Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten Memorial Player of the Week: Caleb Joseph?

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Caleb Joseph hammered the ever loving piss out of the baseball this past week. He hit the ball so hard so frequently, we’ve brought back one of our favorite features from the past on the blog.

Caleb Joseph is a 28 year-old rookie catcher who entered the week with three career home runs. He’s hitting .227 on the season and the chances are if you were in a pay phone booth and he knocked on the window and told you he needed to use it, you wouldn’t realize it was a big league player and you would keep talking.

Here’s what he did this past week:

8 for 18 (.444), Five home runs, nine RBI, a double, 1.778 OPS and that’s without anyone bothering to walk him.

That was career games 49 to 53 in the career of Caleb Joseph. He’s unlikely to ever have a run again in his career where he homers in five straight (he went 1 for 4 without homering today). Hell, he’s unlikely to ever appear on this blog again. But for what he did this past week, he’s brought back the HHMWMPOY. And it’s back to stay.

A Bucket List Item Sits in the distance

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Here’s an image you’re likely to see repeated many times over between now and next July when the Cincinnati Reds host the 2015 All Star Game in the Queen City.

I’ve waited my entire life for this game to come to Cincinnati. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll pay for everything, but I have to be there in some form for all the festivities, game included.

As for reviewing the logo, they could have done a bit more with it; but it’s clean and I like it.

Now all I need is Jay Bruce to have an All-Star season and rebound from his 2014 campaign and be there to come full circle in his career. That Home Run Derby in that bandbox has his name written all over it.

Atlanta’s panties in a bind over Bryce Harper’s gamesmanship

The Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals locked up in a late night game that didn’t get underway until almost 11 PM on the east coast due to a lengthy rain delay. The Nationals won the game 4-1 in 11 innings, but as it often happens when two rivals get together, the final score was the secondary story.

I didn’t notice this while watching the game live, but saw a tweet from David O’Brien that alerted me about it. Bryce Harper appeared to scuff the Braves ‘A’ behind home plate before stepping into the batters box every time up.

Of course, this sent Braves fans into an uproar. Saying that Harper didn’t respect their logo (he doesn’t need to), and generally leading them to say that the kid lacks all kinds of respect and whatnot.

I think it’s great. For all the unbecoming things Harper has accomplished this season – hitting .250, getting hurt a lot, base-running blunders what seems like every other night – this is what’s great about the kid. He isn’t stupid and is simply stirring up the rivalry. Of course he probably has programmed himself to hate playing Atlanta, especially in Atlanta; a team that has been the Nationals very own House of Horrors.

At the end of the day, baseball is entertainment. Some argue that it’s not entertaining enough. They’re nuts, of course. But that’s what people say. When something like this goes down, it should make the public crave more of these two getting together. Like, what the Hell is going to happen tonight when they face off on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN after they’ve had a night to sleep on Harper scuffing their prize logo?

Good for Harper.

A Bat Flippin’ Good Time Podcast: The Cubs are on their way

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Last night, Mike Hllywa (Gammons Daily, Halo Hangout) and M.J. Lloyd (Baseball Prospectus, Off-Base Percentage) and I hung out in our virtual bar and talked some baseball for an hour. We rolled out the new name of the podcast, A Bat Flippin’ Good Time; and that’s what we had damnit!

Topics discussed include:

  • Our usual Mike Trout segment
  • Angels playoff odds
  • The David Price trade.
  • The Cubs’ young nucleus and bright future (and MJ’s bromance for Kris Bryant).
  • Thoughts on Bryce Harper’s present, future, and the Washington Nationals.
  • Mike H’s trip to Anaheim for a perfect day of baseball for his son’s first game.
  • Pop Culture Segment: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie, Breaking Bad, and more.

Angels Survive 19 inning Marathon with Red Sox

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[Box Score]

[Boston Globe] [OC Register]

This was a WILD one. I had the game on for much of it, and once again the Angels’ magical season rolls on through an improbable event. It was Albert Pujols’ 19th inning home run – the 514th of his illustrious career – that kept this game from running into some Sunday morning church services.

By the end of the game, Pujols had played five innings at his old position third base. Matt Shoemaker had thrown three scoreless innings as the final arm out of the Angels pen.

Mike Trout hit a solo home run in the 8th inning, his 25th of the season and first as a 23-year old player off Clay Buchholz; who was actually throwing a pretty good game. They were just getting started at that point.

Of course I dozed off somewhere in the 16th or 17th inning, at 2:30 AM ET, a time when no normal human should still be up to see how a ballgame concludes.

