Rafael Devers, injuries, and Opening Weekend’s emotional roller coaster

The Moonshot: Rafael Devers, Injuries And The Emotional Roller-coaster Of Opening Weekend

The first edition of The Moonshot, our weekly newsletter collecting all the excitement of baseball, is here, courtesy of the FanSided MLB team.

Exit velocity, bat flips, launch angles, stealing home, the hanging curveball, Big League Chew, sausage races, and unwritten rules of any kind are all self-indulgent, overrated nonsense, according to us. Greg Maddux, we feel, was a true wizard.

We believe that minor league baseball should be protected by a constitutional amendment and that pitch framing is both an art and a science.

We believe in the sweet spot, making WARP not war, and allowing your closer to go for a two-inning save. We also believe that love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is also very good.

Welcome to The Moonshot.

This MLB season could be about survival of the fittest

Most—but not all—executives, coaches, and players were concerned that the increased spring training would lead to an increase in injuries early in the season. That has been the case in less than a week of the regular season.

Take a look at the players who have already suffered injuries: Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Luke Jackson, AJ Pollock, Andrew Chafin, Luis Urias, Mickey Moniak, Blake Snell, Casey Sadler, Evan White, Jack Flaherty, Alex Reyes, Shane Baz, Jon Gray, and Nate Pearson.

The Chicago White Sox’s high-end pitching depth has been devastated, forcing them to sign Johnny Cueto.

Flaherty was expected to have a breakout season, and the Cardinals lacked depth in the rotation with Adam Wainwright without him. The Braves were constructed to withstand the loss of Jackson, but the Mariners’ loss of Sadler, maybe baseball’s best underappreciated reliever, before Opening Day was a brutal punch.

Survival of the fittest will be the slogan for this season, especially early on, as it was for the COVID-shortened season.

The teams with the most organizational depth will be in a better position to win from the start. However, it would not be surprising to see teams continue to make moves and tinker with their squads’ bottom halves.

After top prospects Bobby Witt Jr., Julio Rodriguez, CJ Abrams, Spencer Torkelson, and Bryce Stott each made Opening Day rosters, the Giants called up Helliot Ramos, their top outfield prospect, after just two games.

However, during the early portion of the regular season, the increasing number of injuries will be something to keep an eye on. In recent seasons, the number has progressively climbed, owing to teams’ growing use of the IL to protect players and maintain roster flexibility.

This year, though, it is possible that it may rise to a level that will make even the most optimistic baseball fans uneasy.

— Robert Murray

Baseball, but for your ears

Rafael Devers is headed for a breakout season, again

Rafael Devers already had a breakout season in 2019.

The issue was that no one seemed to care outside of Red Sox Nation. That season, the Sox were not as good as they had been the year before, when they set a team record with 108 wins and won the World Series. Being above.500 isn’t good enough by post-2004 standards.

Devers, who was 22 at the time, led the American League with 54 doubles, more than double his previous career high, and led Major League Baseball with 359 total bases. In 156 games, he hit.311 with a 916 OPS, 201 hits, 129 runs scored, 115 RBI, and 32 home runs.In the American League MVP voting, he came in 12th place.

By the way, David Ortiz, who thinks he sees himself in Devers, predicted the whole thing.

Devers is also coming off another strong, underappreciated season in 2021. He hit a new career best of 38 home runs in the same number of games played in 2019, but just 37 doubles.

His average exit velocity was 92.9 mph, which tied him for tenth in the majors with Nelson Cruz and Joey Votto (and put him ahead of everyone else on the Sox); excluding the shortened 2020 season, his average EV has risen steadily each year.

He went from a strikeout rate of 27 percent to a strikeout rate of 21.5 percent.He was named an All-Star for the first time, won his first Silver Slugger, and ended tenth in MVP voting as a result of his accomplishments.

Devers, who is now 25, is in his sixth season in the majors. He’s a more refined and experienced hitter than he was in 2017, when he became the youngest player in MLB history to hit an inside-the-park home run in a postseason game as a rookie.

