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Banged-Up Yankees Lose Judge But Gain Ground

Amid a slew of injuries, the Yankees have managed to keep themselves afloat. But while taking three out of four from the Royals and climbing above .500 (11-10) this weekend, they suffered a major blow: Aaron Judge, their most valuable position player in each of the past three seasons (including this abbreviated one), strained a left oblique muscle during Saturday’s victory, further depleting a lineup that right now might not pass muster for a split squad spring training game. Including pitchers, the team now has an MLB-high 13 players on the injured list.

The 26-year-old Judge, who earlier in the game had connected for his fifth home run, dunked a single into the right field corner in the sixth inning but was in obvious pain by the time he reached first base, and exited the game immediately:

Prior to Sunday’s action, the Yankees placed Judge on the injured list, and manager Aaron Boone called his injury “pretty significant” while declining to speculate on a timetable for his return. Per, a 2017 study led by former Dodgers athletic trainer Stan Conte found that for even a Grade 1 oblique strain, the least severe, position players miss an average of 27 days. A quick-and-dirty survey of the injury logs of the outfielders on the Yankees’ roster via the Baseball Injury Consultants database yielded stays ranging from 11 to 45 days, including a 19-day one for Judge in September 2016; for that one, however, the tally of days lost stopped with the end of the season. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Get Weird, Again: Extreme Pitcher Stats So Far

Yesterday, I took readers on a tour through small sample theater to examine the extreme and anomalous performances produced by hitters thus far, nearly all of which will come out in the wash as time goes on. Beyond strikeout, groundball, and fly ball rates, all of which stabilize at the 70 batters faced mark, pitching lines may contain all sorts of oddities.

As I did with the batters, here I’ll encourage you to gawk at some of the extremes — both the very, very good and the very, very bad — before they vanish into the ether. Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are through Wednesday. Let’s get weird again…

The Very, Very Bad

8.84 ERA, 8.42 FIP

Whether you’re going by actual runs allowed or focusing on defense-independent outcomes, 25-year-old White Sox righty Reynaldo Lopez entered Wednesday as the worst of the majors’ 83 qualified starters in both ERA and FIP; he was surpassed in the former category by the Angels’ Matt Harvey (9.64 ERA) as the count of qualifiers increased to 93 on Wednesday, but the No Longer Dark Knight’s just not as interesting as Lopez at the moment.

Looking at Lopez’s raw rate stats, it’s not hard to understand why his run prevention has been so shoddy: he’s combining a below-average strikeout rate (17.5%) with a hefty walk rate (14.4%) and an astronomical 3.26 home runs per nine. To throw some gasoline on the fire, there’s also his .345 BABIP, the result of a lot of hard-hit balls; his average exit velocity of 92.7 mph ranks in the seventh percentile, and his .394 xwOBA in the 13th percentile. Ranked 28th on our Top 100 Prospects List heading into 2017 on the strength of a plus-plus fastball and a plus curve, Lopez was pretty serviceable last year (3.91 ERA, 4.63 FIP, and 2.2 WAR in 188.2 innings), but right now, he’s not fooling many hitters; his 21.2% outside-the-zone swing rate is down seven points from last year, while his 89.9% zone contact rate is up four points.

322 wRC+ allowed on four-seam fastballs

Nothing has epitomized the early-season struggles of the defending world champion Red Sox more than Chris Sale’s slow start. Fresh off signing a five-year, $145 million extension, the 30-year-old southpaw has shown anything but the form that has made him a perennial Cy Young contender. Limited to a total of 32.1 regular season and postseason innings since the end of last July due to recurrent bouts of shoulder inflammation and then a slow buildup this spring, he’s been lacking in arm strength. According to Pitch Info, his average four-seam fastball velocity is down nearly three miles per hour relative to last year (from 95.7 to 92.8), which has not only made it much more hittable, but has allowed batters to focus on his breaking ball. Batters are 11-for-21 with a double, a triple, and three homers on plate appearances ending with his not-so-warm heater, for a .524 batting average, 1.095 slugging percentage, and 322 wRC+ against; by comparison, he yielded a .179 average, .321 slugging percentage and 60 wRC+ when throwing that pitch last year. What’s more, where batters whiffed at 14.8% of his four-seamers last year, they’ve done so against just 1.9% this year — that’s two fastballs out of the 104 he’s thrown. Mercy. Read the rest of this entry »

Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 4/18/19

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to the latest edition of our usual Thursday chat. The questions in the queue are piling up, so without further ado…

Corbin Burnes: Do I have a Home Run Problem?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Oh, indeed. 11 home runs in just 17.2 innings, and from among just 19 flyballs. I’ve got an entry devoted to Burnes in the forthcoming companion to yesterday’s piece, which will be titled “Let’s Get Weird, Again: Extreme Pitcher Stats So Far”

stever20: What do you make of Chris Sale?  His career in April normally is pretty good(before this year 2.82 ERA).  So it’s not like he normally starts slowly.  Even brought in his personal catcher and that didn’t help.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m more worried about Sale with each passing start, but I think it really comes down to a lack of arm strength brought about by a slow build up this winter. He’s just not the same pitcher if he can’t get his velocity up to where it normally lives, and right now, his fastball is getting tattooed for a 1.095 SLG and a 322 wRC+ (also in today’s forthcoming piece).

Rather than sending him out there every fifth day, I do think the Red Sox should DL him and send him back to extended spring training to ramp up, because he’s not helping them by getting hammered each time out.

Tel: What’s the deal with the playoff odds graphs?  The Yankees beat the Red Sox 8-0 on Tuesday and their playoff odds went down from 91.1% to 84.4%?  The Red Sox went up from 52.8% to 54.4% or so yesterday but this morning are back to 50.7% in the odds numbers dated yesterday.  I know things change based on playing time estimates etc., but what’s the point of a graph if you can’t gloat over your team crushing their rival and moving the needle on the odds?  Seems like if you’re putting up a graph the changes should be based on how the team is playing rather than how Fangraphs staff changed the team’s playing time estimates.

Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Get Weird: Extreme Hitter Stats So Far

Yesterday, I wrote about how at the team level, won-loss records at the 16-game mark are meaningful when it comes to predicting final records. At the individual level, we’re in small sample theater, however, with extreme and anomalous performances all over the place, virtually all of which will come out in the wash. For most hitters, the only stats that have begun to stabilize are exit velocity (40 balls in play), swing rate (50 plate appearances), and strikeout rate (60 PA), which means that players’ batting lines may contain all sorts of oddities in other categories.

Before they vanish into the ether, it’s worth gawking at some of the extremes, both the very, very good and the very, very bad. Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are through Tuesday. C’mon, let’s get weird…

The Very, Very Bad

-5 wRC+

Over the weekend, Chris Davis ended the longest hitless streak in major league history (54 at-bats) with a three-hit game against the Red Sox, and on Monday, he homered. That binge lifted his wRC+ from -67 — a number that can really only be understood in the Upside Down — to 2, which, well, it’s at least a positive number.

At this juncture, one player with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title (3.1 per team game) is still in the Upside Down, namely the Tigers’ Josh Harrison. The 31-year-old infielder, who didn’t sign with Detroit until February 23, is hitting a bare .123/.203/.140 through 64 PA, for a -5 wRC+. That’s 6-for-64 with a double and five walks, which ain’t much to write home about. Harrison, who has ranked in the sixth to eighth percentile in exit velocity from 2016-18, is making better contact than that this year (86.9 mph, 25th percentile), but the hits aren’t falling; he’s got a 111-point gap between his wOBA (.167) and xwOBA (.276). Stuck in an 0-for-13 slump, he can take solace in the fact that things can change quickly, as Davis showed; the Rockies’ Garrett Hampson, who entered Tuesday with a -9 wRC+ (.176/.189/.235 in 54 PA), went 2-for-4 with a homer against the Padres to lift his mark to 17. Read the rest of this entry »

What the 16-Game Mark Tells Us About Teams’ Futures

Early season performances are always tough to get a handle on, but on a team level, the 16-game mark is worthy of some note. In Baseball Prospectus’ 2012 book Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbers (a book to which I contributed), Derek Carty — a name that should be familiar around here — found that at the 16-game mark, a team’s year-to-date record became as predictive as simply assuming they’ll finish at .500, as the largest possible sample of teams inevitably does. Through Monday, 19 teams have played at least 16 games, and 11 have played at least 17, which makes this a good time to take a closer look.

