Scott Radinsky came into coaching with an old-school approach. That was to be expected. His playing career spanned the 1986-2001 seasons, and he honed his craft under the likes of Moe Drabowsky, who came of age in the Eisenhower era. Analytics were in their infancy. Radinsky was hired by the Indians in 2005 — initially to tutor pitchers in the minors — on the strength of his nuts-and-bolts knowledge and his communication skills.
The 50-year-old went on to serve as Cleveland’s bullpen coach in 2010-2011, and then as their pitching coach in 2012. From there he moved on to the Dodgers organization, and he spent the last two years as the bullpen coach in Anaheim. Along the way, he’s learned to embrace analytics.
“The information wasn’t as eye-opening to me when I was first getting exposed to it,” admitted Radinsky, who now monitors TrackMan data throughout the season. “I wasn’t resistant; it just didn’t make complete sense to me. But over the years, because of how much better it’s being explained — and a lot of it seems more quantifiable — it makes perfect sense. I’ve completely bought in, which makes it easier for me to sell something to a player.”
Radinsky gave examples of that salesmanship — we’ll share specifics in the coming week — including convincing Blake Parker to up his breaking ball usage, and getting Justin Anderson to better utilize his fastball. In each case, the data provided by Anaheim’s analytics department was delivered to Radinsky in “an awesome” manner. Just as importantly, it didn’t arrive heavy-handed.
“They cut through all the crap and got right to the meat and potatoes of what we needed,” explained Radinsky. “And I’d like to think we were smart about how we utilized it. Anyone who has been part of a baseball team for six months knows there’s more to it than just giving a guy information. You need to understand when it’s the right time to get in there, and when it’s time to back off. That’s a feel thing, and the front office had that feel. They weren’t down our throats every time a guy was struggling. They were always consistent with the communication, and the messages were pretty similar.”
Radinsky received a message he didn’t particularly like following the conclusion of the season. Along with other members of the Angels coaching staff, he was informed that he wouldn’t be returning next year. On the heels of a disappointing season, the club was “going in another direction.”
Where the road takes Radinsky next remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: He’ll continue to espouse an approach where communication skills and pitching analytics will go hand-in-hand.
“You have to establish a relationship, and trust,” shared Radinsky. “You have to care. Players see right through a guy who has an agenda. Once the player recognizes that you do care, then you can effectively come to him with the valuable pieces of information that will make him better. It’s a happy marriage.”
Myles Straw has a .302 batting average and an equally-admirable .394 OBP in 1,554 minor-league plate appearances. That’s not what got him off the farm. The 24-year-old (as of Wednesday) outfielder earned a September call-up, and was on Houston’s ALDS roster, because he can fly. Splitting this season between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno, Straw swiped 70 bases, the highest total in affiliated ball.
While his calling card is clearly his wheels, the 2015 12th-round pick aspires to be more than a Terrance Gore or a Quintin Berry. He wants to make enough hay with the bat to get regular playing time in a big-league outfield. That means honing his hitting skills, albeit not in typical Astros fashion. Driving the ball in the air reaps benefits for an Alex Bregman, but that’s not who Straw sees when he looks in the mirror.
“I’ve had deep conversations about it with our hitting coaches,” the speedster told me on the eve of the ALCS. “It all makes sense — it’s a big part of where we’re at today — but we’ve come to find that’s not the player I am. I’m an on-base guy who likes to run whenever he can. That’s my game. Plus, if I start hitting all these homers, I’m not going to get to steal bases. Right?”
Tongue-in-cheek quips aside, Straw would like nothing better than to take his thievery to an even higher level. The suggestion that he could maybe swipe 100 bags in a season brought a smile to his face.
“That would be incredible,” stated Straw. “I know that Billy Hamilton had 160, or something crazy like that, one year in the minors. That’s insane. It’s over double what I had this year, and I felt like I had a million. But seriously, I love running. I love stealing bases. It fires me up every time.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Alex Cora went 4 for 9 against Danny Graves.
David Bell went 4 for 9 against Danny Graves.
Paul Fry had a 3.35 ERA, and two saves, in 35 appearances out of the Baltimore bullpen this year. You’re excused if your reaction to that sentence is, “Paul who?” The Orioles were 31 games out of first place by the time Fry made his big-league debut on June 29, and his call-up was anything but ballyhooed. The 26-year-old left-hander — a 17th-round pick in 2013 out of St. Clair Community College in Port Huron, Michigan — was unranked in a ho-hum farm system.
His underdog anonymity has a curious backstory. Unlike the vast majority of his MLB peers, he didn’t grow up playing the game.
