Nine-Inning Warm Up for the Upcoming MLB Season

Football’s “Big Game” is finally behind us – and it’s time to really ramp up our focus on the national pastime.  With that in mind, I thought I’d use this post to reflect on a few of the MLB events that caught BBRT’s attention in 2016.  You know, just to get the baseball juices flowing again.  So, here’s nine innings of observation.

First Inning – A Bit of a Slow Start

The Padres set a dubious record in 2016 – becoming the first team to be shutout in the first three games of a season (all in San Diego, by the way).  In fact, the Padres failed to reach home plate in their first 30 innings of 2016 – being outscored 27-0 over that span.  Once they broke the ice, San Diego went on a mini-tear – scoring six times in the first inning they plated a run and a total of 29 runs over a 15-inning span (in a pair of 13-6 and 16-3 road victories).

Second Inning – Coming Out of the Gate Swinging

The Minnesota Twins came out of the gate swinging in 2016 – losing its first nine games and recording more strikeouts than hits in each of those contests.  Over those nine games, Twins’ batters collected 59 hits, but fanned 94 times. They were outscored 36-14. On April 15, the squad finally managed more hits than strikeouts (8-7), winning their first game of the season 5-4 over the Angels in Minnesota. Miguel Sano led the team in K’s during the nine-game stretch with 15, edging Byungho Park and Byron Buxton, who had 13 each.

No team struck out more often in 2016 than the Milwaukee Brewers – 1,543.  Over in the AL, with the DH, the league leaders were the Astros (1,452). Only one team in all of MLB fanned less than 1,000 times last season – the Angels (991).

Third Inning – Why Bother to Take a Bat to the Plate?

Bryce Harper photo

Take your base, Bryce.     Photo by L. Richard Martin, Jr.

On May 8, the Nationals’ Bryce Harper really never had a chance to get into the swing of things. In a game that saw the Cubs’ top Harper’s Nationals 4-3 in 13 innings, Harper came to the plate seven times and reached base seven times – without ever putting the ball in play. Harper drew six walks (tying the MLB single-game record) and was hit by a pitch. (Harper’s reaching base seven times in a game without an official at bat is also a record.) Three of the walks to Harper were intentional – one shy of Barry Bonds’ single-game record.

 

Fourth Inning – Who Says Pitchers Can’t Hit?

Cardinals’ pitcher Adam Wainwright is one of the best hitting pitchers in the game.  In 2016, from Opening Day until the fourth inning of a Cardinals’ 12-6 victory at Pittsburgh on September 5, every hit (nine) Wainwright collected went for extra bases (six doubles, one triple and two home runs). On the season, Wainwright hit .210 (13-for-62) with seven doubles, one triple, two home runs, 18 RBI, six runs scored and two walks.

Fifth Inning – Pouring ‘em In There

Aroldis Chapman photo

Photo by Keith Allison

According to Stats.com, the thirty fastest pitches thrown in the major in 2016 all belong to Yankees’ (Cubs) reliever Aroldis Chapman (number one at 105.1 mph – number 30 at 103.8). Two of those thirty were actually stroked for base hits (both by catchers) – a 104.2 mph four-seamer  by the Pirates’ Francisco Cervelli on August 31 and a 103.9  mph four-seamer by Oakland’s Stephen Vogt on August 2.  The only other hurler to have even one pitch in the top fifty was Braves’ reliever Mauricio Cabrera, with a 103.8 mph fastball on June 24.

 

Sixth Inning – Newbies Get their Knocks

Rookies and homers were big in 2016. The Rockies’ Trevor Story became the first rookie  to hit two home runs in an Opening Day MLB debut (the fifth to hit two round trippers in his debut regardless of the day of the season). Story was also the first player whose first four major-league hits went yard; first player to homer in his first four MLB games; and first player to hit six home runs in the first four games of a season.

Then there are the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, who on August 13, became the first rookies to homer back-to-back in their first major league at bats.

Finally, there is Yankees’ rookie  catcher Gary Sanchez, who hit 20 home runs in his first 51 MLB games – tying the MLB record for the fewest games to reach 20 career homers. Sanchez finished the season at .299-20-42 in 53 games.

Mark McGwire holds the record for most home runs in a season by a rookie – 49 in 1987.

Seventh Inning – Not Quite Finished

The Blue Jays, Yankees, Marlins and Brewers each had zero complete games during the 2016 season.  (The Giants led MLB with ten complete games.) There were 44 complete games in the AL and 39 in the NL.

In 2016, 3.4 percent of MLB starts resulted in a complete game – as compared to 4.8 percent in 2000; 27.2 percent in 1975; 40.3 percent in 1950; and 49.2 percent percent in 1925.

Eighth Inning – Complete Games? We don’t need no stinkin’ complete games.

On September 17, the Indians shutout the Tigers 1-0 in Cleveland.  Not that a shutout is that unusual, but in this one, the Indians used nine pitchers (an MLB record for a shutout).

Carlos Carrasco started on the mound for the Tribe and gave up a leadoff single to Tigers’ 2B Ian Kinsler – a line shot off Carrasco’s right hand that broke a finger and knocked him out of the game (and the rest of the season).  What followed was a bit of baseball history, as eight Indians’ relievers held the Tigers scoreless in the 10-inning 1-0 victory.  The cast of characters? Carrasco; Jeff Manship (1 1/3 innings pitched); Kyle Crockett (2/3); Cody Anderson (two IP); Zach McCallister, Perci Garner, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen (one inning each); Andrew Miller (two innings for the win.) Final line:  10 innings, four hits, three walks, ten strikeouts, no runs.

In 2016, MLB teams shut out their opponents 276 times – only 11.6 percent of those (32) were complete game shut outs (by a single pitcher). Clayton Kershaw led MLB with three complete game shutouts. 

Ninth Inning – Just a Little Look Ahead

Thought I’d close this post with a few “marks” to watch for once the 2017 season gets underway. At the top of the list: Adrian Beltre is just 58 hits shy of 3,000; and Albert Pujols needs nine home runs to reach 600.

ACTIVE LEADERS

Here are you active leaders going into 2017.

Hits – Ichiro Suzuki (3,030); Average – Miguel Cabrera (.321); Home Runs – Albert Pujols (591); RBI – Albert Pujols (1,817); Runs Scored – Albert Pujols (1,670); Stolen Bases – Ichiro Suzuki (508).

Wins – Bartolo Colon (233); Strikeouts – C.C. Sabathia (2,726); ERA – Clayton Kershaw (2.37); Complete Games – C.C. Sabatia (38); Shutouts – Clayton Kershaw (15); Saves – Francisco Rodriguez (430).

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Member; Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

 

Ballpark Tours 2017 Offerings – Every Mile a Memory

ballpark toursBallpark Tours (BPT) based out of Saint Paul, Minnesota, is celebrating its 35th Anniversary by offering a pair of trips that reflect a baseball-touring heritage launched back in 1982.  Ballpark Tours, which grew out of the “Save the Met” (outdoor stadium) organization, has taken busloads of fans on major- and minor-league baseball “treks” of three-to-ten days, ranging as far north as Duluth, as far south as Chattanooga, as far west as Denver,  as far east as New York City – and simply “as far away” as Cuba.  This year, in honor of the touring company’s 35th Anniversary, BPT is focusing on trips that reflect its earliest jaunts – short (3-4 day) excursions to outdoor ballparks in the upper Midwest – an ideal way to start (or add to)  your own baseball touring tradition. (Note: I’ve been on 28 BPT treks and brought home great memories from every one.)

Ballpark "Tourers" share a passion for baseball, fun and friendship.

Ballpark “Tourers” share a passion for baseball, fun and friendship.

A Ballpark Tours trip is the perfect way to enjoy the national pastime – good times with good friends (old and new) who share a passion for baseball, fun and adventure.  As BBRT has noted in the past “Once you get on the Ballpark Tours bus, every mile is a memory.”  To get the flavor of a BPT trek, you can browse reports from past trips by clicking here.  I’ve also included a few photos from recent trips at the end of this post.

 

 

 

Now, here’s a brief rundown (details courtesy of Ballpark Tours) of the 2017 Ballpark\k Tours offerings, for more info, prices and a sign-up sheet, click here.

 

Iowa Retreat – June 16-18

Principal Park - Des Moines - home of the Iowa Cubs.

Principal Park – Des Moines – home of the Iowa Cubs.

