The scariest stat for every Way-Too-Early Top 25 team

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Every team in Mark Schlabach’s 2017 Way-Too-Early Top 25 is projected to win, and win big. But every team also has one number that could derail the best laid plans and biggest dreams. Here is the scariest stat for every top 25 team.

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1. AlabamaAlabama’s defense lived in opponents’ backfields last season, disrupting quarterbacks while finishing second nationally in stops at or behind the line of scrimmage. The problem? The team’s top four leaders in sacks and top five leaders in QB hurries are all gone from last season. — Alex Scarborough

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2. Florida StateThrough the first five weeks, no Power 5 defense was on the field less than the Seminoles, yet they give up 42.3 points per game or 1.9 points per minute, which was dead last among the 65 Power 5 teams when playing FBS opponents. One of the biggest issues was the defense’s inability to stop dual-threat quarterbacks. The defense drastically improved in the second half, but the quarterbacks weren’t nearly as mobile or talented during that stretch. The 2017 opens with Alabama’s Jalen Hurts. — Jared Shanker
cheap jerseys from china 3. USC Editor’s PicksBest numbers to know for each Way-Too-Early Top 25 football teamHaving a returning QB as good as Penn State’s Trace McSorley is a cause for much optimism this time of year. How much so? Here’s the most promising number or stat to know for each top-25 team.
Wholesale Keavon Milton jersey The biggest workout warrior on every Way-Too-Early Top 25 football teamAs the NFL draft approaches, we are bombarded with 40-yard dash times and eye-popping bench presses. So who are the workout warriors on each team from the Way-Too-Early Top 25?
The biggest weakness for every Way-Too-Early Top 25 teamYes, they’re still the best teams in the country, but from Alabama’s passing game to Ohio State’s receivers to Washington’s secondary, each top-25 team has one big flaw.
Offensive linemen Damien Mama (30), Chad Wheeler (38) and Zach Banner (45) combined for 113 starts during their USC careers. The Trojans have a lot of size and experience to replace on the offensive line, and that’s not great news for quarterback Sam Darnold, who enters the 2017 season as a Heisman frontrunner. — Chantel Jennings
4. Ohio StateThe vaunted deep ball that made Urban Meyer’s attack so difficult to defend on the way to the national title in 2014 had all but disappeared a year ago, which is one major reason Kevin Wilson is Ohio State’s new offensive coordinator. There was plenty of blame to go around, but no matter where the finger points, averaging 6.4 yards per pass — ranked just 85th in the nation — isn’t going to cut it again for a national-title contender. — Austin Ward
5. Penn StateThe Nittany Lions won the Big Ten despite struggling most of the year on third downs. Penn State converted just 32.6 percent of their third-down attempts in 2016, which was 118th nationally. The Nittany Lions went a combined 7-of-20 on third downs in the Big Ten title game win over Wisconsin and the Rose Bowl loss to USC. That’s an area that needs to improve for the team to repeat as champions. — Brian Bennett
6. ClemsonThe Tigers averaged just 2.84 yards per rush before contact last year, good for 49th in the Power 5. Those were numbers produced with Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman in the backfield. This year, the Clemson offense will go into battle with an inexperienced tandem at QB and running back, and without center Jay Guillermo. If Dabo Swinney’s crew can find more running room, it’s going to be awfully tough for those new faces in the backfield to get acclimated. — David M. Hale
7. WashingtonThe Huskies lose 123 career starts with the departures of safety Budda Baker, and cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Kevin King (Jones and Baker over the past three years, King over the last four). Now the most experienced unit on Washington’s team becomes its most youthful. — Chantel Jennings
8. OklahomaDede Westbrook, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon comprised 79 percent of Oklahoma’s rushing yards and 52 percent of its receiving yards last season; all three players are now gone. — Jake Trotter
9. LSUWhen Phil Steele put out his list of returning starters for each FBS team, LSU’s total (11) tied for last in the SEC. That includes names like Leonard Fournette, Jamal Adams, Tre’Davious White, Kendell Beckwith, Duke Riley and Ethan Pocic. The cupboard is far from bare, but this team will not hold a candle to the 2016 squad in terms of game experience. — David Ching
10. Oklahoma StateThe Cowboys’ most indispensable player, QB Mason Rudolph, may not be safe in the pocket as a senior. Since the start of 2014, OSU has surrendered 103 sacks. That’s more than all but one Big 12 team — Iowa State has allowed 104 — and ranks 113th out of 125 teams nationally. — Mitch Sherman
11. Auburn
Auburn’s record against top rivals Alabama and Georgia is 0-6 over the past three seasons. Nobody will forget Auburn’s wins over the Tide and Bulldogs in 2013 — Gus Malzahn’s first season — but he has gone winless in all six games since. There’s still some talk that Malzahn might be on the hot seat heading into the 2017 season. If he loses to both Alabama and Georgia this November, that seat will only get hotter. — Greg Ostendorf
12. Wisconsin
For years, Wisconsin’s bread and butter has been its rushing attack. And although the Badgers don’t possess any glaring weakness, one area they could stand to improve is their passing game. Wisconsin did not pass for more than 191 yards in each of its final seven games last season. This year, redshirt sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook will take over on a full-time basis after splitting time with Bart Houston last season. Only once in the past five seasons has Wisconsin averaged 200 yards passing per game. — Jesse Temple
13. Georgia
Quarterback Jacob Eason completed just 26.9 percent of his passes (14 of 52) last year when he was under duress. He threw just one touchdown and three interceptions, fumbled three times, and was sacked 21 times when under duress. Nine times he completed less than 40 percent of his passes under duress in a game, including going 0-for-8 in the Bulldogs’ loss to Ole Miss. Eason ranked 12th in the SEC in completion percentage when under duress. — Edward Aschoff
14. Michigan
One — as in the number of coaches in Michigan’s history that have started their career with three straight losses to Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh has made great strides in his first two seasons back in Ann Arbor, but he’s in jeopardy of joining Rich Rodriguez as the only other coach to lose to the Buckeyes in his first three tries. Rich Rod’s third loss was his final game as a Michigan coach. No one is going to want to get rid of Harbaugh even with a loss in the season finale, but the natives will begin to get restless without a victory. — Dan Murphy
15. Stanford
Christian McCaffrey averaged 211.5 all-purpose yards per game last season. Even with as impressive that is, it was a step down from the 276 all-purpose yards per game that he averaged in 2015. That’s a lot of yardage to replace, even if coach David Shaw is turning toward multiple players to do so. — Chantel Jennings
16. Miami
Miami has five quarterbacks competing for the starting job, but only one has started a collegiate game: Malik Rosier. The grand total in the career starts department? One. With the talent Miami returns on defense, expectations are surging. But what ends up happening at quarterback could determine whether the Hurricanes make it to their first ACC championship game. — Andrea Adelson
17. Kansas State
Active linebackers traditionally power the K-State defense. Last year, Elijah Lee and Charmeachealle Moore combined to record 185 tackles. Both are gone, leaving a dearth of experience. Returning defenders at the position group combined to make 40 tackles in 2016, led by Trent Tanking’s 19. — Mitch Sherman
18. Louisville
Over the past three years, Louisville has allowed 131 sacks — four more than any other team in the country. This has happened despite having one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the nation in Lamar Jackson. Last year’s late-season collapse could largely be pinned on the brutal play of the offensive line, including the embarrassing performance against Houston in which the Cardinals surrendered 11 sacks. Last year, nearly one-third of Jackson’s pass attempts came under pressure. That number needs to go way down if the Cardinals want to contend for a title in 2017. — David M. Hale
19. Colorado
The Colorado defense was a senior-laden group on every level and loses eight starters. Up front, the Buffs need to replace all three defensive linemen. At linebacker, they lost Kenneth Olugbode and Jimmie Gilbert. And on the back end, Colorado loses three of its four starters. On top of that, the Buffs lost defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to Oregon. — Chantel Jennings
20. South Florida
USF ranked as one of the worst pass defenses in the country a season ago, finishing No. 122 after allowing an average of 285.5 yards passing per game. Charlie Strong has made his name as a defensive coach, so you can bet one of the top priorities this cheap jersey spring is to make sure that number dips much lower. — Andrea Adelson
21. Washington State
Wide receiver Gabe Marks’ contributions to the passing game as the Cougs’ leading receiver over the past two seasons — 13 touchdowns, 89 receptions, 894 receiving yards — has been impressive. But, most importantly — and less measurable — is the fact that he has been a go-to guy for QB Luke Falk over those two seasons. With Marks’ departure, so goes Falk’s security blanket. — Chantel Jennings
22. West Virginia
Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, the Mountaineers have lost eight of 10 games against league frontrunners Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, allowing an average of 42 points per defeat. Last year, WVU outgained the Sooners and Cowboys by a total of 157 yards but still lost the two games by 45 points. — Mitch Sherman
23. Texas
Only three players on the 2017 roster have been on a Texas team that had a winning record. After 6-7, 5-7 and 5-7 seasons and a ton of roster turnover, they’re the only guys left from Mack Brown’s final season in 2013. Tom Herman has to rebuild a winning culture and figure out how to get these Longhorns to sustain success. — Max Olson
24. Boise State
Running back Jeremy McNichols accounted for 3,205 rushing yards and 44 rushing touchdowns during his three seasons in Boise. The junior declared for the NFL draft, leaving coach Bryan Harsin some big shoes to fill both in terms of rushing production and pass protections for quarterback Brett Rypien. — Chantel Jennings
25. Virginia Tech
Jerod Evans leaves Blacksburg with 97 percent of the Hokies’ passing yards and one-third of their rushing yards from 2016. Isaiah Ford, the only player in school history with a 1,000-yard receiving season (he has two), left. Bucky Hodges takes his 691 yards to the NFL. Evans, Ford and Hodges departing for the NFL early means there are a lot of questions for coach Justin Fuente to answer. — Jared Shanker

