BBRT’s John Paciorek Award

 

JP AwardBBRT today launched its own baseball award – The John Paciorek Award – or JPA (which could stand, in this case for “Played Just Abit.”  The JPA will recognize players who have had short, maybe very short, major league careers, but whose accomplishments, nonetheless, deserve recognition.  Just as the emergence of these  players on the MLB scene was often unexpected, the JPA will be awarded on no specific/expected timetable.  BBRT, in fact, most often uncovers these brief, but bright, stars when researching some unrelated baseball topic.  Spoiler Alert – the first JPA winner is San Francisco Giants’ infielder Brian Dallimore, but first a bit about John Paciorek, whose MLB career is the inspiration for this recognition. (Note: Just as the Cy Young is the answer to the trivia question, “Who is the best pitcher to never win a Cy Young Award?”, BBRT hopes John Paciorek will be the answer to: “Who is the most interesting MLBer to never be recognized with the John Paciorek Award?”

John Paciorek’s baseball history and heritage is, indeed, interesting.  First, John Paciorek made it to the major leagues at a very young age.  Signed out of Saint Ladislaus High School in Hamtramck, Michigan (where he had starred in football, basketball and baseball), Paciorek appeared in his first major league game on the final day of the 1963 season (September 29) at the age of 18.  Second, Paciorek comes from a true baseball family.  He was the first born of eight siblings and was followed to the big leagues by younger brothers Jim and Tom Paciorek.  (Like John, Jim’s MLB career was short – 48 games for the Brewers in 1987. Brother Tom, however, achieved a .282 average over an 18-season – 1,392 game – MLB career.)

But, back to John.  The 6’ 1”, 200-pound outfielder, had spent the 1963 season with Class A Modesto Colts, hitting just .219 in 78 games.  The parent club, the Houston Colt .45s (that was their name then), however, was suffering through a difficult season – they were 65-96 going into that final game.  The September 1963 Colt .45s were all about the future and, in fact, on September 27, had fielded an all-rookie lineup (average age 19). So, John Paciorek’s spot in the season’s final starting lineup was no surprise. What he did that day, however, was.

pACIOREKPlaying right field and batting seventh in a 13-4 win over the NY Mets, Paciorek ended up with three hits and two walks in five plate appearances, with four runs scored and three runs batted in.  Perhaps equally surprising is that it marked Paciorek’s only MLB appearance.  Back pain the following spring, followed by back surgery (he played 49 minor league games in 1964 and missed all of the 1965 season) put an end to his MLB playing days. (He did play in four more minor league seasons.)  Still, you will find John Paciorek in the Baseball Encyclopedia and his is arguably the greatest one-game MLB career ever.  Among one-gamers, he holds the record for times on base and runs scored, and shares the record for batting average, on base percentage and RBIs.  You can find more details on Paciorek’s lone major league game here.

Paciorek, by the way, went on to become a high school teacher and multi-sport coach, and the author of two books (Plato and Socrates – Baseball’s Wisest Fans and The Principles of Baseball, and all there is to know about hitting.) You can enjoy Paciorek’s prose directly at his blog “Paciorek’s Principles of Perfect Practice.”

So much for the inspiration – now, on to the first JPA winner.

Brian Scott Dallimore did not, like John Paciorek, make it to the big leagues at a young age.  He was, in fact, a 30-year-old veteran of eight-plus minor league seasons when he finally got the call. He was, in baseball parlance, a true journeyman.  He had journeyed from minor league city to minor league city, seven teams in those eight years.  He had also journeyed from one parent team system to another (Astros, Diamondbacks and Giants).  And, he had traveled around the infield, playing third base, second base and shortstop. What he had never done was give up on the dream.  And, things were looking up.

From 1996-2000, Dallimore played in 468 minor league games (never above AA), compiling a .264 average (with a high of .275 in 2000).  Then, in 2001, things seemed to click, as Dallimore hit .327, with eight home runs, 67 RBI and 11 stolen bases for the Diamondbacks’ AA affiliate El Paso Diablos.  He followed that up with a .294-6-50, 13 SB season at AAA Tucson.  He was, however, 28 and the Diamondbacks did not resign him.

Dallimore signed a minor league deal with the Giants and went on to hit .352 in 91 games with AAA Fresno in 2003. That performance didn’t earn him a September call up, but it helped get him his first-ever invite to major league camp for  2004 Spring Training, where he hit .279 in 21 games.  While he started the 2004 season back at Fresno, the minor league veteran had been noticed.  The Giants’ players selected Dallimore as the winner of the 2004 Harry S. Jordan Award, annually recognizing a player in his first Spring Training whose performance and dedication to the game best reflected the spirit of the San Francisco Giants.

Dallimore didn’t know it then, but he was only a poor Giants’ start and an injury to Ray Durham away from finally making his major league dream come true.  Dallimore was called up to the big club and made his debut as a pinch hitter (grounding out) on April 29th, 2004.  It was his performance on April 30th, however, that earns Dallimore the first-ever BBRT John Paciorek Award.  In fact, if it wasn’t for that April 29th pinch hitting appearance, Dallimore would have recorded one of the best first games ever in the MLB history.  As it was, he still carries the honor of having his first major league hit be a grand slam home run.  In a game won by the Giants 12-9 (and in which the score stood at 9-9 after just two innings), Dallimore walked and scored in the first inning, crashed a grand slam home run for his first MLB hit in the second, singled in the third, singled and scored in the fifth, and was hit by a pitch in the sixth. So, for his first start, Dallimore was on base five times in five plate appearances, had two singles and a home run (grand slam) in three at bats, scored three runs and drove in four.

Dallimore ended up hitting .279 with one home run and seven RBI in 20 games for the Giants that year – he also went .324-8-65 in 111 games back at Fresno. He played seven more games at the major-league level in 2005, hitting a double in seven at bats (he also hit .302-8-45 in 100 games at Fresno that season.)

Dallimore signed as a free agent with the Brewers after the 2005 season, but retired before the 2006 season began.  Despite his short stint in the majors, on April 30, 2004, Brian Scott Dallimore truly had his day in the sun – or in this case under the lights. So, for that – and for his love of the game – BBRT selects him as the first JPA winner.

                                        

 

                                                   BRIAN DALLIMORE

 

BBRT invites your nominations for the JP Award – players with short, but notable, stays in the major leagues.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT.

 

Bob Feller – Very Good, Very Young, Very Long

 

On this date (April 16) in 1940, 21-year-old Bob Feller threw the first – and still only – Opening Day not hitter in MLB history.  That makes this an appropriate day to reflect on just how talented the pitcher, who would become known as “Rapid Robert” and “The Heater from Van Meter” was.

Bob Feller was very good – very early.  He didn’t just go directly from high school to the major leagues; he went to the major leagues while he was still in high school.  In fact, he earned a share of the major league single-game strikeout record before he earned his high school diploma.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  If Van Meter, Iowa native Robert William Andrew Feller wasn’t born to be a baseball player (BBRT would argue he was), he certainly was raised to be one. Feller’s father William was an avid baseball fan and started tutoring Bob at a very young age and, by the time Bob was twelve, Feller’s father had built a baseball field, complete with scoreboard and bleachers, on the Feller farm.  The field was called Oakview Park and was home to the Oakviews, a team (including Bob Feller) of semi-pro and high school players.  In Feller’s formative years, he played not only for the Oakviews, but also for the Adel American Legion team, the local Farmers Union team and his high school team.

