Let’s check in on some news from around the league …
- At the end of the 2015 season, the home runs were pouring in at a unusually high rate, and apparently it’s continued into 2016. In the month of April, for example, MLB carried a league wide 11.8% HR/FB ratio – the largest such figure for the month of April since the league started tracking that in 2002. At Yahoo Sports, Jeff Passan did some digging, and even got in contact with a professor at the University of Illinois (who is one of the foremost experts on baseball physics) to find out what’s been happening. After studying the Statcast data over the past few months, he determined that even the slightest increase in exit velocity (which has occurred) can lead to a large increase in the number of home runs. But what lead to the increase in exit velocity, then? Passan has a number of theories from juiced-balls to PEDs to the weather, but it’s a fun read and I don’t want to spoil too much. So go check it out.
- As I’m sure you could have easily guessed, more and more teams are using defensive shifts with greater frequency than ever before. Of course, that has caused some (like Joe Girardi) to call for the banning of shifts, but, for the most part, everyone seems to be on board. In fact, it’s been one of the smoothest adoptions of a relatively large change in baseball philosophy. But, are the shifts actually worth the trouble? Over at Baseball Prospectus, Russell A. Carleton uses some, as he puts it, “gory math” to figure out if defensive shifts are actually as beneficial as we all like to think. He comes to some pretty interesting conclusions, even if the results aren’t necessarily what you might have otherwise expected. For example, teams might have gone too far in the direction of shifting, and are shifting on too many guys who are able to successfully adjust. Another great read you should really check out.
- In yet another one of my favorite reads of the week (this is why we needed an MLBits!), Dave Cameron questions whether these are the best young hitters in baseball history at FanGraphs. Calling upon names like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager and Addison Russell, Cameron acknowledges that, offensive down era or not, the young hitters are bringing some serious heat and it might be at a historically good pace. Indeed, since 1900, the overall average shows that players under 25 years old typically received roughly 32% of all plate appearances while accounting for 29% of position player WAR. The reason for that is likely because teams are more willing to give up some immediate production from a veteran for lesser immediate production from a younger player with promise for the future. However, in 2015, teams gave young players a similar 33% of all plate appearances, but they accounted for 39% of the total position player WAR (a huge increase). Cameron dives much deeper and you’ll want to give this one a read.
- Also at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan tries to figure out what the heck is going on with the Phillies. Indeed, before yesterday’s loss to the Cardinals, they won six in a row, and are still tied for the 8th best record in baseball (15-11). That said, they have the second worst positional WAR (only ahead of the Braves) and the 22nd best run differential. So, if they’re actually planning on continuing to be *good* this year, they’ll have to improve rather dramatically.
- Although both the Red Sox and their third baseman are unsure how the injury occurred, Pablo Sandoval is getting surgery on his left shoulder and probably will not play for the rest of the season. After visiting with Dr. James Andrews, the club announced that Sandoval will require surgery, but have yet to release many details regarding the nature of the injury or the expected time table for return. Sandoval, 29, is in the second season of a five-year, $95 million contract. Yikes.
- After fouling a ball off his left foot in the fourth inning on Sunday, J.J. Hardy sustained a hairline fracture and will miss somewhere between 6-8 weeks. Although he is batting just .244/.291/.410, Hardy has been playing outstanding defense and has been leading an infield whose defense defines them. Ryan Flaherty (former Cubs farmhand from way back) is expected to replace him for the time being.
- Also from the injury bin, Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco might miss a majority of the 2016 season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday and surgery remains a possibility. The news is quite a bummer for the Reds and Mesoraco, who already missed most of last season with a hip injury. The injury bug – some people just don’t have the luck.
- Lastly, Brandon Finnegan was pulled from Monday’s contest against the Giants after six successful innings, despite throwing just 90 pitches, because of a sore hamstring that developed in the third inning (did you catch that? He was allowed to throw three more innings with a sore hamstring because, according to manager Bryan Price, the bullpen was short). The Reds are dealing with some serious rotational injuries right now (Raisel Iglesias, Jon Moscot, Alfredo Simon, Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani have all dealt with various issues at one point or another), so the news on Finnegan is no good. However, Finnegan sees it as just a small set back, and doesn’t play to miss any starts as of now.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.