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Sunday Notes: Cutter Heavy, Josh Osich Doesn’t Bury His Head in the Sand

Eric Gideon

November 7, 2019

Josh Osich doesn’t bury his head in the sand when a change is in order. Compared to most hurlers, the 31-year-old southpaw has been chameleon-like in terms of his pitch usage. He’s switched teams, as well. Originally in the Giants organization, Osich spent 2019 with the White Sox, and just this past week he was claimed off waivers by the Red Sox.

Intrigued by what I saw in his pitch-type column, I asked the former Oregon State Beaver for the reasons behind all the ebbs and flows of his offerings.

“If the scouting report is the same every year, they know what you’re going to be throwing,” Osich said this summer. “It’s always nice to change things up, so that they don’t know what’s coming. In 2016, I was sinker-heavy. The year before that, I was fastball-changeup-cutter; it was more of a mix. In 2018, there were probably a few more changeups. This year I’ve been cutter-heavy.”

Very cutter-heavy. Roughly two out of every three pitches Osich threw in 2019 were classified as cutters. Might that not be contradictory to his “they don’t know what’s coming” comment?

“It’s a good pitch,” shrugged Osich. “I’ve commanded it better than my other pitches this year, and I know I can throw it for strikes. So why not throw it? If you can throw it to the right spots, you should have success.”

Osich was good at times this year. Other times he wasn’t. Overall, he logged a 4.66 ERA, and a 4.96 FIP, in 57 appearances covering 67-and-two-thirds innings. Asked if data and technology — Rapsodo readings, for one — have played much of a role in his pitch selection, he answered in the negative.

“I don’t really use any of that stuff,” admitted Osich. “ We have it — the slow-speed cameras, and all that — but for me it’s mainly about feel. I just go out there and throw cutters.”

This past season, anyway. Based on his track record, it might be something else in 2020.

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Memories are fallible, which is why it’s often interesting to hear former players answer questions about their careers. Last night I was at a SABR event in Boston, where Oil Can Boyd was asked who was the toughest hitter he faced in his career. The erstwhile Red Sox right-hander, thought for a moment, then went with Mel Hall. He recalled the left-handed-hitting outfielder’s having a number of good at bats against him, frequently fouling off good pitches until he got one he liked.

The numbers more or less back that up. Hall went 9 for 26 against Boyd, with a double and pair of home runs.

A statistically sounder answer would have been Mickey Brantley or Jose Canseco. Michael Brantley’s old man went 6 for 9, with a double and three home runs against Oil Can. The Cuban-born Bash Brother went 9 for 21, with a double and five bombs.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Bo Jackson went 1 for 14 against Mike Witt.

Mike Devereaux went 1 for 19 against Bobby Witt.

Frank Robinson went 1 for 19 against Red Witt.

Kevin Witt went 2 for 15 against Esteban Loaiza.

Whitey Witt went 2 for 25 against Carl Weilman.

———

Manny Acta was serving as Seattle’s manager — Scott Servais was attending his daughter’s college graduation ceremony — when Felix Hernandez logged his 2,500th career strikeout at Fenway Park this past season. He was asked about the milestone following the game.

“That’s a lot of strikeouts,” said Acta. “Whichever way you want to put it. Whether it’s 20 years of 100 strikeouts, or 10 years of 200 strikeouts, that’s a lot. We all know what he’s done in his career, which started at 19 years old. It’s a great feat for him.”

Hernandez, who at age 33 faces an uncertain future, finished the season with 2,524 strikeouts. In big-league history, only 35 pitchers have fanned more.

——

Todd Claus was one of the panelists at this past summer’s Sabermetrics, Scouting, and the Science of Baseball conference, which is held annually on the campus of Boston University. (If you’ve never attended, you’re missing out on a great event.) The Red Sox’ director of international scouting was asked how managers and coaches with old-school mindsets can be persuaded to trust analytics.

“You don’t get a job if you [ignore] analytics,” responded Claus. “I’ve heard the word ‘blend.’ I’ve heard ‘old school’ and ‘new school.’ Really, it’s school. You better get on board with that, because it’s very, very real. There are no more iron-fisted, my-way-or-the-highway managers. He doesn’t exist. He’s watching baseball on TV.”

———

Not to be lost in the recent spate of managerial hirings is the fact that for every newcomer there is someone who lost a job. As only 30 of these positions exist, many who are ousted never get another opportunity to lead a big-league club. Others do, with a pair of Joes — Girardi and Maddon — being among the most-recent to be recycled. The former just joined the Phillies, while the latter is now an Angel.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was a member of Maddon’s coaching staff in Chicago before being becoming top dog in Baltimore last December. He waxed philosophic on managerial shelf life following the news that his former compadre was departing the Cubs.

“It’s a funny business,” Hyde told a cadre of reporters on the final Sunday of the season. “A tough game. It’s something we all sign up for, but it still hits you big time when someone like that isn’t asked back. Joe is going to have opportunities —I think Joe can write his ticket to where he wants to go — but yeah, it kind of hits you in the face. This is a business, and it will happen to everybody. It will happen to me at some point.”

In 2006, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays went 61-101 in Maddon’s first full season as a big-league manager. That same year, the Florida Marlins went 78-84 in Girardi’s first season as a big-league manager. Each went on to lead a team to a World Series title, only to eventually be handed a pink slip.

