Sunday Notes: Trevor’s Compensation, Rays’ Lowe, Leverage, Pirates Cadence, more

On October 24, 2015, the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Trevor Williams from the Miami Marlins in exchange for Richard Mitchell. Sort of. As ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported shortly thereafter, Williams was actually compensation for the Marlins’ hiring of pitching guru Jim Benedict. Mitchell was considered a non-prospect, while Williams was a former second-round pick, and is now working out of the Pittsburgh pen.

Last week, I asked Williams about the veracity of the report. Was he truly traded for a pitching instructor?

“It was weird,” said the 25-year-old right-hander.“On paper, I wasn’t, but in actuality, I was. It does make for a good story, because not many people get traded for a non-player. It is what it is. Whether you’re traded for a player, a front office guy, or a clubbie, you’re changing teams, you’re changing scenery.”

Williams wasn’t immediately aware of what had gone down. All he was told is that he was traded for “a minor leaguer.” Once the name became known, he went to his computer.

“You look each other up, and a minor leaguer is a minor leaguer,” said Williams, who had spent most of the year in Double-A. “Stats-wise, you can’t really tell too much about who a guy is. Then it came out that it was a compensation trade. That was… interesting.”

Williams was playing in the Arizona Fall League at the time, and had to switch teams there as well. Ironically, his first outing with the Glendale Desert Dogs was against his no-longer teammates. The Mesa Solar Sox knew him well, but to the fans he was incognito. Williams’ new jersey hadn’t arrived, so he had to wear one belonging to another Pirates prospect. He took the mound with Frank Duncan on his back.

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On Friday, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus went to his closer, Francisco Rodriguez, with two on and two out in the top of the eighth inning and his team clinging to a two run lead. K-Rod proceeded to give up a home run to Pablo Sandoval, but from a leverage standpoint, it was the right decision.

In the bottom of the same inning, Red Sox manager John Farrell twice opted not to go to his closer in high-leverage situations. With the tying and go-ahead runners on base, he bypassed Craig Kimbrel in lieu of Robby Scott and Joe Kelly. The less-than-dynamic duo coughed up the lead, and Boston lost.

Postgame comments suggest that neither manager was enamored with last October. Ausmus reportedly said he might not have gone to Rodriguez in the eighth had it not been the home opener. Farrell said there will be a time this season where he goes to Kimbrel for four outs, but not in game 3.

In other words, both believe that some games count more than others in the W-L column, and closers should be deployed in cookie-cutter fashion. Or maybe Kimbrel and K-Rod have made it known they don’t want to work prior to the ninth inning. Neither scenario is in the best interest of a baseball team.

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Josh Lowe learned during instructional league that he’d be moving from third base to the outfield. Outside of that, there haven’t been notable changes for Tampa Bay’s 2016 first-round draft pick.

“They’re not touching much,” said the 19-year-old Lowe. “It’s more of just getting a feel for things, and getting the repetitions I need. There haven’t been any mechanical adjustments, or anything like that.”

Lowe is 6-4, 190 and has the ability to impact a baseball. He said that power plays into his game “a good amount,” although his primary focus is on making hard contact. He feels approach, and mindset, are more important to his development than his swing path.

There was a chance his development would happen on the other side of the ball. The former Marietta, Georgia prep has a strong right arm to go along with his smooth left-handed stroke, and some felt his future would be on the mound. The youngster was going to be fine with either option.

“They drafted me as a position player and said if anything happens, if I need to transfer to being a pitcher… that’s how it will work out,” said Lowe. “But I’m excited to be in the field. Whatever they want me to do.”

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On Thursday, Cincinnati’s Michael Lorenzen’s joined the list of pitchers to have hit a pinch-hit home run. None have followed that uncommon feat as impressively as Jim Tobin.

On May 12, 1942, playing for the Boston Braves, Tobin hit an eighth-inning pinch-hit home run against the Chicago Cubs. The following day, he not only threw a complete game in a 6-5 win, he supported his own cause in spectacular fashion. Tobin, whose nickname was Abba Dabba, left the yard three times. The last of his blasts, off Chicago’s Hi Bithorn, broke an eighth-inning tie.

