Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 15, 2021.

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: Add another hit to his ledger. With a double against the Brewers today, the 38-year-old now has 2,976 hits for his career and is just 24 away from 3,000. He’s hitting .412 this month and the Tigers have 16 games left in the season. He might pull it off.

Greinke has six 200 strikeout campaigns. (Wikipedia).

Greinke 3,000 K watch: I was going to start paying close attention to Astros pitcher Zack Greinke’s run for 3,000 strikeouts when he reached 2,800, and he did that with a 4 K performance against Texas on Tuesday. He now stands at 2,803 for his career and at 37, should comfortably reach the magic number. However, the milestone might have to wait until 2023, if his trend toward diminished strikeout totals holds true into next season.

Living up to his nickname: Tigers jack-of-all-trades Harold Castro is nicknamed Hittin’ Harold … and these past couple weeks show us why. Since August 29, he’s hit .359 with a .590 slugging percentage to bring his season average to .282. Though he’s never played a full season, he’s shown he can make good contact, batting .291 for his career and .347 in 49 at-bats last year.

Out of the Ruf patch: Giants utility man Darin Ruf began the season with a .240 average through July 3. Since then, he has hit .309/.423/.588 with 9 home runs, 26 RBI, 25 walks and 20 runs scored in 56 games. Since August 16, his average is .321 and his OBP is .446. Those three years (2017-2019) he spent in Korea taught him to be more patient at the plate—from 2012 to 2016, his big league OBP was .314. Between 2020 and 2021, it is .392.

Senzatela’s pitching well: If you go by his won-loss record, it has been a rough year for Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela. In 24 games, he’s gone 4-9, while averaging nearly 10 hits allowed per 9 innings. But over his past five starts, his ERA is just 2.18 and batters are hitting .200 against. And his year has been better than it looks—he still holds a 116 ERA+.

Ryan’s got potential: Twins rookie starter Joe Ryan has impressed through his first three big league starts, posting a 2.12 ERA and 0.529 WHIP in 17 innings; over his past two starts, he’s allowed just one run, one walk and 4 hits in 12 frames. He was acquired from the Rays in the trade that sent DH Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay. Looks like the deal is already starting to pay off.

Seager ranks 19th among active players in career doubles with 302. (Wikipedia).

Milestone watch: Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager recently hit his 300th double, while Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez stole his 150th base.

Meeker is a master: With the independent Steel City Slammin’ Sammies in 2020, pitcher James Meeker made 8 scoreless relief appearances. That was just a prelude to what he was going to do in 2021. Twirling for the independent Washington Wild Things, the righthander pitched in 30 games, tossed 31 2/3 innings … and didn’t surrender a run, earned or otherwise. The Brewers signed him on August 13; in 11 games in their system, he has a 1.69 ERA. Meeker can hit, too. With the Butler Blue Sox, a collegiate summer team, in 2016, he hit .402. The next year, he batted .357.

Escaped death by two minutes: Former Marlins and Reds manager Jack McKeon nearly died while in the minor leagues in 1950. Following a knee injury, his club ordered him home to recuperate—but he missed his scheduled train by two minutes. That train crashed, killing 33 people.

Not even one win: According to Baseball Reference, 19 big league managers didn’t manage a single victory in their careers. The worst of them were the Washington Nationals’ Joe Miller and the Brooklyn Eckfords’ Jim Clinton, who both skippered in the National Association in 1872. They each went 0-11.

Speaking of the 1872 Nationals: They folded after those 11 games, meaning their winning percentage was .000. 19-year-old pitcher Bill Stearns took every loss, starting and completing each game. They lost their first game of the year 21-1. One of their “primary” outfielders, Ed Mincher, batted .094; another, Sy Studley, batted .095. Their starting nine also featured a 16-year-old, shortstop Jacob Young, and a 17-year-old, first baseman Paul Hines. Hines spent 20 years in the majors, batting .302.

And about the Eckfords: The Brooklyn Eckfords went just 3-26 in 1872. They were shutout 20-0 in their second game of the season and, in one four game stretch, were outscored 113-24. On June 22, they lost 36-6. One pitcher, James McDermott, struck out just one batter in 63 innings. A fellow named Martin Malone hit .375 for them in 16 at-bats. But that’s about all we know about the guy—no biographical data exists for him.

