Saturday, May 4

5 Issues I Appreciated (Or Didn’t Like) This Week, April 21

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome again to a different installment of 5 issues that caught my consideration in baseball this week. Stop me when you’ve heard this earlier than, however I obtained the concept from the estimable Zach Lowe, who writes a related column about basketball each week that I completely love. Now that the sugar rush of house openers and new gamers is beginning to put on off, we’re into the grind of the common season.

But the grind of the common season is superior. There’s a lot happening, on a regular basis, that there’s at all times one thing value being attentive to. It’s only a matter of holding your eyes open – and watching an ungodly quantity of baseball, in fact, which is the very best a part of my job.

1. Government Catcher Overreach
Nobody likes to be interfered with after they’re at work. I can’t stand it when it’s noisy exterior, or when my web is on the fritz. I don’t even prefer it when somebody buzzes into my condo after I’m mid-paragraph. I’m busy right here! Leave me alone. Baseball gamers are fabricated from hardier stuff than I’m, although; they’ve their fair proportion of over-served followers and over-zealous hecklers on their case day by day at work and appear to take care of it simply superb.

That’s all oblique interference, although. Imagine the way you’d really feel if the lengthy arm glove of the regulation Matt Thaiss saved you from doing what you wished to. Last Saturday, two Boston hitters had that very expertise. It all began with a foul bunt. Raimel Tapia was attempting to advance the runner on first with the Red Sox trailing by a run within the backside of the eighth, however he couldn’t do it. After a foul bunt, he swung away and fouled off one other ball to succeed in 0-2. Then he lofted a fly ball to left that Tyler Wade Taylor Ward flagged down simply shy of the Monster:

But wait! Watch that replay once more, and you may see umpire Cory Blaser gesturing animatedly simply earlier than the digicam pans to observe the ball. He was calling catcher’s interference; Tapia went to first routinely. The replay confirmed that Thaiss was far sufficient ahead that he caught Tapia’s bat earlier than Tapia made contact:

That put the Angels in sizzling water. After Ryan Tepera struck out Triston Casas, he confronted Reese McGuire. On 1-0, McGuire swung at a juicy changeup, and, nicely:

Again! This one was much more apparent than the primary, notably in gradual movement:

The Angels didn’t a lot as complain on that one. Both runners who have been interfered with scored, and so they supplied the two-run margin of victory for Boston. Hey, generally getting interfered with isn’t so unhealthy – simply as long as massive authorities Cory Blaser is there to supply restitution.

2. The Roller Coaster Red Sox
That sport led to a Boston victory, however like a lot concerning the staff this yr, it was something however easy. The Red Sox are 10-10, however that .500 mark doesn’t replicate the way it feels to look at one in every of their video games. You’re simply as more likely to see a spectacular play or a rollicking comeback as you’re a gaffe or decisive loss. Sometimes you’ll see each in the identical sport! Check out this spectacular defensive play by Enrique Hernández:

That’s Superman stuff proper there. Not many shortstops make this throw, and fewer nonetheless make it look so fairly:

Stick round, although, and also you may see him stand flat-footed whereas a grounder skips proper previous him, due to an incredibly poor learn off the bat:

No staff has dedicated extra errors that the Red Sox this yr. They’ve made their fair proportion of spectacular performs, too, although. Overall, Statcast charges them because the Twentieth-best protection, nearer to the center of the pack than the underside. Their hitters have mimicked these highs and lows. Masataka Yoshida is off to a glacial begin, however Alex Verdugo is mashing. Adam Duvall was on fireplace till he obtained damage. That’s regular this early within the yr, nevertheless it someway feels exacerbated in Boston.

It’s not simply particular person performances: their video games are full of peaks and valleys, with oddball circumstances round each nook. That catcher’s interference sport was clearly unusual. Their annual Patriot’s Day sport featured copious rain delays, a heroic 6.1 inning reduction look by Kutter Crawford, and a livid ninth-inning rally that fell simply quick. That’s simply enterprise as standard nowadays in Boston, the place bizarre is regular.

