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MLB looks to protect pitchers from line drives

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MLB looks to protect pitchers from line drives

DETROIT (AP) Major League Baseball is looking at ways to protect pitchers from being injured by batted balls such as the one that struck Doug Fister in the head, and says hat liners are a possibility in the minors next year.

The safety issue is on a ``fast track,'' MLB senior vice president Dan Halem said Friday night.

``Hopefully, we can come up with something,'' he said. ``We're making progress.''

MLB medical director Dr. Gary Green has been talking to companies about protective headgear for pitchers, Halem said. A report is on the agenda at baseball's winter meetings in December.

A cap liner with Kevlar, the high-impact material used by military, law enforcement and NFL players for body armor, is among the ideas under consideration.

Halem said baseball already was exploring options when Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive last month, causing a skull fracture and brain contusion.

``After that, it kind of pushed up our timetable,'' Halem said. ``We decided to fast track it.''

``We think it's possible for 2013 in the minor leagues,'' he told The Associated Press.

Fister was the latest pitcher to get hit. Gregor Blanco's second-inning shot caught Fister on the right side of the head and flew about 150 feet, the ball traveling so far that Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson picked it up on one hop.

Fister remained in the game Thursday night and worked into the seventh of a 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants. The Tigers said a team trainer pronounced Fister fine on Friday.

Many youth leagues require pitchers to wear helmets. Getting big league pitchers to adjust to something new would certainly take time, plus the approval of the players' union.

``I definitely think it's something worth exploring,'' Game 1 winner Barry Zito said after the Giants worked out Friday night at Comerica Park. ``We've had high-profile examples of those injuries lately, what happened with Brandon and then here in the World Series.''

Zito said he'd heard that MLB was looking into potential solutions.

``You don't want it to be too drastic,'' he said. ``Little things can affect a pitcher's delivery.''

Giants general manager Brian Sabean said there was merit to the study. Finding the right product would be the key, he said.

``It would depend on how intrusive it is,'' he said. ``Pitchers would want it to be no irritant or agitant. The weight would be important.''

When he returned to the A's after his accident, McCarthy said he would be willing to listen to ideas about protective headgar, provided it didn't impact his pitching.

Halem said baseball was in the early steps of getting a protective device on the field. It would require testing and an examination from an independent laboratory to see whether it could withstand the force of a line drive going 100 mph or more.

``We actually had a guy that was in our organization that wore a helmet,'' Giants ace Matt Cain said Saturday. ``I mean, obviously it's not the best-looking thing. But safety-wise, I mean, obviously it's beneficial.''

MLB could implement the safety change in the minors, having made similar moves involving larger batting helmets. Putting it in effect for the majors would require agreement from the players' association.

``We'd have to discuss how we'd roll it out,'' Halem said.

Baseball mandated batting helmets for big leaguers starting in 1971. Players already in the majors could opt not to wear them, and Boston backup catcher Bob Montgomery played until 1979 without one, instead putting a protective plastic lining inside his cap.

Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver watched the replay of the Fister ball and said he thought baseball might need to ``resort to helmets for pitchers.''

Philadelphia pitcher Vance Worley heard that remark and tweeted: ``Pitchers....wearing helmets....really?''

Last year, Washington shortstop Ian Desmond hit a liner that struck Colorado pitcher Juan Nicasio in the head. Knocked off his feet, Nicasio broke his neck when he fell on the mound.

Desmond also heard McCarver's suggestion.

``Helmets for pitchers??? Really,'' Desmond tweeted.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

Remember when the Nationals put Trea Turner in centerfield so they could keep Danny Espinosa at shortstop?

Two years later it's Turner who leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR, as you surely know if you follow the Nationals on literally any social media platform. 

So while Juan Soto and Bryce Harper continue to dominate all of The Takes, it's Turner who's been the Nats' best position player this season. 

We'll start with some basics: 

Did you know that Trea Turner leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR? He's currently sitting at 2.4 WAR, above the likes of Brandon Crawford, Addison Russell, and Trevor Story, to name a few. (We'll ignore the fact that the top six shortstops in the A.L. all have a better fWAR.) He's a top-10 shortstop in baseball during one of the strongest eras in the position's history.

Even after a dreadfully slow start, Turner's still on pace to have the best season of his career. He posted a WAR of 2.9 last year and -- barring injury -- will realistically eclipse that by the All-Star game. 

At the plate, two stats jump off the page in regards to explaining Turner's stellar season. 

First, Turner is drawing a *bunch* of walks. His current BB% clip (10.6 percent) would be far and away the best of his career and up four percentage points from last year. It's a factor that helps explain - partially, at least - why his on-base percentage has risen and his BABIP has dropped. More walks mean fewer swings, fewer swings mean less contact, less contact means lower BABIP, etc. It's not the whole picture, but it's a big part of it. 

Secondly, Turner is making impressive contact on pitches out of the strike zone. FanGraphs calculates out-of-zone contact using a statistic titled O-Contact, which is a blessing considering some of the titles they choose to give their other stats. 

The average O-Contact across MLB in 2018 is 64.7 percent. Trea Turner's career O-Contact is 62.4 percent (although realistically it's closer to the high-50's - a small-sample-size from his abbreviated first season mucks up the number a bit). 

This season, Turner's posted an O-Contact of 69.3 percent. Not only is that 10 percentage points higher than his O-Contact from last season, but a top-50 clip in all of baseball. He's one spot ahead of Mike Trout!  Put both of these together with some encouraging Statcast numbers (rise in HardHit%, already matched his total 'barrels' from last season) and you can see why Turner's been thriving at the plate. 

Defensively, he's improved across the board as well. His UZR and DRS - considered the two most reliable fielding statistics, if such a thing exists - are both up from last year. He has the 10th-best UZR of all major league shortstops and ranks 1st in DRS. 

Last season, he finished 17th in both UZR and DRS (of all shortstops with at least 800 innings; Turner didn't log enough innings to be considered a qualified fielder). He ended the season with both numbers in the negative. 

You may be skeptical of defensive stats, which is fine. But if nothing else, the fact that Turner is turning literal negative stats into positive ones is encouraging. 

Lastly, Turner continues to be an elite baserunner. At this point in his career, his speed is arguably his best tool:

You'll note that purple dot allllllllllll the way on the right. That's Turner! Now, let's take a look at how his speed compares across all positions:

Essentially, Turner is faster than like, 98 percent of baseball. In fact, by Sprint Speed, he's the 6th-fastest player in the game. He also ranks 2nd across all of baseball in FanGraphs "Baserunning" measurements, only behind fellow teammate and mindbogglingly good baserunner Michael A. Taylor. 

So, Trea Turner an elite baserunner (maybe the best if you combine his raw speed with his baserunning stats), a top-5 shortstop in the field, and an All-Star at the plate. 

Juan Soto's been great and Bryce Harper is still extremely talented, but this year, Trea Turner has been the Nationals' best player. 

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