Family, Friends and Fans Will Miss the Joy of Jose Fernandez

Jose fernandez marlins photo

Photo by Corn Farmer

I had intended to use this post to commemorate the career of Dodgers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully’s retirement (and 67 years as the mellow-toned, harmonious voice of the Dodgers).  However, I will hold that for BBRT’s upcoming traditional end-of-the-month MLB wrap up – let me just say that there could be no more appropriate way for Scully to cap his broadcasting career than with the call of an extra-inning, game-winning, title-clinching, walk-off home run.

More on Scully next week, today I’d like to recognize the loss of one of baseball’s rising stars – Miami Marlins’ RHP Jose Fernandez – in a tragic boating accident this past weekend. In recent posts, I have talked about my excitement over the host of new young stars (Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant  – to name just a few) taking the field across the major leagues, even comparing this youthful new era to the 1950’s, when we saw the emergence of players like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Whitey Ford and more. Jose Fernandez clearly was one of today’s brightest and fastest-rising young stars.  The twenty-four-year-old Fernandez was also one of baseball’s most inspiring stories.  He worked hard and risked much to get here – and once he arrived he played, worked and lived with dedication and joy. He was a player, who – despite early stardom –  did “more smilin’ than stylin’.”  

Jose Fernandez took joy in his craft, bringing to life Roy Campenella’s comment that “You have to have a lot of little boy in you to play baseball for a living.”

Fernandez took joy not only in his opportunity to earn a living on the baseball field, but also in the game itself.  And, he was as much fun to watch in the dugout as on the field – cheering on and applauding teammates and openly expressing awe and appreciation for long balls and sparkling plays. He also took joy in his interaction with family, friends and fans; his relationships with teammates and opponents; the opportunity afforded by his U.S. citizenship; and his impending fatherhood. As fans, we were priviliged to observe and share that joy.

Fernandez immigrated to the United States as a teenager in 2008 – after three unsuccessful attempts to defect from Cuba (and the ensuing prison time).  Finally, in a fourth and successful attempt (2007), his family to escaped Cuba (reaching Mexico). In that water crossing, Fernandez’ mother was tossed overboard and the 15-year-old Fernandez dove into the choppy waters in a harrowing and successful rescue.  After coming to America from Mexico in 2008, Fernandez attended high school (and played baseball) in Tampa, Florida – where he went 13-1, 2.35 as a Senior (2011).  His performance earned him a first-round draft pick by the Marlins (14th overall) – and he was on his way.

In 2012, after pitching in just two games at Rookie- and A-level the previous season, Fernandez put up a remarkable 14-1, 1.75 ERA record in stops at A-level Greensboro and High-A Jupiter. He started 25 games and gave up just 89 hits and 35 walks, while fanning 158 batters in 134 innings.

In 2013, at the age of 20, he joined the Marlins’ staff,  going 12-6, 2.19 and fanning 187 batters in 172 2/3 innings – earning him an All Star berth, NL Rookie of the Year honors and a third-place finish in the NL CY Young Award voting.  He overpowered (and baffled) hitters with a multi-pitch repertoire topped by a mid- to high-90s fastball and a devastating breaking ball.

In 2014, Fernandez was already recognized as the Marlins’ staff ace, honored with the Opening Day start. Fernandez got the win as the Marlins topped the Rockies 10-1, going six innings, giving up just one run on five hits and no walks, while fanning nine. Fernandez went 4-2, 2.44 in eight starts, as his season was cut short by an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.

Fernandez began the 2015 season on the Disabled List – dedicating himself to the hard work of recovery and rehab. He returned to the Marlins’ mound on July 2 and finished the season 6-1, 2.92 with 79 whiffs in 64 2/3 innings. He was back.

Jose fernandez marlins photo

Photo by apardavila

This season, Fernandez earned his second All Star selection (11-4, 2.52 at the break). He was 16-8, 2.86 and had fanned 253 hitters in just 182 1/3 innings at the time of the accident.  For his MLB career, Jose Fernandez was 38-17, 2.86, with 589 strikeouts in 471 1/3 innings – including a brilliant 29-2, 1.49 at home.  He apparently took joy in swinging the bat as well, with a career average of .213 (.250 this season), with two home runs and  14 RBI in 136 at bats. In his very last game (September 20), he beat the Division-leading Washington Nationals 1-0, going eight innings, giving up just three hits and  walking none, while fanning a dozen.

Jose Fernandez – his personality was as electric as his curveball. He will be missed by many – including all of those who find joy in the national pastime.  Condolences to his family, friends and fans. Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria perhaps said it best, “Sadly the brightest lights are often the ones that extinguish the fasted.”

Photo by Corn Farmer

Making Contact – 115 Consecutive Games Without Striking Out

Old dirty baseball photo

Photo by kelly.sikkema

On this date in 1929, Cleveland Indians’ SS Joe Sewell notched his 115th consecutive game without striking out  (the MLB modern record) – a streak that went from May 19-September 19 (the following day, Sewell notched his third strikeout of the season.)  During his 115-game streak, Sewell racked up 436 at bats and 143 hits (.328), with 27 doubles, two triples, seven HR and 56 RBI.   On the season, Sewell fanned just four times in 578 at bats – and it wasn’t even his best campaign in terms of at bats/per whiff.   That would be 1932, when Sewell struck out just three times in 503 at bats – or once each 167.7 at bats (the post-1900 MLB record). For his career, Sewell fanned 114 times in 7,132 at bats – or once each 62.6 at bats. That, by the way, puts Sewell second on the career list (among players who played after 1900) to Wee Willie Keeler who fanned just once every 63.2 at bats in 19 MLB seasons )1892-1910).

Through September 18, 69 players have struck out more times in this season than Joe Sewell did in his entire 14-season career. 

By the way, if you are looking for the leader among active players – at the top of the list would be Nationals’ outfielder Ben Revere with 10.11 at bats per strikeout (as of September 18, 2016) – the only active player with more than ten at bats per whiff.

Active Players with the Most At Bats Per Strikeout (as of September 18, 2016)

          Ben Revere … 10.11

         Yadier Molina … 9.59

          Ichiro Suzuki … 9.36

          Dustin Pedroia … 9.26

         Casey Kotchman … 9.08

Note: Pre-1900 at bat/per strikeout ratios are off the charts. In 1871, for example, catcher Mike McGeary of the National Association’s Troy Haymakers went an entire season (just 148 at bats, however) without a whiff.  Later, in 1875, McGeary (with the NA’s Philadelphia Whites) had a season in which he fanned just once in 310 at bats.  If you look only at the NL and AL, Wee Willie Keeler holds the record with just two strikeouts in 570 at bats (one K per 285 at bats) for Brooklyn’s 1899 NL squad – a year in which he hit .379, with one home run and 61 RBI.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

 

George Sisler – a Gentleman and a Scholar – a Hurler and a Hitter

George sisler photo

George Sislet – College All American Photo by The Library of Congress

On this date a century ago, future Hall of Famer George Sisler pitched the greatest game of his career. On September 17, 1916, The Saint Louis Browns’  5’ 11” southpaw (with an 0-1 record on the season) was matched up against the already legendary Walter Johnson, who was 25-17 for the Senators; closing out his seventh consecutive season of 25 or more wins. (Johnson would end his career with a 417-279 record, a 2.17 career ERA and an MLB-record 110 complete game shutouts.)

On that particular day, however, Sisler got the better of Walter ”Big Train” Johnson – pitching a six-hit (two walks versus six strikeouts), complete-game shutout, as the Browns prevailed 1-0.  The game was significant for a handful of reasons:  1) It was Sisler’s only complete-game shutout;  2) It was Sislet’s last ever major-league pitching victory (He finished his career 5-6, three saves, 2.35 ERA in 12 starts and a total of 24 appearances); 3) It was Sisler’s second victory over Johnson; he had topped the Big Train 2-1 as a rookie the previous season; 4) Sisler was batting third in the order; 5) Despite his losing career record on the mound, Sisler would earn his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame (after amassing 2,812 hits and a .340 batting average over 15 seasons).

At any rate, Sisler’s pitching performance of a century ago (he went zero-for-four at the plate), led BBRT to take a look at his remarkable career.

