Sunday Notes: DH Dilemma, Indians, Gallardo, Glasnow, HoF Managers, more

The Cleveland Indians have two sluggers on their roster. Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana each hit 34 home runs in the regular season. They did so while splitting time between the first base and designated hitter positions, which will pose a problem come the middle three games of the World Series. Unless Cleveland gets creative — and bold — one of them will be out of the lineup.

Given the importance of their bats, Terry Francona may want to find a way to make it happen. As Paul Swydan pointed out on Thursday, this was The Lowest-Scoring ALCS in History. Furthermore, the Cubs turn batted balls into outs better than anyone. It’s not easy to string together hits against best defensive team in baseball.

The Indians have scored 27 runs so far this postseason, and 15 of them have come via the long ball. Napoli and Santana have combined to hit just three of the club’s 11 home runs, but they remain the biggest power threats. There is also on-base to consider. The duo finished one-two on the team in walk rate during the regular season, and Santana’s .366 OBP was bettered only by Tyler Naquin’s .372. Napoli has eight seasons of postseason experience and is the de facto team captain.

How to get both in the lineup when the Series shifts to Wrigley Field?

Napoli played a smattering of games in left field for the Texas Rangers last year, and the Indians pitching staff ranked sixth from the bottom in fly ball rate. Even so, Napoli is a week away from his 35th birthday, and has never been mistaken for a gazelle. It’s hard to imagine Francona handing him an outfielder’s glove.

Playing Santana at third base — Jose Ramirez would move to left, and Coco Crisp to the bench — would also be risky. Santana manned the hot corner 26 times for the Tribe in 2014, but Brooks Robinson he was not. The Cubs had the fifth-most bunt hits in baseball this year, and the 10th-most infield hits, so putting him there would be a gamble.

Managers have rolled the dice in previous World Series. One of the notable stratagems predates the DH. In 1968, the Detroit Tigers played their centerfielder at shortstop against the St. Louis Cardinals. Mickey Stanley was more athletic than Napoli or Santana, but he had only 10 games of professional experience as a middle infielder, nine of them at the position he was bravely assigned to in the Fall Classic. Offense was the reason. Stanley wasn’t a stud with the stick, but the team’s regular-seasons shortstops lived south of the Mendoza line. Stanley was charged with a pair of errors in the Series, but the Tigers won in seven games.

Francona had decisions to make when he managed the Red Sox. In both 2004 and 2007, he played his DH, David Ortiz, at first base in World Series road games, bumping Kevin Millar and Kevin Youkilis to the bench. This year’s decision is more challenging. It will be interesting to see what he does.

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Josh Tomlin, who played shortstop in junior college, has six hits and one sacrifice bunt in 13 big-league plate appearances. His career slash line is .500/.500/.583. One of his two hits this year was a double.

Corey Kluber is 2 for 17 in his career. Trevor Bauer is 1 for 18.

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The Orioles would have had a good-hitting pitcher on their roster had they advanced to the World Series. Yovani Gallardo has 85 career hits, 33 of which have gone for extra bases. The former National Leaguer has a dozen home runs.

Gallardo has always enjoyed swinging the bat, but he’s never devoted much energy to the craft. Given his primary responsibilities, there just isn’t enough time.

“I don’t think about hitting until I’m in the box,” Gallardo told me in September. “When I’m in the dugout, I’m thinking about how I’m going to get guys out when I get back on the mound. As a pitcher, you don’t get enough at bats to where you’re going to work on it every day. Your No. 1 job is pitching, and everything else comes after that.”

Gallardo admits to thinking like a pitcher when he’s in the batter’s box. He also admits that hitting is hard.

“I’ve done that,” said Gallardo. “Being on both sides — having an opportunity to swing the bat, as well as pitch — I’d be trying to figure out what he’s going to do, kind of by what I’d do in a similar situation. I’m not sure that helps.

“Hitting isn’t easy. It’s not like you can go out there and just hit home runs. It takes a lot of time. It’s just like pitching. You have to work on it every day.”

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Cincinnati won the 1976 World Series with a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees. Pete Rose and Ken Griffey went a combined 4 for 33. The other seven players to bat for the Reds went a combined 38 for 101.

No pitchers came to the plate. From 1976-1985, a designated hitter was used in both World Series cities in even-numbered years. Beginning in 1986, the regular season rule — a DH in AL ballparks and no DH in NL ballparks — has been in effect for the Series.

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Tyler Glasnow’s curveball is a big reason the 6-foot-8 right-hander has been ranked among the game’s top pitching prospects. Despite it not always being as sharp as usual, he threw his bender 35% of the time in his first seven big-league outings. It’s a crucial component in the promising Pirate’s power arsenal.

