Keeping in contact 

May, 20, 2010
5/20/10
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Getty ImagesHeyward's talent was one thing, his ability to adjust is the stuff of legends.
Jason Heyward did it again, David O'Brien writes. We've seen great young players before, and we've seen players make adjustments as they gain experience.

But the rate at which Heyward makes his adjustments is absolutely stunning. You remember Heyward's first month in the big leagues -- a lot of power, a lot of strikeouts. He had 26 punchouts in 75 at-bats, which is not unusual for a player so young.

Well, in May, he basically has stopped striking out. His walk-strikeout ratio this month: 9-3.

Nine walks. Three strikeouts. In 38 at-bats.

I asked John Parolin of ESPN Stats & Information to look at the percentage of times that Heyward has missed with his swings this month, and he went a couple of steps beyond that (see the chart).

Those numbers are from games before his single, double and triple on Wednesday night.

Heyward is a remarkable player, for sure -- but by all accounts, he is also a remarkable person. We did this piece on "E:60" on Heyward, and the reason why he chose No. 22.

Strasburg


The phenom -- Stephen Strasburg is baseball's LeBron James -- made another Triple-A outing without allowing a run, Dave Sheinin writes.

I mean, think about that. He might pass through this level without allowing a run, given his numbers after three starts:



Innings: 18.1

Hits: 4

Runs: 0

Walks: 4

Strikeouts: 23

Then consider his overall numbers in the minors. He's pitched 40.1 innings and allowed 17 hits, four earned runs and 10 walks, while striking out 49. But here's something else which tells you about the defensive nature of the swings taken against him -- Strasburg hasn't allowed a home run, and his ratio of ground balls to fly balls is 2.74. His ground ball/fly ball ratio in Triple-A is 3.43.



How good is that? Well, the top ML ground ball/fly ball ratio is 2.25, by Tim Stauffer of the Padres.




Which means that even when batters are getting hits against Strasburg, they're taking uncertain, compromised swings.

If anybody is still wondering if he's not going to be really, really good right away, well, then they're not paying attention. What separates Strasburg is not the fact that the throws so hard (96-99 mph). It's his ability to command three plus pitches while working both sides of the plate. We have never seen anybody who can do that this well at that age, while throwing that hard.

Remember, his incredible strikeout-walk ratio in college, which was greater than 10-1, was a product of his remarkable command. The NL evaluator who said very early in Strasburg's junior season at San Diego State that the right-hander was better than A.J. Burnett -- at that moment -- probably nailed that scouting report.

As Sheinin writes, it appears likely that Strasburg is going to make his debut on June 4; this way, he would have two more starts in the minors before reaching the big stage.

Strasburg was as good as advertised, writes Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Hanley Ramirez


Andre Dawson was absolutely direct in telling Hanley Ramirez what he needed to do, writes Joe Capozzi in this terrific story. From the piece:

The door closed, and Andre Dawson looked directly into Hanley Ramirez's eyes.

"I'm not going to say a lot, because if you say the wrong ... thing to me, then you might wind up on the floor on your rear end," Dawson said with Tony Perez standing by his side in a coach's office at Sun Life Stadium.

For 15 minutes, Ramirez sat and listened as the two Hall of Famers, who also work as Marlins assistants, tried to assess for Ramirez exactly the damage he had done to himself by ripping into his manager for pulling him off the field Monday night because he didn't hustle.

Dawson said he did most of the talking in this intervention, which took place about an hour before Tuesday's game. Dawson today recounted it like this:

"Look, I'm going to level with you," he told Ramirez. "You either hear me or you don't. For one, you're not bigger than the game. You don't show a manager up. The way you're going about this is literally the wrong way. It's an immature act ... and this could come back to bite you in the rear end in the worst way."

Ramirez didn't say a word. His eyes darted from Dawson's to Perez's and then he looked away.

"You really have stepped across the line," Dawson said. "You owe that manager a sincere apology. And if you think your teammates have your back with this, you've got another thing coming because the mind-set, and this is from me to you, the mind-set is these guys are laughing at you."


The Marlins' shortstop returned to the lineup, after apologizing to teammates. Now the Marlins can just go out and play baseball.

Papelbon


A talent evaluator on Jonathan Papelbon: "He doesn't have the same mechanics he used to. He flies open in his delivery, and he really is only commanding on the arm side [of the plate]."

For a right-hander like Papelbon, that means he can throw strikes inside to right-handed hitters, but he is struggling to get the ball to the outside corner against right-handed batters, and inside to left-handed hitters. "He just can't get his fastball the way that he used to," said the talent evaluator.

These numbers, from Albert Larcada of ESPN Stats & Information, seem to support that observation -- this is the percentage of all RHB at-bats resolved with the pitch outside in the strike zone versus RHB at-bats resolved with the pitch in the strike zone.

