One Day Of Glory

Santana Heritage

Bud Smith, Kevin Millwood, Jonathan Sanchez, Dallas Braden, Phillip Humber, Henderson Alvarez, Chris Heston, Mike Fiers, Edison Volquez, Eric Milton & Jose Jimenez (not the Astronaut). Even die-hard baseball fans might not recognize some of these names but they all have something in common. During the last 20 years, each of the players listed pitched a No-Hitter.

 

So, is a no-hitter really such a big deal? In those 20 years, there have been over 50 of them pitched at the major league level. Many other accomplishments are much more rare but Managers can’t seem to adjust their thought process, so they throw logic out the window when a no-hitter is in progress. The most recent example was last weekend when Braves Pitcher Sean Newcomb was hurling a gem against the Dodgers. He is 25 years old in his 2nd major league season and has started a total of 40 games with a record of 14-14. This isn’t some journeyman Pitcher taken off the scrap heap…he was the Braves #6 prospect before getting to the majors last year.

 

Whether you agree or not, today’s climate for monitoring young pitchers is clear…be careful, watch pitch counts, simplify mechanics, create innings limits and try to make the player a long-term asset.  On Sunday, however, the Braves (and Manager Brian Snitker) allowed Newcomb to throw 134 pitches before giving up a hit with two outs in the 9th inning. Newcomb’s average pitch count for 2018 is 98…in fact, none of the Braves starting rotation averages even 100. Of course, this is nothing new. Fiers was allowed to throw over 130 pitches for his 2015 no-hitter and Matt Moore threw 130+ in pursuit of a no-hitter on 2016 (like Newcomb, he failed). The following year, Moore had a 6-15 record with a 5.52 ERA and allowed the most earned runs of any Pitcher in the NL.

 

Interestingly, a similar situation happened earlier this season with a completely different outcome. Walker Buehler, the Dodgers best pitching prospect, had a no-hitter after six innings against the Padres on May 4th. He had throw 93 pitches and the Dodgers removed him from the game. Three relief pitchers contributed one inning each and completed a “combined” no-hitter, which still goes in the record books. As a player looks back on his career, which accomplishment is more impressive? Remember, Newcomb didn’t even get a complete game or a shutout.

 

This all brings to mind, two famous (or infamous) stories regarding no-hitters….

 

> Ironically, the number 134 pops up once more in June of 2012. Johan Santana was one of the best pitchers in baseball for eight seasons with the Minnesota Twins, winning two Cy Young Awards in the process. After being traded to the Mets in 2008, he had three solid seasons in New York before missing the 2011 season with arm injuries. Back on the bump in 2012, he found some of that old magic against the Cardinals. Despite the injury history, Manager Terry Collins allowed Santana to pursue the no-hitter even though the Mets were leading 8-0 by the 7th inning. Santana got his “No-No” by throwing 134 pitches and was never the same again. His record that season was 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA and he never pitched in the majors after 2012. As if that isn’t bad enough, if the current replay system had been in place that night, none of this would have happened because in the middle innings, a batted ball ruled foul was actually fair and should have been a hit. Santana would have been out of game long before taxing his arm. The Manager is the same Terry Collins who tried to take Matt Harvey out of that World Series game but let the Pitcher talk him out of it…the Mets lost the game and the Series.

 

> In the Summer of 1970, the Padres were working their way through a miserable season on the way to 70-92 record. On July 21st, Clay Kirby took the mound against the Mets and allowed a run in the 1st inning on a walk, two stolen bases and a ground-out. The Mets couldn’t get a hit against Kirby for 8 innings but the inept Padres line-up didn’t score a run and were losing 1-0 in the bottom of the 8th. In front of the home fans, Padres Manager Preston Gomez decided to pinch-hit for Kirby in an effort to tie the game, but the Mets went on to win 3-0. Gomez was booed and vilified for not allowing Kirby to continue his quest for a no-hitter. Gomez was a long-time baseball man who starting playing in the Minor Leagues in the 1940’s and had paid his dues by managing at AA & AAA before getting the job in San Diego. So, what should have been his priority…trying to win the game or helping a player achieve an individual milestone?

