Todd's Takes: Clearing My Chest and Runs Galore

Todd's Takes: Clearing My Chest and Runs Galore

This article is part of our Todd's Takes series.

It's so great to be writing about live games again! For those new to the site, a couple times a week I share some observations on what I've seen and read recently, then I go through the box scores of the previous day's games, mostly with a fantasy twist.

In general, topics are light. Sure, there will be info to help manage your teams, but we're all baseball fans and talking about baseball is fun. Let's have some fun.

Occasionally, this space is used in a cathartic manner. That's not often, but occasionally a vent is in order. This is one of those instances.

Admittedly, I have written about this before as well as brought it up on SiriusXM. Simply put, the game is not now being played the way it is supposed to be played. It is being played in the manner some want it to be played.

The thing is, I'm conflicted, because I understand why some prefer the style likely resulting from the new rules. The kicker is, I may agree.

The bottom line is the game should be played in whatever way scores or prevents the most runs. The game had evolved to a point where hitting the ball in the air to maximize homers was more effective than manufacturing runs. Pitcher velocity and specialization played a part, as did venues becoming more and more hitter-friendly. Hitting fly balls works because most of the newer venues can't hold them. Lofting contact in a big venue with

It's so great to be writing about live games again! For those new to the site, a couple times a week I share some observations on what I've seen and read recently, then I go through the box scores of the previous day's games, mostly with a fantasy twist.

In general, topics are light. Sure, there will be info to help manage your teams, but we're all baseball fans and talking about baseball is fun. Let's have some fun.

Occasionally, this space is used in a cathartic manner. That's not often, but occasionally a vent is in order. This is one of those instances.

Admittedly, I have written about this before as well as brought it up on SiriusXM. Simply put, the game is not now being played the way it is supposed to be played. It is being played in the manner some want it to be played.

The thing is, I'm conflicted, because I understand why some prefer the style likely resulting from the new rules. The kicker is, I may agree.

The bottom line is the game should be played in whatever way scores or prevents the most runs. The game had evolved to a point where hitting the ball in the air to maximize homers was more effective than manufacturing runs. Pitcher velocity and specialization played a part, as did venues becoming more and more hitter-friendly. Hitting fly balls works because most of the newer venues can't hold them. Lofting contact in a big venue with conditions that suppress the flight of the baseball is detrimental. MLB has deadened the ball, or is that balls, to help combat the launch angle revolution.

Legislating the shift is clearly intended to induce more safely hit batted balls. My scientific training believes that the research and analytics involved in placing defenders optimally should be rewarded, but the change in the rules now favors more athletic glovemen, which isn't a bad thing. This feeds into my conflict. That said, great defensive plays were still present when the shift was allowed.

MLB isn't trying to increase or decrease scoring; the league's objective is to alter the manner in which runs are scored. With a less lively baseball and infielders unable to overload one side or play rover, trying to hit a fly ball into the seats may no longer be the most efficient means of scoring. This is amplified by the rules influencing the running game. 

The new rules have created an artificial paradigm. It's still early, but the huge spike in steals suggests small ball could be back, though homers are also up a tad. After five days, run scoring is up a run a game from the same last time as last season. Clearly, it's too early to draw any actionable conclusions, especially since so much of the scoring came last night.

Here's my conundrum. I used to be a huge basketball fan. It helped that I grew up watching the Celtics teams of the 70s and 80s, but I was also a fan of college hoops and played fantasy basketball for years. In fact, my initiation into valuation was via my auction hoops league with rotisserie scoring. There were no sources for basketball "values". I pulled all-nighters trying to fairly price Shaquille O'Neal and his horrid free throw percentage. I never did, so I just paid top dollar for Hakeem Olajuwon.

Once the NBA essentially made zone defense legal, the game changed. This, combined with everyone becoming capable of draining a three morphed the game into a stream of treys and dunks. I understand that's the way the game should be played under the current landscape, but it was no longer entertaining to me, somewhere between a casual fan and a hoops fanatic. I chose to stop watching, much the way some ceased from following MLB in recent seasons.

