Pablo Sandoval is one of my favorite players because he has a body like David Wells, runs like Kung Fu Panda, and hits .330 despite swinging at everything, which is why I’m sort of sad to read that he’s planning to spend the offseason doing “fitness and nutritional training designed to teach him how to keep his weight down”:
At 22, he is putting up terrific numbers despite his weight, which is more than his listed 246 pounds. The team is concerned he will break down unless he learns to eat properly and stay trimmer.
Sandoval acknowledges he does not eat well, particularly on the road, and he understands why he must surrender three weeks of his winter vacation for this training. “I do want to get better,” Sandoval said. “I want to get in good shape and get ready for next season. I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to play 120 games. I want to play 162 games.”
On one hand not being in great shape would probably cost Sandoval any chance of sticking at third base long term and dropping a few pounds likely won’t hurt his hitting. On the other hand if he’s going to be a first baseman anyway the extra weight isn’t a huge factor defensively and toting around a nice gut doesn’t seem to hurt guys like Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn, David Ortiz, Carlos Lee, Kyle Blanks, Billy Butler, and Ryan Howard.
A thin Pablo Sandoval might be five percent more valuable, but he’d be about 50 percent less interesting.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.