A Few Opening Day Trivia Bites

OD introsWell, MLB Opening Day – or, more accurately, Opening Days – is at least partially behind us. (BBRT is old school.  I miss the times when Opening Day featured games in Cincinnati and Washington D.C. and the rest of MLB opened play the following day.) This year, Opening Day, even without postponements, was slated to stretch from Sunday through Tuesday. (So, it’s not over yet.) My feelings on Opening Day(s) aside, let’s look at a few notable occurences from 2016 openers thus far.

 

Back-to-Back-to-Back Jacks.

On Monday (April 4), for just the third time in MLB Opening Day history, a team launched three consecutive home runs in their first game of the season. The assault came with two out in the eighth-inning of San Francisco’s 12-3 win over the Brewers (unfortunately, for Brewers’ fans, played in Milwaukee). It included a three-run shot to right by lead-off hitter/CF Denard Span, followed up by solo homers (to right and center, respectively) by 2B Joe Panik and C Buster Posey. It was a somewhat unlikely trio.  Span hit five home runs for Washington last season, has never topped eight in an MLB season and came into 2016 with 37 home runs in eight MLB campaigns. Panik, in just his third MLB season, hit eight round trippers (in 100 games) last season. Posey had shown the most power of the three, with 19 HR’s last season, a high of 24 in 2012 and 102 in his first seven MLB seasons.

The two teams to achieve back-to-back-to back dingers on Opening Day before the Giants were the 1997 Padres (in an April 1 12-5 victory over the Mets) and the 1948 Red Sox (in a 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Athletics on April 19).

The Padres’ trio of consecutive Opening Day homers came at home in the sixth inning. With the Padres trailing 4-0, SS Chris Gomez led off with a HR to left center, Rickey Henderson (pinch hitting for pitcher Joey Hamilton) banged one out to deep left and 2B Quilvio Veras poked one down the right field line.  The outburst apparently got the Padres started, as they scored eight more runs in the inning. Again, there were some unlikely long ball candidates in the mix. It was, for example, one of only five 1997 home runs for Gomez, whose career high was 11 in 1995 and who hit just 60 round trippers in 16 MLB seasons. Veras hit a total of  three HR’s in 1997, never hit more than six in a season and ended a seven-year MLB career with a total of 32 long balls.  Future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson was on his way to an eight-homer 1997 season, but would hit 297 in his 25-year MLB careers.

The Red Sox’ trio of consecutive Opening Day homers involved a more likely combination of hitters than the Giants’ or Padres’ groups. Their outburst, in the second inning, came from the 4-5-6 hitters in the lineup. First baseman and cleanup hitter Sam Spence started it off, followed by SS Vern Stephens and 2B Bobby Doerr.   Spence hit a dozen homers in 1948, and 95 in a nine-year MLB career.   Stephens would go on to hit 29 homers that season, had a career high 39 in 1949 and 247 in a 15-year MLB career. Doerr hit 27 long balls in 1948, was consistently in double figures and ende a 14-year MLB career with 223 HR’s.

Off to a Good Start.

On April 4, Rockies’ rookie SS Trevor Story let his bat tell the story – becoming the first rookie to hit two home runs, while making his MLB debut on Opening Day (we do track everything in baseball) – as the Rockies topped the Diamondbacks 10-5 in Arizona. Story’s homers came in the third and fourth innings, both off Arizona ace Zack Greinke. Story ended his MLB debut two-for-six, with two runs scored and four RBI.

Reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper got his 2016 off to an MVP start, homering in his first at bat of the season (with two-out in the first inning.)

Ouch! & Ooops!

Ouch! When the Dodgers torched the Padres 15-0 on Opening Day (in San Diego), it was the worst shutout drubbing in Opening Day history.  The Dodgers collected 15 runs on 17 hits and ten walks (no home runs). Meanwhile, Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw held the Padres to one hit in seven scoreless innings. (The Padres collected four hints in the game.)

Oops! The Rangers managed to win their April 4 opener (in Texas) by a score of 3-2 over Seattle – despite collecting only one hit.  All three Texas tallies came in the fifth inning off Mariners’ starter Felix Hernandez. 2B Rougned Odor started it off with a walk; SS Elvis Andrus reached on an error by Seattle 3B Kyle Seager; C Robinson Chirinos sacrificed the runners to second and third; CF Delino DeShields drew a walk, loading the bases; RF Shin-Soo Choo walked, forcing in a run; DH Prince Fielder blooped a single (the Rangers’ only hit of the day) that fell between the left fielder and shortstop, scoring Andrus; 3B Adrian Beltre was safe on a error by SS Ketel Marte, scoring DeShields; finally, 1B Mitch Moreland and LF Ian Desmond went down swinging to end the brutal half-inning. Seattle outhit the Rangers 4-1 and punched two home runs, but still lost the contest.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Opening Day – Targets To Shoot For & To Avoid

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

opening dayMLB’s 2016 Opening Day is nearly upon us and, in honor of this annual rite of spring, BBRT would like to revisit some Opening Day targets that players and teams will be “working for” or “working to avoid.”  (Unfortunately, my Twins open on the road, but I will be attending the May 11 home opener.)

 

 

OPENING DAY TARGETS TO SHOOT FOR

An Opening Day No-Hitter – ONE for the Ages.

On April 16, 1940, 21-year-old Bob Feller (already in his fifth MLB season) threw what is still the only Opening Day no-hitter in MLB history – topping the White Sox 1-0 in Chicago. It was the first no-hitter (of an eventual three) for Feller, who walked five and struck out eight. During the season, Feller would go on to lead the AL in wins (27), ERA (2.61), strikeouts (261), games pitched (43), games started (37), complete games (31), innings pitched (320 1/3) and shutouts (4).

Longest Opening Day Pitching Performance – 15 Shutout Innings.

On April 13, 1926, the Senators’ Walter Johnson pitched a 15-inning, complete game shutout (six hits, three walks, nine strikeouts) as Washington topped the Philadelphia Athletics.  The opposing starter, Eddie Rommel tossed the second-most innings in an Opening Day appearance – going 14 1/3, as Washington scored the winning run with one out in the 15th.

Fifteen Strikeouts on Opening Day – Tossing the Hitters a Curve.

On April 18, 1960, Camilo Pascual (known for his sweeping curve ball) took the mound at Griffith Stadium for the Washington Senators (against the Boston Red Sox). In 1959, the Senators had finished in last place in the AL, but Pascual had gone 17-10, 2.64, and led the league with 17 complete games and six shutouts. As the Senators’ Opening Day starter in 1960, Pascual picked up right where he left off – tossing a complete game three-hitter, walking three and striking out an Opening Day record 15 batters in a 10-1 win over the Red Sox.

Two-Squared is Four – Most Doubles in an Opener.

On April 13, 1954, the Reds’ LF Jim Greengrass (there’s a great baseball name), tied the record for doubles on Opening Day with four (in five at bats) as the Reds topped the Braves 9-8. Frank “Pop” Dillon also hit four two-baggers in an Opening Day tilt (for the Tigers) back on April 25, 1901 – as Detroit topped the Milwaukee Brewers 14-13. The Tigers scored ten runs in the bottom of the ninth (coming back from a 13-4 deficit) and Dillon’s final double drove in the tying and winning runs.

Emilio Bonafacio – Off to a FAST start in 2009.

On April 6, 2009, Florida Marlins’ third baseman and lead-off hitter Emilio Bonafacio got his season off to a fast start. In the Marlins’ Opening Day win over the Nationals (12-6), Bonafacio went four-for-five, with four runs scored, three stolen bases, two RBI and an inside-the-park home run. It was Bonafacio’s first career home run and came in his first game as a Marlin (he was traded to the Marlins by, ironically, the Nationals). Bonafacio’s four runs scored tied the Opening Day record, as did his three stolen bases.  Bonafacio finished the season hitting .252, with just the one home run, 27 RBI, 72 runs scored and 27 steals.  

Most Triples – Just Takes a Pair to Win this Hand.

The most triples in an Opening Day game is two – accomplished by six players, most recently Royals’ SS Tony Pena on April 2, 2007, as KC topped the Red Sox 7-1. Pena, batting ninth, went two-for-three, scoring twice and driving in a run.  In his “non-tripling” plate appearances he drew a walk and struck out.

Lucky Number Three – Most Home Runs in an Opening Day Game.

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. Bell’s power outburst was no surprise. He was coming off a 1987 season in which he hit 47 homers, drove in 134 runs and was the AL MVP. Bell went three-for-four with three runs scored and four RBI, hitting all three home runs off Royals’ starter Brett Saberhagen.

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. At the time, Rhodes had played 107 MLB games in four seasons – hitting a total of five home runs. His MLB career consisted of 225 games in six seasons, with a .224 average and just 13 round trippers (with a high of eight in 1994). Rhodes did go on to hit 474 home runs in eleven seasons in Japan.

On April 4, 2005 the Tigers’ Dmitri Young joined Bell and Rhodes on the list of batters with three home runs in an Opening Day game – as the Tigers topped the Royals 11-2 in Detroit. Young started at DH and went four-for-four with four runs and five RBI.  Young, an All Star in 2003 and 2007, hit a total of 21 home runs in 2005 – and 171 in 13 MLB seasons. He hit a career-high 29 round trippers in 2003.

Seven RBI in an Opener – Some Productive At Bats.

Being 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 drove in an Opening Day record seven runs 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.

OPENING DAY TARGETS TO AVOID

Five Whiffs as a hitter – Ouch!

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.  Karkovice, however, may have been a victim of circumstance.

First, future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson started on the mound for the Mariners – striking out 14 in seven innings (including Karkovice three times).

Second, the White Sox could muster only two runs on four hits over the first nine innings – taking a slim 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth (at that point, Karkovice had fanned just three times).

Third, the Mariners tied the contest in the ninth, and the game went to 12 innings before the Mariners prevailed 3-2.  In those three extra innings, Karkovice struck out against Norm Charlton (tenth inning) and Edwin Hurtado (twelfth inning) to set the Opening Day record.

Out of Control – Issuing Eleven Walks on Opening Day.

On April 16, 1957, Cleveland southpaw Herb Score set the Opening Day record for pitcher’s walks, delivering eleven free passes to the visiting White Sox.  Despite Score’s wildness, it was a close contest, with Score going the distance in a 3-2, 11-inning loss. Score struck out ten and gave just seven hits and two earned runs – stranding 14 Chicago base runners.

Opening Day Record I’d Like to See Broken.

How about a six-hit Opening Day? The record is five, and the number of players to accomplish that feat is in the double-digits.  Let’s see someone collect six safeties in an Opening Day game and thin the field.

The Target? Not to be a Target.

On April 9, 1990, the Astros’ first baseman and cleanup hitter Glenn Davis was hit by a pitch an Opening Day record three times. Davis came to the plate six times and never put the ball in play – but still made only one out.  Davis (who led the league in HBP that season with eight) was hit by a pitch three times, walked twice and struck out once as the Astros lost to the visiting Reds 8-4.

