The Tribe releases Austin Kearns

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No, this isn’t a big story, and no it’s not surprising at all. Shin-Soo Choo is coming back, a roster spot is needed and Kearns — who is hitting .200/.302/.287 — is the dictionary definition of expendable, so he’s gone.

But it is notable for one reason. For years Kearns was always such a saber-boy darling, with so many — myself included — figuring that his plate patience and skills would turn him into a star. It never happened, for a number of reasons.

I am still and always will be partial to the saber-boy thinking, but I think Kearns — and Jack Cust and some others — are good reminders that, at least a few years ago, there was a habit of going a bit too crazy about players with certain skill sets at a young age.  I think the people who seriously evaluate young talent with a sabermetric bent — Keith Law, Kevin Goldstein, etc. — have long since abandoned such credulity even if they ever truly had it, but a lot of us dilettantes haven’t, even if we’re better about it than we were in 2004.

Just a quasi-deep thought for a Thursday morning.

More position players have pitched this year than ever

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Yesterday, in Milwaukee, utilityman Hernan Perez pitched two scoreless innings, and backup catcher Erik Kratz pitched one himself, mopping up in a blowout loss to the Dodgers. In doing so they became the 31st and 32nd position players to pitch this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most position players who have taken the mound in a season in the Expansion Era, which began in 1961. Presumably far fewer ever did so when the league had only 16 teams.

It’s pretty remarkable to set that record now, in this age of 13 and sometimes 14-man pitching staffs. That’s especially true when teams shuttle guys back and forth from the minors more often than they ever have before and when, due to the shortened, 10-day disabled list, it’s easier to give guys breaks because of “injuries” than it ever has been.

Pitcher usage is driving this, however. While teams carry far more relievers than they ever have before, they actually carry far fewer swingmen or mopup men who are capable of throwing multiple innings in a blowout to save other pitchers’ arms. Rather, teams focus on max-effort, high-velocity relievers who go one or two innings tops, thus requiring catchers and utility guys to help do the mopping that actual pitchers used to do.

I don’t know if that’s a bad thing necessarily — some of these backup catchers throw harder than a lot of pitchers did 30 years ago and it’s always kind of fun to see a position player pitch — but it is yet another way the game has changed due to a focus on specialization and velocity when it comes to pitchers.