Bryan Shaw will reach two milestones the next time he takes the mound. The 34-year-old Guardians reliever has made 499 regular-season appearances in a Cleveland uniform, and he’s thrown 999-and-two-thirds professional innings. Neither should come as a surprise. Shaw has never been a star, but he’s always been a workhorse. Moreover, he’s a Terry Francona favorite.
“He’s like a lineman,” the Guardians manager said of Shaw. “When they allow a sack, everybody notices. When [Shaw] gives up runs, people want to bury him. But he saves our ass, time and time again. He pitches when other guys can’t… He’s been a trouper for a long time.”
Now in his 12th big-league season, and in his second stint with Cleveland, Shaw has led the American League in appearances in four different seasons, each time with his current club. The right-hander has appeared in 733 games overall — he’s also pitched for the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Mariners — which ranks fifth-most among active pitchers.
He knows where he stands among his peers.
“Absolutely,” Shaw said when asked if he ever thinks about his place in history. “I know that Joe Smith has around 860 games. Tyler Clippard and Sergio Romo are over 800. I know that there are 16 people with over 1,000.”
Shaw served as an opener in his most-recent appearance, officially putting him in the record books as having started a game — something he’d never before done. When I suggested that moving into the Cleveland rotation would hinder his chances of one day becoming the 17th pitcher to reach 1,000 appearances, Shaw responded with a ready quip and an even-higher number.
“I will gladly forego my goal of 1,252 to be a starter for the second half of my career,” joked Shaw, referring to Jesse Orosco’s all-time record. As for whether he plans to pitch until someone takes away his uniform, that question came with a predictable answer.
“Pretty much,” said Shaw. “As long as teams keep allowing me to do it it, I plan to keep doing it.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Chris Valaika was with the Cubs before becoming Cleveland’s hitting coach last winter. The erstwhile infielder was Chicago’s big-league assistant hitting coach in 2021, and before that he was their minor league hitting coordinator. One of the players he worked with in his previous roles was Patrick Wisdom.
Valiaka is proud of what the late-blooming slugger has accomplished over the past two seasons.
“It’s the journey that he was on,” explained Valaika. “After being a high prospect with St. Louis and then kind of bouncing around, he was able to find himself a home in Chicago. He was able to settle in to the big leagues at 30 years old. With as young as the game has been getting, that’s pretty impressive.”
Wisdom, who turns 31 next month, banged out a team-best 28 home runs last year, and the 19 round-trippers he’s hit in the current campaign is likewise a club-high. Prior to his 2021 breakthrough, the 2012 first-round-supplemental draft pick had played in all of 43 big-league games over parts of three seasons.
An inability to make consistent contact — an issue that still persists to a large extent — has long been Wisdom’s bugaboo. For Valaika and other Cubs coaches, Z-swing results were the primary focus.
“You take the hair with the hide, and he’s always been a high power/high strikeout guy,” said Valaika. “He’s always been a guy that controls the strike zone, but we had to cut down on some of the swing-and-miss in the zone. It wasn’t the chase or any of the peripherals, it was about being a little bit more efficient with his swing decisions, so that when he got that swing off, he’d be putting more of those balls in play.”
Unsure of what Valaika meant, I asked the hitting coach for some clarification. If Wisdom was whiffing on pitches in the strike zone, were swing decisions the problem, or was it actually more of a timing issue?
“Whichever side of the chicken or the egg,” replied Valika. “When you’re getting beat in the zone, it’s more so, ‘Are you ready for those pitches?’ It’s about how you’re navigating the at-bat. With swing decisions, it’s really about being ready for the pitches that you need to be ready for.”
Wisdom’s Z-Contact% this season is 78.9, which ranks as seventh highest among 115 qualified hitters. He’s slashing .223/.318/.455 with a 115 wRC+.
Five Cuban-born players have 2,000 or more MLB hits. Rafael Palmeiro, Tony Perez, and Minnie Minoso are three. Can you name the other two? (a hint: one played the majority of his career in the 1960s, the other in the 1970s.)
The answer can be found below.
The Boston Red Sox celebrated Joe Castiglione’s 40 years as the team’s radio play-by-play voice with a ceremony at Fenway Park on Thursday night. A plaque was then placed on the door of the home-radio booth, which will henceforth be called the Joe Castiglione Booth.
Registration is now open for the fourth annual SABR/WBC Women in Baseball Conference, which will be held virtually on September 16-18, 2022. More information can be found here.
Bill Burbach, a right-hander who appeared in 37 games for the New York Yankees from 1969-1971, died earlier this month at age 74. Selected 19th overall in 1965 as the franchise’s first-ever draft pick, the Dickeyville, Wisconsin native went 6-11 with a 4.48 ERA in his brief MLB career.
Will the Red Sox be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? That question has dominated the Boston sports landscape in recent weeks, and it’s not one that Chaim Bloom is enamored with. The club’s Chief Baseball Officer doesn’t believe that it needs to be one or the other.
