Aroldis Chapman finally gave up an earned run

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After thoroughly dominating major league hitters over the first two months of the season, Aroldis Chapman finally gave up his first earned run tonight against the Pirates. And it was courtesy of some unlikely contributors.

Chapman entered the game with the score tied in the 10th inning. He quickly gave up a leadoff ground-rule double to Clint Barmes, who entered tonight’s action with a miserable .188/.211/.305 batting line over his first 50 games this season. It was actually the first hit Chapman had allowed since May 17, a span of 8 2/3 innings. Then Michael McKenry, who entered play tonight with a .207/.271/.326 career batting line, punched a 99 mph fastball to the right-center field gap for another double which plated Barmes with the go-ahead run. The Pirates ended up winning the game 5-4. Baseball sure is a funny game sometimes.

Chapman previously gave up an unearned run against the Mets back on May 17, but the Cuban left-hander had a perfect 0.00 ERA through 29 innings this season until McKenry’s run-scoring double. It was the first time he had allowed an earned run in a major league game since last September 10, a span of 35 innings and 29 appearances.

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.