Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 24, 2021.

Travis Shaw was drafted by the Red Sox in 2008 and 2011. (Wikipedia).

Welcome back, Travis: You might not remember, but current Red Sox infielder Travis Shaw once had back-to-back 30-home run seasons with the Brewers in 2017 and 2018. Since then, he’s hit just .191 with 20 dingers in 195 games—but the old Travis might be back. Last night, he slugged a grand slam in just his third game with the Red Sox. It was his first home run since May 25.

Seby watch: Maybe I dig White Sox catcher Seby Zavala because he has such a cool name. Or perhaps it’s because he’s been such a blessing for the White Sox, despite his low batting average. He’s still among the team’s best sluggers over the past month, clobbering 5 home runs with 14 RBI and 13 runs scored. He hit 20 or more home runs twice in the minor leagues.

Don’t discount Ahmed: Despite slugging 19 home runs in 2019, Diamondbacks’ shortstop Nick Ahmed has never done much with the bat—he has a .236 career average, a .221 mark this year and a .205 average over the past month. But Ahmed is a throwback to the days of the defense-first shortstop, when guys like Mark Belanger (.228 career hitter) and Ed Brinkman (.224) could put together 15 or 20 year careers. In eight seasons, Ahmed has two Gold Gloves and his .978 fielding percentage is 23rd-best all-time. And about that offense—he has 8 doubles over the past month, the same as phenom Wander Franco and more than fellow shortstops Brandon Crawford and Jean Segura.

Alexander the Decent: Tigers pitcher Tyler Alexander has been nothing short of decent this year, which isn’t quite a ringing endorsement—however, his past few outings show promise. In his last start on August 20, he went 7 1/3 innings and surrendered just one run; two starts before that, he didn’t let a single runner score over 5 1/3 frames. Though he hasn’t put it altogether yet, he has the tools to be an effective hurler down the line. He averaged only 1.5 walks per nine innings in the minors, and his rate in the big leagues isn’t much worse at 1.8. He averaged nearly a strikeout per frame with the Tigers last year, and nearly 10 K/9 IP at Triple A in 2019. Keep an eye on Alexander.

Deolis back from the dead: Athletics hurler Deolis Guerra is only 32, yet he’s been playing professionally since 2006; he signed his first contract with the Mets in July 2005. He was traded to the Twins with three others for starter Johan Santana in 2008 and is the only member of that trade who’s still playing. He didn’t make his big league debut until 2015 and has variously had season ERAs of 4.68, 6.48, 8.59 and 54.00 since then. But things are looking up. With Oakland this year, he has a mark of 3.71 and, despite averaging just 7.6 per nine innings for his career, he has averaged more than a K per inning since July 1.

Cleveland Indians-era Francisco Lindor might’ve helped get New York track. The current version, not so much. (Wikipedia).

It’s too late: The Mets recently activated star infielders Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez off the disabled list. Slugging utilityman Jose Martinez, who was supposed to help the club off the bench but has missed the whole year to injury, is on a rehab assignment. In the past few games, first baseman Pete Alonso and outfielder Brandon Nimmo are surging. But, I fear, it’s too late for New York, formerly in first place and now under .500, to make a playoff push. Maybe next year.

How’s he still got a job? ERA+ is a weighted measure of a pitcher’s performance that takes things like park factors into account. A mark of 100 is considered average. Tommy Milone, who recently signed with Cincinnati, has posted a mark over 75 only once since 2015.

Homegrown, not store bought: Fans often complain that the Yankees “bought” all their World Series rings in the 1990s and 2000s, that all they did was open their checkbooks and pay whatever they needed to get the best free agents. Well, they didn’t shy away from bringing help on board as needed, but do recall: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez—well-nigh the core of those teams—were all either drafted or initially signed by New York. Not plucked off the free agent market.

Swing and a miss, voters: What do Tim Salmon (299 career home runs), Mark Reynolds (298 HR) and Pat Burrell (292 HR) have in common? They have the most home runs of anyone from the All-Star Game era to never make a team. Salmon was a Rookie of the Year, won a Silver Slugger and once finished seventh in MVP voting, so he’s particularly egregious. Burrell and Reynolds’ best seasons received MVP votes, as well.

Other All Star snubs: Orlando Cabrera owns the most hits of anyone (from the All-Star era) never selected to an All-Star game, with 2,055. Jose Cardenal has the most stolen bases (329), Tony Phillips played the most games (2,161) and Barney McCosky has the best average (.312; min. 3000 PA). For pitchers, Mike Torrez has the most wins (185) and innings (3,043), Gene Garber has the most saves (218), Bobby Witt has the most strikeouts (1,955), Mike Timlin has the most appearances (1,058) and Ron Perranoski has the best ERA (2.79; min. 1,000 IP).

Not a party at this 1,999: Oof, he was that close to reaching a big career milestone. Ian Kinsler finished his career after 2019 with 1,999 hits, just one shy of the tidy 2,000 hit mark. Hall of Fame third baseman Jimmy Collins, who played at the turn of the century, also finished with that many.

Sam Rice batted .322 in 20 seasons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963. (Wikipedia).

He had no idea: Another Hall of Famer, outfielder Sam Rice, finished at 2,987 hits, just 13 shy of the big three-zero-zero-zero. This is what he said later on: “The truth of the matter is I did not even know how many hits I had. A couple of years after I quit, Clark Griffith told me about it, and asked me if I’d care to have a comeback with the Senators and pick up those 13 hits. But I was out of shape and didn’t want to go through all that would have been necessary to make the effort. Nowadays, with radio and television announcers spouting records every time a player comes to bat, I would have known about my hits and probably would have stayed to make 3,000 of them.”

Didn’t see clearly: Pitcher Joe Cleary made one career appearance, with the Washington Senators in 1945. Something must have been in his eyes that day, since he couldn’t find the plate and threw a wild pitch. And surrendered 3 walks. And 5 hits. And 7 earned runs. All in one-third of an inning. That gave him a career ERA of 189.00.

What a way to go: In his final season, 1929, Negro leaguer Pythias Russ batted .369 in 64 games for the Chicago American Giants. On August 9, 1930, he died from tuberculosis at just 26 years old.

It’s a big club: According to Baseball Reference, 22,504 players have donned a big league uniform. Per Stathead, 8,897 of them—including pitchers—have hit at least one home run. Over 7,000 have hit two or more, and more than 4,000 have hit at least 10.

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