 

As with most players, we can assume that Sean Newcomb was caught up in the moment along with the Manager and the fans. If, however, the Braves are in the play-offs in 2019 with a rotation that includes Luis Gohara, Kolby Allard & Kyle Wright because Newcomb has arm trouble, will the fans that were in the ballpark last Sunday even care about Newcomb? What do you think?

 

 

 

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Teddy Ballgame

56 Williams

As serious Fantasy Baseball aficionados, we should never reveal that we really like a particular player. Otherwise, some culprit will try to use that information against us at the draft table. We all, however, have a favorite player from your youth and it is that link to baseball that ties us together. People who are not true fans can never understand what our childhood memories mean to us and how this wonderful game finds a way to take us back to those innocent days.

 

Earlier this week, PBS screened the latest episode of their “American Masters” documentary series by honoring Ted Williams as we approach the 100th anniversary of his birth (8/30/1918). For me, it seems like the right opportunity to help all those unfortunate soles who question our love of the game. This is the piece you need to share with your friends who always look at you quizzically when you try to explain Rotisserie Baseball or how much the sport means to you.

 

The following request was sent to the multi-generational members of my two home leagues – “Please take a moment and let me know who was your favorite player from your childhood. You can just send back a name or feel free to add a sentence or two with any comments about your choice.” Here are some of the responses…

 

> Age 30 – “I’m from a different generation, but for me it was Mike Piazza. It took me until I was about 10 years old before I learned that Catchers weren’t supposed to bounce the ball to 2B.”

 

> Age 62 – “Willie Mays (what a great player) and Hal Lanier (I caught a foul ball off his bat).”

 

> Age 65 – “Of course, it’s a Twin – Harmon Killebrew. As a kid listening on the radio, I loved hearing that he hit another long one. The longest one is still marked on the wall at Mall of America.”

 

> Age 49 – “Growing up in San Diego in the 70’s, there was one superstar on our team we could root for day in and day out – Dave Winfield. When my Mom took us to the Padres’ games, we would actually walk through the player’s parking lot to the entrance gate each time. On one trip, we actually crossed his path after the game and he was very gracious to my family and signed a couple of things for me. I still have the 1978 Topps card he signed that night”.

 

Age 75 – “Ted Kluszewski – The Big Klu. He looked like a baseball player and was the only one to have his photo (from Sport Magazine) on my wall in the 50’s. I gave away a lot of Yankees  (Berra, Ford, etc.) to get his bubble gum cards. No bicycle spokes for me, I carried his card in my back pocket so I wouldn’t lose it. No, I did not know where Cincinnati was except that it was east of Oakland. And the final reason I was a Kluszewski fan (aside from being the only kid in my elementary school who could spell his name) was that my best friend was a Mantle fan, so it was easy to trade baseball cards with him. A ’52 Mantle for a ’52 Big Klu…I thought I was taking him to the cleaners”.

 

> Age 73 – “My favorite player when I was growing up was Mickey Mantle. I tried to copy his swing and the way he ran, especially when he would lay down a drag bunt and beat the throw to 1B.”

 

> Age 62 – “Sandy Koufax! Remember when Koufax & Don Drysdale ‘held out’ for new contracts, asking $100,000 each? Not close to the major league minimum now, but it was a lot of money back in the 60’s”.

 

> Age 35 – “Greg Maddux! I was always amazed at how a Pitcher throwing less than 90 mph could make the best hitters look silly…and it helped that his games were on TBS”.

 

> Age 59 – “Pete Rose, Phil Garner, Catfish Hunter & Bill Buckner. As a player, I tried to play the game like these guys and as a coach, I appreciated their work ethic. Notice that none of them were considered five-tool guys, but all were All-Stars.”

 

> Age 37 – “My favorite player has always been the despised one, Barry Bonds. It started with the infatuation of the Pirates from my Grandfather and continued with the cocky confidence he displayed early in  his career. In the later years, when he was hated, I really loved the guy. I admired how someone could see the baseball so well that even though he’d be lucky to see one good pitch an at-bat, he would still crush it. The ball he hit against the Angels in the World Series still hasn’t landed!”

