News came out that Nathan Eovaldi is available out of the pen, for one inning, in tonight’s Game 3 between the Red Sox and Astros. With pens taking over the playoffs and questions about workload arising with someone like Max Scherzer after his relief appearance was followed by a short start, many are asking why the Red Sox would do this with their short rotation.
First, no one inside baseball is troubled by the lack of deep starts. I spoke to one AGM who said “this is baseball now. It’s a parade of heat. It’s not so much matchup as this relentless torrent of ‘do not want’ for the hitters.” He also explained that the seeming randomness of the relievers is neither random nor as simple as what we’ve seen in the past. “Forget 7-8-9 guys. Yes, it looks that way sometime and it can work, but my team has whole profiles on what type of pitchers the opposition hits poorly. That’s why you see so much velocity. 96, 97 plays against everyone. Big slider? Plays. It’s when you get into multiple patterns where it gets complex. We look at groupings of 4 - one through four, two through five, etc etc. That lets our manager know which pitcher is best suited for the upcoming lineup.”
That does nothing to help with workload. Many teams are using Hawkeye and Kinatrax data to track biomechanical changes. While this is not often in real time, some teams are doing this or trying. The downside is they have to be a bit more circumspect about it since there isn’t supposed to be a system that allows teams to get outside data. That doesn’t mean some haven’t found ways around it, often as low tech as hiring an intern from a track team.
For someone like Eovaldi, the availability on a throw day is nothing new. Eovaldi was going to throw today from a mound at effort whether he’s in the game or not. Using starters as relievers was common, on throw days and not, up until the 1970s. Earl Weaver is among the last to regularly do it and even then, he only did it to gain advantages. There have been some uses, most notably by the Yankees, over the last decade, with both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
There is a lack of an objective way to measure fatigue, both in game and over the course of time. Dr. Mike Sonne has done some amazing work on fatigue units and I will admit I don’t fully understand it, but I get the broad strokes of it. I also know of a lot of places, inside teams and outside, that are trying to come up with some sort of usable system.
For those asking about the Whoop strap that is approved for onfield use, there’s a couple issues. I’ll skip over the data issues and how the data is collected, noting that I remain unconvinced on the real value of HRV. Others disagree. The clear issue is that, well, watch a game. Do you see any Whoop straps on players? How about Pulse/Motus sensors, or Zephyr monitors? Wearable technology remains a gray area and a big hole for teams, largely because of distrust between teams and players/agents. My hope is that the new CBA will address this, because otherwise, cameras will take over for sensors - and already are - with no way for players to opt out or even have access.
I like using starters on throw days as a general rule and if the Sox believe Eovaldi is recovering well, then yes, he could end up very useful in a series that appears to be very evenly matched.
Today on Twitter, I dropped a couple names in the ongoing Mets search. I had been surprised by Bobby Heck popping up from a source not because he’s unqualified - he’d be a great selection with his background across roles and successful teams - but because it was a shift in thinking. Steve Cohen apparently went from three of the most well known names in baseball in Theo Epstein, Billy Beane, and David Stearns, to a guy that most people who are baseball fans wouldn’t know. Again, Heck is very qualified, but he hasn’t been a GM, so you can see why this is a shift.
Even someone like Doug Melvin has done the job, and done it well. Heck simply hasn’t. He’d be on my short list if I owned a team, but if Cohen wants a big name, as it appeared he did, Heck’s not one of those. If Cohen has shifted to “get me someone from the Friedman tree”, there’s guys like Jeff Kingston, Brandon Gomes, or maybe one of the Zelus quants. If he just wants the best guys, there’s going to be lots of flavors of that list, depending on what key strength you want, from experience to analytics to scouting.
The question is what the Mets want — a big name, a President, a GM, a builder, experience, a fresh face, a new voice — and I’m not sure they even know.
Speaking of GM candidates, Jason Pare is going to be a hotter name with the run Atlanta has been on through the playoffs. Alex Anthopolous is the GM and gets a lot of the credit, but Pare is the hot name and more hirable than Anthopolous, who looks very locked in to Atlanta. There’s even some discussion that Anthopolous might take a PBO title to keep Pare, if necessary.
Both ALCS participants are run by Baseball Prospectus alums, with Pare a third near the controls. While there’s not many GM slots open this season, 2023 is expected to be big and Pare might make it a third. I wouldn’t put it past him to have his team in the playoffs quickly either.
Speaking of Chaim Bloom, would someone please ask Dan Shaughnessy how hot his Bloom’s seat is now?
Lance McCullers won’t be back for the Astros this season. He will continue to rehab his strained forearm, but it is not healing quickly. Surgery remains a possibility.
The Cardinals stunned many around baseball, firing Mike Shildt just weeks after a record winning streak put them in the playoffs. “Philosophical differences” can mean a lot of things, but I haven’t seen anyone close to the team come up with a single reason and there simply may not be one.
A team that’s bringing back Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright isn’t in for a rebuild, but I have a hard time imagining Shildt walking in after a playoff and a streak and saying “tear it all down!” The Cardinals seem more a “run it back” mode, with the hope that a bit of experience and injury luck might make them a better foil for the Brewers. Did Shildt ask for an expensive addition, like Missouri native Max Scherzer, only to be told that’s not happening? Every manager goes in asking for help, but I don’t remember one being shown the door.
There’s also not a clearly ready candidate to take over internally. Oliver Marmol and Stubby Clapp are often talked about as managers of the future, but is that now? Shildt was under contract for ‘22 and there could have been a more easy transition. Neither Marmol nor Clapp seemed likely to be a manager anywhere else, largely because there’s so few openings. Kevin Acee reported that Skip Schumacher, now with the Padres, is a candidate and that seems to fit the Cardinals way, but Schumacher’s also a possibility for the Padres job, though Ron Washington is the overwhelming favorite and is helped by his noticeable role in Atlanta’s success.
Kevin Acee also had the scoop that Fernando Tatis Jr will not have shoulder surgery. This has been discussed in UTK as far back as April and Tatis has been strong in his distrust that the surgery will end his issues. That puts him and the Padres in an interesting position. He’ll need the same maintenance and be at the same risk of having a recurrence, just like last year. The hope is he can strengthen the shoulder capsule and that rest will help as well.
It’s important to note that as yet, there have been no changes in the San Diego medical and performance staff.
Finally, Ronald Acuna Jr spoke to the media and there was really no new info. He’s not running yet, which is slightly behind schedule, but not concerningly so. Acuna seemed very deferential in quotes to the team’s medical staff, so they’re clearly guiding things. If they’re going to aim for March or April, so be it. If this extends much beyond that, it should be unusual, but baseball has been getting slower and slower with rehabs, which is really just risk aversion. Send Acuna over to Flowery Branch, because the Falcons know how to rehab guys, or even up to UGa, where they do as well.