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

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

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

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

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

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

 1967 MINNESOTA TWINS 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1969 HOUSTON ASTROS

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2013 DETROIT TIGERS

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Six Pitchers + No Baserunners = One Perfect Spring Training Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MLB Prospects BBRT Will Be Watching In 2014

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

springer

 

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

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

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

walker

 

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

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

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

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

syndeergaard

 

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

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

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

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

ventura

 

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

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

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

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

hamilton

 

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

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

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

Tavarezx

 

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

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

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

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

wong

 

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

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

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

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

Bogaerts

 

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

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

cosellan

 

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

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

Buxton

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I tweet baseball  -  @DavidBBRT

Baseball Reliquary – 2014 “Shrine of the Eternals” Ballot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Love Baseball – Guest Post by Veteran Blogger Bill Ivie

I-70Today, BBRT features a guest post in our “Why I Love Baseball” category from Bill Ivie, freelance writer, veteran baseball blogger, founder of i70baseball.com (dedicated to daily coverage of baseball in general and the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals in particular) and contributor to Bleacher Report.
Why I Love Baseball
by Bill Ivie
Baseball was a foundation of my life from a very young age.  My father used it to teach me life lessons disguised as sports practice.  He taught me a love of the game that is far beyond any connection I have felt with anything else (short of my wife and kids, obviously).
I spent countless hours taking ground balls in the back yard and on practice fields.  I was not allowed to take batting practice until I had satisfied whatever metric was my goal for the day defensively.  The ground balls were hit harder as we went along and the goal became harder to achieve.  But through hard work, perseverance and determination, I got there.  My reward was to enjoy hitting for a bit.
Sounds familiar now.  I work hard in my life.  Obstacles come, goals are set and sometimes it all seems insurmountable.  At the end of the day, if I put in the work and determination, I get the satisfaction of a goal reached.  Then I get to kick back and relax with the game.
During the offseason, it is baseball movies and documentaries.  During the season, it is the joy of the game.  Of course, there is nothing better than sitting at the park.
It is an assault on your senses.  It is the smell of the grass, roasted peanuts and hot dogs.  It is the glaring sun and the ball flying through the air.  The sound of the crowd as they discuss the game and anything else that is on their mind.  It is the crack of the bat and the sound of the ball smacking the leather of a glove.
The game of baseball, when viewed live, is America’s dinner table.  People discuss their days, talk business, talk about popular topics in the world and marvel at the drama unfolding in front of them.  The game is heartbreak and jubilation.  It is a massive let down and the overcoming of odds.  Indeed it does provide the opportunity to see something happen that has never occurred before each and every time you watch.
You see, baseball is a lot of things to a lot of people.  It is so easy to love and so hard to walk away from.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bill Ivie
Founder | I-70 Baseball
Freelance Writer | i70baseball | Bleacher Report
For more “Why I Love Baseball,” click the YILBB hot link at the top of the home page.   BBRT welcomes your guest post on this topic. Just use the “Contact” link and type your thoughts into the comments  section and I’ll format them for posting. 
 

Frank Robinson – A Crowded Trophy Case

RobinsonSay “MVP” in an exercise in word association and BBRT’s response would be quick and clear – Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. In his 21 seasons as a player, Robinson earned MVP Awards for the NL and AL (regular season), World Series and All Star Game – and, in 16 seasons as a manager, he also earned the AL Manager of the Year Award.  And, there were many more highlight achievements in Robinson’s record-setting, award-winning and history-making MLB career.  BBRT thinks this day, January 14, is a good day to reflect on Robinson’s accomplishments.

First African-American manager in MLB

On January 14, in 1981, Frank Robinson signed on to manage the San Francisco Giants.  With that stroke of the pen he became the answer to one of BBRT’s favorite trivia questions – Who was the first African-American Manager in the NL; in the AL?  Kind of a trick question, Frank Robinson holds the “first” in both leagues.

