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Max Scherzer steals first career base, shuts out Braves

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Nationals starter Max Scherzer stole his first base and threw a shutout against the Braves on Monday evening, helping his team enjoy a 2-0 victory. Scherzer singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh against reliever Peter Moylan, then swiped second base easily while Trea Turner was batting for his first career stolen base. The Nationals could not bring Scherzer around to score, however.

As MLB’s Stat of the Day notes, Scherzer is the first player to steal a base and throw a shutout with 10 strikeouts in the same game since Nolan Ryan on May 16, 1984 against the Pirates.

On the mound, Scherzer held the Braves scoreless on two hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts on 102 pitches. The shutout is the fifth of the right-hander’s career and his first since the final game of the 2015 season, when he tossed a 17-strikeout no-hitter against the Mets.

Through three starts to begin the 2018 season, Scherzer has a 0.90 ERA with a 27/3 K/BB ratio in 20 innings.

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.