Sport 11 things to know about season if you haven’t been paying attention

01:40  20 june  2017
01:40  20 june  2017 Source:   For The Win

Were you paying attention this week? Take the USA Today news quiz

  Were you paying attention this week? Take the USA Today news quiz Were you paying attention this week? Take the USA Today news quiz

If, for whatever reason, you have not closely followed Major League Baseball to date this season , here are 9 things that you need to know to get up to speed It shouldn’ t really come as a surprise to anyone paying attention : Both teams have clearly been moving in the right directions for several

Here are nine things that have been happening in Major League Baseball this season to get you all caught up and ready to call in to your local sports-talk radio station or argue with your office Entering play Tuesday, they own an 11 .5-game lead over the perennially excellent Cardinals.

11 things to know about the 2017 MLB season if you haven't been paying attention© Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports 11 things to know about the 2017 MLB season if you haven't been paying attention Oh, hey there! It's the middle of June and the Major League Baseball season is in full swing, but you've been so caught up in basketball or hockey or Trump stuff or the ramifications of the NFL's preseason schedule that you're not fully aware of what's been going on in the ol' national pastime.

I'm here for you. And assuming you already know that Mike Trout - the best player in baseball by far - is currently on the disabled list for the first time in his career and will likely be out until the All-Star break, here are 11 things to know about the 2017 MLB season so far, in no particular order:

Bill Belichick issues high praise (for him) about Brandin Cooks

  Bill Belichick issues high praise (for him) about Brandin Cooks Bill Belichick isn’t a rah-rah coach. Though, we’re hardly shocked there was a bit of cautious optimism as well.

And assuming you already know that Mike Trout — the best player in baseball by far — is currently on the disabled list for the first time in his career and will likely be out until the All-Star break, here are 11 things to know about the 2017 MLB season so far, in no particular order

It's tough to call West Virginia a gimmick this year after they've pulled out close games with Baylor and Texas—even if Texas looks less and less like the # 11 it was against the Mountaineers—and when you watch them, you 're watching the presumptive Heisman do preposterous things .

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NL West is poppin' off

Arguably the league's two biggest surprise contenders both play in the National League West, as does one of the sport's least surprising contenders. Entering play Monday, the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Dodgers own three of MLB's four best records on the season with the Colorado club sitting one game in front of Arizona and Los Angeles.

The Rockies, shockingly enough, have succeeded largely on the strength of their pitching, with rookie starters Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Jeff Hofmann all performing well in front of a lights-out bullpen built around rejuvenated closer Greg Holland. The red-hot Diamondbacks, led by MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt on the offensive side and a deep starting staff behind ace Zack Greinke, have won 10 of their last 11 games to keep pace in the league's most competitive division. And the Dodgers, with an expensive and star-studded roster, have enjoyed predictably great campaigns from Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen alongside unpredictably great ones from rookie Cody Bellinger, a host of bench bats, and starter Alex Wood.

Expansion draft: Five intriguing players who could be available to Vegas Golden Knights

  Expansion draft: Five intriguing players who could be available to Vegas Golden Knights The Vegas Golden Knights' picks will be announced June 21.According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the Anaheim Ducks have a trade in place with the Vegas Golden Knights to ensure they won’t lose a player in the June 21 expansion draft that they want to keep.

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We've been driving quite a few hybrids lately, and we decided it was worth putting down in an article how and why they've changed since the last time average buyers paid attention . Don' t miss: 2018 (?) Honda CR-V Hybrid all but confirmed for U.S. sale. So here are our six things you should know

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State Dept defends Russia sanctions after Moscow cancels meeting

  State Dept defends Russia sanctions after Moscow cancels meeting The State Department on Wednesday defended the Trump administration's decision to expand U.S. sanctions against Russia, after the country's deputy foreign minister abruptly called off a meeting with a top U.S. diplomat. The Treasury Department announced on Tuesday that it had added 38 individuals and firms, including two Russian government officials, to its list of those sanctioned for Russia's role in Ukraine. The Highest Paying Cash Back Cards Available Today See The Best Cash Back Cards Sponsored by CreditCards.com That prompted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov to cancel a meeting with Thomas A.