First – and only – MVP in Both Leagues

Like MVP,  first is a word often associated with Robinson.  He was the first (and still only) player to win the Most Valuable Player Award in both the AL and NL.  He was the NL MVP for the Reds in 1961, when he hit .323, with 37 home runs, 124 RBI and 22 steals; and he won the AL MVP award in 1966, when he went .316-49-122 for the Orioles.  That year, Robinson was first in the AL in batting average (.316), home runs (49) and RBI (122), as well as first in runs scored (122) – which also made him the first African-American Triple Crown winner.

Award-Winning First Season

Robinson started on his quest to finish at the top of the list in his very first season.  As a rookie with the Reds in 1956, he not only won the Rookie of the Year Award, he tied the rookie record for home runs (38), since broken by Mark McGwire. He finished the season hitting .290 with 38 home runs, 83 RBI and a league-high 122 runs scored.

And, there were other firsts in Robinson’s career.

First in Opening Day Home Runs

On April 8, 1975 (Opening Day in Cleveland) Robinson hit a home run in his first at bat as a player-manager.  It’s one of the eight Opening Day home runs that put Robinson in first place (tied with Ken Griffey, Jr.) for Opening Day homers (with eight).

First to it One Completely Out of Memorial Stadium

On May 6, 1966, he became the first (eventually only) player to hit a home run completely out of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.

League Leader

Over the course of his playing career, Robinson led his league (finished first) in hit by pitch seven times, intentional walks four times, runs scored three times, and once each in doubles, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and total bases.

MVP – League, World Series, All Star Game

When it comes to recognition, Robinson’s not only has a Rookie of the Year and two regular season MVP Awards to his credit, he also earned a World Series MVP Award (1966, Orioles), MLB All Star Game MVP Award (1971)  AL Manager of the Year Award (1989, Orioles) and Hickok Belt (1966, for top athlete in all sports).

Stat Lines

In his 21-season playing career, Robinson hit .294, with 586 homers, 1,829 RBI, 1,812 runs scored and 204 steals.  He was an All Star in 12 seasons and captured one Gold Glove.

In 16 seasons as a manager (Indians, 1975-77; Giants, 1981-84; Orioles 1988-91; Expos/Nationals, 2002-2006), Robinson’s teams won 1,065 games and lost 1,176.

Oh yeah, and he was, appropriately,  a first-ballot Baseball Hall of Famer.

The Short Life of Hiram Bithorn – First Puerto Rican in MLB

Hiram_Bithorn_Stadium_2Talk baseball in Puerto Rico and one of the first names to emerge will be Hiram Gabriel “Hi” Bithorn.  Hi Bithorn is, in fact, such an important part of Puerto Rico’s baseball history that the country’s largest baseball stadium (18,000 capacity) is named after him.  Hiram Bithorn Stadium is not only home to the Santurce Crabbers of the Puerto Rico Baseball League, it also hosted the opening game of the 2001 Major League season (Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays); 44 Montreal Expos home games in the 2003/04 seasons; and, in 2010, a Florida Marlins/New York Mets three-game series.

So, what did Hi Bithorn do to earn this recognition?  He was the first Puerto Rican player to make it to the major leagues – becoming a hero in his country and to the Puerto Rican players who followed him to MLB.   BBRT would like to use this post to examine the short baseball career and life of Hi Bithorn – who died under mysterious circumstances in Mexico at the age of 35.

Bithorn was born March 18, 1916 in Santurce, Puerto Rico of a Danish mother and Puerto Rican father.  As he grew up, Bithorn proved a talented athlete.  In 1935, the 19-year-old, 6’ 1” 200-pound Bithorn played in the Central American and Caribbean Games on Puerto Rico’s Silver Medal-winning volleyball team and Bronze Medal-winning basketball team.

