East Notes: Henry, Pineda, Phils, Simmons, Harang

In an outstanding profile of Red Sox principal owner John Henry, Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek writes that Henry “captures baseball’s current era” with his financial savvy and mathematical orientation. The full piece comes highly recommended, but a few particularly salient points are worth mention here. According to Henry, Boston’s disastrous 2012 season taught the organization “a lesson in ever-growing, long-term contracts with free agents.” An important element of the team’s turnaround, says Green, was Henry’s “ability to ignore sentiment” in making personnel decisions. Though Henry says “it’s gotten harder to spend money intelligently,” Green paints a picture of a man determined to do just that, precisely because of the challenge. In the immediate term, of course, the question is at what price the Sox deem staff ace Jon Lester a worthwhile investment. (The team has reportedly offered four years and $70MM.)

  • Of course, the major topic of conversation last night (and this morning) was the ejection of Yankees starter Michael Pineda for taking the hill with a generous application of pine tar on his neck. Pineda will almost certainly earn a suspension and miss at least one start; last year, Rays reliever Joel Peralta lost 8 games after he was caught with the substance. Of course, virtually every player, manager, front office official, and journalist to have commented on the incident has noted that it is widely accepted that pitchers utilize various kinds of grip-enhancing agents. As ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (Insider link), it is increasingly ridiculous to maintain a rule that is so rarely enforced and widely disregarded. His recommendation of a pre-approved substance (or, presumably, substances) that pitchers can utilize seems like a good starting point for considering a rule change; it makes little sense, in my view, to implicitly permit “cheating” so long as the pitcher is not “too obvious.”
  • The Phillies bullpen — particularly,  its grouping of right-handed set-up men — have been an unmitigated disaster thus far. Indeed, Philadelphia relievers currently sport a league-worst 5.64 ERA. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, the club has already demoted three of its righties — B.J. Rosenberg, Brad Lincoln, and Justin De Fratus — and will now rely on a series of questionable arms (for different reasons) in Mike Adams, Jeff Manship, and Shawn Camp. Last August, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that the pen would be an area of focus in the coming offseason, but the team did not spend there in free agency.
  • Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons has already established himself as a nearly incomparable defensive shortstop, writes Howard Megdal of Sports On Earth. Club manager Fredi Gonzalez said that it was premature to put his young, newly-extended whiz alongside The Wizard: the legendary Ozzie Smith maintained his defensive prowess for 19 seasons. But, as Megdal explains, Simmons’ early success puts him on that kind of trajectory, and better. With a seemingly greater offensive (and, possibly, defensive) ceiling than the Hall-of-Famer Smith, Simmons has both legitimate upside and a high floor.
  • While Atlanta obviously did well to identify starter Aaron Harang, who is off to an incredible start to the season for the Braves after being squeezed out of the Indians’ rotation mix, Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus explains that there are no analytical or scouting reasons to believe that Harang has re-invented himself at this late stage of his career. Ultimately, Harang has benefited from a low BABIP, high strand rate, and unsustainable level of success with runners in scoring position. Though his contributions to date should not be underestimated, says Lindbergh, there remains a good chance that the Braves will end up replacing Harang in the rotation before the season is out.


51 Responses to East Notes: Henry, Pineda, Phils, Simmons, Harang Leave a Reply

  1. Eric Mack 1 year ago

    I love, just LOVE how when someone is doing good the critics come out and automatically say it’s not something they can sustain and that they’ll be benched by the end of the year.

    • Ben_Cherington 1 year ago

      Do you honestly believe he can sustain this?

      • Eric Mack 1 year ago

        Over the course of a full season? Maybe, maybe not. But I just don’t fall under the negativity side of things. Everyone wants to be the one to say “I told you so” first – so they write these things for whatever reason(s).

        Enjoy it while it lasts. I’m sure he won’t finish w/ an ERA under 1, but I don’t think he’ll be removed from the rotation either. Hale, he’s out as soon as Minor is back. He shouldn’t be in the rotation anyways, IMO.

        Like saying Trout can’t sustain what he’s done, but, he has. It’s possible. Sure, when Trout is 35 he might not be a 10.0 WAR player, but he’ll still be better than his comparable peers (age wise).

        • If he goes back to typical Harang standards, he stands a good shot at being removed from the rotation.

          Harang isn’t Mike Trout. He’s a pitcher who used to be hyped by the media who fizzled out. He’s a nice start, but people are writing about how it’s unsustainable because that’s what is.

        • BraveCrowe 1 year ago

          I would love to imagine a situation in which he pitches well enough to be in the rotation for the whole season. But we are talking about a guy, if I am not mistaken, pitched for three teams last year and was released from all three. Also was cut from a team in spring training and was shelled in spring training. I dont think these people are being “negative” or trying to be the first to say something, I honestly feel like they are just being realist on the matter.

