MLB Fan Reactions on Twitter

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Nobody likes to lose in baseball – not the players, not their managers, and definitely not the fans. While some fans instantly react in a not-so-positive way when their team loses (and would fire the whole team and its staff in an instant if they could), others are far more optimistic than one would expect. A loss doesn’t dampen the spirits of every fan, and some fan bases even roll on the positive edge regardless of the game’s outcome.

The Truth is in the Tweets

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According to Twitter, the Oakland Athletics have the most positive fans. Though their current standings in the American League West aren’t stellar (they currently rank fourth), it seems all of their fans aren’t wallowing in despair, even after a loss. Sitting at around 10 games under .500, the team seems to lose more than they win. Still, the secret may be in recent wins. Leading a few series, particularly against a division rival (Houston Astros during the July 18-20 three-game set) certainly softens the blow, allowing fans to be more optimistic when a game doesn’t end well.  

The Minnesota Twins may be at rock bottom in the American League Central, but they check in at No. 2 in our Twitter positivity survey. It can be a hard pill to swallow when they lose, but when they win, they win big. A recent example is a five-run seventh inning that took them past Boston in Fenway Park on July 24. The Twins have had quite a few big-run wins despite their less-than-stellar record, which likely boosts overall morale for a fan base who probably knows their team won’t be playing in the Fall Classic this year.

The Pittsburgh Pirates come in third for most positive tweets after a loss. The Bucs also sit solidly in third in the National League Central, within reach of the No. 2 spot currently occupied by the Cards. As trade rumors heat up closer to the deadline, the Pirates’ potential for snagging a wild card spot with a few roster upgrades may make fans a little cheerier overall.

The Cleveland Indians currently lord over the American League Central with a solid cushion of game wins over their division opponents. While each loss can carve away at that lead, fans know that it’s far easier to hold a lead than it is to make up lost ground.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim round out the top five positive fan bases on Twitter. While they are not in a position in the standings that their fans love (No. 5), the club has Mike Trout – one of the best players in MLB. Despite his team’s struggles, Trout continues to be a beast at the plate and in the outfield. While the team’s playoff chances look dim, they’ve been on a raging hot streak as of late and may not be big sellers at the trade deadline – so there is indeed some optimism to be had, even after a loss.

Heading Into the Future

Regardless of whether a team is in first place, fans of these five clubs don’t seem to let the rankings get them down. The Oakland A’s, for example, have been on a pretty good tear lately, and while a Wild Card spot may seem out of reach, that doesn’t mean their overall future isn’t grand.

The Twins don’t seem to interact with their Twitter fans regularly, but they still send out a lot of tweets. Though this season isn’t living up to their hopes and expectations, the amount of talent they have on the farm keeps them optimistic.

The Pirates also have a good batch in the pipeline, even though they suffered from a less-than-super record thus far. Regardless of whether they snag a WC spot this fall, the team and its fans have a lot to look forward to.

The Angels don’t interact much with fans on Twitter, but they do tweet a ton and even acknowledge the performance of star players during a hard-to-swallow loss. While that WC slot seems pretty out-of-reach, many fans roll with the good times and the bad to keep the future of the Angels in view at all times.

Like many MLB teams, the Indians are very active on social media – Twitter in particular – and they interact with fans regularly. Not only does this help boost fan morale, but it also likely works the other way around to improve the team’s confidence.

Happy Fingers

Losing can be hard on everyone, but fans are the ones who can be the hardest on a team after notching one in the loss column. Some fans, though, love their team through thick and thin and are a little more optimistic after losses than fans of other squads. While we don’t yet know which teams will do battle on the field in the World Series, keeping the faith through hard times can really be a boost to your team’s confidence.

For all of your MLB gear needs, whether your team is on a hot streak or not, head to Fanatics.com for jerseys, caps, and everything in between.

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Mapping the Red Sox Pitches

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Every season, thousands of fans flock to Fenway Stadium (the oldest ballpark in MLB history) to witness the highly praised Boston Red Sox dominate their enemies.

The immense pressure between the pitcher and batter seconds before he throws a payoff pitch is exactly the type of suspense that fans are craving. Some like to predict what pitch is coming next, but these edgy flamethrowers are known for throwing an unexpected pitch from their repertoire. So keep your heads up high and your eyes on the ball because you’ll never know what pitch will soar across the dirt strip next.

