Tag: Yorvit Torrealba

Billy Butler

The slowest player in baseball


You know that dream where you are running and running but are not actually getting anywhere. I know people have all sorts of theories about this dream and what it means. Some say it indicates that you have too many things going in your life and can’t quite keep up. Some say it’s the body reacting to being in a sleep state. Some say it doesn’t have any specific meaning at all, but it just an outlet for your brain.

I have come to believe that dream is simply about Kansas City designated hitter Billy Butler.

Billy Butler is slow. Spectacularly slow. It is in his nature. Butler came up when he was 21 years old, a bit of a prodigy when it came to hitting a baseball, and he promptly posted a 108 OPS+. He could hit right away — I predicted from Day 1 that he would win a batting title someday, and I still think he will. But he was spectacularly slow even then, even as a kid. In 2009, he hit .301 with 51 doubles. He was spectacularly slow. The next year he hit .318/.388/.469. He was spectacularly slow. Now, at age 27, he’s an established guy, an All-Star, a lifetime .298 hitter with more than 1,000 career hits an a lifetime 122 OPS+. He remains spectacularly slow.

I have long said that the slowest measurement known to man is a “Molina” and that all players can be measured against it. It’s sort of the opposite of the speed of light — the theory goes that nothing can go faster than the speed of light and so it can be a constant in formulas like the classic E=MC2. Well, I have long believed that nothing on earth moves slower than a Molina — Bengie, specifically, but none of the Molinas are exactly Usain Bolt — and so every player can be measured by Molinas. Jacoby Ellsbury, for instance, is 584,372 Molinas. Meanwhile, someone slow like Paul Konerko is closer to 1.21 Molinas.

One theory about the speed of light is that if anything COULD move faster, it would actually go backward in time. My scientific theory is that anything that moves slower than a Molina would actually stop time or, at least, hit into many double plays.

Billy Butler moves slower than a Molina. It’s part of his enormous charm. There are numbers that show his ultrasonic lead-footedness. He has hit one triple since Sept. 1, 2009. He has hit into more double plays than any player over the last five seasons. He has stolen five bases in his career. Among players with more than 4,000 plate appearances only nine players — among them the legendarily slow Gus Triandos, Cecil Fielder, Dick Stuart, Victor Martinez and, of course, Bengie Molina — have stolen fewer bases.

But more than the statistics, there is the extraordinary joy of watching Billy Butler play baseball. His running is only part of it. Butler is listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds and it’s possible that both numbers are exaggerated to the good (more on this in a minute). His uniform pant legs seem about four sizes too big, so that the bottoms bunch up around his shoes and it looks like he is wearing a hand me down from a much older brother. I remember when Billy came up to the big leagues, the other guys on the team gave him a pretty hard time because of his size and age and body type ad speed and because Billy is just a good-hearted lug who commands that sort of ribbing. Anyway, he was taking some pretty decent abuse when someone told him the only comeback he would ever need for such situations.

“Yeah,” Billy was told to say, “but I can hit.”

He can hit, boy. He has a wide stance and perfect balance and his batting swing is absolutely pure. He steps back with his left leg then steps in, utterly in sync, like a dance step, and his eyes lock in on the ball, and his bat rips through the zone, and it’s a thing of beauty. The best word for that swing is gorgeous. Only Robinson Cano has hit more doubles than Butler the last five seasons, and you know Billy ain’t legging any of those out. The man crunches line drives into gaps and smashes shots down the third base line and launches balls off the wall. For him they are doubles. For almost anyone else, some would be triples.

And he runs. You can feel the ground move. There has never really been any question about Butler’s effort. He doesn’t loaf like MannyBManny. He simply moves his legs and his body doesn’t go anywhere. It’s like some kind of magic trick. He will hit a ground ball to short and you will see him start running up the line. Then you will follow the ball to short, follow the throw to first and look back … and Billy’s in the same spot where your eyes left him.

The game has a marvelous history of impossibly slow players. Gus Triandos. Ernie Lombardi. They called Charlie Hickman “Piano Legs” and he was considered an especially slow runner — but he hit 91 triples and stole 72 bases in his career so that doesn’t seem to match up. Boog Powell, however, was famously slow as were other Orioles like Elrod Hendricks and Ken Singleton and Richie Dauer. Baltimore manager Earl Weaver didn’t really care about speed. Incidentally, Dauer does not not get enough credit for his slowness — he had 984 hits, only two were triples, and he was caught 13 of the 19 times he tried to steal a base.

