In what was one of the most controversial decisions in recent World Series history, Tampa Bay Rays Manager Kevin Cash decided to pull his star pitcher only 5 ⅓ innings into Game 6 of the World Series with his team on the brink of elimination being down 3-2 in the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The reason this was such a controversial call was because Blake Snell had been pitching like the ace he was. In fact, he was so dominant so far in that game that he was the first pitcher in World Series history with 9 strikeouts and no walks in less than six innings of work. Up to that point he only had 73 pitches and was helping the Rays cling to a 1-0 lead. The decision to pull Snell came after he gave up a 1-out single in the sixth inning with the Dodgers two best hitters coming up in Mookie Betts and Corey Seager. This would be the start of the third time through the order and the data analytics have shown that Snell’s performance worsens after the first round. For his career, Snell allowed a .592 OPS the first time through, then a .711 and .742 for the second and third time.
It would not be uncommon for a manager to go to their best bullpen arm at this point. However, although Betts normally hits well against left handed pitchers, if you look at his stats for this year, he had the worst slugging percentage of any hitter in baseball against left-handed pitching and Seager is consistently a worse hitter against left-handed pitching. So, with Snell being a left-hander, it would have made sense to to leave him in especially since he had been performing exceptionally well. Instead, Kevin Cash decided to pull Snell citing the fact that he tends to became less effective the third time around the order. Cash then brought in his best reliever in Nick Anderson who was one of the best relievers in all of baseball during the regular season although he was a lot less effective in the postseason due to overuse. Things quickly spiraled out of control for the Rays as Betts would proceed to hit a double to put runners on second and third. The first run would score on a wild pitch and then Betts would score on a groundball to first by Seager where Betts would beat the throw at the plate for the series deciding run. When Betts scored the Dodgers took a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish en route to a World Series clinching Game 6 win.
After the game Kevin Cash was harshly criticized by the media and fans alike for his decision to pull Blake Snell early as it backfired severely and ended up costing the Rays the game. This decision shows one problem that many people have with the new age of analytics in baseball as managers now make their decisions seemingly based off of specific data only. I personally am an advocate for the use of analytics in baseball as I believe that you can gain a much deeper understanding of the game and player performances than you ever could by just watching with the naked eye. However, the problem comes when teams start to eliminate the human aspect of the game and go solely based on the data. While the overall data would suggest in that situation the right move was to pull Blake Snell, the eye test would tell you that pulling him was not the right decision. This is the ace of your staff, the best pitcher on your team, pitching his best game of the season with only 73 pitches thrown so far. Given the situation you need to trust your baseball instincts and experience to stick with your ace, even if the numbers don’t suggest that it’s necessarily the right decision. Sure, over the long term the numbers will be right but in this win or go home moment you should stick with your ace out on the mound unless he gives you a reason not to. Hindsight is 20/20 but in an elimination game, I’d rather risk losing with my best pitcher on the mound.
Over Halfway through the 2021 MLB season, we have gotten to witness two very unique and special performances so far from Angels Pitcher/Designated Hitter Shohei Ohtani and Blue Jays First Baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Shohei Ohtani is accomplishing things that we haven’t seen on a baseball field since the days of Babe Ruth. Ohtani has been an elite performer not only at the plate but also on the mound. As a hitter he leads the MLB in home runs with 33 and in slugging percentage at .678 to go with a .278 batting average, a .357 on-base percentage, 72 RBI’s and 12 steals. These are insanely impressive numbers for any player through just 86 games. What makes it all the more impressive is he does this while also being a full-time starting pitcher this season, pitching to a 3.49 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 13 games started. Shohei had the honor of being the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star Game while also batting leadoff. We have not seen a two-way player of this caliber since Babe Ruth. If Shohei can keep the lead league in home runs he’d be the first pitcher to lead the league in home runs since 1921. You would expect with the season Ohtani is having that he would be the runaway favorite for MVP so far. That is not the case though as Vladimir Guerrero Jr, son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, is putting up some phenomenal hitting numbers. Through 88 games, Guerrero Jr. is leading the league in batting average at .335, on-base percentage at .434, OPS at 1.111 and in RBIs with 77. He is also second in the MLB with 30 home runs, only behind Ohtani. This means that if he can keep the lead in batting average and RBI’s while passing Ohtani in home runs he will lead the MLB in the big three hitting stats and win the triple crown. That would make the debate for who should win AL MVP even more difficult. In my opinion the frontrunner for AL MVP at the moment should be Shohei Ohtani. Just given his hitting stats now, he’d probably be a top 5 candidate for MVP but there is also the fact that he is pitching at an elite level also. We have never seen a talent such as his where a player goes out and throws 100 mph and hits 450+ foot home runs in the same game. While Guerrero Jr. is having a great season, one that would be good enough to win MVP in almost any other year, he would need to pass Ohtani in home runs to secure the triple crown to have a chance to win MVP in my opinion. There is still nearly half a season ahead of us though and a lot can change. This will be the most exciting and historic MVP race that we have seen in decades.
