Archive for the ‘San Francisco Giants’ category

Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2018

May 12, 2018

Shohei Ohtani has more or less blown up any discussion of the best hitting pitchers in major league baseball.  He’s created a whole new paradigm for two-way players that hasn’t existed since the 1920’s and the only question is whether he is the start of a new trend or a one-off.

Highly touted prospect Brendan McKay is still on pace to be the next two-way player, although he’s still got a long way to go and his hitting abilities may not be able to keep up with his pitching abilities as he shoots up through the minors.  McKay is already ready for a promotion to A+ ball as a pitcher, and I wouldn’t hold him back to let his hitting catch up.  Still, major league pitchers who can also pinch hit should have value in today’s extreme relief pitching game.

1.  Shohei Ohtani.  I didn’t want to jump on the Ohtani as hitter bandwagon too soon, but I was convinced he’s for real (even if he doesn’t continue to bat .344 and produce over 1.000) when he beat the shift with a double down the left field line about a week ago.  Ohtani has what it takes to be a great major league hitter, although he’ll face his forced adjustments and his hitting performance will be affected by the many games in which he does not bat.  That said, the baby-faced 23 year old phenom can hit.

1.  Madison Bumgarner (.185 career batting average and .555 career OPS).  MadBum is still baseball’s best full-time pitcher, but the bloom is off the rose compared to Ohtani, who will be DHing three times a week until major league baseball pitchers prove they can get him out.  A one-on-one Ohtani-MadBum home run derby at the All-Star Break would be an enormous amount of fun.  Madbum should be healthy by then.

3.  Zack Greinke  (.229 BA, .579 OPS).   One thing I’ve noticed about good hitting pitchers, writing about them as I have for some years now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong correlation between a pitcher’s ability to hit and his having spent his minor league time or the vast majority of his MLB career with a National League team, even though this would presumably mean that the pitcher got a lot more opportunities to hit.  After spending his minor league career and his first seven major league seasons with the Royals, Greinke established himself as a fine hitter by his second National League season.

If I had to guess, I would say that the ability to hit the fastball (and lay off breaking pitches) is probably the most important factor in a pitcher’s ability to hit.  Pitchers hate to walk the opposing pitcher, so any time the pitcher-as-hitter is ahead in the count, fastballs for strikes are likely to follow.

The fact that the Diamondbacks are apparently not willing to give Greinke even half a dozen opportunities to pinch hit each season is a missed opportunity.

4.  Yovani Gallardo (.229, .564).  Gallardo’s career as a major league pitcher may be over, but he sure could hit.

5. Adam Wainwright (.199 BA, .529 OPS).  Another player whose major league pitching career is winding down, but with well over 500 career at-bats, Wainwright has well proven his abilities as a hitting pitcher.

6.  Noah Syndergaard (.181 BA, .561 OPS).  A poor start to the 2018 season has brought Syndergaard’s batting average below the Mendoza Line, but he has power and will take a walk.

7.  Daniel Hudson (.226, .567).  Since coming back from an arm injury as a major league relief pitcher, Hudson has had only one plate appearance since 2012, but he could hit.

8.   Mike Leake (.200, .511).  Mike Leake hasn’t had a plate appearance yet this year, as he is now an American League pitcher.  He hit a ton his first three seasons with the Reds, but hasn’t done much with the bat since.

9.  Tyler Chatwood (.214, .485) and Tyson Ross (.199, .476).  As I point out every year, the best hitting major league pitchers get pretty bad pretty fast.

Honorable MentionsCC Sabathia (.212, .539)  CC hasn’t had a hit since 2010, but he could hit when he had the opportunity to bat more than three or four times a season.  Travis Wood (.185, .537).  Wood’s major league career appears over.

Young Hitting Pitchers to Watch.  Michael Lorenzen (.226, .618).  A shoulder injury has prevented Lorenzen from pitching or hitting so far in 2018.  Ty Blach (.194, .505) hit as a rookie in 2017 but is off to a terrible start with the bat in 2018.  Ben Lively (.182, .545) still has to prove he can be a major league starter.

