The English Premier League postponed this weekend’s slate of games following the death of Queen Elizabeth on Friday. Some of you may not have known that — soccer isn’t everyone’s cup of tea — but at the same time, a lot of you did. For many FanGraphs readers, pouring a cup of coffee and watching a Saturday or Sunday-morning match is part of your routine. More often than not, it’s as a supporter of a particular Premier League team.
Brad Miller does exactly that. An ardent Manchester City fan, the Texas Rangers infielder “dove into European soccer” head-first while on the injured list a handful of years ago. What started as a diversion has turned into a passion. Miller not only keeps a keen eye on Premier League and Champions League matches, he assesses strategies and follows transfer rumors.
Style of play is a big reason he adopted Man City.
“They’re obviously really good, and I feel kind of bad admitting that,” Miller said of his initial attraction. “But they’re also a well-oiled machine. There was a documentary on Amazon, ‘All or Nothing,’ where they followed the team. That definitely had me intrigued, just watching the way they play.
“I kind of compare them a little bit to the Dodgers,” continued Miller. “They have a great market, great financial backing, and also a great infrastructure — their player-development system, scouting, medical staffs, and all that. The haven’t poured money into just purchasing players, they’ve poured it into a sustainable model.”
The Dodgers have players like Mookie Betts. Man City has Erling Haaland, who joined the team prior to this season and, at age 22, is one of the best players in the world. Miller is enamored with the young superstar.
“When I heard the rumors that he was potentially going to City, I was like, ‘Nah, too good to be true,’” said Miller, who thought Real Madrid was a more likely destination for the Norwegian. “But it actually came together, and it’s exactly what I was hoping and envisioning. With a Pep Guardiola team, the attack is…I mean, they just move the ball so well. Haaland going to be an absolute force. I want to see him get 30 goals. He’s already got 10 in six matches, so I can see it happening.”
Haaland may or may not reach that number, but one thing is certain: Miller will be following closely. Like numerous other MLB players who support a Premier League team — C.J. Cron (Chelsea) and Kyle Higashioka (Liverpool) are among the die-hards — Miller, to the extent that his schedule allows, spends his weekend mornings watching soccer.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Count me among the millions who hate the new shift rule that MLB plans to implement next year. Not allowing teams to position their defenders (save for the pitcher and catcher) anywhere they want on the field, which they’ve been free to do for upwards of 150 years, is simply a terrible idea. Moreover, it’s not just penalizing teams for being smart while lifting a middle finger to tradition. At a time where a majority of fans want to see more balls put into play, hitters will now be further incentivized to drive balls to the pull side, with power in mind.
MLB’s powers-that-be have made number of questionable-at-best changes in recent years. Along with the introduction of a Manfred-man in extra innings, severely limiting shift might the worst of them.
Mike Marshall’s 106 pitching appearances in 1974 is the single-season record. Which two pitchers are tied for second in the most-games-in-one-season category?
The answer can be found below.
The Chicago Cubs welcomed three new members to their Hall of Fame yesterday. Honored were broadcaster Pat Hughes, 1970s outfielder Jose Cardenal, and the legendary Buck O’Neill, who in 1962 was hired by the Cubs as MLB’s first Black coach.
Mark Littell, who pitched for the Kansas City Royals from 1973-1977, and for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1978-1982, died earlier this week at age 69. Littell’s best statistical season was 1976 when he went 8-4 with 16 saves and a 2.08 ERA over 104 innings.
Ken Frailing, a left-handed pitcher who appeared in 102 games from 1972-1976, died late last month at age 74. The Madison, Wisconsin native spent his first two seasons with the Chicago White Sox, and his final three seasons with the Chicago Cubs. Ron Santo and Steve Stone were the notables in the five-player swap that sent Frailing across town.
Texas Rangers catching coach Bobby Wilson was the guest on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, and among the many topics he addressed was in-game information on the bench. To say that a lot more than eyeballs are being used would be an understatement.
