Heyman: Rangers open to trading Derek Holland this offseason


01 October 2015: Texas Rangers starting pitcher Derek Hollands during the MLB game between the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire)

According to a source close to the situation, starting pitcher Derek Holland may have played his last game as a member of the Texas Rangers. In advance of the Rangers owning an $11 million club option for the 2017 season and another $11.5 million club option for 2018, it appears as though Texas would be more than willing to trade Holland in order to avoid keeping him on the books going forward. Texas is already discussing a possible deal with multiple teams, according to a source.

Texas would have to trade him before that option is due, meaning shortly after the World Series. That trade would likely be consummated before the option decision is due, if a trade is indeed agreed upon.

It is also worth noting that the two sides previously agreed to a $1.5 million buyout for 2017 and a $1 million buyout for 2018 if the Rangers find themselves unable to execute a trade.

The 30-year-old southpaw has spent the entirety of his big league career in Arlington while originally breaking into the league as a member of the Rangers back in 2009. Appearing in 33 total games as a rookie, Holland went on to make 21 starts and 12 relief appearances before becoming almost exclusively a starting pitcher.

Of his 179 career outings as a major league hurler, he has started 158 of them.

After making a combined 16 appearances, including 15 starts, between the 2014 and 2015 campaigns, Holland went on to make 22 appearances with 20 starts for the Rangers in 2016. Amassing a disappointing 4.95 ERA across 107.1 innings pitched, the oft-injured left-hander also produced a 7-9 record alongside 67 strikeouts and 35 walks.

With Holland potentially on the move, several clubs from around the league could certainly use the services of a seasoned left-handed starting pitcher. The New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels, among others, come to mind as the 2016-2017 offseason looms.

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Rockies need to make a splash in upgrading at first base


October 19, 2016: Edwin Encarnacion (10) of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in between innings during the 2016 MLB ALCS Game 5 between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photograph by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire)

It’s been seven long years since Huston Street blew the save in game four of the 2009 NLDS, crushing the Colorado Rockies World Series hopes. Since that season, the Rockies haven’t returned to playoffs. In fact, the Rockies have been above .500 just once since that year.

While they have been dwelling in the cellar of their division the last few years, they’ve been steadily building one of the greatest farm systems in baseball, and it’s starting to show at the major league level. Guys like Trevor Story, David Dahl, and Tyler Anderson all were highly-touted prospects, but what they did in 2016 exceeded just about everyone’s expectations. In addition, they have rookies who are still getting their feet wet, such as German Marquez, Jeff Hoffman, and Carlos Estevez, who are all expected to make a significant impact at the major-league level.

A rather glaring issue they need to address is the gap at first base. Yes, they have some internal options such as Jordan Patterson and Ben Paulsen, but those aren’t the kind of guys who push you into October. They also have a outfield logjam that could possibly force a man to first base, such as Gerardo Parra or Carlos Gonzalez. Parra looked below-average manning first base in 19 appearances last season, and the 5-foot-11 height certainly doesn’t help. Gonzalez hasn’t played first base in his career, has arguably the strongest outfield arm in baseball, and you’d hate to see that go to waste.

They amount of young talent on this club is overwhelming, and for the first time in a while the Rockies look like a legitimate contender. Colorado is in the perfect position to launch themselves into the playoffs next year, and Rockies GM Jeff Bridich needs to be aggressive this winter to make that a reality.

The Rockies have the farm to be able to pull off some big trades, but it may make more sense to solely focus on the free-agent market to ensure they have the depth needed for the near future.

There’s a few standout names on the free-agent market, such as Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion, and then a few lower-tier players such as Adam Lind and the possibility of re-signing Mark Reynolds. If the Rockies are serious about contending in 2017, and they should be, they need to not settle for a lower-tier guy. It’s time for this club to make a bold move.

22 August 2016: Baltimore Orioles right fielder Mark Trumbo (45) hits a two run home run against the Washington Nationals at Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD. (Photograph by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

(Photograph by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Encarnacion will be one of the highest-paid free agents this offseason, and deservedly so. His track record of the last five seasons contains a .912 OPS and a monstrous 193 home run total. The 33-year-old is coming off a 3.7 WAR season in which he hit 42 homers with a very solid .263/.357/.529 slash line. His ability to play 160 games this season assured possible suitors that health is not a concern, and that will help raise his price tag.

Trumbo, who is coming off of a career-year, will also be trying to land a contract that reflects his performance. He hit a league-leading 47 homers while driving in 108 runs. His slash line is a little worrisome — just a .316 on-base percentage — but still managed to carry an .850 OPS through the season due to his power. Trumbo’s defense is also concerning, but this is mostly due to him starting 96 games in the outfield, where he has a -23 DRS in his career. Compare that to the 12 DRS he has in 371 games at first base, and the Rockies shouldn’t be too worried about him taking over. He’s the cheaper option, sure, but there’s still a lot of reason to believe he can repeat his 2016 season, especially in Colorado.

Given that the Rockies play in Coors Field, free-agent hitters are naturally drawn to Colorado. Throw in the fact the Rockies are nearing contention, and the majority of free agent hitters have got to like the idea of coming to the Rockies this offseason.

Both of these players will likely have a qualifying offer attached to them, but the Rockies are in a place where they can afford to give up a draft pick in order to increase their chances of winning in 2017.

It’s possible this could backfire in the long run, but adding firepower to the already loaded team makes it a risk worth taking.

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Three rules that must be changed this offseason


October 19, 2016: Cleveland Indians Pitcher Ryan Merritt (54) pitches during ALCS Game 5 between the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Toronto ON. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

So here we are, on the last day of October, celebrating Halloween, and enjoying a magnificent World Series. I’ve always felt that the perfect Series for Halloween, with its orange and black colors, should be between the Orioles and Giants and their orange and black colors.

Today we recover from what the website fivethirtyeight.com pointed out was a “sports equinox” as the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB all played games on the same day yesterday for just the 16th time in history. However, I can’t imagine though that there was any event that equaled the excitement of last night’s 3-2 Game 5 win by the Cubs that gave the fans at Wrigley a reason for joy and all of us a reason to celebrate that we have at least one more game of baseball to bask in this postseason.

The story of the game last night was Aroldis Chapman, the “other” former Yankee reliever to dominate this postseason. His eight-out performance was just the latest rationale for three changes in baseball rules that must be made this offseason.

