Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals

By run differential, the Centrals reign supreme

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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.

Report: Tim Lincecum is not ready for retirement

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 29:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 29, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).

Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.

While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.

Report: Jeff Manship signs with NC Dinos

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Jeff Manship #53 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch during the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.

Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.

The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.