December 8, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Thursday, April 04, 2013
Today was supposed to be the first day that I posted ATH later than I used to. Really: I was going to restore life balance with this one. I watched the Braves game last night but rather than stay up another hour and a half or two hours getting most of the recaps done, I turned off the TV and computer, went upstairs, read some non-baseball related things for a bit and then went to bed at a decent hour. I was then going to wake up at six or so, calmly and with rest write ATH, post it at eight or something, content with the knowledge that 95 percent of you wouldn't mind.
Then I woke up at 4:15 a.m. for no damn reason.
Whatever. Maybe life balance will return tomorrow. Anyway:
Braves 9, Phillies 2: You know, I'd take way more pleasure in the Braves pounding the Phillies if it didn't happen against Roy Halladay, because I actually really love that guy and hate to see these struggles. Guess I'll have to get over that too. In the meantime: Evan Gattis homered in his major league debut, Justin Upton hit a lazy, grit-free homer -- clearly not playing to the scoreboard -- and Jason Heyward added one against Jonathan Papelbon, who probably would have pitched better if he had anyone to lead him. As for Gattis: with his newly-grown beard, dude looks like Mad Dog Buzz Sawyer, I have decided. Which led me to spend a good hour during the game last night in a Georgia Championship Wrestling Wikipedia hole. Which, by the way, is one of the kinds of things that help one restore life balance.
Giants 5, Dodgers 3: Walking seven in five innings is no way to go through life, son, but I suppose if you only give up two runs and drive one in yourself on a fielder's choice it's OK. Homers from Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence help too. In other news, given that one of those two guys is famously zaftig and the other one is on a hardcore paleo diet, I just got about 30 seconds of giggles trying to picture them going out after the game to celebrate their heroics and getting into a fight trying to settle on a restaurant. Are there any combination kale/areapa places near Dodger Stadium?
Rays 8, Orioles 7: Walkoff bomb for Matt Joyce, saving Fernando Rodney's bacon after he uncharacteristically blew a lead in the top of the ninth. It was the first time he'd even allowed a run since last Aug. 18. Joyce's quote after the game:
"To get the first win out of the way, and to have it in dramatic fashion kind of seems to be the Rays way."
Funny. I thought "The Rays Way" was to slam former teammates for not having winning attitudes and claim that "The Rays Way" magically sprung into being the moment you yourself made the roster. Huh.
Diamondbacks 10, Cardinals 9: Matthew did a recap here. I'll note that the fact that the D-backs played a 16-inning game but were still afraid to use Heath Bell again speaks volumes. In other news, the fact that this game lasted beyond 3 a.m. Eastern is part of the reason I'm gonna try not to get too hung up on staying up late to get these recaps done so darn early. Unless NBC will finally honor that request I put in about transferring me to a company-paid condo in a desirable west coast location I can't hope to keep up with the late games and do them justice. Waiting to hear back from my supervisor on this any day now.
Mets 8, Padres 4: Matt Harvey struck out 10 in seven shutout innings and his teammates supplied him with three two-run homers and a couple more on top. Which, keeping in mind it's only been a couple of games, leads one to ask startling questions. Maybe that's why I woke up at 4:15 a/m. The possibility of unexpected horrors and such.
Rockies 7, Brewers 3: Juan Nicasio got his first win in nearly a year. Wilin Rosario,Michael Cuddyer and Dexter Fowler all homered too, as the Rockies take two of three from the Brewers to start the year. Walt Weiss after the game:
"Get good starting pitching and it tends to fall into place for you."
That should happen at least a couple dozen times for him this season.
Indians 3, Blue Jays 2: Mark Reynolds hit the go-ahead homer in the 11th. This after Chris Perez blew the save in the ninth by surrendering a homer to Jose Bautista. I like the Indians this year and think they'll surprise a lot of people, but Mark Reynolds and Chris Perez in key situations is gonna give Indians fans a lot of heartburn. The Jays start 0-2, putting a serious damper on that offseason title they won.
Athletics 6, Mariners 2: Tommy Milone gave up a couple of homers in the first inning but then he chilled out and pitched six shutout innings on top of that one. Jed Lowrie went 3-for-3 with a homer a walk and three RBIs. Nate Freiman had two hits and an RBI in his major league debut, which is pretty cool.
