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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.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”