In last month’s opinion piece, I talked about how there has been an unusually high rate of no-hitters across the MLB. Well, that trend has continued as in the past month there have been two more no-hitters courtesy of Spencer Trumbull and Corey Kluber. If you look at the no-hitters you do notice a trend. While there have been six no-hitters this year, there have only been three teams that have been no-hit: The Rangers, Mariners, and Indians. So maybe you could blame the spike in no-hitters on three historically bad offenses and argue that this isn’t a league-wide trend. That's the thing though, the entire MLB has been in a hit shortage. Currently the league average is .236 which would be the lowest single season batting average in MLB history if the season were to end today. All the possible reasons discussed in the last opinion piece regarding the rise in no-hitters including changes in the approach to hitting, increase in pitching speeds and the implementation of defensive shifts can be attributed to the league wide decline in hits. However, the defensive shifts have been a large part of baseball for years now and pitchers have been consistently throwing harder for years. The question then arises what makes this year so different? In 2019 and 2020 we were talking about the baseball itself because we were seeing baseballs fly out of the park at historical rates. In 2019 and 2020 the homerun per game rates were 1.39 and 1.28 which were the highest in baseball history. We saw hitters with career highs for home runs in the mid-teens suddenly hitting close to 30 home runs in a season. Pitchers were calling for a change in the baseballs as it was easier to hit home runs than it ever was before despite the pitchers pitching the same. The MLB announced that they’d be changing the balls going into the 2021 season with the hopes of taming the home run onslaught. They were able to achieve their goal as the home run per game rate is only 1.14 this year which is still high but nowhere near the past two years. Unfortunately, the deadening of the baseball not only reduced the number of home runs hit, but seemingly reduced the number of hits throughout baseball.
In my opinion, I think that softball is sexist. One reason is that even though it is similar to baseball, they made the game simpler. Instead of having a diameter of about 2.87 inches like a baseball, a softball has a diameter of 3.8 inches and while a baseball is white a softball is neon yellow. This allows a softball player to see the ball better and to be more likely to make contact with the ball. Another reason softball is sexist is that when baseball players reach the age of 13 they are required to use a drop 3 bat which is heavier and a lot harder to swing while softball players can stick with the lighter bats with a drop that is around 10. Softball is also sexist because the distance between the bases is shorter than in baseball. It is unfortunate that even though girls are allowed to play baseball when they are young, they are pushed towards playing softball once they reach high school age. Some girls who may want to continue to play baseball are basically forced into playing softball. If they prefer to play softball that is one thing, but they should have the option to play either. I think they should create both a boys baseball and girls baseball team like they do with soccer and basketball. An example of a time when this happened was during World War 2 because most of the baseball players were overseas fighting. This was portrayed in the movie "A League of Their Own." It talks about how during World War 2 a women’s baseball league was set up to provide baseball for America in a difficult time. I think they should create a league just like that one.There should be the same rules just the league would be all girls. I think this would be fair because with softball it gives the impression that girls are weaker and less talented than boys which is clearly not the case.
