Rowdy Tellez’s weapon of choice is 34 inches long, weighs 32 ounces, and is made out of maple. Trey Mancini’s is 33-and-a-half inches long, weighs 31 ounces, and is made out of birch. Both do damage. The Blue Jays first baseman is known for his light-tower power, while the Orioles outfielder is coming off of consecutive 24-home-runs seasons.
How they went about choosing, and then settling on, their bat models differs.
“When I first got into pro ball, I signed a bat contract with Victus,” explained Tellez, who was drafted by Toronto out of an Elk Grove, California in 2013. “I told them what I wanted, and they sent me bats. I didn’t really like it at first, so I tweaked it a little more. I got to what they called an AC24, which is kind of a combination of models. It’s kind of like a 271 knob and handle, maybe a little bit thicker heading towards the barrel, and then almost like an I13 barrel, but circumference-wise a little bit thinner, and a tick longer. I’ve kind of stuck with that. It’s a comfort thing.”
Mancini was drafted by Baltimore out of Notre Dame in 2013. Three years later, a C243 model Louisville Slugger became his bat of choice.
“When I came to big-league camp in 2016 as a non-roster invitee, I had no idea which bats Major League players swung,” Mancini explained. “I’d used Rawlings Pro Stocks all the through the minor leagues. I actually didn’t know that Rawlings was a big bat company at that point. I just knew that Louisville Slugger was the biggest name, so when they asked me which 12 bats I wanted for spring training, I said Louisville Slugger. I use birch, because those were the Pro Stocks I’d used in the minors.”
While barrels are the business ends of bats, having the right knobs can matter. It does for these two sluggers. Tellez changed the knob on his model after breaking his hamate bone in 2015. Mancini told me that one reason he swings a 33-and-a-half is because he hangs his pinky off the end.
Neither player is particularly superstitious when it comes to their bats. Mancini admitted that he can be “kind of sad for a second” after breaking a bat when he’s on a hot streak, but for the most part he just grabs another one and “it feels exactly the same. Ditto Tellez.
There are, however, times when they pick up a bat and it doesn’t feel exactly the same.
“I’m not one of those guys who feels out all of his bats,” said Tellez. “I kind of just grab one, and it’s, ‘Yeah, that’s about standard.’ But there are some days when I’ll grab a bat and it’s, ‘This feels huge,’ so I put it aside. Then the next day I’ll grab the same bat, and it’s ‘Oh, this is perfect.’ It depends. Cold weather, and warm weather, can actually change the weight of a bat slightly.”
According to Mancini, so too can the passage of time.
“I have a couple from the end of last season — they’ve been sitting in that chest since September — and you can feel that they’re a little bit heavier,” Mancini told me. “I’ll maybe use those in the cage, or in BP, but I won’t use them in the game. All of the ones I got this year feel the same, though. That’s what you want.”
A recent conversation I had with Mariners first-year pitching coach Paul Davis covered multiple topics, one of which was the slider. Davis spent six years in the St. Louis organization before coming to Seattle, and he cited a Cardinal while addressing movement profiles.
“I was around Jack Flaherty a decent amount, and his slider has a pretty good amount of horizontal movement,” Davis told me. “He kind of had a bit of a breakout in his rookie year, and his slider was driving a lot of his success. It’s pretty big, horizontally.”
When I suggested that Flaherty’s slider sounds more Fisbee-ish than cutter-ish, Davis’s response segued into an eyebrow raising — at least for me — comparison.
“Yeah, if you want to use that,” said Davis. “But there’s both depth and horizontal movement, versus, say, the Francisco Liriano slider that is a zero-zero. A gyroball. When Liriano was at his best, you’d look at the movement on it, and there was none. You’ll see guys who have four, five, six inches — or more — of glove-side movement on their sliders. He had zero.”
My reaction to hearing that was akin to, ‘Wait. What?”
“When I first started digging into data, with the Cardinals in 2013, a lot of people would have said Liriano had the best slider,” continued Davis. “But you’d look at it from a movement standpoint, and it would say zero vertical movement, zero horizontal movement. It had a lot of gyro, bullet spin. Technically, it didn’t really move, even though your eyes would tell you the bottom was falling out of it. That was in comparison to what his fastball would do. Sliders can vary, and there are a lot of factors involved.”
