Archive for the ‘Anaheim Angels’ category

Steve Dalkowski Passes

April 25, 2020

News on is that Steve Dalkowski, aged 80, died today of the coronavirus.  Dalkowski is one of the most famous players in baseball history who never reached who never reached the majors.

Dalkowski was a smallish lefthander (5’11”, 175 lbs) who threw incredibly hard but had no idea where it was going.  Many players who played against him said he threw harder than anyone they’d ever faced.

In his first season in a 1957 Class D (rookie) league, he struck 121 batters in 62 innings pitched but also walked an incredible 129.  He was certainly the scariest pitcher many players ever faced because he just might kill you.

Three years later, he both struck out and walked 262 in 170 IP in what was then the Class C California League (an full season A league in today’s game).  He walked 196 and struck out 150 in 103 IP a step up the minor league ladder in 1961.

Dalkowski had his best minor league season in 1962 at age 23 for the Eastern League’s Elmira Pioneers, which played at what we’d call AA level today.  He only went 7-10 but had a 3.04 ERA and, while striking out 192 batters in 160 IP, he walked a modest for him 117 batters.

Earl Weaver, before his great Orioles days, was Dalkowski’s manager in 1962.  He told Dalkowski, a starter, to throw just the fastball and slider and to throw every pitch at the middle of the plate.  Even Weaver said Dalkowski threw harder than Nolan Ryan, and he saw plenty of both.

A 2013 article says, “On a $5 bet, Dalkowski threw a baseball through a wooden fence. On a $10 bet, he threw a ball from the center-field fence over the 40-foot high backstop screen behind home plate.”

The 2013 article says that “Nuke” LaLoosh from Bull Durham was based on Dalkowski, and Kevin Cosner’s “Crash” Davis was based on Dalkowski’s roommate and former SF Giants and  manager Joe Altobelli.  “Alto once quipped, ‘I didn’t room with Dalkowski, I roomed with his suitcase!'” which is an old, old baseball line.

However, Dalkowski’s control really hadn’t improved, it’s likely he blew out his elbow tendon in 1963, and he was a hard drinker, so he was out of organized baseball by the end of the 1965 season at age 26.  Aside from being small, Dalkowski had a compact delivery, but it didn’t improve his ability to throw strikes or diminish from his fastball speed, at least until after the injury when his fastball dropped to 90 mph.

In separate games in his career, Dalkowski struck out 21 and walked 21.  He is said to have thrown a pitch that tore of a batter’s ear, but he didn’t actually hit that many batters, a season high of nine in 170 IP in 1960.  Hitters were “loose” when they got into the box against “White Lightning,” meaning they were every bit ready to get out of the way.

Dalkowski had a hard life after baseball.  He still drank hard, which took his mind prematurely.  It says something about modern medicine that he lived long enough to be felled by the coronavirus.  He was 80 and had lived in a care home in New Britain, Connecticut for many years.


Those Dodger Deals

February 11, 2020

The dust has settled, and two of the three big Dodger deals have been completed.  The Bums get Mookie Betts, David Price and half of the $96M still owed to Price in exchange for Alex Verdugo and two prospects, middle infielder Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.  It seems to me like a modest price to pay for one season of Betts and three seasons of Price, particularly when the Dodgers are desperate to win a World Series.

I can’t help but feel that the whole purpose of this move from the Red Sox side of things was to get under the salary cap amount for a year in order to re-load in 2021 or 2022.  Don’t be surprised if the Red Sox are in the running to pay Betts a huge free agent contract next off-season, once the Red Sox have resolved their salary cap issue.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers also traded Kenta Maeda, $10M on Maeda’s remaining contractual guarantee, and 20 year old catching prospect Jair Camargo to the Twins for pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol, corner outfield prospect Luke Raley and the 67th pick in the 2020 draft.  In Graterol and the draft pick, the Dodgers will get some prospects to replace Downs and Wong, and the Twins will get a good major league pitcher for $650,000 a year plus significant bonuses that Maeda earns only if he pitches a lot of innings for the Twins.  Except for the loss of Graterol and the draft pick, it’s almost a no-lose proposition for a Twins team looking to go deep in the play-offs in 2020.