A minor-league jaunt that will take you to three ball games in Cedar Rapids (Cedar Rapid Kernels vs. Clinton Lumber Kings) and Des Moines (Iowa Cubs vs. Omaha Storm Chasers for two games.) You’ll get to see some of the top prospects of the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals – not to mention the typical minor-league promotions, traditoinal Ballpark Tours hoopla and the opportunity to visit a microbrewery and take in the Cedar Rapids Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

 

Bleacher Bums XXXV – August 3-6

bWrigleyFour games, (two major league/two minor league) in three cities in four days – including two games at Wrigley Field, home of the World Champion Chicago Cubs (versus the Nationals). There will also be games in Beloit, WI (Beloit Snappers vs. Peoria Chiefs) and Appleton, WI (Wisconsin Timber Rattlers vs. Cedar Rapids Kernels). Plus, a great hotel and free time in Chicago, and a brewery stop

 

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance. 

—BALLPARK TOURS – A FEW MEMORIES—

8sing

6parkfull

 

 

 

Progressive Field - lots of fireworks, early and late.

BPT Group 2

Pub

Baseball and Beer – Clemson Baseball and Seth Beer – A Winning Combination

Robin Ventura, Jason Varitek, Todd Helton, Mark Teixeira, Jered Weaver, Alex Gordon. David Price, Buster Posey, Stephen Strasburg, Kris Bryant.  What ballplayer wouldn’t want to be mentioned in the same breath as these stars?  Well, a young outfielder with a perfect baseball name – Seth Michael Beer – and tremendous baseball potential already is.

Seth Beer - first rfeshman Dick Howser Trophy winner - helped lead the Clemson Tigers to thr 2016 ACC Title.

Seth Beer – first freshman Dick Howser Trophy winner – helped lead the Clemson Tigers to the 2016 ACC title.  Photo: Courtesy Clemson University.

Playing right field and batting in the three-spot for 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Champion Clemson University, the 6’3”, 200-pound Beer joined the previously noted MLB All Stars in earning the Dick Howser Trophy as the national college baseball player of the year.  And, he did it in dramatic fashion. Not only did Beer become the first freshman to earn the recognition, he did it after leaving high school early to attend Clemson.  Basically, he earned collegiate player of the year honors when he very well could have been playing his senior season at Lambert (GA) High School.

Now, as regular followers of Baseball Roundtable know, during the off-season, this blog has a tendency to look back nostalgically at what some members of my family call “antique baseball.” Witness recent posts on Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn (click here) and 1957 Braves’ hero Bob “Hurricane” Hazle (click here). In this post, however, I’d like to look toward the future – and share with readers a little bit about an individual who is truly a player to follow as he continues his college – and moves on to a major league – career.

THE NUMBERS

A lot of BBRT readers are deep into statistics, so let’s start our look at Seth Beer with a few numbers.

As a college freshman, Beer played in 62 games – hitting .369, with 13 doubles, 18 home runs, 70 RBI, 57 runs scored, 62 walks (versus 27 strikeouts) and 15 hit-by-pitches. He led Clemson to the Atlantic Coast Conference title, being selected team MVP – after leading the squad in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and outfield assists.  Can I say it again – as a freshman.

High School – A Precursor

Seth Beer’s performance on the diamond for the Clemson Tigers should be no surprise. In two seasons of high school baseball, Beer hit .537, with 12 home runs, 61 RBI, 44 runs scored, 30 walks (15 strikeouts) in 48 games.  As a pitcher, he went 3-1, with a 1.80 ERA, striking out more than a batter an inning. (High school stats from maxpreps.com.) Beer earned six high school athletic letters (three in baseball, two in football and two in swimming) and was a national high school All American in baseball as a sophomore and a junior.

THE CHARACTER

Seth Beer. Photo: Courtsy of Clemson University.

Seth Beer. Photo: Courtsy of Clemson University.

Then, of course, there is character.  Majoring in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Beer was an Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll Member and All-ACC Academic selection.

And, while he definitely has his sights set on a major league career (and cites his parents as the biggest influence in his life and baseball), Beer told BBRT that “After my playing career, I want to be involved in helping others, specifically with homeless shelters.”

Beer’s coach at Clemson, who has called Beer the best freshman he’s ever seen, also praised the young star’s work ethic and quiet leadership.

“Seth is more of a quiet leader and leader by example,” Clemson Coach Monte Lee said. “As he gets older, he will become more of a vocal leader. Players really look up to him because of his work ethic.”

Character is also reflected in Beer’s Dick Howser Trophy selection.  In presenting the Award, DH Trophy Chair David Feaster said “Seth Beer truly deserves this national honor.  His status as a national player of the year as a freshman is a history-making moment. In just a short time, he has exhibited the Dick Howser traits of excellent performance on the field, leadership, moral character and courage.”

ADDITIONAL RECOGNITION

I should emphasize here that the Dick Howser Trophy was not the only recognition Seth Beer earned as a college freshman.  Here are just a few of the additional honors Beer received in his first season at Clemson:

  • College Sports Madness Player of the Year (first freshman winner);
  • First Team All American by American Baseball Coaches Association, Baseball America, College Sports Madness, D1Baseball, National College Baseball Writers Association, and Perfect Game;
  • Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year (first freshman winner); and, of course;
  • A host of awards reserved for college freshman, including National Freshman Player of the Year by Baseball America, College Sports Madness, D1Baseball and Perfect game, as well as several freshman All-American honors.

Baseball Roundtable is introducing readers to Seth Beer in this post because I believe he is a player and young man to watch – and that, some day, you will be able to see his baseball skills, leadership and positive character on a major league field near you.  I might add (see the box below), the odds seem to be in his favor.

The Dick Howser Award

The Dick Howser Trophy was established in 1987 to honor the national college baseball player of the year. The Award is named after Dick Howser – twice an All American shortstop at Florida State University, an eight-season major league player (1961 All Star) and eight-season major league manager (1985 World Series Champion) – who passed away in 1987, at age 51, of brain cancer. From 1987-1998 the winner were selected by the American Baseball Coaches Association.  Since 1999, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association has made the selection.

How much of an indicator of future success is this honor?  Of the 28 winners (Brooks Kieschnick of the University of Texas is the only two-time winner):

         24 became MLB First-Round draft picks;

         24 went on to play in the major leagues;

         13 became MLB All Stars;

         Three became Rookies of the Year – Jason Jennings, Buster Posey,          Kris Bryant;

         Two were selected first overall in the MLB draft – David Price,                  Stephen Strasburg;

         One went on to win a league MVP Award – Buster Posey; and

         One captured a Cy Young Award – David Price.

BBRT’s advice?  Track Seth Beer’s sophomore season – and beyond. If you are in a fantasy league with “reserve keepers,” consider drafting him now.  Start saving now for an MLB jersey with “Beer” and his number proudly displayed on the back.

In the meantime, BBRT says congratulations to Clemson and Seth Beer on a tremendous 2016 season – and the best of luck for the coming campaign.

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

Bob Hazle – A Milwaukee Hero Who Stormed the National League

Always a Braves' fan-atic.

Always a Braves’ fan-atic.

Heroes are more often born out of circumstances than planning.  That was the case with one of my boyhood baseball heroes, who – aided by circumstance – took the National League by “storm” in 1957.   I’m talking about Bob “Hurricane” Hazle, who more than held his own in terms of heroics on the Milwaukee Braves’ 1957 pennant (and World Series) winning squad.  In fact, for a couple of months that year, Wiffle (R) Ball games in and around Milwaukee saw as many youngsters emulating Bob Hazle as were patterning their stances after Braves’ stars and future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews.  Note: I was a six-year-old baseball fanatic and Milwaukee native when the Braves became Milwaukee’s team in 1953 – and a fan-atic by 1957. 

 What can you say about Hurricane Hazle? He came up to the Braves at the end of July, and for the rest of the year, nobody could get him out. I’ve never seen a guy as hot as he was – ever. …. I don’t know what happens to suddenly make a minor league ballplayer into Babe Ruth, but Hazle was right out of “The Twilight Zone.” We were hanging in there pretty well before he arrived, but he just picked us up.

                         Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews

                       From the book “Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime”

Hurricane Hazle’s Milwaukee Story

Bob "Hurricane" Hazle ... still a treasured autograph.

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle … still a treasured autograph.