BBRT Note: Davis finished Opening Day with a batting average of .000, but an on-base percentage of .833.

TEAM TARGET

Longest Opening Day Game- Shoot For or Avoid. Your Call.

On April 5, 2012, the Blue Jays topped the Indians 7-4 in 16 innings – the longest Opening Day contest ever. Guess the winners would shoot for this, the losers would prefer to avoid working overtime for little reward.

THE KINGS OF OPENING DAY

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.

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.

 

Finally a little, opening day gift to you – because this kind of thing never gets old.

 

NOW, LET’S OPEN ANOTHER MLB SEASON!

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Henry Rodriguez – Spring Training Sultan of Swat

As Spring Training 2015 winds down, Tigers’ RF J.D. Martinez showed he was ready for the regular season. Yesterday (March 31), Martinez launched three home runs in four at bats as the Tigers downed the Yankees 10-6. Martinez showed power to all fields, homering to left field in the first inning, right field in the fourth and center field in the seventh. The first two round trippers came off the Yankees’ Chad Green, while the final blast came off Conor Mullee. Martinez ended the day three-for-four, with three HR’s, three runs and four RBI.  Martinez is coming off a 2015 season when he went .282-38-102 and had a three-HR game (also against the Yankees) in a 12-4 win on June 21 in New York. Martinez’ big day put him at .255-7-15 for the Spring. Last spring, before his big season, Martinez went .313-5-11.

Martinez’ performance reminded BBRT of the day in 1995 when – at least for one game – Henry Rodriguez was the Spring Training Sultan of Swat.

RodriguezOn April 23, 1995 (more on why they were playing Spring Training games that late in April in just a bit),  Dodgers’ RF Henry Rodriguez went four-for-four with a Spring Training single-game record four home runs as the Dodgers topped the Mets 8-4.  It was the final game of Spring Training and Rodriguez finished the exhibition season with a .405 average and seven homers. Note:  Of Rodriguez’ four long balls – two came off Bret Saberhagen and two off Josias Manzanillo.  Rodriguez was coming off a 1994 season when he hit .268 with eight homers and 49 RBI in 104 games for the Dodgers. After his big spring game, he got off to a slow start and was traded to the Expos in May. He finished the season hitting just .239 with two home runs in 45 games. The following season, he had a breakout year, in which he was  an All Star and reached what would be career highs in home runs (36(, RBI (103), while hitting .276. From 1996 to 2000, Rodriguez hit 139 homers for the Expos and Cubs. (In Montreal, fans often tossed Oh Henry! candy bars onto the field  after Rodriguez’ home runs. He finished an 11-season MLB career with a .259 average, 160 home runs and 523 RBI.

Now, as to why Spring Training games were still being played on April 23.  It was the result of the 1994-95 MLB strike, which began on August 12, 1994 and was suspended on April 2, 1995 – the longest work stoppage in MLB history. As a result, the 1995 season began on April 25 (allowing a brief Spring Training for striking players) and was shortened to 144 games. It was a tough time for fans. (I still have a t-shirt that reads simply “Victim – 1994-95 Baseball Strike.” ) BBRT Note:  Team owners did choose to open Spring Training in February with “replacement players” and some spring games were actually played using replacements.  More on the replacement players (and particularly those who eventually made it to the major leagues) in a future post.

Coming soon:  MLB Opening Day hitters’ and pitchers’ targets.

 

For thirty things BBRT would like to see this season, click here.

 

National League predictions, click here. American League, click here.

 

You can also find a pair of 99-question trivia quizzes here and here.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Spring Training Surprises – Something to think about until the season opens.

With MLB Opening Day this coming Sunday, it seems appropriate to take a look at a few Spring Training surprises.  So, here’s a handful of developments BBRT found interesting.  (All 2016 statistics through March 27.)  As you read through these, keep in mind:

1) Spring Training provides a pretty small sample size;

2) The competition can be uneven as teams “get a look” at players who may not be in their immediate major league plans;

3) Players show up at Spring Training at different levels of preparedness; and

4) Players – particularly pitchers – often sacrifice immediate performance to work on specific skills like mastering a new pitch or hitting to the opposite field.)

With all this in mind, here are a few developments BBRT found at least somewhat surprising.

(My) Twins’ starting pitching – a pleasant surprise.

The pitching should be better at Target Field this season - at least if Spring Training is any indication.

The pitching should be better at Target Field this season – at least if Spring Training is any indication.

Right off the top in terms of surprises is the performance of the Minnesota Twins’ pitching staff – particularly the starting rotation.  (Being from Minnesota, the status of the Twins’ mound corps is of considerable interest to me.) Looking at the starters now locked in (slots 1-4), it’s been a surprisingly strong spring.  Opening Day starter Erwin Santana’s spring ERA is 1.13 (down from an also strong 1.89 in 2015 Spring Training); Kyle Gibson sits at 1.53 (down from 3.51 last spring); Tommy Milone’s ERA is 2.40 (down from 3.60); and Phil Hughes is at 2.76 this spring (down from 5.28). Overall, the Twins’ ERA is 3.51 through March 27, down from 4.00 for the 2015 exhibition season.

It’s surprisingly good to be young and at third base.

Nolan Arenado - a hor spring at the hot corner. Photo: Jennifer Zambrano

Nolan Arenado – a hor spring at the hot corner.
Photo: Jennifer Zambrano

Things are indeed hot at the hot corner this spring.  That in itself is not unexpected, but just how strong the play of a couple of young third sackers has been is a little surprising. For example, looking at players with at least 40 Spring Training at bats, the top batting average goes to 24-year-old Rockies’ 3B Nolan Arenado at .553 (26-for-47, with three home runs and 12 RBI). Arenado, in just his third MLB season, is clearly establishing his dominance. Last season, he led the NL in HR’s (42) and RBI (130), while hitting .287, winning his third straight Gold Glove and making his first All Star team.

The second-highest average among players with at least 40 at bats belongs to the D-backs’ 26-year-old 2B/SS Jean Segura at .529 (27-for-51). Segura also has two home runs, ten RBI, 14 runs scored and five stolen bases in 15 games.  Segura, acquired by the Rockies from the Brewers in an off-season trade, has a .266 average in four MLB seasons.  However, he was an All Star in 2013, when he hit .294, with 12 home runs and 44 stolen bases in 146 games. The Rockies would love to see a return to that form. Note: Segura’s likely double play partner Nick Ahmed is also having a strong spring (.418 in 17 games through March 27).

Leadership in the other two Triple Crown categories (HR’s and RBI) also goes to a young third baseman – only this one is just beginning to show his major-league potential. The Phillies’ 23-year-old Maikel Franco has hit .298 thus far this spring, with an MLB-leading eight home runs and 20 RBI.  As a rookie last season, Franco got into 80 games, hitting .280 with 14 HR’s and 50 RBI.  Looks like he’s on his way to a solid career.

Currently tied for the second-most Spring Training HR’s at six are Seattle 2B Robinson Cano (.370-6-15) and Giants’ RF Hunter Pence (.484-6-11).

A surprising Story.

The Rockies’ 23-year-old SS Trevor Story has opened a few eyes this spring – going .381-5-12 in 16 games through March 27.  The rookie may very well have captured the Colorado starting spot at short after going .279-20-80 (with 22 steals) at Double A and Triple A last season.  Rookie of the Year candidate?

Did you catch this surprise?

D-backs’ catcher Wellington Castillo has been a monster this spring.  In 11 games, he’s put up a .433 average, with three home runs, an MLB third-best 16 RBI and a spring-leading nine doubles. The 28-year-old is in his sixth MLB season (.251 career average), coming off a breakout year in 2015 (.255-17-50 in just 80 games).  He looks poised to be an offensive force in 2016.

Surprising power from the White Sox.

No team has hit more home runs this spring than the White Sox – with 42 in 26 games. What makes this surprising is: 1) In the 2015 season, the White Sox finished 26th in HR’s with 136 in 162 games; 2) No White Sox player has hit more than four home runs this spring. (However, the following players have four each: 3B Matt Davidson; RF Avisail Garcia; SS Jimmy Rollins; 3B Tyler Saladino.)

More surprises?  Here’s another Juan.

The Pirates are known for their work in helping pitchers reach their full potential.  This year’s surprise project may be 6’4”, 250-pound right-hander Juan Nicosia.  The 29-year-old has a career (five seasons) record of 22-25, with a 4.88 ERA.  (However, he did spend four of those five seasons in Colorado – not exactly a pitcher’s paradise). Last season, working primarily as a reliever (53 games) with the Dodgers, he went 1-3, 3.86. Now with the Pirates, he’s been “lights out” this spring. In five appearances (four starts) he’s pitched 15 innings, fanned 24 (tied for MLB second-best) and has yet to give up a run.

Other pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched and an ERA of zero this spring: Matt Barnes, Red Sox (10 1/3 IP); Dana Eveland, Rays (10 1/3 IP); and Dallas Keuchel, Astros (10 IP).

Diamondbacks swinging hot bats.

Through March 27, the D-backs are leading all of MLB with a .321 team batting average, 338 hits, 206 runs scored, 76 doubles and 19 triples. They also are fifth in home runs (37). Take a look at some of these Spring Training averages: Jean Segura (.529 in 15 games); Yasmany Tomas (.452 in 10 games); Wellington Castillo (.433 in 11 games); Nick Ahmed (.418 in 17 games); Jack Reinheimer (.400 in 17 games); Jake Lamb (.391 in 19 games); Brandon Drury (.379 in 22 games) – and I could go on and on.  The D-backs have 15 players who have played in at least 10 games and are hitting .315 or higher.

A surprising comeback.

D-backs’ lefty Patrick Corbin missed all of the 2014 season and half of 2015 following Tommy John surgery – but managed to finish 2015 at 6-5, 3.60 in 16 starts.  He looks to be all the way back this spring – with a 1.71 ERA and 24 strikeouts (with only three walks) in 21 innings. The 26-year-old Corbin is in only his fourth MLB season and appears to be back in the form that earned him 14 wins and an All Star berth in 2013.

Note: The Spring Training strikeout leader through March 27 is the Angels’ Hector Santiago – with a 3.52 ERA and 26 whiffs in 23 innings.

A good surprise, and a crowded outfield.

The Nationals’ 25-year-old outfielder Michael Taylor is having a solid spring – .455-4-12 in 17 games – after hitting .229 with 14 home runs, 63 RBI and 16 steals in 138 games during the 2015 regular season.  Still, there is plenty of competition for at bats in the Nats’ outfield – with Jayson Werth, newcomer Ben Revere and MVP Bryce Harper.  A surprising Spring Training performance, however, may help ensure Taylor gets his share of plate appearances.

