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Entries in Jason Giambi (4)

Wednesday
Sep252013

The New Ubaldo May Be Better Than the Old Ubaldo

In 2010, pitching for the Colorado Rockies, Ubaldo Jimenez finished third in the Cy Young voting after a season in which he had an ERA of 2.88 and a WHIP of 1.155. On May 31 of that season, Ubaldo had an 11-1 record and a microscopic 0.78 ERA. Three starts later, he was 13-1 with a 1.15 ERA.

Then something happened.

From June 23, 2010 to June 29, 2013, Jimenez, now a Cleveland Indian, was not a Cy Young pitcher, he was not an All-Star pitcher, in fact, he was barely a major league pitcher.
The not so good Ubaldo
GIPERAWHIPAVGSLUGOBPHRHR/9K/9BB/9IP/G
Ubaldo 6/23/10-6/29/1398569.04.821.452.253.412.341610.968.454.325.81

Then something happened.

It took until July of this season.
The so much better Ubaldo
GIPERAWHIPAVGSLUGOBPHRHR/9K/9BB/9IP/G
Ubaldo 6/23/10-6/29/1398569.04.821.452.253.412.341610.968.454.325.81
Ubaldo 7/1 - 9/25/2013 1592.02.241.245.233.337.30240.399.363.416.16

Let's compare September to September

There is something magical going on with Terry Francona's Tribe and with Justin Masterson recovering from the dreaded oblique, the team has need someone to step up on the mound and since Jason Giambi can't pitch (but he sure can pinch-hit), the fulfilled responsibility fell on Ubaldo.

Last September, Jimenez was not a good pitcher. This September, he is.
A Tale of Two Septembers
GSIPIP/GERAWHIPAVGSLUGOBPHR/9K/9BB/9WL
9/2012 Jimenez422.15.673.971.456.244.411.3300.794.764.3703
9/2013 Jimenez534.16.931.041.038.236.276.2670.009.871.5630

It's not how hard you throw

After Terry Francona was hired as the new manager, Mickey Callaway, the Indians' minor-league pitching coordinator, was named pitching coach. According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Paul Hoynes, Callaway was primarily hired because of his plan to salvage Jimenez's career.

Callaway could see that Jimenez was having difficulty making the transition from a thrower to a pitcher. He was trying to figure out how to pitch without a 98 mph fastball.

"I thought if we could just get Ubaldo in the strike zone and attacking hitters with the stuff he already had, that he would be good to go," Callaway told Hoynes. "Watching his video during the off-season, I was saying, 'Man, his stuff is so good, all he has to do is get it over the plate.' "

Look at the difference:
2012-13 September Pitch Selection
PFast%Chge%Curv%Slid%Splt%Strk%Swng%Miss%Chas%
Jimenez 9/201238052.7%26.6%4.3%13.8%2.7%58.7%44.2%16.7%23.8%
Jimenez 9/201349056.0%1.6%4.5%27.6%9.8%65.3%43.1%20.9%26.6%

The difference is palpable

There is something magical going on these days in Cleveland and if the Tribe makes the postseason and Masterson returns and is healthy, he and Ubaldo make a powerful 1-2 punch.

Now if I were the Indians, I put Mickey Callaway in charge of attendance and promotion.
Monday
Sep232013

Chemistry Makes a Most Valuable Team

When there is discussion about AL MVP candidates, do you notice you don't hear any of the Red Sox being mentioned? Isn't it odd that the team that has the best record in baseball, does not have one of the players you might consider as the lower case most valuable player in the league?

In fact, if you ask 10 people who they thought is the most valuable Red Sox player, you'd get probably a half-dozen different responses.
But, consensus on the Sox MVP would be very difficult...because it's better to have a Most Valuable Team than a Most Valuable Player.

Perhaps that's why they are so good

As baseball moves away from outrageous seasons developed in a pharmaceutical lab, teams are seeing the value of chemistry coming from a psychologist's lab.

This is what motivated Ben Cherington as he cleansed this team of Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez and replaced them with the like of Jonny Gomes and David Ross. The difference is best exemplified as Boston moved from the detached J.D. Drew to the involvement and engagement of his brother, Stephen Drew.

The team contributes

There are only two teams that have 11 different players who drove home at least 35 runs this season.

While you're thinking of the other obvious choice, check out the Red Sox numbers:

The Boston Red Sox 35 RBI Guys
G AB H HR RBI
David Ortiz (BOS) 133 502 154 29 98
Mike Napoli (BOS) 136 487 125 23 90
Dustin Pedroia (BOS) 156 623 186 9 83
Stephen Drew (BOS) 120 424 106 13 64
Daniel Nava (BOS) 130 441 131 11 63
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (BOS) 117 410 109 13 59
Shane Victorino (BOS) 119 463 136 14 58
Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS) 131 566 169 8 52
Jonny Gomes (BOS) 113 302 72 12 50
Will Middlebrooks (BOS) 89 325 75 15 42
Mike Carp (BOS) 82 208 62 9 42

The other team shouldn't be a surprise

This offseason, there was another team that recreated itself with chemistry as the focal point.

Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti knew that the first thing he needed to do was hire Terry Francona as his manager. If there was anyone who could quickly change the culture of this ballclub, Tito was the guy.

“We would not be where we are without Tito,” Antonetti recently told Tyler Kepner in the NY Times. “The impact he’s made on our organization — not just the major league team — has been profound.”

Francona told Kepner, “I get a little careful when they say I’m changing the culture, or being responsible for that. I want to be a part of that, but it’s us doing it together. It’s a complete team effort, and that’s why it’s working.”

Antonetti began looking for the same type of players that Cherington was seeking: guys who could make a difference, not just on the field, but in the clubhouse as well.

One of the guys the Tribe added was 42-year old Jason Giambi, who was being considered for the Colorado Rockies managerial job that Walt Weiss ended up. Francona told Kepner that he had never met a person like Jason Giambi.

“His leadership, his presence, for me not to use that, I would be an idiot. I’ve leaned on him so much. He’s not making enough money, I tell him that all the time. He’s the best influence on players I’ve ever seen — ever, and I’ve been around some pretty good ones.”

Giambi, who will make a great manager sooner than later told Tyler,

“Every single guy — from the Latin players to the white guys to the black guys — I’m tight with everybody. I get to care about them with no ulterior motives. I just want to see them succeed. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, and I want them to turn into the best players they can, because I truly believe that’s the gift you give back to this game.”

The Tribe 11

The Cleveland Indians 35 RBI Guys
G AB H HR RBI
Jason Kipnis (CLE) 143 541 150 17 80
Carlos Santana (CLE) 148 518 138 19 69
Michael Brantley (CLE) 145 529 148 9 68
Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) 130 484 117 14 61
Nick Swisher (CLE) 139 524 130 20 59
Ryan Raburn (CLE) 80 225 62 16 53
Michael Bourn (CLE) 126 513 133 6 48
Mark Reynolds (CLE) 129 428 94 20 65
Mike Aviles (CLE) 118 339 87 9 44
Drew Stubbs (CLE) 141 421 97 9 42
Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) 92 287 65 11 36

Two teams - both most valuable

“I think I believe in them more than our numbers,” Francona explained. “Like, our numbers may not add up, but that doesn’t mean we can’t add up. And I think that as long as we believe that, we’re going to have a chance.”

I'm with Terry.

Chemistry makes a Most Valuable Team.
Wednesday
Jun122013

Gammons: MLB Mentors Make all the Difference

Drake Britton (Journal Tribune)On Tuesday night in Portland, Maine, a 24-year old lefthanded pitcher with a million dollar arm, stretches of wildness and a pending court date threw a shutout for the Red Sox Double-A Sea Dogs. Somewhere in Los Angeles, while his teammates battled the Diamondbacks, Josh Beckett smiled.

Back on March 2, Drake Britton was involved in an accident in Fort Myers, Fla. sometime after midnight. He was charged with excessive speed, a DUI, and immediately moved from the major to the minor league clubhouse. 

The next day, he received a call from Josh Beckett in Arizona.

“I’ve known Drake since he was 11, when he was playing little league (in Spring, Tex.),” Beckett said weeks later. “I want him to do well. I asked him if he were hanging out with some of the bad elements in Ft. Myers, and he said he wasn’t. I gave him a little lecture, but I offered to help. John Lackey and I later told him if something happened and he lost his drivers license that we would arrange a car service to get him to the park and back, providing he stayed out of trouble.”

“I’m still blown away by all Josh and John have tried to do to help me,” says Britton. “They’re established major leaguers, yet they care about me. John checked in after I went to the minors. The entire organization has been great to me, all things considered. But to have people like Josh Beckett and John Lackey at my back, to help me grow from what happened, is something I’ll never forget.”

The shutout Tuesday night left Britton—whose stuff has been compared to that of Jon Lester by Pedro Martinez—with a four-start stretch in which he’s allowed one earned run. In his last three starts he’s walked only three batters. “To shut out the same team in back-to-back starts really shows something,” says Sox Assistant General Manager Mike Hazen. “Drake has made a lot of progress in terms of throwing strikes, making adjustments, just plain pitching. He’s been really good.”

In Britton’s mind, with a major hand from Beckett and Lackey. “There’s a lot in this game people don’t know or understand,” says Britton. 

Which is why two dimensional analysis of a three dimensional game that is a business is so often incomplete. It is why a psychologist like the late Harvey Dorfman was so vital to the careers of people like Roy Halladay, Kevin Brown and Al Leiter. Why that chain that connects Darryl Kile to Chris Carpenter to Adam Wainwright to Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly has provided a bonding link for the Cardinals pitching for the last decade, pitching that leads the National League in earned run average and whose starters—who combined make less than Johan Santana is collecting from the Mets—lead the league with a 36-13, 2.74 record through Tuesday night.

