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Snake Bytes 9/5: Kelly Cramps His Own Style

But Saalfrank ready to create his style

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Diamondbacks News

[MLB] Kelly’s 12-K gem ends abruptly due to cramping by Steve Gilbert

As he walked off the field, his work done for the day, D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly screamed into his glove, which he then promptly threw when he got back to the dugout.

It was what you usually see from a pitcher who has had a rough start.

For Kelly, though, it wasn’t the results that caused an issue, as he matched a career high with 12 strikeouts Monday afternoon in the D-backs’ 4-2 win over the Rockies at Chase Field.

[Inside the Diamondbacks] Merrill Kelly’s Brilliant Outing Cut Short by Cramps Again by Jack Sommers

The Diamondbacks won the game 4-2, thanks to Kelly’s pitching, and some timely hitting in the 3rd and 4th innings by Corbin Carroll, Gabriel Moreno, and Jace Peterson. But all of that was overshadowed by the frustrations and concerns exhibited by both Kelly and his manager over the hamstring situation.

“Probably the most frustrated seven inning 12 punch out win that you’re ever going to this point I feel like I’m just beating my head against the wall. We got the win, that’s what matters, but go back to the drawing board with the doctors and the training staff and see if we can’t get this thing figured out”

[Inside the Diamondbacks] Q&A with New D-backs Pitcher Andrew Saalfrank by Jake Oliver

Adjustments he’s made throughout the season:

“The guys are really good every level you get, every level you go up, there’s a lot more discipline, a lot more approach, a lot more ability to hit with two strikes. So, it’s just a little bit different of a game, but at the same time, it’s obviously the same exact thing. So, for me, just really emphasizing getting ahead of guys. You can’t get away with it as much in Reno as you kind of could in Amarillo.”

[MLB] Postseason Watch: Bracket, tiebreakers and more by Uncited MLB Personage (A.I. if I had to guess)

Monday’s MLB action included a pair of contests between division rivals in playoff contention — and both games featured huge offensive performances from the visitors.

The Astros rallied from an early 3-0 deficit against the Rangers, putting up a six-run seventh inning to power themselves to a 13-6 win in Arlington and move into a virtual tie for first place in the American League West. In the AL Central, rookie Royce Lewis hit his third grand slam in eight games as the Twins routed the Guardians 20-6 to extend their division lead.

And on the National League side, Justin Steele pitched a gem for the Cubs, tossing eight scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts in Chicago’s 5-0 shutout of the Giants — a key win for the North Siders in the NL Wild Card race.

While a lot can happen in the standings between now and when the postseason starts on Oct. 3, here is what the playoff picture looks like heading into Tuesday’s games.

Baseball News

[MLBTR] Giants To Release AJ Pollock by Nick Deeds

Pollock joined the Giants just before this year’s trade deadline in a fairly minor deal with the Mariners that also saw San Francisco acquire utility player Mark Mathias. San Francisco acquired him in hopes of improving the club’s offense against lefties, thanks to his career .836 OPS against lefties and a .286/.316/.619 slash line in 133 plate appearances when facing southpaws last year. That didn’t come to pass, however, as he ultimately suited up for the club in just five big league games, striking out two times in six at-bats without recording a hit or walk.

[Fangraphs] Whose Deadline Acquisitions Have Been the Best? by Ben Clemens

My methodology in determining the top teams was pretty simple. First, I just added up the WAR accrued by deadline acquisitions. Take the Rangers, for example, who top these rankings. They acquired Max Scherzer (1.2 WAR), Jordan Montgomery (1.0 WAR), Chapman (0.5 WAR), Chris Stratton (0.1 WAR), and Austin Hedges (0.0 WAR). That’s a combined 2.8 WAR added at the deadline, easily the most value added by deadline acquisitions.

Or take the Angels, the other side of the coin. They acquired (and then divested themselves of) Reynaldo López (0.3 WAR), Dominic Leone (-0.1 WAR), Lucas Giolito (-0.3 WAR), and Randal Grichuk (-0.5 WAR). They also added C.J. Cron (-0.2 WAR), though he’s on the IL and thus wasn’t waived with the rest of the gang. That’s an aggregate -0.7 WAR “added” at the deadline – the Halos’ reinforcements were comfortably worse than replacement level, although “comfortably worse than replacement level” is a sadly common descriptor of the team’s call-ups of late anyway.

That’s one way of looking at how players traded at the deadline have done: in a rough sense, it’s their talent level over the past month. But you could also look at what has actually happened when they’ve pitched or batted by looking at Win Probability Added. In the long run, you’d expect these two to track, but in the short run, I feel like WPA better captures whether the acquisitions have actually worked out so far on the field.

