Birding Around the Campgrounds in Julian

This is my favorite time of the year to go for a weekend
trip to the Julian mountains. There is lots of campgrounds in the area but I
love going to KQ. I arrived at my favorite campsite around noon and by the time
we settled and had lunch, it was past 2:00pm. I was eager to go and see if I
could find a Costa’s or a Calliope Hummingbird. Hurrying up a grade, a 10
minute walk west from my

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Trade Notes: Machado, Phils, Cubs, Yanks, Rays, Padres, M’s, Tribe

Orioles shortstop Manny Machado seems like a good bet to end up on the move this year, though it’s not “anywhere close” to happening, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. The Orioles aren’t “actively shopping” Machado right now, and they’re content to keep the soon-to-be free agent until closer to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, Kubatko writes. Kubatko goes on to list some potential Machado suitors, including the Phillies, who “left open the possibility of engaging in talks” with the Orioles when they were in Baltimore a couple weeks ago. Meanwhile, according to Kubatko, the Cubs reached out to Orioles general manager Dan Duquette to express interest in Machado, but Chicago – like Baltimore – isn’t prepared to make a major deal yet. Of course, Cubs president Theo Epstein addressed the Machado-Chicago speculation earlier this week, saying it’s “in fantasy land at this point.”

Here are more trade-related items:

  • The Yankees, owners of arguably the majors’ premier offense and its second-best record (32-16), “need pitching more than anything else,” general manager Brian Cashman said Saturday (via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). Cashman made that observation before right-hander Sonny Gray’s latest subpar start – a 3 2/3-frame, five-run performance in a loss to the Angels. Gray has now posted a 5.98 ERA/4.78 FIP with 7.97 K/9 and 5.07 BB/9 in 49 2/3 innings this year, which wasn’t the type of production the Yankees had in mind then they acquired him from the Athletics last July. His 2018 woes – not to mention a general lack of front-end starters behind ace Luis Severino – could force the World Series hopefuls to revisit the trade market for rotation help in the next couple months.
  • Tampa Bay pulled off a surprise trade Friday when it sent reliever Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span to Seattle, and that won’t be be the end of the Rays’ moves, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times suggests. With Colome and Span gone, Topkin names Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, C.J. Cron, Carlos Gomez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Brad Miller, Sergio Romo, Matt Duffy, Chaz Roe, Nathan Eovaldi and Jonny Venters as candidates to wind up in other uniforms.
  • Padres outfielder Travis Jankowski has drawn trade interest, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reported before the Mariners-Rays swap. It seems the Mariners tried for Jankowski prior to landing Span, but according to Divish, the Padres didn’t show much interest in the M’s low-ranked farm system. Known mostly for his speed and defense, the 26-year-old Jankowski has gotten off to a .313/.382/.400 start at the plate in 89 attempts this season. He’s controllable through the 2021 season.
  • Thanks to their bullpen’s dreadful start to the season, the Indians have been inquiring about outside help, Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com relays. It doesn’t seem as if any trades are close to happening, however, as Hoynes points out that the deadline’s still more than two months away. Cleveland’s bullpen entered Saturday last in the majors in both ERA (6.23) and fWAR (minus-0.8), and it then lost integral lefty Andrew Miller to the disabled list for the second time this season.

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What To Watch For As The Pitching Landscape Evolves

Back in 2016, Terry Francona’s usage of Indians left-hander Andrew Miller was revolutionary, and the way he deployed his best relief pitcher, particularly during the postseason, has since had a profound impact on the way MLB teams have used their bullpens. The Andrew Miller Effect changed the game of baseball, and was a fascinating story to watch.

Except that’s wrong. Or at least, it’s the wrong way to look at the story. What we sometimes call the Andrew Miller Effect isn’t actually a story in and of itself, but rather a single chapter in a longer novel that has yet to reach its conclusion. That novel doesn’t begin with Miller, either, and it’s not even really about relievers. At least, not as much as you might think.

