2012 OPS projections: top 10 left fielders

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A couple of names I’m sure no one expected to see make the top 10 for left field:

.957 – Ryan Braun (Brewers) – 419 AB – .994 in 2011
.914 – Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies) – 585 AB – .889 in 2011
.910 – Matt Holliday (Cardinals) – 582 AB – .912 in 2011
.868 – Josh Hamilton (Rangers) – 508 AB – .882 in 2011
.844 – Logan Morrison (Marlins) – 532 AB – .797 in 2011
.834 – Jason Kubel (D-backs) – 472 AB – .766 in 2011
.827 – Michael Morse (Nationals) – 571 AB – .910 in 2011
.812 – Alex Gordon (Royals) – 572 AB – .879 in 2011
.801 – Jason Bay (Mets) – 510 AB – .703 in 2011
.796 – Delmon Young (Tigers) – 573 AB – .695 in 2011
.796 – Carl Crawford (Red Sox) – 548 AB – .694 in 2011

– It’s a shallow list, but that shouldn’t come as any big surprise. Left fielders finished with a .728 OPS on the whole last season, compared to .782 for right fielders. Even center fielders were better, coming in at .735. 12 teams got a sub-.700 OPS from left fielders, with the Twins faring worst at .622. As terrible as Crawford was, the Red Sox still finished 13th in MLB with a .723 OPS from their left fielders.

– Even though it is so shallow, I had to go to 11 to account for the virtual tie. I had Crawford around .810 (and over 600 at-bats) before his wrist surgery last month. His projection could take a larger hit this spring based on how he’s recovering.

– I’m sure many will be skeptical about Bay, but he did rebound to .758 after the All-Star break last year and he should benefit more than anyone on the team from the Mets’ decision to bring in the fences a bit.

– When it comes to the worst, I’m sticking with the Twins: Ben Revere’s .683 is the lowest projected mark among regular left fielders. Rene Tosoni, one of last year’s preferred fallbacks, is worse at .677.

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.