Real or not: Wainwright is awesome again, Yankees have another great outfielder

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Before we talk about Adam Wainwright jersey the pitcher, let’s talk about Adam Wainwright jersey the hitter. His two-run homer off Brandon McCarthy jersey — his second of the season — provided the only runs as the St. Louis Cardinals jersey beat the Los Angeles Dodgers jersey 2-0 on Thursday. Hard to believe, but this was the first time in franchise history that the Cardinals threw a shutout with all the runs provide by a pitcher’s home run. That’s impressive enough, but here are some numbers that will blow your mind:

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Last 85 plate appearances:Bryce Harper jersey10 XBH & 16 RBIMike Trout jersey13 XBH & 18 RBI#STLCards Adam Wainwright jersey14 XBH & 25 RBI — Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) June 1, 2017 Ryan Spaeder was one off on the extra-base hits — Wainwright has 13, not 14, in that span — but he has driven in 25 runs going back to April 27 of last season. He’s hitting .244/.263/.526 with eight doubles, a triple and four home runs. He has come to bat 32 times with runners in scoring position and is 12-for-29 (.414) with 24 RBIs. Since April 27 of last season, 140 position players have batted at least 85 times with fewer RBIs. Memo to Mike Matheny: You may want to consider using Wainwright as a pinch-hitter once in a while (he has done so just once last season and once this year).

