Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals

By run differential, the Centrals reign supreme


As of Monday afternoon, the Rangers and Cardinals have baseball’s best records. Not entirely coincidentally  they also have the best run differentials of any team in baseball. The Rangers have scored 212 runs and let in 158, putting them at +54. The Cardinals have scored 201 runs and allowed a major league-low 150, which works out to a +51.

It also won’t come as a surprise to anyone which two teams fall at the bottom when it comes to run differential. The Astros and Marlins have identical 12-32 records at the moment, and no other teams are within even 100 points of them when it comes to winning percentage. In run differential, the Astros rate at the bottom, a cool -88. The Marlins aren’t far behind at -73. They’ve gotten respectable pitching (190 runs allowed), but they’ve scored 25 fewer runs than any other team in baseball. The Astros have let in 39 more runs than any other team.

The Astros, in fact, are so bad that they’ve reshaped how we have to look at two divisions since making the switch from the NL Central to the AL West. Last year, the NL Central was the second worst division in baseball by run differential. This year, it’s the best.

NL Central: +86
AL Central: +70
AL East: +49
NL West: +2
AL West: -89
NL East: -118

That’s a huge turnaround from 2012:

AL West: +236
AL East: +123
NL East: +67
NL West: -36
NL Central: -139
AL Central: -251

The Astros alone were a -211 last year. The rest of the NL Central was positive overall, but that’s largely because it got to beat up on the Astros. This time, the division is in the positives without any assistance from the Astros. Well, actually, the Pirates got to play them three times, but that turned out to be a null series; the Pirates won twice by one run and lost once by two runs.

The AL Central has taken an even bigger step forward than the NL Central. The Indians (-178) and Twins (-131) were far and away the AL’s worst teams by run differential last year. This year, the Indians are a +35 and the Twins are merely -11.

The AL East is the only division this year to boast four teams with positive run differentials. However, Toronto’s -45 has wiped out a good portion of that. The Blue Jays have the third worst run differential in baseball.

The NL East has just one team, the Braves, with a positive run diffential at +34. The Nationals are a -17, even though they are 23-21 for the season.

Besides the Nationals, the Giants are the only other team with a positive record (24-20) and a negative run differential (-5). They have the same record as the Rockies, even though the Rockies sit at +32.

There aren’t any teams with positive run differentials and sub-.500 records, though the A’s have been straddling that line. Winning three straight one-run games over the Royals last weekend gave them a 23-22 record and a +3 run differential.

As for the leagues themselves, the AL is currently a +30 over the NL, with a 29-26 interleague record.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.