Victories are slugfests. Defeats is likely to be 1-0 nail-biters or 10-4 blowouts. Indeed, 10-4 was the ultimate depend on Wednesday of their loss in opposition to Minnesota, however regardless of the lopsided rating, the Sox managed to load the bases with nobody out within the ninth inning to make issues fascinating. They got here again the following day and gained 11-5 whereas letting the Twins load the bases within the ninth themselves, holding the alternating cycle of highs and lows going. Even their walk-off celebrations are unusual. Their Tuesday victory needed to be reviewed, which meant a bunch of awkward milling about ready for an umpire to take heed to somebody in one other state:

And then, in fact, an umpire speaking juxtaposed with an on-field social gathering:

Thus far, the twisting path has left the staff in final place within the aggressive AL East regardless of a good document. I do know I’ll be tuning in to see if they’ll flip issues round. If nothing else, their season to date means that they’ll be an entertaining watch. Just don’t neglect to pack some Tums.

3. Travis Jankowski, Bunt Bully
After an exuberant opening weekend, the Rangers offense has been up and down. They’ve put up 48 runs in six video games in opposition to the Royals, however have struggled apart from these two collection. Corey Seager’s damage definitely didn’t assist; each offense appears worse whenever you take away its greatest hitter. And they weren’t a deep unit to start with, which is how you find yourself with Travis Jankowski, who signed a minor league contract with Texas this offseason, batting second for a playoff contender.

In the long term, Jankowski is miscast in that spot. He got here into the yr with a profession 77 wRC+ in additional than a thousand plate appearances. His profession line doesn’t appear to be a fluke; he doesn’t hit for sufficient energy or attain base at a excessive sufficient clip to make the entire bundle hum. But when the Rangers have wanted him most, he’s put up the very best stretch of his profession.

In 36 plate appearances, Jankowski is hitting .300/.400/.467. He’s not doing it with house runs – he hasn’t hit one this yr. He nonetheless has gap-to-gap energy, although, and hey, whenever you’re sizzling, you’re sizzling. Take a have a look at this completely positioned double:

Saying that is all a sizzling streak doesn’t give Jankowski sufficient credit score. He’s making his personal luck, too. Here’s the primary play of Monday’s Royals-Rangers tilt:

Sure, he’s not Seager, however Jankowski noticed a gap in Hunter Dozier’s errant throw. On the primary pitch, he pounced, in his personal manner:

It may not appear to be a lot, however I really like this play. No one on the sphere was much less taken with making a difficult fielding play than Dozier. It’s possible that nobody was extra in their very own head than Dozier. Finally, c’mon, he’s Travis Jankowski! A sacrifice bunt wasn’t the top of the world on this state of affairs, even when Dozier rose to the event.

In the long term, Jankowski isn’t going to ship top-of-lineup manufacturing. So what? For a depth-strapped staff just like the Rangers to make a playoff run, they want both good well being or contributions from sudden locations. The first has predictably eluded them, however Jankowski is dealing with the second half for now.

4. Jeremy Peña Loves Free Bases
Jeremy Peña can completely fly, however he didn’t present it final yr within the majors. Despite enjoying the complete season, he swiped solely 11 luggage. He was solely caught twice, and he racked up strong baserunning worth general, however steals merely didn’t appear to be an enormous a part of what he dropped at the desk.

As it seems, all he wanted was a sea change within the guidelines, a change that has unleashed a flood of newly-minted base stealers. Peña is a member of that group; give him a strolling lead and preserve pitchers from checking in on him too carefully, and he’ll take off with the very best of them.

That’s nothing particular in go-go 2023, however I loved Peña’s three stolen bases on Sunday a lot that I needed to write about them. To begin issues off, he vacuumed up a freebie in opposition to Andrew Heaney within the backside of the second inning:

Heaney hadn’t thrown over this whole plate look, and Peña hadn’t even bluffed going. When Heaney glanced over at first after which again to the plate, although, it was all techniques go. That was the primary time that Heaney had glanced again at first base after coming set all plate look. When that look didn’t finish in a throw, Peña was off to the races:

That’s all on Heaney if you wish to assign blame, or all right down to Peña’s observational expertise when you’re into handing out credit score. But Peña took issues up a notch within the fourth inning. He reached base after being hit within the toe, which you’d assume would curtail any extracurricular actions. You’d be improper, although, as a result of Peña got here up operating. Same glance-and-reset motion by Heaney, identical consequence:

I’m not going to trouble displaying the reverse angle, as a result of it was similar to the primary. Heaney obtained taken for a trip, roughly, and Jonah Heim didn’t have a lot of an opportunity. Two stolen bases off of the identical lefty starter, whereas he’s staring you proper within the face? That’s good residing. But if two is nice, can I curiosity you in three? Here’s the following pitch:

Oof. Heim didn’t even try a throw there, which was a superb choice; all he might have executed was throw the ball into left subject. Heaney in all probability wasn’t considering a lot concerning the runner – third base isn’t notably vital when there are already two outs – however that was really easy for Peña that he nearly had no alternative however to take it.

