Daily Dose: Sweet relief

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As Aaron Gleeman attends the annual SABR Convention
inside the beltway, I’ll do my best to pinch-hit in his absence. I’ll
spare you my opinion on Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, instead pointing
you towards our coverage on
Circling the Bases.
This is the time of year where the great majority of us would rather
refresh our browsers for information on the latest trade instead of
harping on past indiscretions.




On the subject of trades, the
Dodgers struck with the first major deal yesterday, landing George
Sherrill from the Orioles in exchange for 22-year-old third baseman
Josh Bell and 21-year-old right-hander Steve Johnson.
Sherrill joins a taxed Los Angeles pen, and will function as the team’s
primary left-handed set-up man behind closer Jonathan Broxton.


Entering
the season, some believed that Chris Ray would eventually supplant
Sherrill as closer, but while Ray faltered, Sherrill was fantastic in
42 appearances, compiling a 2.40 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 39/13 K/BB ratio
in 41 1/3 innings. He even brought his 5.57 BB/9 from last season down
to a very respectable 2.83. He is a great weapon against left-handers,
holding them to a miniscule .167 batting average in his career. Though
the move kills his fantasy value in mixed leagues, Sherrill is a pretty
nice insurance policy if Jonathon Broxton’s toe keeps barking. You
know, if Joe Torre doesn’t get to his arm first.

With
Sherrill out of the picture in Baltimore, Jim Johnson is the
speculative grab for fantasy owners. After a 2.23 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in
2008, Johnson has put together another solid statistical season,
posting a 3.17 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 35/16 K/BB ratio in 48 1/3 innings
pitched. Don’t be alarmed by the increase in ERA — Johnson was
fortunate enough not to give up a home run in 68 2/3 innings last
season. He should prove to be a solid, if unspectacular source for
saves going forward.

As for the Orioles’ haul, Bell is the one
to watch here. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 205-pounds, he is a switch-hitter
with real power potential. A knee injury limited him to just 51 games
in 2008, but he has put up a solid .296/.386/.497 line with 11 bombs
and 52 RBI for Double-A Chattanooga this season. He began the year
ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the Dodgers’ organization, according to
Baseball America. Overall, not a bad return for the Orioles, but it
would have been even better had they managed to nab southpaw Scott
Elbert, as rumored, instead of the hometown-boy Johnson.

* The Pirates continued their purge on Thursday, this time sending lefties John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny to the Cubs in return for pitchers Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio,
as well as Single-A third baseman Josh Harrison. For those keeping
score, and I’m sure you are, the Pirates have now traded away 13
players from their 2008 Opening Day roster.

Acquiring Grabow
doesn’t give Lou Pinella a true left-handed specialist, as lefties have
hit .270 against him lifetime, compared to .254 for righties. With a
3.42 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 41/28 K/BB ratio in 47 1/3 innings pitched this
season, Grabow is getting a bit lucky for a second straight year
despite shoddy control and a stagnant groundball rate, but he should
settle into a sixth or seventh inning role just fine. As for
Gorzelanny, he is just two seasons removed from a 3.88 ERA and 14 wins
in his rookie campaign. And he has shown some hope at a revival by
going 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA through 15 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis.
He will likely join the starting rotation until Ted Lilly returns.

Hart
led the Cubs to their seventh victory in their last 10 games on
Thursday afternoon, allowing three runs over six innings, but now he’ll
call Pittsburgh home. The 26-year-old right-hander owns a 2.60 ERA in
eight games (four starts) with the Cubs this season. Fantasy owners
should look for Hart to contribute in the Bucs’ rotation immediately,
most likely replacing Virgil Vasquez. He’s worth a look in NL-only
leagues, but doesn’t figure to be more than a back-end option in the
rotation in the long-term. As for Ascanio, he has legitimate
closer-type stuff, including a plus-fastball, but due to his poor
control, he projects best as a set-up man. Pirates general manager Neil
Huntington certainly deserves heaps of praise for the deals he made
with San Francisco and Seattle on Wednesday, but he took some
questionable pieces back from the Cubs on Thursday. Hey, two out of
three ain’t bad, right?

* Speaking of Huntington, ready to “stop
the cycle of losing, and with that, the cycle of trading” the Pirates
are expected to call up Lastings Milledge before Friday’s game against
his former team, the Nationals. Upon his arrival, Milledge will be a
“regular,” according to Huntington, starting alongside Andrew McCutchen
and Garrett Jones in the revamped Bucco outfield.

Milledge’s
track record is well known. He hit .167 in 24 at-bats with the
Nationals this season before being unceremoniously demoted on April 14.
From there, he broke his finger attempting a bunt in May, finally being
shipped out of NatsTown in the Nyjer Morgan deal back on June 30. Few
fantasy owners have forgotten his furious finish to 2008, when he
batted .299 with seven homers, 29 RBI and 11 stolen bases over the
season’s final 58 games. And it’s that two-way promise that deems him
worthy of ownership in NL-only leagues and worth consideration in
deeper mixed leagues, as well.

AL Quick Hits:
The Royals acquired outfielder Josh Anderson from the Tigers in
exchange for cash considerations … Amidst all the steroid talk, David
Ortiz launched a go-ahead three-run homer in a win over the Athletics
on Thursday afternoon … After meeting with Dr. James Andrews, Joel
Zumaya will have season-ending shoulder surgery next month … Brad
Bergesen won his seventh game while lowering his ERA to 3.43 on
Thursday, but suffered a shin injury after getting hit by a line drive
on his last pitch … Derek Holland pitched into the ninth inning and
struck out a career-high 10 in a 7-1 win over the Mariners on Thursday
night … Gil Meche (back) is scheduled for a rehab appearance on
Sunday and could rejoin the Royals next week … Vicente Padilla (swine
flu) is scheduled to start on Friday against the Mariners … The
Indians opted for Trevor Crowe to replace Ben Francisco on the roster
instead of top-prospect Matt LaPorta … Rangers president Nolan Ryan
said the team is actively pursuing Roy Halladay.

NL Quick Hits:
Brandon Webb suffered another setback that could finally lead to
surgery on his ailing right shoulder … After struggling all season,
Bill Hall accepted an assignment with Triple-A Nashville … Johan
Santana struck out eight over seven scoreless innings against the
Rockies on Thursday afternoon … Geovany Soto (oblique) could begin
playing in minor league rehab games as soon as Friday … Jerry Manuel
expects Gary Sheffield (hamstring) to return from the disabled list on
Saturday … Ben Francisco made his Phillies debut in center field on
Thursday as Shane Victorino sat out with a sore left knee … Jeff
Suppan was placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain …
Yunel Escobar left Thursday’s game with a wrist injury and is
day-to-day … Brendan Ryan is day-to-day after suffering a bruised left ankle on Thursday.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: