MLB’s Need for Expansion or Contraction of Teams and Interleague Play

Major League Baseball sits in an interesting situation.  With 30 teams and 15 teams in both the American and National League in 2013, due to the Houston Astros move to the AL West, there will be interleague play every night of the season.  Interleague play was introduced in 1997.  Prior to 1997, American League and National League players and teams only met at the All-Star game or in the World Series.  Interleague play helped boom attendance for a while, as fans in Cincinnati got to see the Red Sox or Yankees, and the fans in Chicago got to see the White Sox battle the Cubs, but the newness has worn off.

After 15 years of interleague play, where games now begin within the first two months of the season, MLB is becoming more like the NBA and NFL, as teams will just be playing a revolving schedule.  It takes away the unique moments of Cleveland playing Cincinnati, and makes the interleague series just another game in your team’s 81 home games.

When Houston is in the AL West in 2013, each division in baseball will have five teams, and each league will have 15.  If you were to add a team to each league, there wouldn’t be a need for interleague play all season, but you could get rid of the nightly battles between leagues and get back to the league roots.

Beyond the nightly battles, interleague play isn’t really all that exciting anymore.  The American League leads the interleague play standings with a 1,963-1,791 (.523).  The AL rules interleague due to the DH.  National League clubs aren’t able to compete in American League parks due to how rosters are put together.  The typical bench player in the National League isn’t going to be capable of out-hitting most AL second basemen, let alone a monster like David Ortiz, Travis Hafner, or Billy Butler.  If the NL can’t compete, is it worth having?

So, can you add teams?  If you added one team to each league, which would make one division in each league have six teams, you could eliminate the nightly interleague series.  Where would you add a team?  Las Vegas?  San Jose (if the Oakland A’s don’t move there)?  Portland?  Vancouver?  Can New York support a third team?

What about eliminating a team?  The Marlins and Twins were up for discussion several years ago, but with both teams having new stadiums, they aren’t going to be going anywhere.  Tampa Bay would probably be moved before being contracted, as their stadium and attendance has left them vulnerable.

MLB should do something to make things right.  Fans loved the postseason of 2011 and MLB needs to build on the excitement in some way.  Taking over new markets would be a good way of doing that.  Contraction would upset fans, regardless of financial and attendance woes in other markets.  Bud Selig has had a few good ideas, outside of his hideous wardrobe choices in his tenure, and now is the time for another.


Is Jay Bruce Ever Going to Get It?

Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America

This article can also be viewed at: Bruce is 25-years-old.  He has a career OPS of .808 and has already hit 110 career home runs in his 4.5 years in the Majors.  The 6’3″, 225 pound Texan possesses tremendous power and he is locked up in Cincinnati through 2017, counting the team option.

But is Jay Bruce ever going to become the secondary piece to the Reds infrastructure?  Joey Votto is to Jeff Bagwell as Jay Bruce is to Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio, or Daryl Ward?  Is Bruce a potential Hall of Famer, or a potential flame out?

Once upon a time, in the year 2000 (not a reference to Conan O’Brien), Daryl Ward was a 25-year-old outfielder.  He had an .833 OPS and 20 home runs in 281 at bats.  He never learned to hit lefties, but he wasn’t a very good outfielder either, and he definitely didn’t make enough contact.  He bounced around a little, and was released by the Diamondbacks last September.  At 36, he is out of MLB and never lived up to his promise due to plate discipline issues.

Jay Bruce isn’t Daryl Ward, but can he be the Berkman/Biggio to Votto and the Reds?  He has a canon for an arm and is much younger than what Ward was when he broke into the league.  He isn’t in his prime yet and he has already smashed over 100 career home runs.

Bruce’s flaw seems to be his hot and cold streaks.  His OBP is damaged through his bouts with the inability to take walks and make contact, as it sits at .329 over his career.  This season, Bruce had an OPS of .954 in April, but he has slipped to a .762 OPS in May.  From April 19 to May 4, Bruce raised his triple slash from .191/.216/.426 to .304/.347/.641, by going 19 for 45 (.422) with five home runs, 12 RBI, with an 11:5 K:BB.  Since May 5, Bruce has gone just 12 for 63 (.190), with two home runs, 10 RBI, with a 21:5 K:BB.

