The NL is beating the AL in interleague play. Here's why it doesn't matter

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Interleague_Logo.pngMLB.com has a story with a rather misleading headline today: “NL makes a statement on Interleague weekend.”  Big statement: it was 22-20. They could have drawn game results out of a hat and gotten the same results. I’d ask anyone who reads significance into that record to immediately walk down to the nearest community college and sign up for an introductory statistics class before you hurt someone.

But hey, a statistically insignificant sign of league parity is better than nothing, right?  Bah.  As I said the other day, I find the comparison of the AL and the NL to be a dreary exercise. I must admit that this is partially because I’m an NL guy and I get tired of hearing people disparage the senior circuit.  But it bothers me far more because it’s a comparison that easily leads people to unwarranted conclusions based on an ignorance of baseball history. News flash: disparities, even great disparities, are nothing new.

While the Yankees got their titles, most people agree that the NL was the superior league — some people would argue far superior league — from the 1950s through the 1970s. Indeed, one reason the Yankees got so many titles in the 50s and early 60s was because they didn’t have to face much in the way of strong competition to win the pennant in the first place, what with pushovers like the Senators, Athletics, Browns/Orioles and others hanging around.

The NL, in contrast, was much stronger top-to-bottom, with far more teams breaking through to win pennants.  A lot of this had to do with the fact that the NL was much faster in integrating. A lot of it also had to do with the fact that the NL had smarter front office people than the AL (which explains the integration thing too), managers who utilized the speed game, thus diversifying offenses and owners who seemed less focused on the bottom line than on winning (key word being “seemed”).

Due to the lack of interleague play back then we can’t really quantify how much better the NL was than the AL, but it’s hard to argue that the NL wasn’t a better league during those years. Now we can quantify such a thing, and we have pretty clear evidence that the AL is superior to the NL.  Rather than just let it be, however, we get people wringing their hands and using such information as the basis for crazy suggestions like radical realignment and what not.

It’s one of the rare instances where more data, rather than less, is likely to lead people astray.  Let it be people.

Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

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It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.

Blue Jays acquire Tom Koehler from Marlins

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The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.

The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.

Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.