In 1935, Feller, sixteen-years-old and still in high school, was signed by the Cleveland Indians – reportedly for one dollar and an autographed baseball. The next year, Feller made his major league debut as a 17-year-old, pitching one scoreless inning in relief on July 19, 1936. In his first six games, all in relief, Feller totaled eight innings pitched, giving up 11 hits, seven runs, eight walks, and notching nine strikeouts. Despite those stats, the Indians felt the youngster – who had shown a blazing fastball and knee-buckling curve – was ready for his first major league start.  It came on August 23, 1936, against the St. Louis Browns.  In that initial start, Feller threw a complete game 4-1 victory, giving up six hits and four walks and striking out 15. The teenager suffered a pair of losses (to the Red Sox and Yankees) before evening his record at 2-2 with another complete game win over the Browns in which he fanned ten.  Then, on September 13, Feller bested the Athletics 5-2, throwing a complete game two-hitter, walking nine, but striking out seventeen – which, at that time, tied the MLB single-game strikeout record.  Feller finished the 1936 season with a 5-3 record, 3.34 ERA and five complete games in eight starts.  He walked 47 and fanned 76 in 62 innings. And, of course, he had yet to complete high school.

In his first start of the 1937 season (April 24 against the Browns), the teenage phenom – who had been featured on the cover of the April 19, 1937 issue of Time magazine – came up with a sore elbow.  Feller ended up pitching six innings, striking out 11, in a 4-3 loss and didn’t appear in another game until mid-May, then was shelved again until June 22.  The break did give Feller time to complete high school (his graduation was broadcast live on NBC Radio).  He finished the year, 9-7, 3.39, with 106 walks and 140 strikeouts in 148 2/3 innings. Not bad for an 18-year-old, but the best was yet to come.

From 1938 to 1941, Feller won 93 games (44 losses) – making the All Star team all four seasons and leading the AL in wins three times, ERA once, complete games twice, shutouts twice, innings pitched three times, and strikeouts all four seasons.  At the end of the 1941 season, Feller had 107 major-league victories.  And, he was all of 22-years-old.

In that four-season span, Feller also set a then major league record for strikeouts in a single game (18 versus the Tigers on October 2, 1938) and threw the previously noted Opening Day no-hitter.  Note: That 1940 opener was an omen of what was to come, as 1940 proved to be, perhaps, Feller’s greatest season.  He led the league in wins (27), ERA (2.61), complete games (31), shutouts (4), innings pitched (320 1/3), and strikeouts (261) – finishing second to Hank Greenberg in the MVP voting.

The career of Bob Feller – baseball’s most rapidly rising comet – was, however, about to be interrupted. Two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into World War II, Feller became first professional athlete to enlist in the U.S. armed forces; eventually serving as a Gun Captain aboard the USS Alabama. Feller was discharged from the Navy in late August, 1945, having missed 3 ½ MLB seasons. He immediately rejoined the Indians and finished up the season with a 5-3, 2.50 record, completing seven of nine starts and striking out 59 in 72 innings.

In his first full season after his discharge, Feller picked up right where he left off before the war,  leading the league in wins (26), complete games (36), shutouts (10), innings pitched (371 1/3) and strikeouts (a then MLB-record 348), while posting a 2.18 ERA.   In the first three full seasons after his post-war return, Feller led the league in wins twice, complete games once, shutouts twice, innings pitched twice, and strikeouts three times.  Makes one wonder what Feller would have done without the war-time interruption.  You can get a pretty good idea when you consider that, in the six full seasons surrounding his military service, (three before/three after), Feller’s average season was 24-12, 2.80 ERA, 26 complete games, five shutouts, and 239 strikeouts.

Ultimately, Rapid Robert Feller finished an 18-season career with 266 wins, 162 losses, a 3.25 ERA, 3,827 innings pitched, 279 complete games, 44 shutouts and 2,581 strikeouts. He made eight All Star teams, threw three no-hitters (12 one-hitters), led the AL in strikeouts seven times, wins six times, innings pitched five times, shutouts four times, complete games three times and ERA once.

Just how good was Bob Feller? In his December 15, 2010 obituary, the New York Times described Feller like this: “Joining the Indians in 1936, Feller became baseball’s biggest draw since Babe Ruth, throwing pitches that batters could barely see — fastballs approaching 100 miles an hour and curveballs and sinkers that fooled the sharpest eyes.”  The statistics back that assessment up and so do the hitters.  Accomplished batsmen from Stan Musial to Joe DiMaggio to Ted Williams have described Feller as one of the best – if not the best – pitcher of his time. In DiMaggio’s words: “I don’t think anyone is ever going to throw a ball faster than he (Feller) does. And his curveball isn’t human.”

Finally, I would be remiss to not note that I was privileged to meet Bob Feller at a minor league baseball game (long after his retirement as a player) and he was a true gentleman who retained his love for (and insight into) the game and his appreciation of the fans (no one was denied an autograph or a smile that day.)

 

Bob Feller – very good, very early, very long.   And, very much missed.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Nerves of “Steal!”

Remind me never to play poker against this kid!

 

April 13, 1926 – Opening Day Duel for the Ages

 

Walter Johnson – spinner of seven Opening Day shutouts.

 

April 13, 1926 marked the fourteenth and final Opening Day start for the Washington Senators Walter “Big Train:” Johnson.  The 38-year-old right-hander (a future Hall of Famer and considered one of – if not the – top power pitchers of his era) was in his twentieth big league season, having already collected 397 of his eventual 417 wins.  Johnson was coming off a 20-7, 3.07 1925 campaign for the Senators, who had led the AL with a 95-66 record, losing the World Series in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Johnson had gone 2-1, 2.08 in the Series, with three complete games.)

Opposing Johnson, before 25,000 fans at Washington D.C.’s Griffith Stadium, was Philadelphia Athletics’ right-hander Eddie Rommel.  The 28-year-old Rommel, in his seventh MLB season, had led the AL in victories in 1925, going 21-10, with a 3.69 ERA for the Athletics, whose 88-64 record trailed only the Senators in the AL.

Note: In his first seven AL seasons, Rommel had led the AL in victories twice (1922 & 1925) and in losses twice (1921 & 1923).  Johnson, as he took the mound on Opening Day in 1926, had led the AL in wins six times, ERA five times, strikeouts 12 times, shutouts seven times and complete games six times.

In addition to Johnson, the starting lineups included five future Hall of Famers: Centerfielder Al Simmons and catcher Mickey Cochrane for the Athletics; and centerfielder Sam Rice, second baseman Bucky Harris and leftfielder Goose Goslin for the Senators.

The stage was set for a great Opening Day match-up – and the fans were not disappointed. Johnson threw a complete Dame, 15-inning shutout (his record seventh Opening Day shutout), giving up six hits and three walks against nine strikeouts.  Rommel proved nearly the Big Train’s equal that day, going fourteen scoreless frames, before giving up a lone run in the bottom of the fifteenth (Rommel gave up nine hits and six walks, while striking out just one in a gritty performance).  Two pitchers going into the fifteenth inning on Opening Day? Doubt we’ll ever see that again.  For BBRT’s thoughts on the decline of the complete game click here.

