Twins in First Place – and other Opening Day Musings

THE LAST TIME THE TWINS WERE ON TOP OF THE CENTRAL

Okay the headline may be a bit “over the top.”  But, when was the last time you might have read a headline touting the “First Place Twins?”  Not as long ago as you might think.  That would have been the morning of June 9, 2015 – as the Twins started the day with a 33-24 record, tied with the Royals for first place in the AL Central.  The Twins lost that day (to the Royals) 2-0, to slip out of the lead.  So, Opening Day 2017 was a clash of early June 2015 AL Central Division titans.  This time, however the Twins came out on top.  Side note:  It may seem longer since the Twins topped the Central Division standings since 2015 is the only season between 2011 and 2016 that the Twins avoided 90 losses.  

Here’s BBRT take on yesterday’s game – and other Opening Day musings. (What I chose to highlight may give you some idea about how I watch – and score – a ball game.)

You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.

                                                                       Joe DiMaggio

Yes, indeed, something wonderful can happen on Opening Day.  This year, the Twins topped the Royals 7-1 and ended the day tied for first place.  Compare that to a year ago, when the Twins loss their eighth straight Opening Day game on their way to nine straight season-opening losses and a 59-103 record. No wonder yesterday’s victory seemed truly wonderful.

Opening Day is the most hopeful and optimistic day of each year.  At least for this one day, every team is a contender, every rookie a potential “phenom,”  every fading veteran a potential “Comeback Player of the Year,” and every new face in the lineup or on the bench a welcome addition.

                                                Baseball Roundtable – March 26, 2013

20171The weather, however, was not as wonderful – the low fifties, overcast (the F-16 fly-over was cancelled) with a stiff wind (at least in the second deck where I was seated).  The hooded “Twins Tees” proved handy and the hot chocolate vendors did a “brisk” business.  Still, despite the overcast, it was 51 degrees – although it felt more like 42. (We Minnesotans have a built in sensor for what the day’s temperature “feels like.”)

 

PRE-GAME

Long lines of fans - anxious for the return of baseball - waited for the Target Field gates to open.

Long lines of fans – anxious for the return of baseball – waited for the Target Field gates to open.

Fans were clearly ready for the return of baseball and the Twins (a sell-out crowd).  Nearby watering holes were packed before the game and long lines of festive fans crowded the Plaza as DJ Advance provided pre-game music.  There was plenty of Twins gear in evidence and, if you weren’t wearing something “Twins,” there was a Twins hooded tee for the first 30,000 through the gates. (For more on Twins – and other unique MLB – give-aways for 2017, click here.)

Once in the park, the pre-game  festivities included a solid rendition of the national anthem by a brass quintet from the Minnesota Orchestra – without scheduled singer Dessa (illness).

Grey sky, no flyover, no Dessa – almost seemed like a bad omen.  But former Twins’ coach Rick Stelmaszek (gotta love a guy with a “Z” in his name) and current coach “Everyday Eddie” Guardado turned it around. Stelly, who spent 32 years with the Twins, tossed out the first pitch (to Guardado) to a notable ovation. There were also a host of traditional Opening Day activities: the introduction of both teams along the sidelines (with mini-fireworks added for Twins’ players); season ticket holders unveiling a giant American flag in the outfield;  a pair of bald eagles at home plate; and 94-year-old World War II veteran Henry Langevin raising the American Flag during the anthem.  In addition, the pregame included a memorial tribute to members of the Twins’ family who passed away since last season’s opener – ending with special recognition of Twins’ pitcher Yorman Landa and Royals’ pitcher Yordano Ventura, who both lost their lives in off-season automobile accident.

THE GAME – THE TWINS STROLLED (WALKED) AWAY WITH IT

Those who follow BBRT know of my contention that there is always something new and/or interesting to see at a ballgame.  This one was no exception.  Here are just a few observations:

  • Twins’ batters struck out 11 times to the Royals four, but still outscored Kansas City 7-1.
  • Twins’ starter Erwin Santana had zero strikeouts over six innings, then fanned the side in the seventh (his final inning).
  • At one point in the deciding bottom of the seventh, the Twins had the bases loaded and three runs across in the inning – and had hit just one ball out of the infield (more on that later).
  • Twins’ Designated “Hitter” Robbie Grossman came to the plate five times, scored once, had an RBI and never put the ball in play (two walks, three strikeouts).
  • Twins’ SS Jorge Polanco went two-for-three in the game – with both his hits coming in the same inning.
  • The sixth inning saw the Twins benefit from their first challenge of the season and their first intentional walk under the new (just wave ‘em to first – like in softball) rule. No-o-o!
  • The Twins revived the bunt as an offensive weapon.
  • In the seventh and eighth, all attempts by fans in left field to start “The Wave” died out quickly. (Yesss!)

THE SEVENTH INNING – A TRUE STROLL (WALK) IN THE (BALL) PARK

In the top of the seventh inning, Twins’ starter Erwin Santana (who had not struck out a single batter – but also had given up just two hits and a walk) walked CF Lorenzo Cain to start the inning and then fanned 1B Eric Hosmer, C Salvador Perez and DH Brandon Moss in order.

In the bottom of the inning, things really got strange. Twins’ SS Jorge Polanco opened the frame with a single to center (off Royals’ reliever Matt Strahm).  It was a 1-1 game at the time, so manager Paul Molitor sent RF Max Kepler up to bunt.  Kepler laid down a beauty to the right of the pitcher’s mound – and beat it out.  (Although it did require Target Field’s first challenge of the season to reverse the original “out” call.) Eddie Rosario (LF and number-nine hitter) was called on to move the runners up, and executed a nice third-to-first sacrifice bunt. Leadoff hitter 2B Brian Dozier was intentionally walked (waved) to first to load the bases. (Apparently, MLB did not publicize the new rule very well, as fans all around me were asking “What happened – How did he get on base?”)  DH Robbie Grossman then walked to drive in Polanco.

That was all for Strahm, with Peter Moylan coming in from the pen to face CF Byron Buxton. Moylan fanned Buxton and was relieved by Travis Wood, who walked 1B Joe Mauer and 3B Miguel Sano – enabling Kepler and Dozier to stroll to the plate uncontested. So, at this point the Twins had three runs in, based loaded – and only one ball out of the infield. New catcher Jason Castro got the game back on a more traditional path with a two-run (Grossman and Mauer scoring) single to left.  Polanco then rapped his second hit of the inning – a single to right which scored Sano. Finally, Kepler fanned to end the carnage.  Twins 7 – Royals 1.  And that was pretty much the ball game.

Just a few other observations:

  • Attendance was 39,615 – Minnesota fans have truly been waiting for baseball to return.
  • BBRT loves double plays and the Twins rewarded me with a 6-4-3 twin killing in the second inning and a 4-6-3 version in the ninth.
  • The Twins used a line up that had a lead off hitter who, last season, hit 42 home runs and drove in 99 – and a cleanup hitter who went .261-11-49 a year ago.
  • For those who like home runs: Mike Moustakas poled one to right-center in the fourth inning to give the Royals a 1-0 lead; and the Twins’ Miguel Sano scorched oen to left in the fourth inning to tie the game.
  • If defense if your game:  two diving catches (highlight reel stuff) by CF Byron Buxton and 2B Brian Dozier’s glove scoop and flip on a bunt.
  • During the Kiss-Cam, only two “gentleman” removed their caps before the kiss.
  • The free Twins Magazine now includes a scorecard – saved a dollar.
  • BBRT likes to rate each park’s Bloody Mary (a full look at Twins concessions, click here.  )  I tried the Bloody Mary at Two Gingers (second deck) and it passed muster.  Not just mix and vodka, but solid spices added and two large olives ($10.50).

A FEW MLB OPENDING DAY TIDBITS

Madison bumgarner photo

Photo by andyrusch

MADBUM GOES DEEP

The first MLB 2017 regular season game produced a first of its own – as San Francisco Giants’ “Ace” pitcher Madison Bumgarner became the first pitcher to slam two home runs on Opening Day (giving him the 2017 MLB lead). Bumgarner was also perfect on the mound through five innings (he retired the first 16 batters in order, striking out eight) before giving up three consecutive hits and three runs with one out in the sixth.

Bumganer ended the game two-for-two with a walk at the plate and threw seven innings of six-hit, three-run ball – striking out eleven and walking no one.  He got a no-decision, as the D-backs won 6-5 on shortstop Chris Owings’ walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.  The Giants’ new closer Mark Melancon – acquired to reinforce a leaky bullpen – took the loss, giving up two runs in the bottom of the ninth.