It is with Chapman, Miller and the other relievers in mind that I really encourage baseball to make the following rule changes:

1) Relievers must face a minimum of two batters or pitch to the end of an inning

Both Chapman and Andrew Miller have shown us what great relievers are capable of doing. As outstanding pitchers, they have faced both lefties and righties at the plate and have found success. Overall, batters are hitting .140 (8-for-57) against Miller and .167 (7-for-42) against Chapman. No one is getting really good at bats against these guys whether they come to the plate from the right or the left. However, there is no reason to not use these two as exemplars to argue the case that we need relievers to stay in a game beyond one batter.

Here’s the good news: In 2016, there were “only” 1182 games in which a reliever faced just one batter and was either pulled or the game ended. I say this is good because that number is down from the record 1398 times it happened in 2015 and the 1265 times in 2014.

Take a look at the trend:

  • This season, relievers made 15,307 appearances and faced 67,736 batters; that’s an average of 4.42 PA per appearance.
  • In 2006, relievers made 13,836 appearances and faced 65,115 batters, an average of 4.70 PA per appearance.
  • In 1996, relievers made 11,060 appearances and faced 59,617 batters, an average of 5.39 PA per appearance.
  • In 1986, relievers made 7554 appearances and faced 50,068 batters, an average of 6.62 PA per appearance.

There were 598 LOOGY appearances and 586 ROOGY appearances in 2016. Would it kill of the careers of these guys to pitch to a batter that hits from the opposite side? I don’t think so. I don’t think Randy Choate, for example, would be out of work. In 2016, the southpaw Choate appeared in 51 games in which he faced only one batter. Those 51 games totaled 11.1 innings pitched. All told, Choate made 71 appearances and faced 117 batters.

If we are generous, let’s presume that a pitching change takes just five minutes from the time the manager walks to the mound, has a little conversation, signals for the reliever (who rushes one more warm-up throw before entering), who then trots to the mound, is handed the ball as the situation is discussed (or given two “Go get ‘ems”), then takes his warmup pitches, and then the batter finally steps to the plate. After all this is finished, we probably spent about six hours this season watching left-handers go 22-for-83 (.265) versus Choate, while righties went 7-for-21 (.333).

We need relievers to either pitch to the end of an inning, or a minimum of two batters.

This is an idea that will both speed up games and increase offense. By the way, I’m not suggesting anything new or radical, I’m just encouraging the change to take place. In fact, uber-genius Theo Epstein threw out the idea at the general managers meeting last November and Ken Rosenthal, another person in my book of baseball Mensa members, endorsed the concept as well.

Kenny wrote in regard to changes that would improve the pace of play, “Fewer delays caused by pitching changes. New strategies as managers decide how to best deploy their relievers. A reduction in the importance of same-side specialists. An increased number of opportunities for the best hitters to decide games.”

Another Mensa member, Tom Verducci, wrote, “Pitching changes stop the game and depress offense, neither of which is good for the future of baseball as an entertainment option.”

So the benefits would be improved pace of play, improved offense as pitchers might likely have to face batters from both side of the play, more strategic thinking by managers, and more second guessing by fans.

August 28, 2015: LHP Randy Choate (36) comes in relief during the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA. The Giants defeated the Cardinals by a score of 5-4.

(Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire)

2) Change the “save”and “hold” rules

More than once, managers, teammates, and fans have heard Andrew Miller state that he’d pitch anywhere for the betterment of his ball club. He made the adjustment when Chapman joined the Yankees to the delight of manager Joe Girardi and he has done the same for manager Terry Francona while pitching in front of Cody Allen. Now, Miller is a selfless guy, but don’t be fooled; he’s also not an idiot. He has expressed his willingness in part because, as he has said, he’d already signed a four-year, $36 million contract for closer money.

Closers get paid big bucks; holders don’t.

Brian Kenny of the MLB Network is one of the alums of the Bill James School of Baseball Brilliance (which is of much greater value than a degree from Trump University, believe me). Kenny was an early proponent of the “Kill The Win” movement, which diminishes the importance of won-lost records for pitchers (an assertion that I believe is correct). Kenny has also been outspoken on not saving your best reliever until a ninth inning save situation and using that pitcher at a critical point in a game when the situation dictates. Kenny also writes about “Bullpenning,” which replaces the concept of a starter with an “opener” who pitches two-to-three innings and then have the bullpen take over for the rest of the game.

“Sprinters are faster than milers. Pitchers are more effective in shorter spurts. Use them that way.”

My proposed rule change starts us in that direction.

Last night, Aroldis Chapman recorded the last eight outs of the game and earned a celebrated save. After he had repeatedly faced the best that Cleveland had to offer, and had gotten out of jams, suppose, for one reason or another, Joe Maddon removed Chapman with two outs in the ninth and brought in Hector Rondon to pick up the last out. The result would have been that Rondon earns the save and Chapman gets a meaningful, but meaningless, hold.

Official scorers need to award a “save” to the pitcher who is on the mound when the game is actually saved.

For some reason, baseball stats sites still track “games finished.” Well, now give that some value. Four stat variables should be kept for each game: W/L, saves, holds, and games finished. Awarding a save to when the game is actually saved will enable relievers to earn the stats that earn the big bucks at any time during the game. It will start to break managers out of the limited thinking process of holding out your best reliever until the ninth because he is the closer and he is paid for that reason.

I have so much respect for him and I hate to throw him again under the bus, but are there any Orioles fans who disagree with me on this and agree with Buck Showalter as we still await Zach Britton coming into the Wild Card Game this year?

In a brilliant column by Sam Miller for ESPN.com, he examined all the various times that Buck could have, should have, brought in Britton. Miller concludes, “Showalter has managed many great games, has made many great moves, is one of the titans of his generation. But refusing to use his best pitcher for even a single out in an all-or-nothing game wasn’t a moment of weakness; it was a mistake that he made from first pitch to last. The power of a bad heuristic to completely undo a manager’s reasoning and imagination is an amazing thing to watch.”

The “save” mentality of managers, agents, and GMs must stop so that the game can improve. Allow official scorers to award saves both by existing rules and at their discretion.

Cleveland Indians Pitcher Andrew Miller (24) delivers a pitch to the plate during the seventh inning of the American League Championship Series Game 2 between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Cleveland defeated Toronto 2-1. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

3) Award a win to a starter even if he doesn’t go 5.0 innings

In many ways, the managers in this postseason have been working backwards, figuring out when he can pull the starter and start going to the bullpen. The changes I have proposed thus far have both increased and changed the roles played by relievers. The impact of these changes could affect starters as well.

