Scoops at First – May 16th

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The goal of every blog on the internet is to deliver the best content to you, the reader, at all times. However, in the blogosphere, many articles get written that might get missed and lost in the shuffle of the eternally updating internet. With that in mind, I’ve compiled some of the best articles of the last week, let’s get to some baseball links!

Blue Jays Links
Drew Fairservice of theScore delivered a great piece on Jose Bautista. In particular, Drew delved into how good Bautista has been this year and how, at this pace, he may one day be on the “Level of Excellence” at Rogers Centre.

Another good Bautista article, this one coming from Mike Petriello of FanGraphs. Petriello looked at the Bautista’s plate discipline improvements this year, noting the large decreases in O-Contact% and Contact%. As noted by Petriello, a reduction in O-Contact% can be good because making bad contact makes outs more often than not. Bautista also has an absurd .438 OBP, and one of the reasons why that has happened is a reduced Contact% (78.9%, down from 84.6% last year). Another crazy thing about Bautista is that he’s doing all of this at age 33, when hitters are normally well in decline. The concern with that age, however, is that there is a higher chance of an injury, something that has plagued Bautista for these last 2 years.

The overall conclusion from the two articles above: Jose Bautista is amazing.

Dustin Parkes had a great piece at Drunk Jays Fans on John McDonald and how great he truly was, on a non-baseball performance level that is. Because I only really became a Jays fan in 2011, I didn’t really have a full understanding of general love for John McDonald. But, just by reading the article and the passion Parkes displays for McDonald, you can tell he was beloved in Toronto. The only thing I had remembered of McDonald was his amazing plays in the field, but there was clearly much more to him off the field. He’s one of those guys you root for even when he’s not on your favourite team, a fan favourite for sure.

An amazing article from Bluebird Banter where Gerse finds the amount of strikes the Jays have lost/gained so far this year using his own system called the StrikeTracker. If I were to put the Jays luck with ball and strikes into one word, it would probably be…horrible. As Gerse notes, umpires have been especially stingy on knuckleballs, with sliders not too far behind. So while R.A Dickey may be helping the Jays when he leaves the game, he isn’t exactly helping with getting strikes and balls, or at least, not as much as he could be. Some of it, though, can be blamed on Josh Thole‘s below-average receiving skills, but you can’t give him too much grief, given the difficulty of catching a knuckler. Another luckless strike/ball pitch for the Blue Jays has been the four-seam fastball, as the Jays as a whole have lost 22.6 strikes so far with the pitch. You would think what essentially amounts to a “straight” fastball would be one of the easier pitches to get right, but evidently not.

Another great one from Bluebird Banter, where Nick Ashbourne looks at Mark Buehrle‘s excellence in called strikeouts. This is kind of a follow-up to our own Joshua Howsam’s article on how well Buehrle and Dioner Navarro have worked together. As Ashbourne shows, out of all strikeouts, Buehrle’s called strikeout% is 17% higher than the next guy, which is just just crazy. And if that wasn’t enough, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs dug deeper into Buehrle’s called strike%. He found that a lot of Buehrle’s called strikes with 2 pitches against righties have come with his sinker. It’s currently at 41% in 2014, when the highest number he posted in any season before that was 8%, in 2013. That’s a 33% (read: huge) jump. So Buehrle’s called strike percentage is sustainable? Maybe.

Dan Rozenson of Baseball Prospectus had a fun pitcher scouting report on Steve Tolleson. Because he only threw 4 pitches, there wasn’t much to say about him, but Rozenson basically noted all you would need to know about Steve Tolleson’s pitching, which is not much.

Great stuff from Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star wherein he talks to Blue Jays video replay coach Sal Butera. Butera, the father of Dodgers catcher Drew Butera, was a scout with the Blue Jays when he got asked if he wanted to take the job as video replay coach. The most surprising parts of the interview are that:

  1. He had no training for the job.
  2. He sometimes doesn’t get a replay angle when he needs it, for example, he didn’t get the angle showing that Ryan Goins was safe on a pickoff play when the call was an out earlier this year. This can be a big problem with replay, probably one of the reasons why you’ll see a few wrong calls in the MLB this year.
  3. Sometimes a batter knows a call should be made in his favour, but he decides to not tell anyone, like Jose Bautista getting hit in the foot earlier this year, when no one really knew except Butera.

With that said, the interview as a whole is definitely worth the read.

MLB Links
Another great article from Fairservice as he interviews Chris Davis on his approach at the plate. It’s always fascinating to hear about what a hitter does to prepare or how he adjusts to certain things; Davis goes above and beyond that in this interview. He talks about his video usage, going through struggles, his constant changes in hitting mechanics (which have been well-documented), adjusting to pitchers, among many other things.

In an ESPN Insider piece, Dan Szymborski looks at how PEDs may effect one’s performance. Bottom line: PEDs barely enhance your performance. Interestingly, Szymborski brings up Melky Cabrera as an example, as he’s been raking this year (presumably) without PEDs.

Dirk Hayhurst at Sports on Earth looks at why hitters don’t try to beat the shift more often. Hayhurst, a former player, gives incredible insight and nails it here in saying,

If you’re very good at one aspect of the game, and that’s the aspect you’ve made your living on, there is no need to alter your approach when your career doesn’t depend on it.

That’s an amazing way to put it, and is probably why many sluggers, like David Ortiz, simply aren’t adjusting, they have little need to.

Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looked at the improved plate discipline of Yasiel Puig. Someone must have really taught him something this year as his O-Swing% has gone down 10 percentage points. As a result, his BB% and OBP have gone way up. Included in the article is an example of Puig’s improved knowledge of the strike zone through GIFs. He took a walk after going down 0-2, laying off two amazing sliders that many hitters would have probably swing at. Though he did miss the first two months of 2013, Puig is still basically half way to his WAR from last year, an impressive feat for sure.

Another article from Jeff Sullivan? Yes please. In this one, he writes about the extremely slow-paced Tampa Bay Rays, who are on pace to be baseball’s slowest team ever. Their pitcher pace is currently 2 seconds longer than the next team. In terms of hitting, they’re 11th in baseball, but Joe Maddon blames the pace on when the Rays are in the batters box, not on the mound. Judging by their placements in both categories, that would seem to be the wrong area to blame. Molina’s theory would seem to make more sense, as in the Rays are having longer at-bats, but, again, you can’t just ignore the pitcher pace rate.

That will end this week’s edition of Scoops at First. If you have any links that you think deserve to be in next week’s edition of Scoops at First, just tweet me them @dshemie8 or email them to us at contact@bluejaysplus.com!