Tagged: Kris Bryant

Lackey Leads Cards To 4th Straight Win

Kolten Wong celebrates with teammates after scoring to put them ahead by a pair of runs.

Kolten Wong celebrates with teammates after scoring to put them ahead by a pair of runs.

The St. Louis Cardinals were 3-1 winners over the Arizona Diamondbacks last night, running their winning streak up to 4 games.

John Lackey improved to 11-8, throwing a steady 7 innings of work, allowing 1 run on 7 hits and a walk. Lackey served up a solo homer to slugger Paul Goldschmidt in the 1st and then tossed 6.1 shutout innings to finish off his day.

Kolten Wong‘s RBI double in the 7th inning broke a 1-1 tie and Matt Carpenter‘s RBI single plated Wong to pad the lead.  Since taking three games off to get his head straight, Wong has three hits in the last two nights.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 40th save of the season, joining Pirates closer Mark Melancon in that club. Rosenthal is out this weekend on paternity leave with his wife scheduled to be induced into labor tomorrow.

The Redbirds got more solid defense, turning 3 double plays.


* * * * * * * * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates scored 6 in the 2nd inning en route to an easy 7-2 win over the Miami Marlins, winning for the 11th time in their last 14 games.

Andrew McCutchen had a pair of extra-base hits – his 20th homer and 32nd double – driving in 4 runs.

Jeff Locke (W 7-8) went 7 innings, allowing a pair of runs on 5 hits and a walk.  It snapped a 6-game streak in which Locke had failed to escape the 6th inning.  He had gone 1-2 with a 6.39 ERA in that stretch.

The Bucs remain 4.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.  September should provide plenty of drama with those two teams battling for the division title.


* * * * * * * * *

The Chicago Cubs fell back to even in their series with the San Francisco Giants, falling 4-2 and snapping a 6-game winning streak.

Buster Posey hit an RBI double over the head of Chris Coghlan in right field to break a 2-2 tie in the 6th.

Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant each had a double and single, with Bryant driving in a pair of runs to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the 1st.

Even with the loss, the Cubs are still 21-5 in their last 26 games.


* * * * * * * * *

Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is feeling well after throwing a two inning simulated game and is hopeful to be back soon. He’s scheduled to throw another simulated game – this time three innings – on Sunday as he tries to work his way back into the rotation for the postseason run.

The often entertaining Adam Bittner of the Post-Gazette had a nice write-up on the use of Pirates “first baseman” Pedro Alvarez. Check it out over there.

Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs.com wrote up 23-year-old Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco, focusing on his improved handling of southpaws. Last year, Polanco had a slash line of .171/.222/.244 against left-handed pitchers. This year? .214/.275/.321. Still not great, but improving. FYI: His numbers against RHP are pretty similar between last year and this. By the way, both Polanco and Alvarez sat last night against the left-handed Chris Narveson. Read it.

Anthony Castrovince takes a look at 2015’s Most Impactful MLB Managers and, wouldn’t you know it, 3 of the top 6 are from the NL Central. The Bucs’ Clint Hurdle comes in at #6, the Cards’ Mike Matheny at #4 and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon is #1. Read it at Sports On Earth.

* * * * * * * * *

Joey Votto continues to have a monster season, upping his on-base percentage yet another 10 points this past week to hit .446 at the top of the NL Central Leader Board.

In 14 games played since August 12th, Votto has a .571 OBP to go along with a .372 AVG, .837 SLG, 1.409 OPS, 5 HR and 5 2B. That’s spanning 63 plate appearances. Unreal.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 81 45 W4
Pittsburgh Pirates 76 49 4.5 W1
Chicago Cubs 73 52 7.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 53 74 28.5 L4
Cincinnati Reds 52 73 28.5 L2

Wild Card Standings

Pittsburgh Pirates 76 49 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 73 52
San Francisco Giants 67 59 6.5
Washington Nationals 63 62 10.0