Author’s note: We’ll hear more from Davis in the near future.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Chris Paddack has been garnering our attention here at FanGraphs. And for good reason. The 23-year-old righty came into the season with high expectations, and he’s thus far surpassing them with aplomb. In seven starts for the San Diego Padres, Paddock has a 1.55 ERA, a 2.31 FIP, and 46 strikeouts in 40-and-two-third innings. He’s been a beast.
I’ve written about Paddack twice since the start of spring training, first featuring his Vulcan change in an installment of my pitch series, and later including him in a March Sunday Notes column. On the heels of Jay Jaffe’s excellent Paddack profile that ran on Wednesday, I’ll add yet another look at the shooting star.
When I talked to him in Padres camp, Paddack predictably extolled the virtues of a well-located fastball — in his case, one that sits mid-90s and occasionally approaches triple digits.
“As a starter, I believe all of your pitches are good because of your fastball command,” Paddack told me. “If you can locate your fastball in all four corners of the plate, that’s like having four pitches right there.”
The youngster’s arsenal includes a curveball that he throws 10% of the time, but when push comes to shove, he’s basically a two-pitch pitcher. As good as each is, can he continue to thrive as a big league starter with just the heater and the Vulcan? Paddack believes that he can, but he’s nonetheless working to improve the quality of his third option.
“Guys have done it,” said Paddack.”At the same time, two pitches usually isn’t going to get the job done at the big-league level. Not as a starter. Ideally I have three, and not with one of them being just a show-pitch. I want my curveball to be one of three plus-pitches. If I’m not getting outs with it, something is wrong.”
Needless to say, most everything has gone right so far in Paddack’s rookie season. The idea that he can get even better is a scary thought if you’re a hitter on an opposing team.
Lucas Sims leads all Triple-A pitchers in strikeouts, with 49. The 25-year-old [as of this past Friday] right-hander in the Cincinnati system has worked 32-and-a-third innings for the Louisville Bats.
Cole Irvin has a 2.25 ERA through six starts for Philadelphia’s Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The 25-year-old southpaw went 14-4, 2.57 with the Iron Pigs a year ago.
Zac Gallen, a 23-year-old right-hander in the Marlins system, is 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA in seven starts for the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes. A third-round pick by the Cardinals out of the University of North Carolina in 2016, Gallen was swapped from St. Louis to Miami in December 2017 as part of the Marcell Ozuna deal.
Garrett Hill, a 23-year-old righty in the Tiger system, has pitched 26 scoreless innings for high-A Lakeland. A 26th-round pick last year out of San Diego State University, Hill has allowed 10 hits, issued three free passes, and fanned 30.
Carlos Zambrano is on the roster of the Chicago Dogs, who compete in the independent American Association. The former Chicago Cubs righty last pitched in MLB in 2012.
Brandon Lowe isn’t especially verbose when discussing his craft. At least that was the case when I inquired about his hitting acumen prior to a late-April game. The Tampa Bay Rays infielder was unfailingly polite, but no granular details were forthcoming. No matter. What he gets paid to do is rake, and save for the last few K-filled days, that’s what he’s been doing. On the season, Lowe is slashing a rock-solid .297/.350/.563, with eight long balls in 140 plate appearances.
“I’ve progressively gotten a little bit better,” was Lowe’s response when asked how he’s developed as a hitter since being drafted out of the University of Maryland in 2015. “But the same base is still there. My approach is to be aggressive and find a good pitch to hit. It was the same way in college.”
Asked to elaborate, the former third-round pick said that he’s become more efficient with how he uses his body. His explanation as to just how was maybe a little muddy, but it did provide a certain amount of insight.
“There’s a difference from 2016 to 2017,” Lowe told me. “It was mostly hand placement to create stretch, and get more storage in my load. It’s kind of hard to explain — ‘stretch’ is the only way I know how to say it — but I added rhythm and g0t more torque, to help me do damage to the baseball.”
While that damage includes a decent number of balls driven into the air, don’t expect to hear the lefty-swinger expounding on optimal launch angles. His mindset is comfortably old-school. Moreover, he appreciates that he’s allowed to be who he is.
“I just go out there and try to hit the ball hard,” said Lowe. “The rest will take care of itself. It’s never in my head to try to hit the ball at a certain degree. And one of the many things I like about this organization is that the hitting coaches are really good at letting you be your own kind of hitter. They want to make you better off what you like do. I think that’s important.