Comeback Player of the Year is an award that is given out to a player who is viewed to have had the biggest re-emergence in the league. This award is typically given out to players who are either coming off of a major season ending surgery that limited their production in prior years or players who had fallen off production wise only to return back to being an extremely productive player. This past year the AL Comeback Player of the Year award went to Salvador Perez who was coming off season ending Tommy John surgery in 2019 and the NL Comeback Player of the Year award went to Daniel Bard who after not playing in the MLB for seven years came back and pitched to a 3.65 ERA in 23 appearances, racking up 6 saves. For the 2021 season my prediction for AL Comeback Player of the Year is Joey Gallo and my prediction for NL Comeback Player of the Year is Stephen Strasburg. Joey Gallo is a player who has all the potential in the world but has yet to put everything together in a season while also staying healthy. Gallo has possibly the most raw power out of any player in the MLB. In 2017 and 2018 he hit 41 and 40 home runs respectively. These are superstar numbers for any player yet Gallo was not quite considered a superstar. This was because he had trouble hitting anything besides home runs. In the same years he topped 40 home runs his batting average was below .210 which is very bad. 2019 looked like the year he was finally putting it all together as he made his first All-Star team and was batting .253 with 22 home runs in 70 games before he suffered a season ending injury. When he returned in 2020 he did not look like the same player he had the year before as he batted .181 with only 10 home runs in the 57 games he played in the shortened season. The only bright spot was that he won a gold glove for his outfield play. I believe that if he could get back to the form he was showing in 2020 mixing his insane power with at least an average batting average to go along with gold glove defense he has the potential to be one of the best players in the MLB. For the NL Comeback Player of the Year, Stephen Strasburg is the clear favorite in my opinion. Strasburg is one of the most talented pitchers in all of baseball. The 2009 first overall pick has been an All-Star three times on top of winning the 2019 World Series MVP Award. Before the 2020 season Strasburg signed a 7-year, $245 million contract with the Nationals. Expectations were sky-high going into 2020 with him being a favorite for the NL Cy Young Award. Unfortunately, he only played in two games in 2020 with the second one being limited to one inning due to a nerve issue in his pitching hand. With him back to full health for the 2021 season, I can see him bouncing back and producing at an All-Star level once again.
With the 2020 MLB Playoffs starting many people have very different picks for who they think is going to end up winning the World Series. This can vary anywhere from the young upstart teams like the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox to the all-time great franchises like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. This 2020 season is unlike anything we have ever seen and there is potential for anything to happen. In my opinion I think that the Los Angeles Dodgers will win the 2020 World Series. I believe that this year they are the best team in baseball, as evidenced by their Major League best 43-17 record. They finished three games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays who had the second best record in all of baseball. When it comes to postseason experience the Dodgers have plenty of it having won the NL West the past eight years in a row and having made it to the World Series in 2017 and 2018. Unfortunately they were not able to win the World Series in either of those years. I believe that this is their year though. Their offense is led by 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger and 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts providing the starpower. They also get a lot of offense from sluggers such as Max Muncy, Will Smith, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and others. On top of this potent offense, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a great pitching staff with all-time great Clayton Kershaw and a young superstar in Walker Buehler heading the staff with two other great young starters in Julio Urias and Dustin May. To cap it off they have a bullpen consisting of star closer Kenley Jansen, the young fireballer in Brusdar Graterol as well as Alex Wood, Pedro Baez, Joe Kelly and many other solid relievers. When it comes to depth and star power in all aspects of the game, I think it is impossible to find a team that can match up with the Dodgers. This is why they are my pick to win the 2020 World Series.
A no-hitter is when a pitcher throws a complete game in which they do not give up any hits. The difference between a no-hitter and a perfect game is that in a perfect game no one can reach base while in a no-hitter a batter can still reach base by any means except for a hit. No-Hitters are one of the rarer accomplishments in baseball with there being on average two per season and the most no-hitters in a single season since 1900 being nine in the 1990 season. Yet in the 2021 season there have already been four no-hitters; five if you include Madison Bumgarner’s seven inning complete game no-hitter. So, the question bears asking, why have there been so many no-hitters so far in 2021 despite the season not even being a quarter of the way finished. There can be a few explanations for this sudden increase in no-hitters. First off is that the way hitting is being approached in the MLB has changed significantly. Hitters are focused more on launch angles and exit velocity in an attempt to hit more homeruns. This has worked given that the total season homerun record for the entire MLB has been broken multiple times in recent years. As a result of this though, strikeout numbers have been increasing at a much higher rate. In the past 15 years the percentage of strikeouts per plate appearance across the league has increased to a new record high basically every single year. The increase in strikeout numbers leads to a higher chance of a no-hitter occurring because if hitters put the ball in play less there is less of a chance of them getting a hit. A hitter doesn’t always hit the ball well when they get a hit so the more often the ball is put in play, the more likely they are to get a lucky hit. Another reason for the increase in no-hitters is the implementation of defensive shifts. With more analytics in the game than ever before, teams can shift their defenses based off hitter’s trends for where they put the ball in play. This way even if a player does put the ball in play, they are more likely to hit it to an area with a surplus of defenders. The rise in defensive shifting is also a major factor for why more hitters are becoming homerun or bust cause many hitters decided the best way to be successful is to hit the ball over all the fielders as opposed to finding holes. Lastly pitchers are throwing more no-hitters because they are becoming just harder to hit in general. Over the past decade the average fastball velocity in the MLB has increased from just above 90 mph to 93.5 mph in the last full season in 2019. This velocity increase of about 3 mph makes it that much harder for a hitter to make contact as they have even less time to react to pitches. There is also the spin rate revolution in which pitchers have been able to work on increasing their spin rate on pitches which means their off-speed pitches will move more and all their pitches will be harder to make good contact with. All these factors are the largest factors for the increase in no-hitters in 2021 so far.
