Sunday Notes: Robert Stock Stimulates His Nervous System (And Hits Triple Digits)

Robert Stock is following a breakthrough season with a rocky season. Last year, the right-hander broke into the big leagues at age 28, and logged a 2.50 ERA in 32 appearances out of the Padres’ bullpen. This year he’s spent the bulk of his time with San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate, and scuffled in his smattering of opportunities in The Show. Currently on the IL with a bicep strain, Stock has a 10.13 ERA in 10-and-two-thirds innings of work.

There’s more to the Robert Stock story than his late-bloomer status and overall pitching prowess. When I talked to the former Los Angeles-area prep at Petco Park recently, I learned that he’s a converted catcher with an unorthodox workout routine.

“I use a training system called EVO UltraFit,” Stock told me. “It involves electrodes, and obscure ways of lifting weights. You’re doing things like jumping off of stuff, and catching things that are falling.”

Watching an ESPN feature on a former NFL safety was the catalyst. Learning that Adam Archuleta “found success through this weird training system,” he decided to try it himself. Just 13 years old at the time, Stock traveled to Arizona, “where the guru is,” and proceeded to adopt the program. He’s been a disciple ever since.

An electrodes apparatus was charging at Stock’s locker as we spoke.

“You put them all over your body,” Stock explained. “{EVO UltraFit founder] Jay Schroeder gives you a program — a protocol — and it can elicit certain responses that he wants, such as strength training and neurological health to keep you firing as well as you can for 365 days a year. It stimulates your nervous system. Ultimately, it’s a system for moving, and you move when you pitch.”

The stockily-built hurler was drafted out of the University of Southern California by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009, and despite having a howitzer for an arm — “I was throwing like 95 when I was 15” — he spent his first three professional seasons behind the plate. Stock, who was clocked at 102 mph earlier this year, didn’t begin pitching until 2012.

Needless to say, it takes more than velocity to pitch at the highest level. When I asked why it took as long as it for him to make the Majors, his response was a candid, “Because I wasn’t very good.”

He’s a lot better now — bumpy outings notwithstanding — and he feels his training system is a big reason why. His brother, Richard Stock, a catcher currently playing in the independent Can-Am League, is a devotee as well. To say they take it seriously would be an understatement. This past offseason, the siblings coordinated seven podcast episodes of The Try Harder Podcast, which the Padres righty said focuses on “training and pitching.”

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Scott Emerson is always a pleasure to talk shop with. The Oakland A’s pitching coach has been featured here before, and you can expect to hear more from him in the weeks to come. Today I’ll share a snippet from a conversation we had earlier this season, the subject being Trevor Bauer and the quest to diversify one’s repertoire.

“With all the new technology, we have a lot of pitchers trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, yet a master of none,” Emerson told me. “They go there and want to do too much; they’ve got six or seven pitches. We’ve got guys throwing so many pitches who aren’t capable of doing it. There are some who can do it. Trevor Bauer. That guy has every pitch in his tool box.

“He’s got a lot of pitches — he’s got a lot of things he can do — but you have to remember that Trevor Bauer was good coming out of UCLA. He was a first-round draft pick. He’s a guy who was already good, and has taken the technology and made himself even better. But if you take a C-student pitcher, and are trying to make him an A-student… it’s hard to get these guys from a C to an A. You can get them a little bit better, but they’re probably never going to be elite, whether they add a pitch o not.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Billy Williams went 21 for 44 against Jerry Reuss.

Carl Yastrzemski went 21 for 47 against Blue Moon Odom.

Jesus Alou went 24 for 55 against Steve Carlton.

Boog Powell went 25 for 61 against Gary Peters.

Curt Flood went 26 for 49 against Joe Gibbon.

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Eric Nadel played second fiddle in this column two weeks ago (that’s pun-intended; the voice of the Texas Rangers is a certifiable music geek), with analytics-in-the-booth the subject at hand. Today we hear from him on a somewhat related subject. I asked Nadel what his broadcast highs and lows have been over the past several years — not individual games, but rather what he’s seen and experienced behind the microphone.

“The low is that the games take forever, and pitchers take forever between pitches,” opined Nadel. “So the entire rhythm of play-by-play has been lost. A lot of what we do is based on the rhythm and energy of the broadcast, and it’s hard to have energy when the pitcher is taking 30 seconds between pitches.”

Nadel fills those gaps with more information than once did. He’ll offer extra tidbits about the hitter or the pitcher. He’ll more often describe where the defense is playing, or where the batter is standing in the box. Rather than giving the score every few minutes, he’ll do so as often as every fourth pitch. As he put it, “If you want to maintain the rhythm of your speech, you need to say something.”

He’s not scared to be honest when the pace becomes especially tedious.

“Every now and then I’ll say something like — and I’ve done this several times — ‘Justin Anderson is taking forever between pitches,’” Nadel explained. “I also won’t hesitate to point out when a hitter steps out of the box when he’s not allowed to. Even with our players. [Rougned] Odor and [Nomar] Mazara do it all the time.”

The high he cited is tied to that low. Nadel appreciates that there is now plenty of data at his disposal when he wants to substantiate a point.

“I go to FanGraphs a lot to get the pace statistics, both for hitters and pitchers,” he told me. “If I say, ‘Yu Darvish is working slow,’ I can add, ‘In fact, he’s the slowest-working starter in the Major Leagues right now.’ I’m able to quantify that. The other side, too. If a guy is working fast, like Wade Miley, I can point out that he’s the fastest.”

One last thing from my mid-June conversation with Nadel. In the earlier column he was quoted as saying that he doesn’t think BABiP is indicative of luck so much a reflection of quality of contact. Left on the cutting room floor was the following, which added another layer to his opinion:

Is a batter hitting in bad luck when he’s hitting the ball hard into the shift all the time, because he never goes the other way, or is he just a player who is easy to defend against? If he has a low BABiP because of that, is he actually hitting in bad luck? To me, that’s a player who is one-dimensional and easy to defend.”

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NON-MLB NOTABLES

Juan Aparicio, a 19-year-old catcher in the Philadelphia Phillies system, has 22 hits in 71 at bats for the Williamsport Crosscutters in the short-season New York-Penn League. A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Aparicio had an .896 OPS last year in the Gulf Coast League.

Bryce Ball, a 21-year-old (as of this past Monday) first baseman in the Atlanta Braves system, has 24 hits in 68 at bats with Danville in the rookie-level Appalachian League. The left-handed hitter was drafted in the 24th round last month out of Dallas Baptist University.

Gavin Lux, a 21-year-old shortstop in the Dodgers system, has 19 hits in 39 at bats with Triple-A Oklahoma City. LA’s 2016 first-round pick was slashing .313/.375/,521 with 13 home runs in Double-A at the time of his promotion. Lux came into the year ranked third on our Dodgers Top Prospect list.

C.J. Chatham, a 24-year-old shortstop in the Boston Red Sox system, is slashing .312/.353/.426 with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs. A second-round pick in 2016 out of Florida Atlantic University, Chatham came into the season ranked 12th on our Red Sox Top Prospects list.

Kai-Wei Teng, a 20-year-old right-hander in the Minnesota Twins system, has a 1.85 ERA in 34 innings with the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the low-A Midwest League. The native of Taichung, Taiwan came into the season ranked 32nd on our Twins Top Prospects list.

Patrick McGuff, a 25-year-old right-hander out of Morehead State University, has a 1.05 ERA in 43 innings with the Evansville Otters in the independent Frontier League. A 36th-round pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2016, McGuff spent last season with low-A Dayton in the Cincinnati Reds system.

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I asked Rick Monday about one of his former teammates yesterday, and a good story followed. The longtime Dodgers broadcaster was an outfielder with the Chicago Cubs from 1972-1976, and the team’s shortstop at that time was slick-fielding Don Kessinger.

Monday and Kessinger roomed together for awhile, and they concocted a friendly competition while doing so. Each day, whoever had the better game would get to be “King of the Room.” The perks included choosing where they’d go out to dinner, and which TV channel they’d watch.