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Now for even better stuff, at least as the Cardinals’ hopes for winning the NL Central: Wainwright’s first seven starts: 2-3, 6.37 ERA, 35.1 IP, 53 H, 7.8 percent BB rate, 19.8 percent SO rate Wainwright’s past four starts: 4-0, 0.34 ERA, 26.1 IP, 16 H, 9.7 percent BB rate, 20.4 percent SO rate So what’s going? The results are obviously night and day, but the walk rates and strikeout rates are essentially unchanged. When we see a drastic improvement from a pitcher, the first we check is strikeout rate. In Wainwright’s case, that’s not the explanation for his superb performances these past four outings. So it’s something else.
mlb teams without alternate jerseys Adam Wainwright jersey has had a revival of late and has given up just one earned run over his past four starts. Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsAfter the game, manager Mike Matheny fell back on the tried-and-true explanation of fastball command, telling reporters: “He’s executing, throwing his fastball in good locations and that makes his breaking [stuff] better. He’s being smarter with his cutter. And with confidence comes even better pitches.”
cheap jerseys authentic There’s probably something to that, and it certainly seems clear that Wainwright’s approach with the fastball has been different: First seven starts: 22 percent high fastballs, 31 percent inside fastballs Past four starts: 31 percent high fastballs, 23 percent inside fastballs Basically, more high fastballs and a few more on the outer half of the plate. In those first seven games, opponents hit .394 against his fastball; they’ve hit .195 against it the past four starts.
pro baseball jerseys cheap So that’s a good barometer of what’s happened. It doesn’t explain everything. His well-hit average against all pitches according to ESPN Stats & Info has gone from .148 to … .151. So, umm, the same. He’s not necessarily giving up softer contact. His ground-ball, fly-ball and line-drive rates are basically the same.
I’d suggest we’re looking at essentially the same pitcher. He probably had a lot of bad luck on balls in play early on and now he’s pitching in some good luck. His season ERA is 3.79 and that’s probably a reasonable number to expect the rest of the way.
Corey Kluber jersey is back and all is well. After missing a month with a lower back strain, the Cleveland Indians jersey ace returned against the Oakland Athletics jersey and dominated with 10 strikeouts and two hits in an efficient 77-pitch effort over six innings. His stuff was lights out:
Hey.Have 10 seconds? Here are 10 CK strikeouts. — #VoteTribe 5x a day (@Indians) June 1, 2017 From ESPN researcher Mark Simon, Kluber’s curveball, as you can see in the above highlights, was his sit-down-and-drink-some-Gatorade pitch: He threw it 32 times, the A’s swung at 12 of them and missed 10, going 0-for-6 with five strikeouts. As Mark wrote before the game, Kluber is the latest example of a pitcher who threw a lot of innings in the postseason and was injured or less effective the following year. Given that he threw 249⅓ innings last year, maybe the month off will actually turn out to be a bonus come October, with less mileage on his arm.
The New York Yankees jersey’ other mashing outfielder. Aaron Judge is hitting .326/.427/.680. He’s getting a lot of attention. He deserves the attention! Teammate Aaron Hicks jersey, after going 4-for-5 with three doubles in six RBIs in a 12-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays jersey, is now hitting .317/.437/.579. Hicks has been the club’s fourth outfielder, but has been playing every day of late with Jacoby Ellsbury jersey on the DL. Ellsbury may be the fourth outfielder when he returns the way Hicks has played. He has eight home runs and 30 RBIs in just 126 at-bats, numbers that project to 25 and 95 over just 400 at-bats. With one of the strongest arms in the game and decent range, he may even be a defensive upgrade over Ellsbury.
Give Brian Cashman credit for this one. Hicks had been a first-round pick by the Minnesota Twins jersey, but over three seasons with them he hit just .225. Still, he had good discipline — some scouts considered him too passive — and the Twins had kind of fooled around with him, never running him out there for 500-plus at-bats in a season. The Yankees got him for backup catcher J.R. Murphy, currently hitting .225 in Triple-A. How much of this is legitimate for Hicks? The stat I like is 28 walks and 27 strikeouts — one of only a handful of players with more walks than strikeouts, a list that includes Buster Posey jersey, Mookie Betts jersey, Joey Votto jersey and Anthony Rizzo jersey. While there is some good fortune going on — his average exit velocity is league average and his launch angle is below average — there’s some real improvement. The rich just got richer.
Play of the day. A triple play!
Outs are better in threes.@Twins go around the horn for the TRIPLE PLAY.
— MLB (@MLB) June 2, 2017
Quick thoughts … Speaking of the Yankees, Gary Sanchez jersey homered twice. Imagine if he gets going. … Joe Girardi moved Judge into the third spot for the first time, hitting between Sanchez and Matt Holliday jersey. Good move to get Judge’s OBP up higher in the lineup. … Thursday was the 25th anniversary of the day the Yankees drafted Derek Jeter. They took him sixth overall. Drafted ahead of him: Phil Nevin (Houston Astros jersey), Paul Shuey (Indians), B.J. Wallace (Montreal cheap jersey Expos), Jeffrey Hammonds (Baltimore Orioles jersey), Chad Mottola (Cincinnati Reds jersey). … Tough day for the Seattle Mariners jersey. Tough season. Jean Segura jersey left Thursday’s loss to the Colorado Rockies jersey with an ankle injury and Nelson Cruz jersey left after getting hit in the hand by a pitch. Check the updates. … Sam Miller writes that Mike Trout jersey could still end up leading the AL in WAR … Ken Rosenthal reported that the Texas Rangers jersey designated Sam Dyson jersey for assignment. No surprise. He has to be a black cloud in the clubhouse the way he has pitched. … Via Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats & Info: Since 1996 (first full season of wild-card era), 58 percent of division winners held the division lead on June 1. This stat is great: The Dodgers, Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks jersey all began June at .600 or better; the only other time that happened since 1996 was the NL Central in 2013, with the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates. All three of those teams made the playoffs that year. Eleven of the 21 World Series winners led their division on June 1.

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.
Carlos Correa jersey, Houston Astros jersey
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.
NL Cy Young
Max Scherzer jersey, Washington Nationals jersey
NL Cy YoungTop Contenders
ERAK-BBMax Scherzer jersey2.56100-18Stephen Strasburg jersey2.9474-18Clayton Kershaw jersey2.3778-10Robbie Ray jersey3.002.1Meet the new Scherzer, one with efficiency (a 100-pitch complete game) and fewer baserunners. If you want to win the NL Cy Young this year, you’re going to have to pry it out of his hands. And yes, Scherzer has taken advantage of a soft schedule (past two starts versus the Padres and Giants), but remember that he opened the month with seven innings of two-hit ball with 11 strikeouts against the Diamondbacks.
Stephen Strasburg jersey, Washington Nationals jersey
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.
Clayton Kershaw jersey, Los Angeles Dodgers jersey
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.
Dark horse: Robbie Ray jersey, Arizona Diamondbacks jersey
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.
AL Cy Young
Chris Sale jersey, Boston Red Sox jersey
Al Cy cheap jersey YoungTop Contenders
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.
Dallas Keuchel jersey, Houston Astros jersey
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.
Ervin Santana jersey, Minnesota Twins jersey
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?