It's sort of a Catch-22. I was still fine with the way MLB evolved and didn't need the rules to be changed to remain a fan, but I wasn't willing to adapt to the new era of basketball. This is why I understand why legislating the shift, etc., may be better for the game.

I just wish the "way it should be played" narrative weren't so prevalent.

OK, one more vent before embarking on the inaugural Box Score Blitz of the season. Networks had almost an entire offseason plus a handful of spring games to get ready for the strict enforcement of the pitch clock, beginning with the first pitch of the inning. They should have been better prepared, so as not to come back from commercials as the pitch is being delivered, if not already thrown. 

BOX SCORE BLITZ for Monday, April 3

  • MIL 10, NYM 0: The Brewers were victorious in their home opener. With Luis Urias out for an extended stint, Brian Anderson started at third base while rookie Brice Turang manned the keystone. Right field was patrolled by another rookie with Joey Wiemer called up over the weekend. The trio hit at the bottom of the order with all three getting at least one knock, going a collective 5-for-9 with Anderson and Turang doing most of the damage as each clubbed their first homer of the season. For Turang, it was the first of his career. He also stole a base, his second. Turang will sit with a southpaw on the hill, but he can be productive against right-handers... Devin Williams was hit on the biceps by a line drive on Saturday. He was sore, but available if needed. He wasn't, as Freddy Peralta took care of the first six frames before Bryse Wilson collected the easy three-inning save. The strong effort was needed as the Brewers bullpen was used a lot over the weekend and they don't have an off day until Thursday. Not to mention, the bullpen will probably be needed with Wade Miley taking the hill on Tuesday. 
  • SF 12, CHW 3: The White Sox weren't so fortunate in their home opener. Michael Kopech took the hill and surrendered five homers to an offense that was blanked twice by the Yankees over the weekend. Joc Pederson, Mike Yastrzemski, Michael Conforto, Thairo Estrada and David Villar did the honors, with Villar's being the first of two on the day. Villar is intriguing and may have been overlooked on draft day. He smacked 22 dingers with Triple-A Sacramento in 84 games before being called up and stroking nine more in 52 games with the Giants. He fans at an above-average clip but has a good walk rate. Villar's defense is solid, putting him in play as a cheap power source... Anthony DeSclafani started for the Giants, hurling six scoreless frames with four punchouts. Disco has a second start over the weekend at home against the Royals so hopefully his team managers took the risk and had him active... As expected, Sean Manaea followed DeSclafani. He kept the shutout going in the seventh, but let the White Sox get on the board in the eighth via a Luis Robert two-run shot. It's still unclear whether Manaea will get turns as the Giants' sixth starter, or if he'll be a swingman, stuck waiting for injury before he can enter the rotation on a regular basis.
  • CIN 7, CHC 6: Both teams scored three in the first and three in the fifth, but the tally the Reds posted in the second handed them the win. Cincinnati's bullpen bailed out Connor Overton, who yielded five runs in four stanzas, though he fanned five with one walk. Ian Gibaut gave up a run before the Reds bullpen finished with 4.1 scoreless innings. Derek Law collected the save after Alexis Diaz pitched in each of the prior two games... Drew Smyly started for the Cubs and really struggled in the Great American Ballpark, yielding six runs in 4.2 frames. He gave up nine hits and two walks while whiffing just a pair. He's looking like a home streamer... The Reds Jose Barrero tweaked his hamstring beating out an infield hit. Jason Vosler pinch-ran. Vosler didn't start with a southpaw on the hill, but he stayed in the game and ended up taking Smyly deep for what turned out to be the game-winner... Cody Bellinger went deep in the first, but he's still only hitting .067 for the season.
