Sunday Notes: John Schreiber Has Changed Since His Detroit Days

John Schreiber has been a find for the Red Sox. Claimed off waivers by Boston from the Detroit Tigers prior to last season, the 28-year-old sidewinder has come out of the bullpen 30 times this year and allowed just 12 hits and two earned runs over 29 innings. Schreiber has 35 strikeouts to go with three saves and a pair of wins in as many decisions.

He’s not the same pitcher who failed to distinguish himself in Detroit.

“I’d mainly been a four-seam/slider guy,” explained Schreiber, who logged a 6.28 ERA over parts of two seasons with the Tigers. “In college and for most of my pro-ball career, that’s all I threw. Two years ago I started working on a better changeup, and last year I started throwing my sinker. Paul Abbott is our Triple-A pitching coach, and he helped me work on a two-seam sinker. I’ve gotten really comfortable throwing that.”

Schreiber still features his old mix prominently — this year he’s thrown 35.3% four-seamers and 35.8% sliders — but his 22.5% sinker usage has added a whole new twist. The 2016, 15th-round draft pick out of the University of Northwestern Ohio is now far less predictable, and just as importantly, he’s better able to match up with hitters who do damage on high heaters.

Hitters who tend not to do damage on elevated fastballs have their hands full when the native Michigander is on the mound. Improved velocity — 95.5 mph, versus barely 90 in his Detroit days — is part of the equation. Deception plays an even bigger role.

“My four-seam is one of my best pitches, and when you think sidearm guy, you’re thinking two-seam guy,” said Schreiber, who was born in Wyandotte and went to high school in Gibraltar. “I never was that kind of sidearm guy. But coming from the arm angle that it does — the release point is pretty low — my four-seamer maybe looks like it has more vertical than the data says it does. The hitters are expecting horizontal, and they’re getting more vertical.”

Thanks to the addition of a two-seamer, hitters no longer know if that vertical will be in an upward or downward direction. Add in the upgraded changeup — the righty hopes to lessen its velocity going forward — and the result is a higher-quality hurler than the one who was cut loose by the team he grew up rooting for in southeast Michigan.

“I’ve put in a lot of work these past couple years, adding a couple of pitches,” said Schreiber. “The four-seam is still big, and my slider is still my go-to, but I have a two-seam and a changeup now. There are more pitches for hitters to think about, as well as different shapes coming at them. Basically, I’ve become a better pitcher than I was with Detroit.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Zack Wheat went 9 for 13 against Lou North.

Bill North went 20 for 62 against Bert Blyleven.

Billy Southworth went 0 for 7 against Jake Northrop.

Jim Northrup went 12 for 20 against Eddie Watt.

Hub Northen went 6 for 8 against Lefty Tyler.

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Paul Sewald has been one of the better relievers in the American League since revamping what is now his signature pitch. The Seattle Mariners right-hander discussed those career-altering adjustments when he was featured here at FanGraphs in early June.

A new-and-improved slider isn’t the only reason behind his success. According to the New York Mets castoff — Seattle signed Sewald off of the scrap heap in January 2021 — another revamped pitch has been every bit as impactful.

“The fastball was arguably an even bigger change for me,” said Sewald. “I went from trying to throw the ball down at the knees, inside and outside, to just throwing to the top of the catcher’s mask, right down the middle. For 25 years, every pitching coach had told me.,’You don’t throw hard, so you’ve got to throw the ball down, you’ve got to throw the ball down.’ When I got here it was,’We want you to throw the ball at the very top of the zone.’ Now, instead of trying to pinpoint my control, I’m really just letting it fly.

“If you look at my pitch grades, my fastball is probably my best pitch,” continued Sewald. “It’s only good because I have a very good slider, but when you look at Stuff Plus — or however you want to grade pitches — my fastball tends to be the best action-pitch I have. Utilizing it much better than I ever have is a big reason for that.”

Sewald’s four-seamer ranks in the 96th percentile for spin, but at 92.6-mph only in the 35th percentile for velocity. Neither metric is paramount in his mind.

“I was talking to Sean Doolittle last year, and he said the Reds were looking at analytical data behind vertical approach angle,” explained Sewald, who has featured his heater 52.5% of the time this season. ”They think that’s more important than spin rate, induced vertical movement, or [velocity]. If you look at what I do really well, I would have to argue that VA is probably the most important aspect of my fastball.”

Sewald is 13-5 with 20 saves and a 2.88 ERA in 94 appearances since joining the Mariners. He’s fanned 141 batters in 97 innings.

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A quiz:

Which active player has the most career stolen bases?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Steve Avery and Frank Tanana were inducted into the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. Both are Detroit-area natives.Avery attended John F. Kennedy High School, in Taylor, and Tanana attended Detroit Catholic Central High School, in Novi.

