Ian Kinsler was awarded his only Gold Glove in 2016. He’s been deserving of several more. Presenting at SABR’s national convention last weekend, Chris Dial shared that Kinsler has topped SABR’s Defensive Index at second base in five separate seasons, and on three other occasions he ranked as the runner up. Another metric is equally bullish on his glove work. Since breaking into the big leagues in 2006, Kinsler has 115 Defensive Runs Saved, the most of anyone at his position.
I asked the 36-year-old Angel if he was aware of how well he stacks up by the numbers.
“I secretly knew that,” smiled Kinsler, who then proceeded to balance appreciation with a touch of old-school skepticism for defensive metrics.
“It’s always nice to be valued in one way or another,” acknowledged Kinsler, who spent eight seasons in Texas, and four more in Detroit, before coming to Anaheim. “I don’t know if analytics are always correct. They don’t take into account everything this game offers, and I don’t know if they ever will, but to be thought of in that regard is flattering.”
Kinsler credits hard work for his having developed into a plus defender, as well as the tutelage of coaches and teammates.
“I was a shortstop until I got to Triple-A,” said Kinsler, who broke into pro ball with the Rangers. “When I moved to second base, Mike Brumley helped me a lot. Ron Washington helped me a lot. From there, I picked things up from people along the way. A lot goes into playing defense.”
Given Washington’s reputation, it came as no surprise to hear him cited as a mentor. The infield-defense guru’s teaching methods are atypical.
“He’s got his own style, his own way of fielding,” explained Kinsler. “It works for some, helps others, and doesn’t work for some. He wants you to attack the ball and stop the ball, rather than catch the ball. That’s uncomfortable for some guys. But there are certain plays where you need to use that technique, and I practiced it so much that when I do need to use that technique, I’m on point with it.”
Kinsler was hesitant to cite other influences and mentors — “there have been a lot of them” — but he did say that Adrian Beltre taught him how to go back on the ball — “my tendency had always been to move forward” — which translated well to his move the right side of the diamond, where there’s more time to get off a throw. He also name-checked Omar Vizquel, who he was teammates with for one season in Texas. Vizquel has 11 Gold Gloves, which is 10 more than Kinsler can claim. Based on defensive metrics, that margin should be much narrower than it is.
Matt Williams was strong on both sides of the ball during his playing days. The Oakland A’s third base coach slugged 378 home runs — including an NL-best 43 in 1994 — and he was awarded four Gold Gloves. I recently asked the former all-star third baseman about the difference between offense and defense from a mental standpoint, particularly in terms thinking (and overthinking) versus simply reacting.
“Defense is a reaction to where the ball is hit,” said Williams. “But the same could be said about offense. When you stand at the plate, you have no idea which pitch is going to be throw,n, or where it’s going to be. You’re simply getting yourself in position to hit and reacting to the pitch that is thrown.
“There are a lot of factors that can get in the way. Every hitter today knows what percentage of fastballs a particular pitcher is going to throw. He’ll know if he throws 32% breaking balls. That can get in your way, because the natural ability of these guys doesn’t necessarily take over because of all the numbers. It’s easy for that to happen. Guys can outthink themselves, or get in their own way, when in fact the pitcher has to throw it over the plate in a certain area and you choose whether you swing at it or not. That’s how the game was designed. It’s a very simple game.
“I don’t think guys tend to overthink defense. You have a plan when you walk out there, and if the ball is hit to you, you catch it and throw it to the appropriate base. The same should be the case for the offensive side. The basics of the game are to see the ball and hit it. That was my fallback when I played. See it and hit it. What happens after that happens. You can’t steer the baseball away from the defenders.”
Baltimore Orioles broadcaster Mike Bordick weighed in on the same question.
“From a defensive standpoint, you get into a routine,” said Bordick, who was known for his glove in his 16 seasons as a big-league shortstop. “You get your ground balls and you focus during your work. You do so many repetitions that it becomes instinctive, and when you take the field you just play. You react.
“A lot of times, the carryover to offense doesn’t quite work, because it’s a different mindset. Hitting is such a frustrating art. There’s just so much failure around hitting that it’s hard to keep that balance. There has to be an acceptance, and if you can harness that and develop a sound routine, you’re going to be a more consistent hitter. That’s something I kind of learned throughout my career. My routine, offensively, got better. In turn, I became a more consistent player.