  • MIN 11, MIA 1: Tyler Mahle's first full season with the Twins got off to a strong start, which is a good sign considering he struggled over the spring. Mahle threw five innings, allowing five hits and a run while punching out seven with a walk... Johnny Cueto started for the Marlins. I get small samples, but I wonder if he's done. Cueto served up two homers, beginning with Max Kepler to lead off the game, then another to Joey Gallo in the second. Gallo's third of the season knocked Cueto out of the game after surrendering four runs in one inning... Trevor Larnach is someone to watch, unless you were prescient and picked him up over the weekend. Larnach was 5-for-11 (all singles) after the Twins 'first three games, but he got a hold of one on Monday for his first homer of the campaign. Larnach and Alex Kirilloff were prospects at the same time, with a bit more attention paid to Kirilloff. However, Larnach has some prospect pedigree and could be finally showing his potential... After leading the National League in steals last season, through five games the Marlins have yet to collect their first bag.
  • NYY 8, PHI 1: Nestor Cortes wasn't especially sharp, but he caught the World Series runners-up in a slump to begin the season. The Phillies mustered only one run against Cortes as he tossed five innings with just three strikeouts. Cortes gave up seven hits, but the Phillies couldn't manage a clutch hit. The Phillies stranded nine with Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos both going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts... Taijuan Walker also didn't have it for the Phillies, yielding four runs in 4.1 stanzas, fanning five with three walks... Gleyber Torres is off to a sneaky start, especially in the stolen base department. Not only did Torres clock his second long ball, but he also swiped his third bag. He profiles as the type of player likely to benefit from the new rules. Torres hit fifth, and the bottom of the Yankees order isn't daunting, increasing the chance he runs since he's not hitting in front of the power guys up top... Anthony Volpe is hitting only .182 (2-for-11), but he's walked four times with just three strikeouts. He'll be fine.
  • TB 6, WSH 2: Drew Rasmussen dominated for six shutout innings, allowing just two hits while fanning seven with no walks. Maybe pitching does grow on trees in St. Petersburg... Jason Adam was called upon in the seventh with two outs and runners at first and third. He induced Ildemaro Vargas to ground out to second, ending the threat and keeping the Rays ahead 4 to 1. This is likely Adam's role: getting the big outs when needed. There will occasions he does it in the ninth, but expect Pete Fairbanks to lead the team in saves...Luke Raley was the surprise hitting star, though Kevin Cash must have known something since he had Raley cleaning up. He responded with a pair of homers. Raley has appeared in all four Rays games so far, starting two. Tampa favors platoons and Raley is a left-handed batter, so if he stays productive, he could work his way into more playing time. He can play all three outfield spots along with first base and of course designated hitter... Wander Franco swiped his second base. His power will likely develop (think mid-teens this season with a career peak around 25). In the meantime, it's great to see him running, especially after experiencing leg issues in the spring... Jeimer Candelario hit his first homer for the Nats. Comerica Park did Candelario nasty. Look for Candelario to take advantage of the stealthily hitter-friendly Nationals Park.
  • PIT 7, BOS 6: The Pirates jumped out to an early lead with three runs in the first inning, but the Red Sox answered with a five-spot in the bottom half, featuring homers from Rafael Devers, Triston Casas and Masataka Yoshida, who hit his first MLB career blast. However, Pittsburgh battled back behind a pair of long balls from Bryan Reynolds... Adam Duvall celebrated his AL Player of the Week honors with a 2-for-3 night. He's built for Fenway Park, but it will be interesting to see what he does on the road... Ji Hwan Bae was on the on the bench for the Pirates. He started the first three games of the season for the Bucs, but after going 2-for-3 with a walk and two steals, Bae was 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in the next two games. Canaan Smith-Njigba got the start instead and was 1-for-2 with a walk and two RBI before being pinch hit for by Connor Joe. With Bae being able to play the infield and outfield, Pittsburgh will mix and match, at least early.
