First off, happy new year! I hope everybody has a good year in 2019.
One of my resolutions is to get back to being more of a regular contributor to this awesome blogging site. Time will tell if I follow through on that, but I fully intend to.
Now onto the blogger questions. Sorry I’m late responding to these but it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Anyways, I got invited to to join the blogger question party and John Mozeliak did not disappoint answering two of my questions and left me thinking. Below are my questions and his replies then my thoughts about his responses.
Q: Does Paul DeJong stay at shortstop long term or does he need to be shifted to a corner infield spot?
A: When you look at his offensive profile, he could probably play anywhere. But I think he did an outstanding job at shortstop. I think if we were sitting here a year ago, you could see why there were questions. But he spent his off-season last year making the most or what he needed to work on and I think he did a great job. Candidly, I think he’s taking the same approach this off-season, which we’re very excited about. Our staff and I have a lot of confidence he can stay at shortstop.
The key phrase here is “offensive profile.” John didn’t mention defense at all, which is actually why I asked the question. Guys with good bats *can* play anywhere, but that doesn’t mean they should. Look at Jeff Kent, awesome bat but not so awesome glove. I decided to dig into the numbers, comparing DeJong’s defense to the reigning Gold Glove winners on both sides, Andrelton Simmons and Nick Ahmed.
First up is Simmons
Next up is Ahmed.
Comparing those and you see that DeJong is obviously a bit worse. Yes, they are GG winners but I wanted to point out the gap. More errors than both in 200 less innings, worse fielding percentage, smaller zone range. It’s not Jeff Kent level though. The problem is neither is his bat. Look at the offense for DeJong’s first two seasons.
A .241 average and .313 OBP doesn’t play *anywhere*. Yes he had a .433 SLG and hit 19 homers, but these days just about everyone can smack the long ball, and that’s down from the previous year too, when he hit 25.
In short, we may be looking at another one hit wonder. I hope he proves me wrong.
Q; The latest fad in baseball is focusing on bullpens and using “openers.” While we have some good starting pitchers, would going this route with certain pitchers, say, the recovering Alex Reyes, be a smart move?
A: I think it’s a great question, and one that I don’t know if there’s a perfect answer for. But to ask if we would consider going down that road with someone like Alex, I think the answer would be sure. You wouldn’t want to paint yourself into a corner where, if you thought there was a way you could keep Alex healthy, I think is in everybody’s best interest. As we approach Spring Training, keeping Alex healthy and how we can best utilize him is going to be on everybody’s mind. When you look at Spring Training and how he’s used early on, I think everybody has to be open-minded.
I find this response much more interesting as it’s much more open. He’s acknowledging the idea that an opener strategy could be effective with Reyes, which leads me to a variety of conclusions. First, how about other guys “like” Reyes, guys coming off surgery. Tampa Bay improvised this strategy last year, but it wasn’t necessarily to help out guys recovering from things like Tommy John or other severe surgeries, but given the success of the opener strategy, this seems like a sensible route to take. We’ve always heard it is best to ease a person in general back to work after surgery, with this could be a starting pitcher equivalent. Indeed, it could shorten the time needed for a rehab assignment in the minors. After all, what’s better to assess a pitchers status than facing MLB hitters? And by doing it a few innings at a time via the opener strategy, you ease the pressure on the arm.
The other conclusion I drew is via teams like Oakland, who had to cobble together a rotation due to injuries last year yet made the playoffs. Part of that was due to a good offense, but it makes me wonder, do SP have to be as good if you have very effective RP to use in the opener strategy? Blake Treinen for example, was a beast last year, saving 38 games with a sub 1.00 era. Well why not up his innings on the back end, ala Andrew Miller in his prime, so that between the opener and say a 2 inning closer, the starter is limited in his usage and doesn’t get that dreaded 3rd time through the lineup where hitters tend to do better after adjustments. So many ways to go with this.
This strategy is actually a mixed bag for me. I *love* the innovation here, as you can see above, but there’s also something special about a pitcher going deep in game with a shutout or for that matter, pursuing a no hitter. For example, I love watching Max Scherzer pitch and it’d be a shame to limit his innings in such a way.
Just some food for thought.
As always, thanks for reading.