Scouts have raved about his signature pitch. Our own Eric Longenhagen proclaimed that “It doesn’t take a well-trained pair of eyes to recognize how good Glasnow’s curveball is. It has tremendous depth and bite.” Baseball America wrote that it “can be unhittable when he commands it.”

Unittable or not, the 23-year-old former fifth-round pick doesn’t plan to go all Rich Hill (nearly 50% curveballs) on us.

“I can’t see doing that,” said Glasnow, who augments his hook with mid-90s heat. “Rather than trying to be a different pitcher, I want to just stick to my guns. I’m taller than Rich Hill and our stuff’s not the same. I’m more of a power guy, and I don’t want to get too predictable. I think I need to mix.”

Developing a consistent third pitch has thus far been an issue. The youngster has plus stuff, but could he be an effective big-league starter with just two?

“I don’t know,” admitted Glasnow. “There have been a few to do it. A.J. Burnett was a big fastball-curveball guy. But I’m definitely still working on the changeup. It’s going to be part of my repertoire. I’m not cancelling it out.”

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Ryan Merritt was magnificent in Cleveland’s ALCS-clinching win earlier this week. He topped out at 88 MPH, but thanks to masterful mixing and crisp command, Blue Jays batters were consistently flummoxed. As I wrote after the last out was recorded, he didn’t crack; he unexpectedly dazzled.

Here are quotes on Merritt’s performance, collected in clubhouse media scrums following the game:

Trevor Bauer: “It’s a team win. It’s not about one player, it’s about us going to the World Series as a team. But Merritt did a helluva job. Merritt wasn’t scared. Everybody in the clubhouse knew he could go out there and be successful, because of his demeanor. He’s not scared of anything.”

Jason Kipnis: “We said that with all the stuff that’s happened to us the whole year, there should be a movie made about this team. Kluber in a clinch game would make too much sense. That’s why we lost yesterday; having a guy in his second career start would be perfect for the movie. We were like, ‘This is going to work out OK.’ It was literally talked about before the game.

“He kind of had the mystery of the unknown playing in his favor. He did an unbelievable job.”

Andrew Miller: “Stuff isn’t always velocity. We saw Josh Tomlin (go) through two of the best lineups in baseball, and he doesn’t light up the radar gun. Merritt going out there and doing what he did… That’s amazing. That’s an incredible lineup. We threw Cory Kluber at them yesterday, and they put together good at bats. Merritt pitched just as well, or better.”

Josh Tomlin: “When you have stuff like me and Merritt, it’s tough to back down from a challenge. You have to meet the challenge head on, and understand your stuff is good enough. It doesn’t look good on a radar gun — it doesn’t look sexy — but if you go after hitters, sometimes good things happen. We’ve talked about that. Before the game, I told him, ‘Go out there and be you.’

“During the fifth inning Jose Ramirez came up to me in the dugout and said, ‘I think Merritt is your son.’ I told him, ‘I appreciate that. That’s a compliment.’ He pitched his ass off out there.”

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Eight days ago, August Fagerstrom wrote about how Josh Tomlin rebounded from a poor month of August (there’s a joke in here, somewhere) by cutting down on his cutters. His August was truly abysmal. Tomlin allowed 35 earned runs in his six starts, with opposing batters putting up a 1.084 OPS.

August was an anomaly. In all other months (including the postseason), Tomlin has allowed 57 earned runs in 25 starts. As he explained to me — echoing what he told August — “When I looked at how many times I was throwing my cutter, compared to pre all-star break, it was night and day. I needed to find that mix, that balance.”

Along with upping his curveball use in his October outings against the Red Sox and Blue Jays, he also began throwing more sinkers — if that’s how you want to label the pitch.

“That’s not really what I call it,” Tomlin told me. “I call it gravity, but yeah, I’ve gone with more of them.”

Can we expect to see a heavy dose of curveballs and gravity balls from him in the World Series?

“To be determined,” said Tomlin. “It will be what feels best that day. There’s never one pitch you’re going to go with, according to a game plan. You have an idea, but it’s only an idea.. You can’t be out there pitching to weaknesses and hoping. You have to go with your best stuff, with conviction.”

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Terry Francona was asked about robot umpires this week. He’s not a fan of the idea. He is a fan of catchers who are good at framing pitches.

“I don’t think that’s luck,” said Francona. “I think that’s skill. When we played the Cardinals in interleague, if you go back and watch the games where Yadi (Molina) is catching, every pitch looks like a strike. It’s unbelievable. Even horrible pitches he manages to frame well.”

