Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 22, 2021.

Max Scherzer is making his case for the Hall of Fame with each start. (Wikipedia).

Scherzer K watch: Dodgers starter Max Scherzer struck out 8 Mets yesterday, bringing his career total to 2,962. He’s just 38 Ks away from 3,000.

More on White: Dodgers hurler Mitch White earns another mention today. Talk about being oblivious—I knew he tossed 7 1/3 solid innings a few days ago, but I didn’t realize it was a relief appearance. He became the first pitcher to throw that many frames in relief since Ed Roebuck in 1960. Check out this article for more on the feat.

Ibanez is mashing: Andy Ibanez, the Rangers Cuban infielder, has 10 hits in his past 21 at-bats, after batting just .091 in his prior 10 games. He’s been a bright spot of late on that middling 43-80 team, but perhaps it should come as no surprise. He hit 20 home runs at Triple A in 2019 and batted .352 in 27 games there this year.

Jeffers’ power is there, but not his speed. He’s never stolen a base in pro ball. (Wikipedia).

Better than Stanton: Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers has 11 home runs in 184 at-bats this season, a rate of one every 16.7 at-bats—that’s a better clip than Giancarlo Stanton. The former second rounder won’t scare any pitchers with his batting average, but his slugging is a different story. He has 5 home runs, 3 doubles and 13 RBI in just 50 at-bats this past month.

Making up for that debut: Reliever Phil Bickford is doing his part to keep the injury-ravaged Dodgers in the playoff chase. In the past month, he has a 0.71 ERA in 14 appearances, striking out 16 batters in 12 2/3 innings. On the year, his mark with L.A. is 1.96. But his success wasn’t a forgone conclusion. He arrived on the big league scene in 2020, making a single relief appearance for the Brewers. In one inning, he allowed 4 earned runs on 4 hits, 2 hit batsmen and a wild pitch. And it looked like more of the same for 2021—he surrendered 2 runs in his single-inning initial appearance—but a move to the Dodgers in early May changed his fortunes.

Rays recall Mazza: Chris Mazza was summoned by the Rays again; he has a 5.57 ERA in 11 games for the club this year. The hurler didn’t make his major league debut until 2019, when he was 29, but has pitched each year since. Ever wonder what makes someone not big league worthy for years and years and years, just to suddenly be good enough to appear at the level every season? It’s like Erik Kratz—he didn’t debut until he was 30, then he rattled off an 11-year career.

Not #1: In 2019, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. were two of the three youngest players in the major leagues. But neither was number one. Can you name who was? It was the Blue Jays’ 19-year-old pitcher Elvis Luciano, who jumped straight from rookie ball—having never played above that level—to the majors. For one seven-game stretch in April and May he had a 0.84 ERA, but he had a 5.35 ERA in 25 appearances overall … and now he’s back in the minors, at Double A.

That’s wild: Facing the Red Sox in the 9th inning of his most recent appearance on July 22, Yankees reliever Brooks Kriske tied the post-1800s major league record with four wild pitches in a single frame. It’s an embarrassing, but not unheard of, feat: The Twins’ RA Dickey did it against the Mariners on August 17, 2008, the Phillies Ryan Madson did it against Arizona on July 25, 2006 and the Mariners Kevin Gregg did it against the Angels on July 25, 2004. In the previous century, it happened only twice—Hall of Famers Phil Niekro and Walter Johnson did it in 1979 and 1914, respectively.

Three-in-a-row: What’s worse—four wild pitches in the same inning, or three to the same batter in the same inning? The Padres’ Trevor Cahill managed the latter against Avisail Garcia of the White Sox in the bottom of the 4th on May 13, 2017.  

The catcher’s mitt is right there: On June 25, 2017, Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino tossed four wild pitches in a span of three outs against the Dodgers. Earlier in the game, Dodgers starter Brandon McCarthy threw three wild pitches in one inning and in the 3rd, Rockies starter Tyler Anderson added one of his own.

Dan Haren finished his career 153-131 with a 3.75 ERA. (Wikipedia).

Mr. Consistent: From 2005 to 2015, that’s 11 years, Dan Haren won no less than 10 games, made no fewer than 30 starts, tossed no less than 169 2/3 innings and had no fewer than 132 strikeouts in a season. He averaged 33 starts, 13 wins, 209 innings and 176 strikeouts per year.

Hall of Fame birthday: Three Hall of Famers were born on this day. Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski came into this world in 1939, while 3,000 hit club-member Paul Molitor joined us in 1956. Nineteenth-century manager Ned Hanlon, who won five pennants, was born in 1857.

Time to reanalyze Franco? With Lee Smith’s election to the Hall of Fame in 2019, it might be time to reanalyze the case for John Franco. At the time of his retirement, he was third all-time in saves—behind only Smith and Trevor Hoffman—and his 424 still rank fifth on the list. Only Craig Kimbrel, himself potentially headed to Cooperstown, currently threatens his position.

That’s all he’ll be remembered for: Hey Mets fans, remember when Luis Castillo dropped the ball?

That’s an improvement: Bryan Evans, a minor league pitcher from 2008 to 2019, was pretty lackluster during the first few years of his career. From 2008 to 2010, he was just 13-22 and his ERA never dropped below 4.00. Then he exploded in 2011, going 8-2 with a 1.99 ERA. Talk about an improvement! According to the experts at Baseball-Fever.com, the only major league pitcher to start his career with three straight seasons with ERAs above 4 (min. 40 IP each season), and then have an ERA below 2 in his fourth campaign, is Hall of Fame closer Rich “Goose” Gossage.

Hainline dies: Former Gonzaga star outfielder Jeff Hainline, who hit .370 with 21 home runs in 1984, died August 12 at 56. He was later drafted by the Rangers and spent a year in their system, but batted just .103 in 29 at-bats. His brother, Bill Hainline, also played for Gonzaga.

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