 

> Age 74 – “Growing up in New York, Mickey Mantle was my baseball idol. He could hit it farther and run faster than any other player of his time and he was the greatest switch-hitter. I particularly remember watching two of his home runs on TV…one left-handed that hit the facade in right field and the other right-handed (off a change-up) that went over the center field fence at the 461 foot marker.”

 

> Age 46 – “My favorite player was Dwight Gooden during his first two years. That was the apex of my baseball collecting times and he was the man on fire. The Mets games were on WOR and I wouldn’t miss a game that he was pitching”

 

> Age 60 – Growing up in L.A., “Big D” was by far my favorite player. I’ve always loved great pitching and Don Drysdale was the guy.”

 

> Age 71 – “It’s Edwin Donald ‘Duke’ Snider. I lived in Brooklyn four blocks from Ebbets Field and they would let you in the ballpark after the 7th inning. There was also a gap between the left field wall and a metal gate, so earlier in the game, you would take turns with your friends to watch. When we would flip our baseball cards, you always wanted to win when Duke was in the pot…not so much Mantle or Mays.”

 

Other players on the list included Ozzie Smith, Boog Powell, Steve Garvey, Roberto Clemente, Thurman Munson & Warren Spahn.

 

For me, of course it was Ted Williams. Spending my early years in the stands at Fenway Park gave me a unique perspective on the skills of baseball’s greatest hitter. Even after all these years, I can remember vivid moments when he came to the plate and the world seemed to stand still. Conversations stopped, vendors ceased their hawking and the hair stood up on your arms. A baseball writer once asked a blind fan why he came to the game instead of just listening to the radio at home and he replied, “I love the sounds of the game when Ted comes up”. It was magical and unforgettable for that youngster in the stands.

 

Only later in life, did I truly begin to understand the complete story of “Teddy Ballgame”. From his impoverished background to his military service to his charitable work for children and yes, all the flaws too. The most comprehensive biography of Williams was published a few years ago and at 800 pages, it is an amazing book. “The Kid”. Written by Ben Bradlee Jr. after ten years of research and interviews, it will be the standard other baseball historians have to meet. Just like me, Bradlee grew up outside Boston in the mid-1950’s and Ted Williams was his hero. On the first page of the book, he recalls getting Ted’s autograph outside the player’s parking lot at Fenway Park and comments that he still has the ball, the ink on the signature now fading badly with the passage of more than fifty years. If he were to visit my home, he would see a similar ball, signed at Fenway Park during batting practice one day for a certain 12 year-old boy. The ink may fade, the memory never will.

Top Ten Baseball Cards Of The 60’s

'68 Ryan

This Old Duck first fell in love in the 60’s (no, her name wasn’t Daisy), so I can certainly relate to this story that was on the Internet a few years ago. It is titled “I went to bat for her engagement ring” and the sad tale is as follows –

 

“My girlfriend and I had been together for about three years and I was sure she was the one I wanted to marry. Problem was, I didn’t exactly have enough money to get her a good engagement ring. So, in order to raise funds, I put my collection of baseball cards on eBay. We’re talking a collection that spanned, like, 20 years, thanks to some cards handed down by my Dad. I was totally bummed to part with them because they were so important to me, but I really, really loved this girl. I ended up making more than enough money to pay for a ring. Problem was, when I got down on one knee, she told me she couldn’t see spending the rest of her life with me. I should’ve stuck with Shoeless Joe Jackson.”

 

If you’re still young enough to be this stupid, here’s some advice about the difference between marriage and baseball cards…if you pamper your cards, they’ll still look just as good in 20 years.

 

In honor of those beautiful girls I knew in the 60’s, here’s my top ten of the decade… as requested by some readers, you’ll also see the current value of each card in Excellent (EX) condition as defined by a grade of “5” by PSA or Beckett.