* * * * * * * * *


69-56 Dodgers Greinke (13-3, 1.67)
52-73 REDS DeSclafani (7-9, 3.97)
11:35 AM CT
73-52 CUBS Haren (8-8, 3.76)
67-59 Giants Bumgarner (15-6, 3.02)
2:45 PM CT
76-49 PIRATES Cole (14-7, 2.49)
51-76 Marlins Nicolino (2-1, 3.77)
6:10 PM CT
81-45 CARDINALS Martinez (12-6, 2.85)
62-64 Diamondbacks De La Rosa (11-5, 4.32)
8:40 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .446
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .400
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .396
Kris Bryant (CHC) .368
Jung Ho Kang (PIT) .364
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.98
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.09
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.12
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.13

Top Three Winners Again

Kris Bryant hit another walk-off for the Cubs in a 2-1 win yesterday.

Kris Bryant hit another walk-off for the Cubs in a 2-1 win yesterday.

Well, this is starting to become quite routine, isn’t it?

I guess it shouldn’t surprise us, given that the top 3 in the division make up 3 of the top 4 teams in all of Major League Baseball, but still. Sometimes it seems ridiculous, but yet again we have The Big Three all coming out winners yesterday.

You start to wonder if the only time these teams lose is when they play each other.

Tell you what, let’s just throw the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs into the playoffs by themselves.

They can each play a 3-game home series against each other, making up a 12-game schedule. Whoever finishes with the best record advances to the World Series. We cool with that?

Sorry, I realize there’s no definite way any of these three teams even makes the National League Championship Series, let alone wins it.

The playoffs are such a crap-shoot. This is why you’ll hear folks who are a bit longer in the tooth complain about the de-valuing of the 162-game regular season that comes about by introducing more teams into the postseason.

Also, the fact that I just used the phrase “long in the tooth” should tell you something about my own age and feelings on the matter.

But I digress.

What I’m really trying to say is that it would be immeasurably fun to watch these three teams go at it, head-to-head, in the playoffs.

What we may very well end up with instead is one of them being eliminated immediately in a best-of-1 Wild Card game. And then the two survivors could get swept in a best-of-5 National League Divisional Series because, hey, it’s three games. That’s a small sample size. Even the 1927 New York Yankees had a pair of 3-game losing streaks. It happens.

I just don’t want this season to end, that’s all.


* * * * * * * * *

The Cardinals scored 3 in the 7th to snap a 2-2 tie, ending the Arizona Diamondbacks winning streak with a 5-3 victory.

Tommy Pham inside-outed a single through the right side with men on the corners to put the Cards ahead. Yadier Molina brought two more home with a base hit into right and the Cards didn’t look back.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 39th save while Lance Lynn improved to 10-8 on the season.

Lynn got some help on defense, turning 4 double plays to help limit the damage that could have been done by Arizona.

Injured first baseman Matt Adams (remember him?) is possible to return from the disabled list next week. He wasn’t exactly tearing it up when he was healthy (.243/.281/.375), so it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle his return, particularly when rosters are going to be expanding to 40-man soon anyhow. Then there’s still Matt Holiday, Randal Grichuk, Jordan Walden, Jon Jay


* * * * * * * * *

Jon Lester pitched brilliantly for 8.2 innings, only to be undone by his inability to field a ground ball as the Cleveland Indians tied up the Cubs 1-1 in the top of the 9th.

No matter.

Kris Bryant stepped up and hit the walk-off to right with two out in the bottom of the 9th. It was the highly-touted rookie’s 20th long ball of the season.

Also, props to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo who seems to make a highlight-reel fielding play every week. Yesterday afternoon, with a man on 1st, he sprinted in on a bunt in front of the plate down the first base line. Seeing the ball was going to roll foul, he slid along the line, stopping it from rolling foul so that he could scoop it up in fair territory and start a 3-6-4 double play. Amazing.

At the plate, Rizzo also had an RBI triple.

The Cubs also got some pretty slick fielding up the middle on other double plays, with Starlin Castro getting a start at short.

Chicago put right fielder Jorge Soler on the DL.  He’s expected back before the playoffs start, should the Cubs get there.  Soler has hit .265 with 7 HR and 42 RBI, striking out 111 times in 378 plate appearances.  It’s been a disappointing season, though he’s shown signs at times of snapping out of it.

