Comeback Kings – the Comeback Player of the Year Award

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Coming back from an injury or rough day at the office can be challenging for your average Joe. With that in mind, one can imagine how difficult it is for premier athletes to return to elite condition after a disappointing or injured season.

With all the odds stacked against them, many players across sports have overcome adversity and returned to elite performance. The NFL and MLB recognize these feel-good returns with an award unlike any other: the Comeback Player of the Year Award. The NBA stopped giving out this award in the mid-1980s, and the award has now been replaced with the Most Improved Player Award.

Let’s take a look back and appreciate the past winners of this award across the NFL, MLB, and NBA.

The Unstoppable Comeback Kid

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The inaugural NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award was given to Earl Morrall, best remembered for leading the Baltimore Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 1971. Morrall continued this knack of spectacular backup work the following year with the Miami Dolphins. Morrall’s age of 38 made him a tough sell, and he ended up being claimed off waivers by the Dolphins. Despite bouncing from team to team, Morrall persevered and led the Dolphins to a perfect regular season after starting quarterback Bob Griese sustained injuries.

A name from this timeline that doesn’t need much introduction is Joe Montana. Whether you’re familiar with football, you’ve likely heard of one of the greatest football players to ever grace the gridiron. However, “The Comeback Kid” may have never earned his nickname if he had taken doctors’ advice. Physicians told Montana that he should consider retirement after suffering a gruesome back injury in 1986. Montana returned to the NFL only two months later, and football fans around the world rejoiced. After suffering what was once thought to be a career-ending injury, Joe Cool carried the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 1989 and 1990. Montana is the epitome of perseverance and dedication.

Due to the competitive and physical nature of the sport, the NFL has seen a number of its players overcome adversity. More recent examples include Peyton Manning’s 4,600-yard season following neck surgery and Eric Berry’s return from cancer.

Never Count Chris Out

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The MLB’s spring training, a 162-game regular season and postseason forces players to stay in season-form nearly the entire year. Considering the longevity of many players’ careers, it’s entirely expected for players to have multiple injuries over time. Naturally, the MLB recognizes those who have overcome a poor performance or injury for a full season with their own award.

Chris Carpenter, a former St. Louis Cardinals flamethrower, faced every pitcher’s worst nightmare: arm injuries. The only thing scarier than an injury? Recurring arm injuries.

The MLB only began officially presenting the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2005, but it’s not far-fetched to believe that Chris Carpenter could have been the first two-time winner if they began just a year sooner. Carpenter overcame a shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the 2003 season and finished with the 13th best ERA in the NL in 2004. Additionally, Carpenter missed nearly two seasons due to elbow and shoulder injuries later in his career but made another heroic return in 2009 – finishing with an NL best 2.24 ERA.

Buster Posey’s return from an ACL tear to win an MVP award and World Series championship and Mariano Rivera’s return from injury in his retirement season with a 2.11 ERA highlights some of the most electric returns in recent history.

The Career of a King

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Although the NBA hasn’t distributed nearly as many Comeback Player of the Year awards as the NFL or MLB, its five-year lifespan provides many inspiring stories.  

King of New York Via @trmndsupside #bernardking #newyorkknicks #knicks #nba #ballislife

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Bernard King appeared in only 19 games of the 1979-80 season due to treatment for substance misuse. After this disappointing season from the budding star, King was shipped off to the Golden State. He didn’t let lowered expectations or a new environment bring down his performance, though. Instead, King averaged a respectable 21.9 points per game while maintaining a .588 field goal percentage.

King was dealt again after his 1980-81 season, this time to the New York Knicks. Ironically, the Knicks gave the Warriors a young Micheal Ray Richardson, who would later go on to claim one of the five Comeback Player of the Year awards given after King’s historic 1980-81 season. The year King secured this prestigious accolade award wasn’t the only time his tenacity inched him closer to his Hall-of-Fame career. King missed the entire 1985-86 season with an ACL tear, but once again returned the following season. His post ACL-tear ascent was complete once he reached the all-star team in 1991.  

