Here Are Those Random Baseball Thoughts You Asked For

It’s Thursday afternoon, and my mind is wandering. Mind you, my mind never wanders too far — it’s always in the baseball realm, and often in the Los Angeles Dodgers section specifically. Here are some things I’m thinking about:

Zack Britton’s name

Most people named Zach are actually named Zachary, and they shorten it to either Zach or Zack. Donald Zachary Greinke. Zachary Warren Cozart. Zachary Thomas Godley. Zachary Ryan Davies. Three Zacks and a Zach, but they’re all shortened from Zachary.

So how weird is it that Zack Britton went by Zach for the first eight years of his career, when his given name is Zackary? In fact, he is the only Zackary in major league history — and he might be the only person who ever shortened Zackary to Zach.

Alex Verdugo’s backside

Alex Verdugo is a professional athlete, and even by professional athlete standards, he’s probably more well-built than most. And I know that really muscular physiques often manifest themselves in the gluteal region. But …

Get that dude in a Beyonce video or something. Although, with the passion Verdugo shows on the field, chances are that some grumpy pitchers will eventually be taking aim at Dugie’s moneymaker.

Aubrey Huff talking out of his backside

Aubrey Huff played 1,681 more MLB games than I did — 1,706 if you count the postseason. He obviously knows things about playing in the big leagues that I will never know. But, as Mark Twain probably never actually said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Huff’s use of #irrelevantstats kills me. He had five good offensive seasons in his 13-year career, and you know what those five seasons have in common? Lots of homers and doubles. And you know how you hit homers and doubles? By hitting the ball really hard and with the optimal launch angle.

In yesterday’s Dodgers/Reds game, Cody Bellinger hit the ball very hard (106 MPH off the bat) in each of his first two at-bats. Here’s the first one:

And here’s the second one:

Two balls hit with almost the exact same force, into the same shift. One was an easy out, and the other was a single that might have been a double with a different right fielder. What’s the difference? Eight degrees of launch angle. The first one was hit at four degrees; the second, 12 degrees.

What happens when Bellinger hits it 106 MPH at even higher launch angles?

Here’s 27 degrees:

And here’s 32 degrees:

Shockingly, the better the launch angle, the better the result. Does that mean higher launch angle is always better? Of course not. Here’s Juan Soto hitting the ball 106 MPH but with a 54-degree launch angle:

So, like I said, there are a lot of things Aubrey Huff knows about playing baseball that I will never know. But he doesn’t know everything. He had a solid career, but can you imagine how good he could have been if he had understood and implemented launch angles?

There’s nothing new here. For over a century, the main goal of most hitters has been to hit a “hard line drive.” The Launch Angle Revolution is the same thing in different words — and with better tools to help understand and implement it.

Yasiel Puig’s camera awareness

Speaking of Bellinger, on Monday night, Bellinger took a Luis Castillo fastball off his right knee. He left the game and missed Tuesday’s game, although he was back in the lineup yesterday. I was at the game, so I didn’t get to watch the TV feed of the hit-by-pitch until yesterday. When I did, I noticed something that made me laugh:

This is the Dodgers’ feed on SportsNetLA. The camera shows Yasiel Puig with his hands on his head, obviously worried about his friend Cody. He looks on with concern. He glances to see if the red light is still on on the camera aiming his direction from 350 feet away. It is. He continues to look on with concern.

I’m not saying Puig’s concern wasn’t genuine. But this is the latest example of something I feel somewhat alone in believing: Puig is hyperaware of his surroundings at all times, specifically cameras. He has manufactured this image as a happy-go-lucky, carefree wild child, but it’s all for show. When he licks his bat, he always makes sure the camera has a good angle. When he wiggles his butt after an inside pitch, it’s not a spontaneous move but a calculated one. And when his good friend gets hit with a pitch, he makes sure that the camera catches him looking on with concern.

The words we use

Now, this is something my mind wandered to just a minute ago: I wrote an entire section about Verdugo’s butt without ever using the word “butt,” but then “butt” snuck into a section about Puig’s eyes.

Shifting Albert Pujols

Almost a year ago, we saw this happen:

Of course, the internet went crazy. “Bartolo Colon beats Dee Gordon in a race,” they said, rather than “Gordon can run 86 feet almost as fast as Colon can run 60” weren’t more accurate. But anyway, what we learned from this is that an elderly, obese pitcher can beat a very fast runner to first base.

Point 1: There are exactly zero pitchers in baseball as old or as overweight as Colon this year.

Point 2: Gordon is significantly faster than Albert Pujols. Gordon last year had an average sprint speed of 29.0 feet per second, according to MLB’s Baseball Savant. Pujols’ fastest mark in the sprint speed era was 23.5 in 2015, and he has been 22.2 last year and this year.

Point 3: That means that every pitcher in baseball could easily beat Pujols to first base on any given play.

Point 4: Pujols is already shifted pretty heavily, leading to plays like this one, where he hits it hard up the middle and gets thrown out by 20 feet:

So here’s my question: Why hasn’t any team deployed a FULL shift on Pujols — including the first baseman? I believe that every pitcher could get to the bag in plenty of time to get set and receive a throw from the shortstop on a Pujols ground ball.

Pujols doesn’t hit many grounders to the right side:

It will never happen, mostly out of respect to Pujols. But wouldn’t it just be amazing to see?

I guess that’s all for today. For more of my stupid, random thoughts, follow me on Twitter (@snidog).

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