On July 11, 1957, the Milwaukee Braves – who had finished just one game behind the NL Champion Dodgers in 1956 – brought a 44-35 record (three games behind the league-leading Cardinals) into a game against the Pirates (in Pittsburgh).  One the very first play in the bottom of the first inning, Braves center fielder Billy Bruton, chasing down a fly ball to shallow left by Pirates’ lead-off hitter Bill Virdon, collided with shortstop Felix Mantilla (the ball fell in for a double). Both Mantilla and Bruton were knocked out of the game. Mantilla was back on the field in a few weeks, but Bruton – who had an eight-stitch cut on his lip and, even worse, a torn ligament in his right knee – was out for the season and headed for surgery.

Braves’ fans (including this soon to be ten-year-old) were devastated.  Bruton was the team’s leadoff hitter and a slick fielding center fielder, who had led the NL in stolen bases three of the past four seasons. The hopes for catching the Stan Musial-led Cardinals now seemed out of reach.

Bruton’s injury led to a series of moves that saw 2B Red Schoendienst move to the leadoff spot, Hank Aaron move to center field, Andy Pafko to right field and journeyman outfield Nippy Jones (who hadn’t played in the majors since 1952) move from the Triple A Sacramento Solons (PCL) to a reserve (1B/OF) role with the Braves. Even catcher Del Crandall found himself taking a few turns in the outfield. Also in the mix was emerging power hitter Wes Covington, a stabilizing regular in left field.

Bob Hazle first picked up the nickname “Hurricane” during a 1954 stint in the Venezuelan winter league; a response to the fact that his home state of South Carolina was hit by Hurricane Hazel that October.  The nickname resurfaced when he took the National League “by storm” in 1957.

Still the Braves’ felt they needed more. So, in late July, they called up Bob Hazle, a 26-year-old outfielder who was hitting .279-12-58 at with the Triple A Wichita Braves. The 6-foot, 190-pound left-handed hitter was initially slated to spell the 36-year-old Pafko (the Braves’ outfield was now Covington in left, Aaron in center and Pafko in right).  Hazle got in his first game on July 29 – as he sacrificed in a pinch-hitting role.  On July 31, with the Braves (59-41, and one tie) in basically a dead heat with the Cardinals (58-40),  Hazle got his first start in right field.

Hazle went one-for-four in his first start in right field for the Braves (a 4-2 win over the Pirates), but there was much more to come. In 21 August games, Hazle hit .493 (33-for-67), with four home runs, 21 RBI, 16 runs scored and 11 walks versus just eight strikeouts. By the end of August, the Braves were 79-48 – and held a 7 ½ game lead over the Cardinals.

Kept the card, too!

Kept the card, too!

Hazle slowed down a bit in September, but still hit over .300 (.317), with two home runs, 10 runs scored and five RBI (seven walks and seven strikeouts) for the month.  The Braves, with the help of their new right fielder, finished the season at 95-59, eight games up on the Redbirds. (In the games in which Hazle appeared, the Braves played .659 ball, while their winning percentage in games – for the entire season – in which Hazle did not appear was .591.)

Hazle ended the season hitting .403 in 41 games with 12 doubles, seven home runs, 27 RBI, 26 runs scored and 18 walks versus just 15 strikeouts – as well as praise from his teammates for playing a key role in bringing the World Series to Milwaukee – not to mention a lot of love from Wiffle Ball-playing youngsters.

Unfortunately, like many hurricanes, things calmed down considerably once the storm blew through. Hazle hit just .154 in the World Series, but did go two-for-four with a run scored (from the leadoff spot) in the decisive Game Seven – won by the Braves 5-0 behind Lew Burdette.  He got off to a slow start in 1958 – hampered by a couple of beanings and an ankle injury – and his contract was sold to the Detroit Tigers on May 24. At the time, he was hitting just .179, with no home runs and five RBI in 20 games.  With the tigers that season, he put up a  .241-2-5 line in 43 games. Hazle spent 1959 and 1960 back in the minors, before retiring as a player at the age of 30.  Notably, he did retire with a .310 career average (in 110 games over three seasons).

 Bob “Hurricane” Hazle – The Back Story 

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle was born. Robert Sidney Hazle, in Laurens, South Carolina, on December 9, 1930. He was the last of six children (four sons) in the Hazle family. Of the four Hazle sons, three (Robert, Joseph and Paul) signed professional baseball contracts, but only Bob made it to the major leagues.  (Paul made it as high as the Norfolk Tides (B-level, Piedmont League), while Joe made to the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association.  

Bob Hazle was a Hurricane long before he got the nickname – earning sixteen sports letters in high school (baseball, football, basketball and tennis). Hazle, who graduated from high school in 1949, signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 1950 (reportedly choosing to pass on a football scholarship to the University of Tennessee).  While in the Cincinnati system, he was selected to the Texas League all-star team in 1951), when he hit .280 with the Double A Tulsa Oilers as a 20-year-old. 

Military service, however, interrupted this promising start (and a potential callup to the Reds), as Hazle spent two years in the Army – returning to Tulsa in 1953, where he hit .272 with three home runs in 57 games. In 1955, Hazle hit just .224 with four round trippers at Triple A Indianapolis in 1954 – a discouraging season.  However, he bounced back with a .314 average and 29 home runs at Double A Nashville in 1955  – earning a late-season callup to the Reds (three hits in just 13 MLB at bats.)

Prior to the state of the 1956 season, Hazle and pitcher Corky Valentine (who had a 6-14, 4.81 MLB record over 1954-55) were traded to the Milwaukee Braves for 34-year-old first baseman George Crowe (who had hit .281 with 15 home runs the previous season). The Braves assigned Hazle to their Triple-A team in Wichita, where he hit .285-13-46 in 124 games – despite a mid-season knee injury that hampered his mobility. He was back at Wichita in 1957 and was hitting .279-12-58 when the Braves called him up following Billy Bruton’s injury. And the rest, as they say, is history.

BBRT Note: Bob Hazle died on April 25, 1992, in Columbia, South Carolina, of a heart attack.  

 

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Grounding Into Double Plays – Well Worn Path to HOF?

Chase utley Dodgers photo

Photo by apardavila

In 2016, Dodgers’ second baseman Chase Utley became the first qualifying player (502 plate appearance) since 1997 to complete an MLB season without grounding into a single double play. Ironically, Utley accomplished this feat in the first year of enforcement of what is informally known as the “Chase Utley Rule” – establishing new restrictions related to slides intended to break up double plays. The 37-year-old Utley hit .252 in 565 plate appearances (512 at bats), with 14 home runs and 52 RBI.  (See an explanation of the circumstances behind and impact of the new rule at the end of this post.)

Using a combination of baseball-reference.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) resources, BBRT was able to find only nine qualifying batters (at least 3.1 plate appearances per game played by their teams) who completed a season with zero double plays grounded into (GIDP). Three of those came during the strike-shortened 1994 season. Note; GIDP records only go back to 1933 in the NL and 1939 in the AL.   Here’s the complete list – sorted by number of plate appearances – with each player’s batting statistics for the year.

Augie Galan, OF, Cardinals, 1939 … (748 Plate Appearances/646 At Bats) .314-12-79, with a league-leading 133 runs scored and an NL-best 22 stolen bases.

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros (NL), 1997 … (744 PA/619 AB) .309-22-81, with 47 stolen bases and a league-leading 146 runs. Biggio played in all 162 games that season and also led MLB in hit-by-pitch (34).

Dick McCauliffe, 2B/SS, Tigers, 1968 …. (658 PA/570 AB) .249-16-56, with a league-leading 95 runs scored.

Chase Utley, 2B, Dodgers, 2016 … (565 PA/512 AB) .252-14-52.

Pete Reiser, Dodgers, OF, 1942 …. (537 PA/480 AB) .310-10-64, with 89 runs scored and a league-leading 20 steals.

Rob Deer, OF/1B/DH, Brewers (AL), 1990 … (511 PA/444 AB) .209-27-69.

Ray Lankford, OF, Cardinals, 1994* … (482 PA/ 416 AB) .267-19-57.

Otis Nixon, OF, Red Sox, 1994* …. (461 PA/398 AB) .274-0-25, with 42 steals.

Rickey Henderson, OF, A’s, 1994* … (376 PA/296 AB) .260-6-20, 22 steals.

*=Strike-shortened season.

Very Honorable Mention – Norm Cash

cashTigers’ 1B Norm Cash broke into the major leagues on June 18, 1958.  From that date until his third at bat in the second game of a May 9, 1961 double header, Cash did not ground into a single double play.  From the start of his major league career, he played 214 games (and part of a 215th), logging 663 plate appearances and 543 at bats, without grounding into a single twin-killing. In 1960, Cash played in 121 games without grounding into a double play, but his 428 plate appearances fell short of making the above list of “qualifying” batters.