Not new news, per se, but with the amateur draft on tap for next weekend, it’s worth noting that the draft-and-follow system is returning this year. Per Baseball America, “Any player selected after the 10th round who doesn’t sign and attends junior college will be eligible to sign later with his selecting club for up to $225,000 — which won’t impact a team’s bonus pool.”

Longtime Los Angeles Dodgers scout Mike Brito died earlier this week at age 87. A member of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, Brito signed more than 30 players who went on to play in MLB, most notably Fernando Valenzuela.

A Curt Flood panel has been added to the 50th annual national SABR convention, which will be held in Baltimore from August 17-21.. It will comprise Flood’s widow, Judy Pace Flood, historian Mark Armour, and The Chicago Tribune’s Shakeia Taylor.

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The answer to the quiz is Dee Strange-Gordon, with 336 steals. Elvis Andrus ranks second, with 321.

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The Guardians are MLB’s most contact-oriented club. Cleveland batters boast an 18.5% strikeout rate, the lowest in either league. Consistently putting balls in play has mostly worked to their advantage. Despite ranking third from the bottom in home runs, Terry Francona’s team is near the middle of the pack in runs scored.

I asked the future Hall of Famer if he is managing any differently this year given the decrease in strikeouts and long balls.

“You take the team you have, and you try to get them in the best position to succeed,” replied Francona. “If you have base-stealers, you let them steal. If you have home run hitters, you try to get them in position where teams have to pitch to them. We’ve had the liberty of sending guys 3-1, 3-2 more than we have in the past, because our guys generally can use that to their benefit. They know we’ve got to go first to third, that we’ve got to take the extra base.”

Another reporter brought up how Francona has talked about the style-influenced energy his team has shown this season.

“I think it’s a fun brand of baseball,” Francona said in response. “But like last night, when we’re not hitting it’s easy for someone to say we didn’t have any energy. Well, if you’re making right turns, are we supposed to slide into the dugout? Sometimes guys go a little cold. Again, we are who we are.”

I asked if teams with a more contact-oriented approaches are less likely to experience cold stretches.

“I’m not sure how to answer that,” replied Francona. “Guys that use the whole field and make contact are going to be less prone to slumps, but teams that hit three-run homers… I mean, you can maybe go through stretches. but if you hit a three-run homer, it’s pretty pivotal. So it’s a little bit of both.”

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Munetaka Murakami leads all NPB players with 29 home runs. The 22-year-old Yakult Swallows third baseman is slashing .307/.442/.654. He went deep 39 times last season.

Yasutaka Shiomi is slashing .314/.394/.516 with 12 home runs for the Swallows. The 29-year-old outfielder has stolen 22 bases in 24 attempts.

Bo-gyeong Moon is slashing .308/.362/.435 with four home runs for the KBO’s LG Twins. The 21-year-old left-handed-hitting corner infielder has a 125 wRC+.

Dae-Ho Lee is slashing .340/.374/.493 with 11 home runs and a 142 wRC+ for the KBO’s Lotte Giants. The 40-year-old first baseman has 2,833 hits and 476 home runs over 22 professional seasons. He had 14 home runs and a 103 wRC+ with the Seattle Mariners in 2016, his lone MLB season.

Joey Terdoslavich is slashing .328/.422/.613 with 16 home runs for the Mexican League’s Bravos de Leon. The 33-year-old infielder/outfielder played for the Atlanta Braves from 2013-2015.

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Max Ferguson has been a terror on the base paths this season. The 22-year-old San Diego Padres infield prospect has played in 73 games — 64 with Low-A Lake Elsinore, and more recently nine with High-A Fort Wayne — and he has 53 stolen bases in 57 attempts. A fifth-round pick last year out of the University of Tennessee, Ferguson loves to run.

“It’s definitely a big part of my game,” said Ferguson. “It’s something I’ve kind of always had in my back pocket — it’s never been as prominent as it is now — and having the freedom from my managers has helped me be a little more aggressive.”

He doesn’t see himself as a burner. When I caught up to the speedster following his late-June promotion, he told me that he’s not even the fastest player on his current team. In his view, Corey Rosier — a 22-year-old outfielder with 24 stolen bags on the season — has better wheels. While acknowledging that he can indeed motor, Ferguson feels that reads and instincts play an equally prominent role in his ability to pilfer.

Ferguson was reluctant to cite a number when asked how many bases he can steal by season’s end, but he did allow that he’s already surpassed his goal coming in. Based in part on conversations he had with coaches and coordinators, the objective was 40 — a total he attained by mid-June.

“Wherever that number lands will be nice,” said Ferguson.”Again, I’m not the fastest guy in the world, but I do have good instincts, and I definitely enjoy [stealing bases]. It’s not something you see at a crazy high clip in the big leagues right now, but it’s fun when you see guys running. It’s a little entertainment for everyone,”

Ferguson — No. 26 on our San Diego Padres Top Prospects list — is slashing .234/.388/.355 with a 106 wRC+ on the season. He’s legged out six triples and left the yard four times.