Rule 9.17 states that the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher that pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, unless (1) such pitcher is a starting pitcher and Rule 9.17(b) applies;

Rule 9.17 (b)states that if the pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, is a starting pitcher who has not completed (1) five innings of a game that lasts six or more innings on defense, or (2) four innings of a game that lasts five innings on defense, then the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the relief pitcher, if there is only one relief pitcher, or the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer’s judgment was the most effective, if there is more than one relief pitcher.

Okay, this is more than you need to know. A starter can earn a loss no matter how long or short of time he is in the game, but can earn earn only if he pitches five full innings. Why? I don’t know. Third base, to quote Abbott & Costello, who may have made this rule.

The only rationale I can come up with for this arcane rule is that a game becomes official after five innings and thereby the starter becomes the pitcher of record. But even that seems like a stretch.

One of the Indians heroes this postseason is Ryan Merritt. But the only reference you can see of him is that he has thrown 4.1 innings. In Game 5 of the ALCS, Merritt made his second major league start. He indeed threw 4.1 innings allowing two hits, striking out three and allowing no runs before he was pulled by Francona, who brought the bullpen brigade in to stifle Toronto.

To recap: In that game, Merritt went 4.1 innings and allowed two hits and left the game leading 3-0. He was followed by Bryan Shaw, who entered the game with one runner on base and pitched 1.0 inning and allowed two hits. Shaw was followed by Miller, who entered the game with one runner on base went 2.2 IP and allowed one hit. Miller was followed by Cody Allen, who pitched the ninth inning and allowed one hit. The Indians won, 3-0.

The winning pitcher, as determined by the official scorer, was Shaw; Allen earned a save, and Miller got a hold.

Under my proposed rule changes, Merritt gets the win, Shaw gets a hold, Miller gets the save, and Allen gets a game finished.

Merritt was the best pitcher who pitched the longest and quite effectively in the game, he left with a winning score, his only “fault” was that his manager was thinking protectively and progressively and pulled him two outs shy of five complete inning. Francona put the team win ahead of the personal achievement. Good for the Indians, good for baseball, bad for Merritt.

Who cares how long a starter goes? If he is an effective pitcher, he deserves a chance to earn the win, even if it’s by the official scorer’s ruling. This backward thinking of five innings minimum is bad for the game that too often is bound by tradition at logic’s expense.

Baseball needs to be bold and make the changes now.

To review:

  • Make relievers face a minimum of two batters
  • Change the save and hold rules
  • Award a win to a starter even if he doesn’t go 5.0 innings

I began with a quote and I’ll end with one:

“It’s been a long time, a long time coming but I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will” – Sam Cooke

Please leave your comments on the site or tweet them to me at @BillyBall

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Mets’ Tim Tebow exits Arizona Fall League game with injury


21 SEP 2016: Former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow works out during the Florida Instructional League (FIL) workout at the Tradition Field Minor League Complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

New York Mets’ outfielder Tim Tebow was removed from the Scottsdale Scorpions’ game on Monday afternoon due to injury after an awkward slide into second base. He had just picked up his first hit of the day and was replaced in left field by Aaron Brown.

With the hit he collected, Tebow moved his batting average up to .147 (5-for-34) in the 10 games he has appeared in with the Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. However, despite the overall numbers not offering much inspiration, he is now officially on a hitting streak, having picked up a base hit for the third day in a row and the fifth time in his last six games. He is still waiting the elusive first Arizona Fall League home run as he has just one double and one RBI thus far.

The buzz that surrounds Tebow seems to have subsided somewhat after the initial hysteria of his signing wore off. For now, he is a 6-3 255-pound, 29-year-old outfielder, who is scuffling in a league designed for some of the game’s brightest young stars. Not surprisingly, he has not dominated the game of baseball much in the same fashion he did college football for his four seasons on campus at the University of Florida.

Signed to a minor-league deal by the Mets back on Sep. 8, Tebow remains the longest of long-shots to ever reach the major league level. If both he and the Mets decide to stick with the experiment past the Arizona Fall League, Tebow will begin the year in the minor leagues, attempting to hang onto the last remains threads of his baseball dreams.

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Fallen Fantasy Baseball Aces: American League


11 May 2016: Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) waits for a new ball after giving up a solo home run to Washington Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa (8) at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. in an interleague game, where the Washington Nationals defeated the Detroit Tigers, 3-2. (Photograph by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

It’s not exactly breaking news that we fantasy owners tend to get overly enthused about young, up-and-coming players. Still, I was taken aback by the results of a recent poll I ran on Twitter. I had just written a piece on Sean Manaea, who had one of the more encouraging rookie performances in 2016. I knew owners were excited about him for 2017, and I started to wonder how excited they might be. So I asked the denizens of Twitter if they liked him better than the Athletics’ most accomplished starter, Sonny Gray.

Because Manaea is a 24-year-old coming off a strong second half, I figured he might make it a close contest, but I was floored that he actually beat Gray in the poll. While the former All-Star had a disappointing and injury-plagued season, he is only two years older than Manaea. Gray was also typically drafted just last spring as a No. 2 starting pitcher. This wasn’t just a case of enthusiasm for a rookie that may have gone overboard; it was also about an ace who had quickly fallen out of favor.

This led me to realize that Gray’s season — and 2017 outlook — deserved a closer look. As a pitcher who entered this season as an ace, but is no longer viewed as one, Gray has some company. In the American League alone, Dallas Keuchel and Jordan Zimmermann saw their values take substantial hits. I’ll put all three hurlers under the microscope, and in a future column, I’ll also assess the fantasy fortunes of some fallen National League aces.

Since he was the inspiration for this column, let’s start off with Gray.

Sonny Gray, Oakland

2016 Stats: 117 Innings, 5-11, 5.69 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 94 K

Gray began the season with four consecutive quality starts, which resulted in a 3-1 record and a 2.73 ERA, but then his season spiraled downward in a hurry. His trademarks had been an aversion to extra-base hits and a high degree of efficiency, but over the next five starts he displayed neither, allowing a .336 Isolated Power and averaging just over four innings per start. Gray was better after returning from a brief disabled list stint for a strained trapezius, but he was a long way from prime form. Before missing nearly all of the final two months with a strained forearm, Gray had allowed 10 home runs over 68 innings and lasted fewer than six innings per start.

The key to Gray’s problems was a sinker that wasn’t sinking as much. According to Brooks Baseball, Gray lost more than an inch of vertical movement on the pitch. He wasn’t getting as many swings-and-misses on it when he located it below the strike zone, and batters were pummeling it for a higher BABIP when it was in the horizontal center of the zone.