Shanty Hogan was a huge, slow guy famous for eating all the time — it was said once, when ordered by John McGraw to lose weigh, Hogan decided instead to buy a suit way too big for him so that it would LOOK like he lost weight. It didn’t work. Hogan, like Billy Butler, was listed at, 6-foot-1, 240 pounds. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think 6-foot-1, 240 pounds is not an actual height and weight, it’s a code for something else. Call it the Da Shanty Code.

Players with 1,000-plus games in big leagues listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds:

— Shanty Hogan.

— Billy Butler

— Bob Hamelin

Willie Mays Aikens is one of the most amazing stories in baseball history. When he was born, the doctor named him after Willie Mays … and he actually made it to the big leagues and hit 20-plus homers three times. Think of the odds of that. And then, think of the odds of that someone being named Willie Mays and him probably being the slowest player in baseball. Willie Mays Aikens was like the opposite of Willie Mays Hayes. He was so slow that when he hit a triple in the 1980 World Series, the reaction in the Kansas City dugout was not joy as much as it was insane laughter.

Anyway, it’s a proud role, being the slowest guy in baseball, and I’ve long though that Billy Butler had that all wrapped up. Then, the other day, John Dewan over at Baseball Info Solutions said that in their research they have been timing runners to first base on ground balls that are potential double plays. He has promised to send over some more detailed information, which I will add to the post, but for now here are the five slowest:

1. Welington Castillo, Cubs, 4.84 seconds

2. Billy Butler, Royals, 4.81 seconds

3. Paul Konerko, White Sox, 4.77 seconds

4. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, 4.67 seconds

(Tie) Yorvit Torrealba, Rockies, 4.67 seconds

Hmm. I’ve got to see the Welington Castillo character run.

Addendum: Great add from BR Blair. He tweeted: “4.84 seconds over 90 feet … linear extrapolation says that’s a 6.45 forty.” Could you imagine looking up any prospect in the NFL and seeing something like, “Strong player and has a great attitude. One drawback is that he runs a 6.5 forty.”

Catchers are suffering concussions at an alarming rate

Joe Mauer

Twins catcher Joe Mauer was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list yesterday after taking multiple foul tips off his mask in Monday’s game led to dizziness 24 hours later and as LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes Mauer is the fifth catcher currently on the concussion DL.

Mauer joins Alex Avila, John Jaso, Carlos Corporan, and Yorvit Torrealba on the concussion DL and within the past month fellow catchers Salvador Perez, Ryan Doumit, and David Ross have been sidelined by concussions. Even minor league catching prospect Tommy Joseph of the Phillies recently had his season ended by a concussion.

Obviously plenty of non-catchers have had concussions too, but the rate at which catchers are suffering brain injuries this season is startling. At any given time there are somewhere between 60 and 75 catchers on MLB rosters and within the past 30 days around 15 percent of them have been on the disabled list specifically designed for concussions. MLB has made major strides in terms of concussion awareness and treatment in general, but it’s time to take a long look at the physical toll catching takes on someone’s brain before careers and lives are ruined.

Yorvit Torrealba likely to go on concussion disabled list

Yorvit Torrealba
Leave a comment

Yorvit Torrealba is expected to be placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list after taking a foul tip off his catcher’s mask yesterday, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post.

Torrealba has played sparingly as the Rockies’ backup catcher, starting 40 of 125 games while hitting .252 with zero homers and a career-worst .608 OPS.

Part-time catcher Jordan Pacheco is the only other potential backstop currently on the 40-man roster.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

Yankees' Soriano points as he crosses home plate in the fifth inning of their MLB American League baseball game the Angels in New York

Yankees 11, Angels 3: Holy cow, Alfonso Soriano. Two homers and seven RBI. The old guy has four homers, six runs scored and 13 RBI in his last two games. The Yankees have won four straight.

Reds 5, Cubs 0: Seven shutout innings from Bronson Arroyo helps the Redlegs snag the three-game sweep. My friend Mark, a Reds fan, still calls them the Redlegs, by the way. No, he is not some fervent anti-communist from the 1950s. He’s like 35.

Indians 9, Twins 8:  Down 7-3 entering the eighth inning, the Indians rallied thanks to a couple baserunners reaching followed by a Michael Brantley RBI single and a Jason Giambi three-run homer. Brantley then won it with a sac fly in the 12th. Joe Mauer had five hits in a winning effort (personally) in a losing effort (collectively).

Tigers 6, White Sox 4: Miguel Cabrera can hardly walk right now but he can still turn like nothing else on inside fastballs and send them over the fence. It’s like he’s adding last season on top of Kirk Gibson’s 1988. Just give him the MVP now.