MOST HOME RUNS IN AN OPENING DAY GAME

When Giants’ mound “Ace” Madison Bumgarner crushed a pair of home runs in the opening game of the 2017 season, he came within one of the MLB Opening Day record.  Three players – the Blue Jays’ George Bell, Cubs’ Tuffy Rhodes and Tigers’ Dmitri Young share the record for home runs in an opening day game with three.

On April 4, 1988, George Bell – batting clean-up and serving as the DH – became the first major leaguer to hit three home runs in an Opening Day game as his Blue Jays topped the Royals 5-3 in Kansas City. 

On a windy April 4, 1994, Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes (leading off and playing CF for the Cubs in Chicago) hit three solo shots off Mets’ starter Dwight Gooden. Rhodes also had a single and a walk in five plate appearances. Despite Rhodes’ record-tying performance, the Cubs lost to the visiting Mets 12-8. 

On April 4, 2005 the Tigers’ Dmitri Young rapped three Opening Day home runs – as the Tigers topped the Royals 11-2 in Detroit. 

On the other side of the coin (or plate), on March 31, 1996, White Sox catcher Ron Karkovice set an MLB Opening Day record by striking out five times as Chicago lost 3-2 in Seattle.

METS LOVE OPENING DAY

The Mets topped Atlanta on Opening Day 2017, running their season opener record to 36-20 – that .643 Opening Day winning percentage is the best in MLB.

MORE #WhyIHateTheDH

Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson tripled and drove in a run as his Phillies topped the Reds 4-3 on Opening Day 2017 in Cincinnati.  Hellickson got the win.

LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED

Phillies’ 2B Cesar Hernandez and Astros’ CF George Springer each led off their teams 2017 opening game with home runs –  becoming the 34th and 35th players to do so. Only Astros’ OF Terry Puhl accomplished the feat twice – 1978 and 1980.

AN OPENDING DAY TIDBIT JUST FOR TWINS FANS

AlyeaBeing a Twins fan, one of my favorite Opening Day records is seven RBI in game one of the season – shared by the Twins’ Brant Alyea and the Cubs’ Corey Patterson.

On April 7, 1970 – in his very first game as a Twin – LF Brant Alyea became the first player (and still only American Leaguer) to drive in seven runs in an Opening Day game – as Minnesota topped the White Sox 12-0 in Chicago. Batting fifth, Alyea went four-for-four, with two home runs, two singles and two runs scored.  The game, it turned out, would foreshadow a strong April for Alyea.  In 17 April games, he hit .415, with seven runs, 23 RBI, four doubles and five home runs.

Thirty-three seasons later – on March 31, 2003 – Cubs’ CF Corey Patterson tied Alyea’s record. In a 15-2 win over the Mets in New York, Patterson, batting seventh, drove in seven runs, going four-for-six with two home runs and two runs scored.  Patterson, a career .252 hitter (12 seasons), was an Opening Day All Star. In seven Opening Day appearances, Patterson hit .440, with seven runs, 12 RBI and three home runs.

A LOOK AT THE TRUE KINGS OF OPENING DAY

TED WILLIAMS

Ted Williams photo

Photo by Wicker Paradise

Perhaps no one looked forward to Opening Day more than Ted Williams – the king of the Opening Day batter’s box.  A career .344 hitter, Williams was even better on Opening Day.  Teddy Ballgame played in fourteen openers and was never held hitless.  He compiled a .449 Opening Day average (22 hits in 49 at bats), with three home runs, eight doubles, one triple, nine runs scored, 14 RBI and eleven walks.  His Opening Day on-base percentage was .550 and his season-opener slugging percentage was .837.

WALTER JOHNSON

The Washington Senators’ Walter Johnson can be crowned king of the Opening Day hill.  On his first-ever Opening Day start (April 14, 1910), the 22-year-old Johnson tossed a 3-0 one-hit shutout against the Philadelphia Athletics.  Sixteen years (and 13 Opening Day starts) later, a 38-year-old Johnson fulfilled his last Opening Day assignment with a 15-inning, complete-game, 1-0 win (6 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts) over the A’s.  Johnson holds the record for Opening Day pitching victories with nine (against five losses) and also threw a record seven Opening Day shutouts.

A FINAL THOUGHT

20172I never have minded the naming of ballparks after sponsors – Target Field actually works for me.  But now, it seems like everything at the ballpark has a sponsor – from the challenge/replay to the foul lines (see poto). 

 

 

 

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

Lou Gehrig – A Record 13 Consecutive 100/100 Seasons

As I get anxious for Opening Day, I find myself  browsing the baseball record and history books for a little diversion.  Here’s a look at the topic of offensive productivity – as measured by seasons in which a player both scored and drove in 100 or more runs.

Embed from Getty Images

Runs and RBI, nobody did a better job of putting them together than the Yankee’s Lou Gehrig – who strung together an MLB-record streak of 13 consecutive seasons of topping both 100 runs scored and 100 driven in.  The streak ran from 1926 through 1938 and, during that stretch, the average Gehrig season was a .343 average, with 139 runs scored (a high of 167 in 1936), 147 RBI (a high of 185 in 1931), 36 home runs (49 in 1934 and 1936) – and he even tossed in an average of 12 triples and seven stolen bases per season.  (Remember, they only played 154 games at that time.)

During this incredible stretch of offensive dominance, Gehrig led the AL in runs scored four times, RBI five times, home runs three times, batting average once, hits once, triples once and doubles twice.

IRON MAN – BISCUIT PANTS – LARRUPIN’ LOU

Lou Gehrig not only took a turn at leading the league in nearly every offensive category at least once during his on-field career, he also was the likely leader in nicknames.  Here are a few of the most often used monikers:

Columbia Lou – Early in his career, because he was signed off the campus of Columbia University (football scholarship).

Buster – By teammates, early in his career, because of the way he “busted” baseballs.

Biscuit Pants – Because of the way his thick legs and lower torso filled out his baggy uniform pants.

Larrupin’ Lou – Because of the way he “larruped” a baseball.

Iron Man – Because he was in the lineup day-in and day-out.

The Iron Horse – (See above).

Alex Rodriguez photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Second on the list of consecutive seasons of both 100+ Runs and 100+ RBI is Alex Rodriguez’ 11-season streak that  ran from 1998 through 2008 and included three seasons with the Mariners, three with the Rangers and five with the Yankees.  During his streak, Rodriguez averaged .304, with 122 runs, 125 RBI and 44 home runs per campaign.  During that span, A-Rod led the league in runs scored four times (high of 143 in 2007), RBI twice (high of 156 in 2007) and home runs five times (high of 57 in 2002).

 

How impressive is Gehrig’s 13-seaason streak of 100+ runs scored AND 100+ runs batted in?  Thirteen is also the record for streaks of EITHER 100+ runs scored or 100+ runs batted in.  Jimmie Foxx (1929-41) and Alex Rodriguez (1998-2010) are tied with Gehrig for at 13 straight 100+ RBI seasons.  In terms of runs scored, the three players who have run up strings of 13-consecutive such seasons are:  Gehrig; Alex Rodriguez (1996-2008); and Hank Aaron (1955-67). Gehrig is, of course, the only one to do both in the same thirteen straight campaigns.

How does that compare with some other MLB greats?

Jimmie Foxx had a run of nine straight 100+ runs/100+ RBI seasons (1932-1940) – and a total of eleven in his 20-season MLB career.

Frank Thomas had a streak of eight 100/100 seasons (1991-1998) – and a total of nine
“double-hundreds” in his 19-season career.

Ted Williams photo

Photo by wild mercury

Ted Williams ran up an unusual eight-year streak – that could have been much longer. He opened his career with four straight 100/100 seasons (1939-42) – lost three seasons to military service – then came back to put together four more consecutive 100/100 campaigns (1946-49), before breaking his arm in the 1950 All Star Game. (In 1950, he played just 89 games and still ran up 82 runs and 97 RBI).  Williams had nine 100/100 seasons in his 19-year MLB career.

 

Babe Ruth’s longest streak of 100/100 seasons was seven (1926-32) – and he had 12 such campaigns in his 22-year career.

Willie Mays also had a seven-season 100/100 streak (1959-65) – and nine total (22 MLB seasons).

Albert Pujols (still active) started his MLB career with six consecutive 100/100 seasons (2001-2006) – and only a 99-RBI campaign in 2007 kept him from a streak of ten.  Going into the 2017, Pujols has nine 100/100 campaigns.

Jeff Bagwell had a six-season 100/100 streak (1996-2001) – and had eight 100/100 seasons in a 15-year MLB career.

Hank Aaron’s longest 100+/100+streak was five seasons (1959-63), as were Ralph Kiner’s (1947-51) and Ken Griffey Jr’s (1996-2000).  Those three players’ total number of 100/100 seasons are ten, six and six, respectively.

Miguel Cabrera (active) has a five-season 100/100 streak (2010-14) on his resume – and eight such seasons overall.

