Paul Goldschmidt had an OPS over 1.000 entering Sunday’s game, and after a walk and a home run in 5 plate appearances, he left it with an OPS of 1.088. That’s extremely good; 5 bombs in two weeks puts Goldy on a pace for 65, and what is “normal” for Goldy might be a pace of 3 per two weeks. Paul Goldschmidt is a monster, and this stretch has been a great reminder of that, a nice welcome back party and a boon for the team. An OPS of 1.088 is “out of his mind” good, small sample though it may be.
Jake Lamb has an OPS of 1.204.
Yes, Lamb isn’t going to have an OBP over .500 (it’s .514) at the end of the season. He probably won’t slug over .600 (it’s .690). Despite his reverse platoon split in his fantastic Double-A campaign last year, he probably won’t hit lefties better than righties — and considering a ridiculous 33 of his 35 plate appearances have come against righties, he probably has looked better than he is. He’s also been kept away from the team’s toughest pitching opposition, which has the same effect. He’s also probably been lucky.
But here’s the thing: at the plate, hitters can make their own luck. Jake Lamb has been lucky for his entire professional career. In 315 PA in 2012 at Rookie ball, he had a .371 BABIP. At High-A in 2013, he bested that in 283 PA with a .385 BABIP. Spending most of the season at Double-A in 2014, he had a .389 BABIP there. At some point, you have to infer that Lamb might just be good at hitting the ball especially hard especially often.
The knock on Lamb has been strikeouts, which is something you’d expect to see out of someone who stings the ball on the regular. Over 20% is not good for a strikeout rate, and that’s where he’s been for most of his minor league career. In his 133-PA cameo last year with the D-backs, his K% was 27.8%. But so far this season? Just 3 strikeouts. A 8.6% K%.
I’d love to see Ender Inciarte play almost every day, for A.J. Pollock to get no more than regular rest for a starter, for David Peralta to start every game against a RHP and for Mark Trumbo to join him in a platoon. I’d love to see it, but I also understand: the team is functionally required to play Trumbo if he’s on the roster. A player with HRs as a calling card doesn’t get his calls returned if playing time restraints limit him to 15-20 bombs. There’s also the idea that a 4-man, 3-position time share has so many other benefits that it’s worth having 4 players as pseudo-starters, even if one of them is not bringing quite as much to the table.
Those excuses just don’t extend to the team’s failure to start Jake Lamb for more than 8 of the team’s 13 games thus far. On Sunday, Lamb sat even though starter Tim Hudson throws right-handed. Putting Lamb in a platoon is bad; it’s in the team’s interest to start him more than 65% or 70% of games, and to get him going against left-handed pitching instead of just assuming that it’s going to be a liability. This is a development year, after all. But sitting him on Sunday? That’s reducing Lamb’s starts even lower than a platoon.
That’s too much, man. I’m aware that I’ve already thrown objectivity out the window with respect to Lamb, and I’m probably paying for that now (but I don’t regret it!). But… c’mon. What the hell. There’s no Trumbo-similar excuse; the team already announced that Aaron Hill would assume a bench role, and there was essentially no backlash whatsoever. The bulk of any harm to Hill as an asset was already done by that announcement. Hill has started 8 games to Lamb’s 8.
Chris Owings has been allowed to work things out during games, starting 10 so far. What gives, D-backs? Would Lamb be getting more playing time if he also struggled? The team committed to assigning the final roster spots based on merit, and wonder of wonders, the team has looked pretty damned good thus far, with real fight, real talent, and good baseball. Saying “what more does Lamb have to do” is too easy, but… isn’t that the point?
Baseball Prospectus has a stat called oppRPA+ that gives us an indication of the strength of a hitter’s opponents. So far, Lamb’s opposition has been exactly league average: 100 oppRPA+. It’s just 35 PA, but the man has 6 walks to 3 strikeouts and has been absolutely tearing the cover off of the ball. Whether or not he can hit righties well, hit lefties reasonably well, and be a good hitter overall is one of the things I’d most like to learn from this 2015 season. I don’t understand why that wouldn’t be more of a priority for the D-backs, as well.
- Excellent piece from Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs on Archie Bradley, where he’s throwing his pitches, the rise on his fastball, the weirdness of how many ground balls Bradley has gotten… just go read it, seriously. If you’re here, you will just love it.
- As Nick Piecoro reports, Yasmany Tomas is on a “program” and working with major league coaches. As written last week and talked about on Episode 24 of The Pool Shot, this is a temporary situation. Now that Laird is having surgery, there’s no landmark here for how long is too long to prevent him from starting most games at Triple-A. Maybe we’ll see Jordan Pacheco start one more game at catcher during the 2-game Texas series at home starting tomorrow, and the team will use that to determine whether to roll with Pacheco until Oscar Hernandez gets back into the picture in a month or six weeks from now (assuming they slow play that). In the same Piecoro piece, he notes that the team is hoping to have Patrick Corbin back in “late May or early June.” Refer back to our conversation on The Pool Shot… creating another spot on the 40-man by transferring Corbin to the 60-Day would only make him ineligible to return through May 27. Maybe we’ll see Blake Lalli in a D-backs uniform after all.
- From this Piecoro piece: Daniel Hudson is feeling good. That’s great, because I’m feeling good about him, too. There’s kid gloves, and then there’s how the D-backs are handling Hudson. We frequently talk about pitcher appearances in terms of “days of rest,” where if a pitcher threw on Friday and then again on Sunday, that would be on “one day of rest” instead of on two days, despite it probably being about 48 hours. The Piecoro piece is about how Hudson thinks he can bounce back on no days rest. But he’s gotten those days anyway; he pitched in the first game of the season, then had one day, four days, two days, and how will have had four days’ rest again, assuming he pitches in the next game tomorrow.
- Statcast will be a major part of the broadcast of the Cardinals/Nationals game tomorrow. Let’s get this show on the road… so much data, so many things we can do immediately (with, say, batters’ best home-to-first times), and so frustrating to be getting this stuff in dribs and drabs. I would love to tell you about the average batted ball velocities of Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb, for instance, but with that information only released for some games and not others, I think that information wouldn’t be all that helpful. As for the video topping that mlb.com piece… if I came up with a list of people I’d want to hear from re: Statcast, I’m not sure Harold Reynolds would have been on that list, except for pure entertainment value.
- In ESPN’s Power Rankings, the D-backs sunk to 22 from 21 for some reason, but hey, 22 is a lot better than 30.
- Finally — many thanks to Harris (@Ascend_Descend) for helping out with some live tweeting on the @InsidetheZona account during yesterday’s game — Twitter + baseball = awesome.
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