Red Sox 7, Yankees 4: Clay Buchholz allowed one run in seven innings. Hiroki Kuroda took an early shower thanks to a Shane Victorino liner off his pitching hand. Not gonna bury the Yankees like everyone else, but their best shot to weather this early season storm of injuries and self-inflicted roster deficiencies is to get solid work from the 1-2-3 in their rotation. So far they're 0 for 2 in that department.
Twins 3, Tigers 2: The girlfriend records a Tigers podcast each week for the Bless You Boys website. They were set to record this week's installment last night right after this game ended. It ended with Phil Coke and the Tigers' new quasi closer-by-committee setup blowing the game. I couldn't hear them in the other room recording the podcast, but it took way longer than usual, so I can only assume it was to edit out all the f-bombs and bitter asides and such. If it were me, this week's podcast would consist of me beating up an effigy of Jim Leyland as I screamed "DO NOT LET PHIL COKE PITCH TO RIGHTIES EVER, SEE?"
Pirates 3, Cubs 0: Wandy Rodriguez shut the Cubs out into the seventh inning, ending his night by getting out of a bases loaded jam with a strikeout of Brett Lillibridge with the count full. Just froze his butt. That bases loaded situation notwithstanding, the Cubs managed only two hits and that was the only time they got someone as far as third base.
Rangers 4, Astros 0: Houston was shut out for the second straight game, this time by Alexi Ogando -- who struck out 10 in six and a third -- and four relievers who were mostly around to get some work in after not exactly needing it the past couple of games. The Astros have struck out 43 times in three games.
Nationals 3, Marlins 0: Gio Gonzalez did it all, throwing six shutout innings and hitting a homer. He was like that elephant in the old "Gone Batty" cartoon. Or maybe Bugs Bunny in "Baseball Bugs." Hey, wait a minute. Warner Brothers was recycling cartoon plots!
White Sox 5, Royals 2: Jake Peavy threw a solid six and four Sox hit homers. The White Sox lost 12 of 18 to the Royals last year. If they had gone .500 against Kansas City they would've tied the Tigers for the AL Central title. So taking the first two games of the season from them probably feels pretty good.
Reds 5, Angels 4: Joey Votto drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth with a hot shot off Albert Pujols' glove. Brandon Phillips hit a three-run homer. He's the Reds' cleanup hitter now, which is weird. But life is weird sometimes. Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are a combined 0 for 15 with five strikeouts in the first two games of the season. The Angels might survive yet another slow start from Pujols and early struggles from Hamilton. One wonders if Mike Scioscia will, though. I know it's impossibly early, but I sorta feel like he's gonna be the first manager to get the axe this year. You don't sign the biggest free agents in the game two years running, get bad results and avoid someone being made a scapegoat.
OK, this time I mean it: tomorrow ATH is gonna be up later. Totally seriously.
Cleveland Indians' hurler Ubaldo Jimenez has a lot in common with his teammates Trevor Bauer and Scott Kazmir—they're all trying to fix various mechanical issues.
Bauer believes how his back leg operated caused a groin strain, so he's changed how he initiates linear movement. Kazmir's velocity dropped like a stone and he started becoming more methodical on the mound; after visiting the Texas Baseball Ranch and Dynamic Sports Training in Texas, he's regained that explosiveness.
Jimenez' mechanical issues have been well-documented on THT by yours truly (original article, recap article), but he and his coaches don't necessarily agree with my conclusions.
In an article yesterday, Jorge Arangure Jr. wrote:
Jimenez would spend hours watching video of his most successful years and comparing it to video of how he currently pitched. The differences were striking. Who was this guy? The new Ubaldo stopped using his left shoulder to balance himself, which in turn sapped him of all the torque that he used to create to throw the ball at high speeds. The new Ubaldo could hardly muster a ball over 90 mph. His delivery had become slow, deliberate and calculated. It was if he had been trying to deconstruct every movement.
This isn't the first time his front shoulder has been mentioned. Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer wrote:
New pitching coach Mickey Callaway simply asked Jimenez to not pause his windup and to keep his front shoulder pointed toward home plate.