The Eckford moniker: Brooklyn was named after a shipbuilder named Henry Eckford, who was born in Scotland, lived in New York, and died in the Ottoman Empire.

Only been one: You’d think “Jackrabbit” would be an appropriate and oft-used nickname—especially in baseball’s early days—given to speedy ballplayers. Not so. There’s been just one in big league history, Jack “Jackrabbit” Gilbert, who played briefly in 1898 and 1904.

Ty Cobb committed 271 errors.

Hall of Famers aren’t perfect: Only five outfielders in the modern era (1901-present) committed 200 or more errors. Four are Hall of Famers: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Goose Goslin and Max Carey. The fifth, Clyde Milan, earned votes in seven elections.

The good stuff came first and last: In-between his first and last seasons, pitcher Jim Turner pitched seven campaigns and was 46-45 with a 3.45 ERA. In his rookie season, 1937, he won 20 games and led the league with a 2.48 ERA, 24 complete games and 5 shutouts. In his final year, 1945, he paced the loop in saves, with 10.

Random autograph of the day: Dominic DeSantis

Dominic DeSantis was drafted three times, last by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 1991 draft.

At 22, he was a senior citizen in the leagues in which he pitched in 1991, his first year, but his numbers were excellent: 1.98 ERA, 0.960 WHIP in 15 starts between Rookie ball and Single A, with just 17 walks and 79 hits allowed in 100 innings of work.

The next season, at A ball, he had a 2.71 mark in 133 innings, allowing just 123 hits and 29 BBs. Over the next two campaigns, his ERA jumped to 3.45 then to 4.57 — an occurrence more excusable when someone is moving up into the higher, more competitive ranks … but DeSantis was still in (high) A ball.

Though many players experience a career resurgence upon joining the independent leagues after struggling or stagnating in affiliated ball, such was not the case with DeSantis: He moved to the Northern League in 1994 to wrap up his career, posting a 5.86 ERA in 43 innings. 

Studs and duds, September 8 – September 14

I believe this is the first time all the Studs and Duds from the day previous return. As all have been covered before—multiple times—there is not too much to say this time around.

Offensive stud: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays). Hernandez is unstoppable. Over the past week, he has hit .533/.611/.867 with 2 home runs, 9 RBI and 12 runs scored, powering the Blue Jays in this most important stretch of the season. An All-Star this year and a Silver Slugger in 2020, the outfielder is hitting .307/.357/.529 with 27 home runs and 102 RBI in 126 games on the year; he ranks fifth in the American League in RBI. Since 2017, he has averaged 35 home runs, 98 RBI and 90 runs scored per 162 games. Hmm, a late-blooming power hitting outfielder in Toronto. Shades of Jose Bautista, anyone?

Honorable mention: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Blue Jays; .429/.529/.857, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 10 R).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). Urshela is on fire! With two hits yesterday, he is now 4-for-18 with 8 strikeouts over the past seven days. His September batting average was raised to .192, while his mark since rejoining the Yankees in late August is up to .149. That still sounds pretty rough. And Urshela is still the Dud.

Dishonorable mention: Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, 0-for-10, 5 K).

Alcantara began his career with the Cardinals, but was traded to Miami, with others, for outfielder Marcell Ozuna. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Sandy Alcantara (SP, Marlins). Alcantara was so awesome lately, no one dared usurp him. And with his recent resume including a complete game, a win, 21 strikeouts, just one walk and 5 hits allowed, a 0.53 ERA and a .091 opponents’ batting average, that would’ve been hard to do. Though his record is just 9-13 this season, he owns a 133 ERA+ and a 137 mark over the past two years. That makes Alcantara a pitcher to watch. If he can ever get out of Miami and join a winning club, he could blossom into a superstar.

Honorable mention: Robbie Ray (SP, Blue Jays; 11 IP, 18 K, 2.45 ERA, 1 W).

Pitching dud: Alberto Baldonado (RP, Nationals).Baldonado pitched a scoreless inning for Washington last night, earning a hold, but it wasn’t enough for the hurler to redeem himself. It’s tough for a relief pitcher to unbury himself from a blown save, a loss, a couple walks, a couple earned runs allowed and a 10.80 ERA in the span of a week. His ERA on the year, however, is still a solid 2.84.

