Sunday Notes: Taylor Davis Wants To Manage (or Work in a Front Office)

Taylor Davis plans to stay in the game once his playing days are over. Currently on the roster of the Indianapolis Indians — Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate — the 32-year-old catcher intends to become a coach, a manager, or a decision-maker in a front office. He’s already received overtures for one of those positions.

“The question does get asked,” said Davis, whose resume includes 22 MLB games over parts of four seasons. “It’s something that started even before I got to the big leagues. The first time I got asked if I wanted to coach was in 2017. That was early in the year, and then I ended up making my debut later that season. Obviously, I want to play for as long as I can, but after it’s done, doing something within the game is what I want.”

Managing might be his primary down-the-road goal, but the erstwhile Chicago Cub would also be well-suited for a corner-office role. Asked about that possibility, Davis said that he’d be equally happy wearing a polo shirt or a uniform. Roster construction and “the whole business side of the game” are among his interests. So is the data that influences, and often dictates, the decisions that are made.

“I dive into analytics probably more than the average player,” the veteran catcher explained during spring training. “I try to understand where teams are coming from, where agents are coming from, and where a player is going to come from in terms of analytics. It’s a piece of the puzzle that’s become increasing important.”

He wouldn’t be a paint-by-numbers adherent to analytics in a manager’s chair. While Davis believes that you need to “put the odds in your favor as much as possible,” he recognizes that “the human element is still part of the game.” There would be times when he’d rely on his instincts and experience. His approach behind the dish is similar.

“As a catcher, I use data as an overview,” explained Davis, who has caught 63 big-league innings and over 3,200 down on the farm. “I use it as the overall idea of what to do during the game, and from there I’ll integrate my thoughts to manipulate the direction as we go. The way I like to say it is that the game plan — the analytics behind the game plan — are an overview, and the turn-by-turn directions are done by me. Basically, data help me make my decisions, but by no means are they the decisions. Numbers can’t always put everything into context.”

A leadership role within the game, ideally at the big-league level, is Davis’s post-playing-days objective. Whether it comes in a polo shirt or a uniform remains to be seen.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Mike Trout is 7 for 13 against Alex Cobb.

Lorenzo Cain is 8 for 14 against Johnny Cueto.

Freddie Freeman is 9 for 15 against Ian Kennedy.

Bob Molinaro went 9 for 13 against Luis Tiant.

Magglio Ordonez went 12 for 17 against Chad Durbin.

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Are some opposing managers more predictable than others, thus making it easier to match wits against them over the course of a game? I recently asked that question, in so many words, to Tony La Russa.

“It’s much more important to figure out how to stop their hitters and score against their pitchers,” replied La Russa, who is his second stint at the helm with the Chicago White Sox. “Every manager is just playing to the strength of his players, and away from what they don’t do well. Some guys believe more in manufacturing [runs], and some guys don’t, but mostly you just play to your talent. So, it’s not a big factor.”

Following up, I asked the 77-year-old Hall of Famer if today’s managers are any more, or any less, predictable than they were earlier in his career. Second only to Connie Mack on the all-time games list, La Russa managed his first big-league contest in 1979.

“It depends on the philosophy of the organization,” said La Russa, who is widely credited for pioneering modern-day bullpen usage. “That was never a real question until sometime in the mid 2000s, when some organizations [would try to] script. If you can script a game, I’d like to see it. Show me a script. It’s men, not machines.

“But I do believe you saw some of that, with the reliever moves,” continued La Russa. “There was no judgement about, ‘Wait a minute; this guy is throwing good.’ Not everybody likes it, but having to face three hitters has changed that.”

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A quiz:

Fenway Park, which opened in 1912, is the oldest MLB ballpark. Wrigley Field (1914) and Dodger Stadium (1962) are the next oldest. Which ballpark is fourth-oldest?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Kumar Rocker will reportedly join the Frontier League’s Tri-City ValleyCats and remain with the independent club until this summer’s MLB draft is held in July. The 22-year-old right-hander was drafted 10th overall out of Vanderbilt University by the New York Mets last year, but wasn’t signed to a contract.

Veronica Hernandez has been named the new general manager of the Modesto Nuts, the Low-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Per the press release, the Ithaca College graduate is the first Latina General Manager in Minor League Baseball.

Gettysburg Eddie Plank: A Pitcher’s Journey to the Hall of Fame, by Dave Heller, was named the winner of SABR’s 2022 Larry Ritter Book Award. More information can be found here.

David West died earlier this week at age 57. A left-handed pitcher who appeared in 204 games from 1988-1998, West played with the New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Red Sox. He won a World Series with the Twins in 1991.

John Cumberland, a left-handed pitcher for four teams from 1968-1974, died last month at age 74. The Westport, Maine native had his best season in 1971 when he went 9-6 with a 2.92 ERA over 185 innings with the San Francisco Giants.

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The answer to the quiz is Angel Stadium (then known as Anaheim Stadium), which hosted its first game on April 19, 1966.

