Stat of the Day: Best records since the All-Star break

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In a 162-game marathon it’s easy to lose sight of which teams have played well following a rough first couple months or which teams have faded since a fast start, so with about three weeks remaining in the season let’s take a look at the best records since the All-Star break.

First up, the National League:

              W      L
Reds         39     19
Nationals    39     20
Phillies     34     21
Braves       35     23
Padres       34     22
Giants       34     22

Cincinnati, Washington, Atlanta, and San Francisco are likely all headed for the playoffs with the four best overall records in the league, but Philadelphia and San Diego have turned things around in a huge way after stumbling out of the gates. It’s too little too late for the Padres, but the Phillies have somehow climbed back to .500 and into legitimate Wild Card contention after going 37-50 in the first half.

And now the American League:

              W      L
Athletics    38     17
Orioles      34     22
Mariners     32     23
Rangers      32     23
Rays         32     23

What’s going on in Oakland right now is pretty crazy and last night was no exception. Seattle is obviously the biggest surprise in the AL, going 32-23 in the second half after going 36-51 in the first half. Like with the Padres it’s too little too late for the Mariners, but they’ve at least provided some reason for optimism following some pretty ugly seasons.

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.