In his study, Carty examined non-strike seasons from 1962 through 2011, calculating the correlation between a team’s record after n games and its final record. After one game, for example, the correlation with teams’ final mark was just .12, while at the five-game mark it was .28, and at the 10-game mark, .42. The correlation reached .5 at the 16-game mark, rose to .52 at the 17-game mark, and so on. Carty made no mention of the likelihood of teams making the playoffs, though with changing postseason formats — including the introduction of a second Wild Card in each league starting in 2012, just when the book hit the streets — such information would be of limited utility.

To my knowledge, Carty hasn’t updated the study since publishing that, so we don’t know for sure that the 2012-18 period hasn’t altered his conclusion slightly. Since we’re not doing brain surgery here — just getting a preliminary read on where this season is heading for teams — it doesn’t matter a whole lot. I didn’t set out to re-create Carty’s study, but I did examine what 16-game performances from the two Wild Card era can tell us. Read the rest of this entry »

Jackie Robinson and Dodgertown, a Haven of Tolerance

Jackie Robinson Day marks the 72nd anniversary of the breaking of baseball’s color line, an annual opportunity to take stock of Robinson’s immeasurable courage in confronting racism as well as the immense talent he showed while playing at the highest level. Earlier this month, Major League Baseball commemorated the centennial of Robinson’s birth and furthered his legacy by renaming Historic Dodgertown — the former Navy housing base in Vero Beach, Florida that served as the Dodgers’ spring training headquarters from 1948-2008, which MLB assumed operational control of on January 2 — the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.

Recognized as “the jewel of Florida’s baseball crown” even after expansion put two teams in the state on a permanent basis, the facility was the first fully integrated major league spring training site in the South, a “haven of tolerance” in the words of historian Jules Tygiel. “It was, without doubt, the first crack in the wall of prejudice that continued to plague baseball for the next 15 years,” wrote Sam Lacy in the Baltimore Afro-American. On this anniversary, its role in Robinson’s story, and in the history of baseball’s integration, is worth considering.

While the April 15, 1947 date is etched into history, Robinson actually signed his first professional contract on August 28, 1945 at the Dodgers’ business offices at 215 Montague Street, a location just a five-minute walk from this scribe’s residence. While team president Branch Rickey hoped to wait until November or even the following January to announce the historic deal, a confluence of factors involving city politics forced the acceleration of his timetable. The contract was announced on October 23 in Montreal, where Robinson would play with the Royals, the Dodgers’ top minor league affiliate and a site well-insulated from the racism and segregation prevalent in the United States. Still, the Dodgers had to navigate significant logistical hurdles to prepare Robinson and his teammates for the season.

During World War II, wartime travel restrictions had forced major league teams to conduct spring training close to home. The Dodgers, who had trained in Havana, Cuba in 1941 and ’42, spent the springs of ’43 through ’45 headquartered at the Bear Mountain Inn in the Hudson Valley, often negotiating snow-covered fields. With restrictions lifted for the 1946 season, Rickey chose to headquarter the major league team in Daytona Beach, Florida, with the minor leaguers — over 600 of them, to stock 27 affiliated farm teams (!) — about 40 miles inland in Sanford.

Segregation reigned in Florida through Jim Crow laws, which were particularly prevalent in Sanford, where Robinson and pitcher John Wright, a Negro Leagues veteran signed by Rickey about a month after Robinson, could not stay with the team at the lakefront Mayfair Hotel. With the help of Pittsburgh Courier sportswriter Wendell Smith, Rickey arranged for Robinson and his wife Rachel to be housed with a college classmate of Smith’s in the black community of Sanford. The newlywed Robinsons endured all manner of indignities and insults on their 36-hour journey from Los Angeles to Sanford, including being bumped off a flight from Pensacola in favor of a white couple, only to be driven from their new residence by threats of violence from local bigots. The couple — and indeed, plans for the entire Royals’ spring training — was moved to the more moderate climate of Daytona Beach, a city that had black police officers and bus drivers. There the Robinsons boarded with a local black businessman named Joe Harris and his wife, Dufferin. Read the rest of this entry »