Of course, not all surprises are good ones. For example, who would have expected that (through March 27), the Giants’ potential starting rotation’s spring ERA’s would look like this: Jeff Samardzija – 7.20/25 IP; Jake Peavy – 7.43/23 IP; Madison Bumgarner – 11.12/11 1/3 IP; Johnny Cueto – 9.58/10 1/3 IP; Matt Cain – 12.15/5 2/3 IP).

Or consider this sampling of players who have played in 15 or more games and are hitting under .200: Orioles’ 1B Chris Davis; Cubs’ OF Jayson Heyward; Tigers’ OF Anthony Gose; Astros’ 1B Jon Singleton; Royals’ SS Alcides Escobar; Marlins’ OF Christian Yelich; Mets’ C Travis d’Arnaud;  Yankees’ 1B Mark Teixeira; Cardinals’ 3B Matt Carpenter.

Here also, is a partial list of pitchers with ten or more innings and ERA’s over 7.00: Miguel Gonzalez, Orioles; Danny Salazar, Indians; Matt Shoemaker, Angels; Scott Kazmir, Dodgers; Wily Peralta, Brewers; Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees’; Colby Lewis, Rangers.

Of course, it is Spring Training – and things are likely to change a lot once the regular season gets underway.  In fact, we can expect most of the players to play up to – or down to – their expected performance. No one will hit .500; no one will finish a full (qualifying season with a o.oo ERA; the list of under-.200 hitters is not likely to include any of the players listed above; and the list of 7.00+ ERA pitchers also is unlikely to include those listed here.  So, I wouldn’t take these numbers – good or bad – very seriously. But until the soon-to-be-here season opener, it does give us something(s) to think about.

Thirty things BBRT would like to see this season – here.

Fan of trivia? -Quizzes here and here

BBRT National League prediction here – American League Predictions here

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

 

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Thirty Things BBRT Would Like To See In The 2016 MLB Season

The MLB regular season is fast approaching and BBRT would like to share thirty things (one for each team), I’d would like to see in 2016.  Spoiler alert – a few factors that influenced the selections.

  • Only three teams in MLB history have had three 200-strikeout pitchers in a season – there’s a chance that could double in 2016.
  • Only three teams have had three players reach 40 HR in the same season.
  • The Cubs haven’t won a World Championship since 1908 – and, before that, they hadn’t won one since 1907.
  • The Orioles could become the first team with two 250-HR seasons.
  • The Giants could become the first team to notch a no-hitter in five consecutive seasons.
  • No pitcher has won 25 games in a season since Bob Welch in 1990.
  • No Kansas City Royal has ever hit 40 home runs in a season.
  • The Red Sox David Ortiz could break some age-40 power records during his “retirement tour.”
  • No Padre has ever thrown a no-hitter.
  • Before 2015, we hadn’t seen a full-season team ERA under 3.00 since 1988.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Paul Goldschmidt winning the NL MVP

BBRT consistently maintains an admiration for players who throw “lumber and leather” – and despite the attention often given to the likes of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, perhaps no one does it better than the D-backs’ 1B Paul Goldschmidt. Last season, Goldschmidt hit .321, with 33 home runs and 110 RBI – and tossed in 21 steals (in 26 attempts), as well as his third-straight All Star selection and second Gold Glove in three years. Goldschmidt finished second in the NL MVP voting last season and in 2013 (when he led the league in HR, RBI, Slugging Percentage and Total Bases). How respected is the Arizona 1B? Last season, he drew a league-leading 29 intentional walks.  BBRT would like to see Goldschmidt win the NL MVP in 2016.

Atlanta Braves

Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair and Dansby Swanson all playing in Atlanta at some time this season

Atlanta is rebuilding (see the departure over the past two years of Andrelton Simmons, Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, Shelby Miller, Evan Gattis and Cameron Maybin).  The Braves made what BBRT believes is the best trade of the most recent off season – sending RHP Shelby Miller (6-17, but with a 3.02 ERA in 205 1/3 innings) and 20-year-old LHP Gabe Speier (4-2, 2.86 in 33 games at A level) to the Diamondbacks for OF Endor Inciarte, RHP Aaron Blair and SS Dansby Swanson.  Born in Milwaukee and still a Braves’ fan, BBRT would like to see all three of these acquisitions spend time in Atlanta this season.  And, the odds aren’t bad.

Inciarte seems a lock for a spot in CF and at the top of the Braves’ lineup.  The 25-year-old hit .303 with six home runs, 45 RBI, 73 runs scored and 21 steals for the D-backs last season – and showed Gold Glove caliber fielding skills.  Blair looks to have the size (6’5”, 230 pounds), poise and stuff to compete for the number-five spot in the Braves rotation (or earn a call-up in case of injury or inadequacy). The 23-year-old Blair – who made  the Conference USA All Freshman team and Conference USA All Star Team (as a Junior) – has run up a 23-13, 3.22 record in three minor league season and went 13-5, 2.92 at AA and AAA last year.  Swanson, the number-one overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft is a little bit of a longer shot to make it to Atlanta this season, but may prove the best part of the deal longer-term. A Southeastern Conference All Star and College World Series Outstanding Player (for Vanderbilt University) in 2014, Swanson hit .289 with one home run and 11 RBI in 22 games in the short-season Northwest League last year.

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles making a run at 250 home runs

No doubt Camden Yards is hitter friendly.  In 2015, the Orioles hit 217 home runs (128 at home and 89 on the road). Their season total trailed only the Blue Jays (232) and Astros (230). It was the Orioles’ fourth-consecutive season of 200 or more home runs (by contrast, there are five MLB teams that have never had a 200-HR season.) This off season, the Orioles made an investment in reaching the 250+ home run mark – resigning Chris “Crush” Davis and adding power hitters Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alveraz and Hyun Soo Kim (28 HR’s in Korea last season) to a lineup that already includes Many Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones.  The Orioles have a legitimate chance at 250 home runs.  Why does BBRT see that as worthy watching? 1)  It would be just the fifth 250-HR season in MLB history; 2) It would make the Orioles the first MLB team with two 250-HR seasons; 3) Long balls can be pretty darn majestic

MLB 250-Home Run Seasons

264 – Seattle Mariners, 1997

260 – Texas Rangers, 2005

257 – Baltimore Orioles, 1995

257 – Toronto Bluer Jays, 2010

Yep, that’s right neither the Yankees (a high of 245 in 2012) nor the Coors Field-based Rockies (a high of 239 in 1997) have hit the 250 mark. Note: The NL team record for home runs in a season is 249 by the 2000 Astros.

The teams that have never had a 200-HR season:  Royals (high of 168 in 1987); Pirates (171 in 1999); Padres (172 in 1970); Nationals (194 in 2012); Rays (199 in 2009).

 

Boston Red Sox

David Ortiz matching his 2015 stat line … .273-37-108

As David Ortiz makes his retirement tour around the major leagues, he is coming off a 2015 (age-39) season of a .273 average, with 37 home runs and 108 RBI.  If he can maintain that level of performance (and he has shown little sign of losing power), he would set a new record for home runs in an age-40 season (Darrell Evans holds the record at 34 in 1987) and tie the record for RBI in an age-40 season (Dave Winfield, 1992).  Wouldn’t that be a great way for “Big Papi” to bow out?  Note: 37 home runs would vault Ortiz past such stars as Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott, Gary Sheffield and Eddie Murray on the All-Time HR list.

Age-40 Season High Marks

Games Played – 156                Dave Winfield, Blue Jays, 1992

Batting Average – .357           Ty Cobb, Athletics, 1927

Hits – 207                               Sam Rice, Senators, 1930

Doubles – 35                           Sam Rice

Triples – 13                             Sam Rice

Home Runs – 34                     Darrell Evans, Tigers, 1987

Total Bases – 286                    Dave Winfield

Runs – 121                              Sam Rice

RBI – 108                               Dave Winfield

Stolen Bases – 47                    Davey Lopes, Cubs, 1985

 

Chicago White Sox

A 300-strikeout season for southpaw Chris Sale

Given today’s handling of pitchers, this could be a long shot, but last season (despite a 13-11) record, Sale led the AL in strikeouts with 274 in 208 innings pitched – topping all MLB starters with 11.8 K’s per nine innings. So, while it’s a bit of a long shot,  it’s not out of the question. If he did reach the 300 mark, Sale would be the first AL hurler to do so since Pedro Martinez in 1999 (313 K’s).  Clayton Kershaw notched 301 strikeouts in the NL last season.

Southpaw Randy” The Big Unit”  Johnson notched a record five consecutive 300 strikeout seasons (1998-2002) and, surprisingly, pitched for (Seattle, Houston, Arizona) in that span. Johnson was, in fact, traded in the middle of one of those seasons. In 1998, he fanned 329 hitters – 213 with the Seattle Mariners and 116 with the Houston Astros.

Chicago Cubs

A World Series Championship flag for the friendly confines

wrigkley3The Cubs have the longest World Series Championship drought in MLB – 107 years. Their last WS title came in 1908 (on the heels of a 1907 WS title).  BBRT would like to see a World Series win at Wrigley in 2016 – and the Cubs may have the team to do it.  They are coming off a 97-win campaign and have talented youngsters like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber in the lineup – not to mention Jason Heyward (signed from the division-rival Cardinals).  They also boast a pitching staff with the likes of Jake Arrietta, John Lester, John Lackey (also signed from the Cardinals) and Hector Rondon.  This could be the Cubs’ year – and BBRT would like to see it.

Cincinnati Reds

Joey Votto trotting to first base – again and again

Without Todd Frazier’s power bat gone, BBRT is anxious to see just how many times the Reds’ Joey Votto will walk in 2016 – he led the NL with 143 free passes in 2015 and has led the league in four of the past five seasons. It’s likely that only knee surgery (that limited him to 62 games in 2014) kept Votto from tying the MLB record for consecutive seasons leading the league in walks – five by the Phillies’ Roy Thomas (1900-04) and the Giants’ Barry Bonds (2000-2004).  I don’t think it would be a stretch to see 150 walks for the Reds’ top hitter in 2016.

Cleveland Indians

Two-hundred strikeouts each for Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar

In 2015, the Indians came within five strikeouts of becoming just the fourth team in MLB history to have three 200+ strikeouts pitchers (1967 Twins, 1969 Astros, 2013 Tigers). Last season Corey Kluber fanned 245 hitters in 222 innings; Carlos Carrasco whiffed 216 in 182 2/3 IP; and Danny Salazar notched 195 K’s in 185 innings. This group of bat-missers is fun to watch – and one of three teams with a chance to have three 200-K hurlers in 2016. (The others are the Tigers and Mets).  The odds are long – pitch counts, pitchers’ health, late-inning relief specialists) – but wouldn’t it be fun to see the number of “three 200-K hurlers” teams double in a single season.)