This was one of the better games of the season and an incredible effort by the Angels.

The Angels turned around today and lost 3-1 in the series finale. Their only run coming on Mike Trout’s 26th home run of the season. These teams were dog tired, and today would have been a great under bet with your local book. Of course, we were out baby crib shopping all day; so we didn’t capitalize.

Your Saturday Baseball Post

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Welcome to what is still the finest day of the baseball week, and regular week. Preseason NFL football has started to impose on the baseball season as it always impolitely does, but that doesn’t mean that baseball is taking a backseat. There’s another meaty month of the baseball season left before the real football begins, and a lot of high drama yet to be decided in your fantasy and our real life standings.

As always, full slate of baseball today from sun up to sun down with the first game kicking off here as the post goes live.

Enjoy your Saturday, and pay homage somehow to the best sport on earth while you still can. The flag will be at half mass today here at the blog that always salutes baseball.

Thank you for your continued support of Diamond Hoggers.

The Home Run Bryce Harper Desperately Needed

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[Box Score]

Bryce Harper came under fire, and the volcano reached it’s apex point yesterday with talk that he should be sent to the minors, sent to the Disabled List, and other general diatribes mapping out how he’s ruined himself.

The Nationals locked up in a 13-inning game with the Mets yesterday afternoon in DC. While the baseball world had it’s eyes on Javier Baez, the game of baseball and it’s irony reared pointed the finger at those who had beeen wondering if Harper had lost it.

And to be honest – no one will believe this – I knew Bryce Harper was hitting a walk-off home run to win this game. I had the game on the radio and actually thought it was going to come in the 11th off Buddy Carlyle. He singled off him. Two innings later, I just shook my head when my premonition came to life. This was probably Harper’s best swing of the season, all things considered. It was an outside fastball that caught too much of the plate, and hopefully this stinging contact allowed him to realize that he has the natural power to hit balls out the other way. Harper’s power to all fields is probably what we’ve remained the most impressed about through his whole career, even with his struggles. Lately, teams have built a book on him that has seen them go away on the outer half of the plate with hard stuff to get him out.

This is the type of swing that could get Harper on a tear for the rest of the season.

Adam Dunn threw the ninth inning in Chicago last evening

The White Sox were brutalized last night by the Texas Rangers by a score of 16-0. But for those who paid hard earned money for a ticket, all was not lost.

There are certain ‘baseball things’ you grab your cell phone for when you’re half asleep to fire off a handful of texts to your buddies. Big Adam Dunn coming out of the wind-up, painting corners at 80 would be at the top of that list.

There’s only a select few players in the game’s scavenger hunt of history who have pitched an inning on the mound and hit over 400 career home runs. Babe Ruth is one of them, and one of our all-time favorites Adam Dunn is now part of that list.

Things like this make baseball fun.

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Yesterday was Javier Baez Day.

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[Box Score]

Javier Baez career game number one got off to a great start. After the Cubs’ closer Hector Rondon blew an 11th inning lead, it was time for the heavy dramatics. Javier Baez’s first big league hit left the park and won the game for the Cubbies out in Colorado.

An amazing beginning. A great sign. We think he’ll be a .250 hitter here at best for a while but he’s going to hit some mistakes out because the power is real

We typically post a heavily-touted prospect’s scouting report before wishing him well in his big league debut. There are no great scouting reports on Baez out there on the internet for free, so you don’t get that today.

Albert Pujols Mocks Yasiel Puig

The Freeway Series between the Angels and the Dodgers kicked off last night in Chavez Ravine. A solid pitching matchup between Zack Greinke and Garrett Richards was on the docket, burgeoning superstars in Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig were in each team’s respective lineup and two teams with a couple of the better records in baseball settling in for regional supremacy.
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The Elephant on the Mound

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Dave Barnes is a New York Yankees fan residing in Philadelphia. He is also just a huge fan of the game and a baseball purist. Today he makes his debut on Diamond Hoggers. Expect a column from Dave from time to time.

For anyone who has been following the world’s greatest game closely over the past decade, there has been one story that has been more puzzling than any other. No, it’s not broad PED use. No, it’s not how the hell Nelson Cruz didn’t catch that World Series clinching fly ball in 2011. No, it’s not even how Jose Bautista went from being a decent utility player to a homerun hitter with Superman like bat speed in the MIDDLE of his career. While all of these certainly make one scratch their head, it is undeniably the Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) surgery that has been the most puzzling, even to professionals. To understand this issue it is important to understand the surgery itself, as well as potential causes of the injury from both a physical and cultural perspective. Finally, some possible changes that could be made as well as some of the financial and procedural complications of these changes will be discussed. Simply put, the problem is not only complex but also deeply rooted in the athletes and even more importantly, all of us.

