For baseball purposes, Memorial Day is no longer significant

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A lot of people say that Memorial Day is when you can stop saying “it’s too early” and that the results are finally significant. Some people say Mother’s Day, some a bit later than Memorial Day, but I think most people think of Memorial Day as the time of the season when who is good and who is bad can finally be known for real.

Joe Sheehan notes today, however, that Memorial Day is no longer significant for those purposes:

Just go back a year. None of the four AL teams that led their divisions on the morning of Memorial Day (the AL East featured a two-way tie) would go on to win them. Two would meet in the Coin Flip Game, two others would miss the postseason entirely. Two AL playoff teams were under .500 at the time, and the A’s were nowhere on anyone’s radar. Go back another year, and it’s much the same: half the teams leading divisions would win them, half wouldn’t. MLB has worked very hard over the past 20 years to build a system that allows for maximum mobility between seasons, and they’ve created one that also allows for substantial mobility within them.

Old habits are hard to quit, and I figure that people will still be calling Memorial Day some sort of bellwether for years to come, but the wild card and attendant expansion has killed that, kids.

That bit of knowledge from Joe, you should know, comes from his newsletter, to which you should subscribe. He writes the equivalent of five big, beefy columns a week, they come straight to your inbox. For under $20 through January of next year. Definitely check it out.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.