Last week manager Jim Tracy told reporters that Ian Stewart was “either going to play his way in or play his way off the team” and then yesterday, after benching him for two of the four games since, the Rockies demoted Stewart back to Triple-A.
Even before the latest demotion to the minors I wrote that Colorado shopping Stewart made sense for both sides if they no longer believed in the 26-year-old third baseman because of 50 bad plate appearances following three productive seasons.
Sending a 26-year-old with a .761 OPS in 405 games as a big leaguer to Triple-A for the second time this season seemingly made a trade even more likely, but Stewart told Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post that the Rockies don’t have that in their plans:
They said, “We’re not going to trade you.” They still feel like I can be a big part of the organization. But it’s like Tracy said, it’s time to fish or cut bait, so we’ll see. I don’t get the sense they’re just ready to let me go at the snap of a finger. I get the sense they still believe in me and they feel like I can help this organization out this year.
Hopefully it goes the right way because I don’t want to go anywhere else. This is where all my friends are. It’s everything I know.
All of which sounds good in theory, except the Rockies have now demoted Stewart to Triple-A twice this season and he’s only had a total of 53 plate appearances in the majors. No matter how much he’s struggled in those 53 plate appearances–and he’s been terrible, to be sure–that’s certainly not an example of believing in a player or even giving him a chance to “fish or cut bait.”
Asking a 26-year-old veteran to knock around Triple-A pitching in between sporadic playing time in the majors isn’t doing much of anything, so perhaps the Rockies should take their own “fish or cut bait” advice with Stewart.
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.
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.