Ryan Divish at the The News Tribune is right; Howard Lincoln has the influence with Nintendo of America (an organization he and Yamauchi’s son-in-law pretty much created from scratch) to enjoy their backing of his stance. Japanese corporate culture expects loyalty from employees and is expected to reciprocate that loyalty in return. Lincoln has been part of Nintendo for close to 30-years, he helped make NOA a success, and his voice is heard by all of the company’s executives. As for him not caring if the team is winning, that is just ignorant. Read his full piece here.
Jim Callis at MLB Pipeline has named Danny Hultzen as the prospect arm he is most looking forward to seeing in the Arizona Fall League (AFL); to read the whole piece go (here). Callis says, “After signing an $8.5 million big league contract in 2011, Mariners left-hander Danny Hultzen made his pro debut in the AFL. Hultzen figured to have established himself in Seattle by now, but shoulder problems limited him to just 35 2/3 innings this season. When Hultzen is healthy and at the top of the game, he has all the ingredients to become a No. 2 starter. He battled his command for much of 2012, but he’s capable of locating three pitches on both sides of the plate. Hultzen’s best offering is his above-average changeup, which he sets up with a low-90s fastball and a promising slider. If Hultzen can overcome his shoulder woes and develop more consistency, the front of the Mariners’ rotation should be formidable for years to come. He’d slot in nicely behind Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker.”
Baseball Best Practice
In a piece titled “Meet the man who built Pirates‘ analytics department,” Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review introduces his readers to one of the forces behind the Pirates revival. (You can read it all here).
“There are 18 baseball operation staff biographies in the Pirates’ 2013 media guide. Dan Fox’s bio appears last and is the briefest. Yet the 45-year-old plays arguably one of the most integral roles in the organization. Fox’s influence as an analyst has reached a peak this season to include:
• Being consulted on nearly every player acquisition decision.
• Supplying the data behind defensive shifts.
• Playing a role in recommending a focus on increasing groundball rates.
• Conducting research on the draft and preventative health practices for pitchers.
The Pirates now have five full-time staffers working under Fox dedicated to data architecture and quantitative analysis. Fox does not fit the classic IT stereotype. He is visible. He’s often in the clubhouse. He watched video with players during spring training, asking questions. He meets with manager Clint Hurdle before every series, in person or via teleconference, to go over line-ups and defensive alignment. Hurdle, an old-school baseball type, has grown to trust Fox.
“One of the things I’ve always said is, ‘I don’t have all the answers,’ ” Hurdle said. “It was time for me to challenge myself.” Fox is different, and perhaps that is why he is one of the game’s most influential analysts, a voice [GM Neal] Huntington trusts. “There are lot of baseball people that are closed-minded to analytics, and there’s a lot of analysts that are closed-minded to baseball,” Huntington said. “We have some people who are open to both sides.”
AL West Commentary
If the Angels are to end a four-year playoff drought next season, they’ll need pitching, pitching and more pitching, says Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. “‘There are some fundamental things we need to look at that a good finish will not and should not mask. … It’s very clear some things need to be addressed,’ Manager Mike Scioscia said.
“Who does that addressing is to be determined. There has been speculation that Scioscia or General Manager Jerry Dipoto, perhaps both, could be fired. The team Dipoto and owner Arte Moreno envisioned, one tilted toward offense, flopped for 4 1/2 months, going 55-71 and falling as far as 18 1/2 games back in the American League West.
Of Dipoto’s five major off-season pitching acquisitions — Jason Vargas, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett — only Vargas made a positive contribution. A team molded more in Scioscia’s image — good pitching, defense, situational hitting and aggressive base running — has performed much better of late. They were averaging 5.2 runs per game in September. “If everyone does what they’re capable of, it’s an awesome lineup,” said first baseman Mark Trumbo, who led the team with 34 home runs and 98 runs batted in before Monday. “There’s a lot of production. It gives your pitching some breathing room.” It also gives the Angels a surplus of hitters to trade. Whom they part with will determine the quality of pitcher they receive. Trumbo might net the Angels a top young, cost-controlled starter. The Angels are expected to bid on Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who is projected as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, but his market will be robust. The Angels would not have to trade anyone to acquire Tanaka, and his posting fee, expected to exceed $25 million, does not count toward a team’s luxury-tax payroll. The Angels will try to retain Vargas, who is a free agent, but there are few other attractive options in a mediocre pitching market headed by Matt Garza, Hiroki Kuroda, Bartolo Colon and Ervin Santana. With $125 million committed to 10 players in 2014, including $71 million to Pujols, Hamilton, Weaver & Wilson, they won’t have much room below the luxury-tax threshold, which increases to $189 million next year.”
