Rick Hahn, Ben Cherington, and Others from Saber Seminar

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is receiving well-deserved plaudits for bold trades that have helped restock his club’s farm system. Yesterday, he shared a good story on Day One of this year’s Saber Seminar, in Boston. It features his longtime boss — executive vice president Kenny Williams — and a Venezuelan outfield prospect who failed to advance beyond Double-A.

“From time to time, you think you’re potentially getting away with something by picking out a guy out of low-A, or the DSL (Dominican Summer League) or rookie ball,” said Hahn. “Inevitably, the other GM will say to you, ‘That’s some good scouting. He’s under the radar, and our guys really like him.’ Whether that’s true or not, you get that a lot. When you get, ‘Ooh, that’s good scouting,’ it’s either A: good scouting, or B: the general manager never heard of that player and doesn’t want to reveal it.

“When we did the John Danks/Brandon McCarthy deal with the Texas Rangers (in December 2006) we were coming down to the final players, and I was at a holiday party. Kenny called me and said we could get the deal done, but we’d have to give up Paisano. I was like, ‘Really. Paisano, huh?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, what do you think?’ I take a minute, then say ‘Kenny, I’ve got to tell you I don’t know who the hell Paisano is.’ He goes, ‘Good, because neither do I.’

David Paisano was a DSL outfielder we had signed the previous June or July. He wasn’t quite on our radar. That was a young A.J. Preller digging around the DSL, and trying to swipe someone away from us.”

In a somewhat more serious vein, Hahn offered astute thoughts on the scouting and acquisition of young prospects.

“It’s more art than science when you’re talking about players this young,” said the White Sox GM. “That’s part of the reason we feel we need to gather a critical mass of these guys. Obviously, we feel we like we’ve acquired a good amount of potential elite talent. We’re not smart enough to know which ones are actually going to hit their ceilings, which ones are going to get injured, and which ones are going to surprise us for the good, and which ones are going to surprise us for the bad.”


Jon Duplantier’s name came up in trade-deadline talks, and for good reason. The 23-year-old Arizona Diamondbacks prospect is 10-2 with a 1.53 ERA between low-A Kane County and high-A Visalia. The 2016 third-round pick has 119 strikeouts , and has allowed just 74 hits, over 106 innings of work.

According to a source who works for another team, the D-Backs asking price for Duplantier — a pitcher with an injury history, who some feel projects as a reliever — was high. If they were to have moved him, the return would have been much more than a pittance.


Glenn Fleisig was asked at Saber Seminar if sidearmers have less-risky elbows than conventional pitchers. According to the American Sports Medicine Institute’s research director, the answer is yes and no.

“There aren’t enough sidearm pitchers to know about injury rates, but we have looked at the force on the elbow,” said Fleisig. “It turns out that the sidearm pitchers have less torque on the elbow that overhand pitchers — but sidearm pitchers also have less velocity. A 95-mph overhand pitcher has more torque on his elbow than an 85-mph sidearm pitcher, but if you have an 85-mph sidearm pitcher and an 85-mph overhand pitcher, they would have the same torque.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean 85 is safer on the elbow than 95.

“Within a pitcher, full effort on all fastballs puts more stress on your elbow, and (results in) a higher risk of injury,” explained Fleisig. “Across pitchers, does more velocity lead to more stress, and more risk of injury? It’s not clear that it does. It’s not clear that the guy is throwing 96 is putting more stress on his elbow than the guy who is throwing 90. There are other variables, like mechanics and conditioning — mostly mechanics.

“The bottom line is, when you’re looking at pitchers, you cannot say the guy with the higher velocity is the one who is going to get hurt. I think you can say that the pitcher who throws all his pitches at full effort has a higher risk of injury.”


Austin Jackson’s spectacular catch at Fenway Park earlier this week elicited memories of Torii Hunter tumbling over a bullpen wall at the same venue, trying to catch a David Ortiz home run in the 2013 ALCS. Jackson, who’d seen Hunter’s near miss up close — they were in the Detroit Tigers outfield together — was asked about both plays following his web gem. Not surprisingly, he had good things to say about his former teammate’s defensive ability.

Earlier in the day, he had good things to say about Hunter’s preparedness. Prior to the game, I asked Jackson when he truly matured as a hitter.

“I would say the first time was after I had played with Torii Hunter,” answered Jackson, who is slashing .326/.401/.496 with the Cleveland Indians. “He would come into the locker room already having everything on the pitcher. We’d be sitting there watching film and he’d be saying all these things. I’d be like, ‘Man, how do you know this?’ He’d say, ‘I studied him last night.’

“He didn’t just show up and play. When you’re younger, you can kind of do that, but when you get a little older, you get smarter. You gain more knowledge and start to better understand what the pitchers are trying to do to you.”


Ben Cherington understands the inner workings of a baseball front office. His wide-ranging experience in the game includes a stint as Red Sox GM, and he’s now Toronto’s VP of baseball operations. Yesterday, he was asked about the leadership roles within that realm.

“Front offices are teams of people,” Cherington said at Saber Seminar. “You’re trying to put together a team of people that can work together effectively and efficiently to make decisions that produce results.

“For efficiency’s sake, it often helps to have someone with a title that means they’re the leader of that department, whether it’s GM or president of baseball ops. They’re the public face of the decisions, and they’re probably taking on a bigger burden for communicating the vision of the department. In a lot of cases, they are facilitating conversation within the department. But there’s a lot of work going on without the GM in the room.

“In the week leading up to the deadline, there were things we were working on, and even things that we executed, that Ross (Atkins) was involved in, and overseeing, but other people were doing the work — even communicating with other teams. It’s very much a team effort… with the leader playing a critical role.”


Adrian Beltre’s 2010 season with the Red Sox was superb. Thirty-one years old at the time, he put up a .919 OPS, and was worth 6.4 WAR. It was his only year in Boston. Rather than re-sign the All-Star third baseman, the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez and moved Kevin Youkilis across the diamond. Beltre subsequently signed a free-agent deal with the Texas Rangers.

According to Tom Tippett — then Boston’s senior baseball analyst — the decision was influenced by timetables and risk-management.

“He was a Boras client,” Tippett told a rapt audience at Saber Seminar. “He was a great fit for the clubhouse, he was a great fit for the position, he was a great fit for the ballpark. But all indications, in October of that year, were that he wasn’t going to sign until very late in the offseason. There was a lot of talk of him not signing until mid January.

“I didn’t feel a club like the Red Sox — or any other large market team that’s trying to win every year— can gamble on going into January having set aside a position in the starting lineup, and $15-20 million in payroll. You risk not coming away with that player, and ending up with a gaping hole.”

The decision wasn’t Tippett’s to make — Theo Epstein was the one calling the shots — but he nonetheless questions the thought process behind his non-recommendation.

“I though he was a great fit, but I was OK with us looking at other options that we could get done in November or early December,” said Tippett. “Obviously, it was a hugely successful contract (for the Rangers). I’ve been asking myself, ‘Was I putting too much emphasis on the risk of waiting until the end of the offseason, and (possibly) not getting that player?’ I don’t have an answer for that.”


Nicky Delmonico hit his first big league home run on Thursday night, and it came against the team he grew up rooting for. The 25-year-old Chicago White Sox outfielder deposited a Rick Porcello curveball into the right field bleachers at Fenway Park.

The blast came in Delmonico’s third big league game, and in his third-ever visit to MLB’s oldest venue.

“As a little kid, I cheered for the Red Sox,” Delmonico told me on Friday. “My first time here was to watch the Yankees and Red Sox. It was a long time ago — Mike Mussina was pitching against Tim Wakefield. Jeter was at short. Nomar was at short. My second time here — I think it was 2003 — was Red Sox-White Sox. That was the last time I was here before last night.”

His home run — all 395 feet of it — is something the youngster will never forget. Neither will his family, which was there to watch it happen.

“I was thinking about them as I was rounding the bases,” said Delmonico. “I couldn’t see them, although I did hear them. Outside of that, the whole thing was a blur. It felt like I hit the ball, and I was at home before I knew it.”


Yuki Yanagita leads the Japanese Pacific League in home runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage. I recently asked Rakuten Golden Eagles right-hander — and former big-league reliever — Frank Herrmann for his impression of the 28-year-old Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks outfielder.

“I like Yanagita a lot as a player,” said Herrmann. “He has great power, and runs and throws really well. Like many players here, he’s very aggressive at the plate and swings hard to the point I’ve seen his helmet fly off on multiple occasions. He is extremely toolsy, but I think you could make the case his game is a bit raw. He also seems like a good teammate.”



