While three-home run games, astounding throws from the outfield, and the achievement of some statistical milestones require their own articles, lots of things happen in baseball every week. SoSH Baseball typically doles out expert analyses, but we also try to cover the joy of baseball – the rules, the terms, the strange, the historic, and the just plain weird. Dave McCullough has no GM’s on speed dial or anonymous quotes, but he does have a love for the old-timey baseball notes column.
This week in baseball, a pair of diminutive superstars took center-stage, as Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts each left a small dent in the MLB record book. Altuve recorded his 1,000th career hit, and continued his torrid hot streak at the plate. Since the All-Star break, the tiny Astro is 2nd in all of baseball in Runs Created, and hitting a robust .430. Even more incredible are his road numbers this season: .424./.490/.634 in 224 official at-bats. The doctor of PITCHf/x, Ian York, put Altuve under his microscope this week – you should check that out.
Meanwhile, Betts became just the 20th player to have two three-HR games in one season. Betts towers over Altuve (everyone does – I have a toddler who might be taller) but the man they call Mookie barely tops 5’8” himself. Red Sox fans are pleasantly surprised by his power surge; everyone expected the super-athletic Betts to be an on-base machine – few expected him to be the second coming of Arky Vaughan or Mel Ott. This chart shows how rare Mookie’s most recent big day was. SoSH Baseball’s minor league maven Brandon Magee went deep on Mookie’s homers – you should check that out, too.
A Few Words On Red Colored Bullpens
Red Sox fan have been frustrated with the team’s performance since the ASB, especially on their recent West Coast road trip. Debating whether to “Fire Farrell” has become Boston’s favorite pastime – surpassing the making of Tom Brady/Game of Thrones memes, entitlement, and complaining. However, the best unknown and/or under appreciated scribe at the Boston Herald – Jon Couture – tweeted this out earlier in the week, explaining the team’s recent struggles:
— Jon Couture (@JonCouture) August 12, 2016
Meanwhile in Cincinnati, the Reds pitching coach is using this season to test an unusual, almost counter-intuitive theory about relief pitcher usage. Mack Jenkins calls the practice of matching up left-handed hitters with left-handed relievers “silly.” Instead, Jenkins and the Reds are focused on creating matchups using their pitcher’s strengths and the batter’s weaknesses:
“Use the data that’s there — that this guy chases a lot of sliders and this guy has a slider that people chase, that’s a good matchup for us, you’re always playing the percentages, we’re just doing in a 21st century way.”
Unfortunately, this novel approach hasn’t yet led to positive results, as the Reds currently rank 29th out of 30 teams in bullpen ERA. However, that may not be attributable to the innovative matchup-based approach, but rather a function of the Cincinnati bullpen having, at best, few talented pitchers.
Sad News Out Of Kansas City
The defending World Series champs are sinking lower in the standings as injuries continue to mount. It went from bad to worse this week as the Praying Mantis that had brought them luck in recent home games has passed away.
Not good news on #RallyMantis: Billy Burns and Ian Kennedy think he is a goner. "Tried everything but mouth to mouth," Burns said. RIP
— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) August 13, 2016
The spirit of #RallyMantis will live on.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) August 14, 2016
Our thoughts and prayers go to the Royals faithful in their time of grief. However, good news invariably follows bad:
The Royals have Rally Mantis 2 in a shoebox in the clubhouse. They're really taking this seriously.
— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) August 16, 2016
Indeed, baseball is a weird, wonderful sport.
Speaking Of Weird
Baseball has its traditions; one of the oldest, and proudest, is how weird things can get in the bullpen. Case in point: the Milwaukee Brewers Tim Dillard and his teammates have spent far too much time watching daytime television commercials:
J.G. Wentworth pic.twitter.com/JicCR0av2J
— Tim Dillard (@DimTillard) August 16, 2016
GIFs & Videos Of The Week
Various shows that rely on highlights for ratings do an excellent job of showing home run montages each night. And frankly, if we include one Giancarlo Stanton homer we’re gonna have to include all of his majestic blasts. So, the decision was made to avoid the standard “oh, he crushed that” highlights in this section.
However, rules were made to be broken. Here, Adam Lind of the Seattle Mariners cranks a ball into the upper deck in Oakland. However, what is notable about this big fly is that it apparently wakes up that gentleman in the day-glo green shirt from his nap. Hey buddy? It’s the second inning. Try to look alive out there:
Missed in the accolades heaped upon Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs for his deft footwork in hopping onto the wall to snag a foul popup was this acrobatic demonstration of the rule governing the field of play by Toronto’s Russell Martin:
Just give Martin the gold in tumbling, already. pic.twitter.com/CKrurknEoK
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) August 14, 2016
I am a huge Price Is Right fan – no sick day or staycation is complete without some of America’s best, and longest-running, game show. Aside from the iconic “Come on down!” the “YOU LOSE” sound effect is instantly recognizable. Click here and turn up your speakers. (Warning: May not be suitable for St. Louis Cardinals’ fans)
The Red Sox have long had a relationship with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, a local healthcare center that specializes in treating childhood cancer. Part of that has included player visits to the hospital (Tim Wakefield – among others – made a habit of dropping by in uniform to cheer up patients) and reserved seats for patients and their families behind home plate. These kids were given a night out to visit Fenway Park, and decided to take a picture. Then, this happened:
Finally, I have no idea who is at the plate, or even what league this took place in (Editor’s Note: The CPBL, aka the Chinese Professional Baseball League), but that fan deserves a contract or a tryout or something. Watch him track down this ball:
News, Notes, & Nuggets of Information
- Miguel Sano has been among the most heavily-hyped prospects in baseball over the past few years, as the execrable Minnesota Twins have given fans little else to look forward to. The talented youngster has wrapped up his first 162 games in Major League Baseball, and posted some eye-popping numbers: .260/.363/.508, with 37 home runs, 101 runs batted in – and 242 strikeouts. Numbers like that portend some exciting seasons ahead for Sano and Twins fans – and some potentially record-setting ones, too.