Before diving into a more abstract discussion of the issue, let’s take a look at what this medical condition really is. Before continuing, I must state that I am not a medical doctor (my graduate degree is in psychology) but over the years I’ve been able to scrap together a somewhat cohesive schema of the anatomy and physiology of the problem. The Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL/Tommy John Ligament) is a ligament that is responsible for stabilizing the elbow during overhead movements. Pitching, being the violent overhead motion that it is, strains this ligament. There are two separate types of injury, chronic (gradual) and traumatic (acute). The chronic condition can be treated more conservatively through activity modification, cessation of throwing, rest and a throwing program to (hopefully) strengthen the area back up to performance ready levels. The more acute “pop” situation is one that most often results in UCL reconstruction surgery. Simply put, humans did not evolve to throw things violently from an overhead angle, especially not 100-130 times within 2-3 hours. With that said, the sport of baseball has been played professionally for over a century, so the main question is where did all of this come from? Let’s take a look at some common responses that have been discussed in the media.

Perhaps the two causes that we have heard most commonly are kids throwing too much at a young age and excessive weight training of MLB pitchers. While I agree that these two circumstances may be correlated to the problem, I believe that the problem results from a much broader issue; the fusion between sports and the increasingly aggressive drive for money in western culture.

In 1930, if a kid was noticed to have a good arm he would be encouraged to “keep at it.” He would continue to play with his friends and perhaps even a local team. When he came of age, he could be invited to try out for the professionals and if he was good enough he would make the team. Nowadays, the moment that a child is recognized as having a good arm he becomes an instant financial asset that needs to be “nurtured” and “educated” in the art of pitching. Private pitching coaches are instantly employed and the child is treated like a professional athlete with the primary goal of cashing in on a potential 5yr/125 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees someday. The child is treated more like a mechanical device than a human being. Over time, this mechanical device gets closer to breaking down as the innings pitched and private pitching sessions begin to add up over the middle school and high school years. By the time that college and the potential of professionalism comes knocking, the UCL has been stretched more by the age of 20 than most old school pitchers may have used in their career.

Speaking of body mechanics, let’s take a closer look at weightlifting. Pitcher physiques today are unique to any other time in baseball history because of their size and power. I’m not talking about Bartolo Colon or Peter Griffin big either. They are physical specimens with one goal in mind – get your arms and shoulders as strong as possible with lean muscle so you can attempt to hit 95mph on the radar gun to get noticed. While this drive may seem intuitive to many, it undermines the situation because strength training is for muscle building, not ligament building. These ligaments are fragile and the amount of torque that these modern day monsters are creating is absolutely unsustainable for the long term athletic health of the performer. While this is being made more explicit as of late, it isn’t having that much of an impact because the bottom line is the dollar bill and the way to obtain wealth is by having a Clemens like fastball. I have a family friend who recently met Cy Young Award Winner Sparky Lyle at an American Diabetes Association dinner in New Jersey and asked him about this very issue. Lyle responded by saying “in my day, pitchers went out and got burgers and beer after games. Now, they go and hit the gym after games that they performed in when their bodies are obviously in the need of rest.” All of this makes a lot of sense but is negligible next to the drive that these players have to stay in “good shape” to eventually get the big payday. The drive for money has once again overshadowed reason and wisdom. Of course, we can’t blame these players, their families, and their 3-5 private coaches (one for each pitch type, I’m sure) fully because that is the world we now inhabit in the 21st century. Western capitalism, by and large, has disembodied the mind from body to an extent that primitive impulses (like drive for money, resources, or to look exceptional) have suppressed the ability to think holistically about the long term.

The question now becomes what to do about this situation? In Japan, where it seems a lot less of these injuries occur, they give pitchers more rest time between starts. The prospect of a six or seven man rotation may make sense from a medical perspective but will the finance driven Major League organizations try this out? Will the Dodgers fear losing ratings and attendance if generational talent Clayton Kershaw throws ten less starts per season? Will the MLBPA be pleased when teams are spending less money to get big pitching stars because that player will only make 20-22 starts instead of 30? What about an increasing education on maintenance and a little bit less of an emphasis on performance? After all, these guys have a pretty damn good idea how to pitch and obviously no clue on how to keep their instrument fine tuned and healthy long term. A lot of questions loom large but in my view something will have to be done to adjust to the amazing rate in which these injuries are occurring.

