Sunday Notes: Vizquel, Lindor, Shipley, Ryan, Mussina, more

Omar Vizquel will be on Hall of Fame ballots for the first time in 2018. In all likelihood, he’ll still be there when I become eligible to vote a few years later (This is my sixth year in the BBWAA, so I have four to go). The defensive whiz will receive some support, but his odds of reaching the 75% mark aren’t great. There’s a pretty decent chance he’ll eventually end up an Eras Committee candidate.

The arguments against Vizquel are valid. His .688 OPS and 82 adjusted OPS are clearly inferior, and he was an All-Star just three times in 24 seasons. His 42.6 WAR pales in comparison to Alan Trammell’s 63.7, and the Tigers’ great was (inexplicably) snubbed by the BBWAA.

I plan to vote for Vizquel.

In some respects, he is the shortstop version of Tim Raines. Much as the latter was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson, Vizquel was overshadowed by Ozzie Smith. Were it not for The Wizard, Vizquel would have been regarded by many as the best defensive shortstop of his generation. As it is, he’s among the best ever.

Vizquel played 2,709 games at shortstop, the most all-time. He turned more double plays than anyone at that position, and he has the fifth-most assists. He was charged with 183 errors in 11, 961 chances. (Ozzie Smith had 281 errors in 12,905 chances.)

With the bat, Vizquel logged 2,877 hits, which is sixth-most among shortstops, and 42nd overall. His 2,968 games played (at any position) are more than all but 11 players in history.

Will Vizquel be one of the 10 most-deserving candidates when I have the honor of filling out my first ballot? Some of that depends on what happens in the next few years, but I expect that he will. Despite lackluster numbers in some meaningful offensive categories, Vizquel was an elite defensive shortstop for a very long time.

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Sticking with the Hall of Fame, it can be easier to compare players whose careers were of similar duration. You still need to account for eras and environment, but you’re spared from having to weigh 12 seasons of accomplishment (someone like Kirby Puckett) versus 23 seasons (Carl Yastrzemski).

With that in mind, let’s look at Juan Marichal, who threw 3,507 innings, and Mike Mussina, who threw 3,562-and-two-thirds innings.

Marichal was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1983, in his third year on the ballot. The San Francisco Giants legend finished his career with a record of 243-142, and 2,303 strikeouts.

Mussina, who is on the ballot for the fourth time (he received 43% of the vote last year) finished with a record of 270-153, and 2,813 strikeouts.

Each had an adjusted ERA of 123, while Mussina owns a huge edge in WAR, 82.2 to 61.2.

Is Marichal a worthy Hall of Famer? Without a doubt. Mussina? Do the math.

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Dave Wallace — we heard from him on his future plans a few days ago — knows Francisco Lindor well. The 37-year-old former catcher began managing in the Cleveland Indians system in 2011, which was Lindor’s draft year. They were together in all of 2012, most of 2013, and roughly half of 2014. Along the way, Wallace had to temper the promising young shortstop’s ambitious goals.

“Frankie had this inner belief, and this confidence, that he could play at the next level,” said Wallace. “This was from low-A to high-A, from high-A to Double-A, and from there to Triple-A. We saw how advanced he was, but we also saw some developmental things, where we didn’t want to move him as quickly as he would have liked.”

Physical tools were never an issue.

“It was more the mindset,” explained Wallace. “It was the daily preparation and the mental effort that it takes to play a full major-league season. I think there were times he got bored in the minor leagues. He didn’t feel as challenged as he likes to be.

“He kind of interpreted not getting promoted as him not doing something that we wanted to see, or that maybe we were holding him back for contract reasons. That just wasn’t the case. It was about the process, and trusting that process. It was about the experiences our staff, and the front office, had with the timelines of a player’s development. We talked about that.”

Wallace was impressed with the way Lindor handled those conversations. As much as he wanted to accelerate his progress, the precocious shortstop was mature enough to accept the reasoning.

“A lot of times, guys will hold grudges against organizations because their timelines don’t match up,” said Wallace. “Frankie wasn’t that way. He views himself as part of a team, part of the organization.”

Lindor had a classic good-bye line when he was promoted from a Wallace-led team for the final time.

“He said, ‘See you later, Wally; I’m going on to bigger and better things,’” remembered Wallace “And rightfully so. I’m fortunate to have played a small role in his development. It’s a blast to watch him now.”

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A couple of Nolan Ryan factoids, which would read as unbelievable if they weren’t about Nolan Ryan:

A total of 489 players had at least one plate appearance against Ryan without recording a hit. Gates Brown, with 31, had the most. He went 0 for 24 with seven walks against Ryan.

On June 14, 1974, Ryan had 19 strikeouts and 10 walks over 13 innings in a game against the Red Sox. Ryan reportedly threw 235 pitches. Four days later, he threw six shutout innings against the Yankees.

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The short-season Northwest League has a new logo. It might be the best in all of minor league baseball.

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My August 14 Notes column included two paragraphs on Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Braden Shipley. The 24-year-old rookie told me he’s learned that curling his toes helps him take velocity off his changeup. That trick is only part of his ongoing efforts to improve his pitch-ability.