Jay Bruce is young and inconsistent.  He wasn’t awful against left-handed pitching (.802 OPS) and he wasn’t an elite player against right-handed pitching (.822 OPS), between 2009 and 2011.  He had months where he was great (.913 OPS in May, .936 OPS in August) and he had months where he wasn’t very good (.616 OPS in July, .719 OPS in June) during the 2009 to 2011 seasons.

Jay Bruce may not take the steps needed to become an elite talent.  His strikeout rate is currently the highest of his career (24.4%), while his walk rate is the lowest of his career (7.0%), even counting his rookie season.  Based on his current numbers, Bruce is projected to finish 2012 at .258/.308/.535, with 83 runs scored, 41 doubles, 38 home runs, 105 RBI, and a 158:45 K:BB.

For all of those Reds fans who considered Adam Dunn a total waste while he was with the Reds due to all of those strikeouts, Dunn’s career slash, counting his miserable 2011 season, still stands at .243/.374/.505, and he has averaged 93 runs, 29 doubles, 38 home runs, 96 RBI, and a 188:110 K:BB over his career.  The man got on base and hit for power.  Bruce can’t seem to figure out what he is.  You could count on Adam Dunn to walk, strikeout, or hit a home run.  Bruce…well, what is he going to be counted on for?  One thing is for sure, Reds fans can expect him to collect $55 million between 2013 and 2017.  Is he worth it?

Update on Posting

For those of you who come here often, thank you, and sorry for the lack of updates.  I have taken on a new role in my sports writing endeavor, taking on the Featured Columnist role for the Cleveland Indians at Bleacher Report.

I will still be doing random posts from here, covering all of MLB, so hang tight and be ready for my usual array of amazingly written material.  In the meantime, feel free to check out some of my material over at Bleacher Report, as well:

What’s Wrong with Joey Bats?


Associated Press

Jose Bautista came out of nowhere in 2010 to hit .260/.378/.617 with 54 HR and 124 RBI, a power outburst rivaled only by Brady Anderson’s 50 HR outburst in 1996.  Only, Bautista is clean (so far) and he followed up his breakout by hitting .302/.447/.608 with 43 HR and 103 RBI in 2011.  This year hasn’t been quite the same.

Bautista has matured as a hitter, well beyond the massive home run totals.  He led the league in walks in 2011, 132, walking in 20.2% of his at bats.  His patience is again showing, as he boasts a 15.4% walk rate, walking 21 times in 136 plate appearances.  He seemed to be much more patient last season, but Bautista has only struck out 20 times, a 14.7% strikeout rate, well below his career 19.4% rate.

Bautista should be pressing and he should be frustrated right now.  He is hitting .182/.316/.345 with five HR and 15 RBI.  His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is just .170, while his career BABIP is .272 and the normal BABIP standard is .300.  He has had some tremendously unlucky moments in his 31 games in 2012, and it isn’t time to give up on him.

Toronto has an excellent, young roster.  “Joey Bats” will rebound and the Blue Jays will only get better.  At 17-14, Toronto is just three games back of Baltimore and Tampa Bay for first in the AL East.  If Bautista was hitting like he normally does, they’d probably be 25-6.  They’re 7th in MLB in runs scored without their best player performing.  With Edwin Encarnacion having a career year and Brett Lawrie providing a nice power/speed combination as a rookie at third, the Blue Jays will be very, very dangerous when Bautista really gets going.

Mariano Sends Yanks Down a River-a

Mariano Rivera was hurt catching flyballs during batting practice in Kansas City on Thursday night.  He is going to have an MRI Friday.  No one knows how bad this is going to turn out, but the pain/agony/concern on the face of Mariano Rivera and his teammates didn’t make it seem like a very minor injury.  David Robertson or Rafael Soriano would slide into the closer role if Mo misses significant time.  The Yankees are currently in 4th in the AL East, 4 games back of Tampa Bay.