September 26, 2022

AL Batting Average: Judge Leads Bogaerts By .0005

Only ten games remain in the regular season and the Red Sox (72-80) need to go 10-0 to finish above .500. That is . . . unlikely. This will be Boston's second last-place finish in the last three years (though 2020 was a shortend season of only 60 games).

Feast or Famine: In nine of the last 11 seasons, the Red Sox have finished either first or last in the American League East. Oddly, they have not finished fourth in a quarter-century (since 1997).

One Red Sox-related race worth watching is for the top batting average in the AL. Right now, Aaron Judge leads Xander Bogaerts by .00054. Once that is settled, all eyes will turn to YED.

AL Batting Average
Aaron Judge       .314338
Xander Bogaerts   .313799
Luis Arraez       .312977

September 24, 2022

Albert Pujols Hits 700th Home Run

Albert Pujols hit the 699th and 700th home runs of his eventual first-ballot Hall of Fame career last night, in the Cardinals 11-0 rout of the seemingly unbeatable Dodgers.

Pujols is the fourth major league player to top 700 dongs, joining Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).

Pujols, 42, will retire after this season and he's having one of the greatest final seasons of all time. It's like his 10 years with the Angels never happened. His OPS+ is 147, which is his best showing since 2011, his last season with the Cardinals. Looking at his annual stats, I was reminded how eye-popping his first nine or ten years in the majors really were. Must be something in the St. Louis water.

And now he's burst into a sprint as he nears the finish line. Since August 10, Pujols has played in 39 games and hit .319/.377/.724 for an OPS of 1.101. He's hit 14 home runs and driven in 34 runs, which is a rate of 58 and 141, respectively, over 162 games.

David Ortiz had a similar big finish in 2016, his final season. At age 40, he led the majors in doubles (48), slugging (.620), and OPS (1.021). He walked (80) almost as often as he struck out (86) and was the AL leader in extra-base hits (87), RBI (127), and intentional walks (15).

Ted Williams had an OPS of 1.096 (190 OPS+) in 1961, his last season. Both of those numbers would have easily led both leagues, but Williams had only 390 plate appearances.


The Red Sox have lost to the Yankees by a 5-4 score on each of the last two nights. One bright spot is they have not allowed Aaron Judge to hit his 61st home run of the season at home. But there is still today and Sunday to go.

It pains me to say this, but Judge is having an insanely great season. The truly amzing thing is how far ahead of every other AL hitter he is in so many categories.
Runs Scored:           125  (32 more than Marcus Semien)
Total Bases: 377 (86 more than Bo Bichette)
Home Runs: 60 (23 more than Yordan Alvarez)
Runs Batted In: 128 (11 more than Jose Ramirez)
Walks: 92 (15 more than Alex Bregman and Jesse Winker)
Extra Base Hits: 87 (13 more than Ramirez)
Times on Base: 272 (26 more than Jose Abreu)
On-Base Percentage: .421 (16 points higher than Alvarez)
Slugging Percentage: .699 (82 points higher than Alvarez)
On-Base + Slugging: 1.120 (98 points higher than Alvarez)
Runs Created: 162 (50 more than Alvarez)
Adjusted OPS+: 213 (27 points higher than Alvarez)
Judge leads the AL with a .315 batting average, but Xander Bogaerts is right on his heels at .314, with Luis Arraez of the Twins third at .312.

Judge has hit 20 more home runs than NL-leader Kyle Schwarber, who has 40. The last time someone had a 20+-homer lead on all of MLB was the final day of the 1928 season, when Ruth (54) led Jim Bottomley and Hack Wilson (31 each) by 23 dongs.

The list of people who have led their league by 30+ runs scored is very short: Ross Barnes (1876 NL), Babe Ruth (1921 AL), and Rickey Henderson (1985 AL).

September 21, 2022

Can Anyone Win This Year's W-L Contest?

The Red Sox have 15 games remaining in the 2022 season.

Boston is currently 72-75, so the team could end up with anywhere from 72 to 87 wins.

This poor performance means most of the entries in this year's W-L contest are merely wistful dreams of what might have been. But is there any chance someone will win?

Yes. Two entries are still in contention.

                W-L
Rich G.        85-77
Brett H.       82-80

Rich needs the Red Sox to finish 13-2, while Brett is hoping for a 10-5 record over the next two weeks.

The rest of the schedule (nb days off):

Sep 21       at CIN
Sep 22-25    at MFY
Sep 26-29    vs BAL
Sep 30-Oct 2 at TOR
Oct 3-5      vs TBR

September 14, 2022

Judge Has 57 Home Runs (5 Away From New AL Record) With 20 Games Remaining

Mike Trout did not hit a home run in an eighth consecutive game on Tuesday, but Aaron Judge went deep twice at Fenway Park. With 20 games remaining in the Yankes' regular season, Judge has hit 57 homers.

