5 Issues I Preferred (Or Didn’t Like) This Week, June 23


Joey Votto

Welcome to a different installment of 5 Issues, a take a look at odd circumstances and pleasant happenings that caught my eye this previous week. With the NBA solidly in its offseason, Zach Lowe’s column is taking a break, which implies I is likely to be the one Issues present on the town proper now. This week was an superior one for watching baseball, and I had a tough time narrowing the record down. I hope you want legends making large performs, unheralded rookies swinging video games, and two Bay Space groups headed in reverse instructions. Who am I kidding? In fact you want these issues. Let’s get to it.

1. Joey’s Again!
The Reds are a lot enjoyable that I thought of making a whole 5 issues column out of issues I’m loving in Cincinnati as of late, however I believe we simply name that an article, so I’m going to accept writing about among the best elements of their current profitable streak. As enjoyable because it’s been to see the newborn Reds acquire confidence and romp to the highest of the NL Central, there was one thing lacking. All these youngsters are enjoyable, however they had been lacking the staff’s greatest participant in a technology whereas he rehabbed in preparation for what is going to virtually definitely be his final journey.

I began to get excited when Joey Votto’s goofy bus driver persona resurfaced. However I gained’t mislead you: I used to be nervous that he won’t slot in in addition to hoped. The infield was already full of contributors, and Votto would possibly lead the staff to some robust taking part in time selections they didn’t actually need to make. He wasn’t even that good final yr! It was undoubtedly not preordained that every little thing would work out.

It nonetheless won’t work out. Votto’s debut recreation was a delight, although. He went 2-3 with a stroll, the sort of efficiency we’ve come to count on from him through the years. He labored counts, crushed the ball when he hit it, and customarily appeared like he hadn’t missed a beat. He even launched a powerful dwelling run:

Getting an above common model of Votto again might go a great distance in direction of maintaining the Reds rolling. Their outfield is dicey at greatest. Their beginning pitching has produced a 5.65 ERA in June, and that’s with Hunter Greene, who’s now on the IL. Their success has been pushed by big performances from Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, Spencer Steer, and shock star TJ Friedl. In some unspecified time in the future, somebody might want to take strain off of these guys.

Perhaps that strain valve gained’t be Votto. He adopted up his pleasant debut with an 0-4 displaying on Tuesday and a wild one — 0-2 with two HBPs — on Wednesday. At 39, he won’t have a lot affect baseball left in him. However let me dream for somewhat bit. Votto is superior, and I’m not prepared for his profession to be executed simply but.

2. Blake Perkins Has Wheels
I’m going to start out this section off with a ton of caveats. Ketel Marte is a poor second base defender; he’s in all probability only a poor defender in all places, in reality. Blake Perkins is restricted offensively; we have now him at 35 recreation energy on the 20–80 scale, and that appears beneficiant primarily based on his batted ball metrics. However man oh man, the Brewers have discovered one thing enjoyable of their desperation biking by means of whichever outfielders can keep on the sector. Perkins kind of gained them the sport on Tuesday night time towards a surging Diamondbacks squad.

The scenario: the Brewers trailed 5–3 heading into the underside of the seventh. Luis Urías began the inning by drawing a stroll. Then Perkins set to work. To guide issues off, he slapped a weak grounder to first base — not precisely the way in which you draw up your rally. Belief me on this one, although: issues labored out anyway:

Now, ought to Marte have made that play? Certain. However that was a basic case of hustle paying off. Marte appeared to second as a result of he’s made a variation of that play 100 occasions and the runner has by no means come wherever close to being protected. I’m pretty sure that the rationale he nonchalanted that ball over to first is as a result of nobody runs that onerous on that foolish little hit. However Perkins does, and it paid off.

