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?
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
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.
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.