Sunday Notes: Orioles Hitting Coach Ryan Fuller Loves Books (and Follows Soccer)

Ryan Fuller taught high school English in Higganum, Connecticut for four years before becoming the hitting coach of the Baltimore Orioles. An infielder at the University of Connecticut before spending a year in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, the 32-year-old Fuller went on to earn a Master’s degree in Education from the University of New Haven. Books, and the lessons they provide, remain a big part of his life.

Asked about his favorites to teach, Fuller began with Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“That was a big one for me in 10th-grade honors,” said Fuller, who has tutored hitters at different levels for over a decade. “From a morality standpoint, there are so many things that I connect with. Kids love reading the book and being able to tie it in with what it means to be a good person. They think about other people — about walking in their shoes, as Atticus put it —and the values and morals are still the same today.”

Fuller cited Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” and Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage” as other books he’s seen impact specific age groups in particular ways. The lessons are analogous to his current job.

“It’s kind of the same thing we’re doing with our hitters,” explained Fuller, who is well-schooled in hitting analytics. “We’re taking sometimes complex, abstract things that maybe the hitters aren’t really grasping, and turning them into something tangible. They’ll say, ‘Oh, man, that makes sense.” That’s what I enjoy most about being a teacher.”

Fuller isn’t the only reader on the Orioles staff. Manager Brandon Hyde, bench coach Fredi González, and third base coach Tony Mansolino are among those with whom Fuller talks books, and the ideas they provide. Ditto some of the players he works with in the cage. Jorge Mateo is currently reading James Clear’s “ Atomic Habits,” while Trey Mancini recently enjoyed W. Timothy Gallwey’s “The Inner Game of Tennis.”

Self-development books — particularly ones that relate to sports — are right in Fuller’s wheelhouse.

“[Damian Hughes’s] “The Barcelona Way” is one I really enjoyed,” said Fuller, whose soccer allegiances are with Fulham, a team that was recently promoted back to the English Premier League. “It’s about Pep Guardiola, who is now the Manchester City manager. It’s about developing a culture and creating feedback loops for your players. To be able to see a huge organization centered around one leader, and how he works with a front office, is very relatable to working in a major-league organization. The Premier League is also on the cusp of sports development, so there is a lot to learn from reading about how they do things. There is a lot to learn from reading in general.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Jim Faulkner went 0 for 6 against Burleigh Grimes.

Ed Hemingway went 1 for 7 against Wilbur Cooper.

Mike Fitzgerald went 2 for 4 against Lance McCullers.

Matt Joyce went 2 for 4 against Troy Scribner.

Jamey Carroll went 3 for 9 against Eric Milton.

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On October 18, 2020, this column led with how Xander Bogaerts was on track to one day surpass Everett Scott for most games played at shortstop in Red Sox franchise history. Scott last took the field in a Boston uniform a full century ago, and as Bogaerts said in the article, “That record has been there for a long time, so [breaking it] would be special.”

The record is now his. Bogaerts played in his 1.094th game as a Red Sox shortstop on Friday, one more than Scott logged with the team from 1914-1921. Making the accomplishment all the more notable is that Bogaerts came up through the minors with a no shortage of pundits expecting him to transition to third base. Some were adamant in that belief. As I noted in the October 2020 column, “I was once told by a name-you’d-recognize prospect guru — in a condescending manner, no less — that Xander Bogaerts will never play shortstop in the major leagues.”

The 29-year-old native of Aruba has proven the skeptics wrong. Moreover, he’s impressed his peers.

“That’s amazing,” Jackie Bradley Jr. said on the eve of his teammate’s record-setting game. “I think it speaks to his work ethic, as well as to his talent and longevity. He’s a special ballplayer, and also a special person.”

People from outside the organization have been impressed with Boston’s de facto team leader as well. Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell is among them, and the erstwhile infielder’s appreciation for Bogaerts’s milestone is accompanied by an element of surprise.

“He doesn’t seem old enough to set that record,” Bell said of the player who debuted in the big leagues at age 20. “To do it at that position says a lot about staying healthy, but you also have to be a great player to be able to play shortstop for the Red Sox for that long. So, congratulations to him. That’s a great accomplishment.”

