Baseball Roundtable Looks at “Modern Game” Hall of Fame Ballot

Baseball Hall of Fame should make room for Harry Stovey in 2016. .

The Baseball Hall of Fame has released its Modern Baseball (Era) Committee Ballot – listing nine former players and one executive for consideration for the 2018 Hall of Fame Class.  The 16-member Modern Baseball Committee considers players and executives active between 1970-87.  This election is in addition to the traditional Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) HOF balloting. Era Committee nominees must garner the votes of 12 (75 percent) of committee members for election. Each member of the committee may vote for up to four candidates.  The Modern Era candidates for 2018 induction are: Steve Garvey; Tommy John; Don Mattingly; Marvin Miller (executive); Jack Morris; Dale Murphy; Dave Parker; Ted Simmons; Luis Tiant; and Alan Trammel.

BACKGROUND ON HALL O F FAME VOTING

The Baseball Hall of Fame Era Committees …

Today’s Game (1988-present); Modern Baseball (1970-87); Golden Days (1950-69); Early Baseball (1871-1949).  Near-term voting years for each committee:

  • Today’s Game – 2017, 2019
  • Modern Baseball – 2018, 2020
  • Golden Days and Early Baseball – 2021

To be eligible for the ERA Committees’ ballots: Players must have played in at least ten MLB seasons and have been retired for at least 15 seasons; Managers and Umpires must have ten years in MLB and be retired for at least five seasons if under 65-years-old, six months if 65-or-over; Executives must be retired at least five years or at least 70-years-old. In addition, the nominees must no longer be eligible for the traditional Baseball Writers Association of America balloting (BBWAA).

Traditional BBWAA Hall of Fame Elections …

For the traditional BBWAA election, players must have played in at least ten MLB seasons and been retired (as a player) for at least five seasons. Players stay on the ballot up to ten years (formerly 15 years), but are dropped from the ballot after any election in which they receive less than five percent of the vote. (Eligible voters are active and honorary members of the BBWAA who have been active baseball writers for at least ten years and BBWAA members for a period beginning at least ten years prior to the current voting. Each elector may vote for up to ten individual on the ballot – and it takes 75 percent of the vote for election.)

Stated HOF Election Criteria …

“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

In this post, Baseball Roundtable will take a look at all ten Modern Game candidates; comment on how BBRT would vote (if I had a ballot); and attempt to predict who the actual Modern Era Committee will select for 2018 Hall of Fame Induction. (I’ll present those comments and predictions in reverse order.)

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MODERN ERA COMMITTEE PREDICTION

Baseball Roundtable predicts that this year’s successful nominees will be:  Marvin Miller; Jack Morris; and Ted Simmons.  (Further comments on why BBRT predicts those results are included in the remainder of this post.) I might add that we could see fewer nominees get the necessary 75 percent vote: 1) Voting tends to be conservative; 2) With only four votes, electors have to be selective – and multiple candidates with similar “credentials” could end up splitting vote totals.  There is one caveat.  If the Modeern Game Committee choose to honor the late Marvin Miller’s wished and not select him for inducation, I expect one of the following players will join Morris and Simmons:  1) Alan Trammel; 2) Tommy John; or 3) Steve Garvey.

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IF BASEBALL ROUNDTABLE HAD A BALLOT

Let me say first, these were not easy choices.  There were half dozen nominees I could easily have voted for – but, playing by the rules, I limited myself to four selections. My preferences were based on the stated election criteria (see box above), which I divided into:  Game – actual stats and performance; Fame – awards and recognitions; and Character –  heart, conduct and contributions to both teams and the game itself.

Here are the four nominees I finally decided on:

  1. Ted Simmons, C/1B, 1968-1988 … Cardinals, Brewers, Braves

SimmonsMy first Modern Game vote (if I had one) would go to Ted Simmons.  To me this one is a no-brainer. What I find most puzzling is that in his first year on the traditional Hall of Fame ballot, Simmons got only 3.7 percent of the vote – dropping him from the BBWAA ballot after just one shot. (Player who gets less than five percent are dropped from the ballot.) I should add here that, in making this selection, I did take into consideration that Simmons played one of the game’s most challenging and wearing positions – and did it for 21 seasons.  Factors that drove my decision:

  • Simmons has more base hits (2,472) than any (primary) catcher in MLB history except Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. That’s right. More hits than the likes of Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter (all Hall of Famers) or, going further back, more than Hall of Fame backstops Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey and Roger Bresnahan.
  • Simmons also has more career RBI (1,389) than any other primary catcher except Yogi Berra. Right again. More RBI than such backstops as Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, Carlton Fisk, Ivan Rodriguez. Gary Carter, Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane.
  • Simmons also has more doubles (483) than any other primary catcher except Rodriguez.
  • He also ranks sixth all-time among catchers in runs scored (1,074) – sandwiched on the all-time list between Johnny Bench (1,091) and Mike Piazza (1,048) and is one of only ten catchers to cross the plate 1,000+ times (eight of the ten are already in the HOF).

Starting to see the logic behind my vote?

Ted Simmons had a 21-season (15 seasons of 100 or more games) major league career, primarily as a catcher.  He was with the Cardinals from 1968 to 1980, the Brewers from 1981 to 1985 and the Braves from 1986 to 1988.  He was an eight-time All Star (six times in the decade of the ‘70s) and finished his career with a .285 average, 248 home runs and 1,389 RBI in 2,456 games.  He hit over .300 in seven full-time seasons, recorded 20 or more home runs in six campaigns and had 100 or more RBI three times. His best season was with the Cardinals in 1975, when he hit .332 with 18 home runs and 100 RBI.  Although he was not a Gold Glove caliber defender, he was dependable enough to find himself behind the plate defensively in 1,771 games – 15th all-time and ahead of such stars as Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza and five other Hall of Fame backstops (Ivan Rodriguez leads the way with 2,427 defensive game at catcher).

All things considered, Ted Simmons would get Baseball Roundtable’s Modern Era vote and I am hopeful the Modern Era Committee will also see it that way.

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  1. Tommy John, LHP, 1963-89 … Indians, White Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Angels, A’s

JohnTommy John pitched 26 years in the major leagues – and even had a ground-breaking (and game-changing) surgery named after him. During his time on the traditional ballot, John’s highest vote total was 31.7 percent.

John put up 288 victories (231 losses) and a 3.34 earned run average.  All solid numbers. However, there are pros and cons to John’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Let’s start with the pros:

  • John has 288 victories – that is 26th all-time among starting pitchers – and of the 25 pitches with more wins, all but two (Roger Clemens and Bobby Mathews) are in the Hall of Fame. Fact is, more than half the starting pitchers enshrined have fewer wins than John.
  • John won 20 or more games in a season three times and twice led the NL in winning percentage.
  • John’s 46 shutouts are also 26th all-time and all but one (Luis Tiant) of the pitchers with more shutouts than John is in the Hall – and, again, more than half of the pitchers in the Hall of Fame have fewer shutouts than John. He also led his league in shutouts three times.
  • John’s 4710 1/3 innings pitched are 20th all-time and he is one of just eight pitchers with 700 or more starts (his 700 starts are sixth all-time).
  • John’s 27 MLB seasons played are third in MLB history behind only Nolan Ryan (27 seasons … 1966-93) and Cap Anson (27 seasons …. 1871-97).
  • John retired with a .555 winning percentage, ahead of more than a dozen starting pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame.

There are also some cons:

  • John’s wins can be attributed to his longevity. As Baseball-Reference.com reports, his average full season record was 13-11 – which does seem to fall short of Hall-worthy.
  • Despite a respectable 2,245 career strikeouts, he fanned only 4.3 batters per nine innings – not exactly dominating.
  • He never won a Cy Young Award and was an All Star only four times in 26 seasons.

In my book, John also deserves Character credits for taking on the risk and leaning into the rehab of a new surgical procedure that had a long-term impact not just on his career (he won 164 games after the surgery), but on the game itself.

Ultimately, John was a good enough and dedicated to last 26 seasons in the major leagues – and put up 288 wins. Despite his low strikeouts per nine innings figure, he did what we look for pitcher to do – get outs and produce wins.

ONE FINAL THOUGHT ON TOMMY JOHN

HOF voters put Sandy Koufax in the Hall with just 165 wins – recognizing that injury shortened his career.  I think it’s time Tommy John and his 288 wins entered the HOF, recognizing that surgery – and a powerful work ethic – lengthened his career.  Side note: Tommy John had just one fewer victory after his historic surgery than Sandy Koufax had in his career.

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  1. Jack Morris, RHP, 1977-1994 … Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, Indians

MorrisJack Morris would also get my vote  – although I may be a bit biased, having been in the park for his 1991 World Series Game Seven, 1-0, complete-game, shutout victory. This is a close call, but Morris’ reputation for grit and determination – particularly in “big” games – gives him the Character points he needs to push him to a spot near the top of the BBRT ballot. (Morris, by the way, had the highest vote total on the traditional ballot among this year’s Modern Game nominees – 67.7 percent in 2013.  He doesn’t need much of a push.)

The right-hander pitched 18 seasons (for four different teams) and his consistent status as a staff “Ace” or at least staff “Leader” is reflected in his 14 Opening Day starts. (Note: I acknowledge Morris was not the winningest pitcher on his team in all 14 of those seasons, but being selected for Opening Day does carry some significance and, I believe,  earn both “Fame” and “Character” points.)  Morris’ final stat line was 254-186, with a 3.90 ERA (that ERA hurts his HOF chances), 2,478 strikeouts in 3,824 innings pitched and 175 complete games. He was an All Star five times, a three-time twenty-game winner (led his league in wins twice and also led in complete games, shutouts and innings pitched once each). Morris threw 200 or more innings in a season 11 times. His best season was 1983, when he went 20-13, 3.34, with 20 complete games (in 37 starts) and an AL-topping 293 2/3 innings pitched for the Tigers.

All of these factors put Morris on the “very good” list – but, perhaps just to the edge of the HOF list.  So, what puts him over the top for BBRT?  A couple of things.  First Morris, won more games in the decade of the 1980s (162) – 22 more than any other pitcher in MLB – and also pitched the most innings (2,433 2/3) in the decade. His 1,629 strikeouts in the ‘80s trailed only Nolan Ryan and Fernando Valenzuela. Then there is his performance on the big stage.  Morris pitched in three World Series and was dominant in two of them – going 2-0, 2.00 with two complete games for the Tigers in 1984; 2-0, 1.17 in three starts (one complete game) for the Twins in 1991 (including that Game Seven, ten-inning, complete-game shutout); and 0-2, 8.44 for the Blue Jays in 1992. Even with that 1992 debacle, his World Series line is 4-2, 2.97 – three complete games in seven starts.  Overall, Morris’ post-season record is 7-4, 3.80.

Ultimately, BBRT thinks Morris has just enough to earn that spot in the Hall.   (Besides, if Morris gets in, the door opens a little wider for one of my Minnesota favorites – Jim Kaat, with his 283 wins and 16 Gold Gloves.)

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  1. Alan Trammell, SS, 1977-96 … Tigers

TrammelMy fourth and final vote required a little soul-searching – and moved me from my traditional “old school” approach to the ballot toward a view that also incorporates some of today’s “advanced” metrics. Note: In 2016, his last year on the traditional Hall of Fame ballot, Trammel garnered 40.9 percent support from the BBWAA.

Alan Trammel spent 19 of his 20 MLB seasons teamed up with Tigers’ 2B Lou Whitaker – making them the longest-running and most-prolific SS/2B double-play combination in MLB history. Trammel also was a six-time All Star, four-time Gold Glover and three-time Silver Slugger honoree.

Trammel does have solid numbers – particularly for a middle infielder – a .285 average over 20 seasons, 2,365 hits, 185 home runs and 1,003 RBI.  In addition, his HOF resume includes the 1984 World Series MVP Award (he hit .450 with two home runs and six RBI in five games). Trammel’s best campaign was 1987, when he hit .343, with 28 home runs, 105 RBI and 21 stolen bases. That season, Trammel finished in the top five in the AL in average, hits, runs scored and total bases.  Trammel’s case for the HOF does suffer a bit for having never led his league in any offensive category.

As I considered Trammel, I found a number of analysts and supporters who compared him to Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.  The two do have similar career stat lines – a pretty good measure of their Game.  However, the difference between Trammel and Larkin in the Fame department may explain why Trammel is not already in the Hall and Larkin is.  Larkin was selected to 12 All Star teams to Trammel’s six and collected nine Silver Sluggers to Trammel’s three. (Trammel did earn four Gold Gloves to Larkin’s three).   Larkin’s 1995 NL MVP Award also probably slightly outshines Trammel’s 1984 World Series MVP recognition.  In addition, while both players had two 20-20 (HR-SB) seasons, one of Larkin’s was a 30-30 campaign, which earns a few more Fame points. Given all this, I didn’t really buy into the Trammel/Larkin comparison.  However, I did think Trammel’s 20 years of solid production demanded further examination.

To complete my consideration, I went outside my comfort zone.  Now, those who follow Baseball Roundtable know I am both old and “old school.” I tend to lean toward traditional statistics like batting average, home runs, RBI, won-lost records, earned run average and strikeouts – and away from such markers as Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and Batting Average on Balls in Play (BIP). I am more interested in how far a home run traveled than its elevation angle and exit speed and more intrigued by fastball/curveball speed and the number of swings and misses than spin rate and perceived velocity.  In addition, I do not like the new “wave the batter to first” intentional walk, challenge/replay and designated hitter. (I am not totally old school.  I do think the current crop of young stars is the best MLB has seen in decades).  Now, there are some relative new stats that I do place stock in – like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) – and I went there to make my final decision on Trammel.  “Boom,” that put him over the top.

Trammel’s career Wins Above Replacement is 70.4 – compared to the average of 66.7 among Hall of Fame shortstops, eleventh all-time and sandwiched between Larkin’s 70.2 and certain future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter’s 71.8. That’s pretty good company.  When you look at WAR over the player’s peak seven seasons, Trammel looks just as good, seventh all-time among shortstops at 44.7 – compared to the average of 42.8 among Hall of Fame shortstops and ahead of such star-quality shortstops as Luke Appling, Barry Larkin, Derek Jeter, Pee Wee Reese and Phil Rizzuto.  Six of the seven shortstops ahead of Trammel by this measure are in the Hall of Fame (all except Alex Rodriguez).

Taking all of this together, Trammel would get my Modern Game vote – which I am sure will make me some friends among BBRT’s Detroit readers.

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THE REMAINING CANDIDATES

Now, how about the other candidates?  Let’s go alphabetically.

Steve Garvey, 1B/3B, 1969-1987 … Dodgers/Padres

GarveySteve Garvey was one of my final six (as I worked my way toward the allowed four votes).  Garvey’s high point in the traditional balloting was 42.6 percent.

Garvey was selected to 10 All Star squads (eight in a row from 1974-81) and achieved 2,599 hits and a lifetime batting average of .294, despite playing in notorious “pitchers’ parks in Los Angeles and San Diego. He hit over .300 in seven full seasons, collected 200 or more hits in a campaign six times and 100 or more RBI five times.  The level of competition for recognition at his position is reflected by the fact that Garvey does not have a Silver Slugger Award on his resume (approximately half his career was played before the Silver Slugger was established).  Garvey had plenty of Game.

Garvey also scores well in the Fame department. He was the 1974 NL MVP, the NL Championship Series MVP twice (1978 & 1984) and put up a .338-11-31 line in 55 post-season contests.  In addition, he was a two-time All Star Game MVP (1974 & 1978).  He added a little frosting to the cake with four consecutive Gold Gloves (1974-77) and also holds the National League record for consecutive games played at 1,207.

After leaving the playing field, Garvey did face some “character” issues (read paternity suits) – which tarnished his All-American image and may have cost him votes over time. Also working against Garvey is his 272 career home runs from what is traditionally a power position.  Garvey, however, did hit 20+ home runs in a season five times, with a high of 33 in 1977. He had several campaigns in the .315-20-100 range, but I would probably rate his best as 1977, when he played in all 162 Dodgers’ games, hit.297, poled 33 home runs, drove in 115 and tossed in a Gold Glove and 19 stolen bases. (His career high in steals was 19 in 1976.)

Overall, Garvey may be on the edge of the Hall statistically – particularly when you look at career home runs and RBI.  For BBRT, his ten All Star selections and post-season performance move him up the list and should eventually earn him a Hall of Fame plaque. He would have been my fifth selection this year – but, of course, there is a four-vote limit. Garvey does have a chance this year and will clearly remain in the running.

STEVE GARVEY AND THE POST SEASON

For your consideration: Steve Garvey’s post-season batting averages:

  •  Five NL Division Series games -.368
  •  22 NL Championship Series games – .356;
  •  28 World Series games – .319.

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Don Mattingly, 1B/OF, Yankees … 1982-1995

MattinglyDon Mattingly put up some very nice numbers in a 14-season MLB career – a .307 average, 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, 1,099 RBI. He also was a six-time All Star, nine-time Gold Glover, and the 1985 American League MVP. In addition, he led the AL in hits twice, doubles three times, total bases twice, RBI once and batting average once. So, why is he not in the Hall of Fame? In fact, why was his highest total on the traditional ballot less than 30 percent (29.2 percent)?

Mattingly played a position(s) noted for power and run production – and, due in great part to back issues, he did not put up the career home run and RBI totals that would have opened the doors to the Hall.  For example, after hitting .337, belting 119 home runs, driving in 483 runs and making four All Star teams in his first four full major league seasons, Mattingly hit .292, with only 99 home runs, 583 RBI and two All Star selections over his final eight campaigns. It seems unlikely Mattingly will get the Modern Game Committee nod.

 

 

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Marvin Miller, Executive

MillerThe late Marvin Miller (1917-2012) served as the Executive Director of the MLB Players Association from 1966-82 – negotiating the first collective bargaining agreement in professional sports and leading the MLB Players Association to a position as one of the most powerful labor organizations in the country.

Miller led the fight for free agency and arbitration and focused his efforts on enabling players to receive “market value” for their contributions –  dramatically altering the balance of power (or perhaps finally creating a balance of power) between owners and players.  This, ultimately, changed the shape of the game.  I do think Modern Game Committee voters may be ready to vote him in.  However, late in life, Miller requested not to be included on future Hall of Fame ballots (he had been rejected several times) – quoted as saying “I find myself unwilling to contemplate one more rigged Veterans Committee, whose members are handpicked to reach a particular outcome while  offering the pretese of a democratic vote. “

In not including this game-changing executive in my final four, I chose to recognize Miller’s wishes.

 

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Dale Murphy, OF/1B/C, 1976-93 … Braves, Phillies, Rockies

MurphyDale Murphy is a seven-time All Star, five-time Gold Glover, four-time Silver Slugger honoree and a two-time National League MVP (1982-1983). Overall, Murphy played in 2,180 over 18 seasons, collected 2,111 hits, stroked 398 home runs, drove in 1,266 and stole 161 bases. He also led the NL in home runs twice, RBI twice, total bases once and runs scored once.  These all work in his favor as a candidate for a plaque in Cooperstown.

Working against Murphy, however, is a .265 lifetime average – with only two full seasons at .300 or better and four full campaigns under .250.  His highest total on the traditional BBWAA ballot was 23.2 percent.

