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The fly ball revolution isn’t working for everyone

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Baseball’s fly ball revolution has been talked about quite a bit, as it has changed the careers of players like J.D. Martinez, Ryan Zimmerman, and Yonder Alonso. The league average fly ball rate has changed by nearly two percent, from 33.8 percent to 35.6 percent, since 2015. Over hundreds of thousands of at-bats, a two percent difference makes quite an impact. That may have had something to do with why baseball has seen home runs hit at a pace not seen since 2000, the height of the “steroid era.”

More and more teams are promoting the idea of hitting the ball in the air as opposed to on the ground, or even on a line. But hitting more fly balls isn’t working for everyone, as Five Thirty Eight’s Rob Arthur shows. An increase in fly ball rate showed very little correlation with an increase in offensive production. “For every Yonder Alonso,” Arthur writes, “there is a 2016 Kiké Hernandez, who spiked his fly ball rate by 11.7 percentage points, only to watch his wOBA drop by 89 points.”

That is to be expected, however, as Driveline Baseball’s Kyle Boddy notes. Boddy says, “Bad hitters should not hit the ball in the air. Also, batted balls will be randomly distributed to a degree.”

While one increases his power potential by increasing his fly ball rate, one also increases the likelihood of hitting an infield pop-up. That, Arthur says, is about as bad as striking out because they’re outs virtually all the time and very rarely offer a base runner an opportunity to advance. Joey Votto, an outspoken critic of the fly ball trend, rarely pops up because he’s focused on hitting line drives instead of fly balls.

But the strategy of hitting fly balls only works for those who have the appropriate skill set. If one has the mechanics, the feel, and the strength, then hitting more fly balls is more likely to be a successful venture. Dee Gordon, for example, probably wouldn’t get any benefit from adding more loft to his swing. Someone like Tommy Joseph, on the other hand, might.

Kenley Jansen’s consecutive saves streak ends at 34

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Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen gave up three runs in the top of the ninth inning during Sunday’s game against the Braves, blowing his first save since August 26 last season. He had converted 34 consecutive saves.

Jansen yielded back-to-back singles to lead off the ninth inning, staked to a 4-1 lead. After getting two outs, Matt Adams hit a three-run home run down the right field line to knot the game at four apiece.

After Sunday’s lackluster performance, Jansen is now 24-for-25 in save chances this season with a 1.49 ERA and a 62/2 K/BB ratio in 42 1/3 innings.

Zach Britton sets American League record with 55th consecutive save

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Orioles closer Zach Britton finished Sunday’s 9-7 victory over the Astros with a scoreless ninth inning, earning his sixth save of the season. He has now earned the save in 55 consecutive opportunities dating back to September 2015, setting a new American League record. Tom Gordon previously held the record with 54 consecutive saves. Eric Gagne holds the major league record at 84.

Britton’s last blown save came on September 20, 2015, then converted two more saves before the end of the regular season. He went 47-for-47 in save chances last season and is six-for-six so far this year.

Along with his six saves, Britton has a 2.65 ERA and a 13/8 K/BB ratio in 17 innings this season. The lefty came off the disabled list earlier this month after missing two months with a strained left forearm.