ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: Urkel in Baseball, Batting Stance Guy, Beane, Future of Dempster, Hamilton’s Speed, Gathright Released and Rating Prospects

Monday July 16th, 2012



Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@me.com, message us on Twitter, post on our Facebook Wall and leave comments on our website! There are many ways to reach us and we will get to your questions from all social media outlets!

Jonathan Hacohen: Ok, I am going to admit it. I am 110% wiped from last night’s sleepover. The Toronto Blue Jays, like many MLB squads hold yearly sleepovers on the field. The Jays had theirs last night. Second year in a row for me and I will admit, after playing catch on the field till 1:30a.m., I am still not recovered. Call it getting old, but sometime the body just doesn’t bounce back like we want it to. That being said, the show must go on. So with apologies I am a little late this week on ATR, but better late than never!

Before I jump into your weekly baseball questions, here are some of my random baseball thoughts:

I was watching Ben Francisco of the Toronto Blue Jays last night as he was signing autographs for the fans. I wasn’t sure 100% who he was right away. But damn, he looked familiar. I looked and I looked. Then I realized what Chuck Booth (one of our Lead Writers here on MLB reports) had told me earlier in the year. Jaleel White. Steve Urkel. Man Chuck, you were bang on. Take a look at the comparisons:

Ben Francisco:

THEN JALEEL WHITE:

Ben Francisco is not the Steve Urkel type nerd. Rather, he looks like the cool and sauve Stefan. Yes, I did enjoy TGIF’s Family Matters back in the day. Whatever became of Jaleel White? Is he Ben Francisco? Or is this just a baseball urban legend? And whatever became of Laura Winslow? If you locate either one, please let Ben know. Until then, I am fairly certain Jaleel White is playing ball in Toronto. Call him Stefan…see what he says!

If you are not howling with laughter at this point, I want to introduce you to a good friend of MLB reports. If you love baseball, you have seen his work on YouTube and throughout the internet. He is a published author and all-around good guy. To his friends he is Gar Ryness. To the rest of the baseball world, he is the one and only “Batting Stance Guy”. Here is a little clip from some of BSG’s most recent work:

How are you feeling now? I know…your ribs hurt, tears are streaming down your eyes. Yes, that is the magic of Gar. The man has the ability to duplicate any batting stance going. Watching his impressions is a baseball theatrical treat. The fact that he is hilarious is an added bonus. Over the coming weeks, I will bring you more magic Batting Stance Guy clips. If you want to learn more about him in the interim, check out his site: battingstanceguy.com.

Now let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q: Can’t wait until they call him (Billy Hamilton) up for the playoffs. What a story when he steals the winning run in game 7 of this year’s World Series. :)  Jeremy

JH: People are loving Billy Hamilton something serious this year. But the truth is that Hamilton is not getting the full-blown media exposure that he deserves. Yet. Back-to-back 100+ steals seasons. Imagine, the man broke 100 steals already and we are at the halfway mark of the year. Just called up to AA this week, how did Billy hit his first AA home run yesterday? Inside-the-park of course. I would normally advise to temper expectations, but it’s hard not to get excited about him. One of the biggest burners we have seen in a long time. We have started to draw comparisons on here to Vince Coleman and even the great Rickey Henderson. Imagine, he could possibly steal 200 bases one year. But as far as a call-up this year, not sure if it is happening. He just graduated to AA and is very young. His game is not complete and the Reds want to bring him along carefully as to not burn him out. Ultimately, it will need to be decided as to what position Billy Hamilton will play. Is he a long-term infielder or outfielder? From there, he will continue working on his swing and the rest of his game, so that he will be able to get on base consistently. Excess speed without a strong bat equals Joey Gathright. The Reds certainly do not want that to happen. So while Reds fans would love to see Billy Hamilton in Cinci, that may not happen till the 2nd half of 2013. Until then, we will continue to enjoy hearing about Hamilton’s exploits and letting the legend grow. First it was Bryce Harper and Mike Trout to start the year. Then it became Wil Myers. Soon, the whole baseball world will be talking about Billy Hamilton. 