It’s go time for the Cubs now, with a chance to really put some distance between themselves and the San Francisco Giants – they start a 3-game series in ‘Frisco this evening.


* * * * * * * * *

The Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 5-2 with J.A. Happ putting up another strong outing since coming over at the trade deadline.

Happ (W 6-7) went 6 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits and a walk while striking out 6.

Gregory Polanco had a four-hit game, including a pair of doubles.

Mark Melancon notched his 40th save with a perfect 9th.

Things got a bit tense with Miami pitchers coming up and in on Pirate batters no fewer than 6 times. An ejection was eventually made with no apparent retaliation on the part of Pittsburgh’s pitchers. Just win, I guess.

It’s hard to know where to start when looking at the Pirates recent trends. They’ve won 6 of 7, 10 of 12, 14 of 18… Anyway you look at it over the past month or so, they’ve been hot.

Injured starting pitcher A.J. Burnett was scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session yesterday in hopes of returning to the rotation.


* * * * * * * * *

The Cincinnati Reds snapped a 9-game losing streak and are back in a virtual tie with the idle Milwaukee Brewers for last place in the division.

* * * * * * * * *

Some Leaderboard trends for you today.

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is up there now for the division batting title. Not so much that he’s been suddenly hitting the tar out of the ball. More that he’s playing so regularly that he now qualifies for the batting title. He has 382 plate appearances, exactly one more than he currently needs to qualify.

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is on a 9-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .375 with 6 extra-base hits.

And in his last 7 games, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen has had five 2-hit games. He’s batting .357 over that time frame with 3 extra-base hits.

Those guys have been hot enough to push Rizzo, Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward and Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips down in the leader board, but all three have actually hit well over the past week.

In his last two starts (small sample size alert!), Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez has a 5.56 ERA, allowing 14 hits in 11.1 innings of work. Martinez is at 148.2 innings this season, quite a bit more than last year’s mark of 112. Could he be starting to fray at the edges a bit? Something to keep an eye on during this stretch run, for sure.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 79 45 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 75 48 3.5 W3
Chicago Cubs 72 51 6.5 W5
Milwaukee Brewers 53 72 26.5 L2
Cincinnati Reds 52 71 26.5 W1

Wild Card Standings

Pittsburgh Pirates 75 48 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 72 51
San Francisco Giants 66 58 6.5
Washington Nationals 62 61 10.0
Arizona Diamondbacks 62 62 10.5

* * * * * * * * *


67-56 Dodgers Wood (8-8, 3.79)
52-71 REDS Lamb (0-1, 6.35)
6:10 PM CT
53-72 BREWERS Peralta (4-7, 4.48)
58-66 Indians Tomlin (1-1, 2.03)
6:10 PM CT
75-48 PIRATES Morton (8-4, 4.06)
50-75 Marlins Hand (3-3, 4.46)
6:10 PM CT
79-45 CARDINALS Garcia (5-4, 1.79)
62-62 Diamondbacks Ray (3-9, 3.38)
9:10 PM CT
72-51 CUBS Arrieta (15-6, 2.30)
66-58 Giants Cain (2-3, 5.66)
9:15 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

Joey Votto (CIN) .309
Francisco Cervelli (PIT) .303
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .297
Starling Marte (PIT) .292
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .291
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 2.30
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.49
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 2.62
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.80
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.85

Power Surge: Yadi Makes History

Yadier Molina homered for the 2nd time in 3 nights.

Yadier Molina homered for the 2nd time in 3 nights.

Yadier Molina‘s 100th career homer lifted the St. Louis Cardinals as they took the rubber game against the San Francisco Giants with a 4-3 win at home.

In the 7th, Tommy Pham sped from 3rd base to score the tying run, getting in ahead of a throw home with the infield playing in.

Molina, batting cleanup for the first time in 2015, hit his 4th homer of the season in the 8th inning, breaking a 3-3 tie. After going much of the season without a homer, the thinner version of Molina homered for the 2nd time in the series. He went 3-for-4 on the night.