Rockies 4, Padres 2: What the heck, Yorvit Torrealba? That was pretty spiffy. It was assisted strongly by some dumb, dumb baserunning by the Padres but you can’t take anything away from Torrealba. I mean, how could he have expected the Padres to be so stupid? Give him kudos for not stopping and blinking in confusion at what San Diego was doing and instead simply reacting and acting.

Marlins 5, Royals 2: Neither the Royals bullpen nor defense could hold a late 2-1 lead and the Marlins rallied. Justin Ruggiano broke an 0 for 42 slump with three hits and an RBI.

Diamondbacks 5, Orioles 4: Another day another walkoff win for the Dbacks over the Orioles. This time in the 14th via an Aaron Hill RBI single. Jim Johnson has blown nine saves now for the Orioles. They’re six games out in the East and 2.5 back in the wild card. You do the math.

Nationals 6, Giants 5: Jordan Zimmermann allowed one run in seven innings and win his NL-best 14th. The game was really won, however, when Denard Span made this sweet catch with two on and two out in the ninth. That drops, the Giants are up heading into the bottom of the ninth.

Braves 6, Phillies 3: Chris Johnson drove in three and Jason Heyward homered to lead off the game but perhaps the most important thing for the Braves was the continued improvement of Brandon Beachy. He wasn’t as good as his last time out but in his fourth start since returning from Tommy John he was throwing sliders and didn’t walk anyone.

Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3: The Red Sox rallied for two in the ninth to force extras. It could have been a bigger rally but they left the bases loaded. They left a couple more runners stranded in their half of the tenth and then Brett Lawrie singled home the winning run in the bottom half to give Toronto the win. Boston has lost four of six.

Pirates 5, Cardinals 1: Francisco Liriano was great, allowing a single run on four hits while going the distance, Shelby Miller: not so great, allowing five runs — three earned — in six in his first game back after being hit by that comebacker. Pittsburgh’s lead in the Central goes back to three games.

Rays 5, Mariners 4: Tampa Bay snaps their six-game skid thanks to a ninth inning rally. Ben Zobrist tripled to lead it off, Matt Joyce singled to tie it, Evan Longoria doubled and Wil Myers was intentionally walked to load the bases. Then Jason Bourgeois, who had entered the game as a pinch runner earlier, singled to right over the Mariners’ drawn-in outfield. Ballgame.

Dodgers 5, Mets 4: The Mets had a 4-0 lead in the sixth and blew it because the Dodgers winning is the most inevitable thing in baseball these days. They’re such a force that every time the Dodgers win people change their basic unit of baseball measurement. The other day it was “the best record in 46 games,” then “the best record in 47 games,” now “the best record in 48 games.” June 22 — the date from which all of these games are being measured — has taken on the feeling of a sacred holiday. We can all it the Feast of St. Arbitrarious or something.

Rangers 5, Brewers 4: A come-from-behind win for the Rangers thanks to an Elvis Andrus RBI single and an Ian Kinsler a two-run single in the eighth. The Rangers only had one extra base hit all game. The Brewers issued six walks. Not gonna go in Milwaukee’s memory book.

Astros 2, Athletics 1: Carlos Corporan hit an RBI double off reliever Sean Doolittle in the 11th inning to win it. He was given the chance to do so thanks in part to this catch by Robbie Grossman in the 10th which robbed Chris Young’s would-be walkoff homer. Lotsa nice plays yesterday, no?

Dodgers acquire catcher Ramon Hernandez from Rockies for right-hander Aaron Harang

Ramon Hernandez Getty
Leave a comment

UPDATE: The Rockies have already designated Harang for assignment.

3:16 PM: CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Rockies will get right-hander Aaron Harang in return, but FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal hears that they don’t plan to keep him.

Harang, who turns 35 in May, posted a 3.61 ERA and 131/85 K/BB ratio over 179 2/3 innings last season. Because of the Dodgers’ starting pitching depth, he began this season in the bullpen. Colorado appeared to be a curious fit for his skill set, as he is known as a fly ball pitcher, but apparently he will be on the move again soon.

Harang is owed $7 million this season in the final guaranteed year of his contract. His mutual option includes a $2 million buyout.

2:40 PM: According to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, the Dodgers have acquired veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez from the Rockies. The deal hasn’t been officially announced, but the Rockies are expected to get some salary relief in the deal.

Hernandez was designated for assignment by the Rockies last week after losing out to Yorvit Torrealba for the backup catcher job. The 36-year-old backstop .217/.247/.353 with five home runs and a .601 OPS in 52 games last season while battling hand and hamstring injuries. He’s owed $3.2 million this season in the final year of his contract.

Hernandez will presumably replace Tim Federowicz as A.J. Ellis’ backup catcher.