Some quick thoughts on the season thus far:
- This has to be worth something: the great Rickey Henderson loves Billy Hamilton. Henderson said "He reminds me so much of me, I had to go hug him. At (Class A) Stockton, we did everything to stop him, but he's just going to steal when he wants." Now, Rickey was only talking about Billy's wheels, but Henderson was great because he got on-base at a very high clip and provide a bit of pop. Still, it's an encouraging endorsement and Billy is starting to hit at triple-A (including a stretch of 11 hits in 24 ABs, arbitrary endpoints be damned!).
- The uproar over Dusty's refusal to switch Zack Cozart out of the 2nd spot in the order is only mildly interesting on a micro-level because it has minimal impact. Lineup construction may, at best, generate an additional win or win-and-a-half over the course of a season. So, it's not so much that the proper lineup would make a massive difference, rather that it's a minimal improvement that costs nothing. In an era when teams are scrounging for anything resembling a competitive advantage, it's somewhat disconcerting for us not to pluck the low-hanging fruit. The added 1+ wins come from (1) maximizing the number of Plate Appearances that your best hitters receive, as happens when you hit higher in the order (each lineup spot gets ~2.5% more PAs than the one directly after it) and (2) based on historical data, the 2nd spot in the order generates more value than the 3rd spot in almost every way of reaching base due to who's typically on base and with how many outs. So, having Cozart hitting second is bad on a number of levels. To me, the lineup construction issue is more interesting on the macro-level. Things got complicated for the organization when Ludwick went down with an injury. But, it's difficult to believe that we failed to find 4th/5th outfielders in whom we could believe. There are players out there who, at minimal cost, could step in and fill the void created by Ludwick's absence. Xavier Paul has put up solid numbers, but his playing time is still sporadic. If we can't count on him to step up and start, then why is he on the roster? Given that we are in win-now mode, is it excusable for the front office to have failed to bring in better depth???
- Chris Sale and Shelby Miller: A remarkable and scary thing has happened over the last week plus. Shelby Miller tossed a near perfect game, allowing only a single to the leadoff hitter before retiring 27 straight batters and posting a 13/0 K/BB ratio in the process, while Chris Sale also flirted with a perfect game before settling for a one-hit shutout with a 7/0 K/BB ratio. Truly remarkable performances for each. Performances that elevate already stellar seasons. The scary part is that both were Shadow Draft selections of mine, Shelby in 2009 and Chris in 2010. That's scary because either I'm starting to understand what makes a good pitching prospect or I've now managed to use up all of my luck on things unrelated to lottery tickets. For more reasons than one, I'm rooting for the former.
- In my 2013 rankings, I rated Tucker Barnhart the Reds 13th overall prospect. In that write-up, I mentioned not only that I loved Barnhart's footwork and defensive prowess, but also that I thought the game may actually be moving back in his direction. That there was an evolution in the valuation of catcher defense. My reasoning was based, in part, on the new studies of the substantial value to be potentially derived from pitch-framing. And, in that spirit, there's a tremendous article on pitch-framing written by Ben Lindbergh over on Grantland. The article, which is lengthy, discusses the issue and provides hypnotic video clips comparing framing done right with framing done wrong. It's definitely a recommended read.
- The Milwaukee Brewers couldn't believe that Donald Lutz managed to keep his homerun fair. Part of the reason he was able to do so is the "bat lag" I mentioned in his write-up. Wily Peralta, who gave up the homer, had this to say: "I thought I made a great pitch and he put a good swing on it, so there's nothing I can do about it. He kept his hands inside and put the barrel on it and made good contact. I don't think he'd do that again. It was the difference in the game." If you want a more extreme example of what I was talking about, then take a look at this photo of golfer Sergio Garcia: