Sunday Notes: Adam Cimber Dropped Down For Under-the-Radar Success

Adam Cimber is one of those pitchers that you notice, yet don’t spend too much time thinking about. The arm angle catches your attention, but at the same time, the side-slinging right-hander is neither overpowering nor a prolific ninth-inning arm. Working most often in the seventh and eight innings throughout his career, Cimber has a pedestrian mid-80s fastball and a meager 18.0% strikeout rate. Moreover, he’s been credited with just 23 wins and seven saves since debuting with the San Diego Padres in 2018.

Amid little fanfare, and with the exception of an injury-hampered 2023, he’s been one of the most reliable relievers in the game. Now 27 years old and with his fifth team — Cimber signed a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels over the winter — the University of Washington product has made 327 appearances, more than all but 13 hurlers during his big-league tenure. Killing a lot of worms along the way — his ground ball rate is north of 51% — he’s logged a 3.46 ERA and a 3.81 FIP over 304 innings.

Speaking to Cimber during spring training, I learned that he began throwing sidearm when he was 14 years old, this at the suggestion of his father, who felt he’d need to do something different if he hoped to make his high school team. Role models included Dan Quisenberry and Kent Tekulve — “my father grew up in that era of baseball, the 1970s and 1980s” — as well as a quartet of more-recent sidearmers and submariners.

“For the longest time it was Darren O’Day, Joe Smith, and Steve Cishek,” said Cimber, who has made four appearances this year and allowed one run in four-and-two-thirds innings. “But the pitcher I grew up watching that really helped me after I dropped down was Brad Ziegler. That was way back in the day. They’re all different in their own way — they went about it in a different way — but it’s always great to learn from guys that went before me.”

For Cimber, learning has included adapting. His arm angle has changed multiple times, going both higher and lower in various seasons.

“When I first started, I was a little more side,” Cimber explained. “As the years went on it got lower, and at one point I kind of came back up a little bit. I’ve kind of played around with it over the years. There were times when the metrics were like, ‘Hey, this kind of spin will play better,” and you kind of ride that for awhile. Then you kind of see hitters start to adjust to that, so you try to create a little different spin, a different look.”

Which of the aforementioned low-slot forerunners is he most similar to now?

“That’s hard to say,” Cimber said. “All of the guys I grew up watching threw a little harder than I do. I used to throw a little harder, and now I throw slow [a 1st percentile 85.2 mph lat year.] It seems like everyone’s average velo is going higher every year, and mine just goes lower. I guess Darren O’Day was the guy I tried to emulate the most, but he was closer to the high-80s. He also did it a lot better than I’ve ever done it.”

That may be true — O’Day pitched 15 big-league seasons — but Cimber has nonetheless done just fine. Not that people tend to pay much attention to him.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Tony Pena went 16 for 36 against Jimmy Key.

Don Slaught went 12 for 21 against Matt Young.

Manny Sanguillen went 11 for 21 against Nolan Ryan.

Mike LaValliere went 11 for 20 against John Smoltz.

Jason Kendall went 11 for 16 against Brian Moehler.

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A casual on-air comment by Minnesota Twins radio analyst Dan Gladden got me thinking about a rule I’d never considered. The play took place on Tuesday afternoon, and I happened to be listening.

Milwaukee’s Brice Turang had just walked to lead off the sixth inning, and before the next pitch was thrown, Jackson Chourio was called for a pitch timer violation as he was deemed not to be attentive to the pitcher at the eight-second mark. Kris Atteberry, Minnesota’s new radio play-by-play announcer, called the violation, after which Gladden said “The baserunner hadn’t even got to first base.”

Revisiting the play on MLBTV’s game archive, it seemed to me that Turang actually had reached first base before the violation was called — but what if he hadn’t? Could it actually have been Turang, and not Chourio, who was deemed responsible for the violation? According to a rules expert I checked with, the answer is no. A batter-runner cannot be charged with a pitch timer violation, only the batter, pitcher, or catcher. On a related note, a legal pitch can’t be thrown prior to a batter-runner reaching first base. The umpires would hold up play until he reached base.

