Sunday Notes: David Stearns and Ron Gardenhire Differ On The Shift

Would MLB actually go so far as to ban the shift? Asked about that conjecture, David Stearns made it clear that he’s no fan of the idea. Not because he’s against change, but rather because change is already a big part of baseball. More specifically — yes, there have been exceptions to the rule — organic charge is already a big part of baseball.

“Teams have evolved,” the Brewers GM said during the Winter Meetings. “Strategies have evolved. Players adjust, and they will on this one as well. If shifts become completely deflating to certain profiles of players, we will value them accordingly. Things will balance themselves out. Look, we’ve been moving fielders around for decades. I would not be in favor of a ban on shifts.”

Ron Gardenhire feels otherwise. He favors an inorganic fix to the perceived (and arguably nonexistent) problem.

“I like two guys on each side,” the Detroit manager stated in equally-stern terms. “I’ve always said that. Or at least keep them all in the dirt rather than in the grass. Ask Victor Martinez. He might have hit .300 this year if they just had them on the infield. Yeah, I am old school in that respect.”

The veteran skipper elaborated on his viewpoint in a manner suggestive of… an organic substance? Going pure Gardy, he referenced the man erroneously credited with inventing the game, another sport, and a comedy duo from a bygone era.

“I think Abner (Doubleday) when he set this game up a long time ago, he set it up the right way,” said Gardenhire. “Boom, boom, boom. You know? I don’t think you can, in football, put the whole line on one side? Can you put everybody on the left side of the field from the center? Would that be legal?… I’m just saying, let’s try to keep it normal here… I was a shortstop. If you stuck me on the other side, then I became a second baseman. I played shortstop as a second baseman. That’s confusing. That’s Laurel and Hardy stuff.”

Despite his old-school inclinations, Gardenhire wasn’t averse to prudent positioning this past season. The Tigers shifted 1,019 times in 2018, the 14th-highest total in MLB. Houston (2,191) and the Angels (205) bookended the StatCast leaderboard. Stearns’ Brewers ranked 8th, with 1,393 shifts.

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Meanwhile, is it fair to charge a player with an error when he makes an accurate throw that hits a runner and caroms away, allowing an extra base to be taken? Those rulings are made to account for the extra base, but on other plays a runner can be deemed to have “advanced on the throw.” I’d argue that the same should be applied here. Why should an official scorer be obligated to give an error to someone who made a good throw when a seemingly viable alternative exists?

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Jeff Albert and Mark Budaska will be working together this coming spring and summer. The former is the Cardinals’ new hitting coach, having been hired away from the Houston Astros. The latter, who has been in the organization since 2008, is now the club’s assistant hitting coach.

Their relationship isn’t a new one. Prior to joining the Astros in 2013, Albert spent five seasons tutoring minor-leaguers in the St. Louis system. The two never worked alongside each other, but they did cross paths often. As often as not, their shop talk centered around a common interest within the hitting realm.

“Mark has spent some time on the biomechanics side of the swing,” Albert explained. “That was a point of conversation when we were around each other. I’ve talked to Mark a little bit since I was hired, and I anticipate that those conversations will pick up where they left off.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Bill Knickerbocker went 3 for 12 against Firpo Marberry.

Larry Brown went 1 for 4 against Dave DeBusschere.

Bill Bradley went 2 for 4 against Earl Moore.

John Russell went 3 for 6 against George Frazier.

Reed Johnson went 4 for 9 against Dontrelle Willis.

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Not included in Friday’s interview wth Matthew Boyd was his take on fandom within the game — more specifically, his willingness to take a step back and appreciate not only where he is, but also who he’s competing against. The Tigers southpaw readily admitted to having done just that.

“Sometimes you can’t help but think, ‘That’s pretty cool,’” Boyd told me prior to a game against the Twins. “A guy like Joe Mauer. Or earlier this year, when we were playing Texas. It’s sort of like, ‘Man, that’s Adrian Beltre. I watched him when he was in Seattle.’ Now I’m facing these guys in the box.”

I asked the 27-year-old if such thoughts ever cross his mind on the mound, or if they’re solely an away-from-the-action occurrence.

“I can’t say that I haven’t done it in-game,” Boyd admitted. “But we’re both out there with a purpose. They’re trying to put food on their table, and I’m trying to put food on my mine. I leave the admiration for later. I ask for their autograph after my start, not during it.”

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NEWSY STUFF

Zach Wilson, a 28-year-old first baseman for the Canberra Cavalry, leads the Australian Baseball League in home runs (11) and SLG (.722). Wilson played in the independent Atlantic and Can-Am leagues in 2018.

Former Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves pitcher Josh Collmenter has a 3.45 ERA in eight games for the Aukland Tuatara. The 32-year-old right-hander didn’t play professionally in 2018 but is reportedly hoping to return to MLB.

Walt McKeel, who appeared in 11 games for the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies between 1996-2002, died on January 1 at age 46. Primarily a catcher, McKeel recorded four hits in 16 career at bats.

