MLB throttling it back…or did they do this already?

Good friend and loyal commenter of the blog, Old Pro had an interesting comment that I had been thinking about ever since I saw the same information earlier in the week…

“We haven’t talked about this. It’s probably going to make a big difference in baseball this year, just because of the fact that MLB has admitted it before the season even begins:
MLB has de-juiced the baseball!
It will affect guys with huge power a little.
It will affect guys with moderate power moderately and it will affect guys with little power a lot.
They are telling us they are cutting down on the distance the baseball will travel.
Look for fewer home runs this year. Teams with a lineup of players capable of solid contact and high BA could do damage.
Outfield defense could come into play with fewer balls over the fence and more bouncing around out there.”

What’s interesting is that this is occurring after a season when offenses were down during the pandemic shortened 2020 season. The American League went from scoring 4.88 runs/game and slashing .253 BA/ .323 OBP/ .762 OPS in 2019 and dropped to 4.58 runs/ game and slashing .243/.319/.733 in 2020. The Astros had an even more extreme drop, falling from 5.68 runs/game and slashing .274 BA/ .352 OBP/ .848 OPS to a very mediocre 4.65 runs/game and a .240/.312/.720 slash. One could argue that the hitters were perhaps not fully prepared after the COVID interrupted preparations for the season. But then “One” would have to explain why this affected the hitters more than the pitchers.

A more cynical person than this writer (which would be quite a stretch), might ponder about a conspiracy theory where major league baseball further punishes the Astros by having opposing teams “test” the new un-juiced balls on the Houston nine. Of course watching the actual games in 2020, the Astros batting woes seemed mostly self-inflicted and possibly as much mental as physical as they tried to “prove” how they were not cheaters.

Still, it seems a strange time to take the helium out of the baseball when you would think major league baseball would be trying to hype run-scoring as they try to hold folks interest in the game. Now, again the cynical side may think that they are trying to repress stats and salaries, too. Sure the pitcher’s stats would improve, but there are more front line hitters than pitchers on each team. Or are they trying again to shorten games?

Will a deflated ball (did they get the idea from Tom Brady) affect the Astros much in 2021? Perhaps some of the players who have concentrated too hard on launch angle will get back to good fundamentals. Having watched some really bad at bats by Jose Altuve for instance, anything that convinces him to go back to fundamentals is welcome.

If this helps those teams that have the better outfield defenses, the Astros may fall a bit this season. No one stands out as being able to fill centerfield to the same extent that George Springer did. Leftfield will be covered by an older version of Michael Brantley, plus a bit of Yordan Alvarez and Aledmys Diaz, so that may be a bit of a drop also. Right field should still be manned by Kyle Tucker, who did a solid job defensively for the team in 2020.

In the end, this is a change that affects all teams and hopefully affects our hometown heroes not that much worse than any other team.

43 comments on “MLB throttling it back…or did they do this already?

  1. The baseball should never be made to varying specs. Let the players on the field dictate the game.

    Dan, looks like you guys got a snow day in Houston. Not a good day for being on the road. Hope you can work from home.

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    • Yeah, we have a lovely coating of snow which undoubtedly has a not so lovely undercoating of ice, daveb.
      I’ve been working from home since last March, so as long as the electricity and the internet hold up it is work as normal for me.
      How much snow did you get in Neves???

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      • Funny you should ask that Dan. Allegedly, Columbus first named Nevis “Nieves”, short for Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, which in English would be Our Lady of the Snows. Seems Columbus, once Nevis came onto view, saw a big white cloud sitting on our peak and it looked like snow to him. Maybe he had been sailing along sipping rum all day like Mr. 45 and Uncle Knucklehead would have been.

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  2. I still can’t fathom that Trevor Bauer pay check. Outside of 2018 and the 2020 exhibition season, he’s a reliable but unremarkable pitcher with a lifetime WHIP approaching 1.300 and a 3.90 ERA.

    The Dodgers seem determined not to let the Padres overtake them.

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  3. Look at the difference between these two scenarios:
    1. We don’t have a clue why there are more home runs. We have made no changes to the ball.
    2. Be ready for less home runs. We’ve made some slight changes to the baseball.
    The people at MLB are, like,…………..stu………..dumb!