On the other side of the coin, no one has grounded into as many double plays in a season as Red Sox’ outfielder Jim Rice, who hit into a record 36 twin killings in 1985.  Rice followed up that season by grounding into 35 double plays in 1985 (MLB’s second-highest total). Rice was an All Star in both years, hitting  .280-28-122 in 1984 and .291-27-103 in 1985. Rice, in fact, led the league in GIDP four consecutive seasons (1982-85), but made the All Star team in three of them. In 1983, he led the league in GIDP (31), but also led in home runs (39) and RBI (126), while hitting.305.  To put some perspective around Rice’s record 36 GIDPs in 1984, Don Buford grounded into just 34 double plays in his 10-season MLB career (1,286 games, 5,347 plate appearances, 4,553 at bats) – an MLB record career-low of one GIDP every 134 at bats,

Phillie’s OF Richie Ashburn led the league in fewest times grounding into double plays (among qualifying hitters) a record six times (1951-52-53-54-58-60). The speedster, for you trivia buffs, also led all MLB hitters in base hits in the decade of the 1950s (1950-59) and led all MLB outfielders in putouts over that same period. For more on this Hall of Famer, click here.

Sixteen-season MLB infielder Miguel Tejada led his league in most times grounding into double plays a record five times – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009. Notably, 2007 – the year that breaks the string of GIDP leading years – is the only year between 2004 and 2009 that Tejada did not make the All Star team.

Grounding into Double Plays – Well Worn Path to the Hall of Fame

Lots of games equal lots of GIDP.

Lots of games equal lots of GIDP.

A list of career leaders for grounding into double plays can, of course, be misleading – since their leadership is based on the length of their careers. Cal Ripken, Jr. leads the way with 350 GIDP in 21 MLB seasons.  The active leader is Albert Pujols, with 336 GIDP in 16 seasons (the only active player in the top five overall). Also in the top five are Pudge Rodriguez (337 in 21 seasons), Hank Aaron (328 in 23 seasons) and Carl Yastrzemski (323 in 23 seasons).  Notably, seven of the top eight players on the GIDP list are in the Hall of  Fame (Rodriguez going in this year).  The exception is the still active Pujols, and there is little doubt the Hall is saving him a spot. In addition, those already named, the GIDP top eight includes Hall of Famers: Dave Winfield (319 in 22 seasons); Eddie Murray (315 in 21 seasons); and Jim Rice (315 in 16 seasons). At numbers nine and ten are Julio Franco (312 in 23 seasons) and Harold Baines (298 in 22 seasons).

Three players have hit into a record four double plays in a single game: Tigers’ LF Goose Goslin (April 28, 1934 – in four at bat versus the Indians); Mets’ 3B Joe Torre (July 21, 1975 –  in four at bats versus the Astros); and Tigers’ DH Victor Martinez (September 11, 2011-  in four at bats versus the Twins).

The San Francisco Giants hold the team record for hitting into double plays in a nine-inning game – seven on May 4, 1969 (versus the Astros).  The Giants hit into inning-ending double plays in the first, third, seventh and ninth innings; and additional double plays in the fourth, fifth and eighth. Third Baseman Bobby Etheridge hit into two double plays, while C Dick Dietz, RF Frank Johnson, LF Jim Ray Hart, 2B Ron Hunt and P Juan Marichal hit into one each.   The Giants out hit the Astros 9 to 6, but lost 3-1.

The 1990 Red Sox hold the MLB team record for double plays grounded into in a season (175), while the 1945 Cardinals grounded into an all-time low (since records were kept) 75 double plays. Every member of the 1990 Red Sox starting linup hit into at least 10 double plays (led by Tony Pena with 23), while the 1945 Cardinals had only one player on the entire team that hit into 10 double-killings (Whitey Kurowski, ten).

THE “CHASE UTLEY” RULE

In the bottom of the seventh inning of Game Two of the 2015 Dodgers/Mets National League Division Series, the Dodgers (trailing 2-1) had Enrique Hernandez on third and Chase Utley on first – with no outs and Howie Kendrick at the plate. In what would turn out to be a controversial play, Hendrick hit a groundball that was taken by Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy. Murphy flipped to SS Ruben Tejada, who was taken out of the play by Utley – with a slide some thought was well wide of the bag. (Utley was originally ruled out, but – on review – the call was reversed.) After the play, Tejada was taken from the field with a broken leg. After the season, MLB put a new rule into place (to protect fielders). The rule, informally known as the “Chase Utley Rule,” requires that base runners breaking up potential double play “make a bonafide attempt to reach and stay on the base” – basically prohibiting runners from altering their path to the bag for the purpose of making contact with the fielder.

 

 

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Inside the Park Home Runs – Prince Fielder over Rickey Henderson

Prince Fielder – had as many inside-the-park home runs in his career as Rickey Henderson and Maury Wills combined.

One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the inside-the-park home run – a mad dash around the bases, often ending in a head-first slide, as outfielders scramble for the ball and infielders try to make the perfect relay to the plate. In this post, Baseball Roundtable would like to take a look at some of the interesting statistics surrounding this exciting play.

As noted in the header, Prince Fielder had as many career inside-the-park homers (two) as Rickey Henderson (one) and Maury Wills (one) combined.  Henderson and Wills, however, recorded 1, 992 stolen bases to Fielder’s 18.

Here are just a few bits of inside-the-park home run trivia.

Jesse Burkett. Photo; Charles M. Conlon

Jesse Burkett. Photo; Charles M. Conlon

Jesse Burkett holds the record for career inside-the-park (ITP) home runs with 55.  The left-handed hitting outfielder hit 75 total home runs over sixteen MLB seasons (1890-1905), with 55 of those being ITP. Note: Hall of Famer Burkett was a three-time batting champ, who topped .400 twice while with the NL Cleveland Spiders (.405 in 1895 and .410 in 1896). The AL career ITP home run record belongs to Ty Cobb (46), while the NL record goes to Tommy Leach (48).

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Tom McCreery holds the record for most ITP home runs in a game with three – for the NL Louisville Colonels on July 12, 1987.  McCreery hit a total of five home runs that season. In addition to McCreery, forty-five MLB players have hit two ITP home runs in a game, but only four have accomplished that feat more than once (twice each): Dan Brouthers; Jesse Burkett, Ed Delahanty and Roger Bresnahan.

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Ed Delahanty, playing first base for the Philadelphia Colts (Phillies) on July 13, 1896, earned a place in the record books by blasting a record-tying four home runs in a single game. To date, only 16 players have accomplished that feat. Delahanty’s four-homer day is unique in that two of his round trippers were inside-the-parkers.  He is the only one of the 16 members of the four-homer club to have ITP homers included in their one-game total. Twenty of Delahanty’s 101 MLB home runs (16-season MLB career) were of the inside-the-park variety.

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Known for power (not speed), Babe Ruth had ten inside-the-park home runs and ten steals of home; while teammate Lou Gehrig has ten inside-the-park homers and 15 steals of home.

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Roger Bresnahan is the only player to hit two ITP home runs in a single game in both leagues – May 30, 1902, for the AL Baltimore Orioles and June 6, 1904, for the NL New York Giants. Bresnahan hit a reported 13 ITP home runs out of 26 long balls in a 17-season (1897-1915) MLB career.

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Luke Stuart of the St. Louis Browns and Johnny Lemaster of the San Francisco Giants are the only two players to hit ITP home runs in their first MLB at bats (August 8, 1921 and September 2, 1975, respectively.)

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ClementeThere have been plenty of inside-the-park walk-off (run-off?) home runs, and plenty of inside-the park Grand Slams, but there has been only one inside-the-park walk-off Grand Slam – and that belongs to Roberto Clemente. It came on July 25, 1956, with the Pirates’ Clemente batting against the Cubs’ Jim Brosnan in the bottom of the ninth and the Pirates trailing 8-5. There were no outs and Pittsburgh’s Hank Foiles, Bill Virdon and Dick Cole were on base.  Clemente drove a ball to deep left that hit near the light standard and rolled along the warning track to center.  All three runners scored and Clemente ran through the coach’s stop sign at third base, beating the relay (Solly Drake to Ernie Banks to  Hobie Landrith).

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Pete Milne had a brief MLB career (three seasons, 47 games, 65 plate appearances) with the Giants (1948-50). He hit only one home run in the majors, but it was a significant. It was the only pinch hit, inside-the park Grand Slam ever (April 27, 1949).

