Zack Britton bought himself an Edgertronic earlier this month. He’s pondering purchasing a Rapsodo, as well. The Yankees southpaw boasts a 2.57 ERA — and MLB’s highest ground-ball rate, to boot — but that doesn’t mean he’s satisfied. Once the offseason rolls around, Britton plans to fine-tune his arsenal even more.
If you’re a hitter chagrined by this news, blame his nerdiest teammate.
“I bought all the [Edgertronic] equipment, and wired it up in my house,” Britton told me yesterday. “Talking with Adam Ottavino about what he’s been doing the last two off-seasons is what really piqued my interest. It’s a way to keep up with how we’re being evaluated now, and it allows us to make adjustments faster.”
While a primary driver, Ottavino’s influence wasn’t the sole selling point. Britton hasn’t had a chance to put his new purchase to use, but the 31-year-old former Oriole has thrown in front of an Edgertronic before.
“The Yankees have high-speed cameras at the Stadium,” explained Britton. “I’ve noticed differences with both my breaking ball and my sinker. I can see where my hand position is when I throw a good pitch. Rather than just feeling my way through an adjustment, I can get instant feedback on the adjustments I need to make.”
Britton had the winter months in mind when he went shopping. While details still need to be worked out, the plan is to link his Edgertronic — and perhaps a Rapsodo — with ones used by the Yankees.
“We can communicate back and forth during the offseason,” said Britton. “[Pitching coach] Larry Rothschild can see the numbers and know the things I’m doing. And if there’s anything they want to see, I can try it and then send them the data. We have the technology to where we can do that.”
Alec Mills has had an up-and-down season. Quite literally. The 27-year-old right-hander has twice been called up by the Chicago Cubs, with whom he’s started twice and allowed five runs in 10-and-a-third innings. He’s currently with Triple-A Iowa, where his 4.98 ERA is well below the Pacific Coast League average, which is an inflated 5.50. He has six wins in nine decisions.
Mills is more finesse than power. His heater sits 90 mph, which makes his ability to command all six of his pitches all the more important. Strikeouts aren’t foreign to him — he’s averaging roughly one per inning — but he’s by no means hunting them.
“My thing is that I’m always trying to miss a barrel,” Mills said this spring. “I’m not necessarily going to miss bats, but weak contact is usually going to result in outs. That’s what I’m looking for as much as anything.”
Mills, who was acquired by the Cubs from the Royals in exchange for Donnie Dewees in 2017, told me that he considers his changeup his best off-speed pitch. Technically, it’s two different changeups. The Clarksville, Tennessee native throws
both two- and four-seam fastballs, and with hitters’ spin-recognition abilities in mind, he feels it best to do the same with his change-of-pace offerings.
Rounding out the righty’s repertoire are a slider and an eephus-like curveball that, per Iowa broadcaster Alex Cohen, hovers between 65-71 mph and has been clocked as low as 63.
Not surprisingly, Mills plays close attention to Chicago’s craftiest pitcher. And while he was hesitant to embrace the stylistic comp, he didn’t exactly shy away from it, either.
“Kyle Hendricks is a great guy for me to watch,” Mills acknowledged. “I think everybody in here would strive to be what he is, as far as command and what he can do on the mound. He’s obviously mastered his craft very well. We’re different pitchers, but there are similarities in that neither of us throw particularly hard, so we rely more on command and our off-speed stuff. Our changeups are effective. I also think our mindsets are similar as far as missing barrels and promoting weak contact.”
Hendricks has a 3.09 ERA in just over 900 big-league innings. Whether or not Mills ever approaches that level of success remains to be seen.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
In an article that ran here on Friday, six Midwest League broadcasters ranked, and briefly profiled, the best players they’ve seen so far this season. Two of the contributors — Lake County’s Andrew Luftglass, and Lansing’s Jesse Goldberg-Strassler — can’t seem to get enough of a good thing. Each sent me a snapshot of one additional honorable mention after the piece was already in place:
Luftglass: “We just saw Brailyn Marquez [South Bend Cubs] for the first time last night. He struck out 14 batters over six shutout, one-hit innings, and touched 101 mph according to the stadium radar gun. He sat 97-100. He also had a wipeout slider that was about 90-92. As I mentioned with Cantillo, I have a hard time including pitchers here because we don’t get to see these guys too often, but Marquez was too impressive to ignore. He used almost exclusively fastballs to strike out the first six batters of the game, and later struck out the last eight he faced.”
Goldberg-Strassler: “I just saw Connor Scott with Clinton, and loved him. 6-foot-4, power and speed. Definitely one to watch in the Marlins’ system. He was hitting .137 at the end of April, and he’s up to .257 with a 15-game hitting streak — he’s hitting .349/.407/.494 in July — so I think it’s fair to say that he’s figuring out the Midwest League. He showed off good power at the plate, and was fast and aggressive on the base paths. On a double to right field, when the throw in one-hopped the shortstop and bounced ever so slightly away, he popped to his feet and easily jetted to third base. It was fun to watch him for three days, and I bet it’s going to be more fun to watch him in the future.”
Codi Heuer, a 23-year-old right-hander in the Chicago White Sox organization, has pitched 54-and-one-third innings between high-A Winston-Salem and double-A Birmingham, and has yet to allow a home run. A sixth-round pick last year out of Wichita State, Heuer has a 2.82 ERA in 33 relief appearances.