The loss of sinker movement in and of itself isn’t a major concern, and in a vacuum, neither is a midseason dip in velocity. However, given that Gray was diagnosed with a forearm strain just over a month after his velocity started to sag, owners should take a more cautious approach with him on draft day than they did last spring.

He was sufficiently healed to return for a late September appearance, but Gray should be considered a mild health risk. I wouldn’t spring for him before I had already filled my first three pitching slots, but if he is fully healthy, there is no reason why he can’t return to being a top-30 starter.

Dallas Keuchel, Houston

2016 Stats: 168 Innings, 9-12, 4.55 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 144 K

Fantasy owners never quite bought into Keuchel as Cy Young-level ace, as he was typically drafted outside of the first three rounds, according to Fantasy Pros’ ADP data. Given that Keuchel’s 2015 Cy Young campaign was fueled in part by favorable strand and BABIP rates, there was good reason for skepticism. However, the drop in his performance went above and beyond what even the most cautious owners were expecting.

Keuchel started to turn his year around in the second half before succumbing to shoulder fatigue with just over a month left in the season. Even so, he tested the patience of his most loyal owners, posting a 3.94 ERA over seven starts after the All-Star break. More telling was his 1.08 second-half WHIP, and the improved BABIP and walk rates that underlined it coincided with a rebound in his sinker velocity, as depicted below. Whereas hitters were batting .323 against Keuchel’s sinker in the first half and just .253 in the second half, the improvements were less apparent in his overall ERA and Iso allowed. Keuchel did allow three home runs on his sinker in the second half, but according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, all three had “just enough” distance to clear the fence.


Barring any further shoulder trouble, there aren’t clear reasons to have lower expectations for Keuchel going into 2017 than we had for him coming out of his Cy Young season. It seems doubtful that many owners would take a gamble on him as a No. 2 starter, yet that’s a reasonable expectation for his performance. If you can get Keuchel next spring outside of the first 30 starting pitchers taken off the board, you could luck into a huge bargain.

Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit

2016 Stats: 106.1 Innings, 9-7, 4.87 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 66 K

It’s a stretch to call Zimmermann an ace, but he did pitch like one in 2014 and even in the very early weeks of 2016. His success this past April came despite an average fastball velocity that hovered around 92 mph — right where it was in early 2015, but more than 2 mph below where it was in the first weeks of 2014. Despite a typically mediocre strikeout rate (17.4 percent), he finished April with an 0.55 ERA, as he was extremely stingy with hard contact and pulled fly balls. Zimmermann also was fortunate enough to have stranded 92 percent of his baserunners (per FanGraphs).

Unlike in 2015, Zimmermann’s velocity never rebounded significantly, and from May forward, he was less effective on balls in play and less fortunate with his strand rate. His struggles could have resulted from neck and groin issues, the former of which caused him to miss the entire month of July. No sooner had Zimmermann returned from his neck injury than he missed yet another month with a lat strain.

As with Gray and Keuchel, Zimmermann could return healthy for 2016 and be a much improved pitcher. All three also share a penchant for allowing more contact than a typical early-round fantasy pitcher. What sets Gray and Keuchel apart from Zimmerman is a strong proclivity for inducing grounders. Two or more seasons ago, Zimmermann could be a coveted fantasy pitcher with a strikeout rate below 20 percent partially because of great control, but also partially because strikeouts weren’t quite as ubiquitous. Even if Zimmermann can get back to where he was in 2015 (2014 levels may be asking for too much, as it was an outlier), it won’t be enough for him to be a standout in the current environment. If I were to draft Zimmermann at all next spring, it would be in the late or reserve rounds.


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Chicago Cubs prospect profile: Second baseman Ian Happ




Organization: Chicago Cubs || 2016 club: Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-Adv.), Tennessee Smokies (AA)
Position: 2B || Age: 22 || DOB: August 12, 1994 || Birthplace: Pittsburgh, PA
Acquired: 2015 Draft (1st Rd., Univ. of Cincinnati) || 2016 prospect rank: CHC #1, MLB #21 (MLB.com)
2016 stats: 134 games, 488 AB, .279/.365/.445/.810, 30 2B, 15 HR, 68 BB, 129 K, 16 SB

  • Happ’s 2016

Splitting time almost exactly equally between High-A and Double-A, Happ turned in the type of statistical summer you’d expect from a high-round draft pick coming from a polished four-year college background. The switch-hitting second baseman showed off some power (30 doubles, 15 homers), some speed (16 stolen bases), and a patient approach (68 walks, though he did strike out 129 times in 134 games).

All that earned him a mid-season All-Star nod with Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League, at which point he was promoted to Double-A Tennessee, where his numbers took a dip as he adjusted to better competition, though his overall summer remained strong enough.

It’s that promotion to the Southern League that is most telling; his batting average dropped 30 points compared to High-A and his slugging percentage 60 points—neither ideal, and yet both somewhat expected with jumping a level at mid-season—and yet it was his patient approach and good eye at the plate that took the biggest dive.

In just eight more at-bats in Double-A compared to High-A, he walked 28 fewer times. Relatively small sample sizes acknowledged (he had 488 at-bats combined between the two), it’ll help Happ’s ability to stick in the big leagues if he can show patience at the plate in addition to his unquestionable hit tool, considering his place in the field is a more tenuous proposition (more on that below). Maintaining that higher walk rate at higher minor league levels, then, should prove he’s adjusting well as 2017 looms.

Happ fielding ground balls during the Arizona Fall League. Image via Bobby DeMuro.

All that said, he’s a 2015 first round draft pick out of the University of Cincinnati, and so considering he’s already reached Double-A—and the Arizona Fall League—by the end of 2016 tells you all you need to know about his bright future and what the Cubs believe they have in Happ. If he’s to be a second baseman long term, that budding power stroke from both sides of the plate ought to make things exciting in 2017 for both Happ and the organization, and he’s bringing it along quickly.

  • Scouting Happ

At the plate, Happ is an exceptionally polished hitter who’s equally smooth from both sides. Statistically, he showed both a little more power and a better ability to hit for average from the right side of the plate compared to the left in 2016, but long-term he has the swing mechanics and smooth, quick stroke from both sides to find consistent success.

To that end, when combined with his relentlessly patient approach and mature understanding of the strike zone, it’s likely he’ll hit for decent average and get on base at an above-average clip in his career. He doesn’t have plus speed, but he’s not slow-footed, either, and so if he can pick his spots on the bases, he has an outside shot at being a 20-20 guy in the future. (That said, it’s more likely, at least in my mind, that his power will develop to a greater degree than his base stealing speed).

