The Mets sign Chris Young

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They were “closing in on a deal” late yesterday afternoon, but now the deal is reportedly done: Chris Young has agreed to a deal with the Mets. The deal is pending a physical, which is pretty key here given Young’s shoulder troubles last season.

Young is worth a gamble as long as he’s not pricey, which he shouldn’t be. If he pitches well he could hang around and solidify the rotation. Or he could be dealt at the deadline for some foundational pieces. No real downside here. And then there’s this from Adam Rubin’s column yesterday:

The 6-foot-10 Young played basketball and baseball at Princeton. Capuano was Phi Beta Kappa at Duke. Dickey was an English major at the University of Tennessee and is extremely well-read. Left-handed reliever Taylor Tankersley is also known as an intellectual, and his father is a nuclear physicist.

How much you want to bet that if the Mets start the season out poorly the talk radio and tabloid guys go on a big anti-intellectualism kick?  I bet they have interns combing Bill Plaschke’s old anti-Paul DePodesta columns for material as we speak. I just hope that they update the slide rule references to graphing calculators or something. You know, to keep it fresh.

Justin Verlander changed his mechanics to prolong his career

Justin Verlander mechanics
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Last week, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reported that Astros starter and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander changed his mechanics in order to prolong his career. Specifically, Verlander lowered his release point from 7’2″ to 6’5″.

As Brooks Baseball shows, Verlander drastically altered his release point after being traded to the Astros from the Tigers on August 31, 2017. The change resulted in a huge bump in his strikeout rate. Verlander’s strikeout rate ranged between 16% and 27.4% with the Tigers, mostly settling in the 23-25% range. With The Tigers through the first five months of 2017, Verlander struck out 24.1% of batters. In the final month with the Astros, he struck out 35.8% of batters. He then maintained that rate over the entire 2018 and ’19 seasons with respective rates of 34.8% and 35.4%. Just as impressively, the release point also resulted in fewer walks. His walk rate ranged from 5.9% to 9.9% with the Tigers but was 4.4% and 5.0% the last two seasons with the Astros.

Verlander finished a runner-up in 2018 AL Cy Young Award balloting to Blake Snell before edging out teammate Gerrit Cole for the award last season. Despite the immense success, Verlander described his mechanics as unsustainable. Per The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan, Verlander said, “I changed a lot of stuff that some people would think was unnecessary. But I thought it was necessary, especially if I want to play eight, 10 more years.”

Verlander is 37 years old, so 10 more seasons would put him into Jamie Moyer territory. Moyer, who consistently ranked among baseball’s softest-tossing pitchers, pitched 25 seasons in the majors from 1986-2012.  He threw 111 2/3 innings with the Phillies in 2010 at the age of 47 and 53 2/3 innings with the Rockies in 2012 at 49. But aside from Moyer and, more recently, Bartolo Colon, it’s exceedingly rare for pitchers to extend their careers into their 40’s, let alone their mid- and late-40’s.

The Astros have Verlander under contract through 2021. The right-hander will have earned close to $300 million. He’s won a World Series, a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, two Cy Youngs, and has been an eight-time All-Star. Verlander could retire after 2021 and would almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2027. That he continues to tweak his mechanics in order to pitch for another decade speaks to his highly competitive nature.