Balance of power shifting toward pitchers in MLB

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jimenez checking first.jpgThe baseball world has already been treated to several impressive pitching feats this season and it’s not even June.  From Ubaldo Jimenez’s no-hitter on April 17 against the Braves, to Dallas Braden’s perfect game on May 9 against the Rays, to Roy Halladay’s perfecto last night in Florida — 2010 has largely been the year of the pitcher, at least through the first two months.

A staggering total of 26 starters had an ERA under 3.00 and 27 had a WHIP under 1.15 entering Sunday’s full slate of action, and they’re not all familiar names.  Cardinals rookie left-hander Jaime Garcia has four wins and a 1.14 ERA in nine starts, the Mariners’ Doug Fister owns a 2.03 ERA and has walked only 10 batters in 62 innings, and the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey is 7-1 and has surrendered only 18 runs in 63.2 innings for a 2.54 ERA.  Heck, even Carlos Silva has enjoyed success.

In baseball, as in life, we like answers.  Why have pitchers been more dominant this year than in any other time in recent memory?  Why are home run totals down and stolen base numbers up?  Why has the tide turned, and what caused it? 

Most would point to Major League Baseball’s crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs, namely steroids, and there’s no doubting that it’s been a factor.  The battle is not over, of course, but it appears that stricter and more frequent testing has cut down on juicing in the game, and thus we are seeing far less offensive firepower across the baseball landscape.

Does that mean we can put a cap on the last 15-or-so years and mark the summer of 2010 as the end of the “steroid era?”  No.  At least not yet.  But we’re certainly starting to turn the corner.

Let’s also hand much of the credit for the shift in power to baseball’s blossoming young crop of starting pitchers.  Guys like Jimenez, Garcia, Josh Johnson, Matt Cain, David Price, Shaun Marcum, Clay Buchholz, Clayton Kershaw, Mike Leake, Mat Latos and Phil Hughes have been blowing away batters this year and professional baseball, in many ways, is better for it.  There is some seriously good pitching going on in both leagues this year and phenom Stephen Strasburg hasn’t even made his major league debut. 

It’s a great time to be a true baseball fan.  When it comes down to it, what is better than a pitchers’ duel?

Report: Orioles expected to replace Buck Showalter

Buck Showalter
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Orioles manager Buck Showalter is not expected to retain his position with the club beyond the 2018 season, according to multiple reports from Jon Heyman of Fancred and Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. Nothing appears to be finalized just yet, however, and the Orioles have yet to address rumors of Showalter’s impending departure or news of a possible contract extension for general manager Dan Duquette.

Even so, it’s been a year of near-unprecedented disaster for the 62-year-old skipper, who helped lead the team to a 44-108 record prior to the outcome of Friday’s series opener against the Yankees. With the Orioles’ 108th loss — a 4-6 heartbreaker against the Blue Jays on Tuesday — they tied the 1937 St. Louis Browns for the second-most losses in a single season, eclipsed only by the 43-111 record of the 1939 Browns. As they have just 10 games remaining in the regular season, this year’s team has no chance of climbing out of last place in the AL East and may well finish with the worst record in the AL to boot.

While the Orioles’ missteps don’t bode well for Showalter’s future in Baltimore, he’s brought far more good than harm to the organization over the last eight and a half years. He assumed the managerial position from interim manager Juan Samuel in the middle of the team’s 2010 season and guided the club to five winning seasons and three postseason appearances in 2012, 2014, and 2016. Entering the 2018 season, his record sits at 666 wins and 677 losses, the winningest mark by any of the team’s skippers since Earl Weaver wrapped his 17-season run with the team in 1986. Whether the Orioles believe Showalter is capable of recovering from two consecutive losing seasons and returning the team to their former days of glory (and the occasional division title) remains to be seen, of course, though there’s plenty to recommend him as they prepare to advance a full-scale rebuild over the offseason.