The rebuilding Orioles just went 54-108 in Hyde’s first year at the helm.

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NEWS NOTES

Team USA beat the Netherlands 9-0 yesterday, at Guadalajara, Mexico, in their opening qualifier for next year’s Olympic baseball tournament, which will be held in Japan. The Scott Brosius-managed USA squad plays Team Mexico later today.

Carter Stewart signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks yesterday. The 20-year-old right-hander, who eschewed signing with the Atlanta Braves after being taken eighth overall in last year’s draft, will reportedly be paid $7 million over the next six seasons.

Burlington Bees General Manager Kim Parker has been named the recipient of this year’s Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year Award. The award has been handed out since 1976.

The finalists for the 2020 Frick Award were announced this week. This year’s candidates are Joe Castiglione, Jacques Doucet, Tom Hamilton, Ken Harrelson, Pat Hughes, Ned Martin, Mike Shannon and Dewayne Staats. The winner will be announced on December 11 at the Winter Meetings, in San Diego.

Ron Fairly passed away earlier this week at the age of 81. Signed by the Dodgers out of USC in 1958, Fairly went on to play 21 big-league seasons — the first 12 with Los Angeles — make two All-Star teams, and win three World Series rings. He later worked as a broadcaster. Fans of baseball history may enjoy this interview, which we ran here at FanGraphs in 2011.

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A veteran player who shall remain anonymous shared a refreshing perspective with me earlier this season. We were talking about reporters’ clubhouse access — something that has lessened over the years — and he opined that there isn’t enough of it. Acknowledging that many of his peers would disagree with that view, he expressed that baseball would be better-served by a more media-friendly atmosphere. As he put it, “Reporters promote the game. As players, that’s something we should be happy to help out with.”

———

Eleven years after Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” gave the New York Giants a dramatic victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers, the since-relocated rivals played another game to see who would advance to the World Series. As before, it was decided by a ninth-inning rally.

In 1962, San Francisco and Los Angeles finished their respective 162-game schedules tied for first place in the National League, then proceeded to play a three-game series to determine who would go on to face the Yankees. Billy Pierce bested Sandy Koufax in Game One. The Dodgers came back to win Game 2. In the winner-take-all finale, the Giants scored four times in the top of the ninth to erase a 4-2 deficit. Pierce, who’d thrown a shutout two days earlier, came on to get the save.

The Giants went on to lose to the Yankees in the World Series, just as they had in 1951. This defeat was especially excruciating. Down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, with runners on second and third, and two out, Willie McCovey lined out to second.

Charles Schulz, an avowed Giants fan, immortalized the moment in a Peanuts comic strip. Sitting silently alongside his friend Linus for three frames, Charlie Brown suddenly stands up in the fourth and lets out an anguished cry: “Why couldn’t McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher!”

While sometimes painful, baseball has long been a wonderful thing.

———

LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The Detroit News, Tony Paul wrote about how University of Michigan pitching coach Chris Fetter has become a hot commodity for MLB organizations.

At Forbes, Wayne G. McDonnell Jr. previewed the Miami Marlins’ offseason.

The Fielding Bible awards were announced this week. The results can be found here.

MiLB.com’s Benjamin Hill celebrated Halloween by sharing a roundup of weird, off-kilter and anomalous events that occurred during the minor league baseball season.

Over at Baltimore Baseball, Rich Dubroff rued the fact that there will be no Orioles FanFest this winter.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo announced on Tuesday that he plans to move to MLB — the Yokohama BayStars slugger will presumably be posted in November — and Jason Coskrey wrote about it at The Japan Times.

———

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Bob Gibson pitched 81 World Series innings. Sixty-nine of them were scoreless innings.

Madison Bumgarner hasn’t allowed a run in four-and-two-thirds regular-season innings as a reliever. He hasn’t allowed a run in seven postseason innings as a reliever.

Clayton Kershaw hasn’t allowed a run in four regular-season innings as a reliever. He’s allowed five runs in 10 postseason innings as a reliever.

Mike Montgomery has three regular-season saves in his career, and one postseason save. (Feel free to smile upon reading this, Cubs fans.)

The modern-era record for most losses in one season is 29, by Boston Beaneaters right-hander Vic Willis, in 1905. Willis is in the Hall of Fame.

The Boston Beaneaters won the 1897 National League pennant wth a record of 93-39. The St. Louis Browns finished in the cellar, 63.5 games back, with a record of 29-102. Klondike Douglass was one of the lone bright spots for the Browns, batting .328 with a .402 OBP.

On this date in 1953, MLB’s rules committee formally ended the practice of fielders leaving their gloves on the field while their teams batted. Henceforth they would be required to carry their leather back to the dugout between innings.

Sadaharu Oh retired from professional baseball on November 4, 1980. The legendary Yomiuri Giants slugger hit 868 home runs over the course of his 22-year NPB career.

Adam Dunn (63) had more than twice as many career stolen bases as Joe DiMaggio (30). Dunn hit 10 triples. DiMaggio hit 131 triples.

Rickey Henderson’s given name is Rickey Nelson Henley Henderson.

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