Yahoo Sports AM: Where's the offense?

In today's edition: MLB offenses are struggling (again), Knicks-Nets blockbuster, Division I's haves and have-nots, and more.

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🚨 Headlines

🏀 Lynx win Cup: In a battle of the best teams from each conference, the Lynx beat the Liberty, 94-89, to win the WNBA's fourth annual Commissioner's Cup.

⚾️ A&M coach leaves for Texas: A day after losing in the CWS Final and adamantly saying he'd "never" leave the program, Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle took the job at Texas.

⚽️ Copa América scores: Argentina beat Chile, 1-0, and Canada beat Peru, 1-0.

🏒 HOF Class of 2024: Natalie Darwitz, Pavel Datsyuk, Jeremy Roenick, Shea Weber, Krissy Wendell-Pohl, Colin Campbell and David Poile are headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

💦 Bay to Baltimore: Open-water swimmer Katie Pumphrey swam 24 miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The historic swim, which had never been attempted, took a little over 14 hours.

⚾️ MLB offenses are struggling, again

(Grant Thomas/Yahoo Sports)
(Grant Thomas/Yahoo Sports)

Stop me if you've heard this before: MLB offense is down across the board this season.

By the numbers: The league-wide batting average of .242 is tied for the third-worst in the modern era (since 1901), besting only 1908 and 1968 — a year in which offense was so bad it resulted in the pitcher's mound being lowered to give hitters a chance.

  • There's also a power outage: Teams are hitting their fewest home runs per game (1.06) since 2015 and their fewest doubles per game (1.58) since 1992 (excluding 2020's small-sample, pandemic-shortened season).

  • Add it all up and runs are down nearly 6% compared to last season, which would be the largest year-over-year drop since 2001.

Didn't we just go through this? Yup. After offense slowed to a crawl in 2022, MLB introduced a host of changes last season (pitch clock, shift ban, bigger bases) to level a playing field that skewed too heavily in pitchers' favor. But a year later, here we are again.

What's happening: The data revolution has reached a fever pitch wherein hitters are the odd man out, as they must contend with pitching staffs that excel in deception and outfielders who've perhaps never been more well-positioned to track down anything hit their way.

On the mound: Pitchers have gotten extremely good at keeping hitters guessing with a vast mix of pitches literally designed in a lab.

  • "They have every bit of information on us, so if we're struggling on something [specific], they know exactly what it is," Blue Jays SS Bo Bichette told USA Today.

  • Rather than a standard four-pitch mix, dozens of pitchers now utilize five or more, including upwards of four different fastballs. The most extreme case is Royals ace Seth Lugo, who's having a career year at 34 with the help of eight (!!!) pitches*.

In the field: Even when hitters find a way to make solid contact, their fly balls get gobbled up by outfielders who play much deeper than they used to as part of a strategy to eliminate doubles.

  • To wit, batting average on balls in play (.288) is at its lowest since 1992, and hitters are on pace for 2,600 fewer extra-base hits than five years ago, per The Athletic ($).

  • "Balls in play in the outfield used to be among the most exciting plays in baseball," said one front office executive. "Now they're one of the most boring."

Not everyone is struggling… This year's offensive environment makes what MVP frontrunners Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani are doing that much more impressive, as they're both nearly on pace for 400 total bases — a feat accomplished just 29 times in MLB history, and not since 2001.

*Lugo’s eight pitches: Four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cut fastball, slider, sweeper, curve, changeup, slurve.

🏀 The Nova Knicks are complete

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

The Knicks already had three former Villanova teammates on the roster. Now they have four.

Blockbuster trade: New York is sending a staggering five first-round picks to Brooklyn in exchange for Mikal Bridges, who will join Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo across the East River. It's the first trade between the two teams since 1983.

A match made in heaven: Bridges hasn't missed a game since high school and routinely leads the NBA in minutes played. Now he'll be coached by Tom Thibodeau, who famously hates taking his best players off the court.

Zoom out: The Nets have now received nine first-round picks for Kevin Durant, whom they traded to the Suns in 2023 for Bridges, Cam Johnson and four first-rounders. One of the largest hauls for a single player in NBA history.

🎓 The Division I divide

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

The future of college sports is wildly uncertain, but one thing is clear: Division I is splitting in two, with the haves on one side and the have-nots on the other.

From Yahoo Sports' Ross Dellenger:

Inside the beachside Ritz-Carlton resort along Florida's southwestern coast, leaders of college athletics met in a second-floor conference room to discuss particulars about the industry's future.

Those in the room were limited to five men: NCAA president Charlie Baker and commissioners from the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten.

Not in the room: the other 28 Division I commissioners who milled about on the first floor of the resort wondering the whereabouts of the other four. "I didn't even know they were meeting," said one. "Of course," whispered another, "they are cutting us out of it."