Montana DuRapau became the 19,491st player in MLB history — and the first named Montana— when he debuted for the Pittsburgh Pirates this past Thursday. The 27-year-old righty was drafted by the Buccos out of Bethune-Cookman College in 2014, in the 32nd round.
James Loney has announced his retirement. The 35-year-old first baseman had been playing with the Sugar Land Skeeters in the independent Atlantic League. Loney logged 1,425 hits, and 108 home runs, for four big-league teams — most notably the Los Angeles Dodgers — from 2006-2016.
The Toronto Blue Jays have acquired Edwin Jackson from the Oakland A’s. The 35-year-old right-hander — originally drafted by the Dodgers out of a Columbus, Georgia high school in 2001 — has now been with 14 organizations.
Hotaka Yamakawa hit his100th career home run yesterday. The 27-year-old Seibu Lions first baseman did so in his 321st game, making him the fastest in NPB history to reach that milestone.
San Diego Padres assistant GM Josh Stein has been added as a speaker for this summer’s national SABR convention. The schedule is now set, can be found here.
Which Oakland A’s pitcher would Bob Melvin put in in the outfield if the need arose? I asked the three-time Manager of the Year that question recently. His answer was Liam Hendriks. To this point in his professional career, the 30-year-old Australian reliever hasn’t appeared in a game as a position player.
Seattle’s Felix Hernandez was roughed up yesterday in Boston — seven runs allowed in a 9-5 defeat — but he did reach a milestone. His second strikeout of the game was the 2,500th of his career. In the history of the game, only 35 pitchers have more.
Prior to taking the mound, Hernandez told his catcher, Omar Narvaez, to throw the ball to the dugout when punch-out number two occurred. Navarez forgot. As King Felix related after the game, “He threw it back to me. I was like, really?’
Hernandez plans to keep the ball, as he did strikeouts number 1,000 and 2,000. As for what he considers the most-memorable K of his career, that one was neither a milestone, nor did it come in a key moment of a big game.
“Adrian Beltre,” said a smiling Hernandez, “It was last year, with a curveball. Two years ago. I don’t know. But I started laughing. He’s my best friend. He homers against me, and I try to strike him out.”
Sticking with the Mariners, Shed Long learned on Thursday night that he was getting his first big-league call-up. There’s a pretty good chance that he got a lot of sleep on Friday night. He needed it.
The 23-year-old infielder left Tacoma’s Triple-A ballpark around midnight, went to sleep at 3:15, his alarm went off at 4:15, and his flight to Boston was at 6:50. That’s all West Coast time, of course.
After deplaning from his cross-country flight, Long headed to Fenway Park. Shortly thereafter, he met briefly with the media, then took batting practice. To put it mildly, the last however many hours had been a whirlwind. As for the smile on his face… let’s just say that Long looked more happy than tired.
Long made his MLB debut yesterday and went 0 for 3 with a walk.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
At Beyond The Box Score, Luis Torres wrote about how the Texas Rangers could be competitive again sooner than you’d think.
Over at The Chicago Tribune, Phil Thompson told us about a May 1903 game between the Tigers and White Stockings that featured 19 runs… and 18 errors.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
The Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s went into Saturday as the only teams without a sacrifice hit this season. The A’s sacrificed yesterday — for the first time in 85 games — and immediately thereafter won on a walk-off, bloop single.
When Anthony Rizzo hit the 200th home run of his career on Monday, he became the 346th player to reach that milestone. On Tuesday, J.D. Martinez became the 347th. Nolan Arenado and Freddie Freeman, with 196 each, will soon follow suit.
Mark Fidrych made his first career start on May 15, 1976. “The Bird” threw a complete game as Detroit beat Cleveland 2-1 at Tiger Stadium.
Virgil Trucks threw two hitters in 1952, the first of them coming on May 15 against the White Sox. Trucks, a right-handed pitcher for the Detroit Tigers finished that season with a record of 5-19.
On May 16, 1914, the Boston Braves had a record of 3-16. They went on to finish an NL-best 94-59, then sweep the Philadelphia A’s in the World Series.
Buckshot May made his only big-league appearance on May 9, 1924, pitching a scoreless inning for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The first batter he faced was Boston Braves outfielder Ed Sperber, who stroked a single to complete a four-hit day. Sperber had 17 career hits.
Closing on a personal note, my first FanGraphs contribution — an interview with Felix Hernandez — was published on this date in 2011. As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun.
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.