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A quiz:

All but one of the 16 franchises that comprised MLB in 1901 have had at least one regular season in which they won more than 100 games. Which of the 16 modern-era franchises has never won more than 100 games in a single regular season?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Jackie Bradley Jr. has reportedly signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks. Wei-Yin Chen has also signed with the Ducks.

Pat Zachry, who pitched for four teams — most notably the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets — dies earlier this week at age 71 (per Baseball Player Passings). The right-hander’s rookie season was his best, as he went 14-7 with a 2.74 ERA and won Game 3 of the World Series, which the Reds swept against the New York Yankees.

Wayne Schurr, a right-handed pitcher who appeared in 26 games for the Chicago Cubs in 1964, died on March 29 at age 86. The only player in MLB history out of Hillsdale (MI) College, Schurr logged a 3.72 ERA over 48-and-a-third innings and went without a win, a loss, or a save. He fanned both Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell in his big-league debut.

Nolan Schanuel’s on-base streak to begin his career has ended at 30 games due to a retroactive scoring change. The Los Angeles Angels first baseman had been credited with an infield hit in a March 30 game against the Baltimore Orioles, but the MLB office inexplicably decided that the play will ultimately ruled an error. Schanuel singled last night and by all rights should have a streak of 37 games and counting.

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The answer to the quiz is the Chicago White Sox, whose highest single-season win total came in 1917 when they finished with exactly 100. The Pants Rowland-managed club then won four more against the New York Giants in the World Series.

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A Tweet by Tokyo-based baseball scribe Jim Allen attracted my attention earlier this week. Responding to a comment, Allen estimated that 30% of routine fly balls turn into extra-base hits when managers pull their outfields in. I questioned this, as the outfield is pulled in almost exclusively when the winning run is on third base, and official scorers routinely rule single, not double, on such occurrences.

Allen proceeded to remind me that baseball in Japan sometimes differs from what we’re used to here in the US. In this particular case, it differs greatly. Allen informed me that an NPB manager had recently pulled in his outfield with one out and runners on second and third with a 3-0 lead. Once I’d picked my jaw up off the floor, I asked my go-to-source for all things Japanese baseball if he could provide an explanation of this, for lack of a better word, logic.

“Historically, Japanese baseball has emphasized techniques and tactics meant to manufacture or prevent single runs from scoring,” Allen explained via email. ”It is so pervasive that a manager will never be criticized for sacrificing, even with one out when trailing by two runs, or bringing in the infield in the first inning of a scoreless game to prevent a runner on third from scoring on a ground ball.

“This doctrine became etched in concrete, partly as a backlash by small-ball purists after a lively ball caused Pacific League home run rates to soar starting in 1979 and 1980. Even as home runs increased in the 1980s, teams sacrificed into bunt shifts because they knew that if the runner reached second, the opposing outfield would come in and open the door for big innings. And because no manager can be criticized for it, regardless how often it blows up in his face, there are some who will bring in the outfield to prevent the runner on second—even one that doesn’t represent the tying run–from scoring on a one-out ground single.

“Because of this, Japanese games on occasion drift into a battle over style points, a contest of which team is better at scoring or preventing that next run.”

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Anderson Espinoza has taken the mound twice for the Orix Buffaloes and allowed one run over 13 innings. A highly-regarded MLB prospect before undergoing a pair of Tommy John surgeries, the 28-year-old right-hander signed with the NPB club over the winter after spending last season with San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate.

Chunichi Dragons right-hander Hideaki Wakui was credited with a win on Saturday, giving him at least one win in each of the last 20 seasons. The 37-year-old has won 160 NPB games in all.

Hanwha Eagles infielder Yonathan Perlaza has been the KBO’s hottest hitter. The 25-year-old former Chicago Cubs prospect is slashing .500/.580/.975 with five home runs in 50 plate appearances.

Brandon Waddell is 3-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 17 innings for the Doosan Bears. The 29-year-old southpaw is in his third KBO season after seeing action with four teams over parts of two MLB seasons.