“No one understands the process of going from prospect to big league responsible teammate and player better than Buck Showalter,” says Mets VP J.P. Ricciardi. Indeed, in Showalter’s last season with the Yankees, he brought Derek Jeter, Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada to the majors, which prepared them for 2006 and the run of four world championships in five years. “It never worked have worked the way it did if Don Mattingly weren’t in that clubhouse,” says Showalter. “Those guys got to Yankee Stadium, looked at Donnie in the room and all said, ‘that’s the way you’re supposed to act.”

Last year, Showalter made the decision to bring up Manny Machado for the run to the Orioles’ first post-season appearance since 1997. Showalter had the minor league staff work him at third. “But I think what really made it work was having J.J. Hardy right next to him. J.J. adopted him, showed him how to play and what to do.” To this day, Hardy and Machado warm up and stretch together. 

When Adam Jones, who has reached star level in Baltimore, was with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, he expressed how pleased he was that Willie Bloomquist was chosen for the team.

“I owe a lot to Bloomquist,” Jones said. “When I got to Seattle, I thought I was something special. First draft pick. Big money. You wouldn’t have liked me. I didn’t hustle the way I should have on a couple of ground balls and Willie got all over me. I mean, he killed me. I watched the way he played, hustling all the time, and learned from him. If he hadn’t cared enough do it, I wouldn’t be here in this tournament.”

Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson took heat this winter for trying to fill out a 25-man roster with team guys. Martin Prado, one of the most popular and respected Braves. J.J. Putz. Eric Hinske, even if he’s hitting .174.

Miguel Montero makes sure he catches every bullpen session of every starting pitching in spring training. “Baseball teams are not rotisserie teams,” says Towers. “There are a lot of down periods during the season that teams that have talent, especially pitching, and the right mix of 25 players can get through.”

When Dustin Pedroia got to Boston in the second half of the 2006 season, Alex Cora was a .238 hitter with .609 OPS and 0.3 WAR, blogger target. He was also called “the smartest baseball player in the game” by Paul Lo Duca and Jim Tracy when he was with the Dodgers.

gPedroia was the scouts’ punching bag. But at Arizona State, he was considered by coach Pat Murphy “the best leader I’ve ever been around,” and, in fact, the year after he signed with the Red Sox and the Sun Devils finally made the College World Series, all the ASU players wrote “Pedroia” on their caps.

Cora and Pedroia were a perfect mix. Cora got Pedroia and other young infielders to take infield practice every day at 3:30, not having to duck BP line drives. It still carries. When Jose Iglesias arrived for his first spring training in 2011, Pedroia worked with him every day, and when Iglesias didn’t get to the right spot in drills, Pedroia would take him aside and say, “Here, I’m Fidel Castro.”

Last September, Pedroia and Mike Avila gave Iglesias a 40 minute lecture about showing the second baseman the ball before making the throw to him on the double play.

Pedroia had Iglesias to his house for cookouts two or three nights a week. Then in April, after a road trip, Pedroia called Iglesias out in front of a media member by asking, “What would you think if I told you Iggy took the bus to the park in Oakland rather than getting out early?” Lesson learned. 

Joe Maddon has said that the three key players in going from a team that had never won as many as 71 games through 2007 to making the World Series in 2008 were Jonny Gomes, James Shields and Dan Wheeler. “They pulled the kids through,” Maddon has said.

Reds pitching coach Bryan Price has said that Bronson Arroyo has been a huge factor in the development of young pitchers like Homer Bailey “because he’s shown them that no matter what he has on a particular day, he’ll sacrifice anything to get into the seventh inning and save the bullpen for the team.”

Braves officials cite David Ross influence on Brian McCann in becoming an All-Star, and are not surprised about his influence on Jared Saltalamacchia in his 2012 emergence as an All-Star level catcher.

Rockies people will tell you that part of the preparation for Nolan Arenado’s ascension to Colorado was Troy Tulowitski having Arenado live with him in spring training and pushing him to understand what he has to do.

Granted, the Indians have slowed down in the last ten days, but Terry Francona contributes a chunk of the early turnaround to Jason Giambi and what he has brought to players, some young, some, like Mark Reynolds, experienced. Giambi makes everyone around him relax, telling them “fix it tomorrow.”

“Jason’s leadership begins with his self-confidence, humility, authenticity and consistency,” says Indians GM Chris Antonetti. “He is able to relate to nearly every player in the clubhouse because of his personal attributes as well as his wealth of experiences. Peer leadership can have a more profound impact on a major league clubhouse than leadership from coaches or managers. In our situation, he compliments Tito’s leadership perfectly and sets the standard for professionalism within our clubhouse.”

In turn, Giambi has never forgotten about Mark McGwire and his mentorship and leadership when Giambi first got to Oakland. Jason remembers an MVP award, a big contract with the Yankees, and says “I don’t think it happens without being taken under his arm by Mark. Veteran leadership means something. Maybe it can’t be qualified; maybe it will never make sense to someone who never played. But it made a lot of sense to me.”

Cents, as well.