Trevor Rosenthal pitched a spotless 9th, striking out a pair for his 38th save.


* * * * * * * * *

J.A. Happ went 6 shutout innings to guide the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mark Melancon had 3 strikeouts in the 9th (all on curveballs) to collect save number 38.

Sean Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with an RBI out of the #8 spot in the lineup, helping to atone for a big error in last night’s game.


* * * * * * * * *

Make it three straight losses for the Chicago Cubs, who allowed double digit runs for the second straight night – the first time that’s happened to them this season.

If you want to know how bad things went for the Cubs, the Detroit Tigers starting pitcher homered to center field in his first career at bat in the majors.

To be fair, the wind was blowing straight out to center at 15 mph, but still.

The 15-8 loss to the Tigers knocked the Cubs 9 games back in the division, although the Giants’ loss to the Redbirds kept them with the same lead in the Wild Card chase.

Jon Lester (L 8-9) lasted just 2.2 innings, allowing 7 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks, serving up 3 homers.

If you’re a Cubs fan with an eye on the future, it will please you to know that the kids were alright. Kris Bryant hit his 17th homer in a 4-for-4 night and Kyle Schwarber hit his 10th. It was Schwarber’s 2nd straight game with a long ball.

There’s always next year, folks.


* * * * * * * * *

Leaderboard Trends

In his last 12 games, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli has a .429 on-base percentage.

In 16 August games, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has a .463 on-base percentage.

In contrast, Pirates infielder Jung-Ho Kang has a .233 OBP in his last 6 games. Since ending a recent 10-game hitting streak, Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter has a .250 OBP in his most recent 5 games.

Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano has a 1.75 WHIP in his last 4 starts. In that timeframe, he has gone 2-0 with a 5.82 ERA, allowing 29 hits in 21.2 innings of work.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 77 43 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 71 47 5.0 W2
Chicago Cubs 67 51 9.0 L3
Cincinnati Reds 51 67 25.0 L5
Milwaukee Brewers 52 70 26.0 W1

Wild Card Standings

Pittsburgh Pirates 71 47 +4.0
Chicago Cubs 67 51
San Francisco Giants 65 55 3.0
Washington Nationals 60 59 7.5

* * * * * * * * *


65-55 Giants Peavy (3-5, 4.18)
71-47 PIRATES Morton (7-4, 4.36)
6:05 PM CT
58-61 Diamondbacks Corbin (3-3, 3.43)
51-67 REDS Lamb (0-1, 7.50)
6:10 PM CT
53-67 Braves Foltynewicz (4-4, 5.61)
67-51 CUBS Arrieta (14-6, 2.39)
7:05 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .436
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .401
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .398
Francisco Cervelli (PIT) .375
Kris Bryant (CHC) .367
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.99
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.09
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.11
Dan Haren (CHC) 1.12

Bad Day for Bucs

This is what Yadi looks like after breaking a tie score with an RBI triple.

This is what Yadi looks like after breaking a tie score with an RBI triple.

There was quite a list of things that didn’t go well for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.

First off, they lost to the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals for a second straight day, pushing them 7 games back in the division.

Secondly, outfielder Starling Marte left the game with a hand injury after being plunked for the 3rd time in his last 4 games. He’s hitting .285 with 13 HR and 22 SB this season.

Third, the Chicago Cubs won for the 12th time in their last 13 games to close to within a game and a half of them for the top Wild Card spot.

Pedro Alvarez‘s brick glove at first base cost the Pirates two runs early on.

In the bottom of the 3rd, with the game still scoreless, the Cards had the bases loaded and one out. Jason Heyward hit a bouncer up the middle that looked to be an inning-ending 4-3 double play, but Neil Walker‘s throw to 1st was in the dirt and not only couldn’t Alvarez scoop it, but he also let the ball bounce well enough away from him to allow two Cardinal runners to score.

This play, by the way, came after one in which Alvarez failed to get back to first base in time to cover the bag on a ground ball.