In closing, it must be said that arm and elbow injuries are nothing new in baseball. Some say that Sandy Koufax and Steve Dalkowski could both have been saved by Tommy John surgery. In the old days there were plenty of times when people couldn’t pitch anymore because of “dead arm” or “chronic sore arm.” The point here is not to say that it never happened before, but to say that the rate in which it is happening now is incredible. This incredible rate of overuse leading towards deterioration also parallels the state of mind of a culture that is sick with ignorance, greed and psychological disembodiment.

All in all, I really do believe that the quality of play in today’s game is better than it ever has been. Much of this can undoubtedly be related to the shape, skill, and size of the players. The main point that I’m trying to make is that these guys should at least open their eyes as they continue to walk off the cliff. There needs to be a balance between the desire for mountains of cash, the perfect physique, and proper rest for the Ulnar Collateral Ligament of which only exists to maintain the integrity of the elbow joint.

Jay Bruce’s nightmare season continues

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Jay Bruce was moved to the bereavement list today for reasons still unknown. As a person who loves Jay Bruce, this is incredibly sad and concerning within a season that has been particularly difficult to sit back and watch him struggle through.

Bruce is down to .215 now, with 10 home runs and 42 RBI. This was supposed to be Bruce’s greatest season ever. It’s going to end up his worst. At least in 2009 when he hit a career-low .223, you knew he was on the way up. You knew his day of redemption would come. If you knew the game at all – you knew that it was all still out ahead of him.

This has a different feel to it. This time, we’re not so sure what it is, or how the story ends. Some knowledgeable fans are actually questioning if Jay Bruce ever finds it again. While we wouldn’t bet against him – we want to point out something that has it’s place in this.

Back at the beginning of this month (a month that has been Bruce’s worst of the season in terms of OPS), Jay Bruce sat down with Eno Sarris at FanGraphs to discuss hitting and his approach. It was a phenomenal piece, and many fans remarked that with a work ethic and approach like that; it was a matter of time until Jay Bruce found his way.

We didn’t say it at the time, but that actually wasn’t our thought. Not as well as we know this player. Our actual thought was ‘Wow, Jay Bruce is doing an awful lot of thinking right now. That can’t be a good thing in a game you want to keep as simple as possible’. Bruce has always been a player who slumps and surges to the extremes. This is because even with all his immense physical talents, Bruce has never truly mastered the mental aspect of the game. That’s why to us, it wasn’t a good sign to learn the guy is so deep in his own mind he might as well be Syd Barrett.

It’s the same game it’s always been. Bruce is a better hitter – we think – when he keeps his approach as simple as possible. See the ball, hit the ball. Don’t think too much in the box. Certainly do not attempt to work on or try new things during the game you’re playing in. We aren’t a big league hitting instructor, but whatever the Reds right fielder has tried this season has been a miserable failure. It’s time to ‘dumb’ it down a bit and do what he did when he came out of the minor leagues. He was a better hitter then.

In the meantime, Jay Bruce the person is in our prayers. He’s a good guy, and the bereavement list typically never means anything but heartache. It’s easy to forget while watching these guys each night that: they are human. They have emotion too. They feel things.

If this is indeed the beginning of the end of Bruce in Cincinnati, it’s been a pretty remarkable run at times. We aren’t ready for that yet, so let’s hope a day of redemption awaits Bruce Almighty somewhere just over the pass.

Report: MLB Teams have had it up to here with the Mariners trade offers

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We all know the feeling – well, those of us that play fantasy baseball anyways. There’s that one owner who can’t help himself in every league. He just can’t stop offering his shit for your good players. He’s convinced it’s a win for both sides.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is that guy.

“He has made offers and then pulled back after we have said, ‘This is something we would do,”‘ one executive said. “He responds (by saying) it wasn’t an offer and that he will need to discuss it with his guys.”

Another executive added, “I don’t always get the sense that he knows what he wants to do. One day, he’s interested in one thing. The next day, he’s interested in another. That’s what makes it challenging.”

A third executive said, “They (the Mariners) don’t set out on a trade saying, ‘Here’s what we need. Let’s do what we can to get him.’ They think, ‘Who can we give up that will never be any good?’ They don’t want to give up anyone who will haunt them. That’s just flat-out fear.”

Zduriencik has responded to the criticism by saying this is just a normal course reaction of teams trying to do business. We have a feeling he really is this bad, possibly worse.

This is a stark contrast to former Mariner’s GM Bill Bavasi – who would fucking trade anyone for a flavor of the month type player or fringe prospect! I don’t know what’s worse really.

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