Sunday Notes: Jazz Chisholm and Jean Segura Know Fastpitch

Jazz Chisholm and Jean Segura caught my attention while they were playing catch prior to a recent Miami Marlins road game at Fenway Park. Unlike their teammates, the duo was trading tosses underhand, windmilling their throws like fastpitch softball pitchers. Moreover, they looked good doing it. Their motions were smooth and easy, their deliveries firm and accurate. Having never seen professional baseball players do this, I was very much intrigued.

Standing nearby was Jennifer Brann. Now an analyst with the Marlins, Brann had excelled on the mound at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland prior to being hired by Miami two years ago. I asked her if she had seen them do so previously.

“I’ve seen Segura mess around a little bit, but I’d never seen Jazz pitch underhand like that,” Brann told me. “It was cool to watch. They knew what they were doing, especially Segura; he threw a rise ball and a changeup. But Jazz looked pretty good, too.”

The following day, I made it a point to approach both players in the clubhouse to find out if they had any softball experience. It turns out that they did.

“My grandma was a professional [fastpitch] softball player,” said Chisholm, who grew up in Nassau. “She played for the Bahamas National Team. That’s what really got me into baseball — I learned a lot of my baseball skills from softball — and she played until she was 60, too. She was just superhuman.”

Chisholm played fastpitch growing up, in part because the sport is played in Bahamian high schools, while baseball is not. (He did play Little League baseball.). Having attended a K-12, he began competing against upperclassmen as a sixth grader, both as a shortstop and a pitcher. Chisholm subsequently moved to the United States at age 12, thus ending his competitive softball days,

Segura, who hails from San Juan de la Maguana, played “a lot of softball in the Dominican.” The 33-year-old infielder explained that while fastpitch isn’t particularly popular on the island, it is in the area where he grew up. His primary position was third base.

Much as Chisholm credits fastpitch for helping him hone his baseball skills, Segura sees the sport as having helped hone his swing.

“The hitting is different,” said Segura. “In fastpitch you have to use your hands, and in baseball you have to use your body, with everything connected. In fastpitch, you’re too close to go back and then move forward; you have to just see the ball and throw your hands at it. That’s why I play that type of game; my swing carried to baseball. It’s why I’ve got quick hands.”

Because of their backgrounds, both Segura and Chisholm could step into a batter’s box and hold their own against a high-quality fastball hurler. As for the majority of their teammates…. that’s another story.

“There are probably only three guys in this locker room could square up a ball before they got used to it,” opined Segura. “I don’t think they know how hard it is to hit that type of pitching.”

“Not many of them could do it initially,” agreed Brann. “They’d probably swing and miss, because they wouldn’t be used to the different motion and being closer, although they could come around to it after seeing a few pitches.”

The pitcher-turned-analyst did make a few exceptions. Asked if Marlins players could hit her offerings — her response came with a smile — Brann said that Luis Arraez “definitely could,” and Segura “probably could, because he’s played fast pitch before.” Unaware that Chisholm had also played fastpitch, she added that “Jazz would come around, but he’d probably struggle at first.”

Told what Brann had said, Chisholm responded with a smile of his own. “I know how to hit a softball,” he said. “I’d hit bombs!”

Could any of his Marlins teammates — Segura being a possible exception — hit him?

“I can throw a riser, a changeup, and a little slider,” said Chisholm. “Plus, I’d be bringing it and throwing strikes. So no, I don’t think too many of them would be getting hits off of me. They have no idea hard it is.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Vladimir Guerrero went 16 for 27 against John Thomson.

Felipe Alou went 14 for 22 against Tracy Stallard.

Moises Alou went 11 for 23 against Brandon Webb.

Earl Webb went 9 for 16 against Rollie Stiles.

Bob Horner went 9 for 15 against Rollie Fingers.

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The Colorado Rockies didn’t acquire an especially notable prospect when they traded Mike Moustakas to the Los Angeles Angels last weekend. Connor Van Scoyoc — all six-foot-six inches of him — is a 23-year-old right-hander whom the Halos drafted in the 11th round out of a Cedar Rapids, Iowa high school five years ago. Relying primarily on a sinker/cutter/curveball combination, he has a 2.63 ERA to go with 63 strikeouts in 68-and-a-third innings this year between a pair of High-A stops. By all accounts, his ceiling is fairly low.

