Sunday Notes: Dyson’s Theft, Yost, Collins, Cubs, Madson, more

You’ve probably read about the role scouting played in Jarrod Dyson’s 12th inning stolen base in Game 5 of the World Series. The Royals knew that New York’s Addison Reed would slow his delivery in certain situations, and “a little shimmy with his hip” was going to be Dyson’s key to run. First base coach Rusty Kuntz shared that bit of info after the game, and I touched on it my recap.

Mark Topping, the team’s video coordinator, had a hand in the theft. As Kuntz explained, “Topper gives me 20 moves to the plate, and 20 pick-offs, for every pitcher.”

The video, Topping told me, allows Kuntz to “See if there’s any kind of tell; a guy moves his front front, or his toe, or whatever.”

The information is supplied via iPad, and it includes pitchers’ times to the plate. More than eyeball scouting is at play. Software is used to calculate the measurements, so they’re “extremely precise.”

At home, Topping is watching from a video-coaching room next to the clubhouse, where the Royals have “12 different angles.” On the road, he’s either watching from the visiting clubhouse or in an adjacent room.

In the 12th inning of Game 5, he was “looking at a high-first angle,” as Dyson took his lead off of first base. Given the situation, and knowing the information that had been communicated via Kuntz, Topping knew what to expect. He wasn’t disappointed.

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Postseason celebrations are conducive to a lot of things. Interviewing champagne-soaked participants isn’t necessarily one of them. But it’s traditionally done, and that tradition requires more than a scribe’s willingness to get wet while others are wetting their whistles. It necessitates cooperation from the conquering heroes.

In all honesty, the majority of players would probably prefer to not have cameras and microphones in their faces as they celebrate. Lorenzo Cain hinted at that when he told a group of reporters, “It’s kind of hard to party getting asked all these questions.”

He said it with a smile – Cain is a class act – but his words laid bare an undeniable fact: The scribes and TV/radio folks are doing their jobs, but at the same time, they’re crashing a party.

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Greg Nappo is a sleeper in next month’s Rule 5 draft. He’s logged a 2.47 ERA and averaged over a strikeout per inning since the Marlins drafted him out of the University of Connecticut in 2011. The 27-year-old southpaw advanced to Triple-A this year and excelled in 33 relief appearances.

Nappo throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, a delivery he developed as a youngster by “slinging rocks into the Staten Island Bay” with his father. Along with being deceptive, he’s also sneaky fast.

“I’ve always been able to get swings and misses with my fastball,” said Nappo. “People say it’s because I spin the ball well. Whatever the reason, people don’t hit it as much as you’d think an 87-88 mph fastball should get hit.”

The lefty allowed 6.8 hits per nine this year, and walked just 2.5. If he’s bypassed in the Rule 5 and debuts with the Marlins next season, he’ll join a former teammate who throws considerably harder.

Nappo played with Jose Fernandez in the latter’s first, and only, full season (2012) in the minor leagues. Toeing the rubber in low-A Greensboro, they combined on a no-hitter. Prior to the game, Nappo gave the 18-year-old phenom some advice.

“Not that he needed my tutelage, but I remember telling him, ‘You throw like 100; just throw fastballs,’” said Nappo. “That day, he went out and threw a lot more fastballs and, go figure, he didn’t give up any hits.”

What prompted Nappo to offer the advice?

“Sometimes he’d kind of mess with guys,” said Nappo. “He’d try to trick them, and he could trick them, but with a 100-mph fastball and that unbelievable breaking ball, all he had to was go right after hitters. It’s what he does now, and it’s made him one of the best in the game. Jose is exactly what you’d want in an ace.”

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Daniel Robertson played in last night’s Arizona Fall League All-Star Game. The 21-year-old Tampa Bay Rays shortstop prospect – potentially the team’s second baseman of the future following the recent trade for Brad Miller – was in the lineup for the AFL East.

Acquired by the Rays from Oakland in last January’s Ben Zobrist deal, Robertson is in the desert recouping lost at bats. The former first-round pick broke a hamate bone in early June and was out until August. He felt soreness for a few weeks after returning – “I’d grimace a little bit taking swings” – and he still considers himself in the transition period from the surgery. His admission aside, he claims to feel fine.

Toughness isn’t an issue. Robertson values OBP, and he’s more than willing to get drilled to reach first base. In 359 plate appearances this year, he was hit by a pitch 12 times. Last year he was hit 16 times.

“I wouldn’t say I crowd the plate,” responded Robertson, when I asked about his proclivity to get plunked. “I don’t totally hug it. People ask, ‘Why do you keep getting hit?’ but it’s just one of those things. I like to see the ball middle-away and drive it to the right-center field gap, and because I have that mindset, maybe I lean over a little bit. They’ll come inside, knowing my approach, and they end up clipping me. But that’s OK. I’ll take my base any way I can.”

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How would Denard Span look in center field for the Cubs next year? The hunch here is that we might find out. The following quote by Theo Epstein from his post-NLCS press conference hinted at that possibility:

“It probably doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to go out and add a boom-or-bust, high strikeout, high power right-handed hitter to our mix right now. It might make more sense to go the other way and find a player who has a lot of his value wrapped up in being able to put the ball in play on a consistent basis, being able to get on base in front of the middle of our lineup.”

That sounds a lot like Span. Over the past two seasons, the left-handed-hitting free agent centerfielder has a .359 OBP and a 9.6 strikeout rate. He’ll likely come cheaper than fellow free agent Dexter Fowler, who manned center field for the Cubs this past season. Fowler provides similar on-base skills as Span, but his strikeout rate this year was 22.3 and it’s never been south of 20. On a team that’s on record as saying they want to improve their contact rate, Fowler no longer looks like a good fit.

