HBT Weekend Wrapup

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I took Friday off, which has me completely discombobulated, baseball wise. I’m going on vacation next week and will be unplugging for the entire trip. If I can expect my discombobulation to be seven times what I’m feeling right now, I’m pretty sure my chances of surviving with my sanity intact are zero. So welcome to the last productive week of HardballTalk!

As for the weekend:

  • Jonathan Broxton lost his closer’s job because he has lost his confidence. This is the saddest thing I’ve witnessed since that evil doctor stole Fonzie’s cool in that late-run “Happy Days” episode. Of course by that point they had introduced Roger and Eugene, made the Fonz a teacher and Jenny Piccolo was a real character instead of someone Joanie just talked about, so the cool was long gone to begin with. Much like the Dodgers’ playoff chances.
  • Andy Pettitte suffered a setback during a simulated game. No one is sure if the setback itself is real, however. Simulated games are like the “Inception” of the baseball world in that way.
  • The Rangers’ new owners lower beer prices, among other fan-friendly things. Doing such a thing is such a no-brainer in terms of the creation of fan goodwill that it’s amazing more teams don’t do stuff like this. I mean really, if anyone is qualified to make no-brainer moves, it’s baseball owners.
  • When does Jose Canseco’s big league pension kick in? Because, really, it’s getting sad to see him go from job to job like this. Of course, Canseco serving as bench coach is fairly useful in that it conclusively proves what I’ve long suspected: bench coaches don’t actually do anything.
  • Chipper Jones had successful surgery. I am not making this up: part of the ligament graft came from a cadaver. Which means that the Mets’ worst fears will be coming true next season: Zombie Chipper.
  • K-Rod apologizes. I haven’t read the apology yet, but I assume it has something to do with his pummeling fists being taken out of context.
  • It’s cute that Joe Torre thinks he’s still in New York and thus the whole world is waiting to hear what his career plans are.
  • Carlos Zambrano wins his first start since his return from crazyland. This was really the only game I saw over the weekend. My daughter watched part of it with me. After listening to some of the game she said “what are ‘his issues?'”
  • A-Rod hits three bombs against the Royals. If I ran a New York tabloid I’d be real tempted to have one of my columnists write a thing about how Rodriguez is too lazy to run and thus insists on slow jogs.
  • Rob Dibble kinda sorta not really apologizes for making fun of some women fans he assumed to be talking about shopping while in the stands at a Nats game. He did not apologize, however, for failing to grasp the irony of his calling people out for talking bullsh– during a baseball game.

And with that, let us proceed with our week, shall we?

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.