Dishonorable mention: Jeurys Familia (RP, Mets; 2 2/3 IP, 5 ER, 5 H, 3 HR, 1 BSV, 1 L).

He’s a future star! Just look at his first season! (Or, maybe not.)—pt. 4.

In this, the fourth installment of this series, I expanded the definition of ‘great’ first full seasons to include those that were at the very least promising. Let’s take a look at some more players from the past 20 or so years who started off well, but never quite lived up to what we expected.

Rogers owns 141 home runs at all levels. (Wikipedia).

Former Brewers first baseman Jason Rogers’ ascension to the major leagues took a while, as he didn’t debut until he was 26 or play his first (nearly) full campaign until he was 27. The 2010 32nd-round draft pick hit .301 at Single-A in 2012, but by then he was already 24; likewise, his 22 home runs at Double-A the next year don’t look so impressive, as he was older than the average player in his league.

But the production followed him wherever he went. In his first try at Triple-A in 2014, he hit .316 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI in 57 games. The Brewers promoted him in September, but he had just one hit in eight at-bats.

Though he began 2015 with Milwaukee, he hit just .236 through June 30. The Brewers sent him to the minors for more Triple-A experience but he proved he was experienced enough—in 33 games with Colorado Springs, Rogers slashed .344/.449/.607 with 8 home runs and 24 RBI in 33 games. The production could not be denied, so Milwaukee called him back up in August.

And that month was also rough, as he hit just .235 in 17 at-bats. But an otherworldly September in which he slashed .435/.500/.630 with 2 home runs, 9 RBI and 20 hits in 46 ABs saved his season … and his batting line. On the back of that killer run, he hit .296/.367/.441 in 169 at-bats over 86 games that year.

With his stock high, the Brewers traded him to Pittsburgh for outfielder Keon Broxton and minor league pitcher Trey Supak in the offseason. The change of scenery wasn’t to his benefit.

With his first hit a triple, his 2016 campaign started off promising—but from that point on, he hit .045 in 22 at-bats. He spent most of the season at Triple-A, where he hit just .263. Partway through the next year, the Pirates released him so he could play in Japan. He hit .283 with 7 home runs and 32 RBI in  49 games there.

But his performance drew no major league interest. He joined the independent ranks in 2018, 2019 and 2021, and even spent time in Australia, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Now 33, he hit .295 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI for the indy Gastonia Honey Hunters this season.

Smith was 11-11, 3.84 in his career. (Wikipedia).

Like Rogers, former Marlins pitcher Chuck Smith was an old rookie—a really old rookie, as he debuted at 30 years of age.

Undrafted out of Indiana State University, he was signed by the Astros and began the snaillike trudge up the minor league ranks. Through 1995, he had pitched just 6 innings above Single-A; that year, he was 10-10 with a 2.69 ERA, but was also nearly 3.5 years older than the average player in his league. He was in the White Sox system by that point, having been taken in the Rule V Draft.

He reached Triple-A for the first time in 1996—for a single game—then went 0-3, 8.81 at that level in 1997. Chicago ditched him and he spent most of 1998 in indy ball, with a couple games in Taiwan and a handful in Mexico. Texas signed him for depth in 1999—when he was 29 years old—and kept him at Triple-A through the beginning of 2000.

To fill out a pitching staff that included, at that point, uninspiring names like A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, Reid Cornelius and Jesus Sanchez, the Marlins traded for him on June 9 in exchange for outfielder Brant Brown.

By June 13, he was starting for Florida and through July 5, he had a 2.76 ERA in 5 starts. He finished the season by going 5-2 with a 2.71 ERA through his final 9 games. On the year, he was 6-6 with a 3.23 ERA in 19 starts; in 122 2/3 innings, he had 118 strikeouts and allowed just 6 home runs. The Marlins were 64-98 in 1999—in part because of Smith’s great pitching, they were able to improve to 79 victories in 2000. He tied Juan Pierre and Lance Berkman for sixth place in Rookie of the Year voting.

And he began 2001 equally well, tossing 8 innings of one run ball in his first start on May 6 and carrying a 3-0, 2.83 line through his first 35 innings. From that point forward, however, his mark was 5.94; on the year, he was 5-5 with a 4.70 ERA in 15 starts. That was his final big league season.

