Sunday Notes: San Diego’s New Coaches Talk the Language (and Know the Math)


The Padres announced Bob Melvin’s 2022 coaching staff earlier this week, and the group is at once progressive and diverse. Notable among the new hires is 27-year-old hitting coach Michael Brdar, who comes to San Diego via the San Francisco Giants organization. Asked about him in Zoom session, Melvin — himself a newcomer to the club — told reporters that Brdar “Talks a language that I don’t talk; he talks the language that younger hitters are talking now.”

Clarifying that he does “talk it a little bit,” the 60-year-old, three-time Manager of the Year went on to say that “You need to be able reach these guys and speak their language.”

Following up on the question posed by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, I asked Melvin how much the hiring process has changed since he first joined the managerial ranks in 2003.

“I came here from Oakland, where we did everything pretty much in-house,” said Melvin, whose 11-year tenure with the A’s followed managerial stints in Seattle and Arizona. “We would look in-house to begin with; that was just kind of how the organization flowed. This was a little bit of a different process, knowing we were probably going to bring some guys in from the outside. We wanted it to be diverse in age, we wanted it to be diverse in thinking.

“The hitting end, and pitching end, are way more technical than when I first got into this,” continued Melvin. “Now you want to hear about these guys, and how they can improve, how they’re going to use all the tools and technology that are available now. Both [new pitching coach] Ruben [Niebla] and Michael are guys that are really well-versed in that. So it’s different than before, in that you’re talking about different areas. There is maybe a little bit more math involved now, too. It’s a lot different than when I first started. I hope that answers your question.”

After acknowledging that it did, I suggested to the veteran skipper that it’s not so much of a good-old-boys network anymore; managers are increasingly less likely to hire old friends to coaching positions.

“I was staying away from saying that,” responded Melvin. “But it’s probably true.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Mickey Mantle went 4 for 9 against Don Rudolph.

Red Ruffing went 7 for 16 against Sugar Cain.

Joe Nossek went 5 for 10 against Tommy John.

Johnny Grubb went 6 for 6 against Chuck Rainey.

Rob Deer went 4 for 6 against Steve Carlton.

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Blake Brown had a strong first professional season in 2021, logging a 3.07 ERA over 34 relief outings, all but one of them with the High-A New Jersey BlueClaws. I recently asked the 22-year-old Philadelphia Phillies prospect which of the hitters he faced this summer presented the biggest challenge.

Ronny Mauricio, with the Brooklyn Cyclones,” responded Brown, who allowed just 22 hits in 41 innings over the course of the campaign. “Ronny has an extremely flat bat path, and for a guy like me who has a riding fastball, that is a very difficult matchup. It was hard for me to get the fastball over the top of his bat. He’s in the zone for a long time, and he also does an extremely good job of putting balls backside, or basically just sending back where they came from. There were a couple of times I thought I had him beat in a two-strike count, and he’d flare a chin-high fastball over the head of our shortstop or third baseman. I’ve also seen him hit balls extremely far. He did that against the BlueClaws multiple times.”

A 20-year-old switch-hitting shortstop, Mauricio was recently ranked the No. 3 prospect in the New York Mets system by Baseball America. Our Mets rankings — ditto our Phillies rankings — are forthcoming.

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A quiz:

Of the 28 players in MLB history to have hit 500 or more home runs, only two struck out fewer than 1,000 times. Who are they?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Andrew Suarez has signed with NPB’s Yakult Swallows. The 29-year-old former San Francisco Giants southpaw went 10-2 with a 2.18 ERA last season with the KBO’s LG Twins.

The strategic partnership between the Yokohama DeNA BayStars and the Arizona Diamondbacks — in place since 2019 — has been extended through 2024. The teams will continue to trade information on coaching, scouting, analytics, and more. (per Yahoo Japan)

Detroit Tigers first base coach Kimera Bartee died unexpectedly this past Monday at age 49. An outfielder during his playing days, Bartee was with the Tigers from 1996-1999, the Cincinnati Reds in 2000, and the Colorado Rockies in 2001. Cause of death was reportedly a brain tumor.

Baseball Canada announced this week that Alexis Brudnicki will be honored with the 2021 Bob Elliott Media Recognition Award. An Ontario native who is currently attending law school at the University of Missouri, Brudnicki has written for multiple publications, including Baseball America and MLB.com.

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The answer to the quiz is Mel Ott and Ted Williams. Ott had 511 home runs and 896 strikeouts. Williams had 521 home runs and 709 strikeouts.

