball with other pitches. I’m smarter now with how to use my repertoire. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m going to continue to keep learning.”
Jay Jaffe at FanGraphs takes a look at Miggy Kopech himself, and it’s a deep dive into mechanics and TJS trends, seen somewhat through the lens of last week’s Kopech news. It’s not raised in the piece as such, but will we ever see a time where pitchers aren’t being told to hurl with 100% effort on every pitch?
Michael Kopech and the Cold Comfort of Tommy John Trends | FanGraphs Baseball
Just 14.1 innings: that’s all we’ll get from Michael Kopech at the big-league level until 2020. On Friday afternoon, the White Sox announced that the 22-year-old fireballer has a significant tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and will require Tommy John surgery. Unlike the previous gut punch that baseball fans were dealt just two days earlier — that Shohei Ohtani needs the surgery, as well — there was no dramatic buildup, no injection of platelet-rich plasma after the first report of a UCL sprain, followed by rest and hope backed with worry that it wouldn’t be enough to stave off surgery. On Wednesday, Kopech was pitching. On Friday, he was cooked, though he’ll go about getting a second opinion before the fork, and ultimately the knife, are stuck in him.
We can’t discuss Jiménez and Kopech without at least touching on the service time dilemma. First, Baseball Prospectus writes on the influx of capital that hot-ticket prospects provide affiliates:
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Eloy Jimenez Help Teams Move Merch
“I was hesitant. In my 37 years, it’s never really warranted [anticipating having a large inventory of merchandise in stock],” Knights COO Dan Rajkowski said. “I can’t remember the last time that we did it. You might order three dozen and you’d have two and a half dozen left, but Moncada was the exception. He had several re-orders. Then we did it with (Michael) Kopech this year, and we’re doing it with Jimenez now, and it catches on.
And finally, Joe Sheehan tackles the issue for what it is: betraying the spirit of the rules — and overlooking the time immemorial tradition of fielding a baseball team to win games:
Sheehan: There's A Better Way
The reasons for [manipulating service time] are well known by now. By keeping Guerrero and Jimenez in the minors this year—and the early days of 2019—the Jays and White Sox ensure that those players cannot reach free agency for an additional season. We saw the Braves hold down Ronald Acuna Jr. at the start of the 2018 for the same reason. In 2015, the Cubs left Kris Bryant in the minors for two weeks with an eye toward delaying his free agency by a year. Even players with experience can be trapped this way; the Twins didn’t recall Byron Buxton, demoted during an injury-plagued season, so as to extend their control of him into the 2022 season.