Sunday Notes: Bobby Dalbec is a Music Nerd

Bobby Dalbec is a bona fide music nerd. The son of a longtime Atlantic Records executive, the 26-year-old Boston Red Sox rookie not only plays piano and guitar, he’s an ardent fan of multiple genres. Growing up around the business influenced that. His father, Tim Dalbec, has worked with a diverse group of artists that include — to name just a few — Bruno Mars, Robert Plant, Smash Mouth, and the Zac Brown Band.

While he listens to everything from rap, to house, to Neo soul —“If it sounds good in my ear is all that matters” — guitar-based rock is clearly in his wheelhouse. Talking to the young power-hitter prior to a recent game at Fenway Park, I learned that he enjoys Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer — “a lot of people think he’s a pop guy, but his his guitar playing is pretty top-tier” — and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Another favorite is Goose, a jam-band out of Connecticut.

Somewhat surprisingly, Dalbec only recently began playing the guitar.

“My dad never pushed me toward music,” said Dalbec, whom the Red Sox selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of the University of Arizona. “He was a drummer growing up, but I never learned drums. The first instrument I learned was actually piano, and that was three or four off-seasons ago. I was self-taught. Piano was kind of a gateway into learning guitar, which I really dove into after the first COVID outbreak.”

Why piano before guitar?

“I was super into Queen at that time,” explained Dalbec. “Elton John, as well. I listened to a lot of that kind of music, so I wanted to learn those songs. Of course, a guitar is easier to travel around the country with than a piano, so that’s what I’m mostly playing now.”

When he left home to start the season, Dalbec brought along his Stratocaster —“a ‘50s Vintera Daphne Blue Strap with a maple fretboard” — and his pedal-effects board. The guitar purchase was prompted by a member of a Grammy Award-winning band

“I was talking with Eric Howk, the lead guitarist for ‘Portugal. The Man,’” Dalbec told me. “They had the song ‘Fell It Still,’ which went platinum. The first electric I bought was a PRS CE 24, for about $450 — I bought it used and still have it — and then [Howk] hooked me up with the Fender guy. I like that ‘50s Vintera kind of sound, but I’m actually in the hunt for a new PRS now, kind of a semi-hollow. I just haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet.”

Dalbec admits to being a relative neophyte in terms of guitar chops, although a lot of that has to do with lofty standards. He’s recently been listening to Tom Misch, a UK-based musician who grew up a violin savant, then studied music technology before turning his attention to the guitar. Dalbec isn’t nearly that advanced, but it’s
not as though he doesn’t understand what he’s doing. On a recent road trip, Adam Ottavino played the band Boston’s ‘Foreplay/Long Time,’ and Dalbec took it upon himself to learn the song’s main riff. And he loves to improvise.

“I’ll use a loop pedal, make a chord progression, add a bass line, and just kind of jam over it,” said Dalbec. “What I’m mainly focusing on lately, when I play a solo, is soloing over that chord — not necessarily just soloing on the pentatonic scale or whatever key the song is in.”

Spoken like a true music nerd.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Al Aber went 0 for 4 against Spec Shea.

Merito Acosta went 0 for 4 against Cy Pieh.

Morrie Aderholt went 0 for 4 against Rip Sewell.

Hank Arft went 0 for 4 against Bobby Shantz.

Casper Asbjornson went 0 for 4 against Sheriff Blake.

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Ralph Garza Jr. is unique in that he throws three pitches from one arm angle, and two pitches from another arm angle. The 27-year-old Minnesota Twins right-hander employs a conventional three-quarters delivery for his four-seamer, cutter, and slider, and he drops down sidearm for his sinker and his curveball.

The veracity of what you just read is dependent on how you define pitch types. An exchange I had with Garza earlier this week brought that sometimes-conundrum to the fore. Asked how he grips his sidearm curveball, the erstwhile Houston Astro told me that it’s the same as if he were throwing a slider over the top. Were he to hold the 79-mph offering like a curveball, “it would be like 50 mph.”

So, is the pitch a curveball, or is it actually a slider?

“I call it a slider,” replied Garza. “The catchers also call it a slider. The computers call it a curveball.”

OK, then. What about the breaking ball he throws from over the top?

“Along with a cutter, I throw a slider that’s more 12-6,” explained Garza. “They call it a slider, even though it’s more of a curveball than the one I throw from the side.”

So there you have it. The pitcher the Twins claimed off waivers in early August throws a curveball that’s arguably a slider, and a slider that’s arguably a curveball. Throwing different pitches from different arm angles isn’t the only thing that makes Ralph Garza Jr. atypical.

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A quiz:

The New York Yankees have the most home runs (16,475) of any MLB franchise. Which franchise has hit the second-most home runs?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Taylor, Michigan and Hamilton, Ohio will meet in the Little League World Series championship game tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. ET. Ohio advanced to the final by beating Sioux Falls, South Dakota 5-2. Michigan topped Honolulu, Hawaii 2-1.

Jerry Koosman had his No. 36 retired by the New York Mets yesterday. The left-hander from Appleton, Minnesota pitched for the Mets from 1967-1978, winning 140 regular-season games and going 3-0 in four World Series starts. All told, Koosman went 222-209 in 19 big-league seasons.