Q:  You had an interesting take on why Billy Beane started getting beat up on. There is another angle that seems to have been missed though and it involves this idea that the A’s are a small market team with limited finances. I think people have woken up to the fact this is simply not true. Lew Wolfe is a figure-head for the team, but the reality is that John Fisher, the 90% owner of the team is one of the richest person in the world, especially if you factor his family’s net worth.

The A’s spent less money because the previous owner, Steve Schott was pulling out his operating profit every year. The A’s drew nearly 3 million people in 2002, even when the Giants drew an equal number of fans. They are by no means a team without a market and without financial resources. It is true that Wolfe has let the team atrophy because he wants to move, and that atrophy is a ready excuse for why our genius Billy Beane can’t win. But I’m sure the A’s could do what Pittsburgh has done/is doing. Would the A’s benefit from a new stadium? Of course. It is a statement on the acumen of Wolfe and Fisher that they have staked their entire plan on getting the other MLB owner’s to stick a knife in the back of the Giant’s team to accommodate a franchise that seems to care little for its fellow owners (they happily collected the luxury transfer payments for years).

Your point that he has found a way to adjust tactics is not untrue, but perhaps it is Beane copying the Pirates versus developing his own new strategy? I mean the team is at .500, nowhere near 1st place. They could have bought out free agency years and kept Gio Gonzalez but for some reason they won’t do that.

I don’t blame Beane, but I think he has been advanced way too much credit without winning (the Michelle Wie of Baseball???)

Greg

JH: Hello Greg. Thank you very much for your message. Wow, Billy Beane the Michelle Wie of Baseball. That is the first (and likely last) time that I will hear that comparison being made. I don’t think Billy is as handy with a golf club, and likely less attractive in a skirt. But I can see where you are heading with the hype vs. results thinking. On the same token, perhaps the Anna Kournikova of baseball as well? Different sports, different people- so difficult to truly compare. But I would agree that despite all the acclaims and  recognition he has received, Billy has yet to win the big one. When I wrote my recent article on the A’s GM, I didn’t steer it in that direction, nor on the state of the team’s finances. Yes, there is a large debate on the resources that the A’s have put into their team. Then there is the whole stadium issue and whether the team will move to San Jose. But that wasn’t the point of my piece. Whatever one thinks of the A’s and their GM, my logic was that he is planning for the future. He does have a plan in place. I have read in too many places that the A’s are drifting aimlessly and that Billy Beane did not have the direction to guide the team ahead without more resources and a new park. My article suggests otherwise. I would say that Billy has his master plan and the new version of “Moneyball” so to speak. Build up the core of hitters and bash your way to success.

Could the A’s spend more? Maybe. But it isn’t necessary for an owner to subsidize his team from his own pocket. A strong MLB team should be a self-sustaining entity. The bottom line is that the A’s will get their new stadium one day. Whether it is in Oakland, San Jose or another 3rd location. But until then, I wanted to tell A’s fans that there is hope. The promise has been there before and disappointment followed. But the future again looks bright. Will Billy win the big one? Hopefully one day. If not, you may be correct and we could be witnessing the Michelle Wie of baseball. But if Billy Beane only ends up building contending teams that make strong runs with the occasional playoff appearances, that may not be so bad. Winning the big one is not an easy task. Ask the Cubs, Mariners and Rangers. Championships is but one factor of assessment. Hopefully by the time is career is done, Billy Beane’s accomplishments will be measured as a whole and he will be remembered as a winner.

Q:  Prediction where Ryan Dempster Lands?  Joshua

JH: I really struggled with the one when you asked it Joshua. For the longest time, the word has been the Dodgers. They have new ownership and money to burn. Chad Billingsley is out, possibly for an extended time. So the need is there. Then you have the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and a dozen or so teams sniffing around. Looking at the crystal ball though, I am seeing the Tigers. With their huge payroll and talent base, they have to do something drastic to regain their form in the AL Central. The White Sox look to be the team of destiny this year and the Indians will not be pushovers. If the Tigers want to make the playoffs, they will need reinforcements. While many outlets feel that they will land a power bat, my gut is that they will add to their staff. Justin Verlander is an ace and Doug Fister should have a strong second half. But between Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, another veteran arm would give a huge amount of security. The Tigers have the farm and will take on Dempster’s salary. Dave Dombrowski has pulled off bigger stunners in the past. Look for Dempster to wear the orange and blue possibly in August. This thing could go in a number of directions and the longer is shutout streak is extended, the higher Dempster’s asking price will be. Any team could jump in with the highest bid at the last-minute, as this should become a crazy auction. But if I had to go with my gut, it will be Detroit.

