The Athletics are killing it in the run differential department

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If you’re the type who likes to use run differential as a quick and dirty gauge of a team’s talent, you’re probably very impressed with the Athletics thus far. Sunday’s 13-3 victory over the Indians leaves them 3.5 games ahead of the Angels for first place in the AL West. The win also brought their run differential to a staggering +95, putting them on pace for +350 over a full season. Typically, the best teams finish in the +150-200 area.

The Athletics have nine players, minimum 80 plate appearances, with an above-average wRC+ which is a Sabermetric stat that individually weights each of the various components in which a player contributes offensively. 100 is average. Reddick is close to joining the list at 94.

Dan Straily has been the only starter who hasn’t done a good job, posting a 4.93 ERA before his recent demotion to Triple-A Sacramento. Scott Kazmir has been a godsend and Jesse Chavez has been a surprise, seeing as he was an emergency addition to the rotation when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin succumbed to injuries. And Sonny Gray has been as good as he advertised last season. In the bullpen, off-season acquisition Jim Johnson has been the only unreliable contributor.

Many are gawking at the Tigers and they’re not wrong for doing so, but the Athletics are looking like the American League’s best team, at least at this point in the season. The Tigers are the second-best team in baseball in terms of run differential, but they’re a whopping 44 runs behind the Athletics. It’s only fitting that the Athletics and the Tigers are the class of the American League at this point, though, as they were foes in last year’s ALDS, with the Tigers narrowly escaping the five-game set.

Red Sox to extend protective netting at Fenway Park in 2018

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The Red Sox are the latest team to extend the protective netting at their ballpark this winter. According to a statement by club president Sam Kennedy, the exact dimensions of the netting have yet to be determined, but it will likely stretch “all the way to Field Box 79, down the left field line and then all the way down to almost Canvas Alley in the Field Box 9 area.”

Fenway Park received additional protective netting prior to the 2016 season, when the netting behind home plate was lengthened to the home and visitor dugouts. Per Kennedy’s statement, the current expansion should cover everything but the outfield corners, making it nearly impossible for a line drive foul to reach fans in the lower boxes.

After a toddler sustained serious injuries from a 105-MPH foul ball to the face at Yankee Stadium last September, over half of all MLB teams decided to take more extreme preventative measures in advance of the 2018 season. The Brewers, Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Twins and Indians are among the organizations to address the issue over the last several years, while others have yet to take significant action.