The “dead snap” is revolutionizing the quarterback-center exchange

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Jim Harbaugh needed to test the “dead snap.” If he was going to challenge football’s ultimate fundamental action, he would have to try it out for himself. So he lined up at quarterback in the shotgun, ready to handle the remodeled quarterback-center exchange advertised as the way to wipe out one of football’s most infuriating and unforgivable blunders — the bad snap.

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“Coach Harbaugh thought it was great,” Michigan offensive line coach Tim Drevno said. “Bad snaps can take points off the board and wins out of your hand.” Since then, Harbaugh-coached teams have ditched the spiral shotgun snap in favor of the dead snap. Revolution could be underway. Courtesy of Michigan AthleticsMore teams than ever before will break spiral-snap tradition and rely on the dead snap in 2017, as assistant coaches nurtured in the spread era flood sidelines and under-center playbooks become historical references. In 2016, 84 percent of snaps were run from the pistol or shotgun formation, a 33 percent increase since just 2011.

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“This is something you’re going to see more of,” Rutgers offensive line coach AJ Blazek said. Blazek was persuaded to experiment with football’s primordial function by Northwestern assistant Adam Cushing, who was at a crossroads with his centers after the 2015 season. They couldn’t snap the ball on target. His offensive coordinator, with each errant Saturday snap, would remind him of that. Seven snaps that season were classified as a disaster.
wholesale jerseys from china As Cushing canvassed the snapping landscape in his offseason probe, he noticed Michigan and a few other schools’ centers peculiarly palming the football’s nose rather than grabbing the laces in shotgun. They flipped and floated it back, allowing it to hang in the air without much rotation. It was a landmark judgment favoring precision over power.
Cheap Cliff Matthews jersey That crude simplicity is the dead snap’s most attractive feature. Once the ball is spotted, the center places the back point of the ball in his palm rather than gripping it like a quarterback arming a spiral. The nose is then placed into the ground so the ball is at a 45-degree angle with an inch of the ball grazing the turf. The fingers are spread, usually with one across the laces or seam to help with grip. Then with the wrist locked, the center swings his arm back like a pendulum and releases.
“Life changing,” Cushing said. It was the same for former Vanderbilt center Joe Townsend. Small hands, sweaty palms — that’s how he characterizes his mitts, which were at the core of his issues with the Commodores. His hands weren’t big enough to fully grip the football, and when the SEC swelter forced perspiration to slide down his arm, greasing the ball, he struggled to secure it.
Commodores guard Wesley Johnson suggested at a 2012 practice that he try a primitive sandlot method popular across backyards and barbecues. “Bear claw it,” Johnson said. Stick the nose into your palm and shuffle it back, he said. “Trust me, just try it.”
In the pre-practice walk-through, Townsend gave it an attempt. He didn’t tell then-position coach Herb Hand, but quickly Townsend was snapping perfect chest-high changeups the quarterbacks could easily gather. “Coach Hand said, ‘Joe, what the hell are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m trying something out,’ and cheap jersey he said, ‘Well, come to me before changing s— up!'” Townsend remembered. “But it worked, and I did it throughout my career.”
If the dead snap sounds complicated, centers assure it’s much easier than the spiral and avoids a hurtling fastball back to the quarterback. Northwestern center Brad North said his biggest flaw is overthinking, so after a 2015 season of bumbled snaps, he learned the straightforward dead snap in a few weeks. Last season, Northwestern did not have one snap that prematurely ended a play.
Elite programs can often recruit centers with a background in spiral snapping, and coaches usually won’t fiddle with a lineman who is comfortable with his delivery. But a lot of schools have to fit a lineman in at center and then guide him. North was a high school tackle who had never snapped.
“And you can’t be the starter if you can’t snap,” he said. The dead snap’s more straightforward technique allowed Max Tuerk to make an easier transition from tackle to center. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsBad snaps snowball, North said, until an offense is buried below an avalanche of broken plays. At USC in 2014, Drevno moved Max Tuerk from tackle to center, and the move wrecked practices, as Tuerk littered the field with stray snaps.
Confidence is a real concern for centers, but the dead snap is easier to learn, Drevno said. Tuerk finished 2014 first-team All-Pac-12. “I can teach a 5-year-old,” Drevno said. “That’s how easy it is.” That limited learning curve changes roster dynamics and opens up recruiting. Northwestern now has six linemen who can snap, opening up scholarships and insulating them from a rash of injuries.
“As an O-line coach, on day one you get rid of half the guys who can’t snap the ball, so you sleep better when instead of two centers you have six,” said John Kuceyeski, a Cornell assistant who spent time in the Big Ten, Big 12 and MAC. “I make all my guys [dead] snap now.”
Kuceyeski said he typically encounters three traditional snap issues: Often centers line up too far over the ball, which overextends the arm, creating an arcing snap; some centers have small hands and struggle with grip; and sometimes centers will turn their wrists inward or outward when pulling or reaching down the line.
The wrist was the hang-up for Ruben Carter when he transferred from Florida State to Toledo in 2015. Carter was fumbling 10 snaps per practice, former Toledo assistant Kuceyeski said. As then-coordinator Tom Manning tinkered with a ball during one brainstorming session, Manning remembered how he snapped as a pee-wee center. He used the dead snap then, so he introduced Carter to it.
“There’s got to be a reason they teach little kids it, and it’s got to be because it’s easier,” Manning said. If preteen Pop Warner centers are better at snapping than those at 10-win programs, why has it been used in only pockets of time over the past two decades? It turns out, the only thing preventing an earlier insurgency against the spiral snap was a library card. Coaches could have read up on the coach whose fabled name is bestowed on the youth circuit and is credited with setting the spread offense’s foundation.
In Pop Warner’s 1927 book “Football for Coaches and Players,” two center-back passes — the spiral and end-over-end pass — are discussed. “The spiral pass from center has absolutely no advantages over the end-over-end method … and I never encourage or teach it,” he wrote. Three years earlier, Jock Sutherland succeeded Warner at Pittsburgh, where both won national championships. In 1938, Sutherland held a coaches clinic, teaching the end-over-end snap, and today the antediluvian Jock Sutherland Snap, which used two hands, has been rebranded as the dead snap. The dead snap is merely a retrograde fall into a bygone era.
“Jock deserves credit for popularizing it,” football historian Hugh Wyatt said. “He felt it was better because it was softer and slower.” Those advantages unsurprisingly were not lost on one of the game’s most cerebral passers. Peyton Manning was on the receiving end of dead snaps for much of his time in with the Colts, and renowned line coach Howard Mudd stressed it with Jeff Saturday, who was Manning’s center for all but 1998.
Saturday understood the dead snap from college, where North Carolina used it to help quarterbacks keep their eyes downfield rather than focus on handling a blistering snap. Quarterbacks are able to spin it faster in their hands for a quick route, and some coaches even tweak it so the center spins the laces to the quarterback’s strong hand presnap.
“People underestimate on quick throws how important a good snap is,” Saturday said. “It could just be a half-second, but it’s the difference between your QB getting smoked and untouched.”
An exact number of teams using the dead snap is unavailable, but every coach and player interviewed said he is seeing increases. It’s still not widely talked about among coaches, though most coaches are willing to tutor colleagues. At last year’s coaches’ convention, Cushing organized a meeting of dead snap guerillas, intent on learning and making the North Chicago shores a dead snap stronghold.
This winter, Cushing went from student to sensei as coaches asked him to enlist them in the movement. And coaches who missed Cushing’s enlightened instruction can rest easy. They can apprentice next winter.
“As long as I coach the offensive line,” Cushing said, “it’s never changing.”

Trade Grades: Celtics Unload Avery Bradley To Pistons For Marcus Morris

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The Boston Celtics Jersey are trading Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons Jersey for Marcus Morris, according to The Vertical’s Shams Charania. For Boston, the trade is a corresponding move to the Gordon Hayward signing, as the Celtics need to clear a little more cap space to sign Hayward to a full max contract. The Pistons have been in the market for shooters, though their guard rotation could be a little crowded after the deal.

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Beggars can’t be choosers, and while teams around the league surely want some of Boston’s spare parts, no one is going to part with prime assets when they know the Celtics have no choice but to shed salary. Morris is a fine player, albeit one not as talented as his twin brother Markieff. Marcus is best suited at power forward, and he’s also capable of sliding to center and guarding multiple positions. His shooting isn’t consistent enough to make him an ideal stretch option in the frontcourt, but his career average from downtown is a respectable 35.5%. Morris should end up starting for Boston next to Al Horford, though the calculus could change if the team elects to keep Jae Crowder.

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Ultimately, for a team that needed to shed salary, picking up a useful player and losing a soon-to-be-expensive one is not a terrible move. Most importantly, this trade should allow Boston to sign Hayward without having to trade Crowder or Marcus Smart. It’s going to hurt the Celtics to lose one of their homegrown talents, but Bradley likely would have been priced out of the team’s plans by next season.?
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Bradley is a great pickup for Detroit. He is an absolute bulldog on both ends of the court. He is a First Team All-Defensive-caliber?defender who shot 39% from three last season, and he will be paid only $8.8 million this season. Detroit’s backcourt is getting crowded, however. How will the highly-paid Reggie Jackson, newly-signed Langston Galloway, draftee Luke Kennard, Bradley and Ish Smith all fit together? Bradley is easily the best of the bunch, and it’s likely the Pistons now let restricted-free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sign somewhere else. (KCP is definitely gone if he signs a max offer sheet.)
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Bradley will be a free agent next summer, but the Pistons acquired his Bird rights in the deal, which could give them a leg up in signing a player whose prime is still ahead of him. Detroit still needs to sort out its backcourt, but Bradley is a keeper, and if the Pistons can convince him to stick around, he’s a player who can be a building block for the future.?

LaVar Ball On Lonzo’s Losing Lakers Debut: ‘His Worst Game Ever’

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Lonzo Ball’s rocky Summer League debut opened with an eye-popping alley-oop pass and closed with a jaw-dropping assessment from his father, LaVar. Along the way, the 2017 No. 2 pick dished some spectacular assists, but struggled to find the range on his jumper, hitting just 2 of his 15 shots and only one of his 11 three-point attempts in a 96-93 overtime loss to the Clippers on Friday. He finished with five points, five assists, four rebounds and three turnovers.

