Remember when 2016 was the new Year of the Homer, featuring the second-highest home run rate in MLB history and supplanting 1987 in terms of unexpectedness? Well, 2017 laughed at that notion and bumped the homer rate by another 10 percent, setting a new record of 1.26 home runs per team per game. So now the question is whether 2018 will surpass even last year’s “Year of the Homer 2: Electric Boogaloo.”
The most maddening aspect of guessing where offense is going in baseball is the why. A 25 percent increase in homers over a two-year period is stunning. A similar change occurred from 1992 to 1994, and even a quarter of a century later, that shift is largely unexplained. League expansion isn’t enough to account for that change, and one of the pop-science explanations — performance-enhancing drugs — would necessitate everybody discovering the benefits of PEDs in an 18-month period, because the home run rate stayed flat for most of the next decade. With no expansion teams, as well as drug testing since 2004, even those hole-filled theories aren’t available to explain the latest home run boost.
One possible theory is that the baseballs are constructed differently, something commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball have denied, though without actually providing any rebuttal to what researchers have found. One thing will be different this year: MLB has announced that all baseballs will be stored in air-conditioned rooms in 2018, to help determine if they should subsequently be stored in humidors in 2019 to standardize the temperature and humidity they’re kept in across the game. In theory, this change could ultimately result in lower exit velocities for a hit baseball; harder-hit baseballs are more likely to be home runs.
So one question that brings up is what effect this would have on the results, for both players and teams. Projections are made with certain assumptions for levels of offense around the league, and organizations are aware of those assumptions as they construct their teams. But what happens if we turn back the clock and the level of offense is more like 2015 than 2016-2017? To answer this question, I went back and ran my 2018 projections at 2015’s level of offense and looked for the largest differences. I also used playing time generated from estimated playing time based on current rosters, rather than the straight-up ZiPS projections (ZiPS is agnostic on which minor leaguers will play).
The MLB teams with the most serious work still to do this offseason
I write this with great respect for my many friends who are Mets fans: It might be redundant to say they are irrational. It wasn’t surprising, then, that within a few weeks of Steve Cohen being installed as the team’s new owner, some among the Mets’ faithful — their suffering made possible by years of watching the team seemingly aim to finish second in bidding wars — began griping about the lack of a big, bold move.
Never mind that the start of spring training is still many weeks away. Never mind that this winter market was painfully slow to begin with. Never mind that the Mets had already distinguished themselves from the inactivity of other teams by executing two relatively aggressive moves, signing catcher James McCann to a four-year, $40.6 million contract and reliever Trevor May to a two-year, $15.5 million deal.
Former Oakland Athletics pitcher Dave Stewart bids $115 million on share of Oakland Coliseum
With both the NBA’s Warriors and NFL’s Raiders leaving the site in recent years, the A’s are the last pro team using the Coliseum. The team has undergone steps to build a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, about seven miles uptown.
The A’s currently own the other half of the Coliseum.
In a Tweet on Saturday night, Stewart, who grew up in the area, said doing “right by our community” is the driving force behind the bid. He told the Chronicle he has ideas of developing the area and potentially building a new stadium there if plans for the Howard Terminal ballpark fall through.
Home has ALWAYS been where my heart is. Oakland is every bit of who and why I am… An opportunity to do right by our community, keep our community, to do BETTER by our community is the only driving force for me in this. #wishusluck #Godspeed https://t.co/zwy3ocDgsk
— Dave “Smoke” Stewart (@Dsmoke34) January 17, 2021
Stewart, 63, played parts of eight seasons in Oakland and helped the team win a World Series in 1989.
Tri-City ValleyCats suing Major League Baseball, Houston Astros
TROY, N.Y. — Left in the lurch by minor league contraction, the Tri-City ValleyCats have filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball and the Houston Astros.
The suit, filed Thursday in New York State Supreme Court, seeks more than $15 million, ValleyCats chairman Doug Gladstone told the Albany Times-Union. The move comes in response to MLB’s decision to drop 42 minor league affiliates.
The ValleyCats played in the now-defunct New York-Penn League, operating as a short-season affiliate of the Astros for 18 seasons.
Gladstone told the Times-Union the loss of the affiliation greatly affected the value of the franchise, which was moved from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Troy in 2002 by Gladstone’s late father. It had previously been located in Little Falls, New York.
The ValleyCats won three New York-Penn League championships and drew more than 4,000 fans per game for 11 straight seasons, from 2008-18.
In their most recent season, Tri-City had the third-highest attendance in the 14-team league, averaging more than 3,869. The only two teams that were higher, Brooklyn and Hudson Valley, survived with moves to a new league.
The team is joining the independent Frontier League and will continue to play its home games at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
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