The Rockies purchased him in March 2002, then he bounced around Triple-A for a few years before playing in Korea in 2005 and Taiwan again in 2006 to wrap up his career.

Though technically still active, relief pitcher Robert Stock has yet to live up to the promise he exhibited with San Diego as a 28-year-old rookie in 2018.

It’s unlikely teams will invest in this Stock in 2022. (Wikipedia).

Like Rogers and Smith, his trek to the majors was long and winding. Drafted as a catcher by the Cardinals in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft, ahead of DJ LeMahieu and Patrick Corbin, Stock struggled at the dish in A-ball and converted to pitching. It didn’t save him—he was released by St. Louis in December 2014 and signed with Pittsburgh.

After a poor year between three teams in their system, he was let go and joined the indy ranks, where he had a 2.85 ERA and 11.0 K/9 IP ratio in 52 relief appearances for the New Jersey Jackals. The Reds signed him for 2017 but kept him in their organization for just a year.

San Diego gave Stock a shot, inking him to a contract for 2018. Now in his tenth professional season, he reached Triple-A for the first time, but he wasn’t in the minors long—the Padres promoted him and on June 24, he made his big league debut.

Though he initially had a rough go of it—he surrendered 4 earned runs in 2/3 of an inning in his 5th appearance—the hurler settled down and posted a 1.50 ERA in 27 games the rest of the way; in 36 innings, he allowed just 26 hits and had 32 strikeouts. On the year, he had a 2.50 ERA and 155 ERA+ in 32 appearances. Both marks were among the best on that 66-96 team.

But he fell apart soon after. In 10 relief appearances in 2019, he had a 10.13 ERA; in 2020, his mark was 4.73 with Boston. And this year, he has posted an 0-2 record and 8.00 ERA in 3 starts between the Cubs and Mets.

And as he is currently on the 60-day injured list with hamstring issues, that might be it for Stock. His chances of returning this season are slim and whether any team takes a flier on him in 2022 is up in the air—though unlikely.

In the three years since his excellent, though abbreviated, campaign with San Diego, he has pitched for four teams and gone 1-3 with a 7.36 ERA in 23 games (3 starts). In 33 innings, he’s allowed 27 walks, 40 hits and 5 home runs. Not very inspiring.

But, then again, what do you expect. Stock, and Rogers and Smith, beat the odds by reaching the major leagues at their advanced ages. Then they beat the odds by having unexpectedly excellent seasons.

They all wilted as quickly as they bloomed. You can beat the odds only so much.

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 14, 2021.

Perez ties record: The Royals Salvador Perez clobbered his 43rd home run of the season tonight, tying Javy Lopez’s 18-year-old record for most home runs in a campaign by a catcher. Perez had sat on number 42 since September 8.

Braun spent his entire career with the Brewers. (Wikipedia).

Ryan Braun retires: Milwaukee Brewers legend Ryan Braun has retired after 14 seasons. The 2007 Rookie of the Year winner made six All-Star teams, won five Silver Sluggers and took home the 2011 National League MVP. He finishes with a .296/.358/.532 line, 352 home runs, 216 stolen bases and a 134 OPS+.

Silence of the Lamb: Call me optimistic, but new Blue Jays third baseman Jake Lamb has been quietly effective since joining the club on September 3, despite his .167 batting average. In seven games since September 6, the 2017 All-Star has managed 5 walks, 5 runs, 5 RBI, 2 sacrifice flies, a hit by pitch and a .360 on-base percentage. Sounds like he’s mastered small ball, since nothing else has worked for him. He’s still batting just .206 on the year.

Urias on the rise: Speaking of small ball, check out what the Orioles’ Ramon Urias has accomplished in the past month. He’s clobbered just 2 home runs and had 6 doubles, but he’s managed 11 runs, 12 RBI and a .391 on-base percentage on the backs of 21 hits and 11 walks. Quite a rebound for a man who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk in mid-May due to his anemic play.

Lopez still crushing it: Some time ago, I complimented White Sox hurler Reynaldo Lopez on his excellent campaign, but said that as it was a small sample size, it might not last. Well, he’s proven me wrong. He still holds a 2.05 ERA and 163 ERA+ on the year and has a 2.63 mark over the past month.

