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The 62-Homer Season Was No Surprise
ALSO: FISH GO FISHING IN POOL OF UNTESTED MANAGERS
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Did you know…
Bryce Harper hit three home runs between Aug. 26, the day he returned from a broken thumb, and the end of the regular season — then hit five in 11 post-season games . . .
McGillin's Old Alehouse, Philadelphia's oldest bar, announced it will be serving red beer in honor of the team’s quest for its third world championship . . .
The Mets and Yankees combined for 200 wins for the first time since 1962, when the former started play as a hapless expansion team . . .
Contact-hitting free agent left-fielder Andrew Benintendi played just 33 games with the Yankees before breaking his hamate bone . . .
Yankee duds Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks are still owed a $58.5 million . . .
If Zack Britton is sound, some team can get a highly-capable lefty closer . . .
Angels reliever Jimmy Herget is called “the Human Glitch” because of his funky mechanics . . .
San Diego’s Mike Clevinger was the 10th pitcher to make a post-season start but get nobody out — after posting a 6.52 ERA over his last six starts in the regular season and allowing five runs against the Dodgers in the NLDS . . .
Clevinger and Philly counterpart Bailey Falter (perfect name here!) were the first starters who faltered in the first inning of any postseason game since 1932 . . .
San Diego backstop Austin Nola was also a disaster, going 1-for-2 against brother Aaron in the playoffs but 0-for-14 against pitchers who were not relatives . . .
Philadelphia’s Jean Segura was the first player in post-season history to make an error, drive in a run, and get picked off in the same game . . .
In addition to Aaron Judge, the Yankees have six veteran players whose hefty salaries could be coming off the books via free agency . . .
Since Judge was AL Rookie of the Year in 2017, the Yanks have lost the ALCS three times (2017, 2019, 2022), the ALDS twice (2018, 2020), and the Wild Card Game once (2021).
The Reality of 62
By Benjamin Chase
Did you know that Aaron Judge hit 62 home runs this year?
Here's the bigger question — did you know that the records that Judge broke were for the Yankee team single-season home run record and the American League single-season home run record? Despite what Roger Maris, Jr. says...
Plenty of people have used Judge's home run pursuits this summer to re-hash negative opinions on the hitters of the late-1990s and early-2000s, what many in lazy baseball media term the "steroid era."
Why would those using that phrase be referred to as "lazy" baseball media?
Quite simply, what happened should have been expected, and NOT because of any substances.
First, performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) need to be classified as what they truly are/were. What was seen in the era in question were not pure anabolic steroids but actually advanced, developed PEDs, like human growth hormone.
To define a PED, technically anything that aids and enhances performance is technically a PED, from the protein powder that you stir into a post-workout smoothie to an injectable synthetic testosterone enhancer.
Multiple studies have found that athletes who have been given a placebo will have similar gains to those who are given a human growth hormone. While the drugs do help, they don't do it on their own. They do tend to inspire plenty to escalate workouts, which will bring additional gains, no matter if there are substances or not. Of course, having a good trainer can help with that.
While many sports had full-time strength and conditioning staff members as far back as the 1960s, baseball was far behind the curve in caring for the athletes on the field in strength and nutrition.
The first full-time strength coach in MLB was Bob Alejo with the Oakland Athletics in 1993. However, while the benefits the A's players were getting from Alejo's work were obvious to players, many teams did not commit to hiring on staff, as it was the mid-2000s before every team even had a single full-time staff member in strength and nutrition, and for many teams, that meant just one full-time staff at that time for the entire organization.
Alejo still actively training college athletes 30 years after he was historically hired by the A’s
That meant that players looking to match what Alejo was giving the A's players were going to private trainers, and that is still rampant today with offseason facilities like Driveline and other baseball training centers, which leads players to be susceptible to gimmick-driven trainers that can convince players willing to buy in in order to gain any edge to get to and then stay on top.
Whenever baseball has expanded, offense has experienced a significant uptick. Whether it's spreading quality pitching throughout the league or teams struggling to adjust new pitching staffs after expansion, the change is statistically viable every time expansion occurs for up to a decade after the expansion.
The issue was that in the era of the late-90s and early 2000s, two expansions occurred within five years. The effect was one of the biggest offensive jumps of any expansion era (though not THE biggest jump).
When the league expanded in 1969 and 1977 by a total of six teams, home runs per game went up by 41 per cent in 1977 from the rate seen in 1968.
A similar rate was seen in 1998, with the home runs per game in 1998 44 per cent higher than the number in 1992.
Interestingly, run-scoring during the most prolific of seasons during the 1993-2008 era was still less than the run-scoring in the 1930s. Run-scoring dropped precipitously as players were called to World War II and has never reached Ruth/Gehrig/Foxx/Greenberg/Ott/et al levels again.
Of course, the hitters in the 1930s were hitting in ballparks that took a week's walk to get to the center-field wall — if there was a wall at all.
In the 1990s, new ballparks were all the rage, beginning with the "new classic" look of Camden Yards in Baltimore replacing the multi-use stadiums. In all, 14 new parks opened between 1994 and 2006, not counting the Tampa Bay and Arizona stadiums that were added due to expansion.
Those 14 new parks had a cumulative "ballpark effect" of +50, averaging out to +3.6 per park. That means for each season in that park, a team would expect to score 3.6 additional runs simply by playing in the new park with no change in players simply due to the effects of the park. That impact on the offense is absolutely notable.