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Wednesday’s Chicago Cubs win over the Colorado Rockies by a count of 9-8 included a pair of atypical pitching notables.

Luke Little served as an opener for the Cubs — the lefty went one inning — this after his having worked the ninth inning on Tuesday. Per the club’s official historian, it was the first time a Cubs pitcher had finished a game and started the next since Rick Reuschel did so in 1976.

Wednesday’s other pitching notable was the official scorer’s awarding of a win, and not a save, to Adbert Alzolay, who entered the game with the Cubs leading 9-8 after eight innings. The Rockies had rallied for five runs in the top of the eighth, with the second of the inning’s two pitchers, Hector Neris, allowing three hits that resulted in runs. Using his discretion, the official scorer deemed Neris undeserving of the win, and awarded it to Alzolay.

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FARM NOTES

In last Sunday’s column I wrote that Triple-A Norfolk’s Jackson Holliday, Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo, Connor Norby, and Kyle Stowers were a combined 24-for-47 with three home runs through two games. The quintet of Baltimore Orioles prospects are now 73-for-186 (.392) with 20 home runs through eight games.

Caleb Durbin is 11-for-26 with two doubles, a triple, a home run, and five stolen bases in as many attempts for the Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The recently-turned-24-year-old infielder in the New York Yankees system was featured here at Sunday Notes last May.

Walker Buehler has made two rehab starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander has allowed three earned runs over eight innings and has eight strikeouts. He threw four-and-two-thirds scoreless innings yesterday.

The Triple-A Sacramento River Cats started the season 5-1 with three of their wins coming in extra innings. Donovan Walton recorded two of the extra-winning wins for San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate, allowing just an unearned run over four innings. The 29-year-old infielder/emergency reliever has started a pair of games at second base and is 2-for-6 with a home run.

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Time zones will be traversed following today’s games, with teams flying east-to-west, and vice versa, to begin series against new sets of opponents. This will continue throughout the course of the season, with teams on the west coast bearing the brunt of the travel. East coast clubs will have it somewhat easier, while those located in the central time zone will log significantly fewer frequent flier miles. The extremes are notable. Per this chart on Baseball Savant, the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers will travel roughly half as many miles as the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners this year.

I brought up the impact of seasonal travel distances to Detroit’s A.J. Hinch during spring training.

“It matters from a fatigue standpoint,” said the Tigers manager. “In performance science, and things we’ve looked into… jet lag is a real thing. We do have an advantage in-season when it comes to our travel schedule.”

How much of an advantage?

“There are a lot smarter people than me who know the exact difference between the amount of travel,” said Hinch.

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EARLY SEASON STAT NOTABLES

Seattle Mariners hitters have a 29.4% strikeout rate so far this season, the highest in the majors. Arizona Diamondbacks hitters have a 16.8% strikeout rate, the lowest in the majors.

Boston Red Sox pitchers have a 29.8% strikeout rate so far this season, the highest in the majors. Colorado Rockies pitchers have a 17.6% strikeout rate so far this season, the lowest in the majors.

The Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays each have 14 stolen bases, the most in the majors. The San Francisco Giants are 0-for-2 and the only team without a stolen base.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers have each allowed just one stolen base. The New York Mets have allowed 11 stolen bases in as many attempts.

The Houston Astros have turned 10 double plays. The Cincinnati Reds have turned two double plays.

Miami Marlins and New York Yankees batters have both grounded into 13 double plays. Baltimore Orioles batters have yet to ground into a double play. They are the only team not to have done so.

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A random obscure former player snapshot:

Larry Littleton played in 26 big-league games, all for the Cleveland Indians in 1981, and went without a hit in 23 official at-bats. Along with Mike Potter, who saw action with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976 and 1977, Littleton’s 23 at-bats are the most in MLB history for a non-pitcher who went sans a base hit. The left-handed-hitting outfielder did have four successful plate appearances, as he drew three walks and hit a sacrifice fly.

