Move over Jim Rice, Michael Cuddyer on record-shattering double play pace

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One of the downsides to the first four hitters in the Twins’ batting order having on-base percentages of .365, .358, .410, and .477 is that their already double play-prone No. 5 hitter Michael Cuddyer has an incredible number of chances to make two outs at a time.
Cuddyer has grounded into an MLB-high 12 double plays in 41 games, which puts him on pace to finish with 48 or so double plays on the season and shatter Jim Rice’s all-time record of 36 in 1984. Rice also holds the No. 2 spot with 35 in 1985, and a player has hit into 30 or more DPs just 15 times in baseball history.
Cuddyer leads MLB in DPs and is on pace to break Rice’s record by 35 percent, yet his DP rate–how often he hits into a DP when given an opportunity–isn’t even among the 10 worst. Cuddyer has hit into a double play 24 percent of the time, which is a very high rate and well above his career norms, but Ivan Rodriguez leads MLB at 33 percent and Yadier Molina, Mark DeRosa, Carlos Lee, Orlando Cabrera, Aaron Rowand, Matt LaPorta, Billy Butler, Alberto Callaspo, Paul Konerko, and Garrett Atkins are all above 25 percent.
You’ll notice that, like Cuddyer, nearly all of those guys are right-handed batters without much speed, but unlike Cuddyer not all of them have had a gazillion chances to hit into a double play this year. On the flip side, Twins cleanup hitter Justin Morneau has yet to ground into a double play. In addition to being left-handed and not having his own .477 OBP constantly standing on first base, Morneau also has the lowest ground-ball rate in the entire league. Crushed fly balls are rarely DPs.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.