Stan Musial’s longest streak of consecutive 100/100 seasons was four (1948-51) – and he had a total of seven such seasons (22-year MLB career).

Barry Bonds had a four-year run of 100/100 campaigns (1995-98), as did Duke Snider (1953-56). Bonds had a total of eleven 100/100 seasons and Snider had five.

Here are the total number of 100/100 seasons for a few long-time major leaguers:

  • Joe DiMaggio had a total of seven 100/100 seasons (in 13 MLB campaigns);
  • Frank Robinson had six 100/100 seasons in a 21-year MLB career;
  • Mike Schjmidt (18 seasons) and Manny Ramirez (19 seasons) also each had six 100/100 campaigns;
  • Honus Wagner and Rogers Hornsby each had five 100/100 seasons (in 21- and 23-year MLB careers, respectively);
  • Sammy Sosa had five 100/100 campaigns (18 seasons);
  • Ty Cobb had four (in 24 seasons), as did Eddie Mathews (17 seasons);
  • Mickey Mantle (18 MLB seasons), Mark McGwire (16 seasons) and David Ortiz (20 seasons) each reached the 100/100 mark three times.
  • Willie McCovey (22 seasons), Dave Winfield (22 seasons), and Kirby Puckett (12 seasons) each had two 100/100 years.

Looking at a sampling of additional active players (not inclusive, just a sample): Ryan Braun has four 100/100 seasons (consecutive, 2009-12); Adrian Gonzalez has three; Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt have two each.

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Position Players Who Pitched in 2016 … and Then Some

In his final season, Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx (.325 with 534 HR's over 20 seasons) went 1-0, with a 1.59 ERA in nine mound appearances. (He also played 40 games at 1B and 14 at 3B). He's a member of theBBRT All Time Position Players Who Pitched Team (in this post).

In his final season, Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx (.325 with 534 HR’s over 20 seasons) went 1-0, with a 1.59 ERA in nine mound appearances. (He also played 40 games at 1B and 14 at 3B). He’s a member of the BBRT All Time Position Players Who Pitched All Star Team (in this post).

As Opening Day approaches, we all need a little diversion from the impatience of waiting for that first “pitch that counts.”  With that in mind, BBRT would like to take a look back at an unusual set of 2016 statistical lines – those belonging to position players who took the mound – usually, but not always, in games that were already out of hand.  First, we’ll look at some statistics and trivia surrounding those appearances; then a Hall of Fame All-Time All Star team of position players who pitched; and, finally, a game-by-game look at 2016 position-player appearances on the hill.

First for the stat-inclined:

  • Twenty-two position players took the mound a total of 26 times in 2016.
  • A total of 18 teams (13 AL and five NL) used position players in relief.
  • While the Padres sent position players to the mound the most times (three), AL teams used position players to pitch 19 times to the NL’s seven.
  • Position players threw a total of 24 2/3 innings this past season; with a 5.47 ERA.
  • More catchers were used as pitchers (seven of the 22 players and nine of the 26 appearances) than any other position.

IT AIN’T OVER ‘TILL THE CATCHER COMES IN TO PITCH

Only once in 2016 did position players take the mound in a game that was “still in question.” On July 1, the Blue Jays used a pair of infielders (Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins) in the 18th and 19th innings of a 2-1 loss to the Indians.

Now some individual stats:

  • Four position players were called on to pitch twice in 2017: Christian Bethancourt (Padres); Drew Butera (Royals); Chris Gimenez (Indians); Erik Kratz (Astros/Pirates).
  • Three position players reached 90-mph on the radar gun while on the mound: Christian Bethancourt (Padres); J.B. Shuck (White Sox); Eduardo Escobar (Twins). Bethancourt led the way at 96 mph.
  • We saw a (pinch) pitching position player facing a pinch-hitting pitcher: the Cubs’ Miguel Montero pitching to the Mets’ Jason deGrom on July 3.
  • If you are a position player whose first name is Tyler, you have a better than average chance of taking the mound. The 2016 list of position players who pitched includes: Tyler Motter; Tyler Ladendorf; Tyler White; and Tyler Holt.
  • Four position  players logged clean (no baserunners) mound appearances of at least one inning:Bryon Holaday (1 1/3 innings, 18 pitches, 12 strikes); Luis Sardinas ( one inning, eight pitches, six strikes); Chris Gimenez (one inning, ten pitches, six strikes); and Tyler Holt (one inning, five pitches, four strikes).

Erik Kratz, a reserve catcher, pitched for both the Astros and Pirates in 2016; becoming the first player to catch and pitch in both the AL and NL in the same season.

_______________________

All Time Hall of Fame Position Players Who Took A Mound Turn

C – Buck Ewing

1B – Stan Musial

2B – John Ward

3B – Wade Boggs

SS – Honus Wagner

OF – Ted Williams

OF – Ty Cobb

OF – Tris Speaker

DH – Jimmie Foxx

P- Babe Ruth (yes, even after he joined the Yankees, he took an occasional turn on the hill).

 

2016 POSITION PLAYER PITCHING APPEARANCES

April 27 … Erik Kratz, Astros

On April 27, for the first time in the 2016 season, a position player – Astros’ reserve catcher Eric Kratz – strolled in from the bullpen to take the mound. Kratz came on to start the bottom of the eighth with Seattle (at home) up 9-1 on his Astros.  He reached the low-80’s on the radar gun (and the backstop on at least one pitch), while giving up two runs on three hits, two wild pitches and a passed ball. The Astros lost 11-1. It was the 36-year-old Kratz’ first MLB pitching appearance, but it wouldn’t be his last.

May 8 … Josh Phegley, A’s

On May 8, the Orioles – behind home runs by Manny Machado (two long balls), Pedro Alverez, Jonathan Schoop. Mark Trumbo and Joey Rickard – were leading the A’s (in Baltimore) 11-3 with one out in the bottom of the eighth.  Saving bullpen arms seemed to make sense, so reserve catcher Josh Phegley was called to the mound.  Phegley acquitted himself well, fanning Adam Jones on a 3-2 pitch with an 86-mph fastball and then getting Mark Trumbo on a pop up to the infield.  While it was Phlegley’s first professional pitching experience, he did win the 2006 Indiana Mr. Baseball Award (high school) as a catcher-pitcher.

May 20 … RubenTejada, Cardinals

On May 20, veteran infielder (primarily SS) Ruben Tejada made his first-ever professional pitching appearance.   The 26-year-old, seven-season major leaguer came on in the top of the ninth with the Cardinals trailing the Diamondbacks 9-2.  It started okay, as he flashed a mid-80’s fastball and got a fly out by Yasmany Tomas.  Then there were home runs by Chris Herrmann and Brandon Drury before a pair of fly outs (Chris Owings and Phil Gosselin). All in a day’s (or inning’s) work.

May 31 … Chris Bethancourt and Alexi Amarista, Padres

With the Padres trailing the Mariners 16-4 (in Seattle), San Diego brought Chris Bethancourt – who had started the game at catcher and later moved to left field – to the mound to start the bottom of the eighth. Bethancourt opened a few eyes by reaching 96 mph on the radar gun and throwing an assortment of fastballs, changeups (in the 80’s), knuckleballs, a slider (that resulted in an HBP) and even a 53-mph “eephus” pitch.  The results were mixed – fly out to right; walk; fly out to left; walk; hit-by-pitch.  After 26 pitches Andy Green pulled Bethancourt (moving him to second base, his fourth position of the game) and brought Alexi Ramirez in from shortstop to get the final out – which he did on one pitch (inducing a groundout).  BBRT Note:  The 25-year-old Bethancourt (a .223 hitter in 153 MLB games), who has proven he can consistently top 90 mph from the mound, pitched and played in the field in the Panamanian Winter League and in 2017 Spring Training

June 14… Chris Bethancourt, Padres

Padres’ utility player Chris Bethancourt made his second mound appearance on June 14 – this time against the Marlins.  Once again combining mid-90’s heat with an “eephus” pitch that this time registered just 49 mph, Bethancourt (who came in to pitch the top of the ninth with San Diego down 13-4) gave up a single and a walk, allowing no runs and notching one strikeout.   

June 19 …. Andrew Romine, Tigers

The Tigers were down 16-5 to Kansas City, when manager Brad Ausmus called in utility  player Andrew Romine (last season he played every position except catcher) to pitch. It was the bottom of the eighth and the Royals had runners on first and third, with one out. Using a fastball in the high 80’s and a knuckler, Romine (who was a relief pitcher on his high school team) walked LF Jarrod Dyson, induced 3B Cheslor Cuthbert to ground out (fielder’s choice) scoring one run, walked 2B Whit Merrifield and then got pinch hitter Christian Colon on a grounder to third.  It was Romine’ second MLB mound appearance.  He gave up four hits, three runs (two homers) in one inning in 2014. This second outing lowered his career ERA to 16.20.

