Logan Webb

Logan Webb

Height: 6-2
Weight: 220 lbs
Age: 25
College: None
San Francisco Giants

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The ScoreWhich pitchers are poised to be this year's Robbie Ray?

Every season, a few pitchers come out of nowhere to dominate hitters and provide tremendous value to their clubs.In 2021, no pitcher surprised more than Robbie Ray.After struggling with his command for much of his career and landing below replacement value during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign, Ray launched himself to a new level in his lone season with the Toronto Blue Jays. Playing on a modest one-year, $8-million deal, he dominated the American League en route to winning the Cy Young Award.It might not be fair to label it a breakout campaign since Ray had enjoyed quality seasons earlier in his career - he was an All-Star in 2017 - but 2021 was entirely unexpected.Ray is no longer a member of the Blue Jays, of course. He signed a nine-figure deal with the Seattle Mariners during the frenzy of signings in late November prior to the lockout.Heading into a new season, MLB clubs will be searching to find the next Ray before such an arm becomes well-known and handsomely compensated.Is there a roadmap to finding the next Ray? We went in search of the next breakout star. Mark Blinch / Getty ImagesThose searching for the next Ray will have to sift through a bunch of flawed pitchers to find those who possess one particular, elite skill: the ability to miss bats.From 2017-20, only Chris Sale and Max Scherzer struck out more batters per nine innings than Ray did. He ranked sixth in percentage of batters struck out and placed seventh in called-strikes-plus-whiffs rate.His stuff was always great. The problem was commanding it.During that same period, he walked 12.3% of batters faced, second-worst in the majors, trailing only Tyler Chatwood. The MLB average was 8.6%.Velocity-building programs seemingly help pitchers reach record-level velocities year after year, and the feedback from high-speed cameras and spin-tracking technology help pitchers design new or improved breaking balls. Command, however, is generally thought to be more difficult to improve.The MLB average walk rate in 2010 was 8.5% and the strikeout rate was 18.5%. More than a decade later, the walk rate hardly budged (8.7%) last season, but strikeouts increased by 23.2%.Go back even further to 1990 and the walk rate was 8.6% but the strikeout rate was 14.9%.In year-to-year changes over the last three seasons, about 70% of pitchers fell within a range of adding or subtracting 2.5 percentage points to their walk rate. Mark Blinch / Getty ImagesRay's 11.2 percentage-point decline in walk rate, improving from a career-worst 17.9% in 2020 to a career-best 6.7% last season, was tops among all qualifying pitchers in those three years.The fact that it's generally easier to improve strikeouts than walks was one reason why Ray was so easily available and such a steal for the 2021 campaign. He's reaped the reward of his improvements this offseason.Some clubs such as the Cleveland Guardians target command in the draft then attempt to add velocity and breaking balls through development, as they did with Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale. But it's not impossible for a team to find a pitcher on the free-agent market or in its own system who can make incredible gains in command.In the last three years, 55 of 458 pitching seasons studied included significant command improvements, which we defined as a deviation from the mean. In addition to Ray, this group in 2021 included Corbin Burnes, Logan Webb, and Dylan Cease. Stacy Revere / Getty ImagesTo look for candidates who could make a Ray-like leap in 2022, we began with pitchers who had above-average strikeout rates and poor command, or command trending in the wrong direction last season. Like Ray, they also had to have a major-league track record.We're not necessarily looking for young players who might have been highly ranked prospects but struggled early in their major-league careers. Older players can vary greatly in performance, too. Four of the top 10 WAR gainers among pitchers last year were 30 or older.Based on these criteria, our list consists of Tony Gonsolin, Cristian Javier, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, and Dinelson Lamet. (Kenta Maeda also qualifies, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in September so is unlikely to pitch in 2022.) Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / Getty ImagesGonsolin, who is penciled to return to the Dodgers' rotation, for now, wasn't a poor performer last year but did stumble compared to 2020.After demonstrating good command for most of his pro career, it regressed last season. His 10.2 percentage-point gain in walks was the worst among pitchers who threw at least 40 innings in 2020 and 2021. What if he returns to his career norm?Lamet's walk rate jumped up by three percentage points as he dealt with an elbow injury that the Padres were trying to manage. Lamet's future could be in the bullpen, where he was in September, but with improved command and health, he could become a candidate to dominate in the rotation, as he flashed in 2020. Matt Thomas / San Diego Padres / Getty ImagesIt's not clear what Javier's role will be in Houston. He's an arm with plus stuff but could be something more with better command, which has been an issue throughout his pro career.Snell already owns a Cy Young award, but remember, Ray was also a high-quality arm before his 2020 collapse, producing a pair of 3.3 fWAR seasons in Arizona.Snell is coming off his worst season since his rookie year in terms of command. He still had a well-above-average strikeout rate and owns four quality pitches.Montgomery had something of a breakout in 2021, logging 30 starts and producing 3.3 WAR. But his uptick in walk rate suggests that if he can improve there and consolidate the rest of his gains, his performance might rise another level. He's entering his age-29 campaign, the same as Ray last season. Omar Rawlings / Getty ImagesLet's now consider pitchers who started at least nine games last year, owned above-average strikeout rates but also had double-digit walk rates, and are coming off non-star-level campaigns with a 2.0 WAR or lower.Snell, Gonsolin, Lamet, and Javier are crossovers to that list. But there are five other names joining them: Triston McKenzie, Vince Velasquez, Caleb Smith, Josiah Gray, and Jose Quintana.McKenzie never produced a double-digit walk rate at any professional level before last season. He's a former top prospect with a bat-missing arsenal. McKenzie is only 24, which makes him a bit young for a true apples-to-apples Ray comparison, but he could be much better in 2022 if he rediscovers his command.Velasquez is a free agent. His command inconsistency plagued the Phillies for years, but he's always been able to miss bats.Smith also struggles with command but always intrigued clubs with his high-spin stuff, though that spin declined after last year's sticky stuff crackdown. John McCoy / Getty ImagesQuintana was once an excellent pitcher for the White Sox. He's struggled in recent campaigns and spent some time in the bullpen last year, but his strikeout rate (and walk rate) were at career-best levels in his limited work as a starter last season. The Pirates signed him to a one-year, $2-million deal in November and it seems like a low-risk, high-upside bet. At 32, Quintana is yet to see a major drop-off in velocity. He could be a name to keep an eye on as a trade-deadline acquisition.Gray was a top prospect who just finished his rookie season, one in which he walked batters more often than he did in the minors. While he could make a leap, he doesn't quite fit the Ray profile of a journeyman breakout.Sometimes a new home, and a new pitching coach like Pete Walker (center) can make all the difference in the world. Just ask Robbie Ray. Julio Aguilar / Getty Images Sport / GettyBeing in an environment that fosters improvement also helps. Ray's success in 2021 was the product of improving his delivery with the help of Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker. One evaluator told theScore that Ray looked much more "connected" in his delivery in 2021. Perhaps for the first time in years, or ever, he was truly in sync. Now can he repeat it away from Toronto and Walker? We'll see.For better results, there must be a better process, and that can come from a change of scenery, a change in coaches, or a change in approach. Organizations such as the San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, White Sox, and Guardians have found plenty of recent success in developing and improving pitchers.In 2019, Lucas Giolito made a similarly dramatic change to that of Ray, morphing from one of the game's worst pitchers to one of the best. Giolito dramatically improved his strikeout and walk rate after overhauling his mechanics. He adopted the elbow spiral motion that is en vogue. (Ironically, Ray moved away from motion last year.) Carlos Rodon and Cease have also joined Gioltio in making big improvements with the White Sox last year.There's no one way to go about a breakout, but Gioltio and Ray are proof that remarkable turnarounds can happen and can seemingly come out of nowhere.The next Robbie Ray is out there. Which team can identify him and give him what he needs?Travis Sawchik is theScore's senior baseball writer.Copyright © 2022 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Source: The Score
Saturday, Jan 15, 2022