Using Carson Sievert’s PITCHf/x tool, we took a deeper look into this pitch data by visualizing each pitch type over the past nine seasons. Read on to explore the modern-day pitch type of the beloved Red Sox pitchers.

A Whole Lotta Pitches

After analyzing all pitch types and trends, we decided to visualize the path of every pitch thrown by famed Sox pitchers throughout the past nine seasons. The pitch-zone charts are quite simple to follow – each chart represents the stance of the player at bat (lefty or righty), while the different pitch types are identified by color.

At a glance, the first colors that stand out are blue and green – the majority of these pitches being four-seam and two-seam fastballs. No surprises here: The four-seam fastball is considered one of the easiest pitch types to control. Their speedy tactics may be working; the Red Sox are currently ranked second in the American League East – treading closely behind division rivals, the Baltimore Orioles.

Setting aside the overwhelming number of fastballs, curveballs, knuckleballs, change-ups, and sliders make up the rest of the crowd. Our analysis shows that this repertoire of pitches is responsible for about 50% of pitches thrown so far this season. As you may have noticed, some of the pitch types break back across the plate – displaying the typical path for the change-up or cutter. Often pitched by the trickiest pitchers to take the mound – both pitches are thrown as an attempt to confuse or disgruntle the player at bat.

Mix-Up Pitches

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The Boston Red Sox have some interesting percentages among their pitch count distribution. As mentioned earlier, the four-seam (31.12%) and two-seam fastball (18.67%) take the cake – comprising just about half of their entire pitch count.

It’s safe to say that any opposing batter has a 50-50 chance of getting a taste of fastball zipping down the dirt mound. When this power-pitch is not being thrown, the Sox also enjoy beaming curveballs (9.55%), change-ups (10.57%), sliders (7.03%), and knuckleballs (10.78%) across home plate. Although their pitching team has not been the most successful this year – ranking 19th out of the 30 teams – they were able to nail down a definitive rotation that is surprisingly producing fan-pleasing results.

Taking a closer look at the starting pitcher rotation for the Red Sox, we identified each pitcher’s hardest-thrown pitch type (computed as the highest average exit velocity):

David Price (No. 24) – Two-Seam Fastball, 90.88 mph

Steven Wright (No. 35) – Knuckleball, 86.80 mph

Rick Porcello (No. 22) – Two-Seam Fastball, 91.24 mph

Drew Pomeranz (No. 31) – Knuckle Curve, 91.91 mph

Eduardo Rodriguez (No. 52) – Four-Seam Fastball, 89.83 mph

Three of the five pitchers in the rotation throw variations of the fastball the hardest – a typical stat among MLB pitchers. Pomeranz appears to be the black sheep of the herd, as the Knuckle-Curve only makes up 2.39% of the total pitch count. Needless to say, these flamethrowers must maintain this momentum if they’re looking for success heading into the playoffs.

Right Down Broadway

Pitching is widely considered to be a form of art rather than a calculated science. The beauty of pitching derives from the freedom of the man at the mound to pitch whatever comes naturally to him. Perfecting this craft takes practice, and honing specific mechanics may take years – these are the applications a major league pitcher must dedicate himself to.

Before stepping up to the mound, or heading to Fenway Park, make sure you’re decked out in the latest #RedSox gear. Look no further than Fanatics.com for all of your Boston sports merchandise and memorabilia.

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Who Are the Top NFL Players on Instagram?

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On Sundays (and now Mondays and Thursdays), these are the professional football players who make their living amazing us with superhuman feats. They compete for glory on the turf, and they compete for attention across Instagram. Since they only play 60 minutes a week, there’s plenty of time – in between training, practice, and sleep – for these players to vie for our likes.

But how does it break down? Do fans give our likes to more offensive or defensive players? Do quarterbacks not only run the offense but command all of our Instagram attention? We reviewed the data to determine the top NFL athletes on Instagram.

Goal Posts

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There are a few players who lead the league when it comes to their Instagram activity. They share more than their peers, inviting fans to take a much better look at the real life of an NFL player once they remove their helmets and cleats. HBO’s “Ballers” it’s not; this is the real deal. Florida native and Tennessee Titans’ running back Dexter McCluster (@dextermccluster) posts more than any other NFL player. The proud papa shares many videos and pictures of his daughter, in addition to uploading his Snapchat posts to share with a wider audience.