Murphy’s career can be divided into two eras: 1) 1982-87 and; 2) the rest of his big league tenure. Murphy was truly a HOF-level player from 1982 to 1987: averaging .289, with 36 home runs, 105 RBI and 19 stolen bases per season and winning his two MVP awards, six of his seven all Star selections, all five of his Gold Gloves and all four of his Silver Slugger Awards during that span.  Now, let’s look at the rest of his career, eliminating those seasons in which he played less than 100 games at the MLB level (his first two and last two MLB seasons). In the remaining eight campaigns, Murphy averaged .247, with 22 home runs, 75 RBI and seven steals. With his .265 average, I believe Murphy would need the boost of at least one other career landmark – like 500 home runs or 1,500 RBI to move past the other position players on the Modern Game ballot.

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Dave Parker, RF, 1973-1991… Pirates, Reds, A’s Brewers, Angels, Blue Jays

ParkerDave “The Cobra” Parker was a player who surely had Game – 19 major league seasons, 2,712 hits; .290 career average; 339 long balls, 1,493 RBI and 154 stolen bases.  His Game also included two NL batting titles, three Gold Gloves, three times leading his league in total bases, and an RBI title.  He also earned points on the Fame scale – seven All Star Selections, the 1978 National League MVP and the 1979 All Star game MVP Award.  Overall, Parker put up nine seasons of 20 or more home runs (three of those 30+); six qualifying seasons with an average of .300 or better; four seasons of 100+ RBI; three seasons of 100+ runs scored; and one campaign of 200 or more base hits.  His best season was 1978, when he won his second consecutive NL batting crown, with a .334 average, hit 30 home runs, drove in 117, scored 102 times, earned a Gold Glove and won the NL MVP Award.  Interestingly (at least to BBRT), none of those 1978 offensive numbers ended up being career highs for The Cobra. All that works in Parker’s favor. Yet, his highest vote total on the traditional ballot was 24.5 percent.

Parker scored negative points on the Character scale – drug-related issues (cocaine) that many believed affected his performance mid-career and put him on the stand (with immunity) in a 1985 federal drug trial.  (Parker and a number of other players ended up avoiding MLB suspension by agreeing to community service, ongoing drug tests and the contribution of 10 percent of their 1986 salaries to programs addressing drug abuse.) Parker also found himself facing legal action by the Pirates who claimed a combination of drug use and weight gain affected his ability to deliver promised performance.

BBRT note: Parker’s performance (and, in turn, his career numbers) were impaired by a series of injuries. In the early 1980’s, Parker had to deal with: knee issues (cartilage removal); a torn Achilles tendon; torn cartilage in his right wrist; and a ruptured ligament in his left thumb.

Despite the Character issues, Parker was my sixth finalist on my way to four votes. Parker’s drug use was not “performance-enhancing” and there is at least some precedence for “forgiveness.”   Hall of Fame Veterans Committee voters forgave Orlando Cepeda for his post-retirement conviction on drug possession charges, and he was inducted into the Hall in 1999.  Cepeda’s number were quite similar to Parker’s: MLB Seasons … Cepeda – 17, Parker – 19; Career Average … Cepeda -.297, Parker – .290; Hits … Parker –  2,712, Cepeda – 2,351; Home Runs … Cepeda – 379, Parker – 339; RBI … Parker – 1,493, Cepeda – 1,365; Runs … Parker – 1,272, Cepeda – 1,131;  Stolen Bases … Parker 154, Cepeda – 142. They each earned an NL MVP Award and Cepeda’s Rookie of the Year Award is probably balanced by Parker advantage in Gold Gloves.

While I would vote Parker in, I don’t believe the Modern Game Committee is ready to forgive and forget. (And, there is also that distinction that Parker’s legal troubles occurred while he was an active player. Cepeda’s issues arose after he retired.)

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Luis Tiant, RHP, 1964-82 … Indians, Twins, Red Sox, Yankees, Angels

TiantI loved to watch Luis Tiant pitch – that unique motion.  I also like to watch/listen to him off the field – that energetic personality and the ever-present cigar.  And, Tiant put up some pretty good numbers –  229 wins (172 losses) and a 3.30 earned run average. Tiant was a 20-game winner four times. He also led the league in earned run average twice – and spectacularly both times (1.60 in 1968 & 1.91 in 1972). In addition, he led his league in shutouts three times and his 49 career whitewashes are 21st in MLB history. With the Red Sox in 1975, Tiant was a post-season hero – pitching a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the A’s in the AL Championship Series and picking up two of the Red Sox three wins against the Reds in the World Series (a complete game shutout in Game One and a complete game 5-4 win in Game Four). Tiant’s best season was 1968, when he went 21-9, with a league-low 1.60 ERA.  Even then, for Tiant, it was a totally “right” season at the “wrong” time.  Denny McClain won the AL Cy Young Award (unanimous selection) with a 31-6, 1.96 mark and, over in the NL, Bob Gibson overshadowed Tiant’s sparkling ERA with a 1.12 earned run average of his own.

Ultimately, Tiant came up short in the traditional HOF balloting (a high of 30.9 percent) and comes up a bit short when the balloting limit for these Modern Game candidates is limited to four votes. Tiant never won a Cy Young Award and was selected to just three All Star teams.  I’m not saying a vote for Tiant would be a misplaced vote, but I believe he needed a handful more wins (say reaching 250) or a Cy Young Award to challenge Jack Morris and Tommy John on this ballot.  An attention-grabbing Game Seven World Series win – or a season or two of leading the league in wins or strikeouts also could have put him over the top. Very simply, with limited voting I expect Tiant will have to wait.

Primary sources: Society for American Baseball Research; Baseball-Reference.com; MLB.com; Baseball Hall of Fame

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2017 Heavy Metal Doubleheader – MLB Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Winners

It’s the MLB awards season and there will be a lot of discussion and debate surrounding the major recognitions like Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year.  (For Baseball Roundtable’s take on the finalists for these honors, click here.)  In this post, I’d like to look at a pair of significant recognitions that tend to garner a little less publicity – the Silver Slugger (for the season’s best offensive performers at each position) and the Gold Glove (for the season’s best defensive performers at each position). If you follow BBRT, you know that I am particularly partial to players that can flash “leather AND lumber.”  So, this post will focus primarily on players who have captured what BBRT terms “MLB’s Heavy Metal Doubleheader” – winning a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season. You will also find lists of the 2017 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winners at the end of the post.

Note: The Hillerich and BradsbySilver Slugger Awards were first presented in 1980 (the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were launched in 1957), so the list of double winners is relatively recent (at least as defined by someone who went to their first World Series game the year the Gold Glove Awards were initiated).

In 2017, four players earned both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger:  Rockies’ 3B Nolan Arenado; Diamondbacks’ 1B Paul Goldschmidt; Royals’ 1B Eric Hosmer; and Marlins’ LF Marcell Ozuna. Let’s take a look at the performance of each of these well-rounded athletes – as well as players who have won a Sliver Sluggers and Gold Glove in the same season in the past.

Nolan Arenado – Third Base, Rockies

Fifth consecutive Gold Glove, third consecutive Silver Slugger, third season with both a Gold Glove and Silver slugger award.

When it comes to flashing leather and lumber, Arenado is the real deal (and also my favorite current MLB player).  This past season was the 26-year-old’s fifth in the major leagues – and he has captured the NL Gold Glove at 3B in every campaign.  This season, he led all 3B in assists (311), put outs (103) and Defensive Runs Saved (20). Arenado also won the heavily statistically-based Fielding Bible Award at third base (only one award per position is presented each year) – his third such recognition – and had the highest rating among third sackers on the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) Defensive Index.

On offense, Arenado earned his third straight Silver Slugger Award by hitting .309, with 37 home runs and 130 RBI (his third straight season of 130 or more runs plated). He also led the NL in doubles with 43. In 2015 and 2016, Arenado led the NL in both home runs and RBI.

Mike Hampton is the only pitcher ever to win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in the same season (Braves – 2003). Ironically, it was the only National League Gold Glove won by a pitcher other than Greg Maddux between 1990 and 2008.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B Rockies

Third Gold Glove, third Silver Slugger, third season with both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award.

Photo: Arturo Pardavilla III

Photo: Arturo Pardavilla III

Goldschmidt is the heart of the Diamonbacks’ squad. Consider his 2017 Silver Slugger credentials – a .297 average, with 36 home runs, 120 RBI, 117 runs scored; and he even threw in 18 stolen bases.

The 30-year-old Goldschmidt’s quest for “metal” seems an odd one.  His first full season in the major was 2012 (he got in 48 games with the D-backs in 2011). He did not win a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger in 2012 – nor did he capture either of these awards in 2014 or 2016.  However, in the odd-numbered years of 2013-2015-2017, he won them both.   In seven MLB seasons, Golldschmidt has a .299 average, with 176 roundtrippers, 627 RBI and 117 stolen bases.

This past season, in the field, Goldschmidt finsiehd second in putouts among first baseman (1,254), third in assists (103) and second  in Defensive Runs Saved (10).  Goldschjmidt also won the 2017 Fielding Bible Award at first base – his third FBA recognition. Goldschmidt finished second to the Giants’ Brandon Belt at first base on the Society for American Baseball Research Defensive Index.

Ivan Rodriguez (C), Ken Griffey, Jr. (OF) and Barry Bonds (OF) each won the double (Silver Slugger/Gold Glove) crown in a season an MLB-record seven times.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals

Fourth Gold Glove, first Silver Slugger, first season with both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award.

Eric Hosmer photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Hosmer played in all 162 games for the Royals in 2017 and earned his first-ever Silver Slugger with a .318 average, 25 home runs, 94 RBI and 98 runs scored. In seven MLB seasons, Hosmer’s offensive line is .284-127-566. In 2017, Hosmer also also picked up his fourth Gold Glove – which did generate some debate. On the season, Hosmer finished fourth among MLB first baseman (second in the AL) with 1235 putouts; ninth in assists (fifth in the AL) with 75, but only 17th in Defensive Runs Saved. Hosmer also finished 21st among all MLB first baseman on the Society for American Baseball Research Defensive Index.

 

 

The Chicago White Sox are the only team to never have a player capture a Silver Slugger Award and Gold Glove in the same season.

Marcell Ozuna, LF, Miami Marlins

First Gold Glove, first Silver Slugger.

Marcell Ozuna photo

Photo by hueytaxi

The 26-year-old Marlins’ outfielder had his best (of seven) MLB seasons in 2017 – hitting .312, with 37 home runs, 124 RBI and 93 runs scored.  In 2017, in fact, Ozuna reached career highs in games, at bats, hits, runs, doubles, home rus and RBI – in the process making his second consecutive  All Star squad.  In the field, Ozuna lead NL left fielders in putouts (305, second in MLB); was second in the NL in LF assists (third among all MLB left fielders) with 10; and led NL LF in Defensive Runs Saved (second overall) with 11. Ozuna led al NL leftfielders in the Society for American Baseball Research Defensive  Index  and finished fouth overall among MLB leftfielders.

 

So, there are your 2017 “Heavy Metal Doubleheader” winners.  Now, here’s an update on those who have won both awards in the same season in the past.  Since 1980, the combination of a Gold Glove/Silver Slugger has been achieved in a season 182 times by 100 different players.  You’ll find a complete list of the players who have earned recognition as the offensive and defensive leader in their respective leagues in the same season later in this post. (I’m also including lists of 2017’s individual Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winners). Since the Silver Slugger is awarded to three outfielders annually regardless of their position (LF, CF, RF), GG/SS combo lists in this post do not break outfielders out by position. First, a few bits of trivia:

  • The fewest GG/SS combo winners in a single season (since 1980) is one – Dodgers’ 1B Adrian Gonzalez in 2014.
  • The most players to achieve the GG/SS combo in a season is nine – back in 1984: Lance Parrish, C, Tigers; Keith Hernandez, 1B, Mets; Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles; Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs; Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers; Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies; Buddy Bell, 3B, Rangers; Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees; Dale Murphy, OF, Braves.
  • Ivan Rodriguez (C) won the SS/GG combo for his position a record six consecutive seasons (1995-1999).
  • Roberto Alomar (2B) is the only player to win the single-season Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo with three different teams (Blue Jays-1992; Orioles-1996; Indians-1999, 2000)
  • Scott Rolen (3B) is the only player to win the SS/GG combo in a season in which he played for two different teams (2002, Phillies/Cardinals). Rolen was traded from the Phillies to the Cardinals on July 29. He played 100 games for the Phillies and 55 for the Cardinals in what would be his only SS/GG combo season.
  • Adrian Gonzalez (1B) and Matt Williams (3B) are the only players to capture a SS/GG single-season combination in both the AL and NL. Gonzalez – Dodgers-2014; Red Sox-2011. Williams – Indians-1997; Giants-1993-1994.
  • The only team to have three SS/GG winners in the same season is the 1993 Giants (Robby Thompson (2B), Matt Williams (3B), Barry Bonds (OF).
  • Outfielders have achieved the SS/GG combo most often (67 times), but if you factor in the potential to outfielders to achieve three combos each season, second baseman have been most successful, putting up 28 SS/GG seasons.
  • The top team in terms of SS/GG seasons is the Yankees (13); the NL leader is the Rockies (10).

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Full List of Same Year Gold Glove/Silver Slugger Winners by Season

2017

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Marlines

2016

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Mookie Betts, Of, Red Sox

Salvador Perez, C, Royals

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs

2015

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

Dee Gordon, 2B, Marlins

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants.

2014

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers

2013

Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles

2012

Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees

Chase Headley, 3B, Padres

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates

2011

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Jacob Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

2010

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Carl Crawford, OF, Rays

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies

2009

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Mark Tiexiera, 1B, Yankees

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

Torii Hunter, OF, Angels

2008

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox

David Wright, 3B, Mets

Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians

2007

Russell Martin, C, Dodgers

Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers

David Wright, 3B, Mets

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

2006

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets

2005

Jason Veritek, C, Red Sox

Mark Tiexierea, 1B, Rangers

Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs

Andruw Jones, OF, Braves

2004

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Tigers

Jim Edmonds, OF, Cardinals

2003

Brett Boone, 2B, Mariners

Edgar Renteria, SS, Cardinals

Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers

Mike Hampton, P, Braves

2002

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Scott Rolen, 3B, Cardinals/Phillies

Eric Chavez, 3B, A’s

Edgar Renteria, SS, Cardinals

Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers

2001

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

2000

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Indians

Darin Erstad, OF, Angels

1999

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Robert Alomar, 2B, Indians

Larry Walker, OF, Rockies

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

Shawn Green, OF, Blue Jays

1998

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Rafael Palmeiro, 1B, Rangers

Ken Griffey, Jr. OF, Mariners

1997

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros

Chuck Knoblauch, 2B, Twins

Matt Williams, 3B, Indians

Larry Walker, OF, Rockies

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr, OF, Mariners

1996

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Orioles

Ken Caminiti, 3B, Padres

Barry Larkin, SS, Reds

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr. OF, Mariners

1995

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Craig, Biggio, 2B, Astros

Barry Larkin, SS, Reds

1994

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Jeff Bagwell, 1B, Astros

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros

Matt Williams, 3B, Giants

Wade Boggs, 3B, Yankees

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

1993

Robby Thompson, 2B, Giants

Matt Williams, 3B, Giants

Jay Bell, SS, Pirates

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr, OF, Mariners

1992

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Blue Jays

Larry Walker, OF, Expos

Andy Van Slyke, OF, Pirates

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1991

Will Clark, 1B, Giants

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Cal Ripken, Jr., SS, Orioles

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

1990

Benito Santiago, C, Padres

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Kelly Gruber, 3B, Blue Jays

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Ellis Burks, OF, Red Sox

1989

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Eric Davis, OF, Reds

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

1988

Benito Santiago, C, Padres

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Andy Van Slyke, OF, Pirates\

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1987

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Ozzie Smith, SS, Cardinals

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

Eric Davis, OF, Reds

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

Andre Dawson, OF, Cubs

1986

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Frank White, 2B, Royals

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1985

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Tim Wallach, 3B, Expos

George Brett, 3B, Royals

Willie McGee, OF, Cardinals

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

1984

Lance Parrish, C, Tigers

Keith Hernandez, 1B, Mets

Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Buddy Bell, 3B, Rangers

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

1983

Lance Parrish, C, Tigers

Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos\

1982

Gary Carter, C, Expos

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Robin Yount, SS, Brewers

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

1981

Gary Carter, C, Expos

Manny Trillo, 2B, Phillies

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

Rickey Henderson, OF, A’s

Dwight Evans, OF, Red Sox

Dusty Baker, OF, Dodgers

1980

Keith Hernandez, 1B, Cardinals

Cecil Cooper, 1B, Brewers

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

Willie Wilson, OF, Royals

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Your  Same-Season, Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo winners listed alphabetically:

Alomar, Roberto … 1992; 1996; 1999; 2000

Altuve, Jose … 2015

Arenado, Nolan … 2015; 2016; 2017

Baker, Dusty … 1981

Bagwell, Jeff … 1994

Bell, Buddy … 1984

Bell, Jay (SS) … 1993

Beltre, Adrian (3B) … 2011

Beltran, Carlos (OF) … 2006; 2007

Biggio, Craig (2B) … 1994; 1995; 1997

Mookie Betts (OF) … 2016

Boggs, Wade (3B) … 1994

Bonds, Barry … 1990; 1991; 1992; 1993; 1994; 1996; 1997

Boone, Brett … 2003

Brett, George … 1985

Burks, Ellis … 1990

Caminiti, Ken … 1996

Cano, Robinson … 2010; 2012

Carter, Gary … 1981; 1982

Chavez, Eric … 2002

Clark, Will … 1991

Cooper, Cecil …1980

Crawford, Brandon … 2015

Crawford, Carl … 2010

Dawson, Andre … 1980; 1981; 1983; 1987

Davis, Eric … 1987; 1989

Edmonds, Jim … 2004

Ellsbury, Jacob … 2011

Erstad, Darin … 2000

Evans, Dwight … 1981

Goldschmidt, Paul … 2013; 2015; 2017

Gonzalez, Adrian … 2011; 2014

Gonzalez, Carlos … 2010

Gordon, Dee … 2015

Green, Shawn … 1999

Griffey, Ken Jr. … 1991; 1993; 1994; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999

Gruber, Kelly … 1990

Gwynn, Tony … 1986; 1987; 1989

Hampton, Mike … 2003

Hardy, J.J. … 2013

Headley, Chase … 2012

Helton, Todd … 2002

Henderson, Rickey … 1981

Hernandez, Keith … 1980; 1984

Eric Hosmer … 2017

Hunter, Torii … 2009

Jeter, Derek … 2006; 2009

Jones, Adam … 2013

Jones, Andruw … 2005

Kemp, Matt … 2009; 2011

Knoblauch, Chuck … 1997

Larkin, Barry … 1995; 1996

LaRoche, Adam  … 2012

Lee, Derrek … 2005

Martin, Russell … 2008

Mattingly, Don … 1985; 1986; 1987

Mauer, Joe … 2008; 2009; 2010

McCutchen, Andrew … 2012

McGee, Willie … 1985

Molina, Yadier … 2013

Murphy, Dale … 1982; 1083; 1984; 1985

Murray, Eddie … 1983; 1984

Marcell Ozuna … 2017

Palanco, Placido … 2007

Palmeiro, Rafael … 1998

Parrish, Lance … 1983; 1984

Pedroia, Dustin … 2008

Salvador, Perez … 2016

Phillips, Brandon … 2011

Puckett, Kirby … 1986; 1987; 1988; 1989; 1992

Pujols, Albert … 2010

Renteria, Edgar … 2002

Ripken, Cal, Jr. … 1991

Anthony Rizzo … 2016

Rodriguez, Alex … 2002; 2003

Rodriguez, Ivan … 1994; 1995; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999; 2004

