Brennan Boesch, Fandom, and "My Guys"

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Lately, I’ve been following the career of Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch pretty closely. Part of that is because he’s on one of my fantasy teams, part of it’s because he’s batting .388, and part of it is…well, I just love the guy.

That’s not based on anything long-standing. I mean, if you had asked me who Brennan Boesch was six months ago, I would probably be able to come up with “He’s a Detroit guy in Double-A who hits a bunch of homers. I think he’s…an outfielder?”

Now, as you probably know, I have a thing for Quad-A guys.

Brennan Boesch was never a Quad-A guy, though. He was in Triple-A for about a month before the Tigers called him up.

(If you’re reading this article on the Chicken Friars homepage, click “Continue Reading” for the rest of the entry).

Boesch has a typical Quad-A profile though. He’s a minor league slugger with a “bad swing” who plays corner outfield. Many teams have a couple of these guys in their upper minors, and Boesch was lucky enough to be one of the few to get a shot.

Being in about the deepest fantasy league ever, I picked Boesch up just for some bench help.

Then he did this.

Boesch is now hitting .388/.400/.701, and he hasn’t left the lineup (Detroit’s or my fantasy team’s) since that mammoth homer. He also took CC Sabathia deep a couple of days ago.

That homer is a thing of beauty, of course, and it made me interested in Boesch. Doing more research, I realized there were some really odd dichotomies in his profile.

First of all, scouts hate his swing, yet that mammoth homer came on a curveball, and his homer off Sabathia was on a slider. A slider from one of the premier lefties in the game.

And, as it turns out, he’s been pummeling breaking balls. His Pitch Type Linear Weights against sliders is 9.46 runs above average per 100 pitches, and he’s an even more incredible 16.89 above average against curves. Those rank third and (easily) first in the majors, respectively.

I thought the guy had a stiff uppercut swing that exposes him to breaking stuff? Where is that? I know it’s a small sample, but you’d think that if Boesch really couldn’t deal with breaking stuff, it would be apparent by now.

There’s another weird issue with him and that “holey” swing. Boesch chases nearly half the pitches he sees that are out of the strike zone. That’s abysmal. Absolutely horrible.

And yet, he makes contact on an above-average number of swings.

Are you kidding me?

So his swing is terrible, and yet he can a) crush breaking pitches and b) make contact on an above-average number of swings despite having zero discretion at what he’s swinging at?

It’s damn interesting, to say the least.

And that’s why I love Brennan Boesch. He’s a) the sort of guy who winds up in Quad-A, b) helping my fantasy team, and c) a remarkably interesting case study.

Do I think Boesch is going to be this good? Hell no. I’m sure pitchers are going to find some way to get him out, and I hope he doesn’t turn into Jeff Francoeur 2.0.

Watching his career, game-by-game, is interesting for two reasons:

1.) Seeing how long he can keep this up.

2.) He’s now one of “my guys.”

See, as an analyst, I have “my guys.”

Have you ever discovered a musical group and been a big fan, and then watched them get famous? You sort of have that ability to say “Yeah, I knew about them first.”

That’s kind of what I go through with a few players every year as an analyst. I “discover” these guys, and tend to be a bit more optimistic about them than most, and then watch their progress.

In 2006, I was all about Jack Cust as he was tearing it up in Portland. When he got traded to the A’s in 2007, I felt vindicated that “my guy” had come through. He’d proved me to be smart, in a way.

Last year, it was former A’s first baseman Tommy Everidge, a 25-year-old minor league nobody who shot from Double-A to the majors in two months. I’d been an Everidge fan since 2007 or so, so watching him get to the majors was great.

“My guys” come in all shapes, sizes, and skillsets. I feel like I don’t even have control over them sometimes. Boesch, for example, is a free swinger, and I normally hate free swingers. You’ll notice that’s a big reason why I ranked Jaff Decker and Edinson Rincon 1-2 in the Padres system—they walk a lot. Maybe it’s Moneyball still affecting me after all these years, but I like that.

The only reason I even knew who Boesch was before 2010 is because one of his teammates last year, a slugging first baseman named Ryan Strieby, is one of “my guys.”

R.J. Swindle and his 53-mph curve is on the list (no, I don’t actually keep a “list”) as is Juan Morillo and his 104-mph fastball.

In the Padres system, there’s Vince Belnome, Cody Decker, Dexter Carter, Brandon Gomes, Craig Italiano, Brad Brach, and others.

Of course, how much I pay attention to everyone depends on what they’re doing. Everidge is struggling this year, so I’ve backed off him, and it’s Boesch now. Who knows who the next guy will be?

I feel like I’m just rambling at this point, and I probably am. Still, I just want to say that I find it genuinely interesting in how one can feel really “connected” to a certain player this way. I’m normally a very objective, rational thinker, but that seems to go out the window here. There’s a certain sense of pride in “my guys,” as if I were the scout who actually discovered them and signed them. Maybe I’m just living vicariously through them to an extent—I don’t know, and I don’t have enough of a background in psychology to figure it out.

But it’s damn fun, I’ll tell you that. So good luck to Brennan Boesch. I hope he keeps raking the ball like crazy, and I hope the rest of “my guys” play out of their minds for the rest of the year as well. It’ll make me feel smart, if nothing else.

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