Carlos Rodon

Potential top draft pick Carlos Rodon threw 132 pitches in a complete game loss on Friday

34 Comments

NC State Wolfpack starter Carlos Rodon is expected to be one of the first few players taken in the upcoming amateur draft. However, his coaches certainly isn’t being careful with his precious arm. In a complete game loss to Georgia Tech on Friday, Rodon threw 132 pitches. Overall, Rodon allowed one run on six hits and two walks while striking out 15.

As Chris Crawford of MLB Draft Insider noted on Twitter, Rodon has tossed a total of 379 pitches over his last three starts, an average of 126 pitches per start. It’s one thing for a veteran Major League pitcher to average 126 pitches over three starts, but it’s very concerning that the Wolfpack have been riding Rodon’s arm so heavily. As his age implies, the 21-year-old’s arm is still developing and still getting used to a strenuous workload.

ESPN’s Keith Law wrote a column on April 13 raising concern after NC State had Rodon throw 134 pitches. Law criticized Rodon’s coaching staff for making him throw so many pitches:

This was a clear example of a coaching staff putting their own interests over those of a pitcher, a perfect example of moral hazard at work in amateur baseball, one that calls for regulation by the NCAA.

The plight of college athletes has gained some publicity lately with Northwestern football’s quest to unionize and University of Connecticut basketball player Shabazz Napier telling the media that some nights he went to bed “starving”. It’s easy to see the abuse of top-tier pitchers and it’s even easier to see why it happens.

NC State Wolfpack baseball head coach Elliott Avent and associate head coach Tom Holliday don’t get more money or more job security by protecting Rodon. Taking him out of the game after 90 pitches means the team would need to rely on inferior pitchers, making them more likely to lose games. And when the team loses more games, that reflects poorly on the coaching staff. Rodon won’t be giving Avent ten percent of his signing bonus, so what is Avent’s motivation to do anything other than ride Rodon’s arm into the ground, vying for wins?

Unfortunately, Rodon is in a sticky situation. He can’t say no to his manager, as insubordination will stick with him throughout his professional career and it will make him an easy target for controversy. But he also shouldn’t have to put up with being forced to throw nearly 130 pitches every time he pitches. NC State’s season ends on May 17, so Rodon only has another handful of starts to make before he can look forward to starting his professional baseball career. Let’s hope that the miles put on his arm only makes him stronger, and doesn’t make him any more likely to turn into the next Mark Prior.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
3 Comments

Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
30 Comments

In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]