Rolen, Scott … 2002

Rollins, Jimmy … 2007

Sandberg, Ryne … 1984; 1985; 1988; 1989; 1990; 1991

Santiago, Benito … 1988; 1990

Schmidt, Mike … 1981; 1982; 1983; 1984; 1986

Sizemore, Grady … 2008

Smith, Ozzie … 1987

Suzuki, Ichiro … 2001; 2007; 2009

Thompson, Robby … 1993

Tiexiera, Mark … 2005, 2009

Trillo, Manny … 1981

Tulowitzki, Troy … 2010; 2011

Van Slyke, Andy … 1988; 1992

Varitek, Jason … 2005

Walker, Larry … 1992; 1997; 1999

Wallach, Tim … 1985

White, Frank … 1986

Whitaker, Lou … 1983; 1984; 1985

Williams, Matt … 1993; 1994; 1997

Wilson, Willie … 1980

Winfield, Dave … 1982; 1983; 1984; 1985

Wright, David … 2007; 2008

Yount, Robin … 1982

Ryan Zimmerman … 2009

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2017 Silver Slugger Award Winners

Catcher:  Gary Sanchez, Yankees/Buster Posey, Giants

First Base:  Eric Hosmer, Royals/Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

Second Base: Jose Altuve, Astros/Daniel Murphy, Nationals

Third Base:  Jose Ramirez, Indians/Nolan Arenado, Rockies

Shortstop:  Francisco Lindor, Indians/Corey Seager Dodgers

Outfield:

Aaron Judge, Yankees/George Springer, Astrocs/Justin Upton/Angels

Charlie Blackmon, Rockies/Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, Marcell Ozuna,Marlins

Pitcher:  Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

DH:  Nelson Cruz, Mariners

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2017 Gold Glove Winners

Catcher:  Martin Maldonado, Angels/Tucker Barnhart. Reds

1B:  Eric Hosmer, Royals/Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

2B:  Brian Dozier, Twins/DJ LeMahieu, Rockies

3B: Evan Longoria, Rays/Nolan Arenado, Rockies

SS:  Andrelton Simmons, Angels/Brandon Crawford, Giants

LF:  Alex Grodon, Royals/Marcell Ozuna, Marlins

CF: Byron Buxton, Twins/Ender Inciarte, Braves

RF:  Mookie Betts, Red Sox/Jason Heyward, Cubs

Pitcher:  Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays/Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks

Primary Resources: Baeball-Reference.com; FanGraphs; Society for American Baseball Research

 

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BBRT Weighs in on MLB’s Major Awards Finalists

The 2017 MLB major awards finalist have been announced and here’s a look at who Baseball Roundtable thinks will come away with the hardware – as well as who BBRT would select (if I had a vote).

Coming Soon:  Baseball Roundtable’s look at the Modern Era Baseball Hall of Fame ballot – who I think will get in and who BBRT would vote for.  Spoiler Alert: My first vote would go to Ted Simmons.

Now to 2917’s MLB Awards.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

American League …

Finalists: Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros; Aaron Judge, RF, Yankees; Jose Ramirez, 3B, Indians

Prediction: Jose Altuve.  BBRT Pick: Jose Altuve

Jose Altuve photo

Photo by Keith Allison

“You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”  Okay, this one is “Bigs” (6’7”, 282-pound Aaron Judge) versus “Smalls” ( 5’6” 165-pound) Jose Altuve.   Caught in the middle is Indians’ third baseman Jose Ramirez, who had a heck of a season (.318-29-83), but simply fell into the small and large shadows of Altuve and Judge.

Judge finished up at .284, with (an AL-best and new MLB rookie record) 52 home runs and 114 RBI.  Added to his MVP resume are his league-leading numbers in both runs (128) and walks (127). Subtracting from his chances are a league-leading and rookie record 208 strikeouts and a .228 second-half average.

Altuve was the Astros’ spark plug, winning his third batting title in the last five years with a .346 average. He also topped the league in hits with 204 (his fourth straight 200-hit campaign), scored 112 runs, showed solid power for a middle infielder (24 home runs and 81 RBI), stole 32 bases in 38 tries and continued to provide “plus” defense.  From a consistency standpoint, Altuve hit .347 before the break and .344 after the break – and never had a month under .290.  Voters have been waiting to give “Smalls” his MVP due – and this is the year.

National League …

Finalists: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks; Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins; Joey Votto, 1B, Reds

Prediction: Paul Goldschmidt: BBRT Pick: Paul Goldschmidt.

Paul Goldschmidt baseball photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Despite the fact that Joey Votto may have been more valuable to the Reds (.320-36-100) – witness his MLB-leadership in both walks (134) walks and intentional passes (20) – Paul Goldschmidt’s combination of leather (he won his third Gold glove in 2017), lumber (.297-36-120) and unusual speed for a first-sacker (18 stolen bases) gives him the edge over both Votto and Giancarlo Stanton (.281-59-132).

Still, Stanton’s MLB-topping 59 home runs and 132 RBI will sway some voters and this race could be closeer than you might expect.  The fact that both Votto’s Reds and Stanton’s Marlins finished below .500 will work in Goldschmidt’s favor.

 

 

 

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CY YOUNG AWARD

American League …

Finalists: Corey Kluber, Indians; Chris Sale, Red Sox; Luis Severino, Yankees

Prediction: Corey Kluber; BBRT Pick: Corey Kluber, Indians

Corey Kluber photo

Photo by apardavila

The Yankees’ 23-year-old righty Luis Severino picked an unfortunate year to find deliver on his potential – going from 3-8, 5.83 in 2016 to 14-6, 2.98 in 2017.  A solid season, but this is really a two-horse competition – and both were true “horses” for their successful squads.

BBRT’s leans toward the Indians’ Corey Kluber (the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner), whose 18 wins tied for the MLB lead – and whose 2.25 ERA was the lowest among qualifiers. Kluber’s .818 winning percentage (four losses) led the AL (only the Dodgers Alex Wood at 16-3, .842 was better).  He was also second in the AL (third in MLB) in strikeouts (265 in 203 2/3 innings) and tied for the MB lead in complete games (five) and shutouts (three).  All in all, a CYA-worthy season.

Chris Sale’s MLB-leading 308 strikeouts (in just 214 1/3 innings pitched) and gaudy 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings will make this a tight race.  (On the season, Sale had 43 more whiffs than Kluber in just 10 2/3 more innings). Sale finished 17-8, with a 2.90 ERA (behind only Kluber in the AL and sixth in MLB). Working against Sale will be the fact that he tossed only one complete game (after leading the AL with six complete games in 2016) and Kluber’s MLB-low ERA.  (And, remember, back ssues kept Kluber out most of May.)  Clearly, this will be one of the closest votes in the awards season, but Kluber has the edge.

National League …

Finalists: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Max Scherzer, Nationals; Steven Strasburg, Nationals.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw.  BBRT Pick: Clayton Kershaw.

Photo by SD Dirk

Photo by SD Dirk

Clayton Kershaw – 18-4-2.31; Max Scherzer – 16-6, 2.51; Stephen Strasburg – 15-4, 2.52.  Okay, we need to narrow the field. Strasburg has the fewest wins and the (barely) highest ERA of the three finalists.   One down.

Kershaw tied for the MLB lead in wins (18) in four less starts then Scherzer, who had 16 victories. Then again, Scherzer led the NL in strikeouts at 268 (200 2/3 innings) to Kershaw’s 202 (in 175 innings).  Back at you … Kershaw’s 2.31 ERA led the NL and was second in MLB only to the Indians’ Corey Kluber (2.25). Return serve … Scherzer’s 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings tops Kershaw’s 10.4,

Okay, we’re getting deep into the stat lines now: Kershaw tops Scherzer in winning percentage .818 to .727. Scherzer edges Kershaw in WHIP 0.90 to 0.94. Kershaw had the better strikeouts to walks ratio at 6.7 to 4.9; while Scherzer pitched 200 2/3 innings to Kershaw’s 175.  And we could go on and on. Side note: Both players lost time to injury (late July to early August) – Kershaw to back issues and Scherzer to a neck problem.  So, that too is a “wash.” 

Ultimately, Kershaw put up two more victories in four fewer starts.  That and the fact that two Nationals are among the final three, should give Kershaw s slight edge, but a Scherzer win wouldn’t surprise me.

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ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

American League …

Finalists: Andrew Benintendi, LF, Red Sox; Arron Judge, RF, Yankees; Trey Mancini, LF, Orioles

Prediction: Aaron Judge  BBRT Pick:  Aaron Judge

Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

Pre-season, BBRT really liked Andrew Benintendi for this award.  Like so many others, I did not see the Aaron Judge-ernaut coming.   No contest here: Aaron Judge hit  .284, with an AL-leading 128 runs scored, a new rookie record  (and league-leading) 52 home runs and 114 RBI. That peformance puts the AL ROY trophy in Judge’s back pocket.  Just to show how dominant (among rookies) Judge was, he led all MLB rookies in home runs, runs scored, RBI, walks, total bases, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

By the way, the other finalists had fine rookie campaigns, Trey Mancini went .293-24-78 for the Orioles and Benintendi put up a .271-20-90 line with twenty steals for the Red Sox.  But 2017 was easily “The Year of the Judge.”  But how would you like an all-rookie outfield of Mancini, Benintendi and Judge?

 

 

National League …

Finalists: Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates; Cody Bellinger, 1B, Dodgers; Paul DeJong, SS, Cardinals

Prediction: Cody Bellinger  BBRT: Pick: Cody Bellinger

The one should be closer than the AL ROY race, but Bellinger set an NL rookie-season home run record (39) – and his .267-39-97 line should bring him NL Rookie of the Year recognition. (Those 39 long balls would have gotten a lot more attention without Aaron Judge’s 52 rookie blasts in the AL). Bellinger led all NL rookies (and finished second to Judge among MLB rookies) in home runs, RBI and runs scored (87).  I did like Paul DeJong’s .285-25-65 in 108 games) from a middle-infield spot and Josh Bell also reached 26 home runs and 90 RBI, but you can’t ignore the new NL rookie home run record holder.

 

 

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MANAGER OF THE YEAR

American League …

Finalists: Terry Francona, Indians; A.J. Hinch, Astros; Paul Molitor, Twins

Prediction: Terry Francona, Indians.  BBRT Pick: Paul Molitor, Twins

Terry Francona photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Francona’s Indians won an AL-best 102 games and set a new AL- record with a 22-game winning streak. That streak, the 100-plus wins, an MLB-leading +251 run differential and a Central Division title will likely bring the Manager of the Year Award to Terry Francona.  Still, you have to consider that  A.J. Hinch’s Astros had only one less victory – scored an MLB-best 896 runs and combined MLB’s second-best home run total (238) with major league’s fewest batter strikeouts (1,087). (By contrast, the Yankees led MLB with just three more home runs than the Astros, but racked up 299 more whiffs.) A close race, but BBRT thinks Francona will edge Hinch, with voters acknowledging that winning streak.

From BBRT’s perspective (remember, I am from Minnesota), the fact that Paul Molitor brought the Twins’ home in a Wild Card spot  (one of only five AL teams over .500), with a 26-game improvement in the W-L column is worthy of consideration.  When you further consider he brought the team to the post season even after the front office went from “buyers” to “sellers” at the trade deadline – and despite a suspect pitching staff (the Twins’ staff  ERA was the highest of any team that made the post season) and the loss of key offensive force Miguel Sano)  – my vote would go to the Twin’s skipper.

National League …

Finalists:  Bud Black, Rockies; Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks; Dave Roberts, Dodgers

Prediction: Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks  BBRT Pick: Torey Luvullo, Diamondbacks

Torey Lovullo photo

Photo by Keith Allison

This race features a trio of deserving candidates.  Roberts led the Dodgers to the best record in baseball this past season (104-58), finished 11 games up on the second-place Diamondbacks, logged the NL’s best run differential (+219) and MLB’s best team ERA  – despite missing ace Clayton Kershaw for a chunk of the season. Not only that, he did it in arguably MLB’s toughest division  (both NL Wild Cards came from the West).  Even all that may not be enough to gain him Manager of the Year.

Torey Lovullo, led the Diamondbacks to a 24-game improvement (69-93 to 93-60), thanks in a significant part to Paul Goldschmidt’s MVP-caliber season and the addition of J.D.Martinez’ hot bat. Lovullo and his staff also helped bring the Diamondbacks forward from 2016’s NL-worst 5.09 ERA to 2017’s NL second-best 3.66.

Bud Black is also a strong candidate, bringing the Rockies home in a Wild Card sport (87-65 – a 12-win improvement over 2016).  Black did it despite relying n on a startying rotation that featured a quartet of rookies (Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Jeff Holman and Antonio Senzatela). Ultimately, however, this looks like a contest between Roberts and his West Division crown and Lovullo and his 24-game improvement.  I think voters will consider that the Dodgers were coming off a 2016 division title (with MLB’s largest Opening Day 2017 payroll), and give Manager of the Year to Lovullo’s in a very close contest.

Roy Halladay – Fierce Competitor, Tireless Worker, True Gentleman

Two-time Cy Young Award winner (2003 & 2010) Roy Halladay – known as a hard worker, gritty competitor and great teamate – died tragically in a small plane crash on November 7. Halladay was just 40-years-old. Halladay was an eight time All Star and three-time 20-game winner (in 16 MLB seasons). He twice led his league in wins (2003 for the Blue Jays and 2010 for the Phillies); topped his circuit in complete games seven times; and led his league in innings pitched and shutouts four times each.  Halladay pitched a perfect game on May 29, 2010 and a no-hitter in Game One of the 2010 National League Division Series. His final MLB line was 203-105, 3.38; with 2,117 strikeours (versus just 592 walks) in 2,749 1/3 innings.  Former Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro Jr. may have best summed up the character of Roy Halladay when told ESPN: “He was the single most accountable, conscientious, hard-working, dedicated player, I’ve ever been around. He was the most competitive on the mound and yet the kindest, gentlest person off the mound that you could imagine.”  Halladay was a credit to the national pastime and will be greatly missed.

 

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It’s MLB Speculation Season – To Warm Up, a Look at Six of MLB’s Worst Trades

Well, sadly, the baseball seasons is over – congratulations Astros!  We will soon be in the trading season (we are already in the speculation season).  With that in mind, Baseball Roundtable would like to dedicate this post to what BBRT sees as the half dozen worst MLB trades of all time (or, if you look at it from the other side, the six best).  Surprisingly (or maybe not), five of the six involved future Hall of Famers.

 

  1. Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees (January 1920) – for $125,000 and a $300,000 loan (reportedly to fund a Broadway show)

RuthOkay, so technically this was a sale and not a trade.  It’s still has to be here as the worst front-office move ever.

The Red Sox were moving a player who had gone 89-46 with a 2.19 ERA over six seasons in Boston. As a pitcher, Ruth was a two-time twenty-plus game winner and had led the AL in ERA, games started, complete games and shutouts once each. Not only that, he had led the American League in home runs in his last two seasons (1918-19) with the Red Sox; while going 22-12 on the mound.  His last year with Boston, Ruth hit .322 and led the AL in runs (103), RBI (113) and set a new single-season home run record (29). The final straw? Ruth was just 25-years-old.

The Red Sox sale ranks at the top because it involved the “biggest name” in the game – and the Red Sox were fully aware of what they had (and what they were giving up) and received no on-the field return.

In Ruth’s first season as a Yankee (1920), he hit .376 and obliterated his own single-season HR record with 54 long balls – out-homering every other team in the AL (the Red Sox logged 22 round trippers without Ruth) and all but one team in the NL. That season, Ruth also led the AL in runs (158); RBI (135); and walks (150).

For their $125,000, the Yankees ended up getting 15 seasons of “Ruthian” production – a .349 average, 659 (of his 714) home runs, 1,978 RBI. During his NY tenure, the Babe won ten home run titles, four times led the league in RBI, seven times topped the AL in runs scored and picked up the 1923 MVP Award.  Ruth was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the 1936 inaugural class. As the number-one bad front-office move, this one’s a no-doubter.

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  1. Christy Mathewson from the Reds to the Giants (December 1990) … for Amos Rusie

MathewsonChristy Mathewson got off to an unusual start – and was almost the Giants’ Hall of Famer that got away. In 1900, as a 19-year-old, Mathewson was tearing up the Class D Virginia-Carolina League running up a 20-2 record by mid-July.  The New York Giants noticed, signing him and bringing the teenager up to the big club. For the Giants, Mathewson went 0-3, with a 5.08 ERA – leading the New York club to send him back to Norfolk (asking for their money back).   The Reds picked up Mathewson in the off season for $100 and –  here comes the trade – sent him back to the Giants for veteran hurler Amos Rusie.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Mathewson pitched 16 more seasons for the Giants and ended up winning 372 games (188 losses) with a 2.13 ERA for New York. (He added one win, ironically, for the Reds in his last season (1916). Mathewson won 20 or more games in a season 13 times (30+ four times), led the league in ERA five times, in strikeouts five times and in shutouts four times. The Big six was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

The Christy Mathewson for Amos Rusie trade ranks right up there with the Babe Ruth sale. After all, Mathewson won 372 games for his new team, while Rusie went 0-1, 8.59 for his career after the trade (he had 246 MLB wins before the transaction). The Ruth trade gets an edge because, the move came at a time when The Babe was “peaking,” while the Mathewson/Rusie deal involved a player with potential for one the down side of a Hall of Fame career.

What did the Reds get in return?  Rusie – known as The Hoosier Thunderbolt – was a nine-season MLB veteran with 246 MLB wins (174 losses) under his belt at the time of the trade. He had won 20 or more games in all seven of his seasons with the Giants (30+ four times), had led the NL in strikeouts five times and would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame. However, Rusie (who had suffered an arm injury in 1898) had been out of baseball for two years.  Attempting a comeback, he pitched just three games for Cincinnati – going 0-1, 8.59 – before retiring. Overall, the Giants came out 372 wins to the good on this transaction – number-two on BBRT’s worse trade list.

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  1. Nolan Ryan from the Mets to Angels (December 1971) – for Jim Fregosi

RyanOkay, so maybe the Mets didn’t know what they had in Ryan. After all, he was 10-14, 3.97 the year before the trade – and Fregosi was a six-time All Star shortstop. Still, Fregosi was coming off a season when he had hit just .233-5-33 in 107 games.  What adds insult to injury on this move is that – in order to get Fregosi – the Mets also sent the Angels pitching prospect Don Rose, catcher Frank Estrada, as well as outfielder Leroy Stanton.  (Rose went 1-4, 4.22 for the Angels in 1972 and 1-4, 4.14 in three MLB seasons; Estrada had two major league at bats with the Mets in 1971 and never played in the majors again, and Stanton played five seasons for the Angels – hitting .247, with 47 home runs, 242 RBI and 35 stolen bases, numbers which exceeded Fregosi’s production for the Mets.)