His blood lines are more notable than his perceived potential. Older brother Spencer — the family pronounces its last name “Van Scoy” — pitches in the Philadelphia Phillies system, their father, Aaron, played three years in the New York Yankees system, and grandfather, Jim, was a scout, minor-league pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers, and a legendary high school coach in Norway, Iowa. And then there is the family member who won 134 big-league games while logging a 3.80 ERA for four teams from 1980-1993.

Mike Boddicker is my great uncle,” Connor Van Scoyoc told me last October during his stint in the Arizona Fall League. “He had a huge hook, but his biggest thing was sinkers early in the count. If you can get hitters out in the first two pitches, it saves you in the long run. I’m trying to be like that.”

Van Scoyoc, who by his own admission isn’t overpowering, allowed nine hits and two runs over six-and-a-third innings in his first outing since joining the Rockies organization. He walked one and fanned seven.

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A quiz:

The same player ranks second in Toronto Blue Jays history for hits, doubles, and total bases. Who is it?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

A touring exhibit sponsored by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is currently in Boston, where it will remain through August 4. Free of charge and open from 10am to 5pm, seven days a week (except for July 3 and 4, when it will be closed) at Emerson College, 118 Boylston Street alongside Boston Common, Barrier Breakers tells the story of African American and Latin players that broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

Ulysses Hollimon, who pitched in the Negro American League from 1948-1956, died earlier this week at age 92. The Amory, Mississippi native played for the Baltimore Elite Giants and the Birmingham Black Barons.

A reminder that this year’s national SABR convention is being held in Chicago from July 5-9. More information, including the full schedule, can be found here.

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The answer to the quiz is Vernon Wells, who ranks second to Tony Fernandez in hits, and second to Carlos Delgado in both doubles and total bases.

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As a baseball history buff who saw Henry Aaron play at the tail end of his career, I’ve long had an appreciation for the Braves franchise. From Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta, the list of iconic players includes the likes of Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Greg Maddux, Phil Niekro, and Chipper Jones. The current club has stars as well, most notably Ronald Acuña Jr. and Spencer Strider. By most measures — but only most — the team and its rich history should be embraced.

The tomahawk chop, and the chant that goes with it, is offensive to a great number of people, both inside and outside of “Braves country.” And for good reason. Frankly, that it still persists is increasingly hard to fathom. Would the widespread popularity of the team not be enhanced by a squelching of the irritating-to-many tradition? I have to believe it would. Embracing the Atlanta Braves would be far easier were it not for the chop and chant.

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On a related note, Charlie Culberson returned to the Braves roster on Friday — he’d previously played for Atlanta from 2018-2020 — and that reminded me of a still-uncorrected factual error. Both his B-Ref and MLB.com pages state that the 33-year-old infielder is the grandson of former big-league outfielder Leon Culberson, who played for the Boston Red Sox and the Washington Senators in the 1940s.

“Leon was from Rome, Georgia, which is where I grew up, but he was actually my grandfather’s first cousin,” Culberson told me in a conversation I shared in my September 2, 2018 Sunday Notes column. “We’ve tried to correct everyone on that for years now, but they never seem to change anything online.”

I took the liberty of passing this along to B-Ref after the column ran, and was told that what Culberson said of his family was insufficient evidence to make the change. I remain perplexed as to why that is.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Shunpeita Yamashita continues to be one of the best young pitchers in NPB. The 20-year-old right-hander is 7-1 with a 1.36 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 59-and-two-thirds innings for the Orix Buffaloes.

Tsuyoshi Wada is 5-3 with a 3.04 ERA in 47-and-a-third innings with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. A veteran of 16 NPB seasons, the 42-year-old left-hander pitched for the Chicago Cubs in 2014 and 2015.