July 1 … Tyler Motter, Rays

Tampa Bay Rays’ rookie utility player Tyler Motter (who had already played six defensive positions in 2016 – everywhere but CF, C and P) took a turn on the mound on July 1. The game was in Tampa and the Rays were down 10-0 to the Tigers (batting with one on and two out in the top of the ninth), when Motter was called in to pitch. He faced two hitters, giving up a single to C James McCann and inducing a groundball out off the bat of SS Jose Iglesias. It was Motter’s second professional pitching experience; he also threw one scoreless inning (one hit, one walk) at High A Charlotte in 2013. Note: In 2015, the versatile Motter led the International League in doubles and extra base hits – hitting .284-17-87. In 2016, he hit .209 at Triple A and .188 in 34 games for the Rays.

A Hitter “Pinch-Pitching” to a Pitcher Pinch Hitting

July 3 … Miguel Montero, Cubs

On July 3, the Mets were pounding the Cubs 13-1 when, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon brought in catcher Miguel Montero to relieve Joel Peralta (two outs runner on first). Montero hit the first batter he faced (1B James Loney) with a pitch and then induced an inning-ending groundout.

It was when Montero came to the mound to start the eighth inning that things got a little strange. Montero gave up a leadoff single to Mets’ CF Juan Lagares. Due up next was Mets’ relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo.  The Mets went to their bench for a pinch-hitter – pitcher Jacob deGrom.  So, we had a position player (pinch) pitching to a pitcher pinch hitting. Montero got deGrom (hitting about .160 at the time) on a fly ball to left. He then retired LF Brandon Nimmo on a fly to right before giving up three more singles and one run.  Montero’s line for the day: 1 1/3 innings, four hits and one earned run.

June 3 … Tyler Ladenorf, A’s

In 2016, Tyler Ladenorf was a true utility player for the Oakland A’s – spending time at DH, 2B, 3B, CF, RF and PITCHER. (In his 53 career MLB games – 2015/16 – he has also taken the field at SS and LF.) The 28-year-old Ladenorf, who hadn’t pitched since high school, came on in the eighth, with the A’s trailing 12-2. He gave up a single and a walk in a scoreless inning.

June 8 … J.B. Shuck, White Sox

J.B. Shuck did not find himself in an enviable situation on June 8.  The White Sox outfielder was on the mound in the top of the ninth with his team down 11-0 to the Nationals and 2016 All Star and reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper at the plate.  Shuck, who was brought in at the start of the inning, had already given up one run on a double and a pair of ground outs.  However, he got Harper on a grounder to first. In the process, Shuck reach 91 mph on the radar gun. It was Shuck’s first MLB pitching appearance, but he is no stranger to the mound. He pitched and played outfield at Ohio State.  In fact, as a college freshman, he not only batted .325 (123 at bats), but also led the team in ERA (2.51 in 79 innings). Shuck also threw a scoreless (1-2-3) inning at Triple A in 2012.

 June 13 … Chris Bethancourt, Padres

Apparently, the Padres found Chris Benthancourt’s mid-90’s fastball impressive (see May 31), since they brought the Padres’ backstop back in to pitch on June 13th – for the ninth inning of a 13-4 loss to the Marlins (in San Diego). He came off the bench this time and gave up a hit and a walk in an 18-pitch scoreless inning, which included a strikeout of Marlins’ pitcher Brian Ellington.

ONE FOR THE (RECORD) BOOKS

June 22 … Erik Kratz, Pirates

It was an unusual year for MLB catcher Erik Kratz.  He started the season with the Padres, was traded to the Astros, was cut from the Astros, played in the Angels’ minor league system and was signed by the Pirates – all by June 11.  Then on June 22, the seven-season (five teams) MLB veteran backstop PITCHED his way into the baseball record books.   On that day, the Pirates were facing the Giants in Pittsburgh.  By the top the eighth, San Francisco had a 10-1 lead and Kratz had entered the game playing first base.

Things did not get any better, as the Giants upped their lead to 15-1 by the end of the inning. The Pirates scored a couple in the bottom of the inning (now 15-3) and, in the top of the ninth, Kratz moved from first base to the mound. When he threw his first pitch, he made history as the first player to catch and pitch in both the American and National Leagues in the same season. (Katz had taken the mound for the AL Astros on April 27).

Kratz had a better outing this time, giving up two hits and no runs – and even notching a strikeout (Brandon Belt.) Oh, the 36-year-old Kratz topped of his day by striking out in the bottom of the ninth to end the game.   Note: Kratz indicated he last pitched regularly in high school, but did log a handful of innings in the minor leagues. His “stuff” on the historic day ranged from a 52-mph knuckler to a mid-80’s fastball.

June 25 … Drew Butera, Royals

Royals’ backup catcher Drew Butera started the June 25 game against the Astros (in Kansas City) on the bench (well, in the bullpen). He was finally called into action in the Astros’ half of the ninth inning, coming in from the pen – not to catch – to take the mound. At the time, Houston had runners on first and third with no outs and a 12-5 lead.  Butera gave up a run-scoring double to Astros’ catch Juan Castro before retiring the next three batters in order, including a strikeout of 1B Marwin Gonzalez. Butera came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth and lashed a double to left field.

July 1 … Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins, Blue Jays

Normally, one expects to see position players take the mound in blowouts – as managers work to save bullpen arms.  On July 1, Blue Jays’ manager John Gibbons sent a couple of position players to the mound in a 1-1 game simply because he had run out of relievers.  The Blue Jays and Indians went into the 18th inning (in Toronto) tied 1-1 and Gibbons had used all seven available relievers. They had combined to toss 10 1/3 scoreless innings, with seven hits, one walk and eight strikeouts.

Out of options, Gibbons brought middle infielder Ryan Goins off the bench to pitch the 18th. Goins had a rough inning, but emerged unscathed. It started with a pair of singles – putting Indians’ RF Lonnie Chisenhall and 3B Jose Ramirez at first and third, respectively. The next batter, LF Michael Martinez grounded to second base, with Ramirez caught in a 2B-C-3B-P rundown trying to score (Goins getting the putout). After an intentional walk to CF Tyler Naquin, Goins got C Chris Gomez to hit into a double play to end the inning still tied 1-1.

In the 19th inning, Blue Jays’ 2B Darwin Barney (at this point, three-for-eight in the game) replaced Goins on the hill. He gave up a home run (the game winner) to the first batter he faced (DH Carlos Santana) before retiring the next three batters (including a strikeout of 1B Mike Napoli).

July 2 …. Ryan LaMarre, Red Sox

Ouch!  The score 21-2 when Red Sox’ reserve OF Ryan LaMarre was called in to pitch the ninth against the Angels on July 2.  Considering, each of the four pitchers who preceded him had given up at least three runs, he did an admirable job.  LeMarre threw 12 pitches, eight for strikes, giving up two hits – but no runs.

July 2 … Bryon Holaday, Rangers

The Rangers were down 17-5 to the Twins (in Minnesota) and had gone through four relievers, when reserve catcher Bryon Holaday was called in to replace Tony Barnette with one on (first) and one out in the bottom of the seventh.  Holaday got the final out of the inning (Danny Santana) on a fly out and then went on to pitch a 1-2-3 eighth.  Overall, Holaday pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings – 18 pitches/12 strikes – in what is still his only career MLB mound stint. (He had been a pitcher/shortstop in high school, before moving to catcher in college.)

July 3 … Chris Gimenez, Indians

The day before Independence Day, Indians’ backstop Chris Giminez celebrated by freeing himself of the catchers’ shin guards, mask and chest protector – coming in to the game at third base in the sixth inning and going to the mound in the seventh. Gimenez – who threw 33 pitches/23 strikes over the seventh and eighth innings of a 17-1 Blue Jays win, was credited with an 82-mph fastball and a 67-mph change. He came into the game with the Indians down 13-1 and retired the side in order in the seventh. They should have let him quit while he was ahead.  In the bottom of the eighth, Gimenez gave up four tallies as he faced the middle of the order:  Josh 3B Donaldson, double; DH Edwin Encarnacion, run-scoring double;  LF Mike Saunders, fly out;  C Russell Martin, run-scoring single; SS Troy Tulowitzki, infield fly out; 1B Justin Smoak, two-run homer;  RF Junior Lake, ground out.

July 8 … Jared Hoying, Rangers

On July 8, for the second time in a week, the Rangers called on a position player to save wear and tear on the bullpen arms. Rookie outfielder Jared Hoying was called in to pitch the top of the ninth with the Rangers trailing 9-0.  Throwing consistently in the 60-mph range, Hoying (who said the last time he pitched was in high school – and even then it was rare) retired three of four batters – giving up a solo home run to Twins’ DH Kennys Vargas. Hoying threw 14 pitches, nine for strikes.