But baseball was Bithorn’s game and, in 1936, the right-handed hurler found himself pitching in the New York Yankees farm system.  He went 16-9 in his first season (with the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Piedmont League.  He started 1937 with ten wins against just one loss at Norfolk, before being promoted to Binghampton Triplets of the Class A NY/Penn League – where he won seven more games (against eight losses).  He continued to advance, playing with Oakland Oaks and Hollywood Stars of the then AA Pacific Coast League, where his best season was 1941, when he went 17-15, 3.59 with 16 complete games and two shutouts for the Stars (while also hitting .286 in 77 at bats).

HIRAM BITHORNUnfortunately, for Bithorn, the Yankees were loaded with talent and the big leagues seemed far away – until the Cubs acquired Bithorn from the Yankees in the fall of 1941.  On April 15, 1942, Bithorn became the first Puerto Rican to appear in a major league game, pitching two scoreless innings in relief (no-hits, one walk, no strikeouts) for the Cubs against Cardinals in Saint Louis.  He ended the season 9-14, with two saves, a 3.68 ERA and nine completed games in sixteen starts (Bithorn also made 22 relief appearances) for the sixth-place (70-84) Cubs.  In 1942, Bithorn showed his full potential.  With the Cubs finishing fifth (74-79), Bithorn went 18-12, 2.60, with 19 complete games (30 starts) and a league-leading seven shutouts.  For the season, Bithorn, in fact, finished in the NL’s top ten in wins, winning percentage, earned run average, WHIP, innings pitched, strikeouts, complete games and shutouts. Clearly, Bithorn was on his way – until World War II intervened and Bithorn lost two MLB seasons to military service.

Bithorn was discharged from service in September of 1945 and pitched for San Juan in the Puerto Rican championships the following February, when he suffered a hand injury during a play at the plate. As a result, he reported late for Cubs’ Spring Training.  Bithorn reportedly had gained about 20 pounds, was having arm problems and didn’t seem to have the same “stuff” as he displayed in that successful 1943 season.    The then 30-year-old finished the 1946 season 6-5, 3.84 in 26 games (seven starts). He was sold to the Pirates in January 1947 and selected on waivers (from the Pirates) by the White Sox before the 1947 season opened. He pitched just two innings in relief for the White Sox – picking up what was to be his last major league win.

After his release, Bithorn underwent surgery and missed the 1948 season. He attempted a comeback in 1949, going 4-3 in 13 games at AA and Nashville and Oklahoma City. He did not make it back to the major leagues and finished with a 34-31 record, with 5 saves and a 3.16 ERA in 105 games. In his four MLB seasons, Bithorn completed 30 of 53 starts, with eight shutouts.

In December of 1952, at the age of 35, Bithorn was shot to death by a police officer under mysterious circumstances in El Manta, Mexico. Various reports indicate the date of his death as anywhere from December 27, 1951 to January 1, 1952.  They indicate Bithorn was on his way to visit his mother Mexico (some reports also say he was considering a comeback in the Mexican League).   Initial reports said Bithorn had been trying to sell his car when Ambrosio Castillo Cano of the El Mante police force questioned Bithorn and found him unable to produce the paperwork required of such a sale.   Cano reported that at some time during the questioning Bithorn became violent and he was forced to shoot him (Bithorn died a few hours later of a gunshot wound to the stomach).   Cano also reportedly said Bithorn admitted to being part of a “communist cell.”   The details of the incident remain mysterious, but after an investigation, Cano was indicted and sentenced to eight years in the state prison for Bithorn’s homicide

Long Distance, Please!

Thanks to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, we can now quickly examine every home run of the MLB season – and quickly learn who hits the ball the farthest both in a single instance and with consistency over the season. And, when we look at the clan of long-ballers, there are some surprises. The long-distance leaders are not the names we often associate with the long ball. For example, for 2013, neither the longest home run nor the longest average home run distance belong to the power hitters who went deep in the greatest numbers – like Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera (who finished 1 & 2 in AL homers) or NL co-leaders Pedro Alverez and Paul Goldschmidt. Instead, we find names like Evan Gattis, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Justin Upton. Let’s take a look at MLB’s recent long-distance leaders. (Note: If you are planning to take part in this year’s Ballpark Tours treks, pay attention, some of this information may be on the “Kwiz”.)

