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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Oswaldo, Umpires, and Taylor Trammell!



There are times in life, particularly when we get really excited, when we become over-zealous. Even those of us that consider ourselves to be paragons of rationality and empiricism can fall victim to such excitement. I don't necessarily consider myself a "paragon of rationality," but I do generally try to make decisions and posit opinions based on generally established facts and statistics, where appropriate. Baseball is rooted in statistics, but part of the fun of the game, and roster building for that matter, is allowing zeal to run wild on occasion. I will freely admit that there is an extent to which I allowed that to happen in a response to one of last week's Mailbag questions.


My regular readers likely already know the answer I'm referencing. I was asked a question regarding a potential trade for Luis Arraez, a question that I think I answered reasonably...until I answered my own question in the midst of answering the original. I have long loved Jazz Chisholm's skillset, and imagined what a blockbuster trade for the two together might look like. As part of that trade, I offered most of the best prospects on the farm, including Spencer Jones, as an example of the type of value it would take to obtain both. I said there was merit to the trade for both sides, though to be fair, I stopped barely short of fully endorsing such a blockbuster. If I'm being completely honest, though, I had come pretty close to thinking such a trade was a great idea.


Thankfully, our more reasoned readers disavowed me of such a notion, and the general consensus to that idea can best be summed up by the comment my father (and frequent SSTN reader!) made to me when I saw him last Friday night (before even saying hello, obviously): "You really were dropped on your head too many times as a child!?!?!" As a way of exonerating my parents' capabilities, I generally found ways to hit my own head without their influence, but the point was well-taken.


I can honestly count on one hand the number of times I allowed zeal to push me a hair too far with a baseball opinion as a writer for SSTN and previous baseball blogs, so it was new for me to see universal pushback from my readers...and it was a lot of fun! I think what I'm really getting at is thank you all for keeping me honest; it's fun to talk baseball with a group of people that think as independently as all of you. Let's keep it going (and I'll be back on the rationality wagon this week)!


As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll talk about Oswaldo's results, the quality of MLB umpiring, and the recent acquisition of Taylor Trammell off of waivers! Let's get at it:


David B. asks: You've written about the changes Oswaldo Cabrera has made to his swing, particularly the decrease in loop and uppercut. His stats are good now, but my question is has he maintained that swing change and has it had noticeable impact on his game?


I love this question. So many guys make changes in Spring Training, but many do not carry those changes through completely to the regular season. Cabrera has been excellent at the plate so far, particularly in comparison to most people's expectations, but he's been hot previously. The answer in this case is yes, he has maintained all of his changes through the regular season, and we have one key point of evidence.


As I noted in discussing Cabrera's mechanical changes, one of the places that Cabrera could be beat quite easily was on fastballs at and above the belt. His significantly long, uppercut swing limited his ability to make impactful contact in that part of the zone. His high-level stats are good this season, but as I've shown previously, Cabrera had almost no hits in his big league career on belt-high and higher fastballs. Here are his stats against such pitches this season:



That's a really impressive stat-line, and rather than belt-high or higher being a drag on Oswaldo's overall line, it's been one of his strengths this season. It's not luck either; check out his spray chart:



Most of the fielded outs were hard hit balls, and 3/5 outs shown were really 50/50 or better balls that could've been hits on other days.


There's one hit in particular I want to highlight (the single up the middle above):



This pitch is a hard fastball with ride moving away from Cabrera. He never could have hit that pitch with his previous bat path; at best, he would have popped the pitch up on the infield, something to which he was prone previously. Instead, Cabrera was short to the baseball and actually hit down on it slightly, and roped the ball back through the SS hole. It was a brilliant piece of hitting, one that Cabrera could not have executed at any other time in his professional career. These changes give me real hope he can be the semi-regular super utility guy I thought he could be at his peak.


Dennis asks: What's your take on the umpiring in the bigs? Does MLB have a real problem here and how do you propose the league handles Angel and umps like him?


Yeah, it's getting really bad, especially behind the plate. Angel, of course, is referring to Angel Hernandez, who has long been a thorn in the side of both the players and the league. Part of me really thinks that we've reached the point where pitchers throw hard enough with nasty enough spin that it is really hard for even the best human eyes to accurately call balls and strikes consistently anymore. However, there remain human biases in how the strike zone is called, particularly for players who do not fit the typical height specifications for MLB players. It's why Judge still gets shin balls called strikes consistently even after all of these years and why players like Altuve and IKF get strikes called above the letters occasionally.


