Daniel Norris may be catching that wave
Ever since the Detroit Tigers acquired Daniel Norris at the 2015 trade deadline, streakiness has been his calling card. Obviously, some minor injuries played a role in breaking up his first two seasons. But there is no denying that he has been inconsistent despite good overall numbers for a just-turned 24-year-old starting pitcher. Yet in both 2015 and 2016, when Norris finally found a groove, he ripped off long stretches of good starts.
Such inconsistency is natural for a young pitcher. As we have emphasized since the 2016 season ended in disappointment, the Tigers’ young starting pitchers are the key to their chances at making an October run this season. Michael Fulmer has continued to maintain his same incredible performance from 2016. Matt Boyd has been erratic, but has given the Tigers a chance to win more often than not.
It’s Daniel Norris who has the potential to turn the Tigers’ rotation from a middle-of-the-road unit into one of the better rotations in the game. They have to hope that Wednesday night’s outing against the Houston Astros represents the beginning of a good run for the mercurial lefty.
Norris continued to battle his command in the early going. Unlike many of his starts this season, he was able to limit the self-inflicted wounds and eventually find his rhythm. He kept the walks off the board and started pounding the zone. When he did, the Astros couldn’t do anything against him.
Norris is clearly a feel pitcher and isn’t at his best when he’s holding a pack of mechanical cues in his head. He needs to just let it rip and trust his stuff without trying to be too fine. For all Norris’ calm, soft-spoken demeanor off the mound, anyone who has seen him burn off the mound to make a play understands that this is a guy whose motor runs hot when he is pitching. The key is to keep from over-thinking things without letting his natural energy spin him out of control.
For his part, Norris felt that he took a step toward finding that balance on Wednesday night. A pitcher can’t fight their nature. Here’s hoping he is learning to ride his own high energy wave.
Lost in the frame
Good receiving has been around as long as there have been catchers. Those same catchers always sought to influence umpires. So have hitters, apparently, though Lenny Dykstra’s methodology is not recommended. The advent of actual data collection on pitch framing over the past half-decade has led to an intense focus on the art of getting calls.
The initial poster child for framing was Jonathan Lucroy during his time for the Milwaukee Brewers. The stillness with which Lucroy absorbed balls into the silent black hole of his catcher’s glove was considered the state-of-the-art right as framing hit the public consciousness. Before teams caught on and disparities in framing among catchers closed drastically, that skill made him an extremely valuable player.
However, framing is still poorly understood as a skill set over the lifespan of a catcher’s career. Evidence suggest that there may well be a peak, but that catchers of varying sizes and abilities may still be plenty capable of doing a solid job well into their thirties. In Lucroy’s case, that skill has appeared to erode rapidly this season. Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer investigates Lucroy’s decline and examines why a good framer might lose the touch. Hint: health is important.
Surprise contenders have held up so far
Just a year ago, we were still busy mocking the Diamondbacks for the Shelby Miller trade. Sure, Paul Goldschmidt is awesome, and Zack Greinke can be awesome, but is this a team that can hold up through the full 162-game schedule? A.J. Pollock and David Peralta have been healthy and Chris Owings may have blossomed into something of a super-utility star, but still, the Diamondbacks?
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs took a deeper look. There is potential, for sure. Manager Torey Lovullo has them running the bases with abandon, and the team has out-pitched expectations thus far. Still, they have an awful lot to prove before people are going to buy in on the D-Backs as real contenders.
But could the Minnesota Twins be real? Well, they need that Byron Buxton fellow to pan out for good. It might all depend on whether Jose Berrios’ command of this slider is real or not. Good lord.
Interlude for a very good dog
Around the horn
The Dodgers need to get Joc Pederson sorted out as they continue to struggle for traction. Even the rich have problems. Talk in Boston lately has centered around John Farrell and potential clubhouse issues. I’m going to say they have enough talent to overcome whatever issues, real or imagined, are the fault of their manager. Hit dingers, get David Price back, and we’ll see how real those issues are. Meanwhile, the other installment of AL East scapegoating is the shots taken at Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez and his potential blame for Masahiro Tanaka’s lackluster start.
Aaron Altherr is off to a stellar start a year after disappointing expectations. Because everything the Mets touch explodes in their collective face, I hesitate to link this article on Michael Conforto and the fact that he’s driving the ball with authority to all parts of the ballpark. RO Baseball interviewed ESPN’s Enrique Rojas about baseball past and present, as well as the future of sports journalism for young aspirants. They also took a fun look at how Mike Trout’s career would play out if he were a Rockie playing in Coors Field 81 games per year.