Sunday Notes: Rebuffing Criticism, Bill Schmidt Likes The Rockies’ Direction

The Colorado Rockies have received their fair share of criticism since winning 91 games and earning a Wild Card berth in 2018. Four losing seasons have played a part in that, but so too have some questionable decisions, financial and otherwise. Four months ago — and he’s no lone wolf in having offered such a critique — my colleague Dan Szymborski called Colorado “The worst-run organization in baseball.”

My own coverage of the club, which has focused primarily on players, prospects, and coaches, has included neither criticism nor compliment. Which isn’t to say I’m not intrigued by brickbats thrown. I am, which led me to approach Colorado GM Bill Schmidt to get his perspective on some of what has been said about the team he’s been with for two-plus decades.

The first thing I asked Schmidt about was the October decision to fire hitting coach Dave Magadan and replace him with Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens, who’d previously worked with the San Francisco Giants and, this past season, the New York Yankees.

“They’re different people with different experiences.” said Schmidt, a longtime scout who replaced Jeff Bridich (initially on an interim basis) as Colorado’s GM in May 2021. “Hensley had a lot of success with the Giants. There are certain things… I’ll let him talk about the certain things he believes in, but he and Bags were different types of players who have different ideas of what they consider important.”

Bringing “Bam Bam” on board is notable in part because he’s an outsider; the Rockies have often been called an insular organization. Schmidt bristled when asked about that claim. as well as about accusations that the team he leads lacks direction.

“We’ve brought some people in, but that’s neither here nor there,” said Schmidt. “I don’t think we’re stagnant. We have a belief that we think is strong, and if you ask anybody inside our organization, they will tell you the direction we’re going. We might not be up on top of the mountains screaming it out, but we know what direction we’re heading in.”

Philosophically-speaking, what exactly is that direction?

“We’re scout/development,” was the executive’s response to that question. “That’s who we are. Our foundation… not that we play all of our own guys — we will use guys to try to acquire what we need — but we’re going to give our guys opportunities.”

When The Athletic published an anything-but-complimentary critique of the organization in 2021 — Ken Rosenthal and Nick Groke co-authored the piece — a poorly-staffed (and allegedly under-utilized) analytics department was among the criticisms. With that in mind, one more question was in order: What is the current status of the Rockies’ analytics department?

“We have some very sharp people working for us, and they’re part of our process,” Schmidt told me. “As a scout, I always used stat sheets. That’s analytics. I’ve always looked at the numbers to help make decisions. Look, I like the direction we’re heading in. I think our good days are ahead of us.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

George Scott went 2 for 47 against Gaylord Perry.

Roger Maris went 16 for 47 against Jim Perry.

Dale Murphy went 2 for 34 against Greg Maddux

Ryne Sandberg went 13 for 34 against Mike Maddux.

Marquis Grissom went 13 for 23 against Pedro Martinez.

Orlando Merced went 4 for 23 against Ramon Martinez.

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Jason Castro announced on Friday that he is retiring after 12 seasons as a big-league catcher. What comes next for the 35-year-old former first-round pick? I asked Castro about his post-playing-career future earlier this summer, suggesting that an analytics-focused coaching role would be a good fit if he chooses to remain in the game.

“We’ll see,” the Stanford University alum replied. “I haven’t given much thought to what will be next, but analytics are something I have a lot of experience with. I’ve learned a lot, starting from almost nothing, over the course of my career. There’s been a huge evolution, especially over the past six or seven years. So, we’ll see.”

It’s a safe bet that a lot of teams will approach Castro about a role in their respective organizations, be it on the field or in the front office. Some already may have.

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Who was better, Keith Hernandez or Don Mattingly? I asked that question in a Twitter poll earlier this week, and of the 335 people who weighed in, 51.9% went with the former captain of the New York Yankees. Hernandez, who played for the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, and (briefly) Cleveland, captured 48.1% of the vote.

Mattingly had 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, a .361 wOBA, and a 124 wRC+. A six-time All-Star, he won an AL MVP, a batting title, and nine Gold Gloves.

Hernandez had 2,182 hits, 162 home runs, a .365 wOBA, and a 131 wRC+. A five-time All-Star, he won an NL MVP, a batting title, and 11 Gold Gloves.

Their respective WAR totals are what most separate them. Hernandez finished his career with 59.4, while Mattingly totaled just 40.7. (bWAR has Hernandez at 60.3, Mattingly at 42.4). With the caveat that WAR isn’t a be-all and end-all for determining “better,” Hernandez was indeed a cut above. No disrespect to Mattingly — a great player in his own right — but the wrong player won this poll.