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.

The sommelier of swat: Corey Dickerson is an unapologetic ‘bat freak’

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Before Corey Dickerson jersey became a budding All-Star with the Tampa Bay Rays jersey, he was recognizable for the company he kept. Upon arrival at the ballpark, he rarely went anywhere without a bat in his hand.

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When Dickerson wasn’t spraying line drives in the cage during his time with the Colorado cheap jersey Rockies jersey, he was roaming the clubhouse with a Tucci model TL-271 in his grip. Or sitting at his locker, holding the barrel with two fingers and lightly pinging at the top to locate the sweet spot. Or cleaning it with alcohol or tape remover to detect precisely where he made contact the previous game. Or weighing it. Or taping the handle, depending on how sore his hands were on a given day.

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Editor’s PicksStill-too-early All-Star rosters: Which NL first baseman gets snubbed?The Midsummer Classic is more than a month away. But here’s who can plan a trip to Miami — and the stars who might get left out.
navy blue vintage baseball uniforms MVP and Cy Young watch: Which Nats pitcher is No. 1?Washington starters competing for NL Cy Young? Could a split vote open a back door for a D-back as MVP? We track MLB awards two months into the season.
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baseball glove wholesalers Amid the daily maintenance, Dickerson was perpetually on the lookout for good wood. Since his days in youth ball, he had developed a Tony Gwynn-like obsession with bats and an appreciation for the damage he could inflict with the right model in his hands. Bats didn’t arrive in big boxes en masse from the manufacturer when he played in the minor leagues, so they were a precious commodity to be alternately hoarded or mooched.
“He’s definitely a bat freak,” says Nolan Arenado jersey, Dickerson’s teammate from Double-A ball to the majors. “If I hit a couple of homers, he would come to my locker and say, ‘Can I get one of these?’ So I’d give him one and he’d hit a couple of homers and I’d be like, ‘Hey, can I see one of your bats?’ And he’d say, ‘I don’t have enough.’ I’d be like, ‘What the heck? Come on, Dickey.’ He loves bats and he loves hitting.”
Based on the numbers, Dickerson is quite proficient at selecting the right weapon and knowing how to use it. At age 28, he’s that rare hitter who has taken his game to a different level after leaving Coors Field. After the Rays ranked 14th in the American League in runs in 2016, they are a surprising third behind the Houston Astros jersey and New York Yankees jersey this season. Dickerson, who arrived from Colorado in a four-player trade 16 months ago, is a big reason why. He leads the AL with a .342 batting average and 75 hits, ranks third behind Mike Trout jersey and Aaron Judge with a .603 slugging percentage, and just set a Rays club record with 44 hits in May.
Cliff Welch/Icon SportswireDickerson’s road to success has come with some adjustments. He’s had to experiment to find productive ways to fill the downtime between plate appearances as a designated hitter, and he’s grappled with the challenges of batting leadoff while staying true to his naturally aggressive approach.
In a world of hitters who eyeball pitches on the black and revel in deep counts, Dickerson is succeeding as the anti-Joey Votto jersey. Dickerson has swung at a major league-high 46.9 percent of pitches outside the strike zone this season. That’s more than 2 percentage points higher than the notoriously free-swinging Salvador Perez jersey, who has drawn 105 walks in 2,891 career plate appearance with the Kansas City Royals jersey.
Dickerson is thriving thanks to quick hands and a Vladimir Guerrero-like ability to crush balls that most hitters can barely reach. He recently doubled on a pitch from Texas starter Nick Martinez jersey that bounced before it reached home plate.
“He’s definitely a throwback, bad-ball hitter,” says Rays hitting coach Chad Mottola. “There’s nothing he can’t cover, even out of the strike zone.” Dickerson, a Mississippi native, played junior college ball at Meridian Community College before passing on a scholarship from Mississippi State to sign as an eighth-round pick with Colorado in 2010. His potential was readily apparent when he logged a .321/.379/.596 slash line in the minors and hit .299 with 39 home runs over three seasons in Colorado, but the Rockies eventually determined he was more valuable as a trade chip to fortify their pitching.