Little did fans know how special that 1926 opener was.  Turned out Johnson’s masterpiece was his final Opening Day start.  The Big Train finished the 1926 season 15-16, 3.63.  The following year a leg injury kept him from starting the Opener and he retired after running up a 5-6, 5.10 record. Rommel went 11-11, 3.08 in 1926.  He pitched another six seasons, never again topping 13 wins – although from 1927-32, he went 53-21 with 53 starts and 129 relief appearances.

How good was Johnson? His final record was 417-279, with a career ERA of 2.17, 531 complete games in 666 starts, and still MLB-record 110 shutouts.  In arguably his best season (1913), Johnson notched an AL-leading 36 wins (versus seven losses – a league-leading .837 winning percentage) and a league-low 1.14 ERA, while also boasting AL-high complete games (28), shutouts (11), innings pitched (346) and strikeouts (243).

BBRT’s Spring is Officially Here!

Spring is here!

Spring is here!

Spring is now officially here for BBRT.  Last year, it began with a Yankees’ Spring Training game. See that post (Link Here).  This year, it began at yesterday’s Mets/Nationals contest, at the Nationals’ Space Coast Stadium (Viera, Florida).  While the score is of little impact (Mets won 7-5), the game had all BBRT has come to expect from Spring Training.

There was, of course, the very messy scorecard – The Nationals used 25 players (seven pitchers), while the Mets used 20 (just four pitchers).  It was, however, still my first completed scorecard of 2014.

Like many spring games, it started out pretty “clean.”  It was just 2-1 (in favor of the Nats) after seven innings – with a two-team total of 8 hits and two walks.  And, like so many Spring Training contests, it got a little “loose” at the end – a total of nine runs on eight walks and seven hits in the final two frames.

Still, it was baseball in the sun – 63 degrees at game time, low seventies by the late innings.  And, the price was right, right field box seats (row 5) for $22.  And, as always, there was plenty to see and talk about - a controversial infield fly call in the seventh, fan conversation surrounding the use of designated hitters in a game involving two NL teams, hot dog vendors in short supply and spectators wondering why the umps were wearing jackets.

Bryce Harper look strong this spring.

Bryce Harper looks strong this spring.

For BBRT, there was the first witnessed double play of the season (my season doesn’t really start until I see a twin killing).  In top of the third, Nats’ third baseman Zach Walters made a nice backhanded grab, threw to second baseman Jeff Kobernus, who completed the play with a throw to first baseman Adam LaRoche. I got to see former Twins Denard Span (we still miss him in Minnesota) lead off for the Nats with a double, steal third and score on a ground out by Bryce Harper. LaRoche, Span, Harper, names we’ll hear a lot more about during the regular season.

There were a pair of unlikely hitting stars.  The only home run of the game (a three-run shot in the eighth inning) came off the bat of Nationals’ first baseman Brock Peterson, who had replaced Adam LaRoche in the top of the inning.  The 30-year-old Peterson had a mid-season call-up with the Cardinals last season (after a decade of minor league and independent ball). Peterson, who hit .296, with 25 homers and 86 RBI in 122 Triple A games last year, went just 2-for-26 with 11 strikeouts for the Cardinals in 2013 (and was released after the season).  Trying to win a roster spot with the Nationals, the 1B is 7-for-18 (.389) with one home run and six RBI this spring.

The other player with three RBIs in the game was Mets’ right fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (gotta love the name on the back of the uniform).  Known as a fine defensive outfielder, Nieuwenhuis hit just .236 in 138 games for the Mets over the past two seasons.  He’s having a decent Spring Training (.304-1-7 in 10 games) – but is trying to retain a spot in a crowded Mets’ outfield.  In this game, he earned his three RBI with a bases loaded walk in the eighth inning and the game-winning two-run single in the ninth (breaking a 5-5 tie).

The feathered fan is high on Spring Training baseball.

This feathered fan is high on Spring Training baseball.

The winning pitcher?  Met’s righty Jacob deGrom, who arrived in the “winner’s circle” via a blown save, 1 1/3 innings pitched, with two hits, two walks, one earned run and one strikeout. (He came on with two outs and two on in the eighth and gave up Brock Peterson’s three-run, game-tying shot. ) deGrom who has yet to pitch at the MLB level is 1-0, 1.23 ERA this spring – giving up one run on four hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.

Also got to see a “prospect” BBRT is high on (see my prospect post here) – Mets 6’6” right hander Noah Syndergaard, a rookie being counted on for the 2014 rotation.  Syndergaard was a little shaky, but did show good stuff – fanning five in 3 2/3 innings. He has ten Ks in 8 2/3 spring innings and last season struck out 11.5 per nine innings at AA.

A different kind of wave from the Nationals' bullpen.

A different kind of wave from the Nationals’ bullpen.

A few other observations from this first game.  1) I completed my usually ball park Bloody Mary test.  On the plus, they pour the vodka and let you add the mix and condiments (olives, celery, peppers, pickles, various hot sauces, salt, pepper.) On the negative – $12 price tag and the cup was simply identified as “Bloody Mary” – no team logo to make it a free souvenir. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Bloody Mary bar is still the best I’ve come across (see it here ). 2)  A seagull nesting atop a light pole provided a particular Florida flavor to the game. 3) The Nat’s bullpen provided a friendly kind of wave and retrieved foul balls for young fans. 4) My first ball park hot dog of the year, with fried peppers and onions, was delicious (I was at a ball game, after all) and priced right at just $6; making up for the $12 Bloody Mary.

 

Ahhh!  Spring is here!

Teams with Three 200+ Strikeout Pitchers – A Diverse Bunch of Hurlers

With the recent “feel-good” publicity surrounding pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, BBRT took time to reflect on some unique accomplishments involving major league batteries – specifically looking at teams that could boast 200-strikeout performances by three pitchers in the same season.  It’s only happened three times in major history, and the nine hurlers involve make up a pretty diverse bunch:

  • Five have at least one MLB no-hitter on their resume, with two of those having  fashioned multiple no-hit games;
  • One is on a streak of five consecutive 200+ strikeout seasons, while five notched only one (well-timed for this list) 200+ strikeout seasons in their careers;
  • One was only the eighth rookie to notch 200+ whiffs, and never came close to the mark again in a 14-season MLB career;
  • One won sixteen consecutive Gold Gloves, while another is one of only eight pitchers to capture the Cy Young Award and league MVP in the same season;
  • One threw 17 no-hitters in high school (while racking up a 52-1 won-lost record);
  • One celebrated his eighteenth birthday by making his first major league start and striking out Willie Mays to end his first major league inning;
  • One is one of only two pitchers to strikeout four batters in a single post-season inning;
  • Four, at one time, led their league in wild pitches, including one who led his league in wild pitches and hit batters two consecutive years.

You’ll find all of this and more in the detailed look at the 200+ strikeout trios later in this post, but for those who just want to know the years, teams and pitchers, here they are:

  • 1967 Minnesota Twins:  Dean Chance (220 Ks), Jim Kaat (211), Dave Boswell (204).
  • 1969 Astros:  Don Wilson (235), Larry Dierker (222), Tom Griffin (200).
  • 2013 Tigers:  Max Scherzer (240), Justin Verlander (217), Anibel Sanchez (202).

