The Shohei Ohtani experiment isn’t just working — it’s been perfect

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I just got a calendar reminder that I set a little more than a year ago, to make fun of my friend Daniel. “There’s no way a major league team will let Shohei Ohtani hit,” he swore to me last spring. “Zero chance. Way too risky.”

At the time, that was a fairly common, if not quite universal, buy nfl jerseys cheap sentiment. It was too risky. Ohtani was a potentially special pitcher, and you don’t take chances with special pitchers. Just a year later, though, a crazy, risky suggestion would be the opposite: stopping the two-way experiment.272

Hardly anything has ever worked as well as the Ohtani experiment has so far. Pitching in the Los Angeles Angels’ six-man starting rotation, Ohtani has made seven starts and the Angels are 6-1 in those games; playing three or four days a week as the club’s DH, he has batted 90 times and outhit everybody on the team except Mike Trout. Short stretches of baseball are inherently inconclusive, but we can now say Ohtani is certainly one of the 50 best pitchers in the world, probably one of the 30 best, plausibly one of the 10 best, and there’s an outside chance, a glimmer of hope, a faint possibility he’s actually the best pitcher in the world and we’re just waiting to find that out. And we can almost say the same about him as a hitter.

When something’s working this well, it’s natural to say it should be left alone — and this is working. But working well doesn’t rule out the possibility that something could be working better, and simply accepting the inevitability of the situation as it exists — because change is way too risky — is how you get made fun of a year later. Daniel.

So, with a solemn promise that this article is not a troll, and that as I write this paragraph I have no idea what the answer will be, and that in fact I’m ultimately going to leave it to you to decide, let’s just ask the question: Is this really the best way to use Shohei Ohtani?

Caveats: We don’t know what the Angels promised Ohtani when they were recruiting him,where to buy nfl jerseys cheap and if his decision to sign in Anaheim was predicated on this usage plan, then this is a moot point. Further, Ohtani and the Angels know or intuit millions more details about his comfort level, his energy levels, his elbow, the roster as a whole. For us, this is a thought experiment. For them, it’s an extremely self-interested decision and much more complicated than adding up WARs.

Cubs slugger Kris Bryant isn’t satisfied with simply making more contact

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His quest for perfection in the batter’s box will never reach its conclusion, but Cubs star Kris Bryant won’t stop trying. The latest edition of his journey, which might well end up with Bryant in the Baseball Hall of Fame, features him making more contact than ever and striking out less. That’s a novel concept in today’s brand of major league baseball.

“It’s seeing these pitchers more and me just not wanting to strike out,” Bryant said recently. cheap wholesale authentic nfl jerseys “I’m making a better effort and swinging at better pitches and not getting myself out.”

Bryant had a rare day off Sunday, which was followed by a day off for the entire team Monday, so by the time he takes the field at home against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night, he should have that proverbial bounce to his step. That doesn’t bode well for the opposition, as Bryant already leads all qualified National League hitters with a 1.010 OPS. A deeper dive reveals all sorts of goodies about Bryant’s offensive production. Here are some:

? His 29 percent line-drive rate is the highest of his career.271

? His 15.7 strikeout percentage is at a career low, down from a high of 30.6 in 2015, his rookie season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Bryant is one of only two qualifying NL players who have reduced their strikeout percentage every full year since Bryant’s rookie season. Joey Votto is the other, and Votto’s rate is up so far this season.

? Bryant’s percentage of fly balls that are infield popups — or near automatic outs — is at a career low of just 6 percent. For comparison, perennial MVP candidate and teammate Anthony Rizzo has a 16 percent infield popup percentage.

? And a fun one: According to buy nfl jerseys cheap an offensive team of nine Kris Bryants, combined with “average” pitching and defense, would feature a winning percentage of over .800.

The numbers go on and on, as they do for many elite hitters in baseball, but Bryant’s reduced strikeout rate sticks out the most.

“The first year, I was chasing a lot more because you’re not used to seeing major league pitching,” Bryant said. “Now you have a history; you know how the pitches move and you know what to swing at and what not to. It’s always a work in progress. I find myself chasing now, but sometimes you do have to give credit to the pitcher.”

And sometimes you have to give credit to a great hitter. But here’s the most interesting thing about Bryant’s strikeout total: He isn’t as thrilled with the reduction as you might think.

Aron Baynes sees Gregg Popovich characteristics in Brad Stevens

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Boston Celtics center Aron Baynes has likened coach Brad Stevens to San Antonio Spurs boss Gregg Popovich, saying the duo share a key characteristic needed in Playoff basketball: composure.