Regardless, he’s a mature hitter who has the ability to turn on the ball with authority while also going the other way depending on how he’s being pitched. His higher floor and relative experience to this point leave it as no wonder that he’s the Cubs’ top prospect, above exceptional—but raw—power threat Eloy Jimenez.

It’s defensively, though, where Happ could potentially fall short. A second baseman-turned-outfielder in college, the Cubs moved him back to second in the hopes that they could take advantage of his exceptional bat in a less-demanding infield spot. At second this fall with the Mesa Solar Sox, he’s been… OK. He doesn’t have the softest hands, the best range, or the quickest first step, and he’s not the smoothest fielder on the diamond by any means, and yet he’s also not in over his head at the position, either. He’ll more or less survive at second base, and if he doesn’t, and yet shows power at the plate, he could move to left field one day.

Granted, there’s a development process in place to where Happ could easily stick at second long-term, especially as he takes more repetitions and improves in time to the point where he’s merely a league-average defender that won’t help but also won’t hurt with the glove. That’s just fine, and assuming he can come along as he should at the plate, he’ll provide value with his bat that will far outweigh what most other second baseman can do. If his bat were to stall out somewhat in the high minors, though, there might be a tough fit for him going forward with few defensive options beyond second.

  • Going Forward

It’ll be interesting to see where the Cubs start Happ in 2017; he didn’t fail out of Double-A this summer, and yet he also didn’t tear the cover off the ball once he got there. A college product, he’s already 22 years old, and yet 2017 will only be his second full professional season. He’s holding his own in the Arizona Fall League, and yet he’s not even the most exciting Cubs farmhand there (again, you have to watch Eloy Jimenez swing the bat). Related to all this, it’s no secret the organization already has an exciting young player manning second base at Wrigley Field.

Where does all this leave Happ? In all likelihood, he’ll spend 2017 split between Double-A and Triple-A, with the Cubs coming to an interesting crossroads to determine whether he’s a sure-fire part of their future or an extremely attractive trade chip to an organization seeking big league-ready prospects.

This is pure speculation, but Happ would be an interesting trade piece (far more so than Jimenez, at least to me). With all his value tied up in his bat, the Cubs might do well to sell high on him this winter, or at some point next summer, if they feel strongly enough about their big league depth at second and need hot stove or trade deadline help at another position. With either path, though, adjusting to Double-A to start next summer by tearing the cover off the ball like he should can only further strengthen Happ’s value.

The post Chicago Cubs prospect profile: Second baseman Ian Happ appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

Source: Knuckleball


Why the Pirates might and might not trade Andrew McCutchen


25 May 2016: Pittsburgh Pirates Center field Andrew McCutchen (22) during the game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)

In a post about the New York Mets’ options should Yoenis Cespedes depart via free agency, a commenter added a suggestion that I did not: Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This mimics ongoing “maybes” on social media of a star whose talents and production are perceived as equal and even surpassing that of Cespedes and who might be available via trade this winter.

Let’s look at McCutchen, the Pirates and his potential availability.

  • He had a contextually subpar year in 2016…

Granted, McCutchen had an overall disappointing season when it’s placed in the context of his Most Valuable Player-quality production in every other season he’s played in the majors. A .256/.336/.430 slash with 24 homers, a career-low in stolen bases, and frighteningly declining defense might be sufficient to scare a certain number of teams off. There are, however, explanations as to why this might have been the case.

His batting average on balls in play of .297 was the second-lowest it’s been for his entire career and it was 34 points lower than his career average. If he’d had the same good fortune on balls in play as he’s had in just about every other season, his numbers on offense are exactly where they’ve been for the bulk of his career. His stolen base numbers have been dropping annually, but that could be a strategic move on the part of the Pirates to save him the wear and tear of stealing bases as he ages.

As for the apparent “decline” in his defense, there are a multitude of believable explanations to justify it. He has had heel and Achilles tendon issues in the past two seasons that might have reduced his speed and range just enough to make it appear as if he’s suddenly moving like Kyle Schwarber when he has not actually lost his defensive aptitude to the degree it appears he has based on the numbers.

Even if he’s no longer an elite defender in center – if he ever was – McCutchen can be shifted to a corner outfield spot, be a solid defender, and might even hit better with the absence of defensive responsibility and focus that is part of the package of being the center fielder.

  • Why would the Pirates keep him?

In spite of an “off” year in 2016, McCutchen is an intriguing talent under contractual control at $28.5 million through 2018. In a world in which Jason Heyward received $184 million to defect from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Chicago Cubs only to be benched in the World Series, McCutchen’s deal is ludicrously cheap – all the more reason to keep him.

Although they had their worst season as a team in five years, the Pirates’ window to win is still open for at least the next two seasons and it’s more so with McCutchen. The foundation of the team – McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Jung Ho Kang, Gerrit Cole, Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli, David Freese and John Jaso – are all locked in for the foreseeable future. Their young talents Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell, among others, are ready to make significant contributions to the big league club. The reputation of pitching coach Ray Searage and the Pirates’ ability to use tactics such as pitch selection and defensive shifts to maximize their scrapheap pickups might have taken a hit with the terrible performance of Jon Niese and the falter of Francisco Liriano, but Ivan Nova rejuvenated his career and boosted his spiraling free agent bona fides with two solid months as a Pirate after being acquired from the New York Yankees.

Their rep is still intact. Other players whose market is down or are coming off injuries know that the Pirates have been able to replenish their status in a fair exchange: We sign you cheap and give you a chance to play, you benefit later on.

Regardless of the explicability of his “poor” offensive season and “bad” defense in center field, teams might be reluctant to give the Pirates the established players and prospects that make it worthwhile to pull the trigger in trading him. If a team tries to get McCutchen for less than what the Pirates deem to be fair return, the Pirates can just say no. They’re under no pressure to deal him and that will remain the case for at least 2017 and probably for the first half of 2018.

June 25 2016: Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) smiles as he rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run in the sixth inning during the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire)

  • Why would the Pirates trade him?

There’s little-to-no chance that they’ll be able to retain him as a free agent after the 2018 season. He signed a below-market contract extension as a very young player and gave the team a massive discount to keep him during his initial prime years. Earnings of around $65 million through age 32 is a great deal of money to the world at large, but in today’s athletic circles, it’s not. Had McCutchen become a free agent at the earliest opportunity, after 2014 when he’d won one MVP award, had finished third two other times, won a Gold Glove, three Silver Slugger awards, and had three All-Star appearances at age 28, he gets a contract worth a minimum of $200 million.