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“[Lonzo] ain’t gonna be discouraged. This is the worst you can do,” said LaVar, who watched the game from a box near the court and addressed reporters in the mixed zone after the game. “He still kept his team in the game playing his worst game ever. … It’s better for him to start at the bottom than have all this success off the top and now everyone expects it the whole season. He’s gonna grow.”

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Ball didn’t just miss, he missed badly and at inopportune moments, rushing some of his attempts and throwing up multiple airballs. The Clippers’ guards regularly dared him to shoot, and yet he spent most of the night looking to pass first and second, tossing a beautiful lob to 2016 No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram, finding his teammates with quick passes in transition and lasering cross-court passes to shooters. In the extra period, however, Ball called his own number, attempting and missing two crucial three-pointers.
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“I liked the looks,” Ball said. “A lot of them were open. I was just missing shots. … I just hate losing. … The only way I can go now is up. This will probably be the worst game I have all week. … It’s on me. I missed a lot of shots. It’s my fault.”
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Those two late misfires helped put the finishing touches on a deflating end to an exciting night for the Lakers, whose fans filled the Thomas & Mack Center and treated Ball, Ingram cheap jersey and company to multiple standing ovations. The Lakers led by as many as 11 points over the Clippers thanks to 26 points (on 9-17 shooting) from Ingram, who showcased a soft jumper and a wide range of dribble moves while battling cramps.
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“That’s what I liked about him right here,” LaVar said of his son’s late misses. “He took the shots. They didn’t go in. But he took them. At the end of the game, are you willing to take the big shots? He’s willing to take them. He’s supposed to make those shots but he didn’t. Oh well. … [The Lakers] lost by three or four points in his worst game ever. So if he’s just alright, they win.”

The atmosphere in Las Vegas was electric, as fans donned jerseys of Ball, Ingram, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West. Lakers president Magic Johnson, GM Rob Pelinka and coach Luke Walton were all in attendance. Former Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell, who was traded to the Nets earlier this summer, also watched the game from the baseline. Meanwhile, Ball’s younger brother, LaMelo, took the court during a timeout to participate in a shooting contest with Clippers superfan “Clipper Darrell.”

“I’m going to show you what [Lonzo] did do,” Lavar said, praising his son’s box office power. “Look how many Lakers fans out here. He changed the culture. That’s what it’s about. It ain’t about him being a superstar. Instead of going to the movies, everybody is coming to watch the Lakers and Big Baller Brand.” Sindarius Thornwell led the Clippers with a game-high 26 points. Brice Johnson added 23 points and seven rebounds in the win.

MVP and Cy Young watch: Which Nats pitcher is No. 1?

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It’s June and what I’d call “the Emilio Bonifacio fluke factor” from the first few weeks has started to wear off. The personality of the season is starting to take greater shape as you can see who’s legit and who has been an aberration. We’re tracking MVP and Cy Young candidates monthly in this space, and through two months, we’re feeling pretty good that most of the names on this list still will be there at the end of the season.

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But there’s plenty of time for things to change. All stats are through May 31. Let’s dive in. … OPSWARPaul Goldschmidt jersey.9932.6Bryce Harper jersey1.0932.4Ryan Zimmerman jersey1.1182.2Zack Cozart jersey1.0303.0Goldschmidt looks like he brought elite power hitting back to his game, the kind he showed from 2013 to 2015. He’s the most multidimensional first baseman in the game in that he hits, hits for power, hits to all fields and (as those outside Arizona may forget) can run.