Sisler was a gifted athlete and, at least for his times, a scholar among baseball players.  He was an exceptional student in high school, as well as an end on the football team, a forward on the basketball team and a pitcher on the baseball squad. He attended the University of Michigan and earned not only three letters in baseball (1913-14-15) and two-time All-American recognition, but also a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Sisler, who primarily pitched and played outfield for Michigan (where he was not only a quality pitcher, but a fleet defender and solid hitter – batting over .400 for his college career), joined the St. Louis Browns as a pitcher in 1915, going 4-4, 2.83 in 15 games; tossing six complete games in eight starts.  The Browns also appreciated Sisler’s bat and athletic defense, and he saw considerable time at first base and in the outfield. He hit  .285-3-29, with ten stolen bases in 81 games. And, the best was yet to come. Sisler, switching primarily to first base in 1916, went on to play 14 more seasons – earning praise for hit bat and his glove.  In that time, he won two batting titles (.407 in 1920 and .420 in 1922). He also led the league in stolen bases four times (a high of 51 in 1922); triples twice; runs scored once; and base hits twice.  (In fact, his 257 hits in 1920 stood as the MLB record until Ichiro Suzuki collected 262 safeties in 2004.)  Sisler was also the American League MVP in 1922.  Despite this stardom, Sisler was known as a modest individual and true gentleman on an off the field.

His final career stat line was .340-102-1,178, with 2,812 hits, 1,284 runs scored, 425 doubles, 164 triples and 375 stolen bases. AND, it might have been even better. Sisler missed the entire 1923 season with a severe sinus infection that resulted in chronic headaches and vision problems. Although he returned to action in 1924, his batting eye was never quite the same. (He went from his .420 average in 1922 to .305 in 1924; and hit .361 before the infection and .320 after).  He still, however, managed to hit over .300 in all but one of his remaining seven seasons.

“Gentleman George” Sisler was truly one of the greats to play the game.

For those who track such things: Sisler also had two sons who played in the major leagues: Dave Sisler (RHP, 1956-62, Red Sox/Tigers/Senators/Reds) and Dick Sisler (1B/OF, 1946-53, Cardinals/Phillies/Reds).

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Photo by The Library of Congress

Another Dose of Dozier – and Some Historic Perspective

Brian Dozier photo

Brian Dozier – bringing 40-HR power to the Twins lineup. Photo by rtclauss

My Twins (BBRT is Minnesota-based) have not given me a lot to write about this year (a 53-91 season record will do that).  That is, not until Monday night. In the third inning of the Twins’ September 12, 2016 contest against the Tigers, Minnesota 2B Brian Dozier launched a solo home run off Tigers’ starter Daniel Norris to tie the game 1-1 (the Twins eventually lost 4-2).  It was Dozier’s 40th home run of the season and made him the first American Leaguer to reach 40 home runs while playing primarily second base (Yankees’ 2B Alfonso Soriano hit 39 HR’s in 2002). BBRT note:  38 of Dozier’s homers have come while playing second base, with two coming as DH.

The solo shot to left field also made Dozier just the second Twin and third player in franchise history to reach the 40-homer mark. Harmon Killebrew, who reached 40 or more round trippers in seven seasons was the last Twin to hit 40 (41 in 1970) and holds the franchise record of 49 in a season (1964 and 1969). BBRT note: Killebrew reached 40 while playing primarily at: 3B (1959); 1B (1967); LF (1962-63-64); and splitting time between 1B/3B (1961-1969). The only other Senator/Twin to reach 40 was OF/1B Roy Sievers (42 in 1957).  Dozier ended Monday’s game trailing AL (and MLB) HR leader Mark Trumbo (Orioles) by just one in the HR race. (The last Twin to lead the league in HR’s was Killebrew in 1969. The last second baseman to win a HR title was the Cubs’ Ryan Sandberg, with 40 home runs in 1990. The last 2B to win the AL HR crown – tie – was the Angels’ Bobby Grich, with 22 HR’s in the strike-shortened 1981 season).

Dozier is now just three homers shy of the most ever hit by a player taking the field primarily at second base – Davey Johnson of the Braves in 1973.  Looking exclusively at HR’s while in the lineup at 2B (remember, Dozier has 38 of those),  Davey Johnson (again, 1973) and the Cardinals’ Rogers Hornsby (1922) share the record at 42.  Jeff Kent (Blue Jays, Mets, Indians, Giants,  Astros, Dodgers) holds the record for career home runs hit while playing second base at 351 (out of 377 total home runs, the MLB high for players playing primarily at 2B). Kent hit a career-high 37 home runs for the Giants in 2002 – and had 12 seasons of 20 or more round trippers. Dozier now stands at 115 career (MLB) round trippers.  Dozier is also closing in on 100 RBI, with 94 for the season.  The single-season record for second baseman belongs to Hornsby (152 in 1922).

Rogers Hornsby’s 1922 season for the Cardinals is the best in MLB history for a second sacker. He  led the league in batting average (.401); home runs (42); RBI (152); hits (250); runs (141); doubles (46); total bases 450) – and threw in 14 triples and 17 stolen bases.

Dozier’s power is a bit of a surprise.  The 29-year-old’s previous MLB high for a season is 28 home runs (2015) and he never reach double figures in a minor league campaign. His HR totals, however, have increased in each of his five major league campaigns – and he has established himself as a legitimate power threat.  Perhaps more surprising about where Dozier stands now is how he started the 2016 season.  Dozier hit just .191 with three home runs in April. As of June 5, Dozier’s average stood at .206, with just six home runs and 22 RBI. Since that time (through September 12), Dozier’s line is .316-34-72.  At the close of Monday’s games, Dozier’s season stat line was .277-40-94.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Photo by rtclauss

Is There a Bad Day to Toss a Complete-Game One-Hitter?

Photo by cliff1066™

Sandy Koufax spoiled Bob Hendley’s day. Photo by cliff1066™

Is there a bad day to throw a complete-game one-hitter? Right-hander Bob Hendley – who went 48-52, 3.97 in a seven-year MLB career (Braves, Giants, Cubs, Mets) – might say that day came exactly 51 years ago (September 9, 1965). On that date,  Hendleyand his eighth-place Cubs faced off against the second-place (and eventual 1965 World Series winners) Los Angeles Dodgers and their “ace” Sandy Koufax in LA.

Hendley was on top his game that day. After eight innings, he had given up just one hit and one walk (versus three strikeouts). The only hit had been a harmless double by Dodgers’ LF Lou Johnson in the bottom of the seventh. Hendley had allowed just one run (unearned) in eight frames – and even that wasn’t his fault.  The pesky Johnson had led off the fifth with a walk; moved to second  on a sacrifice by RF Ron Fairly; stole third; and then scored as Cubs’ catcher Chris Krug made a wild throw past third baseman Ron Santo. Talk about small ball!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly enough. Koufax, who came into the game already a 20-game winner (21-7), threw a perfect game – striking out 14 Cubs.  It was the last of Koufax’ four career no-hitters (one each in 1962-63-64-65) and his only perfect game.  For Hendley, it was a well-pitched loss and a piece of the record for playing/pitching in the MLB game with the fewest combined hits.

Hendley could take some solace in the fact that his may not be the best-ever unrewarded mound effort. Back on May 2, 1917, another Cubs’ pitcher – Hippo Vaughn – found himself in a true pitchers’ duel (in Chicago) against the Reds’ Fred Toney. Vaughn was 3-1 on the season at the time, while Toney was 4-1. After nine innings, the game was scoreless and NEITHER pitcher had given up a hit.

Hippo Vaughn photo

Hippo Vaughn – one tough loss. Photo by The Library of Congress

Looking at total offense over the first nine innings, Vaughn had given up two walks and one Reds’ hitter reached on an error.  Those three runners were retired on an attempted steal and a pair of double plays, so Vaughn had actually faced the minimum 27 batters through nine, striking out ten. Toney was not as overpowering, but just as effective. The Reds’ starter has also given up just a pair of walks, but had fanned just one.

So, going into the tenth, Vaughn and Toney were matched up in the first (still only) double nine-inning no-hitter in MLB history. In the top of the tenth, however, Vaughn gave up a leadoff single to Reds’ SS Larry Kopf; CF Greasy Neale (gotta love a game where a guy named Hippo Vaughn pitches to a guy name Greasy Neale) followed with a fly out to Cubs CF Cy Williams; then 1B Hal Chase tested William again – and reached base as William dropped Chases’ liner.  Now the Reds had runners at second and third with one out.  Speedy RF Jim Thorpe was the hitter and he hit a high hopped for an infield hit (scoring what would be the only run of the game).   Toney, who had fanned only one Cub over the first nine, was energized after getting the lead – completing his no-hitter with a 1-2-3 tenth, striking out two more Chicago batter.  Tough loss for Vaughn, after nine innings of no-hit, no-run ball.

For those who track such things: Toney finished the 1917 season 24-16, 2.20 – and his 12-season MLB career at 139-102, 2.69. Vaughn went 23-13, 2.01 in 1917 and 178-137, 2.49 in 13 MLB seasons (including five campaigns of 20 or more wins).

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

The Day Raul Ibanez “Did Not” Hit Into A Triple Play

We’ve already seen six triple plays in the Major Leagues this year, which led me to consider the unique circumstances that can lead to a triple-killing.  Well, it just so happens that today (September 2) is the tenth anniversary of one of the most unique triple plays ever – one in which the bat never made contact with the ball.