Yadier Molina‘s RBI triple in the 6th inning snapped a 2-2 tie and held up to be the game-winner in a 4-2 St. Louis victory.  Molina’s low liner into center field got past a diving Gregory Polanco, giving the Pirates’ their second questionable defensive play of the night.

Meanwhile, Michael Wacha (W 14-4) struck out 7 Pirates in 6 innings of work, somehow scattering 12 base runners to allow just a pair of runs.

Andrew McCutchen homered (18th) and tripled (3rd) in the Pittsburgh loss.

This is the largest lead St. Louis has had in the division since July 25th. With another win today, it would be their largest lead since June 30th.


* * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, in Chicago, close Hector Rondon again tried to play “Houdini” by putting men at 2nd & 3rd with nobody out and a 1-run lead in the 9th. After striking out the next two batters, however, he bounced a pitch in the dirt that catcher Miguel Montero couldn’t handle, allowing it to get away and giving the Milwaukee Brewers a run to make it a 2-2 tie.

Miggy atoned in the 10th, with a solo home run (11th).

Kris Bryant poked his 16th homer of the year for the Cubs and first baseman Anthony Rizzo made an unbelievable play on a foul ball, jumping up onto the tarp and then stepping out into the crowd to make a catch and retire the much-despised Ryan Braun.

Braun had a nice day at the plate, actually, going 3-for-4 with his 20th homer of the year.

It was the Cubs’ 6th straight win and 12th in their last 13. Amazingly, they’ve only made up 3 games on the Cardinals during this stretch.


* * * * * * * * *

Fielding metrics are a tricky thing and (at this point, anyhow) largely subjective and prone to stringers.

I just want to throw that caveat out there before pointing out some numbers about the Cubs’ shortstop situation.

Much has been made of Addison Russell being the more “natural” or “gifted” shortstop and Starlin Castro being more of a hack.

Well, this is an admittedly small sample size for Russell, but take a look at the numbers so far at short.

Castro: 103 games, 4.43 range factor per 9 innings, .962 fielding percentage
Russell: 14 games, 3.07 range factor per 9 innings, .917 fielding percentage

The subjective data from Baseball Info Solutions has Russell as the better fielder, with a +3 in defensive runs saved already, compared to -7 for Castro.

So the numbers say one thing but the eyes say another.

* * * * * * * * *

In his last 28 games, Cincinnati Reds‘ first baseman Joey Votto has a .563 OBP. He’s also hit .382 with 8 doubles and 5 home runs.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 73 40 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 46 7.0 L2
Chicago Cubs 64 48 8.5 W6
Cincinnati Reds 50 62 22.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 48 67 26.0 L2

Wild Card Standings

Pittsburgh Pirates 65 46 +1.5
Chicago Cubs 64 48
San Francisco Giants 60 53 4.5
Washington Nationals 58 55 6.5

* * * * * * * * *


48-67 BREWERS Cravy (0-3, 5.40)
64-48 CUBS Lester (7-8, 3.227)
1:20 PM CT
65-46 PIRATES Liriano (7-6, 3.13)
73-40 CARDINALS Lynn (9-6, 2.76)
6:15 PM CT
50-62 REDS Sampson (1-1, 3.00)
64-50 Dodgers Latos (4-8, 4.67)
9:10 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .434
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .405
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .395
Jung-Ho Hang (PIT) .371
Matt Carpenter (STL) .367
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.99
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.04
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.11
Dan Haren (CHC) 1.12

All-Star Game Results

Andrew McCutchen hit a line drive over the left field wall for a solo homer in last night's All-Star Game.

Andrew McCutchen hit a line drive over the left field wall for a solo homer in last night’s All-Star Game.

The American League was a 6-3 winner over the National League in the All-Star Game.