When he does hit free agency after 2018, he’ll still get $175 million. The Pirates are undoubtedly aware of this. They are also aware that while his value might be slightly lower than it was after 2015, other clubs cannot point to him having had a “bad” year when the in-depth numbers and injuries can explain why that might have been the case. Everyone is using the same numbers; every team has, at a minimum, a sabermetric department that can explain away any negativity and assertions of an inevitable and unstoppable decline. With that in mind, any offer will have to be good enough that the Pirates cannot refuse it for the short and long terms. The following example of what it would take for the Mets to get him is more than enough for the Pirates to justify it.

  • What would be the cost and which teams should consider it?

The idea of the Mets trading for him makes sense. He bats right-handed, is still a center fielder in spite of the plummeting defensive metrics, fits in more with what Mets GM Sandy Alderson is looking for with his approach at the plate and his low-key personality than Cespedes does, and is signed cheaply for two years.

What it would take to get him is the sticking point. If the Mets are willing to surrender Michael Conforto, one of their starting pitchers and one or the other of Dominic Smith or Amed Rosario, sure, the Pirates will send McCutchen to New York.

Alderson’s not doing that, nor should he. If he did make that offer at some point this winter, McCutchen would be standing in front of a packed house of media members and holding up a jersey with uniform number 22 and “Mets” across the front.

Other teams would certainly consider that costly package. Gauging that cost, the Pirates will want a young, relatively established bat; a young, relatively established starting pitcher; plus a blue chip prospect or two from the minor leagues. With that in mind, the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers and several other clubs can pay the price in prospects to get him.

There are two categories of teams who would and should consider McCutchen:

  1. Those that have the abundance of prospects to give to the Pirates to get him and have a window to win within the next two seasons.
  2. Those who might not be prepared to win immediately, can use McCutchen’s leadership and substantial skills to boost their chances, and can pay to retain him.

These clubs should all examine the possibility. A trade of McCutchen is possible, but all the pieces have to be in place to make it a reality.

The post Why the Pirates might and might not trade Andrew McCutchen appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

Source: Knuckleball


Rosters announced for Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game


06 OCT 2016: Gleyber Torres of the Yankees during the Florida Instructional League (FIL) game between the FIL Yankees and the FIL Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

The Arizona Fall League has announced the rosters for their showcase game of the best talent in the league. Despite the solid credentials of those selected to the game, the contest will be missing Boston Red Sox infield prospect Yoan Moncada, who is likely to sit atop many prospect lists this offseason as he was shut down last week due to a thumb injury.

The rosters for this year’s Fall Stars Game include 16 players ranked among the top 100 prospects in baseball according to MLB.com.

In Moncada’s absence, New York Yankees’ shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres will be the top-ranked talent in the game. The 19-year old, who has not yet played above the Advanced Single-A level at this point in his professional career, has the fourth-best OPS in the Arizona Fall League at 1.077. He is the No. 17 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. Torres headlines the East roster that also features Chicago Cubs’ outfielder Eloy Jimenez, Cleveland Indians’ outfielder Bradley Zimmer, Oakland Athletics’ pitcher Franklin Barreto, Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder Brett Phillips and Toronto Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford.

The West doesn’t have the top talent like Torres, Jimenez and Zimmer, but they do have nine top 100 prospects on the roster. The club is headlined by Houston Astros’ pitcher Francis Martes and Los Angeles Dodgers’ infielder Cody Bellinger. Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Brett Honeywell will start the game for the West while facing off against San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Chris Stratton. Honeywell and Martes are joined by Astros’s hurler David Paulino and Red Sox flame thrower Michael Kopech on the pitching staff.

Offensively, the West also has Minnesota Twins’ shortstop Nick Gordon, Seattle Mariners’ outfielder Tyler O’Neill, St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Harrison Bader and Dodgers’ outfielder Willie Calhoun (87).

The game will take place at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday and will be broadcasted live on MLB Network and MLB.com.

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Source: Knuckleball


Column To Be Named Later: In this World Series, there are no goats


CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28: A fan holds up a fan during the 2016 World Series Game 3 between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs on October 28, 2016, at the Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

There Are No Goats…

In winning Game 5 of the World Series in Chicago, the Cubs staved off what had been shaping up to be one of the more one-sided upsets in Fall Classic history, a rout in which a team of potent but inexperienced hitters was overwhelmed by the veteran sangfroid and filthy stuff of Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller.

Had that turned out to be the case, the 2016 World Series would have ended without a Bill Buckner, or to be Chicago-centric, a goat, a black cat, a Bartman, or even Hack Wilson losing two fly balls in the sun.

There would have been a strong sense of destiny denied, not only among Cubs fans but also outside observers who saw a 103-win team and all the accompanying assets that need not be enumerated here (it’s fair to stipulate you’ve got them memorized by now) and felt, on an emotional level, that it was time for the 108-year-old drought to end and there was a rightness in this nearly perfect team being the one to end it.

Life often lacks poetry, though, and specializes in frustrating outcomes we are certain have the stamp of Divine Providence. Had this postseason concluded on Sunday, there would have been no stab in the back, no Icarus-like act of hubris, not even a Roger Peckinpaugh case of inexplicable butterfingers, but just the cold reality that the Cubs ran into the best pitching staff in the American League (however diminished by injury).

If there are any goat’s horns to be worn in this World Series (and warning in advance, this is going to be a case of taking a manager whose postseason conduct has been exemplary and picking at it in a way that is almost unfair in light of said conduct), it results from a sequence of decisions made by Terry Francona in Games 4 and 5 involving Andrew Miller. Even then, it requires some counterfactual theorizing to make the case stick. In Saturday’s Game 4, Cleveland got six innings of one-run ball from Kluber, who was starting on only three-days’ rest. Up 4-1 going into the top of the seventh and with the pitcher set to lead off the inning, Francona was ready to make a change. Naturally, his choice of relief was Andrew Miller, who had been unhittable throughout the postseason.

There’s nothing to fault in that decision, except that Miller had also worked in Game 3 the day before and has been up more often than the sun this October;  if you use him enough you’re going to find out that even he has a breaking point.  Subsequently, Cleveland scored three runs in the top of the inning and led 7-1. Francona could have holstered Miller at that point and saved him for a higher-leverage situation. Instead, he opted to bring him in to keep the Cubs on the deck. Miller threw two innings and 27 pitches and allowed a run before yielding to Dan Otero.