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  4. I’ve been texting with my kids up near Austin and their temperatures are back in double digits as in 10 F as my son Adam said. They have rolling blackouts up there.
    Here in Sugar Land we got sleet last night and freezing rain and then a coating of snow. The temperature is hovering around 16 F, but the sun just came out brightly and we supposedly soar up to 27 F before dropping back in the teens overnight. Good day to be working from home. Tomorrow will supposedly be a balmy 39, so if we can get through the next 24 hours we should be in pretty good shape.
    My phone says it is 81 F in St. Kitts and Nevis. I think I am jealous of someone

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  5. The weather makes me think about the extremes I’ve experienced in my life.
    – The coldest I ever have been was walking to school about a 1/2 mile in Chicago back in 1963 – it was -20 F without windchill and I got frost bite on my wrist where my skin was exposed between my gloves and my coat. And no I did not walk uphill both ways.
    – The hottest I ever have been was the time I spent in Kuwait / Iraq in 2003/2004. Basically, from June to August it was at least 120F every day and almost up to 130 F some days. And I was in the field all the time.
    – Worst flood – Harvey was the worst in 2017, though I’ve seen a lot of those as Houston is like living in a bath tub with a slow drain
    – Worst Hurricane – Ike, it was a surreal feeling, sleeping in the hallway with my family (well actually we ran out of room and I was just outside the hallway in the living room) while it rocked and rolled its way through Houston
    – Worst non-event – Evacuating to Austin before Rita turned right and spending 13 hours on the road – including eating cold ravioli out of a can at a mini-market in “I don’t know where we are” ville
    – Closest to a tornado – 23 years ago tomorrow, we had taken my wife’s aunt and uncle to Galveston for the day. We were driving back up hiway 6 to Sugar Land when the weather went south. At one point we could see a demarcation where the dark sky was above and a sliver of lighter sky was along the horizon. Suddenly, a giant dark finger dipped out of the clouds. This was the tornado that hit the Aerodrome and ripped the side off the Dillards at First Colony Mall. Where we live now is about 2 blocks away from the Dillards, though this condo did not exist back then.

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    • My worst freezing? In my memory was Fall of 1955 or 1956. Tyler Lee led by Charley Milstead beat Baytown Lee in a quarterfinal or semifinal game in Baytown. It was about 33-34 degrees with a north wind and misty rain. I thought I would die but I had to support my Ganders.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. When you see all these guys getting signed to cheap minor league deals, I guess we can deduce the Astros brains think they have better options coming up from the minors OR they are really, really cheap. I hope it is the former.

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    • If the Astros need help at the deadline, they would have room to add. They went over the luxury tax line last year and they cannot do that again.
      The Astros had the second highest payroll in baseball last year and have the fifth highest right now for 2021. They are not cheap.

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  7. Juice or no juice, I think if Yordan is healthy he will contend for the Astros season home run record.

    Juice or no juice, Abreu, James and Scrubb need to lower their walk rates in order to be successful.

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  8. My son just went by our house on the Gator. He’s feeding the heifers. He also discovered he can drive to the edge of the pond and uses the gator to break through the ice.
    It’s negative 1 degree outside and he’s driving in six inches of snow.
    He raises cattle.
    He runs 4-H for the local school.
    He’s a trained volunteer fireman and fights fires.
    He has three kids at home because of the pandemic.
    He also has a job. He is an investigator who solves crimes involving ranches, recovers lost property and puts the bad guys in jail.
    His phone never stops ringing.
    He’s a rock.
    He wears me out, even though I was worn out years ago.
    We’re due to get 5-8 inches of snow in the next 24 hrs. It’s like we live in Wyoming all of a sudden.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Some good news – some bad

    My mom lost power up in Tomball early yesterday – she has an aide who helps her during the week who lives nearby but also lost power. They toughed it out yesterday but last night they were able to get to the aide’s daughter’s house who has power.
    At the condo we had power yesterday – but lost it 1 – 2 AM so I’m sitting here trying to do work thru my phone until that crashes. I’m wearingmy coat at the kitchen table. Will probably go sit in my car and charge my phone in a little while.

    Will comment sporadically and not sure when the next post will happen. Nevis and West Palm Beach sounds awfully inviting.

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    • Same here guys. Thunderstorms and Tornadoes here in NC but no damage in my area. I can’t remember when we have gotten this much rain in the last two winters. Could use a giant sham-way here to soak it all up. Hopefully it will warm up for you in Texas and other areas hard hit and the power company will get the electricity back up and flowing soon. I may be wrong but aren’t most stoves and heating there run off gas? Stay safe all!

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  10. This morning, the Rays opened their camp and made several roster moves that were facilitated by their ability to use the 60-day IL.
    The Astros open camp tomorrow with a payroll $117 million higher than the Rays.

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  11. Eric Longenhaden of Fangraphs came out with his Top 100 MLB Prospects list today, with 120 players on it.
    The Astros Top Prospect on his list is at #66. Care to guess who? Wrong!
    #66 is SS Jeremy Pena
    #106 is RHP Forrest Whitley
    #120 is RHP Hunter Brown, whom he compared a bit to Walker Buehler. Hit me over the head with that.

    Like

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