July 26 … Drew Butera, Royals

Royals’ backup catcher Sal Butera was called on to pitch for the second time in 2016 (see June 25), this time to get just the final out in the ninth inning of a 13-0 loss to the Angels (in Kansas City). Butera induced a groundball out from 2B Johnny Giavotella on an 0-2 count.  Butera is almost a “fixture” on the mound among position players. He’s made five trips to the hill (to pitch, many more as a catcher), pitching a total of four innings – with a 4.50 ERA and four strikeouts.

Sal and Drew Butera – Father and Son Have Both Experienced Both Sides of the “Battery”

The apple falls not far from the tree. Sal Butera enjoyed nine-year major league career as a catcher (Twins/Tigers/Expos/Red/Blue Jays).  During that time (1980-88), he not only caught in 348 games, he took the mound twice (for the Expos in 1985 and the Reds in 1986). Butera’s career pitching line: Two games, two innings pitched, no hits, no runs, one walk – no decisions.

Sal’s son – Drew Butera – also made it to the major leagues as a catcher; coming up in 2010 and still active in 2016 (Twins/Dodgers/Angels/Royals). Like his dad, he’s worked behind the plate (342 games) and on the mound (five pitching appearances). Butera has pitched for the Twins, Dodgers and Royals, with a career line of four innings pitched, three hits, two earned runs one walk, four strikeouts – and no decisions.

July 29 … Luis Sardinas, Mariners

On July 29, in one of the best position-player relief appearances of the season, Mariners utility man Luis Sardinas used a high-70’s/low 80’s fastball, and a 65-mph curve to pitch a 1-2-3 frame against the future World Series Champion Cubs. At the time, the Mariners were trailing 12-0 (bottom of the eighth), had already sat through an hour-and-fifteen-minute rain delay and had used four pitchers (all of whom were scored upon). Sardinas got through his clean inning on eight pitches – six strikes. It went: ground out to third (SS Addison Russell); ground out to pitcher (RF Jason Heyward); fly out to center (3B Javier Baez).  In 2016, Sardinas played 1B, 2B, 3B, SS and LF in addition to his mound stint.

August 11 … Eduardo Escobar, Twins

On August 11, the Twins (at home) were trailing the Astros 12-6 in the top of the ninth. Reliever Taylor Rogers came on to pitch.  The inning did not get off to a good start: walk, walk, throwing error by Rogers (scoring a run), single (scoring another run). With that, manager Paul Molitor chose to pull another reliever out of his hat. This time it was Eduardo Escobar, who had started the game as SS. Molitor moved starting 3B Jorge Polanco to short, brought in Trevor Plouffe to play third and had Escobar replace Rogers on the mound.  Using a 90-mph fastball and even tossing in a trio of curveballs, Escobar  got ten of sixteen pitches over for strikes – giving  up a harmless single and then notching two fly outs and a pop up to end the inning. (Escobar, by the way, was two-for-four while in the game at shortstop.)

August 20 … Ryan Flaherty, Orioles

In the eighth inning of a game in which the Orioles trailed the Astros 10-1, Ryan Flaherty came in to replace Manny Machado at 3B – little did he know he would soon move half-way across the diamond (to the mound). Having already used four relievers, Buck Showalter brought Flaherty in to pitch the top of the ninth (DH Pedro Alvarez took over at 3B).    Flaherty used primarily a low-80’s mph fastball and was touched up for two runs on three hits, including a home run to the first batter he faced – Astros’ catcher Jason Castro. Still, he threw 12 of 19 pitches for strikes. Oh, yeah, and Flaherty led off the bottom of the ninth with a strikeout looking. Tough day at the office.

August 18 … Tyler White, Astros

No doubt the 2016 Orioles had a homer-heavy lineup. On August 18, they had already hit five long balls – J.J. Hardy (two), Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado – in building a seventh-inning 12-5 lead over the Astros (in Baltimore). It should come as no surprise then that Astros’ 1B Tyler White, brought in to pitch the eighth inning, gave up a second home run to the Orioles’ Chris Davis (who would hit 38 on the year). Still, White acquitted himself well, giving up just the one hit and retiring Manny Machado on a grounder to third, Mark Trumbo on a grounder to short and Pedro Alvarez on a fly out to left.

August 22 … Tyler Holt, Reds

Reds’ reserve outfielder Tyler Holt didn’t waste any time retiring the side when he was called upon to face the Dodgers in the ninth inning of an 18-9 blowout. Holt had pinch-hit for reliever Michael Lorenzen in the bottom of the eighth and stayed in to pitch the ninth.  He used a combination of knuckleballs and “batting practice” fastballs to set the Dodgers down in order (fly out-groundout-fly out) on just five pitches (four strikes). Of the six Red who took the mound in Cincinnati that day. Holt was the only one who didn’t give up at least two runs.

August 27 … Chris Gimenez, Indians

On August 27, Chris Gimenez made is second 2016 mound appearance for the Indians (see July 3). He fared better this time out. (Gimenez gave up four runs in two innings in his first 2017 mound stint.) Coming to the mound in the bottom of the eighth with the Indians down 7-0, Gimenez pitched a 1-2-3 inning: Elvis Andrus (line out to SS); Robinson Chirinos (ground out to SS); and Nomar Mazara (foul pop).

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

Bobbles to Bangles – 2017 MLB Team Giveaways

MLB’s regular season is closing in fast and, as is BBRT’s tradition, it’s time to take a look at the ballpark “extras” fans can expect – promotions, giveaways, theme nights, special discounts and more.  Being from Minnesota, I will put a little “extra” emphasis on the Twins; but I’ll share some information on unique giveways across MLB.

DISCLAIMER:  Keep in mind, promotional items and schedules are subject to change without notice. For a complete list and up-to-date details regarding 2017 Twins promotions (including dates, numbers of items, activities and eligibility) click here  For details on promotions and events across MLB, visit each team’s website.

This year’s team  promotions range from bobbles (bobbleheads, that is) to bangles (like the Hanley Ramirez Chain and Diamondbacks’ Mothers’ Day “Clutch”).  They also range from traditional (baseball caps, jerseys and gloves) to hi-tech (the Phillies are literally giving away a “Tech Kit,” as well as a cell phone wallet and “texting” gloves) to super practical (Mariners’ Potting Soil Night).  And, they salute players new (like Dansby Swanson and Michael Fulmer) and old (like Hank Aaron and Whitey Ford).  In addition, they celebrate a range of individual and team events from Rod Carew’s 1977 MVP season to the Cubs’ 2016 World Series win. Even mascots like the Phillie Phanatic, Fredbird and T.C. Bear are getting into the act. There is truly something for everyone. The giveaway BBRT is most excited about, however, is something new that the Twins are offering to young fans.

BASEBALL ROUNDTABLE 2017 MOST UNIQUE NEW BALLPARK GIVEAWAY

TwinsTThis season, on April 23, the Twins’ are introducing a truly personal touch to ballpark promotions – a customizable Twins Youth T-Shirt.  That’s right!  The Twins Tee will come with iron-on letters and numbers, so youngsters can have their very own personalized Twins outfit (or maybe wear the name and number of their favorite player).  The first 5,000 youngsters 14-and-under will receive T-Shirts, so get there early. Plus, Sunday is Kids Day, so young folks can get a player autograph before the game; enjoy a half-price Kids Meal ($4 for a hot dog; chips or apple sauce; and milk, soda or juice) during the game; and can run the bases after the game.  Now, that is kid- and parent-friendly day at Target Field.  BBRT Note: Among the runners-up for most unique promotional item were the Phillies “texting” gloves and a singing Francisco Cervelli bobblehead from the Pirates. 

In the remainder of this post, BBRT will take a look at some of the most popular or unique items in the MLB’s “Gift Bags” for the year – listing my top five (hometown) Twins promos, as well as a featured promotional item from each team’s 2017 collection.  Since bobbleheads remain the king of ballpark promos, I’ll also list the bobbleheads (and dates) for each team. Then, I’ll also take a look at the Twins’ special Theme Days and Nights, as well as discounts on tickets and concessions. (Twins fans may want to be sure to read – or scroll – past the team-by-team section to take in the Twins-specific events and bargains.)  I’ll finish up with BBRT’s 2017 All-Bobblehead All Star Team. And, again remember, before finalizing your plans, check each team’s website for details (dates and promotions may change) on dates, numbers, eligibility, etc.

BOBBLEHEADS ARE STILL THE TOP MLB GIVEAWAY

2017 bobblehead giveaways range from the unique (Robin Yount Motorcyle) to the traditional (Gary Sanchez' swing.)

