Gammons Notes: Under-the-radar pre-deadline deals, knuckleballers, Mike Yastrzemski and more

huston street angels

Angels’ Huston Street

It’s been nearly six weeks since the trade deadline passed. Look, everyone enjoys Yoenis Cespedes and the energy and intensity he brings, but getting Jon Lester is not the reason the Oakland Athletics have gone 14-30 since the sun rose on August and gone from one game lead on the Angels to seven games back and in a scramble to even make it to a play-in game. Hey, they had made the Jeff Samardzija deal, were 24 games over .500 and the idea was to build pitching to finish first and have the advantage of being a first place team, as well as have the power starters to go deep into October, an idea that had been filed under the disabled list.

And when the Tigers acquired David Price, it was universally hailed as one of Dave Dombrowski’s greatest trades. So Anibal Sanchez got hurt, no one knows precisely what these bone spurs in Miguel Cabrera mean and the bullpen has gone haywire. Who’d have known when they cancelled their Instructional League program that it would mean that they would have no games for Joaquin Soria and Sanchez to pitch when they were ready to return, and that on September 8th they would be in a critical series with the Royals, hoping on Justin Verlander’s further adjustment to a more complex style of pitching and that Danny Salazar and the Indians playing a makeup game against Jered Weaver and the Angels would be the focus of that day’s scoreboard watching.

There is no denying that Brian Cashman’s trades for Brandon McCarthy and Martin Prado have helped keep the dream alive that Derek Jeter can have one more October, but here are three pre-deadline trades that seem to have had immediate and longterm impacts that went under the radar.

  1. The acquisition of Huston Street by the Angels from San Diego for four of their Tier II prospects. Street is the final stabilizer in Jerry DiPoto’s year-long reconstruction of the bullpen. The Angels are 30-17 beginning with Street’s first appearance on July 19 and have pulled to a seven game lead. He has a 1.71 earned run average in 22 games for L.A., blown but one lead and at 31 with 271 saves is approaching the closer zone of folks like his mentor, Trevor Hoffman. When games heat up, Street cools them down, forcing everyone to play at his pulse rate, which is that of a master marathoner. It is fascinating that no matter whether they’re playing in Anaheim, Cleveland or Colorado, Street has his alarm set to the exact same time, so that he wakes up at the precise same time every day, no matter what the time zone. That way his body never has to adjust. A man playing at his own ¾ time.
  2. Baltimore’s trade for Andrew Miller. Now, there may come a day when they regret trading 21-year old lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez, who made six starts for Portland after the trade and had an 0.96 ERA, 39-8 strikeout-walk ratio and was regularly hitting 96 on the guns. But Miller is one of the best relievers in the game, gives Buck Showalter lots of options and in 14 appearances and 12 2/3 innings has allowed seven hits and struck out 17. The Orioles are one of the best stories of the season, and with their offense the Miller/Tommy Hunter/Zach Britton three inning finishes may be one of the major factors in October.
  3. Boston getting Joe Kelly from the Cardinals in the John Lackey trade. Kelly has a 3.89 ERA in six starts and has had a couple of wild streaks, but at 26 his athleticism and stuff gives the Red Sox hope that they have a 2-3 starter for 2015. He has been 96-98 with great sink, his curveball/sinker combination is unusual, and he is close to perfecting his Madduxesque comebackers on both sides of the plate. The Red Sox hope that as he opens a full season with the arsenal he is developing, he can be their Corey Kluber.

–Speaking of Miller, last week Buck Showalter got Miller and Darren O’Day up in a game and did not put them in. When the game ended, bullpen coach Dom Chiti offered each a $100 bill. “Buck fined himself for breaking his own rule,” Chiti told them. Showalter is very careful about how relievers are used, and tries not to get one up, then sit him down and not use him. In that game, the O’s scored four quick runs and put the game away, but Showalter says, “it was my mistake and I should be fined.”