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The most recent player to hit two inside-the-park homers in a single game was Minnesota Twins’ shortstop Greg Gagne (October 4, 1986). This, of course, means Gagne had as many ITP home runs in that game as Rickey Henderson and Maury Wills had in their combined careers.

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Ichiro Suzuki hit the only inside-the-park home run in an All Star Game (2007).

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Sam Crawford holds the single-season record for inside-the-park home runs, with 12 ITP home runs (of his NL-leading 16 dingers for the Reds in 1901. Fifty-one of Crawfords 97 career home runs stayed in the park. As  you might expect, the AL record for a season (9) belongs to the Tigers’ Ty Cobb. In 1909, he led the AL with nine homers and all nine were inside-the-park.  Overall, 46 of Cobb’s 117 home runs were of the ITP variety.

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Ten players have hit ITP home runs in the World Series. The most recent was hit by Kansas City Royals’ SS and leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar, who hit it on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning of the first game of the 2015 World Series.

For my Twins Fan Readers

The first Twins’ inside-the-park homer was hit by none other than Harmon Killebrew (July 4, 1961). Killebrew, by the way, recorded as many career inside-the-park home runs as teammate and speedster Rod Carew – one. Tony Oliva, Tom Brunansky and Greg  Gagne share the team career lead with three each.  Sam Rice holds the franchise record, with 21 ITP home runs for the old Washington Senators.

In 2016, there were 5,610 home runs hit during the MLB regular season. Of those, just nine were inside-the-park.  Who had them? Byron Buxton, Twins; Stephen Drew, Nationals; Brett Lawrie, White Sox; Eduardo Nunez, Twins; Tyler Naquin, Indians;  Anthony Rizzo, Cubs; Jean Segura, Diamondbacks; Dansby Swanson, Braves; Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals.

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Here are the inside-the-park totals for a few of MLB’s biggers home run hitters (600+). Barry Bonds (762, three inside-the-park); Hank Aaron (755, one  inside-the-park ); Babe Ruth (714, ten inside-the-park); Alex Rodriguez (696. zero inside-the-park ); Willie Mays (660, six inside-the-park); Ken Griffey, Jr. (630,  three inside-the-park ); Jim Thome (612, zero inside-the-park  ); Sammy Sosa (609, two inside-the-park  ).

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Final note: Changes in the game – smaller ballparks, bigger gloves, livelier baseballs, speedier outfielders and more –  have made the inside-the-park home run an increasingly rare occurence. A Society of American Baseball Research study, in fact, found that the percentage of home runs that were of the inside-the-park variety dropped from about 35 pecent in 1901 to to less than 25 percent by 1920 to between three and four percent by the 1950s to one percent (or less) since the 1960s.  So, if you happen to see an inside-the-park round tripper, savor that rare bit of excitement.

Info Sources:  Baseball-reference.com;  Baseball-almanac.com; Society for American Baseball Research.

 

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Book Review … Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger

 seinsothbookSeinsoth … The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger

By Steven K. Wagner

$29.95

Sunbury Press, Mechanicsburg, PA; November 2016

Available at:  Sunbury Press, Amazon.com and bookstores.

Steven Wagner’s very personal telling of Bill Seinsoth’s story of triumph and tragedy will leave you wondering what might have been and wishing you had enjoyed the pleasure of crossing paths with Seinsoth – the ballplayer and the young man. You’ll also likely be convinced – as I was – that Bill Seinsoth packed a lot of life into his 22 years.  An inspiring tale, well told.

                                                            Baseball Roundtable, 2017

 Adversity – Triumph – Tragedy. That is the all-too-short life story of Bill Seinsoth, well- told in Steven K. Wagner’s book “Bill Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.”

 William Robert Seinsoth was born (Los Angeles, California; April 7, 1947) to be a baseball player.  His father William Welty Seinsoth was a left-handed pitcher who spent 13 seasons in the minor leagues (and earned a brief call up to the American League St. Louis Browns). Bill Seinsoth (son) carried on the family tradition as a hard-throwing, hard-hitting left-handed pitcher and first baseman. Like so many youngsters of his era, young Bill longed to be a major leaguer. He spent most of his life scorching a path toward that goal – starring on every team at every level he ever played in.  Seinsoth, in fact, had the brass ring of major league stardom on the edge of his fingertips when he lost his life – at just 22 years of age – in a tragic automobile accident. Along the way, Bill Seinsoth overcame obstacle and injury. Steven Wagner has chosen to share Bill Seinsoth’s story with readers.  It is a story of courage, good nature and triumph in the face of adversity, of consistent excellence on the ball field and, in the end, of unexpected tragedy.

Wagner tells Seinsoth’s remarkable story not just in his own (Wagner’s) words and well-researched statistics, but also in the words of Bill Seinsoth himself, as well as those of his family, friends, coaches and teammates.  In the book, we hear from: Seinsoth’s family and friends; his high school and college coaches; professional scouts and managers; teammates that went on to the major leagues like Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Bob Boone, Ron Cey, Tom House (and more). There are even cameo appearances in Seinsoth’s life by the likes of Tommy Lasorda and O.J. Simpson. It’s a very personal tale and Wagner will leave you wondering what might have been and wishing you had enjoyed the pleasure of crossing paths with Bill Seinsoth.  You are also likely be convinced – as I was – that Bill Seinsoth packed a lot of life into his 22 years.

There is no doubt that adversity had a way of finding Bill Seinsoth.  Here are just a few examples of the trials he faced: beleaguered by parents who believed he was just too talented a player and pressured the Seinsoth family to pull him out of Little League and Babe Ruth League baseball; slashed twice (high school and college) by knife-wielding assailants; had his nose broken three times in one year (baseball and surfing); suffered a broken wrist and severe eye injury when hit by pitches in college; and, the ultimate tragedy,  lost his life at age 22 in an automobile accident while driving home following his first season in the minor leagues.

Through all of this he persevered and triumphed – California Interscholastic League (high school) Player of the Year; College World Series Most Outstanding Player award and All American recognition; Alaska Goldpanners (collegiate summer league) MVP; first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.   You’ll need to read the book to get the full details, but here are a few highlights.

“Bill was not just a great baseball player, but a complete person who faced adversity and hardship – and there was much of it – with grace, dignity and a broad smile.”

Tommy Hutton – Twelve-season major league 1B/OF, long-time baseball broadcaster and Bill Seinsoth’s cousin.  From Bill Seinsoth – the Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

seinsothllWagner takes us through Seinsoth’s Little League years, where he was far and away the best player on the field.  In fact, his dominance was so clear that a number of parents demanded the eleven-year-old (nicknamed “No-Hit Seinsoth”) be pulled from the League). The animosity grew to such a level (the family’s mail box was blown up four times) that Seinsoth did leave Little League early, a scenario that was repeated at the Babe Ruth League level.

“I remember one occasion when the opposing team just flat out asked him not to pitch. They were terrified of batting against him.”

Chris Arnold, six-season major league infielder and Little League teammate of Bill Seinsoth. From Bill Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

We also get a look at Seinsoth’s high school career – where he was a standout at both baseball and basketball at Arcadia High.  In 1965, he led his basketball team in scoring and the baseball squad to a California Interscholastic Federation title.  That season, Seinsoth went 15-1, with a 0.72 ERA on the mound (145 strikeouts in 116 1/3 innings pitched) and hit .390. In the playoffs, he logged five complete-game victories.  Seinsoth was named CIF Player of the Year – a portent of many recognitions to come.

“He was the best I ever coached. He was dominating, intimidating. He was a man playing with boys.”

 Lani Exton, Bill Seinsoth’s high school baseball coach.  From Bill Seinsoth – the Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

seinsothadultFrom high school, it was on to college at the University of Southern California (1966-69), where he played under legendary coach Rod Dedeaux (eleven national titles and 28 conference championships, six-time College Coach of the Year and Collegiate Baseball Magazine Coach of the Century). Seinsoth had a brilliant run at USC – where he played with such future major leaguers as Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Tom House, Jim Barr and Brent Strom. At USC, Seinsoth was selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the 1968 College World Series, earned All American recognition and was named the USC team captain.  Seinsoth showed the depth of his toughness in the face of adversity in 1969. Early in the season, after crushing a single and a home run in the first game of a doubleheader against Oregon State, Seinsoth took a fastball to the head (above the right eye) in his first at bat of the second game. The blow knocked him unconscious. Rushed to the hospital, he had fifteen stitches to close the wound over his right eye and suffered a blood clot behind the eye that resulted in double vision. He missed just five days (two games) on his way to a .368-14-52 season.