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Brian Kenny mentions something in Ahead of the Curve that many of you may have missed when it happened. In 2013, Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth inning to close out a 6-5 win… and wasn’t credited with a save. The official scorer, per his discretion, opted to award the Yankees legend the win.

David Robertson would traditionally have been the pitcher of record, but because he allowed three runs in one inning of work —Robertson pitched the eighth and New York regained the lead in the top of the ninth — the official scorer deemed him unworthy of a W. Hard to question the logic there. As you might expect, Kenny included this in his Kill the Win chapter.

Of note, the “win” was the last of Rivera’s career.

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Following the World Series, Derek Falvey — an assistant GM with the Indians — will join the Minnesota Twins as their Executive VP and Chief Baseball Officer. Falvey will reshape an organization that has been run by Terry Ryan, and more recently, Rob Antony on an interim basis.

Talking to Antony late in the season, I learned that the Twins have been without a minor league hitting coordinator, but were intending to hire one. On the pitching development side, Antony told me that he, Ryan, and minor league director Brad Stile would routinely meet to talk about “what we believe in, and what we want to emphasize.” Stile would then meet with Eric Rasmussen, the team’s minor league pitching coordinator. If Rasmussen had suggestions, they would be communicated back to the front office.

Will that structure change under Falvey? Stay tuned.

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Joe Maddon had the following to say when asked yesterday about the Cubs front office:

“The thing that impresses me the most is their willingness, or ability, to balance the numbers and the person. It’s not just a numeric exercise; it’s not just a sabermetric exercise. It’s also about the guy… I think sometimes in the game today it gets to the point where it’s just about a number, acquiring a number. I’m a big believer in that, but I also like the balance between the person and what the back of his baseball card says.”

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The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have managerial openings, and it’s possible that another position or two will open up before year’s end. Rumors have begun to surface, with Boston bench coach Torey Lovullo, Angels special assistant Bud Black, and Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez among the names being bandied about. You couldn’t go wrong with any of the three. If forced to choose one over the others, Martinez might be my pick.

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How many managers currently on the job are Hall of Fame-bound? Here is how I see it:

NO BRAINER

Bruce Bochy: 1,789 wins (15th all-time), .505 winning percentage, three World Series rings.

LIKELY

Terry Francona: 1,381 wins (30th all-time), .533 winning percentage, two World Series rings.

Mike Scioscia: 1,490 wins (23rd all-time), .541 winning percentage, one World Series ring.

EVEN ODDS

Dusty Baker: 1,766 wins (17th all-time, .529 winning percentage, no World Series rings

NEEDS TO ADD TO RESUME

Buck Showalter, 1,429 wins (25th all-time), .521 winning percentage, no World Series rings

Joe Maddon, 981 wins (66th all-time), .535 winning percentage, no World Series rings

Joe Girardi, 897 wins (72nd all-time, .554 winning percentage, one World Series ring

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The Cleveland Indians either were, or weren’t, named after Louis “Chief” Sockalexis. More than likely, the truth lies somewhere in between. Regardless, the erstwhile outfielder — and member of the Penobscot Indian tribe — played for the Cleveland Spiders from 1897-1899.

Sockalexis was by all accounts an alcoholic. And the Spiders weren’t any good. After fifth place finishes in his first two seasons, the Cleveland club finished 20-134 in his third. Battles with the bottle aside, Sockalexis was better than the team he played for. He finished his career with a .313/.355/.414 slash line. A century later, he’s mostly remembered for a questionable role in what has become a controversial name.

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One last Indians bit in an Indians-heavy column:

Following Game 5, Andrew Miller — champagne bottle in hand — was asked if the team thrives on the perception that they’re underdogs. The ALCS MVP responded with a question of his own:

“Can we still be underdogs? Maybe we don’t have guys who are on billboards across the country — not yet — but there are some talented players on this team.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At the Chicago Tribune, Blair Kamin wrote about how Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field are a study in contrasts.

Baltimore Baseball’s Dan Connolly talked to Zach Britton about relief roles, and more. It’s a good interview.

Andrew Toles has gone from the frozen foods section of a grocery store — he started work at 4 a.m. — to the Dodgers starting lineup. Karen Crouse of the New York Times has the story.

Over at the Toronto Sun, Scott Mitchell wrote about how R.A. Dickey’s time with the Blue Jays quietly came to an end.

MLB.com’s Thomas Harding wrote about how the Rockies are not only searching for a new manager, they are also beefing up their research and development staff.

Also at MLB.com, Adam McCalvy caught up with Tony Plush, a.k.a. Nyjer Morgan, to revisit the day the day he made Milwaukee’s Miller Park shake with joy.