Evan Gattis - blasted 2013's longest home run.

Evan Gattis – blasted 2013′s longest home run.

The longest home run of the 2013 season belongs to the Atlanta Braves 26-year-old rookie catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis, who drove one of his 21 round trippers on the year 486 feet. The shot to centerfield came on September 8 against the Phillies’ Cole Hamels – with the wind blowing in at Philadelphia’s Citzens Bank Park. Over the in American League, 2013’s longest home run belongs to the Angels’ first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo, who belted one 475 feet against Oakland’s Dan Sally (in Oakland on April 29). The only other MLBers to reach 475 feet in 2013 were the Giants’ Hunter Pence (476) and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo (475). The last 500-footer in the majors? Then Diamondback Adam Dunn blasted one 504 feet on September 27, 2008 (off the Rockies’ Glendon Rusch at Arizona).

When it comes to consistent distance, 2013’s top spot (among hitters with 20 or more homers) belongs to the Angels’ five-tool outfielder Mike Trout, whose 27 2013 home runs traveled an average distance of 419.6 feet. In the NL, the top spot went to Braves’ outfielder Justin Upton, who also went deep 27 times, for an average distance of 416.3 feet.

Mike Trout - his 27 homers averaged 419.6 feet.

Mike Trout – his 27 homers averaged 419.6 feet.

Here are your top five 2013 finishers in average distance:

Mike Trout, Angels, 419.6 feet

Justin Upton, Braves 416.3

Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins 413.8

Mark Trunbo, Angels 413.2

Mike Napoli, Red Sox 412.3

 

 

 

 

Here is a look at the last five years on the long ball charts, with the Major League leader listed first.

2013
Longest Home Run: MLB/NL – Evan Gattis, Braves, 486 feet; AL – Mark Trumbo, Angels, 475 feet.
Average Distance: MLB/AL – Mike Trout, Angels, 419.6 feet; NL – Justin Upton, Braves, 416.3 feet.

2012
Longest Home Run: MLB/NL – Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, 494 feet; AL – Edwin Encarnacion, Blue jays, 488 feet.
Average Distance: MLB/AL – Nelson Cruz, Rangers, 418.6 feet; NL – Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, 413.7 feet.

2011
Longest Home Run: MLB/NL – Prince Fielder, Brewers, 486 feet; AL – Mark Trumbo, Angels, 472 feet.
Average Distance: MLB/NL – Justin Upton, Diamondbacks, 423.6; AL – Alex Gordon, Royals, 414.7 feet.

2010
Longest Home Run: MLB/AL – Josh Hamilton, Rangers, 485 feet; NL – Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks, 481 feet.
Average Distance: MLB/AL – Josh Hamilton, Rangers, 421.1 feet; NL – Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks, 420.1 feet.

2009
Longest Home Run: MLB/NL – Wladimir Balentien, Reds, 495 feet; AL – Josh Hamilton, Rangers, 471 feet.
Average Distance: MLB/NL – Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks, 419.5 feet; AL – Nelson Cruz, Rangers, 417 feet.

Looking Back at 2013

As the year ends, BBRT would like to reflect on a few stats and moments that caught my attention during the 2013 baseball season. Some of these have surfaced in these posts in the past, some are new to BBRT’s pages. BBRT hopes they spur a few memories for readers.

 

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw Gets Season Off to Notable Start.

It may have been April Fools day, but LA Dodgers’ Opening Day Starter Clayton Kershaw was not fooling around – on the mound or at the plate. The eventual Cy Young Award winner held the rival SF Giants scoreless through eight innings. Giants’ hurlers Matt Cain (through six) and George Kontos (seventh), however, had matched him zero-for-zero. Kershaw broke the scoreless tie by leading off the bottom of the eighth with a first-pitch home run off Kontos. Kershaw then went on to complete the four-hit, seven strikeout shutout 4-0.