Okay, so Perkins had modified one out to a success with sheer hustle and velocity. I’m undecided that’s article segment-worthy, however you’ll be able to guess the place that is going. With nobody out as an alternative of 1 out, Joey Wiemer stepped to the plate and smashed a grounder proper again up the center. It wasn’t a tailored double play ball, as a result of it deflected off of Austin Adams, however absolutely there was some out to be gotten. Or no less than there would have been, if it weren’t for that meddling Perkins:

Might Marte have made that play at first? I believe so. He bought fairly unfortunate, although. He needed to spin to discipline the ball and thus had his again to Perkins when he was deciding what to do. From this angle, you’ll be able to see that going to second was a nasty alternative, however that’s onerous to know when your again is to the play:

I believe Marte might have gotten Wiemer there, although I suppose it might need been shut. He didn’t get Perkins, as we noticed. What might have been two outs if every little thing went effectively and Perkins had been only a tiny bit slower became zero outs and the bases loaded. The Brewers cashed in all three runs, and even a bonus one, beginning with an RBI groundout from Christian Yelich that in any other case might have ended the inning. They gained 7–5. Pace actually does change video games.

3. Cowardly Bunts
No matter you consider the zombie runner, one factor about its existence is a constructive: it offers managers an opportunity to get bizarre. Pinch-runners, situational hitting, bunts, intentional walks, unusual infield configurations: there’s typically one thing barely unusual happening in further innings as of late, and I like it.

There’s one explicit tactic I detest, although: sacrifice bunting when behind. It’s a sucker’s guess, a play that feels prefer it’s efficient however truly prices your staff dearly. Taking part in for a tie is rarely pretty much as good because it sounds, for an easy mathematical purpose. The distinction between ending an additional inning down a run and ending that inning tied is half a win — a positive loss in comparison with a 50/50 shot. That’s the identical because the distinction between ending the inning tied and ending the inning up a run — a 50/50 shot in comparison with a positive win. That makes the maths fairly simple: the profitable run is price as a lot because the tying run, so sacrificing outs and subsequently possibilities at scoring a second run to extend your odds of scoring a primary run is a nasty share play.

Main league managers have executed this math. Within the first two and a half months of the 2023 season, no staff led off the underside of an additional inning with a bunt try when trailing. There have been solely seven such makes an attempt in 2022, and 5 in 2021. It’s not even truthful to say that the tactic is dying; it was hardly alive to start with.

I’ve dangerous information on this entrance, although. Mark Kotsay is singlehandedly combating this development. Final Saturday, the A’s and Phillies went into extras. After the Phillies went scoreless within the high of the tenth, Kotsay had JJ Bleday bunt. He didn’t get the bunt down, and the A’s went scoreless. The Phillies adopted up by scoring within the high of the eleventh. Kotsay shockingly went again to the effectively:

Hey, it labored! It didn’t matter even somewhat bit. The subsequent batter, Carlos Pérez, laced a game-tying double. However with one much less out to work with, the A’s couldn’t drive Perez dwelling. This can be a textbook instance of why you don’t bunt when down a run; loads of the ways in which tie the sport would have scored that run no matter whether or not the runner was on second or third.

The Phillies bought one other shot towards the worst pitching workers in baseball, they usually scored one other run. Kotsay had already been burned by bunts not as soon as however twice in further innings. He didn’t care. Shea Langeliers joined the bunt brigade:

Ugh. Esteury Ruiz adopted that up by putting out on three pitches. Bleday grounded out weakly to first to finish the sport. I’ve been feeling somewhat bandwagon-y in regards to the A’s after the rollicking reverse boycott, however these bunts are making me rethink my choice.

4. Mike Yastrzemski’s Sneaky Robust Season
Throughout the bay, issues are going decidedly higher. The Giants have surged into playoff place due to an extended profitable streak that included a uncommon sweep of the Dodgers in Los Angeles. They’ve gotten contributions up and down the roster. Thairo Estrada, J.D. Davis, and LaMonte Wade Jr. appear to be potential All Stars, Joc Pederson has been glorious when wholesome, and rookie Patrick Bailey is off to a robust begin behind the plate. On the pitching aspect, Logan Webb has been his standard stable self, Alex Cobb is having fun with a bounceback season, and the bullpen appears sturdy.

