Yesterday, I went to visit my brand new nephew, Thomas, for the very first time and he’s freakin’ awesome. He’s my brother’s second kid and he’s gonna be the world’s biggest Cubs fan. At the same time, my sister is *also* due to have her second child any minute now, but she still hasn’t popped yet (is that a sensitive way to say it?).
Point being, I’ll soon have four nieces/nephews, which, plus me, makes us just four spots short of a full team (we could always just roll with two outfielders, in left and right-center). I know a lot of people like to start fake rock bands with their family, but I heard MLB is eventually going to expand to 32 teams, so I’m being smart about it. Plus there’s like a million bands out there.
Here’s some news from around the league …
- In case you missed it the other day, Francisco Lindor returned to his former elementary school in Puerto Rico as part of MLB’s trip there this year, where he was greeted by a chorus of “Lindor! Lindor!” chants from the kids. One night later, during the first game in Puerto Rico against the Twins, Lindor did this:
Francisco Lindor homered in Puerto Rico and the reaction was incredible. pic.twitter.com/xIN6DdKUFb
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) April 18, 2018
- The way that place erupts for its hometown superstar – not long after Hurricane Maria’s devastation, no less – is truly heartwarming and special. It may have been just a two-run shot in the fifth inning of a standard April contest, but it meant a lot more than that to everyone there. Very cool.
- Less cool, this:
Lindor said he loves the game, respects the game and did not try to disrespect Twins. He apologized if he offended anyone while celebrating his home run on the bases. #PuertoRicoSeries
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) April 18, 2018
- As far as Craig Calcaterra (NBC Sports) can tell, no one from the Twins actually – or, at least, publicly – complained about Lindor’s excited trip around the bases (pumping up the fans with his arms is hardly much of an offense), but to Calcaterra, the issue is that he felt the need to apologize. The Twins’ early-season issues with a bunt single put them on the map as fun-police, but I’m hoping this one was just a bit of a misunderstanding. And as for you, Lindor, not only can you ALWAYS celebrate however you want, I hope you go 10x as hard the next time you homer in Puerto Rico. We’ve got your back on that one.
- Tough news out of Arizona, where the D-Backs learned from an MRI that Taijuan Walker’s elbow has a UCL injury. Note, it’s not necessarily considered a tear at the moment – which would require Tommy John surgery – but it’s clearly not a good sign. Even manager Torey Lovullo is unclear what it all means and what lies ahead: “I apologize for being vague, but it’s very vague right now,” Lovullo told MLB.com. “Every bit of information that we’ve gotten is vague. I know in the coming days I’ll have more information about what the next steps are.” Worse, the D-Backs are off to a rocket start this year (12-4) and are currently in first place of the NL West.
- Hey, Jose Bautista finally found a landing spot, and a new-old position:
The Atlanta #Braves today agreed to terms with free agent infielder José Bautista on a one-year minor-league contract for the 2018 season, and he has reported to Atlanta’s extended spring training complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. He will play third base.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 18, 2018
- Jose Bautista hit just .203/.308/.366 last season, but that was the first time his production was below 122 wRC+ since 2008 (!). At 37-years-old, it’s not hard to imagine it all being over, but why not give him another shot? It’s not like Adrian Beltre (39-years-old) isn’t out there mashing.
- Speaking of which, did you see what happened yesterday? Beltre hit a rocket line drive to right field against the Rays, and Beltre’s former teammate nearly threw him out at first, seemingly just to tick him off. And it worked (hilariously) …
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) April 18, 2018
- Cardinals center fielder Tommy Pham suffered a minor groin injury against the Cubs on Tuesday night, so the Cardinals are calling up their N0. 4 overall prospect, Tyler O’Neill as a bit of insurance. O’Neil, 22, is an outfielder who was drafted in the third round of the 2013 MLB draft and currently ranks as the 94th best prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. After 12 games at Triple-A this season, O’Neill is slashing .388/.385/.837 (192 wRC+). He does have a 1.9% walk rate and 19.2% strikeout rate though, so … don’t give him anything to hit? Also, tiny sample sizes are silly. Also also, holy crap he looks like a freaking tank:
Tyler O’Neill called up by Cardinals. First MLB Rookies to arrive in a car from The Fast & Furious. pic.twitter.com/1D86VlAYuA
— Matt Sebek (@MattSebek) April 18, 2018
- Aaron Judge is still doing things:
Aaron Judge’s 60th HR in 197 games played, fastest to reach the mark in @mlb history in terms of games played. Previous mark was 202 games, by Mark McGwire.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 16, 2018
- For reference, it took Kris Bryant 275 games to reach that mark. Kyle Schwarber is currently at 214 games with 11 more homers to go.
- A friend of mine very recently visited Japan and sent me a couple of SnapChats of TVs (his hotel, bars, restaurants, etc.) that he started calling “Ohtani-TV,” because it seemed as though his face was being broadcast 24/7. And he’s not wrong. At the Washington Post, Dave Sheinin discusses the truly insane Japanese media coverage of Ohtani in the U.S., and how he *still* has a swarm of reporters following him everywhere he goes. “If Tom Brady or LeBron James or Bryce Harper suddenly decided to play overseas,” wrote Sheinin, “likely no more than a handful of U.S. media outlets would be willing to spend the money it would take to provide full-time coverage.” But for Ohtani, the Japanese media is losing their minds.
- … and so far – at least, in my opinion – it’s all warranted. As of today, Ohtani is slashing .367/.424/.767 (226 wRC+) with 3 homers, a 9.1% walk rate and a 21.2% strikeout rate. And as a pitcher, Ohtani has gone 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA (3.05 FIP) through his three starts, including a ridiculous 33.3% strikeout rate and a below-average (in a good way!) 7.0% walk rate. He’s literally one of the best hitters *and* pitchers right now. It’s nuts. How could you not cover that, right?
- He is, however, currently dealing with a blister issue.
- And finally, here’s a wild fact for you:
In 2013, teams had 13 pitchers on their pre-September rosters for 803 games. Last season, it was 2,243 games. That's a 179% increase.
You might think that doesn't matter, but there are lot of veteran sluggers who could tell you why it does.https://t.co/XaFWHippHb
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) April 18, 2018
- That more and more teams are carrying an extra reliever before September isn’t much of a shock, given how often modern managers like to lean on their bullpens, but still … a 179% increase? That’s almost comically high. Baseball is going through all sorts of changes right now (fly ball revolution, juiced ball era, strikeout era, high velocity era, etc.), but the increased use of relievers might be one of the most significant.