Their Powers Combined: Finding the Best of Trout and Harper

By now — and barring a mid-career role reversal — the arguments over the relative greatness of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have been settled in favor of the Millville Meteor. Trout has perennially played at an MVP-caliber level since 2012, winning the award twice while finishing second four times and fourth once, the year that he missed more than a quarter of the season due to a thumb injury, and — as of this week — has climbed to sixth in the JAWS rankings among center fielders. Harper owns one MVP award and might have won a second if not for a late-season knee injury in 2017, but in terms of consistency and overall levels of accomplishment, he’s second banana. Trout has chalked up five seasons worth at least 9.3 WAR, which matches Harper’s best, but the latter’s second- and third-best seasons merely add up to 9.2 WAR. As Jeff Sullivan put it in his penultimate post, “Mike Trout Has Been as Good as Manny Machado and Bryce Harper Combined.”

Yet Trout and Harper remain inextricably linked in the minds of many (including this scribe) in part because on the day that Harper debuted in the majors (April 29, 2012), Trout returned from Triple-A for good, and both players took their respective leagues by storm en route to Rookie of the Year awards. Though separated by about 14 months in age, they’re part of a baseball cohort in a way that Trout and Paul Goldschmidt or Giancarlo Stanton (whose totals of plate appearances are all in the same vicinity), or Harper and Machado (whose free agencies coincided) are not. The relatively stoic Trout and the more demonstrative Harper pair well as contrasts, too. Trout is so routinely great without calling attention to himself that he sometimes recedes into the background, to the point of being forgotten, while Harper’s combination of hot streaks and exuberance is more eye-catching — in grabbing our attention, he also reminds us that hey, that other guy is playing even better.

The dynamic duo are currently scalding the ball, in case you haven’t noticed. Harper, who signed a record-setting 13-year, $330 million contract, is off to a flying start with the Phillies (.314/.500/.743, four home runs, and a 198 wRC+ through Wednesday).

Trout, who signed a record-setting $12-year, $430 million extension less than three weeks after Harper inked his deal, is flying even higher (.406/.592/.938, five home runs, and a 288 wRC+).

The coincidence of their current hot streaks got me wondering whether we’re seeing their collective apex, the peak pair. The answer, within the way I chose to address the matter, is “pretty damn close.” For this, I called upon our player graphs tool — putting the graphs in FanGraphs, after all — to calculate each player’s rolling 10-game wRC+ since the aforementioned point of arrival in 2012. This ignores defense, for which we can’t get any kind of reliable read across 10 games anyway, and makes the familiar squiggly pictures, like so…

…And so…

Using that page’s “Export Data” function, I calculated the pair’s combined wRC+ for every date on which they both played and had the requisite 10 games in the sample (we’re not yet to 15 games for either player in 2019, hence this choice). That means that if one player was on the disabled list, or even had an off day, there’s no data point for that day. On the other hand, each player’s 10-game range might have different dates attached due to such absences.

Here’s the top 20 of the pair’s most productive stretches, with overlapping 10-game spans included:

Highest Combined 10-Game wRC+ for Trout and Harper
Rk Season End Trout PA Trout wRC+ Harper PA Harper wRC+ Combined wRC+
1 2017 4/26/17 44 209.0 43 369.9 288.5
2 2015 5/16/15 43 154.4 44 403.2 280.2
3 2015 5/17/15 43 154.4 45 376.9 268.1
4 2017 4/27/17 43 197.3 44 326.5 262.7
5 2015 7/20/15 44 274.7 40 149.5 261.4
6 2015 9/23/15 44 223.4 42 297.6 259.7
7 2019 4/9/19 40 313.8 45 208.0 257.8
8 2017 4/25/17 43 204.3 42 311.9 257.5
9 2015 6/20/15 41 234.2 42 279.6 257.2
10 2017 4/28/17 44 229.0 45 283.4 256.5
11 2017 4/21/17 42 194.9 47 309.4 255.4
12 2015 6/16/15 41 220.0 43 285.3 253.5
13 2015 9/22/15 43 213.1 42 289.6 250.9
14 2015 9/19/15 43 193.4 41 304.7 247.7
15 2015 5/15/15 42 112.4 44 366.8 242.6
16 2015 7/10/15 45 286.2 43 193.3 240.8
17 2016 9/3/16 46 314.3 42 158.8 240.1
18 2013 8/7/13 45 316.2 42 158.1 239.9
19 2017 4/22/17 42 202.8 46 273.6 239.8
20 2017 4/24/17 43 195.1 42 285.3 239.7