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Red Lucas, who won 157 games for four teams between 1923-1938, had 114 pinch-hits, the most ever for a pitcher. Four of them were home runs. Lucas slashed .281/.340/.347 in 1,606 career plate appearances.

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Shohei Otani will reportedly miss six weeks with a muscle strain his leg. The Nippon Ham Fighters pitcher/DH incurred the injury while running the bases. Otani, who has yet to throw a pitch this season, had 11 hits, including a pair of home runs, in 27 at bats when he limped off the field.

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On Wednesday, I wrote about how the Pirates are planning to have their pitchers climb the ladder more often this season. Opposing hitters will have something else to deal with as well. According to Ray Searage, they can expect to see their rhythm and timing messed with.

“We want to change up the cadence in between pitches,” said Searage. “That’s one of the biggest things we worked on this spring. Not only do you screw up the runner on first base, out of the stretch, you also disrupt the timing of the hitter. It’s a double-edged sword.”

Varying times between deliveries affects the pitcher as well as the hitter. For that reason, Searage has worked diligently with his staff since the onset of spring training. The acclimation wasn’t easy.

“In the beginning, it was tough,” said Searage. “We were timing them and letting them know where they were at, and sometimes what they thought was four seconds was only two-and-a-half. Everybody gets into that rhythm. But we worked on it, and now we should be able to throw a quick pitch, or hold the ball longer, and still execute the pitch.”

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Mike Olt is on the comeback trail. Seven years after being drafted 49th overall by the Rangers, and 18 months removed from his last big-league at bat, the 28-year-old University of Connecticut product is on the roster of the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston’s Double-A affiliate.

Olt was rated the No. 2 prospect in the Texas system when he suffered a concussion in November 2012 after getting beaned while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Recovering from the knock proved to be a bear, In 2013, the slugger fanned 132 times in 373 minor-league at bats. In 2014, following a trade to the Cubs, he went down on strikes 100 times in 225 big-league at bats.

“We all thought it was my eyes,” Olt told me this spring. “We saw every eye doctor possible, but it turns out that wasn’t the issue. I never thought the concussion screwed me up that bad, but it turns out it did. It took a couple years before I felt like myself again. Now that I feel good again, it’s smooth sailing.”

Concussions can be troublesome, and Olt battled choppy water off the field as well as on the field. For a time, his life was off kilter.

“I had a few things going on that weren’t me,” admitted Olt. “I wasn’t always happy. But now I’m back to baseball, and back to having fun. That’s all you can ask for.”

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OPENING WEEK FACTOIDS

Atlanta’s Brandon Phillips went hitless in three at bats against the Mets on Thursday. It was a streak-stopping 0-fer. Phillips had hit safely in 35 consecutive road games against the New York club, which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was the longest road hitting streak against one opponent since the Cardinals’ Joe Medwick hit safely in 46 straight games against the Dodgers at Ebbets Field from 1933 to 1937.

Yesterday, Bronson Arroyo became the first pitcher 40 or older to start for the Cincinnati Reds since Hod Lisenbee and Boom-Boom Beck in 1945.

On Friday, Matt Cain joined Christy Mathewson, Carl Hubbell, Juan Marichal, and Freddie Fitzsimmons as the only pitchers in Giants franchise history to start a game in 13 or more consecutive seasons. Cain’s 309 starts rank as 8th-most on the club’s all-time list.

Wei-Yin Chen recorded his first big-league hit on Friday night. The Miami Marlins southpaw was 0 for 51 before reaching on an infield single against Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler.

As of yesterday afternoon, last year’s AL and NL batting champions, Jose Altuve and DJ LeMahieu, were a combined 5 for 40. Meanwhile, pitchers can hit. Madison Bumgarner, Rookie Davis, John Lackey, Michael Lorenzen, and Edinson Volquez were a combined 8 for 8 with a double and three home runs.