Now, let’s take a more detailed look at these bat-missing trios of teammates.

 1967 MINNESOTA TWINS 

The 1967 Minnesota Twins were the first MLB team ever to have three pitchers on the roster reach the 200-strikeout mark – two hard throwing right-handers and a crafty southpaw who took the mound in 25 MLB seasons.  All three were twenty-game winners at least once in their careers, and they totaled six 200-strikeout seasons among them.  In 1967, these three hurlers went 50-39, leading the Twins to a 91-71 record and a second place AL finish.

 

Dean Chance - led Twins in strikeouts in 1967 - three 17 high school no-hitters - "owned" Yankees in 1964.

Dean Chance – led Twins in strikeouts in 1967 – three 17 high school no-hitters – “owned” Yankees in 1964.

Right-hander Dean Chance – 220 strikeouts.  Acquired from the Angels after the 1966 season, the former Cy Young Award winner (1964), went 20-14, 2.73 in his first year as a Twin, leading the AL in starts (39) and complete games (18), while fanning 220 in 283 2/3 innings. His 1967 season included an August 25th 2-1 no-hit win against the Cleveland Indians.  Chance was a rangy (6’3”, 200 lbs.) right-hander, with a sinking low- to mid-90s fastball, complemented by a curve, changeup and screwball.

Chance signed right out of high school, where he had a 52-1 record – with 17 no-hitters – for West Salem Northwestern High in Wayne Ohio.  Graduating from high school in 1959, he was in the major leagues by the end of the 1961 season.  Chance reached the 200 + strikeout mark three times in his eleven MLB seasons (1961-71) – and finished with a career mark of 128-115, 2.92, and 1,534 strikeouts in 2,147 1/3 innings.  In his 1964 Cy Young season (with the Angels), Chance notched an AL-leading 20 wins (versus nine losses), while also leading the league in ERA (1.65), complete games (15), shutouts (11) and innings pitched (278 1/3) – while striking out 207.

In that 1964 season, Chance added to his reputation by truly “owning” the AL champion New York Yankees.  Chance started five games against the Bronx Bombers, throwing four complete games and three shutouts.  In the only game he didn’t complete, he pitched 14 innings and left with a scoreless tie.  In 50 innings against the Yankees that year, Chance gave up only one run on 14 hits, while striking out 36. The only run the Yankees scored in those fifty innings was on a solo home run by Mickey Mantle.

Left-hander Jim Kaat – 211 strikeouts Kaat went 16-13, 3.04, with 211 strikeouts in 263 1/3 innings. The southpaw was coming off the best season of his career (1966), when he led the AL with 25 wins (against 13 losses), and posted a 2.75 ERA, with 205 strikeouts in 304 2/3 innings pitched.  Kaat relied on a rising fastball, sinker/slider, changeup and curve to carve out a 25-year MLB career (1959-83). Kaat, who won 283 games and notched 2,461 strikeouts, reached the 200-strikeout level only twice. A superb athlete, Kaat won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves.  The left-hander was a three-time All Star. In 1961, Kaat led the AL with 11 hit batters and 10 wild pitches – and he repeated the dual category leadership in 1962 with 18 hit batters and 13 wild pitches.

Kaat gained the respect of teammates and opponents alike when he kept the Twins in the tough 1967 pennant race through the month of September. In that month, Kaat pitched in 9 games (8 starts), going 7-0, with six complete games, a 1.51 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. 

He continues to show his athletic ability, shooting his age (75) as a golfer this past year (2013).  While quite a few golfers can boast shooting their age, Kaat has the distinction of doing it twice in less than 30 days – once left-handed and once right-handed.

Right-hander Dave Boswell – 204 strikeouts.  Another hard-thrower, Dave Boswell went 14-12, 3.27 and notched his 205 Ks in 222 2/3 innings in 1967.  In 1966, as a starter and reliever, he had led the AL with a .706 winning percentage (12-5) and had struck out 173 hitters in 169 1/3 innings.  Boswell, who relied primarily on a “plus” fastball, slow curve and slider, never again reached 200 strikeouts in a season.  He did come close in 1969, when he fanned 190, while compiling a 20-12, 3.23 record.

Boswell, who made his big league debut in 1964 at age 19 (he had a 28-2 high school record), had 64 major league wins by the time he was 24.  He injured his arm in the 1969 post-season (on a hard slider to Frank Robinson), went 4-9 in 1970-71 and retired after the 1971 season (at age 26).  Boswell had a record of 68-56, 3.52, with 882 strikeouts in eight major league seasons (1964-71).

 

1969 HOUSTON ASTROS

The second MLB team – and first NL team – to boast three 200-strikeout hurlers was the 1969 Houston Astros (now of the AL).  The Houston trio was made up of three young (24-, 22-, and 21-years-old) hard-throwing right-handers – one a rookie who would never again approach 200 whiffs (and, in fact, would only reach 100 strikeouts once more in his 14-year MLB career). The young, hard-throwing trio went a combined 47-35 as the Astros finished fifth in the NL West with an 81-91 record.

 

Don Wilson - led Astros in strikeouts in 1969 - threw two MLB no-hitters.

Don Wilson – led Astros in strikeouts in 1969 – threw two MLB no-hitters.

Right-hander Don Wilson – 235 strikeouts.  The hard-throwing righty (rising fastball/sharp-breaking slider), like many of the fire-balling hurlers in the 200K trios, came to the major leagues at a young age, making his MLB debut at age 21 (1966).  In 1969, he went 16-12, 4.00, fanning 235 hitters in 225 innings – and led the league with 16 wild pitches. Wilson was an effective starter for Houston, going 104-92, 3.15, with 1,283 strikeouts in 1,748 innings (1966-74).  He reached the 200-strikeout level just once.  Wilson fashioned two no-hitters in his brief career – his first, against the Braves in the Astrodome on June 18, 1967, was the first no-hit game ever pitched in a domed stadium or on artificial turf.

Wilson’s career was cut short in 1975 – at the age of 29 – when he died of carbon monoxide poisoning (He was found in the passenger seat of his car inside his garage with the engine running).  Wilson’s last game was a 5-0, two-hit, complete game shutout win over the Braves in Atlanta on September 28, 1974.

Right-hander Larry Dierker – 222 strikeouts. Only 22-years-old, Dierker had already registered 95 starts, 33 complete games and 35 victories going into the 1969 season. After 1968’s 12-15, 3.31 record, with a league-topping 20 wild pitches, Dierker came of age in 1969.  He went 20-13 (making him the Astros’ first twenty-game winner), 2.33, with 222 whiffs in 305 1/3 innings – notching 20 complete games in 39 starts. He never again reached 200 Ks, although the two-time All Star came close in 1970 (16-12, 3.87, 191 strikeouts in 269 2/3 innings).

Dierker made his major-league pitching debut on his 18th birthday (September 22, 1964) – striking out Jim Ray Hart and Willie Mays in his first MLB inning. He threw a no-hitter on July 9, 1976, against the Montreal Expos. Dierker ended a 14-season career (1964-77) with a 139-123. 3.31 record, with 1,493 strikeouts 2,333 2/3 innings.