Flipping to the other side of the ball, Seattle Seahawks’ strong safety and card-carrying member of the “Legion of Boom” Kam Chancellor (@bambamkam) finds himself in second place. Chancellor posts photos of his sponsored events, workouts, and motivational quotes.

Baltimore Ravens’ running back Terrance West (@terrancewestbwi), Washington Redskins’ wide receiver DeSean Jackson (@OneOfone), and Oakland Raiders’ defensive tackle Leon Orr (@kinglafiel) round out the top five. Who knows how much they each bench press? We just know they’re heavy posters. Their thumbs must be enormous!

Rushing for the Most Likes

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If you’re looking for the player who’s driving the most engagement, you’ll see a different set of names. While the old adage is “defense wins championships,” no defensive player finds themselves in the top five list of the players with most likes per post. Offensive players want the rock, and they get it. Offensive players want your likes, and they get those too.

Living on a planet all by himself, Carolina Panthers quarterback and the NFL’s 2015 MVP Cam Newton (@cameron1newton) transcends his peers’ Instagram engagement. On average, he earns 11,000 more likes a post than the No. 2 player. With professional photos chronicling his journey, Newton invites fans to see him working hard to deliver great results on the field and playing hard during his time off the field.

Next closest, is the living party starter, New England Patriots’ tight end and Madden 17 cover athlete, Rob Gronkowski (@gronk). The position-redefining player, known as “Gronk,” averages more than 77,000 likes per post on Instagram. Videos of his hijinks, photos of his family, and reposts of his professional appearances engage his fans. San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick (@kaepernick7), New York Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (@iam_objxiii), and former Seattle Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch (@beastmode) make up the list of NFL all-stars earning the most likes per post.

Overtime

There’s certainly plenty of current and former NFL greats who use Instagram, but we’ve found that those running in touchdowns, throwing passes, or catching that crucial first down are more likely to be generating likes. And playing on the defensive line doesn’t draw the same level of social engagement.

Whoever you support on Sundays, or follow on Instagram, make sure you’re covered with the best, and latest, official NFL apparel and merchandise available at Fanatics.com.

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The Beginners Guide to #MLB: Become a Fanatic Overnight: Major League Baseball

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Guide to Becoming an MLB Fanatic

Home run! Strike out! Have you heard these phrases screamed in celebratory fashion, but don’t actually know what they mean? You’ve seen baseball games on TV and heard friends and family talk about “RBIs,” but the idea of learning about the sport seems a little daunting. Fear not, we’re here to help you make sense of the differences between “foul” and “fair” – and everything else baseball related – with our Guide to Becoming an MLB Fanatic.

Top of the Order

Older than the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, or the National Hockey League, the MLB reigns as the oldest professional team sport in America. Each year, 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams compete in a 162-game season for the chance to go to the playoffs, and hopefully, win the World Series. These 30 teams are broken evenly into two leagues – American and National – and each league has three divisions.

In both the American and National leagues, the division winners (the teams with the most wins at the end of the season) and one wild card team (determined by a single-elimination playoff game between the two teams with the best records who are not division winners) start the post-season in a best-of-five game series. The winners then progress to a best-of-seven League Championship Series. This all leads up to the World Series, where the winning team gets bragging rights and immortality if they emerge victorious!

At the Plate

Baseball games are broken up into nine innings. There’s a top of the inning, where the visiting team has the opportunity to try and score runs (at-bat), and a bottom of the inning, where the home team gets their turn. Each half-inning concludes when the team on the field (not at-bat) records three outs. Outs can be recorded in several ways, but the most common are when a hitter either strikes out or hits the ball directly to a player in the field and they catch it.

Sometimes, if the game is tied at the end of nine innings, extra innings are required. If that happens, the game will continue until a winner is determined. The winner, either in nine innings or extra innings, is the team with the most runs. Runs are earned when a player progresses to the first, second, and third base before returning to home plate.

It’s the job of the team on the field to help make sure this doesn’t happen. They do this by either striking out the batter, or by tagging him out. Tagging a player out occurs when a runner is touched by a player’s glove that contains the ball before they’ve reached the next base or home plate. Baserunners can also get an out if a fielding player, with the ball, beats them to a plate that they are forced to run toward.