Nolan Ryan had zero All Star selections before the trade and eight after the trade. Jim Fregosi was a six-time All Star before the trade and did not make another All Star squad.

Ryan, who had gone 29-38, 3.58 in five Mets’ seasons, blossomed with the Angels.  In his first year in California (1972), he was an AL All Star – going 19-16, 2.28 and leading the league in strikeouts with 329 and shutouts with nine. He spent eight seasons with the Angels, and was a five-time All Star and two-time 20-game winner during that period.  He logged 138 of his ultimate 324 MLB wins in an Angels’ uniform. (His line with the Angels was 138-121, 3.07.) He also led the AL in strikeouts seven times in his eight Angels’ seasons, topping 300 whiffs five times. Ryan notched 2,416 of his MLB-record 5,714 strikeouts and four of his record seven no-hitters as an Angel. He achieved free agency after the 1979 season and left the Angels for the Astros. But clearly, the Halos got plenty of mileage out of this ultimately Hall of Famer (inducted 1999) after the Fregosi trade.

How did the Mets’ fare? Fregosi faced some injury issues and, in his first year as a Met (primarily playing 3B), hit .232-5-32 in 101 games – remarkably similar to his previous season with the Angels. He was on the same track in 1973, hitting .234-0-11 in 45 Mets’ contests before being sold to the Rangers on July 11 of that season.  Fregosi finished an 18-season MLB career in 1978 with a career .265 average, 151 home runs and 706 RBI.

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  1. Lou Brock (along with Jack Spring and Paul Toth) from the Cubs to the Cardinals (June 1964) – for Ernie Broglio, Bobby Shantz and Doug Clemens

BrockFirst a look at the two principal in the trade – Lou Brock and Ernie Broglio.

The 25-year-old Brock was in his fourth season with the Cubs at the time of the trade – and was hitting .251, with two home runs, 14 RBI and ten stolen bases (52 games). The previous year, he appeared to have broken out, going .315-14-58 (with 43 steals for the Cubs). Still his .251 average seemed more in line with his .263 and .258 averages in his first two Cubs’ campaigns.

Broglio was a veteran pitcher – at age 28, in his sixth major league season. He had been a 21-game winner in 1960 and an 18-game winner the season before the trade (18-8, 2.99 for the Cardinals in 1963). At the time of the trade, he was 3-5, 3.50 in 11 starts.

Brock went on to play 16 seasons (including 1964) with the Cardinals, hitting a healthy .297, with 149 home runs and 900 RBI. He also swiped 938 bases – leading the league in steals eight times, with a high of 118 in 1974. He was a six-time All Star for Saint Louis and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985. Broglio was with the Cubs until 1966, winning just seven games (losing 19) with a 5.40 ERA.  Clearly, advantage Cardinals.

In 1968, 29-year-old Lou Brock in the fifth of 16 seasons with the Cardinals, led the NL with 46 doubles, 14 triples and 62 stolen bases. In 1968, 32-year-old Ernie Broglio was out of the major league. Following the trade for Brock, he won just seven more MLB games (19 losses).

But what about the others in the trade?

Going with Brock to the Cardinals were southpaw Jack Spring (a journeyman who had started the season with the Angels and was 0-0, 6.00 with the Cubs) and RHP Paul Toth (in his third, and final MLB season), who was 0-2, 8.44 at the time of the trade.  Spring pitched in just two games for the Cardinals in 1963 (three innings). His final MLB season was 1965 (1-2, 3.74 for the Indians) – and he was 12-5, 3.74 for seven teams in eight MLB seasons. Toth did not pitch in the majors again after the trade and finished his MLB career at 9-12, 3.80 in three seasons.

Along with Broglio, the Cardinals sent veteran (38-year-old) southpaw Bobby Shantz – a former MVP, for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1952. Shantz was winding down his career as a reliever and was 1-3, 3.12 at the time of the transaction. Also included in the deal was outfielder Doug Clemens hitting .205-1-9 at the time of the deal. Shantz went 0-1, 5.56 for the Cubs (20 games) before being sold to the Phillies in mid-August. He went 1-1, 2.25 for the Phillies and retired after the 1964 season. Clemens did pay some dividends. After the trade, he hit .279, with two home runs and 12 RBI in 54 games for the Cubs.  He then hit .221-4-26 in 128 games in 1965. He was traded to the Phillies for Wes Covington before the 1966 season. Covington got in just nine games for the Cubs before he was released. Clearly, this was a “Two-B” trade – Brock for Broglio – and if the Cubs had seen what was to be, they would probably have hung on to Brock.

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  1. Dennis Eckersley from the Cubs to the A’s (April 1987) – for David Wilder, Brian Guinn, Mark Leonette

EckThis was a trade that was made to look awfully good, thanks to the insight of the coaching staff.  After the 1986 season, the future of the 31-year-old Eckersley seemed questionable. In 1986, the former 20-game winner (20-8, 1978) –  in his twelfth MLB season and third season with the Cubs – faced a bout with shoulder tendinitis and put up a disappointing 6-11 record, with  a 4.67 ERA. The Cubs showed little patience, but perhaps they should have. Eckersley’s career MLB record at the time was 151-128, 3.67 (376 games/359 starts) and he’d been a respectable 11-7, 3.08 in 1985. Even in 1986, he had pitched 200+ innings, given up the fewest walks per nine innings among NL starters and put up a 3.19 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Regardless, Eckersley was sent off to Oakland in a trade for three minor leaguers: outfielder Dave Wilder (who hit .301 at AA in 1986); SS/2B Brian Guinn (.277-5-64 at AA/AAA in 1986); and RHP Mark Leonette (6-4, 3.78 at AA in 1986).  The return on “Eck” wasn’t exactly overwhelming – none of the three ever played in the major leagues.

Initially, Eckersley’s role in Oakland was not overly promising. He was relegated to the bullpen, although he did get two starts in May – pitching 11 2/3 innings, giving up nine runs and taking two losses. Then, an arm injury to Oakland’s Jay Howell left an opening for a closer – and the A’s staff saw potential in the Eckersley combination of grit and control.  They moved him into the closer’s role – and Eckersley’s career we revitalized at age 32. Eckersley saved 16 games in the last half of 1987 – and never looked back.  He led the AL in saves with 45 in 1988.

Dennis Eckersley’s 320 saves gave Oakland a pretty good return on three minor leaguers who did not play in the majors.

Eckersely pitched for the A’s from 1987 through 1995, notching 320 saves, a 2.74 ERA and 658 strikeouts (versus just 92 walks) in 637 innings.  He was an All Star four times with Oakland. In 1992, he went 7-1, with a league-leading 51 saves and a 1.91 ERA – winning both the Cy Young Award and AL MVP honors. In February of 1996, the A’s traded Eckersley to the Cardinals for reliever Steve Montgomery – a bad trade of their own, since Montgomery pitched  in just 12 games for the A’s (1996-97), going 1-1 with an ERA north of 9.00, while Eckersley saved 66 games in the next two seasons for the Cardinals

Eckersley retired in 1998, with a career record of 197-171, with 390 saves and a 3.50 ERA. That earned him induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame (2004).

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  1. George Foster from the Giants to the Reds (May 1971) – for Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert

fosterHere’s a trade the paid great dividends, thanks in part to the patience of the Cincinnati Reds’ organization.

George Foster came up with the Giants for the proverbial “cup of coffee” in 1969 (as a 20-year-old) and 1971 – getting into 18 games and hitting .333, with one home run and four RBI. (In 1970, he was .308-8-66 in 114 games as Triple A.) Foster started slowly for the Giants in 1971 – hitting .267, with three home runs and eight RBI in 36 games before being traded to the Reds in May. In 104 games for the Reds that season, he hit .234 with 10 home runs, 50 RBI and seven steals. In 1972, Foster played just 59 games for the Reds – going .200-2-12.  He split the following year between Cincinnati and the Triple A Indianapolis Indians – where he started to show a little pop (15 home runs in 134 games at AAA).  In 1974, Foster was still developing, going .264-7-41 in 106 games for the Reds.  It was in 1975 that the patience of the Reds – and this trade – began to pay off. From 1975-81, Foster was an All Star five times, hitting .297, with 221 home runs and 749 RBI over that span. In those seven seasons, he led the league in home runs twice (a high of 52 in 1977), RBI three times and runs scored once.  He was an integral part of the Big Red Machine – and won the NL MVP Award in 1977 (.320-52-149).

Hard to fault the Giants for not seeing Foster’s full potential. He didn’t make his first All Star team until his sixth season with the Reds. From 1971-74, Foster’s first four campiagns with the Reds, he played in 286 games for Cincinnati, hitting .247, with 23 home runs and 143 RBI. In 1977 alone, he topped his 1971-74 Reds’ totals in hits, runs scored, home runs and RBI. (1971: .320-59-149, with 197 hits and 124 runs scored.)

The return for the Giants? Frank Duffy had just 19 games in the MLB (for the Reds) at the time of the trade, with a .185 average.  He played in just 21 games for the Giants in 1971, hitting 179. After the season, Duffy was part of another major trade, getting sent to the Indians (along with Gaylord Perry) for veteran pitcher Sam McDowell. McDowell pitched part of two season for the Giants, going 11-10, 4.36. Geishert was a right-headed pitcher who had seen action for the Angels in 11 games in 1969 (1-1. 4.65). He did not appear in the major leagues again.  Side note: Duffy actually went on to a ten-year MLB career (six years with the Indians) as a slick-fielding shortstop (he hit just .232 in 915 MLB games)

Primary resources: Society for American Baseball Research; Baseball-Almanac.com; Baseball-Reference.com

 

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A Unique Place in MLB History – Well, That Didn’t Last Long

With the post-season nearly at a close, it’s time for the next Baseball Roundtable Facebook (fan) Page Bobblehead Giveaway – as well as a bit of MLB trivia to pass the time until tonight’s Game Five first pitch.  Note:  So far this season, BBRT has given away Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Harmon Killebrew and Miguel Sano “bobblers.” Check the end of this post for the next pair of giveaways.

At the conclusion of the 2008 MLB season, there had been 241 instances of MLB switch hitters bashing home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game. Yet, in more than 130 years of MLB history (1876-2008), no player had ever accomplished the feat on Opening Day.

The "one and only" - at least for an inning - Felipe Lopez.

The “one and only” – at least for an inning – Felipe Lopez.

Then, on Opening Day (April 6) 2009, as the Diamondbacks faced off against the Rockies in Arizona, Diamondbacks’ second baseman and leadoff hitter Felipe Lopez opened the bottom of the first with a home run to left (hit left-handed) on a 1-1 pitch off right-handed Rockies’ starter Aaron Cook – starting Lopez’ season with a bang and giving the D-backs an early 1-0 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, Lopez found himself again leading off an inning – this time with Arizona trailing 6-4.  Lopez was facing southpaw reliever Glendon Rusch. Batting from the right-side, Lopez took a 1-0 Rusch offering deep to center field, becoming the first MLB player to homer from both sides of the plate on Opening Day – a feat more than 100 seasons in the making.

How long did Lopez hold his unique position in the MLB record books? Final Answer – just one inning. In the bottom of the third, the D-backs’ switch-hitting first baseman Tony Clark had hammered a two-run homer to right-center off Cook. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, Clark (like Lopez) came up against lefty Rusch – with the bases empty, one out and the score knotted at seven apiece. Clark took Rusch out of the park to center (a 1-1 pitch), joining Lopez as one of just TWO players to homer from both sides of the plate in an Opening Day game.  Somewhat ironically, Lopez and Clark would hit a combined total of only 13 home runs in 2009 – and, by the end of July, neither player would be on the Diamondbacks’ roster – Lopez traded to the Brewers and Clark released. (Oh yes, the D-backs won that Opening day contest 9-8.)

Note: Lopez ended the 2009 season with a .310-9-57 stat line; while Clark finished the year at .182-4-11. 

Yasmani grandal photo

Photo by apardavila

For those who track such things, a third player has since belted home runs from both sides of the plate on Opening Day. On April 3 of this season, as the Dodgers opened the season by trouncing the Padres 14-3, LA catcher Yasmani Grandal hit a solo home run (left-handed) off Padres’ starter Jhoulys Chacin in the bottom of the third and a solo shot (right-handed) off southpaw Jose Torres in the eighth. Grandal ended the season at .247-22-58.  It was the third time Grandal homered from both sides of the plate in a game in his career.

 

 

 

Some additi0nal facts about hitting home runs from both sides of the plate:

  • The first recorded instance of an MLB player homering from both sides of the plate in one game goes to Philadelphia Athletics’ outfielder Wally Schange in an Athletics’ 8-2 victory over the Yankees on September 8, 1916.
  • Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher share the record for most games with home runs from both sides of the plate at 14.
  • Nine players achieved the feat of homering from both sides of the plate in a game in 2017 – with the Indians’ Jose Ramirtez and Carlos Santana accomplishing the feat a combined five times:   Freddy Galvis (Phillies); Marwin Gonzalez (Astros); Yasmani Grandal (Dodgers);  Aaron Hicks (Yankees); Francisco Lindor (Indians); Kendrys Morales (Blue Jays); Jorge Polanco (Twins); Jose Ramirez (Indians), three times; Carlos Santana (Indians) twice.
  • The record for hitting home runs from both sides of the plate in a game in a season is four – Ken Caminiti (Padres, 1996).
  • Three players have hit home runs from both sides of the plate in a single inning: Carlos Baerga (Indians – April 8, 1993); Mark Bellhorn (Cubs – August 29, 2002); Kendrys Morales (Angels – July 30, 2012).
  • 1996 saw an MLB-record 15 instances of a player homering from the both sides of the plate in a game:  Roberto Alomar (Orioles) twice; Ken Caminiti (Padres) four times; Raul Casanova (Tigers) twice; Chili Davis (Angels); Todd Hundley (Mets) twice; Melvin Nieves (Tigers); Ruben Sierra (Yankees);  J.T. Snow (Angels); Bernie Williams (Yankees).
  • Two players have homered from both sides of the plate in a game with five different teams: Carlos Beltran (Mets, Cardinals, Royals, Astros, Yankees); Nick Swisher (A’s, Yankees, White Sox, Indians, Braves).

Primary Resources: Baseball-Reference.com; Baseball-Almanac.com; ESPN.com; Society for American Baseball Research.

NIck Swisher photo

NICK SWISHER … ironic name for a player who earned a spot in the record books on the basis of home run power.  Photo by Keith Allison

                                        BASEBALL ROUNDTABLE FACEBOOK BOBBLEHEAD GIVEAWAY

TorreIt’s time for another BBRT Facebook bobblehead giveaway.  So far this season, we’ve given away bobbleheads of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Harmon Killebrew and Miguel Sano.  This time it’s the Hormel/Land O Lakes bobbleheads of Roger Clemens and Joe Torre.  We’ll select a random winner from those who Follow/Like the Baseball Roundtable Facebook page … click here to reach the page.  The drawing will take place shortly after the World Series concludes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ten (perhaps) “Unbreakable” MLB Records

On Wednesday night, the Dodgers and Astro combined to set a new World Series record for home runs in a game – eight. Given the current state of baseball (hard-throwing/free-swinging), the fact that the Astros and Dodgers hit a combined 479 regular-season homers and Minute Maid Park’s 315-foot left-field “porch – that record should last until at least 10 p.m. tonight.

In honor of Wednesday’s record-setting performance, Baseball Roundtable would like to look at what BBRT sees as ten of the most unbreakable MLB records. There were a couple of criteria I used to narrow the list.  I focused on the post-1900 era. This meant that Cy Young’s 511 career victories (clearly out of reach) did not make the cut (ten of Young’s 22 MLB season came before 1900), nor did Old Hoss Radbourn’s 59 wins in 1884.  I also eliminated records that had already been achieved more than once – dropping such marks as twenty strikeouts in a nine-inning game (Max Scherzer, Kerry Wood, Roger Clemens twice) or the record seven base hits in a single game (Wilbert Robinson and Rennie Stennett).  So here, in no particular order, are BBRT’s “unbreakables.”

Fifty-three seasons as a major league manager – Connie Mack (Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy). More than five decades as a manager, no one is ever going to top that.  Note: Fifty of those 53 seasons came after 1900.  By the same vein, Mack’s 3,731 wins are nearly 1,000 more than the second-best (John McGraw – 2,763). Similarly, Mack’s 3,948 managerial losses are also the all-time high. Mack managed the Pirates (1894-1896), Athletics (1901-1950). In his career, he won nine league pennants and five World Series Championships.  Mack was also an MLB player (C/1B/OF) from 1886-1896, putting up a .244-5-265 stat line.

208 1/3 innings pitched in relief in a single season … Mike Marshall.  There’s a slight chance that some rubber-armed hurler may someday reach Marshall’s 1974 MLB record of 106 appearances (particularly one of those specialists brought in to, say, get one left-handed hitter out).  However, given how pitchers are used today, 208 innings out of the pen in a single season likely will never be topped.  Heck, most starters don’t even reach 200 innings these days.  That 1974 season, Marshall went 15-12, 2.42, with 21 saves for the Dodgers.  Marshall also holds the AL record for mound appearances in a season with 90 for the Twins in 1979. Marshall played 14 MLB seasons, going 97-112, 188 saves, 3.14 in 724 games (24 starts).

120 Intentional Walks in a Season, 688 Intentional Walks in a career … Barry Bonds.  Okay, I’m not going to touch the controversy surrounding Barry Bond’s 73 home runs in a season or 762 career round trippers – but his dominance of the Intentional Walk category is monumental.   First there is Bonds’ record of 120 intentional walks in a season (2004). That season, only three players drew more total walks than Bonds drew intentional walks (Todd Helton, Lance Berkman and Bobby Abreu each drew 127 walks) – and second to Bonds’ 120 intentional passes were Jim Thome’s 26.  Further, Bonds holds the top three single-season IBB marks – and no other player has ever drawn more than 45 intentional passes in a campaign (Willie McCovey – 45 in 1969). The year Bonds drew 120 IBB, he hit .362, with 45 home runs and 101 RBI in 147 games. He also drew a record 232 total walks that season. Further, Bonds’ 688 career intentional passes are more than twice as many as the number-two player – Albert Pujols (still active) at 307.  Both these marks seem unbreakable from this vantage point.

110 career shutouts … Walter Johnson. Johnson, who pitched 21 seasons (1907-27) for the Washington Senators, tossed a record 110 shutouts in compiling a 417-279 record – leading the AL in shutouts seven times.  Second on the career shutouts list is Grover Cleveland Alexander with 90.  In today’s game, a starting pitcher can have a successful career without reaching 110 complete games – much less 110 complete-game, shutouts. (The current active leader in career shutouts is Clayton Kershaw with 15.)   Johnson’s record will stand. For those who like to know such things: Johnson led his league in strikeouts 12 times, complete games six times; wins six times; ERA five times and won a pair of MVP Awards. In 1913, he went 36-7 (leading MLB in wins and winning percentage, while also topping both leagues with a 1.14 ERA, 29 complete games, 11 shutouts, 346 innings pitched and 243 strikeouts.

