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VOLUME: XLIII ... July 2, 2017


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canadajuly4Happy Canada Day! July 1st is their 150th Anniversary of Confederation for our great friends to the north. Stateside we get to celebrate our 241st Independence Day on the 4th. Be careful with the fireworks and don't overcook the burgers and dogs. It would be nice to have some sunshine in upstate NY. Very rainy year so far but it's not snow. Things are a bit behind in June reporting. I am asking for a little extra effort to make sure this month is completed on time because of our trade window. Everyone wants to know the exact stats for the final 50 games on a new team.

 

Harwell Div: Albuquerque continues to dominate this division. The Horsemen posted a 17-10 June for an 11 game lead. In second we have a tie. Western NY was only 13-14 last month but Armada, with some extra games, was only a half a win better at 18-18. Ottawa, 21 out of first, moved into fourth after their 15-12 month. Falling into the basement, one game back of the Fat Cats is Cinci. The Redlegs were 10-17 last month..... Caray Div: Syracuse pushed their lead out to 6 games after winning 11 of 18 in June. Kentucky is firmly in second despite a 7-11 June. It's a dead heat for third 16 games out of first. Havre de Grace was 8-10 last month and was caught by Laurel Highlands. The Mustangs posted a 9-9 June record. Red Lion, still in last and 22 out of first, was 6-11 last month. One of the reasons certainly was the fact that Schoop went 0-for-26 at home in June..... Allen Div: Miami Beach still leading this close race, now by four games after their 16-11 month. The Grays with some extra games, remain in second after their 19-17 month. Just three back of the Grays is Burnsville. The Blaze was 15-11 last month. Etiwanda is right on their heels only a game back, after posting a 15-12 last month. Knob Noster, at the bottom, was 9-18 last month and now 21 games out of first..... Wild card: Six teams in this very tight race only 2.5 games apart. Homestead has the best WL% but Western NY, Kentucky and Armada are tied and three games better in the loss column. Just a couple back of that group is Burnsville and Etiwanda. It's not looking good for the chances of the Bucs, Mustangs and Fat Cats. All three are 10 games out of post season.

 

Notable team stats: Albuquerque continues to clearly be our best hitting team. Just about any good offense stat you wish to look at, they excel. Armada is showing some impressive hitting. The Ciders are the only other team hitting over 250. Lots of bombs happening with my Blues and we have the best ISO in the league. Kentucky obviously likes to run on your pitcher/catcher combo. No one is close to their SB stat which is something Burnsville has no interest in. Very breezy in Homestead with all those whiffs. I need to mention their appalling error too. Cinci is trying to fight off the Mendoza line. On the hill Burnsville way out in front with ERA and doing pretty good in Shutouts too. Albuquerque is the only other team under 3.50. Knob Noster is flirting with the worst team ERA all-time record book, thanks in large part to Patrick Corbin. Laurel Highlands hurlers get their strikeouts it seems but all those walks kind of erase that. It really looks like Ottawa is not a fan of their bullpen. Team stats can be found below the Top Batting Stats on the STAT page. If they don't match your records you should check with me

 

djtrumbo kershNotable player stats: David John LeMahieu (Arm) with a sizeable lead in batting average. He's the best of three 300 hitters and is also the best of three guys with over 400 OBP. He also leads the hit list. Victor Martinez (Red) has taken over the RBI lead, by one. David Ortiz (Mia) is collecting extra base hits better than anyone else and he's on top of the SLG list. Mark Trumbo (Bur) is the only one over 30 homers. Billy Hamilton (Ken) is, cough, running away with the stolen base crown. Brandon Belt (Ott) and Paul Goldschmidt (Alb) are the best at drawing walks. Curtis Granderson (WNY) has a rather nauseating batting average. You have to wonder why he's getting AB's..... On the mound Kyle Hendricks (Syr) is the only one with a minus 2.00 ERA but Clayton Kershaw (Ott) is right at 2.00. Those two have the best WHIP with Kershaw the better one. Clayton also possesses a very impressive K/BB ratio along with a league best K/9 rate. Robby Ray (LHi) still the best and making hitters whiff. Dan Otero (Mia) with a pretty decent lead in the Save listing. Corey Kluber (Hom) is 13-4 and leads the league in wins. Jerad Eickhoff (Red) & Adam Wainwright (Ott) are not enjoying losing that much. Finally we have Patrick Corbin (Kno). "He is the worst pitcher in the history of the RCMBA" says Ken Brand. If he gets 162 innings, he in fact will be that. Corbin has throw 86.0 innings and given up 159 hits, 114 runs, 18 homers and has a 2.42 WHIP