Right-hander Tom Griffin – 200 strikeouts. A 21-year-old rookie, Griffin reached the 200 strikeout mark for what was to be the only time in a 14-season MLB career.  At the time, he was only the eighth rookie in MLB history to reach 200-strikeouts. (That number now stands at 16.) Griffin went 11-10, 3.54, with 200 strikeouts in 188 1/3 innings. Griffin fell off to 3-13, 5.74 the following season and spent most of his career (1969-62) bouncing between starter and reliever. His career record was 77-94, 4.07, 5 saves, with 1,054 strikeouts in 1,494 2/3 innings.  He only once topped 100 strikeouts after his first season.  In 1974, Griffin went 14-10, 3.54 with 110 Ks in 211 innings.

 

2013 DETROIT TIGERS

The Tigers’ 2013 power-pitching trio, if they stay together, have a good chance of making the Motor City team the first to have two seasons in which three of their pitchers reach 200 strikeouts. This past season, these three right-handers went 48-23 and averaged a combined 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings – as the Tigers won the AL Central with a 93-69 record and also ran up the highest regular season strikeout total in MLB history (1,428).

 

Led Tigers in strikeouts in 2013 - won AL Cy Young Award

Led Tigers in strikeouts in 2013 – won AL Cy Young Award

Right-hander Max Scherzer – 240 strikeouts The 2013 Cy Young Award winner, Scherzer led the AL with 21 wins (against only three losses, for a league-leading .875 winning percentage), logged a sparkling 2.90 ERA and struck out 240 hitters in 214 1/3 innings.  Scherzer also passed the 200 K mark in 2012 (16-7, 3.74, 231 strikeouts in just 187 2/3 innings). Scherzer uses a three-quarter (nearly-sidearm) delivery to offer up a four-seam fastball that averages in the mid-90s and has been known to touch 100 mph, a  mid-80s slider, a low-to-mid 80s changeup and a sparingly used high-70s curveball.

In four minor league seasons, Scherzer went 10-5, 2.69, with 232 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings pitched.  At 29 and with an MLB career average of 9.4 whiffs per nine innings, Scherzer is a likely candidate to contribute additional 200+ strikeout seasons going forward. Scherzer has a six-season MLB record (2008-still active) of 73-45, 3.67, with 1,069 whiffs in 1,019 innings. He has yet to throw a complete game (MLB or minors).

Right-hander Justin Verlander – 217 strikeouts.  At 6’ 5”, 225 lbs., Justin Verlander looks the part of power pitcher – the kind of strikeout artist you’d expect on this list.   And, he has the stats to back up that image.  Entering his tenth MLB season (at age 30), Verlander is looking back on five consecutive years of 200+ strikeouts.  In an off year by his standards, Verlander’s 2013 record was 13-12, 3.46 with 217 strikeouts in 218 1/3 innings. A Rookie of the Year (2006), Cy Young Award winner and MVP (2011) and six-time All Star, Verlander has led the AL in innings pitched and strikeouts three times, topping the AL in wins in two of those seasons. He relies primarily on a four-seam fastball averaging about 95 mph (and known to top 100 mph), a low-to-mid 80s slider, a challenging 12-to-6 curveball and a mid-to-high 80s circle change.

Verlander is known for both reaching back for a little extra with two strikes on the hitter and maintaining (or even increasing) his velocity late in games. Verlander has two no-hitters to his credit – one the first no-hitter ever at Comerica Park.  Drafted out of college (Old Dominion University), Verlander spent only one season in the minor leagues, going 11-2, 1.29, with 136 strikeouts in 118 2/3 innings, before earning a late-season look from the Tigers (2005).  In nine MLB seasons (2005-still active), his record is 137-77, 3.41, with 1,671 strikeouts in 1,772 innings.

Right-hander Anibel Sanchez – 202 strikeouts.  Acquired from Miami in July of 2012, Sanchez went 14-8, with 202 strikeouts in 182 innings (and led the AL with a 2.57 ERA) in his first full AL season.  He previously struck out 202 batters in an NL season, with the Marlins in 2011. Less of a power pitcher than Scherzer or Verlander, Sanchez throws five pitches: four-seam and two-seam (sinking) fastballs in the mid-90s; a mid-80s slider; a high-70s curve; and a change-up.  At 30, Sanchez should have additional 200+ strikeout campaigns ahead.  The only caution is the fact that Sanchez had surgery in 2003 (elbow) and 2007 (shoulder).

Sanchez showed his potential in his rookie season (2006), coming up in late June and going 10-3, 2.83 in 18 games – including a September 6 no-hitter in a 2-0 win over the Diamondbacks.  In the 2013 post season, Sanchez struck out four Red Sox in the first inning of the first game of the American League Championship Series – Jacob Ellsbury, Shane Victorino (who reached base on a wild pitch), David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. He is one of only two MLB players ever to strikeout four batters in a single postseason inning (Orvall Overall, 1980 World Series).  Through his first 8 seasons (2006-still active), Sanchez is 62-59, 3.55 with 935 in strikeouts in 1,051 innings.

I tweet baseball  @DavidBBRT

Six Pitchers + No Baserunners = One Perfect Spring Training Afternoon

With Spring Training nearly upon us (and it’s been a long wait), BBRT would like to revisit one remarkable Spring Training contest – when six pitchers combined to throw a perfect game.

Spring training records are, of course, unofficial, but the games and achievements are, at times, memorable.  Such was the case on March 14, 2000, a sunny, 80-degree day at City of Palms Park in Fort Meyers, Florida – Spring Training home of the Boston Red Sox.  The Sox had captured the AL Wild Card playoff spot the year before, finishing at 94-68, four games behind AL East Division leader Yankees.  The Red Sox went on to beat the Indians in the League Division series three games to two, before succumbing to the Bronx Bombers (four games to one) in the AL Championship Series.  A City of Palms Park record crowd of 7,139 was on hand for the March 14 game, due in great part to the fact that Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez was slated to start the game (against the Toronto Blue Jays).

PedroIn 1999, the Sox right-hander had been nothing short of spectacular, leading the AL in wins (23-4), winning percentage (.852), ERA (2.07), and strikeouts (313 Ks in just 213 1/3 innings), while walking just 37– earning his second of three career Cy Young Awards.  And, Martinez didn’t disappoint.  In the first inning, he struck out lead-off hitter/rightfielder Anthony Saunders looking, followed by setting down second baseman Homer Bush swinging, and closed the inning with a called strike three on first baseman David Segui.  Martinez zipped through his three innings of work facing just nine-hitters, fanning six and giving up only one even reasonably hit ball, a line out to center by the last hitter he faced, catcher Ramon Castillo.  A great start.  For the Boston Faithful, however, the best was yet to come.

In the top of the fourth inning, right-hander Fernando De la Cruz (destined to spend the regular season at AA) relieved Martinez, and went on to pitch two perfect innings, with one strikeout.

In the sixth, another righty, Dan Smith (who had gone 4-9, 6.02 for the Expos the previous season) took the mound for Boston – adding another perfect inning and another strikeout.  Smith would spend most of the 2000 season at AAA Pawtucket, getting in only two games (3 1/3 innings) with Boston.

Veteran southpaw Rheal Cornier (who had appeared in 60 games with a 3.60 ERA for the Sox in 1999) kept the “perfecto” going with a 1-2-3 seventh inning, which also saw the Red Sox make changes at catcher, first base, second base, centerfield and rightfield.