Fry played tee-ball, but then called it quits at coach-pitch. The reason was simple: The game didn’t draw his interest. And while it’s said that there’s no crying in baseball, that isn’t the case when you’re still coloring with crayons.
“I hated going to baseball practice,” admitted Fry. “I remember crying once because I didn’t want to go. This was in tee-ball. But then they gave me (uniform) No. 1, and I felt a little better.”
Football was his sport of choice as he advanced through the youth levels. Fry was on the small side, but his athleticism allowed him to excel as a slot receiver/running back — he was also the backup quarterback — on a team that played a winged-T offense. He went on to grow five inches between his junior and senior years, which was around the time his sporting fortunes changed. Fry had begun playing baseball again, and after initially playing in the outfield he switched to pitching in his final year at Waterford-Kettering High School.
The instruction he received was limited.
“I kind of taught myself,” explained Fry. “I lived right by an elementary school that had a backstop, and I would go there and throw. I would act like I was one of the pitchers on the Tigers. It wasn’t until college that I started getting groomed a little more, although I didn’t really have a pitching coach until I got drafted.”
Five years later —against long odds — the once-reluctant tee-ball player was on a big-league mound, the number 51 on the back of his Orioles uniform. He admits that his arrival came as a surprise.
“I think about it every day,” Fry told me in late September. “It’s like ‘Wow, this is unbelievable.’ Five or six years ago, I never would have thought I’d make it this far. I started thinking I might have a chance when I got moved up to Double-A, but at that point it was still ‘Maybe.’ This whole thing has been crazy.”
T.J. McFarland had a sneaky-good season. In 47 appearances covering 72 innings, the 29-year-old reliever logged a 2.00 ERA pitching out of the Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen. He was especially stingy against same-sided batters, who slashed a paltry .165/.182/.206 against his left-handed deliveries. There weren’t many Ks, but that’s never been his game.
“I’ve always had a low percentage of strikeouts,” acknowledged McFarland, whose 5.3 strikeout rate this year was a percentage point under his career mark. “It’s not necessarily that I can’t get them, but I’m a strike thrower who relies on his sinker. I’m trying to have the ball put in play early in the count.”
The numbers bear out that approach. Among relievers who threw at least 50 innings, McFarland had both the third-highest Z-contact rate (92.4%) and the third-highest ground-ball rate (67.9%). Conversely, his K-rate ranked second from the bottom among the 147 who met that innings threshold.
Being a contact-inducer in an era where punch-outs are de rigueur for most relievers isn’t a negative in his eyes. Not by any stretch.
“That’s true,” McFarland said of his atypical profile. “But this is also a time where a lot of guys are hitting home runs, and I’m getting a lot of ground balls. There’s something to be said for that.”
It’s hard to argue. McFarland allowed just 0.5 home runs per nine innings, and his worm-killers found gloves far more often than they found holes. His BABiP was a thrifty .268.
Fred Caligiuri, who pitched for the Philadelphia A’s in 1941 and 1942, celebrated his 100th birthday earlier this week. The West Hickory, Pennsylvania native is the oldest living former MLB player.
Hank Greenwald, the radio voice of the San Francisco Giants from 1979 to 1996, died earlier this week at the age of 83. Greenwald’s four-decade broadcasting career included stints with the New York Yankees and the Oakland A’s.
Minor League Baseball announced that the Albuquerque Isotopes are the recipients of this year’s John H. Johnson President’s Award, which has been presented annually since 1974 to honor “the complete baseball franchise.” The Isotopes are the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
The Chunichi Dragons won negotiating rights with 18-year-old infielder Akira Neo, the top prospect in NPB’s amateur draft.
The Red Sox played in five World Series from 1903-1918 and won all of them. They played in four World Series from 1919-2003 and lost all of them (each in seven games). They are 3-0 since 2004, with this year pending.
This is the Dodgers franchise’s 20th World Series appearance, and their 10th since moving to Los Angeles in 1958. They’ve gone 5-5 in their current location. They went 1-8-1 while playing in Brooklyn as the Bridegrooms, Robins, and Dodgers. The 1890 Fall Classic ended in a stalemate, with the Bridegrooms and Louisville Colonels each winning three games. There was one tie.
Game 1 of of NPB’s Japan Series was played yesterday, with the Hiroshima Carp squaring off with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. The Carp went 82-59-2 during the regular season, while the Hawks went 82-60-1.