2017 bobblehead giveaways range from the unique (Robin Yount Motorcyle) to the traditional (Gary Sanchez’ swing.)

The king of MLB giveaways remains the bobblehead.  This year, teams are slated to hand out 133 different bobbleheads – totalling more than 2.25 million individual bobblers.  (An exact count is difficult, as some teams list totals for giveaways as “all fans” or “as long as supplies last” – 2.25 million is a conservative estimate. Smith and Street’s Sports Business Journal – in a November 30, 2015 article – reported that MLB teams distributed 3.17 million bobbleheads in 2015.) I would also note that the BBRT estimate does not include bobbleheads to be distributed as part of theme nights that require special tickets.

One final thought on bobbleheads.  If bobbleheads are the royalty of ballpark giveaways, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the King of the court.  This season, the Dodgers will handout approximately 400,000 bobbleheads (10 different bobbblehead days) – the most in MLB.

 

MINNESOTA TWINS TOP-FIVE 2017 GIVEAWAYS

This season, the Twins will handout a treasure trove of team-identified baseball merchandise, including:

  • 40,000 bobbleheads
  • 40,000 Twins caps
  • 40,000 stocking caps
  • 30,000 long-sleeve, hooded t-shirts
  • 20,000 baseball card packs
  • 25,000 T-shirts
  • 10,000 fur trapper hats
  • 10,000 1987 World Series Steins
  • 10,000 Twins Hall of Fame commemorative pins
  • 10,000 pairs of socks
  • 10,000 plastic bat & ball sets
  • 10,000 magnetic schedules
  • 10,000 tote bags
  • 7,500 beach towels
  • 5,000 beach totes

gold radial gradationNow, here are BBRT’s five favorite 2017 Twins giveaways. For more details and a complete list of Twins giveaways, theme nights and special ticket or concessions offerings, click here

 

 

  1. Twins Long Sleeve Hooded Tee (30,000 – April 3) … Twins hoodies are rapidly becoming an Opening Day tradition.  A very nice Twins wearable – and, after all, what’s better than something free on Opening Day?
  2. Twins Customizable Youth Tee (5,000 – April 23) … See box  and photo near the top of this post.
  3. Rod Carew Bobblehead (10,000 – August 18) … This bobblehead is part of a Twins’ celebration of Rod Carew’s Summer of’ ’77; when Sir Rodney led the league with a .388 average, 239 hits, 128 runs scored and 16 triples.  He added 14 home runs, 100 RBI and 23 stolen bases on his way to the AL Most Valuable Player Award.  If you score only one bobblehead this season, this is the one. (Oh yes, there’s also post-game fireworks.)
  4. Twins 1987 World Championship Stein (10,000, must be 21+ – July 22) … Great way to recognize that surprising 1987 World Series win (especially if you fill it with your favorite beverage).  As a bonus, it’s part of the July 21-22 1987 World Series Championship Reunion Weekend.
  5. Tie: Twins Fur Trapper Hat (10,000 – April 15) and Twins Red Cap (20,000 – April 22) … Twins Senior Manager for Marketing and Promotions Julie Vavruska indicated the fur trapper hats have been especially popular with Twins’ fans and, from BBRT’s point of view, you can never have too many Twins baseball caps. This season, I prefer the red one.

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Now let’s move to a look at one unique item – and the bobblehead list – for each team.

Arizona Diamondbacks

DiamondbacksclutchThe BBRT-featured Diamondbacks promo will be given out on Mother’s Day (May 14) – a Diamondbacks Clutch.  Swee-ee-t!  Arizona’s bobbleheads include: Jake Lamb (April 8); Paul Goldschmidt (June 24); Robbie Ray (July 22); Sugar Skull (September 9).

 

 

 

Atlanta Braves

The Braves featured item honors one of MLB’s all-time greats – a Hank Aaron Replica Statue (August 18).  The team is also giving away five bobbleheads, honoring returning players and newcomers: Ender Inciarte Game Ender Catch (May 19); Bartolo Colon (June 9); Dansby Swanson (June 16); Matt Kemp (July 14); Freddie Freeman (August 25).

Baltimore Orioles

OriolesThe Orioles’ BBRT-featured giveaway is a Replica Stadium recognizing the 25th Anniversary of Orioles Park at Camden Yards (August 19) – although the Oriole Bird Bobblehead Toothbrush Holder (September 24) also caught my eye.  Orioles’ 2017 bobbleheads include: Zach Britton (July 1); Jonathan Schoop (August 5).

 

 

Boston Red Sox

RammyThe featured Red Sox item truly qualifies as baseball bling – A Hanley Ramirez Chain (May 1).  The featured bobbleheads for 2017: Rick Porcello Cy Young Award (April 5); Mookie Betts (April 14); Craig Kimbrel (May 24); Chris Sale (June 12); Manny Ramirez (June 27); Jackie Bradley, Jr. (August 3).

 

Chicago Cubs

Cubs trophyWe’ll give a little more space here to the Cubbies, who are celebrating the end of the curse (and, of course, a World Series Championship).  The Cubs’ featured item is the Replica 2016 World Series Trophy (April 15.)  However, fans can also pick up a Replica WS Championship Banner (April 12); Replica 2016 NL Champions Pennant (May 21); Championship Wall Flag (June 11/13-and-under); and Championship Parade Confetti Globe (June 20).  The Cubs’ bobbleheads: “The Final Out” (May 20); “World Series MVP” (June 8); “Turning Two” (July 5); “Starting Aces” (August 17).

Chicago White Sox

WhiteSoxClockThe ChiSox, this season, are treating fans to a Hawk Harrelson Alarm Clock (May 13). Their 2017 free bobbleheads: Southpaw (June 25); White Sox Stormtrooper (August 26).

 

 

 

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds’ top giveaway (from BBRT’s perspective) is actually a bobblehead – a triple bobblehead to be exact.  On  Spetember 16, the team will handout a Past and Present Bobblehead featuring Tony Perez, Sean Casey and Joey Votto. That’s a home run!  (Note: One of my favorite bobblers of all time was the Reds’ 2015 triple, featuring the “Nasty Boys” bullpen of Rob Dibble, Randy Myers and Norm Charlton, who helped the Reds claim the 1990 World Series Championship.) Also on the Reds’ 2017 bobblehead list: Adam Duvall (May 20); Anthony DeSclafani (June 3); Billy Hamilton (July 15); Raisel Iglesias (August 5); Homer Bailey (August 26); Fan Vote (September 23.)

Cleveland Indians

IndiansTrophyThe Indians are showing off Cleveland pride with their BBRT-featured giveaway – a Replica of the 2017 American League Championship Trophy (May 24)They are also a great source for that coveted Indians’ jersey, as their promotional schedule includes a: Carlos Santana jersey (June 10); Cody Allen jersey (June 24); Andrew Miller jersey (July 8); Edwin Encarnacion jersey (August 26); and a 1977 jersey (September 9). Bobbleheads for 2017: Jose Ramirez (May 27); Francisco Lindor (July 4); Jason Kipnis (July 22); Terry Francona (August 23).

Colorado Rockies

EarthDayOkay, I admit it, I’m a John Denver fan – which helps make choosing the Rockies’  Earth Day 2017 T-shirt (April 21) as the BBRT-featured Rockies’ Giveaway easy- although the Jon Gray Hair Hat (June 16) was tempting.  The Rockies’ bobbleheads for this season: DJ LeMahieu NL Batting Champ (April 8); MARVEL Super Heroes (July 8); Adam Ottavino Star Wars (July 22); Nolan Arenado (August 19).

 

Detroit Tigers

TigersHarThe Tigers featured giveaway reflects the weather of the Motor City – the “April in the D” Trapper Hat (April 8, when the fans will probably need them). The Tigers’ bobblehead giveaways: Michael Fulmer Rookie of the Year (June 16); James McCann (July 29); Alan Trammel (August 19).

 

 

Houston Astros

AstrosGnoemBBRT’s pick-to-click Astros’ giveaway is the Lance McCullers “Glow in the Dark” Gnome (May 20) – for a couple of reasons: 1) Who wouldn’t want a glow in the dark gnome?; and 2) It’s sponsored by Nolan Ryan Beef.  Astros’ bobbleheads: Jose Altuve (April 8); Carlos Correa (July 15); Jeff Bagwell Batting Stance (August 5); Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Mike Hampton Triple Bobblehead (August 19); George Springer Diving Catch (September 16). The weekend of August 4-5 should be exciting in Houston, it’s Jeff Bagwell Hall of Fame Weekend at the ballpark – and you could score a Replica 1997 Bagwell Jersey (August 4) and a Bagwell bobblehead (August 5), while also enjoying fireworks (August 4) and a pregame Hall of Fame ceremony (August 5).

Kansas City Royals

Kansas City has a rich baseball history – as well as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum – and  BBRT really likes their May 7 Kansas City Monarchs Jersey giveaway. Royals’ bobbleheads for this season: Kelvin Herrera (April 29); Danny Duffy (May 13); Alex Gordon (June 3); Eric Hosmer (July 22); Kevin Appier (August 19); George Brett (September 30).

Los Angeles Angels

AngelsCaracasKeeping a focus on unique items, BBRT is featuring the Angels’ Cinco De Mayo giveaway – Angels’ Maracas (May 5, of course). The Angels’ bobbleheads feature a Hall of Famer and a future Hall of Famer.  Mike Trout is featured on a series of three bobbleheads honoring his 2016 MVP season (May 16, August 4, August 22); Trout will also be recognized with a MVP Double Bobblehead (July  18); and Nolan Ryan will be honored with a August 25 bobblehead promo.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

DodgersPhoneThe Dodgers are not only the king of bobbleheads (10 different bobblehead giveways), they may very well be the royalty of MLB promotions.  In 2017, 65 of the Dodgers’ home games will feature some type of giveaway, theme or event. BBRT chose to feature a unique item – the Dodgers Phone Charger (April 4); but I could easily have picked from a  long list of promotional items,  headlined by such giveaways as the ten Great Dodger Moments Coins; the Vin Scully Commemorative Microphone Statue (May 3); the Dodgers Chips and Salsa Dish (May 8); and the replica Jackie Robinson Statue (April 15).  As for bobbleheads, the Dodgers’ 2017 lineup includes: Corey Seager (April 29); Kenley Jansen (May 10); Joc Pederson (May 23); Justin Turner (June 6); Andre Ethier (June 21); Dave Roberts (July 6); Clayton Kershaw (July 26); Gil Hodges (August 15); Adrian Gonzalez (September 6); TBD (September 26).

Miami Marlins

U.S. engineer/inventor Charles Kettering once said “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there. ” With that in mind, the Marlins’ promotional giveaway featured in this post is the Fortune Teller Baseball (which I predict will be given to the first 10,000 fans on September 4). Marlins’ 2017 bobblehead lineup: Don Mattingly (April 14); Felo Ramirez (May 28); Giancarlo Stanton 2016 HR Derby (June 3); Dee Gordon (July 29); J.T. Realmuto (August 25); Christian Yelich (September 17).

Milwaukee Brewers

EuckerThe Brewers will literally be putting Bob Eucker behind (actually on) the 8-Ball on August 13, when they hand out their Bob Eucker 8-Ball promotional item.  Also unique is the May 28 giveaway Robin Yount Bobblehead (on a motorcyle), which recognizes the Baseball Hall of Famer’s passion for motorcyle and auto racing. (See photo at the top of the post.) Other bobbleheads: Jonathan Villar (April 23); Zach Davies (July 2)

 

New York Mets

HarveyA review of MLB giveaways wouldn’t be complete without at least a couple of garden gnomes, so here’s the Mets’ Matt Harvey Garden Gnome (April 22)  – although the Noah Syndergaard Hair Hat (May 6) and Yeonis Cespedes Compression Sleeve (July 23) also were tempting.  The Mets’ team of 2017 bobblehead giveaways includes: Asdrubel Cabrera (July 1); Noah Syndergaard/Thor (July 22); Yeonis Cespedes (August 19).

 

 

 

 

 

New York Yankees

The Yankees featured giveaway commemorates the 40th Anniversary of the team’s 1977 World Series win  – a replica of the 1977 World Championship Ring (September 17). Yankee bobbleheads for the season celebrate the old and new when it comes to player selections: Gary Sanchez (April 30); Reggie Jackson (June 9); Whitey Ford (July 9); Aroldis Chapman (August 27 – this one should go “fast.”)

Oakland A’s

AsWatchThe A’s are ready to offer fans a good time on May 7, with their Sean Manaea LED Wrist Watch. (No need for Manaea to buy a vowel that’s for sure.)  On the bobblehead front: Bob Melvin (May 6); Khris Davis (June 3); Miguel Tejada & Bary Zito (July 1); G-Eazy (July 28).

 

Philadelphia Phillies  Go Tech

PhilllieTextingglovesFor the Phillies, BBRT decided to go for unique, something no other ball club was giving away – Phillies Texting Gloves (April 25). Social media, here comes the Phanatic. The Phillies, BTW – might as well go all the way with this – are also giving away a Phillies Cell Phone Wallet (April 12) and a Phillies Tech Kit (earphones, charging/power plugs, case – May 22);   Phillies bobbleheads: Mike Schmidt (July 8). Phillie Phanatic Solar Bobble Body (July 30).PhilliesPhonePhilliesTech

Pittsburgh Pirates

PiratesCervelliThe Pirates are one of only two teams – the other is the Reds – which have a bobblehead as the BBRT-featured giveaway.  But really, how can you resist a Francisco Cervelli “That’s Amore” Singing Bobblehead (April 8).  Additional Pirates’ bobbleheads for 2017: Bob Walk Chair Tip (May 20); Jody Mercer (June 17); Gregory Polanco El Coffee (August 19).

 

 

 

 

Saint Louis Cardinals

DogBowlBark in the Park, Pups in the Park, Dog Days at the Park, whatever you call it, take your dog to the ballgame day is pretty popular around MLB.  In St.Louis, it’s Purina Pooches in the Ballpark (May 20).  And, even if your pooch can’t make it to the game, you can go home with a Cardinals Pet Bowl.  Don’t have a pet, show up on September 10 for a Build-A-Bear Cardinals Pup.  Oh yes, and here are the Redbirds’ bobbleheads for the season:  Yadier Molina (April 8); Carlos Martinez and Matt Carpenter Double (April 29); Orlando Cepeda (June 9); Bob Gibson Final Out #1 (June 24); Kids Fredbird (June 25); Tim McCarver Final Out #2 (July 8); Mystery HOF Manager (August 25); Scott Rolen (September 30).

San Diego Padres

The Padres’ 2017 promo schedule is, once again, bobble-less. Still, there is the popular Padres and Puppies Calendar (April 23).  Who can resist puppies?

San Francisco Giants

GiantsCableUnique to the Giants is the September 3 San Francisco Cable Car Replica giveaway – a bit of Bay Area history. The Giants’ 2017 bobbleheads include: Johhny Cueto Shimmy (April 15); Giants Retro (June 24); and Charlie Brown (July 22).  I’d also like – ‘er love – to get one of the  June 25 promo 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love blankets.

 

 

Seattle Mariners

MarinersTBBRT was especially fond of the Mariners’ (July 21) I “Club” New York T-Shirt giveaway because it was the only one I came across that actually referred to the opposing team.  (I like that spirit.)  The Mariners were pretty big on bobbleheads as well (seven players/165,000 bobbleheads): Ichiro Dual Bobblehead (April 19); Felix Hernandez (May 6); Jay Buhner (May 20); Nelson Cruz (June 3); Kyle Seager (July 8); Edgar Martinez (August 11); Robinson Cano (September 9). August 11-13, the Mariners are planning plenty of action around the retirement of Edgar Martinez’ number: Edgar Martinez Bobblehead (August 11, 45,000); Edgar Martinez number-retirement ceremony and Replica Number Plaque (August 12, 45,000); Edgar Martinez Replica Jersey (August 13, 45,000).  The Mariners were also the only team with a “Potting Soil Night.” 

Tampa Bay Rays

RayspillowThe Rays are right up to date, with the giveaway BBRT has chosen to feature – the Chris Archer Emoji Pillow (July 23).  I must admit that the Bubble Blowing Evan Longoria (May 6) figure also  intrigued me.  The Rays’ bobbleheads: Kevin Kiermaier Gold Glove (April 8); Matt Duffy Double Play (June 10); Kevin Kiermaier Star Wars (June 24); MARVEL Iron Man (August 5); Blake Snell (September 16).

 

Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers’ most unique item would seem to be the Jonathan Lucroy Chest Protector Backpack (August 20)  Among the bobbleheads for the coming season: Adrian Beltre Dancing Legs (April 29); Elvis Andrus/Rougned Odor High Five #1 (May 13); Cole Hamels Super Hero (June 3); Elvis Andrus/Rougned Odor High Five #2 (July 29); Pudge Rodriguez Hall of Fame (August 12).

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays’ BBRT-featured giveaweay is a Blue Jays Sleeved Blanket, presented at the final home game (September 24).  Blue Jays’ bobbleheads: Marco Estrada (May 14); Josh Donaldson (June 4); Aaron Sanchez (July 9);

Washington Nationals

NationalsScherzerGlobeTop Nats’ giveaway goes to the Max Scherzer Snow Globe  (May 24), honoring the ace of the staff and 2016 Cy Young Award Winner. The Nationals are featuring three bobblehead giveaways: Daniel Murphy (April 14);  Trea Turner (May 12); Tanner Roark (June 9).

