Sunday Notes: Refsnyder’s Plan, Dozier’s Bananas, Santana, Hardy, Wainwright, more

Rob Refsnyder has gone deep just 37 times since the Yankees drafted him out of the University of Arizona in 2012. He’s homered twice this year in 397 plate appearances between Triple-A and the big leagues. Power hasn’t been a forte.

He wants that to change.

“I’m going to try to hit home runs next year,” Refsnyder told me on Friday. “I’ve had a lot of good conversations with people and I’m going to try to completely change my game. I think it will help my career.”

The change may be necessary. Refsnyder has good bat-to-ball skills, but he’s neither a speed-burner nor a plus defender. He came up through the Yankees system as a second baseman, but with Starlin Castro manning that position, he’s been seeing action at first base and in right field. Without added pop, he’s unlikely to be an everyday player going forward.

He has role models for his goal.

“I’m going to go back to the drawing board and watch a lot of video,” said Refsnyder. “I’ll probably watch a lot of (Brian) Dozier video. Dozier doesn’t have too long of a swing — he’s pretty short and compact — and his pull rate is really high. I’ll look at Daniel Murphy, too. He changed his game from being more of a contact guy — trying to put the barrel on the ball — to pulling the ball in the air.

“I’m never going to be one of those guys who hits for opposite-field power. That’s OK. Mookie Betts pulls the ball with the best of them. He goes the other way, but not for opposite-field home runs. Mookie and Dozier are the type of guys I need to look at.”

Dozier and Murphy are second basemen, while Betts moved from second base to the outfield upon reaching the big leagues. For Refsnyder, where he plays is a secondary consideration.

“The position doesn’t matter,” said Refsnyder. “I’m just going to try to hit home runs.”


Brian Dozier’s home run explosion has come as a somewhat of a shock. Not that he hasn’t shown an ability to clear fences. The Twins second baseman came into the year having averaged 23 home runs over the past three seasons. But 41 and counting in mid-September, including 13 in August alone? No one expected that.

Even Dozier is surprised, but only to an extent. This is how he responded when I caught up to him at Target Field last weekend:

“I had 28 last year, so I have pop,” said Dozier. “Had you told me before the year that I was going to hit 30, I probably would have said, ‘Probably so.’ But that extra level… they come in bunches. When I hit the three in one game (on September 5), Jim Thome texted (Twins director of media relations) Dustin Morse. He said ‘Tell Dozier not to get used to this. Give Dozier a thing of bananas; they come in bunches.’ That’s the way it works. You hit five or six in a week and your home runs skyrocket.”


Cleveland’s Carlos Santana launched a 447-foot home run last Sunday (per StatCast). It was his 30th of the season and one of his longest. Also on his 2016 log are a pair of shots that traveled 450-plus. Nineteen of the 31 he’s hit this year have gone at least 400 feet.

Does he get more enjoyment from the tape-measure jobs than he does from the occasional fence scraper?

“It doesn’t matter how far,” Santana said after Sunday’s game. “If it hits behind the border, it counts. (A home run) is just something happening in the game, in the life, in the moment. But the ones that go 440-450 feet do show you’ve got power.”


J.J. Hardy’s power has gone missing. The Orioles shortstop has hit 20-or-more dingers five times — including a career high 30 in 2011 — but he has just 27 over the last three seasons. Injuries have been the primary reason.

Hardy had a lower back problem in 2014 — “I could barely bend over and tie my shoes” — which made aggressive swings impossible. Last year he tore the labrum in his left shoulder, which severely compromised his ability to get extension.

There was another injury this year — a foot fracture that cost him seven weeks — but this one wasn’t a power sapper. Hardy feels good physically and has been “hitting the ball farther than I ever have in batting practice.”

Translating that power to games has been made difficult by recent history.

“I had to change my approach because of the injuries and I’ve had about 1,000 at bats with that changed approach,” explained the 34-year-old infielder. “I need to get the old approach back. I’d like to get back to driving the ball — I’d like to get back to swinging for the fences — but it’s not as easy as just changing overnight. We’re kind of working on that.”

Hardy hit his ninth home run of the season a few hours after we spoke.


Manny Machado has 24 home runs this year as a third baseman and 11 more as a shortstop. That’s notable. Over the last 100 years, only three other players have had 10-or-more home runs at two different positions — one of them being shortstop — in the same season. All did so at short and the hot corner.

Howard Johnson had 10 home runs as a shortstop and 26 as a third baseman in 1989. Jose Valentin went 10/15 in 2001 and 11/13 in 2002. Travis Fryman went 11/11 in 1993.


Howard Johnson’s name came up when I talked to Jim Leyland this summer. We were talking about pitchers whose fastballs are better than their radar-gun readings, and the former skipper cited a 1980s-1990s New York Met.

“When I think of pitchers with sneaky fastballs, Sid Fernandez is the guy,” said Leyland. “Sid threw about 88-90 and was a high-ball pitcher. If you remember right, Davey Johnson played Howard Johnson at shortstop when Fernandez pitched. He knew he was going to get strikeouts and fly balls, so he wasn’t concerned about ground balls.”

Leyland appreciates movement — be it sink or rise — as much as the next guy, but when it comes to pitching priorities, he thinks like a realtor: location, location, location.