“I’m not so much of a power pitcher anymore,” said Shipley, who the D-Backs selected 15th overall in the 2013 draft. “I’m able to run it up there 94-95 when I want to, but I heavily rely on sinking the ball, and using my offspeed. I’m not out there trying to throw everything hard like I used to. I still have a four-seam, but I’m more sinker-changeup-curveball now.”

Shipley called his sinker his “bread and butter,” adding that he throws it with an atypical grip.

“I actually don’t throw it off of any seams,” explained Shipley. “I throw a no-seam. Some people think it’s weird, but it’s worked for me. It feels comfortable in my hand.”

The University of Nevada product had mixed results in his first big-league season. Called up from Triple-A Reno in late July, Shipley had a 5.27 ERA over 70 innings of work.

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On Friday, the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro Tweeted that the Diamondbacks have been in contact with free-agent catcher Jeff Mathis (who, per reports, subsequently signed a two-year deal),. That prompted a lot of responses on his feed, a majority of which were negative.

I understand the reaction — fans want sexy acquisitions, and Mathis is anything but. That doesn’t mean he’s unappealing to a pitching staff. Veteran catchers who provide leadership and quality defense can be invaluable to a pitching staff. David Ross, in Chicago, is a good example. Mathis will be 34 in March, and he’s reaching the point of his career where a Grandpa Matty nickname might be apropos.

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Not sure I buy the chagrin over Javier Vazquez not being on the Hall of Fame ballot. He had a good career, but he’s clearly not worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown. Every year, a scribe or two tosses a bone to a player of a this ilk, and he’s criticized for doing so. Nothing against Vazquez, but the fewer non-deserving players on the ballot, the better.

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Baseball America recently named Art Charles their 2016 Independent League Player of the Year. Playing for the New Jersey Jackals, Charles led the Can-Am League in batting average (.352), home runs (29), and OPS (1.160). He spent 2015 in Double-A with the Phillies before being released prior to this season. The Reds inked the 26-year-old first baseman to a minor-league deal in October.

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Not included in my recent interview with Bud Black were this thoughts on pitchers relying heavily on one specific breaking pitch. When I asked him about it, the Colorado Rockies — and former San Diego Padres — skipper sounded amenable to the idea.

“I think there’s something to that,” said Black. “We lived it a little bit in San Diego with Tyson Ross and as many sliders as he threw. He was effective with a mix of fastballs and sliders, with heavy use of his slider. I saw it with Luke Gregerson in San Diego as well.”

Breaking pitches move differently in Colorado than they do at sea level, but Colorado’s new manager didn’t sound overly concerned.

Huston Street has been with the Rockies and the Padres, and he threw the same number of sliders in Coors as he did at Petco,” said Black. “You don’t need to throw more fastballs at Coors. It’s just a matter of consisting spinning the ball.”

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In 1976, the Tigers took Alan Trammell with the 26th pick of that year’s amateur draft. With the 27th pick, Atlanta selected Dom Chiti, a left-handed pitcher who topped out in A ball after hurting his arm. Chiti is returning to the Braves as their director of pitching, following three years as the bullpen coach in Baltimore. It will be his third tenure with his original organization. He was a special assistant to former Braves’ GM Frank Wren prior to joining the Orioles.

His father, former big-league backstop Harry Chiti, is famous for once being traded for himself. Dom told the story in a Sunday Notes column two years ago.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

How did raising the fences impact home run production at Coors Field in 2016? Thomas Harding has a detailed answer at MLB.com.

According to MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu is very curious about StatCast.

At CBS Sports, R.J. Anderson opined that Jonathan Judge could be the new Nate Silver.

According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the new CBA “didn’t do much of anything to help” the Rays.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has details on the new CBA, which, according to a high-ranking official, is “just the setup for war in 2021.”

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Over the last four seasons, no pitcher with at least 250 innings has a lower ERA than Mark Melancon’s 1.80 mark.

Will Clark went 12 for 36 with six home runs against Nolan Ryan. Albert Belle went 18 for 46 with six home runs against Mike Mussina.

Matt Williams went 2 for 30 against Jim Deshaies. Both hits were home runs, and they came in back-to-back at bats on the same day. Williams was a rookie shortstop at the time. It was the first of 31 multi-homer games he would have in his career.

In 1983, Red Sox outfielder Tony Armas had 36 home runs and a .707 OPS. Wade Boggs had five home runs and a .931 OPS.

This past season, Houston’s Jose Altuve led all players with 216 hits. He struck out 70 times. In 1897, Baltimore’s Wee Willie Keeler led all players with 239 hits. He struck out five times.

Fifteen pitchers threw 200-or-more innings this year. In 1916, a year where there were just 16 teams — 44 pitchers threw 200-or-more innings.

Gavvy Cravath — the deadball era’s premier power hitter — led the National League in home runs six times between 1913-1919. Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl was a big reason. At home, Cravath slashed .313/.407/.580, with 86 home runs. On the road, he slashed .273/.363/.410, with 20 home runs.

We hoped you liked reading Sunday Notes: Vizquel, Lindor, Shipley, Ryan, Mussina, more 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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