clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The great big list of baseball player tropes

New, 30 comments
Dustin Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Following up last Friday's post about baseball player career tropes, let's summarize the various submissions into a list. I have a vague notion of turning this into some sort of permanent feature but the details aren't clear quite yet. More suggestions are certainly welcome.

Remember that tropes can overlap to some extent and that most players embody more than one trope.

But Is He A Starter?: A pitcher with great stuff and great results, usually a very successful college starting pitcher but has a shortcoming, sometimes real, sometimes not, that makes scout question if he can start in the majors. The shortcoming is essentially always one or more of the following: has a change up that is poor, little-used, or possibly non-existent, has a violent or at least unorthodox delivery, is wild, or is short (often accompanies one or he previous three, but not necessarily). Carson Fulmer is a good example from the 2015 draft. Marcus Stroman.

Clubhouse Cancer: Everybody hates him but he's good enough to play anyway. Often overlaps with Surly Superstar or Feet of Clay. A.J. Pierzynski, Milton Bradley.

Doctor of Pitching Mechanics: Usually an iconoclast who doesn't get along too well with his coaches, this pitcher is constantly messing with and talking about his delivery and mechanics. He probably IS smarter than everyone else and isn't afraid to let you know it, which can set him up for some serious hubris when things aren't going well. May overlap with Thinks too Much.

The Failed Starter Becomes a Closer: The inverse of "But is he a starter?" this guy was originally a starting pitcher but got hurt or got old or just wasn't very good but becomes much more successful after moving to the bullpen.

The Gamer: the guy whose grit and determination generate results that exceed his tools. Often overlaps with scrappy infielder but more likely to be a star. Dustin Pedroia. Craig Biggio.

The Hippie/Flower Child: Usually a pitcher, he meditates and does yoga and writes poetry.

The Journeyman Slugger: He is a seasoned batter. He is most definitely not in the best shape of his life and he was quite possibly never in the best shape of his life. Actually, he is the kind of guy who looks like he would stand still on a moving sidewalk at an airport. When he swings, the swing is powerful, but somehow you think he belongs in a softball beer league. He’s been on five, six, ten different teams and his power, his only tool, — and that one home run he hit off the bench, five years ago, in a crucial playoff game — keeps getting him one year assignments. When he steps in, most often as a pinch hitter in the late innings of a game his team is losing, he is not just trying to make contact and go up the middle or any other Bull-Durham-quotes-like crap everybody else will serve you. No, he is out there trying to hit one out and that’s pretty much it. Matt Stairs. Shane Spencer.

LOOGY: The Lefty One-Out GuY, a left-handed short reliever who is brought in to get the platoon edge. ROOGY is the right-handed version of this. The classic LOOGY or ROOGY may have fewer innings than games pitched.

The Natural: A player who from an early age is so much better than his competition that he seems like he was struck by baseball lightning. Current example: Bryce Harper.

The Natural with Feet of Clay: Someone who is a Natural, but who is brought low by their own human weaknesses that have little or nothing to do with baseball, sometimes after their career is over. Example: Josh Hamilton., post-career scandals of Kirby Puckett.

Runs into Walls: Usually an outfielder, this guy plays with abandon to the point of recklessness and gets hurt a lot as a result, sometimes bad enough to ruin his career. Chris Snelling.

The Scrappy Middle Infielder: He's not toolsy but he gets the job done, hustles, and holds a starting job for longer than anyone expects. Jim Gantner, David Eckstein. Also known as the Gritty Infielder with Heart. Not as talented as The Gamer.

The Soft-Tossing Southpaw Starter: He doesn't throw much past 87 MPH but he gets people out because he changes speeds and throws strikes. Jamie Moyer is the classic example.

The Soft-Tossing Right-hander: Like the STSS, the STRH doesn't throw hard but he gets people out. Scouts are skeptical and he won't get much slack if he struggles, but he keeps making it work. Kyle Hendricks. Mike Fiers when he is going well.

The Surly Superstar: He's one of the best players in baseball but he's grumpy, surly, and hard to deal with (especially for reporters): Examples: Bob Feller, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds. Sometimes the reputation is undeserved, which just makes him grumpier.

The Fireballing Texas High Schooler: Everybody is looking for the next Nolan Ryan, but consider yourself blessed if you get Josh Beckett.

The Toolsy Outfielder who can't Control the Strike Zone: He looks great in uniform but never puts his career in full gear due to weak strike zone judgment. Usually destroys the low minors but stumbles when he gets to Double-A or Triple-A. Innumerable examples.

Too Old to be a Prospect: He's 26 and has a multi-year track record of clobbering minor league pitching, but he was drafted as a college senior and had some injuries and is now written off as nothing but a role player if he's mentioned as a prospect at all.

Thinks Too Much: A player with a very intellectual approach, often one who tries "too hard" and out-thinks himself.

You're a Ballplayer, not a Politician: The player who you liked until he revealed himself to be (insert political ideology that you disagree with). This is Curt Schilling for a lot of people.

The Veteran Presence: An aging, often mediocre veteran brought on to a younger team with playoff aspirations. Jim Thome.

The Wanderer: guy who, at the end of his career, has played for like 20 teams. Often a relief pitcher (Octavio Dotel, LaTroy Hawkins) or back-up catcher.

We'll Teach Him to Hit: Similar to the Toolsy Outfielder except his hitting troubles are evident even at the lowest levels. Scouts admit when he is drafted that changes will need to be made to his swing. It usually doesn't work.