J.B. Wendelken is 1-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 24-and-two-thirds relief innings for the Yokohama Bay Stars. The 30-year-old right-hander is in his first NPB season after previously pitching for the Oakland Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Ricardo Sánchez is 4-0 with a 1.48 ERA in 42-and-two-thirds innings for the KBO’s Hanwha Eagles. Released by the Chicago White Sox in April, he 26-year-old left-hander appeared in three games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2020.

Yeong Hyun Park is 2-2 with a 2.09 ERA for the KBO’s KT Wiz. The 19-year-old right-hander has 42 strikeouts in 38-and-two-thirds innings.

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Johan Rojas has a bright future in Philadelphia. No. 4 on our Phillies Top Prospects list, the 22-year-old outfielder is, in the words of Eric Longenhagen, “an unbelievable athlete with blazing speed [and] ridiculous range in center field.” Our lead prospect analyst does have some concerns with his swing, but the San Francisco de Macoris native has been doing his best to dispel them. Over 317 plate appearances with Double-A Reading, Rojas is slashing .308/.365/.455 with 16 doubles, four triples, and half a dozen home runs. He’s swiped 26 bags in 34 attempts.

Asked how he profiles, his manager accentuated his defensive game.

“For me, he’s a big-league player,” said Al Pedrique, who played 174 MLB games from 1987-1989 before going on to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks for the second half of the 2004 season. “He’s a natural, true centerfielder. Defensively he’s outstanding. He gets good reads and jumps, his routes are outstanding. Defensively, he could play in the big leagues right now.

“With the bat, he’s getting so much better,” Pedrique replied when I followed up by asking about his offensive game. “And not just because he’s hitting .320. He’s more more aggressive, attacking the fastball, and his plate discipline is improving. He’s not afraid to get deep in the count. From what I see, he’s maturing pretty good for someone at a young age.”

Asked about comps, Pedrique named a handful of centerfielders he’s seen a lot of over the years. One in particular struck me as apt.

Michael Bourn was outstanding,” said Pedrique. “His instincts in center were great. Rojas does the same thing. He anticipates, and when the ball is hit in the gap, he runs to the spot. That’s hard to teach. The natural things he does in center field are amazing.”

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FARM NOTES

Abimelec Ortiz is slashing .333/.409/.677 with 18 home runs in 238 plate appearances between Low-A Down East and High-A Hickory. The 21-year-old first baseman was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Florida SouthWestern State College by the Texas Rangers in 2021.

Jordan Beck is slashing .291/.384/.562 with 18 home runs and a 147 wRC+ in 310 plate appearances for the High-A Spokane Indians. No. 10 on our recently-released Colorado Rockies Top Prospects list, the 22-year-old outfielder was drafted 38th overall last year out of the University of Tennessee.

Tsung-Che Cheng leads the minors with nine triples. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an international free agent out of Taiwan in 2019, the 21-year-old middle infielder is slashing .285/.379/.523 with nine home runs between High-A Greensboro and Double-A Altoona.

Thomas Harrington is 4-2 with a 3.32 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 59-and-two-thirds innings between Low-A Bradenton and High-A Greensboro. The 21-year-old right-hander was drafted 36th overall last year by the Pirates out of Campbell University.

Payton Martin is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 32-and-two thirds innings for the Low-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. The 19-year-old right-hander was drafted in the 17th round last year out of Cumming, Georgia’s West Forsyth High School by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ryan January is slashing .281/.488/.449 with three home runs in 125 plate appearances for the independent Atlantic League’s York Revolution. The 26-year-old catcher/outfielder was in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization from 2016-2019, and the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in 2021 and 2022.

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MLB error totals are lower than one might reasonably expect, and not because a plethora of defenders have morphed into Omar Vizquel. Rather, it has become increasingly common for balls in play to be ruled hits. This isn’t simply my observational opinion; I’ve heard multiple broadcasters express disbelief after an infielder botched what looked like a sure out, only to have the official scorer award the hitter a single. In a nutshell, “ordinary effort” ain’t what it used to be.