That's a lot of dongs, but the most remarkable thing about it is that no other player is anywhere close. Judge has hit 22 more home runs than Mike Trout, who is second in the AL with 35. Kyle Schwarber leads the NL with 37. Which means that September 13, 2022 was the first time a player finished a calendar day with at least 20 more home runs than every other MLB player since the final day of the 1928 season (September 30), when Babe Ruth (54) led NL co-leaders Jim Bottomley and Hack Wilson (31) by 23 taters. In the AL, Ruth hit exactly twice as many home runs as the runner-up (Lou Gehrig, 27). Ruth also out-homered seven of the other 15 teams.

Judge's 57 home runs have come in 138 games (out of the Yankees' 142). He's batted in all of those games, so I checked Baseball Reference's Stathead for who hit the most home runs through 138 games played, with at least one plate appearance. Judge is the fourth player (and first American Leaguer) to hit as many as 57 home runs in his first 138 games of a season. All instances have happened in the last 25 years.

50+ HR In First 138 Games Played In A Season

                                    HR     Finished
Barry Bonds, Giants, 2001           64        73
Mark McGwire, Cardinals, 1998  62 70
Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 1998    58 66
Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 1999  58 63
Aaron Judge, Yankees, 2022  57   ?
Mark McGwire, Cardinals, 1999  56 65
Ryan Howard, Phillies, 2006    56 58
Babe Ruth, Yankees, 1921    55 59
Roger Maris, Yankees, 1961    54 61
Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 2001    53 64
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, 2017    53 59
Babe Ruth, Yankees, 1927    52 60
Mickey Mantle, Yankees, 1961  52 54
Babe Ruth, Yankees, 1920  51 54
Jimmie Foxx, Athletics, 1932  51 58
Luis Gonzalez, Diamondbacks, 2001   51 57
Hank Greenberg, Tigers, 1938  50 58

Two players – Ruth and Sosa - appear on the list three times. 

Sosa wallopped 66, 63, 50, and 64 home runs for the Cubs from 1998-2001  and the only time he led the National League was with the 50 in 2000 (he led MLB, actually). While McGwire won the HR race in 1998 and everyone moans about Bonds, Sosa seems to be the forgotten guy from that era  especially since he's the only player to hit 60+ home runs in three seasons. Only 256 players (1.1% of all major leaguers) have hit as many as 243 home runs in their careers. Sosa matched that in four seasons.

Judge rejected a reported offer of a seven-year contract extension worth $213.5 million during the spring. One source said Judge was looking for at least nine years and roughly $325 million. I can't imagine it's easy to say "Nah" to more than 200 million beans, especially when you're as fragile as Judge has regularly seemed.

After walking away from that offer, he's having his best season. He'll (probably) not see the IL this year and (probably) set a new AL single-season record for home runs. As Mo Vaughn could tell you, Judge's price is increasing every day. If the Yankees want to keep him (and he wants to stay), they're going to have to wow him with a contract that will, in all likelihood, become a historic albatross. I look forward to watching the MFY buckle under the pressure and reluctantly agree to a 10-year deal at close to $40 per.

September 13, 2022

Devers: 19 HR Against Yankees (One Shy Of Boston Record Before Age 26: TSW, 20)


Rafael Devers has hit 19 home runs against the Yankees in his career (including six this season).

The only player in Red Sox history with more homers against the Yankees before turning 26 is Ted Williams, who hit 20. Devers has six more games this season in which to tie or pass TSW. Devers's 26th birthday is roughly three weeks after the end of the regular season, on October 24.

It should be noted that Williams hit his 20 dongs in only four seasons. He missed his age 24, 25, and 26 seasons because of military service. However, the games played and plate appearances for Williams and Devers are very similar at the moment.
Williams:  80 games  349 PA  20 HR
Devers:  82 games  339 PA  18 HR
Williams
     AGE    G   PA   HR    AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
1939 20 18 77 6 .350 .494 .783 1.277
1940 21 19 84 6 .353 .476 .677 1.153
1941* 22 21 92 2 .471 .609 .632 1.241
1942 23 22 96 6 .299 .438 .584 1.022
1943 24 Did not play, military service
1944 25 Did not play, military service 80 349 20
Devers
      AGE   G   PA   HR    AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
2017 20 10 39 3 .306 .359 .583 .942
2018 21 13 52 1 .204 .231 .286 .517
2019 22 19 82 3 .276 .329 .513 .843
2020 23 10 46 1 .209 .261 .326 .587
2021 24 19 76 5 .250 .316 .500 .816
2022 25 11 44 6 .250 .318 .750 1.068 82 339 18
Jimmie Foxx, who made his major league debut at age 17, hit 32 homers against the Yankees in the nine seasons before his 26th birthday. (He clubbed 10 each at ages 24 and 25.)