Don’t underestimate Floro: Marlins reliever Dylan Floro doesn’t get all the headlines, but he is an effective pitcher. Since June 19, he has a 1.93 ERA in 28 appearances; his mark is 2.89 this season and it was 2.59 in 25 games last year. In 2018, he had an ERA of 2.25. Quietly, Floro has become one of baseball’s more reliable relievers.

Stick a fork in ‘em: Well, my bipolar view of the 2021 Mets has drifted into the pessimistic, yet again. They lost a heartbreaker tonight, 7-6 in 11 innings. What a let down. But that’s just one game. What also doesn’t bode well for the club is the returns of all those players supposedly coming back from injuries keep getting pushed back. Potentially helpful cogs remain unusable. ‘Til next year.

Then again… While they haven’t activated all their hurt players, they did activate catcher Tomas Nido and reliever Jake Reed. Every little bit counts. I’m still not very hopeful.

That’s a lot of Ks: From July 8 to August 20, 2017, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge had at least one strikeout in every game he played. That’s 37 games … and a record. Pitcher Bill Stoneman also Ked at least once in that many consecutive games, from April 30, 1971 to April 21, 1972.

That’s even worse: For nine-straight games in 2016, Judge had at least two strikeouts; Michael A. Taylor, the Royals outfielder, matched that this year and Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard did it in 2019.

Not the good kind of hat trick: Let’s keep going. The most consecutive games with three or more strikeouts? Five, by Jorge Soler, from August 12 to August 17, 2020. He struck out 15 times in 19 at-bats during that stretch. He’s the only player to manage such a long streak.

Reese didn’t start coaching with the Angels until he was 71. (Wikipedia).

Ryan, Carew and … Reese? The first two individuals to have their numbers retired by the Angels were Nolan Ryan (#30) and Rod Carew (#29). The third man isn’t so well-known—it was Jimmie Reese (#50), who coached for the club for 22 years, right up until his death at 92 in 1994.

Welcome back, Chuck: In 1940, first baseman-turned-actor Chuck Connors broke his finger after just four professional games and didn’t play for nearly two full seasons; in 1941, he was placed on the voluntarily retired list. In 1942, he mounted a comeback that eventually led to a brief, 67-game major league career.

Played in the wrong era: Gary Jones spent eight seasons in the minor leagues, including two full campaigns at Triple-A. He led the league in bases on balls five times and fashioned an excellent .437 on-base percentage, but never earned a call to the major leagues as a player. He later ascended to that level as a first and third base coach for the Athletics and Cubs, respectively.

Nichols tried his hand at managing. He had an 80-88 record. (Wikipedia).

Happy birthday, Kid: Hall of Fame pitcher Kid Nichols was born on this day. Playing from 1890 to 1901 and from 1904 to 1906, the hurler won 362 games to just 208 losses while completing 532 games. He also batted .226 with 16 home runs and 278 RBI.

I’m new, too: On October 6, 1908, hurlers Andy O’Connor of the New York Highlanders and Doc McMahon of the Boston Red Sox both started the first and only games of their careers. That is the only time in big league history that both starting pitchers made their only career appearance at the same time.  

Worth the read: I would recommend the book The Innocent Man by John Grisham (2006), which details the case of former minor leaguer Ron Williamson. Following his playing career, Williamson became addicted to drugs and alcohol and suffered from mental illness. He was cited in a woman’s death and was sentenced to death himself, but after 11 years, his sentence was overturned due to new DNA evidence.

Finally got around to it: What are the odds. I just recently said it was strange that, despite knowing that former Braves catcher Hal King passed away some time ago, SABR and the baseball intelligentsia hadn’t been able to find anything to confirm it, nor had they updated their records. Well, it’s not on Baseball-Reference.com yet, but according to their most recent newsletter, they finally received the confirmation they were looking for.

Grinder passes away: Scott Grinder, who umpired in the National League in the 1980s, passed away on September 11.

Random autograph of the day: Mike Devaney

Mike Devaney holds a special place in my heart, because he’s a former Mets prospect, and I, of course, am a Mets fan.

He showed great potential in the early going, posting a 5-0 mark with 1.95 ERA in 14 starts his first professional season, 2004, and going 10-4, 3.88, while averaging just 7 hits allowed per 9 innings, in his second campaign. In 2006, he was 12-5 with a 2.13 mark, an excellent year indeed, before slipping to 6-9, 4.85 in his fourth and final season.