Rise Up to the Challenge

While your favorite players face challenges on the field, you can cheer them on by picking up their official gear at Fanatics.com.

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Best Places to Watch the World Series

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Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers fans should be excited – their teams are in the World Series! After 162 regular season games and impressive postseason performances, these two teams have emerged as the representatives of the best baseball has to offer from the American and National Leagues. With news relaying that the average ticket price (at least in Los Angeles) exceeded $3,100, it may not be in the cards for every fan to see a World Series game in person.

If you still want to watch the games in the company of like-minded fans and feel the energy of every inning, there’s another way to get in the spirit of the World Series without having to show up at the stadium. Several restaurants and bars are catering to the Houston and Los Angeles fans who want to catch the action without breaking the bank. Here are just a few places you can add to your list of venues for watching the Astros sweep the Dodgers, or for watching the Dodgers finish the job against the Astros, depending on your allegiances.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Woodman

Let's do this. #TGIF

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Several visitors to The Woodman have dropped a five-star review online, conferring the establishment is a great place to watch the Dodgers play. With towers of onion rings, a strong selection of beers, and several TV viewing options, you’re in the right place to take the Dodgers action without breaking the bank.

33 Taps

33 Taps is a place Dodgers fans recommend visiting before and after the game because it’s just that good! They also speak highly about the wings and about how the restaurant and bar take their sports very seriously. Fans celebrated the Dodgers’ NL champions series at both locations in Hollywood and Silver Lake and are surely ready to head back for the World Series campaign.

The Short Stop

Photos from #AndFriendsLA by @danimeigel are up! Album is linked on our Facebook feed. Stay tuned for info on next month ✌️🔊😎

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Known as the place where “Dodger bros rub elbows with hipsters guys,” The Short Stop is a fine place to cheer on the Dodgers among like-minded fans. Don’t expect to find a menu of artisanal entrees with farm-raised, organic quail eggs, though – this is a sports bar through and through, and you must be 21 years of age or older to enter this pro-Dodgers dive.

Houston Astros

Lucky’s Pub

Let’s go #Astros!!!!

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If you want the authentic experience of being an Astros fan in Houston and don’t have pockets deep enough for a stadium ticket, head to Lucky’s Pub. With great happy hour deals before games, massive screens, and plenty of Astros fans, you’ll feel right at home.

West Alabama Ice House

Let's do this! GO 'STROS! #earnhistory #htx #houstonstrong

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Want a memorable Texas sports bar experience? West Alabama Ice House delivers. With plenty of outdoor seating, TVs to take in the game, and the iconic Tacos Tierra Caliente food truck on site, this place checks all the boxes. Food? Check. Drinks? Check. Game? Check.

Little Woodrow’s

That was such a nerve-wracking game, Houston. One more W, baby! 🤘🏽

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They’re a local chain with several locations ready to host all Astros fans, but be warned: Don’t come expecting a diverse food menu, or a food menu. Little Woodrow’s is all about having a true fan party, so come with a full belly (or keep an eye open for local food trucks that can fill the void).

Big TVs, Full Bellies, Can’t Lose

Whether you’re taking in the game at the stadium inside one of these fine establishments, or at home with a group of friends, show everyone who you’re backing – the Astros or Dodgers – by making sure you have the best officially licensed MLB merchandise and apparel from Fanatics. Enjoy the World Series, everyone!

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Finding the Best MLB Pitchers: Changeup Dominance

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While a changeup is not always a pitcher’s go-to pitch, it’s often a vital piece in a starting pitcher’s repository. A changeup is an off-speed pitch (which means it has a lower velocity than a fastball), and its aim is deception – it’s relatively slow and can fool a batter into swinging before the ball gets to the plate. Adding to the deception is the fact that changeups are thrown with a similar motion as a fastball, which serves to trick the batter further.