———

Graham Pauley was featured in my Talks Hitting series this past January, our conversation having taken place a few months earlier during the Arizona Fall League season. When I caught up to the 23-year-old corner infielder midway through spring training, I asked if anything had changed over the winter.

“I’m the same player,” replied Pauley, who proceeded to break camp with the San Diego Padres and make his MLB debut during the Seoul Series. “I’m just continuing to get better at the things I’m good at. I’m also really focused on the weaknesses to see how I can become a better all around player.”

Defense is considered to be the young third baseman’s biggest weakness, although it was an offensive imperfection that be brought up when addressing his offseason efforts.

“Early on in my career I had trouble with my direction,” said Pauley. “Being a left hitter and a righty thrower, I’d want to pull off balls a lot. Now, with the drill work I’ve done, and continuing to face really good pitching, I’ve been able to focus on direction and being able to drive the ball to all parts of the field.”

Pauley’s first big-league hit, which came on March 30 against San Francisco’s Camilo Doval, went to the pull side at Patco Park. The direction was perfectly fine, as was the distance. The 352-foot shot sailed over the fence for a three-run homer.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

The Baltimore Banner’s Danielle Allentuck wrote about Anthony Villa, who at age 30 is the director of player development for an Orioles organization that boasts baseball’s top farm system.

Dan Connolly interviewed Los Angeles Angels manager Ron Washington for Sportskeeda.

At The Conversation, H. James Gilmore and Tracy Halcomb teamed up to write about how scouts, the backbone of America’s Pastime for over a century, face an uncertain future.

———

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

A total of nine players have appeared in exactly one game for the Oakland Athletics since the team relocated from Kansas City in 1968. Of the nine, only Chris Bando has a base hit on his ledger, it coming in a 1-for-2 effort on the final day of the 1989 season. The backstop’s brother, Sal Bando, had 1,279 hits with the Oakland Athletics, the fourth highest total since the franchise’s move west.

Philadelphia Athletics second baseman Nap Lajoie went 31-for-49 (.633) over the first 11 games of the 1901 season. The Hall of Famer finished the year with 232 hits and a .426 batting average.

Jack Morris no-hit the Chicago White Sox on today’s date in 1984 as the Detroit Tigers ran their record to a perfect 4-0. Come May 24, the Tigers were 35-5, the best start to a season in MLB history.

The Baltimore Orioles were 0-2 on today’s date in 1988, having lost their first two games to the Milwaukee Brewers by a combined score of 15-1. The Orioles proceeded to lose their next 16 games before beating the Chicago White Sox 9-0 on April 29. The 0-18 start is the worst in MLB history.

Jim Palmer had a career record of 21-12 against each of the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins. His shutout totals against those teams were five, four, and four.

Joey Votto has a 144 OPS+, a .295 batting average, and 356 home runs.
Albert Belle had a 144 OPS+, a .294 batting average, and 381 home runs.
Lance Berkman had a 144 OPS+, a .293 batting average, and 366 home runs.

On today’s date in 2002, Marcus Giles hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 14th inning to give the Atlanta Braves a 5-2 win over the New York Mets. Satoru Komiyama, who was making his second MLB appearance, surrendered the gopher.

The Chicago White Sox and California played to a 4-4 tie at Comiskey Park on today’s date in 1974,. The game was called after 10 innings due to snow and gusting winds.

Players born on today’s date include Dave Cripe, whose big-league career comprised seven games and 13 plate appearances for the Kansas City Royals in 1978. The first of his two hits, which came in his first time at bat, was a run-scoring single off of Nolan Ryan.

Also born on today’s date was Desmond Beatty, who appeared in two games for the New York Giants at the tail end of the 1914 season. Nicknamed “Desperate Desmond,” the infielder had spent most of that year with the class-D Atlantic League’s Poughkeepsie Honey Bugs, for whom he batted .337.





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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Left of Centerfield
1 month ago

Tough quiz but got it right! Even though at this hour on a Sunday my brain was struggling to remember all 16 original franchises.

PC1970
1 month ago

I missed it..& I also had to write the teams down to remember them all!

