MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at Washington Nationals

It is easy to get too cute when thinking about pitching. For all the attention given Masahiro Tankaka’s splitter and Jose Fernandez’s curveball and Stephen Strasburg’s change up, there is no substitute for a good fastball.

There is no one set way to attack hitters but a good fastball goes an awful long way. Without one, pitchers are at the mercy of hitters to expand their zone and go after bad pitches.

Velocity isn’t everything but it certainly helps. Even a pitcher without his “peak” velocity can still dominate using a well-place fastball.

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Angels

Albert Pujols is throwing it all the way back to the late 2000s. The Angels’ first baseman leads the major leagues with six home runs and is hitting .280/.349/.587 in his first 18 games of 2014. His current 167 OPS+ is his best mark since the 2010 season, the last time the 34-year-old reached the All-Star game.

Whenever a hitter of Pujols’s former stature manages an elite stretch like this one, particularly early in a season, it’s worth taking note. It’s especially worth noting when the player in question is healthy for the first time in years. Pujols missed roughly the final third of the 2013 season in order to finally undergo surgery on his right knee as well as rest the plantar fasciitis that has chronically bothered his left heel.

Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus documented Pujols’s issues last season in a column aptly titled “The Week In Albert Pujols Playing Through Pain.” Pujols was never a burner, but he ran in an extremely pained manner in 2013. The issues were particularly apparent on this play, a groundout on April 13. Watch the instability in his front leg in particular:

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MLB: All Star Game-American League Practice

Yesterday in DC, the best young players in baseball faced off for the first time in their professional careers. They faced off in as much as two outfielders can – the mentioned each other during pre-game media availability. They sent praise across the aisle and explained their friendship, such as it is.

The “rivalry” is a media creation, of course. Drummed up to sell tickets and by the homerish Nats media eager to show the world that the local kid, Bryce Harper, can play too. They’re right, of course. Mike Trout casts quite a shadow but Bryce Harper deserves attention for his exploits between the lines as much as his “exploits.”

But rivals? Bryce Harper has a lot to do before he can get anywhere near Mike Trout’s level.

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MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

There is a lot that comes with having Yasiel Puig in your team. Yasiel Puig is not like most players. As LA Magazine published, becoming Yasiel Puig, Baseball Supernova was not an easy process. It took money and guts and tears and all sorts of help, if you want to call self-interested crooks “help.”

Being Yasiel Puig means attracting attention. It means, in its own way, loving attention. The Los Angeles Dodgers are much better off with Yasiel Puig than without him, I’m sure the 24 other men in the clubhouse would agree.

Already this season we’ve seen the bad side of Yasiel Puig. The off-field stuff and the lateness and the circus that follows the previous transgressions everywhere they go, blowing them up and inflating them beyond the true impact that have on his teammates.

For the rest of his career, people will question Yasiel Puig’s motives, his maturity, and his commitment to winning. This will go on for a long time because Yasiel Puig is going to have a long, long career.

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MLB scouts use radar guns to time the pitches of Chicago White Sox's Sale during their MLB Cactus League spring training baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Glendale

Men like Hugh Alexander, baseball men will tell you, are the bedrock of the sport. Alexander was a baseball lifer, a superscout near the top of the Philadelphia Phillies hierarchy, considered one of the best organizations in baseball during the 1980s, at the twilight of Alexander’s career. A widely syndicated 1983 story by Philadelphia writer Bill Conlin said Alexander, then 66 and a part of the baseball world for half a century, “personified baseball.” He was, as Conlin wrote, “a man with a face from a Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell, a sage who speaks the earthy poetry of his game and his time from a yeasty treasure trove of reminiscence.”

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fastest_runners

It’s always fun to compare the skills of athletes, so let’s take a look at the fastest baseball players in the league right now. We timed each runners speed from the crack of the bat at home plate to when their foot touches the bag at first.

These 6 players had the fastest times. Also, huge thanks to our MLB Features writer Drew Fairservice for the insight to each player’s speed.

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MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees

The Yankees shut out the Chicago Cubs Tuesday behind a dominant pitching performance. Check that: the Yankees shutout the Cubs twice on Tuesday behind two dominant pitching performances. Yankees starters combined for 13 strikeouts and two walks over 14 innings behind a nice start from Michael Pineda and an incredible outing from Masahiro Tanaka.

If faced with the prospect of digging in against pitchers of this calibre in a doubleheader, former Cubs great Ernie Banks might not be so enthusiastic about playing twice in one day.

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