And That Happened: Tuesday's scores and highlights

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Dodgers 8, Mets 0: Somewhere on Long Island there’s a guy who
went to last night’s game for the express purpose of booing Manny and
holding up a sign with a syringe on it or something. And, yes, Manny
was booed and was even ejected from the game for arguing balls and
strikes! Dude from Long Island was probably loving it! Too bad, then,
that Manny also knocked in three runs and then, after his ejection,
watched the Dodgers complete a pretty damn dominant performance from
the clubhouse while eating candy and drinking soda or whatever it is
Manny does.

Rays 3, Blue Jays 1: Phun Pfact: Map makers will sometimes slip
in phantom streets or towns or something so that they can tell if a
competing map maker is really just copying their work. I suspect that
the people who put together box scores do the same thing. Evidence: the
“pitcher” named Marc Rzepczynski. He doesn’t really exist. He’s a
copyright protection device. He was created by the NBC Sports people so
that they can tell if Yahoo! is ripping off the scores. At least I’m
pretty sure that’s the case.

Tigers 8, Royals 5: Verlander wasn’t particularly sharp, but he
strikes out 11 because the Royals aren’t particularly sharp either.
According to the game story, Verlander’s 141 strikeouts are the most by
a Detroit pitcher before the All-Star Game in 37 years. Of course that
was Mickey Lolich, and Mickey Lolich used to pitch approximately 598
innings a year back in the early 70s, so Verlander’s feat is far more
impressive.

White Sox 10, Indians 6: I’m struggling to think of a trade that
was as disastrous for both teams involved as the Perez-DeRosa trade has
been this far for Cleveland and St. Louis. Paul Konerko drove in seven.
Why is it, despite the fact that he’s 33 years-old and has been in the
league for 12 years, that I still think of him as a Dodgers’ prospect?
Same thing happened to me with Robin Ventura for his whole career. No
matter how old he got, I pictured him playing for Oklahoma State in the
1987 College World Series. Maybe the White Sox uniforms have some sort
of time warping effect or something.

Orioles 12, Mariners 4: Luke Scott was a one-man wrecking crew
(3-4, HR, 3B, 7 RBI). From the game story: “Ichiro Suzuki has turned
down MLB’s request to participate in the Home Run Derby.” Wait, what?
The guy hits six homers a year. The only reason they’d want him in
there is as a cynical rating ploy for the Japanese market, which I’m
assuming gets the All-Star broadcast. Good for him for not wanting to
be used like that.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 0: Both Brewers’ bench coach Willie
Randolph and hitting coach Dale Sveum were ejected. I said at the
beginning of the year that it may be awkward for both of these former
managers to be in subordinate roles this year. I’d like to think, then,
that their ejections were really auditions for any managerial openings
that pop up the rest of the year.

Braves 2, Cubs 1: Javier Vazquez continues to get no run
support, but he didn’t need much last night, as he gave a single run in
seven innings. His ERA is down to 2.95, but because his record is only
6-7, he doesn’t make the All-Star Game. Total ripoff.

Pirates 6, Astros 3: I can’t think of a single thing to say about this game, so I’ll say this: my son, Carlo, recently discovered the book Where the Wild Things Are.
He loves it. I loved it when I was a kid, and I love reading it to him.
I think our love of it is based on the fact that, deep down, we both
have anger issues. Nothing crazy — neither of us are violent or
bombastic — but both he and I are easily frustrated and often stomp
around a bit in something not unlike the book’s wild rumpus when things
don’t go just the way we planned. The book, you see, is really about
anger, and how it’s natural and follows a predictable but necessary arc
before resolving itself and how ultimately it’s OK. But the thing is,
the beauty of the book has a lot to do with the fact that it’s only ten
sentences long and can be read in a couple of minutes, even if you
linger on the pictures a bit. It follows that anger arc and resolves
itself pretty quickly, resulting in an almost therapeutic effect. Which
makes me wonder how in the hell they’re going to make a movie out of it.
And why they felt the need to in the first place. I hope my son never
gets wind of the movie, because I don’t want the wonderful few minutes
we spend with the book each night to be sullied in any way.

Sorry Pirates and Astros fans. I’ll try to pay more attention tomorrow night.

Red Sox 5, A’s 2: Round numbers galore: Beckett’s 10th win,
Bay’s 20th home run, Giambi’s 0 for 4. I guess what I’m saying is that
nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Reds 4, Phillies 3: Way to bounce back after getting
slaughtered. A couple of homers for Brandon Phillips and a single off
of Brad Lidge carried the day.

Yankees 10, Twins 2: Production from all over the Yankees’ order in this one, as Cano, Gardner and Cervelli combine to go 7-14 with 6 RBI.