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It was chilly and windy when Dallas Keuchel took the mound in Boston last Sunday. He handled the conditions well. Facing batters that were every bit as cold as the elements, Keuchel breezed through the Red Sox lineup, allowing just two runs over six innings. Asked about his performance following the game, he made note of the northeasterly gusts.

“The wind was a little tricky at first, just trying to corral the strike zone with what it was going to do on the game mound,” said Keuchel, who walked one and fanned five. “The bullpen mound had a different cross-path with the wind than it did in the game mound.”

Intrigued by what he’d said, I asked the veteran southpaw how common it is for wind to impact feel on the game mound, vis-à-vis the bullpen mound.

“There are probably a handful of times I can remember, throughout my career,” responded Keuchel. “But it is tricky to really understand how stuff moves, especially with me, because I don’t throw as hard. I rely on command and movement. In the bullpen today, I was just really trying to home-in on the square strike zone and make sure everything was feeling good, feeling loose. I took that looseness to the mound, and then just went for it.”

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Nao Higashihama threw a no-hitter for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks earlier this week. The 31-year-old right-hander is 4-1 on the year, and 57-30, with a 3.16 ERA over 10 NPB seasons.

Gregory Polanco had hits in nine consecutive at bats for the Yomiuri Giants. The 30-year-old former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder is slashing .278/.362/.465 with six home runs in 163 plate appearances in his first NPB season.

Three former MLB pitchers were involved in the decision as The Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Hiroshima Carp 5-3 on Friday. A.J. Cole got the win, Scott McGough got the save, and Nik Turley was charged with the loss.

Ryan McBroom is slashing .287/.363/.457 with five home runs for NPB’s Hiroshima Carp. The 30-year-old outfielder is in his first season in Japan after appearing in 66 games for the Kansas City Royals from 2019-2021.

Roki Sasaki allowed six hits and fanned seven over as many innings as the Chiba Lotte Marines beat the Orix Buffaloes 4-1 on Thursday. The 20-year-old right-hander, who threw 17 consecutive perfect innings earlier this season, is 4-1, 1.47 on the year.

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Signing Koji Uehara to a free-agent contract in December 2012 was one of Ben Cherington’s best moves as Red Sox general manager. Thirty-seven years old with a solid-but-unspectacular MLB track record at the time, Uehara went on to save 79 regular-season games, and seven more in the postseason — including two in the World Series — during his Boston tenure.

Appearing as a guest on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, Cherington admitted that the lion’s share of credit for inking the closer to a contract lies elsewhere.

“The signing of Koji Uehara happened largely because of the advocacy of others in our office,” Cherington said on the pod. “Not that I didn’t appreciate Koji, but at the time it felt like we had other guys. We had just traded for [Joel Hanrahan] in the [Mark] Melancon deal, who we hoped would solidify the back end of the game. Yet, we had people — Zack Scott was one of them — who were really pushing to sign Koji. A good process from folks in our office helped make up for my mistakes in trades.”

Cherington, now the GM in Pittsburgh, had earlier traded for Melancon, only to see him flop in Boston, then thrive after being swapped to the Pirates. Hanrahan, coming off two All-Star seasons, proceeded to blow out his elbow after making just nine appearances with the Red Sox. Another bullpen acquisition, Andrew Bailey, ended up having labrum surgery.

“I have thought about that series of decisions,” said Cherington. “It doesn’t seem enough just to say, ‘Well, bullpens are volatile and hard to predict.’ That seems like a bit of a cop-out. There’s more to it than that. There was more that I needed to learn, and we needed to learn, from all of those decisions, both the ones that did not work out — clearly there were some — and in Koji’s case, the one that did.”

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FARM NOTES

Warming Bernabel is slashing .327/.421/.558 with a 157 wRC+ for the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies. The 19-year-old infielder from Bani, Dominican Republic is No. 7 on our Colorado Rockies Top Prospects list.

Colt Keith is slashing .322/.382/.551 with a 161 wRC+ for the High-A West Michigan Whitecaps. A 2020 fifth-round pick who was featured here at FanGraphs last November, the 20-year-old infielder is No. 9 on our Detroit Tigers Top Prospects list.

Edwin Arroyo is slashing .292/.382/.522 with a 138 wRC+ for the Low-A Modesto Nuts. A second-round pick last year out of Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Baseball Academy, the 18-year-old infielder is No. 7 on our Seattle Mariners Top Prospects list.

AJ Smith-Shawver has 41 strikeouts in 24 innings with the Low-A Augusta GreenJackets. A seventh-round pick by the Atlanta Braves last year out of a Colleyville, Texas high school, the 19-year-old right-hander has a 4.50 ERA and a 3.21 FIP.

Ken Waldichuk — featured here at FanGraphs last July — has a 1.14 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 23-and-two-thirds innings with the Double-A Somerset Patriots. The 24-year-old southpaw is No. 15 on our New York Yankees Top Prospects list.