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On Deck

There are nine positions on the baseball field, and each position is associated with a number (for scoring purposes). Here are the positions, and some examples of key players in each role (these are the guys whose jerseys you’ll want to pick up from Fanatics.com!).

  • Pitchers (1): Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers; David Price, Boston Red Sox
  • Catchers (2): Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants; Brian McCann, New York Yankees
  • First Base (3): Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers; Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Second Base (4): Robinson Canó, Seattle Mariners; Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
  • Third Base (5): Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles; Adrián Beltré, Texas Rangers
  • Short Stop (6): Carlos Correa, Houston Astros; Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Left Field (7): Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals; Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers
  • Center Field (8): Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Right Field (9): Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins; Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs

In the American League, there’s also a position called the DH – Designated Hitter. This person bats in place of the pitcher throughout the rotation. The most well-known DH today would be David Ortiz, who plays for the Boston Red Sox (make sure to see him play soon, though, as he’s retiring at the end of the 2016 season).

Chasing the Pennant

Below, our recommendation for a few teams you should be watching:

  • Chicago Cubs: Owning the mantle for most tortured franchise, the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. However, with great pitching, hitting, and coaching, the Cubs have the city of Chicago believing that this will be the year they break the curse.
  • San Francisco Giants: Having won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, the Giants are on a roll. If they can stay healthy (which hasn’t always been their strong suit), perhaps they can add another World Series win in 2017.
  • Baltimore Orioles: With possibly the best young player on any current baseball roster, (Manny Machado, age 24), the “Birds” are currently flying high. There is a lot for fans to be excited about, and the Orioles are hoping their team makes it to the World Series this year.

Walk-Off Winner

Now that you know about innings, the types of players on the field, the star athletes in every position, and even some teams worth checking out, you are ready to emerge as a baseball fan. So grab that foam finger, get ready for peanuts and Cracker Jack, and get yourself out to the ball game. But before you do, get the best official MLB merchandise and apparel from Fanatics.com; it’s a home run!                                                      

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American League’s Hardest Hitters

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Grounders, pop-ups, line drives, bunts – the weapons of choice for a player at bat. The batter’s decision of which strategy to use is based upon multiple factors: pitch count, men on base, and the pitcher on the mound.

The American League is special because it uses the designated hitter rule. This rule was adopted into the league in 1973, and has remained in place since. Simply, the rule details that alternate players are allowed to bat for the starting pitchers on their team. If an American League team is playing against a team in a National League stadium, then both pitchers must bat – no exceptions.

We took a look at the top stats of all current American League batters, data courtesy of StatCast, to see which players are crushin’ balls out of the park! Read on to see which batter’s are droppin’ the jaws of teammates and fans, alike

Hey Batta Batta, Hey Batta Batta

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To the surprise of many, American League batters are hitting balls on average a few notches below those of their National League counterparts. Within recent seasons, the Houston Astros have acquired two heavy-hitters – George Springer and Carlos Correa. Springer has been playing for the Astros since being picked up in the first round (11th pick) in the 2011 amateur draft. The Giancarlo Stanton of the American League, Springer has been noted for hitting the hardest double (115.5 mph) and home run (115.9 mph)! Correa on the other hand, was recently picked up during the 2012 amateur draft and just debuted in his first performance on June 8, 2015. The radars tell us that Correa is responsible for hitting the hardest field out at 118.2 mph!

Former Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Khris Davis slammed the hardest single around at a whopping 115.9 mph a tad bit quicker than Springer’s record double hit. The Oakland Athletics signed Davis for a one-year contract during the 2016 season. Since signing, Davis has been viewed as a bright spot on the teams current lineup.

Players on the field must prepare themselves for a few types of batted balls – grounders, line drives, and fly balls. When hit below 10 degrees, a ball is considered a grounder. Miguel Cabrera, infielder for the Detroit Tigers, nails ground balls on average at 93.4 mph (9.6 angle).

An efficient, play-making line drive must be hit at an angle between 10 and 25 degrees, while an official fly ball is struck between 25 and 50 degrees. Seattle Mariners catcher Chris Iannetta pumps out the hardest line drives (109.3 mph at a 24.7 angle) and slams fly balls as hard as he can (105.9 mph at a 30.9 angle) – despite his already heavy workload. Iannetta recently caught for 13 innings straight, and started in the following game just a day later.

