Author: Craig Calcaterra

Alex Avila AP

Alex Avila is not considering retirement despite suffering another concussion


Tigers catcher Alex Avila has taken a tremendous beating behind home plate over the years. He seems to catch more foul tips, bats-on-the-backswing and just about every other thing catchers suffer back there. Avila suffered another concussion in the Tigers’ ALDS Game 3 loss to the Orioles, but he says that he’s going to be fine for the start of spring training and has given no thought to retirement:

“No,” he said. “I’ve had three mild concussions in my career. I had a CT scan and an MRI checking my brain and my neck and the arteries leading to it, and everything checks out normal and healthy. And talking with the neurologist that examined everything, I shouldn’t have any concern.

“It’s like any injury — you have to let it heal 100 percent.”

That phrase — “mild concussions” — is considered by many to be a misleading term, as brain injuries are brain injuries and all of them are serious. Of course, if Avila is given a green light and feels healthy to play, he’s obviously going to play.

It sure would be nice, though, if he could catch a break back there once in a while instead of oh-so-many blows to the head.

Brad Ausmus talks about his bullpen decisions. Short version: he wouldn’t change a thing.

Brad Ausmus

Brad Ausmus has given his first full-length interview since the Tigers bowed out of the playoffs last week amid two bullpen meltdowns in three games.

Lynn Henning of the Detroit News asked him about his bullpen decisions. Specifically, only using a very effective Anibal Sanchez for two innings and 30 pitches in Game 2 and by not using Al Alburquerque at all in a series where Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria melted down in the eighth inning on two occasions.

As for Sanchez, Ausmus cites the fact that he had only pitched a single inning since coming back from an extended stay on the DL prior to the end of the season and that the plan was always to limit him to two innings at a time. Ausmus says that he’d make the decision if he had to do it again. As for Alburquerque, he was never an option to help in those eighth inning disasters. Why?

“No, for me, Albie, who had a great year, his best place is in the sixth or seventh inning,” Ausmus said. “There’s really only one time we might have used him, in Game 2, and we had Sanchie.”

I’m not sure what’s more grating: that Anibal Sanchez’s nickname is “Sanchie” or that Ausmus is so locked in on set roles for his relievers that he’d not consider using one of his more effective ones to stop an implosion because it just happens to not be the inning which, God apparently, has deemed it to be his.

The Cardinals will try to limit Adam Wainwright’s workload next season

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright was brilliant at times this year but he also battled fatigue and soreness, and his last couple of playoff outings have been rough, possibly as a result of all of that. He’s been one of the hardest worked pitchers in baseball throughout his career, but going forward the Cardinals are going to try to limit his mileage, reports Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch:

Wainwright already had a reduced schedule this past spring, and a further reduction is possible. The Cardinals also could prescribe rest periods for Wainwright next season, as they have done in two-week increments for the younger pitchers. Wainwright has defined himself by a pursuit to lead the league in innings, but the club will at least discuss a way to reduce his regular-season work so he isn’t spent by October.

There aren’t many tougher pitchers in baseball than Wainwright. He is one of the few guys who excelled after rehabbing a partially torn UCL, and then when he finally did need Tommy John surgery, he excelled after that as well.

But the innings and pitches do take a toll, so the Cards will try — after this postseason ends — to find a way to pace their ace.

The strike zone is getting really, really big

Strike zone

In the 90s there was a lot of talk about the strike zone expanding to the right and left, especially for pitchers like Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux who could consistently hit points outside of the zone and convince umpires to give them those calls as a result of that consistency.

But overall, the zone was a lot smaller then. The offensive numbers certainly bear that out as both the high strike and the low strike all but disappeared and hitters could crush anyone who couldn’t paint those corners (or just outside those corners) like Glavine and Maddux.

The wide zone doesn’t exist now like it used to. Most attribute that to Pitchf/x, which Major League Baseball has used to grade umpires over the years. They’ve been called out on that leniency and have called a more accurate zone, laterally speaking.

But boy howdy, it has grown vertically. As Jon Roegele demonstrates at The Hardball Times, the zone has grown and grown significantly, and it more than anything else is what has led to the low offensive environment and lack of contact we see in today’s game:

The average strike zone size increased by 16 square inches in 2014 over 2013, growing the zone to a robust 40 square inches larger than just five seasons prior. In the previous articles we discussed how the zone has actually been squeezing in at the sides slightly, but is stretching like crazy down from the knees as if it is under the clutches of gravity. (And like Radiohead said in Fake Plastic Trees, gravity always wins.)

This is the sort of thing that leads to the league, however silently, making adjustments. Formally redefining the zone or leaning on umpires to informally change things. Possibly, as definitely happened in the National League in the 1930s and many people suspect happened in 1987 and 1993, juicing the baseball.