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Reid Detmers threw his signature curveball 27 times while no-hitting the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this week. It’s a plus pitch, and as I learned when talking to the 22-year-old Los Angeles Angels left-hander last weekend, it doesn’t have much of a story behind it. Detmers began throwing the pitch as a freshman in high school — he hadn’t been allowed to throw a breaking ball prior to that — and little has changed since he got the green light.

“Once my dad said I could throw one, I kind of just gripped it and ripped it,” explained Detmers, who went on to be drafted 10th-overall by the Angels in 2020 out of the University of Louisville. “It’s been the same shape, and pretty much everything else, since then.”

The southpaw’s father, Kris Detmers, pitched in the St. Louis Cardinals system from 1994-2000, topping out in Triple-A. He showed his son a conventional curveball grip, and from there, the future big-leaguer “kind of just figured everything else out.” The offering has gotten harder and sharper over the years, but that’s been a simple matter of growth and maturation. While he’s “kind of tweaked with it here and there, just to see what [he] can do with it,” it’s essentially the same curveball it’s always been.

As for what he’s learned about the pitch from tools like TrackMan and Edgertronic, the rookie with a big-league no-hitter under his belt “doesn’t use any of that stuff.”
In a nutshell, Detmers relies on feel when throwing his curveball. Much as he did during his formative years in Chatham, Illinois, he simply “grips it and rips it.”

As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

MassLive’s Christopher Smith wrote about side-arming Red Sox reliever John Schreiber, who vacuumed hot ash out of boilers during the offseason while coming out through the Tigers system.

Lookout Landing’s Isabelle Minasian believes that the Seattle Mariners organization has been disappointing their fans for years, and not just on the field.

Federal Baseball’s Patrick Reddington wrote about how the Washington Nationals need to clean things up on the defensive end.

Manny Machado is a chess aficionado, and Scott Miller wrote about it at The New York Times.

In May 1941, Detroit Tigers pitcher Bobo Newsom convinced an official scorer to charge him — not the reliever who replaced Newsom — with the loss in a 5-4 defeat. Tom Thress told the story for SABR’s Game Project.

MLB announced a strategic partnership aimed at growing baseball in the United Kingdom. The British Baseball Federation provided the details on its website.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Mike Brosseau is 4-for-5 with a walk and two home runs as a pinch-hitter this season. The Milwaukee Brewers utility-man, who has made five career pitching appearances — the first four with the Tampa Bay Rays — threw a scoreless inning last month.

Ron Brand started 319 games over a career that spanned the 1963-1971 seasons. His starts included 279 as a catcher, 13 at shortstop, 13 at third base, seven at second base, and seven in left field. The erstwhile Houston Astros, Montreal Expos, and Pittsburgh Pirates jack-of-all-trades also made appearances in right field and center field.

Willie McCovey had 9,962 plate appearances and 920 extra-base hits.
Torii Hunter had 9,962 plate appearances and 890 extra-base hits.

Bruce Sutter threw 1,042 relief innings. He had 300 saves and 19.2 fWAR.
Doug Jones threw 1,097 relief innings. He had 303 saves and 21.8 fWAR.

Kiki Cuyler batted .354 for the Pittsburgh Pirates in his 1924 rookie season. The following year, he batted .357 with 43 doubles, 18 home runs, and a National League-best 26 triples. Cuyler would later lead the senior circuit in stolen bases four times, with his career-high 43 steals coming with the Chicago Cubs in 1929.

On today’s date in 2004, the Seattle Mariners scored six runs in the top of the 13th inning to beat the New York Yankees 13-7. There were five home runs hit in the game, all by the losing side.

Virgil Trucks threw the first of his two 1952 no-hitters on today’s date, with Vic Wertz’s walk-off home run providing the game’s only offense in a 1-0 Detroit Tigers win over the Washington Senators. Trucks finished the season with a record of 5-19.

Players born on today’s date include Jason Karnuth, a right-handed pitcher whose big-league career comprised four games with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001, and three with the Detroit Tigers in 2005. The La Grange, Illinois native had a 2.70 ERA, and neither a win nor a loss on his ledger..

Also born on today’s date was Chet Falk, who pitched in 40 games for the St. Louis Browns from 1925-1927. Nicknamed “Spot,” the left-hander was the younger brother of Bibb Falk, an outfielder who played with the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians from 1920-1931. Bibb (that was his given name) was nicknamed “Jockey.”

Belmont “Monte” Method went 24-15 for the Class-D Kalamazoo White Sox in 1908. Method’s minor-league career also saw him take the mound for the Corsicana Oil Citys, Saginaw Wa-was, Adrian Yeggs, and Boyne City Boosters.





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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shepmember
2 months ago

I missed the 4th oldest stadium answer

Mean Mr. Mustard
2 months ago
Reply to  shep

I did as well, guessing first Camden and then remembering that Kauffman is still in use. I thought the Angels had changed stadiums as well as names somewhere in there, and Camden really opened the gates for almost everyone else to get theirs.