As it turns out, April 9 — the point at which Harper reached 10 games this year (Trout had done so two days earlier), and the last point for which we have data, because Trout hasn’t played since then due to a groin strain that we’re all praying is minor — is the end of the seventh-best such stretch. Trout’s videogame-like numbers you saw above; Harper was hitting .333/.511/.788 for a 210 wRC+ before taking an 0-for-3 and an early exit from Wednesday night’s 15-1 drubbing by the Nationals. The heavyweight championship belongs to a stretch in late April 2017 during which Harper hit .588/.674/1.206 with five homers, with Trout at .375/.432/.725 and three homers.

One aspect of this that’s particularly striking is that we have to dig down to the 19th spot to find a combined performance that lands in an even-numbered year. Harper hit for a career-low 111 wRC+ in that 2016 season, four points lower than in 2014 and nine points lower than in 2012. For some weird reason, he’s simply been better in odd-numbered years, like two-time Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen.

Condensing the above table to remove the overlapping streaks (i.e., tossing out the third-ranked streak, because most of it is already represented within the second-ranked streak) yields this top 10:

Highest Combined 10-Game wRC+ for Trout and Harper, No Overlap
Rk Season End Trout PA Trout wRC+ Harper PA Harper wRC+ Combined wRC+
1 2017 4/26/17 44 209.0 43 369.9 288.5
2 2015 5/16/15 43 154.4 44 403.2 280.2
3 2015 7/20/15 44 274.7 40 149.5 261.4
4 2015 9/23/15 44 223.4 42 297.6 259.7
5 2019 4/9/19 40 313.8 45 208.0 257.8
6 2015 6/20/15 41 234.2 42 279.6 257.2
7 2016 9/3/16 46 314.3 42 158.8 240.1
8 2013 8/7/13 45 316.2 42 158.1 239.9
9 2012 10/1/12 46 224.9 43 250.3 237.2
10 2016 7/3/16 47 297.3 48 146.7 221.2

From a contemporary standpoint, that’s more satisfying, as this season’s opening salvo climbs to fifth (not third, as I originally had it when this published — score that E6). Streaks from every season except 2014 and ’18 are represented, with the 2015 season, Harper’s MVP year, dominating the charts, as separate streaks from May, June, July, and September all rank among the top six. Harper pulls his weight here, owning the higher wRC+ of the pair (highlighted with the bold-faced numbers) in five of the streaks .

As for the coldest spells, I’ll skip to the mirror image of the second table, identifying only the extremes of each discrete streak:

Lowest Combined 10-Game wRC+ for Trout and Harper, No Overlap
Rk Season Date Trout PA Trout wRC+ Harper PA Harper wRC+ Combined wRC+
1 2016 9/17/16 41 59.7 42 32.8 46.1
2 2016 7/29/16 43 106.5 40 16.6 63.1
3 2012 8/15/12 45 136.2 45 15.2 75.7
4 2018 5/19/18 39 118.8 44 37.9 75.9
5 2013 9/28/13 45 99.3 40 54.5 78.2
6 2012 9/25/12 43 113.4 41 52.7 83.7
7 2014 8/2/14 47 101.3 42 66.7 85.0
8 2016 5/30/16 46 115.3 37 50.8 86.6
9 2014 8/17/14 47 44.0 44 135.4 88.2
10 2015 8/18/15 43 70.5 46 108.2 90.0

Above we’ve got almost entirely even-year streaks, with one exception apiece from 2013 and ’15. Every season but 2017 and this one is represented, with 2016 the most common one. During the very worst stretch, in September 2016 — a rare instance of both players falling well below 100 — Harper hit .094/.310/.188, with a home run representing one of his three hits, and Trout hit .229/.317/.229 without a homer. For eight of the 10 stretches, it’s Harper dragging the pair down, with a wRC+ below 70; that conforms to the general impression that he’s the more slump-prone player of the two.

