Richard Fitch criticizes the notion that Joey Votto and other players should expand the zone in certain situations rather than take a walk. Fitch makes the point that "[p]layers are never trading a run for an out simply because the run is never a given," which I believe is a very succinct description of the problem. In general, players work a walk because the pitcher is not giving them a pitch they can handle. I doubt that any batter prefers a walk to a hit, but many prefer a walk to an out. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that Fitch or anyone else can convince the "be aggressive" crowd of the value of plate patience at this point. The value of not making an out seems self-evident, but many still don't buy the premise.
No, this article doesn't have anything to do with Phillips' personality or ability to stay loose in the face of increasing media criticism. David Golebiewski is simply noting Phillips' recent struggles against fastballs. Phillips was once a terrific fastball hitter, but his slugging average against the heater has tumbled more than 125 points since the 2011 season.
Phillips slugged .528 versus fastballs in 2011, topping the major league average by nearly 100 points. That figure dipped a bit in 2012 (.482) and then plummeted to .393 in 2013. You might think his power outage against the heat is the product of his hitting more ground balls, but Phillips actually hit more fly balls and line drives in 2013 than in the previous few seasons. It's just that the fastballs he lofted didn't travel as far: Phillips' fly balls and liners carried an average of 257 feet this past year, compared to 271 feet in 2011.
I don't know enough about this type of data to tell you if this is a serious sign of decline. Could this type of drop in slugging average be attributable to random variance? I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me if Phillips is starting to lose bat speed as he advances into his thirties. Regardless, I suggest clicking through to the article to see the heat maps. Phillips used to hammer fastballs over the heart of the plate or on the inner half of the plate. In 2013, he couldn't drive fastballs over the middle and his inside power diminished as well.
I think instant replay will benefit baseball since there is no excuse for blatantly missed calls in the digital era. However, I agree with Craig Calcaterra that the challenge system -- as used by the NFL -- is not ideal. The challenge system creates situations where football coaches have to weigh the strategic impact of a possible lost timeout before tossing the red flag. Managers won't lose timeouts obviously, but the focus of the system should be on making the correct call, not creating another area for managerial gamesmanship.
Aaron Gleeman looks at how the position switch might affect Joe Mauer's value. Gleeman concludes that it will be difficult for Mauer to maintain his status as an elite player at first base. Mauer's bat simply isn't as valuable at first as it is at catcher. However, as Gleeman notes, the Twins don't really have other options in this situation. Mauer's health has to come first, and Minnesota has Miguel Sano waiting in the wings at third base. Concussions are scary business, which leads us to . . .
John Sickels suffered a concussion last month and wrote about his experience on Tuesday. He details emotional swings, extreme difficulty concentrating, and the constant pressure within his skull. I've never experienced a concussion, so I consider myself very lucky, but I do know plenty of people who have suffered one or more. They've all mentioned the extreme pain. Several have talked about getting nauseous. Some people have said they are more forgetful now than they were before the concussion. We're more aware now of the dangers of concussions than ever before, but it can still be easy to forget their full impact.
Get well soon, John, we're rooting for you.