The eighth saw another Boston pitching change, with stocky righty Rich Garces (5-1, 1.55 in 1999) setting the Blue Jays down in order and notching one strikeout.  (Garces would go 8-1, 3.25 with one save in 64 games in 2000.)

Right-hander Rod Beck, acquired from the Cubs during the 1999 season (and holder of 260 career saves), came in to “save” the perfect game in the ninth – finishing with strikeout, flyout, strikeout.

The Red Sox won the game, 5-0, with Nomar Garciaparra driving in four runs with a double and a home run. Spring Training records can be a bit sketchy, but BBRT has not been able to find another Spring Training perfect game.

I tweet baseball  @DavidBBRT

Sam “Toothpick” Jones, Truly WILD finish to an Historic No-Hitter

 

Sam "Toothpick" Jones - the definition of "effectively wild."

Sam “Toothpick” Jones – the definition of “effectively wild.”

Sam “Toothpick” Jones could be intimidating on the mound – not just because of his size (6’4”, 192 pounds)m his  fastball or his sweeping curve (Stan Musial said Jones had the best curveball he ever saw), but also because he was “effectively wild.”  As a Cub in 1955, the tall, lanky right hander led the National League not just in strikeouts, but also in walks and batters hit by pitch.  On May 12 of that season, Jones proved just how effectively wild he could be – tossing a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Chicago.  Three things about that no-hitter attracted BBRT’s attention:

1)      On that day, Jones became the first African-American to throw an MLB no-hitter;

2)      It came in what might be considered (statistically) Jone’s worst MLB season (he  led the NL in losses, going 14-20); and

3)      It had, perhaps, the “wildest” finish ever for an MLB no-no.

Let’s take a look at that historic game’s final inning.  First, Jones came into the top of the ninth having notched three strikeouts against four walks.  Despite the four free passes, he had faced only one more than the minimum number of hitters (or non-hitters in this case).  The Pirates’ number-five hitter, power-hitting first baseman Dale Long, had walked in all three of his plate appearances. Note: In 1956, Long set a still unbroken record by hitting home runs in eight consecutive games. Long’s feat has never been equaled in the National League, but was matched in the AL by Don Mattingly (1987) and Ken Griffey, Jr.  (1993).   But, back to May 12, 1955. In the second inning, Long was tossed out on an attempted steal; in the fifth he was the lead out in a short-to-second-to first double play; and, in the eighth, he was doubled off first on a line drive to third.  The only other Pittsburgh base runner to that point was catcher Toby Atwell, who led off the third with a walk, but was stranded as Jones induced a pop out, strikeout and ground out.  Meanwhile, over the first eight innings, the Cubs had scored four runs on fifteen hits off the Pirates’ Nellie King and Vern Law.

So, with a 4-0 lead and the eight, nine and lead-off  hitters scheduled to bat, Jones – ironically – seemed in control.  That would not last long.  Jones started the inning by walking the number-eight hitter, second baseman Gene Freese.  The Pirates sent Preston Ward up to hit for pitcher Vern Law and, during the at bat, a Jones’ wild pitch sent Freese to second.  The WP didn’t matter much, since Jones went on to walk Ward, bringing up lead-off hitter/center fielder Tom Saffell, still looking for his first hit of the season.  Jones walked Saffell to load the bases with no outs.

Coming up?  Shortstop Dick Groat (a future batting champion and NL MVP, who would strike out only 26 times in 151 games that season); future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente (right field); and left fielder/clean-up hitter Frank Thomas.  With the bases loaded, and both the no-hitter and game in jeopardy, Cubs manager Stan Hack made a trip to the mound (amid boos from the crowd) with some terse advice “Get the ball over.”  After the visit, Jones used just 11 more pitches to strike out Groat (looking), Clemente (swinging) and Thomas (looking).

Note: It’s reported that Cubs’ broadcaster Harry Creighton promised Jones – who pitched with a flat-sided toothpick angling from his mouth – that he would buy him a “gold toothpick” if he threw a no-hitter – and that Creighton spent $11 to make good on his word.

The final inning of Jones historic no-no – three walks and three strikeouts – was pretty indicative of Jones’ pitching style. Jones, would in fact, lead his league in strikeouts and walks in the same season three times – 1955, 56, 58.  And, in his two All Star appearances, (1955, 1959) Jones’  line was consistent with the term “effectively wild” – 2 2/3 innings pitched, one hit, one run (unearned), four walks, four strike outs, one hit by pitch.

In all, Jones pitched in MLB  in all or parts of 12 seasons (1951-52, 1955-64), taking the mound for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles. His best season was 1959 (SF Giants) when he tied for the league lead in wins (21-15) and shutouts (4), and led the NL in ERA (2.83).  That season, Jones also led the league in walks and finished second to Don Drysdale in strikeouts. Jones finished his MLB career with 102 wins, 101 losses and a 3.59 ERA.  In ten minor league season, nine at Triple A, he went 104-66, 3.01. Jones also played in the Negro Leagues (Cleveland Buckeyes), as well as in Panama, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.

Sam “Toothpick”  Jones died from cancer in 1971 at age 45

I tween baseball   @DavidBBRT

MLB Prospects BBRT Will Be Watching In 2014

Spring Training is approaching and that gets BBRT thinking about the MLB prospects for the coming season – whom to watch in Spring Training for signs of things to come.  BBRT’s choices at times may seem to defy traditional reasoning – driven by such factors as: numbers like a 102.8 mph fastball, a single-season record 155 stolen bases or 133 strikeouts versus only 28 walks;  events like a World Series base running gaff; opportunities created by trades or free agent losses; or even just because BBRT likes the name (Wouldn’t you like to hear sportscasters pronounce Foltynewicz?).  At any rate, in no particular order, here are the ten prospects BBRT will be watching most closely in 2014.

springer

 

George Springer (Astros, OF) 23-years-old, 6’3”,  200 lbs.

Players that bring together the combination of power and speed are special (at least in the eyes of BBRT), and Astros’ prospect George Springer is one of these.  Springer was originally drafted in 2008 by the Twins (48th round), but chose the University of Connecticut instead – where he earned First Team All-American and Big East Player of the Year honors.   He was the Astros’ first-round pick (11th overall) in the 2011 draft.

In 2012, at High A and AA, Springer played 128 games and put together a combined line of .302, 24 HRs, 87 RBI and 32 stolen bases.  He moved up to AA/AAA last season and didn’t miss a beat – 135 games, .303, 37 HRs, 108 RBI and 45 steals – earning Minor League Baseball’s Offensive Player of the Year honors.  He still needs to work on plate discipline (145 walks versus 312 strikeouts over the past two seasons), but (given the state of the Astros) it may be time to let him continue to develop at the major league level.  BBRT will be watching Springer in spring training and hopes to see his power and speed bringing excitement to the Astros’ lineup in 2014.

walker

 

Taijuan Walker (RHP, Mariners), 21-years-old, 6’4”, 210 lbs.

The Mariners’ 2010 first-round draft pick (43rd overall), Taijuan Walker and his mid-90s fastball made their Mariners’ debut in late August of 2013.  After going 5-3, 3.61 with 64 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings at Triple A Tacoma, Walker went 1-0, 3.60 with four walks and twelve strikeouts in three late-season starts (15 innings pitched) for the Mariners.

