James told the following colorful story at BJOL, which is $3 per month for the subscriber stuff and free for a lot of stuff. Immediately the guy who came to mind was Ben Gamel:


Hey Bill.  
A Cub fan friend of mine was questioning Joe Maddon's use of Ben Zobrist in the cleanup spot.  Zobrist has the lowest OPS+ of any of the Cubs top 15 players in plate appearances, and has a slash of .233/.320/.379.  I suggested that Maddon has not given up on the veteran and believes he may still be a valuable asset in the playoffs.  
Without necessarily getting into this decision specifically, what are your thoughts about this sort of lineup construction?
Asked by: wilbur

Answered: 9/9/2017
 Well. . . Fans generally over-estimate the importance of lineup construction, probably by a factor of 50 or more.    You never want to be in a hurry to give up on a veteran player, because once you give up on him, it's too late to go back.   If you have two options, a young player and a veteran, you kind of have to stay with the veteran until you are CERTAIN he is done, because after you move past that point you only have one option.    
I love Zobrist, always have, and I know I have told this story before, but the first time I ever saw Zobrist was in a spring training game in probably 2005.   I had never heard of him; at that time he was a skinny shortstop trying to get to Double A ball.   Spring training game; Curt Schilling was dominating, striking out veteran hitters left and right.   Zobrist stepped in; I thought it would be three pitches and out.   He hung in there, fouled off about seven pitches and hit a line drive to right field.  Sometimes you just KNOW, and I just knew that he was a special player.  
I know that Theo always loved him, too, but it seemed to me that the Cubs maybe went out on a limb in the belief that Zobrist still had several years left.   2005 was a long, long time ago. 


Not that Gamel is going to be a star, but I'll be pretty surprised if he doesn't get 2,500 at bats in the big leagues.  The Schilling/Zobrist story ... you gotta love the way that Gamel takes on pitchers' pitches.  Not just his success against tough pitches, but the fact that he still looks like he's thoroughly enjoying the game while he's seeing tough pitches.

And let's remember:  Gamel seems like he is 30 years old, on every possible level, but he is only 25 years old with less than a full MLB season behind him.  True, he's had a very slow 2nd half, but you notice the Mariners' private intel has not soured them in the least.

He could develop in several possible directions.  Just before Friday night's game, they were marvelling that in batting practice Gamel had decided to hit several balls off the Hit It Here Cafe.  Right on cue, Gamel hit an early 3-run shot into the right field seats to win a 4-3 game.  The pitch was offspeed, Gamel fooled badly on it, but he kept his hands back and squared the ball with a one-hand swing.  Cano style.  The type of swing in the photo above.

I'm partial to this kind of late-adjustment Ichiro backhand that covers a pitch.  Speaks to very good ball tracking.


Mitch Haniger finally looks like he's getting his timing back.  He sinks his weight dangerously as the ball comes in, peers at the pitch studiously, and then WHIPSNAPPPPS that bat late and drives the ball to right field.

It's been a longggg, injury-ruined year for him.  But the last 10 days he has LOOKED like himself again.  Going into Saturday, he was 15-for-33 with three doubles and two homers.  Love the kid.


Guillermo Heredia has an average-solid rating defensively by John Dewan and UZR.  The Mariners swear that he's super-elite.  What does the Mainframe say?  Heredia's glove looks roughly above average in center field visually.  

Then again, if you are a legitimate CF in Safeco and you can hit 90 with good plate recog, what's that worth on the free agent market?


Dr D




During one in-game conversation Blowers commented regarding Gamel's approach to hitting that the kid said , "he's just trying to hit the fastball."  I believe this is what makes him so successful hitting is that he thinks fastball first and adjusts accordingly, ala Ted Williams. The Splendid Splinter always looked fastball first and was pretty successful adjusting. Regarding Heredia, his put outs from ALL outfield positions must be growing in reputation around MLB.  Saturday it took a replay review to overturn the safe call on Pujols at second base.  And Albert rarely attempts to stretch anything, and for good reason.

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