Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr.: “We might be a little challenged as far as overall talent”

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It’s already vote of confidence time in Philadelphia, where general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. praised manager Ryne Sandberg before the Phillies fell to 11-22 with a loss to the Pirates.

I’m happy with the way Ryno has gone about it. He’s on the same page as we are. It’s about giving young players opportunities and teaching them how to win. And that’s what we’re looking for from him, and that’s all we can ask of him. Do whatever he can with his staff to put these players in a position to improve. And that’s what he’s been doing.

Obviously we don’t want to cultivate a culture of losing. We obviously want the very opposite. For me it’s about having guys understand what it takes to win, and trying to play winning baseball. We might be a little challenged as far as overall talent at the major league level right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t play a winning-type of baseball.

Sandberg is now 104-133 since taking over as Phillies manager in mid-2013, but Amaro seems to realize it’d be awfully tough to put the blame on the manager considering his own decision-making over the years.

Also, it would probably be even tougher to find any Phillies fans who agree that the team has been playing “a winning-type of baseball.”

Justin Verlander changed his mechanics to prolong his career

Justin Verlander mechanics
Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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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.