 

cervelliwainoHidden Gems: Eddie Rosario (Alb) is hitting 1000 on his 2 for 2. Jose Bautista (Kno) is hitting 000 after 8 AB's. James McCann (LHi) has to be noted with his 13 for 126 season. That's a 103 average. What happens when you hit the ball hard? Frankie Cervelli (Hav) wouldn't know. He's yet to reach 2nd base after 69 AB's. Jarrod Dyson (Cin) just 14 xbh with 283 AB's. Chris Carter (Hav) has 124 k's of 317 AB's. Paul Goldschmidt (Alb) & Josh Donaldson (Hom) have been caught stealing 5 times. Mookie Betts (Alb) has yet to get nailed in 24 tries. Jean Segura (Alb) has been hit 16 times. Is there any stat that Albuquerque isn't good at? Jake Lamb (Bur) has yet to be hit after 393 PA's. Corey Dickerson (Ott) has 7 sac flies and Marwin Gonzalez (Arm) and teammate Leonys Martin have two good bunts. Nolan Arenado (Alb) has hit into 17 doubleplays. Hyun-Soo Kim (Cin) never did it with 257 AB's. Xander Bogaerts (Hom) is horrifying his pitchers with 32 errors. Next most is 23..... Kyle Hendricks (Syr) still undefeated with a 9-0 in 14 starts while Scott Kazmir (Cin) is 0-10. Nate Karns (Hom) has a world's worst 15.45 ERA after 7 innings. Ryan Pressly (Cin) has been in 57 games. Forty-one pitchers have 0 games. Adam Wainwright (Ott) still standing at the end of the game with 10 complete of 18 starts. He's also been taken deep 28 times which is a couple more than anyone else. Brandon Finnegan (LHi) has handed out 75 walks in 119 innings. Michael Lorenzen (Ken) has none after 12 innings. Andrew Miller (Hom) has a 15.5 K/9 (69k/40ip). Dan Jennings (Syr) has a 3.7 after 32 innings.

 

 

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THE SHOW

 

It's the baseball! - Patrick Davitt

 

Ha! I thought so! Home runs are way up, again. Discussion about why is also way up, again. But the reason seems obvious. For some time, I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen—right up until his patience ends or the eulogy starts, anyway—that the reason we’re seeing so many home runs is that the ball is different, and fantasy owners might need to figure out what to do about it. The numbers provide ample evidence of the HR increase. Through June 20, MLB hitters had just over 2,700 HR in about 81,000 PA, 22 HR per 650 PA (HR/650). Last year, that number was under 20 HR/650.

 

Needless to say, these huge increases are affecting individual hitters, and in a big way. So far this year, 34 hitters already have more HR than they had all of last year, despite far fewer PA. To possibly name a new appetizer at Outback, it’s a tater barrage of historical proportions. If the HRs continues at the same pace, 2017 will finish with something like 6,140 homers. That’s 500 more than last year, a 10-percent increase. The resulting rate of 1.27 HR per game would be by far the highest in MLB history. Research Says: It’s The Ball. In response to questions about the causes of HR spike, MLB’s response has been to issue a “report” that the ball is exactly the same as before, with detailed evidence that goes something like—and I’m paraphrasing here—“It’s not the ball. Next question.” Some people have alternate explanations, such as, “maybe they’re using PEDs again,” or, “It’s been warmer this year, ” or, “MLB says it’s not the ball, and MLB always tells the truth.”

 

But I have been much more persuaded over the years by a lot of expert scientific analysis that the ball has been the central reason for the significant power gains we’ve seen since the All-Star break in 2016. And recently, some new research has provided more evidence that the baseball is the main reason. Ben Lindbergh, who co-wrote some earlier studies with Rob Arthur of fivethirtyeight.com, has now written a followup study with the well-known analyst Mitchel Lichtman, a longtime sabermetrics ace and the author of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball. That study, published at The Ringer website, acknowledges that HR growth is a combination of factors, but argues very effectively that the ball is the primary factor. There are two main reasons. First, the coefficient of restitution. This sounds like something your payday lender hands you while he repos your car, but actually refers to the amount of energy the ball has when bounced off a hard surface. The CoR of major-league baseballs is up. I’m not sure about the numerical values, but apparently where it currently says “Rawlings,” it should be “Titleist.” Second, the seams are less raised. This sounds like a small thing, and indeed seam height is measured in one-thousandths of an inch. But these thousandths of inches are much more important to seam height than they would be for, say, inseam height. The balls’ lower seams mean the batted ball encounters less air resistance in flight, which is also why there’s no stitching on Superman’s tights. The Ringer article doesn’t mention it, but it seems this phenomenon might also affect the movement on pitches, since differential air resistance is the reason pitches break. Less movement, more hard contact.

