Pitchers and catchers reported to the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues last month and with the return of Major League Baseball, to Spring Training, it offers a fresh beginning for all 30 franchises. As March Madness prepares to introduce conference tournaments and eventually the NCAA Mens Basketball National Championship, it also presents meaningful baseball news and training camp performances. We’re still 28 days away from Sunday, April 3rd, four home openers beginning with the first game of the 2016 campaign taking place in PNC Park when the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St Louis Cardinals.
The other three Sunday opening games find the Tampa Bay Rays hosting the Toronto Blue Jays, the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals and New York Mets replaying last year’s Fall Classic at the “K” and the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs opening their seasons with an interleague affair.
MLB and Snapchat Team
It wasn’t a progressive minute for the human race, nor MLB traditionalist, when Major League Baseball and Snapchat teamed up for “Snapchat Day”. On March 11, the league and Snapchat are combining forces to bring fans Snapchat Day. The event is part of a new, multi-year partnership between the two companies, which was announced in late February.
For the first time ever, players will be permitted to use smartphones during games in order to send pictures and video to Snapchat. Due to the new partnership, Snapchat will cover MLB games and events both this season, and in future years. That includes opening day, the All-Star game and the postseason. If anything truly good, and MLB meaningful comes from this venture, it will surprise this writer.
Yahoo Sports reported that “If you’re going to take a selfie on a baseball field as a live game is going on, you might as well use a SnapBat. Yes, the SnapBat, which was introduced during the 2015 Home Run Derby, will be making another appearance on Snapchat Day. MLB is rolling out a new design for the Snapbat this year, which they will debut during the event. Each team will have access to its own SnapBat, and players will be allowed to utilize the device as if it were their own smartphone.”
MLB examines K-Zone, again
While my hope is that Snapchat is nothing more than a special events, Spring Training and All Star Game novelty, what makes baseball, baseball, is the much disputed property borders of the strike zone. With offense on the decline and strikeouts at an all-time high, Major League Baseball is looking into shrinking the strike zone, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.
Have pitchers become more dominant in Major League Baseball with supposed diminished use of steroids? How much of baseball’s anemic offense stems from 1)young and talented arms of pitchers or 2) swollen strike zone?
The league declared they will once again examine Major League Baseball’s umpires this 2016 season and chart what the average strikezone is for crews that grade balls and stirkes. Any formal rules change would have to be approved by baseball’s Playing Rules Committee but the league assembled a committee last season that was to monitor the strike zone and potentially look to implement changes this season (2016) at the earliest.
Major League Baseball implemented a number of rule changes last season to speed up the pace of play:
1. including making hitters keep one foot in the batter’s box after a pitch and making sure games resume as soon as end-of-inning commercial breaks expire. The changes made a difference as the average length of the game shrunk from 3:02 in 2014 to 2:56 in 2015.
2. More rule changes this season to increase the pace of the game, MLB will have a stop-watch that limit managers to 30 seconds or less when visiting the pitching mound. The coaches and/or managers will be forced to make changes quicker by implementing a time limit for making the decision to bring in a reliever as well as cutting 20 seconds off the between-inning clock.
According to several reports from reputable sources and geek squads that monitor baseball with a fine tooth comb, the past five seasons, the strike zone has expanded approximately 40 square inches. This area in question north of home plate has expanded from 435 square inches in 2009 to 475 square inches in 2014, this according to Hardball Times writer Jon Roegele.
While the casual fan shrugs off the impact that an umpire has on the game, this simply isn’t the case for those of us who depend on the purported size of the K-zone, and those whom are in charge of grading pitchers. The interpretation of the strike zone has always been black and white, but who deems the property boundaries, the umpires, all have a different understanding of where that space starts and ends. While the baseball diamond is the playing field that determines fair and foul balls, fly balls and home runs, one of the primary wars that determine the final outcome of games takes place between pitchers and hitters, in the strike zone.