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Entertaining promotions are big part of the minor league experience, so I made sure to broach that subject with Jill Gearin when she appeared as a guest on this week’s episode of FanGraphs Audio. The Visalia (CA) Rawhide broadcaster shared how the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Low-A affiliate annually holds a cow-milking contest, with players from the home and visiting teams competing on-field prior to a game. The promotion — tabled this past season due to COVID protocols — is slated to return next year, and it won’t be the only cow-related activity.

“I think we’re going to do a whole week of dairy themes, because we’re the Rawhide,” Gearin said on the podcast. “Our mascot is a bull. We’re in one of the biggest agriculture areas in the entire world, so we definitely go heavy on our agriculture promotions.”

She works in Visalia, and has family in New Hampshire, so could Gearin be a quality contender herself? Has she ever milked a cow?

“I have not,” admitted Gearin. “I’m definitely a city girl. Born in Los Angeles, went to school in Boston. spent a little time in Atlanta, so Visalia was a culture shock for me in terms of the agriculture. But I was not like our Latin American players. They were legitimately terrified of this cow. We tried to do a team photo with the cow, and these guys were so far away from the cow they were not in the picture frame. I had to get them closer. So I’m not as bad as them. I’m not afraid of cows. I just can’t milk a cow.”

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A statistical snapshot of two players who starred throughout the 1950s and 1960s:

Mickey Mantle: 2,401 games, 2,415 hits, 344 doubles, 72 triples, 536 home runs.
Eddie Mathews: 2,391 games, 2,315 hits, 354 doubles, 72 triples, 512 home runs.

Mantle had a clear edge in wRC+ (170 to 143) and WAR (112.3 to 96.1). He was unquestionably the better of the two. That said, since Mathews debuted with the Boston Braves in 1952 — he later played for the franchise in Milwaukee and in Atlanta — only nine players have accumulated more WAR. Moreover, Mike Schmidt is the only player in MLB history to hit more home runs as a third baseman.

Eddie Mathews might be the most-underrated player in the Hall of Fame.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The Los Angeles Times, Steve Henson told the story of how a baseball signed by members of the 1963 Milwaukee Braves was recently passed along to Denny Lemaster — one of the signers — by a longtime fan from their shared hometown.

Why do lefties have the sweetest swings? Manny Randhawa did his best to answer that question at MLB.com.

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince shared how the Padres nearly moved to Washington D.C. in 1974.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey filled us in on recent additions to the Pirates’ player-development staff.

At Fox Sports, Jake Mintz and Jordan Schusterman wrote about baseball in the Bahamas, where Jazz Chisholm has reached a whole different stratosphere of fame.

Jim Allen votes for the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, and he explained this year’s selections in his blog. As usual, the Tokyo-based scribe is pro Tuffy Rhodes.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

A total of seven American League pitchers had three pickoffs this year; that tied for the most in the circuit. A total of seven National League pitchers had four or more pickoffs; Ryan Weathers led the way with nine.

Trea Turner led all position players with 6.9 WAR this year. He and Shohei Ohtani (5.1 as a hitter, 3.0 as a pitcher ) therefore combined for 15.0 WAR. Babe Ruth had 15.0 WAR in 1923.

Hall of Fame left-hander Warren Spahn hit at least one home run in 17 consecutive seasons. He went deep 35 times in his career.

Stan Musial played from 1941-1963 and never struck out more than 46 times in a single season. In his 1943 NL MVP season, the St. Louis Cardinals legend hit 20 triples and struck out 18 times.

Hal Newhouser went 80-27 with a 180 ERA+ from 1944-1946. The Detroit Tigers left-hander was named AL MVP in the first two of those seasons, and was runner-up for the award in the ensuing season. Voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1992, Newhouser finished his career 207-150 with a 130 ERA+, seven All-Star berths, and 60.7 WAR.

The San Francisco Giants signed 45-year-old Randy Johnson to a free-agent contract on today’s date in 2008. The “Big Unit” proceeded to go 8-6 with a 4.88 ERA with the Giants in his final big-league season. He fanned the last batter he faced, giving him 4,875 for his career. Only Nolan Ryan (5,714) has more.

Players born on today’s date include Pug Cavet, who was credited with 302 wins while pitching professionally from 1908-1930. Christened Tillar H. Cavet in McGregor, Texas, the southpaw made 49 big-league appearances, all with the Detroit Tigers.

Also born on today’s date was Judy Johnson. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975 by the Negro League Committee, the Snow Hill, Maryland native played from 1923-1936, most prominently with the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Hillsdale Club. Considered one of the greatest fielding third basemen in Negro League history, Johnson was also a player-coach for the Homestead Grays.



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