Here are the lines for players from the NL Central:

Chicago Cubs
Kris Bryant: 0-for-1, BB
Anthony Rizzo: 0-for-2

Cincinnati Reds
Aroldis Chapman: 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 SO
Todd Frazier: 0-for-3

Milwaukee Brewers
Ryan Braun: 1-for-1, 3B, R
Francisco Rodriguez: 1 IP, 2 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 SO

Pittsburgh Pirates
Gerrit Cole: 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 SO
Andrew McCutchen: 1-for-3, HR, R, RBI, SO
Mark Melancon: 1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 2 SO

St. Louis Cardinals
Yadier Molina: 1-for-1
Jhonny Peralta: 1-for-1, RBI, BB

Your highlights were McCutchen with a solo homer in the 6th inning and Chapman striking out the side in the 9th. The American League bench’s reaction to Chapman’s 103 mph fastball was pretty great.

Back to business on Thursday!

Home Run Derby Dumbness

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will be in tonight's Home Run Derby.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will be in tonight’s Home Run Derby.

Go grab 10 quarters, a piece of paper and a pen.

I’ll wait.


Okay, now I want you to take the first quarter and flip it 100 times.

Write down how many times Coin #1 came up heads and how many times it came up tails.


Now, set that quarter aside and repeat the process for Coins #2 through 10.

There’s a good chance that one or more of those quarters had results that were not an even 50/50 split.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those quarters had either heads or tails coming up 55 times. Heck, maybe even 60. Or more!

Now I want you to take that quarter that appears to be coming up heads or tails more often.

Hold it up in the air. Examine it. Look at it. Talk to it. Praise it.

I’m about to ask you to flip it another 100 times, because clearly this quarter is gifted and we’d like to see it showcased.

But before you do that, let me ask you this question – what are you expecting the quarter to do in the second half of this experiment?

Do you expect it to continue it’s run of a high frequency of heads (or tails)? Or do you expect it to be about an even 50/50 split because, hell, that’s how flipping coins works?

The reason I ask is because every year we get the same level of dumbness surrounding the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby.

People get up in arms about how participating in the Home Run Derby somehow ruins sluggers for the second half of the season.

It’s nonsense for the same reason as my quarter example above.

Batters who take part in the Home Run Derby are, naturally, going to be the guys who are among the league leaders in Home Runs headed into the All-Star Break.

What does it take to lead the league in Home Runs? Well, some combination of an actual innate ability to hit for power, yes. But also some degree of luck – a random element that gives you a higher rate of success in driving the ball out of the ballpark than you normally might.

That nudge is enough to get you among the league’s leaders and, most likely, nominated for the Home Run Derby.

What happens after the Home Run Derby isn’t that a batter’s swing is “ruined” from having participated in the contest.

What happens is that the batter was playing a bit above his actual abilities for the first 3 months of the season and, in the 2nd half, played closer to their actual abilities.

In the quarter example above, we may have had a quarter that came up heads 60% of the time in the 1st half of the experiment. In the 2nd half, it’s probably going to come up heads on 50% of our tosses. It’s not that the quarter was ruined by being selected to participate in anything before the 2nd half of the experiment. It’s just that, it’s a quarter, and it has a certain level of expectation for how often it will come up heads or tails. 50%.

Participants in the Home Run Derby are no different.

I went into Baseball Reference and grabbed some of the league’s top Home Run hitters in the first half of the season from 2012 through 2014.

For 2012, I grabbed the 21 players who had 17 or more HR. For 2013, the cut-off was 21 players who had 18 or more. And for 2014, it was 22 who had 17 or more. (I originally grabbed the Top 25, but then it turned out that because of tie-breakers I had to include either more or less and I sided with less because this sample size of 64 players is enough to prove a point.)

For each of those 64 players, I calculated their Home Run Rate for the First Half of the season. Home Run Rate was defined as Home Runs divided by At Bats. (I wanted to exclude walks, because what are the chances of driving a ball out of the park when the bat is on your shoulder?)

I did the same for the Second Half of their seasons.

My sample size was reduced because of players who just didn’t have many At Bats in the Second Half due to an injury and therefore would have made this experiment less worthwhile. Troy Tulowitzki’s sample size of 5 at bats in the Second Half of 2014, for example? Not very reliable.

I decided that 100 At Bats in the Second Half was a nice enough sample size and made that my final cut-off.

So the final tally was a sample of 58 players.

