Out of Left Field: Minnesota Series

Out of left field is an occasional post about matters that don’t require 1,200 words of analysis, but should be addressed anyway. In no particular order:

Juiced balls again?

Now that MLB has admitted that the baseballs used in games are varied and change more often than we realized, I couldn’t help but notice some of the home runs hit last night sure looked like juiced balls. Trevor Larnach’s home run and Joey Gallo’s second shot, in particular, seemed to just keep carrying – don’t get me wrong they were both hit well, but coming off the bat I wasn’t expecting the distances they ultimately went.

The most eye-popping though was Carlos Correa’s first-inning home run off of Gerrit Cole. Correa hit the ball 110 mph off the bat, which is obviously a laser but only at a 21-degree launch angle. Balls hit at that low of an angle usually don’t travel far enough to get over the wall, even if they are smoked. For some perspective, of the other eight home runs hit last night, the one with the next lowest launch angle was DJ LeMahieu’s at 29 degrees – all the others were over 30. Yet Correa’s went 413’ – a farther distance than five of the home runs that got some air under them.

What does all that mean? Not too much except it’s something to keep an eye on as the season progresses – how often will we see the hacky sack balls that were being used through most of 2022 as opposed to the Titleists that were used last night? It’s also a reminder to look at “plus” stats when evaluating hitters (OPS+, wRC+, DRC+). They take the run-scoring environment of the season – a large part of which is the baseballs being used – into account when grading hitters.

Opposition does matter

Speaking of hitters, the Twins can hit. I noted it in my series preview on Tuesday so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to any Yankee fans over the last three days. Cement mixer breaking balls and belt-high changeups might not get pummeled against the Detroits and Baltimores of the world, but they will be against teams who can hit. Taking two of three from that team on the road is a very good result for the Yankees.

Amateur Psychologist

Once in a while, I do something that I always criticize other fans for doing, and I’m going to do it now. I’m not a psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health professional of any sort. That said, Joey Gallo looks a heck of a lot better now that he’s been playing right field and the team should leave him there until further notice. His fielding has been better, he’s hit better and he just looks more comfortable on the field. (Without going completely off the amateur psychologist rails, this may be like Gleyber 2.0: When Gleyber went back to second base he started playing better. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe it wasn’t, but who cares?)

Use Stanton in right field occasionally to DH Gallo or give him a day off, and use Stanton in left field in small parks because nobody wants a full-time DH. I’m not crazy about running Judge out in center field every day, but for the time being, I think that’s the way to go.

Thanks, Jorge!

Prior to the Twins series, Mike Petriello of MLB.com noted that the Twins outfielders were very good defensively, but the infield defense was not particularly good. That certainly was on display last night, particularly with second basemen Jorge Polanco who helped out the Yankees A LOT. On Anthony Rizzo’s first hit, Polanco showed as much range as a Sleestak, later made a throwing error, and finally jogged away from a pop-up that would have landed on his head if he didn’t move, giving Gleyber Torres a “single”. The Yankees certainly hit the ball well last night but being the recipient of gifts certainly helped too, as all three of those plays led to New York runs.

Just STOP with this:

This may seem like a small thing, but it happens all the time and it happened last night in a key instance. With Aaron Judge on second base with nobody out in the top of the seventh of a tie game, Anthony Rizzo came to the plate. John Flaherty, never one to allow facts or reason to interfere with his “analysis”, began with the exhausting trope about Rizzo needing to ground the ball to the right side to move Judge to third base with one out. We don’t have the time or space today to comprehensively cover just how silly that strategy is, but…

For starters, Minnesota had three more turns at bat and were smoking line drives everywhere all night. Secondly, batters three, four, and five were coming up with nobody out – those are two very good reasons to NOT play for only one run.

But far more important than that logic, are facts – like these:

Run expectancies:

Runner on 2nd, no out: 1.15
Runner on 3rd, one out: .95

By intentionally grounding to the right side in that situation you are literally decreasing your team’s chances of scoring runs.

Fortunately, against a pitcher who averages triple digits on the gun, Rizzo wasn’t listening to “back when I played” Flaherty, and instead lined a single into left field, scoring Judge.

Rant over. Check back later for my preview of the series with the Cubs.

Did I miss something? Let me know. Leave a comment below or yell at me @mybaseballpage1 on Twitter or on the “My Baseball Page” on Facebook.

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