All the Way Up

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When attending a ball game, all fans look forward to catching a game winning home run ball. Nomar Mazara, rightfielder for the Texas Rangers, makes that dream a reality by constantly smackin’ balls into the stands. Mazara currently holds this season’s American League record of farthest home run hit, sending that sucker a mind-blowing 491 feet! Debuting in 2015 and considered to be one of the best baseball prospects of all time, Miguel Sano serves as a designated hitter and outfielder for the Minnesota Twins. In doing so, Sano has set the record for highest flyer in the American League with a height of 117.3 feet.

Choke Up

American League batters make up some of the hardest hitters in the world. There is little doubt that these numbers will only get higher in the next couple of years. Top prospects are entering the league with skillsets that no one has seen before, and they sure are putting them to use!

Before heading out to the next ball game, make sure you’re armed with your favorite team’s latest gear! For all your baseball essentials, look no further than Fanatics – the nation’s top online retailer for sports apparel and merchandise.

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National League’s Hardest Hitters

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It’s going … going … gone! Major League sluggers have been knocking fastballs out of the park ever since the MLB was founded in 1869. To put that in perspective, the distance from home plate to the outer fencing of the outfield varies from 300 to 420 feet.

For the past two decades, National League batters have been nailing over 2,000 home runs out of the park every season. Many legends have taken the plate and produced some mind-boggling numbers, but the current roster of the National League have set the bar fairly high for batters looking to be the next big thing.

We took a look at the top stats of all current National League batters, data compliments of StatCast, to see which players are slammin’ the hardest hits and the highest flyers. Continue reading to see if your favorite batter made the cut for the National League’s hardest hitting batters.

Hit and Run

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Outfielders take a step back, because when these players take the plate, one can expect a hardball coming straight their way. Three-time MLB all-star and Hank Aaron Award winner Giancarlo Stanton was first drafted in 2007 by the Miami Marlins and debuted his skills in 2010. Stanton led the league in home runs during the 2014 season, which is why the shock factor of this chart is limited. Creating quite an impressive portfolio, Stanton hit the hardest double (115.15 mph), single (118.65 mph), force out (118.8 mph), grounded (123.9 mph), and home run (116.8 mph). In addition, Stanton dominates the chart by having the top five hardest hit types in the entire league. For the time being, Stanton remains one of the top prospects to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, still with a full career ahead of him!

Sharing the spotlight, Jorge Soler  outfielder for the Chicago Cubs hit the hardest field error at 114.7 mph, not the most noteworthy accomplishment but still one for the books! In addition, Los Angeles Dodgers batter,  Enrique Hernandez, got out with a solid 118.1 mph hit.

Then there are the three traditional hit types – ground balls, line drives, and fly balls. For starters, a ground ball must be hit at a launch angle of less than 10 degrees. Cameron Rupp, catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, hits the hardest ground balls on average at a speed of 96 mph with a typical launch angle of 9.50 degrees. On the other hand, to hit the perfect line drive, a batter must crush the ball at an angle between 10-25 degrees. Seasoned hitter, Mark Reynolds, of the Colorado Rockies, has been sluggin’ for nearly 10 seasons on seven different teams. Reynolds hits the hardest line drives with an average speed of 105.5 mph on a solid 25-degree angle. When Sean Rodriguez emerges from the dugout, outfielders are sure to take an extra step back! The Pittsburgh Pirates infielder crushes fly balls at an average 110.1 mph and an angle of 33.5 degrees.

Upper Decker

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Witnessing an out-of-the-park home run is one of the most exhilarating feelings when attending a ball game. Fans of all Major League teams claim that catching a home run ball is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. To the surprise of no one, Giancarlo Stanton holds the title for the farthest-hit home run this season blasting it 468.5 feet into the crowd! Although it doesn’t come close to the league’s longest verified home run by legendary player Babe Ruth – who launched the ball 575 feet  – it’s still quite the feat. Birds beware, when Pirates batter Sean Rodriguez steps up to the plate, he’s shootin’ for the stars launching the highest hit, with a recorded height of 132.1 feet.

Long Out

Batting is what keeps the game exciting. Bunts, grounders, pop-ups, line drives you never know what the hitter is going to pump out next. Current National League batters are some of the hardest hitters in Major League history, and every year, the numbers are set even higher.