 

My Eyeballs Agree. I’ve also been persuaded by two of the experts I trust the most: my left eye and my right eye. Like you, I watch a lot of baseball and baseball highlights. And I’ve seen plenty of HR oddities this year. Like Chris Carter, getting fooled by a Drew Pomeranz pitch, well off the plate away, lunging after it—and pulling a one-handed HR into the seats in left. About twenty rows deep, too, so no cheapie. I was actually watching Marwin Gonzalez (he’s on my Tout team) in a game when he hit what I thought was a can o’ corn. So did he, slamming his bat to the ground in frustration. So we were both surprised that the ball cleared the center field fence. Marwin crossed the plate with the sheepish look of a guy who shanked a three-wood out of bounds, but the ball hit a tree and ricochet straight into the cup. Or maybe you saw noted slugger Jarrod Dyson launching a missile 360 feet into the right-field seats. Dyson already has four HR this year in 234 PA, after amassing the less than Bondsian total of seven HR in his previous 1,365 PA! And there are tons more examples of players hitting for way more power this year. If you’re like me, it seems like most of them were on your team last year. I know it’s tough to assess the probability of a fly ball going out by watching it on TV. But after damn near 50 years, you get a feel for which balls look and sound like HR contact and which ones don’t. And this year, I’ve been seeing a lot of those “don’t’s” that somehow do.

 

But Who Benefits? Really, the cause of the homer surge doesn’t matter in fantasy terms. I say it’s the ball, you say it’s climate change. I know a guy who’s sure it all has something do with Brexit. What does matter in this power surge is how the extra homers are being distributed. The top HR guys, like Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and Nolan Arenado, are not getting more HRs from the lively ball. The big gainers are coming from lower in the ranks—your Yonder Alonso-Justin Smoak-Lonnie Chisenhall types. I quickly compared the 241 hitters who had at least 250 PA last year and at least 100 this year, to see which players are showing gains in their HR/650. I used the rate stat to find hitters whose HR gains are not connected to playing time. The top three deciles in HR/650 last year have all lost ground on average in HR/650, while all the lower deciles have gained. The seventh decile (21-25 HR/650 last year) includes Smoak (+22), Sal Perez (+11) and Marcell Ozuna (+15). The sixth decile (22-24 HR/650) includes Morrison (+27), Colby Rasmus (+22) and Michael Conforto (+15). The fifth decile (19-21 HR/650) features gainers like Ryan Zimmerman (+27), Scott Schebler (+26) and Javier Baez (+13). And so on down. Marwin Gonzalez is in the bottom of the fourth decile, up from 16 HR/650 last year to 40 this year. Chisenhall is in the third decile, moving from 12 HR/650 last year to 47 in 2017. And Alonso was way down in the second decile in 2016, a paltry 9 HR/650. This year, if he gets to 650 PA, he’s on pace to hit 50! It makes sense that guys like Smoak would be the ones getting those extra HRs.The research suggests that the total distance benefit is six to 10 feet on a well-hit ball. For the big boppers, that just means their HRs go from being well out of the yard to way out. But those extra 10 feet make all the difference for a Smoak. I've had him on past teams, and if warning-track outs had been a category, I'd be up to my hips in trophies. Now, some reports have mentioned changes in approach, such as Alonso’s well-publicized effort to change his swing plane to get more balls into the air, and on a higher arc. Smoak reportedly said he spent the offseason training to be more patient at the plate and to shorten his swing. Those adjustments probably have something to do with these players’ success. But even at that, it must help that the ball is going farther.

 

Conclusion. It’s hard to say how actionable the changed baseball is for the future. MLB could certainly require the manufacturer to return to previous standards for CoR and seam height. If so, we’d be right back where we were in 2012 or so. If not, then we should expect the whole HR distribution to flatten out, with the top guys still in the high 30s or low 40s, but a whole raft more in the low- to mid-30s. That redistribution—more HRs overall but spread across more players getting them—will certainly affect the value of HRs. It might even affect that value this year, if other owners continue to believe that Cruz is far more valuable than, say, Smoak, because they think Smoak is being fluky. In all, it's tough to say what we can do beside mind the oldets adage in sports: Keep your eye on the ball.