It’s odd the Mets didn’t give him another campaign to redeem himself, with 2007 being his first real struggle. Sure, he was 24 in 2007, but that is far from old. One wonders if injuries did him I’m, of that I’m not sure. Either way, he was 33-18 with a 3.24 ERA overall, a great line for someone who never made the majors. 

Studs and duds: September 7 – September 13

It was a tight battle for the Offensive Stud, but Gurriel won out.

Offensive stud: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Blue Jays). The outfielder is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak, adding three more knocks last night. That gives him a .444/.543/.889 line with 3 home runs (including a grand slam), 13 RBI and 10 runs scored over the past week.

Despite a weak start to 2021, Gurriel has been steady nearly all season—but he has really cranked it up since late August. In 22 games since August 22, he has hit .395/.472/.697 with 5 home runs, 28 RBI, 15 runs scored and 12 walks, while striking out only 12 times.

Could we see the first Blue Jays World Series appearance since 1993? With Gurriel, Teoscar Hernandez, Marcus Semien and all the club’s hot hitters killing it right now, there is a good possibility.

Honorable mention: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, .548/.622/.871, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 13 R).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). Urshela is the Dud again. With another 0-fer and a strikeout last night, he is 2-for-19 with 10 Ks over the past seven days and is batting .114 since his return from the injured list in late August. He has struck out in each of the past six games. Last night, New York started DJ LeMahieu in his place—at this point, bringing Charlie Hayes back to man the position would be a better option than Urshela.

Dishonorable mention: Amed Rosario (SS, Indians; 2-for-17, 5 K, 2 E).

Alcantara holds a 122 ERA+ thus far in his career. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Sandy Alcantara (SP, Marlins). Alcantara is pitching like a future Cy Young Award winner.

In 17 innings over his past two starts, he has allowed just one earned run on a single walk and five hits, while striking out 21 batters. His September 8 performance against the Mets was a complete game, 14 K showing, and last night, he tossed 8 innings of 1 hit, no walk, no run ball against Washington.

In his past seven starts, the 26-year-old righthander has a 1.55 mark and 64 Ks in 52 1/3 innings. And he has not yet even entered his prime. What the future holds for Alcantara is exciting.

Honorable mention: Eric Lauer (SP, Brewers; 2-0 W-L, 12 1/3 IP, 13 K, 2 BB, 0.73 OBA).

Pitching dud: Alberto Baldonado (RP, Nationals). Baldonado’s position remains unchanged. Though he tossed just 1 1/3 innings over the past week, it was enough for opposing teams to inflict plenty of damage: He blew a save, took a loss, surrendered three walks and posted a 10.80 ERA in that brief run. The 28-year-old rookie’s ascension to the majors was rocky, as just as recently as 2018, he had a 4.88 ERA at Triple-A.

Dishonorable mention: Jose Cisnero (RP, Brewers; 2 IP, 5 H, 7 ER, 4 BB, 2 BSV). His saving grace was in all that mess, he scratched out a win.

Random notes and musings: September 13, 2021.

Andrus has hit just .224 since 2020. (Wikipedia).

Took long enough: 2021 has not been a great year for Athletics shortstop Elvis Andrus, who has hit just .231/.278/.309 in 135 games. Every time he puts together a decent run, he enters another cold streak, ruining any progress made. Perhaps not this time: Over the past week, he has hit .353 with 6 hits in 17 at-bats. It’s not much, but he’ll take anything at this point.

Give it up for Duffy: The Cubs aren’t going anywhere this year, but infielder Matt Duffy is going places right now. After beginning the season with a .226 mark through August 1, he has hit .294 with 16 runs scored and 8 RBI since to bring his season average up to .259. He began the year with a .309 mark through May 8.

Middling Mitch: Pirates starter Mitch Keller was a second round draft pick in 2014, taken alongside the likes of Alex Verdugo and Spencer Turnbull. While they’ve begun crafting fine careers, Keller has gone in the opposite direction: He is 4-11 with a 6.29 ERA this year and 6-17, 6.07 in 35 career starts. His career ERA+ of 71 is the second-worst among active pitchers with at least 150 innings, behind Burch Smith’s 69.

