And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

Leave a comment

Reds 4, Cubs 0: Justin Lehr? Really? The same Justin Lehr making his second career start at the age of 32? The same Justin Lehr who hadn’t previously pitched in the majors since 2006, and was really, really bad when he did that? The same Justin Lehr who the Reds signed in 2007, sold to the freakin’ Korean league, signed again with the Reds later in the year, was let go again and allowed to sign with the Phillies, then the Reds traded for AGAIN back in May? The same Justin Lehr who had someone updating his Wikipedia page with news of this shutout against the Cubs (CG SHO, 4 H, 4K, 1BB) mere minutes after the game went final? For Pete’s sake, you gotta love baseball.

Phillies 7, Rockies 0: I don’t think that anyone was truly serious about moving J.A. Happ out of the rotation in lieu of Pedro Martinez, but to the extent there was even a hint of chatter on this point, it needs to stop now (CG SHO 4 H, 10K 2 BB). Well, maybe. Damn, it’s gotta be good to be a Phillies fan right now.

Brewers 4, Dodgers 1: Game story: “The final meeting of the season between the teams was played with a heavier-than-usual presence of security personnel stationed between both clubhouses before and after the game. Usually there is one security guard in front of each door. This time, there were five on the Dodgers’ side and eight on the visitors’ side.” Prince Fielder behaved himself, but he was seen searching for a wheelbarrow and a holocaust cloak between innings, so there was genuine reason for concern.

Tigers 4, Orioles 2: Edwin Jackson gave up a two-run homer to Adam Jones in the ninth on his 117th pitch. Until then, however, it was cream cheese (8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 8K).

Diamondbacks 4, Pirates 3: Ross Ohlendorf left with a lead, but the pen couldn’t hold it for him. From the game’s scoring summary in the 8th inning: “S Drew singled to center, C Tracy and A Romero scored, S Drew out stretching at second.” Drew probably should have stretched before the game or at the very least kept his foot on the bag while stretching in the 8th.

Indians 8, Twins 1: Minnesota threw five guys out there — Liriano, Dickey, Keppel, Mijares and Guerrier — with names that sound like they belong to partisans in some European civil war or something. In fact, I’m pretty sure those were the names of the five main characters from a Hemingway novella I read back in college. I’m blanking on the title right now and don’t have time to check, but trust me, those are the dudes. Keppel was a German defector — once a mid level Weimar bureaucrat — unhappy with the sinister influence that had come to his homeland and trying to find meaning in the world. Liriano had been close with Franco in their youth, but suffered a falling out over a woman, and now no man truly knows the reason why he fights. Dickey — the narrator — was a laconic American expatriate with a deep secret. Mijares and Guerrier, often mistaken for brothers, but unrelated, had met in France after the Great War and formed a life bond. At the risk of giving away the ending, I’ll say that it was sad to see those two die in each others arms, their chests pierced by the same Fascist bullet, even if we knew it was inevitable from the first chapter which foreshadowed their doom. Why yes, I was drinking a little last night as I wrote this. Why do you ask?

Rays 6, Red Sox 4: Bad night all around for the Sox as first Penny gets beat up (6 IP, 6 H, 5 ER) and then Jason Bay leaves the game with a hamstring injury. Sutcliffe made this one as unwatchable as usual. I didn’t click off, however, until the promos for the upcoming games were announced: we’re watching the Sox tonight, we’ll get the Sox on Sunday, and then the Sox on Monday. ESPN: Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is Red.


Yankees 8, Blue Jays 4: It was all chips and gravy for the Jays
until the seventh, but then Swisher homered, Cano doubled, Matsui
knocked him in, Molina walked, then Damon knocked in Matsui and Texeira
knocked in Molina. Now come the Red Sox. They get Smoltz first, so
there’s a good chance that the winning streak gets stretched to four.

Braves 6, Padres 2: Tommy Hanson is from San Berdoo (did the
mullet tip you off?), so this was kind of like homecoming for him.
Kevin Kouzmanoff was far more welcoming, however, as he hit into three
double plays, including one that got Hanson out of a tight spot in the
first. The Braves had 14 hits, every one of them singles, which is not
something you see every day.

Nationals 5, Marlins 4: Wow, four wins in a row for for the Nats. Back to back homers by Zimmerman and Dunn in the first set the tone.

Giants 10, Astros 6: You really aren’t living right if you give
up ten runs on 13 hits to the Giants. Joe Martinez wins his first ever
major league start. Eli Whiteside, filling in for Molina unit #3VH162,
which required some routine maintenance, hit a grand slam.

Mets 9, Cardinals 0: Jonathon Niese tore his hamstring — like
really tore it and needs it repaired with surgery — and is now done
for the year. Man, it’s tough to be a Met this season. His teammates
weren’t fazed, though, and put the hurt on the Cards. Angel Pagan did a
lot of the hurting, going 3-4 with four RBI.

Mariners 11, Royals 6: I still can’t fathom why Posnanski wants
to give up getting paid to watch this team play every night. I mean,
he’ll probably still watch them, but now he’ll do it for free.

Athletics 7, Rangers 5: Adam Kennedy, Scott Hairston, Kurt
Suzuki and Cliff Pennington all went yard for Oakland, with Kennedy’s
two-run blast serving as a difference maker in the sixth. Dallas Bradan
was supposed to start but didn’t because he “had a swollen left ankle,
which developed from a rash caused by a Neoprene guard used to protect
his big toe when pitching.” I hate it when that happens.

White Sox 6, Angels 2: HI MY NAME IS JI

JIM THOME
AND I HIT TWO HOME RUNS IN THIS GAME.

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

Getty Images
3 Comments

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

Getty Images
14 Comments

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.