Phillies send Shane Victorino to Dodgers for pair of pitchers

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For the past week rumors have been swirling about the Phillies offering up Shane Victorino for bullpen help. They were reportedly turned down by the Reds for Logan Ondrusek, but today they found a taker and sent Victorino to the Dodgers for reliever Josh Lindblom, pitching prospect Ethan Martin, and a player to be named later or cash.

Victorino will play left field for the Dodgers, who’ll stick with Matt Kemp in center field and Andre Ethier in right field. He also figures to slide into the leadoff spot, which has been a major weakness for the Dodgers all season. Victorino isn’t an ideal leadoff man because of his mediocre .324 on-base percentage this season and .336 OBP during the past three years, but compared to Dee Gordon or Tony Gwynn Jr. he’s an on-base machine.

Dodgers left fielders have hit just .259 with four homers and a .677 OPS in 104 games, so making a move to upgrade the position is smart. However, at this point it’s not clear how much of an upgrade Victorino provides, as he’s hit just .261 with nine homers and a .724 OPS in 101 games. He’ll be better–offensively and defensively–but the upgrade over, say, a Bobby Abreu-Jerry Hairston platoon is unlikely to be as significant as Victorino’s name recognition suggests.

Lindblom is a 25-year-old right-hander with a 2.91 ERA in 75 appearances since debuting for the Dodgers last season and his 71/28 K/BB ratio in 77 innings is strong as well. He may prove stretched as a late-inning option, but Lindblom has solid raw stuff and should be effective in a secondary setup man role. And just as importantly for the Phillies as they try to rebuild the bullpen, Lindblom is under team control through 2017.

Martin is a 2008 first-round pick with a career ERA near 5.00 in the minors, but he’s turned things around a bit at Double-A this season with a 3.58 ERA and 112/61 K/BB ratio in 118 innings. He’s far from a top prospect, but is still just 22 years old and has a shot to be valuable if his control improves at some point.

To replace Victorino the Phillies have called up one-time top prospect Domonic Brown from Triple-A, where he’s spent most of the past three seasons because the team has consistently been hesitant to give him an extended opportunity. He’ll get that chance now and Brown is still just 24 years old, but he hasn’t been particularly productive this season while hitting .286 with five homers and a .767 OPS in 60 games at Triple-A.

Victorino is a 31-year-old impending free agent whose production has fallen off substantially this season and the Phillies obviously aren’t contenders, so Philadelphia did well to get a useful young reliever and a decent prospect. Lindblom’s upside probably isn’t high enough for him to truly come back to haunt the Dodgers and Martin remains a question mark, but to give them up for a two-month rental who hasn’t played very well is hardly a no-brainer move. Of course, if the Victorino from 2008-2011 shows up the Dodgers just got one of the best outfielders in the league on the cheap.

UPDATE: And the Phillies didn’t stop with Victorino, trading Hunter Pence to the Giants.

MLB investigation confirms that the baseball has changed

MLB
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You know the baseballs are different. We know the baseballs are different. Pitchers have been saying the baseballs are different. And now Major League Baseball has acknowledged that the baseballs are different in a report of findings by a team of scientists from some of the top universities in the world, like Stanford, Caltech, and M.I.T.

You can read the whole thing here in PDF form. Here’s the gist …

The ball is not bouncier — or “juiced” — but it is most definitely carrying farther. From MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince …

Though the study did not discover meaningful changes in the ball’s lift, it found that the drag coefficient of MLB balls has decreased since 2015. The researchers used a physics model to calculate that if the change in home run rate was attributable entirely to changes in drag, one would expect the drag coefficient to have decreased by approximately 0.012. The exact change in drag coefficient in the time period studied — if you’re scoring at home — was 0.0153.

It’s not the seams or the core that has changed — those aspects were tested — and it’s not the weather either. In fact, the commision couldn’t figure out what is causing the decrease in drag, despite numerous tests on all elements of the ball. It might simply come down to manufacturing advancements. Looking at you, Rawlings …

“Rawlings is always trying to improve the manufacturing process to make it more uniform,” Alan Nathan, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told MLB.com. “So the interesting question that comes up is whether the goal should be to improve the manufacturing process or to keep the ball performing exactly the way it is, regardless of whether it’s improved or not.”

Baseball Prospectus began studying this three years ago, as home runs began to increase around the league. Their write-up on MLB’s report is a must-read.