  • KC 9, TOR 5: Brady Singer wasn't dominant, but limiting the Blue Jays to one run over five frames is a big success. He only fanned three with three free passes, but he only yielded two hits... Unfortunately, Jose Berrios' first effort in what he hopes to be a bounceback campaign did not go so well, as he surrendered eight runs on nine hits in 5.2 innings. However, Berrios fanned a respectable seven with two walks and kept the ball in the yard. That said, the exit velocity on four of the Royals' hits registered triple digits with two more just missing, so it wasn't a matter of bad luck... MJ Melendez was behind the plate for the first time this season after playing right field twice and designated hitter once. He responded with a 443-foot blast, his first of the season. Melendez batted leadoff for the second straight game, but his OBP suggests it was just a way to get him going. He's not likely to stay at the top... Cavan Biggio started for the second time in three games, coaxing a walk in each, as well as drawing a free pass in the opener after entering the game as a pinch hitter. Biggio entered the season as a super-utility but has pathways to more playing time. He's still just an AL-only guy but is worth tracking.
  • ATL 8, STL 4: Atlanta exploded for five runs in the second, keyed by homers off the bats off Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna. Austin Riley clubbed a long ball in the first... All three came off Jake Woodford, who was pressed into action with Adam Wainwright out to begin the season. Facing Atlanta, even at home, is challenging. Woodford is slated to take the hill in Milwaukee over the weekend. This is another tough task, though more so because of the park than the Brewers lineup. Even so, if he struggles, Woodford could give way to Matthew Liberatore, whose prospect shine has begun glowing again... Charlie Morton started for Atlanta and although he was credited with the win, he wasn't sharp. The veteran allowed three runs on nine hits, whiffing just one... Nick Anderson appeared for the second time since 2021, punching out four in 1.2 frames, but he also surrendered Paul Goldschmidt's first homer of the season... With a four-run lead, it wasn't a save situation, but A.J. Minter pitched the ninth, suggesting he will be in line for most of the saves until Raisel Iglesias is able to return.
  • BAL 2, TEX 0: On the highest scoring night of the young campaign, this game was the exception with the visitors pushing across the only tallies. Kyle Bradish started for Baltimore and had already punched out a pair in 1.2 stanzas before he was hit in the foot by a 104-mph line drive. He was lifted and is day-to-day after X-rays revealed no fracture... In a perfect example of why wins should be replaced by innings pitched in 5x5 scoring, Danny Coulombe recorded four outs to be credited with the win, followed by five scoreless frames from Tyler Wells, who registered a hold. Wins are a lazy stat, but come on, five shutout innings in a 2-0 victory deserves more than a hold... Jorge Mateo didn't steal a base, but he did show off his home run trot, accounting for one of the two runs off Jon Gray. Gunner Henderson's first dinger of the season was the other... Gray took the tough loss, but he fanned seven with only two walks in 6.1 solid frames... Josh Jung's single off Bradish was the only Rangers hit.
  • DET 7, HOU 6 (F/11): The Tigers outlasted the Astros in a back-and-forth affair. Matt Vierling was the star, going 4-for-5, including what would be the game-winning homer in the 11th. Vierling is available in 60 percent NFBC Main Event leagues and 97 percent of leagues in the Rotowire Online Championship. I plan on addressing the latter with my two entries next weekend... Yordan Alvarez managed just one hit in six at-bats, but it cleared the Minute Maid fence for his second of the season. Houston should prohibit Alvarez from high fiving, restricting him to a fist bump to celebrate his homers. His hands seem fine now, but he's not out of the woods... Neither Matthew Boyd nor Hunter Brown last five frames with both removed in the fourth. Hopes were higher for Brown as he was facing the lesser lineup at home. Next up for Boyd is a home date against the Red Sox, followed by another home start against the Giants and a road tilt in Baltimore. It's not the easiest stretch, but those hoping for a career rejuvenation should be patient... A couple of weeks ago, Clay Link and I welcomed bullpen guru Greg Jewett onto our SiriusXM show. When Clay asked Greg for an under the radar guy, Greg pimped Trey Wingenter as the guy to seek in the Tigers bullpen. With Alex Lange blowing Monday's save, and Wingenter pitching next for the win, Greg's suggestion could pay off.
