Written by DrShorebird
Yoon Press Conference and Other Musings From Sarasota
By Doc Shorebird
Sarasota (February 18)… Today the Orioles introduced RHP Suk-Min Yoon (pronounced syuck-min you-n). Yoon would become the first Korean-born player in club history, and about the 16th in major league history, when he makes his big league debut.
Yoon’s Korean stats have little meaning as comps to Major League Pitching. The point is, that as an individual, Yoon looks like a good deal for the Orioles. Perhaps they see him not as a Jimenez, but as a future back-end of the rotation or reliever at the right price. Years ago, it used to be said that Japanese League was equivalent to US AAA and that Korean League was equivalent to AA. That has changed a bit over the past 15 years. It might be fairer today to compare Japanese League to AAAA and Korean League to somewhere between AA and AAA. The problem is that the teams are too unbalanced to provide accurate comps.
One of the problems is the baseball itself there are significant differences in texture, liveliness and stitching. In fact, until recently, there were multiple manufacturers of baseballs for the Japan League. Another problem is the difference in strike zones. In Japan and Korea, the strike zone is the rectangular box described by the rules and as drawn by the computer and superimposed above the plate when pitches are replayed. As you know, in the American League, umpires cut the top of the zone at an angle. A pitch at the top of the zone and on the far side in the zone will be called a strike in Japan and Korea, but is usually called a ball in the American League
So comparing the stats is not important, but comparing the pitchers’ ability is important. Yoon’s stats are quite impressive and the scouts believe his pitches will play well here. He has been throwing with an Official American League ball for some time and has not had to make any adjustments in grip or motion.
Buck Showalter Observations
A particularly interesting aspect of spring training to me is to observe and learn from the techniques of manager Buck Showalter. When Showalter first took over the reins s manager, I asked what traits led to him being a winner. It was widely known that Showalter was an extremely hard worker who paid great attention to detail – every detail no matter how big or small. Nothing escapes his oversight. Of course, Buck modestly tried to duck the question, but his answer centered on not exposing his players to unfavorable conditions. As an example if the player has a poor batting average against left-handed pitchers, then limit his exposure to lefties.
This spring brought an opportunity for additional observations. During the off-season a player or two was signed that some thought might not be very compatible with teammates in the clubhouse. When asked by reporters whether a player would be a disruption or not, Showalter responded that it was his job to maintain the proper clubhouse environment. Not that a happy clubhouse brings 100 victories, but a clubhouse where there is no mutual respect for teammates can hinder winning. How does Showalter control the clubhouse environment? First of all, he doesn’t pay attention to what others say about a player, but observes and forms his own opinion. He highly values how a player cares about his teammates as a team. His observations include players’ facial expressions and even the way they move. Showalter trusts his own interpretation of body language. A player who disrespects his teammates may find themselves elsewhere when cuts are made without a word having to have been said.
Another observation from this spring is how Showalter helps maintain a players’ confidence. It’s not done with “atta boys,” but with protecting the players from negative situations. As an example, Showalter understands the psyche of young athletes. He understands that younger athletes feel bulletproof and don’t even want to consider that they aren’t superhuman. Showalter didn’t want Manny Machado to be greeted everyday with the same questions – “How are you feeling or how are you progressing?” because Manny might start thinking about his injury. So Showalter decided to get all of the questions out of the way once and for all by having a press conference where all of the reporters could hear the answer at one time. It was implied that there wouldn’t be productive to keep asking Manny the question every day and that if there were new developments Showalter would be sure to mention it. This is how the Showalter helps maintain players’ confidences.
OK, these are some of my observations and opinions so far from spring training. I am looking forward to other opportunities to share my observations with you as spring training progresses. Not every time a player farts or rolls a ball on the field, but when I see something I think may not have been too widely covered by the great crew of talented and hard-working reporters covering the Orioles.
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