There’s in all probability some breakeven level previous which stolen bases will really feel tiresome. Pitchers haven’t provide you with a counter but; we’re holding regular round 1.4 steals per sport this season, with a hit charge over 80%. Too a lot of a superb factor might be unhealthy. I’m not there but, although, notably when it’s enjoyable younger gamers doing the stealing. Pitchers, don’t let your guard down: Jeremy Peña is liable to select up a learn and steal three bases off of you.

5. Steals Aren’t Automatic
Okay, superb, I simply spent an entire part speaking about how steals really feel automated this yr. Don’t inform the Brewers that, although. Milwaukee has been urgent the difficulty early and sometimes, with seven gamers combining for 15 steals, Tenth-most in baseball. They’ve executed it with a mixture of basic steals and choreographed performs. How’s their success charge? Let’s simply say it’s not 100%. I needed to attain again earlier than this week to search out the very best proof of it, however I believe it’s value it.

The basic little league play, a delayed steal of second base with the runner on third bolting house because the catcher throws down, is a questionable choice in a significant league sport within the first place. That play works loads higher whenever you attempt it in opposition to 11-year-olds as an alternative of massive leaguers, by no means thoughts a significant league infield jam-packed with Gold Glovers and anchored by a catcher with a well-earned repute for controlling the operating sport. The Brewers tried it in opposition to the Cardinals, and it didn’t work such as you draw it up at house:

Pitchers are handing out steals like sweet this yr. Jordan Hicks isn’t precisely the toughest pitcher to steal on, and he’s additionally liable to throw a wild pitch at any second. If Brian Anderson took off usually, he in all probability would have stolen the bottom with out a throw. But he wasn’t attempting a straight steal. He was attempting to bait a defensive miscue, and Willson Contreras wasn’t having any of it.

That play wasn’t notably near scoring a run. Contreras took his time trying Garrett Mitchell again to 3rd, and the play doesn’t work if Mitchell can’t bolt for house instantly. In idea, Contreras taking his time there ought to have given Anderson an opportunity to take second simply, however the steal was so delayed that Anderson was nowhere close to second base even after Contreras held the ball for 3 seconds.

Sadly, neither broadcast supplied an alternate angle of this play – it was a meaningless out in a 4-0 sport, in any case. That’s a disgrace, as a result of I actually wish to know what Anderson was doing on the market. Was he having a snack? Was he sitting cross-legged beginning at Contreras? Perhaps he was pondering the nice mysteries of life. Whatever he was doing, he frolicked between first and second base in no man’s land for an interminable period of time. I’m positive he wished to attract a throw, however sooner or later you need to commit to at least one base or the opposite.

There’s loads to love on this GIF, although, even when it doesn’t have the angle I hoped for. Check out Tommy Edman sneaking a couple of peeks towards third to ensure the runner isn’t going. Between his vigilance and Contreras’s bluff to 3rd, Mitchell had no shot at coming house. Speaking of bluffs, Contreras’s preliminary pump pretend to second base possible helped to gradual Anderson to a halt, regardless that we are able to’t see it for positive. Even after Paul Goldschmidt utilized the inning-ending tag, he assumed nothing and checked house in case Anderson was dominated secure. The Cardinals get lots of reward for his or her basic infield protection, and performs like this are an enormous purpose why.

None of that’s even my favourite half, although. I can’t cease watching Hicks, crouching and confused out on the mound all through the play. He thinks a throw is coming to second base, so he geese and turns. But wait! No baseball. Did it go to 3rd? He peeks over there too, realizes it should nonetheless be at house plate, and begins to get out of his crouch – solely to see Contreras rise and fireplace in his course. Back to the crouch!

That’s all of the observations I’ve time for as we speak, however don’t fret. There’s loads of baseball on, everytime you need it, all season. It’s even getting heat sufficient that you simply may not want a jacket to absorb a sport in particular person:

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