Walker – who complements a live four-seam fastball with a solid cutter, workable (but still inconsistent) curve and a developing changeup – rang up a 3.49 ERA with 400 strikeouts (versus 149 walks) in 371 2/3 innings over four minor league seasons (23-26 won-lost).

The Mariners appear to have reserved a spot for Walker in their 2014 rotation – and, reportedly refused to include the high-potential right-hander in a trade for David Price.

syndeergaard

 

Noah Syndergaard (Mets, RHP) 21-years-old, 6’6”, 240 lbs.

Noah Syndergaard, a Blue Jays’ first-round draft pick (38th overall) in 2010, was acquired by the Mets in the R.A. Dickey trade – and it’s looking like a good move.

In 2013, his first season in the Met’s system, Syndergaard split time between High A and Double A – going 9-4, with a 3.06 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings.  Perhaps more telling is that fact that, while striking out 133, he walked only 28.  For his four minor league seasons, the hard-throwing (mid-90s, with a decent curve) righty is 22-12, with 329 whiffs and 81 walks in 293 2/3 innings.

With Matt Harvey facing Tommy John surgery, the Mets need to shore up their rotation.  While Syndergaard will likely start the season at Triple A, solid performance at that level could lead to a mid-season call up and another exciting mound presence for the Mets.  BBRT will be watching.

ventura

 

Yordona Ventura   (Royals, RHP) 22-years-old, 5”11”, 180 lbs.

Remember this number – 102.8 mph – more precisely 102.816 according to CBSSports.com.  That number represents the second fastest pitch by  starting pitcher (and the fastest regular season pitch by a starter) ever recorded by the Pitchf/x tracking system (dating back to 2007).  It was thrown by Royals’ prospect Yordona Ventura in his very first major league appearance (September 17, 2013).  That accomplishment, pun intended, put Ventura on BBRT’s 2014 prospect radar screen.  By the way, so as not to create too much excitement, Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes did turn the four-seamer around for a single.

(Note: The honor of the fastest pitch ever recorded during a game on Pitchf/x was thrown by  the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman, who reached 105.1 mph versus the Padres on September 24, 2010. The fastest pitch ever recorded for a starter on the system goes to the Tigers’ Justin Verlander, who threw one 103.2 mph in game five of the 2011 ALCS. Apparently, even after more than 260 regular and post-season innings, Verlander had a little zip left in his arm. )

Back to Ventura.  The hard-throwing prospect signed with the Royals as an international free agent in 2008.  In five minor league seasons, he went 20-13, 3.47, with 455 strikeouts (142 walks) in 415 1/3 innings.  He earned his call up by going 8-6, 3.14 with  155 strikeouts and 53 walks in 134 2/3 innings at AA/AAA in 2013.   He brought a 100-mph fastball and a solid curve to the majors.  The only question seems to be whether, at his size, he will have the endurance to be a 200 innings-pitched starter.  Then again, once he fully harnesses his stuff, he could be an explosive closer.  Ventura may need a bit more seasoning, but keep an eye on him in Spring Training.  A strong spring could earn him a roster spot.

hamilton

 

Billy Hamilton (Reds, OF), 23-years-old, 6’, 160 lbs.

Another memorable number for this post – 155. That’s how many bases the speedy Hamilton stole in 2012, in 132 games at High A Bakersfield and Double A Pensacola. It’s also the all-time single-season record for organized baseball.  Hamilton followed up in 2013 by stealing 75 bases in 132 games at Triple A Louisville before a September call up to the Reds.  In 13 games for Cincinnati, he hit .368 (9-for-19) and stole another 13 bases in 14 attempts.  I wouldn’t let that average fool you, Hamilton still has plenty to learn at the plate (he hit just .256 at Louisville). You can’t, however, teach speed and the Reds think highly enough of Hamilton to have penciled him in to replace the departed Shin-Soo Choo.

Hamilton has to work on his ability to put the ball in play – so he can put his speed into play.  However, I wouldn’t bet against him.  He has shown a willingness to put in the work, agreeing to convert from a natural right-handed hitter to a switch hitter and from shortstop to centerfield.  Clearly, Hamilton promises a lot of excitement on the base paths – and, if he can hit .250 in his first full MLB season, the Reds are likely to be pleased.  He will definitely be fun to watch.

Tavarezx

 

Oscar Taveras (Cardinals, OF), 21-years-old, 6’2”, 200 lbs.

While an ankle injury cut Oscar Taveras’ 2013 season short (46 games, .306 average, five home runs, 32 RBI for the Triple A Memphis Redbirds), the 21-year-old outfielder (who already has five minor league seasons under his belt) is on everyone’s radar.  Taveras says he has recovered from ankle surgery and rehab is going well.  With that in mind, BBRT expects to see Taveras patrolling the Cardinals’ outfield in 2014.  He really has little left to prove at the minor league level. Signed by the Cardinal as an undrafted free agent in 2008, Taveras has put up a .320 average, with 45 home runs and 275 RBI in 374 games, while advancing steadily through the Cardinals’ system.

In 2011, at age 19, he captured the Midwest League (Class A) batting title, hitting .386, with eight home runs and 62 RBI in 78 games. In 2012, he found his power stroke at AA Springfield, leading the Texas League with a .321 average, and adding 24 homers, 94 RBI and ten stolen bases.  His performance earned Taveras Texas League Player of the Year honors.

A free swinger in the Vlad Guerrero/Tony Oliva mold, Taveras has drawn only 125 walks in 1,598 plate appearances, but he has also struck out only 212 times and shown an ability to make solid contact with pitchers off the plate.  Watch him in Spring Training.  If he’s healthy, he’ll be going north.

wong

 

Kolten Wong (Cardinals, 2B) 23-years-old, 5’9”, 185 lbs.

Kolten Wong is one of two “prospects”  on BBRT’s list who already has post-season experience – going one-for-six in seven 2013 post-season games.  He first came to BBRT’s attention in Game Four of the World Series, when he was brought in as a pinch runner in the ninth inning with his Cardinals trailing 4-2. Wong was picked off first (with two out and Carlos Beltran at the plate) by Red Sox closer Koji Uehara – marking the only World Series game ever to end on a pick-off play.  Given that negative attention, BBRT is rooting for Wong to have a strong 2014 with the Cardinals.

Wong was drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in the 16th round of the 2008 MLB draft, but chose to attend the University of Hawaii.  There he played for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and was named a Baseball America All-American in 2011. The Cardinals selected him in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2011 draft.

Wong hit only .153 in 32 games (59 at bats) for the Cardinals at the end of the 2013 regular season.  That, however, is not an indication of his potential.  He was called up after hitting .303, with 10 home runs, 45 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 107 games at Triple A Memphis – and has posted a .301 average over three minor league seasons.  The trade of David Freese, which should open up more time at third base for Matt Carpenter, indicates the Cardinals are confident Wong can show his offensive potential at the MLB level.

Bogaerts

 

Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox, SS-3B), 21-years-old, 6’3”, 185 lbs.