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Given annually since 1973, the Roberto Clemente Award honors the player “who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was the 2018 honoree, in part because of his relief efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

Chad Pinder was the Oakland A’s nominee this past year. The Virginia Tech graduate is active with the School of Imagination in Dublin, California, but his community service predates his 2016 arrival in the big leagues.

“It started my freshman year of college,” explained Pinder, who earned a communications degree from the ACC school. “Our head coach, Pete Hughes, had a little thing he called “19 Ways.” Throughout the year we’d do 19 different things in the community, and I saw how much impact you could have being a college baseball player in a small town. I fell in love with that.”

Special Olympics Bowling became a primary focus for the Poquoson (VA) product beginning in his sophomore year. It became an ever bigger focus in his junior year. With his coach’s blessings, Pinder made it a weekly thing. On Thursdays he would leave practice, accompanied by a different teammate each time, and bowl with special needs athletes in the Blacksburg area. His involvement didn’t end when he was drafted by the A’s in 2013. Returning to campus in subsequent off-seasons to finish his degree, he became involved in Special Olympics Volleyball.

Pinder’s relationship with the School of Imagination began with a phone call from Steven Vogt. His former A’s teammate “had done a ton of work” with the Oakland-area preschool, which “intermingles special-needs kids and kids with normal learning abilities.” Vogt felt Pinder would be a worthy successor to his own efforts, which predictably proved to be the case.

Much like he did in college, Pinder has been getting teammates involved. Blake Treinen and Sean Manaea — “they both had a blast” — are among the A’s players who have accompanied him to the school. He plans for the visits to continue.

“It’s a really good program,” Pinder told me. “It’s something I’m glad to be a part of, just like the Special Olympics were in Blacksburg. It puts so much in perspective.”

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In a post-World Series press conference, Dave Dombrowski said that when the Red Sox acquired Nathan Eovaldi from the Tampa Bay Rays in late July, they did so with the idea that they could “change his pitch mix a little bit” and make him a more effective, “based on the stuff we were using.”

That “stuff” comes courtesy of a collaboration between pitching guru Brian Bannister and a handful of other brainy members of the Red Sox coaching and front office staffs. And while their assessment proved to be spot on, it bears noting that the Rays aren’t exactly behind the curve when it comes pitching analytics. With that in mind, I asked Boston’s President of Baseball Operations if he could elaborate on the changes they had the foresight to implement.

“Tampa is a very smart organization,” replied Dombrowski, who opted not to be overly specific with his answer. “Other people — other clubs — may have other though processes on how they think that mix should be. Tampa does a great job of that, we just felt that he could throw a certain pitch or two a little bit more, and another one less.”

So what exactly were the changes that Eovaldi made? Alex Speier of The Boston Globe explained them in nerdy detail just the other day.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

Jim Allen looked at every 300 plate-appearance season in NPB since 1950 and found that — unlike in MLB — left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters present distinctly different profiles. He shared the specifics at jballallen.com.

Jake Greenberg wrote about Andruw Jones’s Cooperstown Candidacy at Pitcher List.

At MassLive, Garry Brown wrote about Hall of Fame pitcher Candy Cummings, the man whom many credit with having invented the curveball.

Can Cuba baseball still be great when many of its stars have left? Ed Augustin delved into that question at The New York Times.

Chelsea Janes has left the Nationals beat and is now covering the 2020 presidential campaign. She penned her goodbye to baseball at The Washington Post.

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

The Baltimore Orioles swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series, winning by scores of 5-2, 6-0, 1-0, and 1-0. The Dodgers went scoreless in their last 33 innings.

In 1968, Bob Gibson made 16 starts on the road for the St. Louis Cardinals and went 12-3 with a 0.81 ERA.

Micah Owings slashed .244/,292/.444 with two home runs in 48 career plate appearances as a pinch-hitter. In 171 career plate appearances as a pitcher, he slashed .292/.315/.519 with seven home runs.

Adrian Beltre had exactly one stolen base in each of his last eight seasons (per Jayson Stark).

Willie Stargell had a .282 BA, 953 extra-base hits, and 1,540 RBIs. Fred McGriff had a .284 BA, 958 extra-base hits, and 1,550 RBIs.

Bill Buckner had 2,715 hits and 498 doubles. Rusty Staub had 2,716 hits and 499 doubles.

John Olerud had 768 extra-base hits and a 129 adjusted OPS. Adrian Gonzalez has 766 extra-base hits and a 129 adjusted OPS.

John Paciorek played his only MLB game on September 29, 1963. Batting seventh for the Houston Colt 45s, the 18-year-old outfielder went 3 for 3 with a pair of walks. Paciorek proceeded to hit .135 in A ball the next year and was out of the game by age 25.

Glenn “Buckshot” Wright, the starting shortstop for the 1925 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates, is one of 15 players in MLB history to have turned an unassisted triple play. His given name was Forest Glenn Wright.

Two people with the surname of Link have played in MLB: Fred in 1910, and Jon in 2010. Both were born in Columbus, Ohio.

from FanGraphs Baseball http://bit.ly/2SEYVOm

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