Please Note: The opinions expressed here are individual opinions and should not be considered the opinions of the organization.
"Baseball was, is and always will be the best game in the world"
- Babe Ruth
In an offseason that has been unusually slow with free agent signings we have already seen quite a few blockbuster trades occur. The first occurred when the San Diego Padres acquired former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays for a package highlighted by prospects Luis Patino and Francisco Mejia. Not to be outdone by themselves, the Padres then went on to acquire 2020 NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs for a package revolving around starter Zach Davies and four prospects. The Padres were not the only team making some big trades this offseason though. Recently the New York Mets acquired All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starter Carlos Carrasco from the Cleveland Indians for shortstops Andres Gimenez and Ahmed Rosario in addition to top prospects Isiah Greene and Josh Wolf. These trades both helped their respective teams greatly as it addressed what was probably the weaker points of both teams.
The San Diego Padres surprised many people in 2020 by making the playoffs and almost stole the division from the Los Angeles Dodgers. With a potent offense fittingly named Slam-Diego during the year, the Padres have an offense that can compete with almost anyone in baseball. While the offense centers around the left side of the infield duo in Fernando Tatis Jr and Manny Machado, the rest of the lineup is full of great hitters that can do damage. The thing that really held the Padres back was their starting pitching. They had a solid 1-2 punch in Zach Davies and breakout star Dinelson Lamet but after that the rotation left a lot to be desired especially with Chris Paddack not quite replicating his great rookie year. They had seemingly addressed this by trading for Cleveland star Mike Clevinger. Unfortunately, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery a few weeks after joining the Padres and is expected to miss the entirety of the 2021 season. What better way to sure up your rotation than to trade for two Cy Young caliber pitchers. Now the Padres will be entering 2021 with one of the deadliest big threes in baseball.
While the Padres are looking like one of the scariest teams in baseball for 2021, you can’t write off the New York Mets. The Mets are probably the biggest what-if team in all of baseball. The Mets have all the talent in the world with a great young offense and possibly the most talented rotation in baseball, when healthy. That has been the statement that has defined the Mets for the past few years: when healthy. If you look at the Mets rotation it has the potential to be not only the best in baseball but one of the best we’ve seen in the past few decades. The ace of their rotation is Jacob DeGrom who is considered by pretty much every baseball expert to be the best pitcher in baseball. He won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2018 and 2019 while finishing third in the Covid shortened 2020 season. You could not ask for a better pitcher to lead your rotation. He is followed up by All-Stars Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman, who when healthy are two of the best pitchers in baseball. The reason that the trade with the Indians matters so much is that it was able to give the Mets rotation the thing they were missing which was depth. On a lot of teams Carlos Carrasco would be a number two starter. In my opinion he has been one of the most underrated pitchers for years. On the Mets he is going to be their number four starter. This rotation is in my opinion the best in baseball. The marquee acquisition with Cleveland was not Carrasco but shortstop Francisco Lindor. The Mets have been lacking consistency out their shortstop position for a while. No better way to fix this than by acquiring a top three shortstop in baseball. Lindor is a gold glove caliber fielder who can hit for power from both sides of the plate while getting on base at an elite level. This move helps to solidify the Mets infield while giving them a huge threat at the top of their lineup.
Looking back at these trades I believe that the Padres have put themselves closer to winning a World Series than the Mets have due to the fact that they seemingly only had one glaring weakness that they more than adequately fixed while the Mets still have one or two things they still need to sure up on top of making sure they can finally keep their players healthy. While I think the Padres are in a better spot currently, especially given their great success last year, I think the Mets are not done with making moves as new owner Steve Cohen has indicated and a lot can change before the season begins.