Not only was the home run Kershaw’s first, and still only, major league round tripper, it made him just the second pitcher in MLB history to toss a shutout and hit a homer on Opening Day. The other was the Indians’ Bob Lemon, who accomplished the feat on April 14, 1953. Lemon, who made the Hall of Fame as a pitcher, threw a one-hitter against the White Sox that day (four walks, three strikeouts). Lemon, who homered in the fourth inning, had an advantage over Kershaw at the plate. Originally a 3B-OF (and the answer to the trivia question“What future HOFer played CF in Bob Feller’s second no-hitter?), Lemon already had 26 MLB homers to his credit and finished his career with 37 round trippers.

Two Homers in an Inning.

Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion – on July 26 – became the only major leaguer to hit two home runs in one inning during the 2013 season. It came in the seventh inning of a Blue Jays’ 12-6 home win over the Astros. Encarnacion, at DH, hit a solo shot with one out and, as the Jays batted around, added a two-out grand slam.

Encarnacion became the 55th MLBer to go deep twice in an inning – and, for you trivia buffs, only three players have accomplished the feat more than once (twice each): the Giants’ Willie McCovey (1973 & 1977); the Expos’ Andre Dawson (1978 & 1985); and the Pirates Jeff King (1992 & 1996). Encarnacion finished the season with 36 home runs.

The Bash Brothers.

On April 23, B.J. and Justin Upton led off the fifth inning of a 10-2 Braves win over the Rockies (second game of a double header) with back-to-back home runs off Colorado right-hander Jon Garland. That made the Uptons just the second pair of brothers to hit back-to-back MLB homers. The other bashing brothers were the Pirates’ Lloyd and Paul Waner, who accomplished the feat on September 15, 1938, in a 7-2 win over the Giants in New York. It was only the second game in which the Uptons were back-to-back in the Braves’ batting order.

When is a Walk Off Home Run NOT a Walk Off Home Run?

On May 25, Giants center fielder and lead-off hitter Angel Pagan came to the plate in the bottom of tenth with one out, a runner on second and the Giants trailing the visiting Rockies 5-4. Pagan hit a rocket to right-center and raced (not walked) around the bases, sliding across the plate with the winning run. (It was the first inside-the-park “walk-off” homer since 2004.) Unfortunately, Pagan suffered a hamstring injury on the play and ended up having surgery and missing significant time (80+ games) over the rest of the season.

 

Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish

Tough to be YU!

Two guys named YU – The Rangers’ Yu Darvish and Giants’ Yusmiel Petit – both came within one batter of perfect games this season.

On April 2, Darvish was on the mound with two-out in the bottom of the ninth inning, holding a 7-0 lead over the Astros, having retired the first 26 hitters he faced (striking out 14). At the plate was Astros’ shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who had grounded out and struck out in his first two appearances. Darvish started Gonzalez with a fastball – and the result was a low bouncer that skirted between Darvish’s legs and on into center field for a single. After 111 pitches, Darvish’s night was over and Micheal Kirkman came on to get pinch hitter J.D. Martinez to end the game.

On September 6, Yu number-two – Yusmiel Petit of the Giants – went into the top of ninth inning with a 3-0 lead over the Diamondbacks, having retired the first 24 Arizona hitters, striking out six. He got shortstop Chris Owning with his seventh strikeout, then right fielder Gerardo Parra grounded out second-to-first. That left pinch hitter Eric Chavez between Petit and perfection. Petit got with one strike of a perfect game, only to see Chavez single to right field (just out of the reach of a diving Hunter Pence) on a 3-2 pitch. Chavez and was replaced by pinch runner Tony Campana before Petit induced Diamondback center fielder A.J. Pollock to ground out third-to-first to end the game. The 95-pitch effort was Petit’s first MLB complete game.

Unlikely No-Hitters?

There were three no-hitters thrown in 2013, all by pitchers who started their no-hitters with losing records on the season – and also would finish their seasons with losing records.

