April Madness: Paging Glenn Strider
So, on the PosCast I mentioned that a friend asked me for advice about his fantasy baseball team. It’s absurd to ask me for advice about fantasy baseball because I know nothing about it. I’m in a league now for the first time in like 25 years, and I just looked and I’m in dead-last place, exactly where I belong in such things.
Anyway, the friend’s question was simple and direct: He loves Eloy Jiménez and has for years. But he also knows that Eloy can and will fall into a manhole at any moment. He has continuously drafted Jiménez only to watch him hit the disabled list roughly five minutes after the draft.
“What do I do?” he asked me.
So I told him: Take Eloy. I mean, he’s one of your favorite players, he’s a serious slugger when he plays, you’ll regret not taking him if he ends up finally having a healthy season.
My friend took Eloy … perhaps I had some impact on his decision, perhaps I didn’t.
On Wednesday, Jiménez was put on the IL with a hamstring injury. The RotoWire analysis (sent to me by my friend) said that the White Sox are “hopeful Jiménez will miss only two weeks.” I cannot imagine seven sadder words. We’ll probably see Eloy again in early September.
Do I feel guilty for my advice? Heck no. My friend should feel guilty for asking me.
Before we get to the rest of today’s April Madness, I’d just like to remind everyone that you can now preorder my new book, WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL, pretty much wherever books are sold. And if you preorder from our good friends at Rainy Day Books, I will inscribe the book with anything you like, up to 130 characters! What a deal!
Are three-hour games a thing of the past?
On Wednesday, for the second straight day, there wasn’t a single game that lasted three hours — not even the Guardians-A’s game, which went into extra innings. The average time of game for the season is now 2 hours and 38 minutes, almost a full half-hour shorter than games last year. And to me, the games don’t feel rushed at all.
I don’t think there’s much more to say about this trend except that all it took to speed up baseball was the will to do it.
Stolen base update: Baserunners were 23 for 32 in stolen bases on Wednesday, a 72% success rate. This is getting fun now — teams are definitely incorporating the running game more, pitchers and catchers are making adjustments and throwing out more would-be base stealers; it’s an exciting battle that I hope will go on all season.
BABIP going down: Batting average on balls in play has come down quite a bit over the last three or four days. It’s down to .294 for the season, which is a little bit up from the last three years, but still quite a bit down from historical norms. It does FEEL like hitters are pulling more hits through the shiftless infields these days, and singles are indeed up somewhat. But doubles and triples are down. It obviously will take a lot more than a week’s worth of games to see what any of it means.
Bobby Witt Jr. … what gives?
Bobby Witt Jr. has been destined for greatness pretty much from the day he was born. He’s the son and namesake of a massively talented big leaguer who was the third pick in the 1985 draft, was called the next Nolan Ryan by pretty much everybody, and pitched 16 big-league seasons with almost 2,000 strikeouts.
People were pointing to Junior as a future star before he was even in high school. Once he got to high school, he was the best player in America, he also won the high school Home Run Derby in Washington, D.C., the Royals made him the second pick in the draft and he quickly became the consensus No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.
And he has everything. Absolutely everything. He has big power, elite speed, great defensive range, a bazooka for an arm and, as Baseball America wrote, “unique baseball instincts that allow him to simplify the game.” The Royals have had some big prospects over the years — Clint Hurdle was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Alex Gordon was a runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year, Zack Greinke was considered a pitching prodigy, etc. — but I don’t know that any Royals player ever came to the big leagues with more hype than Bobby Witt Jr.
And his rookie season was … uneven? Is that the word? He got off to a dreadful start — he was hitting .215 with a .269 on-base percentage two months into the season. Then he got scorching hot for a month and looked like baseball’s next big thing. Then he was meh for the last two months. In all, he did hit 20 homers and steal 30 bases, which was awesome — he’s only the fifth first-year player to have a 20-20 season — but he struck out a lot, he didn’t walk at all. And his defense was generally atrocious.
I suppose that’s a rookie season for you. Lately we’ve just seen such spectacular rookie seasons from guys like Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. and Pete Alonso and Yordan Alvarez and Fernando Tatis Jr. and Julio Rodriguez that it can make you forget how hard it is to be a rookie in the big leagues, no matter how talented you are.
But here it is, early 2023, and Witt seems like a lost soul.
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