Andre Pallante has a unique delivery and an atypical movement profile. He’s also adept at killing worms. Since debuting with the St. Louis Cardinals last April, the 24-year-old right-hander has a a 64.6% ground-ball rate, which ranks second only to Houston’s Framber Valdez among hurlers with at least 100 innings. This year he’s at 69.4%, behind only Baltimore’s Yennier Cano (minimum 15 innings). Making those numbers especially notable is the fact that Pallante’s primary fastball is a four-seamer. More on that in a moment.
Drafted in the fourth round by the Cardinals out of UC Irvine four years ago, Pallante was a starter throughout the minors, but he’s primarily worked out of the bullpen since reaching St. Louis. All told, he is 8-5 with a 3.34 ERA and a 4.17 FIP over 61 appearances, all but 10 of them as a reliever. And again, his delivery is unique. Last summer, our lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen described it as “looking almost more like a tennis serve than a pitcher’s mechanics.”
I asked Pallante for the story behind his pitching motion when the Cardinals visited Fenway Park last week.
“Honestly, I feel like there really isn’t a story,” replied the righty, who is 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 16 innings so far this season. “It’s just kind of always how I’ve pitched. For as long as I can remember, it’s how I’ve thrown from the mound.”
There actually is a story. Elaborating, the Mission Viejo native explained that he began long-tossing when he was around 12 years old, this at the behest of his father — “a pretty big in-taker of baseball pitching books” — with a goal of building arm strength. The end result, as Pallante put it, is “pitching mechanics that are kind of from long-toss mechanics, trying to throw the ball up in the air as high and hard as I can.”
Pallante throws hard — at 95.8 MPH he ranks in the 83rd percentile for velocity — and he also has above-average spin, both with his fastball and his two breaking balls. His father knows those numbers like the back of his hand. Not only does he watch video all of his son’s outings — typically more than once — he regularly peruses the data on Baseball Savant and here at FanGraphs.
Which brings us to Pallante’s fastballs, which are every bit as atypical as his delivery. He throws predominantly four-seamers, and when he periodically mixes in a two-seamer… well, it acts more like a four-seamer than his four-seamer.
“The numbers on it, metrically, are very similar to an average IVB [induced vertical break] four-seam fastball,” explained Pallante. “I actually get more ride on it that I do with my four-seam, which has a very low amount of IVB and is actually kind of like a sinking cutter. It’s not what you’d expect. It’s kind of weird, but that’s who I am.”
Ditto his tennis-serve/long-toss delivery, of which he offered the following perspective:
“Uniqueness is how you excel in this game,” Pallante told me.”MLB averages don’t stand out too much, right? You need to be unique in your own way.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Andy Van Slyke went 10 for 16 against Ben Rivera.
John Vander Wal went 11 for 16 against Elmer Dessens.
Mo Vaughn went 10 for 18 against Tomo Ohka.
John Valentin went 11 for 18 against Buddy Groom.
Danny Valencia went 15 for 25 against David Price.
Brandon Hughes was a good hitter at Michigan State University, but that talent didn’t translate to pro ball. Drafted as an outfielder by the Chicago Cubs in 2017, the 16th-rounder proceeded to put up a .625 OPS in a pair of A-ball seasons. When spring training came to a close in 2019, he was presented with an ultimatum.
“They came up to me and said, ‘You can either pitch or get released as a position player,’ said Hughes, who throws from the left side. “I definitely didn’t see it coming — being given that choice — but that’s how it happened.”
Hughes had pitched at MSU, but that was in his freshman year, and he only threw six-and-a-third innings. Then came a torn labrum and shoulder surgery, ostensibly ending his pitching career. He’d been recruited out of Sterling Heights, Michigan’s Stevenson High School as a two-way player, and not only did he possess plus speed and a solid bat, he’d previously torn his labrum as a prep. It made sense that he would go forward as a hitter.
That he ultimately failed to prove that he could punish professional pitching ended up working to his advantage. Hughes went on to develop a slider that is now his best pitch, and his fastball velocity is a solid 93.7 MPH. Thanks in part to a low-three-quarters arm slot, he’s been especially effective against same-sided hitters.
Hughes debuted with the Cubs a year ago this week and went on to log a 3.12 ERA and a 4.64 FIP over 57 relief appearances, with two wins and eight saves. So far this season he is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA and a 3.82 FIP in nine appearances.
Kenny Lofton has six of the top seven single-season stolen base totals in Cleveland Guardians franchise history. Who is the other player in that top-seven? (a hint: he played in the 1980s.)
The answer can be found below.
Japanese Baseball Hall of Famer Futoshi Nakanishi died earlier this week at age 90. A third baseman for the Nishitetsu Lions from 1952-1969, he was the team’s player-manager for the latter portion of his career.
There will be over two dozen research presentations at this summer’s 51st-annual SABR convention, which will be held in Chicago from July 5-9. The diverse array will include: Daniel R. Levitt, “The Coming of the Farm System and the Manipulation of Player Control Rights,” Gary Gillette, “Turkey Stearnes: One-Man Wrecking Crew in 1930s Negro Leagues,” David Firstman, “Dan Uggla: History’s Most Unlikely Hitting Streak,” and Melissa (Missy) Booker, “Snoopy: Baseball’s Top Dog.” The complete list can found here.
The answer to the quiz is Miguel Diloné, with 61 steals in 1980. If you guessed Brett Butler, he ranks eighth in franchise history with 52 steals in 1984.
Yonder Alonso offered an interesting perspective when I asked him how differently he views the game now that he’s a broadcast analyst. Four years removed from his playing career, the 36-year-old Cuban-born former first baseman no longer feels like Superman.
“It’s very easy to judge a player when you’re not playing anymore,” admitted Alonso, who is with MLB Network. “But then it also really brings you back to how difficult the game is. It’s very hard, and there is so much pressure. It’s funny, when I played baseball, I didn’t feel pressure. With the everyday grind, you’re just thinking about the day, thinking about competing. Being outside of it, I’m watching all my friends, all my former teammates, and I feel pressure for them. It’s kind of surreal. It’s, ‘Man, are they going to be able to handle this certain day, this certain pitching?’ When I was playing, I felt like I could handle anything. It’s like I was Superman.”
Alonso played for seven teams in a big-league career that spanned the 2010-2019 seasons. His best year was 2017 when he logged a 133 wRC+ and hit 28 home runs while seeing action with both the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners.
Roki Sasaki will reportedly make his next start on May 28th. The 21-year-old Chiba Lotte Marines right-hander, who has a 0.84 ERA with 13 hits allowed and 50 strikeouts in 32 innings, hasn’t pitched since May 5 due to a blister on his middle finger.
Trevor Bauer is 1-2 with an 8.40 ERA in three starts for NPB’s Yokohama BayStars. The 32-year-old right-hander has allowed 26 hits in 15 innings, and will reportedly make his next start n the minors.
Foster Griffin is 4-1 with a 2.68 ERA and 47 strikeouts in as many innings for the Yomiuri Giants. The 27-year-old left-hander is in his first NPB season after previously pitching for the Kansas City Royals and the Toronto Blue Jays.
Guillermo Heredia is slashing .345/.405/.486 with for home runs for SSG Landers in his first KBO season. The 32-year-old native of Matanzas, Cuba won a World Series ring with the Atlanta Braves in 2021.
Young Jin Song is 3-0 with a 3.95 ERA in 27-and-a-third innings for SSG Landers. The 18-year-old right-hander has 22 strikeouts on the season.
A lot of fans attend games wearing jerseys and shirtseys with a player’s name emblazoned on the back. More often than not it is the name of a current player, but former players are popular as well. I sometimes make note of those names when strolling around the Fenway Park concourse — visiting teams with rich histories are my primary interest — and I did so recently when St. Louis visited Boston for a three-game series. Along with current Cardinals, I saw Berkman, Brock, Gibson, Hernandez, Holliday, LaRussa, Molina, Musial, Ozuna, Pujols, Rolen, and Smith. Quite the impressive list. Cardinals fans were well represented at Fenway, so I’m sure there were other former-player names on the back of shirts as well.