Baynes has been one of the keys to Boston’s Playoff run that sees them up 2-1 over the Cavaliers ahead of Game 4 in Cleveland on Monday night [EST], the Aussie’s three-point shooting surprising everyone but Stevens and Baynes himself.nfl official jerseys cheap

Having secured an NBA ring under Popovich at San Antonio in 2014, Baynes understands what it takes to win a Championship. Playing alongside Spurs greats Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, the Australian says he learned how best to prepare and the importance of routine.

But it was Popovich who ran the show, and Baynes sees a lot of the veteran NBA mentor in the Celtics’ Stevens.

“They’re both great with the X’s and O’s,” Baynes said of the similarities between Popovich and Stevens. “They’ve all figured out more than I’ve ever learned, so every chance I get and can see some things from them, I’m trying to learn as much as I can.264

“Their composure throughout the game is pretty much second to none. No matter what’s going on on the floor, they’re so composed in how they are with the team and the message that that sends through to everyone and keeps everyone calm.”

While Baynes is full of praise for Stevens, the Celtics coach is equally fond of the “leader” he has in the Australian big man. Signed on a one-year deal ahead of this season, Baynes has been a vital defensive cog in the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

He then started dropping threes. In fact, Baynes’ three-point percentage sits at .524 for the postseason.

“When he first got here, in the fall, I was just shooting around with him one day,” Stevens said of Baynes. “He’s mostly in the mid-range, but he made 30 out of 32. Even I [sic] kinda didn’t know he could shoot it like that. Then when you watch the arc of it and the touch, the corners are easy for him.

“Above the break he’s transitioning too, but I think a lot of times with big guys who haven’t shot threes before, the floodgates open when you see the ball go through the net once. It’s just unique when you’ve never shot it before and you catch and shoot it.where to buy authentic nfl jerseys

“If you kind of rewind back to that Toronto game, when he made a couple, that was huge because now he feels comfortable catching it. He’s done a good job in this series obviously. When he shoots it, we all feel like it’s going in. He works hard at it. I believe in him.”

Rally is a state of mind as Rockets secure Game 4 win in Oracle

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It’s all such a blur, the man who assembled these Houston Rockets couldn’t remember exactly what sent him out of Oracle Arena on Tuesday night for some air.

“I’m not doing very well right now,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said.authentic cheap nfl jerseys

Fifteen minutes had passed since the Rockets had rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the defending champion Golden State Warriors 95-92 to even the Western Conference finals at 2-2. Morey’s face looked pale. His cheeks were flush. Thoughts and words were hard to string together after such an intense game.

“I ended up walking outside. I couldn’t take it,” Morey said. His wife, Ellen, stayed inside to watch the end of the game and text him with updates.258

Morey is always a wreck during games, but this was another level. This 65-win team might be the best he has ever assembled, and a loss Tuesday could’ve been catastrophic.

Instead, Chris Paul, the point guard who’d come to Houston with the hopes of vanquishing his playoff demons, rallied his team in the fourth quarter to save the Rockets’ season. He scored eight of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, shrugging off a painful right foot injury that has hampered his mobility all series.

“He gave us everything you can have against these guys,” Morey said of Paul, who opted to forgo free agency and a new multiyear contract to play out the final year of the deal alongside James Harden in Houston. “Man, he was so good.”

Harden and Paul teamed up to form a historically good offense this season, but won this game with an epic fourth-quarter defensive stand. The Rockets held the Warriors to only three field goals and 12 points in the final frame.nfl jerseys authentic cheap

Golden State led 80-70 after a 34-point third quarter. Stephen Curry had another 17-point explosion and it seemed as if the Warriors were about to coast to a commanding 3-1 series lead. The defending champions had won an NBA record 16 straight playoff games at home. They had won 39 of the 40 games this season in which they led by 10 or more points entering the fourth quarter.

The one game lost? Opening night, when the Rockets rallied from a 13-point deficit, a notice that they were a team to be reckoned with.

Houston didn’t just add Paul in the offseason, it added stout defensive players like PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. This science experiment of putting two future Hall of Fame point guards together in the same backcourt wasn’t just about offensive potency, it was about building a defense that could match the Warriors’ four All-Stars by switching everything and negating Golden State’s deadly pick-and-roll game.

Eight hours inside rookie camp with Bengals’ Teryl Austin

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Austin emerges from his downtown apartment around 5:45 on a Saturday morning in May, donning workout clothes and a pair of headphones. It’s a big weekend for him, with his first chance since January to actually coach players.cheapest nfl jerseys

Austin was hired as the Bengals’ defensive coordinator in January after Paul Guenther left to join the Raiders, but until this point his time on the field with his new players has been limited. He probably won’t even get his entire defense on the field or in a meeting room until June. While most of the players have returned to Cincinnati by now for voluntary workouts, some still are scattered around the country. Some are finishing their degrees. Some, such as Dre Kirkpatrick, who lives in the area all year, have made regular visits to the facility throughout the spring. Others, such as Carlos Dunlap, are training elsewhere.248

Austin, 53, has been looking forward to seeing the 2018 draft class on the field. On this morning, he starts his routine as he always does, walking down the street to grab a tea from Starbucks as soon as they unlock the doors. Austin has never been much of a coffee drinker and hasn’t had coffee in more than 10 years. As a self-professed morning person, he clearly doesn’t need it.