Heading out to the park? Make sure you’re equipped with your teams latest fashions and trends! For all your baseball essentials, look no further than Fanatics – the nation’s top online retailer for sports apparel and merchandise.

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Happiest MLB Teams

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The familiar smell of hot dogs, the energy and excitement of the ballpark, the summer day full of sunshine – who wouldn’t be happy to spend their afternoon at a baseball game? You see plenty of smiles on the faces of players watching a Major League Baseball (MLB) game, but just like only one team wins the World Series each year, there has to be just one happiest team and position.

We wanted to uncover which teams and positions those were. We took photos of players from ESPN, ran them through Microsoft’s Cognitive Services Emotion API, and ranked the teams and positions based on their appearance to find the happiest of the bunch. These are the ones that give off that vibe that they’re playing for the love of the game.

New York State of Mind

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The Bronx Bombers, also known as the New York Yankees, are the happiest team in MLB. Fans love them (they’re America’s favorite team), opposing fans hate them, and networks can’t get enough of them. Those pinstripe-wearing, beardless men radiate positivity. They’ve won 27 World Series Championships, so it makes sense that they’re coming to work with a league-leading level of positivity.

The New York Mets, the Yankees’ crosstown rivals, earn a second place. They’re also the only team from the National League in the top five. Maybe the rest of the National League wishes they had the designated hitter position?

The Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers, take the bat at third and fourth place; both come from the same division, the American League Central. Whatever is in the Midwest’s water supply needs to be shared with the rest of the league!

Pitching Ain’t Easy

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Infield players make up the first few places – shortstop, second baseman, first baseman, and catcher – all were in the top five. You have to go to the tail end of the list to find the pitchers.

Starting pitchers ended up just ahead of relief pitchers (these are individuals who, unlike starters, are brought in more regularly and for short periods of play). It’s a lonely place on the mound, throwing a five-ounce ball close to 100 miles an hour while challenging a stream of opposing batters.

The fans love you if you head out of the game winning, but then the fate of your performance and possible worship rests in the hands of an understudy, the relief pitcher. Perhaps how quickly the love and support can fade from fans, players, and coaches makes it difficult for the pitcher population to be happy.

Extra Innings

New York is large enough for two MLB teams, and apparently also large enough to accommodate the two happiest squads in the pros. It doesn’t matter what subway line the Yankees or Mets are being forced to take or exactly what borough they’re located in; they’re just happy.

Perhaps if these two teams could concentrate on sending some love to starting and relief pitchers around the league, it could be a happier organization overall. Who wouldn’t want to see that, even if it required the umpires to use Instant Replay?

Snag some of the best officially licensed MLB merchandise and apparel from Fanatics.com so you’re supporting your team in style while hopefully sporting a smile on your face.

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Strategy Game Changers: Phil Jackson

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Getting to Know Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson entered the world in 1945 as the son of two fundamentalist ministers in Montana. He and his siblings grew up in a strict environment and were unable to watch TV, go to the movies, or even dance.

However, his stern upbringing didn’t forbid him from pursuing sports, and he excelled enough in high school to be recruited by the University of North Dakota, where he helped his team win third- and fourth-place finishes in the NCAA Division II championships. He was drafted 17th overall by the New York Knicks, where he played as a power forward for 12 seasons and was part of two championship-winning teams.

Flowing With the Triangle Offense

Jackson is credited with modernizing the triangle offense. The triangle offense is said to have originated from Sam Barry at the University of Southern California and then further developed by former Kansas State head coach Tex Winter, who had played under Barry. However, Jackson took the offense a step further. And it led him to a historically successful coaching career.

The triangle offense isn’t the easiest scheme to understand, according to Chuck Klosterman – author and Grantland writer – who reports that the base alignment of the triangle is an actual human triangle on one side of the floor.

“The triangle is considered a ‘flow offense,’ in which player movement is the most important detail (set plays are rare),” Klosterman notes. Also, there are other points that require every player to be interchangeable as well as automatic passes that need to be made when certain defensive alignments are encountered.  

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Jackson’s Legacy

After Jackson’s retirement as an NBA player, he started his coaching career, eventually working his way up to the head coach spot with the Chicago Bulls in 1989. There, he began his tenure as one of the most successful coaches in NBA history; he led the Bulls to six NBA championships and then the Los Angeles Lakers to five. With a total of 11 rings, he secured the most NBA titles as a coach and helped guide Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal to Hall of Fame careers.