“The whole idea is to take the thought process out of the game. Repetition is of crucial importance — the repetition of doing it the right way — so you don’t have to think about anything other than seeing the baseball and reacting when you step in the box.”
“Coaching roles are fairly traditional across the game, and it’s important for everybody to stay in their lane,” said the Arizona Diamondbacks manager. “We ask that they teach in their lanes. But when we’re behind closed doors, staff members can share information with one another about something they see that can maybe help somebody else. Sometimes you’re blinded within your own lane, so I ask that the coaches coach one another inside the clubhouse. But again, you stay in your own lane.”
In other words, if a pitching coach or a third base coach has a suggestion for a hitter, the appropriate way to communicate it would be through the hitting coach. Going around him would be disrespectful, and you’d potentially be sending a mixed message to the player you’re trying to help.
Sticking with followups, here are a pair of perspectives on Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who led last Sunday’s column. They come courtesy of his manager, who shared them during the first full week of June.
“I don’t think he’s comfortable leading off,” Ron Gardenhire said of the slumping 24-year-old (.172/.304/.344 in June) “He’s one guy who looks like he might start trying to change what he’s doing, and I don’t want him to do that. I talked to (hitting coach Lloyd McClendon) about that and he felt the same way. We’ve always said we want him in an RBI spot. I don’t want him screwed up in the brain, trying to do too much in the leadoff spot.”
Candelario has done little since those words were spoken, regardless of where he’s hit in the lineup. That’s been bad news for a young Tigers team that needs him to produce. A piece of good news is that he promises to do just that. One reason for optimism is what Gardenhire referred to as his “soft hands as a hitter.” What did his manager mean by that?
“Quiet,” explained Gardenhire. “Being able to flip the ball here and there. He’s not violent with his swing hardly at all. He’s in control. He’s got really nice soft hands when he goes through. He lets his hands flow through. Balls look like they’re getting in on him and he can pull his hands through really nice, and still get the barrel to it. Not all people can do those things.”
Lorenzo Cain and Eric Thames have both hit at the top of the order for the Brewers this season, and the latter’s presence there prompted an exchange between beat writer Tom Haudricourt, manager Craig Counsell. The former opined that “Not many guys can be leadoff and cleanup like Thames,” and the latter responded with “It’s just a spot in the lineup. He doesn’t put on his leadoff costume.”
I proceeded to make a three-way exchange by asking if Cain puts on a leadoff costume. The former Royal has a .347 career OBP, and a .373 OBP while batting first as a Brewer.
“I think the interesting part of it is, ‘Does it bring out better traits in you as a hitter,” answered the always-thoughtful Counsell. “I attribute it more to where he’s at in his career, and maturity, but the fact that he’s put this challenge on himself to be a guy who gets on base a lot has added a little bit to it.”
Why is he hitting leadoff?
“I put him there because he’s a really good offensive player,” claimed Counsell. “Not for any other reason.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
There were 149 players selected out of California in this year’s amateur draft, the most of any state. Florida (133), Texas (105), North Carolina (68), and Georgia (50) had the next highest totals.
Of the 1,214 players drafted, 805 were out of four-year colleges, with the University of Kentucky (13) having the most. There were 304 players taken from high schools, and 103 from junior colleges. (Numbers courtesy of Baseball America.)
Barring a minor miracle, the only way Josh Harrison will play any October baseball this year is if he’s traded to a post-season-bound team. His current club, the Pittsburgh Pirates, is trudging along with a sub-.500 record and unlikely to improve markedly in the second half.
What would status quo mean for the charismatic J Hay?
“Off season is what my wife calls ‘Brittany season,’” explained Harrison. “No baseball. Brittany season is basically a time to decompress. I’m into my wife, my kids, my family. We’re staying busy doing a lot of things we don’t get to do during the season.”
Orioles reliever Darren O’Day will have season-ending surgery to repair a hamstring injury. The side-arming righty has a 2.49 ERA and a 10.86 ERA in 254 appearances since the start of the 2014 season.
William “Dummy” Hoy has been selected as SABR’s Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend for 2018. Former winners — the award is limited to players who haven’t been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame — include Doc Adams, Pete Browning, and Jack Glasscock.
Jay Jaffe and Keith Law will be at the Politics and Prose Bookstore, in Washington D.C., on July 14. The dynamic duo will discuss their respective books — Smart Baseball, and The Cooperstown Casebook — beginning at 6 pm.