“I don’t really like the label of buy-or-sell,” Bloom said on Wednesday. “In theory, with any move you make you’re doing both. Regardless of where you are, you look at, ‘How [would] this move help your club, the organization, help you win?’ We have spent time, as we do every year, exploring a lot of different possibilities. Some of them are shorter-term possibilities, some of them are longer-term possibilities. I think we’re not doing our jobs if we don’t straddle them.”
Bloom has spoken often about sustainable success since stepping into his current role following the 2019 season. To a certain segment of Red Sox Nation, that translates to, “We’re not trying hard enough to win now.” For them, the future barely matters. Of course, the same will apply next year, and the ones that follow.
Building and contending at the same time is a balancing act that is anything but easy. It will be interesting to see what transpires before Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET deadline.
The Seattle Mariners made a bold buy-sell gambit on Friday night. In search of their first postseason berth since 2001, the Jerry Dipoto-led ball club acquired right-hander Luis Castillo from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a high-end prospect package comprising Edwin Arroyo, Noelvi Marte, Andrew Moore, and Levi Stoudt. Our own Eric Longenhagen provided updated scouting reports on the Queen City-bound foursome in this post-deal piece.
A cautionary tale: In 2008, a Mariners team coming off an 88-74 season and looking to take that next step dealt multiple prospects for a front-line pitcher named Erik Bedard. A 28-year-old left-hander who’d just gone 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA with the Baltimore Orioles, Bedard went on to win just 15 games in three seasons as a Mariner. The prospects included Adam Jones and Chris Tillman.
The 29-year-old Castillo could very well turn out to be the difference-maker Seattle is banking on. Moreover, some combination of the four prospects could go on to do big things with the Reds. Those things said, there are few guarantees in baseball.
The Pacific League won both of this year’s NPB All-Star games, beating the Central League 3-2 on Tuesday, and 2-1 on Wednesday. Game 1 featured a walk-off home run by Nippon Ham Fighters first baseman Kotaro Kiyomiya. Game 2 featured a home run by Softbank Hawks outfielder Yuki Yanagita, and a one-inning starting stint from 20-year-old Chiba Lotte Marines phenom Roki Sasaki.
Shogo Sakakura is slashing .302/.365/.420 with eight home runs for NPB’s Hiroshima Carp. The 24-year-old left-handed hitter has split his time between third base (77 games), first base (35), and catcher (22).
Shin-Soo Choo is slashing .260/.401/.427 with 11 home runs for the KBO’s SSG Landers. The 40-year-old former MLB outfielder has a 139 wRC+ over 375 plate appearances.
Hyeong Jun So, whose numbers were cited in this column just over a month ago, has seen his W-L record climb to 11-2. The 20-year-old KT Wiz right-hander has a 2.75 ERA over 118 KBO innings.
Fernando Villegas is slashing .348/.403/.552 with eight home runs and nine triples for the Mexican League’s Saraperos de Saltillo. The 24-year-old outfielder was in the Pittsburgh Pirates system in 2018 and 2019.
Craig Counsell was impressed with Baltimore’s bullpen arms when the Brewers played at Camden Yards in April. The Milwaukee manager had reason to like what he saw. Baltimore relievers have gone on to amass a most-in-the-majors 5.6 WAR, and a 3.00 ERA that ranks third-best among the 30 teams. The 413-and-two-thirds innings thrown by Baltimore’s bullpen is third-highest in MLB.
“We played the Orioles early in the year, and with their pitching, leaving that series I was like, ‘This team is going to be just fine,’” said Counsell. “We had to do a lot of homework on the names, so to speak, but after seeing them throw, we were all like, ‘Those guys are going to get people out.’“
Orioles relievers worked 16 innings in the April series, and Brewers batters were able to dent the scoreboard against them just three times. Despite their relative anonymity, they left an indelible impression on Counsell.
“Sometimes you run into a team where you don’t recognize the bullpen names,” admitted Counsell, whose own pen includes the likes of Josh Hader and Devin Williams. “But then you’re like, ‘These guys have good arms.’“
Will the Baltimore Orioles have a winning record in 2023? I asked that question in a Twitter poll a few days ago, and nearly two-thirds of the respondents were bullish on the possibility. Only 37.4% voted no, while 62.6% voted yes.
Orioles fans might want to pump the brakes a bit. This season’s surprise team is currently 51-50, and the young talent is very much real, but getting over the hump is often easier said than done. Baseball history is filled with clubs emerging from a rebuild with high expectations, only to fall back before moving forward. That could very well happen to Mike Elias’s Orioles, an up-and-coming club that could nonetheless still be a year away from above-.500 fortunes.
Tyler Tolbert has 42 stolen bases in as many attempts for the High-A Quad City River Bandits. The 24-year-old infielder in the Kansas City Royals organization is 125-for-128 in steal attempts in three professional seasons. His slash line this year is .216/.310/.308.