“The action on the ball matters,” opined Leyland. “But I still go back — I’d say I’m old-school with this, but I hate that term — to commanding your fastball. You have to do that, whether it’s a two-seam or a four-seam. It’s not just the four-seam; you have to be able to command your sinker. High sinkers go a long way.”


Colorado’s Chris Rusin is well aware that elevated sinkers go a long way. Not only is it his most-frequently-thrown pitch (39%), the 29-year-old southpaw takes the mound for the Colorado Rockies.

He’s not overpowering. Rusin’s fastball is a pedestrian 88 mph, so he gets by mixing and matching his sinker, cutter, changeup and curveball, and inducing ground balls. His approach is straightforward.

“For me, it’s just throwing everything out of the same window with the same release point,” Rusin told me this summer. “If everything looks the same out of my hand, it will look the same halfway to the plate and the hitter has less time to react to what it is. Then, once it gets there, I want it to be anywhere besides the middle of the plate. I’m about changing speeds, movement as opposed to velocity, and staying down in the zone.”

Rusin has appeared in 24 games for the Rockies this year — seven as a starter and 17 out of the bullpen — and has a 3.89 ERA and a 3.33 FIP. He’s allowed four home runs in 76-and-a-third innings. Only one of them has come at Coors Field.


In last week’s column, Andrew Miller talked about how increasing his slider usage — he’s been throwing his go-to over 60% of the time — has made him more effective. He pointed out that Rich Hill — close to 50% curveballs — and a handful of others have also adopted a throw-your-best-pitch-more-often philosophy.

Adam Wainwright isn’t a proponent. The Cardinals right-hander has one of the game’s best curveballs, but he’s leery of using it too often.

“At a certain point, if you throw your best pitch too much, it gives that hitter on the other side a better chance,” opined Wainwright.” Say it’s my breaking ball; if I throw my curve too much, hitters get used to it. If you just throw it, throw it, throw it, it doesn’t become great anymore. It becomes something they see a lot.”


Mike Clevinger feels more in the present in his latest stint with the Indians. The rookie right-hander made three starts in May and a relief appearance in July, then was called up again in August. From a tempo standpoint, the third time is proving to be the charm.

“I definitely feel more in control now,” said Clevinger. “Before, I was working a little too fast — the speed of the game got a little too fast for me — then when I came back, I was actually a little too slow. The pace of the game in my head… I don’t want to be slowing down in order to process what I’m doing and what’s going on. We had to find that happy medium of aggression. It’s about being more in the present.”


It’s been several years since Alex Gordon transitioned to the outfield. The last time he played third base in a big-league game was 2010. He almost ended up doing so last month, and it wouldn’t necessarily have been like riding a bike.

“I take ground balls at third every once in awhile,” said the Kansas City Royals veteran. “The other day we had an extra-inning game and I think I might have been the backup infielder if anyone got hurt. I started freaking out a little bit thinking about that. It’s obviously been awhile and I don’t know how I’d fare over there. Fortunately it didn’t happen.”


Dan Duquette has mixed feelings about David Ortiz. The Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations respects what Ortiz has accomplished in the game, but he’s no fan of what he’s done against his team. Big Papi has 53 career home runs against Baltimore.

This was the response when I asked if he could share a few thoughts on the soon-to-retire slugger:

“My favorite memory is when he smashed the telephone in the visitor’s dugout at Camden Yards, at the height of his frustration,” answered Duquette, with a wry smile. “That is my favorite moment.”


Three out-of-the-ordinary things I’ve seen at ballparks this season:

Arizona manager Chip Hale played his infield in with runners on second and third and one out in the eighth inning of a game his team trailed 16-2.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter challenged a game-ending out call at first base with no runners on base and his team trailing 12-2.

An official scorer in Minnesota awarded an assist to a pitcher on a pickoff attempt that didn’t result in an out. That throw eluded the first baseman, who was charged with an E3.



Per J.J. Cooper at Baseball America, Shohei Otani threw the fastest pitch in Nippon Professional Baseball history earlier this week.

Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register wrote about how Bud Black would welcome an opportunity to once again manage in the big leagues.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark asked if David Ortiz is having the greatest farewell season of all time. As is his wont, Stark opined on the subject in finely-crafted detail.

Also at ESPN, Doug Glanville asked several players about the challenges of mixing baseball and activism.

Yes, 20 wins still means something. Cliff Corcoran gives his reasons why at Sports on Earth.


Total attendance at minor league baseball games — played by 176 teams across 15 leagues — was 41,377,202. The Indianapolis Indians led all teams in total attendance (636,888, while the Charlotte Knights had the largest average attendance (8,974).

Gary Sanchez had an .807 OPS and 10 home runs in 71 Triple-A games this year. He has a 1.069 OPS and 15 home runs in 40 big-league games.

Tampa Bay’s Brad Miller has 19 home runs as a shortstop this year, a franchise single-season record for that position. Julio Lugo had 15 in 2003.

Mike Trout has 140 extra-base hits since the start of last season. Brian Dozier has 152 extra-base hits since the start of last season.

Going into yesterday’s game, David Ortiz had 73 singles, 73 runs scored, 73 walks, and 73 strikeouts.

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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7 years ago

I’m sorry I have a dirty mind.