- Bobby Doerr was born in 1918, made his major league debut in 1937, played a total of 14 seasons in the big leagues, retired in 1951, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986, and – at the age of 98 – is baseball’s oldest living Hall of Famer. He was back in the news this week – sort of – as Rougned Odor, the Texas Rangers second baseman, tied Doerr for the most home runs in a season for a 2B (aged 22 or younger) by clubbing his 22nd round-tripper of the season. Odor made his major league debut at 20 – Doerr was 19 – and has made a name for himself with his heavy-hitting in the field, and at the plate. This column will use any excuse to bring up Doerr, one of the finest gentlemen to ever grace the diamond. You’ve been warned.
- Between 1997 and 2007 centerfielder Andruw Jones of the Braves was the most dominant defensive player in baseball, racking up an incredible 290.7 runs saved. The next best mark, 181.1 by catcher Ivan Rodriguez, isn’t even in the same zip code. Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas (voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and NFL Films) once remarked “two-thirds of the world is covered by water, the other one-third is covered by Garry Maddox” (then the Phillies CF). Well, for more than a decade, that statement applied to Jones, the most dominant defensive player of his era.
- Rumors of his demise were, apparently, greatly exaggerated: According to this Baseball Tonight tweet, Justin Verlander has come roaring back to life, posting a 2.58 ERA, nearly 10 K/9, and a 10-3 record since May 3rd.
- One year ago, Jackie Bradley Jr. – fielding wizard – was on his way out of baseball, having compiled more than 600 at-bats and sporting a batting average under the Mendoza Line. On August 5, 2015, he went 0-for-3, dropping his average to a season-low point. However, since then, the Red Sox centerfielder – and savior – has hit .290, with 38 doubles, 10 triples, 26 home runs, and 98 runs scored.
- In a note that probably only interests us and his immediate family, the Kelly Johnson trade saga came to an anticlimactic conclusion this week. Akeel Morris was called up by the Atlanta Braves, following John Gant and Rob Whalen, meaning that all of the players traded for Johnson by the Mets to the Braves – in both trades – have now appeared on a major league roster (Morris has yet to make his Braves debut).
- James Shields used to be good. Or at least average. But since being traded from San Diego to south side of Chicago, the White Sox hurler has barfed up a 7.34 ERA in 65 innings. His last three appearances have been particularly putrid: 9 ⅓ innings, 21 earned runs allowed – including six ding dongs – twenty five hits, and just two strikeouts. The really bad news is that Shields has two more seasons on his contract at $21 million per season, plus an option year at $16 million. While the Padres are paying a little less than half ($10M) per season, that’s still a staggering amount of money for a pitcher who gives every appearance of being washed up.
- The defending NL champion Mets were hoping Curtis Granderson would provide power in the middle of their lineup. And while the rightfielder has walloped 19 dingers thus far, he has driven in a paltry 33 runs – total – on the season. Those 19 dingers have driven in 27 of the 33. He has 3 sacrifice flies. Doing the math, Granderson has driven in 3 total runs with hits other than a homer all season. That’s… not what the Mets were hoping for.
- Reds fans, in addition to suffering through bullpen experiments and blown leads, have had lots of time on their hands this season, as evidenced by the existence of TuckerBarnhart.com – a random name generator for the initials T and B. Give it whirl – you too can rename Tucker Barnhart.
- While there are plenty of reasons to quibble with the addition of a second Wild Card – or even to bemoan the existence of the Wild Card (if you’re a true purist), one of the true benefits is that this list is now obsolete. It is highly unlikely another Hall of Fame quality player goes an entire career without a postseason appearance again.
- The Baltimore Orioles will re-set a major league record when this season concludes – a record the team already owns. In 2016, the Orioles have hit just 4 triples. FOUR. There are currently 57 players with four or more triples this season. The Orioles already own the record for fewest triples hit in one season, having belted just 11 in 1998. They also own the all-time record for most triples in one season in both leagues, with 153 in 1894 (as a National League club) and 112 in 1901 (tied with the 1903 Boston Pilgrims).
- This week in baseball history: On August 13, 1969, future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer tosses a no-hitter; on the same day a decade later (1979) future Hall of Famer Lou Brock records his 3,000th hit. On August 14, 1971, Bob Gibson twirls a no-hitter, winning by the largest margin (11-0) in a no-no. On August 15, 1975 Baltimore’s legendary manager Earl Weaver is ejected in both games of a doubleheader. On the same day in 2011, future Indians Hall of Famer Jim Thome launched his 600th career home run. And in 2012, Felix Hernandez records the 23rd perfect game in MLB history. On August 17, 1920, Ray Chapman becomes the first (and hopefully, only) player to die on the field after being struck by a pitch in the head.