116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – Launch angles are king, grip it and rip it is the mentality, it’s OK if you strikeout while trying to grip it and rip it.
That’s professional baseball in 2021.
But in an attempt to create more true action in the game, Major League Baseball has introduced experimental rules being tried out in the minor leagues. For example, in the High-A Central League, of which the Cedar Rapids Kernels are a member, pitchers must step off the rubber before attempting a pickoff throw.
That theoretically could make the stolen base more prevalent, something that has been proven out statistically.
Going into Saturday’s play, there have been 810 stolen-base attempts in 474 High-A Central League games, an average of 1.7 per game. The success rate is 80 percent.
In the 2019 Midwest League season, there was an average of 1.16 stolen-base attempts per game with a success rate of 69 percent. Though the Midwest League was a low-A league in 2019, many of its players are now in the High-A Central League.
To put it quite simply, what you are seeing is a significant increase in stolen bases and stolen-base attempts with the new, experimental pitching rule.
“I think it has some good and bad,” Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman said. “It is increasing the stolen-base rate a little bit more. Pitchers have to be a little more aware of it, vary their looks, their holds, stuff like that, to hopefully keep runners close.”
Dinkelman’s Kernels went into Saturday having stolen 32 bases on 38 attempts. Quad Cities leads the league with its 94-percent stolen-base rate, having runners thrown out just three times in 49 attempts.
While Dinkelman understands the intent of the experimental rule, he’s not completely sold on it. He points out that left-handed pitchers have never had to step off the rubber before a pickoff throw to first base, could hang their front leg and throw to first base without it being a balk, as long as that front leg never crossed the rubber.
After spending their entire lives playing the game that way, all of a sudden, the rules have changed. It is a drastic adjustment.
“You are putting them in a situation where they have to make an awkward, kind-of sidearm throw, which is not good for their arms because they’ve never had to do it in their lives,” Dinkelman said. “If they want to do it for right-handers having to step off to increase more stolen bases, then maybe. But like I said, for left-handers it’s a little bit tougher because they’ve got to step off for the quick pick. So I don’t know.”
Batboys are back
MLB has decided to allow batboys to return to their duties with minor league teams, as long as they have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Players and coaches have been performing those duties so far this season, as a way to keep as few of people as possible out of MiLB clubhouses and away from managers, coaches and players.
Hawkeye hangouts for the summer
Twenty University of Iowa baseball players are in summer leagues as they continue to hone their skills and/or prepare for the 2021 MLB Draft, which is July 11-13.
Outfielder Ben Norman (Trenton Thunder) and pitchers Trenton Wallace (Trenton Thunder) and Cam Baumann (West Virginia Black Bears) are participating in the MLB Draft League out East. They all hope to be selected in the MLB Draft.
First baseman Peyton Williams is with the Wareham Gatemen in the prestigious Cape Cod League for college players not yet draft eligible. Pitcher Tyson James and infielder Michael Seegers are with the Bluefield Ridge Runners of the Appalachian League.
Hawkeyes in the Prospect League are catcher Brett McCleary and infielders Brayden Frazier and Anthony Mangano (Clinton LumberKings), pitcher Ty Langenberg and pitcher-infielder Alec Nigut (Alton River Dragons) and infielders Sam Link and Andy Nelson (Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp).
Pitchers Duncan Davitt and Jack Radford are with the Waterloo Bucks of the Northwoods League. Also in that league are infielder Brendan Sher and pitcher Jacob Henderson (Lakeshore Chinooks).
Pitcher/utility player Keaton Anthony is with Macon of the Coastal Plains League, pitcher Jack Guzek with the NWI Oilmen of the Midwest Summer League and outfielder D.J. Heck with Walford of the Iowa Valley League.
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