Coonrod’s cooking: 2021 has been quite the rebound campaign for Phillies reliever Sam Coonrod, who had a 9.82 ERA in 18 games with San Francisco last season. In 35 appearances this year, he has a 3.68 mark and 10.6 K/9 IP ratio. Since August 28, those numbers are 1.29 and 15.4, respectively.

Almost won it: Adam Wainwright has the most Cy Young Award shares among pitchers to never actually win the award, with 1.97. He finished second and third twice each, but never took the honor home. Eddie Murray has the most MVP shares among those who never won it at 3.33. He finished in the top-five five years in a row and six times overall; he also finished second twice in a row. The active player with the most MVP shares to never win is Robinson Cano, at 2.14. He’s finished in the top-10 six times, peaking at third place.

He doubted Ichiro: Not everyone thought Ichiro Suzuki was going to be a star. When he was starting out with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Orix BlueWave in 1992 and 1993, his manager, Shozo Doi, refused to give him regular playing time. In addition to criticizing the young outfielder’s batting stance, he once said Ichiro had “come too far too fast…a player has to know hardship if he’s going to reach his full potential.” In 1994, his first full season, Suzuki hit .385 with 210 hits in 130 games at 20 years old.

Minor league home run leader: Royals prospect MJ Melendez has smashed 37 dingers in just 390 at-bats this season, his first above A-ball, to lead the affiliated minor leagues. Nine of them came in 29 Triple-A games, his first stint at that level.

Steals base Easley: Keep an eye on Rangers prospect Jayce Easley, the son of former major leaguer Damion. The speedster has swiped 69 bases in 93 Single-A games this season, and though his average is a middling .247, he has still managed a .406 on-base percentage. The former 5th-round pick has 91 stolen bases and a .255/.401/.309 line in 139 games in the low-minors.

Far from the Wurtz: Outfielder Gabe Wurtz slashed .382/.511/.588 at University of Virginia’s College at Wise in 2020, then .344/.519/.811 in 33 games in 2021. After going undrafted, he promptly hit .414/.487/.841 with 22 home runs and 86 RBI in 54 games for the independent Tucson Saguaros of the high-flying Pecos League. He also spent 13 less-than-stellar games with the indy Houston Apollos, batting .382/.461/.764 with 24 dingers and 98 RBI overall.

Odd Hall of Fame choice: Shortstop Jack Wilson was elected to the Lancaster JetHawks Hall of Fame in 2006, despite never playing for the team. The closest he got was when he played with the winter league Lancaster Stealth in 1999, with whom he won a championship.

48-year-old Colon was 6-2 with a 4.55 ERA in 11 Mexican League starts this season. (Wikipedia).

Colon reminiscing: Hey Mets fans, remember when Bartolo Colon clobbered an improbable home run?

A lot of seasons, not hits: Catcher Rick Dempsey spent 24 years in the major leagues and played over 100 games in 8 of them. He had 100-plus hits just once, in 1978.

Double Crown: Pitcher Mike Birkbeck was *this* close to winning two pitching Triple Crowns … in the minor leagues. In 1984, while with the Single-A Beloit Brewers, he finished third in victories (3 behind the leader), second in strikeouts (2 behind the leader) and second in ERA (0.22 behind the leader). In 1993, with the Triple-A Richmond Braves, he paced the International League in victories and tied for the lead in strikeouts but was just 0.02 points short of the ERA title. He again got pretty close again in 1994, also with Richmond. That year, he finished two wins and 17 strikeouts short; his ERA missed by 0.31 points.

Three other Millions have played professionally: Robert, Doug and Mike. (Wikipedia).

Not-so-famous first: Who was the first Latin American player in major league history? Cuban infielder Estavo B. “Steve” Bellan, who played for the Troy Haymakers and New York Mutuals in the National Association from 1871 to 1873. The next Cuban—and Latin American—didn’t appear in the majors until outfielder Chick Pedroes in 1902; some consider Luis Castro to be the second Latin American, however his birthplace is disputed. He might have been born in New York City.

He was million-to-one: One of the strangest names in baseball has to belong to 1910s minor league outfielder Ten Million, so named at the behest of his grandmother, who wanted his name to stand out. She also convinced Million to name his daughter Decillian, with the help of a $50 bribe. She went by Dixie later in life.