In truth there isn’t more important in Major League Baseball than the strike zone. There are few professional sports officials that are under more scrutiny than MLB home plate umpires. The vest wearing umps are subjected to, insults, and epithets, which in many cases make Sports Center on a nightly basis. More baseball ejections come from disputed ball and strike calls than any other MLB container.
Two years ago when we watched the San Francisco Giants defeat the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 of the World Series at the “K” the average team managed just 4.07 runs per game, during the regular season. That just-north of four runs was down almost 12 percent from its 2009 levels and the lowest average since 1981.
Power pitchers becoming top Free Agent targets
Major League Baseball is studying whether to raise the bottom of the strike zone from the hollow beneath the kneecap back to the top of the kneecap.
“I’m not in a position to predict whether it’s going to happen or not,” Rob Manfred was quoted by The Associated Press on his first birthday as the new baseball commissioner.
“I think that the interest in the topic is really driven by the fact that if you look over time there has been a movement down of the strike zone, largely as a result of the way we evaluate the strike zone with umpires.”
Strike zone data was included in a presentation given to owners in the league meetings in Coral Gables, Florida. It is noteworthy to remind baseball enthusiasts that is isn’t an easy task to make changes in Major League Baseball. And when changes are made, they typically stick, seemingly, forever. An agreement with the players’ association is always necessary when rules changes are made and baseball officials will likely compile their ideas and consensus thoughts to be discussed and reviewed during the upcoming collective bargaining sessions, which would postpone any official rule changes until 2017.
“The umpires have done a great job calling the strike zone as we want it called,” Manfred said. “The question is whether we ought to make an adjustment.”
When it comes to handicapping baseball, the current player groups and the talent in those containers, is critical to information that influences MLB investing. following a decade-and-a-half decline in offense, the powers-that-are in Major League Baseball want, once again, more excitement with the bat (other than just an impressive bat-flip) in the form of offense.
Spring Training contests have arrived
Cactus League clubs are throwing pitches and swinging for the fences in the Valley of the Sun while Grapefruit League franchises are running the bases in Florida coasts and center of the state, Spring Training offers us brief glimpses of our favorite teams and the players but when it comes to evaluating the regular season the spring venues have little to do with what will transpire in the regular season.
The Rockies announced this offseason that they have increased the height of the fences in two locations at Coors Field. Here are details:
1. The fence from the center-field end of the visiting bullpen to the right-field out-of-town scoreboard will be raised 8 feet, 9 inches so that it is consistent with the height of the out-of-town scoreboard at 16 feet, 6 inches.
2. Five feet is being added to the wall from the left-field foul pole to the beginning of the pavilion seating in center.
According to ESPN Senior Writer David Schoenfield, “Changes will be in place in time for the home opener, April 8 against the Padres. The new fencing, which is the first fair-ground fence change in the history of a park that has been open since 1995, will not change the spaciousness of the outfield and a high-desert atmosphere in which balls tend to travel in certain weather conditions. But the Rockies will see if it’ll help the pitchers, who have struggled mightily for much of the franchise’s history.”
“The goal is to raise the wall heights to make it, potentially, more playable and more fair for pitchers in this ballpark,” Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. “We really don’t know exactly the effect that it’s going to have. We’re going to live it together for this year to see what happens. The thought is that this might be a first step in what could be a number of steps.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers have installed speakers under the bases, so teams can listen to play-by-play announcer Vin Scully. While this new addition to Dodgers Stadium seems interesting, and entertaining, the first thought of this writers is “can Vin Scully now influence the outcome of games by virtually being on the field with players, both with his beloved Dodgers and the opposition?” Could Scully and his information be an advantage for the home team and a distraction for the opposition? Reports are that the Dodgers coaches and team officials have developed special training to help their own players pay attention to the game. The opposition, however, are in a position to be “picked off” or less focused while they’re listening to one of Scully’s classic baseball tales.
