We start with a trip around the baseball diamond before switching gears to the gems of the tennis world leading up to the US Open. If you’re all set on baseball and tennis, hang around for the one-hit wonders and today’s nugget: our favorite GIF of the week.
Baseball ‘season-to-date’ Primer: ‘9 innings’ of info
Baseball has the longest season of any major sport, a grinding 162-game schedule. Even if you haven’t followed with the utmost diligence, we want you to know the latest stories ahead of the race for the October playoffs. There’s an extended version of this guide on our site if you want more of the high heat from Primer.
1st inning – MLB has new rules to speed up game times
A timer for when new pitchers enter the game and a new rule that batters must keep one foot in the box in-between pitches have helped reduce average game times by 10 minutes, down to 2 hours and 53 minutes.
2nd inning – Baseball is enjoying an unprecedented wave of young, likable superstars
20 players age 25 or younger played in this year’s All-Star Game. That happened exactly zero times in the previous 85 Mid-summer Classics.
3rd inning – Home runs may sell tickets, but pitching and defense dominate today’s baseball
From 2000-2014, scoring decreased 20% to 4 runs per game. Improved pitching is largely to credit, combined with the decrease in steroid use among hitters. Additionally, defenses are ‘shifting‘ (adjusting where defenders stand for different batters) at 5x the rate they did in 2010. The increase is due to the use of advanced statistics that predict where a batter will hit the ball based on historical data.
4th inning – Teams that have been cellar-dwellers are ballin’ this season
While household names like the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox will be watching the postseason from their couches, these 6 teams will likely be among the 10 playing in October. None had an overall winning record from 2010-14, but they’re surging this season! #parity
5th inning – Old guys Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols are partying like Taylor Swift is still singing country
At age 40 and coming off a season-long suspension for steroid use, A-Rod shockingly has 26 home runs this year. That’s his most since 2010.
Speaking of 40, it appeared the Angels made a mistake in 2012 when they signed Pujols to a 10-year deal that will last until he’s 41. He’s been great this year, but 2021 still feels far away…
6th inning – The Home Run Derby got a new format and was *awesome* this year
The Derby was bracket-style with each player having 4-minutes to hit as many home runs as possible plus bonus time for long home runs.
This led to multiple last-second home runs and legitimate, honest-to-goodness drama. The highlight was when the hometown hero, Cincinnati Red Todd Frazier (aka “The Toddfather”) won the whole thing in bonus time.
7th inning – The most active trade deadline in recent memory set the stage for an exciting playoff race
A handful of superstars were wearing new uniforms as of August 1. The ‘winning’ teams appear to be the Blue Jays, Astros and Royals. They added weapons for a postseason push, but only time can reveal the ultimate victor.
8th inning – The race to lead some important statistical categories isn’t even close
Nelson Cruz (Mariners, 39 Home Runs), Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays, 101 Runs Batted In), Billy Hamilton (Reds, 54 Stolen Bases), and Zack Greinke (1.61 Earned Run Average per 9 innings) are distancing the field in their respective statistical categories.
9th inning – Playoff races will be tight, and the Wildcard games should provide high drama
Three division leaders from each league make the playoffs, along with the next best two ‘Wildcard’ teams. Wildcard teams play a *one-game playoff* to see who qualifies. Yankees-Rangers and Cubs-Pirates would be two compelling Wildcard match-ups. Here’s what the playoff bracket would like if the season ended today:
That’s it for our baseball ‘season to-date’. Please let us know if you have feedback – was it helpful? Anything else you’d like to see?
In tennis, the U.S. Open starts Saturday in NYC. Can anyone beat Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic?
Not to over-do the standard media storylines, but the plot of this U.S. Open hinges on its leading players, Serena Williams on the women’s side and Novak Djokovic on the men’s.
Serena is looking for a Grand Slam (4 for 4 major wins in a year). She would be the first to pull it off since Steffi Graf did it in 1988. Graf was 19 at the time. Serena is pushing 34.
Djokovic is trying to win his 3rd major of the season, having dropped only the French Open. His main challengers appear to be the timeless Roger Federer and the inconsistent Brit Andy Murray.
The oddsmakers are loving the favorites: Djokovic is even-money to win the title (bet 1 to earn 1) and Serena is a staggering favorite (bet 1.75 to earn 1).
Shoes make the man: The ascent of Oregon athletics has been driven by support from Nike and its founder, Oregon alum Phil Knight. Three time zones ahead, Under Armour is attempting to infuse the next brand-backed collegiate powerhouse: CEO Kevin Plank’s alma mater, Maryland.
How Auburn does ‘rocks for jocks’: It’s not unheard of for schools to have easier majors that contain a disproportionate percentage of athletes. At Auburn, it appears the athletic department played a central role in keeping alive the Public Administration major when the university decided to eliminate it due to lack of academic value.
Cost of attendance (or absence): Remember how NCAA teams are now allowed to pay players for the full cost of attendance? Some coaches want to fine players for being late.
Will Schilling get tossed?: Hall of Fame pitcher Curt Schilling is now paid by ESPN to give his opinions on baseball, but may soon be fired for giving his opinions on the parallels between modern-day Muslims and pre-WWII Germans.
Olympics, revenue generator: The group assembling the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid forecast that the city would profit 161M for hosting the games.
You’d get by without it, but where’s the fun in that?
After his convincing win in the 200m sprint, someone was finally able to catch up with the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt… but it was a cameraman… after the race… and he might be the world’s worst Segway driver. Thankfully, and surprisingly, Bolt popped right back up unhurt.