Raul Ibanez Mariners photo

Photo by Keith Allison

On September 6, 2006, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were taking on the Seattle Mariners (in Tampa) – when Seattle LF/cleanup hitter Raul Ibanez did (uniquely) not hit into a triple play.  Yet, by not hitting, Ibanez set a triple play in motion.

It happened in the top of the first, with J.P. Howell pitching for the Devils Rays (as they were known then). Seattle’s speedy CF Ichiro Suzuki led off with an infield single. 2B Jose Lopez followed with a walk and then 3B Adrian Beltre singled; bringing home Suzuki and sending Lopez to third.  That set the stage.

Runners on first and third, no one out and LF Raul Ibanez at the plate.  Ibanez worked the count full and then took a third strike. Beltre was off with the pitch and gunned down – catcher Dioner Navarro to shortstop Ben Zobrist.  Meanwhile, Lopez attempted to score from third on the play at second – and was thrown out – Zobrist back to Navarro.  So, there it was a 2-6-2 triple play, with the bat never touching the ball.  Ibanez had truly not hit into a triple play. Ultimately, the Mariners won the game 4-3, with the winning run (carried by Ibanez) scoring on a more traditional sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth.

As an aside, the Devil Rays were no strangers to unique triple plays in 2006.  Earlier in the season, in the second inning of a June 11, 2006 game against the Royals in Kansas City, Tampa Bay was the victim of an unusual triple-killing.  DH Jonny Gomes led off the inning with a home run against Royals’ righty Scott Elarton. Then 3B Aubrey Huff walked and CF Rocco Baldelli singled – sending Huff to third.  The stage was set for RF Russell Branyan – runners on first and third and no one out. (Sound familiar?)

Branyan flied out to Royals’ CF David DeJesus, who made a nice catch in shallow center.  Huff went home, apparently scoring, as DeJesus’ throw sailed well over catcher Paul Bako’s head. Baldelli attempted to take second on the wild throw, but was thrown out by pitcher Elarton, who was alertly backing up the play at the plate.  Royals’ SS Angel Berroa took the throw and tagged out Baldelli. He then threw to 3B Mark Teahen, with the Royals asserting that Huff had left the base early.  The umpires agreed and the Royals had an 8-1-6-5 triple play. Tampa Bay won the game 8-2.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

BBRT August Wrap – Rookies Make a Splash, Umbrella Night Rained Out, Big Papi Keeps Stormin’

CalAugIt’s September first and that means it’s time for Baseball Roundtable’s look at the month of August – winners, losers, streakers, pacesetters and more. Here’s just a few of the things we saw in MLB during the “Dog Days” of August:

  • 2016’s sixth triple play (Phillies) and first 500-foot home run (Giancarlo Stanton);
  • Ichiro’s 3,000th MLB hit;
  • Rockies’ rookie David Dahl opening his career with a MLB record-tying 17-game hitting streak;
  • Red Sox’ Mookie Betts tying the AL record for three-homer games in a season (Okay, it’s only two, but it puts him in some pretty good company);
  • The Orioles bashing four home runs before making their first out – and still losing the game;
  • Five AL playes topping ten home runs for the month – three of them Orioles (Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado);
  • The Brewers beccoming just the 19th team to score in every inning of a game;
  • The Rockies’ DJ LeMahieu hitting an amazing .439 for the month, taking over the NL batting lead (held most of the season by the Nats’ Daniel Murphy) and still not capturing BBRT player of the month;
  • In six August starts, Yankees’ right-hander Masahiro Tanaka striking out 38 batters (in 39 innings) versus only one walk. 
  • Twins’ 2B Brian Dozier leading all of MLB with 13 August home runs, while also topping the ALin runs scored (27) and RBI (27 – tied) – and the Twins still going 9-20.
  • Giants’ shortstop Brandon Crawford tying a NL record with seven hits in a game
  • David Ortiz becoming the oldest player to hit 30 home runs in a season – and looking to set more age 40 records).

You can read the details on these accomplishments (and more) in this post (and also find my stats then you may want to consume); but first, let’s look at BBRT’s August Honors.

BBRT MONTHLY HONORS – AUGUST 2016

AL Player of the Month – Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees

Photo by apardavila

Photo by apardavila

Okay, it’s usually a surprise when a rookie is Player of the Month.  But, let’s face it, Yankee rookie Gary Sanchez’ performance has been truly surprising. Called up from Triple A Scranton Wilkes Barre on August 3 (where he was hitting .282, with 10 home runs and 50 RBI in 71 games), the 22-year-old Dominican’s previous MLB experience included two games (two at bats/no hits) last October and a zero-for-four performance in one game for the Yankees this May.  Note:  The Yankees did include Sanchez on the roster for the 2015 Wild Card Game, but he did not play in that contest.  Despite giving away those three games, Sanchez became the fastest player ever to 10 home runs and 30 hits (22 career games), and the first MLB rookie to win his league’s Player of the Week honor two consecutive weeks (August 15-21 and August 22-28).  For the month, Sanchez (also considered a plus defensive backstop) hit .389, with 11 home runs (second in the AL) and 21 RBI in 24 games.  How much has he meant to the Bronx Bombers? The day Sanchez first took a place in the Yankee lineup, New York’s record stood at 53-53.  Since that time, the Yankees have gone 16-10. Also in the running were Twins’ 2B Brian Dozier (.302, with an MLB-best 13 August round trippers) and and Tigers’ RF J.D. Martinez (.404-7-15) for the month. 

NL Player of the Month – Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Nolan Arenado photo

Nolan Arenado provides lumber AND leather for the Rockies. Photo by jenniferlinneaphotography

It was a tough call for BBRT Player of the Month in the NL. You had  Rockies’ 2B DJ LeMahieu, who hit .439 and passed the Nationals’ Daniel Murphy for the batting lead, as well as Rockies’ CF Charlie Blackmon, who hit .360 and led all of MLB with 30 runs scored (and led the NL in August home runs with 11).  BBRT, however, chooses to honor Rockies’ 3B Nolan Arenado – who continued his Gold glove defense and also hit .356 in August, while leading MLB in August RBI (36), hitting ten round trippers (tied for second in the NL), and scoring 27 runs (third in the league). BBRT note:  Arenado also got an edge as my current favorite MLB player (I played almost alll my baseball and softball at 3B – and grew up in the Eddie Mathews’ era.) For those unfamiliar with what Arenado brings to the table, last season he led the NL in home runs and RBIs and earned his third Gold Glove (in three MLB seasons).

AL Pitcher of the Month (tie) – Danny Duffy, LH, Royals/Masahiro Tanaka, RH, Yankees

Danny Duffy was a key part of the Royals’ August surge, going 5-1, 2.51.  He also helped keep the pressure off the Royals’ vaunted bullpen, averaging just over seven innings per start. Duffy led the AL in wins for the month (tied with Corey Kluber) and was third in innings pitched and tenth in strikeouts (39 Ks in 43 innings, with just nine walks).

Masahiro Tanaka also had six starts, going 4-1, 3.00. For the month, he threw 39 innings and fanned 38 hitters – versus (and this is what earned him this tie) only one walk.

Also on BBRT’s scope were the Indians’ Corey Kluber (5-0, 2.43 for the month, with 44 whiffs in 40 2/3 innings) and  the Red Sox’ Rick Porcello, who topped seven innings per start over six starts, and went 4-1, 2.61.  Porcello, who tossed 44 2/3 innings, fanned 41 batters against just four free passes.

NL Pitcher of the Month – Kyle Hendricks, RH, Cubs

It was a tough call in the NL, but BBRT gives a slight edge to the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks.  Hendricks went 4-0 in six starts (no NL pitcher won more than four games in the month) and had the lowest August ERA among MLB starters at 1.28, as well as the third-lowest WHIP (0.78). He also averaged seven innings per start and fanned 36 hitters (versus seven walks) over 42 1/3 innings.  Also in the running were the Nationals’ Max Scherzer (4-1, 3.05 with an NL-leading 51 strikeouts); the Cubs’ Jon Lester (3-0, 1.71); and Cubs’ closer Aroldis Chapman (tied for the MLB August lead in  saves with 11, sporting a 1.38  ERA, 22 strikeouts in 13 innings).