          • $21621694 1 year ago

            Said by a Braves fan!…. good job

        • Karkat 1 year ago

          Not everyone who tries to analyze baseball and make predictions does it for the “I told you so.” Some of us just enjoy performing and discussing analyses, you know, for good ol’ fun?

          • Hal Haney 1 year ago

            Maholm got off to this kind of start last year. Not quite that low an ERA, but he was very effective over the first six weeks. I’m hoping for the best with Harang, but of course I have my doubts. What he’s already given us is worth the price of his contract. Where would we be without his performance?

        • $21621694 1 year ago

          Trout is different because he was a rookie a couple years ago. Sure he came up hot, but he’s been hot ever since. He was a top prospect before that and there was no reason to believe he could not succeed at the big league level. In fact, this was expected

      • Eric Mack 1 year ago

        It’s also like Harper. Everyone wants him to be the greatest. He had a good first season, but since then, he has been average. But he’s just GOING to break out this season, he’s going to win MVP, etc.

        He’s shown mediocre at best. Let’s let him prove himself before crowning him the 2014-2018 MVP’s.

        • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

          Harper’s projection is based on his being an above average MLB player at a ridiculously young age, and what that means (analytically and anecdotally) for his future based on past precedent. (Somewhat like Simmons, as discussed in the other link.) Your disagreement with that supportable analysis would seem to be an example of the very kind of “negativity” that you disagree with w/r/t Harang.

          Harang has had a productive career, but he is 35 and does not have the track record to suggest that he is suddenly Bob Gibson on PEDs. Lindbergh simply explains that he cannot identify changes to his approach/repertoire/etc that would suggest anything more than a nice streak with some luck splashed in. Lindbergh says he is more likely to return to being a sturdy innings-eater who could be displaced if the Braves’ other options stay/get healthy. It’s not negativity, it’s reasoned analysis.

    • $21621694 1 year ago

      did you read the part where he has benefited from an unsustainable level of success with runners in scoring position? If a fringy guy is good for a while and did not improve his fastball velocity, movement or command, or added an extra pitch, etc. There is no reason to believe he will stay good for long

  2. JAke 1 year ago

    Harang is going nowhere!

  3. Karkat 1 year ago

    I kind of hope the Pineda things leads to some kind of reform. When literally everyone, including both Red Sox and Yankees personnel, echo the sentiment that the problem was just Pineda being “too obvious” that really shows there’s a problem. It was awkward for everyone last night when Farrell was basically forced to go say something because of Pineda’s completely obvious application to his neck. If everyone is okay with some pine tar in the glove, then there’s no reason it can’t be officially allowed.

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

      I agree completely. While this particular situation was ridiculous enough to warrant attention, I found it a head-scratcher to see so much debate about this supposed issue.

      If everyone agrees it is okay, then why not permit it? It’s not like there are any negative side effects or morality issues. As John Lott just noted on twitter, “legalize it!”

      • Karkat 1 year ago

        Apply pine tar erryday

      • godewey 1 year ago

        legalize it ! who would have thought they would use the same
        phrase for pot and pine tar. Only in America!

      • Sal Covarrubias 1 year ago

        Because not everyone agrees it’s ok. Are you on Al Leiter’s payroll or something? Pineda struggled through the first inning, throwing 30+ pitches and giving up a couple of runs because of the weather conditions which are a part of the game. I have no idea if Lackey used anything to get a better grip but all things being equal, it did give Pineda an advantage to be able to artificially overcome the weather circumstances and have a decidedly smoother and more dominant second inning. If you’re the opposing team, you want to see a guy throw too many pitches and get into the bullpen early and hopefully score some runs off Pineda if the only thing he can get over the plate are fastballs. I understand that Al Leiter had to poison the conversation with his decidedly pitcher-centric point-of-view but since it’s become such an important part of the game to put together long at-bats and drive up the starter’s pitch count, then the pine tar did give him a decided advantage despite not altering the flight of the ball.

        • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

          Well, I read hundreds of reactions to the incident last night and this morning, and not one indicated that anyone who is a part of organized baseball thinks it is cheating, even though it’s technically against the rules. The vast majority – including the Red Sox players and staff – basically said, ‘it’s fine, just be more subtle.’ (I think Doc Gooden questioned the motives, saying it was about getting movement, not control, but that was about it.) My view is simply that it is silly to keep such a rule in these circumstances .. I’m not sure where your sense of moral wrong comes in here, to be honest, as there are no collateral harms to allowing substances to be used that basically all agree are common and okay.