Why is this happening? Many (including yours truly) are of the belief that the MLB office has been pushing official scorers in this direction, with declining batting averages factoring into their efforts. To the detriment of pitchers and their earned-run averages, the powers that be seemingly want to see more hits in the box scores, and higher numbers at the front end of hitters’ slash lines.

As reasonable as that may seem on the surface, some of the rulings being made are questionable at best. In a recent three-game series, Miami’s Joey Wendle was awarded hits on four ground balls that had an expected batting average of .170 or lower. A few weeks ago, I was watching a game where Kansas City’s slow-footed Salvador Perez was awarded a hit on a routine chopper to third base that had an .080 expected batting average. That’s not a typo; the xBA was truly .080.

MLB has an official scoring problem. Moreover, it is unlikely that the men and women performing the task in press boxes are at fault. They are simply doing what they’re being asked to do, the absurdity of some rulings be damned.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

The St. Louis Dispatch’s Derrick Goold wrote about the coverage last week’s London Series between the Cardinals and Cubs received from UK newspapers.

Andscape’s Clinton Yates wrote about how former big-league outfielder Dwayne Hosey has carved out an all-star reputation as a youth baseball instructor in Omaha.

Mental Floss’s Ellen Gutoskey presented us with a brief history of baseball on the Fourth of July.

Jen Pawol is the first female umpire to reach Triple-A in over three decades. Brittany Ghiroli wrote about her for The Athletic (subscription required).

The average time of an MLB game has been 2:37 this season, down from 3:06 last year. The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey wrote about the anonymous field timing coordinators who are responsible for continually resetting the pitch clock in each and every game (subscription required).

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

The Boston Red Sox are 2-13 in inter-league home games. The San Diego Padres are 0-7 in extra-inning games.

Andrew McCutchen has 2,018 hits and 1,600 strikeouts.
Bill Madlock had 2,008 hits and 510 strikeouts.

Rickey Henderson had 3,055 hits, including 297 home runs.
Chris Davis had 1,160 hits, including 295 home runs.

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League pennant in 1959 while scoring 705 runs and allowing 670 runs. The third place San Francisco Giants scored 705 runs and allowed 613 runs.

The Minnesota Twins won the American League West in 1987 while scoring 786 runs and allowing 806 runs. The third place Oakland Athletics scored 806 runs and allowed 789 runs. The Twins went on to win the World Series, just as the Dodgers had in 1959.

On today’s date in 1973, Boots Day hit a 10th-inning walk-off home run to give the Montreal Expos a 2-1 win over the New York Mets at Parc Jarry. Buzz Capra took the loss; Steve Renko went the distance for the win.

Willie Mays hit a 16th-inning walk-off home run to give the San Francisco Giants a 1-0 win over the Milwaukee Braves on today’s date in 1963. Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn went the distance for their respective teams in what is widely regarded as the greatest pitching duel of all-time.

Players born on today’s date include Chuck Stobbs, who in 1953 surrendered a home run to Mickey Mantle that reportedly traveled a big-league record 565 feet. Pitching for the Washington Senators at the time, the southpaw took the mound for four teams from 1947-1961.

Also born on today’s date was Steve Sparks, a knuckleball pitcher from 1995-2004 who has spent the last 11 years as a radio broadcaster for the Houston Astros. His best season on the mound was 2001 when he went 14-9 with a 3.65 ERA and a league-best eight complete games for the Detroit Tigers.

Bob Addy was the first Canada-born player in MLB history. A native of Port Hope, Ontario who broke in with the National Association’s Rockford Forest Citys in 1871, Addy later played for the National League’s Chicago White Stocking and Cincinnati Reds.





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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fjtorres
9 months ago

FWIW, 1987 was the year the Twins air exhausts blew hard out and up at max during their ABs and slow and down for visitors.

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-jul-27-sp-metrodome27-story.html

Whether it helped or not is unclear but in the WS they went 4-0 at home and 0-3 as visitors. They were not alone in playing home field tricks but they seem to have gotten the most out of them.

Old Washington Senators Fanmember
9 months ago
Reply to  fjtorres

They also played in a ridiculous dome with ear-splitting noise and, allegedly, pumped in extra noise from the PA system as well.