If what I’m saying is wrong, then you’d expect a player’s Home Run Rate to remain more or less constant. How they hit in the First Half should be completely consistent with their Second Half.

But if what I’m saying is right, and a player tends to lead the league in the First Half because of some element of “good luck” that leads to them playing above their true level, then you’d expect their Second Half rate to be lower. (By the way, I expected this to be true in well over half of my 64 player sample.)

If players who were among the First Half leaders in Home Runs tend to have higher Home Run Rates in the Second Half, then I’m just completely wrong about everything and I need to re-consider everything in my life.

So what happened to these guys?

Out of the 58 players examined, 76% saw their Home Run Rate decrease in the Second Half.

Well, that’s fine about my theory of strong First Halves not being something you should rely on to predict a strong Second Half. (Unless you’re prediction is just the rate should go down if it was exceptionally strong in the First Half, in which case, yes, I agree with you.)

But this still doesn’t tackle the whole “Home Run Derby Effect”, right?

Out of my sample of 58 players, 12 of them were participants in the Home Run Derby.

So was there any difference in the frequency of regression among that group of 12 Home Run Derby participants versus the 46 who were not participants?

Out of the 12 Home Run Derby participants, 83% saw their Home Run Rate decrease in the Second Half.

Is 83% significantly different than 76%? I’m inclined to say no. 12 is a small(ish) sample size. If only one of those 12 switched over, we’d be at 75% instead of 83%, so things can change pretty quickly there.

An interesting thing that perhaps illustrates the point. If we take this list 58 players and sort them by First Half Home Run Rate, the top 14 on the list had a downward trend in the Second Half 100% of the time. The bottom 14 on the list? They only had a downward trend 71% of the time.

Of the sample of 58, the average player had a Second Half Home Run Rate that was 79% of their First Half Home Run Rate. The average player included had a First Half Home Run Rate of 6.5% compared to 5.0% in the Second Half.

So if you are worried about your favorite player being included in the Home Run Derby and messing up his swing, check yourself.

From the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs‘ third baseman Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo as well as the Cincinnati Reds‘ third baseman Todd Frazier.

While it’s true that all three will probably see their Home Run Rates decrease in the Second Half of the season, it has nothing to do with the Home Run Derby and everything to do with the fact that, up to this point, they’ve been playing a little bit above their true abilities. And that’s part of why they were invited to participate in the first place.


Bryant, Weather on Display at Wrigley

Sky over Wrigley Field

Sky over Wrigley Field

Kris Bryant hit two homers in a game for the first time in his MLB career, driving in 3 runs as the Chicago Cubs defeated Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2.

Bryant broke an 0-for-15 streak, taking a 73 mph hanging curveball from Kershaw to opposite field for his first homer. His second homer was crushed to left field on a 93 mph fastball from a Dodger reliever.

Jason Motte picked up the save on his birthday – his 2nd of the year. (Save. Not birthday.)

But the big story may have been the weather. Tornadoes touched down south of Chicago, and the skies over Wrigley Field were pretty outstanding, as evidenced in the picture above. Here’s another.


Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

I see Yadier Molina has snuck into the division’s leader boards for batting average (see below). Since May 5th, when he was hitting just .231, Molina has batted .329 in 42 games.

* * *


W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 45 24 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 39 30 6.0 L3
Chicago Cubs 38 30 6.5 W3
Cincinnati Reds 32 36 12.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 25 46 21.0 L2

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32-36 REDS Smith (NR)
39-30 PIRATES Locke (4-3, 4.74)
6:05 PM CT
30-41 Marlins TBD
6:10 PM CT
39-32 Dodgers Greinke (5-2, 1.81)
38-30 CUBS Hammel (5-2, 2.89)
7:05 PM CT
36-35 Mets Niese (3-7, 4.21)
25-46 BREWERS Fiers (3-7, 4.50)
7:10 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

Jhonny Peralta (STL) .311
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .308
Matt Holliday (STL) .303
Joey Votto (CIN) .296
Yadier Molina (STL) .295
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.78
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 2.05
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.80
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.85
Jason Hammel (CHC) 2.89