MLBits: MLB Wants a Piece of the Gambling Pie, MIL Trade for Saladino, BOS Crazy Start, "Fly Ball" Javy, More

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MLBits: MLB Wants a Piece of the Gambling Pie, MIL Trade for Saladino, BOS Crazy Start, “Fly Ball” Javy, More

Chicago Cubs

I’ll be hopping on 670 The Score tomorrow at 2pm, so be sure to tune in to hear me try to develop short, logically sound and thoughtful responses to nuanced questions asked over the phone in my apartment with terrible cell reception and a dog who likes to bark when I walk around too much … which I like to do when I’m on the phone.

HOPEFULLY, I’ll have something good to discuss after tonight’s blowout victory in Colorado, but I suppose we’ll see.

Here’s some news from around the league …

  • As the country continues to march towards legalized sports gambling, the four major sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL) have all made arguments asking to be cut in on part of the profits. As you’d expect. However, Craig Calcaterra (NBC Sports) and some New Jersey Legislators (where a prominent Supreme Court case on this very topic was birthed) find their request … “laughable.” As Calcaterra explains it, “They [the leagues] argue, it’s morally incumbent upon the states to throw some of that money to the leagues so they can, I dunno, hire chaperones or den mothers or something. It’s all very vague, but the leagues are calling their sought-after cut ‘integrity fees,’ and they’re lobbying state legislatures hard to get the new gambling laws written to include them.” I have absolutely no idea whether their request will be so laughable as to not be included, but the leagues have shown the ability to wield considerable legislative influence before, so we’ll see.
  • The Brewers have traded cash to the White Sox in exchange for infielder Tyler Saladino. Saladino, you’ll recall, broke into the league with quality infield defense (and general positional versatility) back in 2015, but has struggled with the bat in every season since (the closest he came to average was a 95 wRC+ in 2016). For the Brewers, he won’t likely be a starter, but his ability to play pretty much every position not in the battery should help him add value. And for just cash? Fine.
  • In 2016, the Boston Red Sox had the best offense in baseball and it wasn’t particularly close (their team 114 wRC+ was 7 points higher than the second-best Seattle Mariners). In 2017, however, their production fell off big time (92 wRC+, 22nd best in MLB). Over the winter, the Red Sox let hitting coach Chili Davis (now with the Cubs) go, with the owner citing the issues of the 2017 season, and so far … that move might have paid off?

  • At FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan looks into the offensive outburst, crediting a combination of impressive plate discipline (which they had last year, too) with exploding selective aggression: “Last year, no team had a lower rate of swings at would-be strikes. This year, only the Orioles have a higher rate of swings at would-be strikes. The Red Sox are showing their discipline by swinging at a greater number of hittable pitches.” There’s obviously a bit more to it than that, but I found that to be the most notable part, because of the obvious connection to the Cubs.
  • As we know, the Cubs have been preaching selective aggression for years. To spell it out, the difference between selective aggression and a just get on base/patient approach is about maximizing damage. You should never approach the plate looking to take a walk, it should be a happy (and consistent) byproduct of waiting for the right pitch to hit. Fans of a patient approach might be frustrated when a guy takes a hack at the first pitch he sees, but the Cubs front office would love it, if the pitch was truly in the right spot (it’s a small thing, to be sure, but this is a game of small things making big differences). In any case, I sincerely doubt Davis was somehow anti-selective aggression, because that’s the Cubs’ whole thing. Thus, I don’t think the Red Sox excellent production here in 2018 is necessarily due to a lack of Chili Davis.
  • If you’d like to read even more, Craig Calcaterra (NBC Sports) also has a post up on the Red Sox ridiculous start, as does Tim Brown (Yahoo Sports), who says the 16-2 Red Sox have been exposing the tankers and rebuilders.
  • Sticking on the East Coast, the NY Post writes that this may be the beginning of an ugly end for Matt Harvey and the Mets, after starting the year off with a 6.00 ERA through four starts (21.0 IP). Indeed, Mets manager Mickey Callaway declined to commit to starting Harvey on his next rotation turn, and Harvey didn’t seem to thrilled at the thought of becoming a reliever: “I am a starting pitcher. That is what my mindset is. That is how I’m going to prepare, and that’s how I get ready.” What a turn his career took after various injuries.
  • At FanGraphs, Travis Sawchik checks in on the fly ball revolution and notices that there are a couple of new participants this season, including Javy Baez, whose -18.1 ground ball rate change is 2nd highest in all of baseball (Kris Bryant’s -2.3 GB% change is also among the best in baseball (40th)). I pointed out something similar on Twitter earlier today, and mentioned that as part of the reason I can’t wait to see Javy in Colorado this weekend. Put me down for a homer or two.
  • In case you missed it, Jake Arrieta absolutely dominated the Pirates last night (as he does). So, you know, thanks Jake!

  • And you know that means there were some sick gifs:

  • And finally … this is just excellent:

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami