By Josh ReynoldsSTUART, Iowa (June 23) – Clint Luellen scored his first Stuart Speedway IMCA Modified feature win of the season Friday night.Luellen made an early charge to the front from the fourth row and won handily ahead of Josh Gilman and Randy Havlik.Marcus Fagan paced the IMCA Sunoco Stock Cars and Jamie Schirm prevailed in an IMCA Sunoco Hobby Stock main event that ended green, white, checkers following a late caution.Chase Rudolf ran out of laps in his pursuit of frontrunner Austin Luellen in the Karl Chevrolet Nortern SportMod main and John Gill led from lap eight to the finish of the Mach-1 Sport Compact feature.
Against this backdrop, now is a good time to look at how the game on the field is trending. Thursday will mark three weeks since Opening Day in North America (and a little longer since the A’s and Mariners played their early regular-season games in Tokyo). Since it’s still early, it’s also worth asking whether each trend can continue until the end of September. I’ll offer my best guess on each.THREE TRUE OUTCOMES (UP)When Commissioner Rob Manfred talks about the amount of action on the field, this is the starting point. The three “true outcomes” – home runs, walks and strikeouts – inherently end every plate appearance without a ball in play. They reduce action.They also are the three outcomes that pitchers (strikeouts) and hitters (walks and home runs) are being coached to pursue now more than ever. If you only started paying attention to baseball in, say, 2012, and stuck with it to the present day, the increase in three true outcomes might be the most conspicuous difference in game play.So far, the trend isn’t changing. All three outcomes – strikeouts (22.3 percent to 22.9 percent), walks (8.5 percent to 9.4 percent) and home runs (3.01 percent to 3.41 percent) – have risen through Tuesday’s games compared to 2018.Will the trend continue? Absolutely. Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Angels’ Mike Trout working on his defense, thanks to Twitter Angels fail to take series in Oakland, lose in 10 innings Will the trend continue? For now, yes. Like the opener, every team could abandon defensive shifts tomorrow. It’s more of a strategy than a skill – like, say, hitting ground balls through openings on the opposite side of the infield. If enough pull hitters hone that skill, defenses will adjust, but that could take years. In the short term, any shifting strategy that doesn’t prevent runs ought to disappear quickly. Any shifting strategy that works will only catch on.PITCHERS HITTING (BETTER)If National League pitchers want to convince the commissioner they deserve a chance to hit, their opportunities might be dwindling. Consider the last three weeks a cautious step forward: Through their first 342 plate appearances, pitchers had improved their batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage compared to 2018. Weighted runs created plus (WRC+), which takes the league-wide run environment into account, shows pitchers making progress too. A -8 WRC+ is still horrendous, but it would be the highest by pitchers in any year since 2011.One argument in favor of the DH: pitchers are more specialists now than ever. Their -25 WRC+ in 2018 was the lowest of all-time, and they haven’t cracked 0 since 1982. In that regard, this year’s crop of pitchers still have a ways to go.Will the trend continue? Doubtful. I’m willing to believe 2018 was an outlier year for pitcher incompetence at the plate. But the same young flamethrowers who debut this season have specialized in pitching more than their 30-something counterparts. The general trend line doesn’t favor the Madison Bumgarners and Zack Greinkes of this world. FASTBALL VELOCITY (STAGNANT)From 2008-17, the average fastball got a little faster every season. A funny thing happened in 2018: the trend suddenly stopped. Pitchers collectively settled on 92.8 mph as the sweet spot, the midpoint for how hard they wanted to throw a fastball, or as hard as they could throw the pitch and still command it.So it is again in 2019. Of the 26,444 pitches FanGraphs classified as fastballs, the average speed was a perfectly predictable 92.8 mph.Will the trend continue? Probably not. The similarity to 2017 and 2018 is uncanny – a little too uncanny. As new, likely younger pitchers are summoned from the minor leagues over the course of this season, expect average fastball speed to tick up. Shorter starts and/or more “openers” might have the same effect (more on that in a bit). Three-batter minimums might have the opposite effect next year. But even a tenth of a mph in either direction wouldn’t change the broader idea that human beings have reached some kind of God-given limit for pitch speed. That’s a