2007: 44.8%

2008: 44.0%

2009: 57.7%

2010: 38.5%

The combined numbers:

2007-09: 48.9%

2010: 38.5%

Dings and dents

1. Brandon Webb is going to change his arm slot. And, of course, the question will be whether he can throw his sinker and changeup with the same kind of effectiveness.

2. Brian Roberts is in the hospital with pneumonia.

3. J.P. Howell is officially out for the year, Tony Fabrizio writes.

4. Josh Beckett was placed on the disabled list, and Tim Wakefield will take his place, Amalie Benjamin writes.

5. Marco Scutaro has tennis elbow, Peter Abraham writes.

6. Coco Crisp could rejoin the Athletics today or tomorrow, and Mark Ellis is getting closer to returning, as well.

7. Kyle Blanks has an elbow strain.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Jays cut a player.

2. The Astros placed Kaz Matsui on waivers.

3. The Rockies started Dexter Fowler for the first time in five games, Troy Renck writes.

4. John Russell deserves an extension, writes Gene Collier.

5. Brendan Donnelly is due back tonight with the Pirates, writes Colin Dunlap.

6. The Phillies will be monitoring Roy Halladay's pitch count, writes Bob Brookover.

7. Trevor Hoffman is going to get a couple of days off.

8. Ken Williams says the White Sox coaches are safe.

9. The Cubs are interested in Bobby Howry, writes Paul Sullivan.

10. The Indians should give a young player another chance, in light of Grady Sizemore's recent injury.

Wednesday's games

1. The Tampa Bay Rays dominated the Yankees in a convincing performance, Joe Smith writes. The Rays are making this summer worthy of your time, writes John Romano.

2. Ian Kennedy has been huge for the D-backs, and came up big again.

3. The Blue Jays, the best team nobody is talking about, shut down the Mariners, Richard Griffin writes.

4. Detroit rookies continue to have an impact, John Lowe writes. Plus, that Verlander guy was pretty good. Why he won: He controlled the count. Verlander went to a 2-0 count only once in Wednesday's game against Oakland, against Daric Barton in the bottom of the seventh inning (who then flied out to center on a 2-2 pitch). He finished off Athletics hitters efficiently -- Verlander retired 15 of 19 A's hitters with two strikes (78.9 percent), including five strikeouts. He used his fastball early and often; Verlander threw 25 first-pitch fastballs to the 30 batters he faced, and 21 of them were strikes. Oakland hitters swung at only one first-pitch fastball all night, a third-inning pitch Adam Rosales flied out on.

5. The Nationals snapped a five-game losing streak.

6. The O's bullpen had a tough night.

7. Jeff Keppinger had a big night.

8. A blown home run call didn't cost the Rangers a game, Jeff Wilson writes. Still, it makes zero sense, given the availability of instant replay, that a call like this should be missed. Everybody watching on television knew within moments that Josh Hamilton's drive was a home run -- and the umpires should've gotten this call right.

9. It just feels like the Rockies cannot get on a roll so far; they lost to the Astros on Wednesday, writes Troy Renck.

10. The Pirates won again.

11. The Brewers have stopped winning.

12. Milton Bradley was back in the lineup for the Mariners, but Seattle again struggled to score runs, Bud Withers writes. Bradley says he's committed as he rejoins the team.

Think about how bad the Mariners' offense has been:

Total games played: 40

Games in which Seattle has scored 10 or more runs: one

Games in which the Mariners have scored two runs or less: 17

13. Clay Buchholz was The Man for the Red Sox.

14. The Royals rallied late, Bob Dutton writes.

15. The Cardinals continue to slog along, writes Rick Hummel.

16. The Twins couldn't solve Clay Buchholz.

17. Kerry Wood had a really bad night.

18. The Reds rallied, but lost.

19. On the same day that the Yankees got smoked by the Rays, they learned that Jorge Posada is going to miss about a month, Erik Boland writes.

20. All of the big guns in the Mets' lineup are struggling, and the Mets just continue to lose, Brian Costa writes.

21. Todd Wellemeyer got hammered again, and Madison Bumgarner could replace him soon.

22. The Dodgers' pitching staff got beaten up.

23. Joe Saunders had another great start.

Why Saunders won: He finished off White Sox hitters -- Chicago batters were 1-for-11 against him in two-strike situations with four strikeouts, numbers that were helped by White Sox batters chasing 44.4 percent of pitches out of the zone with two strikes. He worked efficiently -- Saunders retired Chicago in order in five of his seven complete innings (7.2 innings total). He also retired six of eight leadoff men, and ended 72 percent of plate appearances in four pitches or less. He kept the ball down. Chicago hitters went 1-for-11 (.091 average) against Saunders on pitches down in the zone. His fastball in particular was effective down in the zone, with White Sox hitters going 1-for-6 with a single on low heaters.

The Patience Index


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