MLB — .300 hitters getting hard to come by

MLB — .300 hitters getting hard to come by

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I used to be driving round immediately after taking the canine all the way down to the native reservoir for a stroll when a disgruntled Dodgers fan known as in to MLB Radio. His criticism: Dave Roberts would not make the most of the sacrifice bunt sufficient.

Because the hosts identified, the Dodgers are literally fourth within the majors in sacrifice bunts — although with 39 getting into Wednesday’s recreation, that is a far cry from the 103 that Walter Alston had the crew execute in 1965 or the 95 underneath Tommy Lasorda in 1988.

Each of these Dodgers groups received the World Collection, however the level right here is that the sport has modified. No person bunts anymore. 4 American League groups have fewer than 10 sacrifice bunts. The Dodgers have simply eight from place gamers, so the caller was proper: Roberts would not bunt.

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We know the reasons. Everyone is trying to hit home runs, and the Dodgers are very good at that, leading the National League. The analysts in the front office have proven that the bunt is usually a bad strategy, giving up an out while decreasing the chances of a big inning.

This gets to my other point: The base hit is dead. Well, it’s not dead, but it’s getting close to needing life support. The overall MLB average of .248 is the lowest since a .244 mark in 1972, which so scared major league owners that the American League instituted the designated hitter for 1973. Why bunt if the next batter is likely to strike out or hit a home run?

This brings us to the batting races. In an era when the value of batting average is discounted, with fewer singles and more strikeouts than ever, it isn’t a surprise that we’re also seeing fewer .300 hitters. At the moment, there are just 17 qualified regulars batting .300. There are just two batting .320 or better: Red Sox Mookie Betts (.334) and J.D. Martinez (.331). Christian Yelich leads Scooter Gennett in the NL race, .319 to .317.

To put those totals in perspective, let’s go back to 1969, the first year after the mound was lowered (plus an expansion season that gave us 24 teams). Two .320 hitters would be the fewest in a season since then (four seasons had three: 1973, 1974, 1978 and 1982). Compare that to 2000: 26 regulars hit at least .320 that year, including 15 who hit .330, with Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Helton both batting .372. The 17 .300 hitters wouldn’t quite be the lowest total since 1969 — there were 16 in 1973 and 1978 — but in 1999, 55 players hit .300!

This isn’t whining, just pointing out how the game has evolved and why Dave Roberts never bunts. The pitchers are better and throw harder, and the same group of players from 1999 wouldn’t all hit .300 against today’s pitchers.

The batting races, however, are still fun. The Betts-Martinez race not only affects Martinez’s Triple Crown bid (and possible MVP Award) but also rekindles memories of two famous batting races involving teammates.

In 1984, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield of the Yankees headed into the final four-game series against Detroit both sitting at .342. Entering the final day, Winfield led .341 to .339. Mattingly hit third, Winfield fourth. In the first inning, Mattingly singled, while Winfield grounded out. In the third, Mattingly led off with a double, and Winfield walked (which must have killed him). In the fourth, Mattingly doubled again, and Winfield singled, leaving Mattingly at .343 and Winfield at .342. In the fifth, Mattingly flew out, and in the sixth Winfield flew out. It came down to the final at-bat against Tigers reliever Willie Hernandez (who won the Cy Young and MVP that year). Mattingly singled, and Winfield grounded out, and the batting title belonged to Mattingly.

A more controversial race was the 1976 contest between George Brett and Hal McRae of the Royals. Both were at .331 entering the final day. As in 1984, it came down to each player’s final at-bat in the bottom of the ninth. Brett, batting third in the lineup, needed a hit to move ahead of McRae. He lofted a fly ball to left that Twins left fielder Steve Brye misplayed, and it turned into an inside-the-park home run. McRae then grounded out, giving Brett the title, .333 to .332.

As McRae grounded out, he made two obscene gestures to the Twins dugout and had to be restrained when Twins manager Gene Mauch came on the field. McRae accused the Twins of racism after the game, suggesting that Brye was playing too deep and hesitated on the play, saying, “I know they let that ball fall on purpose.” Mauch called the accusations the worst thing that happened to him in 35 years in baseball.

Martinez has been playing catch-up in this year’s race for a few weeks now. He last led Betts on Aug. 28, .338 to .336, but a few days later, he had slipped to .329 while Betts was at .340. Martinez went 3-for-3 while Betts went 0-for-4 on Wednesday in Boston’s 10-1 loss to the Yankees, so the race is back on (Betts .334, Martinez .331).