Colt Keith hit for the cycle while going 6-for-6 with two home runs for the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Tuesday. No. 1 on our Detroit Tigers Top Prospects list, the 21-year-old third baseman is slashing .297/.366/.545 with eight home runs in 164 plate appearances on the season.
Justice Bigbie is slashing .344/.418/.594 with five home runs in 110 plate appearances for the High-A West Michigan Whitecaps. The 24-year-old outfielder/first baseman was drafted in the 19th round out of Western Carolina University by the Tigers in 2021.
Henry Davis is slashing .311/.463/.660 with 10 home runs in 136 plate appearances for the Double-A Altoona Curve. Drafted first overall in 2021 out of the University of Louisville, the 23-year-old cacher is No. 3 on our Pittsburgh Pirates Top Prospects list.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand is slashing .365/.391/.748 with 10 home runs in 110 plate appearances for the Triple-A Louisville Bats. Drafted in the fourth round out of Oklahoma State University by Minnesota in 2021, and subsequently swapped from the Twin Cities to the Queen City, the 23-year-old corner infielder is No. 11 on our Cincinnati Reds Top Prospects list.
Amos Willingham is 2-0 with five saves and a 0.00 ERA in 13 appearances between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester. Drafted in the 17th round out of Georgia Tech in 2019 by the Washington Nationals, the 24-year-old right-hander has fanned 17 batters and allowed seven hits and four walks in 14 innings.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Has extended spring training outlived its usefulness to MLB clubs? J.J. Cooper delved into that question at Baseball America.
The Score’s Travis Sawchik weighed in on a variety of subject, including how the Houston Astros have begun their initial descent from baseball’s top echelon.
Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein talked to Daniel Bard about his recent bout of the yips.
Purple Row’s Joelle Milholm presented us with a plethora of interesting Colorado Rockies stats, including the club’s having MLB’s longest grand slam drought.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Triston Casas has had 31 plate appearances go to a full count, and only four of them have ended with a ball in play. The Red Sox rookie has 13 strikeouts, 14 walks, and one hit on 3-2 counts.
Cavan Biggio has been successful on 26 of 27 career stolen base attempts. Craig Biggio was successful in 25 of his first 27 career stolen base attempts.
Greg Maddux faced the Chicago Cubs 24 times and went 12-3 with a 2.65 ERA. He faced the Arizona Diamondbacks 20 times and went 3-11 with a 5.37 ERA.
Sandy Koufax went 17-2 with a 1.44 ERA versus the New York Mets. He went 14-2 with a 1.90 ERA versus the Houston Colt .45s/Astros.
Walter Johnson hit 41 triples, the most by a pitcher in MLB history. Gaylord Perry, Tommy John, Lefty Gomez, and Whitey Ford each had over 1,000 plate appearances and never hit a three-bagger.
Jim Thome stole home on the front end of a double steal on today’s date in 1997 as the Cleveland Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 1-0. The Hall of Fame slugger was successful on 19 of 39 career stolen base attempts.
On today’s date in 2003, Geoff Jenkins homered three times off Jake Peavy as the Milwaukee Brewers beat the San Diego Padres 10-0 at Miller Park. Wayne Franklin went the distance for the win.
On today’s date in 1977, Merv Rettenmund hit a three run homer off Jeff Terpko in the top of the 21st inning to lift the Padres to an 11-8 win over the Montreal Expos at Stade Olympique. Rick Sawyer went eight scoreless in relief for the win.
Players born on today’s date include Moe Thacker, a catcher who played for the Chicago Cubs from 1958-1962, and for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1963. His first two hits were his only career home runs, one coming in his debut, and the other two days later.
Also born on today’s date was Elmer Sexauer, a pitcher who appeared in two games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. The right-hander retired the only two batters he faced in his first outing, and walked the only two he faced in his last outing. His B-Ref bio clip includes the following: “Ernie Harwell once joked about a sportswriter trying to reach Elmer for an interview at a hotel and asking the telephone operator “Do you have a Sexauer at your hotel?”, and getting the answer, “Sexauer? Honey, we barely get coffee breaks here!”