A couple of other things
While those are certainly plenty on their own, there are other effects as well that impacted offense in the era.
The strike zone was incredibly inconsistent in the era, despite multiple rule changes in the era that told umpires what they "should" call. QuesTec came on the scene in the early 2010s, and umpires began being reviewed by MLB based on their calls within the QuesTec zone. That has led to a significantly more consistent zone - and one of the least offensive eras since the mid-1960s.
Technology also made a significant leap forward at that time, allowing for immediate video in clubhouses that players could review of a pitcher, nevermind all the braces and armor that hitters can use to protect themselves as they position themselves to maximize their ideal swing as found through video swing analysis to crush baseballs.
What Aaron Judge did this season was incredible and deserves recognition. However, talking down previous eras in order to pump up his accomplishments only belittles the game and shows ignorance to what was truly happening.
Benjamin Chase is a newspaper reporter in rural South Dakota who has a huge love for the game of baseball, especially in player development and minor leagues. He is part of the Pallazzo Podcast Prospects Half Hour podcast each week and writes for his website and is open to freelance work as well. He can be found on Twitter @biggentleben.
As Manager, Moribund Marlins Pick Youth Over Experience (And Cost)
By Dan Schlossberg
After a seven-year dose of Don Mattingly, the Miami Marlins have decided their next manager should be long on youth even if he’s short on experience.
And voila! Skip Schumaker is getting his first shot as a big-league pilot after years of serving as bench coach for contenders.
A former infielder who never amounted to much as a player, Schumaker has time on his side. He’s only 42 — not much older than some of his players.
But he’s also in a division with three juggernauts, the pennant-winning Philadelphia Phillies and two teams that won 101 each but didn’t last long in post-season play.
Unless general manager Kim Ng has suddenly found buried Spanish treasure in South Florida, it’s going to be another long, hot summer. Both wins and fan support will be hard to come by.
The 2022 Marlins went 69-93 despite the presence of Sandy Alcantara, the National League’s likely Cy Young Award winner; star second baseman Jazz Chisholm, Jr.; and 2021 World Series MVP Jorge Soler, who flopped after signing a three-year, $36 million contract.
To be sure, Soler didn’t win that trophy while representing the Fish. He belonged to the Braves last season, got hot when it counted, and wounded up with a trophy, a hefty World Series share, and that multi-year contract.
The Marlins made the extended playoffs after the virus-shortened 2020 season but haven’t qualified in a full-length campaign since 2003, when Jack McKeon’s club beat the Yankees in the World Series.
In fact, the team has never finished first despite two world championships. Such is the wild, wild world of wild-card baseball.
If not for Washington (first in war, first in peace, but last in the National League), the Fish would have finished fifth in the five-team division.
The Marlins rank 23rd among the 30 clubs with a payroll of $47,900,000 — just under the per annum salary of Mets pitcher Max Scherzer.
Not surprisingly, the Mets have the highest payroll, followed by the Phillies, Padres, Dodgers, Braves, Astros, and Yankees in that order. All were involved in postseason play.
Schumaker apparently beat out former Mets manager Luis Rojas, now a Yankees coach, and fellow bench coaches Matt Quatraro (Rays) and Joe Espada (Astros). Most recently bench coach for the Cardinals, Schumaker previously served San Diego as “associate manager,” a term not taken lightly.
He inherits a team that has young, promising pitching even beyond Alcantara but a wobbly offense that seldom gives the pitching staff support.
Schumaker learned a lot last year under another young manager without experience: Ollie Marmol in St. Louis. But the Cards had veterans like Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright, plus All-Stars at the peak of their game in Nolan Arenado and MVP favorite Paul Goldschmidt.
Unless they reverse course and start spending this winter, the Marlins are not likely to return to post-season play anytime soon.
Although their top players have already endorsed the selection of Schumaker, the bottom line is the won-lost ledger. It isn’t going to be pretty.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 40 baseball books. He’s covering the World Series for forbes.com. Dan’s e.mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“New York is a hard place to play. The fans are as obnoxious as well, screaming obscenities at you the whole time and throwing [spit] at you on the field. You go to Yankee Stadium and you get a bunch of New Yorkers who can be very, very rude. Some of the [spit] they were saying to me was embarrassing.”
— Hall of Famer George Brett in The New York Post
Justin Verlander will be the third pitcher to win a Cy Young Award after missing the entire previous season. The 39-year-old Astros ace will also tie Early Wynn as the oldest Cy Young recipient . . .
This year’s Los Angeles Dodgers were the first team to win 106 games one year and win more games  the next . . .
The Dodgers and Yankees had the best home records of any teams in 2022 . . .
Johnny Sain of the pennant-winning Boston Braves pitched 314 innings in 1948, the year of “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” . . .
Before contracts got complicated, enormous deals were not infrequent — especially for the Yankees. They made a 17-player trade (the record) with the Baltimore Orioles in 1954 and a 13-player swap with the Kansas City Athletics in 1957 . . .
Ryne Duren, the hard-throwing reliever who rattled opponents of the Yankees for four seasons from 1958-60, wore glasses that looked like Coke-bottle bottoms and was often wild. But he still made three All-Star teams and averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.