Rockies 5, Nationals 4: Defensive breakdowns killed the Nats,
with the last being a potentially inning-ending comebacker that Joe
Beimel threw to the wrong guy down at second.

Rangers 8, Angels 5: And we’re tied again, as Andruw Jones — on
an unexpected hot streak — blasts a three-run homer in the course of a
big fifth inning. In addition to the game, the Angels lose Vlad to a
knee injury that, while maybe not terribly serious, has to be enough to
keep him from ever playing the field again, right? I mean, he has to be
a DH at this point, doesn’t he?

Diamondbacks 4, Padres 3: Four in a row for Arizona, all coming
after Mark Reynolds yelled at everyone on his team. Coincidence? Well,
yes, it most like is a coincidence, actually.

Giants 3, Marlins 0: It’s probably against the rules for Tim
Lincecum to have dressed up in Barry Zito’s uniform and pitch last
night, but he apparently did it anyway (8.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER).

A second study confirms that home runs are up due to a change in the baseball

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Two weeks ago Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman released their study at The Ringer which convincingly argues that changes in the composition and construction of the baseball is responsible for the dramatic spike in home runs we’ve seen since the middle of the 2015 season. Yesterday their work was corroborated.

Rob Arthur of FiveThirtyEight, who had last year conducted a study with Lindbergh which proved inconclusive on the matter, has revisited the baseballs as well. Specifically, he used baseball’s data with respect the speed of the ball when it is released from a pitcher’s hand and when it crosses the plate and, based on the loss in velocity in that short period, calculated the ball’s drag coefficient. From that he could compare the drag on the ball from before mid-2015 and the drag since mid-2015.

His conclusion: there has been a significant decrease in the drag on baseballs over the past two years and that decreased drag can account for about five feet of carry on a given fly ball. That, in turn, would account for a 10-15% spike in home runs on average, and a bigger spike in any given month depending on other factors. Arthur:

It’s highly unlikely that we’d see that kind of difference by chance without a real change to the ball: The monthly variation in estimated drag coefficients in the past five seasons varied from around 0.34 to 0.355, a far wider range than we’d expect from random variance alone. In total, the practical effect of shifting from a high-drag month to a low-drag month could be around a 30 percent difference in home run rates.

Arthur cautions us not to become conspiracy theorists here. The change in the ball need not be nefarious as even small alterations in the manufacturing process could lead to these changes. At the same time, he reminds us, that we should ignore MLB’s statements that the balls still fall under the league’s manufacturing requirements and performance parameters, because those parameters are quite broad and allow for these significant variations in ball flight. Even if no one is intentionally doing this and even if the balls are officially up to snuff, they can nonetheless have changed significantly and are the likely culprit for the dramatic home run spike.

Stepping back from the research, this makes a lot of sense. As we’ve noted in the past, there is a long and rich history of changes — even slight changes — to baseball composition leading to dramatic increases and decreases in offensive levels. The dead ball era ended, in large part, because different wool was used beginning in 1919. The National League changed balls in order to intentionally boost offense in 1930 and it worked almost too well. There was a change of baseball manufacturers in the late 1970s which led to a mini spike. 1987 was the year of the so-called “rabbit ball.” That was never fully explained, but there are strong suspicions that Major League Baseball messed with the ball that year.

Other factors matter — new parks with shorter porches, batters making a point to swing with an uppercut, diluted pitching, PEDs, etc. — but none are as significant as changes to the ball itself and none account for the almost immediate spike in homers in the middle of the 2015 season.

Anyway, enjoy the dingers. They’re here to stay. Or at least until the baseballs change again.

 

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Nationals 8, Cubs 4: Stephen Strasburg struck out 13 Cubs in seven innings on a day when they had to cut Miguel Montero to head off clubhouse strife and had to meet Donald Trump. Opinions may vary as to which of those — the Ks, the strife or the Trump — was the worst part. Washington built a 5-0 lead after two innings and a 6-0 lead after three. Anthony Rendon, Matt Wieters and Daniel Murphy all homered for Washington. Trea Turner stole a base. Willson Contreras managed not to slam his teammates for it afterward, so I guess that’s progress. The Cubs have lost four of six and are back down to .500. Oh, and they lost Kris Bryant to an ankle sprain. That may actually be the worst thing about the day.

Pirates 6, Rays 2: Josh Bell homered, Jose Osuna doubled twice and drove in two runs and Elias Diaz added two hits and drove in two of his own. Bell’s homer tied a rookie record for the Pirates: he’s only the second Buccos rookie, after Ralph Kiner, to have 15 homers before the All-Star break. After the game he said this:

“It’s cool to be mentioned in the same sentence as a great like that,” Bell said. “So hopefully more to come. Just going to keep trucking along.”

It’s cool that he knows who Ralph Kiner is. But does he know who Jerry Seinfeld is?