Dominating With the Changeup

Let’s take a look at PITCHf/x data (wCH/C, weighted changeup runs per 100 pitches to be specific) for MLB pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched through Aug. 27, 2017, and see who dominates the changeup pitch.

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This scatterplot compares dominance against the percentage of time a pitcher throws a changeup. The ideal location here is the upper left quadrant – it represents the pitchers who have had the best changeups and who use them frequently. Lefty starter for the Kansas City Royals Jason Vargas is well-known for the quality of his changeups, often relying on a changeup with a circle grip. While primarily making use of his fastball, teammate Danny Duffy also has a quality changeup in his arsenal. Carlos Carrasco and Gio González, of the Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals respectively, also command a dominant changeup.

In the lower right quadrant, you’ll find pitchers who haven’t necessarily fared well with changeups, but they also don’t tend to use them very often. Mike Foltynewicz of the Atlanta Braves is one example – he uses his four-seam fastball most often but will utilize the changeup now and then. J.C. Ramírez is another example of a player who uses changeups very infrequently.

The upper right quadrant, interestingly, shows pitchers who use changeups frequently but aren’t necessarily performing well with this pitch. Jeremy Hellickson of the Baltimore Orioles is one such pitcher – changeups are his favorite, but he hasn’t had much success with them.

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This chart incorporates the same data as the scatterplot above but may be a bit clearer to see which pitchers are more dominant with the changeup when compared to their peers. Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers comes first in this category – although he doesn’t use a changeup frequently, he’s certainly mastered it. Carlos Carrasco is second, and his changeup frequency is higher than Kershaw’s, so he’s taking advantage of his changeup dominance.

At the opposite end, we find J.C. Ramírez, who uses his not-so-dominant changeup infrequently, as well as other pitchers like Drew Pomeranz of the Red Sox and Lance Lynn of the Cards.

Throwing a Change of Pace

While you’re checking out your favorite pitchers as they race to the postseason, make sure you’re suitably attired with great swag from Fanatics.

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Who are the Youngest Players in the MLB

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Professional baseball is inundated with youngsters. Due to its massive farm system of minor league teams, players can begin climbing their way up to the big league as teenagers (keep in mind players have to be at least 16 years old to try out for a major league organization). This leads to quite a few fresh faces hoping to make an MLB debut, and although the road to the majors can often take years, there is always a crop of “kids” making their major league debut every season.

Let’s take a look to see how young the youngest MLB players actually are.

Young Sluggers

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The youngest player in MLB is Víctor Robles, who plays for the Washington Nationals. The 20-year-old hailed from the Dominican Republic and made his major league debut late in the season on Sept. 7, 2017. Ozzie Albies, also 20, is the second youngest. He plays for the Atlanta Braves and also made his majors debut during the 2017-18 season. The third youngest player is 21-year-old Rafael Devers, who plays for the Boston Red Sox. His big league debut was smack in the middle of summer 2017.

The rest of the 10 youngest MLB players are 21 – not babies, for sure, but not seasoned veterans either. Pitcher Julio Urías (Los Angeles Dodgers) is the fourth youngest player in the majors but hit the bigs in 2016 at age 19. Fifth on the list is Luis Torrens, a backup catcher for the San Diego Padres. Sixth is Magneuris Sierra, who made his debut for the St. Louis Cardinals in early 2017.

The final four are Franklin Barreto (Oakland Athletics), Richard Urena (Toronto Blue Jays), Francis Martes (Houston Astros) and Amed Rosario (New York Mets).

Rising Stars

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The 2017 All-Star Game featured greats from both leagues. Here, we highlight the two youngest players on each team’s lineup.

Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was the youngest player on the American squad at age 23. Correa earned Rookie of the Year honors after the 2015 season and watched his batting average soar, reaching over 0.300 during the 2016-17 season.