AL Team of the Month – Kansas City Royals

The Royals were the only AL team to reach 20 wins in August (20-9) – and they did it primarily on the strength of their pitching staff.  For the month, Kansas City finished ninth in runs scored (132) in the AL, but gave up the fewest runs in their league (90 ).  With an August ERA of 2.71, the Royals were the only AL team with an ERA under 3.00 (next best was Toronto at 3.63).  KC got strong starting performances out of the likes of Ian Kennedy (3-0, 1.86), Danny Duffy (5-1, 2.51) and Yordano Ventura (3-0, 2.55), supported by a lights-out bullpen – including Kelvin Herrera (10 saves and a 2.35 ERA for the month), Matt Strahm (no earned runs in 11 games), Brian Flynn (no earned runs in nine games), and Pete Moylan (1.00 ERA in 15 games).  The Royals big month brought them back into the Wild Card chase (three games out – after being 8 ½ out at the end of July).

NL Team of the Month – Chicago Cubs

Wrigley be "Wrockin'" in 2016.

Wrigley be “Wrockin'” in 2016.

The Cubs’ did it all in August – scoring the NL’s third-most runs (143) and giving up the league’s fewest tallies (85).The Cubbies boasted MLB’s lowest August ERA, a miniscule 2.66. The MLB average was 4.33 – and the AL Royals were the only other team under 3.00.  Just consider the mound staff’s August results: three starters with August ERAs under 2.00 – Kyle Hendricks (4-0, 1.28), John Lackey (1-0, 1.66) and Jon Lester (3-0, 1.71); as well as a bullpen led by the likes of Aroldis Chapman (11 saves, 1.38 ERA in 15 appearances); Justin Grimm (0.82 ERA in 12 appearances) and Trevor Cahill (1.93 in seven appearances). On offense, they looked to the likes of Kris Bryant (.383-10-22), Anthony Rizzo (.324-2-14); Addison Russell (.250-7-23); and Dexter Fowler (.263-2-7, with 26 runs scored).  The Cubs now enjoy a 15 -game lead over the NL Central second-place Cardinals – up from 7 ½ a month ago – Wrigley be Wrockin’.

Wins and Losses

While the Cubs and Royals were the only teams to reach 20 wins in September (see Teams of the Month, above), the Rangers had a solid month at 18-10 – despite middle-of-the pack numbers (eighth in the AL in ERA and tenth in runs scored for the month). Four teams picked up 17 wins August: the Yankees, Blue Jays and Nationals (all at 17-11) and the Red Sox (17-13). Minnesota was the only MLB team to earn less than ten wins (9-20), despite scoring the AL’s fourth-most August runs (142, just eight less than Boston’s league high for the month). Ah, but there’s the pitching.  The Twins gave up a n MLB-high 192 runs in August and were the only team with an ERA over six (6.21) for the month.

The San Francisco Roller Coaster

The San Francisco Giants – who came into August with a 61-44 record and a two-game lead in the NL West – went 11-16 and fell to second place, 1.5 games behind the Dodgers.  There have been plenty of ups and down in the Bay City, this season. Here are the Giants’ month by month 2016 records: April … 12-13; May … 21-8; June … 17-10; July … 11-13; August … 11-16).

If the season ended August 21, your playoff teams would be:

AL:  Rangers; Blue Jays; Indians. Wild Cards: Red Sox; Orioles/Detroit (tie). The AL East is the most competitive race, with the top three teams separated by just four games as of August 31; and the Orioles just two games out of a Wild Card spot. 

NL: Cubs; Nationals; Dodgers. Wild Cards: Giants; Cardinals.  The Dodgers and Giants are locked in the most competitive battle for a division title (NL West); with San Francisco trailing LA by 1 1/2 games. 

YOU WILL FIND FULL STANDINGS (as of August 31) AND AUGUST RECORDS AT THE END OF THIS LENGTHY POST. 

It Has Indeed Rained on Our Parade

Umbrella Night rained out.

Umbrella Night rained out.

On August 10, the Minnesota Twins scheduled Umbrella Night. What transpired was pretty much a microcosm of the Twins’ 2016 season – it rained on their parade.  Yes, on Umbrella Night, a truly major league downpour stopped the game in the top of the third inning, with the Twins up 5-0 over the Houston Astros. After a 2 ½-hour rain delay, the game was postponed and the Twins’ lead washed away. The game was replayed the following day, with the Twins losing 10-2 (after losing that day’s regularly scheduled contest 15-7). The storm was a portent of things to come, The Twins were 6-3 in the first nine days of August (after a promising 15-11 June), although still 19 games under .500.  After the rainout, they went 3-17, finishing August with an 49-84 record, the worst in the MLB (and riding an active 13-game losing streak). Ouch!

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NOW, BEFORE WE LOOK AT INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES, LET’S REVIEW SOME TEAM STATS.

TEAM BATTING LEADERS FOR THE MONTH OF AUGUST

Runs Scored

AL: Red Sox (150); Yankees (148); Rays (144)

NL: Rockies (173); Nationals (157); Cubs (143)

Only the A’s and Marlins scored fewer than 100 runs in August – at 99 and 97, respectively. Miami also hit the fewest home runs of any team in August (21).  Clearly the Fish miss Giancarlo Stanton. Oakland and Miami also had MLB’s lowest August team batting averages (.235 and .250, respectively).

Batting Average

AL: Indians (.280); Red Sox (.276); Yankees (.274)

NL:  Rockies (.298); Nationals (.279); Reds and Cubs (.276)

Home Runs

AL: Orioles (55); Blue Jays (47); Yankees (42)

NL: Cardinals (46); Mets (45); Brewers and Rockies (40)

Stolen Bases

AL: Indians (34); Royals (26); Rangers (17)

NL: Brewers and D-backs (42); Reds (31)

The Orioles doubled their stolen base total from July – stealing two bags in August.

A few other stats of interest:

  • When it comes to striking out, the Brewers did it more than anybody in August, 288 times to be exact. At the other end of the spectrum were the Angels, whose hitters fanned just 188 times.
  • Milwaukee spent a lot of time not putting the ball in play – leading all of MLB in August in both strikeouts (see bullet point above) and walks (129 – one of only four teams to draw 100 free passes).
  • No one used the sacrifice to move runners up more than Kansas City – with 14 sacrifice hits (bunts) in August. The MLB average was five.

TEAM, PITCHING LEADERS FOR THE MONTH OF AUGUST

Earned Run Average

AL: Royals (2.71); Blue Jays (3.63); Tigers (3.64)

NL: Cubs (2.66); Pirates (3.41); Giants (3.88)

Pitching, pitching, pitching.  The two teams with the best August ERA’s also had the best Augut Won-Lost records.

Strikeouts

AL:  Astros (274); Rays (272); Indians (266)

NL: Cubs (254); Mets (245); Nationals (237)

Other August stats of interest:

  • Despite pitchers batting in the NL, the top four pitching staff in strikeouts were in the AL.
  • The Cubs and Astros were the only teams to be among the top three in August strikeouts, as well as among the three best in terms of fewest walks allowed.

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AUGUST HIGHLIGHTS

Now, let’s look at some  individual highlights for August. 

They Call Him the Streak  —

  • From July 25 through August 12, Rockies’ rookie left fielder David Dahl hit in 17 straight games. A nice little streak, but nothing that special (after all, DiMaggio hit in 56 straight) – unless you consider that those 17 games were the first 17 games of Dahl’s MLB career, giving him a share of the MLB record for the longest hitting streak to start a career. (Dahl went zero-for-four in his 18th MLB game). The 22-year-old rookie collected 24 hits in 70 at bats (.358) during his streak – including one double, three triples and three home runs.  Over the 17 games, he drove in ten runs and scored 17. For more on Dahl and his streak, click here.
  • From his second at bat August 25 until his second-to-last at bat August 27, Red Sox’ 2B Dustin Pedroia collected hits in 11 straight at bats – just one short of the MLB record shared by: Johnny Kling (Cubs, 1902); Pinky Higgins (Red Sox, 1938); and Walt Dropo (Tigers, 1952). During his streak, Pedroia collected ten singles and a double, scored twice and drove in three. Pedroia raised his average 15 points during the streak (.306 to .321). Despite Pedroia’s streak, the Red Sox lost two of the three contests.
  • Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello started six games in August, going 4-2 and proving just how much he likes home cooking. He won all four starts at Fenway and lost both road starts.  It ran Porcello’s 2016 record to 18-3 (leading MLB in victories). It also raised his 2016 record at Fenway to 13-0, 3.03 in 14 starts.  On the road, he is 5-3, 3.49 in 13 starts. This 13-0 home record puts Porcello just two wins away from the modern MLB record for an undefeated season at home. Last season, the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel went 15-0, 1.46 at Minute Maid Park.
  • On August 11th, Orioles’ closer Zach Britton not only recorded his 35th save in 35 opportunities this season, he also notched his MLB-record 39th straight appearance without allowing an earned run. He stretched that record to 43 games (41 1/3 innings), before allowing an earned run in an appearance against the Nationals on August 24.

