Archive for June 2018

Tim Tebow Somehow Makes Eastern League All-Star Team

June 30, 2018

What a sick joke.  I’m actually more disturbed by the idea that Tim Tebow made the Eastern League All-Star Team than I am at the prospect of his playing later this season in the major leagues for the Mets.

The question, I guess, is whether the fans voted him in or someone in management made the decision.  If the former, well that’s the fans’ choice, and I can live with it.  If the latter, then it’s just pandering to his celebrity and ignoring some better Eastern League player who deserves the honor more based on his actual performance.

Tebow is in the news, because against the odds he’s batting .317 this month in AA ball, which sure didn’t seem possible a year ago.  I give props to Tebow’s athleticism and his reported work ethic, but I’m still suspicious of his abilities as a professional baseball player.

By my count, Tebow currently has the 38th highest OPS in the Eastern League, which for a guy who has played exclusively left field ain’t no All-Star, no matter how well he’s hit in June.

That said, sure, the Mets should promote him to AAA after this All-Star game on July 11th if he’s still hitting.  If he hits reasonably well at AAA, sure the Mets should promote him to the majors in September if only because the Mets are going nowhere this year, Tebow is a potential box office draw, and professional baseball is at the end of the day nothing more than a form of entertainment.  Give the fans what they want, give the baby its bottle.

Being selected to an All-Star game at any level, unless the selection is made by the fans whose cans in the seats pay for everything, should reflect a player’s performance, or at least his past performance, and not solely his box office appeal.  Whoever got left off the Eastern League All-Star team to make way for Tebow got the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

Tebow’s June performance could just be a fluke, but it also says something about the value of athleticism and hard work.  Teams like to draft great athletes because there is more upside there, although athleticism by itself doesn’t allow you to hit a professionally pitched baseball or throw a baseball like a pro.

I’ve always been suspicious of Tebow’s minor league baseball venture because of his age and the fact that once his NFL career as a quarterback didn’t pan out, he didn’t try to make an NFL team at another position like fullback.  I’ve always wondered/suspected that he didn’t try to become an NFL fullback, a position his body type, athletic ability and football skills would seem ideal for, because it’s not a high-profile position.  Fullbacks get the sh$% beat out of them trying to open holes for running backs, protecting quarterbacks or trying to get that last two yards for the first down or the score.  There’s not much glory there, unless you score a lot of those two-yard touchdowns.

Even playing in the minor leagues, Tebow is high profile because it so unlikely that he’d succeed as a 29 year old beginner.  If Tebow made the decision to try pro baseball because he decided it wasn’t worth the physical abuse and brain damage that comes with playing NFL football, well that I could respect because it’s at least a rational, sensible decision.  If it was more about his building up his brand for his post-sports life, that seems a lot less noble to me.

Dustin Nippert Records 100th KBO Win and 1,000th Strike Out

June 29, 2018

Former Texas Ranger Dustin Nippert yesterday became the first foreign pitcher to win 100 games and strike out 1,000 batters in South Korea’s KBO.  Nippert can now claim to be the undisputed king of foreign pitchers in the KBO’s 37 year history to date.

In 2016 at the age of 35, Nippert went a remarkable 22-3, one of the greatest single season won-loss records in the league’s history.  The Doosan Bears rewarded him with a record-setting contract for a foreign player in 2017, a reported $2.2 million.

Nippert was good in 2017, going 14-8 with a 4.06 ERA in an extreme hitters’ league, but the Bears apparently wanted another season closer to 2016 for the money they were paying him.  Instead of re-signing Nippert for 2018, the Bears brought in younger foreign KBO ace Josh Lindblom for approximately $750,000 less than they paid Nippert in 2017.

The move looks like a wise one for the Bears.  About half way through the 2018 season, Lindblom is 9-2, tied for second in the circuit in wins, his 2.94 ERA is 3rd best among qualifiers and his 108 Ks are third most.   Meanwhile, as their second foreign pitcher the Bears brought in KBO rookie Seth Frankoff, who is currently 12-0 with a 2.71 ERA and 83 Ks in 89.2 IP.

Nippert had a hard time finding another KBO team willing to sign him because of his salary expectations, but eventually caught on late in the off-season with the bottom-feeding KT Wiz, who gave Nippert a reported $1 million contract, a big drop from his 2017 salary and only a little more than what the Bears are paying Frankoff to be their second foreign starter.

Nippert got off to a slow start for the Wiz this season, but he’s now pitched six consecutive quality starts, and his record stands at 6-4 with a 4.67 ERA.  The Wiz are in 9th place in the ten-team KBO with a dreadful 30-47-1 record (as in Japan’s NPB, there are 12 inning draws in the KBO) as I write this.  With that in mind, Nippert’s 6-4 record looks pretty good.