–Showalter has an interesting take on the impact of power hitters like Chris Davis, Adam Dunn and Cespedes on opposing pitchers, even if they have lower batting averages, a lot of strikeouts and below-average on base percentages. Showalter says that in this era of declining power, pitchers are so wary of hitters with big power that they pitch them so carefully that even a four pitch at-bat is the equivalent of eight or nine pitches because of the high leverage nature of working around their power. “That’s absolutely right,” says Boston’s Joe Kelly. “Pitchers hate giving up home runs, and they often pitch the big guys very differently, very carefully.”

–In the September collapse of 2011, Adrian Gonzalez was sometimes quoted as saying things that did not resound well in flinty New England. But as Gonzalez once again has been the Dodger leveler, Red Sox fans should be reminded of his 2011 season:159 games, .338/.410/.548, 213 hits, 45 doubles, 27 homers, 117 RBIs, gold glove, sixth in wins above replacement, third in OPS-plus.

–Watching Sunday’s Toronto-Boston game made one wonder if Steven Wright might not be the next R.A. Dickey. The two knuckleballers teamed up for 12 innings—five from Wright in relief—and the one run allowed by Dickey. The veteran former Cy Young Award winner threw his knuckler from 76.5 MPH to 81.5, Wright from 75.3 to 81. Dickey threw his fastball 83-85.6, Wright 83.7 to 85.9. They both throw harder than the traditional knuckleballers, and Wright has now learned to throw his at three different speeds and he throws them all for strikes.

So, come 2015, Wright likely will be in the Boston bullpen as a length guy, but at 30—in a season that was delayed two months by a sports hernia surgery—he could be developing into a backend, innings-eating starter, a long way from being the Indians second round pick in 2006 out of the University of Hawaii who made more than 60 starts in the Cleveland organization as a traditional fastball/slider pitcher before dabbling with the knuckler.

–Last week Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts received a call from Andruw Jones with advice about sticking to the one coach whose advice he most respects. It was simply an encouragement call in a season in which Bogaerts has turned himself back around after a terrific start, two miserable months and a ride from shortstop to third base back to short.

Andrelton Simmons has struggled at time with the Braves, .243 with a .288 OBP, home runs down from 17 to 7. Jurickson Profar missed the season with a shoulder injury, but last season batted .234 in 85 games with the Rangers.

“I think that these exceptional young players from Aruba and Curacao are so intelligent, come from such solid families that when they get to the minor leagues they move through quickly because they’re able to easily make social transitions,” says Rangers GM Jon Daniels. “But we forget that their baseball background in those countries is not a high level of baseball. So many of them get to the major leagues very quickly, but in time their lack of experience, playing time and at-bats catch up to them. Andruw Jones was one of the few that didn’t go through a couple of years of struggles. I think we need to be conscious of this. They’re coming from a totally different culture that has its advantages, but also can be deceiving.”

“Now that I’ve been here a year, I think there’s a lot to that,” says Bogaerts. “It’s very different from someone who grew up playing organized baseball in California, or Florida. I’m learning all the time now. I’ve learned a lot, but I have a long way to go.”

–Showalter isn’t worried about one future Oriole’s power, but one of his favorites is Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson Mike Yastrzemski, who finished a minor league season climbing through three leagues with 34 doubles, an incredible 16 triples and 14 homers. The O’s have three backup outfielders for the stretch and Yastrzemski—called by Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin “the face of Vanderbilt baseball”—doesn’t have to be put on the roster his winter, but if Peter Angelos eschews his love of Greek players and doesn’t pick up the $17.25M option on Nick Markakis, there is a chance that Yastrzemski, a terrific defender, could win the right field job in Baltimore next season. In case you’re scrambling for Baseball Reference, Hall of Famer Carl’s 174 game totals at Memorial Stadium were .268 with 19 homers, testament to the Orioles pitching he faced over 23 seasons.

Comments

  1. That Rodriguez-Miller deal is going to be something to watch. 2 months of lefty reliever for a 21 year old with a live fastball for the next 6 years…..

  2. Yaz is Polish

  3. Peavy to Los Gigantes has been hugely impactful as well.

  4. One small correction. Buck goes Miller/O’Day/Britton to close out the games. Since the failed Hunter closer experiment to start the season, he rarely puts Hunter into late inning high leverage situations.