Milwaukee’s Jesus Aguilar had seven home runs and a 1.420 OPS during spring training. In 11 regular season at bats (through Friday) he has seven hits and a 1.420 OPS.

Washington’s Jeremy Guthrie has a 135.00 ERA after being charged with 10 earned runs in two-thirds-innings yesterday. In 1945, a Senators pitcher had it even worse. In his lone big-league appearance, Joe Cleary, a native of Cork, Ireland, allowed seven earned runs and recorded just one out. His 189.00 ERA is the highest of any pitcher to retire at least one batter.

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Some teams are build with power in mind, while others prefer the speed-and-defense model. The Cleveland Indians, who came within a whisker of winning last year’s World Series, aren’t favoring one over the other. According to Chris Antonetti, talent trumps style.

“We don’t get locked into a particular way of playing,” the club’s president of baseball operations told me prior to the start of the season. “We try to have the personnel we have on the roster ultimately dictate the way we play. Rajai Davis was with our team last year, so speed was a big element. With him leaving, I imagine we’ll steal fewer bases this year. It’s a personnel thing.”

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A member of an MLB medical staff I spoke to recently brought up an interesting point. Low-round draft picks typically don’t receive more than $1,000 as a signing bonus, but they can cost their teams a lot more if they get injured. This is particularly true for pitchers. Tack on the cost of Tommy John surgery and the rehab that follows, and $1,000 turns into close to $50,000. From a health perspective, due diligence is needed throughout the amateur draft, not just in the earlier rounds.

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George “Dummy” Leitner, one of the first deaf players in MLB history, had a uniquely-itinerant career. He made just five appearances, and they were split among four teams. Between the 1901-1902 seasons, Leitner pitched twice for the New York Giants, and once each for the Philadelphia A’s, Chicago White Sox, and Cleveland Bronchos.

Somewhat remarkably, the 1901 Giants had three deaf pitchers, and as was customary at the time, they shared the same now-eschewed moniker. Leitner’s teammates included William “Dummy” Deegan and Luther “Dummy” Taylor.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The Chicago Tribune, Kathy Bergen and Patrick M. O’Connell wrote about how the Ricketts family runs the risk of losing the Bleacher Bum mystique that gave Wrigley Field its allure.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Russell Carleton suggested that teams might want to stop shifting so much.

George Sipple of The Detroit Free Press shared how Mike Ilitch was more than just a boss to Tigers great Willie Horton.

In his own words, Mat Latos came to the big leagues “young and dumb.” He’s now on the roster of Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, and Alexis Brudnicki talked to him for The Canadian Baseball Network.

Former Blue Jays sideline reporter Barry Davis fronts a Tom Petty tribute band, and starting today he has a podcast called No Suit Required.

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Joe Torre had 2,342 hits during his playing career. He had 2,326 wins as a manager.

Mark Teixeira played in 1,862 games and had 1,862 hits. He hit 408 doubles and 409 home runs.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister singled in his only big-league plate appearance.

Lee Smith had 178 more saves, and three more wins, than Bruce Sutter.

Former Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr celebrated his 99th birthday on Friday. Doerr is the oldest living player, and the oldest living Hall of Famer in history.

On this date in 1980, Seattle Mariners right-hander Mike Parrott earned an opening-day win over the Toronto Blue Jays. He finished the season with a record of 1-16.





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.

12 Comments
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Marcusmember
5 years ago

Today’s Saturday.

JoseAbreusRaft
5 years ago
Reply to  Marcus

Shh, don’t tell ’em.

Cliff B
5 years ago
Reply to  Marcus

Can’t hear you!

-“Dummy” Cliff

One probably had to have a thick skin in the early baseball days.

Master Wuu
5 years ago
Reply to  Marcus

It’s Sunday here in South Korea so he’s finally right this time!

Bipmember
5 years ago
Reply to  Marcus

What are you talking about? I can assure you, I am reading your comment and typing this reply on a Sunday.