So they said
“It would be a lot easier to feel warm and nostalgic about the greatest era in Phillies baseball if it would just end already. As it is, this has the feel of a rock band that hangs around after the platinum albums are only a memory and the remaining members of the original lineup are all dying their hair and wearing hearing aids.” —By Bob Ford at philly.com
“If there’s one thing the Angels learned this season, it’s that you can’t out-hit bad pitching.” —Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times
“In most Big League ball games, there comes an inning on which hangs victory or defeat. … Big League managers mention it as the “break,” and pitchers speak of the “pinch.” … And in most of these pinches, the real burden falls on the pitcher. … That is the real test of a pitcher. He must be able to live through these squalls. … It is in the pinch that the pitcher shows whether or not he is a big leaguer. He must have something besides curves then. He needs a head, and he has to use it. It is the acid test.” —Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, “Pitching in a Pinch”
[Indian’s bench coach Brad] Mills said the Indians’ success this season starts with [Manager Terry] Francona. “He’s created a winning atmosphere,” said Mills, who spent three seasons as the Astros’ manager after serving as Francona’s bench coach in Boston. “I think he’s been able to get the players to buy into a real positive, winning attitude. He’s made them understand, I think, how to win.” —Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe.
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
“The Orioles ought to rush to sign Scott Feldman,” says Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. “Feldman has long been a favorite of manager Buck Showalter, and now I see why. His record is 5-5 with the Orioles, but in his 14 starts, he’s given the team a chance to win in 10 of them. In three of his five losses, he allowed four or more runs in five or fewer innings, but otherwise he’s been sturdy. At home, Feldman is 4-3 with a 4.44 ERA, a bit above his season mark of 3.57, but in a park that’s difficult to pitch in, he’s given up just four home runs in 50 2/3 innings. Since joining the Orioles, Feldman is allowing nearly two fewer hits a game per nine innings than he has in his career, and striking out almost one more.
Feldman is a pending free agent, and the Orioles shouldn’t let him leave. A year ago, he signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Cubs, hoping he could parlay this year into his first multi-year deal. An analysis in MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Feldman will sign a two-year contract for $17 million. That shouldn’t be too much for the Orioles, particularly after Feldman has shown his durability. If the Orioles don’t sign Feldman, they’ll spend the winter looking for more inexpensive alternatives. They’ll find them, but they probably won’t be as dependable as Feldman.”
Feldman would be an upgrade on Saunders and Harang for the Mariners, and the price is right.
In another installment of the excellent Free Agent Faceoff series by Charlie Wilmoth at MLB Trade Rumors, he looks at two aging, but powerful, outfielders in Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran. “Both players provide poor defense but good bats in a market that has only a handful of the latter,” he says. You can read it in full at: MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Faceoff Nelson Cruz vs Carlos Beltran
“Consecutive last-place finishes will create an open mind, but it does not mean it will be open season on the Rockies’ roster. The Rockies are not shopping all-stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. They have not called teams about them, according to sources with direct knowledge of the Rockies‘ talks and plans. The likelihood that both will be traded this offseason is zero. There remains an extremely slim possibility that one will be dealt, but only to address multiple needs, not as a salary dump.” —Troy E. Renck at the Denver Post
Norichika Aoki will receive a $250K bonus for making his 140th start of the season Monday night, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. This increases Aoki’s salary to $1.5MM for the season, and he can earn $587,500 by playing one more game this season. The Brewers picked up a bargain with Aoki’s two-year, $2.5MM contract and they hold a $1.5MM team option on the outfielder for 2014. The M’s need an outfielder and the Brew Crew need arms, they should talk.
Aaron Steen has produced another in the MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Faceoff: Josh Johnson vs. Roy Halladay. He leads of with: “Heading into the offseason, we can be sure of seeing the usual collection of low-risk deals for formerly marquee free-agent starting pitchers. Last winter, the Pirates struck gold with a one-year, incentive-laden deal for Francisco Liriano, as he’s generated 3.0 fWAR this season while making just $1MM. Though they’ll require larger commitments, two starters hitting the free agent market this offseason, Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay, offer similar ace potential and are also likely to be had relatively cheaply. They’re up next in our Free Agent Faceoff series.” You can find it (here).
By the numbers
“Only two players have hit 30-plus homers each season from 2011-13: Miguel Cabrera and Jay Bruce.” —The Bill Chuck Files
“In the 12th inning, [the Mariners] had no response for Salvador Perez‘s RBI double, falling, 6-5, in front of the few remaining members of the announced crowd of 12,798 at Safeco Field. It was the 237th extra-inning game of the year, tying the MLB record.” —Jacob Thorpe milb.com
“Chris Tillman is the clear No. 1 starter. There currently isn’t a No. 2.”— Rich Dubroff at CSN Baltimore