Keith Law’s scouting notebook

• The Mets’ High-A affiliate in Brooklyn came through Wilmington a few weeks ago, with a killer heart of their lineup in Francisco Álvarez, Ronny Mauricio and Brett Baty. Mauricio showed incredible bat speed from both sides of the plate, with loose, quick hands, but a tendency to rush himself and commit on pitches before he needs to. He really struggled at shortstop — his range was fine but he wasn’t positioned well on multiple plays, and didn’t show me the hands I’d like to see in a true shortstop. His reputation for defense was far better than what I saw in two games with him.

• Álvarez, a catcher, made some extremely hard contact in the two games I saw, with quick hands and an impressive, balanced approach start to finish. It’s hard to imagine someone with this kind of swing not hitting for average and power — the only example I can remember would be Josh Vitters, but Álvarez already has more unintentional walks this year than Vitters ever had in any professional season. He showed arm strength behind the plate but his receiving was just fair, although in his defense, in one game he caught a pitcher who’d just been signed from independent ball and couldn’t get out of the first inning.

• Baty was the Mets’ first-round pick in 2019, a 19-year-old high school third baseman who had a great swing and plenty of power already, but who was big for the position and whose age made him riskier than the typical high school position player prospect. The early returns have obviated any concerns over his age — he’s 21 now, in High A, and hitting .323/.421/.535 through Thursday. We knew he could hit, but I’m more impressed by how he’s trimmed down his body, improving his chances to stay at third base. He’s more agile now, with good enough hands for the position, and his arm is plus. I’d like to see the Mets challenge him at Double A this summer, both to see how his bat adjusts to better pitching and to see his defense when the game is a little faster.

Source: Keith Law, The Athletic (Subscription Required)

Former MLB catcher Paul Lo Duca ordered to pay $500,000 for defaming umpire Joe West

A Paul Lo Duca-Joe West lawsuit is like a Braves-Phillies game in that it’s good news because you know one side will lose. You just wish they could figure out a way for them to both take the “L.”

On the podcast, according to West’s complaint, Lo Duca was recalling a mid-2000s game in which he said Billy Wagner struck out a player on three pitches. The catcher said he later asked his pitcher, “What the f–k just happened just right now?” Wagner responded, according to Lo Duca, “Joe loves antique cars … so every time he comes in town, I lend him my ‘57 Chevy so he can drive it around … so then he opens up the strike zone for me.”

In the judge’s ruling, he noted Wagner provided an affidavit in December “in which he essentially denied that the conversation described by Lo Duca had ever occurred.” The judge also noted that Wagner had not pitched in a game when Lo Duca was catching where he threw three straight strikes. Lo Duca also said on the podcast West had ejected him from eight or nine games, and that is unfounded too, Judge Kelley wrote.

Source: Daniel Kaplan, The Athletic (Subscription Required)

Luis Guillorme’s 22-pitch PA

You’ve probably heard about Luis Guillorme‘s epic PA yesterday. Here’s video from MLB.com

Today, Baseball-Reference’s Stathead newsletter talked about Guillorme’s trip to the plate and compared it to lengthy regular season PA. Since 1988, the beginning of “consistent pitch data” for B-R, there have only been two instances where a PA has lasted for 20 or more pitches.

Ricky Gutierrez had a 20-pitch AB against Bartolo Colon in 1998 that ended in a strikeout
Brandon Belt had a 21-pitch AB against Jaime Barria in 2018 that ended in a lineout.

The B-R list had nine appearances that lasted 18 or more pitches. In those trips to the plate, batters were 1-8 with a walk. The only hit was a homer, by noted power hitter deluxe Alex Cora.

SABR 50 at 50: Analytics

It’s the 50th anniversary of the founding of SABR – Society for American Baseball Research. To celebrate, SABR offers 50 moments in the evolution of baseball analytics for the past 50 years. This is a great piece for people to learn important moments in the game’s history from a non-player point of view. What makes it even better is that it recognizes contributions from our own Chris Dial.

Beginning in 2013, the SABR Defensive Index was added to help select the winners of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award and Platinum Glove Awards — as both a “voter” and by having the numbers shared with all managers and coaches who make up the rest of the voters. SDI is an aggregation of the most prominent existing defensive metrics: Baseball Info Solutions’ DRS, Mitchel Lichtman’s UZR, Chris Dial’s RED, Michael Humphrey’s Defensive Regression Analysis, and Sean Smith’s Total Zone Rating.

Source: SABR.org

Fan vote for coveted #1 slot in Topps baseball card set revealed

Topps has announced that Fernando Tatis Jr. will be the first card in their 2021 set.

Since 2016, Topps has collected a community vote to decide the top spot. Trout is the only player to have won that vote twice, in ’16 and ’20.

It’s fathomable that Tatis could join Trout one day. He’s only 22, and has already solidified himself as one of the game’s most exciting players.

Here is a list of players who have occupied the No. 1 spot since it was opened up to fan voting in 2016.

2016: Mike Trout
2017: Kris Bryant
2018: Aaron Judge
2019: Ronald Acuña Jr.
2020: Mike Trout
2021: Fernando Tatis Jr.