Bryce Harper gets the nod for the youngest player on the National team. Harper, 25, was just 19 when he made his MLB debut for the Washington Nationals. Since then, he’s earned a National League MVP award, and don’t forget that the 2017 All-Star Game wasn’t his first rodeo – he went during his rookie year and the year after and – after missing out in 2014 – went another three consecutive years.

Youngest of the Young

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We took a look at the youngest players across the entire major leagues to discover the youngest player on each franchise’s roster. We outlined the top 10 earlier, but there are plenty of youth to go around the rest of the bigs. Raul Mondesi, 22, is one example. The Kansas City Royals player was the first to make his major league debut during the World Series when he was just 20 years old.

Ketel Marté is another youngster, and while he’s definitely not a rookie (the 24-year-old shortstop made his MLB debut in 2015 for the Mariners), the now Arizona Diamondback is still the youngest on his team. Joe Jiminéz, on the other hand, is still a rookie. The right-handed pitcher hurls for the Detroit Tigers and made his MLB debut in 2017.

Other young players include outfielder Nomar Mazara (22, Texas Rangers), who made his major league debut in April 2016, Yoan Moncada (22, Chicago White Sox), and Tyler Wade (22, New York Yankees).

It All Starts Here

As you watch the young players from your favorite teams carve their way through the minors to the big stage, make sure you’re properly attired. Don’t worry, Fanatics.com has all the awesome officially licensed MLB garb you’ll ever need.

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Fastball Dominance – MLB Pitching Analysis

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The most common pitch thrown by a big league pitcher is a four-seam fastball. Although there are a few variations (two-seam, cutter, and so on), the fastball pitch is designed to blaze the ball by the batter before he can properly react to it, or sneak in some late movement to fool him.

We’re looking to analyze and conclude which pitchers are the most dominant when it comes to throwing specific types of pitches – in this case, the fastball.

Specifically, we’re looking at the statistic called “standardized runs by pitch” – in this case, the standardized runs by four-seam fastballs or wFA/C. This represents the amount of runs that the pitcher saved with their fastball over the course of 100 fastballs thrown.

We’re also using “dominance” as an abstract term to describe how well a pitcher has performed this season. This doesn’t mean they have the best or fastest fastball, but rather that their pitch has been the most difficult to hit.

Heaters and Dominance

Let’s take a look at PITCHf/x data for MLB pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched through Aug. 27, 2017, and see who dominates the fastball pitch.

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This scatterplot compares dominance against the percentage of time a pitcher throws a fastball. The ideal location here is the upper left quadrant – it represents pitchers who have had the best pitches and used them most often. As of August 27th, one of the notable pitchers here is Clayton Kershaw, the now 16-win pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who is leading the majors with a 1.95 ERA. Justin Verlander, now of the Houston Astros and Ariel Miranda of the Seattle Mariners are also in this ideal quadrant.

In the lower right quadrant, you’ll find pitchers who haven’t fared well with fastballs, and they’re also not throwing them frequently. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however – they may rely on other pitches. Jason Vargas from the Kansas City Royals, for example, is not known for his fastball, instead relying on other pitches to paint those corners, such as change-ups and sinkers. Masahiro Tanaka from the New York Yankees is in a similar boat – he prefers to throw sliders and splitters.

The upper right quadrant, interestingly, shows pitchers who use the fastball frequently but aren’t necessarily performing well with this pitch. Kevin Gausman of the Baltimore Orioles is one example of a high percentage of fastballs paired with results he’d rather not have. Matt Moore from the San Francisco Giants is another pitcher who uses fastballs frequently despite his lack of dominance with this particular pitch.

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This chart incorporates the same data but may be a bit clearer to see which pitchers are more dominant with the fastball when compared to their peers. While the top two dominant pitchers have a fastball that reaches blazing speed (Michael Fulmer of the Tigers averages 95.7 mph, and Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox is just slightly behind him at 94.6 mph), not every dominant pitcher throws lightning fastballs, and not every nondominant pitcher has a slow fastball.