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FARM NOTES

Tyler Gentry is slashing .338/.426/.578 with 12 home runs and a 169 wRC+ between High-A Quad Cities and Double-A Northwest Arkansas. A third-round pick in 2020 out of the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, the 23-year-old outfielder is No. 16 on our Kansas City Royals Top Prospects list.

Max Schuemann is slashing .319/.448/.489 with seven home runs and a 149 wRC+ plus with the Double-A Midland RockHounds. A 20th-round pick in 2018 out of Eastern Michigan University, the 25-year-old infielder/outfielder is an honorable mention on our Oakland Athletics Top Prospects list.

Enmanuel Valdez is slashing .333/.430/.622 with 18 home runs and a 163 wRC+ between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Sugar Land. The 23-year-old infielder/outfielder from San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic was signed by the Houston Astros as an international free agent in 2015.

Andres Silvera has a 0.87 ERA with nine hits allowed and 24 strikeouts in 20-and-two-thirds innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Dominican Summer League affiliate. The 17-year-old right-hander from David, Panama was signed as an international free agent in January 2021.

Will Dion is 5-1 with a 1,84 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 73-and-a-third innings with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats. A ninth-round pick last year out of McNeese State University, the 22-year-old left-hander is an honorable mention on our Cleveland Guardians Top Prospects list.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At Yahoo Sports, Jack Baer wrote about how catching coach Bill Haselman has been promoted to interim interim interim manager of the Los Angeles Angels.

Katie Krall broke barriers with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs this season, and on Tuesday she brought that history to Cooperstown. Evan Gerike has the story at baseballhall.org.

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince wrote about the crack-of-dawn call to Larry Doby that changed baseball.

ESPN’s Howard Bryant shared some thoughts on baseball, barbecue and losing freedom this Fourth of July.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

The Midwest League’s West Michigan Whitecaps had a 12-batter stretch that included just one official at bat when they scored a dozen runs in the third inning against the Dayton Dragons on Monday. The frame-opening sequence was BB, BB, BB, SF, IB, BB, BB, HBP, BB, BB, BB, SF. Detroit’s High-A affiliate went on to win 20-1.

Monday’s Baltimore Orioles-Texas Rangers game at Camden Yards included a bottom of the 10th inning in which there were four base runners, three batters, and two pitches thrown. With a ghost runner at second, the first batter stroked a first-pitch single, the second batter was intentionally walked to load the bases, and the third batter was hit by the first pitch he saw, ending the game.

Justin Verlander is 20-8 with a 2.59 ERA versus the Texas Rangers. He is 21-24 with a 4.61 ERA versus the Cleveland Indians/Guardians.

Miguel Cabrera is batting an even .308. The future Hall of Famer came into the season having batted over .300 eleven times. His career mark is .310.

Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks had 143 RBIs in 1959. The next highest RBI total for a National League shortstop that season was 51, by Pittsburgh’s Dick Groat. The highest total in the American League was 71, by Cleveland’s Woodie Held.

Babe Ruth (60) and Lou Gehrig (47) combined to hit 107 home runs for the New York Yankees in 1927. The Philadelphia Athletics hit 56 home runs that year, the most for any other team.

On today’s date in 1963, Dick “Dr. Strangeglove” Stuart hit his second home run of the game, a three-run shot in the 10th inning, to give the Boston Red Sox a 7-4 win over the Minnesota Twins. Dick “The Monster” Radatz threw three innings of scoreless relief for the win, running his record to 9-1.

Chuck Klein hit his fourth home run of the game in the 10th inning to lift the Philadelphia Phillies to a 9-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on today’s date in 1936. Bucky Walters, who’d broken into the big leagues as an infielder five years earlier, got the win in relief.

Players born on today’s date include Buddy Groom, who pitched for six teams from 1992-2005. A lefty reliever who made 60 or more appearance in seven straight seasons, Groom holds the MLB record for the most career games by a player who never batted.

Also born on today’s date was Dain Clay, an outfielder who played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1943-1945. A native of Hicksville, Ohio, Dain attended Kent State University and is a member of the Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame. His nickname was Sniffy.





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
2 months ago

Back on May 12th, David published an article titled: A Poor Man’s Rod Carew, Luis Arraez is in line to win a batting title. The article was a bit strange, since at the time, Arraez wasn’t even in the top 10 in BA in the AL.

But since the article came out, Arraez has hit .373/.443/.488 and now leads in batting average by 28 points.

I hereby formally request that David write similar pieces about every single member of the Cleveland Guardians. ASAP! The city of Cleveland needs you, David!!!