Here we go. It’s the second half of the season. A month ago, you’d think we’d (Cubs fans) be licking our chops to get back to baseball, but I am at least a little bit hesitant, nervous, anxious.
The Cubs will probably be just fine (or better!), but the way the first half ended … yuck.
Hopefully, some rest and a long stretch of games in and around Chicago will make all the difference for the North Siders. I guess we’ll find out soon enough! Until then, let’s check in on some news from around the league …
- Did you watch the 2016 MLB All-Star Game? If you said “Yes,” you might be lying! (#rhetoric) The numbers are in and the 2016 MLB All-Star drew a record-low TV audience of 8.707 million viewers. And if you think that still sounds like a lot, consider that the 2015 figure was a bit over 2 million viewers higher (10.9M). Worse yet, according to Sports TV Ratings on Twitter, fewer than 300 thousand viewers were in the age 12-17 bracket and only 1.2 million viewers were in the 18-34 group. The vast majority (5.2M) came from TV watchers that were 50+ years old. Oof. The long term health of baseball is contingent upon interest from America’s youth. If the TV ratings are any indication of interest, the sport may be in trouble in 10-15 years. That said, the All-Star game hasn’t traditionally been the most anticipated event of the year, but has historically done much better than this. Chris Cwik suggests that the effects of increased interleague play and the availability to watch any team you want with MLB.TV has lessened the impact/rarity of the game. There have already been a lot of changes to baseball in the last few years (and many more to come this offseason), so maybe it’s time to make changes to the All-Star Game, as well.
- Here’s a stunning statistic: A 2015 study from the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine indicated that 56.7% of Tommy John surgeries from 2007 to 2011 were performed on 15-to-19 year-olds (high school baseball players). In response, high school baseball’s national governing body unveiled a new policy that requires pitchers to be given rest between a certain number of pitches in an outing – effectively replacing their inning count with a pitch count – and each state association will be required to develop its own pitch count restriction (Baseball America covers the specifics here). So far, the new rule has been warmly received, especially by MLB, who went as far as to issue its own press release praising the rules. This seems like one of those win-wins.
- In my completely fair and unbiased opinion, Daniel Murphy is the most overrated, terrible, annoying player in baseball (okay, maybe that has something to do with my saltiness over his 9-18, 4 HR performance in the 2015 NLCS against the Cubs). In truth, he’s been unbelievably good in 2016, if not great, slashing .348/.387/.598 with 17 home runs in just 362 plate appearances. At the Washington Post, Chelsea Janes discusses the many adjustments and strategies behind Murphy’s offensive explosion in 2016, and how much of the damage has come against his former team (the Mets). It’s a nice, long read on Murphy, who I guess I can forgive since he genuinely has been terrorizing the Mets all season long. But so help me, if the Cubs face Murphy and the Nationals in the NLCS this Fall …
- At The Toronto Star, Brendan Kennedy writes about the infusion and game-changing effect of big data on Major League baseball, specifically with regards to defensive metrics. Some teams have allowed the influx of new data to influence their decisions more than others, but just about every team is using the information in one way or another. And it isn’t stopping any time soon. In fact, analysts are working harder than ever to improve existing functionality and create new methods of tracking different types of information/decisions. The level of specificity and potential suggested is pretty exciting to think about. As a fun aside, Kennedy lists the 1. best route efficiency, 2. strongest throw, 3. fastest top speed, 4. Highest exit velocity home run, and 5. highest spin rate in 2016. Can you guess the leaders in each one?
- Danny Knobler wrote your (second) must-read of the day, the story of Dontrelle Willis and why you shouldn’t feel sorry for him (in a positive way). Although Willis never fulfilled the career many had come to expect, he’s very happy with how his life has gone and has made a huge positive impact on many of the players he’s worked with. With quotes from teammates (Will Smith, Todd Frazier), executives (GM Dave Dombrowski), coaches (Marcus Thames, Kevin Baez) and more, Knobler really put together a nice read on the former Marlin, Tiger, Giant, Red, Oriole, Angel, and Cub (prospect). I never knew much about Willis, other than the baseball-surface stuff, so this was fun to read. He’s a pretty special guy.
- At FanGraphs, Dave Cameron is piecing together the top 50 2016 trade value rankings ten at a time, just in time for the deadline in a few weeks. So far, Willson Contreras was an honorable mention and Addison Russell came in at number 31 overall (one spot higher than last season). With number 1-10 being released tomorrow, I suspect we’ll find each of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant somewhere near the top, and we’ll write it up in more detail then.
- Lastly, at Baseball is Fun, I share some video recaps some of the most memorable moments from the first half of the 2016 season. It’s truly hard to believe how many huge events have already happened (Bryce Harper’s 100th shot, Bartolo Colon’s first home run, Ichiro Suzuki’s 4257th hit, Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter, Max Scherzer’s 20K game), and remember that there’s still a whole half-season left to go. What was your most memorable moment?