*: In 1941, Williams batted .444/.588/.905 against the lowly Philadelphia Athletics in 85 PA (for a n OPS of 1.493). He walked 21 times and struck out once, that lone strikeout coming on September 27, in his final plate appearance in the next-to-last game of the season, one of only 27 times (in 606 PA) he struck out that year. The following day, the Red Sox ended its season with a doubleheader against the Athletics, Williams went 6-for-9, finishing with a .406 average.

Trout Has Homered In 7 Straight Games, Could Tie MLB Record Tonight

Mike Trout has homered in seven consecutive games. He could tie the major league record of eight games tonight. Angels at Guardians, 6 PM ET.

Most Consecutive Games With A Home Run

8

Dale Long, Pirates, May 19-28, 1956
Don Mattingly, Yankees, July 8-18, 1987
Ken Griffey, Jr., Mariners, July 20-28, 1993

7

Jim Thome, Cleveland, June 25-July 3, 2002
Barry Bonds, Giants, April 12-20, 2004
Kevin Mench, Texas, April 21-28, 2006
Kendrys Morales, Blue Jays, August 19-26, 2018
Joey Votto, Reds, July 24-30, 2021
Mike Trout, Angels, September 4-12, 2022

6 (accomplished 26 times), including

Barry Bonds, Giants, April 12-18 and May 17-22, 2001
Daniel Murphy, Mets, October 13-21, 2015 (all postseason games)


September 11, 2022

RIP: Anthony Varvaro (2015 Red Sox)

Anthony Varvaro's last nine major league appearances came with the 2015 Red Sox. Varvaro decided to retire after six seasons rather than undergo additional elbow surgery and began a second career in law enforcement. In 2016, he enrolled in the Port Authority police academy and became a police officer. He later became an academy instructor.

Varvaro, 37, was killed early Sunday morning while on his way to a September 11 commemoration in Manhattan. He was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike when another vehicle going the wrong way struck his car, causing it to hit a concrete barrier. The driver of the other car also died.

Varvaro was drafted by the Mariners in 2005 and debuted with them in September 2010. Atlanta picked him up off waivers in the off-season and he pitched in 153 games over parts of four seasons before being traded to Boston (for Aaron Kurcz, a minor league pitcher who never made the majors, and cash). Varvaro pitched 11 innings in nine games for the Red Sox, all in April 2015.


September 10, 2022

Red Sox Rout Orioles 17-4, Set Franchise Record With All 12 Batters Scoring At Least One Run

Twelve different batters had plate appearances in the Red Sox's 17-4 rout of the Orioles on Saturday and every one of them scored at least one run. It was the first game in team history in which as many as 12 players batted with all of them eventually crossing the plate.

In 122 years of Red Sox baseball, there have been only two other games in which 12 Boston players scored at least one run:

July 25, 1979: The Red Sox beat the Athletics 16-4 at Fenway Park. Three of Boston's 15 batters went to the plate and did not score.

April 12, 1994: In the Red Sox's 22-11 pasting of the Royals in Kansas City, one of the thirteen Boston players with a plate appearance failed to score.

The previous team record was set way back on August 23, 1910, when all 11 players with a plate appearance  scored a run. That 13-11 victory over the St. Louis Browns was played at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds in Boston, before the construction of Fenway Park, which opened in 1912.

The record for the most players to score a run in a game is 15, set by Atlanta on October 3, 1999, in an 18-0 shutout of the Marlins. No Atlanta player scored more than two runs.

The Red Sox got started early on Saturday. In the top of the first, Tommy Pham walked, Alex Verdugo singled, Xander Bogaerts was hit by a pitch, and Rafael Devers crushed a 425-foot grand slam to left-center. It was Devers's 26th home run of the season, his second grand slam of 2022, and the fourth of his career (he hit two in 2018). All four slams have been hit on the road.

Devers's next home run will be #139 and will tie him with Mookie Betts for 20th place in team history. Reminder: Devers is only 25 years old and is still younger than the majority of players for the Red Sox's AAA team.

Only five Red Sox players have hit 100+ home runs before turning 26.

                   HR    AGES
Tony Conigliaro   160   19-25
Rafael Devers 138* 20-25
Jim Rice 133   21-25
Ted Williams 127   20-23 (did not play age 24-25-26 seasons)
Mookie Betts 110  21-25 *: 22 games remaining in age-25 season

More Details On The New Rules

The more I read about MLB's new rules for 2023 (and, sadly, beyond), the more I despise them. On some level, I can't believe all of this garbage is being done.

