Baseball in April

A few thoughts on this last Saturday of April.

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Ben Lindbergh wrote an excellent piece for Grantland about the state of baseball in this first month of 2015. Among other things, he notes that games this year are, on average, seven minutes shorter than they were last year. Baseball’s attempts to quicken the pace of the game – by penalizing batters who step out of the box and by enforcing a strict time limit between innings – are working. And so now we have seven more minutes of free time every day.

Except you know what I would like to do with those seven minutes? Watch baseball. I’ve never been annoyed by the pace of a baseball game, but I am not a normal baseball fan. I think that’s pretty obvious.

Objectively, the pace-of-play measures are good for baseball. They’re trimming the excesses, which have certainly become worse over the last few years. But, come on, seven minutes per game is not that big of a deal. If you’re a baseball fan, you’re going to watch a game if it’s three hours or if it’s three hours and twenty minutes or if it’s two hours and fifty minutes. And also, most people don’t watch the entire game. They’ll watch for an inning or two here, then maybe go to the gym or go out to eat or live their life, and then check back in the sixth or seventh, and then watch an episode of Game of Thrones, and then tune back in for the ninth.

Baseball is the game without a clock, and I hope it stays that way. I don’t want to see a mandatory pitch clock between pitches. It’s too regimented and invasive and weird and it goes against the natural ebbs and flows of the game.

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The Yankees have won seven of their last eight. They’re 10-7. I think they might be good this year! It’s certainly possible.

The pitching has been great. Their team ERA is 3.21, which is 29% better than the league average. After a rough two starts, Masahiro Tanaka has rebounded and is looking like the ace he is supposed to be. Michael Pineda continues to throw strikes at a ridiculous pace – in 25 innings, he has 2 walks and 27 strikeouts. CC looked great in his last outing in Detroit. And Nathan Eovaldi actually has the lowest ERA of the bunch.

The bullpen has been dominant. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have combined to throw 16 innings with 27 strikeouts. Neither has allowed a run. I really like Chasen Shreve – he’s a lefty who can get guys out from both sides. David Carpenter seems like he can handle the seventh inning well. Esmil Rogers is a solid long-man.

Also, the pitching staff is really young. Other than CC, every starter is 27 or younger. Andrew Miller is the oldest guy in the bullpen at 30.

The offense has been much better than I thought. Mark Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter, but he’s among the league leaders with seven home runs. Chris Young is hitting .357/.426/.762 which is awesome and totally unsustainable. Ellsbury and Gardner are both causing havoc at the top of the lineup. McCann and Beltran continue to struggle, but on the whole the Yankees have hit well and have a team 113 OPS+.

And then of course there’s A-Rod. The four home runs are nice, but the best part about his season is that he’s seeing pitches really well and getting on base at a very high clip. He leads the league with 14 walks and has a .424 on base percentage. That would actually be the highest of his career.

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I don’t know how this is legal, or how it’s possible to throw 98 mph like this, but check out Carter Capps’ windup:

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Last year I wrote about Koji Uehara’s dominance. The Royals’ Wade Davis has something to say about that.

Since September 2013, Davis has thrown 97 innings. He has struck out 140 and allowed just 9 runs. That’s a 0.84 ERA over nearly 100 innings.

Davis was a failed starter who had some pretty awful years with Tampa Bay and Kansas City. He joins a long list of failed starters who went on to become dominant in the bullpen – Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Dellin Betances, and probably a dozen others that I can’t think of right now.

He might be the most important Wade-Davis since 1864.

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3 thoughts on “Baseball in April

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