Five consecutive Rookie of the Year Award winners … Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers can lay claim to a record streak of five consecutive NL Rookies of the Year Award winners:  1B Eric Karros (1992); C Mike Piazza (1993); OF Raul Mondesi (1994); P Hideo Nomo (1995); P Todd Hollandsworth (1996). I just don’t think we’ll ever see that kind of streak again.

.424 single-season batting average … Rogers Hornsby In 1924, Cardinals’ 2B Rogers Hornsby won the NL batting title with an MLB single-season record .424 average. (Interestingly, he finished second in the NL MVP voting to Dodgers’ pitcher Dazzy Vance, who went 28-6, 2.16.) In 1924, Hornsby led the NL in average, hits (227), runs scored (121), doubles (43), walks (89) and total bases (373). Hornsby hit over .400 three times in his 23-season (1915-37) MLB career – and retired with a .358 average.  From here, .400 looks pretty safe – and .424 even safer.

Carl Yastrzemski photo

Photo by highflyer16

.301 average for a batting title winner – Carl Yastrzemski. In 1968 – the now famous (or infamous) Year of the Pitcher – Red Sox’ OF Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title with a .301 average. It remains the lowest average ever for a league leader. Second place in the AL went to the A’s Danny Cater at .290.  (Pete Rose led the AL at .335.) It was, by the way, Yaz’ third batting title (.321 in 1963 and .326 in 1967). Yaz played 23 seasons for the Red Sox, hitting .285, with 452 home runs and 1,844 RBI. He won the Triple Crown and AL MVP Award in 1967; was an All Star in 18 seasons; and picked up six Gold Gloves. I doubt we will ever see another season in which the AL or NL is led by an average the barely tops .300.

41 victories in a season (post-1900)… Jack Chesbro. In 1904, the thirty-year-old Chesbro (in his sixth MLB season) went 41-12, with a 1.82 ERA and 48 complete games in 51 starts for the New York HIghlanders (Yankees). Chesbro pitched 11 MLB seasons, going 198-132, 2.69 – topping twenty wins five times. Since 1900, only one other pitcher has won at least 40 games in a season – Ed Walsh of the White Sox, who went 40-15 in 1908. Denny McLain of the Tigers is, of course, the last 30-game winner at 31-6 in 1968.

Two Grand Slam home runs in the same inning, hit by the same batter against the same pitcher … Fernando Tatis and Chan Ho Park.  On April 23, 1999 – as the Cardinals faced the Dodgers – Cardinals’ 3B (and, appropriately, cleanup hitter) Fernando Tatis came up to the plate in the third inning versus Dodgers’ starter Chan Ho Park.  The Cardinals were down 2-0, with the bases loaded and no outs.  Tatis rapped a 2-0 pitch to deep left for a Grand Slam home run. When the lineup came around again in the same inning, Park was (surprisingly) still on the mound and Tatis found himself at the plate with the bases again loaded (and two out). This time, Tatis belted a 3-2 pitch for a second Grand Slam.  Two Grand Slams by a player in one inning is probably achievement enough for this “unbreakable” list (it’s only been done this one time); but add the provision that both four-run dingers came off the same pitcher and it truly looks unbreakable.  The Cardinals won the contest 12-5 – on the strength of the 11-run third frame.

43-inches tall, MLB’s shortest player – Eddie Gaedel.  It may have been a Bill Veeck publicity stunt, but 3’ 7” – 65-pounds Eddie Gaedel is in the record books for his April 19, 1951 plate appearance (for the Saint Louis Browns) versus the Detroit Tigers. Gaedel, as expected, drew a walk and was immediately replaced by pinch runner Jim Delsing.

 

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Baseball Roundtable Rookie Doubleheader – 2017 All Rookie Team & and All-Time Rookie Seasons

Baseball Roundtable loves (and misses)  doubleheaders.  So, here is a doubleheader for readers – BBRT’s 2017 All-Rookie Team and a “baker’s dozen” of what BBRT sees as the best/most interesting rookie campaigns of all time.

The 2017 season was the Year of the Strikeout and the Year of the Home Run, with MLB setting new single-season records for both.  It was also the Year of the Rookie with both the American League and National League rookie home run records falling (and the new record holders both playing in the post season – which gives me a nice segue for this post, which focuses on rookies present and past.).

2017 saw a new MLB record for home runs in a season – 6,105 (topping the previous record of 5,693 set in 2000). MLB pitchers also fanned a record 40,105 batters (exceeding last season’s 38,892).

The rookie-season (player) records for home runs and whiffs supported this increasingly free-swinging/hard-throwing trend. Yankees’ rookie Aaron Judge set new MLB rookie records for both home runs (52) and strikeouts (208).

Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

Yankees’ 25-year-old right fielder Aaron Judge set the new American League and MLB rookie-season home run record at 52, breaking the A’s Mark McGwire’s record of 49 (set in 1987) and also set a new rookie strikeout record at 208 (erasing the Cubs’ Kris Bryant’s 2015 mark of 199).

Over in the National League, Dodgers’ 22-year-old rookie 1B/OF Cody Bellinger set a new NL rookie home run record at 39 (besting the 38 hit by the Braves’ Wally Berger in 1930 and the Reds’ Frank Robinson in 1956).  In this post, BBRT will name its 2017 All-Rookie Team, and then touch on some of the greatest rookie season of all time.

 

—–GAME ONE … BASEBALL ROUNDTABLE’S 2017 ALL ROOKIE SQUAD—–

C – Manny Pina, Brewers … (107 games) .279-9-43

The oldest player on the 2017 All-Rookie Squad, the 30-year-old backstop saw MLB action in 2011, 2012 and 2016 (a total of 38 games), but retained his rookie status for 2017. The “journeyman” (793 games in 12 minor league seasons and 164 games in seven seasons in the Venezuelan Winter League) has been best known for his defensive skills. His career minor league average is .262, and he averaged .273 in his Venezuelan tenure). He did show some pop in 2016 (.329-5-43 in 63 games at Triple A Colorado Springs).

Pina saw the most action of any MLB rookie backstop (107 games), played plus defense and put up a solid .279-9-43 line in his first full season at the MLB level.

1B – Cody Bellinger, Dodgers … (132 games) .267-39-97

While the 21-year-old Bellinger hit only .267, he was second among rookies in both round trippers (39 – a new NL rookie record) and RBI (97).  He also tossed in ten steals, and played steady defense at both first base and in left field to earn his spot on the BBRT All-Rookie Team. After playing two seasons at the Rookie level (2013-14), Bellinger unleashed his power as a 19-year-old at High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2015 – .264-30-103 in 128 games. He followed up with .271-26-71 at Double A/Triple A in 2016. When called up this season, Bellinger was hitting .343, with five home runs in 18 games at Oklahoma City.  Looks like that .267-39-97 line is one the Dodgers can count on long term.

By the way, on this team, if Bellinger was to be used in the outfield, 25-year-old Orioles’ rookie first-sacker Trey Mancini would get the nod at first base. Mancini put up a .293 average, with 24 home runs and 78 RBI. Signed out of Notre Dame (eighth round of the 2013 MLB Draft), Mancini hit .306, with 54 home runs and 275 RBI in 483 games over four minor league campaigns.

2B – Ian Happ, Cubs … (115 games) .253-24-68

Ian Happ photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Okay, things were a little thin at the keystone sack, so I’m putting in a rookie who was truly a utility player in 2017.  The Cubs’ 22-year-old Ian Happ started 41 games in center field; 28 games at second base; 11 games in left field; eight games in right field; and one at third base. Not only was he versatile in the field, he is also a switch hitter – with power. Happ put up a .253 average, with 24 home runs (eight steals) and 68 RBI in 115 games after being called up from Triple A in mid-May. At Triple A, Happ had a .298-9-25 line in 26 games. A first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2015 MLB draft, Happ recorded a .275 average, with 33 homers and 28 stolen bases in 227 minor league games. Happ played college ball at the University of Cincinnati, where he was the 2015 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

3B – Rafael Devers, Red Sox … (58 games) .284-10-30

rafael devers photo

Photo by Keith Allison

The 20-year-old Devers got a late start, making his MLB debut July 25, but he made up ground fast. In 58 games for Boston, Devers hit .284, with ten home runs, 30 RBI and 34 runs scored. Signed out of the Dominican Republic at age 16, Devers has four professional seasons under his belt. In 399 minor league games – most as a teenager – Devers hit .296 – with 49 home runs, 258 RBI and 26 stolen bases.  When called up, he had put up a ..311-20-60 line in 86 games at Double A/Triple A.

SS – Paul DeJong, Cardinals … (108 games) .285-25-65

The 24-year-old St. Louis rookie has moved around the infield in his career – spending time at 2B, 3B and SS – and, in fact, he initially seemed destined for the hot corner. DeJong may have settled in at SS with the Cardinals in 2017, starting 85 games at short and 19 at second base. Notably, despite the position carousel, his offense has never suffered. DeJong hit .316-9-41 in 66 games at Rookie and A-Level in 2015; .260-22-73 in 132 games at Double A in 2016; and was hitting .299, with 13 home runs and 34 RBI in 48 games at Triple A before making it to the big club in 2017. With the Cardinals, the 38th Round 2014 MLB Draft pick put together a solid .285-25-65 2017 season (108 games), continuing to show good power for a middle infielder. DeJong was the NL Rookie of the Month in July, when he hit .298, with eight home runs and 16 RBI in 26 games.

Outfield – Aaron Judge, Yankees … (155 games) .284-52-114

Easy call here, with the 25-year-old Judge blasting a new MLB rookie record 52 home runs.  Despite 208 strikeouts (another rookie record), Judge hit .284, with 52 home runs, 114 RBI’s (tops among 2017 rookies), an AL-leading 128 runs (also tops among 2017 rookies).  Judge, a first–round selection in the 2013 MLB draft (number 32 overall), was selected AL Rookie of the month in April, May, June and September. Judge was drafted out of California State University Fresno, where he was All Conference in all three of his seasons. In three minor league campaigns, Judge hit .278-56-215 in 348 games.

Outfield – Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox … (151 games).271-20-90

Andrew Benintendi photo

Photo by apardavila

The 22-year-old Benintendi did a little bit of everything for the Red Sox: steady .271 average, a touch of power (20 home runs and 90 RBI, both in the top four among rookies this season) and speed (leading all 2017 rookies with 20 stolen bases).  He also scored 84 runs and drew the second-most walks among rookies (70). He topped it off with solid defense, leading all AL left fielders in outfield assists with eleven.

Benintendi was a first-round (seventh overall) pick in the 2015 MLB Draft – out of the University of Arkansas.  At Arkansas, he was the 2015 SEC Player of the Year, Baseball America College Player of the Year and recipient of both the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award.  That season, he led the Southeast Conference in batting average (.380) and home runs (19). Benintendi saw his first major league action after an August 2016 call-up, hitting .295, with two home runs and 14 RBI in 34 games.

Outfield – Jose Martinez, Cardinals … (106 games) .309-14-46

Jose Martinez is the “feel good’ story of this All-Rookie Team. The 29-year-old Martinez was signed out of Venezuela (as a teenager) in 2006. Before making his MLB debut in September of 2016, Martinez had played early 900 games with 11 different minor league teams (as well as more than 200 games in the Venezuelan Winter League). He played in the White Sox’, Braves’, Royals’ and Cardinals’ systems and, as recently as 2014, with the Frontier League (Independent) Rockford Aviators. Why his path to the major was such a long one is somewhat puzzling. In 2015, for example, he hit .384 in 98 games at Triple A Omaha and still didn’t get the call. In fact, over those many minor league games, Martinez put up a .294 average.  Martinez finally got the call in September 2016 –and hit .438 in 12 late-season contests.  This past season, he hit .309, with 14 home runs and 46 RBI – making it a pleasure to add him to the BBRT All-Rookie Squad.

Starting Pitcher – German Marquez, Rockies … (29 starts) 11-7, 4.39

The 22-year-old Marquez led (tied) all rookies with 11 victories (seven losses) and, while the 4.39 ERA was a little high, he did pitch for the Rockies. Marquez started 29 games, threw a 162 innings and led all 2017 rookies with 147 strikeouts. In 2016, Marquez went a combined 11-6, 3.13 a Double A/Triple A. Marquez was signed out of Venezuela in 2011.

White Sox’ 23-year-old righty Lucas Gioloto might have captured this spot with a few more starts.  He put up a nifty 2.38 ERA in seven starts (3-3 record), and fanned 34 batters in 45 1/3 innings.

Reliever – John Brebbia, Cardinals … (50 appearances) 0-0, 2.44

John Brebbia photo

Photo by buzbeto

Tough call here, but I’m going with the bat-missing arm of 27-year-old Cardinals’ right-hander John Brebbia,  Brebbia got into 50 games and fanned 51 batters (just 11 walks) in 51 2/3 innings, while  putting up a stingy 2.44 ERA. Like Jose Martinez, Brebbia’s is a story of perseverance.

Selected in the 30th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Yankees,  he was released by New York in December of 2013 – after a season in which he went 0-5, 4.06 at A and High A.  Brebbia played the 2014-15 seasons in the American Association (Independent league), with the Sioux Falls Canaries and Laredo Lemur, respectively. In those two campaigns, he went 10-4. with a 2.15 ERA and 20 saves in 85 appearances. He fanned 155 batters in 129 2/3 innings.  That earned him a spot in the Diamondbacks’ system. Arizona, however, gave Brebbia up in the Rule 5 Draft (Cardinals) before he pitched in the D-backs’ system. In 2016, Brebbia went 5-5, 5.03 at Double A/Triple A before getting off to a solid start at Triple A in 2017 (1-1, 1.69 in fifteen appearance) and earning his call up.

So, there BBRT’s picks for the 2017 All-Rookie Team.  Now how about some of the top rookie seasons of All Time.

—–GAME TWO … BBRT PICKS FOR BEST/MOST INTERESTING

ROOKIE SEASONS EVER … 

Here a baker’s dozen of rookie seasons that BBRT finds either remarkable, interesting … or both.

  1. Shoeless Joe Jackson – Indians, 1911 … .408-7-83

The 23-year-old Indians’ outfielder had been called up for the proverbial MLB “cup of coffee” in 1908, 1909 and 1910, but had seen action in only 30 games – retaining his rookie status. After a 1910 season that saw Jackson hit .354 in 136 games for the Class A New Orleans Pelicans and then .387 in 20 contests for the Indians, Jackson had cemented a spot with the 1911 AL Indians’ squad.

What did he do to earn the top spot on this BBRT list? In 147 games, he hit .408, with 233 hits, 126 runs scored, 45 doubles, 19 triples, seven home runs, 83 RBI and 41 stolen bases.   Jackson’s .408 remains the 15th-highest average in any MLB season ever and the sixth-highest since 1900.  In 1911,  Jackson was second in MLB in batting average (to Ty Cobb’s .420) and one of only two players to hit .400; first in on base percentage (.468); second (to Cobb) in slugging percentage at .590; second in runs scored (again to Cobb); second in hits (Cobb); second in doubles (Cobb); and second in total bases with 337 (Cobb, 367). He finished fourth in the MVP voting.

If it took Ty Cobb in his prime to outhit you in your rookie season, you’ve earned the top spot on this list.

Jackson – caught up in the Black Sox scandal of 1919 – went on to a 13-year career in which he  averaged .356, three times led the AL in triples, twice led the AL in hits, twice topped the league in total bases and racked up single seasons leading the AL in doubles, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. By the way, Jackson hit .375 in that infamous 1919 World Series.

  1. Fred Lynn, Red Sox, 1975 … .331-21-105/ROY & MVP

LynnHow can you not have Red Sox flycatcher Fred Lynn near the top of this list? He was the first player to win Rookie of the Year and a Most Valuable Player Award in the same season. It was 1975, but Lynn had shown his promise the season before. Called up from the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox (where he hit .282-21-68 in 124 games), Lynn closed out the 1974 season hitting .419 in 15 games for Boston.  In 1975, he hit .331 (second in the AL), with 21 home runs, 105 RBI and an AL-leading 103 runs scored.  – and he won a Gold Glove for his defensive play in center field.

The first player to win Rookie of the Year and be his league’s Most Valuable Player in the same season belongs in the top five. Some may argue this placing. But that MVP Award tells you just what a force Lynn was.

Lynn went on to a 17-season career with a stat line of .283-306-1,111 and four Gold Gloves.

  1. Grover Cleveland Alexander, Phillies, 1911 … 28-13, 2.57

After going a combined 44-19, with a 1.66 ERA in two minor league seasons – D-Level Galesburg Boosters in 1909 and B-Level Syracuse Stars in 1910 (where he went 29-11) – Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander made the Phillies’ major league squad in 1911. In his rookie season, Alexander went 28-11, with a 2.57 ERA and finished third in the National League MVP race. (The 28 wins are still the post-1900 record for a rookie.) Here’s what the 24-year-old rookie right-hander accomplished: 28 wins (led NL, tied for MLB lead); 31 complete games (led NL, third in MLB); seven shutouts (led MLB); 227 strikeouts (second in NL, fourth in MLB); 37 games started (second in NL, third in MLB). 6.99 hits per nine innings (lowest in NL, second-lowest in MLB).

Twenty-eight wins as a rookie hurler (post-1900 rookie record) and a third-place finish in the MVP race – got to be in the top five on this list.

Alexander went on to a 20-season Hall of Fame career – 373 wins (208 losses); a 2.56 career ERA; 2,198 strikeouts.  He led the NL in wins six times; ERA five times; complete games six times; shutouts 7 times; and strikeouts six times.

  1. Ted Williams, Red Sox, 1939 … .327-31-145

Teddy Ball game broke into the big leagues in 1939 – a 20-year-old rookie. It was his fourth professional season and, in three minor league campaigns, his average had gone from .271 to .291 to .366. In 1939, Williams hit .327, banged out 31 home runs, led all of MLB with 145 RBI and scored 131 times. He finished seventh in the AL in batting average; fifth in hits (185); first in total bases (344); second in doubles (44); fifth in triples (11); and third in home runs (31). The Splendid Splinter finished fourth in the MVP voting in his rookie campaign.

Pretty much everything Teddy Ballgame did was impressive. So, why not his rookie numbers and ranking on this list? Might have inched up a spot or two just for being Ted Williams. 

Williams went on to a Hall of Fame career that included: six batting titles; four home run crowns; six seasons leading the league in runs scored; and four seasons at the top of the RBI list. In 19 MLB seasons, Williams also put up an MLB career-best .482 on-base percentage – leading the AL in that category 12 times.

  1. Fernando Valenzuela, Dodgers, 1981 … 13-7, 2.48/ROY & CYA

ValenzuelaValenzuela went just 13-7 in 1981 – but, remember that was a strike season and no pitcher won more than 14 games.  In fact, Valenzuela’s 13-7, 2.48 ERA record earned him Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award honors, as well as a top-five finish in the MVP voting. The 20-year-old rookie also led the league in starts (25), complete games (11), shutouts (8) innings pitched (192 1/3) and strikeouts (180).  Valenzuela went on to a 17-season career (173-153, 3.54).

Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award at age 20 is enough to place this high – and he gets extra points for the fervor that was Fernando-mania.

 

 

  1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals, 2001 … .329-37-130/ROY

At the ripe young age of 21, Pujols put up the first in a string of remarkable seasons –  earning the 2001 Rookie of the Year Award and a fourth-place finish in the MVP balloting. Pujols hit .329, with 37 home runs, 130 RBI and 112 runs scored.  Over the first ten seasons of his career, he topped a .300 average, 30 home runs and 100 RBI every season.

Pujols scores points for making a .300-30-100 season seem a bit mundane – right from his rookie season.  He also gets extra credit for versatility. In his rookie season, Pujols started 53 games at 3B; 38 in LF; 33 in RF; 31 at 1B; and 2 at DH.

As of the end of the 2017 season, Pujols’ stat line is .305-614-1,918.  He has led his league in runs scored five times, home runs twice, RBI once and average once. As a rookie, he got a Hall of Fame career off to a great start

  1. Aaron Judge Yankees, 2017 … .284-52-114

We’ve already talked about the 25-year-old Judge and his.284-52-114 season (with a league-leading 128 runs and a surprising nine stolen bases). Who knows where “Da Judge” will go in the future.  A good sign is Judge’s bounce back after a tough August this past season (.185 average with just three home runs) to hit .311, with 15 homers in September/October.

The all-time rookie record for home runs has got to earn a top-ten finish.

  1. Mark McGwire, A’s 1987 … .289-49-118/ROY

McGwire’s original call up was not an eye-opener (18 games in 1986, with a .189-3-9 stat line.) But he made good on his promise in his first full season – going .289-49-118 for the A’s as a 23-year-old in 1987; and setting a rookie HR record that stood for three decades.  McGwire went on to a 16-season MLB career in which he hit .263, with 583 long balls and 1,414 RBI. McGwire led his league in home runs four times (a high of 70 in 1998) and in RBI once (147 in 1999).

The rookie numbers of Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge look remarkably similar. They should be placed close together on this list.

  1. Russ Ford, Yankees, 1910 … 26-6, 1.65

Unlike many of the players on this list, after a spectacular rookie season, right-handed hurler Russ Ford did not go on to a long and illustrious MLB career. Before making the New York Highlanders (Yankees) roster in 1910, Ford did get a somewhat disastrous “cup of major league coffee” in 1909 – one game, three innings pitched, four hits, four walks, three hit batsmen, three earned runs, two strikeouts.

Still a rookie in 1910, the 27-year-old righty went 26-6 with a 1.65 ERA. The 26 wins remains the American League rookie-season record. In his initial full campaign, Ford was second in the AL in wins (26); second in winning percentage (.813); seventh in ERA (1.65); fourth in strikeouts (209); fifth in games started (33); fourth in complete games (29); second in shutouts (8); allowed the fewest hits per nine innings (5.89), and had the second-lowest Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched (0.88).  On a Highlanders’ team that finished second with an 88-63 record, Ford led the team in virtually every positive pitching category.

Have to give a solid spot to the holder of the AL victory record for rookie pitchers.

Ford followed that rookie season with a 22-11, 2.27 record in 1911, but then led the AL in losses (13-21, 3.55) in 1912 and lost 18 games (versus 12 wins) in 1913. He jumped to Buffalo of the Federal League in 1914, going 21-6, 1.82 … and 5-9, 4.52 in 1915. Historians report that Ford’s career was cut short (he did not pitch in the majors after 1915) with the banning of his signature pitch – the well-scuffed “emery ball.”  His final MLB line, over seven seasons, was 99-71, 2.59.

  1. Dale Alexander, 1929, Tigers … .343-25-137

AlexDale Alexander is one of two “Oh my, what could have been!” stories on this list. Alexander broke in at first base with the Tigers in 1929 – after six minor league seasons in which he hit .333 (in 2,924 at bats). The year before he made the Tigers’ squad, Alexander hit .380-31-144 with 15 stolen bases at Toronto of the Double A International League.  As an MLB rookie, Alexander played in all 155 Tigers’ games, hitting .343 (tenth in the league), leading the league with 215 base hits, blasting 25 home runs (fifth in the AL) and driving in 137 runs (third).

A durable player, Alexander again played in every Tigers’ game in 1930, this time hitting .326-20-135.  He went on to a .325 average (just three home runs) in 1931 and .367-8-60 (and an AL batting title) in 1932 (a season which included a trade to the Red Sox). Over his first four full seasons, Alexander averaged .338.

In a five-season MLB career – cut short by a truly unexpected injury/health catastrophe – Alexander hit .331, with 61 home runs, 459 RBI and 20 stolen bases.  His lost potential deserves recognition among the top ten rookie seasons.

In May of 1933, Alexander suffered a knee injury and was subjected to a new deep-heat treatment. Unfortunately, Alexander was left in the “diathermy” machine too long and suffered third-degree burns to his leg. Initially, there was concern that he might actually lose the leg, but amputation was avoided. However, the burned and scarred leg did not fully recover, limiting Alexander’s mobility and marking 1933 as his final MLB season. (He did continue to play in the minor until 1942).

  1. Mike Trout, Angels, 2012 … .326-30-83/ROY

Mike Trout joined the 30-30 club in his first full MLB season (at the age of 20) – going .326-30-83, with a league-leading 49 stolen bases. He also led the league in runs scored with 149. That performance earned him Rookie of the Year honors and a second-place finish in the AL MVP voting. (Note: Trout hit .220 in a 40-game call up in 2011.)

Mike Trout gets extra credit for consistency. In his first six full MLB seasons, he finished lower than second in the MVP voting only once (2017, when injuries limited him to 114 games) – capturing the award in 2014 and 2016.  I would certainly not argue with those who would place his rookie season a few spots higher on this list.  Trout’s consistent performance may have me taking those rookie numbers for granted. 

In six full MLB seasons, Trout has led the AL in runs scored four times, RBI once, stolen bases once, walks twice, on base percentage twice, slugging percentage twice and total bases once.  His current career stat line: .306-201-569, with 165 stolen bases.

  1. Tony Oliva, Twins 1964 … .323-32-94/ROY

OlivaThe 25-year-old Oliva won the AL batting crown in his rookie season with .323 average. He also led the AL in hits (217), runs scored (109), doubles (43) and total bases (374). Despite being hampered by knee injuries in the latter part of his career, Tonu-O went on to 15 MLB seasons that included three batting crowns, five seasons leading the league in hits and four seasons topping the AL in doubles.  Oliva’s career stat line: .304-220-947.

Extra credit to Tony Oliva for following up his rookie batting title by becoming the only player to win a batting title in his first two full seasons (.323 in 1963, .321 in 1964). He also led the league in base hits his first three full seasons.

 

 

13.  Mark Fidrych, Tigers, 1976 …19-9, 2.34/ROY

FidrychAt 21, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych took baseball – and, in particular, Detroit baseball –  by storm. Statiscally, he went 19-9, with a league-low 2.34 ERA and a league-high 24 complete games.  His performance won him Rookie of the Year honors and second place in the Cy Young Award balloting. His 19 wins were third in the AL – keeping in mind that he opened the year in the bullpen and didn’t get his first start until May 15.  He went on to throw complete games in his 11 of his first 12 starts.

 

Fidrych makes this list as much for his antics on the mound – and popularity with the fans – as for his stellar rookie numbers. How can you not recognize a season in which a team draws more than twice as many fans at home for a specific pitchers’s starts?  In 1976, the Tigers’ average home attendance on a non-Fidrych start days was 13,843; while the team averaged 33,649 when The Bird started on the Detroit home mound. Some might have put Dwight Gooden in this spot, but all those complete games outweighed the strikeouts for me. 

In Spring Training 1977, Fidrych injured his knee, but recovered and got off to a good start that season. Going into July, Fidrych was 6-2, with a 1.83 ERA and seven complete games in eight starts.  Then, in a July 4 start against the Orioles, he felt something wrong in that valuable right wing (giving up six runs in 5 2/3 innings). He tried a couple more outings (a total of seven runs in 6 1/3 innings) before shutting down. He really never was the same again – eventually having shoulder surgery – and won only four more MLB games after July 1977.  Some think the knee injury may have led him to alter his delivery, while others point to the workload of all those complete games.  Either way, like Dale Alexander’s, this is an “Oh my, what might have been!” kind of story.   The Bird’s final stat line: 29-19, 3.10.

VERY SPECIAL RECOGNITION

Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners, 2001 … .350-8-69/ROY & MVP

IchiroOkay, I know Ichiro Suzuki should probably be on this list – probably right up there around Ted Williams and Fred Lynn. After all, as a 27-year-old MLB rookie, he led the AL with a .350 average and 242 hits – and added a league-leading 56 stolen bases and a Gold Glove. It’s just that those nine seasons in Japan (.353 average and seven batting championships) make it hard from me to figure out where to place him with more traditional rookies.

Still, like Elvis, Cher and Madonna, Ichiro is a star that needs only one name.  After a spectacular rookie season in MLB, Ichiro just kept on hitting.  He amassed  200+ hits in each of his first ten MLB seasons, leading the league in safeties seven times – and picked up a pair of batting titles along the way.  He was also a Gold Glover in each of his first ten seasons. To date, Ichiro has a .312 MLB average, 3,080 hits, 117 home runs, 780 RBI, 1,415 runs scored.  And let’s not forget those 1,278 hits in Japan.  The man is a hitting machine – and earns special recognition for a spectacular MLB rookie season.

Primary sources: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); Baseball-reference.com; MLB.com; Baseball-Almanac.com

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Post-Season Trivia – The Only Player to Play His Entire MLB Career in the Post Season

The  2017 post season continues to provide some exciting – if at times less than crisply played – baseball. Here at Baseball Roundtable, we are celebrating the post season with some related history and trivia. Here’s the latest question.

POST SEASON TRIVIA

Who is the only player to play his entire major league career in the post season?

Okay, most of you probably remember Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez, called up by the Angels in September of 2002 – who collected five post-season victories (including a World Series win) before recording his first regular-season decision. Rodriguez, who would go on to record 437 saves in 16 MLB seasons (including an MLB-record 62 saves in 2008), pitched in five September 2002 games, fanning 13 hitters in 5 2/3 innings. That post-season he picked up two wins in the AL Division Series; two wins in the AL Championship Series; and a win and a loss in the World Series – again, all before his first regular-season decision.

Then, there is Royals’ 2B Raul Mondesi, who (in 2015) became the second player to make his MLB debut in the World Series.  Mondesi got in 72 games for the Royals in 2016-17.   And, of course (Who could forget?) outfielder Bug Holliday, who made his MLB debut in the 1885 version of the Fall Classic – as his National League Chicago White Stockings (Cubs) took on the American Association Saint Louis Browns.  (Holliday went on to a MLB career that carried into 1898.)

KigerThere is one other player who made his major league debut in the post season (the American League Championship Series). In doing so, this infielder earned a spot in baseball trivia lore, as he became (and remains to date) the only player whose entire MLB career was played in the post season. On this date (October 13) 2006, Mark Kiger made his MLB debut as a defensive replacement (2B) for the Oakland A’s in Game Three of the American League Championship Series (versus Detroit).  Kiger (who had spent the 2006 season at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento) had been added to Oakland’s post-season roster after regular 2B Mark Ellis was injured during the American League Division Series (against Minnesota). Ellis had played 124 regular season games that season – starting 121 at second base.

The A’s had started D’Angelo Jimenez (a .183 hitter in 28 games that season) at the keystone sack in each of the first three games of the series. In Game Three – already down two-games to none and trailing 3-0 in the game – the A’s pinch-hit Bobby Kielty for Jimenez in the top of the eighth inning. Kiger made his first major league appearance as a defensive replacement at 2B in the bottom of the inning and handled one fielding chance (a 6-4 force out to end the inning). Jimenez was back in the line-up at second base in Game Four and the situation played out again. Facing elimination – and with the game tied 3-3 in the top of the ninth – Kielty again pinch hit for Jimenez, with Kiger coming in at second base in the bottom of the inning. The Tigers won the game – and the Championship Series – on a three-run Magglio Ordonez’ homer in the bottom of the ninth (Kiger had no fielding chances).  With that, the A’s season and Kiger’s MLB career were over.

The A’s released Kiger in December of 2006 and he signed with the Mets’ organization about a month later. Between 2007 and his final professional season (2009), he spent time in both the Mets’ and Mariners’ organizations, but did not make it back to the major leagues.

A few notes on Kiger:  He played collegiate baseball for the University of Florida Gators, where he put up a stat line of .314-8-57 in 2000 and .314-2-31 in 2001. Then, in his senior season, Kiger hit .403, with 11 home runs, 55 RBI and 11 steals in 65 games.  He was drafted by the A’s in the fifth round of the 2002 MLB Draft. Kiger played for nine teams over eight minor league seasons – compiling a .264 average with 47 home runs, 331 RBI and 66 stolen bases over 878 games.  The year he was called up to the A’s, he had hit a combined .276-9-34 (with 11 steals) at Double A and Triple A.  His best minor league campaign was, arguably, in 2007, when he hit .297-11-52 in a combined 128 games at Double-A and Triple-A.

Primary Resources: Baseball-Reference.com; FloridaGators.com.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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Member: The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Aaron Judge – the King of Swing – and some New York World Series Trivia

NEW YORK WORLD SERIES TRIVIA

Which New York center fielder – and future Hall of Famer – hit the first World Series home run in the original Yankee Stadium?

With the Yankees advancing to the AL Championship Series, I thought I’d focus this post on New York and the post season.  Particularly, Aaron Judge.  (And, of course, the trivia question at the top of this post – which will be answered later.)

Aaron Judge photo

Photo by Keith Allison

First, let me make it clear, this is not Judge bashing.  The fact is, Judge is a true baseball “basher” and without his MLB rookie-record 52 home runs (particularly those 15 September blasts), the Bronx Bombers would not have found themselves in the playoffs. His .284-52-114 season – with a league-leading 128 runs scored and 127 walks – will certainly earn him AL Rookie of the Year honors and maybe even MVP.

Still, Judge has established himself (at least for 2017) as the King of Swing, This season Judge not only set a new rookie record for home runs, but also set a new rookie mark for strikeouts with 208 whiffs.  Along the way, Judge also set a new record (for positions players) for consecutive games with at least one strikeout (37) – tying the overall mark belonging to pitcher Bill Stoneman.

Then, during the just-ended five-game AL Division Series against the Indians, Judge set a new record for whiffs in a post-season series with 16 – breaking the old mark of 13 (held by a handful of players; more on that later). In the series (won by the New York club three-games to two), Judge had 20 at bats, with just one hit – .050 average), four walks and, of course, the 16 strikeouts.  Of those 16 K’s, seven were looking and nine were swinging. Overall, in the five-game series, Judge was “credited” with 13 runners left on base.  Judge fanned six times on full-count offerings; seven times on a 2-2 pitches; twice on 1-2; and once on 0-2.

Wondering about the overall single-season post-season strikeout record?  That belongs to another Yankee – Alfonso Soriano.  In the 2003 post-season, Soriano played in 17 games (16-for-71) and fanned 26 times (six in the four-game ALDS; 11 in the seven-game ALCS and nine in the six-game World Series.

Now, for those who are interested in the previous record holders for strikeouts in a single post-season series (don’t worry, we’ll get to that trivia question), here they are:

—Sixteen K’s on the Big Stage—

Ryan Howard, Phillies, 2009 World Series

The mark of 13 strikeouts in a single post-season series was first reached by Phillie’ slugging 1B Ryan Howard. It came in the 2009 World Series, which the Phillies dropped to the Yankees four-games to two. In the six games, Howard went 4-for-23 (.174), with two walks, one home run, three RBI – and, of course, 13 strikeouts. On the season, Howard had gone .279-45-141 in 160 games.

 

 

 

—The 2013 AL Division Series – Two 13-strikeout “Performances”—

Austin Jackson, Tigers, 2013 ALDS

Tigers’ CF Austin Jackson picked up 20 at bats in the 2013 ALDS (won by Detroit three-games to two) – fanning 13 times, while getting two hits (.100 average), one walk and one RBI.  On the season, Jackson had gone .279-12-49 in 129 games.

Brandon Moss, A’s, 2013 ALDS

Sitting in the opposite dugout from Austin Jackson was A’s 1B/DH Brandon Moss – who matched Jackson whiff-for-whiff. In five games, Moss collected 18 at bats, two hits (.111 average) one home run, one RBI and three walks.  On the season, Moss went .256-30-87 in 145 games.

—Another World Series with 13 K’s—

Javier Baez, Cubs, 2016 World Series

As the Cubs beat the Indians four-games to three in 2016 World Series. 2B Javier had 30 at bats and five hits (.167 average) to go with one home run, one RBI and his 13 strikeouts. On the season, Baez went .273-23-75 in 145 games.

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Okay, now to that trivia question.

What New York center fielder – and future Hall of Famer –  hit the first World Series home run in the original Yankee Stadium?  

On October 10, 1923 New York Giants’ center fielder Casey Stengel hit the first-ever post-season home run in the original Yankee Stadium (and the first-ever nationally broadcast World Series home run) – with a ninth-inning, game-winning, inside-the-park round tripper that  gave the Giants a 5-4 win over the Yanks. Note: Stengel was in his 12th MLB season and had hit .339 in 75 games for the Giants during the regular campaign.

For my generation, the slightly eccentric Charles Dillon Stengel, whom we knew as “The Old Professor” (Okay, “slightly” eccentric is an understatement.), is forever linked to the Fall Classic.

StengelStengel made his World Series’ (and HOF) reputation as a manager – leading the New York Yankees to ten American League pennants and seven World Series Championships – with all that success coming in a span of 12 seasons (1949-60). The seven World Series titles ties Yankee skipper Joe McCarthy for the most by any manager – and Stengel is the only manager to capture five consecutive World Series titles (1949-53). Notably,  Stengel was let go by the Yankees after managing the Bronx Bombers to the 1960 AL pennant, but losing the World Series in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The WS loss came despite the Yankees outscoring the Pirates 55-27 over the seven games. For the full story of the exciting 1960 Fall Classic, click here.

 

 

I’ll never make the mistake of turning 70 again.

The 70-year-old Casey Stengel’s comment after being released by the Yankees after managing the team to the 1960 AL pennant and a seven-game loss in the World Series.  As a 70-year-old myself, I find this quote a bit close to home.

It should be noted that Stengel’s 12-season run of success with the Yankees was sandwiched in the middle of a 25-season managerial career (Dodgers, Bees/Braves, Yankees, Mets – in that order). Stengel’s overall managerial record was 1,905-1,842, and he had only one winning season outside that 12-year Yankee stretch (77-75 with the 1938 Boston Bees).