“I think we have 10 iPads in the dugout,” Wilson explained on the podcast. “Every single iPad is occupied during every single inning, so these guys are getting instant feedback. Everything you could possibly want is on the iPad. These guys are watching video, they’ve got different angles, spin rate, vertical movement, horizontal movement. These guys are looking at every swing [the hitters] take — the launch, the exit [velocity] — so these guys are making adjustments. These guys are starting to understand how the numbers make pitches play… Back in my day, you just used your eyes. Now these guys have objective information that says, ‘This guy’s got 20 vert.’
“The iPads are good and bad,” continued Wilson, who caught in the big leagues from 2008-2019. “There are a lot of guys that spend more time on iPads than watching the games. But to get the information that these guys need to be successful is definitely a good thing.”
If you haven’t already checked it out, the entire episode is well worth the listen. The amount of insight Wilson provided, on numerous subjects, was impressive.
Kosuke Fukudome announced this week that he will be retiring at the end of the season. The 45-year-old Chunichi Dragons outfielder has 1,952 hits, including 285 home runs, to go with a .286 batting average in his NPB career. He had 498 hits, including 42 home runs, to go with a .258 batting average over five MLB seasons.
Dietrich Enns is 10-6 with a 2.50 ERA in 119 innings with the Seibu Lions. The 31-year-old former Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays left-hander, and one time Central Michigan University Chippewa, is in his first NPB season.
Kyle Keller has logged 34 strikeouts and walked just four batters in 23 innings with NPB’s Hanshin Tigers. The 29-year-old former Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Angels, and Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander has a 3.13 ERA and three saves over 24 relief appearances.
The Aaron Judge/Shohei Ohtani A.L. MVP debate has become increasingly heated of late, particularly on social media. With that in mind, I ran a Twitter poll a few days ago, asking which is currently more deserving. Judge came out on top, garnering 56.2% of the roughly 700 votes cast, while Ohtani received 42.3%. A third option, “Other,” polled at 1.4%.
Which of the two ends up capturing a higher percentage in the official BBWAA balloting is going to be the biggest story of this year’s award season. Far less of a story, but in some ways just as intriguing, is which player finishes in third place. Will it be Xander Bogaerts? Jose Ramirez? Yordan Alvarez? Adley Rutschman? Somebody else? As is the case for Judge and Ohtani, what happens over the final three-plus weeks of the season will likely have a meaningful impact on the balloting.
Left on the cutting-room floor from Thursday’s interview with Chris Valaika were his thoughts on Cleveland’s All-Star third baseman. I asked the Guardians hitting coach if his approach to working with Jose Ramirez was to stay out of his way and simply let him square up baseballs.
“There are a few things,” responded Valaika. “Everybody goes through certain parts of the season where they might get a little a little out of whack. But he’s so professional. He knows what he needs to do, and he knows what he’s feeling. If there’s a 1% chance that a pitcher is going to throw a changeup, or a slider, he’s going to be the guy to get it. So really, it’s more about keeping him focused on his approach and not feeling like he has to do it all himself, that he has to put the team on his back. He’s just as valuable when he’s taking the walk or moving runners.”
Ramirez has 26 home runs and 109 RBIs, team-leading totals by a wide margin, to go with an also tops-on-the-team 143 wRC+. Andrés Giménez has a 142 wRC+, while Oscar Gonzalez (125) Josh Naylor (116) and Steven Kwan (115) also in triple digits.
Hunter Goodman leads the minors with 34 home runs. No. 30 in our Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, the 22-year-old catcher/first baseman is slashing .299/.359/.581 between Low-A Fresno, High-A Spokane, and Double-A Hartford. Drafted in the fourth round last year out of the University of Memphis, Goodman was promoted to Hartford earlier this week.
Mason Auer leads the minors with 12 triples. Currently unranked in the Tampa Bay Rays system, the 21-year-old outfielder is slashing .294/.376/.492 between Low-A Charleston and High-A Bowling Green, Drafted in the fifth round last year out of San Jacinto College, Auer has 15 home runs and 48 stolen bases in 55 attempts.