Johan Rojas has stolen 43 bases in 44 attempts between High-A Jersey Shore and Double-A Reading. No. 4 on our updated Philadelphia Phillies Top Prospect list, the 21-year-old centerfielder is slashing .239/.301/.342 on the season. He has a 101 wRC+ in 80 plate appearances at the higher of the two levels.
Wenceel Perez has 10 triples, the most in the minors. No. 22 on our updated Detroit Tigers Top Prospects list, the 22-year-old infielder is slashing .298/.375/.549 with 13 home runs and a 148 wRC+ between High-A West Michigan and Double-A Erie.
Julio Carreras has 33 doubles, the most in the minors. The 22-year-old shortstop in the Colorado Rockies system is slashing .284/.343/.495 with 11 home runs and a 135 wRC+ with High-A Spokane.
Landen Roupp is 6-2 with a 2.42 ERA and a 2.44 FIP over 67 innings between Low-A San Jose and High-A Eugene. Selected in the 12th round of last year’s draft out of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington by the San Francisco Giants, the 23-year-old right-hander has fanned 98 batters and allowed just 46 hits.
The Blue Jays played a shorthanded Kansas City club earlier this month when 10 Royals were unable to travel to Toronto due to their unvaccinated status. John Schneider had just replaced the fired Charlie Montoyo, and along with assuming a new position, the bench-coach-turned-manager found himself game-planning on the fly. Schneider broached the subject in a subsequent visit to Boston, prompting me to ask just how challenging it was to prepare for a different-than-expected roster.
“We had an idea of who was coming,” responded Schneider, whose managerial tenure is off to a 10-3 start. “Then you just do all of your due diligence and your reports. You also adjust as quickly as you can from what you see visually, as what it looks like on video may be different than what you’re seeing with your eyes. But all of the information we needed was there, whether it was from our coaches, our R&D department, or myself. You collectively get it together as quickly as you can, and go from there.”
The Blues Jays won three of four games against the temporarily-revamped Royals roster.
Terry Francona can usually be counted on for a good quote, and he didn’t disappoint when addressing David Ortiz earlier this week at Fenway Park. A reporter asked the Guardians manager if Big Papi’s swagger and persona played a role in what the Francona-led Red Sox accomplished in their 2004 and 2007 championship seasons.
“I don’t think it was the swagger, it was the home runs and the hits,” replied Francona. “You could have all kinds of persona, but if you’re 0-for-4 you can take that persona right back to the house. What was important was the way he came through in the clutch, time after time after time. That’s what helped. If I could hit like that, I’d have swagger too.”
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Baseball was once popular in Wales — there were more than 60 baseball clubs in south Wales in the 1920 — and a group of people are now trying to resurrect the sport. Chris Howells has the story at BBC Sport.
Rodney Linares will manage the Dominican Republic in the next World Baseball Classic. José de Jesus Ortiz wrote about the Tampa Bay Rays third base coach at Our Esquina.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Switch-hitting Detroit Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman is 28-for-77 (.364) versus left-handed pitchers this season. He is 27-for-193 (.140) versus right-handed pitchers.
Cincinnati Reds pitchers have 65 HBPs this season, the most in the majors. Boston Red Sox pitchers have 52 HBPs, the most in the American League.
Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush holds the Milwaukee Brewers franchise record for HBPs. The right-hander plunked 58 batters in his five years with the Brewers, including 18 in 2006, and a league-leading 15 in 2009.
On today’s date in 2002, the Texas Rangers hit six doubles and a home run in a six-run second inning on their way to a 17-6 win over the New York Yankees. Mike Mussina was the victim of the extra-base onslaught.
The Boston Red Sox traded Heathcliff Slocumb to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek on today’s date in 1997. Slocum went on to finish his career with 5.4 WAR. Lowe and Varitek went on to combine for 61.0 WAR.
On today’s date in 1935, Wes Ferrell hit a pair of home runs while running his record to 17-10 with a complete-game effort as the Boston Red Sox beat the Washington Senators 6-4. Ferrell had five multiple-home-run games in a career that saw him go deep 38 times and be credited with 193 wins.
Players born on today’s date include Pembroke Finlayson, whose big-league career comprised one game in each of the 1908 and 1909 seasons with the Brooklyn Superbas. Known as “The Midget Twirler” the right-hander from Cheraw, South Carolina pitched for the Southern Association’s Memphis Turtles in 1911 before dying of a heart ailment the following spring at age 23.
Also born on today’s date was Elmer Riddle, who issued 107 walks and fanned just 69 batters while going 21-11 with a 2.63 ERA for the Cincinnati Reds in 1943. Riddle, whose brother Johnny was one of the club’s catchers, went 19-4 with a league-best 2.24 ERA in 1941.