What is sometimes lost when considering Stengel’s MLB career is his record as a player – and those years also had World Series implications. Stengel played in three Fall Classics – hitting .393 with two home runs and four RBI in 12 games. In his final World Series as a player – with his New York Giants facing the Yankees – Stengel hit .417 (five-for-12 with four walks and no strikeouts), with two home runs, three runs scored and four RBI in six games. He led the Giants (who lost the Series four-games to two) in batting average, runs scored (tied) home runs and RBI. (The rest of the Giants’ squad hit .222 versus the Bombers’ pitching._

In 14 seasons as an MLB outfielder, Stengel hit .284with 60 home runs, 535 RBI and 131 stolen bases in 1,277 games. His best season was 1914, when Stengel hit .316 (led the NL in on-base percentage at .404), hit four home runs, drove in 60 and stole 19 bases.

Primary sources:  MLB.com; Baseball-Reference.com; Society for American Baseball Research.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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Member: Society for American Baseball research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

BASEBALL ROUNDTABLE SEPTEMBER WRAP UP – PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

The regular season is over and the focus is rightly on the playoffs – but, for BBRT, there is still a look back – the monthly wrap for September.  And September was a big month, featuring everything from the Indians 26-4 won-loss record (including October 1); the toppling of both the AL and NL rookie home run records (Aaron Judge/Cody Bellinger); one qualifying .400+ hitter for the month (J.D. Martinez);  the fifth player in MLB history to play all nine positions in a single game (Andrew Romine); an MLB record-tying four-homer game (J.D. Martinez, again); a new member welcomed to the 300-K club (Chris Sale).  Details on all of this in this post – along with BBRT’s predictions for the playoffs.

SEPTEMBER – A VERY TRIBAL MONTH

You can’t talk about September without leading off with the Cleveland Indians. No team was hotter, going 25-4 (and then tacking on an October 1 win). They did it by giving up the fewest September runs (67) in all of baseball, while scoring the second-most runs (164). Who led the way? How about an ERA of 2.17 for the month, with three starting pitchers that won five game each and all recorded ERA’s under 1.50 for the month: Corey Kluber (5-0, 0.84); Mike Clevenger (5-1, 0.99); Carlos Carrasco (5-0, 1.48).  Only the Yankees outscore the Indians in September (168-164) – as the tribe put up MLB’s highest team average (.283) and the fourth-most home runs (44). The offense was led by 3B Jose Ramirez (.393-9-21); DH Edwin Encarnacion (.320-7-29). and SS Francisco Lindor (..292-8-23).

Other teams with at least twenty wins since September 1 were the Astros (21-8) and Yankees (20-9). Over in the NL, the top winner over that period was the Cubs’ squad at 19-10.  All  of these teams are going into the playoff with positive momentum.

On the other side of the coin, the Tigers went 6-24 from September 1 to season’s end – and for those who like to explore the causes, the Bengal’s September ERA was 6.62 (the next worst in MLB was the Rangers at 5.79). The only other squad with less tha ten September/October 1 victories was the Orioles at 7-21.  While the Tigers’ gave  up the most runs in September, the Orioles downfall was offense. No team scored fewer runs in September than Baltimore, with only  83 tallies.  It was quite a let down for the Orioles, who scored MLB’s third-most runs in August (175).

Notably, MLB finished the 2017 season with three teams topping 100 victories – Dodgers (104-58); Indians (102-60); Astros (101-62) – just the sixth season in MLB history to see three teams top the century mark.  Another “100-related” development saw the Twins become the first team to lose 100 games one season (103 losses last year) and make the post-season the following year.

Normally, this is where BBRT would list current Division and Wild Card leaders.  Since we are at season’s end, I’ll instead share my views on the playoffs.  As usual, the full standings and last month’s team-by-team won-lost records are provided near the end of this post.

BASEBALL ROUNDTABLE PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS (GUESSES)

—-NATIONAL LEAGUE—

WILD CARD

Diamondbacks top Rockies … Have to go with Zack Greinke over Jon Gray – and J.D. Martinez and Paul Goldschmidt should provide all the offense Greinke needs. Also, Greinke is 13-1 at home this season …  hard to go against that home field advantage (particularly when the Rockies are away from Coors).  Still, the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado should make this interesting. Greinke, I believe, will be the difference maker.

NLDS

Dodgers top Diamondbacks … Despite a September slump (and a losing 2017 record versus the Snakes), BBRT expects LA to prevail in a well-fought series. Two good offenses (slight edge D-backs), but I like Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Yu Darvish over Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Zack Godley – particularly since Greinke will be used in the Wild Card game.  Strikeout-artist Robbie Ray, however, could make a difference in this one. If he can fan double-digit Dodgers in each of two starts, the Diamodbacks could surprise, but I’ll stay with the Dodgers.

Nationals top Cubs … A pretty even matchup.  Offensively, the Cubs scored 822 runs this season, just three more than the Nationals. On the mound, the Nationals put up a 3.88 ERA to the Cubs’ 3.95.  I give the Nationals the edge on the mound, with starters Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasuburg and Gio Gonzalez all posting ERA’s under 3.00,  versus the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta (3.53), Kyle Hendricks (3.03) and Jon Lester (4.33). Before the trading deadline, the bullpen would have been the Nationals’ weak point, but they added some quality arms and it’s now a strength.  There is, however, a wild card (no pun intended) at play here – health concerns regarding the Nationals’  Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper. If those two are not able to play up to their standards, the Cubs could advance.  I’ll stick with the fellows from D.C., however.

NLCS

Dodgers over Nationals … I still like the Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish combination – plus Alex Wood  for long relief or a needed start.  Just a slight edge to the Dodgers’ there. Two good bullpens face off; call it a stalemate.  Admittedly, Nationals’ offense is superior to the Dodgers, but at this point in the post-season, pitching depth is key.  I also expect Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger to step up.  Give me the California boys.  (Side note:  Kershaw may be the difference-maker.  He has to stop a potent Washington attack – Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon – for the Dodgers to win. it’s his time.)

—AMERICAN LEAGUE—

WILD CARD

Twins over Yankees …  (Okay, so I’m a “homer,” I like my Twins chances behind veteran Ervin Santana versus 23-year-old fireballer Luis Servino). Plus, the Twins should be real loose – few expect them to win; the pressure’s on the Bronx Bombers. Also very few of these Twins have suffered through the post-season eliminations that have been dealt to the Minnesota franchise by the New Yorkers.  In a three-game set, I’d go with the Yankees, but one game, heads-up, I’m gonna stick with (and hope for) the boys from Minnesota. (Besides, I have my ALDS ducats and want to use them.) I look for Santana to be up for a big-game start – and Byron Buxton and Brian Dozier to energize the Twins’ offense.  The Twins will miss power-hitter Miguel Sano, who does not look ready for MLB pitching yet, but they did make their Wild Card run with Sano on the DL.  (Side note:  Keys for the Twins may be to get to Servino early – the back half of the NY bullpen is lights out – and to consistently pitch around Aaron Judge.)

ALDS

Indians over Twins … The Indians’ behind Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are just too tough.  Surprisingly, on offense the Tribe (led by Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion) only outscored the Twins (led by Brian Dozier, Eddie Rosario and Joe Mauer) by three runs (818-815) over the course of the season.  The Indians have a notable edge in starting pitching and the pen – an MLB-lowest team ERA of 3.30 to the Twins’ 4.59.  The Twins were the first team to come from 100 losses to make it to the post season; but the Tribe just has too much on offense and the mound.  They earned their 102 wins – and they’ll earn a move to the next round.

Astros over Red Sox … Didn’t think I’d be saying this, but Justin Verlander may make the difference in a close series here. He’s looking like the pitcher Houston needed to add to Dallas Keuchel to make their vaunted – MLB-best – offense pay off.  The Astros led all of MLB in batting average, runs scored, doubles, base hits, on-base and slugging percentage – and were second to the Yankees in home runs. The Red Sox can counter with Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz on the mound (I’d still take the Verlander/Keuchel combination at the one-two spots), but I don’t see the Boston offense (led by Mookie Betts, Andrew Benitendi and Mitch Moreland) putting enough runs on the board to match the Jose Altuve-, Carlos Correa-, George Springer-led Astros.  Consider, Houston had five players with at least 80 RBI, Boston had two.  Where’s Big Papi when you need him? My vote goes to the Astros.

ALCS

Indians over Astros … Two 100-win squads facing off – not much to choose from.  I just think the Tribe pitchers have a better chance of shutting down the Astros hitters than vice-versa.

—-WORLD SERIES—-

Indians over Dodgers …Finally, the Dodgers meet a team that can match them pitch-for-pitch (pitcher-for-pitcher). Couple that with a bit of an offensive edge for the Indians – and I like the Tribe. We could easily see a new record for total strikeouts in this Series.  I see some low-scoring games – and Francisco Lindor and CoreyKluber sharing the World Series MVP Award.

A final observation before we look at the BBRT September Players/Pitchers of the Month. MLB baseball just finished up a season that had a lot of trotting and sulking – trotting around the bases after a home run and sulking back to the dugout after a strikeout.

  • During the course of the season, MLB hitters smashed 6,105 home runs   – that’s 495 more than a year ago and 411 more than the previous season record (5,693) – set back in 2000 (the steroid-era).
  • MLB pitchers fanned 40,104 batters – the tenth consecutive season in which the record for K’s has fallen. What was the record when the streak began?  In 2008, MLB set a new season strikeout mark at 32,884 (breaking the 2001 mark of 32,404). We’re now more than 7,000 past that number.   

 

BASEBALL ROUNDTABLE PLAYERS/PITCHERS OF THE MONTH

AL PLAYER OF THE MONTH – Aaron Judge, Yankees

aARON jUDGE photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ big (6’7” – 282-pound) rookie RF came back from a tough August (.185 average, with just three home runs) to record his best month of the 2017 season.  Judge put up a .311 average for September and led the AL in home runs (15), RBI (32) and runs scored (29).  And while he struck out 32 times, he also walked a league-topping 28. His performance gave him the AL’s best numbers in on-base percentage (.463) and slugging percentage (.889). A truly dominating performance.  Judge’s big September enabled him to set a new MLB record for home runs by a rookie (52).  He finished at .284, with an AL-leading 52 home runs.  He drove in 114 and scored an AL-leading 128.

Also in the running, but well behind “Da Judge,” were Tigers’ 3B Nick Castellano (.368-7-25) and Indians’ DH Edwin Encarnacion (.320-7-29).

AL PITCHER OF THE MONTH – Corey Kluber, Indians

We had a bit of a race here, but Indians’ righty Corey Kluber edged out the competition.  Kluber was one of four AL pitchers to pick up five wins AND notch an ERA under 1.50 for the month.  Kluber was 5-1, with the league’s lowest ERA (0.84) and second-most strikeouts (50 to teammate Carlos Carrasco’s 51) – and Kluber walked only three batters in 43 innings. Kluber finished the season at 18-4, 2.25.

Other deserving AL moundsmen included: Carlos Carrasco, Indians (5-0, 1.48); another Indian, Mike Clevenger (5-1, 0.99); and former Tiger, now Astro, Justin Verlander (5-0, 1.06).

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NL PLAYER OF THE MONTH – J.D. Martinez, Diamondbacks

Diamondbacks’ RF J.D. Martinez, who came over from the Tigers in July, tore up the NL in September. Martinez led all of MLB with a .404 average, 16 home runs and 36 RBI for the month. Those numbers included an MLB record-tying four-homer game on September 4.  Martinez finished the season (Tigers/D-backs) at .303-45-104. 

Also on BBRT’s radar (but as in the Aaron Judge case, far off the pace for Player of the Month) were Nationals’ 1B Ryan Zimmerman (.329-7-20) and Rockies’ 3B Nolan Arenado, who went .333-7-19 and continued to provide Gold Glove Defense at the hot corner.

NL PITCHER OF THE MONTH – Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

Stephen Strasburg photo

Photo by dbking

Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg had a solid September, going 4-0, with a 0.83 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings. His was the lowest ERA among NL pitchers with at least 20 innings in September, his wins were second only to the Cubs’ Jon Lester (5-1, 4.18) and the 40 strikeouts tied for third.  Strasburg finished the regular season at 15-4, 2.52.

Also in the running were: the Diamondback’s Robbie Ray, who led the NL in September strikeouts (47 in 30 innings), while going 4-0, 2.40 and the Dodgers’ Rich Hill (3-2, 1.86 with 40 whiffs in 29 innings).

 

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NOW SOME STATS AND A LOOK AT SOME INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES FROM SEPTEMBER

——TEAM BATTING LEADERS FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER——

RUNS SCORED (MLB Average – 127)

NL: Marlins -151; Cubs – 146; D-backs – 143

AL: Yankees – 168; Indians  & Twins – 164

AVERAGE (MLB Average – .253)

NL:  Marlins – .279; Rockies – .270; Mets – .269

AL: Indians – .283; Royals – .279; Yankees – .273

DODGERS’ SEPTEMBER SLIDE

The Dodgers – despite finishing the season with an MLB-high 104 wins –  showed some weakness in September – with an MLB-low batting average of .223 for the month (and a 13-17 record since September 1). The Orioles were at the bottom of the AL at .224.

HOME RUNS (MLB Average – 33)

NL: D-backs – 42; Dodgers & Cardinals – 35

AL:  Yankees – 50; Mariners – 48; A’s – 46

JUST A TAD MORE PUNCH, PLEASE

The Pirates and Giants were the only teams with fewer than 25 round trippers in September, at 22 and 23, respectively.

STOLEN BASES (MLB Average – 14)

NL: Brewers -21; Mets -20; Cardinals & Marlins – 19

AL: White Sox – 22; Angels – 21; Yankees – 19

 STATION-TO-STATION

Five teams swiped fewer than ten bases in September:  The Orioles (3); A’s (4); Giants and Phillies (6); Blue Jays (7). The Royals haD the worst success rate (50 percent – 13 steals in 26 attempts); while the Yankees were the only team to reach 90 percent, with 19 steals in 21 attempts (90.5 percent).

 WALKS (MLB average – 90)

NL: Cubs -119; Brewers – 115; Cardinals – 113

AL: Yankees – 110; Indians – 103; A’s – 97

SWINGING AWAY

Nobody fanned more times in September than Rangers’ hitters – 277 whiffs. The Padres topped the NL at 269 (the MLB average for the month was 231). Only three teams recorded fewer than 200 batters’ strikeouts in September: Royals – 174; Indians – 180; Astros – 181.

—–TEAM PITCHING LEADERS FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER——

EARNED RUN AVERAGE (MLB average – 4.36)

NL: Pirates – 3.48; Nationals – 3.57; Brewers – 3.62

AL: Indians – 2.17; Yankees – 3.38; Blue Jays – 3.66

SIX RUNS A GAME – OUCH!

The Tigers had MLB’s worst September ERA at 6.62 – the only team at 6+. Five additional teams were over 5.00: Rangers – 5.79; Mets – 5.76; Marlins – 5.60; Orioles – 5.22; Padres – 5.22.

FEWEST RUNS ALLOWED (MLB average – 127)

NL: Pirates – 94; Brewers – 101; Nationals -104

AL: Indians – 67; Yankees – 98; Red Sox – 111

STRIKEOUTS (MLB Average – 231)

NL: Dodgers – 291; Cubs – 264; Nationals – 258

AL: Red Sox – 296; Yankees – 293; Indians – 288

FATTENING UP THE OLD AVERAGES

Opponents hit .313 against Tiger pitching in September.

SAVES (MLB average – 6)

NL: Nationals – 10; Philies – 9; Brewers – 8

AL: Royals – 11; Indians – 10; Astros – 10

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NOW SOME INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES TO CONSIDER.

Rookie HR Records Erased … Can You Spell That Without Any R’s?

Aaron Judge photo

Photo by Keith Allison

We saw the rookie-season AL and NL records both go by the wayside this September. On Monday, September 25, as the Yankees swamped the Royals 11-3 in New York, 25-year-old Yankee rookie Aaron Judge blasted his 49th and 50th home runs of the 2017 season – eclipsing the old rookie home run mark of 49, set by Oakland A’s Mark McGwire thirty years ago. (McGwire went .289-49-118 that season.) The 6’7”, 282-pound right fielder went two-for-four in the game, collecting three RBI (bringing his season total to 108.)  BBRT has talked about the increasing incidence of either trotting around the bases (home runs) or trotting right back to the dugout (strikeouts) in the national pastime – and Judge’s spectacular rookie season reflects that. At the time of his 50th 2017 round tripper, he also had an MLB-leading 203 strikeouts, making him the first MLB player to hit at least 50 home runs and fan at least 200 times in a season. Judge finished the season hitting  .284, with a league-leading 52 home runs and 128 RBI. He also led the league in walks (127) and strikeouts (208).  (Aaron seems a pretty good first name for a home run champ, don’t you think?) Side note: In three minor-league seasons, Judge reached 20 home runs in only one campaign – and hit 56 round trippers in 348 minor league contests.

Dodgers’ 22-year-old rookie 1B/OF Cody Bellinger’s timing was just a little bit off.  He picked “The Year of the Judge” to break the NL rookie season HR record, bashing his 39th of the season on September 22 – as his Dodgers faced the rival Giants in LA. The record of 38 had been shared by the Braves’ Wally Berger (1930) and Reds’ Frank Robinson (1956). Bellinger went one-for-three, with three RBI in the 4-2 Dodger win. At games end, his stat line was .274-39-94.  Bellinger finished the season at .267-39-97.

J.D. Martinez – a FOUR-midable Per-FOUR-mance

Four is a good number for the Diamondbacks’ J.D. Martinez.  On September FOURth, Martinez became the second player to hit FOUR home runs in a game this season (the Reds’ Scooter Gennett did it on June 6) and only the 18th player in MLB history to accomplish that feat. Martinez got off to a slow start – striking out in his first at bat (second inning).  He went  on to hit a two-run homer off the Dodgers’ Rich Hill in the FOURth; a solo shot off Pedro Baez in the seventh; a solo homer off Josh Fields in the eighth; and a two-run home run off Wilmer Font in the ninth – joining the Dodgers’ Gil Hodges (1950) and Braves’ Joe Adcock (1954) as the only players to hit FOUR home runs off FOUR different pitchers in one game.   (Oh yes, and the D-backs won 13-0, with Martinez driving in six.) Martinez was traded from the rebuilding Tigers to the D-backs in mid-July for a trio of prospects.  It turned out to be a pretty good deal for Arizona.  In 57 games for Detroit, Martinez hit .305, with 16 home runs and 39 RBI.  In 62 games with the D-backs, he went  .302-29-65.

Got A Little Time on Your Hands?

On Monday, September 4 – that would be Labor Day – A’s and Angels’ pitchers got in plenty of work. In a game that took 11 innings and four hours and 38 minutes, fans got to see 20 runs (Angels won 11-9), 30 hits and nine walks.  They also got to sit through 18 pitching changes – with 20 total pitchers used: 12 by the Angels and eight by the A’s. As always, for those who are interested in such things, the record for pitchers used in a game is 24 – in a September 15, 2015, 5-4, 16-inning Rockies’ win over the Dodgers in LA; a night game that started at 7.10 p.m. Tuesday and ended after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.  Thanks to September rosters, not only were 24 pitches used, but a record 58 total players appeared in the contest. What is surprising is that after six innings, each team had used just one pitcher. The game featured eleven pinch hitters and three pinch runners.