Unless the Cubs go big and sign Jason Heyward – their money would be better spent on front-line pitching – Span seems like their man.

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Kelly Johnson has played in the postseason each of the past three seasons. He’s done so with different teams, under different managers. Joe Maddon (Rays), Buck Showalter (Orioles) and Terry Collins (Mets) have been at the helm for his triad of playoff excursions.

I asked Johnson which of the three skippers is least like the others. His answer wasn’t surprising.

“I would say Maddon is the outlier,” replied Johnson. “With Buck and TC, there is more of an intensity, more of a sternness. There is kind of a fire and a fight. When things are playing out on the field, they get emotionally involved.”

Another opinion offered by the well-traveled utility man suggests that Collins is a bit of an outlier himself.

“TC is more than passionate,” said Johnson. “He’s also underrated.”

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I asked the following question to both Collins and Ned Yost in World Series press conferences:

“A manager told me this summer that he very rarely has to make a ‘gut decision’, because pretty much all scenarios have been gone over beforehand. To what extent is that true for you?”

Collins’ answer, which came before Game 5, was indirect. It was also defensive. The Mets’ manager began with, “It’s easy to sit back and say, ‘You should have done this, after it didn’t work.’” He then went on to explain his bullpen usage in the Series, using phases like, “You just go with what’s been working for you” and “I’m going with the guys that brought me to the dance.”

Yost, who was asked the question prior to Game 3, gave a direct answer. It included an admission. The Royals manager said that “probably 95 percent” of scenarios are covered beforehand, then admitted that a 5-percenter occurred during Game 1. With two on and two out in the 11th inning, Ryan Madson was on the mound with lefty Franklin Morales in the bullpen and Daniel Murphy on deck,

“That was one situation we didn’t really account for,” said Yost. “It was a gut decision that we would have had to make.”

The gut was never unbuckled. Madson fanned David Wright to end the inning.

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When Madson thinks of Yost, he’s reminded of a manager he played under in Philadelphia.

“Ned is a lot like Charlie Manuel,” Madson told me after Game 5. “Charlie was maybe a little harder on guys, but they’re both player’s managers. They trust their players. Ned doesn’t nitpick; he just lets guys go out there and do their thing. He has faith that you’re going to play the game hard, play it right, and get the job done.”

It’s hard to argue with the results. Yost’s team definitely got the job done.

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The nod went to Prince Fielder, but for my money, Ryan Madson was the Comeback Player of the Year in the American League.

Fielder’s selection wasn’t wholly without merit. The dangerous DH (with his $24 million salary) came back strong from a neck injury that limited him to 42 games in 2014. The Rangers wouldn’t have won the West without him.

Alex Rodriguez ($22 million) had a fine comeback season of his own. Of course, he was coming back from a suspension. Love him or hate him, A-Rod wasn’t going to be honored with this award.

Madson’s chances of winning were nearly as slim, and for an entirely different reason. The 35-year-old righty was barely a blip on radar screens outside of Kansas City. Despite 68 regular-season relief appearances, and three scoreless innings in the Fall Classic, Madson might well have been invisible. For three seasons, he pretty much was.

Prior to taking the mound for the Royals in April, Madson hadn’t thrown a pitch in affiliated ball since undergoing Tommy John surgery following the 2011 season. Signed to an $850,000 contract this past January, he proceeded to log a 2.13 ERA and allow fewer than one base runner per inning. Quietly, he had the most impressive comeback season of any player in baseball.

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An All-Star with the A’s in 2010, Trevor Cahill pitched creditably in Oakland and Arizona from 2011-2013. Then he cratered. Last year, he went 3-12 with a 5.61 ERA. Released by the D-Backs this spring, he hooked on with the Braves, only to go an equally ugly 0-3, 7.53, in 15 games. Once again, he was issued his walking papers.

In mid-August, the Cubs signed the 27-year-old righty as a reclamation project. He took the opportunity and ran with it. In 11 regular-season relief outings, Cahill allowed just eight hits over 17 innings. Having earned Joe Maddon’s trust, he proceeded to appear in six of Chicago’s eight postseason games.

“It’s been a crazy year, a long year,” Cahill told me during the NLCS. “But wherever I’m playing – in this environment or in a noon Triple-A game – I’m just trying to make pitches. My command is better now than it was earlier in the year, and your confidence definitely goes up when you’re doing well. It’s kind of a subconscious thing.”

At some point in the near future, one of 30 teams will make a conscious decision to sign the newly-available Cahill to a contract. Doing so could prove prudent. Based on what he showed in Chicago, Cahill could be one of the best low-cost bargains in this winter’s free agent market.

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Chris Young had one of the most-notable quotes of the World Series. Asked about getting the win in Game 1, the Princeton product said, “It’s crazy for me to think that a pitcher gets an individual win and loss. When the Cleveland Cavaliers win a game, LeBron James doesn’t get the win. Tony Romo doesn’t get it for the Dallas Cowboys. It’s the team. Baseball is the same way. It’s a team sport.”

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

In ALCS Game 5 against the Royals, Houston’s Will Harris gave up hits to all four batters he faced. During the regular season, Harris allowed 42 hits over 71 innings, and never more than two in any one game.

There were 648 home runs hit in the first inning this year, the most of any inning. The fewest home runs were hit in the ninth inning, 363.

Batters hit .255/.316/.405 in night games. They hit ..254/.318/.404 in day games.

Andy Pettitte picked off 103 runners in his career, the most all-time. Mark Buehrle is second, with 102 career pick-offs.

On this date in 1983, Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves was named National League MVP for the second consecutive season. He was awarded a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger, also for the second straight season.





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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kevinthecomic
6 years ago

Just sent link to Al Avila of the Tigers.