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There was a player with a 30-30 season in every full season from 1987 to 2012 except for 2010. But there hasn’t been one since. Goldschmidt can change that. With 12 home runs and 12 steals through the end of May, Goldschmidt should have a legit chance to become the second first baseman (or third if you count 1987 Joe Carter) to have a 30-30 season, joining Jeff Bagwell.
mlb throwback uniforms now and then And Goldschmidt is on pace to cut his strikeout total significantly from the past two seasons. The more balls he hits, the more damage he’ll do. Bryce Harper jersey, Washington Nationals jersey We’re warning you now that splitting the vote among teammates could be an issue in this MVP race, should Harper and Ryan Zimmerman jersey each maintain their superstar seasons.
cheap jerseys from china Harper and Zimmerman are basically even in Baseball-Reference’s batting runs stat (Zimmerman has a 21-20 edge), and the pendulum has swung back-and-forth between them. We’re giving Harper an edge because his impact has been more meaningful, at least through two months. He leads National League hitters in win probability added. Harper built up enough cachet with his first 35 games of the season that he’s able to withstand a 12-game (brawl included) 7-for-45 (.156 batting average) slump.
baseball apparel for cheap One odd quirk to Harper’s season that’s too small of a sample to mean something now, but bears watching: He’s hitting .418 with a 1.297 OPS in 27 night games, but .211 with an .826 OPS in 20 day games.
As much as I wanted to put Nolan Arenado jersey or Justin Turner jersey (currently on the DL) here, Zimmerman’s season is just too good to ignore. He appeared to be on the verge of a big slump, but he shook off a 3-for-22 six-game skid without issue. He’s hitting .400 in his past eight games and still is doing what got him to this point — covering the outer part of the plate — very well.
That we’re acknowledging Cozart as a legitimate MVP candidate is one of the most remarkable stories from the season’s first two months. Cozart’s .353/.447/.606 April likely was viewed as a fluke by just about every baseball fan. But he nearly replicated it with a .344/.420/.594 slashline in May.
What has changed for Cozart is his range at the plate is now as wide as his range in the field (and he leads NL position players with 3.0 WAR). He has never hit better than .248 against outside pitches (defined as outer half of the plate or off the outside corner) in a full season. This season, he has shown patience against those pitches (swinging at just over one third of them) and mashing them, to the tune of a .370 batting average. That and his glove make him the NL WAR leader at the end of May.
OPSWARMike Trout jersey1.2033.4Aaron Judge1.1183.1Carlos Correa jersey.9142.3Corey Dickerson jersey.9922.8We’re basing this choice on what is, not what will be. Trout will drop, though not necessarily drop out, over the next few weeks because of injury. By the way, Trout did come down to earth a little bit in May, hitting only .297, but that was offset by the damage he did — nine home runs and five doubles in 64 at-bats. But apparently Trout is so good, he can transfer his powers to his teammates. Eric Young Jr.’s stint as Trout’s replacement began with a 5-for-11 burst and his first home run since 2014.
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees jersey With Trout out, Judge’s profile becomes that of MVP front-runner, given the quality of his play and the attention he’ll get because of the market in which he plays. We concern ourselves with the former, with Judge leading the American League in home runs (17) and runs scored (40) through May, while slashing .327/.428/.690 and contributing six defensive runs saved in right field. He had only one instance of back-to-back games without a hit.
What we’re most curious about with Judge is whether he’ll revert to old habits and start struggling with outside pitches again. Last season he saw 180 outer-third/off-the-corner pitches, made 30 outs and had one hit. This season, he has made 47 outs on those pitches, but has 17 hits, including four home runs.
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Correa flipped the switch at the end of April and has been everything people thought he would be over a 33-game stretch concluding at the end of May. In that span, Correa slashed .366/.432/.641. His batting average in that span is the highest in the majors.
What gives Correa the advantage over Jose Altuve jersey is that Correa’s hits have been more valuable. He had the highest win probability added of any position player in May.
Dark horse: Corey Dickerson jersey, Tampa Bay Rays jersey
Dickerson ended May leading the AL in hits, runs and total bases. If he performs at anything close to what he’s doing now, he’ll shed the rep of being good only in Colorado. He has been good just about everywhere and against everyone. The better the opponent, the better he is. He’s slugging .683 against teams with a .500 record and above, .511 against sub-.500 teams.
ESPN Stats & InformationA colleague and I have joked for years that a gridded heat map with nine red squares is hard enough to find that it should be called a holy grail. Dickerson almost has one.
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What separates Strasburg from the rest of the pack is not just the frequency of the strikeouts and the rarity of walks, it’s how he has limited home runs, allowing four in 67⅓ innings. As such, he leads the NL in fielding independent pitching. And the good news is that the lower FIP is not a product of “batted ball luck” but of getting more ground balls and fewer fly balls than he has in years past.
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A bizarre blip in his most recent start (four runs and 11 hits in 4⅓ innings against the Cubs) took Kershaw down a notch, but he’s still deservedly high in the discussion given the four starts that preceded it (1.19 ERA).
What’s amusing about Kershaw is that his strikeout-to-walk ratio is only 7.8-1. That’s half of what it was last season. What’s a little nerve-inducing is he has allowed 10 home runs in 11 starts after allowing eight in 21 starts last season.
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There were questions this offseason as to the quality of Ray’s work in 2016 (4.90 ERA, 3.76 FIP). Ray’s indicators are tipping in a positive direction. He enters June with a 24⅔-inning scoreless streak, in which he has struck out 26 and allowed nine hits and three walks. That dropped his ERA to 3.00 and puts him in this conversation — if he can keep this good run going.
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ERAK-BBChris Sale jersey2.77110-16Dallas Keuchel jersey1.8162-16Ervin Santana jersey1.7556-29Lance McCullers jersey2.4873-19Sale is atop this list, even with an ERA nearly a run higher than Dallas Keuchel jersey’s, largely on the strength of his strikeout total (110 in 78 innings) and his limiting of the long ball (six home runs allowed). Also notable: After leading the AL in hit by pitches the past two seasons, he has plunked only two batters in 11 starts.
One thing to check on for Sale going forward: His slider got hit hard the past two starts (five hits) and his miss rate with it has been below his usual standard in his past four turns.