Q:  Never Forget:    Charles

JH: Speak of the devil and he appears. With Billy Hamilton on the rise, I guess the Reds felt that they didn’t need an additional speedster. We were discussing Joey Gathright on Saturday night on Twitter, as the Reds recently released him. Many readers didn’t even realize that he was still playing. Known for great speed, Joey will always be famous for jumping over cars, as shown in his YouTube clip. Unfortunately, that was his career highlight. Whenever I hear the name Joey Gathright, I always think either about jumping over cars or all speed and no bat. So future reference, if a prospect is compared to Gathright- it better be for the ability to leap over automobiles. The alternative means that his career is not likely to be very long. In which direction will Billy Hamilton? Hopefully he will have a bat that comes close to matching his speed. My advice in the interim: stick to hitting baseballs and less on car jumping in parking lots. They make for great videos but not as productive MLB careers.

Q: Well, my question is just about prospects and their defense. It seems too many times a prospects defense is taken too much into account for him being an overall player. I’ve seen this first hand with players like Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana.  “Worries” about their defense usually keep them in the minors longer. Looking at this year, both players have played quality defense all around. I’ve heard many things revolving around a lot of young players/prospects including guys like Moose in KC and Canada’s very own Brett Lawrie. As prospects there were concerns about their D, but now there’s many guys taking them as good players. So my question is, is there too much thought put into defense surrounding a prospect? Martin (@BoutToComeAlive)

JH: Have you seen the Kipnis stance? Just noticed it the other day. He must have an Ichiro fascination. Batting Stance Guy- if you are reading this, please make a video on Jason Kipnis when you have spare time (if you have not already). That stance is baffling. Getting back on the subject matter, I really like your comment today Martin. You are bang on the money. Much is made of the defensive abilities of prospects, but often they are unsubstantiated. That being said, position changes do help. Yonder Alonso was apparently not cracking it in the outfield. Brett Lawrie was quickly moved from second to third after his trade to the Jays. Miguel Cabrera to first base….bad example. But yes, I do think defense is slightly exaggerated when it comes to prospects. Given though the premium on defense in today’s game, it is not entirely surprising. I am actually shocked at the number of players that are asked to switch positions. But usually it is for the best. Can you imagine Bryce Harper as a catcher? What about Carlos Delgaldo? That is a huge reason why Wil Myers has taken time, as he was moved behind the plate as well. Such was the case back with Todd Zeile in the day. So I don’t think it is as much about defensive concerns as it is determining the best long-term position for a player. Such is the case with Billy Hamilton with the Reds, as discussed earlier on the Reports. 

To get to your point, Carlos Santana is a classic example. His bat was seen as major league ready for some time, but his glove was put into question. At the end of the day, he was brought up and did just fine. This year, Santana has seen his play drop and again will face questions on his long-term position. That is common for most great hitting catchers. Buster Posey. Matt Wieters. Alex Avila. Should they stay behind the plate or be moved and preserve their bats and careers? My point is that there are multiple considerations when it comes to positioning players. So to evaluate prospects properly, their defensive rating and where they will play must be considered. When I evaluate players, I concentrate on their bats. As long as they are not completely inadequate in the field, I worry less on their defensive game. I feel that will come time and a position change can always take place. So yes, I am like you and focus on the offense. I think teams can fall into traps of over-thinking on players. Look at Texas with Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando. The Red Sox with Daniel Bard. Starter or closer? Pick one and run with it. But don’t create a back-and-forth situation. In the same fashion, moving hitters through different positions can disrupt their learning curves. Learning a new defensive position takes time to learn and can take away from the emphasis with the bat. So yes, there is much too much emphasis on a prospect’s defensive abilities when they are in the minors. But if they are lucky enough to make the majors, the priority becomes the bat. As long as they can have a decent glove, a strong bat will take them through in the majors. Much like Kipnis and Santana have shown. Great analysis Martin. I hope MLB teams agree as well one day.




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Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

Posted on July 16, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Urkel is now going to the Astros. The curse of the MLB Reports has struck again.

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