A lot of focus on Mookie Betts in recent weeks, and as always a bunch of prospect-related stuff, even though Josh’s Dodgers Prospect Notes probably has most of it covered.
After becoming the franchise’s all-time strikeout leader, the Dodgers released a video recapping Clayton Kershaw‘s memorable strikeouts throughout his amazing career.
Come back soon, please.
MLB: While we’re on Dodgers pitching, some guy named Mike Petriello did a compelling explainer about why the excellent start of the pitching staff is likely legit (and so far historically good).
Six pitchers have made a start for Los Angeles so far. Tyler Anderson’s perfectly solid 2.78 ERA is by far the worst. He’s the only one north of 2.00. In no version of baseball is a 2.78 ERA subpar … unless you’re in this particular Dodgers rotation. It might not be this good all year long. But it might not be far off, either.
They, of course, proceeded to get absolutely battered by the Phillies, but the point is legit anyway.
FanGraphs: Mookie’s production seems to be back after some concerning signs last year and early this year, but there’s still a noticeable struggle against four-seam fastballs.
The samples obviously aren’t large, but I think it’s fair to say that Betts’ deteriorating performance against four-seamers is a cause for concern, even while he’s generally performing at a high level, remaining an exceptionally disciplined hitter who produces high contact rates (though his 16.5% strikeout rate is a career high) and power. His speed seems to have taken a hit amid last year’s injuries; he placed in the 72nd to 76th percentiles from 2016-19, was up to the 87th percentile in the shortened ’20 season — he didn’t have a whole season to wear down — but down to the 53rd last year and the 48th this year. I can tell you from gazing at his Statcast page for the past few days (a totally normal thing to do, why do you ask?) that he was in the 39th percentile earlier this week, so that’s on the rise. Likewise for his outfield jumps, which place him in the 69th percentile, up from the 61st last year and right around where he was in 2018-19.
Unrelated to this analysis, but I actually think expectations for him are a bit out of whack a bit in terms of hitting. Offensively, 2018 was a clear outlier (2017 kinda evens it out), and he’s otherwise been a pretty consistent 130-140 wRC+ kind of hitter. Very good but not elite. It’s just that he also does everything else a baseball player needs to do at the very good level as well, and that’s what makes him elite in sum.
Basically, if you expect Mookie to hit significantly better than he is right now, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. He has that upside, but don’t expect it.
OC Register: Mookie has heard people telling him to eat a burger cause they thought he was vegan, and quite frankly he seems confused by it all. Considering he did it for health reasons, it must be pretty fucking annoying to have fans chirping about it.
Betts is eating whatever he wants – to a point. He says the vegan eating only lasted a couple of months last year and was prompted by high cholesterol numbers and a family history of related health issues. “I have not been vegan for a long time,” he said. “It wasn’t just for the hell of it. It was for health purposes. … So those people who say that (he needs to eat more), if I want to live with high cholesterol and all that (stuff) – then, okay, why not?” Betts said sticking to the vegan diet was “super hard” and he lost a significant amount of weight, dropping to 160 pounds from his previous 173. It wasn’t just fans who were concerned about Betts losing strength. He said his mother wasn’t totally on board with the vegan diet either. “My mom was real concerned,” he said. “‘You need to eat. You need to eat.’ Of course. But it was just to get the (cholesterol) numbers down. I’m okay with suffering a couple months to get my health better for the long term. That’s all it was.”
The article otherwise goes a bit deeper into the nutrition side of things for the Dodgers.
MLB: Mark Feinsand talks with Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes about a lot of background stuff, but it’s interesting that for such an analytically-inclined organization it seems like where the Dodgers gain marginal advantages is in developing relationships with people, same as it ever was.
MLB.com: How do you think having played in the big leagues and having spent as much time in the Minors as you did helped you in that farm director job?
Gomes: Having perspective in anything is incredibly helpful. Being fairly close to being done playing, I think there was a relatability to the players, even though they were 15 years younger than I was. I think there’s some perspective in being able to talk with them and say, ‘Hey, I get it’ — especially when you’re having the difficult conversations.
MLB.com: You played for a very analytically inclined organization with Tampa Bay. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the key to getting players to buy into a lot of analytic-related information is the way it’s presented to them. Was that the case for you as a player? Have you found that to be the case on this side, too?
Gomes: Especially early on, the presentation of information for the group of players that grew up and learned the game without having that be part of every single practice session was challenging but also exciting. It’s like, ‘How do we bring all of this information down to one nugget or two that is applicable and can be digested and executed by this player?’ You can have 10 things that Player X needs to improve upon, and while you can try to do all 10 at the same time, he’s probably not going to get very good at any of them. What is the most important piece? Let’s tackle that and present it in a way that makes sense to the player. You have to also understand that player; how they work, how their mind works. It’s going to be different for every guy.
Baseball Prospectus: Landon Knack gets a mention. Seems to have helium.
All in all, the stuff plays. It’s a monster of a fastball with a couple secondaries projecting as average-to-above. The negative on the day was erratic control/command, but history indicates that was more than likely a natural function of it being Knack’s first start. His senior year of college saw him walk all of one batter (while striking out 51) in 25 innings during the COVID-shortened season, and his professional debut totaled eight free passes in 62-⅓ frames. Pitching prospects are always high variability—I’ve seen my share of nasty arms simply lose their best pitch or go down with injuries—but Knack’s on the path to being another impact arm in LA, with a mid-rotation profile fully in the frame.
MLB Pipeline: The best pure hitting prospect in the Dodgers system? Dustin’s son, Miguel Vargas.
Dodgers: Miguel Vargas, 3B (No. 5/MLB No. 92)
The son of Lazaro Vargas, the DH on Cuba’s 1992 and 1996 Olympic champions, Vargas defected with his father in November 2015 and signed for $300,000 two years later. He has an advanced understanding of his right-handed stroke and barrels balls and controls the strike zone with ease. He won the Double-A Central batting title (.321) last year at age 21, is hitting .275 as the third-youngest regular in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and owns a career .313 average as a pro.
MLB Pipeline: The prospect with the best fastball in the system? Who else?
Dodgers: Bobby Miller, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 55)
A first-round pick from Louisville in 2020, Miller can work at 97-98 mph for several innings at a time and hit triple digits with riding action on his four-seam fastball and also mix in a heavy mid-90s two-seamer with sink. He famously whiffed Shohei Ohtani on a 100-mph heater in an April exhibition game and has recorded a 5.51 ERA with a 20/5 K/BB ratio in 16 1/3 Double-A innings.
Forbes: Maury Brown looks at baseball’s popularity with advertisers.
“More people will consume MLB games on the regional sports networks over the next six months than the top 30 entertainment programs, and any other sports by a sanctioning body – whether that’s PGA golf, NASCAR, or even early season football – they don’t compare in total scale. When you include the audience size and type, MLB via the RSNs is attractive to marketers,” said Craig Sloan, chief operating officer of Playfly Sports. “It’s still family viewing. It’s still appointment television. And it’s still the #1 impression delivery mechanism for April through September.”
Found it to be insightful as to why these regional sports networks are giving teams so much damn money.