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Keuchel’s FIP is 3.11 and his ERA is 1.81, so something is probably going to give there. But he keeps the ball down enough that over-the-fence damage should be limited (he hasn’t allowed a home run in his past three starts). Keuchel’s workload was heavy in April and it was reduced (in part because of a DL stint) in May. The Astros have the luxury to do that given their bullpen quality and large division lead.
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Santana is still here, despite allowing six runs to the Red Sox and five to the Rockies. He threw three scoreless starts in May, including a two-hit shutout of the Orioles, and allowed two runs in seven innings in a strong effort against the Astros.
The skepticism for Santana is in his strikeout-to-walk ratio (30-19 in May). It’s tough to ask your defense to be as good as the Twins’ has for Santana all season long.
Dark horse: Lance McCullers jersey, Houston Astros jersey
If McCullers was doing what he’s doing (2.48 ERA, 10 strikeouts per 9 IP) averaging seven innings per start instead of six, he’d be right there with the other guys atop the list. But the Astros are managing him carefully and have good reason for doing so, wanting to preserve his innings for when they’re most important. Nonetheless, when he does pitch, he dominates. He had a four-start stretch in May in which he allowed no earned runs and 10 hits in 24 innings. But can his arm withstand the highest curveball usage rate in the game?

Clay Helton, it turns out, was the right choice for USC

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With several hundred people milling about on the track before the start of the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 9, USC coach Clay Helton had no problem blending in. He was there to serve in a supposed celebrity capacity as the race’s grand marshal, but he was more in awe of the millions of dollars in racing equipment in the pits than anyone was to see him up close.

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His relative anonymity shouldn’t be surprising. But it provided a stark contrast to the previous two people who held the honor: boxer Oscar De La Hoya and actor Patrick Stewart. The Golden Boy or Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Helton is not. Nor will he ever pretend to be.

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He does, however, want badly to win, and he knows becoming a more recognizable figure is good for business. “He loves doing that kind of stuff,” said USC quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton, Clay’s younger brother. “As much as he can get out in the community and promote USC and the Trojans, he’s happy to do it.”
cheap jerseys authentic In Clay Helton’s second spring at the helm of USC, it’s clear the experiment is working. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today SportsHis growing public stature, of course, doesn’t make him immune from some good-natured brotherly ribbing. When Clay told Tyson that as part of his day at the Grand Prix he would get to experience a high-speed ride in an Indy car, he wasn’t expecting the response he got.
Cheap Travis Long jersey “I gave him a hard time because the weight limit is like 250 pounds [to ride in the car],” Tyson said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Are you going to fit in that thing?’ He wasn’t too happy with that comment.”
It still can feel odd at times that Helton oversees what traditionally has been one of the flashiest, most high-profile programs in college football. His personality doesn’t fit what is expected of a coach in such a visible role. He is more friendly neighbor than win-at-all-cost tyrant.
But as USC closes its second spring under Helton, it’s clear the experiment is working. “I think he’s done a good job of staying the course and believing in what his principles are as a head coach,” defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said.
One thing coaches and players consistently say when talking about Helton is this: He hasn’t changed. Long before he blossomed into the Heisman Trophy favorite, quarterback Sam Darnold was recruited to USC by Helton, who then served as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. Because Helton would be Darnold’s position coach, they spent a lot of time getting to know each other.
“He hasn’t really changed, honestly,” Darnold said. “It’s awesome to say that because when he was recruiting me, he was the QB coach, he didn’t B.S. me at all.” Helton laid it out very clearly for Darnold that he was going to redshirt his first year on campus. With Cody Kessler coming back, that made sense, but there were no guarantees for when Darnold would see cheap jersey the field. That wasn’t the approach all schools used with Darnold, and he appreciated Helton’s honesty.
“With that mindset as the head coach, if he tells you something as a player, you’re going to take that to heart,” Darnold said before emphasizing it again. “I don’t think he has really changed at all.” That’s not always the case for someone elevated into such a prominent position or who has faced as much scrutiny as Helton did in his first several months on the job.
When former athletic director Pat Haden made Helton the interim coach following Steve Sarkisian’s dismissal in 2015, it was widely assumed to be just that — an interim assignment. The idea that Helton would be a serious candidate for the permanent job didn’t catch much momentum for several weeks. And when Haden did remove the interim tag, it garnered a lukewarm reception. This was USC, after all, a school that should be able to bring in a coach with a national-title pedigree.
EDITOR’S PICKSWhat we learned from USC’s spring game: USC’s young receivers are showing signs of promise, though injuries on the offensive line mean several questions remain. A coach like, say, LSU’s Les Miles. USC’s 1-3 start to the season made Helton an easy target of job security thermometers. Most of them were in agreement: Helton’s seat was heating up quickly.
And while this was going on, LSU was off to a similar start. The Tigers lost two of their first three games and Miles was fired (and replaced, coincidentally, by former USC interim coach Ed Orgeron), opening the door for the Miles-to-USC speculation to begin. Go ahead, Google “Les Miles USC.”
At USC practice, though, it would have been impossible to sense anything was amiss. Helton, being the optimist he is, didn’t veer off course and provided a calming influence for a group of players who already had experienced more than their fair share of turbulent times in their careers.
What happened next, of course, is well documented. Behind Darnold, USC won its final nine games of the season, including a 52-49 win against Penn State in the Rose Bowl, and finished the season at No. 3 in the AP poll. It was the Trojans’ best final ranking in the poll since Pete Carroll was coach (2008) and the highest finish ever for a three-loss team. Helton was one of nine finalists for the Bryant Coach of the Year Award.
Still, Miles-to-USC finally did happen. At the USC coaches clinic on April 1, six months after Miles was fired, he served as the keynote speaker. Helton introduced him as a coaching legend and promised that wherever Miles ends up next, he’ll win another championship.
They were kind words from a kind man.
They also were unintentionally amusing considering those Google search results.
USC likely will begin the 2017 season in the top five in nearly every prominent preseason poll. Darnold, understandably, will be the primary justification for this, but Helton’s importance shouldn’t be understated.