The Red Sox wouldn’t take Graterol despite the obvious talent, because he’s already had one major arm surgery and he’s overweight.  He has closer stuff, however.  Maeda was obviously expendable after the acquisition of Price, and the Dodgers could essentially buy a very good, if not great, draft pick from the Twins with money the Red Sox sent along with Price.  Don’t be surprised if the Dodgers pay half of the money they will owe Price in 2021 and/or 2022 in order to trade him off a year or two from now, when the Dodgers will trying to get under the salary cap for a season before re-loading again.

Reports have it that the Joc PedersonRoss StriplingAndy Pages for Luis Rengifo deal with the Angels has fallen apart, but why exactly no one seems to know.  If the Angels thought the deal would make them better a week ago, I’m not sure why they’d decide against it simply because they had to wait a week for the other Dodger machinations to play out.  Rumors have it that Angels owner Arte Moreno was upset about having this deal put on hold, and it wouldn’t be the first time Moreno has inserted himself into player acquisition issues to the detriment of the team, in that Moreno is supposed to have a major driver of the Albert Pujols deal that turned out to be a disaster for the Halos.

There have also been reports that the Dodgers nixed the Angels deal because the final pieces of the Betts-Price deal were different than expected.  This doesn’t make much sense either, as the Dodgers now have one highly-paid outfielder too many and could assumably still use another young middle infielder.  Maybe the fact that the Dodgers beat Pederson in arbitration, thereby saving $1.75M in 2020, is the reason trading Pederson no longer seemed like a great idea.  The Dodgers may also have realized that throwing in Andy Pages, who had a 1.049 OPS as an 18 year old rookie leaguer in 2019, was too much without a second legitimate prospect from the Angels in return.

All that said, it’s still quite possible that a variation of this deal centered around Pederson and Rengifo goes through before Spring Training starts.

Mike Bolsinger Sues Astros for Sign-Stealing

February 11, 2020

Mike Bolsinger is suing the Astros for lost earnings as a result of getting hammered and knocked out of the majors by a bad outing against the ‘Stros, with the garbage can banging away in the dugout.  His lawyers certainly found the right plaintiff, a pitcher who got knocked out and immediately sent down with recorded audio proof of the cheating.  MLB Trade Rumors’ Jeff Todd has a good piece which mentions some of the hurdles Bolsinger will face in order to get to discovery, at which point the Astros will probably settle for some several million dollars paid to Bolsinger and his lawyers in order to prevent all of the Astros’ dirty secrets from getting a fuller public airing.

I think it’s likely that the Astros will try to get the case kicked into arbitration, although Bolsinger may have an argument that cheating of this type isn’t covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and thus not arbitrable.  However, disputes as to arbitrability are usually left to the arbitrators themselves to decide — courts love kicking cases off to arbitration in these circumstances, because labor arbitrators have more experience in resolving collectively bargained contracts and issues than state court judges.  Kicking cases into binding arbitration, where both sides are well represented by competent legal counsel also conserves state court judicial resources.

An argument I would expect the Astros’ lawyers to raise is whether a California State Court in Los Angeles has personal jurisdiction to hear this dispute.  As I understand it, most of the sign-stealing cheating took place in Houston, although wikipedia’s description of the methods used suggest they could also have been used on the road so long as the Astros could get a live video-feed of the game.  In any event, the day that Bolsinger got hammered happened in Houston.

Thus, it may be necessary for Bolsinger’s lawyers either to find a California-based pitcher to add as a plaintiff and/or to prove that the Astros were stealing signs in Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco or Oakland.  The lawyers picked L.A. because it has a more liberal judiciary.  Orange County is more conservative, but Alameda County, where the A’s play, would probably have been a better choice, because it would probably be easier to prove the Astros cheated at the Oakland Coliseum than at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

A 2017 U.S. Supreme Court case, Bristol-Myers Squibb, holds that to establish specific personal jurisdiction, the conduct complained of in the lawsuit must arise out of or relate to the defendant’s activities in the forum state such that the forum state’s court may only adjudicate issues deriving from or connected with the present controversy that establishes jurisdiction.  This is why I think Bolsingers’ lawyers need to present evidence that the Astros cheated in California and thus that a pitcher in California was negatively affected by the cheating to establish personal jurisdiction.