While the triangle offense is complex, variations have been added and implemented in today’s game. The San Antonio Spurs, for example, utilize a form of this offense. And while Jackson now serves in an executive role – he’s currently the president of the New York Knicks. His legacy as one of the greatest coaches of all time still lives on.

Game Changer

When Phil Jackson started the climb to his incredible head coaching career, he probably didn’t expect that one day he’d be remembered as the coach of champions – 11 times over – or for his triangle offense playing strategy. However, the NBA Hall of Fame inductee (2007, as coach) will always be an icon in the basketball world for his particular style of coaching and play.

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Looking to play some B-ball yourself? Want to try out the triangle offense? Don’t worry – Fanatics.com has you covered with the best NBA gear around, including the Bulls and the LA Lakers.

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MLB Pitches Over the Past 100 Years

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MLB Pitches Over the Past 100 Years

Major League Baseball has prided itself on delivering a timeless experience to generations of fans. Children, parents, and grandparents heading to the park to enjoy nine wholesome innings of play – all while chowing down on hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks – is a slice of Americana. (Though, the food has even started to change – hello “Burgerzzia” and “Irish Nachos.”)

While MLB fans have experienced culinary changes at the ballpark, the players have also seen changes over the years. Pitchers, much like parks’ food services teams, needed to spice up their game by inventing new pitches to stay ahead of batters. Over the past 100 years, from 1870 to 1970, pitchers invented several new ways to keep batters guessing as the ball whizzed by them and over the plate. As pitchers have found ways to put some extra mustard on their balls and strikes, fans and hitters both have enjoyed getting to ask, “Just what was that pitch?”

Curveballs and Screwballs: 1870s to 1880s

In the sports’ infancy, William Arthur Cummings, known as “Candy Cummings,” delivered baseball its first curveball. He invented the pitch while tossing sea shells into the Atlantic Ocean and quickly applied efforts to perfect this new style of throwing. Fans frequently debated whether the ball actually curved in the air, but researchers in the 21st century have proven that it does, in fact, curve.

This pitch succeeded by breaking downward in a way that confused batters, leaving plenty swinging far away from where the ball actually was when it passed across the plate. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw hasn’t earned as sweet of a nickname as Candy, but he’s the modern example of a ruthless curveball pitcher. He won the 2013 Cy Young Award (MLB’s recognition of the year’s best pitcher)  by using his curveball between 10 to 15 percent of the time.

There were other pitches created during the 1870s and 1880s, such as variants of the fastball – two-seam and four-seam. Breaking ball creation occurred with the introduction of the screwball – Los Angeles Angels left-handed pitcher Hector Santiago might be the last modern pitcher throwing these in MLB today – and the knuckleball, still thrown today by pitchers like Toronto Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey and Boston Red Sox’s Steven Wright. Dancing more erratically than a student at their first school dance, a well-thrown knuckleball doesn’t spin at all, allowing it to fall (break) multiple times before it reaches the batter.

Spitballs and Sliders: 1900s to 1920s

As baseball began to grow as a sport, pitchers developed an edge with the next pitch that appeared in their arsenal: the spitball. These balls earned their name after pitchers would literally spit on them, either with saliva or after chewing another substance – tobacco, licorice – to get some extra stick. This offered the pitcher more control over the ball, leaving them with better command thanks to an enhanced grip.

Beyond the doctoring of the ball, it really didn’t differ at all from the standard fastball in flight. Its presence wasn’t long lived, as the sport eventually banned the pitch for being unsportsmanlike prior to the 1920 season. This didn’t stop pitchers from, occasionally, trying to bend the rules and getting away with an altered ball. 

This period in baseball also lead to the introduction of the slider. Thrown with a sidespin, a slider moved across (rather than breaking downward like a curveball) and enabled pitchers to trick batters with another atypical pitch. In the modern era, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jonny Venters has thrown a slider so “nasty” it was unhittable seven out of every 10 swings for a period of time.

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Changing it up With a Splitter: 1940s to 1970s

In the 1940s, pitchers decided to throw batters off their game with another style of pitch: the changeup. Thrown almost identically to a fastball, the changeup is hurled at a much lower velocity in order to confuse the batter and catch them out of rhythm. Six-time All-Star and Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez has made it one of his featured pitches.