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

The Dodgers had the most reliever innings (590.2) and the lowest reliever ERA (3.35) in both leagues this season.

Per MLB.com’s Mike Petriello, Clayton Kershaw threw a first-pitch strike 69.7 percent of the time this season, the highest in baseball and well above the Major League average of 60.1.

According to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, the 2004 Red Sox are the last World Series-winning team to get just one regular season start from a pitcher drafted and developed in their organization. The Cubs had one such start this year, from Rob Zastryzny.

Jon Lester went hitless in his first 66 big-league at bats. Since that time he is 10 for 91.

Baltimore Orioles left-hander Dave McNally hit nine home runs in 848 regular season plate appearances. He hit two home runs — one of them a grand slam — in 17 World Series plate appearances.

Four players have hit three home runs in a World Series game: Babe Ruth (1926 and 1928), Reggie Jackson (1977), Albert Pujols (2011) and Pablo Sandoval (2012).

On this date in 1993, Joe Carter hit a walk-off three-run homer to give the Blue Jays an 8-6 win over the Phillies and their second straight World Series title. Before coming to Toronto and touching them all, Carter played for both the Cubs and Indians.

On this date in 1910, the Philadelphia Athletics beat the Chicago Cubs to capture their first World Series title. For the Cubs, it was the first of seven straight World Series appearances without a championship.





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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Anthony Calamis
Member
Anthony Calamis

Going around the league and looking at managers you’ve got a few vacancies, some newer guys like Roberts, Mattingly (at least in Miami), Hinch, Banister, Cash, Mackinin, Green, Servais, Molitor, etc., the mentioned group of Maddon, Showalter, Girardi, Francona, Scioscia, Baker and Bochy, and a middle class of sorts, with experience managers who just aren’t good enough – Collins, Farrell, Yost, Hurdle, Matheny and the like. I would tend to rank the group you named a little differently. Bochy and Francona are locks in my opinion, followed in order by Scioscia, Showalter, Baker/Maddon and Girardi pulling up the rear closer to Matheny, Hurdle, Yost and Collins than those others. I do not think Girardi has much of a chance to improve his resume to the point where he’d be deserving. Francona being at the helm for the end of the curse, guiding Boston to another title and now taking Cleveland to the WS makes him a lock. Bochy’s three titles are plenty. Maddon’s resume leaps in front of Baker and Showalter if the Cubs win (and Theo’s spot gets sewed up, too).

fjtorres
Member
fjtorres

Just curious: Why isn’t Girardi going to improve his resume? Is he going to get fired?
The Yankees are positioned to get a lot better a lot quicker than most people expect and with NY media hype behind him he’s going to be hailed as a genius for being a pretty good manager.

Anthony Calamis
Member
Anthony Calamis

Girardi doesn’t have that ‘thing’ going for him that so many of these other managers have, both active and past. Girardi’s had the peaks/primes of a whole heck of a lot of HoFers and borderline HoFers in his tenture as Yankee skipper (A year of Giambi, some Bobby Abreu, Damon, Tex, A-Rod, Sabathia, Mussina’s last year, Pettitte, Mariano, Jeter, some Beltran, Posada), has the most wins in the AL for each successive five-year period from 2008-2012 through 2011-2015 and yet has just one pennant. He’ll keep accumulating wins, unless things go haywire, but all of the other recent Hall managers and future Hall managers have things going for them Girardi likely won’t. Maddon is deemed a phenomenal tactician and just was manager for the end of the longest pennant drought in MLB history, Showalter is, ironically, applauded for his bullpen usage, and has taken three organizations from scratch to playoff team. Francona was at the helm for the end of the curse, and could be manager for the end of Cleveland’s drought. Scioscia, now that I think more, probably doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall. Baker, either. Bochy, however, has three titles in five years with a team less talented than that. He’s deployed his weapons (i.e. MadBum) well.

Torre, Cox, LaRussa are the only recent skippers in the Hall, and each has top-10 win totals. Torre’s got an MVP as a player, too, made the playoffs 11 times as a Yankee skipper, I think, and won four titles in five years. Cox won all those consecutive division titles in Atlanta, several pennant, and the title. LaRussa won titles with two teams, three total titles.

The other candidates on this year’s Today’s Game ballot, Piniella and Davey, have their merits, too. Davey took, I think, three teams to the playoffs, has a title, and is considered an excellent tactician. Piniella has a title in Cincy and was at the helm for considerable Seattle success, holding that team together for a bit there. I don’t consider Davey or Piniella HoF managers, but that’s a whole ton of managers way ahead of Girardi. He has serious work to do. ‘No chance’ or however I phrased it, was hyperbole, but I don’t like his chances.