In case you haven ’ t been paying attention to the NFL offseason so far or are in need of a primer before the 2017 campaign gets underway, we present these 11 things every NFL bettor needs to know .

Noctis: With this group? Clearly, you haven ' t been paying attention . Oobleck: honestly mr wukong haven ' t you been paying attention ? Pyrrha: *leans over to sun* it was a civil war a lot of things got burned by a lot of people just go with it.

Everyone's hitting tons of homers

In the continuation of a trend that began around the All-Star break in 2015, Major Leaguers are hitting home runs at an outrageous pace in 2017. No one has fully figured out why it's happening, though a couple of dominant theories have emerged: 1) It's the "fly-ball revolution," an era in which access to new data like that provided by Statcast has prompted players to try hitting the ball in the air more often to reap more longballs and 2) The ball is juiced.

I tend to be skeptical about juiced-ball conspiracies, but Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer presented some compelling evidence for just that last week. And while there's plenty of anecdotal support for players vowing to hit more fly balls and thus more home runs, the leaguewide fly-ball rate is still lower than it was every year from 2006-2011.

The 2000 season saw the most homers in big-league history, with 5,693. MLB players are on track to hit well over 6,000 homers this season, and are hitting them at a significantly higher per-game rate than in any year in big-league history. One home run should hardly prove conclusive evidence of anything, plus Mark Trumbo is undoubtedly a very strong man and Baltimore is undoubtedly a fairly easy place for a righty batter to homer. But watch this homer Trumbo hit Sunday and tell me something's not a little wonky.

Joe Staley throws shade at former 49ers coaches

  Joe Staley throws shade at former 49ers coaches The last few years haven’t been great for the San Francisco 49ers. Joe Staley said this is a much smarter 49ers team than in years past: "They brought in football guys.

Ok this is super frickin cute and the ending is just perfect. 11 /10. In which Grantaire and Enjolras take a very long time to actually say those three special words, but if you pay attention , the words are there.

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Joe Staley throws shade at former 49ers coaches

  Joe Staley throws shade at former 49ers coaches The last few years haven’t been great for the San Francisco 49ers. Joe Staley said this is a much smarter 49ers team than in years past: "They brought in football guys.

When they are paying attention to the details and imperfections on you , it shows they are trying to get to know you better. Have you noticed he is paying extra attention to see if he can make you happy? 11 . He comes outside to meet you when you arrive.

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Chris Sale has found a new level

Red Sox lefty Chris Sale was already one of the best pitchers in the Majors coming into the season, but now the 28-year-old boasts new career bests in WHIP, home-run rate, walk rate, and strikeout rate. The move from Chicago to Boston has likely helped some with the homers - not that Fenway's exactly a pitcher's park - but granular data suggests a real change in how he's approaching opponents: Sale is throwing more four-seam fastballs than he ever has before as a starter while at the same time throwing fewer fastballs in general.

The adjustment has corresponded with an uptick in fastball velocity and a significant increase in swinging strikes. With the Astros' Dallas Keuchel (more on him in a moment) now sidelined with a neck issue, Sale looks like the AL Cy Young favorite moving forward. The rest of the Sox' rotation has hardly been as impressive, but with the team now tied for first place in the East, Sale makes them look like a tough matchup for any opponent should Boston reach the postseason.

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Flight Canceled Only After Passenger Spotted Fuel Leaking Out of the Wing Before Takeoff

  Flight Canceled Only After Passenger Spotted Fuel Leaking Out of the Wing Before Takeoff Well, thankfully someone was paying attention. Earlier this week, a United Airlines flight scheduled to depart from Newark Liberty International Airport was canceled. Why? Because a passenger looked out her window and saw jet fuel gushing out of the wing.The passenger stated that she alerted the crew to the issue and posted video of the fuel leak to Twitter.Clearer video of the #united#gasleak. How not one crew member saw this is beyond me. Thank god we were lookin out the window at take off. pic.twitter.

the whole season i was thinking "there's no way they can sustain this premise" -.