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Sticking with polls, I also ran one asking which of Andy Pettitte or Gary Sheffield had the better career. Sheffield, who amassed 62.1 WAR over 22 seasons, garnered 64.2%. Pettitte, with 68.2 WAR over 18 seasons, received 35.8%.

Both players are currently on the Hall of Fame ballot, Sheffield for two more years, and — assuming he continues to get enough support to remain eligible — Pettitte for another six years. As of this writing, I haven’t put a checkmark next to either name on my own ballot. There is a good chance that will change for one of them in the coming days.

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A quiz:

Todd Helton has the most doubles, and most home runs, among players born in Tennessee. Which player born in the Volunteer State has recorded the most hits? (A hint: he amassed 54.2 bWAR, but was an All-Star in just two seasons.)

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Baseball America named Myrtle Beach Pelicans general manager Kristin Call their Minor League Executive of the Year. The West Virginia State University graduate has been with the Low-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs since 2013.

The Seattle Mariners have promoted Andy McKay to Assistant General Manager. Formerly the organization’s Senior Director of Player Development, McKay was featured here at FanGraphs in a two-part interview in July 2020.

The Oakland Athletics have hired Mike McCarthy as their new bullpen coach. The analytically-driven 35-year-old was featured here at FanGraphs this past August while he was serving as the pitching coach for the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas.

The Cincinnati Reds followed up last month’s announcement that Bronson Arroyo would be elected to the club’s Hall of Fame by naming two more honorees on Tuesday. Danny Graves — the only player in MLB history born in Vietnam — pitched in 465 games for the Reds from 1997-2005. Gabe Paul was Cincinnati’s general manager from 1951-1960.

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Thursday that Richard Milo has been honored with this year’s Jack Graney Award, which is given to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work. Milo covered the Montreal Expos from 1977-2004.

Rudy Hernández, who pitched for the Washington Senators in 1960 and 1961, died late last month at age 90. The right-hander from Santiago, Dominican Republic won four of six decisions while logging a 4,12 ERA over 43-and-two-thirds innings.

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The answer to the quiz is Vada Pinson, who logged 2,757 hits from 1958-1975. Born in Memphis, Pinson played 11 of his 18 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.

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Brad Miller was the featured guest on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, and our conversation comprised not only baseball talk, but soccer talk as well. The Texas Rangers infielder/outfielder is a huge fan of the planet’s most popular sport, so with the World Cup in full swing — tough loss for Team USA yesterday — his perspectives were a perfect fit for this week’s pod. One question I asked the veteran of 10 big league seasons bridged both sports: Which of his current, or former, teammates is the best soccer player?

“Ooh, I’ve got one for you,” responded Miller, who spent the 2021 season with the Philadelphia Phillies. “He’s somebody that burst onto the scene this postseason [and] is on record as being my favorite pitcher, This guy is the smoothest customer. He’s got skills. It’s Ranger Suárez. Ranger is silky. He’d see the ball and his eyes would light up, so we’d go kick it around. Didi Gregorius has some skills, too. I’m not good at all — I just love kicking it around, and running and chasing after it — but Ranger’s got some feel. That’s my guy.”

The baseball-specific topics we touched on included his current boss. Now Texas’s Executive Vice President and General Manager, Chris Young was a veteran pitcher with the Mariners when Miller was playing his first full big-league season in Seattle. The then-35-year-old taught the youngster a lesson in dugout propriety.

“We were up big, [but] I was frustrated,” recalled Miller. “I kind of slammed my helmet into the bat rack. It was timed terribly… Chris came right up to me and was like, ‘Hey, that’s not you; that’s not what we do. We’re up 10. You can throw your stuff, you can show emotion, but you’ve got to play to the scoreboard and have feel.’ I’m glad he came right up to me and let me know, ‘Hey, that’s not what you’re going to be about.”

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Junior Caminero is 14 for 50 with five home runs for the Australian Baseball League’s Perth Heat. A native of Santo Domingo, the 19-year-old third baseman/shortstop is No. 4 on our Tampa Ray Bays Top Prospects list, and No. 60 in our Top 100.

Brisbane Bandits boast a best-in-the-ABL 12-2 record. T.J. Bennett, a 30-year-old native of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, has led the way with an 1.134 OPS and eight home runs.

NPB’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have reportedly signed Maikel Franco. The 30-year-old third baseman has played for four MLB teams, primarily the Philadelphia Phillies, over the past nine seasons. Masahiro Tanaka, Yuki Matsui, and Jose Marmolejos were notables on Rakuten’s roster this past year.

Cleveland Guardians prospect Johnathan Rodríguez is slashing .268/.330/.329 for the Puerto Rican Winter League’s Gigantes de Carolina. The recently-turned-23-year-old outfielder had 26 home runs this seasons between High-A Lake County and Double-A Akron.