Nippert is 37 this season, and we’ll have to see how he pitches in the second half and whether he wants to return to the Wiz for another season in 2019.  Two years ago Nippert stated his desire to finish his KBO career with the Bears, but that didn’t happen.  Nippert married a Korean woman a few years ago whom he met in Korea, so he may well decide to continue to pitch in the KBO as long as he can.

Nippert’s first marriage may have ended in part because of the time away he spent pitching in South Korea.  For American players playing in Asia, their families often do not join them until mid or late June each season after the children have finished their school years in the U.S.  Presumably, they then leave in late August to go start up school again.  That can be hard on marriages, particularly since ballplayers have a reputation for running around when the wife is away.

With a Korean wife now and no new children yet of school age, that isn’t as much of a problem for Nippert now.

Aaron Judge Is a Rock Star

June 29, 2018

Tonight I saw the video of Aaron Judge playing catch with a young fan, and I was blown away.  In the greater scheme of things it’s such a minor thing for a major league star to play catch for 30 or 40 seconds with a young fan, but it means so much.

The kid will never forget that moment, nor will any of the fans in the bleachers who saw the two playing catch.  All the fans want to see is that the players who are making millions still are human beings who want to interact with them and appreciate the fact that the fans ultimately are the ones who have made them rich and famous.

MLB attendance so far is down this year by 6.5% according to Forbes.  (I wouldn’t necessarily expect great baseball articles from Forbes, but their writer Maury Brown consistently writes some great articles about the business side of the game.)  I feel strongly that attendance wouldn’t be down if more players showed the kind of heart that Judge did in this video.  I kind of wonder if Judge isn’t a bit more mature and appreciative of his current situation because he didn’t become Rookie of the Year until he was 25.

So give the love, and get the love.  One Love, as the Rastafarians say. It’s not all that complicated.  Do something that gives back for 30 or 40 seconds when you have the time to kill, and you can earn all the riches that come with your special and highly valued skill.  If Aaron Judge did what he did as a spur of the moment act of kindness and interaction, he deserves all that he will get from the game.

 

Go East, Jabari Blash!

June 29, 2018

It’s definitely time for Jabari Blash to take his talents to East Asia.  He turns 29 in six days, and he’s currently playing in AAA for the Salt Lake City Bees, where his 1.237 OPS leads the Pacific Coast League by 214 basis points.  Salt Lake City has always been a great place to hit, but even so.

There’s still an outside chance that Blash could establish himself as MLB major league platoon player, but at his age it’s looking increasingly unlikely.  He’s now had exactly 300 major league plate appearances in which he’s slashed .194/.317/.320 including a 2-for-18 stint with the Angels this year.

It’s time for Blash to wake up and smell the coffee.  The talent is there, as attested by his career .918 minor league OPS in slightly more than 3,000 plate appearances, but it is time to realize that most major league teams are going to see him as a 4-A player who is just too old to give a real shot unless a couple of major league outfielders get hurt.

If I were an NPB or KBO General Manager, I’d be falling all over myself trying to convince Blash to sign a contract.  Asian teams love power, and Blash has that in spades.  Players of Blash’s proven AAA abilities tend to do very well in Asian baseball unless they just can’t adjust quickly to playing abroad.

Blash was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and attended high school there for at least some time before coming to the U.S. proper (he went to a Junior College in Miami), so he’s already had to adjust to a new culture.

The Doosan Bears needed a new foreign player after Jimmy Paredes washed out, but elected to sign 31 year old Scott Van Slyke for a reported $320,000 for the second half.  Van Slyke was the safe pick based on his more extensive MLB major league experience, but Paredes’ significant major league experience didn’t pan out this year in South Korea.

The Bears are in a pennant race, so I can see why they probably thought Van Slyke would be a safer bet to hit the ground running, but in my mind Blash’s upside would have been worth $500,000 for half a season and the likely much higher transfer fee that the Angels would likely have demanded for Blash.

Van Slyke has a lot of MLB major league experience because he has dramatic platoon splits.  4-A players with dramatic platoon splits can be valuable major league platoon players.  Asian teams, who are looking for 4-A players who can play every day are almost always better off selecting a player with small platoon splits who aren’t worth as much to MLB major league teams.

Blash has big platoon splits in a limited sample size at the major league level, but he obviously has hit right-handed pitchers well enough in the minor leagues.

Lew Ford Is Still Slugging It Out in the Atlantic League

June 28, 2018

I was surprised to notice today that Lew Ford is still playing in the Atlantic League this season.  He turns 42 on August 12.  He’s only batting .249 with an OPS below .700, but he’s currently tied for 6th in the 8-team circuit with 33 RBIs.

This is Ford’s ninth season playing for the Long Island Ducks, and since the Atlantic League salary cap is $3,000 per month, Ford, with his major league background, has probably made exactly that for all of the many, many months he has played for the Ducks.