Off to a Good Start – The Finish, Not So Much —

On August 19, the power-packed Orioles (leading the majors in home runs), set a major league record (first time since 1900) by hitting four home runs before making their first out of the game.  It went like this: after the Astros scored once in the top of the first inning, the Orioles sent CF/leadoff hitter Adam Jones to the plate against Houston starter Collin McHugh.  Jones hit McHugh’s first pitch of the game over the LF fence.  (Notably, Astros’ leadoff hitter RF George Springer had also started the game with a homer). Orioles’ LF Hyon Soo Kim followed with a single to center, after which 3B Manny Machado homered to center.  Then 1B Chris Davis homered to right center and RF Mark Trumbo hammered one out to center. DH Pedro Alvarez grounded out to second to end the hit parade – and McHugh gave up two more singles before getting out of the inning trailing 5-0.

Despite the fast start, the Orioles lost the game – which featured nine home runs – by a score of 15-8.

More #Why I Hate the DH —

On August 5, Cardinals’ southpaw Jaime Garcia went eight strong innings (three hits, one walk, 11 strikeouts) in beating the Braves 1-0 in Saint Louis.  AND, Garcia had one of only two Cardinal hits – driving in the winning run with a single in the second inning.

Three Times the Charm – and Good Company —

Mookie betts photo

Photo by Dennis Heller

On Augst 14th, Red Sox’ RF Mookie Betts belted three home runs (and a single) as the Red Sox topped the D-backs 16-2 at Fenway. Betts scored four runs and drove in eight in the contest. He also tied the AL record for games with three (or more) home runs in a season (two). The last (only other) Red Sox hitter to accompliah that feat was Ted William in 1957. Other American Leaguers to have two three-home-run games in a season: Doug DeCinces, Angels, 1982; Joe Carter, Indians, 1989; Cecil Fielder, Blue Jays, 1990; Geronimo Berroa, A’s, 1996; Carlos Delgado, Blue Jays, 2001.  The record? Sammy Sosa, three games of three home runs for the Cubs in 2001.

 

 

Lucky Number Seven —

On August 9, Giants’ SS Brandon Crawford tied the National League record for base hits in a single game – going seven-for-eight as the Giants topped the Marlins (in Miami) 8-7 in 14 innings. Crawford’s seventh and final hit – a single to center in the top of the 14th inning drove in the go-ahead run – tying the record and winning the game.  Crawford’s seven hits included five singles, a double and a triple – and he scored once and drove in a pair of runs. For more on his day – and an incredible nine-hit performance, click here.

How About a Game of 500? —

On August 6, Marlins’ RF Giancarlo Stanton hit the only (thus far) 500-foot home run of the 2016 season – a 504-foot solo blast in the fifth inning of the Marlins 12-6 road loss to the Rockies.  Note: Statcast had the home run at 504 feet, ESPN Home run Tracker at 495.

Lucky Number Three —

On August 7, the Philadelphia Phillies turned a nifty 5-4-3 triple play (Maikel Franco to Cesar Hernandez to Tommy Joseph), the sixth triple killing this season (a single-season record-tying three by the White Sox already). The play came in the seventh inning of the Phillies’ 6-5 win over the Padres in San Diego.  (BBRT note: The record for total triple plays in an MLB season is 11 – 1924, 1929, 1979. The only years in which MLB saw no triple plays were 1961 and 1974.)

MLB Post Season Schedule Announced – Nothing Like November Baseball —

Major League Baseball has announced is 2016 post season schedule.  Here are a few key dates:

  • AL Wild Card game – October 4
  •  NL Wild Card game – October 5
  • AL Division Series – Opens October 6
  • NL Division Series – Opens October 7
  • AL Championship Series – Opens October 14
  • NL Championship Series – Opens October 15
  • World Series – Opens October 25
  • World Series seventh game (if necessary) – November 2.

Movin’ On Up —

  • On August 7, Ichiro Suzuki notched his 3,000th Major League hit – a triple off Rockies’ reliever Chris Rusin in the seventh inning of a 10-7 Marlins win in Denver. He became just the second player to hit a triple for hit number 3,000 (Paul Molitor is the other). The 3,000th safety put Ichiro at number-thirty on the MLB “hit list.” By month’s end, he added 12 more hits, moving up to number 27. Next target: Rafael Palmeiro at 3,020. Making Ichiro’s feat even more impressive is that he made his MLB debut at age 27 – after collecting 1,278 hits in Japan.
  • Angels’ DH Albert Pujols started August with 20 home runs on the season and 580 in his career – putting him at number 12 all time. In August, he added six home runs, moving up to number nine.  Next target: Sammy Sosa at 609.
  • A shout out to Indians’ top catching prospect Francisco Mejia of the High A Lynchburg Hillcats on his 50-game hitting streak, which started May 27 and came to an end August 14. It was professional baseball’s fourth-longest streak ever.  For details on the record 69-game hitting streak, click here.  During his streak, the 20-year-old Mejia hit .386, with eight home runs and 42 RBI.

Trumbo Goes Deep – Or not at All —

From the seventh inning of Baltimore’s August 11th 9-6 win over Oakland (when he hit a Grand Slam) until his first inning single in Baltimore’s August 23rd game against Washington (won by Baltimore 8-1),  Orioles’ right fielder Mark Trumbo went 7-for-36 (.195), which probably shouldn’t rate a mention here.  However, all seven of Trumbo hits in that span were home runs (three solo shots, one two-run long ball, a three-run homer and the Grand Slam). This made Trumbo the first Oriole to collect home runs on seven straight hits, four short of Mark McGwire’s 11 straight (MLB record) in 2001.

Trumbo’s streak covered 11 games – and included four hitless contests.  Baltimore went 5-2 in games featuring a Trumbo home run during the streak, and 0-4 in games in which he didn’t go deep.  As August closed, Trumbo was leading MLB with 40 home runs.

Mark McGwire – All or Nothing Times Eleven

Mark McGwire photo

Photo by drcliffordchoi

From The sixth inning of a Cardinals’ 17-11 loss to the Astros on July 18, 2001 (when he hit a solo home run) until hitting a single in the fifth inning of a Cardinals’ 8-4 win over Reds, Mark McGwire collected 11 hits – all of them home runs – setting the MLB record for consecutive hits that were home runs.  During that span, McGwire appeared in 21 games, going 11-for-66 (.166) and driving in 17 runs. (Note: The 11th home run came in the 18th game of the streak – August 12 – but McGwire had two hitless games before collecting the single.) During his streak, McGwire had 11 hitless contests.  During the stretch, the Cardinals went 8-2 in games in which McGwire homered and 4-7 in games he was held hitless. McGwire finished the season (his final MLB season) with a .187 average, 29 home runs and 64 RBI in 97 games. The four-time HR champ retired with a .263 career average, 583 home runs and 1,414 RBI.

You’re Only as Old as You Feel —

On August 24th, David Ortiz smacked his 30th home run of the season – a two-run shot (bringing Big Papi to the 100 RBI mark in this, his final, season). The long ball came in the top of the first inning (in a game Boston eventually lost 4-3 to Tampa Bay in 11 innings.)   As you might expect, it marked another milestone for the Boston DH.

With the home run, Ortiz became the oldest player in MLB history to reach the 30-home run mark – at 40 years, nine months and six days.  It was also Ortiz’ 10th 100-RBI season, and made him the only player to reach the 30-home run, 100-RBI mark in his final campaign. (BBRT is assuming he will follow through on his retirement announcement.)

How good has Big Papi’s farewell season been? He closed August hitting  .313 – 31-102, with an AL-leading 42 doubles and even two stolen bases.

Just One Moore Would Have Been Nice —

On August 25th, Matt Moore, acquired by San Francisco at the trade deadline, picked up his first win as a Giant – and he did it in (nearly) spectacular fashion, coming within one out of no-hitting the rival Dodgers. With two outs in the ninth, Moore had given up no hits, no runs, with three walks and seven strikeouts.  Up stepped Dodger SS Corey Seager – on what just happened to be Corey Seager Bobble Head Night. Seager hit a soft line drive to right field for a single – ending the no-hitter and Moore’s outing. (Moore was relieved by Santiago Casilla, who got the final out.)

No Circles for the Brewers —

On Thursday, August 11th, the Milwaukee Brewers refused to be denied – becoming just the 19th MLB team (since 1900) to score in every inning of a ball game. The Brewers collected 14 hits in the 11-3 win over the Braves and the line score looked like this:

Braves     0 0 0   0 0 2     1 0 0       3   9   1

Brewers   2 1 1     1 1 3      1 1 X      11 14   0

The Brewers’ attack featured home runs by 1B Chris Carter, 2B Scooter Gennett; and RF-3B Hernan Perez.

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Now, how about a look at individual stat leaders for August?