While some coaches prefer to come in later and stay in the building until 2 a.m., Austin has never been that way. He said he thinks he functions best when he starts earlier and gets things done in the mornings. He also enjoys the quiet walk to Paul Brown Stadium, where the practice facilities are housed. It gives him some time in a city he has embraced but admittedly has seen little of since he took the job.

Much of his time at the facility is spent in his windowless office with either Sirius XM’s The Groove station playing or some golf on the TV in the background, a change from Guenther’s days when horse racing was usually the background sport of choice.

While it’s clear Austin already feels comfortable in his new role, it also is clear the process of merging a new staff isn’t a quick one. Every team runs the same basic concepts, but the language varies. With every move, a coach must unlearn the old terminology and quickly figure out the new one. What the Bengals call their “NASCAR” package (likely a combination of Geno Atkins, Dunlap, Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis), might have been called something else in Detroit.wholesale authentic nfl jerseys

Lawson and Willis, now second-year players, will factor heavily into the Bengals’ plans this year.

Toward the end of the meeting, one coach comments that Willis should’ve gotten on the field more in 2017. Austin later notes he feels the same way about Lawson, who had 8.5 sacks despite taking less than half the defensive snaps.

Chargers LB Jatavis Brown renews faith, focused on bounce-back season

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The tattoo on his left arm is a constant reminder for Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Jatavis Brown to stay on the right path.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” — Philippians 4:13.

Brown said he strayed from that path last year, which in part led to an up-and-down second NFL season. Brown posts a scripture daily on his Twitter page, and said that his renewed faith helps provide perspective when he struggles on the field.nfl jerseys for cheap authentic

“I’m a big believer in God, he’s the head of my life,” Brown said. “Last year I kind of got away from my faith, and put more focus on football than my faith. So this year I’m going to put my faith first and then football.”247

Brown is looking to rebound from an uneven performance during the 2017 season. The Akron product dealt with a nagging, high-ankle sprain most of last year, slowing the usually speedy linebacker. That injury, along with a change from a 3-4 defense to current defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s 4-3 scheme, led to a dip in Brown’s production.

A fifth-round selection for the Chargers in the 2016 draft, Brown led the team with 79 tackles in his rookie season. Brown also flashed playmaking ability, recording six pass breakups, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Brown again finished with 79 tackles last year in 16 games played, including five starts, but did not make as many game-changing plays and seemed slow to react at times on the field.

“What I credit him for is he played injured,” Chargers linebackers coach Richard Smith said. “He’s the kind of young man who’s never going to use that as an excuse, but he played with a high-ankle sprain, so I don’t think his change of direction and things like that probably looked like they did the year before.cheapest nfl jerseys

“This was a totally different system where the things that we asked our linebackers to do were different than the previous system,” Smith said. “So I think at times being a young player he was very conscious of what he had to do and might of overthought some things at that particular time.

Manchester United to start David De Gea in FA Cup final over injured Sergio Romero

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Jose Mourinho says injury has cost Sergio Romero the chance to start the FA Cup final for Manchester United, with David De Gea set to feature in goal.

Argentina’s No. 1, who started the first four games of United’s FA Cup campaign, suffered an injury on international duty in March before making his comeback in the 1-0 win over Watford on the final day of the Premier League season.authentic nike nfl jerseys stitched

But Mourinho says the 31-year-old’s return has come too late and De Gea will play against Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.

“He was injured for a long long time,” Mourinho told a news conference on Friday. “He was injured for two and something months. He didn’t play some matches that normally would be his matches — the semifinal against Tottenham, a couple of more matches before the final.

“He trained only one week before the Watford match and a little bit more before and that’s the reason.”

Romero has by and large been United’s cup goalkeeper this season, starting three games in the Carabao Cup and four FA Cup ties.236

He was in line to start the FA Cup semifinal against Tottenham last month but missed out after suffering an injury during Argentina’s 6-1 defeat to Spain.

Mourinho picked Romero to start last season’s Europa League final and the United manager insisted his decision to keep him on the bench against Chelsea was based solely on a lack of fitness.

“It’s not about trust, it’s not about confidence in him,” he added. “We could have felt last season the Europa League final was a much more important match than this one because Europa League final was giving us the possibility to play Champions League and that is first objective of any top-six club — to finish top four.

“But because we didn’t, it was to win the Europa League final and I played Europa League final with Sergio.