As for the improvements that Bogaerts — a dependable, albeit unspectacular defender — has made with the glove over the years, Bradley provided a common-sense perspective.

“He’s absolutely gotten better.” said Bradley. “He wouldn’t be a shortstop if he hadn’t. And he can definitely hit.”

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A quiz (this one is a gimme if you listened to Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio).

Which player with at least 1,800 plate appearances has the highest batting average in Kansas City Royals franchise history?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

The Baltimore Orioles have promoted Eve Rosenbaum to Assistant General Manager, Baseball Operations. The Harvard graduate had been serving as the organization’s Director of Baseball Development.

Rob Thompson, whom the Philadelphia Phillies named interim manager when Joe Girardi was fired on Friday, is the third Canadian-born full-time manager in MLB history. The Sarnia, Ontario native was proceeded by London, Ontario’s George Gibson, who managed the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1934, and Toronto’s Arthur Irwin, who managed five teams from 1889-1899.

SABR’s Boston chapter will be holding a Zoom meeting this coming Thursday. The June 9 event, which is free and available to all, will feature Rob Neyer and former MLB umpire Dale Scott. Registration is through this link.

Costen Shockley, a first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964, and for the California Angels in 1965, died earlier this week at age 80. A member of the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame, Shockley logged 28 big-league hits, including home runs off of John Tsitouris, Dave Morehead (a grand slam), and Camilo Pascual. Shockey retired from baseball midway though the 1965 season, at age 23, rather than accept a demotion to the minors. He later coached Georgetown, Delaware to the 1981 Senior Little League World Series championship.

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The answer to the quiz is José Offermann, who batted .306 in 1,825 plate appearances while wearing a Royals uniform. George Brett ranks second with a .305 batting average. Mike Sweeney is third with a .299 batting average.

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Aaron Goldsmith was a guest on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, and one of the several subjects the Seattle Mariners broadcaster addressed was the trajectory of Jarred Kelenic. In Goldsmith’s opinion, the young outfielder’s disappointing early-season performance wasn’t indicative of his future success. Rather, it was an age-influenced anomaly.

“He was penciled in to be at the major-league level, and to be productive, and he is now in Triple-A because he was not productive,” Goldsmith said on the pod. “Jarred Kelenic is turning 22 this summer. Adley Rutschman just made his major-league debut — the former number-one-overall pick — and he is 24. So anyone who has given up on Jarred Kelenic, if I can be frank, is a fool. He’s a highly-touted prospect, a blue chip prospect, for a reason. He’s had turbulence in his young major league career, but I think it’s fair to say that this is not the player that Jarred Kelenic is.”

Kelenic had a 52 wRC+ in 96 plate appearances before being sent down to Tacoma for more seasoning. On the opposite end of the statistical spectrum, 27-year-old Ty France boasts a sparkling 175 wRC+. I asked Goldsmith about the use of stats like wRC+ on Mariners broadcasts.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve done,” said Goldsmith, who identifies as a stat nerd. “It’s taken some great collaboration. A few years ago, we kind of came to the conclusion that we had to start pushing the envelope a little bit when it comes to advanced stats and metrics. The days of talking about pitcher wins and batting average… while those do have their place in baseball, we can’t be continuing to broadcast those things as gospel on a nightly basis. The Mariners front office is as advanced as any. Every baseball ops executive in the game is leaning on other numbers to make decisions. It’s only right that we start to educate the fans on what those are.”

Goldsmith elaborated on how Mariners broadcasts have evolved in that respect, as well as sharing some of his thoughts on baseball’s statistical revolution. The entire episode — Jay Jaffe’s conversation with Jayson Stark is also a gem — is well worth a listen.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks lead the NPB Pacific League with a record of 32-21. The Yakult Swallows lead the NPB Central League with a record of 34-20.

Shugo Maki — a player often cited in this column — is currently slashing .323/.403/.671 with NPB’s Yokohama BayStars. The 24-year-old infielder leads Central League hitters in both batting average and home runs (15).

Roki Sasaki surrendered his first home run on the season on Friday. The 20-year-old Chiba Lotte Marines wunderkind gave up a gopher to Yomiuri Giants third baseman Kazuma Okamoto. Sasaki, who also suffered his first loss in the contest, has a 1.77 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 66 innings.