Colorado Rockies

Nolan Arenado at third base and in the heart of the order

Okay, this is personal preference. Having spent my baseball/softball playing years at third base (always wearing number 41 in honor of my favorite player – Eddie Mathews), I am partial to third basemen.  When you watch the Rockies, you get to watch one of the best – and a player who meets BBRT’s “lumber AND leather” criteria.  Nolan Arenado, who will turn 25 in April, has three big league seasons – and three Gold Gloves – under his belt. In addition, he is coming into his own at the plate, hitting .287-42-130 in 2015 (leading the NL in homers and RBI.)  Arenado is clearly a player BBRT would like to see more of in 2016.

Detroit Tigers

A comeback from staff  ace Justin Verlander

Long-time Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander has been hit by health issues the past two seasons. In January 2014, Verlander underwent core muscle surgery and he opened the 2015 season on the DL due to a right triceps strain (which ended a string of eight consecutive Opening Day starts for Verlander). Looking at 2015, Verlander went 5-8 and made just 20 starts. It was his first year under 20 starts since 2006, when he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with 17 wins in 30 starts.  From 2006 through 2015, Verlander led the AL in wins twice, winning percentage twice, ERA once, starts three times, complete games once, inning pitched three times and strikeouts three times (winning the Cy Young Award and AL MVP Award in 2011). BBT would like to see Verlander return to his All Star form – and his late-season 2015 performance shows promise (2.80 ERA in his last 15 starts).

Houston Astros

More Jose Altuve, please – a third straight 200-hit season

The Astros have a young, exciting team with plenty of players worth watching – Dallas Kuechel, Carlos Correa and George Springer to name a few.   BBRT, however, is most interested in seeming more of the Astros’ top-of-the-order spark plug – Jose Altuve, at 5’ 6”, the majors’ shortest player. The Astros’ second baseman is well worth watching. In  his four full MLB seasons, he has been an All Star three times, won a batting title (2014), earned a Gold Glove (2015), led the AL in hits twice, and stolen bases twice,  In 2015, he will be going for a third-straight 200-hit season and third-straight stolen base title.  BBRT loves to watch this guy get on –and around – the bases.

Ichiro Suzuki holds the record for consecutive 200-hit seasons – ten (2001-2010).

Kansas City Royals

Someone goes crazy and hits 40 home runs

BalboniOkay, really not likely, since the Royals’ 2015 home run leader was Kendrys Morales with just 22.  Morales, however, has hit as many as 34 in a season (Angels, 2009). Why would BBRT like to see this unlikely occurrence?  The Royals are the only team to never have a 40-homer performance.  The team’s all-time single-season leader in round trippers is – wait for it – Steve “Bye Bye” Balboni, with 36 in 1985.

Los Angeles Angels

Mike Trout. Mike Trout.  Mike Trout.

Okay, Mike Trout is worth the price of admission.  Last season, he hit .299, with 41 homers, 90 RBI and 11 steals.  In four full MLB seasons, he’s been an All Star four times, Rookie of the Year, AL MVP (2014) and led the league in runs three times, RBI once, stolen bases once, walks once and total bases once.  His game is just a pleasure to watch – and he’s only 24-years-old.  Can’t wait to see more of this guy.

Los Angeles Dodgers

A 25-win campaign from Clayton Kershaw

The last time a pitcher won 25 games was way back in 1990 (Bob Welch, Oakland A’s. 27-6, 2.95). BBRT thinks that, if any of today’s hurler can do it, it is Clayton Kershaw – a three-time Cy Young Award winner, 2014 NL MVP, five-time All Star, four-time ERA leader and three-time strikeout leader (with 301 last season). Just as important, since 2009, Kershaw has averaged just over 31 starts per season. With 30-33 starts, 25-wins is a real challenge (Welsh had 35 starts in his 27-win campaign), but if anyone can do it, it’s Kershaw.

Miami Marlins

Giancarlo Stanton hitting 50 home runs – all of them “no-doubters”

Giancarlo Stanton looks like a power hitter (6’6”, 240-pounts) and he swings like a power hitter (last season a .265 average, but 27 home runs in just 74 games). Unfortunately, the 26-year-old, three-time All Star has trouble staying on the field (only one MLB season of at least 150 games in the past six years). BBRT would like to see Stanton give Miami fans a thrill – staying healthy and challenging the fifty homer run mark.

Milwaukee Brewers

Putting a left-handed starting pitcher on the mound

In 2014 and 2015, the Brewers used zero – that’s  nada, nil and none – southpaw starting pitchers.  The anticipated 2016 rotation Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann, Matt Garza and Zach Davies (or Chase Anderson) are all right-handers, so it doesn’t look good for seeing a lefty start a game. The best hope might be 22-year-old Josh Hader (acquired last July from the Astros). In four minor league seasons, Hader is 21-16, with a 2.95 ERA and 398 strikeouts in 363 1/3 innings. BBRT would like to see him break the right-handed streak in 2016.

Minnesota Twins

A .300 season from Joe Mauer

Photo: Ray Dumas

Photo: Ray Dumas

Twins’ first baseman (former catcher) Joe Mauer is a three-time batting champion (the only MLB catcher to win three titles) with a .313 career average.  In the past two seasons, however, the six-time All Star and 2009 AL MVP has hit just .277 and .265.  Mauer recently indicated concussion symptoms have resulted in blurred vision at times (particularly in bright sunlight) and that he is experimenting with sunglasses at the plate this spring. That change, plus a stronger Twins’ lineup around him, should help Mauer.  BBRT would love to see another .300 season out of this hometown hero.

New York Yankees

At least twenty-eight home runs from Alex Rodriguez

The Yankees’ DH surprised a lot of people last year by hitting 33 home runs and driving in 86 – in his 21st MLB campaign and his age-39 season.  This year, he joins David Ortiz in an age-40 season that could see either one or both of them eclipse Darrell Evans’ age-40 season record of 34 HR’s. That, however, is not why BBRT would like to see at least 28 round trippers from A-Rod.  The fact is, 28 home runs would bring his career total to 715 – one more than Yankee icon Babe Ruth.  Not anxious to see A-Rod pass Ruth, but I am interested to see how the Yankees handle that milestone.

Oakland A’s

New Athletic Khris Davis out-homering long-time Oriole Chris Davis

This would be a tough one, but I like the Khris Davis/Chris Davis symmetry.  Last season, the Orioles’ Chris Davis led the AL with 47 home runs, while the A’s Khris Davis (then with the Brewers) hit 27.  Still, there is hope.  It was closer after the All Star break (28 for Chris, 21 for Khris); Khris played in 39 fewer games than Chris (121 to 160); and Khris is two years younger than Chris (28 to 30).

BBRT side note: The Orioles’ Chris Davis has proven pretty versatile in his eight-season MLB career (Rangers/Orioles) – 97 starts at 1B; 85 at 3B; 57 in RF; 11 in LF.  And during the 2012 season, he went 1-0 on the mound, tossing the final two innings in an Orioles’ 17-inning, 9-6 win over the Red Sox.  Davis pitched two scoreless frames, giving up 2 hits and fanning two – career ERA 0.00.

New York Mets

Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard each reaching 200 strikeouts

MLB has only seen a team with three 200-strikeout pitchers in a single season three times. This season, the Mets’ young pitching staff has a chance to accomplish that feat (and maybe do it one better). Possibilities to reach the 200-whiff figure include: Jacob deGrom (205 K’s in 191 innings last season); Matt Harvey (188 K’s in 189 1/3 IP and another year away from Tommy John surgery); and Noah Syndergaard (166 whiffs in 150 innings). Should any of this trio falter, there’s always Steven Matz (34 K’s in 35 2/3 innings after being called up – and 107 K’s in 105 1/3 minor league innings). Could we see our first team with four 200-strikeout hurlers? BBRT thinks that would look pretty good.

Philadelphia Phillies

A Phillies’ starting pitcher reaching double-digits in wins

This will tell you just how far the Phillies have fallen: In 2015, no Phillies’ pitcher won more than six games(Aaron Harang, 6-15; Cole Hamels, 6-7; Aaron Nola, 6-2; Ken Giles, 6-3). As the Phils go into 2016, only Nola is listed on the their depth chart – Harang is a free agent, reportedly considering retirement; Giles was traded to the Astros; and Hamels was traded to the Rangers at the 2015 trading deadline.  Best bets to reach ten wins for the Phillies in 2016? Nola, who made his debut with the Phillies last July and went 6-2, 3.59 in 13 starts, or Jeremy Hellickson (picked up in a trade with the Diamondbacks), who went 9-12, 4.62 for Arizona last season.  Still, no sure bets on this one.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Twenty home runs, 20 stolen bases and 20 assists by LF Starling Marte

The 2015 MLB season saw only four 20-20 (HR/SB) players – Brewers’ OF Ryan Braun (25 HR’s/24 SB’s); D-backs’ 1B Paul Goldschmidt (33/21); D-backs’ OF A.J. Pollock (20/39); and Orioles’ 3B Manny Machado (35/20).  Coming close was Pirates’ OF Starling Marte (gotta love that name) – who went .287, with 19 home runs and 30 steals.  Given that Marte has increased his home run total in each of his three full MLB seasons (12-13-19) and reached 30 steals in each of those seasons (41-30-30), BBRT is counting on seeing him join the 20/20 club in 2016.  Getting a bit greedy, I’d also like to see Marte continue the defense that earned him a 2015 Gold Glove and, in the process, add 20 assists to his resume (he had 16 assists in 2015).

Saint Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals again finishing with an ERA under 3.00

The Saint Louis Cardinals won an MLB-best 100 games last season – and they didn’t’ do it with their bats.  In 2015. the Cardinals scored the seventh-fewest runs in MLB and hit the sixth-fewest homers – and were out homered by every team in their division and outscored by all but one. The pitching, however, was another story. Saint Louis was the only team with an ERA under 3.00 – at 2.94, more than a quarter of a run better than the second-best Pirates (3.21). The Redbirds also led MLB in quality starts (106), saves (62)  and save percentage (80.5%).

BBRT would like to see the Cardinals again finish with an ERA under 3.00 – and there is a chance. They did lose John Lackey to the Cubs and Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery, but they picked up Mike Leake and will have a full season of “ace” Adam Wainwright. Still, the odds on another sub-3.00 ERA are long. To find the last sub-3.00 season (before the Cards in 2015), you have to go all the way back to the 1989 Dodgers (2.95), and the Dodgers of 1988 & 1989 are the last team to record two consecutive sub-3.00 team ERAs.

San Diego Padres

A no-hitter from the Padres pitching staff

The Padres are the only MLB franchise that has never achieved a no-hitter – despite their history of pitcher-friendly ballparks. BBRT thinks it’s about time to change that. BBRT Note: Last August 14, Matt Kemp achieved the first-ever hitter’s “cycle” in Padres’ history. Time to keep filling in the blanks. BBRT’s vote for the most likely no-hitter candidates: James Shields or Tyson Ross.