I'm in favour of less dead time between pitches -- and that means games will be played in less time, so that is a plus. (Get it over with!) But as I said last night, MLB could have (and should have) instituted a pitch timer many years ago by enforcing an already-existing rule which states pitchers must pitch the ball within 12 seconds. Commissioners Bud Selig and Rob Manfred have only themselves to blame for that decades-long error.

Will these radical changes increase attendance and viewership to any appreciable degree? I am skeptical. Does anyone think more fans are tuning in and buying tickets because of the automatic intentional walk and the three-batter-minimum decree?

Anthony Castrovince (mlb.com) offers more details:

Pitch Timer

In an effort to create a quicker pace of play, there will be a 30-second timer between batters. Between pitches, there will be a 15-second timer with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base. . . . This rule [also] limits on throws to first base . . .

• The pitcher must begin his motion to deliver the pitch before the expiration of the pitch timer.

• Pitchers who violate the timer are charged with an automatic ball. Batters who violate the timer are charged with an automatic strike.

• Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher by the 8-second mark or else be charged with an automatic strike.

• With runners on base, the timer resets if the pitcher attempts a pickoff or steps off the rubber.

• Pitchers are limited to two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per plate appearance. However, this limit is reset if a runner or runners advance during the plate appearance.

• If a third pickoff attempt is made, the runner automatically advances one base if the pickoff attempt is not successful.

• Mound visits, injury timeouts and offensive team timeouts do not count as a disengagement.

• If a team has used up all five of its allotted mound visits prior to the ninth inning, that team will receive an additional mound visit in the ninth inning. This effectively serves as an additional disengagement.

• Umpires may provide extra time if warranted by special circumstances. (So if, as an example, a catcher were to be thrown out on the bases to end the previous half-inning and needed additional time to put on his catching gear, the umpire could allow it.) . . .

Defensive Shift Limits

The defensive team must have a minimum of four players on the infield, with at least two infielders completely on either side of second base. . . .

• The four infielders must be within the outer boundary of the infield (i.e. cleats in the dirt) when the pitcher is on the rubber.

• Infielders may not switch sides. In other words, a team cannot reposition its best defender on the side of the infield the batter is more likely to hit the ball.

• If the infielders are not aligned properly at the time of the pitch, the offense can choose an automatic ball or the result of the play.

• This rule does not preclude a team from positioning an outfielder in the infield or in the shallow outfield grass in certain situations. But it does prohibit four-outfielder alignments.

MLB's Competition Committee Approves Pitch Clock And A Ban On Shifts For 2023;
MLB (Surprise!) Ignores Players' Concerns And Suggestions About New Rules;
Manfred Continues His Dismantling Of A Game That Was Fucking Fine For 130 Years


MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred continues his unprecedented crusade to reshape (or destroy, as intelligent observers of the situation believe) the game of baseball. On Friday, an 11-person* committee voted in favour of instituting a pitch clock/timer, a ban on shifts and larger bases, among other changes. The changes will begin next season.

ESPN's Jeff Passan writes that MLB and Manfred hope this "sweeping set of rules . . . will fundamentally overhaul the game".

The committee's vote on larger bases (an increase from 15 inches square to 18 inches square) was unanimous, but all four members of the committee representing major league players voted against both a pitch timer and a ban on shifts.

According to an MLBPA statement, MLB officials refused to consider feedback from players when finalizing the new rule proposals.
Players live the game — day in and day out. On-field rules and regulations impact their preparation, performance, and ultimately, the integrity of the game itself. Player leaders from across the league were engaged in on-field rules negotiations through the competition committee, and they provided specific and actionable feedback on the changes proposed by the commissioner's office. Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the areas of concern that players raised, and as a result, players on the competition committee voted unanimously against the implementation of the rules covering defensive shifts and the use of a pitch timer.
*: The committee consisted of six MLB representatives (owners Dick Monfort of the Rockies, John Stanton of the Mariners, Greg Johnson of the Giants, Tom Werner of the Red Sox, Mark Shapiro of the Blue Jays and Bill DeWitt Jr. of the Cardinals), four players (Jack Flaherty, Tyler Glasnow, Whit Merrifield and Austin Slater (with Ian Happ and Walker Buehler as alternates)), and one umpire (Bill Miller).

