Some quick thoughts here on things I have observed over this first week or so of baseball, plus some shoutouts to the NBA.
Fans have been given many reasons to despise Gabe Kapler, and chief among them is his overuse of the pitching change. According to ESPN, the man ran through 26 pitchers in the team’s first five games. However, as I happened to somehow be watching a Phillies game, one of the announcers pointed out something interesting; pitching changes don’t work.
Batters are, on average, faring better when they face a newly-subbed reliever. This mostly applies to lefties who have to face that one guy out of the bullpen, but it still holds true across the boards. So why are managers so enamored with constantly shaking up who’s on the mound?
I don’t know, maybe analytics? Anyways, another thing that caught my eye was the whole Chance Sisco/Twins debacle. If you aren’t familiar, this is how the story goes: It was the bottom of the ninth and Twins pitcher Jose Berrios was working on a one-hit shutout. The Twins had supplied him with a 7-0 lead, and he was grooving. When Orioles catcher Chance Sisco came up to bat, three of the Twins infielders promptly moved to the right side of the infield, in other words shifting against the lefty pull-hitter. Seeing only one man on the left side of second base, Sisco promptly laid down a nice bunt towards third and was rewarded with a single. After the game, multiple Twins players displayed their disgrace for the play, and Berrios said “I just know it’s not good for baseball.” What? I have been waiting soooooo long for someone to finally do this. Anthony Rizzo tried a few times last year but quickly went back to his normal routine. It angers me so much to watch these stubborn left handers continue to pull the ball right (get it, right?) into the shift. THEY’RE GIVING YOU A HIT IF YOU JUST LAY DOWN A BUNT! Being a rookie, Sisco hasn’t reached that level of arrogance yet, so he did the smart thing; they left the third base line open, so that’s where he hit it. After all, isn’t that your goal in hitting? Hit it where they’re not? The Twins have no real gripe here, and I applaud Sisco for doing what we all thought was the obvious thing in that situation. Moving to the other end of the spectrum, I saw the same shift applied to Sisco’s teammate Chris Davis last night against the Yankees. The Yankee announcers were befuddled that Davis wouldn’t take the hi(n)t, but one of them made a solid point, saying “If I asked Chris why he doesn’t bunt, he would say it’s his job to hit home runs.” Surely enough, Davis homered to right on the next pitch. It’s like when a guy in the NBA throws up a terrible three and it goes down. Then you know he’s gonna try it again…
Speaking of the NBA, can we just take a second (or minute or hour or day) to recognize the great basketball that has been played in the Northwest division? I know it is easily the most irrelevant and geographically spread-out division in the NBA, but still. Only four games separate the last-place Nuggets from the first place Trail Blazers, and all five of those teams could make the playoffs. Those Nuggets, with their 44-35 record, would be in first place if they played in the Southeast division, a stark contrast to the level of basketball. Speaking of that Southeast...their division has combined to win 167 games. The next-lowest total is 179 from the Pacific division. Ouch.