One could certainly look at the matter in other ways, using larger sample sizes — going by 15-game stretches with the same methodology, for example, or simply by our monthly splits, or even full seasons. On that last front, 2015 gets the nod on the basis of combined wRC+ (184) or WAR (18.6) if we’re bringing defense into this. By the monthly splits, the pair’s combined wRC+ of 243 for March and April (which we customarily lump together, as we do for September and October) would rank first, but with an asterisk, as it’s the only month besides April 2012 for which the pair has combined for fewer than 100 PA. Discarding what would be the second-ranked month (June 2014) on the grounds that Harper had just four PA, the best combined month for the pair is July 2015, when Trout (260) and Harper (172) combined for a 214 wRC+ in 193 PA. Incidentally, by this method the pair has combined for a 120 wRC+ or better in every month for which we have a meaningful sample from both save for July 2016, when Trout (144) and Harper (65) combined for a 104 mark.

Still, I do like the immediacy of the 10-game sample and the fact that it places what we’ve witnessed so far this season near the top of the heap. If Trout doesn’t miss too much time, there’s a chance we can see that number climb. All of which serves to remind us that while major league baseball has problems on and off the field that shouldn’t be ignored, the level of talent today is astounding, and anytime Trout and Harper are both firing on all cylinders is a great time to be watching.

Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 4/11/19

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon folks, and welcome to today’s chat. I’m going to give the queue a few moments to fill up while I order lunch, please hang tight.

Kenny Williams: Does a rebuilding baseball team have a responsibility to put a team on the field that is moderately entertaining?  Or is losing and planning for the future the only priority?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Ok, poke bowl ordered. On with the show

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Kenny, that’s a fundamental question that the union and owners really need to think hard about in advance of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, because the current rules have clearly made rebuilding — while profiting handsomely by fielding low-payroll teams with much less threat to decreasing revenue — an enticing option. Baseball is a business, but also entertainment, and if you can’t convince fans that you have SOMETHING to see, even if it’s green prospects finding their way at the major league level for the first time, then something is wrong. I do think the next CBA needs to work on tightening the connection between winning and revenue (especially revenue sharing) in order to prevent so many teams from being non-competitive at the same time.

Ben: How much of the Yankees early issues can be blamed on the injuries? They have been massive, but even the healthy players aren’t performing – Britton looks bad, and Boone has made some awful decisions lately

Avatar Jay Jaffe: For all of the lineup’s losses (Stanton, Andujar, Gregorius, Hicks), the offense has scored over 5 runs per game and is fourth in wRC+ (127). Where they’re feeling the injuries the most, i think, is the bullpen, where Betances’ absence has exacerbated the struggles of Britton, Green, Kahnle and even Chapman.

Let’s remember that the one thing that makes managers look the worst in the public eye is when the relievers he calls upon don’t do the job — regardless of his options or what the data says, the knee-jerk reaction is that he’s chosen poorly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mariners’ Hot-Hitting Start Defies Rebuild

While the Dodgers’ bolt from the gate isn’t too surprising given their back-to-back NL pennants and preseason playoff odds around 90% (though yes, I reaaaally nailed the timing of my investigation into their hitting), the Mariners’ hot start is the kind of early-season anomaly that reminds us how reality often fails to conform to our preconceptions. Expected to be a bystander during a rebuilding year, Seattle opened the season by sweeping a two-game series in Japan against last year’s upstarts, the A’s, and has continued to roll. They own the majors’ best record (11-2) and run differential (+40) so far.