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What Happened to Jarrett Parker?

May 11, 2018

It’s now May 10th, and there is still no word on anyone signing Jarrett Parker, whom the San Francisco Giants released on March 30th.  It’s hard indeed to understand why no one has signed him yet, or why there have been absolutely no reports of any teams having an interest in him.

I’m thinking that the silence is so deafening on Parker that he must be recovering from an injury which hasn’t been reported, possibly because he hurt himself late in Spring Training and his agent doesn’t want to publicize the fact that he’s not 100%.  I can’t think of any other explanation that makes sense.

At 29 this year, Parker is still reasonably young, and he’s awfully close to being a major leaguer with great tools and a .257/.335/.456 slash line in 382 career major league plate appearances.  It just doesn’t make sense that a player his age and this close to the majors would retire or that another major league team wouldn’t want him on a minor league contract.

Parker reportedly was looking for a major league deal after the Giants released him, but when he hadn’t received one by April 15th, I can’t believe he’d continue to hold out for a major league deal.  When everyone else is playing and you’re not, the odds that a player in Parker’s situation will get a major league deal evaporate after about two weeks.

He isn’t playing in the Atlantic League and he isn’t playing in Japan’s NPB, so I think he’s got to be recuperating from some kind of injury (lingering effects of last year’s broken collar bone?).  There don’t seem to be any other reasonable possibilities.

Shohei Otani Beating the Shifts

May 5, 2018

One thing that has really impressed me in the last couple of games is Shohei Otani very clearly attempting to hit ’em where they ain’t by hitting the ball to left field.  Here’s video of the first double a couple of days ago, a ball that was hard hit but was playable with the 3Bman playing where he would a right-handed batter, but instead went unmolested down the line for a stand-up double with Ohtani running at only 70%.  You can see video of Otani hitting another double to left field in last night’s game for the next day or two.

If Otani can force defenses to play him straight away, I don’t see any reason why he can’t be a .300 hitter in the major leagues on a semi-regular basis.  Otani is likely to experience swings based on the fact that he will be a part-time hitter and part-time pitcher for as long as Otani wants to keep doing both.

If the hitting we’ve seen from Otani so far is for real, it’s still within the realm of possibility that he could end up as the Angel’s everyday right fielder.

Otani would not be the first great two-way player.  Jack Bentley for the New York Giants and the early 1920’s Baltimore Orioles, the last minor league team almost certainly better than the worst major league teams.

Bentley played 1B and pitched a full season of games for the Orioles for three seasons, and then pitched and pinch hit (at least 39 times) for the World Series losing 1923 and 1924 Giants.  He was probably one of the best players you’ve never heard of.

Matt Harvey Will Be Available

May 5, 2018

The New York Mets are reportedly going to designate for assignment Matt Harvey, and Harvey has made it clear he won’t accept a minor league assignment, so he will be available.

The Giants certainly have a need with Johnny Cueto just on the disabled list and Madison Bumgarner still a ways from coming back.

Harvey hasn’t been good since 2015, but he’s still only 29 years.  He’s worth a tryout at the minimum wage once he clears waivers, which he certainly will since his 2018 contract is a too robust $5.625 million for someone of his recent performance.

I don’t see that the Giants have anything to lose giving Harvey a few starts at the minimum wage, if Harvey is willing to pitch in San Francisco.  The Mets only gave Harvey four starts, so it’s entirely possible they gave up on him too soon.

Andrew Suarez‘s May 1st start may have made Harvey a whole lot less desirable to the Giants than they might otherwise be.  I certainly think it would be worth demoting Derek Holland to the bullpen and D.J. Snelton to AAA for three Harvey starts, since Harvey has more upside.

I have to say that the 2018 Giants season is so far better than I thought it would a week into the season.  They are a game over .500 (and leading 8-3 in the 7th today, and they’re ahead of the Dodgers.  That’s two things to be thankful for through 31 games.