It seemed like most ofthe teams had a well known great squad (or more) so I quickly narrowed it down to CWS & Wash/Minnesota, but, ended up guessing Minnesota..completely forgetting they won 101 games in 2019 (They also won 102 during a 1960’s season).

Good tough quiz today.

Last edited 1 month ago by PC1970
MikeSmember
1 month ago

I got it right, of course. Because I know all sorts of horrible things about White Sox futility.

I remember in 2005 there was talk of them breaking the franchise record of 100 wins for the first time and I knew they hadn’t done it since. I just didn’t know they were the only one of the original teams to not do it. Now I know one more horrible thing about White Sox futility.

Last edited 1 month ago by MikeS
sadtrombonemember
1 month ago

I got it by figuring it had to be a team where most of its success was before the league went to 162 games. The White Sox had a really good run in the early 20th century but they haven’t had a ton of success since 1961. I figured that would make the difference–a winning percentage in that got you to 98 or 99 in 1917 would have put a team over 100 today.

Last edited 1 month ago by sadtrombone
TKDCmember
1 month ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

This was my thinking too and also I specifically remember a lot of 100 win seasons so that also narrowed it down. The Pirates and Guardians were the other two I narrowed down to before going White Sox. I actually thought those late 90s Indians teams must have won over 100 but they didn’t (obviously they would have given a full season in 1995). But they did win over 100 in 1954. Same with Pirates, where I thought maybe the early 90s or good 70s teams maybe won 101+ but it was the way-back Pirates that actually did.

Left of Centerfield
1 month ago
Reply to  TKDC

Cleveland also won 102 in 2017, the year after their heartbreaking WS loss. And they would have won more than 100 in 1995 if not for the strike (100-44).

sadtrombonemember
1 month ago
Reply to  TKDC

Yes–Cleveland and Pittsburgh have been good enough post 1961 for longer stretches that I figured they would have done it at least once.

Unlike you, I didn’t remember that many specific 100-game seasons. I remember the Cubs’ curse-breaking team, the 1998 Yankees, or if it happened after 2020. I didn’t remember the 2019 Twins or 2017 Indians or anything like that. I just knew roughly when teams were among the elite.

TKDCmember
1 month ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I remembered the Cubs 116 game season (record before M’s), the Braves/Giants 1993 pennant chase, Yanks and Red Sox easy, knew the Reds must have won 100 in BRM days. Remembered , A’s, Dodgers, Phillies and Orioles, too. Didn’t remember specific Cardinals, but too good of franchises to not have one. I figured Denny McClain’s Tigers won 101.

I’m not sure what the 16th team I’m forgetting was…

PC1970
1 month ago
Reply to  TKDC

That’s where I was..Many of them were easy.

LAD & SF both over 100 in 2021, Braves last year (among many), Yankees in 1998 (among many), Boston did it at some point, Cleveland in 1954, Reds in 1975/76, Baltimore had 109 in 1970 (or 71?), ’84 Tigers, Cubs in 1906 & 2016, Honus Wagner Pirates, A’s have a bunch over 4-5 eras (1910’s, Grove/Foxx teams, Moneyball teams, 70’s teams Bash Brothers,, etc) Phillies in 2011, STL won 105 some year in the mid 2000’s.

Minnesota & the White Sox were the 2 I couldn’t remember for sure..& I knew the Senators didn’t have a great history & couldn’t remember a really dominant Twins team. Oh well..

Last edited 1 month ago by PC1970
Left of Centerfield
1 month ago
Reply to  PC1970

BTW, there are 4 teams that have done it 3 years in a row:

Cardinals: 1942-1944
Orioles: 1969-1971
Braves: 1997-1999
Yankees: 2002-2004

Meanwhile, the Dodgers might have been able to do it 4 years in a row if not for the COVID shortened season.

telejeffmember
1 month ago

I got it wrong because I forgot about Honus Wagner’s Pirates. I took a small bit of comfort from Pittsburgh appearing to have the longest current streak among the original 16 of not winning at least 100 games (I checked and they haven’t since they won 110 games in 1909).