In Boston’s surprising playoff run last October, he (and Kiké Hernández) equaled Ortiz’s record with five home runs. In spring training, he hit six home runs, which do not count. On Opening Day, he smashed a first-inning home run off Gerrit Cole, torturing the Yankees’ high-priced starter once more.

According to the Red Sox, he is the first player in franchise history to smash a home run in both his final regular-season plate appearance and his first plate appearance the following season.

Devers was brought in to help the Red Sox replace the void left by Ortiz in 2017. He was promoted from Triple-A before he was completely ready, forcing him to learn on the fly. The sheer power was present, but not the discipline (or defense).

He was in the postseason before he was legally allowed to drink. He’s primed to explode in 2022, with half a decade of big-league experience under his belt and already more postseason experience than most players who’ve been in the game twice as long.

This year, Devers says he hopes to hit at least 40 home runs. I wouldn’t put money on him.

— Gabrielle Starr

Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman: Old school vs. new school, part 2,924

Baseball has long been considered an old man’s game, but that is rapidly changing. The sport does not belong to previous generations, and it is up to the current generation to select how it is played.

If that means leaving some misbehaving fans behind, so be it. That wasn’t the case in the Braves’ clubhouse, at least not until 2018.

Most people have watched Ronald Acua’s Instagram live chat, in which he indicated that Freddie Freeman is someone he “wouldn’t miss,” in part because of how he was treated as a rookie.

Acua arrived at the bigs’ clothes in a way that Freeman would not have recognized. There’s nothing wrong with it, either on the surface or beneath the surface. You are free to delve as far as you want.

But Freeman discovered something, not because of any present-tense dispute, but because of how he was handled as a rookie. “I noticed the eye black problem,” Freeman said when asked why he treated Acua this way.

There are organizational standards that must be followed when wearing a Braves uniform. Freeman explained. “You don’t wear sunglasses over your ‘A,’ you don’t wear earrings, you keep your hair at a specific length, you wear a uniform during BP, and you don’t have eye black all over your face,” Freeman explained.

Whether Freeman misconstrued the rules (unlikely) or the organization imposed them on him, it’s yet more proof that baseball is evolving. It’s time to embrace a new era, one that’s full of glitz and glam. Acua (and Freeman, in separate ways) are both excellent examples of this.

— Mark Powell

Anthony Rizzo: Yankees’ third-option to difference-maker

It was right there. That all-too-familiar sensation of seeing a Yankee slump to the ground in agony. When Anthony Rizzo was hit on the wrist by a pitch and collapsed, the Era of Good Feelings lasted only about 5/9 of Game 1. Even though the short and sloppy 2022 spring training had been New York’s healthiest in a long time, it still didn’t last long.

He shrugged it off miraculously, just like he shook off being relegated to the third tier of the rumor mill this winter, behind Matt Olson and Freddie Freeman. For months of silence, Rizzo had to wake up every day and read that, yes, the Yankees wanted him back — unless they could obtain one of two better possibilities.

It happened when an Olson deal was done and the Freeman-to-LA rumor was gaining steam. Both parties looked at each other and clenched their teeth (the Yankees have one set of teeth). They came to an agreement.

You wouldn’t know if Rizzo felt disrespected if he didn’t show it. The advantages of hiring him for a full season in pinstripes have become evident fast. Rizzo fought back in all three games against the Red Sox in the first series.

On Opening Day, his two-run home run indicated the Yankees’ decision not to die, and he tied the game in the second and third innings with another two-run blast and a two-run single, respectively.

The intangible advantage was also evident; on Saturday afternoon, rookie pitcher Ron Marinaccio couldn’t get a strike until Rizzo came to the mound and sold him a couple.

While Olson or Freeman may have been more flashy long-term commitments, Rizzo seemed eager to show that his 2021 season, which was hampered by COVID-19 and a move to a new city, was the exception rather than the rule.

— Adam Weinrib