In the simplest terms, a team wins a baseball game by scoring more runs than the opposing team. So obviously, there are two ways for a team to improve its chances of winning: get better at scoring runs, or get better at preventing opponents from scoring. The latter objective placed within the confines of baseball’s nine-inning, three-outs-per-inning format outlines a modified objective: the pitching staff must somehow get 27 hitters out while allowing the fewest runs possible. The only real limitation on the pitching staff beyond that is that a pitcher who is removed from the game may not re-enter.

Baseball is a game largely centered around one-on-one matchups between a pitcher and a hitter. And since the hitters must continue to bat in a pre-determined order unless replaced by another hitter, the team that’s trying to get outs in a given half-inning has far more flexibility in gaining matchup advantage. In addition, with the way rosters are usually constructed, a team has the facility to change pitchers 11 or 12 times in a game, while a batter can only be swapped out three or four times total.

The conclusion here is that teams have always had enormous incentive to get creative in the way they deploy their pitchers. It’s not an entirely new concept; teams have been using LOOGYs (Lefty One-Out Guys) against left-handed hitters for years because the pitcher has a distinct, proven advantage in such a matchup; it’s just one way of increasing the chances they’ll get an important out. Similarly, Francona using his best reliever in situations with runners on or where the opposition’s best hitters are due up is all about finding ways to get the difficult outs with the highest probability and bridging the gap from zero to 27.

The Indians’ strategy with Miller was ground-breaking because it blurred the hierarchy of “middle relievers”, “setup men” and “closers”; in some ways, the roles of Josh HaderChad Green and more are products of the Andrew Miller Effect. The Rays are now breaking ground by similarly blurring the lines between “starters” and “relievers”. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that Rays manager Kevin Cash has been using relievers such as Sergio Romo and Ryne Stanek to get the first few outs of a baseball game, then turning to his “starters” to come in after that.

The core logic behind the strategy makes plenty of sense. Romo as a reliever is probably more better equipped to get outs at the top of the lineup than the second- or third-best starter in a thin Rays rotation. In addition, it means that the pitcher entering in relief of Romo will pitch to the weaker part of the lineup first; that means the new pitcher can be called upon to face more batters without having to expose himself to the most dangerous opposing hitters a third time, likely facing the bottom half of the lineup three times apiece instead. On the whole, the results of this experiment have been positive, which has everyone around baseball talking about the strategy and the Mets in particular considering deploying it on Monday.

It’s hard to imagine that the Sergio Romo Effect won’t have an impact as loud as (or louder than) the Andrew Miller Effect. It seems really unlikely that the strategy will just go away; as we saw with the Andrew Miller Effect, teams might hesitate to try something bold and unusual, but they’ll copy it quickly once they see it working for a rival club.

It’s still possible that MLB will step in at some point and write a new rule that limits this fast evolution of pitching roles. But if that doesn’t happen, we could eventually be looking at a version of baseball in which pitchers are defined by how many outs they’re typically called upon to get rather than in which part of the game they’re called upon to get them. At that point, we might have to entirely reimagine the labels we put on pitchers.

The roles of the truly elite aces like Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer seem unlikely to change very much. There’s little reason to disrupt the role of a guy who stands a solid chance to throw a complete game with brilliant results on any given day. But what if pitchers were used (and valued) based on a combination of the following five factors:

1) How efficiently can the pitcher get outs when throwing fewer pitches at maximum effort?
2) How efficiently can the pitcher get outs when throwing more pitches at an effort level that allows him longevity in the game?
3) At what point should the pitcher be pulled to prevent further exposure to the same hitters?
4) To what extent should the pitcher be shielded from his weak-side platoon?
5) To what extent should the pitcher be shielded from hitters who are particularly good at hitting the types of pitches he throws?

If pitching really is all about getting 27 outs while preventing runs with the highest possible efficiency (and it is), then the way a pitching staff is deployed might continue to become less of a formula and more of a jigsaw puzzle. That means shedding the labels of “starter” and “reliever” in favor of labels that describe hurlers in terms of the above factors. In fact, perhaps labels would end up entirely useless and it would prove a mistake to use them at all. In this hypothetical (future?)  environment, it’s likely that pitchers would be valued based on their efficiency in the unique situations they’d be asked to jump into.

