Eyeing Grady Sizemore's brutal start

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pained sizemore.jpgThe bruised knee that knocked Grady Sizemore out of Sunday’s game and is sidelining him again Monday might have been the best thing that could have happened to the 27-year-old center fielder. He may not want to, but he definitely needs to sit back and watch a couple of games.
There were reasons to be concerned about Sizemore headed into this year, most of them having to do with his surgically repaired left elbow. He didn’t perform at nearly his usual level before shutting it down in 2008, and it remained to be seen whether his power would come all of the way back after his arm problems.
But then Sizemore went and hit .364/.500/.614 with just five strikeouts in 44 at-bats this spring. Questions answered, or so it seemed.
Sizemore, though, has been positively terrible this year. He’s hitting just .211/.271/.289 through 128 at-bats. He’s drawn a mere nine walks after working 12 in spring training, and he’s struck out 35 times. He’s also without a homer, though he did hit his first earlier this month on a game that was unfortunately halted and postponed due to rain.
If it were just the power, that’d be one thing. However, Sizemore’s offensive game has completely fallen apart. Most players with weaker-than-expected batting averages this time of year are probably experiencing some poor luck on balls in play. Sizemore, though, is hitting a reasonable .287 there. When he hits a liner, it’s generally falling in. It’s the simple act of making contact that’s giving Sizemore trouble.
Just look at Sizemore’s plate discipline chart over at Fangraphs. Even if you don’t know what the numbers mean, you can see how consistent Sizemore was in previous years and how much things have changed this season. Most notably, Sizemore is swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone far more often than ever before. He’s at about 180 percent of his career rate there.
But that’s not to say he’s suddenly swinging at everything. He’s actually swinging at fewer pitches inside the strike zone. While his overall swing rate is up a bit, it’s still pretty modest. But since he’s swinging at bad pitches, his overall contact rate is way down.
Of 178 qualified hitters, Sizemore ranks 161st in the percentage of swings in which he makes contact. He’s at 73.4 right now. Sizemore has always struck out plenty, in part because he takes plenty of pitches, but in a typical year, he’s right around the 50th percentile when it comes to making contact.
If I ran the Indians, I’d politely request that Sizemore undergo an eye exam to see if anything has changed there. If that’s not the problem, then, yeah, Sizemore needs to kick back and watch a few games. Maybe the power isn’t going to come back anytime soon, but he can stop getting himself out.

The Mariners and Cardinals make a minor trade

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The Seattle Mariners and the St. Louis Cardinals have made a minor trade. Seattle has acquired lefty Marco Gonzales from the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Tyler O’Neill.

Gonzales, the Cardinals’ first round pick out of Gonzaga back in 2013, is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. It’s been a good season, in which he has posted a 2.78 ERA and 64/17 K/BB ratio over 74.1 innings across two minor league levels. He’s pitched one game for St. Louis this year and got shelled, but we’ll leave that go.

O’Neill is a third rounder from 2013. He has hit .269/.344/.505 in five minor league seasons. He’s holding his own in Triple-A this year, smacking 19 homers in 93 games.

Topps has eliminated Chief Wahoo from both new and throwback card designs

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I’ve been out of the baseball card game for a good long time, but despite this — maybe because of this — I enjoy the posts from SABR’s Baseball Card Committee. A lot of that is old time stuff that old men like me enjoy — check out the airbrushing on the “Traded” cards! — but they talk about new cards too. Definitely worth your time if cards are now or have ever been your bag.

Today there’s an interesting post, pointing out something most of us wouldn’t have otherwise noted: Topps has dropped Chief Wahoo from Indians card designs. They’re doing it for the old Braves “screaming Indian” logo as well, though the Braves no longer use that themselves.

They’re not airbrushing these logos out of photos of players — that would be Orwellian even for my extreme Wahoo-hating tastes — but in card designs which have team logos, Topps is using the block-C logo, not Wahoo, and the Braves “A” logo in place of the old logo. This includes throwback issues like the Heritage sets which put modern players on card designs from the 1950s-1960s and on simple retro designs like their 1987 variations. Any cards which once featured Wahoo on the border or on the back now features the block-C.

As you may or may not know, Topps is now the official card producer for Major League Baseball. As such, I take their doing this as a sign that MLB is continuing the slow process of de-Chiefing in whatever areas it has ultimate say.

Now if only the Indians themselves would get on board.