INDIVIDUAL BATTING LEADEERS FOR THE MONTH OF AUGUST

Batting Average (minimum 75 at bats)

AL: Dustin Pedroia,  Red Sox (.406); J.D. Martinez, Tigers (.404); Gary Sanchez, Yankees (.389)

NL: DJ LeMahieu, Rockies (.439); Joey Votto, Reds (.394); Neil Walker, Mets (.389)

Among players with at least 75 at bats in August, the lowest average belonged to the Royals’ Raul Mondesi at .160 (13-for-81).  The lowest average (again at least 75 at bats) in the NL went to the Marlins’ Marcel Ozuna at .162 (17-for-105). Thirteen players with at least 75 at bats hit under .200 for the month – including MLB home run leader (on the season) Oriole Mark Trumbo, who hit .184, but with ten homers and 21 RBI.

Home Runs

AL: Brian Dozier, Twins (13); Gary Sanchez, Yankees (11); Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado, Orioles (each with 10)

NL: Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (11); five with 10

RBI

AL: Jose Altuve, Astros; Mookie Betts, Red Sox; Brian Dozier, Twins (each with 27)

NL: Nolan Arenado, Rockies (36); Ryan Braun, Brewers (28); Joey Votto, Reds (26)

Runs Scored

AL: Brian Dozier, Twins (27); George Springer, Astros (25); Alex Bregman, Astros (23)

NL: Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (30); Kris Bryant, Cubs (29); three with 27

Stolen Bases

AL: Rajai Davis, Indians (9); Jose Ramirez, Indians (9); Elvis Andrus, Rangers (7)

NL:  Billy Hamilton, Reds (19); Jonathan Villar, Brewers (15); three with eleven

No one fanned more in August than the Red Sox Jackie Bradley, Jr. – with 39 whiffs in 106 at bats.  Bradley hit .198-5-13 for the month.  In the NL, the Giants’ Brandon Belt (.237-3-17) and Padres’ Will Myers (.216-3-9) each fanned 37 times in 97 at bats.

INDIVIDUAL PITCHING LEADERS FOR THE MONTH OF AUGUST

Earned Run Average (minimum 25 innings pitched)

AL: Carlos Rondon, White Sox (1.47); Ian Kennedy, Royals (1.86); Jose Quintana, White Sox (2.29)

NL: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs (1.28); John Lackey, Cubs (1.66); Jon Lester, Cubs (1.71)

The highest ERA among pitchers who tossed at least 25 innings in August goes to the Indians’ Josh Tomlin (11.48 in six starts). Over in the NL, Jimmy Nelson of the Brewers started six games and produced an ERA of 9.00.

Wins

AL: Corey Kluber, Indians (5-0); Danny Duffy, Royals (5-1); eight with four

NL: Ten with four

Strikeouts

AL: Chris Sale, White Sox (52 in 46 2/3 IP); Chris Archer, Rays (47 in 38 2/3 IP); Carlos Carrasco, Indians (46 in 36 1/3IP)

NL: Max Scherzer, Nationals (51 in 41 1/3 IP); Brandon Finnegan (41 in 37 1/3 IP); Robbie Ray, D-backs (38 in 30 IP)

Saves

AL: Edwin Diaz, Mariners (11), Kelvin Herrera, Royals (10); three with eight

NL: Aroldis Chapman, Cubs (11); Tory Watson, Pirates (10), Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (9)

August Observations:

  • Chris Sale led all of MLB in strikeouts (52), had a 2.89 ERA in six starts and led the majors in complete games (2) – and still won only once against three losses. On the other hand, the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia went 3-2 with an ERA of more than 5.00.
  • Aroldis Chapman (Cubs) and Edwin Diaz (Royals) tied for the MLB lead in saves – yet Diaz’ ERA was nearly three times as high as Chapman’s (3.95 versus 1.38).
  • The three lowest NL ERAs (at least 25 August innings) went to Cubs (Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey and Jon Lester). In 14 August starts, their combined ERA was 1.51.
  • The Phillies’ Hector Neris led MLB in August “holds” with eight. He pitched in 14 games (14 2/3 innings) and gave up just one earned run.

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Now, a look at a few Year-to-Date Stats.

LEADING TEAM BATTING STATS THROUGH AUGUST 31

Batting Average 

AL: Red Sox (.285); Tigers (.266); Indians (.265)

NL: Rockies (.275); Marlins (.268); D-backs (.263)

No one pinch hits like the “fella’s from Missouri.” Only two teams have pinch hit batting average over .300 on the season:  The Cardinals (.348/64-for-184) and the Royals (.303/19-for-33). The MLB overall pinch-hitting average (through August) was .210, and 13 teams have PH averages below the Mendoza Line (sub-.200).

Runs Scored

AL: Red Sox (724): Blue Jays (653); Indians (646)

NL: Rockies (709); Cubs (672); Cardinals (650)

No team has put fewer runs on the board this season than the Phillies (492 as of August 31). The Phillies also have the second worst team batting average (.238, the Padres are at .236).

Home Runs

AL: Orioles (209); Blue Jays (196); Mariners (179)

NL: Cardinals (189); Mets (178); Nationals (176)

Stolen Bases

AL: Indians (106); Royals (89); Astros (88)

NL: Brewers (147); Reds (114); D-backs (112)

The Orioles clearly have power (as attested by their MLB-leading 209 home runs; on a pace for 255).  Speed, however, is a different story.  The Baltimore Birds do not fly – they are dead last in stolen bases with 15 on the season. No other team has less than 30. 

TEAM PITCHING LEADERS THROUGH AUGUST 31

Earned Run Average

AL: Blue Jays (3.79); Indians (3.81); Astros (3.90)

NL: Cubs (3.13); Nationals (3.44); Mets (3.63)

Through August, the Twins and D-backs have the worst ERA’s in their respective leaguues – both at 5.12.

Complete Games

AL: Red Sox (8); White Sox (6); Indians (5)

NL: Giants (9); Cubs (4); Dodgers (3 – Don’t they miss Kershaw?)

Strikeouts

AL: Yankees (1,160); Astros (1,155); Indians (1,138)

NL: Dodgers (1,225); Nationals (1,219); Cubs (1,177)

Saves

AL: Orioles (46); Rangers (46); Mariners (41)

NL: Marlins (46); Mets (45); Pirates (45)

The Chicago White Sox lead all of MLB in Blown Saves through August with 26 – against 38 saves. 

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Now, the individual leaders.

INDIVIDUAL BATTING LEADERS THROUGH AUGUST 31

Batting Average (minimum 400 plate appearances)

AL: Jose Altuve, Astros (.351); Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (.323); Mookie Betts, Red Sox (.320)

NL: DJ LeMahieu, Rockies (.345); Daniel Murphy, Nationals (.341); Martin Prado, Marlins (.319)

The lowest average among players with at least 400 plate appearnces belongs to White Sox’ 3B todd Frazier at .212. However, he also has 33 home runs, 83 RBI and ten stolen bases. 

Runs Scored

AL: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (106); Mookie Betts, Red Sox (103); Mike Trout, Angels (102)

NL: Kris Bryant, Cubs (111); Nolan Arenado, Rockies (98); Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (90)

Home Runs

AL: Mark Trumbo, Orioles (40); Edwin Encarnacion, Bluye Jays (36); two with 34

NL: Nolan Arenado, Rockies and Kris Bryant, Cubs (36); Chris Carter, Brewers (30)

RBI

AL: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays (106); Albert Pujols, Angels (103); David Ortiz, Red Sox (102)

NL: Nolan Arenado, Rockies (115); Daniel Murphy, Nationals (98); Anthony Rizzo, Cubs (93)

Stolen Bases

AL: Rajai Davis, Indians (30); Jose Altuve, Astros (26); Mike Trout, Angels (21)

NL: Billy Hamilton, Reds (54); Jonathan Villar, Brewers (50); Starling Marte, Pirates (46)

INDIVIDUAL PITCHING LEADERS THROGH AUGUST 31

Earned Run Average

AL: Jose Quintana, White Sox (2.77); Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays (2.88); Cole Hamels, Rangers (2.91)

NL: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs (2.09); Madison Bumgarner, Giants (2.49); Noah Syndegaard, Mets (2.55)

Wins

AL; Rick Porcello, Red Sox (18-3) J.A. Happ, Blue Jays (17-4); three with 15.

NL: Jake Arrietts, Cubs (16-5); Stephen Strasburg, Nationals (15-4); Max Scherzer, Nationals (15-7)

Chris Archer of the Rays leads MLB in losses through August(8-17, 4.10). 

Saves

AL: Zach Britton, Orioles (39); Fernando Rodriguez, Tigers (37); Dave Robertson, White Sox (33)

NL: Jeurys Familia, Mets (44); Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (40); Mark Melancon Nats/Pirates (37)

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FINALLY, the standing as of August 31. 