Tom Herman cranks up physicality in first spring at Texas

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The dulcet tones of Rick Ross and Meek cheap jersey Mill blared on speakers as Texas players lined up across from each other along a sideline at a recent spring practice. One offensive player holds a football. The other holds the line. The whistle blows and the violent car crashes begin. The volume is turned all the way up.

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The Longhorns smash and clash. Two more of these battles play out simultaneously down the sideline. Somebody wins. Somebody loses. Then it’s next man up. Another collision. They go back and forth for five long minutes. Tom Herman craves a hard-hat, physical Texas team and is doing what he can to create one. Courtesy of Texas athletics / @TexasFootballA linebacker rips out a fumble and his coaches goes crazy. Tom Herman loves starting practices like this. He wants to get the competitive juices flowing and the blood boiling. When he took the Texas job in November, Herman declared he’d assemble the most physically and mentally tough team in the country. This is how he plans to do that.

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More intense circle drills. More goal-line and short-yardage wars. More of these one-on-one confrontations between ball carrier and tackler in tight spaces. “I love it,” safety DeShon Elliott said. “Everybody knows it’s time to go. That’s a real situation. A hole opens and it’s you versus a back. Either he’s gonna win or you’re gonna win. You’re a winner or a loser. That’s how it always is. There’s nothing in between.”
cheap jerseys authentic A new head coach vowing to make his football team more physically imposing is in no way newsworthy. It happens all the time, all over the country. But for a Texas program that has slumped its way to 46-42 this decade, an overwhelming amount of toughness has consistently felt like a missing ingredient. Former coach Charlie Strong saw what he considered a program-wide entitlement problem when he took over in 2014. He talked about “putting the ‘T’ back in Texas.” Toughness was first “T” on his list. It’s not as if the previous regime did not emphasize and coach up physicality.
Wholesale Rasheed Bailey jersey The problem was more a matter of consistency. Texas players got up for big games against Oklahoma and Baylor. They played hard in high-emotion games. But too many other games were lost by miscues, missed tackles and mental errors. Strong said it several times last season: He believed he had as much talent on his roster as any Big 12 contender. Strong thought one big win would instantly turn the tide. But something was always missing.
Herman diagnosed this problem from the get-go when he took over Texas. As he succinctly put it after witnessing three spring practices: “Is that a physical team? No. Are they willing to be? Yes.” Elliott said he hears the words physical and toughness “about a thousand times” a day from the new Texas staff. It’s the core of Herman’s culture. In an interview with last year, Houston linebacker Matt Adams compared the Cougars’ practices under Herman to “beating your head against a wall for two and a half hours.” Around the building, the roughest days were known as “Bloody Tuesday.”
“You know, at first everybody was a little weary about it,” defensive lineman Chris Nelson said. “But I think at the end of the day, it’s going to help us when we get to games. Everything is going to be easier and we’ll catch our breaths and be able to fly around.” Herman says he’s in the business of training the mind far more than training the body. And all those extra body blows in practice can help get a guy’s mind right.
“They want to be physical. They want to do things our way,” Herman said. “We’ve just got to push through this wall and get in football shape to see. Everybody can do it when they’re fresh. Everybody can do it when their bodies feel good. Everybody can do it in the first quarter. It’s when you’re tired and you’re hot and you’re sweaty and you’ve got a bump on your body that doesn’t belong there. It’s the fourth quarter and you’ve played 80 snaps. That’s where this kicks in.”
Texas was indeed an exceedingly average team in fourth quarters last season. Despite the presence of D’Onta Foreman, whose toughness was beyond reproach, the Longhorns’ offense ranked No. 104 nationally in fourth-quarter points per drive. As a team, they gave away as many turnovers in that period as they forced.
Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando intends to load up his D with guys he considers tone-setters. Defensive tackle Poona Ford and nickelback P.J. Locke have become staff favorites early on for their physicality. Orlando moved pass-rushing mad man Breckyn Hager to middle linebacker to send a message.
“We’re not going to go into the season with a soft middle linebacker. It’s just not going to happen,” Orlando said. “So whoever ends up being the toughest kid, the kid who’s going to be the most physical, play in and play out, is going to wind up there when we eventually play [the season opener against] Maryland.”
The guys who bring it get a lot of love from this staff. The guys who don’t get called out in front of everybody.
“You continue to praise in your meetings when someone is exceptionally physical and does things up to our expectations,” Herman said. “You praise the heck out of it. When someone isn’t, you criticize the heck out of it. We all want to be praised, right?”
His first Texas spring game will put all this brutality on display. We’ll know Saturday whether the hitting truly matches the hype.