The Mariners did spend most of last year in contention, ultimately notching 89 wins — their highest total since 2003 — but finishing eight games behind the A’s for the second AL Wild Card spot. In missing out on the October festivities, they ran their postseason drought to 17 years, the longest in North American professional sports. Given a club record payroll ($157.9 million as of Opening Day 2018) and the game’s worst farm system, general manager Jerry Dipoto opted to plunge the team into rebuilding mode, bidding adieu to free agent Nelson Cruz and trading away Robinson Cano, Alex Colome, Edwin Diaz, James Paxton, Jean Segura, and Mike Zunino, among others — nearly all of the popular kids, basically. With Kyle Seager suffering a torn tendon in his left hand, the only players common to Seattle’s 2018 and ’19 Opening Day lineups were Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger, and Ichiro Suzuki, the last of whom used the Japan series as a farewell tour. Read the rest of this entry »

Dodgers Bashing Their Way to the Head of the Pack

The Dodgers juggernaut was stopped in its tracks on Monday night in St. Louis. For the first time in this young season, the team failed to homer, and for the second time, they failed to score at least four runs, and for just the third time in 11 games, they lost. Still, there’s much for the two-time defending NL champions to be happy about at this point in the season, particularly compared to last year.

Recall that it took the 2018 Dodgers until the third game of the season to get on the board, as they lost their first two games by 1-0 scores, both courtesy of Joe Panik solo homers. With a lineup lacking Justin Turner and a bullpen coping with a struggling Kenley Jansen, they stumbled to a 4-9 start, took until the 19th game of the season to score their 87th run, and didn’t really right the ship until mid-May, after they’d dug a 16-26 hole and lost Corey Seager for the season due to Tommy John surgery.

It’s been a different story this time around. On Opening Day, the Dodgers pounded out a major league record eight home runs against the Diamondbacks, and so far, they haven’t looked back. Through 11 games, they’re 8-3 with 87 runs scored, the most by a team to this point in the season since the turn of the millennium:

Most Runs Scored Through 11 Games Since 1901
Rk Team Year W-L RS RA Rdiff Final Finish Postseason
1 Yankees 1932 8-3 95 52 43 107-47 1 WS Champ
2T Rockies 1997 8-3 91 56 35 83-79 3
2T Americans 1901 6-5 91 85 6 79-57 2
2T White Sox 1901 7-4 91 64 27 83-53 1 AL Pennant
5 Indians 1999 9-2 90 50 40 97-65 1 Division Champ
6T Brewers 1901 3-8 88 97 -9 48-89 8
6T Athletics 1994 6-5 88 78 10 51-63 2
8 Dodgers 2019 8-3 87 52 35 N/A N/A N/A
9T Yankees 1950 7-4 86 59 27 98-56 1 WS Champ
9T Tigers 1901 8-3 86 85 1 74-61 3
9T Orioles 1901 7-4 86 70 16 68-65 5
9T Tigers 1993 7-4 86 55 31 85-77 3
9T Cardinals 1901 5-5 86 76 10 76-64 4
14T Mariners 2019 9-2 85 56 29 N/A N/A N/A
14T Giants 1962 8-3 85 51 34 103-62 1 NL Pennant
14T Yankees 1926 8-3 85 53 32 91-63 1 AL Pennant
17T Blue Jays 1994 6-5 84 70 14 55-60 3
17T Cardinals 1962 7-3 84 53 31 84-78 6
19T Cardinals 2000 7-4 83 65 18 95-67 1 Division Champ
19T Indians 1995 7-4 83 57 26 100-44 1 AL Pennant
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

As you might expect, bashing out so many runs so early often portends good things. While “only” eight of the 18 teams above besides this year’s Dodgers and Mariners made the playoffs, five of those 18 teams (including the Boston Americans, who became the Red Sox circa 1908; the Milwaukee Brewers, who became the St. Louis Browns in 1902; and those Baltimore Orioles, who were dissolved and replaced by the New York Highlanders in 1903) were battling it out in the inaugural edition of the American League, which must have been crazy circa April and May, 1901; the Junior Circuit averaged 5.35 runs per game that year overall, compared to 4.63 in the NL. Read the rest of this entry »