MLB Standings Through August 31 (Won-lost for August in parentheses)

                             Won      Lost     Pct.     GB      Aug. Record

AL EAST

Toronto                  76            57         .571      …     (17-1l)

Boston                  74            59         .556      2.0     (17-13)

Baltimore              72             61         .541      4.0    (13-16)

New York               69           63         .523       6.5     (17-11)

Tampa Bay            56          76          .424      19.5     (14-15)

AL CENTRAL

Cleveland               76           56          .576       …      (16-14)

Detroit                    72           61          .541      4.5      (15-15)

Kansas City            69            64         .519       7.5      (20-9)

Chicago                  63            69         .4xx     13.0      (12-15)

Minnesota              49             84         .368     27.5      (9-20)

AL WEST

Texas                     80           54           .597      …         (18-10)

Houston                  71           62           .534      8.5        (16-13)

Seattle                   68            65           .511     11.5        (16-13)

Los Angeles            59           74           .444      20.5      (12-16)

Oakland                  57          76            .429     22.5       (10-18)

 

NL EAST

Washington           78            55           .586       …       (17-11)

New York              69            64          .519      9.0       (15-14)

Miami                   67            66          .504      11.0       (10-18)

Philadelphia          6o             73         .451      18.0       (12-14)

Atlanta                  50             83        .376       28.0      (13-15)

NL CENTRAL

Chicago                  85            47          .644       …        (22-6)

St. Louis                 70              62        .530     15.0       (14-13)

Pittsburgh               67              64        .511     17.5       (15-13)

Milwaukee              57               76       .429     28.5       (10-20)

Cincinnati               55               77        .417     30.0      (13-15)

NL WEST

Los Angeles           74               59         .556        …        (15-13)

San Francisco        72               60         .545       1.5        (11-16)

Colorado                 64               69         .481      10.0       (12-16)

Arizona                   56                 77        .421      18.0      (13-15)

San Diego               55                77         .4xx      18.5      (10-17)

 

Whew!  Still with me?  If so, thanks!!

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

 

 

Moore Loses No-Hitter with Two Out in the Ninth – How About Losing a Perfect Game at that Late Juncture

Matt Moore photo

Matt Moore, moved from Tampa Bay to San Francisco for the stretch drive, notched a near no-no yesterday. Photo by Keith Allison

Yesterday, August 25, Matt Moore picked up his first win since his trade to the San Francisco Giants – giving up just one hit (a single to Dodgers’ shortstop Corey Seager) in  8 2/3 innings (no runs, one hit, three walks, seven strikeouts.)

Despite the masterful performance and the 4-0  win over the rival Dodgers, there was a tinge of disappointment to the game.  You see, Seager’s hit (on Corey Seager Bobblehead Night) came with two-outs in the bottom of the ninth – spoiling Moore’s no hit bid.

Losing a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth is truly disappointing, but what about the ultimate let-down – losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth? Appropriately, this has occured fouteen times in MLB history.  To read the stories of those “oh-so-close-to-perfection” outings click here.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Ray Caldwell – An Electrifying (or denying) Hurler

CaldwellWe’ve all seen baseball fans reward a player (with a loud round of applause) for getting up, dusting himself off and trotting to first base after getting hit by a pitch.

But how about a player who get up, dusts himself off and continues to play – after getting leveled buy a lightning bolt.  It happened on this day (August 24) back in 1919, when hard-nosed, hard-living, Cleveland Indians’ hurler Ray Caldwell was knocked out by a lightning strike – only to get to his feet, “shake it off” amd complete the game. Note:  BBRT commented on Caldwell’s feat in a 2013 post, but a lot of readers have been added since them, and I think Caldwell deserves another shout out for his grit (and I’ll add a few details on his career.)

“Pitcher Ray Caldwell, who recently joined the Cleveland team, making his first appearance here was knocked down, but soon recovered and remained pitching.”

New York Tribune

August 25, 1919

 

Caldwell

Bain News Service photo.

As a ballplayer, Ray Caldwell was known as someone who played hard – on and off the field.  The 6’2”, 190-pound, right-hander was thought by many to be a potential team “ace” on the mound.  However, his career was derailed by ongoing arm troubles and a penchant for “living large.”  His days in MLB were marked with multiple fines and suspensions related to alcohol and absenteeism.  As New York Yankees’ manager Miller Huggins described it, “Caldwell was one of the best pitchers that ever lived, but he was one of the characters that kept a manager in constant worry.”   Reflecting on Caldwell’s career, sportswriter Fred Lieb (credited with labeling Yankee Stadium “The House that Ruth Built” wrote (April 27, 1933, The Sporting News), “He was one of the playboys of his time. Caldwell loved baseball, but he loved the high lights better.”

Caldwell, like most pitchers of his day (his MLB career lasted from 1910 though 1921), like to finish what he started.  He, in fact, finished more than 70 percent of his starts (184 complete games in 259 starts).  Not only was it difficult for opposing hitters to drive him from the mound, even Mother Nature couldn’t get the best of him.

On August 24, 1919, Caldwell made his initial appearance for the Cleveland Indians (after being released by the Red Sox, with a 7-4 record and 3.94 ERA).  Cleveland manager Tris Speaker, in a tight pennant race with the White Sox, thought he could handle the problematic Caldwell, and it turned out he was right – Caldwell went 5-1, 1.71 in six starts down the stretch, including a September 10 no-hitter against the Yankees.  (He also hit .348, 8-for-23, with four doubles in his six starts for Cleveland.)  But let’s get back to that August 24 game.

Caldwell started his first game in Cleveland – against the lowly Philadelphia Athletics – and, despite threatening weather, was cruising along with a four-hitter and a 2-1 lead.  With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Caldwell faced not only the A’s number-five hitter (shortstop Jumpin’ Joe Dugan), but also dark skies, rumbling thunder, occasional lightening and intermittent rain.  As witnesses reported, with Dugan at the plate, a lightning bolt blazed from the sky, hit near the press box, traveled down the ball park railings, exited and crossed the infield, dropping Caldwell (some said that it hit him in the top of the cap) as though he had been struck by a line drive.

The fans gasped, some even screamed, and the umpires rushed to the mound, where Caldwell lay face up, arms outstretched. Caldwell slowly sat up, then got to his feet and shook his head to clear the cobwebs. – refusing suggestion that he leave the mound.   Instead, he demanded the ball and retired Dugan on a grounder to third base on the very next pitch.

As noted, Caldwell finished 1919 strong for Cleveland and, in 1920, his 20-10, 3.86 season helped Cleveland capture the AL pennant.  By 1922, at the age of 33, however, Caldwell’s history of arm and disciplinary problems had brought his major league career to an end.  He kept playing, however, logging a dozen  more minor league seasons – and despite two twenty-win minor league campaigns, never again toed a major league pitching rubber.

Ray Caldwell – Some Highlights

In addition, to bouncing back to complete a game after being hit by lightning, Ray Caldwell had some other electrify career moments:

– On June 10 and 11, 1915, Caldwell was used in consecutive games as a pinch hitter for the New York Yankees.  He delivered consecutive home runs – a solo homer and a three-run shot. (This was in a year when the AL leader stroked only seven long balls.)

–  On June 23, 1917, Caldwell started both ends of a Yankees/Athletics doubleheader – winning both games.  He pitched six scoreless innings in Game One (leaving with a 9-0 lead in an eventual 10-4 Yankees’ win); then he threw a complete game six-hitter in Game Two (as the Yankees won 2-1). A good day at the office, for sure.

– In 1915, Calwell started 36 games and completed 31.

– He was a 20 game winner (20-10, 3.86) for the Indians in 1920.

– In 1914, he won 18 games for the Yankees and posted a 1.94 ERA (fourth best in the league).

– In 1915 he finished fifth in the AL in pitching victories (19), and fourth in home runs HIT (4).

– His career batting average was .248 and in 1918 and 1919, respectively, he hit ..291 and .296. 

Caldwell’s final MLB stats (Yankees, Red Sox, Indians)  included a 134-120 record and a 3.22 ERA.  In addition to his 20-win season with the Indians, he went 18-4, 1.94 for the 1914 Yankees and 19-16, 2.89 for the 1915 New York AL club.  A versatile athlete, Caldwell was also often used in the outfield, first base or as a pinch hitter. In 1918, he pitched in 24 games (21 starts) for the Yankees and also hit .291 in 169 at bats – playing in 65 games and taking the field at first base and in all three outfield positions (most often center field).  In 1915, his four home runs were ninth in the AL (Braggo Roth led the league with 7), despite Caldwell having 200 at bats fewer than anyone else in the top ten.  (League leader Roth hit his seven homers in 384 at bats; Caldwell hit his four homers in 155 at bats. )

Ray “Slim” Caldwell – not even a lightening bolt could drive him from the mound.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Ballpark Tours 2016 – Day Ten – Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa.

