The Cubs are making the rare visit to Tropicana Field later today, and are facing their old farm-hand Chris Archer in the process.
But before we saddle up for the last non-NL Central series of the year, let’s check out some news from around the league.
- We’ve been expecting this for a while now, but today should mark the breaking of the MLB-wide single season home run record. There have already been 5,677 home runs hit as of this morning, which means the 2017 season is just 16 dingers short of the all-time record (5,693) set at the height of the steroid era, in 2000. I wonder if Anthony Rizzo will hit the decisive blast off Chris Archer later today.
- At ESPN, Sam Miller writes that with this home run explosion, we’re entering into a strange new era where players can hit 30+ dingers and be an overall negative on offense. For example, before this season, no hitter had hit more than 26 long balls with an OPS+ lower than 80. But Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor has already hit 29 long balls in 2017, with an OPS+ of just 67! Odor’s 2017 slash line of .208/.251/.405 makes him the third-worst qualified hitter in baseball … and yet he’ll hit 30 home runs this year. Think about how crazy that is. For many more oddities and interesting facts about this new era, be sure to check out Miller’s piece. It’s quite good.
- For years, fans and coaches have been getting angry at their players for sliding into first base on close plays instead of running through the bag. Aside from the obvious added risk of injury, general wisdom suggests that running through the bag yields a higher chance of being safe. But is that true? Statcast tackled the debate at MLB.com. I’d say you’ll be surprised by the answer, but 1) that really depends on what you think ahead of time, and 2) this study is (knowingly) far from conclusive. The super short version is that diving into first could plausibly be a benefit (and isn’t that much slower than running through, if at all).
- Love chaos? Well, there’s a chance that there can be a seven-way tie at exactly 81 wins in the 2017 American League Wild Card race (also a six-way tie at 82, 83, and 84 wins, as well as a five-way tie at 85 wins, a four-way tie at 86 wins, and two-team ties at 87, 88, or 89 wins). Yup, the Twins, Angels, Mariners, Royals, Rangers, Rays, and Orioles might have some insanity to deal with at the end of the year, and you can bet that’s exactly what I’m hoping for (especially because MLB only has contingency plans for four-team ties (LOL)).
- At FanGraphs, Dave Cameron asks if this is the end for Jose Bautista, who averaged 5.4 WAR/year from 2010 to 2015, before turning into a 1.4 WAR player last season and a negative value player (-0.1 WAR) in 2017. What’s hurting him this year? Well, almost everything. But notably, his contact rate has plummeted, the quality of his contact has disappeared, and his production on fly balls has evaporated. The visuals provided by the charts/graphs is true fascinating. A once mighty slugger has disappeared in an almost perfectly arcing decline.
- The New York Mets are hesitant to send Noah Syndergaard back out to the mound this year, because they’ve got this crazy idea that they only want him to pitch if he’s 100% healthy, and yet he experienced soreness last week and didn’t pitch in a simulated game as planned. Let me just say, I obviously don’t have the whole picture, but if I were a Mets fan and Syndergaard picked up another baseball in an actual start this season, I’d be furious. The Mets have been eliminated from playoff contention altogether and there’s just two weeks left in the season. Why was this on the table in the first place, let alone after he had more soreness last week?
- Giancarlo Stanton’s 55th home run was patently unbelievable:
— #Statcast (@statcast) September 19, 2017
- But also just in a long line of unbelievable things Stanton has done this year:
110+ mph homers, 2017:
— #Statcast (@statcast) September 19, 2017
- With just twelve games to go, though, Stanton will have to average a homer every other game to catch Roger Maris – something I really, really hope he manages to do! Because it’s fun!
- And finally, oh dear God this must’ve been painful:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) September 19, 2017