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Astros are awesome

The Astros hit a little bit of a rough stretch last week, and recent injuries to Keuchel and Lance McCullers leave some pretty significant question marks in their starting rotation for the time being. But the Houston club has had the sport's best record for most of the season and enter play Monday with an 11-game lead over the second-place Texas Rangers in the AL West.

Keuchel and McCullers were both having great seasons at the time of their injuries and both are expected to return before the All-Star break. But Houston's big strength is in the lineup: Their offense leads the Majors with an .820 OPS. Young core players Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer have led the way, and manager A.J. Hinch makes great use of the team's deep roster and positional flexibility. Marwin Gonzalez is hitting .311 with a .989 OPS and has started games at five different positions.

Bryce Harper has been making solid contact all season© Associated Press Bryce Harper has been making solid contact all season

Bryce Harper is good again

Baseball's more fun when Bryce Harper's playing well, and Harper has been playing well again this season after a disappointing 2016 campaign. The 24-year-old firebrand has cooled off a little bit - but only a little bit - after a blazing hot start, and currently owns a stellar .318/.422/.605 line for the season.

Flight Canceled Only After Passenger Spotted Fuel Leaking Out of the Wing Before Takeoff

  Flight Canceled Only After Passenger Spotted Fuel Leaking Out of the Wing Before Takeoff Well, thankfully someone was paying attention. Earlier this week, a United Airlines flight scheduled to depart from Newark Liberty International Airport was canceled. Why? Because a passenger looked out her window and saw jet fuel gushing out of the wing.The passenger stated that she alerted the crew to the issue and posted video of the fuel leak to Twitter.Clearer video of the #united#gasleak. How not one crew member saw this is beyond me. Thank god we were lookin out the window at take off. pic.twitter.

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That's an MVP-caliber performance, but unlike in past years, Harper's getting help from multiple players around him in the Nats' lineup: Daniel Murphy is repeating his stellar 2016 performance, Anthony Rendon is having a career year, and the rejuvenated Ryan Zimmerman actually leads the team and the National League with a 1.063 OPS. Add it all up and combine it with the Mets' woeful and injury-riddled start and the Nats appear to have an easy route to October even in spite of their thoroughly lousy bullpen. Harper will ruffle some feathers along the way, of course, but a deep postseason run will cement his status as the sport's foremost celebrity if not quite its best player.

Associated Press© Associated Press Associated Press

Everyone's striking out a lot

This is the flipside to the home-run thing: MLB players are on pace to set a new record for strikeout rate for the tenth straight year. A trend so overwhelming almost certainly represents the byproduct of multiple factors, so it'd be silly to even try to pinpoint a single unifying cause for the increase.

The sport's so-called Moneyball era destigmatized the strikeout for hitters while simultaneously, and paradoxically, emphasizing its importance for men on the mound. Pitchers tend to work shorter outings than ever before and managers have become more reliant on one- or two-out specialists in their bullpen, and more careful management of platoon matchups could contribute to the trend. Also, likely due to both the adjustments in workload and improved understanding of mechanics and conditioning, pitchers throw harder than ever before. Maybe changes to the strike zone have something to do with it, too.

In any case, it seems bad: Watching pitchers dominate can be fun, but the ball in play is the fundamental action in baseball, and fewer balls in play mean fewer weird and exciting baseball happenstances.


There's a new Judge in town

This freakin' guy. Among many players enjoying breakout seasons, Aaron Judge stands both literally and figuratively head and shoulders above the pack. The Yankees' 6'7″, 282-pound 25-year-old rookie slugger leads the Majors in WAR, homers and on-base percentage and ranks second behind only the injured Trout in OPS. This after a 2016 cameo that saw Judge strike out 42 times in 84 at-bats.

Judge arrived at spring training this year with a reworked swing aimed to keep his barrel in the hitting zone for longer and reduce the problematic strikeout rate. He is now responsible for all four of the hardest hit balls struck in the Majors this season, five of the top six, and eight of the top 13. It keeps feeling like Judge should cool off at some point, and he keeps refusing to do that: He posted an 1.168 OPS in April, a 1.084 mark in May, and owns a 1.211 rate to date in June. All rise.