The ScoreEach NL team's most untouchable player

Not many players are genuinely worthy of the "franchise cornerstone" title, but there are certain players a club will always favor building around. Here's one player each NL team would never trade ... even if there's a fire.For the AL list, click here.Arizona Diamondbacks: Jordan Lawlar, SS Norm Hall / Getty Images Sport / GettyThere's a case to be made for Zac Gallen, who's perhaps baseball's most unsung ace. However, even though he's merely 26 years old and has four years of team control remaining, Gallen could be made expendable at some point as the Diamondbacks' next window of contention likely isn't for a while.Lawlar, though, was arguably the best player in the 2021 MLB Draft despite slipping to the D-Backs at sixth overall. Now, if there's any team prone to haphazardly trading away its first-round picks - a la Dansby Swanson for Shelby Miller - it's Arizona. However, that was the work of a previous regime, and Mike Hazen has built the farm system into one of the league's best.Lawlar underwent shoulder surgery last August, which is an ominous start to a pro career, but he's still believed to be an elite fielder with great speed and decent pop at a premium position. Honorable mention goes to fellow top prospects Corbin Carroll and Alek Thomas, who'd also be difficult for other teams to lure away at this point.Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr., OF Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport / GettyAcuna is arguably the founder of the pre-arb extension, as he inked an eight-year, $100-million deal with the Braves as a 21-year-old with less than one year of service. And since he provides superstar production at a well-below market price, he's likely the sport's most untouchable player.With the benefit of retrospect as other stars land their mega extensions before hitting free agency, Acuna's deal looks so team-friendly that the Braves would be incredibly foolish to ever humor moving him. Including two team options for 2027 and 2028 that extend the contract through his age-30 campaign, the superstar outfielder is owed a maximum of $117 million over the next seven years.Even if the two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger has lasting issues from last year's ACL injury - which spoiled a potential MVP season - the Braves can get out of the deal only paying $93 million over the next six seasons. For context, the Rays just inked star prospect Wander Franco to an 11-year, $182-million deal. Acuna walked so Franco could run.Chicago Cubs: Nick Madrigal, 2B Ron Vesely / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Cubs are a tough one because it's not really clear who they can build the next contender around. However, landing an injured Madrigal from the White Sox for Craig Kimbrel seems like a coup the club will likely want to flaunt in the faces of its crosstown rival for at least a decade.As a prospect, Madrigal shot through the ranks with elite contact skills. It's a talent that isn't really preferred in the modern game with the advent of the shift. Most players opt for walks or try to hit the ball over the fence as balls in play lead to outs more often now than in any other era.But not Madrigal. Since breaking into the majors in 2020, "Nicky Two Strikes" ranks first among players who have at least 300 plate appearances with a 92% contact rate. And it's not like he's swinging at everything, either; he still shows some discipline with a pretty average 44.5% swing rate. It's just when he swings, he rarely ever misses, leading to a league-best 7.4% strikeout rate. So long as he makes it work, the Cubs will prefer building around him to fellow middle infielder Nico Hoerner, who's developed slower than expected.Cincinnati Reds: Jonathan India, 3B Dylan Buell / Getty Images Sport / GettyIndia has become everything the Reds could've imagined when they took him fifth overall in the 2018 draft. The infielder showed progress at every minor-league level before skipping Triple-A due to the pandemic. However, that didn't seem to stunt his growth much, as he hit .269/.376/.459 with 21 homers and 12 steals in 2021 en route to winning NL Rookie of the Year. He's not only earned praise from teammate Joey Votto, but India is also Votto's mom's favorite player. If that's not a sign to build around someone, I'm not sure what is.Colorado Rockies: Zac Veen, OFThe Rockies have had a handful of players worthy of building around, but they're all somehow gone. Perhaps Brendan Rodgers is their most key piece right now, particularly since their current general manager drafted him third overall right after Alex Bregman. However, Rodgers hasn't developed as expected and is now entering his age-25 season.Meanwhile, Veen fell into the team's lap at ninth overall in the 2020 draft and has already shown prolific pop as a teenager in A-ball, hitting 15 homers over 106 games. That amount of power at Coors Field? There's no way a team screws up this opportunity. Even the Rockies.Los Angeles Dodgers: Walker Buehler, SP Kelly Gavin / Major League Baseball / GettyWith Clayton Kershaw still a free agent and Max Scherzer landing with the Mets, Buehler has become the Dodgers' de facto ace. But even that doesn't really give the right-hander a fair shake. Since 2018 - which marked Buehler's first full season at 23 - only two qualified starters have thrown more innings and posted a better ERA and FIP: Jacob deGrom and Scherzer.There are a couple of offensive players the Dodgers could consider untouchable as well: Trea Turner, Will Smith, Mookie Betts, perhaps even Cody Bellinger coming off a down year. But Buehler now leads the rotation, even if Kershaw - their titular ace - returns. And that's an important distinction that separates Buehler from L.A.'s myriad of elite bats.Miami Marlins: Jazz Chisholm Jr., SS Eric Espada / Getty Images Sport / GettyThere's a case to be made for a few Marlins players, most notably NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Trevor Rogers. However, Miami currently has upward of seven players vying for spots in the starting rotation, and a lot can land certain ways.Meanwhile, Chisholm has game-changing power and speed with a glove that can stick at short if Miguel Rojas ever steps aside. The 23-year-old also has a serious strikeout issue that he needs to curb, but his 18 homers and 23 steals over 124 games last year show that even his floor is impressive. If he figures out how to work a walk in a lineup with some more protection, Chisholm could quickly threaten 