Woo-jin An 안우진 leads all KBO pitchers with 82 strikeouts. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 2.31 ERA and 2.11 FIP in 70 innings with the Kiwoom Heroes.

Drew Rucinski 루친스키 is second in the KBO with 80 strikeouts. The 33-year-old former Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, and Miami Marlins right-hander has a 1.83 ERA and a 2.07 FIP in 73-and-two-thirds innings with the NC Dinos.

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Hoby Milner led off this column on May 1 with a story centering on how he’d recently recorded his first career decision. The Milwaukee Brewers reliever had done so in his 96th career appearance, a big-league record — by a wide margin — for most decision-free appearances to begin a career. The southpaw’s streak was broken with a win, and as fate would have it, he was credited with a second W a few weeks later in his 100th career appearance.

This past Wednesday, Milner was charged with his first career loss. It came in appearance number 115, and to say it was undeserved would be an understatement. Milner retired both batters he faced, one on a routine ground ball, and the other on a routine fly ball. Unfortunately, it was the 10th inning and the latter out plated a ghost runner/zombie runner/Manfred Man/whatever. Per official-scoring rules, the “ghost” was inexplicably Milner’s responsibility.

The rule charging a pitcher with a loss in this scenario is nonsensical. If we’re going to have ghost runners (a bad idea to begin with), shouldn’t we also have ghost losing-pitchers? There is no logical reason that Hoby Milner’s W-L record shouldn’t still be 2-0.

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FARM NOTES

Masyn Winn is slashing .349/.407/.590 with a 168 wRC+ in 190 plate appearances between High-A Peoria and Double-A Springfield. The 20-year-old shortstop in the St. Louis Cardinals system has seven triples, which ties him for second-most in the minors.

Mason Auer leads the minors with eight triples. The 21-year-old infielder in the Tampa Bay Rays system is slashing .313/.383/.500 with a 144 wRC+ in 188 plate appearances with the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs.

Ezequiel Duran leads the minors with 24 doubles. The 23-year-old middle infielder in the Texas Rangers system is slashing .317/.365/.574 with a 132 wRC+ in 200 plate appearances for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders.

DJ Herz has a 1.45 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 37-and-a-third innings with the High-A South Bend Cubs. The 21-year-old left-hander — his changeup was featured last fall as part of our Learning and Developing a Pitch series — is No. 11 on our Chicago Cubs Top Prospects list.

Sawyer Gipson-Long has a 2.06 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 43-and-two-thirds innings with the High-A Cedar Rapid Kernels. A sixth-round pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2019 out of Mercer University, the 24-year-old right-hander has a 0.962 WHIP.

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Even the best hitters are retired seven out of ten times at the plate.”

Reading that line in a recent autobiography of former big-league southpaw Sam McDowell had me rolling my eyes. And for good reason. Hitters who are retired seven out of ten times have a .300 OBP, which is, to state the obvious, not good. The likelihood of such hitters being among the best is quite low. How low? Let’s look at some numbers.

Since 1961, the year McDowell debuted in the big leagues, a total of 24 qualified hitters have had an OBP of exactly .300. Of them, only two can claim a wRC+ north of 100. Bill Robinson is at 102, while Evan Gattis is a surprisingly robust 110.

Expanding to a range, a total of 164 qualified hitters have had an OBP between .299 and .305. Of them, only seven can claim a wRC+ north of 100. Along with the aforementioned Robinson and Gattis, there are Javier Baez (101), Salvador Perez (102), Joe Pepitone (104), Mark Trumbo (106) and Dave Kingman (113).

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

The Score’s Travis Sawchik looked at a flattening curve and the possibility that MLB has reached its maximum launch angle.

Graham Womack talked to the always-insightful Dusty Baker for The Sacramento Bee.

John Thorn wrote about the legendary Moe Berg’s camera for Our Game.

At South Side Sox, Zach Hayes chronicled the not-so-great track record the Chicago White Sox have in the Rick Hahn era.

Chicago Cubs broadcaster Jon Sciambi has been tirelessly spreading awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Jordan Bastian wrote about Sciambi’s close-to-the-heart efforts for MLB.com.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

When the Reds beat the Red Sox this past Tuesday, it was Cincinnati’s first win at Fenway Park since Game 7 of the 1975 World Series.

