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The Pitching Era: Strikeouts on the rise
I was reading Buster Olney's Thursday morning blog, and found one piece very interesting. As a result the "wait on pitching" draft strategy will become even more popular next year. And I think it will force owners to go against the trend and draft pitching early next season. That is my prediction. And here is why:
The game is changing dramatically. From Elias: There were 5,992 strikeouts in April, the highest April strikeout total in any season in major league history. And it's not just the total number of strikeouts that was noteworthy; the average of 15.29 strikeouts per major league game during April was the second-highest average in a full month in major league history. (This does not include the fragmentary baseball months, usually March or October, in which fewer than 60 games were played.) The record was just set in September, when there was an average of 15.47 strikeouts per game.
And that brings us to the larger point: Over the 138-year history of Major League Baseball, the top eight months on that list -- that is, the months with the highest average number of strikeouts per game -- are the last eight months. You read that correctly. Not eight of the last 12 or eight of the last 10, but eight of the last eight. There were 14.91 strikeouts in September 2011, 14.63 in April 2012, 14.93 in May, 15.01 in June, 15.07 in July, 14.68 in August, the record 15.47 in September and now 15.29 in April 2013. Those are the eight highest monthly strikeout averages in baseball history.
Check out the top dozen seasons in terms of strikeouts per game, league-wide, since 1969:
I have to think that the rise in the number of pitchers who throw 95+ mph has a lot to do with the rise in strikeouts. But, I also wonder what the impact of tougher drug testing has on the rise in whiffs. Could umpires be calling more strikes as a result of more data available to them, as well? In any case, the wait on pitching strategy will work until the Pitching Era does not dominate the sport.
Dee Gordon: second baseman?
The Dodgers appear to have plans to move Dee Gordon to second base, as he has been taking ground balls at second before games recently. This from the LA Times:
For the last two days, Gordon has been taking pregame grounders for the Albuquerque Isotopes at second base.
This is not because second baseman Mark Ellis is more seriously hurt than the Dodgers are letting on and are prepping Gordon as some emergency fill-in. It is apparently a more long-term consideration.
And anyone who watched Gordon struggle at shortstop for the Dodgers last season will understand that thought.
Despite his athleticism, Gordon struggled with balls hit to the hole and his throwing was wholly erratic. He did not seem a ready-for-prime-time shortstop, but apparently it hasn’t gone a whole lot better early this season with the Isotopes.
With Mark Ellis in the last year of his contract, and Hanley Ramirez entrenched at shortstop through 2014, moving Gordon to second base actually may help his path back to the big leagues. It also may help his trade value, as I am a big believer that the Dodgers will attempt to deal for Phillies second baseman Chase Utley at midseason. Utley is from California, so a trade to LA would make sense.
Gordon hasn't played second base in a game yet at AAA Albuquerque, and is having a good year at the plate. He is hitting .302-.369-.417 with 16 runs scored, 12 stolen bases and a 9.4% walk rate. As i write this, Gordon is 0-2 with 2 walks, so he continues to improve his plate discipline.
Update: Gordon walked 4 times last night, moving his OBP up to .384. Either the pitchers in the PCL don't want to pitch to him, or his approach at the plate has changed for the better.
Yasiel Puig to be called up?
Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford is dealing with a hamstring issue, and it appears to not be a big deal, but maybe Don Mattingly isn't telling us everything about the injury. One could put two and two together and think Crawford could be headed to the DL after reading this excerpt from the LA Times:
Still, if you’re into a conspiratorial way of thinking and believe something else is going on here, then here’s one more: Yasiel Puig, who has been playing right field for double-A Chattanooga, played left field on Wednesday. You know, while Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford missed his second consecutive game with a tight hamstring.
Puig was back in right field for the Lookouts last night, so maybe it was nothing. We will learn more tomorrow, as the Dodgers will be facing the Giants on the road after losing two of three at home.
Speaking of Puig, Carson Cistullii from FanGraphs has footage of a home run he hit in April here. The performance Puig gives after swinging the bat is very entertaining, the bat flip, watching the ball, walking toward first base. Oh, I can't wait to see him in LA.
Well, Padres third baseman Chase Headley is playing hard ball with the front office. After it was leaked that the front office is preparing to offer him the "largest contract in Padres history" by midseason, Headley responded saying he would not talk contract during the season. I have a feeling the Padres front office knew he wouldn't talk contract during the season, and wanted to announce this so it doesn't come as a surprise when they deal him at midseason. That could be far-fetched, but it was rumored during the offseason that he wanted to be paid based on his 2012 breakout season.
Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown went 3-4 with a HR, 2 runs and 2 RBI last night in the Phillies 7-2 win over the Marlins. Brown is now hitting .266-.333-.426 with 4 HRs, 10 runs and 13 RBI thus far in 2013, and has five multi-hit games in his last eight games.
Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick is the best starter on the Phillies staff right now. Kendrick limited the Marlins to two runs on 7 hits, 2 walks and 5 strikeouts in 7 innings of work last night. The win moved his record to 3-1, with a 2.43 ERA, 3.62 FIP and owns a 48% ground ball rate. In his chat yesterday, ESPN's Keith Law said he is buying Kendrick's breakout and says he is a different pitcher than he was 2-3 years ago.
Nationals starter Dan Haren looked like his old self last night, holding the Braves to one run on 4 hits, a walk and 4 strikeouts to win his third game of the season. The win moved his record to 3-3, with a 5.01 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. HIs 24-5 strikeout to walk rate in 32.1 innings is good, but not what we came to expect from Haren from year's past.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado just continues to impress. Yesterday, FanGraph's Dave Cameron wrote this piece on him, calling him a "superstar in the making". I agree with Dave. Machado went 2-4 with a walk and an RBI, raising his tripls slash line to .317-.359-.504 with 3 HRs, 19 runs, 18 RBI and a solid 21-8 strikeout to walk rate. He isn't getting the press that Bryce Harper and Mike Trout received last season, but he is having a great season for a 20 year old, small sample sizes aside.
A few days ago, we learned that Andrew Bailey would be John Farrell's closer, even with the return of former closer Joel Hanrahan from the DL. Well, last night, Farrell through Twitter into a frenzy when he called upon Hanrahan to close out a 3-1 Red Sox lead. Hanrahan gave up a hit in a clean 9th to earn the save. After the game, we learned that Bailey was dealing with some bicep soreness so he was not available, so Bailey owners can breathe a sigh of relief. Sigh.
Cardinals closer Edward Mujica was called upon to close out two run Cardinals lead, and earned his 7th save of the season, but not before giving up a run on 2 hits. He has now given up runs in his last two save opportunities, but has yet to blow one. Teammate Trevor Rosenthal gave up an unearned run on 2 hits, with 3 strikeouts, in 1.1 innings of work.
Nerdy baseball stats
A friend of mine passed this along to me a few days ago, for the Ryan Howard owners out there (including me):
Ryan Howard has driven in > 135 runs 4 times in his career. He has more RBI’s currently than he had on April 30th any of those years.
I doubt he drives in 135 runs this season, but he usually gets hot in the second half of the season.
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