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April 16 2021: The First Pitch

If you’re one of those folks hoping to see major leaguers fix their bad habits, put the ball more in play and avoid a possible onslaught of silly new rules over the next year or two, we’ve good some bad news for you. 

First, batting averages. As of the end of last night, MLB teams are hitting a collective .235. Sure, it’s still early and it’s still cold, but that number is down 10 points from 2020—and 17 from 2019. The lowest team average in a full season since the start of the modern era is a .212 reading by the 1910 Chicago White Sox; as of the end of Wednesday night, five teams are hitting below that figure. At the bottom are the Cubs, who all by themselves are one big Chris Davis—hitting an absolutely embarrassing .163. 

Okay, so are the players at least putting the ball into play more often? Um, nope. The percentage of plate appearances resulting in one of the three outcomes—a home run, walk or strikeout—is at 36.6%, up from 36.0% from 2020 and 35.1% in 2019. 

So the momentum continues to build, slowly but surely, in the wrong direction. Meanwhile, the start of the minor league season is two weeks away with a bevy of experimental rules ready to be tried out per the wishes of MLB and special agent Theo Epstein. If major leaguers don’t start disciplining themselves more and continue to swing for the fences or die trying, don’t be surprised to see some of those silly rules tried out at the lower levels getting promoted to the parent level in 2022. 


It won’t be as newsworthy as Carlos Rodon’s no-hitter from the day before, but fellow White Sock Lance Lynn followed up the former’s gem with a pretty good outing of his own, conceding two runs on five hits to the Indians through six innings before departing with a 2-1 deficit. But of more historical note, he struck out 10-plus batters with no walks for the second straight start—making him the first White Sox pitcher ever to accomplish that. Cleveland fought off a late Chicago uprising—and one upset Adam Eaton—to grab a 4-2 victory. 


Several heroes emerged for the Braves in a come-from-behind, 7-6 victory over the visiting Marlins that helped stave off a potential four-game sweep for Miami. First there was veteran Pablo Sandoval, playing the role of pinch-hitter extraordinaire as he drilled a three-run bomb in the seventh—his third homer of the year, all off the bench—to give Atlanta a 5-3 lead after six innings. Closer A.J. Minter couldn’t hold a one-run lead in the ninth as the Marlins rallied for two runs, but the Braves bounced back in the bottom half as Dansby Swanson’s one-out single with the bases loaded delivered the game-winner in a 6-5 decision.


Finally, sad news for those who give a rat’s butt: Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez have called off their engagement—this time, definitely. Or, at least until they change their minds once more.


Congrats, Your Box Score Line Was the Best (Hitters Edition)

3-2-3-3Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles’ most beloved redhead—your time will come, Dustin May—is making up for lost time in April. Over his first 12 seasons, he only hit three home runs over 429 career at-bats before May 1. With his home run against the Rockies on Thursday, he’s now hit four this April alone. Oh, he also added a single, double and walk, and is hitting .432 for the year thus far.


Congrats, Your Box Score Line Was the Best (Pitchers Edition)

7-2-0-0-1-6Michael Pineda, Minnesota
The bulky (6’7”, 280 pounds) 32-year old finally put the kibosh on the Red Sox’ nine-game win streak with authority, tossing seven shutout frames and leaving with a 3-0 lead; unfortunately, the Twins’ bullpen couldn’t hold it and, even though they bounced back to win, Pineda was robbed of personal triumph. Despite allowing two earned runs through 18 innings of work in three starts, Pineda has only managed one win.


It Was Whatever-Something Years Ago Today

1940: Cleveland’s Bob Feller gets out to a near-perfect start by no-hitting the White Sox 1-0 on Opening Day at Chicago. Feller walks five in what is the only Opening Day no-hitter ever thrown in major league history. 

1959: Dave Philley—playing for, appropriately, the Phillies—hits safely in his ninth consecutive pinch-hit at-bat in a 7-3 loss at Milwaukee. The streak is a major league record, one that Philley began at the end of the 1958 season. Rusty Staub will eventually match Philley in 1983. 

1983: Steve Garvey, playing his first year at San Diego after 14 years with the Dodgers, sets the all-time National League record for most consecutive games played, breaking Billy Williams’ mark of 1,117 at Dodger Stadium against his old teammates. Garvey will extend the streak to 1,207 before his season ends prematurely from a dislocated finger. 

2004: In an at-bat that’s the Steroid Era personified, The Giants’ Barry Bonds faces off against Dodgers closer Eric Gagne—both of whom will be tagged as having taken PEDs—in an epic showdown at San Francisco’s Pac Bell Park. Gagne throws five pitches at or over 100 MPH—“straight cheddar,” as Bonds later describes it—and on the final offering Bonds drills a searing, tape-measure blast into the center-field bleachers. Bonds’ two-run smash in the ninth isn’t enough to bring the Giants back, losing 3-2 to Los Angeles.


Shameless Link of the Day

That was a pretty well-pitched series that just concluded between the White Sox and Indians. By the way, how’s Cleveland’s list of top 10 pitchers looking these days?


You Say It’s Your Birthday

Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado is 30; once-and-current Brewers infielder Travis Shaw is 31; reliever/closer Antonio Alfonseca is 49; former infielder and target of Albert Bell forearm Fernando Vina is 52; future Hall-of-Famer Bruce Bochy is 66; Red Sox pitching star from 1967 Jim Lonborg is 79. Born on this date is long-time A’s second baseman Pete Suder (1916), 3,152-hit man Paul Waner (1903) and season ERA record-holder Dutch Leonard (1892).

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