30-30 or even 40-40.Milwaukee Brewers: Corbin Burnes, SP Justin Casterline / Getty Images Sport / GettyWith Christian Yelich no longer looking like a perennial MVP candidate, Brewers fans should feel most safe buying the reigning NL Cy Young winner's jersey.It took a while for Burnes to bloom, as he wrestled problematic walk issues early in his career. Now, though, the righty should be considered among the league's best starters for years to come and is just now entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. The only remaining shot against him is that he hasn't logged many innings. But when you're pitching like an elite reliever for six-plus frames every time out, then 167 innings for the season is just fine.Brandon Woodruff and Willy Adames would also be incredibly difficult to pry away from Milwaukee now, with both entering their first year of arbitration as well.New York Mets: Jacob deGrom, SP Elsa / Getty Images Sport / GettyWhat more can you say about deGrom? The two-time Cy Young winner is a generational talent, though health is becoming something to worry about after he missed half the season with an ominous elbow injury.That being said, deGrom was as dominant as ever over his 15 starts last year, authoring a magnificent 1.08 ERA and 1.24 FIP. Even further, he's owed a maximum of $100.5 million over the next three seasons, which is expensive but a fraction of what he'd get on the open market. That's especially considering the fact his new teammate, Scherzer, is three years older and could make $130 million over the same span.Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper, OF Rob Tringali / Major League Baseball / GettyUsually, a player on a megadeal like Harper's could be made available for the right return. However, there's no way the Phillies would deal their future Hall of Famer with a chance to get him into Cooperstown wearing their hat.Fresh off his second MVP award - becoming only the fifth player to earn the honor with two different teams - Harper is heading into his age-29 season and should still be considered at or near his peak for the next four years. After that, he'll be owed $153 million over the next six years. Given the way current contracts are heading, that's not bad. It'd be nice, though, if Dave Dombrowski could build a winner around Harper during those prime years so he can help bring a championship to Philadelphia.Pittsburgh Pirates: Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B Kirk Irwin / Getty Images Sport / GettyOn the surface, it really doesn't seem like the Pirates have much. Ben Cherington has teared down the roster substantially since taking over as GM. However, there are a couple of Pittsburgh players worth building around, and that conversation starts with Hayes.The stud third baseman is coming off a down year during which he dealt with hand and wrist injuries. However, he showed immense promise during his healthy stint in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, hitting .376/.442/.682 with five homers and one steal. Another option could be shortstop Oneil Cruz.San Diego Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS Justin Edmonds / Getty Images Sport / GettyWhen the Padres signed Tatis to a 14-year, $340-million extension, it effectively made the superstar shortstop a Friar for life. So, what's changed less than one year later?There may eventually come a time when the Padres want to rid themselves of the financial obligation, especially if Tatis' shoulder injury forces him to outfield duties for the rest of his career. However, he's still in the inexpensive portion of the deal - Tatis is owed roughly $25 million over the next three years - and is an unbelievable hitter no matter what position he's at. In each season, he's posted at least a 150 wRC+ and is just about to enter his age-23 campaign.San Francisco Giants: Logan Webb, SP Lachlan Cunningham / Major League Baseball / GettyFor such an elite team, finding a player the Giants front office would deem untouchable is somewhat difficult. But that's what happens after you suddenly get the most out of a roster replete with veterans.While Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and a whole host of others seemed to have career years last season, an ace quietly developed to lead San Francisco's staff. Webb, 25, is still pre-arbitration for one more year and should play a huge role in the team's success. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, the former fourth-round pick posted a 3.03 ERA and 2.72 FIP over 148 1/3 innings.St. Louis Cardinals: Dylan Carlson, OF Scott Kane / Getty Images Sport / GettyThere's a strong case to be made this should be staff ace Jack Flaherty. However, the right-hander spent the majority of last season on the injured list, missing time with shoulder ailments. Even further, he's two years away from testing free agency so, like it or not, there's a path where the Cardinals at least dangle his name on the trade market.However, with an aging Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, there's no way they would humor trading away a star outfielder who can immediately help propel the club into contention. Carlson, 23, hit .266/.343/.437 with 18 homers and two steals in his first full season last year and is under team control through the 2026 campaign. His plate approach is great, and the power might just be developing.Washington Nationals: Juan Soto, OF G Fiume / Getty Images Sport / GettySoto isn't just the most untouchable player on the Nationals - he might be the most untouchable in the sport, alongside Acuna, Tatis, or Franco. And if Soto isn't, the executives that would even entertain trading away the 23-year-old phenom should be run out of baseball.There might come a time over the next couple seasons where Soto hits the trade block, but that can easily be resolved by giving him a Tatis-like extension or more - whatever he wants, really. Soto's slated to hit free agency following the 2024 campaign; perhaps ownership is sheepish about making a huge financial commitment and prefers hitting the reset button a little harder if neither Keibert Ruiz nor Josiah Gray - the prospect haul for Scherzer - blooms as expected.The Nats already let one player on this list walk (Harper), but they could, and should, prevent that this time around for a star of Soto's caliber. And who knows, maybe when Soto is winning his second MVP award, he'll still be in a Nats uniform.Copyright © 2022 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Source: The Score
Tuesday, Jan 11, 2022