Associated Press© Associated Press Associated Press

Cubs are surprisingly mediocre

You probably heard about how the Cubs last year won their first World Series in over a century with a roster that looked stacked to contend for years to come. It's still way, way, way too early to count out the 2017 Cubs, especially since they're 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers in an underwhelming NL Central. But for a club that looked unbeatable before the season, the Northsiders have been pretty darn beatable and enter play Monday with an even 34-34 record.

Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant have been good again, but most of the Cubs' lineup has underperformed. Kyle Schwarber has failed to recapture the magic of his heroic World Series performance, and young players like Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras have failed to improve upon their 2016 campaigns. Plus, the Cubs' starting pitching - a huge strength in their run to the World Series - has been lackluster all season, with all of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks seeing their ERAs jump by over a run since last season.

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Some randos are having great seasons

Every year sees a few MLB players come out of nowhere to experience dream seasons, but this one especially seems to feature a disproportionate number of once-average performers playing the part of superstars. Yonder Alonso, shown above, has emerged as one of the faces of the aforementioned "fly ball revolution" by nearly doubling (already!) his previous career high in home runs.

The league's batting leaderboards are graced throughout by veteran players enjoying unprecedented success: Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak rank among the MLB leaders in homers. Zack Cozart, Aaron Hicks and Corey Dickerson are all in the Top 12 for WAR. It's early yet, and all these dudes have lots of time to regress toward the mean. Maybe something's happening here, or maybe this is just the weird type of thing that sometimes happens over the course of a few months' worth of baseball.

The Brewers were so excited about Eric Thames' walk-off HR that they ripped off his jersey© Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports The Brewers were so excited about Eric Thames' walk-off HR that they ripped off his jersey

Eric Thames is for real

If there's any 30-year-old in the league that now seems primed to emerge as a full-blown megastar, it's this one. Thames, once a Quad-A type outfielder who went to South Korea and started hitting like Ted Williams, returned stateside this season on a three-year, $16 million deal with Milwaukee that now looks like the steal of the decade. Thames has a .265/.399/.607 and rebounded from a prolonged slump to start this month by hitting homers in four consecutive games from Wednesday to Saturday.

Maybe Major League pitchers figure out Thames in a way Korean pitchers never could, but it's very hard to fake the sort of plate discipline he's shown this time around in the Majors. And Thames just seems like an especially interesting dude, beyond even the unlikely path back to the Majors: He reads philosophy and studies history, and speaks eloquently and candidly in a way that appears increasingly rare among big-league stars. Like Harper, Thames seems the type of guy who can make the whole sport better by being great at it.

Associated Press© Associated Press Associated Press

The San Francisco Giants are horrible

The Giants aren't the worst team in baseball, but they're surprisingly close considering they entered the year expected by most to hang with the Dodgers in NL West. Instead, they've been abysmal: Buster Posey - who has been excellent - is the only above-average hitter in their lineup, their starting pitching has been woeful in the absence of Madison Bumgarner, and offseason addition Mark Melancon has failed to stabilize their bullpen.

Anyone who expected the San Diego Padres to have a better record than the Giants at this point is… well, non-existent, probably. Here's one indication of how bad it has been: Bumgarner made only four starts before injuring his shoulder in a dirt-bike accident on April 20. He currently ranks third on the Giants in WAR.

RELATED SLIDESHOW: 2017 MLB season (provided by photo services)

Flight Canceled Only After Passenger Spotted Fuel Leaking Out of the Wing Before Takeoff .
Well, thankfully someone was paying attention. Earlier this week, a United Airlines flight scheduled to depart from Newark Liberty International Airport was canceled. Why? Because a passenger looked out her window and saw jet fuel gushing out of the wing.The passenger stated that she alerted the crew to the issue and posted video of the fuel leak to Twitter.Clearer video of the #united#gasleak. How not one crew member saw this is beyond me. Thank god we were lookin out the window at take off. pic.twitter.

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