Let’s lead right off with the important stuff: Jeff and I will be at Zipps Sports Grill next Sunday at noon, the idea being that we will be thirsty before heading over to Scottsdale Stadium for the 3:05 game against the Giants. Jeff picked the meetup locale, so I can neither confirm nor deny that it was chosen because of the ZiPS projection system.
I don’t think there’s anything better than real baseball conversations; that’s what it’s all about, and it’s why we do The Pool Shot, and really it’s why we write, too. Can’t wait. So please come down and say hi, either at Zips or at the game that day; we would both really love to meet anyone who follows the D-backs. And, hey, if you have the appetite or the patience to read or listen to any of our stuff, well then we really would like to meet you.
So, this coming Sunday, 12 to 2:30 or so, Zipps at the Hayden location, 8380 E. Via de Ventura in Scottsdale. And let us know if you’re at that Giants game. We will probably rely on Twitter (@thepoolshot, @OutfieldGrass24, @InsidetheZona) to coordinate.
On a related note: pretty great to see some D-backs baseball yesterday, as the Salt River Fields game was televised. Not really in my wheelhouse to distill what I saw, but I don’t mind saying: Yoan Lopez had stuff that really moved, including a bowling ball changeup. He and Peter O’Brien both seemed like they were aiming, though, and when strikes look lucky and like lucky guesses, I’m not sure how many calls you’re going to get on the margins of the zone. The combination really highlighted that, I thought.
The day still belonged to Daniel Hudson, as Nick Piecoro wrote. If you don’t remember what Hudson’s return was like last September, or if you just want to relive it, head on back to this piece — I just couldn’t really keep myself from gushing, and there are GIFs of most of the pitches that Huddy threw that night. All three batters flinched on his changeup, which was incredibly impressive — especially since only one of them was vaguely inside. Fingers crossed.
If baseball is fun, spring training is especially fun. I think Josh Collmenter and his traveling hands would agree:
Another note: I kinda went the hot take route toward the end of what I thought was a really fun episode of The Pool Shot over the weekend. But I wrote about that opinion in this same space a couple of weeks ago, if you want more on my reasoning. Also, it was tons of fun having great Twitter questions for this — Jeff and I talk a lot on the D-backs, and so catalysts for new conversations are very useful. Any time you think of one, just go ahead and tweet @thepoolshot — even if we don’t respond right away, it won’t get lost even if it’s early in the week.
On to the links:
- In addition to being Collmenter’s traveling hands, those Trevor Cahill arms are busy getting used to a new, more over the top arm angle, as Nick Piecoro wrote last week. Lending them to Collmenter, then, is not such a bad idea. He told Piecoro that fastballs were moving more vertically now, instead of running “back over the plate.” Can’t wait to see what PITCHf/x will have to say about that, assuming he pitches in April and we get to see that data.
- If you’re not reading David Laurila’s Sunday notebooks at FanGraphs, you’re really missing out (you may have heard me say that a few times already). In the latest edition, there is a note about Yasmany Tomas‘s feet that I won’t spoil for you. Robbie Ray had an interesting point, about one way that wind affects hitters that I had definitely never thought about before (I love the fact that Ray thought that through). Jeremy Hellickson talked with Laurila about his change in scenery.
- Fantastic (and GIF-filled) piece on Aaron Hill‘s defense from Neil Weinberg at FanGraphs. Writes Weinberg: “In one way, Aaron Hill was the best defender in baseball last year. But in another, much more accurate way, he wasn’t anywhere close to the best defender.” Hill absolutely is unique in this regard (others have tried to crack this code), but go check Neil’s explanation. If you like our pieces here, this is a similar model and length, and exactly what we strive for.
- Speaking of things to strive for: Eno Sarris examined the D-backs’ young guns for Just a Bit Outside at Fox Sports, and it’s his special brand of blending analysis (stats or mechanics or other) with feedback from players. Don’t miss it.