Yahoo SportsBuster Posey, Logan Webb big parts of Giants' best 2021 moments

The 2021 regular season ended up being the winningest in Giants history. Giants Talk hosts Alex Pavlovic and Cole Kuiper look back at some of the more memorable moments.

Source: Yahoo Sports
Wednesday, Dec 29, 2021

The Score10 biggest MLB stories of 2021

A rather eventful year in baseball on and off the field brought plenty of storylines, controversies, and change over the past 365 days. Let's look back at the 10 biggest MLB stories of 2021.10. Rise of the Guardians Emilee Chinn / Getty Images Sport / GettyTwo years after abandoning their Chief Wahoo logo, Cleveland's baseball franchise finally chose a new name. Protests against the "Indians" moniker - in use for over a century - grew larger in the wake of other professional franchises moving away from Native mascots and nicknames. Following a long process, Cleveland chose to rebrand as the Guardians, an homage to famous statues on the Hope Memorial Bridge near Progressive Field. Will the change help end Cleveland's 74-year World Series drought? Guardians fans can only hope.9. Mets' circus continues Elsa / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Mets started 2021 full of hope with new ownership and a new star, and they enter 2022 with renewed optimism. In between, fans in Flushing were treated to the same old circus they've come to know too well. Star shortstop Francisco Lindor signed a record extension mere months after being acquired from Cleveland, but he struggled with injuries, was booed by home fans, and had a memorable dust-up with a teammate. New York brought in Javier Baez for the stretch run, but the Mets' playoff hopes were dashed when Jacob deGrom's arm troubles interrupted his historic season. Questions about workplace culture also loomed large over the team as they went through multiple general managers and failed to reel in a big-fish executive. So, once again, the Mets tried to spend their way out of trouble this winter, landing several free agents - including Max Scherzer - hours before the lockout began. There's never a dull moment on the Mets' merry-go-round.8. Giants shock the world Brandon Vallance / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe NL West race was supposed to be a battle of Southern California titans in the Dodgers and Padres. Instead, Gabe Kapler's veteran Giants came out of nowhere to defy all sorts of odds and finished the season with a franchise-record 107 wins. Buster Posey, the heartbeat of San Francisco's dynasty in the 2010s, turned in a stellar comeback campaign before retiring at the top of his game. Other heroes included shortstop Brandon Crawford, who finished fourth in NL MVP voting; a stellar rotation headlined by All-Star Kevin Gausman and breakout star Logan Webb; and "Late Night" LaMonte Wade Jr., an unknown trade acquisition who provided plenty of ninth-inning magic all year. The Giants drew their longtime rivals from L.A. in a memorable NLDS matchup and almost continued their run before a controversial end in Game 5. Still, they were the most surprising team story of 2021, and it was a ride that fans in San Francisco will never forget.7. Braves win it all Carmen Mandato / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Braves were spinning their wheels below .500 when the trade deadline passed. Ronald Acuna Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury at the All-Star break, Marcell Ozuna was on administrative leave after domestic violence charges, and Mike Soroka didn't pitch following a setback in his Achilles injury. But that didn't deter Alex Anthopoulos from making several unheralded deadline deals that ultimately brought a title back to Atlanta. With a completely remade outfield that included eventual World Series MVP Jorge Soler and NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario, the Braves finally climbed above .500 in August and caught the Phillies to take the NL East with just 88 wins before storming through the postseason for one of the most unlikely championships.6. AL East madness Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport / GettyThere were many fascinating playoff races in 2021, but none came close to matching the AL East for sheer chaos. The East featured four 90-win teams, which has only happened one other time in MLB (1978). The Rays pulled away late to finish first with a franchise-record 100 wins, while the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays were locked in a furious battle for the two wild-card spots. Ultimately, New York and Boston won out with 92 wins each, leaving Toronto out of the playoffs