That’s all true, however don’t overlook one other Large: Mike Yastrzemski is doing the identical factor he does yearly, hitting greater than you’d count on and taking part in stable protection wherever the Giants want him. It could be boring if the lengthy sweep of his profession weren’t so sudden. Yastrzemski’s output has appeared unsustainable yr after yr, and I’ve heard he’s “been solved” by opposing pitchers greater than a handful of occasions. But right here he’s, producing at an All-Star degree at age 32. He would possibly by no means get a giant free company payout, as a result of he didn’t debut till age 28, however he’s been someplace between stable and nice for fairly some time now.

His 2023 marketing campaign has been pushed by energy. Oracle Park is likely to be the place dwelling runs go to die, nevertheless it’s a impartial offensive park for lefties total due to the large energy alleys, which end in 8% extra doubles and 23% extra triples than your common stadium. That matches Yastrzemski’s recreation to a tee; he will get the ball within the air very often, and often to the pull aspect. There’s loads of room for these batted balls to land safely in right-center, and if he pulls them down the road, effectively:

Certainly, the regression prepare will truly arrive in some unspecified time in the future. At this level, although, it’s protected to say that expertise evaluators merely bought this one incorrect. Yastrzemski appeared like a profession minor leaguer proper up till he began holding his personal within the majors. He appeared like a flash within the pan till he backed it up. Now it looks like he ought to be in age-related decline, and he merely isn’t.

It’s simple to get misplaced in projections and estimates of future worth. It’s simple to say that what somebody is doing isn’t sustainable, as if that in some way diminishes it. However the manufacturing Yastrzemski is racking up isn’t faux. It helps the Giants win video games. If he weren’t round, this staff wouldn’t be pretty much as good, and it wouldn’t have been pretty much as good in any of the previous 4 years both. Not everybody must be a franchise-carrying phenom. What an exquisite profession.

5. Clayton Kershaw Climbs the Ladder
Tuesday night time featured a pitching duel in Anaheim. Clayton Kershaw and Reid Detmers battled to a standstill over the primary sixth innings, however after Detmers turned in a clear seventh, Kershaw bumped into bother. Hunter Renfroe doubled to place runners on second and third with nobody out in a 0–0 ballgame, which left Kershaw no margin for error. He coaxed a grounder out of Kevin Padlo that was too onerous to permit Drury to attain, and you could possibly see the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel. Chad Wallach was due up subsequent, and he has a profession 33.6% strikeout fee.

Wallach didn’t go down simply, although. He fouled off two sliders to get into an 0–2 gap, after which he began battling. First, a number of takes:

Subsequent, a foul ball after which a take that just about became a known as strikeout:

Wallach was placing collectively a masterful at-bat. Kershaw had thrown three sliders within the strike zone; he’d swung in any respect three. Kershaw had missed the zone with three breaking balls; Wallach took all three. It wasn’t a superb fastball spot, what with a runner on third and fewer than two outs, however Wallach was hanging so robust towards the softer stuff that I might need tried to raise a heater and dwell with the outcomes. Kershaw had one thing completely different in thoughts:

To be truthful, I don’t assume he truly had that pitch in thoughts. Will Smith’s actions behind the plate had been similar to the 2 low balls from earlier within the at-bat. However that UFO slider bamboozled Wallach. He muttered to himself as he walked off, the sufferer of a weird pitch that labored completely. Kershaw skated by means of the inning unscathed, the Dodgers scored two within the high of the eighth, and that was that.

How bizarre was this pitch? Kershaw began pitching in 2008, the primary yr for which we have now pitch monitoring information. In his illustrious profession, he’s racked up 2,622 swinging strikes on sliders. Precisely 5 of them had been larger off the bottom than this one. All 5 got here in 2015 or earlier than. The final time he bought a swinging strike inside even six inches of this one’s top was 2016. Fairly merely, this isn’t how his slider works.

Besides it did work, even when it wasn’t what he deliberate. That’s baseball for you: generally a miscalculation pays off in sudden methods. Generally you hold a slider so excessive that it’s now not hanging, and as an alternative dangled simply out of attain, like a steak on a desk simply too excessive for a canine to get its mouth to. Kershaw shook his head ruefully whilst Smith pointed his glove out on the mound. “Good pitch,” Smith’s gesture stated. “I imply…” countered Kershaw’s. Don’t you simply love baseball?


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