Kluber, for instance, is a fairly uncommon asset; he’s an elite ace capable of preventing runs while going deep into games. Taijuan Walker, on the other hand, is a good example of someone who had significant splits last season after facing a lineup twice through. In 2017, Walker owned a 2.68 ERA and .298 opponent’s wOBA for the first two trips through the batting order, making him a very useful pitcher. However, when facing hitters for the third time, Walker’s ERA and wOBA ballooned to 5.97 and .357, respectively. Would he have been more useful to the Diamondbacks if they’d capped his outings at 18 batters faced, perhaps with the added benefit of being able to rest him for fewer days between outings?

Meanwhile, Hader and Green are somewhat of a throwback to the Mariano Rivera-type reliever capable of performing at maximum effort to achieve superhuman results against six to nine hitters. Hader’s done that 12 times so far this year, while Green’s accomplished the feat in seven appearances. Pitchers of this ilk are about as rare as those of Kluber’s, and the ability to get so many outs with such an astonishing level of efficiency is an incredible asset to any pitching staff. Perhaps these players will set a blueprint for others like them in the near future; even pitchers who can perform at 70-80% of Hader’s capabilities for a single trip through the order would be useful pitching every other day or so. There are plenty of starters who’ve had dramatic splits between their first and second trips through the other. Mike Foltynewicz comes to mind as an example, who limited opponents in 2017 to a .233/.302/.348 line the first time through, but allowed an uglier .295/.391/.516 line during his opposition’s second look.

With more pitching changes per game, lefty or righty specialists could end up being more useful than ever. Maybe that guy with the nasty slider and a batting practice fastball could still find a specialized role getting out opponents who have difficulty hitting breaking balls. The Craig Kimbrels and Corey Knebels who come in to get three or four outs would have their place, too. If the starter/reliever template begins to crumble, the traditional five-man rotation and seven- or eight-man bullpen might crumble with it, leaving behind a roster format in which the number of outs a pitcher is capable of getting might not matter quite so much as long as he’s capable of getting the outs he’s asked to get with a rate of efficiency that justifies his roster spot. Each of the 30 MLB pitching staffs could end up being its own unique cornucopia of pitcher types compiled cleverly assembled by its respective GM and used strategically and creatively by its skipper, the only rule being that it needs to prove adept at getting from zero to 27, game after game.

The question at that point becomes, how do we place a value on each pitcher in these new roles? What is the value of an average 100-pitch guy in comparison to an above-average twice-through-the-order hurler, and how do both compare to a guy like Ryan Dull who needs to be shielded from left-handed hitters but gets righties out nearly 80% of the time? If more teams begin to protect long-appearance pitchers from being exposed to the order a third time through, would the abundance and limited longevity of those pitchers make them less valuable, or would their efficiency and flexibility within the format help them prove to be just as valuable as an average 100-pitch guy?

The cop-out answer is that we’d have to wait to see all this happen in order to know. But it’s probably fair to think that teams would use stats like WPA to find the answer, or create entirely new stats to weight a pitcher’s efficiency against the number of total outs he’s tasked with getting in his particular role. It’s also pretty much a certainty that the market itself would have a say in the value of each class of pitcher. If twice-through-the-order type guys are abundant in a given year, teams may not be willing to pay as much for them. On the flip side, if many teams are in need of a once-through-the-order shutdown guy or a three to four out fireman to bridge the gap between longer-appearance guys, the cost of those players could increase based on supply and demand, much in the same way the value of a good second baseman goes up if more teams are lacking at the position.

The evolution of out-getting won’t simply end with the Rays’ latest experiment. There are clear advantages to be found in the creative deployment of pitchers that contrast heavily with baseball traditions, and with teams becoming more and more data driven, you can bet they’ll continue to search for more effective ways to get from zero to 27. Traditions aren’t rules, after all.

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West Notes: Pence, Ohtani, D-backs, Hill, A’s

It’s possible Giants outfielder Hunter Pence has played his last game with the team, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports California observes. The Giants have to make a decision on Pence’s future within the next six days, when his minor league rehab assignment will end. In the event San Francisco releases Pence, who helped the club to two World Series titles as a younger player, it’ll have to eat the remainder of his $18.5MM salary. But if Pence gets another shot with the Giants, he’ll return having undergone some offensive adjustments with the help of private instructor Doug Latta – whose students also include Mac Williamson and the Dodgers’ Justin Turner – Pavlocic details. Pence feels “way better” after working with Latta, and has hit well in the minors since making the changes. The respected veteran got off to a rough start in the majors this year (.172/.197/.190 in 61 plate appearances) before going on the disabled list April 19 with a thumb issue.