The Chicago White Sox have a new scoreboard that will be controlled by announcer Hawk Harrelson. Major League Baseball has set a precedent this season that now involves home team celebrities to participate in games. Like Vin Scully of the Dodgers, the Pale Sox Harrelson will be involved in the White Sox games at U.S Cellular Field. Anyone that has watched American League games, be it as a White Sox fan or their AL opponents have heard the voice of “Hawk”. Including announcer Hawk Harrelson in all of the White Sox home games, when he shouts, “You can put it on the board … yes!”, will no longer just be words, or a voice, on the radio waves. Harrelson will now have the ability can now actually put it on the board, the run, for the home team Sox.
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ODDS FOR MLB TOTAL TEAMS WINS provided by Pinnacle Sports
Arizona Diamondbacks Regular Season Wins?
Over 81.5 Wins -129
Under 81.5 Wins 110
Atlanta Braves Regular Season Wins?
Over 65.5 Wins -136
Under 65.5 Wins 116
Baltimore Orioles Regular Season Wins?
Over 79.5 Wins 116
Under 79.5 Wins -135
Boston Red Sox Regular Season Wins?
Over 86.5 Wins -111
Under 86.5 Wins -105
Chicago Cubs Regular Season Wins?
Over 93.5 Wins -126
Under 93.5 Wins 108
Chicago White Sox Regular Season Wins?
Over 80.5 Wins -121
Under 80.5 Wins 104
Cincinnati Reds Regular Season Wins?
Over 70.5 Wins 107
Under 70.5 Wins -125
Cleveland Indians Regular Season Wins?
Over 85.5 Wins -120
Under 85.5 Wins 103
Colorado Rockies Regular Season Wins?
Over 71.5 Wins 105
Under 71.5 Wins -122
Detroit Tigers Regular Season Wins?
Over 81.5 Wins -111
Under 81.5 Wins -105
Houston Astros Regular Season Wins?
Over 88.5 Wins 116
Under 88.5 Wins -136
Kansas City Royals Regular Season Wins?
Over 84.5 Wins -101
Under 84.5 Wins -115
Los Angeles Angels Regular Season Wins?
Over 80.5 Wins -110
Under 80.5 Wins -106
Los Angeles Dodgers Regular Season Wins?
Over 89.5 Wins -125
Under 89.5 Wins 107
Miami Marlins Regular Season Wins?
Over 78.5 Wins -170
Under 78.5 Wins 145
Milwaukee Brewers Regular Season Wins?
Over 70.5 Wins 104
Under 70.5 Wins -121
New York Mets Regular Season Wins?
Over 89.5 Wins -108
Under 89.5 Wins -108
New York Yankees Regular Season Wins?
Over 85.5 Wins 110
Under 85.5 Wins -128
Oakland Athletics Regular Season Wins?
Over 75.5 Wins -109
Under 75.5 Wins -107
Philadelphia Phillies Regular Season Wins?
Over 64.5 Wins -129
Under 64.5 Wins 110
Pittsburgh Pirates Regular Season Wins?
Over 86.5 Wins 125
Under 86.5 Wins -146
San Diego Padres Regular Season Wins?
Over 73.5 Wins -106
Under 73.5 Wins -110
San Francisco Giants Regular Season Wins?
Over 88.5 Wins -108
Under 88.5 Wins -108
Seattle Mariners Regular Season Wins?
Over 82.5 Wins -137
Under 82.5 Wins 117
St. Louis Cardinals Regular Season Wins?
Over 87.5 Wins 125
Under 87.5 Wins -146
Tampa Bay Rays Regular Season Wins?
Over 82.5 Wins -101
Under 82.5 Wins -116
Texas Rangers Regular Season Wins?
Over 83.5 Wins 116
Under 83.5 Wins -135
Toronto Blue Jays Regular Season Wins?
Over 86.5 Wins -116
Under 86.5 Wins -101