Solly Drake, an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs in 1956, and for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies in 1959, died earlier this week at age 90. Per RIP Baseball, Solly Drake and Sammy Drake were the first African-American siblings in MLB history (post 1900).

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The answer to the quiz is the Giants, who have totaled 14,959 home runs while calling New York and San Francisco home.

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Stevie Branche is looking like a find for the Cincinnati Reds. Signed as a non-drafted free agent last summer out of the Rochester Institute of Technology, the 24-year-old right-hander has 85 strikeouts, and has allowed just 28 hits, in 48-and-two-thirds innings between Low-A Daytona and High-A Dayton.

His path to pro ball was atypical, as well as a little bumpy. A senior-sign with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Branche wasn’t envisioning a career on the diamond in his initial two seasons at RIT. Admittedly not ready for the dual demands of baseball and academics when he reached campus, he struggled to gain a toehold both on the mound and in the classroom. Come his junior year, that changed. Buoyed by encouragement from teammate Will Gorman — “He told me, ‘Hey, you can make something of this’ — Branche upped his focus, as well as the velocity on a fastball that now sits mid-90s and has topped out just short of triple digits.

Following his senior year, and a truncated five-round draft in which he was bypassed, a pair of teams reached out with offers. One was the San Francisco Giants. The other was the Reds.

“I felt that was where I belonged, that it was the better fit for me of the two,” Branche told me shortly after being promoted to Dayton. “I saw myself flourishing and progressing the best in this organization.”

Technology is helping him flourish. Branche had a Rapsodo at his disposal at RIT, but it wasn’t until after he was drafted that deep dives into pitch design entered his reality. The result of those endeavors has been a swing-and-miss breaker.

“I didn’t have a slider at all during my college career,” explained Branche. “I was a curveball guy, and I couldn’t throw it that hard, so they wanted me to try out the slider. That was what I really worked on during quarantine: trying to shape that pitch, get the spin direction, and the overall spin, right. I’m getting it up to about 84-85 mph with sometimes over a foot of horizontal break. Metrically speaking, the vertical break will be anywhere from negative-three to positive-five. The spin [rate] averages around 2,200 to 2,300 [RPM] right now.”

The engineering grad knows the numbers on his other offerings, as well. Branche said that his two-seam circle changeup ranges from 87 to 90 and spins between 2,000 and 2,100. His mid-90s fastball, which gets good ride up in the zone, spins between 2,500 to 2,700. The spin efficiency is top-shelf, at 98 to 100%.

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FARM REPORT

Altoona Curve broadcaster Trey Wilson called his 1,000th professional baseball game last night. Wilson broke into the business with the Bluefield Blue Jays in 2013 and has also been behind the mic for the Lansing Lugnuts and the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Jordan Lawlar, the sixth-overall pick in this year’s draft, will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a posterior labrum tear. The 19-year-old shortstop played in just two games for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rookie-league affiliate before being injured.

Zac Veen had a grand slam while hitting for the cycle on Tuesday. A 19-year-old outfielder and the top prospect in the Colorado Rockies system, Veen is slashing .306/.401/.524 with Low-A Fresno. He has 15 home runs and 31 steals.

Enmanuel Mejia has thrown 33-and-two-thirds innings over 25 relief appearances between Low-A Bradenton and High-A Greensboro and has yet to be charged with an earned run. A 22-year-old right-hander from Bonao, Dominican Republic, Mejia was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019.

Fernando Guanare has a 2.45 ERA to go with 29 strikeouts and just one walk in 33 innings with the Los Angeles Angels’ Dominican Summer League squad. An 18-year-old right-hander from Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, Guanare was inked to a contract this past January.

Brandon Pfaadt has a 2.60 and 136 strikeouts in 110-and-two-thirds innings between Low-A Visalia, High-A Hillsboro, and Double-A Amarillo. A 22-year-old right-hander, Pfaadt was drafted in the fifth round last year out of Bellarmine University by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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Andrew Albers is back with the Minnesota Twins this year after three seasons in Japan, where he played for the ORIX Buffaloes. I asked the 35-year-old southpaw out of North Battleford, Saskatchewan which pitchers most impressed him during his time in NPB.

“We had a guy by the name of Yoshinobu Yamamoto who is very, very good,” Albers said of the ORIX right-hander. “He’s led the league in ERA, and has really good stuff. Two-seam, slider, little cutter, nice split. He can throw a breaking ball when he needs to. Nothing goes straight. He just gets weak contact after weak contact. He’s young (23 years old, as of earlier this month] so he hasn’t played out his contract yet to possibly come over.”

Yamamoto is 11-5 with a 1.64 ERA in 18 starts this year. His ERA was 1.95 in 2019, and in 2020 it was 2.20.

“There’s also a guy with SoftBank, Koudai Senga,” added Albers. “He throws really hard — he’s 96 to 100 [mph] — and has a good split and a decent little slider; it’s firm. Good stuff. So those are the two guys I was impressed with the most. I didn’t see the other side very much. We were in the Pacific League, so I can’t say much about [the pitchers] in the Central League.”

