Familia territory: Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia saved 43 games with a 1.85 ERA in 2015 and had a league-leading 51 saves in an All-Star 2016. Since then, he’s slipped to a 4.07 ERA, but his recent stretch resembles the Familia of old. He’s struck out 6 batters in his last 3 innings of work, 30 in his last 21 1/3 frames and 61 in 48 2/3 innings on the year as a whole.
Hunter’s no longer stricken: Brewers hurler Hunter Strickland was one of the game’s better relievers in the mid-2010s, but was stricken with a rapid decline in performance from 2018 to 2020. He seems to have gotten over it: Since joining Milwaukee—his third team this year—on June 14, he has a 1.30 ERA in 25 games; over the past month, that mark is 0.73 in 11 games. He’s 3-1 with a 2.52 ERA is 47 appearances overall.
Marchan marchin’ on: 22-year-old Phillies catcher Rafael Marchan has been a pleasant surprise these past few games, carrying a .333/.412/.667 line with a home run and 3 RBI since August 29. He debuted with a bang last year, going 4-for-8 with a dinger and 3 RBI in a cup of coffee with Philadelphia.
Bryan’s cruisin’ along: If the Marlins’ youngsters can coalesce at the same time, Miami might actually have a decent club in the near future. One such factor in it might be 24-year-old rookie outfielder Bryan De La Cruz, who has hit .340 in 100 at-bats with the club this year and .367/.400/.506 over the past month. He arrived with pitcher Austin Pruitt in a July 28 trade with Houston for reliever Yimi Garcia.
Milestone watch: Kevin Pillar recently played his 1,000th career game, while Anthony Rizzo eclipsed 5,000 at-bats, Josh Donaldson reached 5,000 plate appearances, Nelson Cruz scored his 1,000th run, Asdrubal Cabrera knocked his 400th double, Justin Upton collected his 1,000th RBI, Eric Hosmer and Donaldson clobbered their 500th extra base hits, Jose Abreu was clocked by his 100th pitch (and Salvador Perez by his 50th) and fearsome Freddie Freeman drew his 100th intentional walk.
Growing hopeful about the Mets: New York has won four straight games and are now just a game under .500. They’re 5 back in the Wild Card. Pete Alonso has been cranking the past month. Pitcher Carlos Carrasco might be turning a corner and Marcus Stroman is still throwing like an ace. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over …
Don’t do well in the majors: Lee Gronkiewicz, who had a 2.43 ERA and 159 saves in eight seasons on the farm pitched a single game with the Blue Jays in 2007. Bobby Korecky had a 3.10 ERA and 186 saves in 14 minor league seasons, but posted a 7.39 mark in 24 big league games over 4 seasons. Kevin Quackenbush owns a 2.19 ERA and 127 saves in the minors; he has a 4.41 mark and 87 ERA+ in the bigs. Successful minor league relief pitchers often don’t well at the major league level, or get much of a chance.
Exactly the same: 1990s shortstop and former Rockies manager Walt Weiss owns the highest career strikeout and walk totals of anyone who finished with the exact same amount (658) of each.
Sharing a name with the stars: Jimmy Stewart was one of the most famous actors of the 20th century. Jimmy Stewart—a different one—was a utilityman who spent 10 years in the majors in the 1960s and 1970s, playing for the Cubs, Reds and others. He’s not the first or only ballplayer to share names with a more famous counterpart—Mike Tyson is a notorious boxer; his baseball pairing was an infielder who played mostly for the Cardinals in the 1970s and early ‘80s. And don’t forget 1980s pitcher Bob Gibson (not to be confused with the Hall of Famer) or ‘80s Mariners outfielder Ricky Nelson (not to be confused with the more famous singer).
Hurlers can hit ‘em, too: Facing the Cubs on May 13, 1942, Braves pitcher Jim Tobin became the only pitcher in modern baseball history to hit three home runs in a single game. With a .230 career average, he was a great hitting pitcher and was often asked to pinch hit.
It was against the Mets: Former Rays pitcher Esteban Yan was the first American League pitcher since the introduction of the designated hitter rule in 1973 to homer in his first career at-bat. Facing the Mets’ Bobby Jones on June 4, 2000, he clobbered an inconsequential solo shot in a game Tampa Bay won 15-5. He also collected a hit in his only other career at-bat.
Unknown member of 60 dinger club: Wladimir Balentien was a fairly well-touted prospect in the 2000s, having set the Arizona League season record for home runs with 16 in 2003. He never found his stroke in the major leagues, but sure did when he went to Japan: In 2013, he hammered 60 big flies for the Yakult Swallows, setting a Nippon Professional Baseball record. He’s still playing over there to this day and has 494 career home runs between all levels.
Hate to say this about him, but: Roger Maris was the ultimate two-year wonder. Before his arrival with the Yankees in 1960, he slashed just .249/.329/.434 with 58 home runs and 203 RBI in 388 games. Then he set the baseball world ablaze by winning two straight MVP awards in 1960 and 1961 and, of course, breaking Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record with 61 the latter year. But after that, he was decent, but nothing to write home about: He averaged just 111 games per year over the rest of his career, slashing .259/.343/.446. He earned over 40% of the vote on the Hall of Fame ballot, but two great years does not a Hall of Fame career make … no matter how legendary one of the campaigns might have been.
We’ll try our luck: Most home runs in a season without drawing an intentional walk? Roger Maris in his record-setting 61 home run, 1961 campaign. He batted in front of Mickey Mantle; pitchers preferred to try their hand with the superstar, not the legend. The career record for dingers without an IBB, among players for whom we have complete data, is 107, presently held by Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman.
Records haven’t updated: With the Society for American Baseball Research keeping an eye on things, you’d think they’d catch and verify whenever a former big leaguer passes away. However, such is not the case—it’s fairly well-known that former Braves catcher Hal King died some time ago (even they recognize that) but there has been no official confirmation or article to validate the claim, so they cannot mark him down as “deceased.” And so, he remains alive, per official records at least.