          I don’t know what Al Leiter thinks, and don’t particularly care except for the fact that he apparently is part of the chorus of people who actually have played/managed/etc who have no problem with it. Frankly, I don’t care at all – if a consensus of players/mgrs/execs think it’s okay, then I think the rule should be modified. I believe it clear that such a consensus exists, that’s all.

    • godewey 1 year ago

      Has MLB ever looked into using the baseballs they use in Japan ?
      It makes no sense to me , they use balls they have to “alter” by rubbing them
      down with mud.

  4. After the media frenzy last week, there’s no excuse for Pineda being so obvious. I’d slap a nice hefty suspension on him and Joe Girardi, for failing to deal with the manner after it was looked into by MLB.

    • MB923 1 year ago

      Reports have said Giardi and the Yankees had talks with Pineda after the last time this incident occurred. You can’t suspend a manager for a violation that one of his players did. That’s ridiculous.

      • godewey 1 year ago

        I don’t necessarily agree that Giardi should be punished. However
        being In charge he is responsible for his “employees” at the place of business. Apparently the first time they spoke to him they didn’t
        get across the right message. That’s on them. I’m sure a second
        call from Torre will get the correct message across to Cashman
        and Giardi and to Pineda.

        • Scott Berlin 1 year ago

          If you go into an establishment and had an altercation with an employee, are managers ever held accountable, or if employees aren’t following a rule or regulation? Sure you can direct a complaint toward a manager, but they are hardly ever disciplined for what an employee does unless it’s a department wide or company wide issue. Not if its coming from just an individual.

          • godewey 1 year ago

            it’s true . it all rolls downhill.

        • That’s my point. I also don’t really know how Torre’s phone call with Giriardi went, but this game was airing all across the country and the pine tar became more of a story than the game itself. If Girardi told Torre it wouldn’t happen again and it did, I’d have some choice words for him.

      • Clearly the talks didn’t get through to him. These are the only kinds of baseball stories ESPN cares about airing which reflects poorly on the sport. Managers should be held accountable for substances their players take the field with. If I were the ump, I would’ve booted Joe too.

        • godewey 1 year ago

          Cashman has said publicly the yankees take repsonsibility
          for this. Whether or not they believe it is a different story.
          I’m sure nothing will happend to Giardi, but he is in charge
          and he doesn’t look good from this incident.

      • Karkat 1 year ago

        If managers can get ejected for their pitchers beaning a guy, I feel like they could probably get suspended for something like this IF the thought was that the manager was complicit (which I don’t think anyone thinks Girardi was in this case; just saying in theory)

        • godewey 1 year ago

          If you saw the look on Girardis face after talking to the ump,
          I couldn’t tell if he was upset at Pineda, the umps or himself .
          Hard to prove that Giaridi knew about it, which i’m sure he did.
          Just hard to prove unless he admits it.

      • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

        I don’t really care about this, as I indicated above, but FWIW there are plenty of situations in the law where superiors are held responsible for the conduct of those in their employ, etc.

        Google respondeat superior. (Trust me, it’s exciting stuff!)

  5. Hills of Glenallen 1 year ago

    I have MLB.tv and watched the Pineda inning on both the Sox and Yankees networks. It was funny because the announcers for the Sox clearly saw it almost right away, the camera men focused on it, they talked about it, and when Farrell came out they were like okay “Here we go”.

    And on the Yankees broadcast, they never once showed Pineda up close, and ever when they did, they didn’t mention the giant mark on the guy’s neck. And then thought that Farrell was coming out to argue about the Yankees shifting defense in the middle of an at-bat.

  6. randomness lez 1 year ago

    So……….a Yankee gets caught with a giant gob of pine tar on his neck and Buster Olney has a rule change to propose.
    Some might call this a coincidence.

  7. westcoastwhitesox 1 year ago

    Sweat should also be legal as a foreign substance…every pitcher seems to wipe sweat off their brow then rub it on the ball.

    • Scott Berlin 1 year ago

      Or in the case of Red Sox pitchers rub their hair.

  8. WhoKilledTheRallyMonkey 1 year ago

    Why couldn’t Pineda just use sunscreen like everyone else?

    • westcoastwhitesox 1 year ago

      Pine Tar blocks more UV rays than sunscreen.

  9. godewey 1 year ago

    Is it realistic to believe that MLB will change the rule? How do they police that ?
    Allow something on the mound with pine tar, then the pitcher bends down several
    times during an at bat to get some. Alowing them to put some on their glove or arm.
    How do they then know its pine tar and not something else.

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

      Olney says they could pre-approve it. Shouldn’t be too big an issue – just have the guy stop in with an ump on his way in.

      • godewey 1 year ago

        Are we talking just cold weather games or all games?
        Do you think you have more managers saying check him out
        to make sure it is pine tar ? What if its pine tar in the first inning but not the second. Check in with the ump every inning?
        I agree it should be legal but it could lead a slippery slope.

        • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

          I don’t see it as a slippery slope — if anything, it would be setting a clear line that has been blurred by saying X substances are legal, Y are not.

          As for enforcement, with or without some kind of check by the ump, it would be the same as now – mgr can ask for ump to check if they are suspicious that the rule has been broken. It would just get rid of these odd, essentially random once a year suspensions.

          Obviously the details would have to be worked out, but I don’t think it should be that hard.

          • godewey 1 year ago

            I just felt that there would be more times managers would
            want to stop play and have the umps check it out. Maybe not.
            and more players pushing it. I also don’t have a ton of faith
            in baseball and their ability to control certain things.
            hopefully they can work something out.

          • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

            My sense is that most pitchers use a grip agent of some kind that is accepted as being okay to use.

            On the other hand, I haven’t heard anything about guys using substances that are not deemed to be within the unwritten rules — I guess, what you’d think of as a classic spitball. I think teams would still be up in arms and very willing to ask for the ump to check in those cases.

            You’d draw the line by basically throw whatever gripping agents are okay in with the rosin bag as being w/in the rules. Other stuff stays banned,

          • godewey 1 year ago

            As long as it comes from an equal outside source.
            My main concern was allowing players to put things for instance in their gloves. I just feel one spot becomes two
            or what everybody thinks is pine tar suddenly is something else.

        • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

          I don’t see it as a slippery slope — if anything, it would be setting a clear line that has been blurred by saying X substances are legal, Y are not.

          As for enforcement, with or without some kind of check by the ump, it would be the same as now – mgr can ask for ump to check if they are suspicious that the rule has been broken. It would just get rid of these odd, essentially random once a year suspensions.

          Obviously the details would have to be worked out, but I don’t think it should be that hard.

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

      Olney says they could pre-approve it. Shouldn’t be too big an issue – just have the guy stop in with an ump on his way in.

  10. Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

    My response got caught up, probably because I wrote too much, because you are grossly misconstruing what I’ve written.

    Suffice to say: I don’t think the question whether pine tar improves a pitcher’s performance is something you or I can answer, or need to answer. Virtually everyone associated with the game thinks the use of a grip agent of some kind should be allowed; they just say it needs to be hidden because there is currently a rule on the books.

    The sole point I have made is that, under those circumstances, that rule should be changed. I have no opinion on Pineda’s suspension, so I don’t know why you are assigning me some opinion as to whether to enforce the rule as currently written. (I don’t care, honestly.)

    I find it ironic to be charged with being indignant, when I am suggesting that we get rid of a silly rule precisely to avoid the faux moral approbation … all while you are up in arms over a virtual technicality?

  11. Sal Covarrubias 1 year ago

    You’ve used the word ‘moral’ more than once and for me that’s the furthest from the point. I don’t care about the morals, I care about the impact of the damned score. Pineda was getting rocked in the first, and he came out looking like a different pitcher in the second. It’s an impact on the game, not on my moral stance about anything. Buchholz did the same thing in Toronto; he’s no more or less immoral than Pineda but if it means that his ERA is lower as a result of using pine tar then it is an impact on the game that should be considered. It’s stats plain and simple. Stop trying to make me out to be the morality police because I’m far from that. And constantly citing the rest of the herd means that you are the victim of a herd mentality, as are most of the astute sports analysts who are weighing in on this via radio, blogs and comments sections of sites like this. That’s probably what bugs me the most, the herd mentality.

  12. Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

    I’m glad you feel that way, because I agree. I am fine with Pineda getting tossed and suspended. (This is seemingly where we are talking past each other, because you’re talking about yesterday’s game, and I’m talking about the rules going forward.)

    I am tired of people being the morality police on this issue. (Or debating how not to run afoul of the unwritten rules about when it’s okay to break the written rule or when it’s okay to call a guy on breaking the written rule, etc.)

    What I want … what’s most important to me (yes, that’s a Godfather reference to Pacino’s barely contained rage) is simply that the actual rule be changed to reflect what just about everyone seems to think is actually best for the game.

  13. Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

    I’m glad you feel that way, because I agree. I am fine with Pineda getting tossed and suspended. (This is seemingly where we are talking past each other, because you’re talking about yesterday’s game, and I’m talking about the rules going forward.)

    I am tired of people being the morality police on this issue. (Or debating how not to run afoul of the unwritten rules about when it’s okay to break the written rule or when it’s okay to call a guy on breaking the written rule, etc.)

    What I want … what’s most important to me (yes, that’s a Godfather reference to Pacino’s barely contained rage) is simply that the actual rule be changed to reflect what just about everyone seems to think is actually best for the game.

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