David Hamilton stole his 65th base yesterday, breaking the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs franchise record for most thefts in a single season. The 24-year-old infielder was acquired by the Boston Red Sox last winter in the deal that sent Hunter Renfroe to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Luis Palacios has fanned 115 batters and issued just 12 walks in 121-and-two-thirds innings between Low-A Jupiter and High-A Beloit. No. 39 in our Miami Marlins prospect rankings, the 22-year-old southpaw out of Cagua, Venezuela has a 4.29 ERA and has surrendered 131 hits.
Jonathan Salazar has 14 HBPs and 23 wild pitches in 31 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Dominican Summer League affiliate. The 18-year-old right-hander from Santa Teresa, Venezuela has issued 16 walks and fanned 34 batters.
Jumping back to polls, I ran one on Friday asking which of Roberto Clemente and Al Kaline was better. Not many people bothered to vote — it was barely over 100 — but the results are nonetheless worth sharing. The Hall of Famer with the lesser numbers won in a landslide, capturing a hefty 84.2% of the vote.
Let’s look at some of the numbers.
Clemente had 3,000 hits, 240 home runs, 4,492 total bases, 83 steals, a 129 wRC+, and was awarded 12 Gold Gloves. He had 80.6 WAR.
Kaline had 3,007 hits, 399 home runs, 4,852 total bases, 137 steals, a 134 wRC+, and was awarded 10 Gold Gloves. He had 88.9 WAR.
Was Clemente truly the better of the two? Statistically speaking, it’s a tenuous argument.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
At Bally Sports, Gordon Edes expressed how MLBPA support marks a seismic shift in the fight for minor leaguers’ rights.
Former big-league infielder Scott Spiezio battled addiction for years — he was in rehab a dozen times — but at age 49 he’s now sober and putting his life back together. Sam Blum has the story at The Athletic (subscription required).
Two decades after attempting suicide, J.P. Long is thriving as Director of Baseball Communications & Media Relations for the Boston Red Sox. Long shared his story on the Sleepwalking at Fenway blog.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Seattle Mariners rookie right-hander George Kirby has made 21 starts and hasn’t walked more than one batter in any of them. On the season, Kirby has 114 strikeouts and 14 walks in 111-and-two-thirds innings.
Yadier Molina (56.0, 10) and Adam Wainwright (47.9, 3) have combined for 103.9 WAR and 13 All-Star berths. Bill Freehan (44.8, 11) and Mickey Lolich (64.6, 3) combined for 109.4 WAR and 14 All-Star berths.
Hank Greenberg had 200 hits, 103 extra-base hits, 102 walks, and 101 strikeouts in 1937. Greenberg had 100 hits and 104 walks in 1947.
Frank Robinson had 122 runs scored and 122 RBIs in his 1966 MVP season.
Don Drysdale made six starts in August 1958 and went 5-1 with a 2.16 ERA. At the plate, he went 8-for-19 with a double and five home runs.
Earl Wilson had 35 home runs, six triples, and 12 doubles in a career that spanned the1959-1970 seasons. A pitcher who played primarily with the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers, Wilson had seven home runs, two triples, and no doubles in 1966. A year earlier, all six of Wilson’s extra-base hits were home runs.
On today’s date in 1961, Gordie Windhorn hit the first of his two career home runs in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Windhorn’s other home run came the following day in a 19-10 loss to the Phillies. Don Demeter went deep three times in the September 12 contest, with the first of his blasts coming off Sandy Koufax.
Mort Cooper ran his record to 20-7 on today’s date in 1942 as the St. Louis Cardinals climbed to within one game of first place with a 3-0 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Cooper’s Cardinals went on to capture the National League pennant with a record of 106-48. while the Dodgers finished two games back at 104-50.
Players born on today’s date include Quinn Mack, an outfielder whose big-league career comprised five games for the Seattle Mariners in 1994. The younger brother of Shane Mack, Quinn doubled in his first plate appearance on his way to a 3-for-5 MLB debut. He finished his career with five hits, including three two-baggers, in 21 at bats.
Also born on today’s date was Ernie Koob, a left-handed pitcher who appeared in 125 games for the St. Louis Browns from 1915-1919. Notable in Koob’s career are a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox, and a 1916 season where he went hitless in 57 appearances, yet walked 15 times.