Manfred works for the owners and his only job is to make them richer, so he doesn't care if players or fans think he is ruining the game. Manfred has only grown bolder in recent years about "changing the game", claiming (despite the results of various polls) that he's "giving fans the kind of game they want to see".
These steps are designed to improve pace of play, increase action, and reduce injuries, all of which are goals that have overwhelming support among our fans. Throughout the extensive testing of recent years, minor league personnel and a wide range of fans — from the most loyal to casual observers — have recognized the collective impact of these changes in making the game even better and more enjoyable.
Jesse Rogers of ESPN explains the new rules:
The Shift
The new rule: At the time a pitch is thrown, there will need to be four infielders on the dirt and two on each side of second base. Players will be able to move as soon as the ball leaves the pitcher's hand.

How it will be enforced: If the hitting team reaches base and runners advance on a ball hit under the violation, the game proceeds without penalties. If the play has any other consequence — an out, a sacrifice, etc. — the hitting team can decide either to accept the penalty — which would add one ball to the hitter's count — or decline it, and the play would stand.

What it's meant in the minors: During the first two months of this minor league season, in the lower levels of the minors where shifts are regulated, the batting average on balls in play by left-handed hitters rose by eight points. At Triple-A — where shifts are not banned — it was up only three points.
Pitch Clock

The new rule: Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Hitters will need to be in the batter's box with eight seconds on the pitch clock.

How it will be enforced: If a pitcher has not started "the motion to deliver a pitch" before the expiration of the clock, he will be charged with a ball. If a batter delays entering the box, he will be charged with a strike. . . .

While it is not directly correlated, Statcast's pitch tempo tracker shows 108 pitchers have averaged at least 20 seconds per pitch with the bases empty this season . . .

What it's meant in the minors: When stricter pitch clock enforcement — based on a 14-second clock with the bases empty and an 18-second clock with runners on — began in the minors earlier this season, the results were immediate. Over the first 132 minor league games under the new rules, the average game time was 2 hours, 39 minutes. That's 20 minutes shorter than the average time of a control set of 335 games run without the clock to begin the season (2 hours, 59 minutes) and 24 minutes shorter than the average of the 2021 season (3 hours, 3 minutes average).

Pickoffs

The new rule: Pickoffs are now considered one version of "disengagements," which consist of any time that the pitcher makes a pickoff attempt, fakes a pickoff, or steps off the rubber, as well as when the defense requests time. Pitchers are allowed two disengagements per plate appearance without penalty.

How it will be enforced: After a third step-off, the pitcher will be charged with a balk, unless at least one offensive player advances a base.

What they're trying to change: A lack of action on the basepaths has been a concern of MLB's in recent attempts to improve the aesthetics of the sport, with stolen bases per team down to 0.51 per game in 2022 from 0.66 a decade ago. (In the 1980s and 1990s, stolen base rates hovered around the 0.75 range.)

What it's meant in the minors: In 2021, when the pickoff rules went into effect in Single-A and High-A, stolen base attempts skyrocketed. This year, as the rules expanded to every league, baseball is seeing big gains throughout the minors, though slightly less drastic spikes. According to MLB.com, the stolen base attempts rate in the minors is up to 2.85 attempts per game so far this year — no team in the majors last year even averaged one.

Bigger Bases

The new rule: Bases will be increased from 15 inches to 18 inches.

What they're trying to change: The increase in the size of the bases should reduce injuries around them while increasing stolen base attempts.

What it's meant in the minors: In Triple-A, the first season of larger bases didn't make much of a change on its own — but in the lower levels, bigger bases combined with rules about pickoffs saw large increases in steals per nine innings. Even combined with the disengagement rules, though, MLB doesn't believe either change will lead to teams being unable to control the run game.
[Fucking hell. The smarter half of my brain tells me that the game I love has been perverted all out of goddamn shape by people who manifestly hate the game and it's time for a divorce. Rather than rage against the nonsense that is currently being passed off as baseball, I should tell myself that we had an unforgettable 45-year relationship, be happy with that, and simply fucking walk away. . . .]

Manfred's statement noted that the instances of defensive alignments featuring four players in the outfield have increased nearly six fold since the start of the 2018 season. This is apparently a bad trend and must be eliminated. 

Any fan that supports a ban on shifts is also cool with their favourite team not being able to do everything it can to win games.

I oppose any attempt to limit managers from positioning their fielders wherever the fuck in the field they want

Manfred's increasing clampdown on strategy is horrible and upends nearly 150 years of baseball tradition. Under Manfred's interminable rule, managers are already restricted from having their best pitchers on the mound in certain situations; they are forced to leave pitchers in the game when they would rather take them out. Why does anyone support this garbage?