Mitch Haniger has been lending a hand off the field. The Mariners outfielder helped rebuild youth baseball facilities during the offseason, and last month he helped arrange for kids battling cancer to visit Safeco Field. The original plan was for Haniger and several teammates to visit Seattle Children’s Hospital, but thanks to the benevolence of the Mariners organization they were able to bring a group of kids to the ballpark for batting practice and a game.
This past winter he traveled to Hilo, Hawaii.
“Mike Miller, who is in Triple-A with the Red Sox, is a good friend of mine,” explained Haniger. “A good friend of his started a foundation called More Than a Game, that tries to bring baseball to inner cities, and to places where it’s not really thriving. They want to give kids a safe haven to play. Parts of Hilo are kind of rough, so we helped fix two fields at a Boys and Girls Club.”
Haniger’s helpful efforts come from the heart.
‘I want to help people,” said the 27-year-old Cal Poly alum. “I also feel that these things have helped me as much as I’ve helped someone else. It is, like the company’s slogan, ‘more than a game.’ It’s about helping other people — it’s about lifting others up — and any time you can do that…if you can put a smile on kids’ faces, and maybe give them some direction, you can maybe change their lives. Hopefully we did that with some kids.”
John Candelaria told his hot-dog story at SABR’s national convention in Pittsburgh last weekend. Here it is, edited for concision.
“We were in Candlestick Park and I’d pitched the Friday-night game,” said the former Pirates pitcher. “I forgot Saturday was an afternoon game. I get up and I’m like, ‘Oh, man.’ I find out it’s a day game and I get dressed quick. Anyway, I get to the park, batting practice, and there’s no food in the clubhouse.
“At Candlestick Park, at the end of the dugout you could put your arm on the rail and talk to the people in the box seats. So, I take five dollars with me and I go over there. I see a kid eating a hot dog — this is the first inning — and a light bulb goes off. Candelaria has an idea.
“I get a baseball and start flipping it up. The kid eating the hot dog says, ‘Can I have that?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Get me one of those hot dogs and I’ll even get a couple of signatures on it for you.’ The kid takes off. About two innings later he finally comes down. (Manager) Chuck Tanner, who is on the other end, starts walking towards me. So I started walking towards him. He said, ‘Where are you going?’ I said ‘Bathroom.’ So I go over there, pretending. I close the door, do nothing, then come out and sit by the bat rack. The kid finally yells, ‘Hey, Candelaria!’ all the way across the dugout. Then he taps Chuck on the back and goes, ‘Tell 45 I have his hot dog.’ Chuck goes, ‘Hey Candy, your $250 hot dog is here!’
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
At Pro Baseball Detroit, Mario Impemba gave us his 10 Greatest Detroit Tigers Pitchers of All-Time.
Working in minor league baseball isn’t for everyone, and Evan Petzold explained why at MLBlogs (Great Lakes Loons).
At The New York Times, David Kirby wrote an obituary for Donald Hall, a former poet laureate of the United States who loved, and sometimes wrote about, baseball.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Baltimore’s last win against an American League team came on May 25.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen is 3 for 4 with two home runs and a walk this season.
Mike Trout leads MLB in runs scored (65), OBP (.462), wOBA (.458), walks (72), and intentional walks (11).
The Pittsburgh Pirates swept a June 28, 1970 double-header against the Chicago Cubs, with Dave Giusti getting the win in the opener and a save in the nightcap. They were the last games ever played at Forbes Field.
On this date in 1994, the California Angels and Baltimore Orioles combined for 11 home runs at Camden Yards. The home team slugged six of the long balls and won by a count of 14-7.
On this date in 1914, Harry Kingman became the first (and only) player born in China to appear in a big-league game.
On July 2, 2013, Cincinnati Reds righty Homer Bailey threw his second career no-hitter in a game against the San Francisco Giants (raise your hand if you knew Bailey has multiple MLB no-hitters).
New York Yankees right-hander Bullet Bob Turley started and won Game 5 of the 1958 World Series on October 6. On October 8 he earned a save in Game 6. On October 9 he threw six-and-two-third innings in relief of Don Larsen and got the win in Game 7.
Hi Bithorn was the first native of Puerto Rico to appear in a big league game. A right-handed pitcher, he debuted for the Chicago Cubs in April 1942.
from FanGraphs Baseball https://ift.tt/2tJOKO4