The Urena Express: 7/21/21

Steven Urena

By Steven Urena

“I was in the show for 21 days once. Twenty-one greatest days of my life. You know you never handle your luggage in the show? Someone else carries your bags. It’s great. You hit white balls for batting practice. Ballparks are like cathedrals. The hotels all have room service and the women all have long legs and brains.” -Crash Davis, Bull Durham

This has been quite a year for minor leaguers in the Dodgers farm system. We’ve seen prospects such as Sheldon Nuese, Keibert Ruiz, Edwin Uceta, Mitch White, DJ Peters, Luke Raley, Alex Vesia, and finally Josiah Gray. Zach McKinstry burst onto the scene when Cody Bellinger went down. However, he’s been such a mainstay, I hardly consider him a minor leaguer at this point.

I am sure the minor leaguers are thrilled to see some time in the show. The first reason, they get to live out their childhood dreams. They made it! The next reason is they get much needed experience. They get to play against the best of the best and they get to play in front of huge crowds. After years and years of hard work, they get their chance to prove they belong in the show. The last reason is the money. The MLB season is about 180 days. The league minimum is 570,500. So, for most of the minor leaguers, a day in the big leagues means a day’s worth of MLB salary. That’s over $3,000 a day. More than most minor leaguers make in a month. Add the $102 a day for meal money and they’re living large!

50 Shades of Josiah Gray
Last night we finally got to see the much anticipated MLB debut of Josiah Gray. It was not a stellar performance – 4 IPs, 4 ERs and 3 HRs allowed. However, Gray did show a lot of potential. He struck out 7 and only walked 1. 

What’s not to like? Gray has a strong frame, mid 90’s fastball and offspeed that gets strikeouts and lands for strikes. With the injuries on the Dodgers staff, he’s going to be asked to eat up some innings. Tony Gonsolin has not looked sharp lately. Maybe Gray can fit into the number five role or work out of the bullpen.

Giant Walk Off
One thing a coach hates to see is walks. Walks will absolutely kill you. The obvious reason is you are giving hitters a free pass. Walks get on 100% of  the time. Another reason is because when you walk hitters now you do not need multiple hits to score runs. The last reason, after a pitcher walks a few guys, he can’t nibble at the corners and he has to challenge. After two walks on eight pitches, Will Smith knew he needed to be patient. Smith looked at strike one then got jiggy with the next pitch he saw. 

Talk about a much needed win. If the Dodgers lost last night, they would’ve needed to win two in a row to split the series. Now with the win, they are in a good place to possibly win the series. I like my chances with Urias and Buehler. I just hope some of our big bats are in tonight’s lineup.

It was nice to see the Boys in Blue come from behind and win. I don’t feel like that happens much this season. Last season we were the comeback kids. This season we are the “lose close games kids.” It’s frustrating. I’ve been saying, I want to see more fight! Last night was a good start. Now let’s get healthy and keep on rolling.

Say it ain’t so, Trevor, say it ain’t so!
The longer Trevor Bauer is out, the more I begin to worry. I am not an expert in any of this sort of thing so I will not give my opinion. I just really hope Bauer was smart enough not to do anything stupid. When you’re making $33 million a year, you’re going to have a target on your back. In more places than you think.

Trade Deadline
About half the teams in the MLB are one or two players away from making a splash. Things are going to get crazy on or before July 30. If the Nats wave the white flag, most teams are going to inquire about Max Scherzer. Scherzer proved in the All-Star game that he’s still a force to be reckoned with. He will be a valuable addition to any team. If you ask me, he’d look great in Dodger blue.

With Bauer’s future in limbo, the Dodgers look primed to make some moves at the trade deadline. I don’t see any big leaguers being traded but we may see some prospects go. I am sure most teams will ask about Keibert Ruiz but, we need to hold on to him. I like Will Smith and Austin Barnes but a catcher with pop does not come along often. The other catching prospect is Diego Cartaya. He’s hit 10 home runs so far in Rancho Cucamonga (A). The Dodgers may get calls for him as well. 

South Hills product, Jacob Amaya, has shown promise in the minor leagues. He might be a name that pops up in trade talks. He’s an 11th rounder on the Dodgers top 10 prospect list. Most of the other guys are 1st rounders with millions invested in them. I love my fellow El Monteon but you never know.

Should a Pitcher Win MVP?
Great questions. The short answer, yes! I know it’s not fair that hitters can’t win the Cy Young and pitchers can win MVP. The truth is, hitters should and do get more recognition for MVP awards. Hitters play everyday, as opposed to every fifth day, and can usually have more of an impact on the season. It’s fair. 

My opinion, a pitcher needs to be lights out to win MVP. If Jacob deGrom continues to do his thing, he should win MVP. He’s the most outstanding player in baseball. Clayton Kershaw won MVP in 2014. Kershaw deserved it, not because I’m a Dodger fan, but because he was the most outstanding player in the NL that season. Second in voting was Giancarlo Stanton, who had a good year, but he was not nearly as dominant as Kershaw. 

Other pitchers that won the MVP were Justin Verander and Roger Clemens. Both were masterful in those seasons. Dennis Eckersley (closer) won the award in 1993 but many felt that Kirby Puckett (position player) should have taken home the hardware. 

The Shift
Should you try to beat the shift or swing away? That is the question.

First, let’s talk about Moneyball. One of the philosophies of Moneyball was that a premium value should be placed on on-base percentage. The Moneyballers argued that a hitter’s batting average was not that important and not a true value of a player’s worth. Their ability to get on base, hit for power and drive in runs was the best way to determine their overall value. The key to winning games is scoring runs. Keep that in mind.

Usually, hitters that try to bunt to beat the shirt put the ball in play 49% of the time. Once a ball is in play, the hitter has a 58% chance of reaching safely. Not bad. Most of the time defenses are caught off guard or out of position and that’s why it works.

Loyal reader, Santos aka Saint, loves to send me videos of hitters beating the shift. 

Remember that the point is not to beat the shift and get on base. The point is to score runs. EVERY SINGLE TIME I have seen a player in a live game lay down a bunt and beat the shift he did not score. The sample size is not huge, but it’s happened enough to make me a believer. I am not saying it never happens, but it’s hard to scratch together multiple hits in an MLB inning. It happens, but the percentages are against you. 

I am most in favor of a bunt against the shift when a hitter is leading off a new inning. Get the leadoff man on with zero outs and a team’s chances of scoring are high. Now the inning changes and the pressure shifts to the pitcher and defense. However, I am only in favor of this in a tight ball game. Early in the game, I prefer to go for the big inning. Later in the game, let’s play for one. 

Also consider, if the leadoff man is a power hitter, then he might be better off swinging for the fences. Power hitters get to the show because they can mash. They may not be comfortable bunting. I know, how can a big leaguer not know how to bunt, right? The fact is, hitting MLB pitching is hard. Why go to battle with your Plan B instead of your Plan A?

For some players, it makes sense to keep the same approach. Shift or not. They have shown they can continue to produce. Other players have just about a 50/50 shot. They may be more successful bunting but they are simply not comfortable bunting against someone throwing 98 mph. This makes sense. Why mash your whole life and get to the Majors and bunt? Mix in the probability for a home run or extra base hit and forget it! Hitters are going to swing away.

All-Star Uniforms
The only person on the planet that I know of that liked the ASG uniforms was loyal reader Z-Man. As a friend, I should suggest he get his eyes checked.

Joke of the Day
Why is it so hot at a Diamondbacks game? There’s not a fan in sight!

The Urena Express appears every Wednesday at
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