Tag Archives: MLB

America’s Pastime in the Land Down Under

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During the very early morning of this past saturday (or late friday evening), the MLB season kicked off with the first pitch thrown by Arizona’s pitcher, Wade Miley, for the first time in the southern hemisphere. As part of a global expansion marketing campaign, the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers squared off at the Sydney, Australia Cricket grounds for the first matchup of the 2014 season with a 2 game series. The Dodgers swept the D-backs 3-1 and 7-5 respectively. Despite some lackluster comments leading up to the series, Clayton Kershaw was spectacular as usual recording the win with 7 strikeouts and 1 earned run in 6.2 innings pitched. Also, Scott Van Slyke, the 3rd year left fielder for the Dodgers, went 2-3 with a double off the top of the wall in left and a home run over the wall in right. More notably, the young star, Yasiel Puig, ended the first game going 0-5 with 3 strikeouts. He did rally in the second game with three hits but some base running mistakes to go along with it. With concerns over a sore back, Puig is listed as day to day with a potential need for an MRI. With the first pitch being thrown 10,000 miles away and the Red Sox’s opener over a week away, these two games were merely a light appetizer to a 54 course meal (162 games divided by 3 games = 54 series).

Although I typically do not follow the National League, it was interesting to see two of the better teams square off, even if it was only for 2 games. Even with the small sample size, I had a few pretty key takeaways from the Aussie series. The first was that the Dodger’s starting pitching staff exhibited pure domination against Arizona. Kershaw gave up 1 earned run in 6.2 innings and Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched a 5 inning shutout. Collectively that is a 0.79 ERA for the starting staff so far, which is an impressive stat even if it is only through 2 games. The Dodgers also have Zach Greinke coming off of a calf injury after pitching 5 scoreless innings a week ago against the Padres in Spring Training. Greinke has posted three straight seasons with at least 15 wins and a 3.31 ERA over that same timeframe. Their fourth starter is newly acquired Dan Haren, the 33 year old right-handed California native. He was previously an above average starter on the front end of a rotation but has not performed as well in the past few years. Over the course of the last three seasons, he has a 38-37 record with a 3.96 ERA with declining innings pitched each season. Lastly, there is Josh Beckett who is the former Red Sox starter and 2 time World Series champion. Currently, he has struggled statistically with a 7-19 record and 4.76 ERA over the past two seasons. Despite his past successes with the Sox and Marlins, Josh Beckett is currently the most overpaid 5th starter in the MLB.

On the topic of payroll, here is a brief analysis of the Dodgers’ total salaries. With a total payroll of $220 million, they are the highest paying team in the MLB by nearly $20 million to the Yankees (2nd overall) and $80 million to the Red Sox (5th overall). As previously analyzed in my first post, the Dodgers ranked among the worst in the league with a cost per win of $2.4 million and no World Series title to show for it. Their pitching staff alone will make $66 million over the course of this season. This totals more than 5 entire teams, including the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays. Each of these teams posted the same or more wins than the Dodgers during this past regular season.

https://mteagles.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/a-payroll-recap-of-the-2013-mlb-season/

The other takeaway surrounded the anomaly that is Yasiel Puig. Last season, he had a stretch where he was hitting above .500 for a period of time with acrobatic catches and a cannon arm in right field. He finished the season with a .319 BA, .534 Slugging, and 19 HRs. Needless to say, he could not keep up the astronomical pace that he began his career with but he will be an interesting player to watch over the course of this season as he starts to face the same caliber of pitching over and over.

With the 2014 season officially underway, the hype of this Major League season could not be higher. After a successful campaign in Australia, the MLB teams will look to chase the Red Sox as reigning World Series Champions. The Red Sox/Yankee Rivalry should occur at an even higher magnitude as Jacoby Ellsbury transitioned over to the Dark Side and the Yankees bulked up on free agents this offseason as Derek Jeter will conclude his career this season. Some of the young guns of the Sox will have to step into some major roles this season as Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr appear to have starting roles at SS and RF respectively. Regardless of the outcome, I am looking forward to another season of major league baseball.

When Stars (Fail to) Collide

Yesterday, the MLB and players’ association agreed to implement several new rules that eliminate egregious collisions against the catcher effective during this season. This initiative comes after many severe injuries occurring from collisions including Buster Posey suffering a broken ankle from a collision that can be seen above. The rule still allows from contact but the runner must not deviate from his path to the plate nor may he use his hand or lower his shoulder into the catcher. Additionally, the catcher may not block the plate unless he has the baseball in his glove, or else the runner will be called safe. Overall, I think this is a great rule to initiate as player safety should always be the first concern for the MLB.

Catcher collisions have always been a part of professional baseball as it adds an extra sense of flair to the game that is not typically found on the diamond. However, having played baseball for 16 years of my life without collisions, I can safely say that it is an unnecessary component of the game. In no way is it vital to careen into the catcher in order to score a run. In fact, if a baserunner has to resort to that, they most likely should be out in the first place if they cannot slide in safely. Also, as a former catcher, I can say that there is still plenty of contact when a runner slides in feet first going full speed into one’s shin pad. Without this new legislation, it is highly probable that many catchers would have continued to be seriously injured from these collisions.

It is refreshing to see this kind of reform in professional sports with the concern for player safety. While it is not a direct comparison, similar efforts have been going on in the NFL and they have successfully driven down the number of head injuries for many seasons in a row. This in turn alleviates the detrimental effects that occur after a player’s career has ended. Sadly, many former NFL players suffer from serious depression and trauma, including suicidal thoughts. While the magnitude and frequency are not as high in baseball, these collisions still could have caused similar effects. Therefore, Bud Selig is doing his job to the fullest extent as commissioner by promoting these types of revisions in professional baseball.

Personally, I would like to think that it takes much more athleticism and creativity to effectively slide around a catcher’s tag, as opposed to hurling one’s body into the other player. Here is an impressive example of such a maneuver in a high school game.

Here is yet another example in the context of an MLB game. Mind you that the baserunner is Greg Maddux, a starting pitcher who could possibly be the least likely person to pull off such an acrobatic move at home plate.

In conclusion, other professional sports leagues should be taking the same steps as the MLB and NFL have been doing in order to promote and sustain player safety in the context of their respective sports. While it may be entertaining for some to see dangerous collisions in baseball, it is diametrically opposed to what is conducive for the players’ wellbeing. By banning collisions at home plate, players will not only be safer, but the game will also stay closer to its roots with the necessity to perform acrobatic slides into home to score runs.

~MTE