When general manager Jeff Bridich sent Dickerson and minor league infielder Kevin Padlo to Tampa Bay for reliever Jacob McGee and starter German Marquez jersey, it was almost an afterthought for fans and media members who thought Carlos Gonzalez jersey might be on the block.
Now both sides are benefiting. McGee is averaging 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings and Marquez has stepped in nicely to help the Rockies overcome some big pitching injuries. Dickerson, meanwhile, has rebounded nicely from a disappointing first season to become a focal point of the Tampa Bay lineup. Dickerson appeared in only 65 games with the Rockies in 2015 because of plantar fasciitis and a broken rib, and his abridged offseason workout regimen spilled over to 2016. He struggled with the transition to a new league, new pitchers and an unfamiliar clubhouse dynamic before posting an .855 OPS in September to salvage his season. He struck up an instant bond with Mottola, who replaced Derek Shelton as the Rays’ hitting coach in early September.
“Your teammates don’t know who you are, so you feel like you’ve got to prove yourself and show why they traded for you,” Dickerson says. “When I was struggling, I felt like, ‘Do these guys want me up here hitting (in this situation)?’ In Colorado, if I went through a little struggle, those guys knew what I was capable of, and they had seen me every day for the last couple of years. I know they trusted me and believed in me. I think that was the biggest hurdle for me.
“In the second half, I kind of let it all go. Chad came in and said, ‘Hey, I don’t want you to change your stance or be afraid to try different stuff. I want you to be you.’ That freed my mind up and I took off.”
“If I get 12 bats, I’m going to choose the best one to go up to the plate every single time. It’s about quality and the way it feels. This is how I make a living for my family. So why wouldn’t I pick the best piece of wood when I go up to plate?”
Corey Dickerson jersey on the art of choosing a batDickerson spent the winter making changes to his body to maintain the momentum from his late-season surge. He cut back on pizza, sweets and other guilty pleasures. He read books on fitness and exercise physiology and adopted a new training regimen en route to losing 25 pounds. He did Pilates in Tampa, and worked on his core and lower back with personal trainer Matt Espy. Dickerson even took a spinning class in his hometown of Meridian at the Jeff Anderson Health & Fitness Center, where he churned away to the accompaniment of AC/DC and other classic rock tunes.
“It was mostly girls in the class,” Dickerson says. Few of them knew or cared that a 2017 batting title contender was sweating buckets in their midst. The left-handed hitter has continued to make subtle changes to his approach, reducing his leg kick and shortening his swing to become less vulnerable against lefties and a bigger threat to do damage with two strikes. He’s hit 31 percent of his balls to left field, 37 percent to center and 32 percent to right, a breakdown that makes him difficult to defend. His .388 batting average against fastballs and .409 mark against breaking balls are testament to his ability to keep his hands back and still catch up to the heat.
His old Rockies teammates see the box scores each day without a trace of surprise over his gaudy stats. “Not at all,” says shortstop Trevor Story jersey. “He’s been one of the more special hitters I’ve watched. He’s one of those guys who seems like he was born to hit.”
Dickerson got plenty of mileage out of that Tucci 271 — a bat model he used for the entire 2014 season at the suggestion of former Colorado teammate Troy Tulowitzki jersey. Dickerson has since alternated between different Tucci and Marucci models and recently began favoring a Marucci DD10 in the 34-inch, 32-ounce range. Whenever a new shipment arrives, it’s like Christmas morning all over again.
“I’ve always loved hitting, since I was really little,” Dickerson says. “If I get 12 bats, I’m going to choose the best one to go up to the plate every single time. It’s about quality and the way it feels. This is how I make a living for my family. So why wouldn’t I pick the best piece of wood when I go up to plate?”
Time and almost 3,500 professional plate appearances have drummed home the most enduring lesson in the relationship: It’s less about the quality of the bat than the aptitude of the man who’s wielding it.