Manfred's statement noted that "the Pitch Timer has reduced the average nine-inning game time by 26 minutes (from 3:04 in 2021 to 2:38 in 2022)". There's nothing wrong with that — the time between pitches should be shorter — but a rule already exists that addresses this problem and it has been part of the rule book for many decades

Why make up a new rule instead of simply enforcing a better rule that already exists? For reasons that continue to elude me, Manfred has been terrified for years of insisting that umpires enforce Rule 5.07(c):
(c) Pitcher Delays

When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call "Ball."

The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.
Evan Drellich, The Athletic:
Here are some of the issues players felt strongly about, according to people with knowledge of the committee discussions:

• A pitch clock wouldn't have much of an impact if a pitcher could continuously reset it by stepping off the mound. At the same time, pitchers want the ability to throw over multiple times to try to keep potential base stealers from swiping bags. Position players are said to have provided feedback during the process indicating that they would take large leads to force pick-off attempts, and then — knowing at that point that a pitcher has only one pick-off attempt left — they'll then use the clock, and a pitcher's history, to steal. A pitcher might develop a history of consistently throwing before the clock hits, say, three seconds remaining. The feared end result is that there are more stolen bases that are not contested, without a chance for a catcher to throw out the runner.

• Because teams can challenge whether a player was in an illegal position [because shifts will be banned] before a pitch, players worry that a tiny infraction — an inch over — will lead to the erasure of some major moments, even if it didn't impact the outcome of the play or pitch.

• Players are concerned about the timer's effect on major situations, be it the postseason, or late-and-close games in the regular season; moments when pitchers might otherwise take extra time to collect themselves and reset. While MLB is pleased with the results of clock testing in the minors, players point out that the minor leagues can't replicate October baseball . . . Will major moments be decided more by the clock than a player's potential best effort? One idea players liked was to relax enforcement during late-and-close situations.
Umpires blowing ball-strike calls already alters the results of numerous games every day. So sure . . . why not change the natural outcome of a game by ruling a player is out of position or a pitcher delivered a pitch one second too late — and that tie-breaking three-run double in the bottom of the eighth should actually be called ball two as a penalty against the pitcher (which he will gladly accept in that situation)?

Other small changes, as per Drellich:
The league also made an adjustment to the limitation of two times for a pitcher to step off the mound — "disengagements," they're called — adding in the availability of an extra disengagement when a runner advances inside the same plate appearance.

MLB also added in an additional mound visit for teams in the ninth inning if they're out of mound visits. Teams likely would often try to preserve one of their mound visits for the ninth inning anyway, but the knowledge that another mound visit is available in the ninth might allow for an extra mound meeting in a prior inning. The league also gave hitters an additional second to get in the batter's box.
Craig Calcaterra, Twitter:
Trying to get my mind around just the "disengagements" part of the proposed rules changes. They are so complicated and have so many caveats that I suspect they will prove to be unworkable right out of the gate. There will be lengthy game-stopping arguments over them.

"Pitcher requests for a new baseball with nine seconds or more remaining on the pitch timer do not count as a disengagement, but do if there are less than nine seconds." This alone will lead to replay review and other forms of chaos. . . .

Wait: The pitch timer cannot be reviewed on replay, according to Rosenthal and Drellich. Which, OK, but it just means that Angel Hernández will get to determine where the nine second clock was at the time of the "disengagement." Seems like that'll be great.
Well, "lengthy game-stopping arguments" and "other forms of chaos" are fantastic ways to make games shorter.

This is a real surprise: Major League Baseball has agreed to recognize the Players Association as the formal union representative of all minor league players. James Wagner of the New York Times reports:
Having played for more than 100 years without a formal union, the players of minor league baseball lack formal representation and thus cannot collectively bargain over wages or working conditions. . . .

The executive board of the union, which has long declined to represent minor leaguers in part because the interests of the two groups can be at odds, voted two weeks ago to take this step. The union then sent out union authorization cards to over 5,000 domestic minor league players.

In just over a week, the union announced on Tuesday, "a significant majority" of minor league players had signed the cards authorizing the union to become their collective bargaining representative and, as result, it asked M.L.B. for formal recognition. . . .

While some players live off large signing bonuses negotiated in their first contracts, many have to work second jobs to make ends meet. According to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a nonprofit founded two years ago that has spearheaded this fight and was recently folded into the union, the "vast majority" of minor league players "make less than $12,000 — below the federal poverty line." . . .

In 2021, M.L.B. raised pay for minor league players, with Class A minimum salaries rising from $290 to $500 a week and Class AAA salaries increasing from $502 to $700. And this season, it enacted a housing policy under which all 30 M.L.B. teams were required to furnish housing to most players. (In the past, players often had to pay for their own housing, which resulted in instances in which several would jam into a single room of an apartment.)