Using Miller on Saturday might have had consequences in the bottom of the fourth inning on Sunday, when Francona might have given starting pitcher Trevor Bauer a quicker hook if he felt like he had Miller to deploy later in the game. Again, offering up this theory requires a fair amount of mind-reading (note those double “mights” in the previous sentence) as well as ignoring the fact that, aside from Kris Bryant’s home run, Bauer didn’t exactly fall apart during the frame. The sequence that opened the inning (home run, double to the wall in right field, line-drive single) was troubling, but the infield singles and bunt hits that came after don’t reflect on a pitcher’s stuff.

Joe Maddon also opened himself up to second-guessing by opting not to deploy Kyle Schwarber as a pinch-hitter in a couple of high-leverage situations. Schwarber never did get in the game, we can’t know what he might have done, and in any case, the Cubs won.

These are relatively small matters in a postseason that has been well-managed and well-played. Cubs fans might feel frustrated with Javier Baez or Jason Heyward, but many Cubs are scuffling. Cubs pitchers have a 3.27 ERA for the Series, which would have trailed only, well, themselves for the regular season major league lead. Cleveland is hitting .236/.316/.373 as a team, which is to say they’ve been Heyward-ish. By those measures, the Cubs have succeeded.

Both teams might complain that the strike zone has been about as reliable as the borders of Poland in the 1700s, but there haven’t been any Don Denkinger moments either (replay helps). There’s nothing for either team to be outraged about.  There is nothing for fans to be disappointed in except the outcomes, and that was always inevitable.

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon shakes hands with Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona before Game 3 of the Major League Baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Tannen Maury, Pool)

(AP Photo/Tannen Maury, Pool)

Bold Prediction That Isn’t All That Bold…

Javier Baez will turn 24 in December. Jason Heyward turned 27 in August. Baez had a breakout season for the Cubs. Heyward had the worst offensive season by a Cubs right fielder since World War II. Nevertheless, the remainder of Heyward’s career will be far more memorable, in a positive sense, than the remainder of Baez’s.

Please hold your hostility for five to 10 years, then we’ll talk.

The Real Cubs Goat…

On October 10, 1945, the last day the Chicago Cubs were in a World Series prior to 2016, their manager Charlie Grimm made a fatal decision. Grimm is a really odd guy in Cubs history. He played over 1300 games as the team’s first baseman beginning in 1925. Even now, the leaderboard for Cubs games as a first baseman after 1900 is Mark Grace and him (Cap Anson had more games, but all in the 19th century).

Befitting a kind of lassitude that infected the Cubs for decades at a time, he got all those games in despite not being very good. Starting in 1934, they also made him manager. They’d go back to him twice more over the next 26 years.

Grimm was a mediocre player. He was a .290 career hitter, sure, but at a time when batting average was cheap, and he averaged about five home runs a year to go with it. The period in which he was a starting first baseman for the Cubs wasn’t a great one for National League first sackers; a few fluke seasons aside, there was Bill Terry with the Giants and Jim Bottomley of the Cardinals and then everyone else in a ragged heap. Grimm was part of the heap. As a manager, he wasn’t very good either, even if he was associated with three Cubs pennant-winners.

In 1932 they fired Rogers Hornsby about two-thirds of the way through the season with the team in second place, five games back of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Grimm took over, the Cubs went 37-18 down the stretch with the help of a 14-game winning streak, and they blew past the Pirates. The World Series against the Yankees was all anti-climax, a sweep for New York. This was the one with Babe Ruth’s called shot, but really all the Yankees were hitting at will—they outscored the Cubs 37-19; the Cubs’ ERA for the four games was 9.26.

There probably wasn’t much Jolly Cholly could have done about that.

In 1935, Grimm’s Cubs got back to the World Series after going 100-54 in the regular season. The attack was just decent overall, but the pitching staff towered over the league despite lacking anyone headed to the Hall of Fame—Lon Warneke, a three-time 20-game winner, was the closest to that level. Their opponent was the Detroit Tigers, a team that should have been strongly handicapped by losing first baseman Hank Greenberg to a broken wrist after Game 2.

It didn’t work out that way. In the sixth game, a Cubs must-win with the Tigers up three games to two, the score was tied 3-3 in the top of the ninth at Detroit. Stan Hack led off with a triple, but shortstop Billy Jurges, whom Grimm had pinch-hit for earlier in the Series, struck out. That brought starting pitcher Larry French to the plate. French hit like a pitcher. A sacrifice fly would give the Cubs the lead. Grimm had pinch-hit for French earlier in the Series. He didn’t here. French tapped back to the pitcher, who held the runner and threw to first. The next batter delivered the fly ball that had been needed, but it was too late, and Hack died on third.

The Tigers won the World Series in the bottom of the inning.

The Cubs had another World Series appearance in 1938, but they fired Grimm after 81 games, so you can’t hold that loss against him. However, they brought him back again beginning in 1944. The next year they won another pennant in a manner that anticipated the acquisition of Rick Sutcliffe nearly 40 years later. The Yankees had grown disenchanted with right-hander Hank Borowy for some reason and placed him on waivers in July despite the fact that he was really good. Sure, it was wartime baseball, but a 2.74 career ERA was what it was. The Cubs put in a claim, and ended up buying Borowy for $97,000. The Cubs were up by four games at that moment, and Borowy helped them hold off a charging (and superior) Cardinals team, going 11-2 and pitching enough innings to qualify for the NL ERA title with 2.13.

As of that moment, Grimm seemed to forget he had any other pitchers. His use of Borowy in the World Series against the Tigers is that of a manager on a quest to find diminishing returns. Borowy started Game 1 and pitched a shutout. He came back on three days’ rest for Game 5 and got thwacked, giving up five runs in five innings. Undaunted, Grimm pulled him out of the bullpen the very next day and got four scoreless innings of relief as the Cubs won in 12 on a walk-off hit by Hack .

Game 7 was rained out. That gave Grimm an excuse to go to Borowy again. He started against Hal Newhouser, failed to retire a batter in the first inning, and the Cubs lost the game 9-3. Chicago pitched 65 innings in that World Series. Borowy pitched about 30 percent of them.

If, reading this, you feel inclined to conclude that the Cubs’ curse was really just an advanced case of Charlie Grimm, that seems fair. He was representative of a different kind of curse, that of not looking too closely at who’s running things.

