Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks

Steve Lyons doesn’t want your filthy, rally-killing home runs

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Remember a while ago, some had the idea that having slow runners on base was a bad idea because they “clogged up the bases“? Even though having runners on base directly leads to scoring runs? It took a bit of work (and ridicule) to get that idea out of the zeitgeist. Now, thanks to Steve Lyons, we have to do some extra work to get another bad idea out:

Lyons, who spent nine years as a Major Leaguer and subsequently became a broadcaster, is referring to the two-run home run Hanley Ramirez hit against Braves reliever David Carpenter earlier tonight to bring the game from 4-1 to 4-3. The two-run home run Yoenis Cespedes hit in the seventh inning to bring his team from 3-0 to 3-2 also qualifies as a “rally killer”.

If the idea happened to be fleshed out a little deeper, there may be something to Lyons’ theory. Opposing hitters in the Majors posted an OPS 21 points higher with runners on base than with the bases empty. Is this alone evidence? Of course not, because pitchers that tend to allow runners on base frequently tend to be pitchers of poorer quality, so the results are biased a bit. And 21 points of OPS is not that much to begin with. It’s a theory that needs to be researched a bit deeper rather than adamantly defended as sacrosanct.

However, we’re talking about scoring guaranteed runs. If given the choice to score 2-3 runs on a home run to close your deficit to within one run, or to undo the home run and wait for a base hit, you choose the home run every day of the week and twice on Sunday. In a sport where you’re considering a hitting phenom if you can succeed three out of every ten attempts, the Dodgers were very likely to stop scoring runs after Ramirez batted anyway. Braves reliever David Carpenter struck out 74 batters in 65.2 innings, so it isn’t surprising that he got back-to-back strikeouts on Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig after surrendering the Ramirez dinger. Similarly, Max Scherzer — who held the Athletics to one hit in his first six innings of work — was likely to continue dominating the A’s even after giving up that Cespedes homer, and he did, recording three quick outs in succession to wrap up the seventh inning.

And hey, does anyone remember this homer-fueled rally?

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.