 

 

1) 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan (#177) – Even though he shares the card with Jerry Koosman, the “Ryan Express” rookie card is still one of the most sought after cards in the hobby. The Hall of Fame fireballer will always have a certain mystique for his legendary fastball and career longevity. ($350)

 

2) 1964 Topps Pete Rose (#125) – Rose’s rookie card from 1963 is missing from this list because it may be the most unattractive high-demand card in history. In that year, Topps put small head-shot photos of four rookies on certain cards and you almost needed a magnifying glass to recognize the “Hit King”. His ’64 card is much more appealing to Rose fans…and much less expensive. ($100)

 

3) 1960 Topps Carl Yastrzemski (#148) – The player who had the difficult task of replacing Ted Williams in LF is shown on a beautiful horizontal format rookie card. His Hall of Fame career speaks for itself. ($100)

 

4) 1962 Topps Roger Maris (#1) – Not only is this the card that shows 61 home runs on the back, but it is also the #1 card in the set and, therefore, difficult to find in nice condition. ($90)

 

5) 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson (#260) – The rookie card of “Mr. October”. ($90)

 

6) 1962 Topps Lou Brock (#387) – An under-appreciated Hall of Famer with over 3,000 hits, this is his rookie card. It is also an ugly reminder to Cub fans that he was traded to the Cardinals in 1964. ($70)

 

7) 1967 Topps Tom Seaver (#581) – Another Hall of Fame Pitcher originally with the Mets, “Tom Terrific” shares his rookie card with Bill Denehy. ($375)

 

8) 1968 Topps Johnny Bench (#247) – Arguably the greatest Catcher in history, this is his rookie card. As with many Topps issues of the era, he also shares the card with another player…Ron Tomkins. ($60)

 

9) 1966 Topps NL Batting Leaders (#215) – A great example of the type of subset cards that Topps added to their sets, this one features Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron & Willie Mays. ($30)

 

10) 1967 Topps Bob Uecker (#326) – This choice may seem “just a bit outside” but it was the final season for “Mr. Baseball”. ($10)

 

To reinforce the depth of collecting during this decade, rookie cards that didn’t make the list include Willie McCovey (1960, $75), Joe Morgan (1965, $35), Steve Carlton (1965, $70), Jim Palmer (1966, $40) & Rod Carew (1967, $150).

 

Spahnie, How I Love “ya

Spahn SI

For most fans, baseball is about memories. Maybe that clutch hit you got in Little League or the first baseball card of your favorite player. How about the first big-league game you attended or even playing catch with your Dad? And, if you ask any fan you know if they have at least one baseball autograph, the answer will assuredly be “yes”.

 

Sports autographs can be linked back to the early 20th Century when Babe Ruth was more famous than the President of the United States. In fact, in 1930 the Babe was asked about his $80,000 salary and the fact that it was $5,000 more the than the salary of President Hoover and the Bambino replied, “I know, but I had a better year.”

 

Ruth became the first full-fledged sports icon and children would line up in droves just to see him and get him to sign a baseball they bought for 50 cents. Obviously, just like every other baseball fan, they didn’t know what they held in their hands. To them, it was a piece of their hero.

 

For me, the autographed baseball I got from Ted Williams when I was a 12 year-old will always have a special place in my home and my memory. In the 1980’s, I embarked on another project involving autographs. As a subscriber to Sports Illustrated Magazine since the 1960’s, I had saved many of the issues because of the beautiful photography…especially on the covers. A local sports-themed apparel store was having a grand opening with Dale Murphy signing autographs for free. I had a beautiful cover from his MVP season in 1983 and decided to take advantage of the offer. Then, I found out that my next-door neighbor was a cousin of Gary Carter, so he got another ’83 cover signed for me. At that point, I started to visit the exploding category of sportscard shows in Southern California and added Hank Aaron’s autograph on the SI cover showing his 715th HR from 1974. As with many “labor of love” projects, this one essentially developed a life of its own. Over the next 20 years, the collection expanded to almost 200 autographed covers. It completely overran my house and now fills every wall in my garage and a number of boxes on the floor. A few years ago, 30 of the covers (each signed by a baseball Hall of Famer) were part of a Spring Training display at the art gallery of the Peoria (Arizona) City Hall.

 

As you’d expect, every cover has a back-story, but today we’ll talk about Warren Spahn. One of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, his story is amazing. He debuted in the majors during the 1942 season but only appeared in 4 games without a victory. Then, he served in World War II and missed the next three seasons. Back with the Boston Braves in 1946 (at age 25), he got his first win on the way to a record of 8-5.