Yelich and Gennett were going head-to-head again Wednesday, when Yelich pulled ahead by going 2-for-4 in the Brewers’ 7-0 win while Gennett went 1-for-2 with two walks. That’s a fun race because Gennett would certainly be one of the more surprising batting champs in recent years.

Michael Cuddyer won the 2013 NL race at .331, a surprise considering he had a career average of .271 entering that season. But that also came with the Rockies, and six Rockies have won batting titles since 2007. You have to go back to Freddy Sanchez in 2006 to find a surprise similar to Gennett. Sanchez was in his second full season and hit .291 the year before, but he also was 28 years old. He hit .344 but hit .300 just one other season. Bill Mueller hit .326 for the Red Sox in 2003 (the only time he hit .300 over a full season in his career) but had hit .330 in a partial season as a rookie in 1996 and topped .290 four other times.

OK, some quick thoughts on Wednesday’s games …

Red Sox still haven’t clinched: The Yankees pounded David Price in a 10-1 victory, as Luke Voit hit two home runs off Price, though to be fair neither would have gone out at Fenway:

The facet observe right here: Worth has had two unhealthy begins since Might: Each towards the Yankees and each at Yankee Stadium (he gave up 5 house runs to them on July 1). May very well be nothing, could possibly be one thing, but it surely in all probability means the Crimson Sox rotation, in the event that they play the Yankees within the division sequence, could be Chris Sale and Worth at Fenway and Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees needed to be thrilled to see Luis Severino go seven innings and 109 pitches, marking the primary time he has lasted seven innings since Aug. Eight, although you do surprise why he got here again out within the seventh with an Eight-1 lead and all these September relievers on the roster.

Puig! Yasiel Puig gave us one of many signature moments of the season with a dramatic three-run, pinch-hit house run within the seventh to provide the Dodgers a 5-2 lead over the Rockies — his sixth house run in his previous 18 at-bats. The Dodgers held on to brush the sequence and open a 2½-game lead within the NL West.

The large key was Walker Buehler, who threw 36 pitches within the first inning because the Rockies took an early 2-Zero lead (an error meant the runs had been unearned). Given the pitch depend, it appeared like there could be an early hook for Buehler, however he managed to go six innings and completed with 12 strikeouts, throwing simply 65 pitches in his ultimate 5 innings. Clayton Kershaw (2.17 ERA in second half), Buehler (2.14 ERA in second half) and Hyun-Jim Ryu (2.21 ERA, 42-to-Three SO/BB ratio since coming off the DL on Aug. 15) are a fairly formidable trio proper now.

Brewers win, Cubs lose: Gio Gonzalez shut down the Reds with six scoreless innings (one other one among David Stearns’ go-for-it pickups), and Jesus Aguilar hit his 33rd house run as he soared previous 100 RBIs. The Diamondbacks, in the meantime, blanked the Cubs 9-Zero behind Robbie Ray, so the Brewers once more are 2½ video games again. Mixed with the Cardinals’ loss to the Braves, Milwaukee’s wild-card lead is three video games over St. Louis.

Cole Hamels had his first unhealthy begin for the Cubs, with seven runs and 9 hits in six innings, together with two house runs. Hamels had main house run points with the Rangers, however he did not enable any in his first seven begins with the Cubs. He has allowed 5 in his previous three outings.

Jason Kipnis walks it off in grand fashion: How’s this in your 1,000th profession hit:

This is your random enjoyable factoid of the night time, courtesy of Paul Casella of ESPN Stats & Info: This was simply the second walk-off grand slam in MLB historical past in a recreation that had been 1-Zero. The opposite belongs to Ron Santo for the Cubs on Sept. 25, 1968.

With Josh Donaldson in Cleveland, Kipnis has made his previous 5 begins in heart area, with Jose Ramirez sliding to second base. It is going to be attention-grabbing to see how this impacts the Indians within the playoffs. An outfield of Michael Brantley in left, Kipnis in heart and Melky Cabrera in proper is fairly unhealthy, all three with below-average vary and Kipnis missing expertise (as we noticed final season when the Indians tried the identical factor within the playoffs). In fact, in the event that they strike out 15 batters a recreation like they did Wednesday — Carlos Carrasco had 11 in 6⅔ innings and leads the majors in strikeouts within the second half — there will not be many balls in play.

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