at 91. Incredibly, the fourth-place Blue Jays had one more win than the Mariners, who finished second in the AL West. It might be a long time before we see this kind of a division race again.5. Superstars cash in Denis Poroy / Getty Images Sport / GettyUntil baseball ground to a halt earlier this month, this was a year of new looks and mammoth contracts for many of the sport's star players. It started last January when George Springer flew north to Toronto and Francisco Lindor was traded to Queens. Lindor then signed a record 10-year, $341-million extension with the Mets, just a few months after Fernando Tatis Jr. inked a $340-million deal with the Padres. It continued into a wild July trade deadline as surprise names found new homes and then kept going into this offseason's flurry. In November alone, players signed $1.67 billion worth of contracts in free agency, which doesn't include extensions for the likes of Wander Franco and Jose Berrios. When MLB resumes, Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, and Trevor Story are still on the market. This wild year of change isn't done yet.4. Fans return Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettySo long cutouts, we hardly knew ye. The very bizarre pandemic season slowly gave way to normalcy this summer as restrictions were lifted and fans returned to ballparks in droves. Neutral-site playoff games gave way to energetic and vibrant home crowds all summer and into October. The wandering Blue Jays played home games in two minor-league ballparks before finally getting their triumphant Toronto homecoming in July. And after over a year of waiting, fans could finally let the Houston Astros hear just what they thought about the sign-stealing scandal. In many ways, 2021 showed us just how integral fans are to baseball and how badly they were missed.3. Sticky stuff crackdown Meg Oliphant / Getty Images Sport / GettyBaseball has weathered quite a few on-field controversies over the past few years, but none quite like the "sticky stuff" epidemic. MLB began cracking down on pitchers using foreign substances in the middle of last season, with the popular Spider Tack a particular target. The issue percolated below the surface for some time but came to a head in May after umpires confiscated Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos' hat, prompting a long-winded rant from manager Mike Shildt.Pitchers became subject to random spot-checks beginning June 21 - usually two per game for starters - with ejections and suspensions for those caught in the act. The results were immediate. Hitters slashed a collective .248/.320/.419 from June 21 on, compared to a pre-crackdown line of .239/.313./400. A record nine no-hitters were thrown in 2021, but only three of those came after the crackdowns started. This drama has long-term ramifications for baseball and will probably continue for several years.2. Ohtani's magical season MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images / MediaNews Group / GettyWe got a glimpse of what Shohei Ohtani could be in 2018 before Tommy John surgery ended his season. This year, a fully healthy Ohtani set the baseball world on fire. The 27-year-old was the majors' first true two-way player in over a century, posting a .965 OPS with 46 homers and eight triples as a DH, along with a 3.18 ERA and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 23 starts on the mound. As if that wasn't enough, he participated in the Home Run Derby, started the All-Star Game as both a pitcher and DH, and was the unanimous choice as AL MVP. He even got into seven games as an outfielder, with four of those appearances coming when he started on the mound. There's nobody else on the planet quite like Ohtani, and baseball is in good hands if he's the face of it going forward.1. Lockout shuts down baseball LG Patterson / GettyThe specter of a lockout loomed large over the entire 2021 season. Those fears became a reality a few minutes past midnight ET on Dec. 2 when the collective bargaining agreement expired, and MLB locked out its players. It's baseball's first work stoppage since the 1994 player's strike. The main reason for the shutdown is economics, but other issues - from expanded playoffs to a universal designated hitter - are also being discussed. The lockout also halted an offseason full of action, with many star players still on the open market. Baseball could look very different on and off the field whenever a deal is reached and the sport resumes.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Source: The Score
Wednesday, Dec 29, 2021


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