If you’re unfamiliar with NPB, the ties in those seasonal records presumably raised your eyebrows. What happened in Game One will raise them even higher. Adhering to league rules, Hiroshima and SoftBank finished in a 2-2 tie after 12 innings. NPB’s last Game-One tie had occurred in 1986, and ultimately necessitated a Game 7, which was won by the Seibu Lions over the Carp.
Meanwhile, Friday night’s Red Sox-Dodgers game lasted 18 innings and took seven hours and 20 minutes to play. It ended at 3:30 a.m., well after all but diehard fans were asleep. What do you think, MLB?
Several sets of quotes were left on the cutting room floor when I shared World Series memories from 15 of this year’s participants on Tuesday. Given Friday’s marathon, two of the unused ones seem particularly pertinent.
Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie — a Massachusetts native — remembers watching the 1986 Boston-Mets matchup while he was in high school, although he “wasn’t fully engaged.” The reason he gave for not being able to cite an earlier one is telling:
“I was probably in bed for most of them when I was growing up,” LeVangie told me. “World Series games are on so late. I can tell you that if our season was over, it would be hard for me to stay up that late to watch.”
Red Sox pitcher Brandon Workman, who hails from Texas, shared a similar thought.
“I was born in 1988, so the late 1990s are around the time when I became a big baseball fan,” said Workman. “I grew up a Rangers fan, so I know the Yankees beat the Rangers in the playoffs in 1996. But really, it was past my bedtime for a lot of games, to be honest. I don’t remember watching a whole lot of World Series games as a kid.”
Last Sunday’s column touched on the possibility of the Red Sox using Mookie Betts at second base when the World Series shifts to Los Angeles. The Tigers playing centerfielder Mickey Stanley at shortstop during the 1968 Fall Classic was mentioned, but another notable comp was not. Boston’s starting second baseman for the first six games of the 1967 Impossible Dream season was Reggie Smith.
This is, of course, an apples-to-oranges likening, given the chasm of difference between April baseball and October baseball. Even so, the six games Smith played ay second were his only ones at an infield position other than first base in his 17-year big-league career. He had spent his first two professional seasons as an infielder before moving to the outfield in 1965.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Raquel Ferreira’s official title with the Red Sox is Vice President of Major-League and Minor-League Operations. Her unofficial title is organizational mom. Tim Britton explained why at The Athletic.
Over at Our Game, MLB’s official historian John Thorn wrote: “If Marcel Proust had been a boy in the 1950s, as I was, he might have written of baseball cards.” He elaborated with predictably-quality prose.
Managerial decisions are routinely second-guessed by fans and pundits. Paying heed to how much data the likes of Alex Cora and Dave Roberts have at their disposal, The Ringer’s Ben Lindberg second-guessed the second-guessers.
Baseball Prospectus’s Russell Carleton offered some baseball therapy, assuring us that while the age of ‘the opener’ is upon us, the starter isn’t dead.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Newly-named Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was dubbed “The Woonsocket Rocket” during his playing days. Hall of Famers Gabby Hartnett and Napoleon Lajoie also hailed from Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
From March 30-April 30, Hanley Ramirez slashed .340/.406/.489 in 106 plate appearances with the Red Sox. Boston released Ramirez on May 30.
Ted Barrett, the crew chief for this year’s World Series, is the only umpire ever to work the plate for multiple perfect games. He called balls and strikes when David Cone threw his perfecto in 1999, and again when Matt Cain threw his in 2012.
When Minnesota’s Eric Milton threw a no-hitter against Anaheim on September 11, 1999, the Angels lineup included players whose career hit totals are 3, 46, 65, 152, 207, 333, and 397. Not playing that day were Garrett Anderson, Gary DiSarcina, Jim Edmonds, Darin Erstad, Bengie Molina, Tim Salmon, and Mo Vaughn.
On this date in 1995, David Justice homered to lift the Braves to a 1-0 win over the Cleveland Indians, and to their first and only World Series title since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1966.
On this date in 1981, the Los Angeles Dodgers captured their first World Series title in 16 years with a 9-2 win over the New York Yankees. Pedro Guerrero homered and drove in five runs in the Game 6 clincher.
Jackie Robinson stole home 19 times in his career. He was caught attempting to steal home 12 times.
A team from the AL Central has earned a Wild Card berth just four times — no division has fewer — with the Indians, Royals, Tigers, and Twins garnering one each. The White Sox have never reached the postseason as a Wild Card.
Bumpus Jones threw a no-hitter for the Cincinnati Reds in his major-league debut on October 15, 1892. The righty from Cedarville, Ohio went on to appear in just seven more games, all in 1893, with a 10.91 ERA.
The electric baseball scoreboard was invented by George Baird in 1908.
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.