Ford did play his way back to the Orioles for a two-month spell in 2012, where he even earned a little post-season money, and he’s played five seasons in the Caribbean Winter Leagues along with a couple of brief interludes in the Mexican Summer League, so I guess he’s somehow been able to cobble out a meager living while still playing professionally as long as he possibly can.  It’s hard to imagine having a family and supporting them in the Greater New York area on what he has likely made playing baseball since the start of the 2009 season.

Ford can start collecting his MLB pension as young as age 45, so we’ll see if he can keep playing until then.  More likely, when they finally take the bat out of his hands, he’ll become a professional coach at some level somewhere.

 

When Will Tyler Rogers Get His Major League Shot?

June 25, 2018

Last year I wrote a post about two Sacramento River Cats relievers Tyler Rogers and D.J. Snelten, who pitched really well at AAA last year, but didn’t get even a September call-up.  Both did a great job of preventing the long ball.

Snelten, who throws harder and is a year younger, got his shot earlier this season, but he got his brains beaten out (10.38 ERA in four appearances).  He wasn’t particularly effective upon his return to AAA Sacto, and was claimed off waivers by the Orioles on June 4th.

Rogers got off to a slow start in 2018, allowing two home runs in the first week or two of the AAA season, after allowing only two home runs in 76 IP through the whole of 2017.  Since then, however, Rogers has been very, very good.  He hasn’t allowed another home run and currently has a 1.95 ERA in 37 IP, which leads River Cats relievers who have thrown at least 10 innings.

Rogers isn’t on the Giants’ 40-man roster and he’s already 27 years old.  However, he’s a low side-arm pitcher, and sometimes this kind of pitcher has a lot of MLB success after the age of 27.

One thing is for certain — it’s time to start taking Rogers’ results seriously.  He’s  pitched extremely well for a year and a half now at the AAA level and has a career minor league ERA of 2.26.  He’s allowed only 11 minor league home runs while striking out 337 in 386 innings pitched.

If the Giants don’t give Rogers a real shot this year, I hope the team loses him in the Rule 5 Draft next winter.  There’s a good shot the A’s will grab him, as they’ve had success with pitchers of his type before.

 

CPBL First Half Run Down

June 25, 2018

Taiwan’s CPBL finished its first half today.  The four-team circuit plays a split season, with the winners of each half playing in the post-season.

The Lamigo Monkeys captured the first half flag with a 38-22 record, three games ahead of the second place 7-Eleven Uni-Lions.  Lamigo won both halves of the 2017 regular season and the Taiwan Series last year, and they are still the best team in Taiwan.  Their starting pitching isn’t as good as it was last year, but their hitting is probably better.

19 year old rookie Liao Chien-Fu is leading the CPBL with an astounding .421 batting average, and his .488 OBP and .627 SLG are also leading the league.  Liao has kind of stolen the thunder of 24 year old teammate Wang Po-Jung, whose .345/.453/.568 is only 6th/2nd/5th best at present.

Wang becomes a free agent after three full seasons of CPBL service this coming off-season.  It is likely he’ll be playing in Japan’s NPB next year.

24 year old Uni-Lion shortstop Chen Chieh-Hsien is also worth mentioning.  After batting .387 last year, he’s slashing .354/.430/.514 (4th/5th/8th).  He doesn’t hit for much power, and I don’t know anything about the quality of his defense, but he’s a young middle infielder who can hit.  There’s certainly a possibility he’ll be playing in Japan in 2020.

All of the best starting pitchers in the CPBL are foreigners.  Former MLB reliever and now CPBL rookie starter Josh Roenicke was the first half’s best starter by a wide margin.  He went 8-2 for the Uni-Lions and his 2.10 ERA was the only ERA below 3.50 among the 11 qualifiers (not a lot of qualifiers in a 4-team league.

The CPBL’s ace in most recent seasons, Mike Loree, is leading the league with 104 Ks, three more than Roenicke, but the home run ball has hurt him so far this season.  He’s currently 5-6 with a 3.97 ERA.  a sub-4.00 ERA usually means a winning record in this league, but the Fubon Guardians haven’t given Loree a lot of run support this year.

CPBL veterans Bryan Woodall and Bruce Kern are 9-3 and 8-1 with ERAs just under 3.70. None of Loree, Woodall and Kern has pitched even one inning in the MLB major leagues, but they’ve all found success in Taiwan after pitching well in the Independent-A Atlantic League.  The way CPBL teams cycle through foreign pitchers, that’s saying something.

23 year old Taiwanese pitcher Shih Tzu-Chien is 8-1 with a 3.15 ERA after nine starts, but I tend to take great one year performances from CPLB domestic pitchers with a grain of salt.  The best Taiwanese pitching prospects are signed by MLB and NPB, and young Taiwanese pitchers who pitch well in the CPBL tend to be inconsistent or get hurt.