  • LAA 7, SEA 3: Both starters struggled in what appeared to be the best pitching matchup on the Sunday slate. Driveline visitor Reid Detmers did fan seven in 4.2 innings, but he also walked three, one of which scored as he allowed three runs (two earned)... George Kirby lasted only 4.1 stanzas, giving up four runs on nine hits, though he did punch out five with one base on balls. Six of the hits had an exit velocity over 100-mph, including a 110.3-mph homer by Shohei Ohtani... The Angels bullpen rescued Detmers with 5.1 innings of scoreless ball... Julio Rodriguez swiped his second bag, helping assuage fears that last season's second-half lack of steals would carry over into this season.
  • CLE 12, OAK 11 (F/10): Stop the presses: Emmanuel Clase blew a save! The game's top reliever yielded a game-tying, two-run shot to Seth Brown. Clase registered the win after the Guardians pushed two across in the 10th, then Eli Morgan logged the save after allowing just one run in the bottom of the frame... Myles Straw stole his first two bases of the season with Jose Ramirez recording his second pilfer. The Guardians are a team to target when looking for players likely to steal... In a developing situation, Oscar Gonzalez has been in the lineup both times the Guardians faced a southpaw starter but was on the bench two of the three times a righty was on the hill, with Will Brennan starting in right field. Given, Gonzalez would have been a late pick, but it's still best to seek an upgrade while the inventory to do so is still rather lush.
  • SD 5, ARI 4: The Diamondbacks had a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, but pinch-hitter David Dahl and Ha-Seong Kim went back-to-back, saddling Scott McGough with his first blown save and loss. McGough converted his first chance on Sunday, though he was removed from the opener after issuing a pair of walks. McGough may be unavailable tonight (Tuesday), but his leash probably hasn't run out... Arizona led in the ninth courtesy of an Evan Longoria blast in the top of the frame. Corbin Carroll went deep earlier, part of his 3-for-4 effort... Juan Soto hit a screaming line drive out over the wall for his first homer of the season... Ryan Weathers started for the Diamondbacks as the club decided to stick with a six-man rotation even with Joe Musgrove sidelined. Weathers came through with five innings of two-run ball, though he only fanned two. Fantasy managers may be more focused on underlying metrics, but MLB skippers are more results oriented, likely giving Weathers another start the next time Arizona needs a sixth starter.
  • LAD 13, COL 4: In another high-scoring affair in which neither starter mustered five innings, homers by Jason Heyward, Chris Taylor and Will Smith powered the Dodgers to victory... Freddie Freeman, J.D. Martinez and James Outman each notched multiple knocks, with both of Outman's hit's being triples... Michael Grove started for the Dodgers. Ryan Pepiot initial won the No. 5 spot, but he is out at least for the first month with a sore oblique. This appeared to be a streamable start for Grove, but he yielded three runs in four innings, punching out four. To be fair, Grove cruised through the first four, but he walked Ryan McMahon and Mike Moustakas leading off the fifth, and they both scored... Shelby Miller didn't qualify for a save, but he pitched the last two frames, fanning three with one walk. It appears Miller has transitioned well to relief and has to be considered a candidate for high-leverage situations in an unsettled bullpen.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Todd Zola
Todd has been writing about fantasy baseball since 1997. He won NL Tout Wars and Mixed LABR in 2016 as well as a multi-time league winner in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. Todd is now setting his sights even higher: The Rotowire Staff League. Lord Zola, as he's known in the industry, won the 2013 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year award and was named the 2017 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year. Todd is a five-time FSWA awards finalist.
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