The most recent pitch developed by pitchers is the splitter. Appearing in the 1970s, it’s used by just a handful of professional players today. There’s high risk for a pitcher if the command of the ball isn’t right. Slower than a four-seam fastball, the splitter breaks downward right before reaching the plate. New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka unleashed his splitter on MLB in 2014, throwing it a fifth of the time.

Three Strikes, You’re Out

Ballpark food: changed. Players’ uniforms: changed. Pitches: changed. Even for a sport as rich in history as Major League Baseball, change is necessary to remain competitive. Pitchers find ways to stay ahead of the count by creating new pitches to keep their ERA under control. There are plenty of amazing pitchers on the mound today – Kershaw, Price, Arrieta, Bumgarner – who owe their success to the inventive players who took the mound before them.

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National League’s Fastest Pitchers

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“Strike three, you’re out!” is presumptively the only time an umpire’s voice rings like music to the ears of any National League pitcher.

Over the years, the average pitching speed of players has increased by a great measure. Nowadays, pitching upward of 100 mph is universally viewed as the norm. For those looking to make it to the Major League, a solid fastball across home plate is all a young star needs to be recognized by scouting agents.

There are countless techniques and training methods, but what it really comes down to is a player’s natural-born talent and dedicated practice. No matter how a player’s skill is acquired, the numbers coming off the speed radars are mind-blowing, and they’re only getting higher.

Using data from MLB Statcast, excluding any pitchers that have thrown less than 100 pitches, we decided to take a look at the National League’s fastest pitchers around. Read on to find out which pitchers are smokin’ batters on a regular basis and watching them saunter back to the dugout.

Top of the Order

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Batters beware. When you see these names step up to the mound, expect some neck-snapping moves. The most defining attribute of Arquimedes Caminero  pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates is his impressive ability to succeed with more than one pitch type; he topped the league’s record board by pitching his entire repertoire at an average of 95.54 mph.

It’s no surprise that Noah Syndergaard, or Thor as fans call him, dominates the charts with some of the fastest pitch types in the league. Syndergaard, who hails from Dallas (or possibly Asgard), was acquired by the New York Mets during a 2012 trade deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. He has been quite a figurehead in the franchise ever since. By turning in his hammer for a baseball, Syndergaard quickly surpassed his rookie status. Mr. Goldilocks has also built a nice resume for himself by throwing the fastest four-seamer (97.98 mph), sinker (97.98 mph), slider (91.22), and changeup (89.83).

Stepping up to the mound at Turner Field, Arodys Vizcaino  – pitcher for the Atlanta Braves  – throws the hardest two-seamers around town at 97.44 mph, treading closely behind Syndergaard’s four-seamer.

For a small change of pace, Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws the meanest cutter ball, crossing the plate at 95.54 mph. The cutter ball is a pitch that branches off the four-seam pitch and is thrown with the intention of rearing off to the opposite side of the batter at the last minute. On the other hand, Carlos Matias of the St. Louis Cardinals, mastered the 12-6 (picture the hands on a clock) movement of the curveball – pumpin’ ’em out at 84.74 mph. A difficult pitch to fling at high speeds due to the focus put into throwing it with a downward spin to enable the slight “curve” as it crosses home plate.

Strike Out the Side

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For those not up to date with the latest pitching lingo, a break refers to the sudden change in direction that a thrown pitch takes while crossing home plate. The National League recognizes Arizona Diamondbacks seasoned player, Brad Ziegler, as the pitcher with the longest average break at 11.75 inches! Ziegler most likely has all opposing batters shaking in their cleats when he takes the mound; just a heads up fellas – expect a curveball. One of the most defining features of a pitcher is not only how fast they can throw the ball, but also how precise they can be. The Los Angeles Dodgers have recently acquired Zach Lee, also known as the pitcher with the straightest fastballs. Speed and precision are a deadly combo for any batter to face-off against, which is why the Dodgers invested in this talent. When it’s all said and done, keep your eyes peeled when these flamethrowers approach the field.

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Some argue that pitching is nothing more than a specific methodology with science behind it, while others claim it’s an art form with many tools to choose from. No matter how one looks at it, the ultimate goal of any pitcher who takes the mound is to perfect all pitch types with great speed and precision. Some of the league’s best throw many pitches well, while the all-stars tend to stick to the ones they’ve mastered.

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