If you're worried about Hamels, look past his ERA

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Even with eight shutout innings last night Cole Hamels merely lowered his ERA to a still-mediocre 4.52 to go along with a 7-8 record. That represents quite a decline from last season, when he won 14 games with a 3.09 ERA before taking home the MVP awards for both the NLCS and World Series.
However, a closer look at Hamels’ performance tells a much different story than his win-loss record or ERA:

YEAR     SO%    BB%    HR%     GB%     FB%     LD%    LOB%     MPH
2008    21.4    5.0    3.1    39.5    38.7    21.8    76.0    90.4
2009    20.2    4.8    3.5    42.1    37.4    20.5    73.4    90.2

From left to right, the numbers shown above are strikeout percentage, walk percentage, home run percentage, ground-ball percentage, fly-ball percentage, line-drive percentage, left-on-base percentage, and average fastball velocity. And as you see, every single one of those numbers is essentially the same as last season. There isn’t a meaningful change in the bunch, so how has his ERA ballooned from 3.09 to 4.52? There are a few possible explanations, but the easiest one is batting average on balls in play.
Last season just 27.0 percent of the balls put in play against Hamels went for hits. This season, despite a very similar breakdown of ground balls, fly balls, and line drives, 32.9 percent of the balls put in play against Hamels have gone for hits. Over the course of 25 starts that equals about 30 extra hits falling in, which is worth somewhere around 12-18 runs. And if you remove, say, 15 runs from Hamels’ total this season his ERA drops from 4.52 to 3.59. His career ERA coming into the season? 3.43. Funny how that works.

Giants sign catcher Nick Hundley

DENVER, CO - JUNE 07:  Nick Hundley #4 of the Colorado Rockies takes an at bat against the Miami Marlins at Coors Field on June 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports that the Giants have signed catcher Nick Hundley. It’s a major league deal worth $2 million.

Hundley, who is 33, but who seems like he’s been in the bigs for about 27 years, hit .260/.320/.439 with 10 homers in 83 games for the Rockies last season. Obviously he will be the backup given the presence of Buster Posey.

MLB reorganizes its diversity and social responsibility leadership structure

Billy Bean
Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has experienced inconsistent progress in its efforts at promoting diversity and social responsibility in recent years despite making it a league priority.  Today it has announced several changes in its leadership structure in these areas, with Commissioner Manfred saying, “As the sport of Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, we have a responsibility to uphold and honor their legacies, especially in ensuring that our sport and business practices are as inclusive, diverse and socially-conscious as possible.”

To that end:

  • Billy Bean has been promoted to Vice President and Special Assistant to the Commissioner. This is a newly-created and elevated position in which Bean will continue his efforts at promoting human rights issues important to Major League Baseball, with a particular focus on LGBT and anti-bullying efforts. He has done such work since 2014 as its Ambassador for Inclusion, but putting him at the vice presidential level and having him answer directly to Commissioner Manfred increases his profile and that of his mission;
  • Renée Tirado, has been promoted to Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Diversity & Inclusion. Tirado had previously served as Senior Director of Recruitment. She will direct the implementation of recruitment plans and procedures to support MLB’s staffing objectives and will oversee MLB’s Diversity Pipeline Program. As you may recall, Major League Baseball has struggled mightily in these effort in recent years, and has admitted as much; and
  • Melanie LeGrande has been promoted to Vice President of Social Responsibility. She previously served as MLB’s Director of Community Affairs. Her job will be to develop and enhance the initiatives that support MLB’s position in the community and oversee MLB’s community investments, nonprofit/non-governmental organization partnerships, large-scale disaster relief efforts and employee volunteer engagement.

Manfred said, “the promotions of Billy, Renée and Melanie reflect our commitment to have strong, innovative leadership in place that aligns our industry objectives with a desire to be effective corporate citizens.”

While all of these are current employees who have served in roughly similar roles. A business’ organizational chart says much about how much that business values various functions and initiatives. In keeping with Manfred’s comments, that all three of these people have been promoted to the vice presidential level is a strong signal from MLB about what it wants.

Now all it has to do is follow through and get what it wants.