This is evident when we check out the third dominant pitcher on the list. R.A. Dickey of the Atlanta Braves is No. 3 here. His fastball average of 83 mph is the opposite of heat – however, Dickey’s favorite pitch is not a fastball. Instead, he relies on knuckleballs, which is understandable due to its deceptive nature and his mastery of the pitch itself.

Toeing the Slab

As you continue to watch your favorite pitchers toe the slab as the season winds down (and as the postseason revs up), make sure you have all the authentic MLB gear you can handle by visiting Fanatics.

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MLB Immaculate Innings

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There are a few baseball categories that only have a handful of entries – the 3,000 hit club, with 31 members, is one. Another rare feat is the “immaculate innings,” which means a nine-pitch, nine-strike inning. To date, there have only been 89 immaculate innings, and despite this low number, 2017’s had quite the run. Considering it only takes 10 regular baseball games to rack up 90 innings, getting an immaculate inning is extremely rare.

Let’s take a look at immaculate innings over the last century of baseball history so we can better understand how rare indeed they truly are.

Immaculate Innings on the Rise

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As the years go by, there seems to be another trend aside from more guys clobbering homers. Glancing over this chart, you can see that the first three decades weren’t teeming with immaculate innings; in fact, there was only one immaculate inning in each decade in these early years.

In the ’20s, there were five immaculate nine-pitch, nine strike innings, the ’50s saw three, and the ’60s and ’70s each saw eight. The number went down in the ’80s (4) and jumped up dramatically in the ’90s (18) followed by 15 in the ’00s. Thus far in the ’10s, there have been 25 immaculate innings, far outpacing the decades of yesteryear.

Immaculate Teams

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The National League, by the numbers, has more immaculate innings than the American League – 55 for the NL, compared to 34 for the AL (although the Astros currently play in the American League, they achieved 5 immaculate innings during their time in the National League). In fact, the top team overall with the most immaculate innings is the National League’s Dodgers, who have seven. The second most amount was at the hands of the American League’s Yankees with six.

Two teams are tied with five – the Astros and the Phillies. There are quite a few that have four, including the Brewers, who have one while they were still in the AL and three in the NL. Other teams include the defending World Series champs – the Chicago Cubs – and the Boston Red Sox.

There are also a number of teams with three immaculate innings, including the Royals, Rays, and Giants. Among those with two immaculate innings are the Blue Jays, Mets, Nationals and Tigers. And finally, there are a handful of teams with one immaculate inning, including old-timey teams like the Beaneaters (who are now the Atlanta Braves) as well as current teams like the Mariners and the White Sox.

Throwing Strikes

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Considering how rare an immaculate inning is, it’s not a stretch to realize that it’s difficult for a pitcher to get one at all, much less more than one. Sandy Koufax, flamethrowing southpaw for the Dodgers (both Brooklyn and Los Angeles), managed to throw three immaculate innings during his career.

Lefty Grove is another pitcher who managed to grab an immaculate inning more than once – he performed this feat twice in the same year (1928) for the same team (the Philadelphia Athletics, who are now located in Oakland and are better known as the A’s). Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson also achieved it two times – once for two different teams.

The rest of the players on our list threw an immaculate inning once, which, as we’ve established, is still impressive. Pitchers include Max Scherzer (Nationals), Danny Jackson (Royals), Felix Hernandez (Mariners), Rick Porcello (Red Sox), Roger Clemens (Blue Jays), Orel Hershiser (Giants), and Pedro Martinez (Red Sox).

Strike Three, You’re Out!

Are you keeping track of this year’s immaculate innings? If so, and you’re needing more MLB merch to keep your baseball-lovin’ heart happy, head over to Fanatics.com to grab some amazing new gear.

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Managerial Journeys: Bruce Bochy

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Before he won three World Series Championships as the manager of the San Francisco Giants, Bruce Bochy navigated the minor and major leagues as a player. He took lessons learned from behind home plate – as a catcher – and turned them into a successful post-playing career.

