MLBits: Banning the Shift, Longoria's Broken Finger, Sano Demoted, Pirates Selling, Soto, Bader, More

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MLBits: Banning the Shift, Longoria’s Broken Finger, Sano Demoted, Pirates Selling, Soto, Bader, More

MLB News and Rumors

I mentioned this in the Series Preview already, but it bears repeating: there’s just something extra special about a Cubs/Cardinals series, right?

For all intensive purposes (I know, I know, just leave it) the Brewers should be just as big of rivals for the Cubs as the Cardinals, given their geographic proximity to Chicago, but they’re just … not (they definitely have little-brother syndrome, though). Throw in the fact that the Brewers are currently the ones in first place, and it becomes even more apparent. Yet this weekend is the bigger series, right? The feel of it?

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, I guess I’m just fishing to see if anyone else feels the same way?

  • In case you missed it, the 30 MLB owners met this past week (as did the league’s competition committee) and that has naturally generated some renewed interest in the “rules of the game” and how they’ll change throughout the next several years. Brett covered the DH earlier today and there’s another big one making the rounds: banning the shift. According to Commissioner Rob Manfred, the league is officially discussing the idea of banning or limiting defensive shifts, but added that we’re still in the very early stages of analysis and, again, discussion. “I think we want to proceed judiciously, but I also think we want to proceed,” he said.
  • The funny thing about banning shifts is that I think the demographic of fans resisting this particular change might be wholly different than the one against adding the DH. The former (shifts) is more of a new-school thing whereas the DH is opposed more by traditionalists. I’m not entirely sure where I land on banning shifts just yet, because I can see arguments on both sides. I do know that the Cubs are among the least-shifting teams in baseball, and if Kyle Schwarber or Anthony Rizzo hits one more rocket line drive to right field that winds up being a “groundout” as the fifth outfielder fires it to first I’m going to lose my mind, so … maybe I’m against shifts for wholly selfish reasons. 🙂
  • League-wide attendance is down 6.6% from this date last year and 8.6% overall, according to the Wall Street Journal. And apparently, this is a single-season drop not seen since 1995 (which, you’ll recall, is very notable because it was the year after the player strike). Yikes. Moreover, MLB doesn’t think it’s just about the weather, and they will have to confront other explanations – I’m sure you can easily imagine a few, including climbing prices and tanking teams.
  • Ouch: Evan Longoria broke a finger getting hit by a pitch. It’s not yet clear how much time he’ll miss.
  • The steep drop off in offensive production that began for Evan Longoria last season (96 wRC+) has continued into this year (93 wRC+) and even his usually excellent defense at third base has suffered. But I still doubt the Giants (only 4.5 games out of first) are happy to lose their third baseman for any amount of time. Speaking of time missed, no one seems to know exactly how long he’ll be out, but a similar injury kept teammate Madison Bumgarner out for two months earlier this year and apparently surgery has been discussed.
  • The Twins have demoted 2017 All-Star Miguel Sano to the Minor Leagues, where the team hopes working under the close eye of several hitting instructors and trainers will help reboot his career. “We have his best interests in mind,” Twins Manager Paul Molitor said. “We don’t feel right now we’re getting what we need to from him, and he’s going to have to go down there and get to work.” Sano is definitely hitting poorly right now (81 wRC+), but he’s still only 25 and has a fairly significant track record of success in the big leagues. I think he’ll ultimately be fine. Random note: this is around the time the Cubs finally demoted struggling youngster, with previous big league success Kyle Schwarber last season.
  • According to Jon Morosi, the Pirates will consider moving any or all of Corey Dickerson, Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli, or Ivan Nova before the All-Star break, which has to hurt to think about given that they were in first place as recently as May 17th and traded away Andrew McCutchen (.267/.353/.458; 8 HRs, 1.4 WAR) and Gerrit Cole (2.40 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 2.9 WAR) this past offseason. It’s not like those moves were wrong at the time or are even necessarily wrong in hindsight (the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers are all very tough this year), but I’m just saying, as a fan, it’s probably hard not to wonder what if?
  • Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader has gotten off to a solid start this season and the Cardinals are using that 109 wRC+ to justify pushing (an admittedly struggling) Dexter Fowler out of the lineup more and more. In fact, Bader will apparently start and leadoff at least twice this weekend (he’s *very* strong against lefties and basically can’t hit righties, but Jon Lester and Jose Quintana are both starting this weekend), while Fowler may be on the bench.
  • Jake Arrieta is getting another crack at the Brewers tonight, and although his last start against them (which was also his most recent start) wasn’t great (5.1 IP, 4H, 4ER, 3BB, 4Ks), I know he’s going to dominate them tonight.

  • Bryce Harper may be leaving at the end of the season, but that loss may be mitigated by the rise of 19-year-old phenom Juan Soto. Through his first 20 games, Soto already has 5 home runs and is slashing .344/.447/.641 with a walk rate (15.8%) higher than his strikeout rate (14.5%). That’s just … wow. Indeed, according to FanGraphs, he’s already making history at the plate.
  • At MLB.com, Matt Kelly rattles off 17 “unbreakable” baseball records, including Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 strikeouts, Rickey Henderson’s 1,406 career steals and 130 steals in 1982, Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632 straight games played and a lot more. Ichiro’s 262 hits in 2004 is going to be especially tough to replicate in today’s strikeout environment. Jose Altuve did record 225 hits in 2014 and 216 hits in 2016, but besides that, no one has really come close in recent years.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is the butler to a wealthy werewolf off the coast of Wales and a writer at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami