Looking at the early season schedule

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Buster Olney runs down the early season schedules for the AL East today, trying to figure out who may get out to a fast start, who may falter early and all of that.  Interesting enough, but his premise doesn’t do much for me:

Last year, you could look at the early-season schedules and make a couple of forecasts. First, the Toronto Blue Jays
appeared to have a great chance to get off to a strong start because
they didn’t have to dive into the AL Beast portion of their schedule —
with games against the Yankees and Red Sox and Rays — until May.

And
second, the schedule appeared to work against Tampa Bay, because of how
top-heavy it was with games against AL powerhouses. Sure enough, the
Blue Jays got off to a great start, and the Rays fell into a hole that
they were never really able to dig out of. This stuff is a big deal, because early-season performance and
perception, in the spring, can help shape attendance in summer. A
strong start will also fuel a team’s market aggressiveness, as
executives decide whether to be buyers.

I think this sort of thing is overstated.  Yes, the Jays started well last year on the strength of an easy early schedule, but it didn’t boost attendance. Toronto drew its lowest crowds in six years and among the lowest since the move to Sky Dome. And it didn’t stop the team from assessing where it was on the success cycle, trading Alex Rios and shopping Roy Halladay all summer. And what about Tampa Bay? Sure, they started out tough, but the were treading water pretty well until they took a six game plunge in the standings in August while not facing either Boston or New York.

The beauty of baseball’s
schedule is that over the course of 162 games there really is nowhere
to hide and no way to game the fans into thinking that you’re something
you’re not.  Injuries and the lucky convergence of a team getting good pitching, good hitting and good fielding at roughly the same time are schedule-free considerations.

Thanks to Buster for pointing out something interesting, but let’s leave strength of schedule arguments — which invariably lead to whining — to the lesser sports.

Report: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

JB Shuck
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Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.

Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.

Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.