As I said, if the lawsuit gets past the pleading stage to discovery, I expect the case to settle.  If it did go to trial, Bolsinger would have a hard time proving damages.  While the outing at issue got him knocked out of the majors, he had a 5.49 ERA going into that game.  He’s also likely to find it nearly impossible to prove he would have made more after he was sent down by the Blue Jays, because he made more money in Japan the last two seasons than he would likely have made in the U.S. even if he’d been able to last a little longer in MLB.

I’m doubtful that any major league team will sign Bolsinger in the future.  They might if he was younger and better, but given where he is in his career, I expect him to be effectively black listed by MLB teams for committing the cardinal sin of suing them.

Committed to Rebuilding

January 26, 2020

Absent a surprise signing of Nicholas Castellanos, the last remaining elite free agent, it seems clear that the San Francisco Giants are fully committed to a two-year rebuilding process, which will presumably and hopefully end when the Giants get out from under the bulk of their long-term veteran contracts at the end of the 2021 season.  Jeff Samardzija‘s contract comes off the books after this coming season, and the big contracts of Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Johnny Cueto can be gotten out from under by the end of 2021.

The Giants are still on the hook for nearly $15M to Evan Longoria in 2022, but that’s easy enough for a big revenue team like the Giants to handle.

The run of pennant contenders from 2009 through 2016 left the Giants’ farm system utterly bereft, so much so that nearly no one drafted before the 2017 Draft looks likely to develop into a player that could significantly help the Giants reach a future post-season.  With the team’s run of winning seasons having ended, the team has had good first round picks the last three drafts, whom they’ve actually held onto; and 2017 Third Round pick Seth Corry had a 2019 season at full season Class A ball at age 20 that elevates him to elite prospect status.

Heliot Ramos and Joey Bart should be ready for the majors by 2021 or the start of 2022, and the Giants will likely be drafting from a high position at least through the 2022 Draft.  Signing pitchers like Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly says only that the team is committed to not losing 100 games in 2020.

After making qualifying offers to Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, the Giants have 5 of the top 87 draft picks in the 2020 June Draft.  Giants fans have to hope that the team can turn at least two of the four picks after the first round pick into useful major league players.  The Giants have a history of underwhelming with their 2nd round picks, with the notable exception of Bryan Reynolds, who looks like he’s going to be a big star for the Pirates and is one of the many prospects the Giants drafted before 2017 who got traded away for runs at the post-season.

The Giants also essentially bought former Angels No. 15 overall pick in 2019 Will Wilson for Zack Cozart‘s $12M+ 2020 salary and grade-B prospect Garrett Williams, adding one more prime prospect to the mix.  I’m a little sad the Giants have already sought release waivers on Cozart and won’t give him a shot to be a back-up infielder for the Gints, even though I knew at the time they acquired him that the team was solely interested in acquiring Wilson.

It will be worth two more sub-.500 seasons if it means the Giants can actually draft and develop into major league stars a new, affordable core of young players, who can be supplemented with expensive free agents, once the existing big contracts come off the books two years from now.  The plan to rebuild obviously makes sense, and the team is going about it in the right way.  It’s just a matter of whether the team can succeed in drafting the right players and developing them, and also having the good luck of none of the most talented prospects getting seriously hurt.

Best Foreign Pitching Prospects for Taiwan’s CPBL 2020

January 21, 2020

Last off-season I had fun writing a post on the best foreign pitching prospects for Taiwan’s CPBL.  Henry Sosa was the one of many players I name-checked in the article, and I predicted he’d sign with a Mexican League team.

The point is there are so many pitchers available with the right talent level and potentially in the CPBL’s price range that it’s kind of a fool’s errand to try to predict who exactly CPBL teams will sign, unless you are reading reports out of Taiwan in Chinese coming from sources that actually work for one of the CPBL’s four teams.

Nonetheless, it’s still fun to identify some pitchers most MLB fans have never heard of but who still have enough left they could be stars in the CPBL earning at least $150,000 to start if they can last a full season. There were a flurry of foreign pitcher signings in the CPBL last week, but there still appear to be as many as four remaining roster spots available for foreign pitchers as I write this.