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Now with over 20 years of management experience, on top of his almost 15 years as a player, Bochy continues to surprise the baseball world with his continual evolution. But how did he progress from catching in the minors to coaching and winning three World Series with his team? Continue reading to learn about the managerial journey of Bruce Bochy.

Catching Success

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Bochy – born in Landes Bussac, France – attended school at Eastern Florida State College where he garnered interest from both the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros. The Houston Astros drafted him in the first round of the 1975 MLB June Draft secondary phase with the 23rd overall pick. He would matriculate through the Astros farm system, playing with Covington, Columbus, Dubuque, and Cocoa before receiving a majors call-up.

He would spend three years in the majors with the Houston Astros, before heading to the New York Mets organization. It would be a one-year stint in their farm system before he’d get a chance at a major league start for the Metropolitans. In fact, Bochy only played 17 games for the Mets, which prompted a move to San Diego to play for the Padres. Over five seasons, he would play more than 200 games for the Padres. After a final year in the minors (1988), Bochy hung up his helmet and looked toward a career in coaching.

Managerial Maestro

Bochy would stay with the Padres organization, going out to coach several of their minor league teams, before ultimately receiving the chance to manage in the big leagues. He took over the Padres in 1995, and just a year later, earned National League Manager of the Year honors. Bochy would only lead the Padres to four postseason appearances during his 12 seasons in charge. He did manage the Padres in a World Series in 1998, losing to the New York Yankees, after having bested the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros in the National League Championship and Division series.

In 2007, Bochy made the move up north to the San Francisco Giants. In four seasons, he would take his side to the World Series – and win. The Giants’ run in 2010 started an on-and-off series of World Series appearances that resulted in the G-Men making it to and winning the World Series every other year from 2010 to 2014. Bochy can happily claim three World Series victories – 2010 over the Texas Rangers, 2012 over the Detroit Tigers, and 2014 over the Kansas City Royals – on his resume now.

Ready for Another One

Given the recent drought after a period of immense success, San Francisco Giants fans are thankful for Bochy’s past achievements but are ready to see him bring another World Series title to the Bay area. Whether you appreciate him more as a player or manager, get the same officially licensed MLB merchandise and apparel Bochy wears at Fanatics.com.

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MLB Video Game Covers

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Players Gracing the Covers

While your favorite MLB team – whether it’s the Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, or even the Chicago Cubs – only plays 162 regular season games a year, it’s not always enough. Even a trip from the postseason to the World Series may not entirely quench your thirst for nine more innings of baseball.

Thankfully, video game developers are aware of this need, and titles like “MLB: The Show” give the baseball-obsessed a chance to enjoy the sport year-round. These games, released across different video game systems over the years, allow fans to digitally guide their favorite players and help them achieve a career worthy of Cooperstown.

What baseball positions are most featured on the cover of these games, and who are some of the most famous faces on the packaging? Here’s a look at recent MLB video games and what their covers can tell us.

Select A Team

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No player without their own video game franchise (sorry, Ken Griffey Jr.) appeared on more covers than former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. He graced the cover of “Major League Baseball 2K5”, “Major League Baseball 2K6,” and “Major League Baseball 2K7” – three consecutive years not just as the face of the Yankees’ franchise but of this particular video game series. Those were some of the best years of Jeter’s career. In 2006, he finished second overall in MVP balloting behind Minnesota Twins player Justin Morneau.

Ken Griffey Jr. was featured on four covers, all from the series using his name and image. While the other players rounding out the top five appeared on two or more covers, only one was a pitcher. Pedro Martínez, a 2004 World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox and Hall of Famer, lent his visage to the covers of “World Series Baseball 2K1” and “World Series Baseball 2K2.”