 

Listed generously as 6′ and 172 pounds, this diminutive left-hander led the NL in IP (289.2) & ERA (2.33) in 1947 while compiling a record of 21-10. That was the first of 13 times that “Spahnie” won 20 games or more including a 23-7 record in 1963 at age 42! He led the NL in Wins eight times and complete games nine times. Add in 14 All-Star teams and a Cy Young Award in 1957 (he finished 2nd three times) with a total of 363 victories in his career and you have the stuff legends are made of. He became a Hall of Fame member in 1973.

 

In the mid-90’s when my autograph project was going full-bore, there was a huge collectibles show that afforded the opportunity to get multiple signatures over the course of a weekend. Spahn was one of the available guests and I managed to find a beautiful SI cover from 1956 showing him in that classic Braves uniform with his unmistakable wind-up. I waited in line patiently for the opportunity to get the autograph of this unique player. When he arrived, the fans were somewhat taken aback by his appearance. Like most players of his generation, he came attired in a suit  & tie (on a hot Summer day) and he looked much older than his years (early 70’s). The process seemed to be a struggle for him, but he was cordial and attentive to the fans. As I got closer to the head of the line, he could be seen leaning toward the show promoters and quietly telling them something. When it was finally my turn, he looked straight at me and said, “Would you mind waiting while I go take a piss”? The fans laughed and then applauded as he slowly walked toward the rest room. They applauded again when he returned and he smiled and asked me how I would like him to personalize the autograph. The result is what you see today.

 

Just one of 200 stories, but certainly one of my favorites.

 

 

 

 

Putting The Clutch Halfway In

Parra Heritage

The definition of “clutch” seems to be somewhat elusive for many people. The slang dictionary describes it as “the ability to deliver when peak performance is needed” and your imagination can take that beyond the realm of sports. The urban dictionary concurs by saying, “the ability to perform well on a certain activity at a particular moment, despite external pressures, influences or distractions.” Of course, the term also has a tendency to fit other circumstances such as, “you are really craving a beer…you go to the fridge and there’s one left…so clutch.”

 

For long-time baseball fans, clutch has always been linked with RBI’s. After all, don’t the leaders in that statistical category come through in the clutch? The answer, of course, is never that easy. The folks who study baseball statistics have known since the 70’s that raw stats can be misleading. Batting in runs is a very important factor in a player’s success but that outcome is influenced greatly by where he hits in the line-up, whether he has protection in that line-up and, more importantly, how many runners were on the basepaths when he came to the plate. To this end, baseballmusings.com gives you the historical data to determine “RBI Percentage”. It is a result of a player’s (RBI – HR) / Runners On, or in simplistic terms, what percentage of baserunners did a player drive in during the season. In 2017, the stat told us that Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies (22.4%) was the best clutch hitter in baseball and less than ten hitters had a number over 20%.

 

So, as the halfway point of the season comes and goes, let’s look at the best (and worst) clutch hitters in the game. The statistical information is as of June 30th and includes players who had at least 100 runners on base when they came to the plate. Many of these names will surprise you.

 

1) Gerardo Parra, Rockies OF 23.4% – Most pundits felt he wouldn’t get much playing time with the pending emergence of Ryan McMahon, David Dahl and others.

 

2) Daniel Descalso, D’Backs 2B 21.9% – One Phoenix sports columnist argued that the All-Star roster should include at least one “Utility” player.

 

3) Evan Gattis, Astros DH 21.6% – Back in April, there was talk of him being released.

 

4) Jesus Aguilar, Brewers 1B 21% – No longer just a platoon player.

 

5) Yolmer Sanchez, White Sox 3B 20.5% – Carlos was Clark Kent, Yolmer is the super-hero.

 

6) Ben Zobrist Cubs OF 20.5% – If you were wondering how he would find playing time on the Cubs roster, here’s one answer.

 

7) Jean Segura, Mariners SS 20.3% – A major factor in Seattle’s ’18 success.

 

8) Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B 20.2% – Have you noticed Atlanta’s record? He’s their MVP.

 

9) Jed Lowrie, Athletics 2B 20.2% – A career year at age 34, he has 56 RBI’s.

 

10) Matt Adams, Nationals 1B 20% – Just off the DL, he’s had some big hits for Washington.

 

11) Matt Kemp, Dodgers OF 19.9% – Wasn’t expected to make the opening day roster…Jenny Craig had a similar season back in the 80’s.