The article includes a video showing every #1 card in the main Topps set since 1951.

Source: AJ Cassavell, MLB.com

What pitching every fourth day would mean for Trevor Bauer and the team that signs him

With the Mets’ top free agent target now looking like Trevor Bauer, it’s encouraging to me to find out that one of the things he wants is to pitch in a four-man rotation. Now, that’s not going to happen with the Mets. But for the reigning Cy Young Award winner to actively campaign for the return of the four-man rotation is a good thing. There’s never been any study that shows that a five-man rotation keeps pitchers healthier. It’s my belief that a four-man rotation with logical pitch counts would produce similar, if not better, all-around results than a five-man setup. My hope is to see a team run it all season long one day in the near future.

First of all, let’s acknowledge that the days of the four-man rotation — at least the kind some baseball fans of a certain age remember from the 1970s — aren’t coming back. It’s not impossible to imagine some innovative club trying some kind of four-man rotation that involves strict pitch-limit parameters, but even if that were to happen, we’re not talking about a 21st century version of the 1971 Orioles.

We’re not even talking about Bauer becoming Mickey Lolich, either, because even if he were given the chance to start 40 or more games, he’s still not going to be allowed to complete 29 games and throw 376 innings, like Lolich did in ’71. He would be the analytics-fused, 2021 version of Lolich — the iteration of an old workhorse who is the product of a new direction of innovation, one in which no current front office has dared to set out. Yet.
Can he do it?

We have to start by taking his word for it. Should we?

Here’s more from Bauer in his free agency video: “I feel that I would be a better pitcher pitching every fourth day than every fifth day. Why do I feel that? Well, I collect data on myself every day and I can see the trends, how my body is trending. How do I recover after a start? How do I recover after a bullpen? How about a lift? How about after a conditioning session? What about the offseason? When am I at my peak? All these different things. I think, based on that data, the data tells me that I would be as good or better pitching every fourth day.”

Source, Bradford Doolittle, ESPN+ (Subscription required)

How the Philadelphia Phillies botched their rebuild — and what it tells us about tanking

A good look at the Phillies of the last decade. Unlike a lot of articles, there’s not one great “pull quote” to highlight. It’s well worth reading in its entirety.

The Phillies, still without a winning season since 2011, have reached the point where the proverbial final pieces — the expensive veteran stars — have not only been added but are leaving: catcher J.T. Realmuto is a free agent; starter Jake Arrieta’s three-year contract is spent; closer David Robertson’s two-year deal — remember that? — just expired; and infielder Jean Segura is reportedly coming up in trade talks. The Phillies might still get good, but they’re no longer:

young, as their hitters and pitchers were both older than league average in 2020;

cheap, as their payroll is back in the league’s top 10, where it was before they stripped down;

rich in prospects, as their farm system ranked in the bottom 10 last year;

clearly contenders, as (way premature) ZiPS projections for next year see the Phillies as currently constituted winning around 76 games.

Source: Sam Miller, ESPN

Mets instructional league prospect report

A terrific piece giving updates from just-deposed Jared Banner on guys who appeared in Instructional League before it was shut down for Covid positive tests.

Neither Pete Crow-Armstrong nor Isaiah Greene, the Mets’ respective first-round and second-compensation round picks from this year’s Draft, have disappointed in their introduction to pro ball, as both prep outfielders were among the most impressive prospects in camp.

Crow-Armstrong (No. 19 overall pick) initially got off to a slow start, but took off as camp unfolded, showcasing elite defense in center field coupled with sneaky left-handed power potential at the plate.

“PCA is driving the ball to both gaps and hitting with some power … he hit a home run out at 107 mph a couple of days ago,” said Banner. “And obviously he’s playing premium, premium defense. You could put him in center field in a big league game today and he’d be one of the best.”

As for Greene, whom the Mets took with the compensation pick (No. 69 overall) they received when free agent Zack Wheeler signed with the Phillies, he was one of the best hitters in camp, “hitting over .400 with a .500 on-base [percentage],” according to Banner.

“This guy’s fresh out of high school competing against guys who’ve been in pro ball for a few years. He’s controlling the strike zone, controlling at-bats. He’s been really impressive.”

Source: Mike Rosenbaum, mlb.com

Ranking every World Series in MLB history

The Mets’ five trips to the World Series all rank in the top half of the list, with the lowest-rated one checking in at #44. Here’s part of the blurb on the 2000 Series:

Game 5 was the last time a starting pitcher was allowed to face the potential winning run in the ninth inning of a World Series. The pitcher was Al Leiter, making his 11th postseason start and still looking for his first win as a starter. He struck out the first two batters, and on a 2-2 count to Jorge Posada he had five shots at finishing off Posada and striking out the side. But Posada fouled three away, took a borderline fastball that had frozen him, and finally worked the walk. A broken-bat single and a trickler through the infield — with Leiter still on the mound — brought Posada racing home, and a strong, accurate throw that might have been in time for the out hit Posada’s thigh and bounded away. Leiter’s home stadium was boisterous with Yankees fans. He never did win a postseason start.

Source: Sam Miller, ESPN.com