One day — May 16, 1972 — Kessinger went 4 for 4, with a walk and a stolen base. He didn’t get to be King of the Room. “I went 4 for 5, with three home runs,” Monday recalled with a smile. “Don said it wasn’t fair that 4 for 4 for wasn’t enough.”

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The number of Dodgers fans at Fenway Park for this weekend’s series against the Red Sox is impressive. So too was the array of former-player jerseys that I spotted last night on a mid-game stroll through the concourse. The names I jotted down on a note pad were: Andre Ethier, Nomar Garciaparra, Adrian Gonzalez, Shawn Green, Eric Karros, Sandy Koufax (there were several of these), Mike Piazza, Yasiel Puig, Manny Ramirez, Jackie Robinson, and Fernando Valenzuela. I also saw a Vin Scully. Among the current-player jerseys, of which there were many, Cody Bellinger and Clayton Kershaw were by far the most popular.

Ironically, both New York teams were represented as well. I saw a fan wearing a Pete Alonso, while another donned a David Wright. Even more impressive was a pinstriped Gary Sheffield.

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Among the plethora of informative passages in Tyler Kepner’s K; A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches is one that evidences just how underrated former closer Doug Jones was during, and after, his 16-year big-league career.

In 2006, Jones received only two votes for the Hall of Fame and was dropped from the ballot. The same year, Bruce Sutter received 400 votes to gain induction. Their final career save totals: Jones 303, Sutter 300.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

The Orioles’ new minor league pitching program is helping produce more strikeouts, and Jon Meoli looked into the how and why at The Baltimore Sun.

At High Heat Stats, Aiden Jackson-Evans dove deep into the record books to tell us about a 1907 Texas League game in which the San Antonio Bronchos suffered a 44-0 shellacking at the hands of the Austin Senators. The box score is included.

Will the big data revolution soon be over? Christopher J. Phillips delved into that question at The Washington Post.

Former White Stripes frontman Jack White played in a charity baseball game at an old Negro Leagues ballpark this past Thursday. Brian McCollum wrote about it at The Detroit Free Press.

The Pacific League beat the Central League 6-3 in Game One of NPB’s All-Star Series. Jason Coskrey has the particulars at The Japan Times.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

A total of 10 teams went into the All-Star break with between 44 and 47 wins. All but one of them were in the National League.

Colorado Rockies batters went into the All-Star break with an MLB-best .326 BABiP. Oakland A’s batters went into the break with an MLB-worst .272 BABiP.

Houston Astros pitchers went into the break with an MLB-best .265 BABiP-against. Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers pitchers went into the break with an MLB-worst .312 BABiP-against.

Adalberto Mondesi went into the break with 28 stolen bases. Five teams — the Blue Jays (27), Giants (25), Cubs and Mariners (24 each), and Twins (22) — all had fewer than the Kansas City shortstop.

Aaron Boone and Alex Cora each went into the All-Star break with 157 regular-season managerial wins.

Per @JamesSmyth621, Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw’s 64 pickoffs are the most since 2008.

On July 12, 1997, Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined to throw a 10-inning no-hitter as the Pittsburgh Pirates posted a 3-0 win over the Houston Astros. Mark Smith stroked the walk-off home run as a pinch hitter.

Disco Demolition Night took place at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979.

On July 18,1989, Cleveland Indians outfielder Joe Carter went 3 for 4 with a pair of home runs. On July 19, 1989, he went 3 for 3 with three home runs. Both games were against the Twins.

Nick Cafardo, Patrick Reusse, and Jim Reeves are the finalists on the upcoming J.G. Taylor Spink Award ballot for induction into the writers’ wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

We hoped you liked reading Sunday Notes: Robert Stock Stimulates His Nervous System (And Hits Triple Digits) by David Laurila!

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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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RANDOM HEAVENLY ANGEL HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Mike Miley went 2 for 3 against Luis Tiant
Lyman Bostock went 7 for 12 against Goose Gossage
Eric Chavez went 0 for 3 against Nick Adenhart
Luis Valbuena went 10 for 25 against Adam Wainwright
George Springer went 1 for 18 against Tyler Skaggs