September 6, 2022

Recent Factoids, Starring Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani, And Spencer Steer

Mookie Betts of the Dodgers is the only MLB player in the modern era to have three separate game-tying or go-ahead extra-base hits in the seventh inning or later of a victory. On Friday, August 26, 2022, against the Marlins, Betts hit:
a two-run homer with no outs in the top of the 7th, wiping out Miami's 2-1 lead and giving the Dodgers a 3-2 lead

a solo homer with one out in the top of the 9th, wiping out Miami's 4-3 lead and tying the game at 4-4

an RBI-double with one out in the top of the 10th, snapping a 5-5 tie and giving the Dodgers a 6-5 lead
The Dodgers won 10-6 in 10 innings.

Other Recent Factoids
(from @StatsBySTATS):

Shohei Ohtani in 2022
6 games with two or more home runs (batting)
9 games with ten or more strikeouts (pitching)
No other player in MLB history has had at least six of each over his entire career.

In their MLB debuts on Monday, September 5:
Ryne Nelson, Diamondbacks: 7.0 IP, 0 R, 7 K (7-4-0-0-7, 87)
Hunter Brown, Astros: 6.0 IP, 0 R, 5 K (6-3-0-1-5, 79)
This is the first time in the modern era that two pitchers each had a scoreless outing with 5+ strikeouts in their MLB debut on the same day.

Bo Bichette of the Blue Jays is the first American League shortstop to have 6+ hits and 3+ HR on a single day (Toronto played a doubleheader.)

Zac Gallen of the Diamondbacks is the fourth pitcher in the modern era (and the first non-Dodgers pitcher) to pitch 6.0+ scoreless innings in six consecutive starts, joining Don Drysdale (1968 Dodgers), Orel Hershiser (1988 Dodgers) and Zack Greinke (2015 Dodgers).

Dylan Cease of the White Sox is the first MLB pitcher to have four games in a season where he threw 6.0+ shutout innings while allowing no more than one hit since Pete Alexander did it for the Phillies in 1915.

On Friday, September 2, the Dodgers lost to the Padres 7-1, snapping their streak of 228 consecutive regular-season games without losing by more than five runs. That streak is 80 games longer than any other such streak in MLB history (next longest: 148 by Pirates from 1979-80).

Also on September 2, Spencer Steer of the Reds went 2-for-2 with a home run, a double and two walks in his MLB debut tonight for an OPS of 4.000 -- the highest OPS by any player in his MLB debut in the modern era (minimum 3 PA). (Steer is also on the All-Cattle Team.)

On Wednesday, August 31, the Cardinals beat the Reds 5-3 in 13 innings despite going 0-for-17 with RATS. They are the second MLB team in the last 45 seasons to win a game in which they had no hits in 17+ AB w/RATS. The first: The 2004 Red Sox, on April 24 against the Yankees (0-for-19 in a 3-2 win in 12 innings).

Mariners rookie pitcher George Kirby has not allowed more than one walk in any of his 18 starts while pitching 4.0+ innings in all of them.

August 29, 2022

First 3.5 Innings
Phillies:      7 R, 11 H
Diamondbacks:  0 R,  0 H
Remaining 5.0 Innings
Phillies:      0 R,  0 H
Diamondbacks: 13 R, 10 H
This is the only MLB game in the last 100 seasons where both teams had at least seven runs and ten hits and all of one team's runs and hits came after all of the other team's.
Phillies     - 211 300 000 -  7 11  1
Diamondbacks - 000 660 01x - 13 10  1

September 4, 2022

Triston Casas, First Baseman Of The Future, Makes His Debut Today

Triston Casas will make his major league debut today at Fenway Park, batting sixth and playing first base against Texas.

Casas, 22, was hitting .273/.382/.481 with 11 homers in 72 games for Worcester (AAA). He raked in August: .333/.459/.533. 

In addition to Casas, Josh Winckowski was recalled from Worcester. Bobby Dalbec was sent down to Worcester, Kutter Crawford went on the 15-day injured list (right shoulder impingement) and Tanner Houck was moved to the 60-day IL (upcoming back surgery).

An overview of Casas from Sox Prospects:

Physical Description: Strong, imposing frame. Thick, fully developed lower half. Will have to work to maintain body and athleticism. . . .

Hit: . . . Quiet pre-pitch. . . . Plus bat speed; whips the bat through the zone. Smooth, fluid swing, especially given his size. . . . Utilizes all fields. Will always have some swing-and-miss in his game, but for someone of his size, he has it well under control. Will take a walk and shows a keen eye at the plate. Has shown a willingness to try adjustments to his swing and to move on if they are not working. Has a clear two-strike approach in which he widens his stance and chokes up on the bat. . . .

