Los Angeles Dodgers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Matt Kemp’s rehab assignment is going well so far

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Matt Kemp is two games in to a rehab assignment at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, and it goes well so far. Last night he went 2 for 4 with three RBI. That matches his 2 for 4 in his first game.

Of course, hitting A-ball pitchers is not gonna be much of a trick even for a rusty Matt Kemp, so the key is how he looks on the base paths. That’s fine too, it seems, as he legged out a double yesterday with no apparent hamstring stress.
The Dodgers have sank like a stone without Kemp, but assuming he stays on pace and comes back right after the All-Star break, they’ll get a boost soon.

Marlins sign Jeremy Guthrie to a minor league deal

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 23:  Starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie #11 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Safeco Field on June 23, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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The Marlins have signed pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to a minor league contract, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. He will report to Triple-A New Orleans.

Guthrie, 37, opted out of his minor league contract with the Padres earlier this month. He put up some ugly numbers with Triple-A El Paso, exiting with a 6.60 ERA and a 37/19 K/BB ratio in 60 innings. That’s on the heels of a lackluster performance in 24 starts and six relief appearances with the Royals last year, compiling a 5.95 ERA.

Guthrie may not be an effective major league pitcher anymore but he can still, at the very least, provide depth for the Marlins. That could prove valuable later in the season, especially if the Marlins decide to ease off the gas pedal with Jose Fernandez.

Report: Cubs’ scouts were at Yankee Stadium over the weekend

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 07:  Andrew Miller #48 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Los Angeles Angels in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium on June 7, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Yankees defeated the Angels 6-3. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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George A. King III of the New York Post reports that the Cubs had scouts in attendance at Yankee Stadium over the weekend to scout relievers Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees, who enter play Monday at 37-37 in fourth place, could move some players by the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline, and that includes any of its deadly trio of relievers.

Chapman has 15 saves with a 2.70 ERA and a 31/3 K/BB ratio in 20 innings. He’s eligible for free agency after the season.

Andrew Miller has seven saves with a 1.10 ERA and a 60/3 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. He is under contract for $9 million per season through 2018.

Dellin Betances has a 2.97 ERA and a 66/8 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He will enter his first year of arbitration eligibility after this season.

The Cubs are no slouches when it comes to the bullpen — its aggregate reliever ERA of 3.64 is fifth-best in the National League — but it couldn’t hurt a seriously competitive team to add an impact reliever. The Royals’ recent success, which includes one AL pennant and one championship in the last two years, is owed in part to its lights out bullpen. As a result, many teams are mimicking the focus on the back end of the bullpen, which is great for teams like the Yankees who have it in spades.

Home runs being hit at a pace not seen since 2000

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 20: David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox at bat against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Fenway Park on June 20, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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2,598 home runs have been hit already this season, putting the league on pace for over 5,500. The only two times the league has combined for 5,500 or more home runs in a season was in 2000 (5,693) and 1999 (5,528), per Baseball Almanac. This is also reflected in the per-game averages. The current average of 1.15 home runs per game is ahead of the 1999 pace (1.14) and behind 2000 (1.17).

As for other trends, run scoring is at its highest level since 2009. Hitters are still striking out at unseen rates and the league batting average and on-base percentages aren’t noticeably different than in the past. The power trend sticks out like a sore thumb.

While nine players last season hit 40-plus homers, which was a massive jump up from the one player who hit 40-plus in 2014, hitters are generally not reaching lofty dinger totals to pad the count. This season could be another story. Teams are just shy of the halfway point of their schedules, and already four players have crossed the 20-homer threshold while an additional six have 19, six have 18, and four have 17. The 2000 season, unsurprisingly, saw 16 players cross the 40-plus homer mark. This season could match or surpass that.

The league is testing for performance-enhancing drugs more frequently and punishing offenders more harshly than ever before. It would be quite the stretch to suggest that the league’s newfound power is owed to PEDs. One potential explanation is that, due to the ubiquity of analytics, teams are having an increasingly easier time finding competent hitters. They’re making fewer mistakes based on the eye test or gut instinct. This is just an observation which could be biased, but to me it seems like teams are not giving as much playing time to players with immeasurable traits like “grit.” The best players are typically getting the most playing time.

Teams are also focusing heavily on power pitchers, which helps explain the booming strikeout rate. The pitchers, in this case, are helping supply some of the power with their 100 MPH fastballs. The biggest offenders this season:

It’s could be that the power surge is due to a bout of statistical randomness. With so many data points at this point in the season, it’s statistically unlikely that randomness is a better explanation than anything else. And power increased significantly from 2014 to ’15 as well. But it’s possible that this is just a blip.

Whatever the explanation, the return of power to Major League Baseball is a welcome sight.

Pete Mackanin on Aaron Nola: “He’s a little confused right now”

Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Nola pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, April 22, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
AP Photo/Tom Lynn
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Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola looked like one of the best pitchers in the National League through the first two months of the season, but things have completely collapsed for him over his last four starts. He command abandoned him yet again Sunday against the Giants, as he was chased after giving up five runs on 10 hits over 3 1/3 innings. He also hit three batters, the third of which forced in a run. There’s no way he did that on purpose, but Johnny Cueto later retaliated by hitting Maikel Franco with a pitch. Fun times.

After posting a 2.65 ERA through his first 12 starts this season, Nola owns a 15.23 ERA (22 runs in 13 innings) over his last four starts. He hasn’t made it through four innings in any of them. His ERA now sits at 4.45 for the year.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that they are “concerned,” but they intend to have him pitch through his struggles. He’s still lined up to make his next scheduled start Saturday against the Royals. For now, at least.

“He’s a little confused right now,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s approaching his first full year in the big leagues so he’s going to have some adversity. He probably hasn’t had any in quite a while, if at all. You can see his confidence is shaken. But he’s smart and a competitor. He’ll bounce back at some point.”

There’s been no talk of any physical issue, so Nola is mostly chalking it up to his mechanics being out of whack. The 23-year-old made a quick rise through the minors after being selected No. 7 overall in 2014, so the first taste of failure has surely rattled his confidence a bit too. The Phillies are counting on him to be a key part of their resurgence, so getting it figured out should be a top priority.