Diamondbacks decline options on Aaron Hill, Zach Duke

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Neither of these moves come as a huge surprise, but the Diamondbacks announced this evening that they have declined their club options on Aaron Hill and Zach Duke.

Hill’s contract included a pair of $8 million options for 2012 and 2013. The 29-year-old second baseman played well after being acquired from the Blue Jays in August, batting .315/.386/.492 with two homers, 16 RBI and an .878 OPS over 142 plate appearances. The small sample of success wasn’t enough to convince Arizona GM Kevin Towers to make the hefty investment, but they are interesting in retaining him at a lesser salary.

Duke, who was acquired from the Pirates last December, will receive a $750,000 buyout rather than a $5.5 million salary in 2012. The 28-year-old left-hander didn’t make his season debut until May due to a broken hand and ended up posting a disappointing 4.93 ERA and 32/19 K/BB ratio over 76 2/3 innings. He was banished to the bullpen following the All-Star break.

The Diamondbacks also exercised mutual options on utility infielder Willie Bloomquist and backup catcher Henry Blanco. Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that Bloomquist will become a free agent after declining his portion of the mutual option, but that he is interested in returning as part of a multi-year contract. If Blanco opts to exercise his part of the mutual option, he will earn $1.15 million in 2012.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.