Seems strange to list a player who sports a .296 average in 12 post-season games (.238 in six World Series contests) among “prospects,”  but Bogaerts’ still has only 18 games of regular-season major league experience (.250 in 44 at bats, with seven runs, five RBI, one HR and one stolen base. A smooth fielder who came up as a shortstop, he split his time between SS and 3B for the Red Sox down the stretch drive. Bogaerts’ 2014 position and playing time may be determined by where Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew signs. (Reports are that Drew has indicated he is willing to play multiple positions.) Bogaerts, ranked as 2014’s top shortstop prospect by MLB.com, hit .296 with 54 home runs, 235 RBI and 17 steals in four minor league seasons.  He is considered a natural hitter, who will develop power to go with a solid average as he matures.

cosellan

 

Nick Costellanos (Tigers, 3B-OF) 21-years-old, 6’4”, 210 lbs.

Prince Fielder gone, Miguel Cabrera moving over to first base – enter Tigers 2010 first-round pick (44th overall) Nick Costellanos.  The 21-year-old caught BBRT’s attention because of the opportunity and challenge he faces as Detroit revamps its lineup.  Considered one of the minor leagues’ best pure hitters, with developing power, Detroit was working to smooth Castellanos’ path to the big leagues even before the Fielder departure. With the promising prospect blocked by MVP Cabrera at third base, the Tigers switched Costellanos from the hot corner to the outfield in 2013.  He responded with a .276 average, 18 home runs and 76 RBI at Triple A.  In four minor league seasons, his line is .303-35-212.  He hit .278 in 18 at bats after a September call up to the Tigers.   Now a spot at third is open, and BBRT is anxious to see what this youngster can do at the major league level.

Buxton

 

Byron Buxton (Twins, OF) 20-years-old, 6’2”, 189 lbs.

Even though he’s not likely to see action at the major league level in 2014, BBRT had to have a Twin to watch and Buxton earned that position.  Buxton is the 2013 winner of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award (given by Topps and Minor League Baseball to the Minor League Player of the Year), is rated baseball’s top prospect by MLB.com, was selected as the Midwest League’s 2013 MVP, and earned Minor League Player of the Year recognition from Baseball America.

The second player chosen in the 2012 draft, Buxton is proving a sound choice.  In his first full minor league season, split between Class A Cedar Rapids and High Class A Fort Myers, Buxton hit .334 with 12 homers, 77 RBI, 109 runs and 55 stolen bases in 125 games. While most expect Buxton to start the season at Double A, he has been invited to Twins Spring Training, and BBRT will be watching his progress.  Twins fans could look forward to a late season call up.

Finally, here are a few other prospects BBRT will be checking in on – just with a little less regularity.  

Miguel Sano (Twins, 3B) 20-years-old, 6’3”, 195 lbs.

Baseball fans in Minnesota are following this super prospect. Miguel Sano, just 20-years-old, already has 90 minor league homers (.279-90-291 in 379 minor league games).   Not quite ready, but has perhaps the best power potential in the minors. The Twins needs at third base could speed his path to the majors.

Kris Bryant (Cubs, 3B) 22-years-old, 6’4”, 215 lbs.

Kris Bryant was the Cubs 2013 first round (second overall) draft pick and the first-team college All American and 2013 College Player of the Year (University San Diego) followed up by being recognized as MVP of the Fall League, where he hit .364 with 6 home runs in 20 games.   In his first minor league season (2013), at three levels, Bryant hit .336, with nine homers and 32 RBI in 36 games.

Raul Alberto Mondesi (Royals, SS) 18-years-old, 6’1”, 165 lbs.

Raul Mondesi is hoping to follow in his dad (Raul Ramon Mondesi) to the major leagues.  The senior Mondesi had a 13-year MLB career, during which the outfielder hit .273 with 271 home runs and stole 229 bases. “Mondesi the Younger” has solid skills and signed with the Royals (for a reported $2 million) at age 16.  A switch hitter and strong defensive player, Mondesi hit .261, with seven homers, 47 RBI and 24 steals in his first minor league season.  Still a long way from the major leagues, but BBRT always enjoys following “baseball families.”

Mike Foltynewicz (Astros, RHP) 22-years-old, 6’4”, 200 lbs.

BBRT wants this young man to make the majors, if only to see his last name on the uniform and hear the sportscasters try to pronounce it.  And he has a good chance – a fastball that reaches the upper 90s and a four-year minor league record of 25-21, 4.74 with 370 whiffs in 460 innings pitched.

BBRT welcomes your comments on prospects you’ll be watching in 2014.

I tweet baseball  -  @DavidBBRT

Baseball Reliquary – 2014 “Shrine of the Eternals” Ballot

BBRThe Baseball Reliquary – a free-spirited organization dedicated to celebrating the human side of baseball’s history and heritage – recently announced the candidates for its 2014 “Shrine of the Eternals” election.  Before sharing the Reliquary’s news release and ballot, BBRT would like to provide a bit of background on the organization.  (This information is pulled from an earlier post about the Baseball Reliquary, for the full story and info on how to join, click the Baseball Reliquary link at the top of Baseball Roundtable’s home page.)

BBR PosterWhile its “home” is in the state of California (Pasadena), the Baseball Reliquary really resides more in the heart of its founders, honorees and members – who take joy in celebrating the character and characters of our national pastime.  The Reliquary leads that joyful (often irreverent) celebration through its Shrine of the Eternals, its collection of historic artifacts, and its traveling exhibitions.

The Shrine of the Eternals is the Reliquary’s best-known element and its honorees include (among others) a one-armed major league outfielder, a pitcher who once threw a no-hitter while high on LSD, a team owner who sent a midget to the plate, a man in a chicken suit, a member of Major League Baseball’s 3,000-hit club, a manager who won eight World Championships, a noted surgeon, a labor leader, more than one best-selling author, a statistical wizard and even the sports editor of the Daily Worker (American Communist Party newspaper).The honorees are each unique in their role in – and contributions to -   the national pastime, but they all share the distinction of having made a significant impact on the game.  

The Reliquary is moving toward its 2014 elections and the following news release provides the details.

Baseball Reliquary Announces Candidates for 2014 Election of the Shrine of the Eternals

The Baseball Reliquary, Inc. has announced its list of fifty eligible candidates for the 2014 election of the Shrine of the Eternals, the membership organization’s equivalent to the Baseball Hall of Fame. This year marks the sixteenth annual election of the Shrine, a major national component of the Baseball Reliquary, a Southern California-based organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history. The forty-five individuals previously elected to the Shrine of the Eternals are, in alphabetical order: Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Roger Angell, Emmett Ashford, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Bill Buckner, Roberto Clemente, Steve Dalkowski, Rod Dedeaux, Jim Eisenreich, Dock Ellis, Eddie Feigner, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Ted Giannoulas, Josh Gibson, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Pete Gray, William “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Dr. Frank Jobe, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Roger Maris, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Manny Mota, Lefty O’Doul, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Pete Rose, Casey Stengel, Luis Tiant, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck, Jr., Maury Wills, and Kenichi Zenimura.

The Shrine of the Eternals is similar in concept to the annual elections held at the Baseball Hall of Fame, but differs philosophically in that statistical accomplishment is not a criterion for election. Rather, the Shrine’s annual ballot is comprised of individuals – from the obscure to the well-known – who have altered the baseball world in ways that