Gerrit Cole

The Pirates have made velocity an organizational focus

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Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote an intriguing column about the rise in fastball velocity across Major League Baseball. In 2008, the average fastball in the Majors registered at 90.9 MPH; in 2013, it was 92 MPH. A change of 1.1 MPH over a six-year period may seem small, but when hundreds of thousands of fastballs are thrown every year, it becomes a statistically significant change.

Sawchik adds that more pitchers are hitting triple digits (100-plus MPH) more consistently than they have since velocity-tracking has become a regular part of the game. Some teams have begun to prioritize velocity over other traits, and the Pirates — one of baseball’s most forward-thinking organizations — are among them. From Sawchik’s column:

Under general manager Neal Huntington, the Pirates made targeting and acquiring velocity a key part of their strategy, adding pitchers such as A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, and placing a premium on velocity in the draft.

“(Velocity) gives you a larger margin for error,” Huntington said. “Ninety-four (mph) that runs and gets too much of the plate has much more margin for error than 88 (mph) that runs and gets too much of the plate.”

In Huntington’s first season as general manager, the Pirates ranked 18th in fastball velocity at 90.8 mph. The Pirates’ fastball velocity has improved every year under Huntington, averaging 92.5 mph last season, 10th in baseball.

Per Sawchik, Pirates 2011 first round pick and starting pitcher Gerrit Cole threw 22 pitches that registered at 100 MPH or faster last season. Reliever Bryan Morris averaged 94 MPH on his fastball last year, but showed up in camp throwing 97 MPH, drawing the attention of scouts. Other pitchers who averaged 93 MPH or better last season included relievers Mark Melancon, Vin Mazzaro, Tony Watson, and Justin Wilson, as well as starter Francisco Liriano, a bargain bin pick-up who was a key reason why the Pirates snapped a 20-year-long playoff drought.

Josh Hamilton leaves camp with a tweaked knee

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers poses during a spring training photo shoot on February 28, 2016 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton was already a long shot to make the Texas Rangers roster, but his shot got even longer today, as he left camp to have his reconstructed left knee examined after experiencing pain.

As Jeff Wilson reports, Hamilton felt discomfort in the knee during the Rangers’ first full-squad spring training workout yesterday. Hamilton has had 10 knee operations in career. Which is a lot of knee operations in case you were unaware.

You have to wish good luck to Hamilton, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The guy has not played in the major leagues since 2015 and even then he didn’t play well, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He appeared in one game last year for Double-A Frisco, on April 30. He’ll be paid $24 million this year, mostly by the Angels. One suspects that this will likewise be his last spring training.

Colby Rasmus looks very special this year

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Colby Rasmus #28 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dearest Martha,

When I and the men with whom I share this most noble cause settled in this corner of the Wyoming Territory, we did so in the name of freedom. In the name of our righteous calling from Our Creator. While my love for you is deathless as is the love of the men under my command for their wives and mothers, it pales to our commitment to The Cause. It comes over us like a strong wind and bears us irresistibly into conflict.  

Word comes that President Grant has mustered a thousand troops to disrupt our work and, as I write this, they march westward. Soon they will be upon us. But though they may be blessed with superior arms and numbers, our resolve is unmatched by any force, on Heaven or on Earth. 

If, dearest Martha, I do not survive the coming conflagration, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Know, though, that should I perish, I do so in the name of righteousness. In the name of the establishment of a land where all Men can experience liberty in the way God Almighty intends for us to experience it.

Yours in love, forever,

Colby

Editor’s Note: Colby Rasmus was killed in The Battle of Thermopolis on July 10, 1871 when Federal troops successfully put down the insurrection he and 17 other men mounted, the objective of which was to establish an independent nation in which a willing man could marry a willing bison without the interference of the United States government.

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Colby Rasmus #28 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
PORT CHARLOTTE, FL – FEBRUARY 18: Colby Rasmus #28 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

UPDATE: I was not aware of the fact that some folks at SB Nation had done this bit with Andrew Luck. They do it better, even if Colby Rasmus looks worse than Luck. We all bow to Ken Burns, of course.