A recent column by Joel Sherman in the NY Post contained some interesting baseball stats.
- In April 2018, MLB had its first month ever where there were more strikeouts in all the games (7,335) than there were base hits in all the games (6,992).
- The collective MLB batting average for April 2018 was .244 and Sherman points out that this is the lowest since 1972 – the year before the American League introduced the designated hitter.
- For April 2018, walks per game and hit batters per game are also at historically high levels.
From this data, Sherman summarizes:
“April concluded with 35.6 percent of plays ending in a strikeout, walk, homer or hit by pitch — hence, not in the field of play creating consistent action.”
Now, one could look at that data and that conclusion and say that the lack of “consistent action” is the reason that baseball is a game that attracts a significantly older clientele. I have a problem with that logic on two fronts:
- If “consistent action” was the sine qua non for widespread fandom among millennials, then the NHL should be leading the pack in terms of sports interest in the US – – and it is not.
- Baseball is a game of action – – and it is a game of strategy and tactics. The four “outcomes” noted by Joel Sherman above – strikeout, walk, homer or hit by pitch – all create new strategic and tactical challenges for both the offense and the defense. Excitement comes to baseball games in many different flavors; when the ball is hit into the field of play, that creates excitement; those other outcomes from an at-bat can also produce baseball excitement.
This was an interesting column from Joel Sherman who is a well known and highly respected writer on baseball. Here is a link to this column. I suggest you may want to read it in its entirety.
The winter of 2017/2018 was a disappointing one for many MLB free agents; that state of affairs was widely reported as Spring Training began with lots of hopeful free agents left hanging out to dry. Some folks even used the “C-Word” in hushed tones; you know … collusion.
I would like to point out here how three different teams are currently suffering under stifling guaranteed contracts that they doled out to free agents who were deep enough into their careers at the time of the signing to assure that there would be bleak times ahead for the teams and the players:
- Chicago Cubs: They signed Jason Heyward in 2016 to an 8-year contract worth $184M. He will make $21.5M this year and then another $106M in the years up to the end of the 2023 season. Heyward has been a .261/.344/.412 hitter over his 8+ years in MLB and that is hardly an eye-popping stat line. In his first two years in Chicago, he did not even live up to that career standard. I guess Cubs’ fans can take solace that he is still a really good defensive outfielder and they can hope that aspect of his game continues to obtain through 2023.
- Detroit Tigers: They signed Miguel Cabrera in 2016 as the Cubs did with Jason Heyward. Cabrera’s deal is also for 8 years through 2023 and it was for a whopping $248M with options in 2024 and 2025. Cabrera will make $30M this year; he will make $31M from 2019 through 2021; then, he will make $32M in 2022 and 2023. And if the Tigers want to drop him in 2024, it will cost them an additional $8M to do that. Last year, Cabrera hit .249 which was his worst year at the plate in his 15-year MLB career. He is 35 years old now and will be closing in on 41 years old when the Tigers buy out the 2024 season for $8M.
- LA Angels: They signed Albert Pujols in 2012 to a 10-year contract worth $240M. Pujols makes $27M this year and will make $28M next year, $29 M the year after that and $30M in the 2020 season. In addition, he will collect a $3M bonus sometime this year when he collects his 3000th MLB hit. It will take a catastrophic event to prevent him from reaching that milestone this year since he had 2996 hits as of May 1st. In 2 of the last 3 full seasons, Pujols has hit less than .250; in half of his 6 full seasons with the Angels, he has hit fewer than 30 home runs for the year.
Every dime of those three contracts – and every other MLB contract signed – is fully guaranteed and in these three cases it is fair to say that the players have not been living up to the lofty expectations the clubs had for them as the ink was drying on the contract. That is not a reason to eschew signing free agents; it is a reason for the clubs to think twice about how long a deal – and how much guaranteed money – they will offer to a player who is near the age of 30 at the time of the free agency
Finally, here are some random observations from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle:
“Scientists studying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is four times the size of California, were surprised to find it contains three Trump hotels.
“The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is larger than France, but the Patch’s wine region can’t carry France’s wine region’s Jacques.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………