On Thursday night, Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers low-A) teammates Cody Thomas and Carlos Rincon hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning — twice. The four bombs were part of all 11-run frame, and the Loons went on to beat the Dayton Dragons (Reds) 16-5. In the eighth inning, Dayton outfielder Jose Siri extended his hitting streak to 39 games.

Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez is slashing .375/.414/.538 at Fenway Park this season. He’s slashing .193/.225/.246 on the road.

Since May 24, Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen is 79 for 218 (.362) with 16 home runs and a .463 on-base percentage.

Over his last 10 games (through Friday), Padres rookie Manny Margot is 17 for 40 with two doubles, a triple, and four home runs.

Over his last 10 games (through Friday), Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt is 15 for 33 with three doubles and four home runs.


Tom Hamilton did play-by-play for Triple-A Columbus for three years before becoming the radio voice of the Cleveland Indians in 1990. The Clippers were a Yankees affiliate when he was there and it was during that time he learned that George Steinbrenner’s intolerance toward losing extended to the minor leagues.

“Mr. Steinbrenner’s birthday was on the Fourth of July, and invariably he would be in Columbus to celebrate it,” recalled Hamilton. “If my memory serves correctly, his wife was from there. But we always were at at home on the Fourth of July, and it was always a big deal because he’d be at the game. There would be a big fireworks show afterwards.

“I forget which year it was, but we got obliterated by somebody. When I came to the clubhouse the next day, Bucky Dent — he was the manager — told me, ‘We’ve made four player moves since last night. It’s not good to get embarrassed with The Boss in town.’

“That was back when the Yankees weren’t listening to Gene Michael when it came to evaluation. They weren’t a very good team. This was the late 1980s, and they were always trading a young kid for an old veteran. They traded Hal Morris to the Reds for Tim Leary. They traded Jay Buhner to Seattle for Ken Phelps. And if Mr. Steinbrenner was there and you played bad, things were going to happen, whether it was the major leagues or Triple-A.”


Earlier this week, I asked an Indians pitcher what’s been on his mind of late. His answer was, “Staying ahead of the Royals.” I later shared that with Terry Francona, and asked if he too is paying attention to the team right behind his club in the standings.

“It’s kind of hard not to,” responded the Cleveland skipper. “We make our living playing to end up in first place. I could pretty much tell you where every team is. Not only is it my job, I enjoy it. I’m a baseball fan. I look up at the scoreboard all the time, and not just at Kansas City. I look at the National League games. It kind of helps me relax.”



At Sports Illustrated, Ben Reiter explored the complicated life and death of Hideki Irabu.

Trent Rosecrans of The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote about the passing of former Reds slugger Lee May.

Over at philly.com, William C. Kashatus opined that Dick Allen should be in the Hall of Fame.

Candice Williams of The Detroit News gave us an update on the revitalization of Hamtramck Stadium, the old home of the Negro League’s Detroit Stars.

SABRMedia.org put together Google Maps of all radio affiliates for each of the six MLB divisions.


In 1917, Cincinnati Reds righty Fred Toney had complete-game wins in both halves of a July double-header against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In May of that same season, Toney threw a 10-inning no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs. His mound opponent that day, Hippo Vaughn, had a no-no through nine before giving up a run on two hits in the tenth.

Harry Brecheen went 4-1 with a 0.83 ERA in seven World Series appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals. In a regular-season career than spanned 1940-1953, the left-hander known as “Harry The Cat” fashioned a 133 adjusted ERA.

Hall of Fame pitcher Vic Willis averaged 21 losses per season for the Boston Beaneaters from 1900-1905. He led all pitchers in losses, runs allowed, hits allowed, and HBP over that stretch.

On this date in 1967, Baltimore’s Brooks Robinson hit into a triple play for the fourth time in his career. Yes, that’s a record.

On August 4, 1945, Joe Cleary of the Washington Senators allowed seven runs in one-third inning in his only big league appearance. A native of Cork, Cleary is the last Irish-born player to appear in a big league game.

SABR’s Women in Baseball Committee has established a Dorothy Seymour Mills Lifetime Achievement Award.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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6 years ago

Does Frank Herrmann like Japan? The Phillies should buy a nice house in Tokyo and give him the keys, spending money and a well started 401K.