I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

Jose Ramirez Indians photo

Photo by Keith Allison

On September 3, Indians’ 2B Jose Ramirez tied a an MLB record – with a little help from his “friends” – by collecting five extra-base hits in a single game. As the Indians topped the Tigers 11-1 in Detroit, Ramirez collected two home runs and three doubles.  A couple of interesting tidbits about those homers: 1) Ramirez hit one from each side of the plate (the third time he accomplished that this year); 2) Both home runs were assisted by outfielders (hand/glove) before falling in for four-base hits.

His first home run, in the opening inning, was to left, where Tigers’ LF Mike Mahtook was ready to play the ball off the wall. Ramirez’ smash hit the top of the wall and bounced twice before rebounding toward the field. Mahtook jumped up, attempting to snag the ball with his bare hand – and managed to bump/bounce the horsehide over the fence.  Then in the sixth inning, Ramirez hit a long line drive to right field, where Tigers’ RF Alex Presley jumped to make the catch, only to have the ball bounce off his glove, into the stands and back onto the field for another home run.  Ramirez ended the day five-for-five, with three runs scored and five driven in. The big day made Ramirez just the 13th player to record five extra-base hits in a game.

Hey, Mikey Likes It!

While the Royals still don’t have a 40-HR season by any player in team history, they came close this season, as 3B Mike Moustakas rapped 38 round trippers, topping Steve Balboni’s previous Royals’ record of 36, set in 1985. Moustakas finished the season at .272-38-85. He, at one time, looked like a pretty safe bet to reach 40, but poled only three home runs in September/October.

Touch ‘Em all Andrew Romine

Photo by GabboT

Photo by GabboT

On the final day of September, outgoing Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus gave Tigers’ utlity player supreme Andrew Romine a chance to play his way into the MLB record books. As Detroit topped Minnesota 3-2, Romine became just the fifth player in MLB history to play all nine positions in a single game.  Romine was a well-deserving candidate for this achievement. Going into the game, his 2017 season had included: one game at pitcher; 21 games at 1B; 25 games at 2B; 22 game at 3B; nine games at SS; 17 games in LF; 23 games in CF; 10 games in RF.  Notably, the last player to play all nine positions in one game was also a Tiger suiting up against the Twins (Shane Halter – October 1, 2000). Others in the nine-position club: Bert Campaneris – Athletics – September 8, 1965); Cesar Tovar – Twins – September 22, 2968; Scott Sheldon – Rangers – September 6, 2000).

2017 – It’s All About the Long Ball

On September 12, the Twins used the long ball to power a 16-0 drubbing of the Padres in Minnesota.  The Twins’ home runs went like this:

First Inning – Brian Dozier (solo)

Second Inning – Jorge Polanco (two-run)

Third Inning – Jason Castro (two-run)

Fourth Inning – Eddie Rosario (two-run)

Fifth Inning – Jason Castro (solo)

Sixth Inning – Eduardo Escobar (solo)

Seventh Inning – Kennys Vargas (three-run)

The outburst made the Twins the first MLB team to homer in each of  the first seven innings of a game.

Yes, We Do Keep Track of Everything In Baseball

BBRT has long maintained we do keep track of everything in baseball. For example, in Game Three of the 1964 World Series, Yankee starter Jim Bouton – small cap, forceful follow-through – lost his hat a well-documented 37 times, a World Series record.  Oh. by the way, Bouton got the win – a complete game, six-hitter in which he gave up only one unearned run, as the Yankees triumphed 2-1.

Francisco lindor photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Now to 2017. On September 20, the Indians’ exciting young shortstop Francisco Lindor rapped his 31st home run of the season – setting a new record for most home runs in a season by a switch-hitting shortstop.  Previously Jimmy Rollins (Phillies, 2007) and Jose Valentin (White Sox, 2004) shared their record at 30.  Lindor extended the record, going .273-33-89 on the season.

 

 

Three-for-One

On September 8, the Tigers turned their first triple play since 2001 – as part of a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays.  It came in the sixth inning. With Kendrys Morales on first, Justin Smoak on second, one run already in, no outs and the speedy Kevin Pillar at the plate, Detroit’s 4-1 lead looked to be in jeopardy. According to Tigers’ 3B Jeimer Candelario, veteran 2B Ian Kinsler told him to “… be ready for the triple play” before the ball was hit. Pillar scorched a ball down the third base line to Candelario, who corralled it, stepped on the bag and threw to Kinsler covering second. Kinsler then relayed the ball to Efren Navarro at first to beat Pillar and complete the triple killing.  If you are interested in such things, the Society for American Baseball Research documents 716 triple plays in MLB history – seven in 2017.  The record for triple plays in a season is 19 (in 1890).  Post-1900, eleven is the top mark (1924, 1929, 1979).  The most triple plays turned by a team in a season is three (eleven times, most recently the 2016 White Sox).

The Minnesota Twins are the only team to turn two triple plays in a single game – a pair of around-the-horn (5-4-3 … Gary Gaetti to Al Newman to Kent Hrbek) triple killings in a 1-0 loss to the Red Sox  July 17, 1990.

Setting Sale for the 300-Club

Chris sale Red Sox photo

Photo by Keith Allison

On September 20, starter Chris Sale went eight innings for the Red Sox, as they topped the Orioles 9-0 in Baltimore. In the process Sale fanned 13 Orioles, making him just the 39th MLB pitcher overall and 16th since 1900 to reach the 300 mark in a season.  For the full story and more on 300+ strikeout seasons, click here.  Sale, by the way, finished the campaign with 308 strikeouts in 214 1/3 innings pitched.

 

 

 

Indians Run the Table

If it had been a game of billiards, the Indians would have run the table. The Indians did not lose a game in September until the 15th – capping a 22-game winning streak that stretched back to August 24. A few tidbits from the incredible run:

  • The Indians outscored their opponents 142-37 during the streak – a 4.8-run average margin of victory.
  • The Indians’ hit .306 during the streak, while the Tribe’s pitching staff put up a 1.58 ERA over the 22 contests.
  • During the streak, the Indians hit 41 home runs – four more than the TOTAL RUNS scored by the opposition.
  • It was the longest-ever winning streak in AL history (beating Oakland’s 20-gamer in 2002) – second longest in MLB history (the 1916 Giants had a 26-game unbeaten streak, which included a tie).
  • Their 15-0 start to September tied the record for the best start in any month in MLB history (June 1991 – Twins and September 1977 – Royals).

See Ball – Hit Ball

On September 19, Rockies’ CF Charlie Blackmon became the first player to reach 200 hits during the 2017 season – and it was just TWO much.  He reached two-hundred with a two-out, two-run, two-base hit in inning number two of the Rockies’ 4-3 loss to the Giants.  Blackmon ended the season with a line of .331-37-104 – and 213 hits.  He won the batting title and led the league in hits, triples (14) and runs scored (137). Other MLBers collecting 200 or more hits this season include: Jose Altuve, Astros – 204; Dee Gordon, Marlins – 201; Ender Inciarte, Braves – 201.

Riding the Cycle to Victory

On September 9, White Sox’ 1B Jose Abreu added a little excitement to an otherwise dismal White Sox season.  He was the catalyst in a 13-1 White Sox win over the Giants. Not only did Abreu go four-for-five with three runs and three RBI, he also hit for the cycle. He got the home run out of the way in the first inning (a solo shot); added a double in the bottom of the third; struck out in the fifth; singled in the seventh; and slashed a two-run triple in the eighth. It was just the sixth cycle in White Sox’ franchise history. Only the Blue Jays, Mariners, Rays, Marlins, Padres have fewer than six cycles – with the Marlins the only team to never record a batter’s cycle.

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STAT TIME

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS FOR SEPTEMBER

—-BATTING LEADERS FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER—–

AVERAGE (minimum 50 at bats)

NL:  J.D. Martinez, D-backs – .404; Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies – .377; Joe Panik, Giants – .375

AL: Jose Ramirez, Indians – .393; Josh Reddick, Astros – .391; Nick Costellanos, Tigers – .368

REVERSE ORDER

The lowest batting average for a player with at least 50 at bats in September was .118 – Matt Wieters of the Nationals (6-for-51). In the AL, that dubious spot on the BA list went to Guillermo Heredia of the Mariners at .143 (10-for-70).

HOME RUNS

NL: J.D. Martinez, D-backs – 16; Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins – 8; Domingo Santana, Brewers – 8

AL: Aaron Judge, Yankees – 15; Matt Olson, A’s – 13; Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays – 10

RBI

NL: J.D. Martinez, D-backs – 36; Rhys Hoskins, Phillies -23; three with 22

AL: Aaron Judge, Yankees – 32; Edwin Encarnacion, Indians – 29; three with 25

RUNS SCORED

NL: J.D. Martinez, D-backs – 26; Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies – 22; three with 20

AL: Aaron Judge, Yankees – 29; Brian Dozier, Twins – 28; Jose Altuve, Astros & Francisco Lindor, Indians – 23

STOLEN BASES

NL:  Dee Gordon, Marlins – 12; four with eight

AL:  Tim Anderson, White Sox – 9; Whit Merrifield, Royals 8; Mike Trout, Angels – 7

GOTCHA!

The Royals’ Whit Merrifield swiped eight bases in September, but he was caught an MLB-high  six times. Tim Anderson of the White Sox had the highest number of September steals without getting caught at nine.

WALKS

NL:  Rhys Hoskins, Phillies – 23; Joey Votto, Reds – 21; Neil Walker, Brewers – 21

AL: Aaron Judge, Yankees – 28; Mike Trout, Angels – 21; Jed Lawrie, A’s – 18

A SWING AND A MISS

Nobody fanned more in September than the Rangers’ Joey Gallo (39 in 91 at bats). Trevor Story of the Rockies led the NL with 34 whiffs (107 at bats).

—–PITCHING LEADERS FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER—–

WINS

NL:  Jon Lester, Cubs – 5-1, 4.18.; five with four wins

AL:  Corey Kluber, Indians – 5-0, 0.84; Justin Verlander, Astros – 5-0, 1.06; Carlos Carrasco, Indians – 5-0, 1.48; Mike Clevinger, Indians – 5-1, 0.99

ERA (Minimum 25 September innings)

NL:  Stephen Strasburg, Nationals – 0.83; Rich Hill, Dodgers – 1.86; Kyle Hendricks, Cubs – 2.01

AL:  Corey Kluber, Indians – 0.84; Mike Clevinger, Indians – 0.99; Jake Ordozzi, Rays – 1.03.

OUCH!

The worst ERA among pitchers with at least four starts or 15 innings pitched in August went to the  Padres’ Travis Wood at 13.80 (1-3 in four starts).

STRIKEOUTS

NL: Robbie Ray, D-backs – 47 (30 IP); Aaron Nola, Pirates – 43 (30 1/3 IP); Gerrit Cole, Pirates – 42 (36 IP)

AL: Carlos Carrasco, Indians – 51 (42 2/3 IP); Corey Kluber, Indians – 50 (43 IP); Chris Sale, Red Sox 44 (29 IP)

SAVES

NL:  Hector Neris, Phillies – 9; Sean Doolittle, Nationals & Corey Knebel, Brewers – 8

AL: Alex Colome, Rays; Cody Allen, Indians & Ken Giles, Astros – 7

THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY

Brad Zeigler had a tough September for the Marlins. In six appearances, he tossed five innings – to a 7.20 ERA. He recorded one save, two losses and an MLB-leading three blown saves for the month.

Among starters, the Orioles’ Wade Miley and Rays’ Chris Archer each lost an MLB-high five games in September. Miley was 0-5, 9.74, while Archer was 1-5, 7.48. 

_____________________________________________________________________

Now, let’s look at the full year. 

2017FINAL

—–YEAR-END TEAM STATS—–

—TEAM BATTING – FULL YEAR—

RUNS SCORED (MLB average – 753)

NL: Rockies – 824; Cubs – 822; Nationals – 819

AL: Astros – 896; Yankees – 858; Indians -818

SHORT END OF THE STICK

The Padres scored the fewest runs in all of baseball in 2017 (604). The Blue Jays finished at the bottom of the AL (693).

AVERAGE (MLB average – .255)

NL: Rockies – .273; Marlins – .267; Nationals – .266

AL: Astros – .282; Indians -.263; Yankees – .262

HOME RUNS (MLB average – 204)

NL: Brewers & Mets – 224; Cubs – 223

AL: Yankees – 241; Astros – 238; Rangers -237

McCOVEY COVE – NOT SO MUCH!

The Giants were the only team to hit fewer than 150 home runs in 2017 (128).

STOLEN BASES (MLB average – 84)

NL: Brewers – 128; Reds – 120; Nationals – 108

AL: Angels – 136; Rangers – 113; Red Sox – 106

STICKING CLOSE TO THE BAG

The Orioles swiped the fewest bags in 2017 at 32 – the only team under 50. The Rockies had the lowest success rate at 63.4 percent (59 steals in 93 attempts).

The Yankees had the best success rate – 80.4 percent (90-for-112) – the only team to reach the 80-percent mark.

BATTERS’ STRIKEOUTS (MLB average – 1,337)

NL: Brewers – 1,571; Padres – 1,499; Diamondbacks – 1,456

AL: Rays – 1,538; Rangers – 1,493; A’s – 1,491

MAKING CONTACT

The Astros (who led MLB in average and base hits) made contact most often – fanning an MLB-low 1,087 times.  The Indians, were the second-lowest at 1,153. The Braves fanned the fewest times in the NL at 1,184.

—-TEAM PITCHING – FULL YEAR—

EARNED RUN AVERAGE (MLB average – 4.35)

NL: Dodgers – 3.38; D-backs – 3.66; Nationals – 3.88

AL: Indians – 3.30; Red Sox – 3.70; Yankees – 3.72

HOW ABOUT THOSE SPLITS?

The Dodgers and Indians led their leagues in starters ERA – 3.39 and 3.52, respectively. The Orioles were at the bottom of the AL at 5.70, while the Reds held up the rest of the NL at 5.55.

Bullpen ERA leaders were the Indians in the AL  (2.89) and, of course, the Dodgers in the NL (3.38). Worst bullpen ERAs?  Tigers (5.63) and Mets (4.82). 

COMPLETE GAMES (MLB average – 2)

NL: Nationals, Cardinals, Giants – 3

AL: Indians – 7; Twins – 6; Red Sox – 5

FINISHING TOUCHES?

The White Sox, Braves and Rays combined for zero complete games. 

STRIKEOUTS (MLB average – 1,337)

NL: Dodgers – 1,549; D-backs – 1,482; Nationals – 1,457

AL: Indians – 1,614; Astros – 1,593; Red Sox – 1,580

HOW ABOUT THOSE INDIANS?

Cleveland hurlers not only led all of MLB in strikeouts, they also gave up the fewest walks (406 – compared to an MLB average of 528). 

SAVES (MLB average – 39)

NL: Brewers – 54; Dodgers – 51; Rockies – 47

AL: Rays – 53; Blue Jays and Astros – 45

______________________________________________

—-CLOSING IN ON THE END – INDIVIDUAL FULL YEAR LEADERS—-

—BATTING LEADERS—

AVERAGE

NL: Charlie Blackmon, Rockies – .331; Daniel Murphy, Nationals  & Justin Turner, Dodgers – .322

AL: Jose Altuve, Astros – .346; Avasail Garcia, White Sox – .330; two at .318

BASE HITS

NL: Charlie Blackmon, Rockies – 213; Dee Gordon, Marlins & Ender Inciarte, Braves – 201

AL: Jose Altuve, Astros – 204; Eric Hosmer, Royals – 192; Elvis Andrus, Rangers – 191

GOING FOR THREE

Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies led all of MLB with 14 triples (he had 14 steals). The Reds’ Billy Hamilton was second with 11 triples (he had 59 steals).  The only other player with double-digit triples was the Tigers’ Nick Costellanos with 10 (just four steals in nine attempts).

RUNS SCORED

NL: Charlie Blackmon, Rockies – 137; Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins – 123; Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs – 117

AL: Aaron Judge, Yankees – 128; Jose Altuve & George Springer, Astros – 112

HOME RUNS

NL: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins -59; Cody Bellinger, Dodgers – 39; three with 37

AL: Aaron Judge, Yankees – 52; Khris Davis, A’s – 43; Joey Gallo, Rangers – 41

THE OLD SWITCHEROO

J.D. Martinez had the third-most home runs in MLB at 45, but did not make the league leader boards.  He hit 16 for the Tigers and switched leagues (trade) to hit  29 for the Diamondbacks. 

RBI

NL: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins – 132; Nolan Arenado, Rockies – 130; Marcell Ozuna, Marlins – 124

AL: Nelson Cruz, Mariners – 119; Aaron Judge, Yankees – 114; Khris Davis, A’s – 110

YOUR KINGS OF SWING

The Yankees’ Aaron Judge led MLB in strikeouts with 208 – the only player to reach 200 in 2017 (also one of just two to reach 50 home runs). Trevor Story of the Rockies led the NL with 191 whiffs. 

STOLEN BASES

NL: Dee Gordon, Marlins – 60; Billy Hamilton, Reds – 59; Trea Turner, Nationals – 46

AL: Whit Merrifield, Royals – 34; Cameron Maybin, Angels/Astros – 33; Jose Altuve, Astros – 32

TWO FOR THE ROAD

Leading their leagues in grounding into double plays were: Albert Pujols, Angels – 26; Matt Kemp, Braves – 25. 

—-PITCHING LEADERS – FULL YEAR —- 

EARNED RUN AVERAGE

NL: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – 2.31; Max Scherzer, Nationals – 2.52; Stephen Strasburg, Nationals – 2.52

AL: Corey Kluber, Indians – 2.25; Chris Sale, Red Sox – 2.90; Luis Severino, Yankees – 2.98

WINS

NL:  Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – 18-4, 2.31; Zack Greinke, D-backs – 17-7, 3.20; Zach Davies, Brewers – 17-9, 3.90

AL:  Corey Kluber, Indians – 18-4, 2.25; Carlos Carrasco, Indians – 18-6, 3.29; Jason Vargas, Royals – 18-11, 4.16

AN “L” OF A SEASON

The Red Sox’ Rick Porcello led MLB in 2017 losses – going 11-17, 4.65. 

STRIKEOUTS

NL: Max Scherzer, Nationals – 268; Jacob deGrom, Mets – 239; Robbie Ray, D-backs – 218

AL: Chris Sale, Red Sox – 308; Corey Kluber, Indians – 265; Chris Archer, Rays – 249

A GOOD MATCH(UP) FOR THE POST SEASON?

The Twins’ Ervin Santana and the Indians’ Corey Kluber shared the MLB lead in complete games (5) and shutouts (3).

SAVES

NL: Kenley Jansen, Dodgers & Greg Holland, Rockies – 41; two with 39

AL: Alex Colome, Rays – 47; Roberto Osuna, Blue Jays – 39; Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox – 35

WILD THING, YOU MAKE MY HEART SING

The Padres’ Jhoulys Chacin and Marlins’ Jose Urena tied for the MLB lead in hit batters with 14 each. On the victim side, the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo took the most shots – hit by a ptich 24 times.  

And, there you have the Baseball Roundtable September (and end of regular season) Wrap Up.  Hope you all enjoyed the season – and are ready for playoff baseball.

Note: Key sources – MLB.com; ESPN.com; Baseball-Reference.com; Baseball-Almanac.com

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