Super Sox

Seven video game series have had Boston Red Sox players featured on the cover, the most of any one team. In addition to Pedro, recently retired designated hitter David Ortiz was on the cover of “MLB 06: The Show.” The only currently active Red Sox to appear on a cover was second baseman Dustin Pedroia for “MLB 09: The Show.” Adrian Gonzalez and Nomar Garciaparra were also Red Sox players when chosen as cover boys.

Two teams – the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays – with only one MLB player on a video game cover have only done so very recently. In the last two years, Dodgers’ right fielder Yasiel Puig and Blue Jays’ third baseman Josh Donaldson shared the responsibility of gracing “MLB: The Shows” cover in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Puig was 19th in MVP voting in 2014, and Donaldson knocked in 41 home runs and 123 RBIs in 2015, where he finished first in MVP balloting.

Positional Awareness

After outfielders, shortstops and pitchers were the most common positions to be featured on the covers of baseball video games. At six apiece, there are plenty of famous faces in this bunch. Derek Jeter for “Major League Baseball 2K” and Pedro Martínez of the Boston Red Sox in “World Series Baseball 2K” help lead this group.

You’re less likely to be the face of a video game franchise if you’re a second or third baseman. Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox and David Wright from the Mets, helped to further the cause of being considered for cover-star greatness.

Press Play to Play Ball

While there have certainly been players from small market teams who’ve made their way onto video game covers, stars from some of the MLB’s biggest teams – like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees – make more regular appearances on the boxes of these digital baseball games.

Don’t miss an opportunity to turn digital dreams into a reality by getting officially licensed MLB merchandise and apparel transported to you in the real world from Fanatics. It’s the best way to level up your fan experience!

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Video Games Franchises Covered

MLB: The Show, Major League Baseball 2K, Triple Play, Ken Griffey Jr., The Bigs, Home Run King, World Series Baseball 2K, Microsoft Baseball, MLB ‘98, MVP Baseball.

Home Run Analysis

The 2016 Major League Baseball season was one for the books. Between two endearing teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, facing off to end their century- and half-century-long World Series title droughts, tensions ran high and die-hard fanatics came hyped!

Both clubs wouldn’t have made it to this pivotal game without help from their supercharged rosters. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Addison Russell led the Windy City with the most home runs and RBIs completed during the season. Over at the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World,” Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, and Jason Kipnis reigned as Cleveland’s batting leaders.

All in all, home runs in the MLB are on the rise, and the baseball analysts at Fanatics compiled all batting stats from the 2016 season to provide you with enough home run data to hold you over until we start seeing some bombs this season.

Continue reading to see which teams and players stepped up to the plate this season with a home run state of mind!

Teams With the Swing

Major League Baseball players are some of the hardest hitters in the world. Let’s take a look at which teams have been crushin’ balls out of the park and dropping the jaws of teammates and fans alike.

The Baltimore Orioles topped the charts this season by scoring a total of 253 homers – the most nailed by any team in the MLB. Mark Trumbo – first baseman and outfielder for The O’s – led the Maryland-based squad with 47 at-bats converted into critical home run hits. Fielders Chris Davis and Manny Machado backed up the home run batting leader by nailing 38 and 37 home runs, respectively. The Orioles enjoyed a strong home run lead advantage over the rest of the clubs in the league for the majority of the season. The only team to step up to the plate to rival the Orioles was their inter-league competitor – the St. Louis Cardinals – trailing the Birds by 28 homers.

Rounding out the top five in season home runs were the Seattle Mariners (223), Toronto Blue Jays (221), and New York Mets (218).

Home Run State of Mind

Being the batting leader in your respective league is quite an impressive feat to boast on a major league resume.

Slugger Mark Trumbo hit a total of 47 home runs during his time at the plate this past season. Although the first baseman has been described as “one-dimensional,” his home run abilities are unrivaled. Trumbo’s excellence against inside pitches is what sets him apart from the rest, designating him an elite power hitter. No. 45’s exceptional performance could be accredited to his newfound happiness after signing a multiyear contract with the Orioles.