“He (Bill Seinsoth) knew he was good, but he never let you know that he knew he was good. He had that confidence, he was ‘The Natural.’ There wasn’t anything he didn’t do well.”

Jerry Merz, Bill Seinsoth’s freshman baseball coach at USC.  From Bill Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

While in college, Seinsoth also played for the Alaska Goldpanners of the Alaska Baseball League – among the premier collegiate summer baseball leagues.  His teammates included such future major leaguers as Dave Kingman, Bob Boone, Jim Nettles, Bill Lee, Brent Strom and Tom House.  How did Seinsoth do in this competitive league?  In 1967, he was the Goldpanners’ MVP.  In three seasons (149 games) with the Goldpanners, Seinsoth hit .341, with 23 home runs and 122 RBI

Baseball was a family passion.

Bill (William Robert) Seinsoth came by his baseball prowess naturally.  His father – William Welty Seinsoth – was a switch-hitting, left-handed pitcher who logged 156 victories (130 losses) and a 3.22 ERA in 13 minor league seasons. He also hit .254 with a 31 home runs during his minor league career.   His best year was 1942, when he went 24-10, with a 2.79 ERA for the Class A New Orleans Pelicans, while also hitting .248 with two home runs. In 1944, Seinsoth was briefly called up to the American League Saint Louis Browns, but did not get into a game.

After college, Seinsoth was – for the fifth time – selected in the MLB Draft.  (Between 1965 and 1969 he was drafted by the Astros, Orioles, Dodger and Senators.)  When the Dodgers made him the eighth overall (first-round) pick in 1969, Seinfoth – born to be a ballplayer and, apparently, also born to be a Dodger – signed.

“I can’t think of any shortcomings (Bill Seinsoth) had. He was a good ballplayer. He had power, he could do everything.”

Tommy Lasorda, former manager, Los Angeles Dodgers. From Bill Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

He spent his first (and only) minor league season with the Dodgers’ Bakersfield farm club, where his teammates included Ron Cey, Tom Paciorek and Steve Yeager.   In that season, Seinsoth showed his power potential, hitting.276, with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 80 games. He was on his way.

Then tragedy struck.  Driving home after his final game of the 1969 minor league season, Seinsoth was killed in a single-car accident along a dangerous stretch of Interstate 15 in the Mojave Desert.  (Note: Seinsoth’s Bakersfield teammate Ron Cey, who went on to stardom with the Dodgers, was slated to make the trip with Seinsoth, but had to cancel.)

His ball playing prowess is reflected in his statistic and awards, but Bill Seinsoth’s status as a person may be better reflected in the recognitions that came after his death: establishment of the Bill Seinsoth Memorial Baseball Scholarship Fund and the Bill Seinsoth Award (for highest batting average each season) at USC; the Bill Seinsoth Memorial Award at Arcadia High School; The Alaska Goldpanners’ Bill Seinsoth Night and Bill Seinsoth Memorial Game in 1970.

“One thing you know more than anyone is how much better the world is because your son passed this way.”

Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, in a letter to the Seinsoth family.  From Bill Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

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BBRT Talks to Author Steven K. Wagner

What prompted you to write Seinsoth’s story?

I grew up in Arcadia, California, and everyone knew of Bill Seinsoth. In fact, he and I were on the same Little League team, the 7-Uppers, although five years apart. So, I never knew him personally. He was a god to us Little Leaguers, and we all expected him to play for the Dodgers someday. When he died his death hit everyone in Arcadia and indeed Southern California hard. In the early 1990s, I wrote a story on him for the Los Angeles Times, and that got the ball rolling. The feedback was good and the notion to someday write a book stuck with me.

What most impressed you about Seinsoth as a ballplayer and a person?

Everyone liked Bill Seinsoth.  Through dozens of interviews, I never found one person who disliked him. He had intensity for baseball that players found contagious, and everyone respected him. One USC Trojan put it succinctly: You wanted to play well so that Bill Seinsoth thought you were good.

He was friendly, likable, charismatic, athletically gifted and, as the late owner of the Alaska Goldpanners once said, would give you the shirt off his back. He also would destroy your team with the bat if he got the chance. There was nothing not to like about Bill Seinsoth, and that he never had the chance to reach his full potential is a tragedy. That he was around to share his capabilities and his persona for 22 years is a blessing.

Other books by Steven K. Wagner: Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball’s Greatest One Game Wonder. (Reviewed here.)

About Steven K. Wagner

Steven K. Wagner has worked as a freelance journalist since 1989. He began his career with the Monmouth Sun-Enterprise in Oregon and worked for the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier and Portland Daily Journal of Commerce before joining United Press International. He has also worked for the Portland Oregonian and has freelanced extensively for the Los Angeles Times, Oklahoma City Oklahoman, Seattle Times, Baseball America and numerous other newspaper and magazines. He is also a lifelong fan of the national pastime.

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They’ll Do – In a Pinch

Saint Louis Cardinals photo

Home of baseball’s most prolific 2016 pinch hitters. Photo by Stefan Ogrisek

On April 8 of this past season, the Cardinals put major league baseball on notice that 2016 was going to be the Year of the Pinch Hitter in Saint Louis.  On that day, the Cardinals came to the plate in the top of the seventh inning trailing the Braves 4-3. Here’s what followed:

  • In the seventh, with one out and the bases empty, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny sent Jeremy Hazelbaker up to pinch hit for pitcher Jaime Garcia. Hazelbaker homered to right on a 1-0 count, tying the game.
  • In the eighth, with the scored tied (4-4) and Cardinals’ 1B Matt Adams leading off, Matheny went to the bench again – sending Aledmyz Diaz up to pinch hit for Adams. The result? A home run to left on a 1-0 count, giving Saint Louis the lead.
  • In the top of the ninth, with one out and no one on, Matheny again called on a pinch hitter. This time it was Greg Garcia hitting for pitcher Kevin Siegrist. Garcia hit a 2-1 pitch to right field for the Cardinals’ record-breaking third pinch hit homer of the game.

Hazelbaker, Diaz and Garcia were the only pinch hitters used by Matheny that day, and they all went deep.  It was rookie Hazelbaker’s second MLB home run; rookie Aledmys Diaz’ first MLB round tripper; and Garcia’s first homer of the year and just the third home run in his three MLB seasons.  Talk about pushing the right buttons!

The record for pinch hitters used by a team in an MLB games is nine, shared by three teams.

Dodgers (versus Cardinals) on September 22, 1959 – In this contest, won by the Cardinals 11-10, the Dodgers used nine pinch hitters over the final five innings. Those pinch batters went three-for-eight (with a walk), scored two and drove in five. The big blow was a three-run pinch homer by Frank Howard in the top of the nint

Expos (versus Pirates) on September 5, 1975 – Montreal used nine pinch hitters in a 5-2 loss to the Pirates in the second game of a double header. The first pinch hitter was called upon in the fifth inning. Overall, the pinch batters went two-for-eight (both singles) with one walk and one run score

Braves (versus Expos) on September 21, 1993 – In their 18-5 trouncing of the Expos ( in Montreal), the Braves apparently wanted to give everyone a chance to play. They didn’t use their first pinch hitter until the sixth inning – when they were already leading 14-3; and they used six pinch batters in the seventh, when they scored four times to stretch their lead to 18-5. Overall, Braves’ pinch batters went three for six (two doubles) with one hit-by-pitch and two walks.  The pinch batters scored four runs and drove in three. Note: Seven of the Braves’ nine pinch hitters stayed in the game. The only defensive position not occupied by pinch hitter at some time during the game were pitcher and catcher.

That April 8, 2016, trio of pinch-hit home runs for the Cardinals were the first three of the Cardinals’ MLB-record 17 pinch-hit home runs during 2016.  For the season, ESPN.com stats show the Cardinals led all of MLB not just in pinch-hit home runs, but also in pinch hits (81), pinch-hitting average (.333), PH RBI (51), pinch hitters’ on base percentage (.393) and runs scored by pinch hitters (46). At the other end of the spectrum, no team had fewer pinch hits in 2016 than the Minnesota Twins (9-for-62), while the lowest team PH average belonged to Tampa Bay (.124). The White Sox, Royals, Rangers and Reds also completed the season without a single pinch-hit home run; with the White Sox getting an MLB-low three RBI from pinch hitters.