“So it’s not about confidence or no confidence, it’s about process of last couple of months since he had an important injury against Spain.”nfl authentic nike jerseys

The FA Cup final offers Mourinho the chance to end a second-successive campaign with at least one trophy after lifting the EFL Cup and the Europa League last season.

Antonio Conte has the same opportunity after Chelsea won the Premier League title 12 months ago but there is still mounting speculation the Italian is set to be sacked this summer.

Chelsea were heavily criticised for their performance during the 3-0 defeat to Newcastle last weekend but Mourinho insists question marks over Conte’s position will have no impact on Saturday.

Once-bankrupt Parma back in Serie A after three successive promotions

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Parma have earned promotion to Serie A just three years after being declared bankrupt, becoming the first Italian club to earn three successive promotions.

Parma’s 2-0 win at Spezia on Friday saw them finish second in Serie B, after Frosinone conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 at home to Foggia. They finished level on points but Parma clinched second courtesy of a better head-to-head record.authentic nike nfl jersey

Empoli had already earned promotion as Serie B winner, dominating the league by finishing 13 points clear. The other automatic spot was up for grabs with Frosinone second going into the final round, with two points more than Parma and three more than Palermo.235

Parma won with goals from Fabio Ceravolo and Amato Ciciretti, while veteran former Italy striker Alberto Gilardino missed a penalty for Spezia.

Foggia led at Frosinone, but Luca Paganini’s header and a Matteo Rubin own goal had the hosts heading for Serie A until Roberto Floriano’s last-minute equaliser.

Frosinone now go to the two-legged playoff semifinals, where they will play either Bari or Cittadella. They face each other in the first leg on May 26.

Palermo will play the winner of Venezia vs. Perugia.authentic nike nfl jerseys stitched

Frosinone’s matches will be on May 29 and June 2, while Palermo’s will be on the following days.

Pirates call up OF prospect Austin Meadows with Starling Marte ailing

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The Pittsburgh Pirates recalled Austin Meadows from Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday,cheap nfl nike jerseys china  a move that comes with fellow outfielder Starling Marte nursing discomfort in his right side.

Meadows was ranked 70th on Keith Law’s list of the top 100 prospects in baseball entering the season. He will be making his major league debut Friday against the San Diego Padres, batting seventh and playing center field.
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The 23-year-old Meadows is hitting .294 (37-for-126) with 10 doubles, 1 home run, 15 RBIs and 20 runs scored this season at Triple-A. He was the ninth overall pick in 2013.

Marte was placed on the 10-day disabled list after he injured his oblique Tuesday night in a win over the Chicago White Sox and sat out the next two games. The DL move is retroactive to Wednesday.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

He is hitting .308 with six homers, 19 RBIs and 10 stolen bases for the National League Central-leading Pirates.

Sir Didi’s disappearing act: Gregorius’ slump stumps Yanks

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Didi Gregorius stepped back onto first base — a place that has become foreign to him lately — and looked into the New York Yankees’ dugout.

Laughing, the slumping shortstop waved at his applauding teammates, wondering if they might ask the umpire for the baseball he’d just hit. After all, he’d reached a unique milestone; why not jokingly commemorate the occasion?

“I forgot what it’s [like] to be on first base with a hit instead of a walk,” Gregorius said.customized nfl jerseys cheap

Before he slapped that fifth-inning single through the left side of the infield during Saturday’s home win over the Oakland Athletics, Gregorius had gone 30 consecutive at-bats without recording a hit.

But all joking aside, that single was just a blip on the radar. His slide has only continued, dipping now into a 1-for-41 slump entering Friday night’s series opener in Kansas City.

What makes this rough stretch so remarkable is the timing. Gregorius was named the American League’s Player of the Month for April, raising the question, with more than half of May now in the books: Where have you gone, Sir Didi?223

The answer? He hasn’t really gone far away at all.

While Gregorius hasn’t been getting the hits he did during his scorching-hot March and April, there are signs he isn’t faring as poorly at the plate as his now-plummeting batting average might suggest. Just don’t try telling him that.

“I’m not happy with the at-bats,” Gregorius said, “because I’m not helping the team.”

Since soaring to a .372 batting average and a 1.303 OPS on April 25, he has bottomed out. Gregorius visits the Royals hitting .255 with an .880 OPS. By comparison, Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton, whose struggles have been well-documented this season, now has the same batting average.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone isn’t reading too deeply into those numbers.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

“I know he’s going through a tough stretch right now, [but] I certainly don’t believe it’s as bad as the not getting hits,” Boone said. “I do feel like there’s been a fair amount of contact in there.”

Typically, when players go into slumps, their contact numbers dip and their strikeouts rise. Look no further than Stanton’s early-season problems, when he once had 16 punchouts in a six-game stretch. Whiffs were way more common than that loud thwack! of his bat.