Minutes later, the five men came hustling down the main stairwell to begin what was the final chapter in four days of administrative meetings here: Baker appearing before all 32 commissioners for a robust discussion about the future of the NCAA's top division.

As evident from their separate meeting, NCAA Division I has never been more fractured, fragile and frustrated. The split between the haves and have-nots in college athletics is becoming more real than ever, in fact.

Unveiled during this week's meetings of conference commissioners was none other than a new governance model for Division I. Stemming from the NCAA's landmark antitrust settlement, the model further separates the four power leagues from the 28 lower-resourced conferences in a more formal break.

Though still in the process of development, the governance framework can simply be summed up in five words, says one FCS league commissioner: "Let the big dogs eat."

While many details remain unclear, the new structure clearly draws a dividing line between the revenue-generating football giants competing in a mostly commercialized, professional enterprise and the more basketball-centric institutions participating in a more amateur landscape.

Keep reading.

🌎 The world in photos

Jonah Gadjovich poses with his wife, Allison, and twins, Lion and Adalee. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Jonah Gadjovich poses with his wife, Allison, and twins, Lion and Adalee. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Sunrise, Florida — Twin babies in the Stanley Cup!

(Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
(Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Dortmund, Germany — Kylian Mbappé scored in his return (broken nose) in France's 1-1 draw with Poland at Euro 2024. Austria beat Netherlands, 3-2, in the other game.

(Olympia de Maismont/AFP via Getty Images)
(Olympia de Maismont/AFP via Getty Images)

Paris — Yesterday marked 30 days until the Paris Olympics. We're getting close!

(AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Khost, Afghanistan — Fans celebrated in the streets back home after Afghanistan beat Bangladesh to advance to their first-ever T20 Cricket World Cup semifinal.

📆 June 26, 2003: LeBron goes No. 1

(Ed Betz/AP Photo)
(Ed Betz/AP Photo)

21 years ago today, the Cavaliers selected hometown kid LeBron James No. 1 in a draft that featured arguably the best top-five picks ever.

Four Hall of Famers: LeBron was one of four current or future Hall of Famers picked in the top five that year, alongside No. 3 Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets), No. 4 Chris Bosh (Raptors) and No. 5 Dwyane Wade (Heat). The only other draft with a comparable top five is 1984*.

More on this day:

*1984 draft: No. 1 Hakeem Olajuwon (Rockets), No. 3 Michael Jordan (Bulls) and No. 5 Charles Barkley (76ers) are probably three of the best 25 players in NBA history, and No. 4 Sam Perkins (Mavericks) had an excellent 17-year career. The less said about the No. 2 pick in each class — Sam Bowie in 1984, Darko Miličić in 2003 — the better.

📺 Watchlist: 2024 NBA Draft

(Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports)
(Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports)

The NBA Draft begins tonight in Brooklyn (8pm ET, ESPN), followed by the second round tomorrow afternoon.

Draft odds: French swingman Zaccharie Risacher is the favorite to go No. 1 to the Hawks (-250 at BetMGM), followed by UConn center Donovan Clingan (+240) and French center Alex Sarr (+600).

More to watch:

  • ⚽️ Euros: Belgium vs. Ukraine (12pm, Fox); Romania vs. Slovakia (12pm, FS1); Portugal vs. Georgia (3pm, Fox); Turkey vs. Czechia (3pm, FS1) … Group stage finale.

  • ⚽️ Copa América: Jamaica vs. Ecuador (6pm, FS1); Mexico vs. Venezuela (9pm, FS1)

  • ⚾️ MLB: Dodgers at White Sox* (8pm, MLB.TV) … Free game of the day.

*Studs on the bump: Dodgers rookie Gavin Stone (8-2, 3.04 ERA) and White Sox veteran Erick Fedde (5-2, 3.05 ERA) have both been excellent this season.

🍫 Hershey trivia

(Hershey Bears)
(Hershey Bears)

The AHL's Hershey Bears won their second straight Calder Cup (and record 13th overall) on Monday in the Pennsylvania town they share with a certain confectionery company.

Question: Which of the following products is NOT produced by Hershey?

  • Almond Joy

  • Snickers

  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

  • Twizzlers

Answer at the bottom.

🇨🇦 The Stallions stat lives on

Baltimore Stallions RB Mike Pringle, the 1995 CFL MVP, celebrates with the Grey Cup. (Tom Hanson/AP Photo)
Baltimore Stallions RB Mike Pringle, the 1995 CFL MVP, celebrates with the Grey Cup. (Tom Hanson/AP Photo)

Fun fact: An American team has won the Canadian Football League championship (1995 Baltimore Stallions) more recently than a Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup (1993 Canadiens).

Context: The CFL briefly added seven U.S. expansion teams in the 1990s. The Stallions were the best of the bunch, advancing to the Grey Cup in both their seasons (1994-95) and beating Doug Flutie's Calgary Stampeders in their second trip.

Trivia answer: Snickers (produced by Mars)

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