You know who needs a little love? Patrick Wisdom. After a brutal first six games of the season, the Cubs’ third baseman is slashing .321/.387/.714 (210 wRC+) with seven doubles and five homers. He’s striking out a ton – like a TON – but it really just doesn’t matter when 12 of your last 18 hits are for extra bases. Even including that season-opening slump, Wisdom’s .532 SLG is among the top-15 in MLB and his 138 wRC+ is top-40. Dude’s been good.
But could he have been even better if MLB hadn’t messed with the baseball?
What’s Going on with the Baseball?
Well, maybe. In the long run, using only “deadened” baseballs (as opposed to the mix last season or the fully “juiced” balls from 2017-2020), as well as humidors in every ballpark, is going to be good for the sport. It’ll eventually re-encourage contact over swinging for the fences. And soon enough, we should look back at 2017-2020 as the outlier, not everything else.
But in the interim, before behavior changes, we’re going to get the depressed offensive environment of the present:
MLB teams averaged 4.0 runs per game in April, which is the lowest average for a month since 1981, and 0.26 runs per team per game fewer than a season ago.
In fact, the leaguewide batting average of .231 was the lowest through April in MLB history, and the .675 OPS was the lowest since 1968 — aka The Year of the Pitcher.
Offenses are scoring the fewest runs per game in four decades, posting the worst OPS in more than 50 years, and hitting for the lowest batting average ever one month into the season…
And Patrick Wisdom himself commented on the change in the latest at ESPN: “Something is different because we look at the metrics. We see how hard it’s hit then we see the ball get caught,” Chicago Cubs infielder Patrick Wisdom told ESPN. “It starts raising some eyebrows, raising some questions.”
It really shouldn’t raise too many questions – MLB was pretty forthcoming about these changes before the season – but that’s on the teams, not the players, for not amplifying the message and helping hitters address how they might want to tweak their approach.
In any case, you can read all about the changes to the baseball, the reason(s) behind those decisions, and comments from players and reporters right here at ESPN:
We teamed up with the smart people at @ESPNStatsInfo to try and make sense of the lack of offense. Lots to consider here, including thoughts from some players who believe the baseball is more inconsistent than it is deadened. …https://t.co/uzvvm8yCui
— Alden González (@Alden_Gonzalez) May 4, 2022
Not All Sliders Are Created Equal:
Amir Garrett’s slider “drops 3.4 inches less than the average slider and moves 5.5 inches less horizontally than the average slider.” And yet, despite throwing it 69 times this season (79.3% of his total pitches), not one batter has recorded a hit against it!
That’s just a little taste of this deep dive on the difference between certain types of sliders, and it’s very much worth your time if you’re a pitch nerd like me.
Although this isn’t the takeaway of the post, itself, I do want to point out how our evolving understanding – and better application – of physics has been transforming baseball, particularly on the pitching side. Amir Garrett’s slider may have – at one time – been overlooked if we used only our eyes to judge it. But thanks to our ability to measure spin and the natural/earthly forces applied to the ball when thrown a certain way, it’s like “we” designed an entirely new pitch. One that’s very tough to hit. It’s very cool stuff.
NEW — Zack Greinke heard about Amir Garrett’s slider. Then he saw it and was unimpressed.
“It just spins.”
So how is the pitch so good? An investigation:https://t.co/bqRL40jW9S
— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) May 2, 2022
Rowdy Saving the Brewers Offense
The 2021 Milwaukee Brewers won the NL Central despite having a worse overall offense than the 2021 Chicago Cubs (92 wRC+ to 91 wRC+). Obviously, that’s thanks – in large part – to their formidable rotation, high-quality bullpen, and even better pitcher deployment.
But you still gotta hit, right?
Well, this season, the Brewers (102 wRC+, 17th) are still behind the Cubs (103 wRC+, 14th) offensively, and one guy, first baseman Rowdy Tellez, is doing most of the damage.
After a four-hit game against the Reds last night, including two homers, and a double, plus a franchise record-setting 8 RBI, Tellez added two more doubles today, pushing his season slash line up to .282/.349/.641 (178 wRC+).
“You guys are in here pregame and postgame and see how much fun we have,” said Tellez, who has four home runs over the past four games. “It’s a great environment. It starts from the top down from our owner, all the way down to everybody in here. Everybody is an equal. Everybody treats each other the right way. Nobody is better than anybody else, nobody is worse than anybody else. That’s a big part of the Milwaukee family.”
Oh, and a reminder: Tellez was a 30th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays back in 2013 whose basically never hit like this in the big leagues in his life. Classic Milwaukee. I think they may have stolen some of that Cardinals voodoo magic.
Odds and Ends:
• The Cincinnati Reds have placed outfielders Nick Senzel and Tyler Naquin on the COVID-19 IL, making room for Ronnie Dawson and … our old friend Albert Almora Jr.! Almora spent the 2021 season with between Triple-A and MLB for the Mets, and it did not go well while he was in the big leagues (-10 wRC+). This season, for the Reds, Almora has had a little more success at Triple-A (125 wRC+) including an unbelievable 3.6% strikeout rate, though he’s walking less than 2% of the time and benefiting from a .385 BABIP. Good luck!
• Cool catch.
More impressive than the catch is Guillermo Heredia just hanging on the wall with one hand? The amount of grip strength that takes…
— Ben Porter (@Ben13Porter) May 4, 2022
• This just gets funnier and funnier – seriously, watch it. It’s worth your time. That is, if you like grown men yelling “NO YOU!” at each other.
Boone wants the ump to make an adjustment, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/hVHyM0ffP5
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) May 5, 2022
• Oh … oh no. No. No. No. No.
ohhhhh noooooooo pic.twitter.com/La5IGARExS
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) May 4, 2022