Good morning everyone, get your answers to this week’s mailbag here. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.
Steve B asks: After a week of Major League Baseball, what are the players saying and what are the stats showing regarding the baseballs used in 2020? Are they more like those used in the 2019 regular season (i.e. smoother, lower seams, “juiced”) or like the ones used in last year’s playoffs (more flight restricted)?
I haven’t heard any players talking about the baseballs this season with all of the distractions that simply playing baseball has caused this year, but the ball certainly looks like it’s flying like it did in the regular season last year. Let’s look into this a bit.
Last year we had 6,776 home runs across the American and National Leagues, which rounds out to about 42 home runs per game day. Following Thursday’s games, there have been 227 home runs this year. Now, things get a little tricky trying to divide that by game days, since not all teams have played the same amount of games and there are some weird outliers with the Marlins and Phillies being sidelined this week.
The overwhelming majority of teams have played either six or seven games, however, so I went low and divided our total by six to get roughly 38 home runs a day. This number is a bit under last year’s homer-happy rate, but batters are just getting into their groove after the long layaway, and it’s still about even with the home run rate from 2017, another year where the ball was suspected to be juiced. Consdering all of this, I think it’s fair to say we’re dealing with some juiced balls.
Larry S. asks: Isn’t it time to sit Gardner, and let Clint Frazier play? At least it would let Frazier build up interest if the Yanks decide to trade him. Brett has looked overmatched so far this season.
It’s been a mixed bag of hitters either looking red hot out of the gate, or looking like they’d never seen major-league pitching before so far. It’s early, so even the hardest struggles (Gardner and Gary Sanchez) could turn it around before we know it, but the circumstances don’t give them much time to do so. It’s a tough situation, since there are fewer games and they therefore matter more — but no matter how heavier the games are weighed the human side of the game can only adjust based on the amount of games they’ve actually played.
Gardner’s situation is rougher than Gary’s, mainly because there are capable candidates to take away his playing time if the team opts to use them. Peter looked into Clint’s case recently, and it seems to me like the biggest factor to the decision is whether you favor Clint’s bat or Gardner’s defense. I’m of the opinion that Frazier should get playing time, especially considering there’s no minor leagues this year to get him consistent at-bats. Gardner was brought back for one last run at a title and to keep the leadership on the team intact, but I struggle to believe that he was meant to hold onto the starting job throughout the year. It’s hard to ignore Mike Tauchman either, who impressed with his opportunity last season. Between the three of them, Aaron Boone’s hand will likely be forced sooner rather than later.
Bill P. asks: Will the game of baseball have enough time in slightly more than a third of a baseball season to self-correct and produce percentages that are near normal? Or will there be a new highest percentage of wins ever, or a new percentage of losses ever?
I don’t think we’ll see some crazy disparities in records this year, simply because there’s not enough time to either lose out build enough of a win streak. Teams are going to be taxed from the rush of getting enough games in during this two-month stretch that the “on any given day” mantra you see typically in the NFL could apply. There’s already been some upsets, with teams like the Tigers and Mariners getting several wins within the first week.
For any team to reach the 1962 Mets level of incompetence, for instance, they would need to go 15-60. Even last year’s Tigers were a ways away from that percentage of losses, and they’re one of the teams that has impressed in the early going. Going the other way is more feasible, but still a difficult task. 43 wins would give a team a nearly identical winning percentage to the 2001 Mariners, which is possible depending on how well the division leaders can take advantage of the bottom-dwellers in both halves of their region. Besting the 1906 Cubs’ .763 mark, however, would require a 46-14 run. It would be impressive to see if a team could manage that from essentially a cold start, but I wouldn’t expect them to come close.