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Report: Matt Williams lost the Nationals’ clubhouse

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Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports that Nationals manager Matt Williams lost his clubhouse as his club sputtered in the second half, frittering away the division lead in the NL East to the Mets, who clinched on Saturday evening.

From Svrluga’s article:

Now, several Nationals players believe Williams won’t be able to grow even if the club brings him back for 2016. And this isn’t just one or two malcontents. These opinions span positions and experience. “It’s a terrible environment,” one player said. “And the amazing part is everybody feels that way.”

Williams, who played for 17 seasons and made five All-Star teams, had very little coaching experience when the Nationals brought him on board as a manager. Nevertheless, the Nationals went 96-66 last season, which earned Williams NL Manager of the Year honors. Things went differently in 2015.

The Nationals entered play Saturday 78-75. They led the division by 4.5 games on July 5. They went 6-8 between the All-Star break and the end of July, 12-17 in August, and 12-11 in September.

Williams’ option for 2016 was exercised for the 2016 season back in February, but the Nationals will be under a great deal of pressure to make a change.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.