Chemistry Watch: The Giants and Marlins claim to have it

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Ah, team chemistry. The ultimate example of post hoc ergo propter hoc in baseball. We always credit winning teams with having it after the fact and, in most cases, attribute the actual winning to the chemistry. And if you try to fight against that you get a million people saying, in effect, “scoreboard!”

With that in mind, Brandon Belt had this to say when asked about all the moves the Dodgers made in the offseason:

When Belt was asked about the free-spending Los Angeles Dodgers, he replied, to a thunderous ovation, “All I can say is, you can’t buy chemistry.” That statement will be sure to end up on a few blue bulletin boards.

Hey, if you want to say that the Giants won two of the past three World Series because of team chemistry as opposed to good pitching, timely hitting and a roster full of talented ballplayers that’s your prerogative. I’m eager to see you show me exactly what it was about those teams that evidences good chemistry that was not a product of, as opposed to a cause of, winning. But you can credit chemistry all you want.

But maybe we don’t need that. Maybe we’ll have an actual example of a team with great chemistry that is not attributable to winning: the Miami Marlins, who Joe Capozzi writes are all about character and chemistry and all of that stuff going forward. And character matters! Just ask coach Tino Martinez:

Although the 2013 Marlins are young and inexperienced, new hitting coach Tino Martinez said he sees parallels with the New York Yankees team he played on that won the 1996 World Series.

“We didn’t have a lot of superstars. We had a young Derek Jeter, a young Bernie Williams, a young Andy Pettitte. We had a great group of guys who worked hard every day,” Martinez said.

Sure. That was all about attitude. It had nothing to do with the fact that the team had no less than three first ballot Hall of Famers on it and multiple other players who either will be in the Hall of Fame or who will stay on Hall of Fame ballots for many years.

Anyway: let’s watch the Marlins’ chemistry all year and see if it maintains on a 90+ loss team. And, if for some reason the Giants don’t make the playoffs this year, let’s make a point to see when, exactly, the chemistry left them.

Yankees decide to keep Luis Severino on regular rest, give Twins potential Wild Card preview

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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Yankees starter Luis Severino pitched last Friday, putting him on track to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Twins. The Yankees mulled the possibility of pushing him back to start on Friday against the Blue Jays after an off day on Thursday so that the Twins wouldn’t get an early look at Severino in a potential AL Wild Card matchup.

However, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports that Severino will indeed start on Wednesday against the Twins instead of Masahiro Tanaka. Hoch adds that Severino’s preference is to pitch on regular rest.

Severino, 23, has been the Yankees’ best starter this year and would be the most reliable arm in a must-win game. The right-hander is carrying a 13-6 record with a 2.93 ERA and a 218/49 K/BB ratio in 184 1/3 innings.

Entering Tuesday’s action, the Yankees hold a five-game lead over the Twins for the first Wild Card slot. The Angels hold a 1.5-game lead over the Angels for the second slot. The Yankees are also very much in the AL East race, trailing the Red Sox by only three games with 12 games left in the regular season.

You should probably pay attention to Matt Olson

Associated Press
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The claim of “East Coast Bias” is often hurled as an accusation of smug superiority, and it’s often met with denial, but it’s a thing. It’s not the exact thing the west coast people think it is — it’s not hate, it’s just a function of time zones and TV ratings — but there are certainly factors that cause stuff that happens in California to get shorter shrift than that which happens back east, where most of the national media people are.

One thing getting short shrift this year: the performance of Oakland A’s first baseman Matt Olson, which one has to imagine would be getting all kinds of press if he played back east.

Wait, we don’t have to imagine that at all. Because Olson is doing basically the exact same thing Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez did last year, and Sanchez got tons of headlines for it while I’m guessing most baseball fans who either (a) live outside of the Bay Area; or (b) aren’t big fantasy players, attuned to all of the latest callups, haven’t heard Olson’s name much if at all . Their respective lines:

  • Sanchez 2016: 53 games, .299/.376/.657, 20 HR, 168 OPS+
  • Olson 2017: 54 games, .267/.360/.663, 22 HR 168 OPS+

Sanchez’s rate stats were better but Olson is doing it in tougher parks for hitters. Obviously Sanchez is catching and Olson playing the corner, but a dude coming out of the minors to put up these kinds of numbers in the final two months of the season is rare. That it’s happening again, in almost the same way, is quite the thing.

Part of the reason for the discrepancy in press is that Sanchez was making a strong argument for the Rookie of the Year Award despite playing less than half the season whereas Olson has no shot given what Aaron Judge has done this year. But I’m guessing more of it is simply a function of Olson’s games starting at 10:30 or so back east and most of us not seeing what he does unless we look at the box scores the next day.

Still, Olson, the A’s first round pick from 2012, is not someone to sleep on. And, given that he hit 23 homers in 79 minor league games this year — the last guy to hit 20 in both the bigs and minors in the same year was Giancarlo Stanton — he’s not a fluke. Indeed, he’s one of the few rays of sunshine for the Oakland Athletics. And someone to whom us folks back east should pay a bit more attention.