I have long been against robo-umps, but I do think we need to find a middle ground. At AAA this year, they are testing robo-umps with challenges, that allow quick checks to see if a ball thrown is really a strike/ball. I am somewhat skeptical of the league's ability to manage such a system in a seamless fashion, but I do think it's time to take radical steps.


However, I do think the league needs to get tougher on existing umpires. We now have a wealth of knowledge and empirical data to definitively show which umpires consistently perform below acceptable levels. The league and the umpires' union have to hold those people accountable, regardless of their previous legal actions against league entities. The lack of an automated ball/strike system doesn't absolve umpires or the league.


I also don't approve of the manner in which umpires antagonize players. It feels like for every umpire that works with the players on the field, there's one that tries to be bigger than the game. I'm not sure how to fix that, but surely there are conduct standards to which the league and the union can agree.


Michael asks: RE: the Taylor Trammell signing. Why do we need another outfielder?


I've looked back through the SSTN archives, because I know that I've written about Taylor Trammell at least twice, but I only found one post from a Mailbag back in 2021. At that time, I said that Trammell didn't make sense as a trade target despite his prospect status, though I'm pretty sure that I later (think 2022) said that dumpster diving for a former Top-100 prospect made sense if the team thought they could help him make an adjustment to tap into his obvious physical talent.


The reality is that Trammell is 100% replaceable and this was procedural in nature. However, keeping two outfielders on a short bench is an odd fit. I can't help but wonder if we're about to find out about an injury in the outfield. Maybe this is really all about taking a shot at a guy with talent who needs to have his swing re-tooled (which the Yankees seem to have some recent success doing with Volpe and Cabrera), but it's an odd fit without an outfield injury. I really hope I'm wrong...

23 Comments


Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Apr 19

I am surprised as well by Smith being DFAed in exchange for adding Taylor Trammell. I was figuring instead that Smith might be DFAed in favor of newly reacquired (to a minor league contract) Rougned Odor. Odor would be an upgrade to Smith, because even though he has been a very light hitter lately, he HAS had previous success at the big league level which we hope he can recapture with the right coaching. But even if he doesn't return to the hitter he once was in his best years with Texas, if nothing else, he is a left handed hitter with potential left handed power, and even if we don't see that, he is a PERSONALITY (like Stroman …

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Apr 19

I hope you're wrong about an outfielder about to go on the IL.


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fuster
Apr 19
Replying to

perhaps the Yankees are about to trade an outfielder

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Apr 19

Spencer Jones will be 23 years old in a few weeks.


Spencer Jones batted above .300 at Vanderbilt, once. One time.


Spencer Jones has batted above .300 in a full season in the minors... never.


Spencer Jones is in Double-A.


Jones is a prospect. He has a big upside. Maybe. He might reach AAA. He might make the Major Leagues. He might be a star, but, right now, he's a prospect and he is two steps, the two biggest steps, from the big leagues.


Jazz Chisholm is 26-years-old. He has been a MLB All-Star. When he was Jones' age, he was in the big leagues. His OPS+ for his career is over 100. He doesn't become a free agent u…


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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Apr 20
Replying to

Interesting. I MIGHT trade Jones for one of Goldschmidt or Arenado, but I don't think I'd make those deals because those guys are old.


I'd trade Jones for young talent already performing. I woudn't trade him for guys on the decline or just about ready to get there.


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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Apr 19

Isn't Trammel just a depth piece? He appears to be on the 40-man at Triple-A with Kevin Smith DFA'd to make room.

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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Apr 19
Replying to

I would rather the Yankees depth piece be newly reacquired (to a minor league contract) Rougned Odor. He has experience in the past of success, and he has left handed power, and if nothing else, he adds another PERSONALITY (like Verdugo and Stroman) to the ballclub and the bench, more of a PERSONALITY than Smith or Trammell.

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fuster
Apr 19

only a fond and proud father would be bursting with surprise at seeing his son edging into error.

only someone with a great fielding percentage and a good grasp is able to admit that one glanced off his glove


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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Apr 19
Replying to

The trick is to keep the glancing blow from striking one in the face. :⁠-⁠)


And yes, we had a good laugh about it all.

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