San Francisco Giants

A World Series Championship

The Giants have won the past three even-numbered year’s World Series – 2010, 2012 and 2014. Why break the string?  If I can’t have a Cubbies’ World Series win (see the section on the Cubs), I’d like to see the Giants continue their even-numbered streak. Short of that, how about a Madison Bumgarner no-hitter (or one by any Giants’ starter) – which would make the Giant only the first team in MLB history to achieve a no-hitter in four consecutive season.

Teams with No-Hitters in Four Consecutive Seasons 

LA Dodgers

June 30, 1962 – Sandy Koufax (vs. Mets)

May 11, 1963 – Sandy Koufax (vs. Giants)

June 4, 1964 – Sandy Koufax (vs. Phillies)

September 9, 1965 – Sandy Koufax (vs. Cubs)

SF Giants

June 13, 2012 – Matt Cain (vs. Astros)

July 13, 2013 – Tim Lincecum (vs. Padres)

June 25, 2014 – Tim Lincecum (vs. Padres)

June 9, 2015 – Chris Heston (vs. Mets)

 Seattle Mariners

The “return” of Robinson Cano

The Mariners were expecting big things from Robinson Cano when they signed him to a ten-year contract in December of 2103. In 2014, he delivered a solid (not spectacular) season – at .314-14-82, with ten steals.  Still, the power Seattle was expecting wasn’t there (Cano averaged 28 HRs a season in his last five years with the Yankees.) In 2015, things got off to a bad start – as Cano hit just .252, with only six home runs in the first half.  However, the old Robinson Cano was back in the second half – .331-15-49. He ended the season at .287-21-79 – raising Seattle’s hopes for 2016. Hopefully, we’ll see a full season of that performance.  Chances look good as Cano, who played through an abdominal issue and had hernia surgery in the off season, is said to be healthy going into 2016.  BBRT would like to see the six-time All Star return to his .300-20-90 form.

Tampa Bay Rays

Blake Snell on the mound

Who wouldn’t want to see Rays’ 23-year-old southpaw pitching prospect Blake Snell on the mound? The 2015 Baseball America Player of the Year started last season at High A Charlotte, where he went 3-0 and pitched 21 consecutive scoreless innings (27 strikeouts), before being promoted to the Double A Montgomery Biscuits – where he ran his season opening scoreless streak to 46 innings. Snell went 5-2, 1.57 at Montgomery, striking out 79 in 68 2/3 innings. This earned him a promotion to Triple A Durham, where he went 6-2, with a 1.80 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings.  So, his season’s totals were 15-4, 1.41 ERA, 163 K’s in 134 innings. Overall, he has a 33-24 record with a 2.75 ERA in five minor league season. The Rays recently sent Snell to their  minor league camp – but BBRT still wants to see him in a Rays’ uniform in 2016.

Texas Rangers

The return of Yu Darvish

First, love the name.  Second, a healthy Darvish would boost Texas’ chances to hold off the charging Astros.  Darvish missed all of  2015 due to Tommy John Surgery. Darvish was 93-29, with a 1.99 ERA in seven seasons in Japan before joining the Rangers in 2012. Then he went 16-9, 3.90 in his MLB rookie season. In three MLB seasons, Darvish is 39-25, 3.27 with 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 innings.  A 15-win season from Darvish would brighten the picture for the Rangers and their fans.  And, BBRT always likes a good comeback.

Toronto Blue Jays

Forty home run seasons by 3B Josh Donaldson, DH Edwin Encarnacion and RF Jose Bautista

In 2015, the Blue Jays came within one dinger of becoming just the fourth team in MLB history to have three players hit 40 or more home runs – as Josh Donaldson rapped 41 round trippers, Jose Bautista clubbed 40 and Edwin Encarnacion fell one short at 39. BBRT is ready to see them join this club.

Teams with Three 40-Homer Players

1973 Braves – Davey Johnson (43); Darrell Evans (41); Hank Aaron (40)

1996 Rockies – Andres Galarraga (47); Vinny Castilla (40); Ellis Burks (40)

1997 Rockies – Larry Walker (49); Andres Galarraga (41), Vinny Castilla (40)

 

Washington Nationals

Bryce Harper. Bryce Harper. Bryce Harper.   (See the Los Angeles Angels)

Can’t wait to see what last year’s NL MVP does in 2016.  Last season – at age 22 – all Bryce Harper did was hit .330, with 42 home runs (tied for NL lead), 99 RBI and a league-leading 118 runs. Hopefully, he’ll put up another strong campaign and, this time, carry the Nationals to the post season.

 

Some pre-season fun – everything you ever wanted to know about the 500-HR Club, click here

Ballpark Tours great 2016 excursion (10 days, 10 games, 7 cities), outlined here. 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

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A Stroll in the Park – the Bases-Loaded Free Pass

During Spring Training my mind seems to wander toward baseball. Actually, my mind wanders toward our national pastime year-round, but seems to wander more often and farther afoot once Spring Training games start.

Josh Hamilton, last MLB player to draw a bases-loaded INTENTIONAL walk. Photo: Keith Allison

Josh Hamilton, last MLB player to draw a bases-loaded INTENTIONAL walk. Photo: Keith Allison

It usually begins innocently enough – predictions on the coming season’s standings and awards (for the AL, click here – for the NL, click here), prospects I intend to keep an eye on (click here), and potential comeback players (click here).  But, as the season draws closer, the topics become more esoteric. For example, just recently I began contemplating one of the more anti-climactic occurrences on the baseball diamond – the bases-loaded walk.  Always a fan of a play on words, I was particularly interested in “walk-off walks” – those bases-loaded free passes that marked the final plate appearance of a game. Pulled into that rabbit hole, I went on to look at such topics as most bases-loaded walks in a game and inning (by a player and team), World Series bases-loaded free passes, intentional bases-loaded walks and games in which all of a team’s runs came via the sacks-full free pass.

 

WALK-OFF WALKS

Turns out the walk-off walk is not a rare thing.  In fact, you can expect a handful of such occurrences each season. According to statistics from Baseball-Reference.com:

  • Each of the past five seasons has seen four walk-off walks – and if you go back ten seasons, the average number of walk-off walks per season is 5.3.
  • Walk-off walks (as you would expect) are most likely in extra-inning contests (12 of the last 20 walk-off walks have come in extra innings).

I also noted that walk-off walks can be set up in a variety of ways.  Just looking to 2015, I found a game (August 16), when Texas started the bottom of the ninth in a 3-3 tie with the Mariners.  Texas’ number-nine hitter LF Ryan Strausborger led off with a bunt single; leadoff hitter CF Delino DeShields beat out a bunt down the third base line for a hit; RF Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch (loading the bases); DH Prince Fielder went down on strikes; and, then, 3B Adrian Beltre walked to force in the winning run. The game-ending tally scored without a ball leaving the infield By contrast, on July 30, The Cardinals went into the bottom of the ninth trailing the Rockies by three.  That inning saw a ground rule double by leadoff hitter and 1B Matt Carpenter; a walk to CF Randal Grichuk; a single (to load the bases) by 2B Kolten Wong; a two-run single by SS Jhonny Peralta; an intentional walk (to load the bases) to RF Jason Heyward; a non-scoring fly out by C Yadier Molina; and, finally, a game-winning walk to 3B Greg Garcia.  So, that walk-off walk came at the end of a three-run inning and was preceded by a pair of walks and three hits to the outfield.  Finally, there is the more classic extra-inning walk-off walk.  On August 5, the White Sox started the bottom of the tenth inning of a 5-5 tie (with the Rays) with a single by CF Adam Eaton – who stole second and went to third on an error by the shortstop. Following a fly out to short LF by 3B Tyler Saldino, the Rays intentionally walked 1B Jose Abreu and LF Melky Cabrera (loading the bases and setting up a force out at the plate or a potential double play). RF Avisail then walked to bring in the winner. In this case, stolen bases and two intentional walks set up the game-ender.

MOST BASES-LOADED WALKS IN A GAME/INNING

  • The record for bases-loaded walks in a single game is eight – all by the White Sox (and all in a single inning) in a 20-6 victory over the Kansas City A’s on April 22, 1959. In the seventh inning of that game, the White Sox drew eight bases-loaded walks, while scoring eleven runs on just one hit. (For a full accounting of the inning, click here.)
  • In the April 22, 1959 White Sox/A’s game, Nellie Fox had a record two bases-loaded walks in a single inning.
  • Ellis Burks holds the record for bases-loaded walks in game. On, September 2, 2000 – as his Giants beat the Cubs 13-2 – Burks drew three bases-loaded walks (in the first and second innings off  Reuben Quevedo and in the sixth off Felix Heredia). The Giants drew five bases-loaded free passes in the game.

MOST BASES-LOADED WALKS IN A WORLD SERIES GAME

The only player to draw two bases-loaded walks in a World Series game is Orioles’ pitcher Jim Palmer, who walked with the sacks full in the fourth and fifth innings, as the Orioles topped the Pirates 11-3, on October 11, 1971.  Notably Palmer walked only three times (while striking out 41) in 116 regular season plate appearances. For those who wish to commiserate with the victim(s), the walks were issued by Bruce Kison and Bob Veale.

INTENTIONAL BASES-LOADED WALKS

Only six players have been intentionally walked with the bases loaded (Baseball-Almanac.com):

  • Abner Dalrymple, Chicago (NL), August 2, 1881
  • Napoleon Lajoie, Philadelphia (AL), May 23, 1901
  • Del Bissonette, Brooklyn (NL), May 2, 1928
  • Bill Nicholson, Chicago (NL) July 23, 1944
  • Barry Bonds, San Francisco (NL), May 28, 1998
  • Josh Hamilton, Texas (AL), August 17, 2008

SCORING ALL YOU R RUNS ON BASESS LOADED WALKS

BBRT didn’t have any luck finding a game in which a team scored all its runs via the bases-loaded walk – but did find a game in which a team scored all four of its meaningful runs on bases-full free passes – and an insurance run on a sacrifice fly.

Last July 19th, The Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds took part in an all-Ohio face off at the Great American Ballpark. It was, in some ways, a “classic” matchup – an eleven-inning Cleveland victory in which the two teams used a combined 37 players, including 13 pitchers and seven pinch hitters. What caught BBRT’s attention is that none of the Indians’ 13 hits resulted in an RBI.  In fact, the Indians came very close to scoring all their runs on bases-loaded walks. The Tribe scored its first four runs on bases-loaded free passes – and tallied its last run on a sacrifice fly.  The only Cleveland runner who attempted to score on a base hit was thrown out at the plate.

COMING SOON – Thirty things (one for each team), BBRT hopes to see in 2016.

Fan of baseball trivia?  BBRT has two 99 question (Ballpark Tours tested) trivia quizzes.  For BBRT’s 99 favorite questions, click here.   For a second 99, click here.