topic too profound for this paragraph.OPENERS (DOWN)Last season, the Tampa Bay Rays played 61 games in which their starting pitcher recorded six outs or fewer. Ryne Stanek epitomized the novel profile of the “opener.” He pitched a total of 40 innings in his 29 starts. In a copycat league, the A’s and Twins found the same role for Liam Hendriks and Gabriel Moya, respectively.So far, Stanek is up to his old tricks (two starts, three innings pitched). The Orioles dabbled with an opener, Nate Karns, before placing him on the injured list. But the rest of the league hasn’t followed in lock-step, preferring the five-man rotation through their first two-plus turns.Will the trend continue? Unlikely. The Rays only un-lucked into their strategy through a series of injuries. Stanek didn’t “open” his first game last year until May 31. Give this another two months before declaring the opener dead. We can safely say it isn’t any team’s Plan A outside of Tampa or Baltimore, but it might be some team’s Plan B.SHIFTS (UP)We haven’t quite reached Shiftaggedon, but the time is nigh. According to FanGraphs, the number of plate appearances that have ended with a defensive shift on (3,049) is closer than it’s ever been to the number of plate appearances with a shift off (4,958). Latecomers to the strategy, such as the Marlins, are helping to close the gap. The bottom line: a ban on shifts would disrupt more teams now than ever. Related Articles We’ve taken for granted Major League Baseball as a recurring thought experiment in strategy. If players, coaches, managers and front office employees were handed a rulebook and left to their own devices, what would baseball look like? For the last 37 seasons, you could track the evolution of the sport with only the human beings and technology changing. The basic rules stayed the same.That’s about to change.The biggest story of spring training was the introduction of MLB’s first major rules changes since American League teams first used designated hitters in 1973. Beginning next season, relievers will have to face at least three batters unless the inning ends first. The number of roster spots will increase to 26, but the number of allowable pitchers will be capped. Position players will no longer be allowed to pitch except following the ninth inning of an extra-inning game or if their team is winning or losing by more than six runs at the time they enter.Mound visits have already been reduced this year, from six to five. One pace-of-action construct was already imposed too, when between-innings commercial breaks were capped at 2 minutes. Another pace-of-action construct, a pitch clock, was not. Angels’ poor pitching spoils an Albert Pujols milestone Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
Workers at the ill-fated Buncrana call-centre which closed earlier today have been given a glimmer of hope.Deputy McHughIt follows a move by Deputy Joe McHugh who has secured them a meeting with the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) and Enterprise Ireland and Assetco Managed Services in Buncrana next Tuesday.Speaking to Donegal Daily this evening, Deputy McHugh confirmed he has arranged for Assetco workers to meet with the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). Earlier today Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton intervened at Deputy McHugh’s request to formally instruct Enterprise Ireland, NERA and the Department of Social Protection to definitively establish the rights of the workers affected by yesterday’s announcement.Deputy McHugh said “Following on from my discussions with Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton TD last night and today about the concerns of Assetco employees, I have asked Enterprise Ireland & the National Employment Rights Authority to meet with representatives of Assetco employees and with Assetco Managed Services. I will attend this meeting, which will take place in Buncrana next Tuesday.“Yesterday’s announcement is very distressing for Assetco employees and for the employees’ families. Information Officers from NERA will attend the meeting next Tuesday, and will meet with individual workers in order to provide them with information regarding employment rights entitlements.”The move follows the closure of the Assetsco centre on the IDA Business Park in Lisfannon with the loss of 30 jobs. Workers claim they have not been given a redundancy package and that a deal worth €68,500 between 29 workers had since been withdrawn.CALL-CENTRE WORKERS TO MEET WITH NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS AUTHORITY was last modified: November 14th, 2012 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:Assetco Mange Servicesbuncranadeputy joe mchugh