On July 2, Reds’ right-hander Homer Bailey – “Homer” seems an unlikely name for a pitcher who tosses a no-no – threw the first no-hitter of the 2013 season. Notably, Bailey also threw the last no-hitter of 2012 (September 28, 2012). His 2013 no-no came in Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, with Bailey shutting down the Giants 3-0 on 109 pitches, walking just one, striking out nine. With the final out, Bailey became just the 31st pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters. Bailey went into the game with a 4-6 record and a 3.88 ERA. He finished the season 11-12, 3.49.

On July 13, the Giants’ Tim Lincecum no-hit the Padres 9-0 in San Diego. The two-time Cy Young winner did not seem a likely candidate to toss a no-hitter that day. Lincecum was coming off a 2012 season in which he went 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA and boasted (wrong word?) a 2013 record of 4-9, 4.61. (He would end the season at 10-14, 4.37.) Lincecum threw a career-high 148 pitches in his no-hit game, striking out 13 batters (while walking four).

On the final day of the season (September 29), the Marlins’ Henderson Álvarez was matched against Detroit’s Justin Verlander – a pitcher much more likely than Alvarez to toss a no-hitter – in Miami. Alvarez came into the season finale with a mark of 4-6, 3.94 (and would finish the season 5-6, 3.59). Alvarez and Verlander matched zeroes across the board and, as the Marlins batted in the bottom of the ninth, Alvarez had completed nine no-hit innings with one walk and four strikeouts. In the bottom of the ninth, Miami turned two singles and a walk into a bases-loaded/one-out situation. Then, with Alvarez on deck, the winning run scored on a wild pitch.

 

Mike Trout

Mike Trout

Different Approaches to the Cycle.

Three major leaguers (all outfielders) hit for the cycle in 2013 – and they took significantly different paths to get there.

On May 21, center fielder Mike Trout started slowly in an Angels’ home game against the Mariners, watching a third strike from Aaron Harang. Trout heated up after that with a one-out single in the third inning; a run-scoring triple in the fourth; a bases-loaded/bases-clearing double in the sixth; and a solo, cycle-completing, homer in the eighth. The Angels collected 15 hits in the 12-0 win.

The July 19 Astros/Mariners contest produced the most unexpected cycle of the season – from Houston center fielder Brandon Barnes. Barnes, hitting seventh, got the most difficult legs of his cycle out of the way early. He started with a solo homer in the second; followed with run-scoring triple in the fourth (still the second-year MLBer’s only three-base hit); added a single in the sixth; completed the cycle with a double in the eighth (he later scored); and tossed in another single in the ninth (again scoring). Despite Barnes heroics, the Astros lost 10-7.

On September 23, Rangers’ right fielder Alex Rios completed the cycle in a game that he finished on the bench. Rios started off his day (at Texas against the Astros) with a two-run double in the bottom of the first; added an infield single (and scored a run in the third); hit a solo homer in the fourth; hit an RBI triple in the sixth (and later scored). Rios was replaced by rookie Engel Beltre in right field in the top of the eighth inning, with the Rangers up 12-0.

 

David Ortiz

David Ortiz

Big Moments for Big Papi.

On July 10, in the top of the second inning, Boston DH David Ortiz doubled to left off Seattle pitcher Aaron Harang, It was Ortiz’ 1,685th hit as a DH – giving him the all-time record (he passed Harold Baines). The 37-year-old Ortiz had a solid season, .309 with 30 home runs and 103 RBI, before thrilling us all by hitting .688 in the World Series.

 

 

 

 

Astros Play WHIFF-le ball.

Over the course of the season, the Houston Astros (who finished an MLB-worst 51-111) struck out an all-time MLB record 1,535 times – breaking the Diamondbacks’ 2010 record of 1,529. Why might this be especially notable? Having moved to the American League, the Astros set the new record without the benefit of their pitchers flailing (and failing) at the plate. In 2010, 119 of the Diamondbacks’ record-setting whiffs were credited to pitchers at the plate.