Ballpark Tours great 2016 excursion (10 days, 10 games, 7 cities), outlined here. 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

 

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A Somewhat Bold Prediction – A Pirate, Oriole or Marlin will Throw A Complete Game

BBRT would like to make a prediction for 2016 that may not be as much of a “given” as it might seem.  I’d like to predict that a Pirate, Marlin or Oriole pitcher will throw a complete game sometime during the 2016 season.  Why might that prediction put me out on a limb?

In 2015, the Pirates, Orioles and Marlins failed to record a single complete game among them. Notably, the lack of complete games did not seem to serve as an indicator of team performance.

  • One of the three teams finished twenty or more games over .500 (Pirates, 98-64); one finished right at .500 (Orioles, 81-81); and one finished 20 or more games below .500 (Marlins., 71-91).
  • They also finished sixth, fourteenth and twenty-second in quality starts (Pittsburgh-92; Miami-83; Baltimore-72.  (MLB average-81).
  • Despite the lack of a single complete game, the three teams recorded 35 shutouts on the season.
Corey Kluber tied for the MLB lead with four complete games - helping the Indians achieve a 2015 MLB-best 11 CG. Photo by Keith Allison.

Corey Kluber tied for the MLB lead with four complete games – helping the Indians achieve a 2015 MLB-best 11 CG.
Photo by Keith Allison.

One the other side of the coin, the Cleveland Indians led all of MLB with 11 complete games in 2015 – as many as the Royals, Twins, Phillies, Brewers, Rays, Mets, Cardinals, Padres, Diamondbacks, Orioles, Pirates and Marlins COMBINED.  Note: Four of those teams made it to the post season; the Cardinals finished with MLB’s lowest earned run average (despite only one complete game); and Pittsburgh, with no complete games, had MLB’s second-lowest ERA.  The Indians finished seventh in quality starts (91) and notched 11 team shutouts.

These numbers from 2015 reflect the continuing disappearance of the complete game in major league baseball.  Here are more “telling” statistics:

– In 1900, 82.3% of games started were complete games;

– 1925 – 49.2%

– 1950 – 40.3%

–  1975 – 27.2%

–  2000 – 4.8%

– 2010 – 3.4%

– 2015 – 2.2%

For BBRT’s comments (a rant actually) on five reasons why the complete games have become a thing of the past, click here.

 

Looking ahead? For BBRT’S 2016 National League Predictions (Division Races and Awards), click here.  For 2016 AL Predictions, click here. 

Fan of baseball trivia?  BBRT has two 99 question (Ballpark Tours tested) trivia quizzes.  For BBRT’s 99 favorite questions, click here.   For a second 99, click here.

Ballpark Tours great 2016 excursion (10 days, 10 games, 7 cities), outlined here. 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

 

photo by:

Box Scores Are Back – Hats (caps) Off To Henry Chadwick

“The daily box score – the symphony of a game recorded in a space one- column wide by four-inches deep.  Some would say the box score reduces the game to statistics, I would say it elevates the game to history.”

                                    Baseball Roundtable

                                               Ten Reasons Why I Love Baseball

                                                March 18, 2012

Spring Training games are once again underway and one of my favorite things about baseball – the box scores – are back.   Each preseason, the first round of box scores coming in from Arizona and Florida takes me back to my youth, when I would get up a half hour early once the baseball season started, just so I could fully digest the previous day’s box scores along with my morning juice and cereal.  As an adult, breakfast fare shifted to coffee and toast or bagels – but the box scores remained a morning staple.   I may be dating myself here but, while I do recognize the immediacy and portability of box scores provided by smartphones and other devices, for me these icons of our national pastime are best devoured first thing in the morning – over the smell of hot coffee and newsprint.

Today's box score can be a thing of beauty.

Today’s box score can be a thing of beauty.

The box scores – one-newspaper-column-wide by four-inches-deep summaries of each day’s baseball action – provide a staggering amount of information. Depending on the publication, these icons of baseball past and present can answer a wide range of questions for the baseball fan. What do you want to know about the contest?  Who played what positions and where did they bat in the order? How about each player’s (and team totals) at bats, hits, extra base hits, runs scored or batted in, stolen bases (and caught stealing), strikeouts and walks? Or for the pitchers, how many: innings pitched; hits allowed; walks issued; hit batsmen; batters struck out; runs and earned runs allowed? Or you may want to know who got credit for a win, loss, save or blown save. You can even find the number of pitches (and number of strikes) thrown by each hurler. Players errors also are documented as are participants in double plays. It’s all there – as are a line score, game time, weather, attendance, runners left on base, and more.

 

“A box score is more than a capsule archive. It is a precisely etched miniature of the sport itself, for baseball, in spite of its grassy spaciousness and apparent unpredictability, is the most intensely and satisfyingly mathematical of all our outdoor sports. Every player in every game is subjected to a cold and ceaseless accounting; no ball is thrown and no base is gained without an instant responding judgment – ball or strike, hit or error, yea or nay – and an ensuing statistic. This encompassing neatness permits the baseball fan, aided by experience and memory, to extract from a box score the same joy, the same hallucinatory reality, that pickles the scalp of a musician when he glances at a page of his score of Don Giovanni and actually hears bassos and sopranos, woodwinds and violins.”

                                                      Roger Angell

                                                     The Summer Game

Today’s expanded box scores not only provide fans a look at each day’s competitions and performances, but also provide a perspective on the season.  In many publications, batting averages (on the season-to-date) are listed to the far right of each players line, as are each pitcher’s earned run average (season-to-date).  The number of  extra base hits or RBI on the season are provided for players who added to their  totals on that day; pitchers’ won-lost records or total saves (and total save opportunities) are similarly provided for those hurlers who added to their totals in the particular contest captured in the box score.

So, who do we salute for making this tiny, rectangular treasure trove of information available to baseball fans?  Hats off to Baseball Hall of Famer Henry Chadwick – the only sportswriter elected to the non-writers portion of the  BB HOF.

Henry Chadwick (1824-1908)

Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938

Henry Chadwick - his development of the box score helped earn him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Henry Chadwick – his development of the box score helped earn him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Born in Exter, England, Henry Chadwick was a fan (and player) of ball-and-bat games like rounders and cricket in his early years.  Chadwick moved to the United States in 1837 and was employed as a cricket reporter for the New York Times. It’s been reported that, while not initially a big fan of base ball (it was two words back then),  Chadwick took in a very well-played base ball game between New York City’s Gotham and Eagle squads in 1856 – and changed his views of America’s bat-and-ball competition. Chadwick later spoke of how he was enthralled by the game and truly felt it reflected the spirit of America.

As a result of this encounter with base ball, Chadwick dedicated himself to putting baseball in the hearts and minds of the American public.  From covering the sport for the times, he moved on to writing regular columns on base ball for the New York Clipper and Sunday Mercury newspapers – quickly earning a reputation as one of (if not the) top chroniclers of the game.  Just three years after taking in that Gothams-Eagles contest, Chadwick put forth his first modern box score – detailing a game between the Brooklyn Excelsior and Brooklyn starts –  documenting such statistics as hits, runs, put-outs, assists, errors and strikeouts. He went on to further refine his box score, as a means to enable his newspaper audience to see the game at home.

Chadwick’s contributions, however, went well beyond the box score. He also set himself to the task of documenting player performance and providing a source of player comparison – developing such enduring statistics as batting average and earned run average.  Chadwick is also credited with authoring baseball’s first rule book and the sport’s first player and statistical reference books.

How enduring were Chadwick’s contributions?  The box score, while expanded, remains firmly based in Chadwick’s work. Batting and earned run averages remain key statistics for evaluating player performance. Then there are all those “K’s” fans hang on the railing when their home-team fireballer is mowing down opposing batters. It was Henry Chadwick who developed the use of “K” (the last letter in the word struck) to denote a strikeout on the score sheet. He also was a leader in such rules changes as the extension of a tie game into extra innings and  requiring a ball be caught on the fly for an out (rather than on the fly or first bounce).

Chadwick’s successful contributions to expansion of baseball’s hold on the hearts and minds of the American public were so significant that, after his death in 1908, flags in every major league park were flown at half-mast and he is the only sportswriter ever elected to the non-writers section of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

So, each morning, as I peruse the box scores (in my local daily newspaper), I raise my cup of coffee in a toast to Henry Chadwick.

     Embed from Getty Images

The box score, by the way, is only one of the many reasons I love baseball – for a top ten list, click here.

Looking ahead? For BBRT’S 2016 National League Predictions (Division Races and Awards), click here.  For 2016 AL Predictions, click here. 

Fan of baseball trivia?  BBRT has two 99 question (Ballpark Tours tested) trivia quizzes.  For BBRT’s 99 favorite questions, click here.   For a second 99, click here.

Ballpark Tours great 2016 excursion (10 days, 10 games, 7 cities), outlined here. 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

 

David Ortiz – The Big Papi of 2016 MLB Promos … and more about the season’s giveaways

Twis promosMy hometown Minnesota Twins recently released their 2016 promotional schedule, which prompted BBRT to once again do a preliminary review of MLB giveaways for the upcoming season.  A few observations – all of which I will expand upon in this post – emerged from that review:

  • While 2016 giveaways will range from the traditional baseball caps, gloves and bats to Chia Pets, infinity scarves and even soccer jerseys – bobbleheads will continue as MLB’s number-one promotional give-away.
  • The Boston Red Sox have made retiring star David Ortiz 2016’s BBRT promotional All Star – featuring Big Papi in five giveaways.
  • The Red Sox also are distributing what BBRT considers 2016’s most creative promotional item – Spoiler Alert: The Pet Brock.
  • MLB giveaways continued to become even more creative. For example, this season’s giveaways include multi-player, talking, solar-powered, “vintage” and even Paint-Your-Own bobbleheads.  (In this post, BBRT will look at some of my favorite bobbleheads and non-bobblehead promotions.)
  • My hometown Twins, who led the American League last season with 46 giveaway dates, have put together another ambitious promotional schedule.
  • You can put together some pretty good All Star squads (AL, NL and All-Time) made up solely of players featured in 2016 bobblehead giveaways. (BBRT’s 2016 bobblehead All Star teams are listed in the final segment of this post.)

Keep in mind, this is a preliminary report. As this is being posted, some teams have not released their promotional schedules, have released only partial schedules or have not identified the players to be recognized in specific promotions.  In addition, promotional items and schedules are subject to change without notice. For a complete list and up-to-date details regarding 2016 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.

BOBBLEHEADS ARE NUMBER-ONE AT THE BALLPARK

According to Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal, last season bobbleheads were the number-one MLB giveaway (for the fourth consecutive year). Smith and Street’s reports that MLB teams gave away 3.17 million bobbleheads as part of 133 promotional events – with the San Diego Padres the only team not holding a bobblehead give-away.  Notably, the two clubs with the most victories in 2015, the St. Louis Cardinals (100 wins) and the Pirates (98 wins) were also numbers one and two in the total number of promotional giveaway dates – 51 and 49, respectively.  The Minnesota Twins, whose promotional philosophy was explored in this blog last February, came in third overall and first in the American League with 46 giveaways. To read the post on the Twins’ promotional philosophy and processes, click here.