Doug Thorburn of Baseball Prospectus focused on Ubaldo's front shoulder, saying:
I happen to disagree with Kyle's assertion that Ubaldo's struggles have nothing to do with the front shoulder, especially given that the issues with early arm action are mostly harmful if they have the ripple effect of creating early rotation and "shoulder flying open." ... In this case, I had noticed both the early hand separation and the bizarre wrist-flick as the throwing arm reaches its lowest point (in CLE), however I do not consider these to be glaring issues.
Well, it appears that Jimenez has been listening to all this discussion of how to use his front shoulder. To all of that, I have this to say: Be careful what you wish for.
Here's what he looks like in 2010 (96 mph), 2012 (91 mph), and the first start of 2013 (90 mph):
Want to see what he looks like now compared to when he was a fireballing phenom in Colorado—in painfully slow motion?
If Jimenez thinks that what he is doing now is anything like what he did in Colorado when he was at his best, he is... well, obviously incorrect.
Why did he think that he "used his front shoulder to balance himself?" He never used his front shoulder in such a manner; he makes it sound like that he levered it like Andy Pettitte does. Ubaldo never once looked like that. He was more athletic, more fluid, more explosive. His arm action was more efficient; it wasn't forced.
These mechanics below are as close as he has ever gotten to regaining that 2010 tempo, rhythm, arm action, and most importantly, velocity:
Changing arm action without changing arm action
It is widely held that arm action cannot (or should not) be directly changed by manipulating the movement of the throwing arm; that instead, we should use the glove arm and other things in the delivery to make the changes we desire in the throwing arm. That is what Thorburn, Callaway, and others are espousing. Jimenez now has an incredible shoulder tilt, a pitching arm that is pinned to his side during the linear shift, a glove arm that gets no extension, a soft front side, and a stride angle that deflects open by an outrageous amount (which has strong correlation with increased elbow valgus stress).
These mechanics as displayed against Toronto cannot and will not restore his velocity. Will it allow him to be an effective pitcher? Perhaps. But the Cleveland Indians didn't trade for a No. 3 control-type pitcher when they parted with Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner, and Matt McBride. They thought they were getting a fireballer who could dominate on any given night, a guy who could flash upper 90s heat at-will.
Ubaldo Jimenez will never be that guy again if he continues to throw the way he does——and I believe he will continue to lose velocity throughout the season if these mechanics keep up.
Twenty-five years ago today, George Bell made history with one of the greatest performances in the history of Opening Day.
It was April 4, 1988, and Bell wasn’t merely the star left fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, he was also the defending AL MVP. Sabermetric types don’t think much of Bell’s winning that award over the more well-rounded Alan Trammell in 1987, but it’s easy to see what caught the voters’ attention: his giant, gaudy power numbers.
He blasted 47 homers that season, more than any other American Leaguer since the 1960s (though not enough to lead the league, as a rookie named Mark McGwire blasted 49) alongside a league-topping 134 RBIs (the second-most by any AL player in the 1980s to that point).
After a season like that, what would Bell do for an encore? After Opening Day 1988, it looked like the sky was the limit.
In his first trip to the plate of the new season, Bell faced star Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen and promptly hit one out of the park to lead off the second inning. Yeah, that’s a nice start to the season.
Two innings later Bell did it again, this time a two-run bomb with one out. He clearly had Saberhagen’s number. Fans could be forgiven for wondering if Bell would top himself and hit 50 dingers on the year.
Or not. In the sixth, Saberhagen finally won a battle, getting Bell to fly out harmlessly to left, but the game wasn’t over yet. In the eighth, with Saberhagen still pitching, Bell came to the plate one last time and yet again smashed one over the fence.
With that swing, Bell had made history. Many had blasted three homers—or even four—in one game before, but none had ever done it on Opening Day. Since then, it’s been done twice, by Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes and Dmitri Young, but Bell was the first.
Some fans must have left the stadium dreaming of a 60-homer season from the bigger slugger. Sure it was a tall order, but then again, he was on pace for 486. Predictably, Bell fell short. In fact, while he did a nice job hitting all month long, including a 5-for-5 performance in the second game of the season, Bell ended April with just four homers, his three on Opening Day plus one more. He finished the year with 24 long balls and for the rest of his career never rose above the mid-20s in homers.
But no one will ever be able to erase what Bell did 25 years ago today when he hit three home runs on Opening Day for Toronto.
Aside from that many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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