Preds rally, beat Ducks 2-1 to take 2-1 Western finals lead

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Roman Josi Jersey scored a power-play goal with 2:43 left, and the Nashville Predators Jersey rallied to beat the Anaheim Ducks Jersey 2-1 Tuesday night in their first-ever home game in the Western Conference finals. The Predators grabbed a 2-1 lead in the series with their 10th straight home win in the postseason going back to last season.

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Filip Forsberg Jersey tied it up at 3:54 of the third as the Predators rallied for the win against an Anaheim team that has notched four comeback victories already when trailing by multiple goals this postseason. The Predators thought they had taken the lead earlier in the period only to have two goals within the span of eight seconds waved off for goalie interference. Josi scored Nashville’s first power-play goal of the series for the win.

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Ducks goalie John Gibson Jersey made 38 saves, and Corey Perry Jersey scored a power-play goal in the second period for Anaheim. Game 4 is Thursday night in Nashville. Forsberg tied it up shortly after being poked by Gibson after the whistle, upset after a shot went off him. That revved up the home crowd, and they tossed towels onto the ice after officials waved off first a would-be goal by Colton Sissons at 6:25 and then Ryan Johansen Jersey’s goal at 6:33.
wholesale sports jerseys Chris Wagner Jersey went to the box for high-sticking Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis Jersey with 3:55 left. Nashville had been 0 of 11 on the power play in this series. Josi ended that drought with his wrister from the right circle off an assist from Viktor Arvidsson.
Cheap Joe Colborne jersey The Predators didn’t hold back on star power for the biggest game in franchise history. Keith Urban performed the national anthem, the latest country star to take a turn, and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, joined him in the stands decked out in her own Predators’ sweater.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota waved the rally towel along with his offensive linemen from the band stage. The Ducks finally got the faster start they missed in the first two games in Anaheim, outshooting Nashville 8-4 to open the game. But the Predators took the next 11 shots and outshot Anaheim 40-20 for the game.
The Predators held the Ducks without a shot throughout the second period until 8:12 left when Brandon Montour put a backhand on Rinne, a puck that went across the goal line. But the net came off its moorings at the same time with Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm Jersey crashing into it. Referee Brad Meier immediately waved off the goal, which was upheld on review.
Anaheim got the man advantage after Predators forward Cody McLeod Jersey fought Jared Boll Jersey of the Ducks, upset at a hard hit on teammate Harry Zolnierczyk. That earned McLeod an instigator penalty along with a game misconduct. Perry then squeezed a wrister past Rinne from a severe angle to the right of the net.
Notes: Perry tied Teemu Selanne (35) for the second-most playoff goals in franchise history. … Ryan Ellis Jersey had an assist on Forsberg’s goal, giving him 10 points in the postseason and a Nashville record for defensemen. … Nashville defensemen have scored 10 goals this postseason. … Toronto coach Mike Babcock was spotted at the game.

Olney: Is the obsession with launch angle helping or hurting hitters?

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It wasn’t long after the National Basketball Association introduced the 3-point shot during the 1979-80 season that front offices and coaches determined that there could be a statistical advantage gleaned from taking shots from long range. The San Diego Clippers led the league in 3-point attempts that first year, with 543; in the most recently completed season, the Houston Rockets took 3,306 3-pointers.

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But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want every player firing up 3s. Which brings us to the advent of launch angle in baseball. A generation of players is seemingly obsessed with the idea of altering their swings and getting the ball in the air more. For some hitters, like Josh Donaldson jersey, this really works, as it does for Kris Bryant jersey.