 

 

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Now, for Twins fans, a look at …
TWINS SPECIAL EVENTS AND THEME NIGHTS

Wine, Women and Baseball … May 5, July 7, August 29

1 (1)Back in the Days of the Metrodome, the Twins launched their Wine, Women and Baseball event  – which still sells out (approximately 400 for each event). Twins Senior Manager for Marketing and Promotions Julie Vavruska said the original event was held in tents on the Plaza outside the Metrodome.  It’s now held (pregame) at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel – where attendees enjoy wine tastings, light appetizers and desserts, and “Pamper Yourself” stations (manicures, massages, hair styling, etc.). You can expect Twins wives to drop in, and each participant also receives a Twins Cross Body Bag. Topping it all off, of course, is an evening at Target Field.

The Twins have a host of special events slated this season, including the: 1987 World Series Championship Reunion Weekend (July 21-22); Diversity Day (August 3); T.C.’s Summer Bash and Mascot Softball Game (August 6); Rod Carew Summer of ’77 Tribute (August 18); and Twins Hall of Fame Weekend (August 19-20).  Twins Marketing and Promotions executive Julie Vavruska indicated there would be a range of special activities and promotions linked to those events.

“We’ll be giving out our first-ever, at-the-gate T.C. Bear bobblehead at the T.C. Summer Bash,” she said. “And you can expect photo and autograph opportunities related to the 1987 World Series team reunion.”

Vavruska was also excited about this season’s Diversity Day tumbler giveaway (August 3), which makes use of a computer-generated program to make each of the 5,000 tumblers to be handed out unique. “You’ll know that the tumbler you received is a one-of-a-kind item,” she said.  “No one will have the same one.”

Vavruska also discussed the Twins’ ambitious Theme Night/Day schedule, noting that theme events – which require a special ticket – enable the team to reach specific groups.

“We started with just a handful of events in 2015, with a goal of bringing in people who hadn’t been to the ballpark before,” she said. “We got great feedback and results.  In 2015, 70 percent of the theme-event participants were first-time visitors to Target Field.”

The Twins have since expanded the theme concept, which both attracts fans (new and old) and generates a sense of community at the ballpark.   For full details, check out the Twins promotional schedule on the team website. Here, however, is a list of Theme Events and the promotional items that go with the special ticket.

  • University of Minnesota Night … May 5 (Maroon and Gold Twins cap)
  • MARVEL Super Heroes Day … May 6 (“Guardians of the Infield” T-shirt)
  • Scrubs Night … May 16 (Twins hospital scrub top)
  • Faith Day … May 28 (Post-game program)
  • University of St. Thomas Night  … June 20 (Purple and Gray Twins cap)
  • Star Wars Night  … June 21 (Brian Dozier “A Force 2B Reckoned With” Stormtrooper bobblehead)
  • University of North Dakota Night … July 7 (Green and White Twins cap)
  • College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University Night … July 18 (Red and White Twins cap)
  • Sportsmen’s Night … August 5 (Blaze Orange/Camo reversible Twins beanie)
  • North Dakota State University Night … August 15  (Yellow and Green Twins cap)

 

On Cancer Awareness NIght, participating fans will be able to select a Twins cap in colors that reflect the cancer charity of their choice.

On Cancer Awareness Night, participating fans will be able to select a Twins cap in colors that reflect the cancer charity of their choice.

  • Cancer Awareness Night … August 30 (Unique Twins caps in colors reflecting the cancer charity each attendee would like to support)
  • Minnesota Wild Night …. September 12 (Exclusive co-branded Wild/Twins cap)
  • Love Your Melon Night … September 14 (Twins Love Your Melon beanie)
  • Zubapalooza Night … September 29 (A pair of Minnesota Twins Zubas)

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WE ALL LOVE A BARGAIN – TWINS’ DEALS

Anyone who knows me personally, knows how I love a bargain.  Here are a few of my Twins’ favorite Bargains.

EVERY GAME

Cub Family Section … Free hot dog and soda with each ticket in the alcohol-free family section. Hot dog and soda available at Hennepin Grille (Section 311).

EVERY MONDAY THROUGH THURSDAY GAME (excluding Opening Day)

Military/Veterans Appreciation … Active Military or veternas with valid ID can purchase up to four Home Plate View tickets at half price.

ALL WEEKDAY DAY GAMES

Treasure Island Senior Day … Fans 55 and over receive a $5 discount on Field Box and Treasure Island Cove seats.

EVERY SUNDAY

Kids Day … Kids Meals (Hot Dog – Chips or Apple Sauce – Beverage) are half-price ($4); Pregame player autograph opportunity for kids 14-and-under; Kids can run the bases post game. Kids Meals at Hennepin Grille (Section 311) and Taste of Twins Territory (Section 124).

EVERY TUESDAY

U.S. Bank Meal Deal … Free hot dog and soda with each U.S. Bank Home Run Porch View ticket. Hot dog and soda at Hennepin Grille (Section 232), The Deck Section U, and Taste of Twins Terrioty (Section 234).

EVERY WEDNESDAY

Schweigert Dollar-A-Dog Day … Hot dogs for $1 at the Hennepin Grille and Taste of Twins Territory concession stands. (limit two person, total of 20,000 per game).

Student Day … Ballpark Access tickets for students for $5, and students can download a free Metro Transit Ride Pass. One ticket per student with valid ID

THE BIG FINISH – YOUR 2017 MLB ALL BOBBLEHEAD ALL STARS

C – YADIER MOLINA, CARDINALS

1B – PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, DIAMONDBACKS

2B – JOSE ALTUVE, ASTROS

3B – NOLEN ARENADO, ROCKIES

SS – FRANCISCO LINDOR, INDIANS

LF – ALEX GORDON, ROYALS

CF – MIKE TROUT, ANGELS

RF – GIANCARLO STANTON, MARLINS

SP – CLAYTON KERSHAW, DODGERS

CL – ZACH BRITTON , ORIOLES

MGR – TERRY FRANCONA, INDIANS

THROWING OUT FIRST PITCH – WHITEY FORD, YANKEES

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Nine-Inning Warm Up for the Upcoming MLB Season

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

First Inning – A Bit of a Slow Start

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

Second Inning – Coming Out of the Gate Swinging

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

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

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

Bryce Harper photo

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

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

 

Fourth Inning – Who Says Pitchers Can’t Hit?

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

Fifth Inning – Pouring ‘em In There

Aroldis Chapman photo

Photo by Keith Allison

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

 

Sixth Inning – Newbies Get their Knocks

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

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

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

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

Seventh Inning – Not Quite Finished

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ninth Inning – Just a Little Look Ahead

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

ACTIVE LEADERS

Here are you active leaders going into 2017.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE NUMBERS

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

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

High School – A Precursor

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

THE CHARACTER

Seth Beer. Photo: Courtsy of Clemson University.

Seth Beer. Photo: Courtsy of Clemson University.

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

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

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

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

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

ADDITIONAL RECOGNITION

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

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

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

The Dick Howser Award

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

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

         24 became MLB First-Round draft picks;

         24 went on to play in the major leagues;

         13 became MLB All Stars;

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

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

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

         One captured a Cy Young Award – David Price.

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

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

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

Bob Hazle – A Milwaukee Hero Who Stormed the National League

Always a Braves' fan-atic.

Always a Braves’ fan-atic.

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

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

                         Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews

                       From the book “Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime”

Hurricane Hazle’s Milwaukee Story

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

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle … still a treasured autograph.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kept the card, too!

Kept the card, too!

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

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

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

 Bob “Hurricane” Hazle – The Back Story 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Grounding Into Double Plays – Well Worn Path to HOF?

Chase utley Dodgers photo

Photo by apardavila

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*=Strike-shortened season.

Very Honorable Mention – Norm Cash

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of games equal lots of GIDP.

Lots of games equal lots of GIDP.

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

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

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

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

THE “CHASE UTLEY” RULE

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

 

 

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Inside the Park Home Runs – Prince Fielder over Rickey Henderson

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

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

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

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

Jesse Burkett. Photo; Charles M. Conlon

Jesse Burkett. Photo; Charles M. Conlon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For my Twins Fan Readers

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

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

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

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

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

 

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They’ll Do – In a Pinch

Saint Louis Cardinals photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil gosselin photo

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

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

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

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

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

 

Werth Every Penny

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

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

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

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

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

Lenny Harris – 212 Pinch Hits

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

 

Gene Stechschulte – a Rarity.

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

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

 

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