 

12) Andrelton Simmons, Angels SS 19.3%% – As if playing Gold Glove SS isn’t enough.

 

Red Sox OF/DH J.D. Martinez leads the major leagues in RBI’s through June and his RBI percentage of 19% has him in the top 20.

 

When it comes to everyday players, the bottom of the barrel looks like this…

 

> Jarrod Dyson, D’Backs OF 6.3% – He’ll be a pinch-runner with A.J. Pollock and Steven Souza back in the line-up.

 

> Carlos Gomez, Rays OF 6.5% – He has great bat speed against the Gatorade cooler.

> Christian Vasquez, Red Sox C 6.8% – Catchers can keep their job in spite of this.

 

> Kolten Wong, Cardinals 2B 7% – Maybe it’s time to admit that he’s no longer a prospect.

 

> Alex Gordon, Royals OF 7.7% – He went over-the-hill in 2016 and hasn’t looked back.

 

> Jonathan Scoop, Orioles 2B 7.9% – Looked like a budding star in 2017, now just part of a dismal team in Baltimore.

 

For those of us from a certain generation, it would have been nice if Carlos Gonzalez had made the list because it would have brought back memories of “Clutch Cargo”.

 

We’ll re-visit the numbers in October and determine flukes from facts.

Baseball Quotes – Part Deux

Brockmire

About a year ago, we touched on some great quotes from the 150 year history of our grand old game. The overwhelming response made it clear that baseball fans can never get enough when it comes to the characters of the game. As always, there will be the humorous one-liners and comic observations, but we’ll also cover a few philosophical entries. After all, there was a minor league player in the 1940’s named Aristotle Lazarou, a Cardinals Catcher from the 50’s named Dick Rand could have had a relative named Ayn, Socrates Brito is hitting .350 at AAA and batters do have to walk from the on-deck circle to the Plato.

 

> Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry on what happens when his sinker wasn’t working, “The batter still hits a grounder, but the first bounce is 360 feet away.”

 

> Giants Coach Rocky Bridges on why he refused to eat snails, “I prefer fast food.”

 

> “You know you’re having a bad day when the 5th inning rolls around and they drag the warning track.” – Mike Flanagan, Orioles Pitcher

 

> Reds SS Barry Larkin on his future with the 2003 team, which had an interim Manager and no General Manager, “We’ve decided to take a wait-and-see approach – mostly wait, because we don’t know who to see.”

 

> “You can sum up the game of baseball in one word – You never know.” – Joaquin Andujar, Cardinals Pitcher

 

> Phillies Pitcher Don Carmen after getting only his second major league hit (in about 80 at bats) was promptly picked off second base. When asked about it after the game, he said, “I had never been to second base.”

 

> Indians broadcaster Nev Chandler said, “That base-hit makes Cecil Cooper 19-for-42 against Tribe pitching.” His partner in the booth Herb Score added, “I’m not good at math, but even I know that’s over .500.”

 

> Browns Manager Luke Sewell responded to a sportswriter who had suggested his team played like dogs by saying, “Don’t call ’em dogs. Dogs are loyal and they run after balls.”

 

> “Last night I failed to mention something that bears repeating.” – Mariners broadcaster Ron Fairly

 

> “A baseball park is the one place where a man’s wife doesn’t mind him getting excited over somebody else’s curves.” – Brendan Francis

 

> “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” – Warren Spahn, Hall of Fame Pitcher

 

>  “The greatest feeling in the world is to win a major league game. The second-greatest feeling is to lose a major league game.” – Chuck Tanner, Manager

 

> “Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything.” – Toby Harrah, Rangers Infielder

 

> “The best way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until the ball stops rolling and pick it up.” – Bob Uecker

 

> “Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand.” – Wes Westrum, Giants Catcher

 

> “Baseball is the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.” – Bill Veeck, Team Owner

 

> “I don’t want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it.” – Rogers Hornsby

 

> “With those that don’t give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize. I do not resent them. I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace. But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them.” – Art Hill

 

> “Nolan Ryan is pitching much better now that he has his curveball straightened out.” – Joe Garagiola

 

> “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in Spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in Summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the Fall alone.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti, Commissioner

 

> “I am convinced that every boy, in his heart, would rather steal second base than an automobile.” – Thomas Campbell Clark

 

> “You can’t tell how much spirit a team has until it starts losing.” – Rocky Colavito, Indians Outfielder

 

> “If it weren’t for baseball, many kids wouldn’t know what a millionaire looks like.” – Phyllis Diller

 

> “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” – Bob Feller

 

> After losing a game 15-0, Pitcher Bo Belinsky said, “How can a guy win a game when you don’t give him any runs?”