More from the game’s West divisions…

  • The Angels expect Shohei Ohtani to make his next start during their upcoming series against the Tigers, which runs from Monday to Thursday, manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday (via Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times). Ohtani had been scheduled to start Sunday against the Yankees, but the Angels elected against that as a way to manage the phenom’s workload. The pitcher/hitter hasn’t taken the mound since last Sunday, when he cruised past the Rays to record his fifth quality start in seven attempts, but has been in the Angels’ starting lineup five times this week.
  • The free-falling Diamondbacks may welcome both lefty Robbie Ray and righty Shelby Miller back in mid-June, general manager Mike Hazen told reporters, including Kathleen Fitzgerald of AZCentral and Nick Piecoro of AZCentral. After getting off to a 24-11 start, the Diamondbacks have lost 14 of 16, perhaps thanks in part to the absences of Ray (strained oblique) and Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery) since late April. The D-backs’ banged-up rotation is hardly the primary reason for their slide (the club’s offense has only averaged two runs per game during its slump), but the returns of Ray and Miller should be welcome nonetheless. Along with Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley, Ray and Miller would help form a nice rotation on paper. Miller has been working back since he underwent a Tommy John procedure last May.
  • There was optimism about injured Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill earlier this week, but manager Dave Roberts suggested to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times and other reporters Saturday that his return’s not exactly imminent. Hill’s still “a ways away” from returning from his long-running blister issues, per Roberts. The 38-year-old went back on the DL last Sunday, when Roberts estimated he’d miss at least four weeks. Fortunately for the surging Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw seems to be nearing a return from his own DL stint, and Hill replacement Ross Stripling has been brilliant this season. In a win over the Padres on Friday, Stripling struck out 10 and didn’t issue any walks across 6 2/3 innings of six-hit, one-run ball (unearned).
  • The Athletics made a series of moves Saturday, sending Santiago Casilla to the DL with a strained shoulder, optioning Josh Lucas to the minors and recalling Carlos Ramirez and Chris Bassitt. The most notable member of the group is Casilla, who ranks third among A’s relievers in innings pitched this year (21 2/3). Casilla opened his age-37 season with an appealing 3.32 ERA over that span, though he also totaled too few strikeouts and too many walks (14 in each case) and benefited from a .186 batting average on balls in play.

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Central Notes: Meadows, Reds, Cards, Miggy

When the Pirates promoted outfield prospect Austin Meadows on May 18, the plan was for him to quickly return to the minors, manager Clint Hurdle told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other reporters Saturday. However, Meadows’ “performance was eye-catching,” according to Hurdle, which convinced the team to keep him around when it activated fellow outfielder Starling Marte from the disabled list Saturday. With Marte, Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson, the Pirates now have their starting outfield intact again, but Hurdle still sees enough opportunities for the 23-year-old Meadows to justify keeping him in the majors. “We need to continue to monitor [Corey] Dickerson’s on-field innings,” Hurdle said. “Marte’s bouncing back, we’re going to be smart with, and Polanco. So I think between the four of them, and a true fourth outfielder, we’ll be able to have the opportunity to get everybody playing time.” Meadows was out of the lineup for the Bucs’ game on Saturday, but he did collect a pinch-hit appearance. He didn’t reach base in that at-bat, dropping his line to a still-stellar .433/.433/.867 over his first 29 major league trips to the plate.

