8/6/21 : Good Times
When my wife Barb and I lived in PA one of our favorite Phillies weekends was Alumni weekend. We would attend the Diamond Club luncheon honoring the Wall of Fame inductee and then attend at least one of the games. Over the next three days David Montgomery, Roy Halladay and Manny Trillo will be honored, wish we were there !
It’s a fun time to reminisce for all the former players, managers, coaches and executives as many former Phillies gather for the weekend long event, similar to Phantasy Camp held in January in Clearwater each year in that regard. It’s also fun as a fan to see. In many of the recent years the actual games played that weekend didn’t hold a lot of interest as the Phillies team on the field was usually out of contention. That’s not the case this season as our boys are right smack in the hunt with a very real chance of winning the division !
Some “realists” may say that it’s still meaningless given the struggles of the National League East teams to stay above .500 for the majority of the season … but I’m old enough to remember an improbable 1973 NY Mets team that won only 82 regular season games but yet came away with an NL pennant and forced the eventual World Champion Oakland A’s to seven games in the World Series. How ya get to the dance isn’t what’s important but rather what you do when you get there … and the hunt to win a playoff spot is very exciting 😎. We, as fans, should embrace the opportunity at hand.
Did ya know that the five 2021 NL East teams have all basically played each other even this year 🧐 … here is each team’s record against the NL East
Phillies - 31-27 - 18 left ( Nationals - 3, Mets - 6, Marlins - 6, Braves - 3 )
Braves - 28-27 - 21 left ( Phillies - 3, Nationals - 9, Marlins, 6, Mets - 3 )
Mets - 22-24 - 30 left ( Phillies - 6, Nationals - 11, Marlins - 10 , Braves - 3 )
Marlins - 22-23 - 31 left
Nationals - 21-23 - 32 left
The teams play each other 19 times and because it’s been so evenly played it’s been a large reason why the NL East lead clubs continue to hover around .500. As a comparison the West Division leading SF Giants are 31-17 within their division ( 18-5 vs AZ/COL) while the Dodgers are 32-21 ( 21-5 vs AZ/COL ) and the Padres are 25-19. The Central division leading Brewers are 32-18 within their division ( 21-7 vs PIT/CHC ). Combined the Giants, Dodgers, Padres & Brewers are 141-139 outside of their division … just sayin 🤔
Minors Thoughts :
Baseball America just published an article about the perception of many that this year’s minor league play has been “hard to watch”. One has to take that with a grain of salt I believe … in comparison to big league baseball the minor league version of the game generally isn’t as crisp, that’s a given both due to the caliber of talent and experience, with the 2020 layoff as an added layer it’s likely even more disparaging.
One thing I do agree with is the effect of the ABS ( automated balls and strikes ) on low A play in Florida. Quoting from the article …
“Pitchers are generally still working on basics like fastball command at Low-A. In the past, umpires generally gave the pitchers some leeway to keep games moving. Now, largely due to ABS being used in Low-A Southeast, walks at the level were up 2.2% from 2019.
MLB ended up modifying the ABS strike zone in July by lowering the top of it and widening it. “Especially in Florida, it’s been a real s---show,” another AL pro scouting director said. “Long games, not a lot of strikes thrown . . . The automated strike zone has been an issue. If they’re using the major league strike zone in Low-A, it would be a very foreseeable problem. The zones are traditionally bigger at those levels, as they should be, to get a game in in less than four hours.”
More walks, longer at-bats and more time between balls in play has meant less engaged fielders, which in turn has yielded such poor defense.
The fielding percentage across all Low-A leagues in 2019 was .972. It is .967 this year. “I think the pace has a lot to do with it,” the NL special assistant said. “We’re always working on the pace of play. These pitchers, their stuff is so good, and they can’t throw strikes and then it’s ball three and then it’s three foul balls and a ground ball. The infielders aren’t in rhythm. Everybody is hunting a strikeout. That to me is the culprit of this whole thing.” Batters struggled even when pitchers threw strikes. The strikeout rate in the Low-A leagues was 23.7% in 2019. In 2021, it was 26.2%.”
From my observations and perspective if MLB wants to continue with the ABS experiment in 2022 minor league play it’s better served to do so at a higher level where pitchers are more developed and enabled to throw their repertoire of deliveries consistently for strikes. Personally I’m not a proponent of the ABS approach but am indifferent enough that I don’t lose any sleep over it 🤓.
Here’s hoping that all enjoy this weekend in Philly and the ongoing adventures of a big league pennant chase … now that’s truly Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️