MLB Week in Review (Aug 31-Sep 6)

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Like every other sport, baseball is always evolving as teams continue to try to find more ways to win games.

It has led to one of the most exciting times in baseball and yet one of the most boring of all time.

This new era in baseball has more home runs than ever before but to go along with that there are more strikeouts than ever before.

The result of that strange direction is that there are fewer balls in play with most at-bats ending with the batter sitting down or running around the bases.

It has led to less action on the field and less scoring with a constant battle between velocity and swing angle taking full focus.

The game is constantly changing and this new era all started with teams needed and wanting pitchers to increase their velocity.

They began looking for guys that could pitch over 95 mph and as they started looking more pitchers began developing velocity before anything.

That concentration on velocity changed the game with runs dropping to a low not seen before the 1990s.

The velocity was just part of the problem though as teams began to eliminate ground balls as well.

With batters just trying to get contact on fast pitches they often found gaps in the infield to hit singles and doubles.

To eliminate that possibility teams began shifting their defences to make sure those gaps didn’t exist.

With a wealth of new stats at their disposal managers began to notice patterns and started putting more players where batters were more likely to hit.

It eliminated the possibility of hitting those singles to put up runs and scoring began to plummet.

That evolution eventually led to another evolution but this time as a response to the new defence and pitching that batters were seeing.

Batters, like every low-scoring era, began to adjust to the new way of the league and looked to put the ball in the air.

They couldn’t hit the ball through the infield so they decided to hit it into the outfield and with the increased velocity the ball was far more likely to go all the way out.

The momentum of a 95 mph ball translates to a fast exit velocity and with the ball in the air and a fast exit velocity the ball goes out of the park pretty easily.

That new style of hitting has taken over but with it comes a less accurate swing that doesn’t make contact as much.

Batters are now essentially going for broke at every at-bat as they either hit the ball to the outfield and possibly beyond or they strike out.

The teams continue to adjust though as the shift continues to be a major aspect of the game and now it is moving to where the ball is going more than ever.

Teams are realizing that the infield shift is less effective if the ball goes over all of the infielder’s heads.baseball-sidebar

Now they are trying to eliminate the gaps in the outfield by placing four outfields in a space usually patrolled by three.

It has just begun and with the new swings taking over more and more that outfield shift could become a lot more common.

If balls are going to continue to sail out of the infield defences will focus on where the ball goes to try to make sure there are no runs scored.

This new shift to the outfield is coming at a time when this creativity on defence has come under fire.

In a constant attempt to quicken the pace of the game the MLB has thrown out the idea of banning the shift altogether.

They believe it is eliminating the offence and slowing the game down which has become a main concern for commissioner Rob Manfred.

That ban could come in the next few years leaving teams in the traditional defence unable to make adjustments to the batter.

Whether it actually quickens the game is up for debate as more runs usually mean longer games not shorter ones.

Although there are plenty of complaints regarding the shift and the evolution of the game to what it is today the game continues to be slow.

The league will continue to make new rules like the potential shift ban but the evolution of the sport will always change things.

The defence will continue to find ways to stop scoring and batters will continue to find ways to put up runs.

Extra Innings

Bad News for Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani was built as the Japanese Babe Ruth but like so many Japanese players before him, he has been hampered by injuries since making the move to the USA. After looking like he came as advertised he began to struggle on the mound and was placed on the DL with an injury that was all too familiar for so many. He has still been able to bat and despite a brief comeback to the mound has essentially been shut down for the season, from pitching. He remains a batter and a home run hitter but it was announced this week that he will likely need to undergo Tommy John surgery if he wants to pitch again the MLB.

Moving On

He was a key piece to one of the most exciting times in Toronto baseball but things were just not going in any good direction. Josh Donaldson was the star in Toronto after winning an MVP and helping the team to two straight postseason appearances but it was all but guaranteed that his time was up. The Jays were not competitive this year and like many assumed that meant that Donaldson was going to be traded. With his contract coming to an end and a young third baseman on the way the Jays wanted to get something for their former MVP. The problem was that he spent most of the year on the DL and they struggled to trade him without playing most of the year. This week the waiver deadline saw Donaldson play a couple of games, get traded to Cleveland and then hit the 10-day DL in a sad end to his time in Toronto.

Howard Calls it Quits

He had been a staple in Philadelphia sports for more than a decade as he was one of the few players in this era of sports to remain with the team that drafted him. He was a part of the rise in Philadelphia helping the Phillies to the 2008 World Series title. He was also a part of the fall as the Phillies began dropping after the 2009 season and began a rebuild with Howard as the one veteran holdover. Although he has not played a game since 2016 he announced his retirement from the game walking away as a legend in the Philadelphia sports world.

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