Could the veteran left-hander see Yamamoto and/or Senga succeeding in MLB?

“No question,” replied Albers. “They’d both be fine.”

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The Hanshin Tigers have NPB’s best record, 55-40 with three ties. The Nippon-Ham Fighters have the worst record, 32-47 with 13 ties. Hanshin’s three ties are the fewest for any team, while the Seibu Lions and SoftBank Hawks have 17 each, the most of any team.

Kosuke Fukudome drew his 1,000th career NPB walk on Wednesday. The 44-year-old Chunichi Dragons outfielder has 1,937 NPB hits.

Thyago Vieira set a Yomiuri Giants franchise record earlier this week when he made his 30th consecutive pitching appearance without allowing a run. The 28-year-old native of Sao Paolo, Brazil has made 41 relief appearances and has 14 saves and a 2.11 ERA. Viera played for the Chicago White Sox in 2018 and 2019.

The KBO’s Kia Tigers have signed 24-year-old right-hander Bo Takahashi. A native of Presidente Prudente, Brazil who was featured in a July 2018 Sunday Notes column, Takahashi had been pitching for Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate, the Louisville Bats.

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One of the Random Facts and Stats entries in July 4’s column informed that Jim Minshall holds the big-league record for most pitching appearances without giving up an earned run. A right-handed reliever for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1974 and 1975, Minshaw came out of the pen six times.

Here are two other Minshaw facts:

Pitching for Class-A Salem in 1972, Minshaw made 26 starts and went 16-1.

Prior to being promoted in 1974, Minshaw played for the Double-A Thetford Mines Pirates. Located in Quebec, Thetford Mines was Pittsburgh’s Eastern League affiliate in 1974 and 1975.

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I recently ad-libbed an analogy while making a purchase at my local adult-beverage store. When I asked about the 10.2 ABV of a craft beer that caught my eye, the clerk informed me that while the stout in question is good, it does “taste a little boozy; you can definitely tell there’s some alcohol involved.” (As a matter of reference, Guinness is 4.2 ABV, while Heineken and Budweiser are both 5.0).

My response was to say that a boozy taste accompanying a higher-than-normal ABV isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a little like a warning track in baseball. There’s still room to catch the ball, but if you don’t pay attention you might find yourself hitting the wall a bit too hard.

(I didn’t say it was a good analogy.)

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

Sports Illustrated’s Amanda Crawford talked to Baseball For All’s Justine Siegal about how women belong in baseball, not only off the field, but also on the field.

At The Chicago Sun-Times, Rick Morrisey wrote about how Tony La Russa has made mistakes as White Sox manager, but that doesn’t make him evil incarnate.

At CBS Sports, R.J. Anderson wrote about how MLB pushed back the Atlantic League mound, and made a number of players unhappy in doing so.

Also in the Atlantic League, an umpire was removed from a game after making what were reportedly racist comments. Bill Thompson has the story at Words Above Replacement.

Malcolm Allen chronicled Mark Lemongello’s life and career for SABR’s BioProject. A pitcher for the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays in the 1970s, Lemongello had celebrity relatives, as well as a temper that got him in trouble both during and after his playing days.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Atlanta Braves left-hander Max Fried has come to the plate 50 times this year and is slashing .325/.372/.400. He has 13 hits and has struck out 12 times.

Miami Marlins pitchers have come to the plate 233 times this year and are slashing a combined .066/.100/.085. They have 14 hits and have struck out 124 times.

Kevin Newman leads all shortstops in fielding percentage [.994], having been charged with just two errors in 898-and-two-thirds defensive innings. Newman is the only MLB shortstop with at least 300 innings not to be charged with a throwing error.

Miguel Cabrera has a .923 OPS in Tigers wins and a .487 OPS in Tigers losses. League averages are .842 and .601.

Salvador Perez has 188 career home runs and 153 walks.
Darrell Porter had 188 career home runs and 905 walks.

Hall-of-Famer Pie Traynor had 2,416 hits, 58 home runs, and 37.8 WAR.
Non-Hall-of-Famer Bill Dahlen had 2,457 hits, 84 home runs, and 77.5 WAR.

Billy Williams played in 897 consecutive games, all as an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs, from September 1, 1963 to June 13, 1969.

On today’s date in 1986, the California Angels scored eight runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Detroit Tigers 13-12. Dick Schofield settled the affair with a two-out grand slam off Willie Hernandez.

David Cone threw a one-hitter on today’s date in 1988 as the New York Mets beat the San Diego Padres 6-0. Tony Gwynn’s fourth-inning double was the visiting team’s lone hit.

The Boston Braves acquired Lew Burdette from the New York Yankees in exchange for Johnny Sain on today’s date in 1951. Sain went 35-25 over the next four-plus years, then called it a career. Burdette went 203-144 over the next 16 seasons, including 179-120 with the Braves.

Players born on today’s date include Bill McNulty, whose big-league career comprised nine games for the Oakland A’s, five in 1969, and another four in 1972. McNulty went 1 for 27, with his lone hit coming off of Nolan Ryan in his final game.





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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bobr
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bobr

I think Koosman’s number was 36, not 6.