Over my baseball career, I have played for many good coaches and there are a few traits that I believe are most important for a coach to have to be considered a great coach. In my opinion, it is imperative that a coach be kind and treat his or her players with respect while still being strict. That is a difficult balance for a coach to accomplish. Some coaches just yell at their players non-stop which lowers their confidence and makes playing the game less fun. Other coaches aren’t strict enough and their players fool around which can lead to mistakes, bad performances and sometimes injury. A good coach knows when it is best to be more laid back and when to be more serious. Another important trait for a coach to have is to be knowledgeable about the game. Coaches have to know the rules so they can know what players are allowed to do and what is illegal. They also have to know when to put certain pitchers in, what the batting order should be, what players to put at each position, what plays are most successful, etc. Coaches have to know what would work best for their team. The coaches should also know their players strengths and weaknesses and what they feel comfortable doing so they don’t put them in a position to fail. If a coach knows his or her players, he or she can get the best from each and every one of them. I really believe this is the best trait because if a coach and a player have a strong bond then they both know their limitations. It makes the players have something extra to fight for and to give 110% every game for their coach. Players should be made to feel like their team is their second family. Coaches who inspire their kids to play their hardest and do their best and who are kind to their players and others are often well liked and more successful.
2020 was a wild year not only for the world but also for the game of baseball as we saw a shortened regular season and updated playoff logistics in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people were not sure if the pandemic would affect the 2021 season too. However, here we are in April of 2021 and things are making a return to what we know as normal for baseball. There are fans again in stadiums, even if it is in limited capacity. Most notable is the regular season is returning to the usual 162 game schedule. This will change a lot of things as we now can get a better sense for who the top teams are because teams will not be as affected by large hot or cold streaks. They will have a lot more games to make up for a slump or to fall off from a hot streak. In my opinion, I believe that the Los Angeles Dodgers will go back-to-back and win the 2021 World Series. The Dodgers won the 2020 World Series and, even after that fact, I believe that they are an even better team this year. On the offensive side the only contributors they lost from last year’s team were Joc Pederson and Kike Hernandez who are very good baseball players by all regards but were more of utility players than true starters. The Dodgers replaced Kike Hernandez with Gavin Lux, one of the most highly touted prospects in baseball with a ton of potential. Plus now the Dodgers will get a full year of production again out of former MVP’s Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts. To go along with these superstars, they also have other stars in shortstop Corey Seager, infielder Max Muncy, third baseman Max Muncy and catcher Will Smith. Additionally, the Dodgers already had one of the best rotations with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Dustin May, and Julio Urias. So this did not seem like it would need to be an area for the Dodgers to address in the offseason. That didn’t stop the Dodgers though as they went out and signed 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer to be yet another ace for this pitching staff. Plus David Price, a former Cy Young Award pitcher from his days on the Tampa Bay Rays, is returning to provide more pitching depth after sitting out the 2020 season. Lastly, the Dodgers still have one of the best bullpens in baseball with a bullpen full of closer level relievers in Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, and Brusdar Graterol. The Dodgers are, in my opinion, the team with the most depth of any team in baseball with not only superstar level starters but substitutes who would be starters on many other teams. I believe this combination of firepower and positional depth leaves them as the team with by far the best odds of winning the 2021 World Series.
2020 has been a year where we have seen a lot of firsts for women in the United States. We elected our first ever female Vice President of the U.S. We also saw the first ever female coach of an NFL team appear in the Super Bowl. In continuing with the trend of major firsts for women in 2020, the MLB saw its first ever hiring of a female General Manager. The Miami Marlins decided to make the historic move by hiring Kim Ng to be their General Manager. This was a great example of a woman breaking the glass ceiling in a field usually dominated by men. Despite what some people might think this was not a publicity stunt by the Marlins so they could just say they hired a female GM. Kim Ng is one of the most qualified executives in all of baseball given her past experience. In her almost 30-year career working in baseball she has held numerous high-ranking positions. She was hired to be the assistant GM of the New York Yankees in 1998 and in her four years with the team they won four American League Pennants and three World Series. She would then move on to become the assistant GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers for ten years. In 2011 she decided to move on from the Dodgers where for the past 9 years she held the position of senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball. This was one of the most prestigious positions within MLB’s operations. As you can see, she is more than qualified to earn a GM position but unfortunately accomplishments and experience isn’t the whole story when it comes to earning a position. She had been in the running for many GM positions in the past, but she kept missing out on the position. It would appear that the fact that she was an Asian-American female may have been holding her back from getting the opportunity she deserved. That is why this was such a historic moment when Marlins owner Derek Jeter hired her to become the GM of his team; it had marked the end of the years-long battle she was facing to break through racial and gender barriers.