Former foreign KBO pitchers are always very popular with CPBL teams.  Christian Friedrich (32 years old in 2020), Joe Wieland (30), Deck McGuire (31), Felix Doubront (32), Pat Dean (31), Ryan Feierabend (34), David Hale (32), Tyler Cloyd (33) and Scott Copeland (32) are all over age-30 former KBOers who are still looking for a contract somewhere.

Christian Friedrich is my favorite as a potential CPBLer.  He hasn’t pitched in the MLB-system since 2017 due to an arm injury.  In 2019, he split the season between the Atlantic League and the KBO and pitcher very well in both places.  He’s not returning to the KBO to start the 2020 season (all the KBO roster spots for foreign pitchers are now filled), and at age 32, he might find it hard to get a call from an MLB organization.

Also, by my calculation Friedrich only earned about $160K last season, which is an amount a CPBL team could easily afford.  Almost all of these pitchers would be a good bet for a CPBL team, so long as any of them are willing to pitch in Taiwan for what the Rakuten Monkeys or the 7/11 Uni-Lions are willing to pay.  The ChinaTrust Brothers and the Fubon Guardians spent big on foreign pitchers this off-season, but their roster spots are now filled.

I like Feierabend too, because as a knuckleballer, he could still potentially pitch for years in the CPBL even though he’s already 34.

Pitchers who pitched well in the Caribbean Winter Leagues are a good bet for CPBL teams.  Teddy Stankiewicz (26) , who pitched well at AAA for the Red Sox last year and in both Mexico and the Dominic Republic this winter, would be a great prospect, but I expect an MLB organization will eventually get around to signing him.  David Kubiak (30) pitched so well in the Dominican Republic this winter, he deserves another shot in the CPBL.

Eric Stout (27), Jason Garcia (27), Justin Nicolino (28), Jake Paulson (28), Giovanni Soto (29), Mitch Lambson (29), Forrest Snow (31), Joe Van Meter (31), Hector Santiago (32) and Mitch Atkins (34) round out a list of pitchers who were good this winter and are still looking for summer 2020 jobs.

CPBL teams like AAA pitchers who have aged out and didn’t quite pitch well enough the previous season to receive a contract for next season.  The current possibilities include Dan Camarena (27), Dillon Overton (28), Tyler J. Alexander (28), Ryan Merritt (28), Parker Bridwell (28), Daniel Corcino (29), Drew Hutchison (29), Dietrich Enns (29), Erasmo Ramirez (30), Kyle Lobstein (30), Seth Maness (31), J.J. Hoover (32), and Logan Ondrusek (35).

I still like Tyler Alexander and Kyle Lobstein, whom I listed last off-season, as potential CPBL pitchers, but any of these pitchers would be good bets.  J.J. Hoover pitched in the Australian Baseball League this winter, which is great back door to the CPBL, because it’s easier and cheaper for CPBL teams to scout players Down Under than in the Americas.  Thomas Dorminy (28) and Rick Teasley (29) are two former CPBL pitchers pitching in Australia this winter, who, I bet, would jump at the chance to pitch in Taiwan again at CPBL salaries, even at the low end.

CPBL teams like Mexican League pitchers too.  Matt Gage (27), Andre Rienzo (31) and Dustin Crenshaw (31) are current Mexican League pitchers who might be available this off-season.

Needless to say, many of the pitchers I’ve listed will get minor league offers between now and the end of Spring Training, or they will elect to pitch in the Atlantic League or the Mexican League in the hopes of working their way back to the MLB system.  Even so, there are lots of options out their for CPBL teams, if they are willing to turn over every stone and kick a few tires.

Cincinnati Reds Reach Agreement with CF Shogo Akiyama

December 31, 2019

The Redlegs have reportedly agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Japanese CF Shogo Akiyama for around a $20M guarantee.  It’s a generous deal for Akiyama, who I very much think of as a crap shoot entering the major leagues as a 32 year old rookie.

Acting in Akiyama’s favor are that he’s a true centerfielder (although at age 32, his best years in the field are almost certainly behind him) and that he’s very good at getting on base, which is the most important ability for any Japanese hitter trying to establish himself as a major league player.

