MLB News: Injuries Up, Vegas Bound A's, Expansion on the Way?

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MLBits: Pitching Injuries Up, A’s Are Vegas Bound, Expansion on the Way? More

Chicago Cubs

It’s Tuesday, which means we’re getting started with another full week of MLB after a limited Monday slate. Let’s take a look at some news from around the league.

Early Season Takeaways After Four Weeks

At ESPN+, Jeff Passan had some interesting nuggets from the first month of the season. One interesting note is the skyrocketing of early-season injuries, especially to pitchers. In hindsight, more frequent injuries to pitchers should have been something we saw coming over the last few seasons. As Passan notes, “As long as teams incentivize players executing nasty pitches, pitchers are going to provide nastiness above all.”

We’ve seen the “sweeper” take over baseball, and that’s not a pitch that’s exactly easy on the arm. The technology players use nowadays to help develop newer, nastier pitches is causing new stress and pressure on throwing arms we haven’t seen yet before. We’re in an era where Tommy John surgery is almost seen as a “when” not an “if” for young pitchers coming up, and with the emphasis on these “nasty” pitches that Passan describes, it feels like injuries to young pitchers might become even more commonplace.

Passan also shared some statistics on the pitch clock, with the main takeaway essentially being that there isn’t necessarily MORE action in baseball than in the past couple of years, the action is just compressed into a shorter time frame. In my opinion (and it seems like most agree) the pitch clock has been a great implementation for the MLB early on. The “home run or bust” approach at the plate likely isn’t going anywhere any time soon (though the shift limitations may eventually help with that), but as long as the action is sped up and we’re seeing the same amount of action in less time (more densely packed), that’s a good thing for the consumer.

Viv-A’s Las Vegas

While it really does suck that Oakland will be losing yet another team to Las Vegas, it’s hard not to be excited to see what the A’s will look like when they make the move. It’s still highly unlikely you see the A’s spend like a big market team after the first few seasons, but with a $1.5 billion stadium on the way and a fanbase that won’t be terribly interested in a bad team, John Fisher may have to make a splash or two.

The stadium won’t be ready most likely until 2027, but if it’s anything like the Raiders or Golden Knights stadium, it should be phenomenal. The latest report of what may be included would be an underground tunnel stop on The Boring Company’s Las Vegas underground tunnel route. It would make transportation to and from the strip that much easier.

Expansion Coming Soon?

With Oakland’s potential departure to Las Vegas, it seems the door has been opened for other cities to pick up expansion teams. Vegas had long been considered one of, if not the, highest priority cities to get their own team. And now that they have it, who could benefit? Brett talked about the Salt Lake City report last week which certainly seems to have potential. The other names that pop up constantly are Portland, Nashville, and Montreal. While we now know where Oakland is headed, some more clarity from Tampa Bay on their less-than-ideal stadium scenario could provide some insight as to where the league might expand.

Rob Manfred has wanted to expand to 32 teams for most of his tenure as commissioner, and now that there is an apparent resolution in Oakland, formal expansion discussion could begin as early as next year, according to Portland Diamond Project founder Craig Cheek.

“Now we’ve been hearing a message that’s really: get ready,” Cheek said. He added, “It would not surprise me if we look up in Q1 of 2024 and all of a sudden things are moving where (MLB) can look at the landscape, start meeting with cities, put a committee together and start looking at what 32 teams would look like.”

Craig Cheek – Portland Diamond Project

Big Base Stealing Uptick

As to be expected, stolen bases are up this season thanks to the pitch clock and limiting the amount of times pitchers can throw over to first base. The rate of stolen bases per game this season is up 41.2% from last season. We sit at 0.69 stolen bases per game in 2023 compared to 0.51 stolen bases per game in 2022. At his rate, we’re on pace for the largest year-over-year jump in MLB history. The 2016 Brewers are the only team in the last 10 years to average at lease one stolen base per game for a full season. This season, we have five teams on pace to average at least one per game – Yankees, Cubs, Pirates, Orioles, Guardians.

Odds and Ends

  • Attendance numbers are in for the first month of the 2023 season. And as to be expected, winning is still what’s most important to fans. Seven of the eight (and 11 of the 14) biggest attendance upticks this season are from teams that made the playoffs in 2022. The Rays are up 57% in attendance thanks to their 20-3 start as well. After making the ALCS and bringing back Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ lowest attendance this season is 35,392 which is more than 10,000 fans higher than their worst crowd last season.
  • Speaking of the Yankees, Gerrit Cole appears to be #back. Through 5 starts he’s thrown 34 innings and sports an ERA of just 0.79. Most importantly, Cole seems to have solved his biggest issue from last season – giving up the long ball. He has yet to surrender a home run this season. Last year, he led the majors on home runs allowed with 33. Fastball location has been the biggest key for him. He’s located 32.4% of his fastballs in the upper third of the strike zone this season compared to just 21.1% last season.
  • I know it’s a Cubs website, so excuse the White Sox-related post, but this one should make Cubs fans smile. The Pirates today reached an agreement with Brian Reynolds on an 8-year, $106 million contract extension. It’s the first $100 million contract in Pirates franchise history. That leaves just three teams in the history of the MLB to have yet to sign a player to a $100 million deal – the Royals, the A’s, and the Chicago White Sox. Brett covered this earlier, if you’re looking for more:

Author: Matt Rooney

Matt is from the Chicagoland area and has been working in Chicago sports since 2015 with stops at WGN Radio, the Chicago Blackhawks, Stadium, and NBC Sports Chicago prior to landing at Betsperts. Matt covers just about everything for Betsperts and Bleacher Nation but focuses on the NHL and college football.