Low Carbs

In which Hunter Pence approves of my dietary choices


I’ve mentioned my change in diet a few times around here. Sorry if I’m being redundant about it, but it has represented a pretty major life change for me. And being on the road for a week and a half it’s impossible not to think about it.  Road trips are always bad for me, food wise. Especially baseball trips. It’s impossible to eat well in a ballpark. That’s true even if you stay away from the concession food and stick to the media spread. You can find salads there on occasion, but it’s often hot dogs, big sandwiches, chicken parm and things like that.

I left the ballpark yesterday and went to the Whole Foods in Tempe. Their prepared foods section has a million great things. Fresh veggies, grilled meats, lentils, quinoa and the like. I got that grilled salmon, quinoa tabbouleh and asparagus/mushroom/red pepper mixup pictured to the right and ate it in the little cafe. As I left I picked up some healthy foods to take back to the hotel with me and to pack in my bag each day when I head out to the ballpark. As I type this I am doing my best to ignore the wonderful smells from the concourse here in Scottsdale Stadium and concentrate on the apple, walnuts and jerky I bought along.

Heading here this morning I remembered the post about Hunter Pence’s adherence to the paleo diet  from last week — which is not terribly different than what I’m doing — and decided that I’d ask him how it was going.

I asked him if he had a couple of minutes. He started that familiar rap players who don’t really want to be interviewed at the moment offer, asking how much time it’d take (“hey I have to get to this room or that meeting and blahblahblah…”) but when I told him it’d be quick and it was about how his diet was going, he opened up and acted like he had all day to talk.  Maybe this is just a favorite topic for him. Or maybe players are simply bored to tears with the usual spring training  clubhouse rebop.

Pence said that it was going great. That since he cut out carbs in September he has felt way more energetic, sleeps better, the whole deal.  I asked him if, as is the case with me and a lot of other people, the initial absence of sugar and carbs led to some serotonin deficit-inspired depression. He said he had heard that happened, but thankfully it didn’t happen to him.

source: Getty ImagesI asked him if an athlete’s far greater than typical energy needs makes it more difficult to avoid carbs and he said “Nope. I just pound kale and vegetables all the time. It’s in there.” I asked him if it’s hard for him to not get room service and bad food on the road and he said “Not at all. It’s just a matter of getting in a cab and making them take you to Whole Foods.”

At that point I figured I’d mention that I’m on the same sort of diet, albeit for very different reasons. I mentioned about my trip to Whole Foods yesterday and how I’d plan to do that kind of thing the whole trip, and he started to take on that look he had while giving the rah-rah pep talks during the Giants playoff run last year. “That’s great! Keep that up, man. You’ll get over the initial hump and feel much better. Just keep it up.” It was easy to giggle a bit at Pence’s motivational speaker thing last season, but in that moment, I felt ready to go out and beat the Tigers. Or the potato chips and pasta. Or something.

Anyway. No point to this, but it was one of my favorite player encounters in a long time so I figure I’d share it.

Game 2 is going to be the poster child for pace of play arguments this winter

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Zach McAllister #34 of the Cleveland Indians is relieved by manager Terry Francona during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Getty Images

In August, it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred would like to implement pitch clocks, like those in use in the minor leagues for the past two seasons, to improve the pace-of-play at the major league level. You can bet that last night’s Game 2 will be the lead argument he uses against those who would oppose the move.

The game was moved up an hour in order to get it in before an impending storm. By the time the rain finally started falling the game had been going on for three hours and thirty-three minutes. It should’ve been over before the first drop fell, but in all it lasted four hours and four minutes. It ended in, thankfully, only a light rain. The longest nine-inning game in postseason history happened a mere two weeks ago, when the Dodgers and Nationals played for four hours and thirty two minutes. There thirteen pitchers were used. Last night ten pitchers were used. Either way, the postseason games are dragging on even for those of us who don’t mind devoting four+ hours of our night to baseball. It is likely putting off more casual fans just tuning in for the Fall Classic.

It’s not all just dawdling, however. Yes, the pitchers worked slowly and a lot of pitching changes took place, but strikeouts, walks and the lack of balls in play contribute to longer games as well. We saw this both last night and in Game 1, which was no brisk affair despite each starting pitcher looking sharp and not working terribly slowly. Twenty-four strikeouts on Tuesday night had a lot to do with that. Last night featured 20 strikeouts and thirteen — thirteen! — walks. It’s not just that the games are taking forever; the very thing causing them to drag feature baseball’s least-kinetic forms of excitement.

But no matter what the cause for the slower play was — and here it was a combination of laboring pitchers, the lack of balls in play and, of course, the longer commercial breaks in the World Series — Manfred is likely to hold Game 2 up as Exhibit A in his efforts to push through some rules changes to improve game pace and game time. So far, the centerpiece of those efforts is the pitch clock, which has proven to be successful and pretty non-controversial in the minor leagues. It would not surprise me one bit if, at this year’s Winter Meetings in Washington, a rule change in that regard is widely discussed.

Kyle Schwarber is the feel-good story of the 2016 postseason


Most baseball fans and even the Cubs had resigned themselves to most likely not seeing Kyle Schwarber in game action until spring training next year after he suffered a gruesome knee injury in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler back in early April. Schwarber suffered a fully-torn ACL and LCL in his left leg.

To the surprise of everyone, including manager Joe Maddon, Schwarber was cleared by doctors to play if the Cubs wanted to put him on the World Series roster. So they did. And, boy, are they glad they did it. In preparation, Schwarber saw over 1,000 pitches from machines and pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.

Schwarber essentially crammed for the final exam and unlike most students who do it, it has panned out well thus far. No one was expecting him to look outstanding against Indians ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, but in his first at-bat — his first in the majors since suffering the injury in April — Schwarber worked a 3-1 count before eventually being retired on strikes. Schwarber came back up in the fourth and drilled a Kluber sinker to right field for a two-out double.

In the seventh inning, facing one of the American League’s two scariest left-handed relievers in Andrew Miller, Schwarber worked a full count before drawing a walk. During the regular season, Miller walked exactly one lefty batter. Schwarber made it two. Schwarber would face Miller again in the eighth, going ahead 2-1 before ultimately striking out. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a double in the Cubs’ 6-0 loss. Considering the circumstances, that’s amazing.

Schwarber continued his great approach in Game 2 in what turned out to be a 5-1 victory. He struck out against Trevor Bauer in the first inning, but returned to the batter’s box in the third inning and singled up the middle to knock in the Cubs’ second run. Schwarber made it 3-0 in the fifth when he singled up the middle again, this time off of Bryan Shaw, to make it 3-0. Facing Danny Salazar in the sixth, Schwarber drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base with two outs. Finally, he struck out against Dan Otero in his eighth-inning at-bat, finishing the evening 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and a walk.

But now, as the Cubs return to Chicago for World Series Games 3, 4, and 5 at Wrigley Field, they have to contest with National League rules, a.k.a. no DH. Will Maddon risk Schwarber’s subpar defense to put his dangerous bat in the lineup? Even if Schwarber is not put in the starting lineup, he can at least serve as a dangerous bat off the bench late in the game when the Indians send out their trio of relievers in Shaw, Miller, and closer Cody Allen. At any rate, what Schwarber has done already in the first two games of the World Series is mighty impressive.