Ichiro Is Done

May 4, 2018

Ichiro retired into the Mariners’ front office where he will presumably work to bring more elite Japanese players to Seattle.  He finishes at age 44 with 3,089 hits, after all those hits in Japan.

Suzuki may the last of the hitters in the Paul Waner, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn line, the pure hitters.  Power’s too important in today’s game, perhaps unless Japan can produce another Ichiro, or at least another better than Nori Aoki. the poor man’s Ichiro.

If it’s a style that all but gone, Ichiro brought a talent set to MLB that will be missed if we don’t soon see it again.

Knuckleheads

April 28, 2018

One thing every baseball blogger needs is something to get exercised about.  Knucklehead ballplayers are a great source for vituperative writing.

For that reason, I kind of miss the end of the professional careers of Milton Bradley and Sidney Ponson.  They provided countless opportunities for my digital venting.

Now, if a player is kind of a jerk, but really, really good, everyone in the baseball world kind of puts up with him, at least so long as he remains at the top his game.  Think Barry Bonds.  But the moment the player begins to slip, then everyone is quick to jump in and get their digs.

With that in mind, I’ve kept my eyes open for a knucklehead worthy of Bradley and Ponson.  Some players are just so bad, they’re disgusting and quickly out of the game like Aaron Hernandez.  Other promising contenders like Matt Bush end up (apparently) learning something and turning their lives around .

What you need is a guy who is just bad enough that he hangs around so you can be righteously indignant every time a team that should know better signs him anyway.

A guy I’ve got my eye on is former marginal MLB pitcher Josh Lueke (pronounced like loogie with a k).  You may or may not remember Lueke for an incident that happened back in 2010 when he was a throw-in prospect who went to the Mariners in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers.

The Mariners at the time were taking a leading role in MLB in speaking out against violence against women.  However, the Mariners traded for Lueke, who had spent most of the previous summer in the Bakersfield, California jail after being accused of sexually assaulting a young woman he brought home from a bar, which even a cursory internet search would have revealed (which I well know: I was one of the first to report Lueke’s legal problem which I had discovered through a cursory internet search when the trade was announced).  The allegations were pretty disgusting, but there was a lot of alcohol involved, and ultimately Lueke got off relatively easy in all respects except for his reputation.

The M’s understandably caught a lot of flack for the move, and they eventually traded him off to Tampa Bay, although not until after he had gotten lit up for a 6.06 ERA in 25 major league relief appearances for them in 2011.  Lueke has a major league arm, but after unsuccessful major league stints with the Rays in each of 2012 through 2014, he ended up in the Mexican League in 2015, presumably because at age 30, he was no longer worth the baggage that came with him.

Lueke not surprisingly had a big year in the Mexican League — he’s got a major league arm — and was signed by the Yakult Swallows in 2016 for an estimated $330,000.  He had a good year, posting a 3.06 ERA and 60 Ks in 64.2 relief innings pitched, and the Swallows brought him back in 2017 for an estimated $687,000, a hefty raise and MLB money anyway you slice it.

Lueke was even better in 2017, recording a 2.97 ERA, 22 holds and seven saves, while striking out 70 in only 60.2 innings pitched.  Lueke had made a success of himself in a league that would pay him major league money and where few likely knew much if anything about his past.

Alas, the knucklehead in him struck again.  The Swallows are a small-market NPB team, and apparently their offer for the 2018 season wasn’t to Lueke’s liking, because he skipped a team practice on October 2, 2017, the day before the Swallows’ last game in a season in which they finished dead last 29.5 games out of the play-offs (team practices in these circumstances are not usual in NPB — it’s a Japanese thing — fighting spirit and all that).  The Swallows suspended him for the last game, didn’t bring him back in 2018 and no other NPB team did either.