Spencer’s Spicy Supplement: This method of evaluating the Trade Deadline does not do Arizona many favors. Pros for the team: Chafin has been worse by fWAR and Pham has given the team positive fWAR. Cons for the team: Rojas has been amazing for Seattle and Sewald is negative fWAR for Arizona. All at time of writing on 9/1/2023 of course.

[MLB] Steele makes Cy Young statements with dominant start by Jordan Bastian

Justin Steele could not contain himself. After firing a fastball into the zone and beyond the bat of San Francisco’s Patrick Bailey in the seventh inning on Monday afternoon, the Cubs lefty strode off the hill with a triumphant scream and both arms flexed.

“It’s just Wrigley. It’s just the fans realizing the moment,” Steele said. “They brought the energy and I kind of like to feed off it. It was awesome to pitch in that environment.”

And it’s not even October yet.

Facing a Giants club that is trying to chase down the Cubs in the National League’s crowded Wild Card race, Steele turned in an October-esque performance, guiding the Cubs to a 5-0 victory. He logged eight scoreless innings, allowed just two hits and stacked up a career-high 12 strikeouts, reasserting his place among the favorites for the league’s Cy Young Award with a month to play.

[MLB] Surgery likely for Ohtani, but he may avoid Tommy John by Rhett Bollinger

Ohtani, who tore the UCL while pitching against the Reds on Aug. 23, won’t pitch again this season and was originally in the lineup as DH on Monday before being scratched with right oblique tightness. Ohtani took batting practice on the field before the game and appeared to wince in pain after his final swing. Manager Phil Nevin said after the 6-3 loss to the Orioles that Ohtani will undergo further testing on Tuesday morning and the Angels don’t know the severity of his injury yet.

Before it was announced that Ohtani was scratched, Balelo told reporters that elbow surgery is the most likely outcome for Ohtani, but it might not necessarily be a second Tommy John surgery. Ohtani, who is set to be a free agent after the season, had the operation in 2018 and didn’t pitch in ’19, but this tear is in a different place than his previous UCL injury.

[Fangraphs] The Cole Train Has Taken Kansas City by Storm by Esteban Rivera

From my perspective, it looked like Casas was ready to ambush the slider; if he did his prep, he knew that Ragans would attack him with it, so he let off his best hack. But that’s the beauty of executing your pitches: If you locate your best weapon, the odds are strongly in your favor. The second slider wasn’t as ideally spotted, but it’s a good mentality. You want to attack my slider? Fine, try again.

Despite two good swings from Casas, he fell into an 0-2 hole, and Ragans still hadn’t flashed his heater. He went a little further out of the zone on the next pitch, but Casas doesn’t tend to chase too much. And while Ragans wanted the 1–2 heater a little more outside, when you set a hitter’s sights down and away, 97 up and in isn’t a bad spot to miss.

After dominating the White Sox on Monday, Ragans is now on a three-start scoreless streak, and while Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Chicago don’t have great lineups, his performances can’t be discounted. He’s got plenty of competition coming anyway: Down the stretch in September, he’s set for back-to-back appearances against Houston. I’m excited to see how he holds up, but either way, it’s clear the Royals have found themselves a potential ace — and all for a rental reliever.

Spencer’s Spicy Supplement: As nice as this is for a team I used to follow pretty closely, we’ve been here before. Remember Brad Keller? Brady Singer? Cole Ragans may just end up another couple season wonder for a team in desperate need for MLB caliber starters.

[MLB] 25 HR and 25 SB in first two seasons? J-Rod stands alone by Daniel Kramer

Julio Rodríguez on Monday added another major milestone to a resume that is quickly becoming full of them.

Fresh off earning his first career American League Player of the Month nod, Rodríguez ripped a homer to right-center field during the fourth inning of the eventual 6-3 loss to the Reds that put him into the MLB record books: He’s the first player to register at least 25 homers and 25 steals in each of his first two seasons.

The 22-year-old has a rare combination of power, speed and youth, as only eight others have managed at least that many homers and steals in one of their first two years in The Show.

Rodríguez’s 25th blast was among his most majestic of 2023, a 411-foot solo shot against a 95.4 mph middle-middle fastball from Reds righty Daniel Duarte that back-spun its way well beyond the right-center-field wall at Great American Ball Park.

Spencer’s Spicy Supplement: There’s another young man who is 1 home run away from reaching the 25/25 season as a rookie in 2023. This time in 2024 we could be talking about Corbin Carroll joining Julio in this group. The company he’s keeping in his early career is astounding, no?