How dominant were the Cardinals pinch hitters? Saint Louis’ .333 pinch hitting average was 49-points higher than the second-best Mets (.282); and 124-points higher than the 2016 MLB pinch-hitting average.  The Mets also finished second to St. Louis in PH home runs (with 13, four behind the Cards) and PH RBI at 51 (ten behind the Redbirds).  The NL team pinch-hitting average production was seven homers and 33 RBI; while the AL (with the DH) averaged two homers and 11 RBI. The Cardinals’ 81 pinch hits were 20 more than runner-up Colorado and their 151 PH total bases outdistanced the runners-up (Mets and Rockies) by 49.

Now, let take a look at a few 2016 individual pinch hitting stats.

Phil gosselin photo

Phil Gosselin – led MLB with 20 pinch hits in 2016.Photo by Keith Allison

Most pinch hits:  Phil Gosselin, Diamondbacks – 20 hits. (77 PH at bats – .263 PH average); Ichiro Suzuki, Marlins, 15 pinch hits (57 PH at bats – .255 PH average).

Pinch-hit home runs: Jeremey Hazelbaker, Cardinals – 4; Matt Joyce, Pirates – 4.

Pinch-hit RBI: Matt Joyce, Pirates – 15; Matt Adams, Cardinals – 13.

Pinch-hit average (minimum 10 PH at bats); Brandon Nimmo, Mets – .500 (six-for-12); Tyler White, Astros  – .462 (six-for-13).

 

Werth Every Penny

Jayson Werth, deserves special recognition for delivering in the pinch in 2016.  In four pinch hit appearances, Werth delivered three hits – including one double, two home runs and six RBI.

Here are your single-season all-time pinch hitting record holders.

Pinch hits in a season: John Vander Wal, Rockies, 1995 – 28.

Pinch-hit HR in a season: Dave Hansen, Dodgers, 2000 – 7; Craig Wilson, Pirates, 2001 – 7.

Pinch-hit RBI in a season: Joe Cronin, Red Sox, 1943 – 25; Jerry Lynch, Reds, 1961 – 25; Rusty Staub, Mets, 1983 – 25.

Lenny Harris – 212 Pinch Hits

harrisLenny Harris may be the king of the pinch hitters. Harris holds the records for: most pinch hit appearances and PH at bats in a single season (95 and 83, Mets, 2001). He also holds the career records for pinch-hit: at bats (804); and hits (212 – no other player has more than 175). In an 18-season, eight-team, MLB career (1988-2005), Harris appeared in 1,903 games, 883 of those (46.4 percent) as a pinch hitter. He was a true utility player playing 50 or more games at every position except CF (three games), pitcher (1 game) and catcher (zero).  Harris does not, however, hold the record for career pinch-hit home runs.  That belongs to Matt Stairs with 23 (MLB career,1992-2011).

 

Gene Stechschulte – a Rarity.

In MLB history, 119 players have hit a home run in their first-ever MLB at bat. Of those 119,  29 hit that long ball on the first MLB pitch they ever saw. Out of that 29, six were pinch hitters.  Finally, our of that six, Gene Stechschulte of the Cardinals is the only pitcher to hit a home run, as a pinch hitter, on the very first MLB pitch he saw.

It came on April, 17, 2001 – as you might expect – in a blowout. The Cardinals were trailing the Diamondbacks 15-1 in the sixth inning, when Redbirds’ manager Tony La Russa sent Stechschulte to the plate with one on and two out. It was only Stechschulte’s second professional at bat – and the two-run dinger was his second professional extra base hit.  Stechschulte had one minor league at bat (in 204 games) and hit a double. In his MLB career, Stechschulte batted just five times – collecting a home run and a single.   Stechchulte was no stranger to the batter’s box, however. In 1995, as a pitcher/shortstop at Ashland University, Stechschulte hit .391, with 15 home runs and 58 RBI.

 

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Richie Ashburn – Stats and Stories from a “Rich” Career

“To be voted the most valuable player on the worst team in the history of major league baseball is a dubious honor for sure.  But I was awarded a 24-boat with a galley and sleeping facilities for six. After the season ended, I docked the boat in Ocean City, New Jersey, and it sank.”

Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn – 1962 NY Mets (40 wins-120 losses) MVP

ashburnToday (December 8, 2916) is the 55th anniversary of the day the New York Mets acquired future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn from the Chicago Cubs. It’s also the first anniversary of Baseball Roundtable’s initial blog post about Ashburn – truly one of the great characters of our national pastime. BBRT has come across a few additional facts and tales about Richie Ashburn – also known as Putt-Putt, Whitey and the Tilden Flash.  With that in mind, BBRT is presenting an expanded look at the career of this talented Hall of Famer – a career that is rich not only in statistics, but in uniquely entertaining stories.  So, read on if you’d like to learn more about the player  who led all of MLB in base hits in the 1950s and is also credited with hitting a foul ball that broke a female fan’s nose and then (in the same at bat) rapping a second foul ball that hit her as she was being carried from the stands on a stretcher.

Ashburn’s MLB  career covered 15 seasons with the Phillies (1948-59), Cubs (1960-61) and Mets (1962). The 34-year-old outfielder was nearing the end of his MLB career when he joined the Mets (in fact, his 1962 season with the Mets would be his last in the major leagues), but he brought significant credentials to the expansion franchise. Ashburn was a four-time All Star, two-time batting champion and had led the NL in walks four times, on-base-percentage four times, hits three times, triples twice and stolen bases once. BBRT Note: For a look at MLB’s expansion drafts – and the early and interesting picks, click here.

Richie Ashburn was noted for his speed, bat control and sparking outfield defense.  In his fifteen-year MLB career (12 with the Phillies), he achieved a .308 average and collected 2,574 hits (2,119 singles), but only 29 home runs. He topped 200 hits three times, hit over .300 nine times, stole 234 bases (topping 25 in three seasons) and legged out 109 triples. Here are a few stats that caught BBRT’s eye:

  • Ashburn’s 1,875 hits were the most by any player in the 1950s. (Nellie Fox was second and Stan Musial third.) Ashburn led the league in hits three times during that span
  • Ashburn played more games than any other player in the 1950s – 1,523 – leading the league in games played twice
  • The speedy center fielder also recorded more outfield put outs than any other MLB outfielder in the decade (4,496) – leading the league in OF puts outs in eight of the ten years
  • During his career, Ashburn led the NL in outfield put outs nine times, OF assists three times and OF double plays three times
  • 27.6 percent of Ashburn’s career home runs (eight of twenty-nine) were inside-the-parkers
  • In 14 of his 15 seasons, Ashburn hit more triples than homers.

For the Mets, Ashburn proved a valuable pick-up – literally, since after the season, he was chosen as the MVP of the 40-120 Mets, who finished 60 1/2 games behind the Giants. (The Mets’ dismal performance has been suggested as part of the reason for Ashburn’s decision to retire.)  In his final season, Ashburn was also the Mets’ only All Star team selection. He finished the year with a .306 average in 135 games, collected 119 hits (102 singles) and 81 walks (for a .424 on base percentage) and surprised a lot of people with a career-high seven home runs. The 1962 season was, in fact, the only year in which Ashburn didn’t hit more triples than round trippers.

Richie Ashburn is the only player in MLB history with four seasons of at least 500 outfield put outs.  

But all of this (not to mention Ashburn’s 3 ½ decades as a Phillies’ broadcaster), is not the sole reason BBRT is featuring him in this post.  The fact is, Ashburn’s career is “rich” in unique baseball stories.

  • Ashburn began his minor league career (at the age of 18) as a catcher with the Utica Blue Sox of the Class A Eastern League. Ashburn’s father had groomed him as a catcher, figuring that position offered the fastest path to the major leagues. Ashburn, however, proved too “fast” for that path. The story has it that on one groundball hit to the right side, Ashburn tossed off his mask, came out from behind the plate and didn’t just back up the play at first base, but beat the runner there and took the throw for the putout. It wasn’t long before Ashburn was moved to the outfield.

In his two minor league seasons, Richie Ashburn hit .342, with 245 singles, 38 doubles, 18 triples and four home runs. (305 hits in 243 games).