________________________

Red Sox Get Creative – Introducing BBRT’s Selection as 2016’s Most Creative promo … the Pet Brock – and Recognizing Big Papi as 2016’s Promotional All Star

David "Big Papi" Ortiz - featured in five 2016 Red Sox giveawys. Photo by Keith Allison

David “Big Papi” Ortiz – featured in five 2016 Red Sox giveawys.
Photo by Keith Allison

The Boston Red Sox get BBRT’s nod for the most creative give-away of the 2016 season – the Pet Brock (July 19 vs. Giants) a tribute to versatile 2015 All Star Brock Holt and the 1970’s gift rage Pet Rock.  The first 15,000 fans will receive a uniquely Brock/Red Sox themed replica rock.

Red Sox Marketing & Promotions Coordinator Steven Oliveira said the Pet Brock idea came from a Red Sox Strategy and Analytics staffer.

“We asked folks throughout the organization to send in their ideas for new and creative giveaways, and we really loved the Pet Brock concept,” Oliveira said. “So we decided to run with it!”

Also in the running as 2016’s most creative giveaway were the Brewers’ Bob Uecker Talking Alarm Clock and the Cardinals’ bobblehead tribute to the truly “short” career of Eddie Gaedel.

The Red Sox also get kudos for their commitment to honoring DH/1B David Ortiz in his 20th and final MLB season (14 with the Red Sox).  Ortiz – a nine-time Star, 2013 World Series MVP, member of the 500-HR club and, of course, former Twin – gets BBRT’s vote as 2016’s promotional All Star.  Big Papi will be featured in five Red Sox giveaways:

  • David Ortiz 500 (HR) Necklace (April 12 vs. Orioles)
  • David Ortiz 2013 World Series MVP Ring Replica (May 24 vs. Rockies)
  • Papi Garden Gnome (June 21 vs. White Sox)
  • Build-A-Papi (July 26 vs. Tigers)
  • David Ortiz Talking Bobblehead (August 9 vs. Yankees).

Oliveira said Ortiz has more than earned his 2016 recognition.

“Once Ortiz announced that this would be his final season, we knew we had to celebrate his tremendous career in Boston,” Oliveira said.  “Although we will be honoring him in a number of ways throughout the year, it only feels right to have him be the focal point of our 2016 giveaways.  With all respect to the Red Sox legends of the past, I don’t know that any player in Red Sox history has meant more to this franchise and city than Big Papi.”

Also in the running for 2016 Promotional All Star were 2016 Hall of Fame Electees Ken Griffey Jr. (to be recognized with bobblehead promotions by two teams – Mariners and Reds – as well as with replica Hall of Fame plaque and jersey giveaways and a uniform-number retirement ceremony) and Mike Piazza (to be featured on a pair of premium giveaways (bobblehead and replica jersey), as well as in a uniform-number retirement ceremony.

Overall, the Red Sox will distribute more than 70,000 bobbleheads in 2016 (Mookie Betts, David Price, Jason Varitek, Xander Bogaerts and mascots Wally and Tessie). Also on the schedule are such items as towels, baseball caps and piggy banks.   It should be a great year at Fenway – particularly for fans of David Ortiz.  (I’d love to get my hands on a Pet Brock and an Ortiz Talking Bobblehead.) To view the most up-to-date Red Sox promo schedule, click here. 

On a final note, you will find Red Sox players DH David Ortiz, OF Mookie Betts and SP David Price on BBRT’s  American League 2016 Bobblehead All Star Team listed at the end of this blog post.

______________________

BBRT’s Favorite 2016 Bobbleheads

Here are BBRT’s favorite bobblehead giveaways for 2016.

  • The Dodgers’ three-player bobblehead … Recognizing the only time in MLB history three players shared the World Series MVP Award – Ron Cey, Steve Yeager, Pedro Guerrero in 1981. (July 2 vs. Rockies)
  • The Red Sox’ David Ortiz talking bobblehead … Can’t wait to hear what he is going to say. (August 9 vs. Yankees)
  • Brandon Crawford Silver Slugger and Gold Glover bobblheads.

    Brandon Crawford Silver Slugger and Gold Glover bobbleheads.

    The Giants’ dual bobblehead giveaway honoring SS Brandon Crawford (a 2015 All Star, Gold Glover and Silver Slugger). Fans will receive one of two Crawford bobbleheads, a Sliver Slugger or Gold Glove version. (May 7 vs. Rockies)

  • The Cardinals’ bobblehead honoring the Saint Louis Browns’ Eddie Gaedel – at 3’ 7”, the shortest player ever to appear in an MLB game. (Sept. 9 vs. Brewers)
  • The Brewers’ Kids Paint-Your-Own Bernie Brewer bobblehead (May 29 vs. Reds)
  • A trio of Yankees’ bobbleheads: Babe Ruth (April 23 vs. Rays); Mickey Mantle (June 24 vs. Twins); Roger Maris (Oct. 1 vs. Orioles). Talk about a powerful outfield.

It’s Not All About Bobbleheads

It’s not always about bobbleheads.  There are plenty of other ways players are being recognized in 2016 promotions. You could, for example, pick up a Dodgers’ Justin Turner or Nationals’ Bryce Harper Chia Pet.  There also are garden gnomes for the Giants’ Bruce Bochy; Cardinals’ Yadier Molina; Red Sox’ David Ortiz; Orioles’ Manny Machado; A’s Sean Doolittle; Mets’ Noah Syndergaard; and Pirates’ Josh Harrison. Baseball not your number-one sport? How about the Dodgers’ Magic Johnson garden gnome, Angels’ soccer scarf or Diamondbacks’ soccer jersey promotions?  Here are a few other non-bobblehead giveaways that BBRT would like to have on the home shelf.

  • The Brewers’ Bob Uecker Talking Alarm Clock (July 10 vs. Cardinals)
  • The Nationals’ (Election Night at Nationals Park) branded Donkey or Elephant figurines (Sept. 30 vs. Marlins)
  • Replica World Series Championship Trophies: 2006 Cardinals (June 3 vs. Giants); 2015 Royals (April 23 vs. Orioles)
  • Cubs’ 1916 Replica Throwback Jersey (July 6 vs, Reds)
  • The Giants’ “Beat LA” flag – nothing like keeping a rivalry alive. (April 9 vs. Dodgers)
  • The Mets’ Jacob deGrom Hair Hat (Sept. 17 vs. Twins)

Or, how about some techie stuff?

  • The Giants’ Sergio Romo portable speakers (August 27 vs. Braves)
  • The Angels’ selfie stick (May 6 vs. Rays)

Or really practical:

  • Rays’ Laundry Hamper (Aug. 7 vs. Twins)

And, of course, there is much, much more.  Just check each team’s website for dates, quantities and eligibility.

________________________

Minnesota Twins’ Promotional Give-Aways

TwinsHoodieNow, let’s move on to my hometown Twins – last season’s American League team leader in giveaway dates.  The Twins kick off their promotional season on Opening Day in Minnesota (April 11 vs. the White Sox) – once again starting the home season with BBRT’s favorite Twins giveaway, the Twins hoodie sweatshirt.  This season, playing off the Twins’ new uniforms, the hoodies will be red and the first 30,000 fans through the “turn styles” will go home in Twins’ style.

Among the other Twins giveaways that caught BBRT’s eye are the Brian Dozier Kids Baseball Glove (April 17 vs. Angels  – first 5,000 fans 14 and under); Brian Dozier adult jersey (June 11 vs. Red Sox  – first 10,000 adult fans); a quartet of bobbleheads (Miguel Sano on June 18; Ervin Santana on July 2; Torii Hunter on July 16; and a vintage bobblehead on July 31); the Miguel Sano snow globe (July 30 vs. White Sox – first 10,000); The Torii Hunter and John Gordon Twins Hall of Fame pins (July 17 vs. Indians – first 5,000); and the Twins 1991 World Championship Beer Stein (July 27 vs. Braves – first 10,000 fans 21 or over).

Overall, in 2016, Twins fans will go home with at least:

  • 60,000 stocking caps
  • 50,000 baseball caps
  • 40,000 bobbbleheads
  • 30,000 hoodie sweatshirts
  • 30,000 stocking caps
  • 20,000 magnetic schedules
  • 20,000 poster schedules
  • 20,000 MLB Network bags
  • 10,000 bomber hats
  • 10,000 travel bags
  • 10,000 pairs of socks
  • 10,000 beer steins
  • 10,000 umbrellas
  • 10,000 adult jerseys
  • 10,000 snow globes
  • 7,500 Wiffle bats
  • 5,000 kids jerseys
  • 5,000 beach towels
  • 5,000 Twins Hall of Fame pins
  • 5,000 beach towels
  • 5,000 kids baseball gloves

As noted earlier, promotional schedules can change.  Click here to go to the Twins website promotional page for the most up-to-date info on items, dates, quantities and eligibility.

And, Twins Fans, don’t forget, there are also a hot of special events and ticket values. Here is just a sampling.

SUNDAYS

SuperAmerica Knothole Kids Day

For Sunday games, up to two youngsters (14 and under) can receive $5 off a U.S. Bank Home Run Porch or Home Plate View ticket with the purchase of one full price adult ticket in the same section (when presenting a SuperAmerica Knothole Kids Day coupon). Before the game, youngsters can receive free autographs from a Twins player and they can run the bases (post-game) courtesy of Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

TUESDAYS

U.S. Bank Value Pack

Fans who purchase a U.S. Bank Home Run Porch View ticket for a Tuesday game receive a FREE Schweigert™ hot dog and Pepsi.

WEDNESDAYS

Student Day presented by Rasmussen College

Standing-room only tickets are available for Wednesday games at just $5 for students, and they can ride to the game free on Metro Transit. (Tickets available beginning at 9 a.m. on the day of game only at the Target Field Box Office – one ticket per student with valid ID).  The Metro Transit passes are downloadable at twinsbaseball.com/student.

Schweigert™ Dollar-A-Dog

At each Wednesday game, hot dogs are $1 at the Hennepin Grille and Taste of Twins Territory concession stands. (Limit 20,000 per game; 2 per person.)

Midwest Music Showcase presented by Go 96.3

Music performances by prominent local bands are scheduled for every Wednesday home game April 27 through September 7.

FRIDAYS

Fireworks Friday

Postgame fireworks will be featured each Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day – accompanied by specific musical genre: June 3 – Minnesota Music; June 10 – Music of the ‘80s; June 17 – The British Invasion; July 1 – Salute to America; July 15 – Alternative pop; July 29 – music from 1991 (Twins’ last World Series win); September 2 – Latin pop.