More from the majors’ Central divisions…

  • Reds left-hander Brandon Finnegan tells Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s displeased the team demoted him to Triple-A on May 10 to make room for Matt Harvey’s acquisition. Finnegan noted that he’s fine either starting or relieving in the majors, saying “whatever helps the team out is what I want to do,” but he believes he made a case earlier this season to continue in the Reds’ rotation. “I felt like I had two pretty good starts up in Cincinnati,” Finnegan said. “You can’t do anything about getting taken out of the game after 70 pitches. (Reds interim manager Jim) Riggleman loves using the bullpen; that’s his thing. That part was out of my hands. Besides that, two of my five starts I had, I thought were pretty good. I was attacking guys.” Notably, Finnegan added that he has no hard feelings toward Riggleman, per Nightengale. Regardless, Finnegan didn’t exactly make a case to stay in the Reds’ rotation during his five pre-demotion starts  – he logged a 7.40 ERA with 15 walks and 14 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings – though he still expected more leeway after missing most of last season with shoulder issues. The Reds, for their part, haven’t given up on Finnegan serving as a starter in the majors, and they sent him down so he’d work out of their their Triple-A rotation rather than the big league bullpen, Nightengale writes. Finnegan, meanwhile, is using his stint in the minors as motivation and “hoping to get back” to the Reds sooner than later.
  • Cardinals righty Alex Reyes will make his much-anticipated 2018 debut on May 30 in a start against the Brewers, Joe Trezza of MLB.com tweets. It’ll be the prized 23-year-old’s first MLB outing since he underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the 2017 season. Reyes tore through multiple minor league levels during his rehab stint this year, racking up 44 strikeouts against seven walks in 23 scoreless frames, and looks unlikely to work under an innings limit upon his return to the majors.
  • Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera is making progress as he works back from a hamstring strain, as Evan Woodbery of MLive.com details, but a return date for the future Hall of Famer is still unclear. Cabrera hasn’t played since May 3, before which he seemed to be in the midst of a bounce-back campaign. After posting an uncharacteristically pedestrian 2017, Cabrera opened this year – his age 35-season – with a .323/.407/.516 line in 108 PAs. Fortunately for Detroit, first base fill-ins John Hicks and Niko Goodrum have fared respectably in Cabrera’s stead.

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NL Injury Notes: Kershaw, Bucs, Panik, Mets

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw said Saturday that he’ll be ready to rejoin their rotation in five days, though it’ll be up to the team whether that happens, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Kershaw’s four-inning simulated game on Saturday went well enough that he may be able to avoid a rehab assignment, despite having been on the disabled list since May 7 with biceps tendinitis. The left-hander is part of a large group of important Dodgers who have missed significant time this year, thus helping to explain the reigning NL champions’ 23-27 start. LA has won seven of its past eight, however, and is within a manageable 3.5 games of first-place Colorado in the NL West.

  • Pirates starter Ivan Nova has a strained ligament in his right index finger and may be headed to the DL, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic tweets. To prepare for Nova’s potential absence, the Pirates had their Triple-A affiliate pull righty Nick Kingham from his start after just one inning on Friday, per Mason Wittner of MLB.com. The 26-year-old Kingham made the first three big league starts of his career earlier this season and held his own, with a a 3.44 ERA/2.56 FIP and outstanding strikeout and walk rates (10.31 K/9, .98 BB/9) across 18 1/3 innings. While Nova hasn’t been nearly as effective as Kingham, he has logged playable numbers over 11 starts and 61 1/3 frames (4.96 ERA/4.28 FIP, 6.86 K/9, 1.46 BB/9 and a 50.7 percent groundball rate).
  • Giants second baseman Joe Panik is on track to come off the DL next weekend, Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group suggests. In the meantime, he’ll open a four- or five-game rehab assignment on Monday. Panik will end up missing upward of a month after undergoing left thumb surgery in late April. He hasn’t played since April 27, and fill-in Alen Hanson has been out for two weeks, leaving the Giants with the underwhelming duo of Kelby Tomlinson and Miguel Gomez as their options at the keystone.
  • Catcher Kevin Plawecki could rejoin the Mets on Monday, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com writes. Plawecki landed on the shelf with a hairline fracture in his left hand on April 13, when the Mets also announced that fellow backstop Travis d’Arnaud would undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. New York then received terrible behind-the-plate productions from subs Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton in the ensuing few weeks, leading it to acquire Devin Mesoraco from the Reds for righty Matt Harvey in a May 8 trade. The deal has worked out well for the Mets thus far, as Mesoraco has performed respectably enough that they’ll be able to ease Plawecki back into action when he returns, DiComo notes.

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