Stuck in Japan: In 2005, Japanese outfielder Tatsuya Ozeki was signed to a minor league contract by the Brewers but immigration issues—specifically, Milwaukee used up all its work visas—kept him from appearing stateside. He later tried out with Colorado, but they didn’t sign him.

Random autograph of the day: Paul Ellis

Paul Ellis was a St. Louis Cardinals first round pick, taken 30th overall in 1990 between outfielder Midre Cummings and pitcher Brian Williams. Though he never became a recognizable face in the majors … because he didn’t reach them … he did become well-known at Double A Arkansas, spending three full seasons and two partial years there.

While he did not find much success in the affiliated ranks, he exploded in independent baseball: With the Western League’s Reno Chukars in 1997, he slashed .337/.464/.570 with 16 home runs and 75 RBI in 84 games. To that point, he had not hit higher than .255 or had more than 6 home runs in a season. That was his only year in indy ball, however, and was also his final professional campaign. Another point of interest: He did not steal a single base in 696 pro games.

Studs and duds: September 6 – September 12

We haven’t seen Teoscar Hernandez in a while; we welcome back a familiar one as the Pitching Stud.

What a difference a few years makes: In his time with Houston, Hernandez hit just .230. (Wikipedia).

Offensive stud: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays). It was a nice run for Marcus Semien, but a new face has taken his place.

Hernandez has hit .448/.556/.862 with 3 home runs, including a grand slam, 10 RBI, 13 runs scored, 2 stolen bases and 5 walks in the past week—but let’s not kid ourselves, he’s been one of the game’s hottest hitters since August. In 33 games since August 8, Hernandez has hit .323/.389/.608 with 10 home runs, 33 RBI and 31 runs scored.

And his performance couldn’t have come at a better time. With Hernandez and Semien surging, the Blue Jays currently lead in the American League wild card race, barely, and need all their cylinders firing right now. Hernandez is doing his best to make that happen.

Honorable mention: Marcus Semien (2B, Blue Jays; .364/.462/.818, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 8 R).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). Despite going 1-for-4 at the plate, Urshela continued his struggles yesterday by striking out two more times and committing an error in the field. He has had two strikeouts in four of the past five games—and a single K in the fifth one—making him 3-for-21 with nine strikeouts over the past week. Since his return to the Yankees lineup in late August, he is 5-for-43 (.116) with 15 Ks and no walks.

Dishonorable mention: Amed Rosario (SS, Indians; 3-for-21, 7 K, 2 E).

Pitching stud: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers). Scherzer seems to be getting better. In 16 innings over his past two starts, he has amassed 22 strikeouts—including the 3,000th of his career—without walking a single batter. Just seven of batsmen have even managed hits off him.

Scherzer hasn’t allowed more than 200 hits in a season since 2011. (Wikipedia).

Having not allowed an earned run since August 21, the hurler is now 6-0 with 72 strikeouts, 5 walks allowed and a 0.88 ERA in 51 innings since joining Los Angeles in July; he is 14-4 with 219 strikeouts, a league-leading 0.821 WHIP, a league-leading 2.17 ERA and a 186 ERA+ on the year. Baseball Reference’s similarity scores say the pitcher second-most similar to him through age 36 is Randy Johnson. Sounds about right.

Honorable mention: Kevin Gausman (SP, Giants; 2-0 W-L, 13 IP, 18 K, 1 BB, 2 QS).

Pitching dud: Alberto Baldonado (RP, Nationals). It was a rough week for the 28-year-old rookie, who debuted on September 2.

On September 10, he gave up a hit and blew a save, then on the 11th, he walked 2 and allowed 2 earned runs in one-third of an inning for the loss. For those counting at home: He has a 10.80 ERA in 1 2/3 innings over the past seven days, spread over 3 appearances.

It was the first real rough patch of the hurler’s short career, as he allowed just one walk and a hit in 4 2/3 frames over 4 appearances initially. That he is in the majors at all is pretty amazing—he was signed by the Mets in 2009 and didn’t even reach Triple-A until 2017—and he had a 6.65 ERA in 39 appearances when he did.

Dishonorable mention: JT Chargois (RP, 0-1 W-L, 3 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 BSV).