ALL WEEKDAY DAY GAMES

Senior Days – Presented bv Treasure Island Resort & Casino

Fans 55 and better receive a $5 discount on Field Box and Pavilion tickets for all weekday day games (excluding April 11).  Offer available by phone and in-person only; subject to availability.

MONDAY-THURSDAY

Military Discount presented by FOX Sports North

Active military members or veterans with a valid ID (plus up to three guests) can purchase half-price Home Plate View tickets for every Monday through Thursday game (excluding April 11).  Tickets are available on the day of the game only. Visit twinsbaseball.com/promotions for a list of accepted forms of ID.

For more on Twins special events/ticket offers, click here to see the pre-season announcement or, for updated information, visit the Twins webpage.

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BBRT’s  2016 Bobblehead Giveaway All Star Teams

Here are BBRT’s NL, AL and All-Time All Star Teams made up of players who are featured in 2016 MLB bobblehead giveaways.  Some are recognized by individual bobbleheads, while others are featured jointly. (For example, the Angels are distributing a Mike Trout/Albert Pujols HR Bobblehead.  I’ve included the date of each giveaway for those interested in taking in the game and taking away the prize.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

C – Yadier Molina, Cardinals (June 4 vs. Giants)

1B – Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (July 2 vs. Giants)

2B – Howie Kendrick, Dodgers (Aug. 9 vs. Phillies)

3B – Nolan Arenado, Rockies (April 10 vs. Padres)

SS – Brandon Crawford, Giants (May 7 vs. Rockies)

OF – Bryce Harper, Nationals (May 11 vs. Tigers)

OF – Matt Holliday, Cardinals (July 22 vs. Dodgers)

OF – Ryan Braun, Brewers (May 1 vs. Marlins)

Starting Pitcher – Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (April 25 vs. Marlins)

Closer – Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals (April 30 vs. Nationals)

AMERICAN LEAGUE

C – Salvador Perez, Royals (Sept. 3 vs. Tigers)

1B – Albert Pujols, Angels (April 7 vs. Rangers)

2B – Robinson Cano, Mariners (July 16 vs. Astros)

3B – Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (April 24 vs. A’s)

SS – Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays (July 3 vs. Indians)

OF – Mike Trout, Angels (April 7 vs. Rangers)

OF – Nelson Cruz, Mariners (April 30 vs. Royals)

OF – Mookie Betts, Red Sox (April 19 vs. Rays)

DH – David Ortiz, Red Sox (Aug. 9 vs. Yankees)

Starting Pitcher – David Price, Red Sox (May 10 vs. A’s)

Closer – Wade Davis, Royals (July 24 vs. Rangers)

ALL TIME (RETIRED)

C – Mike Piazza, Mets (July 31 vs. Rockies)

1B – Jim Thome, Indians (July 30 vs. A’s)

2B – Paul Molitor, Brewers (March 21 Spring Training vs. Angels).

3B – Chipper Jones, Braves (Sept. 10 vs. Mets)

SS – Edgar Renteria, Marlins (July 9 vs. Reds)

OF – Babe Ruth, Yankees (April 23 vs. Rays)

OF  – Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners (Aug. 5 vs. Angels); Reds (May 21 vs. Mariners)

OF – Mickey Mantle, Yankees (June 24 vs. Twins)

DH – Roger Maris, Yankees (Oct. 1 vs. Orioles)

Starting Pitcher – Bob Feller, Indians (Aug. 13 vs. Angels)

Closer – Don Newcombe, Dodgers (June 8 vs. Rockies) … had to move Newcombe to the pen to fill out this spot.

 

Looking ahead? For BBRT’S 2016 National League Predictions (Division Races and Awards), click here.  For 2016 AL Predictions, click here. 

Fan of baseball trivia?  BBRT has two 99 question (Ballpark Tours tested) trivia quizzes.  For BBRT’s 99 favorite questions, click here.   For a second 99, click here.

Ballpark Tours great 2016 excursion (10 days, 10 games, 7 cities), outlined here. 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

 

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MLB Comeback Player of the Year Candidates

Spring Training grows ever closer and BBRT continues to identify players to watch in the weeks and months ahead.  We’ve already looked at some of MLB’s to prospects – click here for that post.  Now, it’s time to examine some potential candidates for Comeback Player of the Year.  I’ve chosen to highlight one player in each division, based on a combination of how important a rebound by each player could be to his team and how well-positioned each player appears to be to achieve that level of “comeback.”

NATIONAL LEAGUE

East

Anthony Rendon, 3B. Washington Nationals

Anthony RendonAnthony Rendon hit his stride with the Nationals in 2014. That season, Rendon played in 153 games, hitting .287, with 21 home runs, 83 RBI, 17 stolen bases (in 20 attempts) and a league-leading 111 runs scored. This performance earned Rendon a fifth-place finish in the MVP balloting.  Big things were expected from Rendon as the Nationals went into the 2015 season favored to take the NL East title.

Unfortunately, Rendon suffered knee, quad and oblique injuries – and played in just 80 games (often at less than 100 percent). His final numbers were .264-5-25. Rendon is just 26-years-old, so the Nationals are expecting a strong comeback.  They need his right-handed bat in the lineup if they are going to unseat the Mets atop the East Division. With Bryce Harper likely to follow Rendon in the Nats’ lineup, a solid season seems very likely.

Central

Adam Wainwright. RHP, Saint Louis Cardinals

Adam Wainwright's Fast BallThe Cardinals, having lost starting pitchers John Lackey (free agency, Mets) and Lance Lynn (Tommy John surgery), need Adam Wainwright to make a full recovery from last April’s Achilles Tendon tear and resume his role at the top of the rotation. (Note: Lackey and Lynn represented a combined 25 wins, 64 starts and 393 innings pitched.) Fortunately, Wainwright looks like a solid candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Wainwright is 34-year-old, which raises some flags, but the fact that Wainwright came back early and strong indicates he should return to form in 2016.  Last season, Wainwright returned to the mound for three regular-season relief appearances (late September/early October) and three post-season relief appearances. In those outings, he went 8 1/3 innings, giving up just five hits and two earned runs, while fanning eight. A healthy Wainwright should be a Cy Young Award candidate.  In 2013-14 he finished second and third in the CYA balloting, while running up a combined 39-18 record, with a 2.67 ERA and 398 strikeouts in 468 2/3 innings.

West

Hunter Pence, RF, San Francisco Giants

Pence Hitting one of his two Home Runs against the RockiesGoing into 2015 Spring Training, Hunter Pence was among the most durable players in the major leagues – having led the NL in games played (162) in 2013 and 2014, and having played in at least 154 games in each of the seven previous seasons. In 2014, he put up a .277-20-74 line, with 13 steals and 106 runs scored. Pence suffered a broken arm in Spring Training (hit by pitch) and, after his return from that setback, suffered wrist injury and oblique injuries.  Even playing through pain, Pence got in only 52 games, going .275-9-40, with four steals.

While not the kind of player who can carry a team on his own, Pence is a solid performer and professional hitter (three-time All Star) whose presence in the middle of the lineup will be needed if the Giants are to compete with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in the NL West. Hunter will turn 33 shortly after the season opens and – given his history – a comeback season should be no problem.

A few others who may be in the NL Comeback Player mix: Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves; Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins; Yasiel Puig, RF, Dodgers.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

East

Marcus Stroman, RHP. Toronto Blue Jays

Marcus Stroman vs. Yankees: 9/12/2015Marcus Stroman burst onto the MLB scene in 2014, making his first appearance (in relief) in early May.  By season’s end, he had made 26 appearances (20 starts), going 11-6, 3.65 with 111 K’s in 130 2/3 innings.  The young Blue Jay (23-years-old when he made his MLB debut) may not be large in stature (5’8”, 180-lbs.), but he stood tall on the mound.

The 2015 season seemed to hold great promise, but Stroman’s progress was quickly derailed. A Spring Training knee injury was projected to put him out for the season. Stroman, however, surprised the Jays and was back on the mound in mid-September, going 4-0, 1.67 down the stretch and – perhaps more important – pitching 27 innings in four starts. Stroman followed up by going 1-0, 4.19 in three post-season starts.

With southpaw ace David Price now gone (free agency, Red Sox), the Blue Jays need Stroman to step into the number-one rotation slot.  BBRT expects he will do just fine in that role. Since he is coming off an injury-shortened year, he qualifies as a Comeback Player of the Year candidate.

Note: If you don’t think Stroman was “down” enough to make an award-winning comeback, a solid second choice would be Red Sox’ 3B Pablo Sandoval, who went .245-10-47 (all full-season career lows) after signing a five-year $95 million deal with Boston.  If Sandoval reports in shape and ready for the challenge, his bat could help the Red Sox (who added David Price and Craig Kimbrel in the off season) move back into relevance in the AL East.

Central

Victor Martinez, DH, Detroit Tigers

Orioles v/s Tigers April 4, 2011 Opening DayThe Detroit Tigers’ fall from grace was pretty rapid- from four consecutive first-place finishes in the Central Division (2011-14) to last place (20 ½ games out) in 2015. They took some solid steps to right the ship, adding RHP Jordan Zimmerman, RHP/closer Francisco Rodriguez, LF Justin Upton and CF Cameron Maybin (among others).  With all those moves, it’s likely Detroit will still need a rebound from DH Victor Martinez if they are going to go from “worst-to-first.”   In 2015, a troublesome knee hampered Martinez’ performance. Not only did he appear in just 120 games (he had topped 150 in each of the previous two season), but the career .302 hitter fell from 2014’s .335-32-103 to .245-11-65. The Tigers clearly need a healthy Martinez as they work to turn things around in 2016.

West

Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers Pitcher Yu DarvishRangers’ top-of-the-rotation ace Yu Darvish underwent Tommy John surgery last season (and didn’t pitch at all). He is slated to be ready to take the mound in mid-May this season.  With the Rangers facing a challenge from the aggressive and maturing Houston Astros, that May return could be just the lift Texas needs to hold off Houston.  What kind of performance (rebound) might Texas expect as Darvish comes off his surgery? In three MLB seasons, Darvish is 39-25, 3.27 – with 680 strikeouts in just 545 1/3 innings pitched.

Only 28-years-old, Darvish is a good candidate for the kind of rebound that could earn him Comeback Player of the Year honors – and help his Rangers hold on to the West Division title.

A few others  who may be in the AL Comeback Player of the Year Mix: Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Red Sox; Hanley Ramirez, 1B, Red Sox;  Matt Weiters, C, Orioles;   Josh Hamilton, LF Rangers. 

More Detail? For BBRT’S 2016 National League Predictions (Division Races and Awards), click here.  For 2016 AL Predictions, click here. 

Fan of baseball trivia?  BBRT has two 99 question (Ballpark Tours tested) trivia quizzes.  For BBRT’s 99 favorite questions, click here.   For a second 99, click here.

Ballpark Tours great 2016 excursion (10 days, 10 games, 7 cities), outlined here. 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

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