If you can navigate your way through the obligatory (and clunky) references to VCRs and record players at the beginning of this column from Jayson Stark, you’ll get a great insight into the way that technology is changing the game of baseball. Most specifically with reference to just how easy it is for players to review video and research tendencies of opposing batters and pitchers via iPads and stuff.
And a fun provocative bit: the notion Stark sets forth about how the pitchers may be ahead of the hitters in using this stuff so far, which leads to this observation:
We’d bet that if we polled all American baseball fans on why runs per game and batting average have dropped five seasons in a row, 99 percent of them would answer “steroids” — or the lack thereof. And you know what? They wouldn’t be wrong. But there’s another force at work that we now believe may have been nearly as powerful: information.
There are actually many forces at work, I believe, and I think that fans would be wrong if they cited steroids testing as the overwhelmingly biggest reason why offense is down rather than just one of many factors. This article strongly suggests that small adjustments matter. And that there are all manner of small adjustments available to baseball players now. Stuff we rarely think about.
Cubs starter John Lackey stole the first base of his 15-year career on Wednesday against the Reds. Of course, he spent the first 11 and a half years of his career in the American League, where opportunities to bat, let alone attempt to steal a base, were rare. Lackey entered Wednesday having taken 250 plate appearances, reaching base just 31 times on 17 singles, seven doubles, and seven walks for a .134 on-base percentage. One can imagine the 38-year-old is not exactly the swiftest base runner.
Still, Lackey managed to swipe a bag in the fourth inning. He singled with two outs against Homer Bailey. Then, with an 0-1 count on Ben Zobrist, Lackey broke for second even before Bailey began his windup. Tucker Barnhart stood up to alert Bailey that Lackey was running, so Bailey wheeled around and threw to second base, but Lackey slid into the bag easily safe. It wasn’t a pretty slide, but it did the job.
Lackey, however, was picked off of second base by Barnhart later that inning. Bailey threw a 3-2 fastball wide of the strike zone, walking Zobrist. Lackey had wandered too far off of second base, so Barnhart threw behind Lackey and the tag was applied by Zack Cozart. Lackey was called safe initially. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field was overturned, ending the fourth inning.
Base Ba’al giveth and Base Ba’al taketh away.
Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge hit another jaw-dropping home run, victimizing Mets starter Robert Gsellman in the top of the fourth game of Wednesday night’s game at Citi Field. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes didn’t even move. The ball traveled 457 feet and was hit 117 MPH off the bat, according to Katie Sharp of River Ave Blues.
The home run moved Judge’s AL-best total to 37, putting him two ahead of the Royals’ Mike Moustakas. Along with the prodigious dinger total, he has 80 RBI, 90 runs scored, and a .291/.421/.616 triple-slash line in 499 plate appearances. Judge is on pace for 50 dingers. If it holds, that would give him the rookie record for home runs in a season. Mark McGwire currently holds the record, having hit 49 for the Athletics in 1987.