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER, 1932.  A group of National League champion Chicago Cubs pause from preparing for the upcoming World Series, and pose for a photo in Wrigley Field in October of 1932.  First baseman and manager Charlie Grimm is in the center. (The Rucker Archive/Icon Sportswire)

CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER, 1932. A group of National League champion Chicago Cubs pause from preparing for the upcoming World Series, and pose for a photo in Wrigley Field in October of 1932. First baseman and manager Charlie Grimm is in the center. (The Rucker Archive/Icon Sportswire)

Stan Hack…

Should have been in the Hall of Fame 50 years ago. That is all.  You are free to move about the cabin.

To the Mats With Reader Comments…

In response to last week’s column on Cleveland’s mascot, Chief Insensitivity:

Sounds good, let’s scrap the Fighting Irish mascots… Offensive to me, being Irish.  Contrary to the cartoons, we don’t wear green outfits and prance about with our fists raised. My Scandinavian friends would appreciate the forthright removal of all Vikings mascots, not a fair remembrance of their culture, true or not. Shall we draw the line at human mascots, or go poke around the animal lover’s circle and see if Wildcats, Lions, and the rest offend anyone there too? I’ve got it!  Get the torches out and burn it all down.  Although, that offends me because I’ve lost my home to a fire in the past. Can someone point out a spot where I can step?  There’s so much broken glass, mummy…

A false equivalency is the pabulum that soothes small minds. There’s a big difference between the depiction of a defiant leprechaun and the leering, defanged take that adorns Cleveland’s uniforms. Indeed, the University of Notre Dame actually resisted the Fighting Irish appellation until it felt certain that it was free from any negative connotations associated with anti-Irish bigotry in this country and was instead evocative of the great accomplishments the Irish had had in this country, not least heroic efforts in the military beginning with the Civil War.

Vikings, as with all peoples, including the Native Americans, did some things that are troubling to modern minds (their trademark raiding, with all that entails) but also were great explorers, facilitated the development of trade and the spread of culture. In short, their story is as complicated as anyone’s, but that’s not as important here as the fact that the Irish have long since assimilated and the Vikings were never an oppressed race in the United States. Appropriating their iconography may not be our most tasteful act, but there’s also a huge amount of distance between us and the 11th century. Like Roman soldiers and the pirates of the Caribbean, time has dulled the crime and left the style and mythology standing.

The Native Americans were and are an oppressed group, and there’s no distance between us and what was done to them at all, especially since they’re still suffering the consequences. If you want to see that lack of distance in action, how they have not been subject to the River Lethe of time, think about the approbation that greeted Johnny Depp playing a pirate (safe, neutered) versus the universal discomfort expressed when he donned a dead bird and trying to play Tonto. You can’t claim to be outside a story that is still ongoing.

The mascot signals nothing of the strength suggested either by pugilistic sprites or helmeted seafaring warriors. The team names itself after a people, the Indians, as surely as it had named itself the African Americans or the Ecuadorians or the Tuvans. It then does nothing to characterize that name except adorn itself with a racist’s grimacing cartoon. The Chief does not fight, he does not protest, he does not repel, he just smiles submissively.

The rest of your comment, such as it is, is an example of reductio ad absurdum argumentation and not worthy of a response. However, I do thank you for reading and making a game effort to defend the indefensible.

The post Column To Be Named Later: In this World Series, there are no goats appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

Source: Knuckleball


Four burning questions leading up to World Series Game 6


24 October 2016: Members of the media surround the field as the Chicago Cubs workout in preparation for the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

The Cubs extended the World Series at least two more days and one more game with their Game 5 victory on Sunday night. With the off-day Monday, here are the questions on everyone’s mind as the World Series heads back to Cleveland.

Can Corey Kluber be dominant on three days rest for the third start in a row?

We’re entering the uncharted realms here, regarding Corey Kluber. After a less-than-stellar short-rest turn in the ALCS, Kluber proved everyone wrong with six strong innings on Saturday night, and has been promised to return in a potential Game 7. While Kluber seemed to be fine after three days in Game 4, the question still looms — what would he look like?

We don’t have a lot of modern examples of this kind of workload to fall back on, and the further back in time you go, the more difficult it is to relate to the modern era of baseball. If Kluber is needed on Wednesday, there’s no real way of knowing what will happen — other than the knowledge that stranger things than strong pitcher performances over nine days time have happened.

Does Andrew Miller have one to two more outings in him, particularly multiple innings worth?

Yes, probably.

Miller’s a different case than Kluber; he’s used to going multiple days, they have a rest day today, and despite getting warm in the eighth inning of Game 5, he ended up not coming into the game at all, making him that fraction less tired going into the dying days of the series.

Francona revealed he was already thinking a game — if not more — ahead with Miller during Game 4. Per Terry Francona, he didn’t want to use Miller for a third game in a row for more than an inning, so after he brought Miller in on Saturday for two innings, he planned to not use Cody Allen, and flip the two pitchers’ roles on Sunday — making Allen the longer set-up reliever, and closing, if needed, with Miller.

While Cleveland lost on Sunday, making Miller’s usage unneeded, this just helps them in Tuesday’s Game 6, as he’ll be fresh and ready to take over for Tomlin whenever needed. Additionally, even though Allen did pitch 1.2 innings on Sunday, with the off day he’ll surely be ready to go in Game 6.

Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller (24) pitches during Game 1 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. The Indians defeated the Cubs 6-0. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

(Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

Can you use pitchers like this in the regular season?


The regular season is an eternal grind, and Terry Francona himself has said that you can’t use pitchers like this without the regular off days and limited travel schedule that the postseason provides. While there is surely some room for experimentation within the modern bullpen, you can’t Andrew Miller Andrew Miller in the regular season and expect him to Andrew Miller in the postseason (or even the second-half, honestly.)

And yes, “Andrew Miller” is a verb now.

Will the Cubs’ offense wake up, for real this time?

The Cubs blasted their way through the regular season, winning 103 games in large part thanks to the strength of their bats. During the World Series, though, those bats have been largely absent, only appearing during Trevor Bauer’s first start — and even last night’s victory was by a very narrow margin of Aroldis Chapman out-of-role-usage proportions.

In surprisingly good news for Joe Maddon’s bats, they’re leaving the friendly confines of Wrigley and heading back to Cleveland, which, per ESPN’s Park Factors, is a friendlier environment for home run hitters (though some of that can be explained by it being an American League park, and home to the DH).

That, too, helps the Cubs, who will be able to get Kyle Schwarber’s bat back into the lineup.

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