  • On August 17, 1957, as the Phillies took on the Giants in Philadelphia, Ashburn lined a foul ball into the Press Box behind third base – hitting Alice Roth (wife of the Philadelphia Bulletin’s sports editor Earl Roth) in the face, breaking her nose. The game was stopped momentarily as Mrs. Roth was attended to – and eventually taken from her seat on a stretcher. Play resumed and on the very next pitch, Ashburn hit another foul ball – which hit the now prone, stretcher-bound Alice Roth in the leg.
  • Ashburn made it to the Phillies as a 21-year-old in 1948 and was the only rookie on the NL All Star team. Ashburn hit lead-off, collected two hits (singles, of course), stole a base and scored a run in the NL’s 5-2 loss.  Ashburn hit .333 in 117 games his rookie campaign (a broken finger cut into his playing time), collected 154 hits (131 singles), played outstanding defense and led the NL with 32 stolen bases. He finished three in the Rookie of the Year balloting – won by Braves SS Alvin Dark.
  • On June 12, 1958, Ashburn – known for heads up play in the field – helped engineer a shortstop-catcher-third base-center field double play.  The Phillies were playing the Dodgers and, in the bottom of the third, the Dodgers had 1B Gil Hodges at the plate with RF Carl Furillo on at third base and C Johnny Roseboro at second. Hodges grounded to Phillies’ SS Chico Hernandez, who threw to the plate to get Furillo, Roseboro had made a move toward third and catcher Joe Lonnet fired to third baseman Willie Jones. Meanwhile, Ashburn had come in from center field (behind the retreating Roseboro) and took a throw from Lonnet – tagging Roseboro to complete a 6-2-5-8 double killing.

 

Yellow Tango, Outfield Tangle

In his final MLB season (as a Met), Ashburn found himself playing in center field, often behind second baseman/shortstop Elio Chacon, who did not speak English. Despite Ashburn’s calls of “I got it.  I got it.”, there were times when Chacon would range into center field, resulting in a misplay or collision.  Finally, Ashburn picked up the phrase “Yo la tengo” – the Spanish equivalent of “I got it.”  The problem appeared solved – until a game in which a fly ball was headed for the no-man’s land in short left-center.  Ashburn rushed in, pounded his glove and confidently declared, “Yo la tengo.” As expected, Chacon pulled up. Unfortunately, left fielder Frank Thomas continued charging in, colliding with Ashburn, while the ball fell in between them. As they got to their feet, the story goes, the non-Spanish-speaking Thomas asked “What the *** is Yellow Tango?”, while Mets’ manager Casey Stengel just shook his head in the dugout.  BBRT note:  The incident is credited as being the inspiration for the name of the alternative rock band Yo La Tengo – originally established by long-time Mets’ fan Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley.

After retring as a player, Ashubrn enjoyed a long career (more than three decades) as a Phillies’ broadcaster and also wrote baseball columns for the Philadelphia Bulletin and Philadelphia Daily News. (Ashburn passed away on September 9, 1997 – heart attack – after broadcasting a Phillies/Mets game in New York.) He was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 1998, the Phillies established the Richie Ashburn Special Achievement Award recognizing a member of the Phillies’ organization for exhibiting the loyalty, dedication and passion demonstrated by Ashburn during his career (both on- and off-the-field) with the Phillies.

Richie Ashburn’s MLB Record

Games Played – 2,189; hits – 2,574; average – .308; doubles – 317; triples – 109; home runs – 28; runs – 1,322; RBI – 586; stolen bases (234); walks – 1,198.  

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance

Baseball Stocking Stuffers – Gene Rye, John Schuerholz and Mickey Mantle

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Happy Holidays to all!  To kick of the season, BBRT is providing an alternative to the usual in-depth posts found here. Instead I am posting are a trio of stocking stuffers focusing on the most powerful one-inning display of batsmanship ever (Gene Rye); the Today’s Game Era Hall of Fame ballot (John Schuerholz, Bud Selig); and my favorite comic book (Mickey Mantle).

ONE POWERFUL INNING

Gene Rye. Photo: Society for American Baseball Research.

Gene Rye. Photo: Society for American Baseball Research.

Boston Red Sox outfielder Gene Rye came by his nickname naturally – the 5’ 6”, 165-pounder was known around baseball as “Half Pint.”  However, for one inning of one game, this small-of-stature ballplayer carried professional baseball’s biggest and most powerful bat.  On August 6, 1930, playing for the Class A Texas League Waco Cubs (against the Beaumont Exporters), Rye became the first (and still only) professional ballplayer to hit three home runs in a single inning.

It came about in the bottom of the eighth inning – which opened with Waco trailing Beaumont 6-2 and Rye leading off.  The left-handed swinging Rye took Gerald Mallet deep to left for a solo round tripper.  That blast sparked the Waco offense and the team batted around – bringing Rye to the plate for a second time in the frame, now facing reliever Walter Newman with Waco up 9-6 and two men on base. Rye upped the lead to 12-6, this time pulling the ball over the right field fence.   Beaumont may have decided the game was out of reach because Newman was still on the mound when Rye came up for a third time in the inning – with the bases loaded. In his third at bat of the inning, Rye again pulled the ball over the right field wall for a Grand Slam. By the time the inning was over, Waco had scored 18 runs and held at 20-6 lead. (They would eventually win 20-7.)  Gene “Half Pint” Rye (whose real name was Eugene Mercantelli) had set the professional records for home runs (3), total bases (12) and RBI (8) in an inning.  Rye still holds all three records – although the RBI record for an inning has since been tied by:  Ken Myers of the Class C (Sunset League) Las Vegas Wranglers on May 2, 1947; Armando Flores of the 1952 Class B (Gulf Coast League) Laredo Apaches on June 25, 1953; Lance Junker of the Class A (California League) Redwood Pioneers on June 30, 1983; and, at the Major League level, Fernando Tatis of the Cardinals on April 23, 1999.  All four of these players tied the single-inning RBI mark by virtue of two Grand Slams in the inning.

Rye, who began his professional baseball career in 1925 (at age 18), had been on the rise when he fashioned his record-setting inning. In 1928, he hit .289 with 12 home runs for Winston-Salem in the Class C Piedmont League. In 1929, he moved up to the Class A Waco squad and  hit .284, with 19 round trippers.  In 1930 – the season of his three-homer inning – the 24-year-old Rye hit .367 with 26 home runs.

Not surprisingly, Rye’s emerging power attracted interest at baseball’s highest level.  In 1930, Half-Pint Rye found himself playing for the Boston Red Sox. However, a broken wrist in Spring Training limited his effectiveness and he played in only 17 games (.179 average with no home runs and one RBI) before being sent to the minors in June. He played in the minors until 1936, but never made it back to the major leagues.

BBRT note:  In his big inning, Rye nearly hit for the “Home Run Cycle” – a solo, two-run, three-run and Grand Slam homer.  Only once player – Tyrone Horne – had his for the Home Run cycle in a single game.  You can read that story here.

BBRT on the Today’s Game Era Hall of Fame Ballot

John Schuerholz - unanimous selection on BB HOF Today's Game ballot. Photo by The SABR Office

John Schuerholz – unanimous selection on BB HOF Today’s Game ballot. Photo by The SABR Office

BBRT was two-for-three in predicting electees on the Today’s Game Era Hall of Fame ballot.  BBRT predicted three of the ten candidates would get the necessary 75 percent support: Executives John Schuerholz and Bud Selig, and manager Lou Piniella. Schuerholz and Selig made it. Piniella finished third in the voting, but received only seven of the 12 votes necessary. You can read BBRT’s take on the entire list of candidates here. 

As far as the results. Schuerholz – with his fine work with the Royals and (especially) the Braves was an easy pick.  Like many “old-schoolers,” I had reservations about Selig (especially given how his contraction talked affected Minnesota), but MLB did flourish (and work through some tough challenges) during his tenure as commissioner.  I also thought Piniella’ 23 managerial seasons, 1,835 wins and three Manager of the Year Awards should have earned him at least 75 percent support. (Piniella has the 14th most managerial wins in MLB history. Thirteen of the 14 managers ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame – as well as a host of those who trail him.  Looking to recent history, for example, Piniella has 236 more wins than Tommy Lasorda, 264 more than Dick Williams, and 355 more than Earl Weaver.

Note: For BBRT’s take on the traditional BBWAA player HOF ballot (results announced next month), click here.

My Favorite Comic Book

mantlec1Twenty-five years ago this month (December 1991), Magnum Comics released the first issue of Mickey Mantle Comics – dedicated to exploring the life (in comic book form) of this Yankee icon. The comic book also included a section on the Boston Braves’ “Super-Sub” Sibby Sisti, as well as Mantle and Sisti commemorative post cards. On its inside back cover, Magnum Comics previewed upcoming issues on Brooks Robinson and Duke Snider.mantle2

 

 

 

 

 

 

I tweet baseball @ DavidBBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.