Joey Votto has 441 doubles and 3,539 total bases. Barry Larkin had 441 doubles and 3,527 total bases.

Joe Girardi has 1,121 managerial wins. Counting post-season games, he had 1,121 hits as a player.

Three players born in Curaçao have recorded 1,000 or more MLB hits. Andruw Jones finished his career with 1,933. Andrelton Simmons has 1,164. Jonathan Schoop, who reached the milestone last Sunday, has 1,007.

Russ Ford’s 2.59 ERA is the lowest among Canadian-born pitchers with 10 or more big-league innings. The Brandon, Manitoba native pitched for the New York Highlanders/Yankees from 1909-1913, and for the Federal League’s Buffalo Blues from 1914-1915. Ford went 26-6, 1.65 for the Highlanders in 1910.

Not baseball, but a fascinating stat-fact worth sharing: Per The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan, Celtics guards Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman went a combined 5 for 40 from the field in Game 7 of the 1957 NBA finals versus the St. Louis Hawks… and the Celtics won 125-123 in double overtime.

On today’s date in 2001, Shea Hillenbrand homered in the bottom of the 18th inning to lift the Boston Red Sox to a 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers. Manny Ramirez, slashing .388/.470/.731 at the time, was issued four intentional walks by Tigers pitchers.

On today’s date in 2008, Jason Giambi hit a two-out, two-run, pinch-hit home run to give the New York Yankees a 9-8 win over the Blue Jays. Toronto’s B.J. Ryan retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth inning, then gave up an infield hit, a single, and the walk-off blast by Giambi.

Players born on today’s date include Gene Schall, who played in 52 games for the Philadelphia Phillies between the 1995 and 1996 seasons. The Abington, Pennsylvania-born first baseman logged 33 big-league hits, including home runs off of Steve Trachsel and Paul Wilson.

Also born on today’s date was Truck Hannah, who caught for the New York Yankees from 1918-1920. The Larimore, North Dakota native played professionally from 1909-1940, strapping on the gear with the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels in 13 of his 31 seasons. Hannah played his last games with the Southern League’s Memphis Chickasaws at age 51.





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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docgooden85member
7 months ago

“I was once told by a name-you’d-recognize prospect guru”

Hmm, could be lots of people…

” — in a condescending manner, no less — ”

…but it’s probably Keith Law.

PC1970
7 months ago
Reply to  docgooden85

That was my 1st thought once I saw condescending.

MikeDmember
7 months ago
Reply to  docgooden85

I was a fan of Law’s for years, but it got kind of tiring seeing him consistently punch down on his readers. Sometimes it’s deserved, but often it wasn’t. I never had a negative interaction, just the opposite, but he can be mean-spirited.

As for this instance, I’m not sure it was Klaw. If it was, it had to be early on. I just took a spin through the time machine and found a couple write-ups. He ranked Xander as the #2 prospect in the game heading into 2014, writing “he could be Troy Tulowitzki with a little less arm, and that’s an MVP-caliber player,” according to Law. The year prior, heading into 2013, he had him at #3, writing “A year ago, Bogaerts looked like a high-ceiling bat who’d have to find a new position, most likely third base, but a year of full-season ball at shortstop with continued work on maintaining his conditioning has his odds of remaining in the middle of the field up over even money. And a shortstop who can hit like this is a pretty special commodity.” Prior to 2012, he had him at #62, once again being quite positive, although noting he might project as a 3B’man in the future.

All in all, I can’t find anything condescending from Klaw about Bogaerts, beyond the questions many talent evaluators had early on about staying at SS. He was certainly a fan of Bogaerts overall, and seemed to be convinced he had a chance to stick at SS the higher he rose through the system. Maybe the comment was from way back (Bogaerts signed at 16), although Law is not shy about offering his opinions in columns. I would think that would have shown up somewhere.

Last edited 7 months ago by MikeD
MikeDmember
7 months ago
Reply to  David Laurila

So what you’re saying is we can’t keep guessing until we guess right. 🙂

dodgerbleu
7 months ago
Reply to  docgooden85

Kiley I bet