Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

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The Chicago Cubs have amassed 100 wins, Kris Bryant has surpassed 100 RBI, Kyle Hendricks has lowered his ERA under two, and that was all just last night!

Things are going pretty well.

So let’s leave the Cubs alone for a second, and turn our attention to the rest of the league …

  • … with a story about why and how the Cubs are the only 100-win team this season! More specifically, how are they the only 100-win team in a season full of tanking and obvious losers. [Brett: Sad!] The first answer is that there has been a big increase in league parity over the years. More teams used to reach 95+ and 100+ wins twenty years ago than they do today, so with more evenly dispersed talent (especially younger talent, which is more productive these days), fewer teams are standing out. The second answer is that, while yes, this is a year full of many poorly assembled teams, last season wasn’t much different. In fact, every season usually has a group of contenders and less-than-contenders, and 2016 wasn’t special in that regard. Lastly, the Cubs’ relatively healthy season has been invaluable: five starters will make 28+ starts and six position players will play in 140+ games. For more on how the Cubs were able to reach 100 wins when no one else was, check out David Schoenfield’s article at ESPN.

  • Huge, damaging news for the Nationals, as catcher Wilson Ramos tore his ACL last night, and is (obviously) done for the year. Ramos, 29, rebounded from a couple disappointing years to post a .307/.354/.496 line this season, to go with good defense behind the plate. He was, in total value, one of the Nationals’ most valuable players. Less than a week ago, it was reported that the Nationals had offered Ramos a three-year, $30ish million contract extension, which seemed way too light for the free-agent-to-be. It’s a reminder that players are asked to roll the dice every single night with their livelihood.
  • At FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan examines the single worst called ball on record … and boy is it a doozy. Here’s what it looked like:

  • The reason for the blown call probably had something to do with the catcher’s extremely poor reception (worsened by the fact that he set up to receive it inside), but there really is no mistake: that ball was down the middle when it crossed home plate. What happens afterwards should be of no consequence. Take a look at Sullivan’s article, because it’s a fun pitch an an even odder occurrence to deconstruct.

  • Also at FanGraphs, Sullivan takes a look into a recent start made by Clayton Kershaw against the Colorado Rockies, and how he might have been experimenting with them in-game. After the Dodgers went up 8-0, Kershaw started experimenting with different arm slots in the top of the seventh inning, something he doesn’t do. At first it’s hard to notice, but after multiple annotated gifs and images, it’s pretty clear … and downright scary. Any pitcher can improve, of course, but Kershaw improving strikes fear into my heart. Each time he dropped his arm slot, the batter was baffled, for what it’s worth. So sleep on that and have nightmares about facing Kershaw in the postseason.
  • For years we’ve been discussing the increased security and safety controls for players in Venezuela, and for years teams have withdrawn their facilities and prospects. This year, MLB is taking an even further step. The 2016 Venezuelan National Showcase will take place on November 16-17 … in Panama, per Baseball America. “We have been monitoring the situation in Venezuela closely, and at this point in time, felt that the most prudent course of action was to hold the showcase elsewhere,” said Kim Ng, who oversees MLB’s international operations as the league’s vice president of baseball operations. It’s truly saddening that such a vibrant baseball country can be riddled by such ugly problems, but they’ve grown beyond management. So, Panama it is. Read more about the plans and why they’ve changed countries here at Baseball America.
  • There’s nothing new on the CBA front, though Ken Rosenthal writes about where some of the player/payroll fault lines might be, and how the changes might not be all that dramatic.
  • All year long we’ve been keeping tabs on the dramatic and noticeable increase in home runs (sluggers have hit home runs at a higher rate in 2016 than every before), but we’ve only scratched the surface as to why? At Yahoo Sports, Jeff Passan, asks why is 2016 the year of the home run, and it’s definitely worth your time. Part of the prevailing wisdom is the “rise of the middle class,” so to speak. There have been more home runs this year than many, many other season (it’ll be top five in baseball history when all is said and done), but there isn’t an expansive group at the top. No one will reach 50 this year and only six players have reached 40, but in 2016, far more players have been hitting home runs in general, so the collective season total and home run rate has exploded. Passan discussed this and more (including a look into ten key contributors), so definitely check it out.

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

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