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But there is an army of major league evaluators and staffers who believe that there are a lot of hitters who should be focused merely on hitting the ball hard, rather than lifting the ball, because they don’t have the same strength as the Donaldsons and Bryants. There is a large school of thought in the sport that not everybody should try to launch the ball any more than you’d want Shaquille O’Neal jacking up 3-pointers. The theoretical advantage that a lot of hitters are focused on may simply be out of reach for their particular skill set.
new york giants baseball throwbacks The home run rate has climbed dramatically the past two seasons, from 1.01 per game per team in 2015, to 1.22 in 2017 — a 42 percent increase over the number of homers launched in 2014. There were more long home runs hit on Friday than any day this season, six of 440 feet or longer.
wholesale jerseys But while there are more home runs, there has not been the same seismic shift in run production — an 8 percent increase in runs per game over 2015, from 4.24 to 4.57. In 2008, there were 1.01 home runs and 4.65 runs per game.
baseball wholesale jerseys Strikeouts have been climbing over the past decade, as pitchers have focused on building velocity, and managers (and their front offices) have used more short relievers and hunted for the best matchups. And strikeouts have increased by 7 percent over 2016 and 2017. Note that on-base percentage, the primary source of run production, has remained relatively steady over the past decade.
Long-term offensive trendsYearRuns per gameHRs per gameK’s per gameOBP20174.571.228.3.32120164.481.158.0.32120154. home runs have climbed this year, batting average has dipped slightly, falling from .255 in 2015-2016 to .251 so far this season.
Some longtime evaluators and staffers offered some thoughts on the focus on launch angle — and there is a lot of skepticism about whether this is actually a good thing. “Changing every hitter’s swing to produce a better launch angle is a mistake,” said one AL staffer. “It may work with hitters who have enough power to drive the ball out of the park to all fields, but most hitters will find themselves flying out to the track. And there is no question that strikeouts will go up because hitters will be swinging under the ball.”
One AL evaluator observed, “I have been around a lot of good hitters over the years, and the one thing I am sure about is there isn’t one approach for all hitters. To ask a contact-oriented, singles-slash-gap hitter to swing up or a big strong guy that backspins it out of the park to change what has made him successful? That makes no sense and hurts the player and the team.
“I say that because you take away what he does best, and he has little chance to get to the big leagues or stay in the big leagues. There are organizations using a blanket approach, and it’s unfair to cruel to experiment with players’ careers. Josh Donaldson jersey is a freak and has figured something out that works for him, but that isn’t a swing to copy or emulate for the masses.”
“I don’t think a whole lot has actually changed [in what works],” said a National League evaluator. “The goal has always been to hit the ball hard; we now just have a way to measure how hard we hit it. On the whole, line drives have always been the most desirable outcome over both fly balls and ground balls and the results of those outcomes should speak for themselves. Major league hitters had a higher average on ground balls than they did fly balls last year.”
That’s true: Batters hit .205 on fly balls last year with a .712 slugging percentage, and .245 on ground balls, with a .266 slugging percentage. But on line drives, they hit .682 and slugged .989.
The NL evaluator continued, “I think too much is being made of fly balls and launch angle in general … No, you can’t hit a ground ball out of the park, but a lot of fly balls don’t give you a chance to get on base either. And don’t let your attempts to hit the ball in the air compromise your ability to make good decisions and control the cheap jersey strike zone — that’s where perhaps some of the performance decline in some of those guys may be coming from.”
“Don’t get me started on this subject. It is a joke,” a longtime AL staffer scoffed. Some of the hitters who have implemented the most significant alterations in their launch angle have done better this year, but others have really struggled. Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats & Information dug out these numbers for hitters who put at least 100 balls in play in 2016 and 50 balls in play in 2017:
Do big launch-angle changes equal success?HitterLaunch angle difference*OPS difference, 2016 vs. 20171. John Jaso jersey, Pirates12.7-.0812. Yonder Alonso jersey, Athletics12.4+.3703. Trevor Story jersey, Rockies11.3-.1674. Miguel Montero jersey, Cubs11.3+.1385. Yoenis Cespedes jersey, Mets8.2+.1086. Denard Span jersey, Giants6.8+.0047. Miguel Rojas jersey, Marlins6.7+.1768. Gary Sanchez jersey, Yankees6.6-.2229. Scott Schebler jersey, Reds6.6+.09610. C.J. Cron jersey, Angels6.4-.206*: In degrees; stats through Friday.Among others in the top 25 for increased launch angles, you can find Matt Carpenter jersey and his OPS drop of 119 points, Luis Valbuena jersey’s drop of 254 points and Alcides Escobar jersey clocking in with a decline of 193 points. In the positive column, Francisco Lindor jersey has increased his launch angle by 4.9 degrees, and his OPS by 78 points.
A high-ranking NL executive was more supportive of the idea, saying, “I think there’s something to the launch angle thing, because you have pitchers working the bottom of the zone and so it makes sense that you would try to lift the ball. But I don’t think the so-called launch angle revolution will last; it’s just another adjustment in a sport that is constantly evolving, and you’re seeing pitchers beat hitters who are trying to get the ball in the air with fastballs up in the zone. The Dodgers and the Rays are like that.
“What I am absolutely blown away by is the inability of hitters to take advantage of shifts — and maybe that’s where this is all coming from. Hitters haven’t been able to deal with shifts, and so this is their new thing: They’re going to try to beat the shift by hitting over it. But if this was college, they’d just hit the ball the other way. I can’t believe more hitters aren’t doing that.”
A National League All-Star mentioned launch angle in talking about baseball’s effort to increase pace of action. “You want to speed up the games — well, get hitters to focus on taking good swings and putting the ball in play, especially with two strikes,” he said. “That’s like a dying art.”
Another concern that was raised by an AL general manager is that there are probably too few coaches capable of teaching hitters how to alter their launch angle effectively without gutting the rest of their offensive production. It’s only logical that if a hitter tilts the angle of his swing upward, the GM said, the bat will be in the strike zone for a shorter period of time, and the margin for error for the point of contact — when the bat meets the ball — will be reduced.
This is not a good thing. “The concept is so new that I don’t think the process has been fully vetted,” said the GM. “It feels like some of them — including coaches — are just making it up as they go along without understanding the mechanics or the collateral damage.
“I know they’re doing it. I just don’t know if it actually helps an offense. It might help some guys, but I think it hurts a lot of hitters, too.” Around the leagueKyle Schwarber jersey’s at-bats against Lance Lynn jersey Friday are a microcosm of his season so far. In the second inning, he got ahead in the count, three balls and no strikes, but eventually struck out, fouling off a 3-1 pitch and missing a 3-2 pitch — and those last two pitches appeared to be out of the zone. In his next at-bat, he got ahead in the count 3-1, and again, chased two pitches that weren’t strikes, fouling off the first and missing on the other. Opposing pitchers have apparently picked up on this: Only eight hitters in the big leagues have seen fewer pitches in the zone than Schwarber, who started Saturday’s game with 62 strikeouts in 208 plate appearances.
The Cubs picked Schwarber high in the draft because of his exceptional hitting ability, and he made an impact right away in 2015, and then in 2016 he missed six months after blowing out his knee but still had great at-bats in the World Series. The assumption has been that Schwarber is a hitting savant.
But he’s also a young player adjusting to the big leagues. His start against the Cardinals on Saturday was his 120th regular-season game for the Cubs. Schwarber had the worst batting average in the NL in May (among all players with at least 75 plate appearances), at .120; teammate Addison Russell jersey had the second worst, .162.
Schwarber might epitomize what the 2017 Cubs are: A really talented and really young team that will have to grind its way through.Rafael Devers is an incredibly important prospect for the Red Sox, because the team has traded away a lot of other core prospects for All-Stars like Chris Sale jersey and Craig Kimbrel jersey, and because Devers has been playing third base — a problem area for Boston. The Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval jersey to a five-year, $95 million deal before the 2015 season and he has played only 148 games. Brock Holt jersey, a backup at the position, has been suffering from vertigo. Boston third basemen have combined for a .610 OPS, 28th in the majors, and Devers, playing in Double-A, is projected to be a really good offensive player. In theory, he could be a candidate to be the Red Sox third baseman in 2018 and in years to come. But at least one evaluator who saw him recently walked away convinced that Devers won’t be able to hold down the position in the big leagues because of his size and condition. If this turns out to be true — and he’s a young player, capable of change — it could impact Boston’s planning. Years ago, the Yankees had a similar situation with former catching prospect Jesus Montero: Many evaluators with other teams believed that Montero could not play the position effectively in the majors, which altered how he was valued by some rival clubs. The Yankees traded Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda jersey; he caught just 85 games in the big leagues.Baseball Tonight PodcastOn the podcast last week:
Friday: Chris Owings jersey of the Diamondbacks joins us to talk about Arizona’s season, Paul Goldschmidt jersey and Zack Greinke jersey; Karl Ravech and Justin Havens play a game of “Embrace Or Reject” about the Cubs’ sluggish start, whether MLB kind of likes brawls like Strickland vs. Harper, and the looming pace-of-action battle; and Boog Sciambi on Clayton Kershaw jersey and Jake Arrieta jersey.
Thursday: Chris Taylor jersey of the Dodgers discusses his swing makeover during the offseason; Keith Law talks about Mr. Met’s obscene gesture, the Astros’ lack of flaws and the Rays’ stealthy sleeper status; Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch digs into the early-season changes of the Cardinals and Michael Wacha jersey’s bounce-back season.
Wednesday: Tim Kurkjian and Aaron Boone evaluate the discipline rendered against Hunter Strickland jersey and Bryce Harper jersey, and Albert Pujols jersey’s pursuit of 600 homers (and maybe 700); and Pirates first baseman Josh Bell jersey has a story about his unusual journey into the 2011 draft, when he told teams not to take him.
Tuesday: Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post checks in with the aftermath of the Harper-Strickland brawl; Jerry Crasnick talks about the impact of Mike Trout jersey’s injury; Todd Radom’s uniform and logo quiz, and he introduces the 18th greatest logo of all time; and Sarah Langs plays The Numbers Game. And today will be better than yesterday.