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

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

Ten days of care-free baseball travel are coming to an end.   For the past week-and-a-half, our band of 32 has gotten up each morning facing only three important questions:  1) Do I have a bus to catch?  2) Who is playing today?  3) What t-shirt and/or hat should I wear?

On the final day of our trip, we left Kansas City at 8:30 a.m. – after enjoying the Country Club Plaza’s breakfast buffet – headed for Des Moines and the 1:08 p.m. Iowa Cubs/Memphis Redbirds tilt.

BLEACHER BUMS XXXIV – What we did, as a group and on our own.

 – Our trip took approximately 230 hours and covered 2,500 miles.

– We saw nine baseball games (one rainout) in seven cities in four states in ten days.

– We tok in Independent-ball, A, AA, AAA and major league

– We visited barbeque joints, breweries, Irish pubs, blues bars and honky tonks.

– We enjoyed the Negro Leagues Museum, Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum and more.

– In addition to our Sugar Loaf coach, members of our group traveled via horse-drawn carriage, hotel shuttles, Uber and taxi.

– We ate, drank, shopped and celebrated on/in Beale Street, Printers Alley, Westport, 18th & Vine and the Honky Tonk Highway.

– In the ball parks, we enjoyed fireworks, Elvis Night and zombies – and even a spirited game of Jenga.

– Our ball park food ranged from hot dogs and brats to Fried Moon Pies and “The Bacon Explosion.”

– We set up on-board Bloody Mary and Mimosa stations.

– While traveling our “baseball highway,” we shared Chex Mix, Chicago Mix, cookies, candy, chips, cheese and crackers – and lots of baseball stories.

– “In port,” we ate everything from Crawfish Etouffee to barbeque to oven-fired pizza.

– Meals in our on-the-road lunch stops covered everything from meatball sandwiches to Maid Rites (and more, even Chinese at one stop).

– We guessed how many runs would be scored, answered a baseball trivia quiz and played the cup game.

– We purchased nearly every souvenir imaginable … lapel pins, jerseys, hats, bats.  You name it, we bought it, and now we have to store it.

– We even took part in a baseball book exchange.

– We renewed old friendships and forged new ones.

– We had FUN, FUN, FUN!

10 maid

The stop at Maid Rite proved popular for several membes of our touring group.

Our Sunday morning bus ride included a rest stop at an Amish store that included a Maid Rite restaurant.  For those of you unfamiliar with Maid Rites (called by some loose-meat sandwiches), they are basically seasoned, crumbled hamburger on a bun –  delicious and increasingly difficult to find.  (Unless you are on a Ballpark Tours bus.)  Even though I had enjoyed a multi-plated breakfast buffet, I couldn’t resist a junior Maid Rite.

We arrived at Principal Park in Des Moines about 45 minutes prior to game time.  The park is located at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers – and you get a great view of downtown and the gold-domed state capitol building beyond the outfield fences.

 

 

Just your average Bloody Mary.

Just your average Bloody Mary.

On entering the park, I was pleased to find a bar serving Bloody Mary’s right near the gates.  Check one item off the BBRT list.  The Bloody Mary was $8.00 – and just average.  A good, pre-made Bloody Mary mix, but no added condiments or spices.

We had great seats – between home plate and third base.  All the seats in the park – which holds 11,500 – appear to be close to the action. The weather, by the way, was as good as the seats – mid-70’s, sunny with a light breeze, perfect for the last game of our tour.

The scorecard ($1) was one of the best on the trip.  It included a handout that provided: team rosters and numbers; the day’s starting lineups; full stats on each player; current PCL standings; the upcoming schedule; and “News and Notes.”  Kudos to the Iowa Cubs.

The "Out of Towners" were taking on the "Local Boys."

The “Out of Towners” were taking on the “Local Boys.”

A bit more about the ball park before I get into the game itself.   The scoreboard is a unique blend of old and new.  It has a large, clear video screen that provides plenty of information on each hitter (including their Twitter addresses), as well as replays of key plays.  Beneath that is a set of center field bleachers and an old-school, inning-by-inning line score (you know, the kind where you post the runs, hits and errors by hand) that labels the two teams ”OUT OF TOWNERS” and “LOCAL BOYS.”

Principles on Display at Principle Park

Some of our group thought the park should be named Principle Park, since the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is proudly displayed as you enter the ballpark.  The sign, I learned, was the idea of the team’s majority owner Michael Gartner – a former journalist.  

A brader park sandiwch the size of a catcher's mitt.

A breader pork tenderloin  sandiwch the size of a catcher’s mitt, served on a bed of fries for $11.

The concessions earned approval from our group as a whole – in particular the juicy Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, the massive Pork Tenderloin Basket and the Bacon Explosion (summer sausage stuffed AND wrapped with bacon).  The walk-in beer cooler – fans can walk into the cooler and select their cold brew – is thought to be the only one of its kind at a ball park.

So, how about the game?

It was a close contest (2-1 after seven innings), eventually won by the Memphis Redbirds 4-1.  The Redbirds got to Cubs’ starter Jake Buchanan early, scoring twice on a single and two doubles in the first inning. He then settled down and held Memphis scoreless until giving up an unearned run in the seventh.

Mike Mayers, who started for the Redbirds, went a solid five innings – giving up just six hits and one earned run, while walking one and fanning eight. (In his last three starts, Mayers has walked just one and fanned 21 in 17 innings). Overall, the game featured 18 strikeouts – eleven by four Redbirds’ pitchers and seven by three Cubs’ hurlers.

If I had to name offensive stars for the game – offense was pretty light – they would be the Redbirds’ SS/leadoff hitter Breyvic Valera and Cubs’ 3B/cleanup hitter Jeimer Candelario.  Valera had three hits (all singles) and an RBI. It was his seventh three-hit game of the season and he ended the contest hitting .363.  Candelario had two of the Cubs’ seven hits (all the Cubs’ hits were singles), giving him a nine-game hitting streak and a streak of 28 consecutive games reaching base.

We did see a nifty 6-4-3 double play, a couple of running catches in the outfield, a leaping catch at the  centerfield wall, a nifty bunt single and a single on a lazy fly lost in the sun (We all thought it should have been scored an error).

Let the Pitchers Hit

As regular BBRT readers know, I am not a fan of the Designated Hitter.  Well, in the Iowa/Memphis game, the pitchers came to the plate.  The rules dictate that if either team is affiliated with an American League team, the DH is used.  However, if neither team is affiliated with an AL squad, the pitchers hit.  Memphis and Iowa are Cardinals’ and Cubs’ affiliates, so we got to see the pitchers take a few swings. Overall, the hurlers went two-for-five and – as you will read in the Cup Game aside – that worked out pretty well for me.

All in all, a well-played game – although fielders did have trouble with the high sky and there were some adventurous plays on fly balls and pop-ups.

The Cup Game and an Unlikely Win

Every so often, our touring group likes to add a little excitement to the contest with “The Cup Game.”  It goes like this – a cup is passed, in a specific order, among the participants (we had nine this time) – changing hands with each new batter.  If the hitter at the plate does not get a hit or a walk, you put in a quarter and pass the cup to the next participant. If your batter walks, you pass the cup, but put in no money.  If your batter gets a hit, you get the contents of the cup, and then pass it on.  If your batter hits a home run, you get the contents of the cup and an extra quarter from each participant.  Finally, whoever has the cup when the last out is made, gets its contents.  

For most of the game, I found myself receiving an empty cup and passing on one with my quarter in it. Then in the ninth inning, the cup came into my hands with about $3.50 in it.  Unfortunately, Memphis pitcher Dean Kiekhefer was at the plate. Of course, it would be a pitcher. Well, Kiekhefer hit a slow roller down the third base line (How hard do pitchers usually run on these plays?) – and he hustled down the line to beat it out for an infield hit (and a pocketful of quarters for me). I say again, let the pitchers hit.

I should add that the Iowa Cubs are not long on promotions between innings.  They do fire a lot of t-shirts into the crowd, and there was a costumed hamburger race (featuring youngsters from the crowd who were really competing). Most of the remaining between-inning activities consisted of fans (youngsters) answering questions about agricultural products and production. (This is Iowa after all.) It was actually refreshing not to be bombarded with one between-inning contest after another.

So, there is our trip.  For the reports on Day One, click here. Day Two, here; Day Three, here; Day Four, here;  Day Five, here; Day Six, here; Day Seven, here; Day Eight, here; Day Nine, here.

Alas, when I got up this morning, there was no ball game to get to (but a blog post to write).  Life is so routine.  I think I’ll take in a Saint Paul Saints Game tomorrow.

By the way, Ballpark Tours still has a September Chicago/Milwaukee trip and a December Cuba adventure planned.  Click here to get to their site.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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