Trailing behind the seasoned slugger was Seattle Mariners outfielder Nelson Cruz, with a notable 43 homers under his belt in 2016. Cruz’s talent at the plate is prodigious and is showing no decline in this department as he is the only player to have surpassed the 40-homer threshold throughout the past three Major League seasons.  

Brian Dozier, Edwin Encarnación, and Khris Davis finished up as the top five hardest hitters in the league – all reaching the 42 home run mark by season end.

It’s That Time of Year Again…

Just as the weather fluctuates by season with reason to Earth’s axial tilt, the MLB tends to witness a spike in home runs depending on the month of the year.

Data suggest that sluggers at the plate are less likely to hit a dinger in April, with only 740 pitches hit out of town during the rainy month. It appears that the weather wasn’t the only thing on fire this summer. MLB batters were on a hot streak between the months of June and August, slamming a total of 2,928 homers. August takes the cake by far, recording an astronomical 1,053 home run hits alone within the 31 calendar days.

Major League history was made this season when the Baltimore Orioles set the all-time home run mark for the month of June with 56 dingers. Hyun Soo Kim is responsible for the record-setting rocket after his solo blast during the seventh inning against the Mariners.

Hey Batta, Batta!

The world of baseball is riddled with an array of written and unwritten rules. One of those “unwritten” rules entails not swinging at a risky 3-0 pitch as the batter is just one ball away from being handed first base. The majority of sluggers who step up to the plate attempt to hit a long ball on the first pitch thrown, and it seems to be working. Batters launched the most rockets to flight off 0-0 pitches with a total of 983 homers – dominating all other situational pitches with a 300-plus home run lead.

Curtain Call

With spring training in full force, there’s no telling how many home runs one should expect from the 2017 season. Be ready to support your home team the best way you know how. Head over to Fanatics, because we’ve got you covered with the latest MLB jerseys and fan gear.

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Curveball Dominance – Finding the BEST MLB Pitchers

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A curveball is exactly what it sounds like – instead of going via a straight line to the plate a la fastball, a curveball is a breaking ball with a ton of movement, often curving down from up high, preferably resulting in a swing and miss on the part of a batter. While not every pitcher has a quality curveball in his pocket, it remains an important pitch for many.  

Dominating With a Curve

Let’s take a look at a PITCHf/x advanced pitching statistic, wCU/C (weighted curveball runs per 100 pitches), for MLB pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched through Aug. 27, 2017, and see who dominates the curveball.

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This scatterplot compares dominance against the percentage of time a pitcher throws a curveball. The ideal location here is the upper left quadrant – it represents pitchers who have had the best curveball pitches and who use them frequently. Aaron Nola, who plays for the Phillies, primarily (and successfully) relies on his curveball, averaging 78 mph. Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals also throws a ton of curves, often netting grounders.

In the lower right quadrant, you’ll note that these pitchers haven’t had much success with their curveball, but they also don’t tend to use them very often. Clayton Richard of the San Diego Padres is one of these pitchers – he primarily throws a sinker, but will occasionally mix in a curveball or two.

The upper right quadrant, though, shows pitchers who use curveballs often, despite the fact that they aren’t necessarily performing well with this type of pitch. Mike Fiers of the Houston Astros is one example – while primarily relying on his fastball, he still makes use of a curve on occasion, even though it’s not his best pitch.

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This chart looks at the same data as the scatterplot above, but it may be clearer to see which pitchers are more dominant with the curveball when compared to others. Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians, for example, is the most dominant curveball pitcher we examined. He’s followed by Carlos Martinez of the St. Louis Cardinals, who has a dominant curveball but rarely uses it.

Clayton Richard is at the opposite end. As discussed above, Richard doesn’t have a dominant curveball, but he also rarely throws one. He’s right next to Jordan Zimmerman from the Tigers, who uses a curve but doesn’t always get fabulous results.

Throwing a Curve

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