Pirates Make the Post Season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates went 94-68 and made the playoffs after a twenty consecutive losing seasons. By contrast, the Yankees have not had a losing season since 1992 – and have had only 22 losing seasons in the history of the franchise (1901-2013 in Baltimore and NY). The Pirates, led by such players as MVP Andrew McCutchen, speedy tablesetter Sterling Marte, NL HR co-leader Pedro Alvarez, starting pitcher and Comeback Player of the Year Francisco Liriano and relievers Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon were fun to watch in 2013.

The Dodgers’ Remarkable Comeback.

As of July 1, the underachieving Dodgers were in last place in the NL West (38-43, 3 ½ back). Just 80 days later – on September 19 – with a 7-6 win over the Diamondbacks, LA became the first team to clinch a 2013 playoff berth. The Dodgers are just the fourth team (along with the 1914 Boston Braves, 1973 New York Mets and 1995 Seattle Mariners) to finish in first place after holding last place as of July 1 or later.

The comeback is even more remarkable when you consider that on June 21, the then last-place Dodgers stood at 30-42, 12 games under .500 and 9 ½ back of Arizona. From that point, they went 62-28 – finishing 22 games over and 11 games ahead of second-place Arizona.

 

Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera

Old Guys Rule!

BBRT took great pleasure in watching a a group of forty-year olds defy father time.

- Mariano Rivera (age 43) goes 6-2, 2.11 with 44 saves for the Yankees in his farewell season.

- Bartolo Colon (age 40) went 18-6, 2.65 for the A’s, leading the AL in shutouts (3).

- Forty-one-year-old Raul Ibanez hit 29 home runs, tying Ted Williams for the most ever by a 41-year-old. And, his 29th homer of the season was also his career 300th.

- The Indians’ Jason Giambi, at age 42, became the oldest player to hit a walk-off homer.

Young Guys Rule Too!

Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Wil Myers, Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller – and the list goes on an on.  There were – and still are – simply a lot of great young stars to watch.  For more – and a look at BBRT 2013 Young Star Team click  http://www.baseballroundtable.com/bbrts-2013-mlb-young-star-team-born-in-the-90s/

Chris Davis – newest 50-homer guy.

Chris Davis led all of MLB with 53 home runs and 138 RBI, becoming the 27th player to reach the 50-homer mark. His 53 HRs are the 26th most in an MLB season (for more on the 50 homer club, click http://www.baseballroundtable.com/chris-davis-newest-member-of-50-homer-club/

The Worst-to-First Boston Red Sox.

In 2012, the Boston Red Sox finished in last place in the AL East, 69-93 and 26 games out. The Sox dumped first-year manager Bobby Valentine and brought in John Farrell. They also made changes to the team during the off-season – changes that didn’t seem to excite analysts or fans. Joining the Red Sox were not the biggest name free agents, but “character and chemistry” players like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, Stephen Drew, and Ryan Dempster. Preseason, many analysts picked the Sox to finish at or near the bottom of the division. The Red Sox’ strategy paid off as they won the East with a 97-65 record, and went on to win the World Series. Napoli contributed 23 HRs and 92 RBI, Victorino hit .294 with 21 steals, and Uehara notched 21 saves to go with a 1.09 ERA. Red Sox veterans chipped in as well. David Ortiz went .309-30-103; Dustin Pedroia’s line was .301-9-83 (17 steals); John Lester rebounded with a 15-8 record and 3.75 ERA; and, despite injuries that limited him to 16 starts, Clay Bucholz went 12-1, 1.74.

Payroll and Placement.

Looking at the teams that made it into the post-season three of the top five opening day payrolls were there (#2 Dodgers, #4 Boston and #5 Detroit), but so were three of the bottom five payrolls (#26 Pittsburgh, # 27 Oakland, # 28 Tampa). Of note, the Dodgers’ $220 million payroll exceeded the combined opening day payrolls of playoff bound Oakland ($61 million), Pittsburgh ($80 million) and Tampa Bay ($58 million). (Figures from CBSsports.com.)