As an American (and a knucklehead), you can’t necessarily expect Lueke to understand how important it is in Japanese baseball for players to show respect and for the team to save face.  Still, that’s usually one the first things players from the Americas are told by the foreigners already there, and Lueke had been in the league two seasons.

Anyway, in 2018, Lueke is back in the Mexican League as the league’s best closer.  Now aged 33, MLB teams apparently decided he was too old for his baggage to offer him a minor league no matter how well he had pitched in NPB the year before.

So, Lueke has apparently worn out his welcome in both MLB and NPB, and he’s presumably making somewhere between $8,000 (the official league cap) and $15,000 (more likely if the rumors are to be believed) a month to pitch in Mexico, but in any event far, far less than the $800K or $900K the Swallows almost certainly would have been willing to pay him if he hadn’t stepped on his dick.

If, in fact, no NPB team can or will bring Lueke back to Japan, then his opportunities for better future pay-days are extremely limited.  KBO and CPBL teams only sign starting pitchers, and Lueke hasn’t started a game in his professional career.  A relief pitcher of Lueke’s abilities who wears out his welcome in both MLB and NPB is certainly a worthy candidate for Knucklehead of the moment.

Mac Williamson Is Mashing at AAA Sacramento

April 20, 2018

About a dozen games into the 2018 Pacific Coast League season, Mac Williamson is crushing the ball.  He has six home runs and a .487/.600/1.026 slash line.  Needless to say, he’s leading the PCL in OPS (or Production, as they like to call it in Japan) as I write this.

Williamson was reported to have worked on his swing this past off-season, and it has surely paid off.  He hit a ton in Spring Training and now in the PCL.

The River Cats’ second best hitter so far is Austin Slater, who looked so good in the Show last year before getting hurt.  He’s currently slashing .423/.516/.731 for Sacramento.

Unfortunately for Williamson and Slater, there aren’t currently any openings in San Francisco.  Giants’ back-ups Gorkys Hernandez and Gregor Blanco have both hit well so far.

Hunter Pence and Austin Jackson have both pretty awful at the plate, particularly Pence who is slashing .172/.197/.190 after 17 games.  However, Pence is guaranteed $18.5 million this year and Jackson $6 million over the next two, so they are going to get a lot more opportunities to fail before the team takes the drastic action of releasing them to bring up Williamson or Slater.

Jackson is also one of only two true center fielders on the major league roster.  While Blanco can still play center in a pinch, it does not appear that he has the range for the position any longer.

Other Giants’ prospects off to fast starts this April are shortstop Ryan Howard, starters Shawn Anderson and Jordan Johnson and reliever Ray Black at AA Richmond;  2B Jalen Miller and starter Connor Menez at A+ San Jose; and outfielder Malique Ziegler and starters John Gavin and Jason Bahr at Class A Augusta.

In somewhat related news, it appears that three weeks after the Giants released Jarrett Parker on March 30th (because he wasn’t going to make the major league team and is out of options), Parker still hasn’t signed with another MLB organization.  It’s been reported that Parker wants a major league job, which at present he apparently hasn’t been able to find.

Parker’s failure to sign quickly with another MLB organization is strange, because the talent is obviously there (great tools and a career major league slash line of .257/.335/.456 in 382 plate appearances) and he’s still only 29 years old.  The problem is that if you aren’t playing once the regular season begins, you start to fall behind everyone who is playing whether at AAA or the majors.

Maybe Parker is hoping an Asian team will come calling.  He’d certainly be a great prospect, given his tools, for the KBO or NPB.  However, it’s early in the season for Asian teams to be looking for replacements on the foreigners they started the 2018 season with.

If Parker is amenable to playing in Asia, he should still sign a minor league deal with an MLB organization, possibly containing an opt-out that allows him to leave June or July 1st if he hasn’t spent at least 15 days on a major league roster.  Parker is simply too young and too close to being an major league player for him to keep practicing on his own while everyone else is playing regular season games, let alone throw up his hands and walk away from the game because he can’t find a major league job.