 

> “Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning, you got off to a bad start. If you lose in the middle of the season, you’re in a slump. If you lose a the end, you’re choking.” – Gene Mauch, Manager

 

> “There have only been two authentic geniuses in the world. Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare.” – Actress Tallulah Bankhead

 

> “You don’t realize how easy this game is until you get up in that broadcasting booth.” – Mickey Mantle

 

> “The baseball mania has run its course. It has no future as a professional endeavor.” – Cincinnati Gazette editorial, 1879

 

> “Pitchers are dumb. They don’t play but once every four days. They’re scratching their ass or pickin’ their nose or somethin’ the rest of the time. They’re pitchin’, most of them, because they can’t do anything else.” – Ted Williams

 

Of course, you may also enjoy fictional baseball quotes, so let me recommend the IFC TV series called “Brockmire”. Hank Azaria stars as a former big league announcer who self-destructed his career with a drunken in-the-booth meltdown ten years ago. Now he’s back as the play-by-play voice for the minor-league Morristown Frackers. A number of his quotes are inappropriate for this audience, but here’s a few acceptable samples to wet your appetite…

 

> To his girlfriend, “Most of all, I like that we seem to have the same exact level of functional alcoholism.”

 

> “Knowledge and assumptions, those are like Loggins and Messina. They seem similar, but time proves one of them to be completely worthless.”

 

> That baseball will never be buried in a Jewish cemetery because it just got tattooed.”

 

> “There are three kinds of people in this world – poor people, rich people and famous people. Rich people are just poor people with money.”

 

> ” Let’s not make baseball out to be any more important than it really is. It’s just a diversion that keeps us from pondering our own personal hells. So what do you say folks? How about we kill another three hours on our slow and painful march to the grave. All right, top of the first…should have a good one here this afternoon.”

 

 

And don’t forget, there’s no crying in baseball.

Get A Whiff Of This

Whiff Duo

Would you be a more successful Fantasy player if you were sequestered following the Draft and not allowed to watch baseball during the season? After all, enthusiasts of this endeavor are the lords of statistics, aren’t we? We’re Moneyball as opposed to “Old School”, SABRmetricians first and Scouts second and always in Brian Kenny’s corner when he’s debating Harold Reynolds.

 

As with most questions, there isn’t a simple answer. Can any of us deny that we’ve allowed what we see on the field to impact our opinion of a player despite what the statistical analysis might say? Haven’t we all traded or dropped a player too soon because he looked terrible in a game we happened to be watching? And what could possibly look worse than a member of your team striking out three times in a game (“Hat Trick”), four times in a game (“Golden Sombrero”) or even the dreaded five times in a game (“Platinum Fedora”)? So, let’s take a closer look at what you may call the “K”, the “Punchout” or the “Whiff”.

 

Some baseball statistics are difficult to analyze while others just jump off the page. One easy to decipher trend is that since 2007, more batters are striking out every season for a total increase of 27% over that period. In fact, each of the last ten seasons have set a new record in the history of baseball, with 2018’s number at 8.5 batters per game. Earlier this month, the Cubs & Mets played an extra inning game where one team struck out 24 times and the other 15 times…there were three “Hat Tricks” and two “Golden Sombreros” in the same game! In 1941, Joe DiMaggio & Ted Williams combined for 997 AB’s…and struck out a total of 40 times! There are numerous theories about this increase and most have a persuasive argument. It certainly isn’t a coincidence that strikeouts have gone up and batting average has gone down every year since the Mitchell Report was released and stronger PED testing became part of the baseball landscape. In 2007, MLB BA was .268 and Slugging Percentage was .423. So far in 2018 (through June 16th), the numbers are .245 & .405.