- In this Zach Buchanan piece on David Peralta, it’s pretty encouraging that he thinks there’s room to improve against lefties. I think Peralta being a force against lefties is unlikely enough that giving Peralta those chances while the outfield stays this crowded isn’t a necessity, but if injuries, etc. make that possible without reducing the playing time of Ender Inciarte or A.J. Pollock, why not? He definitely is a monster against righties, and probably belongs on any MLB roster just for that reason. It definitely is crazy that this is Peralta’s first spring training. One of Buchanan’s points deserves a lot more thought: given where Yasmany Tomas fits in this picture, it’s interesting that no matter what, it’s always going to be difficult to fit both Peralta and Jake Lamb into the same lineup against RHP. I agree that those are the two lefties with the most legit batting talent, but this brings into focus that the D-backs are going to have a tough time designing a consistent lineup for RHP. Mark Trumbo really struggles against righties, making this a pretty important consideration. Would not be impossible to mix Inciarte in there, but that’s another facet of the same difficulty.
- Piecoro and Buchanan teamed up in writing about how Gerald Laird fits into camp and into the team’s catcher picture. I have every reason to believe and no reason to doubt that being an MLB catcher for such a long time means picking up dozens or hundreds of little things that can help a team win, and I have no reason to doubt that Laird owns many of those things. But in talking about the catcher position, make no mistake: he’s not a strong defensive catcher, as compared to anyone not named Jarrod Saltalamacchia. That possibly includes Peter O’Brien. And if Laird is a stronger defender than O’Brien, all that means is that both options are “hit first” catchers, and definitely don’t belong if they don’t hit (although in O’Brien’s case, development time in the majors is still helpful).
- Tons of great content at azcentral.com, but another one I particularly liked was Buchanan’s piece about the composition of the D-backs bullpen from last week. It’s true: we almost don’t need to figure out what the ideal 7-man bullpen would be to start the season, because the chances that all of the candidates will be healthy is miniscule. And there are definitely options. Since we posted about how the D-backs have enough relievers to field two pretty good bullpens, only Eury de la Rosa has been dropped from that picture. Still 14 guys, and that doesn’t count pitchers like Andrew Chafin and Cahill who would theoretically be candidates if pushed out of the rotation picture. And for what it’s worth, Jeff and I talked about Enrique Burgos and Will Locante on Episode 18 of The Pool Shot in conjunction with a Twitter question (here is the Nick Piecoro piece on Burgos I referred to), and they are the subject of a new bet between us. I need to start keeping track of those…
- Great lineup preview from James Attwood at Snake Pit last week, really picking apart every position. It’s a question of catcher and of third base, but yes — it’s really about the outfield, especially since the third base situation affects the OF. With respect to the Tomas-or-Lamb discussion, it’s hard to see Tomas being as good as Lamb there defensively. Which, as far as I’m concerned, means that the “will Tomas play third” question really comes down to the “will Lamb be an everyday MLB player” question. Playing Tomas at third with Lamb in left would lack a substantive reasoning, especially since Lamb is under control for six years and Tomas — if everything works out as well or nearly as well as the team hopes, which is the point — will be gone or extended in four. Just as helpful and good at Snake Pit is a piece today from Jim McLennan on non-roster invitees we’ll keep seeing around for at least a while longer. Look for the updates there to complete the series.
- If you are thinking about writing baseball, or if you want to do so: there’s no replacement for actually doing it. I think that none of us are really going to change our tolerance level for reading/watching/listening baseball, so there’s not much more to do through osmosis. Just go for it. I write for SBN at Beyond the Box Score (well, less frequently now), enough to know that SBN is a good place to develop that. Now’s your chance: Snake Pit is soliciting applications.
- Check out this Craig Goldstein piece at Vice Sports on baseball teams crying poor. They’re all businesses, and while (as far as I know) the D-backs ownership isn’t quite as dominated by one figure as some of the teams Goldstein discusses, it’s a similar story. The TV deal tells us that. And as Jeff has repeatedly pointed out, that’s one part of the picture we need to coach ourselves to remember: the ultimate decision makers actually do have the ability to change everything with a simple signature.
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