Phillies 5, Mariners 4: Down 4-3 in the ninth, the Phillies rallied for two, coming via a home run from Tommy Joseph and an RBI single from Tyler Knapp. The M’s lose both games of the short, two-game series and have now lost four in a row. Every time they look like they’re about to right the ship, they seem to get blown off course.

Giants 5, Rockies 3: Jae-Gyun Hwang got called up just before he would’ve been able to opt out of his deal with San Francisco and head back to Korea where he could make some serious bank. But he debuted yesterday and wouldn’t you know it he hit a tie-breaking homer in the sixth inning. Welcome to the majors. After the game his teammates gave him a beer shower. He said “I was actually more surprised about how cold the beer was.” Welcome to America.

Yankees 12, White Sox 3: A good day for rookies making their big league debut, as Miguel Andujar — an infielder, playing DH last night — had three hits and drove in four. Aaron Judge, a grizzled old man by comparison, hit his 27th homer. Masahiro Tanaka allowed two runs over six as the Yankees romped.

Mets 8, Marlins 0: Steven Matz — an uninjured Mets starter — tossed seven shutout innings and Asdrubal Cabrera and Curtis Granderson each hit two-run homers. The Mets have 50 homers in June, the most in a calendar month by any team since 2006. They’re also 12-14 in June, so it takes more than homers I suppose.

Astros 11, Athletics 8: Josh Reddick and George Springer had three hits each and combined for five RBI. The A’s hit five homers with two from Khris Davis — who hits two homers all the dang time, it seems –and one each from Ryon Healy, Matt Olson and Jed Lowrie. The A’s also struck out 17 times so it takes more than homers I suppose.

Blue Jays 4, Orioles 0: Marcus Stroman pitched five-hit ball into the eighth inning and Jose Bautista and Justin Smoak homered. Bautista later knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice. Bautista has been hitting leadoff for a little over a week. He’s 11-for-29 with a couple of homers, six RBI and four walks. Not too shabby.

Twins 4, Red Sox 1: Rookie lefty Adalberto Mejia shut out the Sox for five and two-thirds innings and the Twins bullpen was steady. Max Kepler singled in a run and hit a two-run shot. That’s Mejia’s second scoreless start, having blanked the Indians for five innings a in his last outing. Those are two good offenses to be shutting out.

Indians 5, Rangers 3: Trevor Bauer outdueled Yu Darvish, allowing one run over six and a third to Darvish’s three runs — two earned — over six. All of the Indians runs came on RBI singles, two from Michael Brantley. Texas mounted a mini rally in the ninth off of Cody Allen via an Elvis Andrus homer and a Rougned Odor RBI single, but it was little, too late.

Royals 8, Tigers 2: Sal Perez and Alex Gordon each drove in three, Perez with a two-run homer and an RBI double, Gordon with a single, a double and a run scoring groundout. Mike Moustakas went deep as well, as part of a four-run fourth inning. Ian Kennedy allowed two runs over seven steady innings. Kansas City is only two and a half back in the Central.

Reds 4, Brewers 3: Down 2-1 in the third, Scooter Gennett hit a two-run homer to put the Reds ahead, but Travis Shaw tied it at three late in the game with a homer. Billy Hamilton helped manufacture the go-ahead run, however, leading off the bottom of the eighth with a walk, stealing second, stealing third and that scoring on Adam Duvall‘s infield single. That’s what speed do. Bad news for the Brewers, as they lost starter Chase Anderson to a strained oblique in the second inning.

Cardinals 4, Diamondbacks 3Adam Wainwright pitched into the seventh inning, allowing two runs, and Yadier Molina and Jedd Gyorko each drove in two. Trevor Rosenthal got the save, but it was rocky as he uncorked a couple of wild pitches and allowed a run. This a game after he allowed two runs and the Cards bullpen blew a late lead and the game. There’s always something to worry about in baseball, even if you win.

Angels 3, Dodgers 2: Down 2-0 in the eighth, Trayce Thompson homered and down 2-1 in the ninth Yasmani Grandal homered to tie things up for the Dodgers. Then, in the ninth, the dang wheels came off. Ben Revere reached on an error and then reached second base on a wild pitch by Pedro Baez. Baez bore down to strike out Cameron Maybin for the inning’s second out, but the ball got away from Grandal, Maybin sprinted for first and then Grandal threw the ball away, allowing Revere to score all the way from second. What a way to lose a game.

Padres 7, Braves 4: Luis Perdomo pitched five scoreless innings and Hunter Renfroe and Cory Spangenberg each knocked in two. Bartolo Colon came back off the DL and allowed six runs over four innings to lose it. Guys: his injury was not an oblique or whatever the Braves said it was. He was suffering from acute puncture wounds due to the giant fork stuck in his back and severe burns because the man is toast.