 

An easy explanation is that hitters are compensating by swinging harder in an attempt to hit for power. Another factor is that Pitchers are throwing at a higher velocity than ever before and starters are generally being removed before facing the opposing line-up a third time. For those of us who cling to our memories of the 50’s & 60’s when 300 IP was common, this means that a tiring starting pitcher is being replace in the 6th or 7th inning by someone like Jordan Hicks (100 mph average fastball), Tayron Guerrero (98.7 mph) or Joe Kelly (97.8 mph).   While all this makes sense, the real question is what has happened to plate discipline? And how does this impact your Fantasy team?

 

Intuitively, it seems that there are categories of strikeouts that are significantly different when we watch the game. There’s a great pitch that fools the batter for a called third strike. Or a 95+ mph fastball in the strike zone that the hitter just can’t catch up with. Worst of all, however, is when your Fantasy stud swings at pitches out of the zone and ends up heading for the dugout. If you believe that last example seems to be happening to your team at a higher rate than in the past, you are absolutely correct. A recently developed stat is called “O-Swing %” and it tracks the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone. In 2005, that percentage was 20.3% and by 2018, it has increased to 30.3%.

 

Even though Ted Williams once said that “Pitchers are dumb”, they are at least smart enough to figure out that if they don’t need to throw strikes to get you out, they won’t throw you strikes. And that leads us to the implications for your Fantasy team. While it appears that the players we draft aren’t going back to the days of making more contact and creating productive outs (that add RBI’s), there still seems to be a number of ways to look at hitters when it comes to strikeouts.

 

First, there are the free swingers who have some semblance of plate discipline. A few years ago, the poster boy for this type of hitter was always Adam Dunn. While he struck out at a very high rate, he also managed to accumulate a large number of base on balls including over 100 walks in eight different seasons. So, his 2,379 K’s were partially offset by his 1,317 walks leading to a respectable On Base Percentage (OPB) of .364 and a On Base Plus Slugging (OPS) of .854. During that time, he also hit over 450 Home Runs and had over 1,100 RBI’s making him a productive member of his actual baseball team and your Fantasy squad.

 

To prove how productive this type of player can be for your team, let’s look at some numbers as we get close to the 1/2 mark of the 2018 season. Aaron Judge of the Yankees has struck out 91 times but also has managed 48 walks while producing a .397 OBP & .963 OPS. Paul Goldschmidt of the D’Backs has been punched out 86 times but also has 39 walks giving him a .370 OBP & .883 OPS. If we own either of these players, are we concerned that they may strike out 150 times this year?

 

Second, there are the free swingers that don’t seem to have a handle on the strike zone. Joey Gallo of the Rangers has 106 strikeouts and 30 walks while Yoan Moncada of the White Sox has 97 strikeouts with only 26 BB’s. Their Home Runs don’t make up for that kind of performance. Chris Davis of the Orioles has 86 K’s and 19 BB’s resulting in an embarrassing WAR number of -2.2. The Marlins keep Lewis Brinson in the line-up because they have no choice but his 78 K’s & 10 BB’s equals almost no value to the team. Despite the athletic ability, Billy Hamilton has put his career in jeopardy with 72 K’s and 26 BB’s…from a player who doesn’t hit the ball 200 feet.

 

Third of course, are the players we all desire. The guys who command the strike zone and give us the categories we need to defeat our evil adversaries.  How about the  Angels Mike Trout with 60 K’s, 60 BB, .328 BA and 1.147 OPS? Or the Red Sox Mookie Betts line of 31 K’s, 26 BB, .340 BA and 1.115 OPS? Is Freddie Freeman a MVP candidate with 53 K’s, 42 BB’s, a .342 BA and 1.012 OPS? Was signing Lorenzo Cain a good move for the Brewers? How about 48 K’s, 42 BB’s, .291 BA & .839 OPS…not to mention Gold Glove caliber defense in CF. Is Jose Ramirez for real? His numbers of 36 K’s, 40 BB’s, .288 BA and .989 OPS gives you the answer. Find players with more walks than strikeouts (Joey Votto is another) and you’ll be in the pennant race.

 

It doesn’t appear that we’re going back to the days of contact hitters anytime soon, but looking at the stats a little more closely will help your team be more successful.