Aside from his age, something that concerns me is Jim Allen’s recent report that Shogo doesn’t hit the fastball well.  According to Allen’s numbers, Akiyama has been well below average in hitting the fastball in NPB over the last three years.  In my mind, that’s a big concern, because the biggest difference between major league pitcher and NPB pitchers on average is that the MLBers throw harder.

Akiyama has a big foot-in-the-bucket swing  (you can see the video here), which a lot of Japanese players have and which is going to hard to unlearn at age 32.  One of the things that amazed baseball insiders about Shohei Ohtani was how quickly (basically one Spring Training) he was able to drop his foot-in-the-bucket step for a more compact timing movement which was believed to allow him to better handle/catch up with major league fastballs.  Given Ohtani’s talent level, I wouldn’t be surprised if he one day goes back to a more foot-in-the-bucket swing, but the feeling around MLB was that his quick adjustment was a huge factor in his immediate major league success.

Akiyama better get up to speed in a hurry, because the first thing he’s going to see from major league pitchers is major league fastballs.  In that sense, the professional game is actually incredibly simple.

First, major league pitchers test whether a newly arrived hitter can hit the fastball.  If he can’t, he’s toast.  If he can, then they try off-speed pitches.  If the hitter proves he can hit those too, then the pitchers rely heavily on the scouts and the video footage to try to figure out how to set the hitter up to swing at the pitcher’s out-pitches.

Except that in today’s game, the Reds’ 2020 opponents will be looking at video footage of his recent seasons in NPB to get an idea of how to pitch to him before they ever see him in regular season action.  I don’t have any doubt, though, that pitchers won’t be testing his ability to catch up their fastballs given his high leg lift.

It would be a good idea for Akiyama to get on the phone with Ohtani to find out how Ohtani made the adjustment to MLB so quickly.  Of course, what Ohtani can’t teach Akiyama to do is become 23 again.

Oakland A’s to Build New Ballpark at Coliseum Site?

December 25, 2019

It was announced today that the A’s are going to get a share of the Coliseum site where the current ballpark is located in East Oakland, increasing the likelihood that the A’s will build a new baseball-only park on their portion of the site.

There’s nothing wrong with the Coliseum site.  It’s a crummy industrial neighborhood, but it’s readily accessible by both car and mass transit and it’s in a central location in terms of both Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the core of the A’s fan base.  What sucks is the Coliseum one of the last of the multi-sport concrete monstrosities of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

With the Raiders moving to Vegas, it’s likely the A’s will build a new stadium in what is now the parking lots and will eventually turn the Coliseum into new parking lots.  Or the City of Oakland could elect to hold onto the Coliseum in a vain hope of attracting another NFL team, and the City and/or A’s could purchase some of the surrounding industrial areas to build more parking.  I don’t have any doubt that the A’s could draw at that site if they had a beautiful new baseball-only stadium.

In other news, I like the two-year $16M deal, with third year team option, the Diamondbacks gave former Angels’ right fielder Kole Calhoun.  Switching to the weaker league and playing his home games in a better hitters’ park, Calhoun could potentially surprise everyone and hit 40 home runs in one of the next two seasons.  Playing in Mike Trout‘s shadow, Calhoun has very quietly been a very good player in five of the last six seasons.

In a final piece of the day’s news I found interesting, the KBO’s Lotte Giants signed former MLB catcher Hank Conger to be a coach for the team in 2020.  Conger is a American son of a South Korean mother who emigrated to the U.S. and Korean-born father who was adopted by an American military family as a child — thus, the non-Korean name.  Conger is perfect to coach in Korea, particularly if he learned any Korean from his parents. notes that Conger was once one of MLB’s best pitch-framers and that the Giants likely want him to work with a young catcher they just traded for.  However, what I find interesting is the fact that Conger could also potentially play for the Giants at some time in 2020.  Conger is only turns 32 next month, and he played as recently as 2018 in Mexico (albeit poorly).

KBO teams can now carry additional foreign players to play at the minor league level.  I won’t be surprised if at some point in 2020 if Lotte’s other foreigners aren’t performing Conger gets a shot at resuming his professional career.  Players doing double duty are almost always useful to their teams.