Logan Salow, a 24-year-old left-hander in the Los Angeles Dodgers system, has a 1.92 ERA in 34 relief appearances between high-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa. Acquired from Oakland last season in exchange for Wilmer Font, Salow has 83 strikeouts, and has allowed just 21 hits, in 51-and-two-thirds innings.
Jesus Tona, a 23-year-old right-hander in the San Francisco Giants system, has a 1.37 ERA in 29 relief appearances between low-A Augusta and high-A San Jose. The Cabudare, Venezuela native converted to the mound two years ago after spending the 2015 and 2016 seasons as a catcher and a second baseman.
Spencer Steer, a 21-year-old middle infielder in the Minnesota Twins system, is slashing .342/.441/.525 in 145 plate appearances between rookie-level Elizabethton and low-A Cedar Rapids. Steer was drafted in the third round this year out of the University of Oregon.
Sherten Apostel, a 20-year-old corner infielder in the Texas Rangers system, has 15 home runs between low-A Hickory and high-A Down East. His brother, 19-year-old first baseman Shendrik Apostel, has five home runs for Pittsburgh’s Dominican Summer League team. The Apostels hail from Willemstad, Curacao.
A broadcasting note: Joe Ritzo, the play-by-play voice of the San Jose Giants for each of the past 13 seasons, made his big-league broadcasting debut with the San Francisco Giants earlier this month. The veteran California League broadcaster filled in for Dave Flemming, who was doing a game for ESPN.
One year ago, the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Jordan Groshans 12th overall out of a Magnolia, Texas high school. Last month his brother joined him in the professional ranks. With the final pick of the fifth round, the Boston Red Sox selected 20-year-old (he’s since turned 21) Jaxx Groshans out of the University of Kansas.
The older sibling called himself “more of an offensive-minded catcher” when I spoke to him shortly after he joined the short-season Lowell Spinners, and his numbers back that up. In his final season with the Jayhawks, Jaxx put a 1.079 OPS and went deep a dozen times. But while he’s begun tapping into his power, he prefers to let the ball travel, and hit to all fields.
“Growing up, it was me, my dad, and my brother, working in the back yard,” Jaxx told me. “We had a cage. My dad is the one who built my swing, and we would work from the back side in, trying to see the ball out, and going middle-away.”
How does he compare to his younger brother?
“I have a little bit less of a leg kick,” said Jaxx. “He’s also taller, and has a lot of leverage, so he’s going to tap into a little more power than I am. But as far as spraying the field, I think we’re much the same.”
Jaxx Groshans has come to the plate 72 times with the Spinners and has a .661 OPS. He has one home run.
Norman L. Macht’s new book, They Played The Game: Memories of 47 Major Leaguers, comprises interviews he conducted over the past two-plus decades. One is with Joe Adcock, and it includes an especially compelling recollection of a brawl that took place during the 1956 season. New York Giants pitcher Ruben Gomez had drilled the powerfully-built Milwaukee Braves slugger with a pitch.
Adcock told Macht the following
“I jumped in the dugout behind him and then it got tough. He came out of the clubhouse with an ice pick in one hand and a butcher knife in the other. He’s standing no farther than from me to you. ‘I’ll kill you.’ But there’s plainclothes detectives all over that ballpark, and there’s a little fellow in a blue suit, shirt, and tie, and he reached in between me and Gomez and pulled out a snub-nosed pistol and pushed it right in Gomez’s stomach, right there in the dugout.”
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
At Sports Illustrated, Emma Baccellieri wrote about how baseball’s modern-day protests take root in principle, not results.
At The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Derrick Goold unwound the unwritten rules of a Cardinals runaway win in Pittsburgh.
In the opinion of Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell, tanking by MLB teams isn’t a strategy, it’s fan abuse.
The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel opined that it’s a dismal time to be a baseball fan in Pittsburgh, and a reported altercation involving Keone Kela didn’t help.
Over at The Ringer, Michael Baumann wrote about the surprising wunderkind leading the Braves’ playoff push.
Meanwhile, Sportsnet Canada’s Shi Davidi detailed how the Blue Jays were impacted by “the stupidest rule by MLB.”
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Nelson Cruz has 229 home runs since the start of the 2014 season, the most in the majors. The 39-year-old Minnesota Twins slugger has a .906 OPS and a 146 wRC+ over the last five-plus seasons.
The 12 earned runs Masahiro Tanaka allowed in New York’s 19-3 loss to Boston on Thursday was the second most in franchise history. Carl Mays allowed 13 earned runs in a 13-0 loss, at Cleveland, on July 17, 1923. Mays and Indians starter George Uhle both threw complete games.
Red Sox pitchers had thrown 16,941 pitches, the most of any team. Dodgers pitchers have thrown 14,934 pitches, the fewest of any team.
On July 31, 1954, Joe Adcock went 5 for 5, with four home runs, to lead the Milwaukee Braves to a 15-7 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers.
On August 1, 1962, Granny Hamner pitched in both games of a double-header for the Kansas City A’s against the Detroit Tigers. Of the 1,531 games Hamner appeared in during a 17-year career, seven were as a pitcher.
Buttons Briggs went 19-11 with a 2.05 ERA for the Chicago Cubs in 1904.
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.