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Rainer Nunez is slashing .269/.309/.462 with the Dominican Winter League’s Estrellas de Oriente. The 24-year-old (as of today) first baseman has a league-best six home runs.

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It is well known that Adrián Beltré broke into the big leagues at a young age. The future Hall of Famer celebrated his 19th birthday two-plus months before debuting with the Los Angeles Dodgers in June of 1998. Not as well known is that he arguably never should have been allowed to sign with the team that employed him for his first nine professional seasons. As Daniel R. Levitt and Mark Armour chronicled in their entertaining-and-informative book Intentional Balk: Baseball’s Long and Sordid History of Innovation and Cheating, Beltré was signed illegally.

The Dodgers, as they would later admit doing, doctored the native of Santo Domingo’s birth certificate, as he was too young, per MLB rules, to ink a contract. Then-Commissioner Bug Selig would go on to fine the Dodgers $100,000 and bar them from scouting and signing players in the Dominican Republic for a year. What Selig didn’t do was even more notable. As the authors explained, “Beltré notwithstanding, players discovered to have signed before they were of age were typically declared free agents.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

Who were the best NPB players at each position in 2022? Yuri Karasawa offered his opinion at Japan Ball.

Writing for Fast Company, Bruce Schoenfeld looked at how DraftKings is making a billion-dollar bet that it can change the way fans care about sports.

Ten former first-round picks will be available in this Wednesday’s Rule 5 draft. J.J. Cooper provided a rundown, including how that number compares to previous years, at Baseball America.

Pitcher List’s Chrystal O’Keefe presented us with the top ten pitching performances of the 2022 season.

Vanya Ordóñez almost quit baseball before going on to play for the Mexican women’s baseball national team. Eugenio Tamés Alanís has the story at the University of California’s Annenberg Media.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

The St. Louis Cardinals turned 449 double plays this year, the most in the majors. The New York Yankees turned 248 double plays, the fewest in the majors.

The Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox had 19 outfield errors, which tied for the most in the majors. The teams charged with the fewest outfield errors were the New York Yankees (3) and New York Mets (4).

Jesse Winker has a .344/.440/.591 slash line in 109 plate appearances at Milwaukee’s American Family Field/Miller Park. He has a .203/.331/.294 slash line in 236 plate appearances at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park.

José Abreu has a .340/.397/.607 slash line in 335 plate appearances at Detroit’s Comerica Park. He has a .202/.250/.340 slash line in 100 plate appearances at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.

Jeff Bagwell went 0 for 24 against Scott Sullivan. Todd Helton and Jeff Kent went a combined 16 for 26 with five home runs against Sullivan.

Luis Tiant allowed 3,075 hits and 1,280 earned runs. He had 65.6 bWAR
John Smoltz allowed 3,074 hits and 1,284 earned runs. He had 66.4 bWAR.

The Minnesota Twins selected Shane Mack off of the San Diego Padres roster in the Rule 5 draft on today’s date in 1989. The underrated outfielder went on to log a 132 wRC+ with 17.9 WAR in a Twins’ uniform over the next five seasons.

On today’s date in 2007, the Florida Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo, and Dallas Trahern.

Players born on today’s date include Dolly Gray, who went 15-51 with a 3.52 ERA pitching for the Washington Senators from 1909-1911. Born in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — per his SABR biography, he listed his birthplace as the town of Atlantic Mine on his draft registration for World War II — the southpaw won 20 or more games five times with the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels prior to making his MLB debut at age 30.

Also born on today’s date was Shano Collins, an outfielder/first baseman who played for the Chicago White Sox from 1910-1920, and for the Boston Red Sox from 1921-1925. The grandfather of 1970s outfielder Bob Gallagher, Collins counted 133 triples among his 1,687 career hits. Per his SABR bio, “No evidence exists to suggest that Collins was a part of the plot to throw the [1919] World Series to the Reds or had any knowledge of the plot.”





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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shoewizardmember
1 month ago

People who vote for Mattingly always talk about his peak. But his best 4 year consecutive peak was only 1.6 WAR better than KH in total, and from there KH blows him away. But people just don’t value first base defense in the first place, and over valued Mattingly’s defense in the second place. And of course they undervalue OBP.

Best 4 years consecutively:
KH: 23.1 WAR
DM: 24.7 WAR

Best 5 years consecutively
KH: 28.5
DM: 27.9

Best 6 years consecutively:
KH: 34.2
DM: 31.7

Best 7 years consecutively:
KH: 39.2
DM: 31.5

Bet 8 years consecutively
KH: 45
DM: 33.2