Power: Plus-plus raw power. Easy all-fields power, but power plays best to the pull side. Has the ideal combination of size, strength, and bat speed for a power hitter. Ball really jumps off his bat. . . . [C]an project for at least plus in-game power at his peak and potentially more. . . .

Run: Well below-average speed. Not a part of his game. . . .Smart baserunner, reads the game well.

Field: Confident picking out throws in the dirt. Soft hands and surprisingly fluid actions. Moves well enough for first base. Potential solid-average defender there. Drafted as a third baseman, but footwork was choppy, he lacked range, and looked awkward fielding the ball there given his size.

Arm: Plus arm. Touched the low 90s on the mound in high school. Would have been plenty of arm for third base had he stuck there.

Summation: Potential everyday regular. Ceiling of an all-star capable of hitting for both average and significant power. Looks the part of a prototypical bat-first first baseman capable of anchoring a lineup. Projects to add some value defensively at first base. . . . Strong instincts and feel for the game. Great work ethic and strong clubhouse presence. Student of the game, really looks to hone his craft. Leads by example and is always willing to put in the extra work . . .

Back in March, Casas understood his promotion to Boston was ultimately out of his direct control, but: "When I get to Boston one day, I want to be an impact player from the first day."

September 1, 2022

Red Sox Rally For 4 In Ninth, Beat Texas 9-8 At Fenway

Texas   - 001 030 022 - 8 13 0
Red Sox - 000 201 024 - 9 13 0
Boston began the ninth inning with a 4% chance of winning the game.

Texas 8, Red Sox 5, J. Hernandez pitching
Pham walked
Verdugo walked, Pham to second
(Mound visit)
Bogaerts singled to first, Pham to third, Verdugo to second
Devers doubled to left, Pham and Verdugo scored, Bogaerts to third (7-8)
Martinez struck out swinging
Arroyo intentionally walked (to load bases)
Hernandez singled to right, Bogaerts scored, Devers to third, Arroyo to second (8-8)
Refsnyder singled to left, Devers scored (9-8)

A Good Night

Verdugo: 3 hits, 3 runs scored, home run
Devers: 2 doubles, 2 runs scored, 3 runs batted in
Bogaerts: 2 hits, walk, 3 runs scored
Arroyo: 2 hits, double, 3 runs batted in

Can You Imagine Reading This 20 Years Ago?

Boston Sportswriter:

[Red Sox General Manager] is coming up on three years in October and has not won the World Series. Public perception has turned sharply against him . . .

What?!?!? Our GM hasn't won the Manfred Piece of Metal in three whole seasons? Horrors!

This is a very stupid take no matter who wrote it or when or where it appeared.

Unmasking: The sportswriter is Peter Abraham and his words appeared in last Sunday's Boston Globe. From context, Abraham was being completely serious when he wrote it. Here's the entire section:

Red Sox: Alex Cora could be in hot water. Here’s how.

John Henry and Tom Werner have been impulsive with their baseball operations chiefs over the last decade. Ben Cherington lasted a little less than four years. Dombrowski got a little more than four years. Each put together a World Series champion.

Chaim Bloom is coming up on three years in October and has not won the World Series. Public perception has turned sharply against him in recent weeks after a convoluted and unsuccessful approach to the trade deadline.

If the owners decide to ax him after the season, Bloom could argue that unlike Cherington and Dombrowski, he never had a chance to hire his own manager.

The owners made it clear in 2020 they wanted Cora back after his suspension and Bloom went along. Bloom could ask for another chance with his own manager and maybe the owners would go along with that. It’s unlikely. But given the volatility at Fenway, anything is possible.

One way or another, it feels like a decision between Bloom or Cora is coming.

I read this bit of silliness in Matthew Kory's latest edition of Sox Outsider. Kory also expressed surprise that Red Sox ownership had overruled Bloom and hired Cora for the 2021 season. I had assumed, as Kory did, that it was, at the very least, a mutual decision.

From what I had always heard, the hire was Bloom's. Supposedly he made the choice independently. Sure, the owners wanted Cora back, but Bloom went into things with an open mind and Cora convinced him that he was the best person for the job . . . 

Abraham seems to be saying Bloom didn't get to hire his own guy. . . . If Bloom had had autonomy he'd have picked someone else. . . .

I generally don't think owners should be in the business of making baseball decisions, especially when they've just hired someone with expertise they don't possess specifically to make those decisions. . . . Though you'd like to think they'd have learned their lesson when it comes to this sort of thing.

Indeed, though Cora is light years better in the dugout than Mr. I-Invented-The-Wrap.