Article from the archives—2011 Baseball Hall of Fame election results: Alomar, Blyleven elected; Larkin, Morris close

Let’s take a look back on the 2011 Hall of Fame election and what my surely genius and insightful thoughts on it were.

***

Another year of Hall of Fame voting and excitement is in the books, and so begins another round of review, second-guessing and ridicule about who was elected—and who was not.

Roberto Alomar made 12 All-Star teams and won 10 Gold Gloves. (Wikipedia).

With 90.0 percent of the vote, Roberto Alomar was selected to the Hall of Fame in his second go-around on the ballot, jumping from 73.7% last year. Blyleven, in his 14th year of eligibility, received 79.7% of the vote.

Both are worthy inductees. Alomar hit .300 with 2,724 hits, 210 home runs and 474 stolen bases in 17 major league seasons, earning a spot on 12 All-Star teams, as well as 10 Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Sluggers. In the playoffs he flourished as well, batting .313 in 230 post-season at-bats.

Blyleven does not have the accolades to his name (only two All-Star selections), but he has the numbers to back up his election. With 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts and 242 complete games, Blyleven compiled a career that, though it did not scream “Hall of Fame” while he was playing, developed into a Cooperstown-worthy career nonetheless.

Two other players received at least 50% as well, Barry Larkin and Jack Morris, indicating that they too will one day be elected—especially considering they both received a higher percentage of the votes this year than last. Their Hall of Fame chances increase even more considering the lackluster crop of newcomers arriving next year, with the best player being, perhaps, Bernie Williams.

There were a few newcomers whose performances, or lack thereof, were relatively surprising. John Franco, who had 424 saves and a 2.89 ERA in his 21-year career, received only 4.6% of the vote, meaning he won’t be on the ballot again next year. Even though the cloud of steroids hangs over his head, Rafael Palmeiro’s 11% of the vote is quite low—especially considering fellow alleged ‘roider Mark McGwire received 23.5% of the vote in his first year. Jeff Bagwell actually did surprisingly well, garnering 41.1% of the vote.

Now, it is time to compare my predicted results to the actual voting results. The following are the players I said were going to be elected: Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar. I was correct (most people probably guessed those two, so there is not much to brag about).

I claimed there would be 19 holdovers from this election to next year’s, with that list including Barry Larkin, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Walker, Don Mattingly, John Franco, John Olerud, Kevin Brown, Dale Murphy, Juan Gonzalez, Harold Baines and Tino Martinez. I was off by five—there are only 14 holdovers, with Harold Baines, John Franco, Kevin Brown, Tino Martinez and John Olerud falling off the ballot.

When looking at the actual percentages, I was off by a bit, as well. For example, I said Fred McGriff was going to get 40.9% of the vote—he really received only 17.9%. I said Rafael Palmeiro was going to receive 23.5% of the vote, while he garnered only 11%. Perhaps most egregiously of all, I said John Olerud was going to receive 13.5% of the vote, when he actually received 0.7%.

Olerud, who finished with 58.2 WAR in 17 seasons, does have a small group of Hall of Fame supporters. (Wikipedia).

I was close on a few, however. For example, I claimed Dale Murphy would get 12.5% of the vote and he actually received 12.6%. As well, I said Larry Walker was going to garner 19.5% of the vote and he received 20.3%. On average, I was about 4.34% off on each person. Now, the percentage difference is a bit more glaring—the average percentage difference between my projected vote totals and the actual vote totals is about 47.21%—that will happen when one predicts John Olerud will get over 10% of the vote and he receives less than 1%.

Finally, to wrap this up, I am going to post who I would have voted for if I were a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. These are in no particular order.

Roberto Alomar
Bert Blyleven
Jeff Bagwell
Barry Larkin
Tim Raines
Lee Smith
Larry Walker
Rafael Palmeiro
Fred McGriff
Dave Parker

I also would have voted for Mark McGwire, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell and potentially Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly and John Franco but a Hall of Fame voter can select a maximum of 10 players. I voted for Palmeiro and not McGwire because the latter already has his cabal of voters, while Palmeiro does not—I wanted to help give Palmeiro a bit of support in his first year of eligibility.

That wraps up another round of Hall of Fame speculation, surprise and—maybe for some—despair. Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will join the already-inducted Pat Gillick at the Hall of Fame induction this summer at Cooperstown.

***

I have since revamped my method for predicting Hall of Fame numbers. Back then, I considered how well statistically similar players performed in the voting, however that obviously does not produce an accurate number. Now I look more at how the player performed in recent elections and how well other players with similar vote totals did in their elections, as well. That produces less wonky results.

Sherry Magee belongs in the Hall of Fame.

There are few pre-World War II players more deserving for the Hall of Fame than Sherry Magee. (Wikipedia).

How often does it happen that a player leads the league in more categories than the average Hall of Famer and does not get elected to Cooperstown himself?

Not too frequently. Using black ink* as the metric, Tony Oliva did it and so did Dale Murphy—but not too many others.

*The average Hall of Famer’s black ink is 27.

Even harder to come by, then, must be the man who also places among the league leaders, without actually pacing the loop himself, more frequently than the average Hall of Famer. That’s measured using grey ink,* and yes, it is rarer.

*The average Hall of Famer’s grey ink is 144.

Among non-pitchers eligible for the Hall of Fame, and excluding Negro leaguers, it has happened eight times, by the likes of Barry Bonds and George Burns.

Though Sherry Magee is an unfamiliar name in most baseball circles today, he also ranks among that number, with black and grey ink of 35 and 210, respectively. Mostly forgotten now and severely underrated even then, he played from 1904 to 1919 for the Phillies, Braves and Reds as one of the top outfielders in the National League.

Finishing with 2,169 hits, 166 triples, 441 stolen bases, 1,112 runs and 1, 176 RBI, he took home a ring with Cincinnati in the tainted 1919 World Series against Chicago and—fairly-and-squarely—won the batting title in 1910 with a .331 mark.

In fact, he batted .300 or better five times in an era when league averages in the .250s were the norm—his .291 career mark was 32 points higher than the aggregate .259 average the National League hit when he played.

Pacing the loop in offensive WAR, slugging percentage and total bases twice, extra base hits three times and RBI four times, Magee was an offensive powerhouse in a time when they were a rarity.

Consider that he played in the Dead Ball Era, when offenses were depressed and pitching reigned. Had he played in the modern game, he would have hit .312 with over 2,500 hits, 500 stolen bases, 1,350 runs scored and 1, 450 RBI, per the neutralized statistics from Baseball Reference.com.

Through age 34, his most similar statistical comparison was Hall of Famer Joe Kelley, per Baseball-Reference.com. (Wikipedia).

For a player of his time, he was a slugger, despite seemingly weak home run totals. His 83 dingers don’t look like much, but he played during an era when 20 home runs in a season was unheard of and 5 or fewer was the norm; Ty Cobb had less than than 5 thirteen times.

In 2021, 119 players have clobbered 15 or more dingers, and we’re not even done with the season. Over the 16-year span of Magee’s career, that mark was reached 13 times total. And Magee managed two of those instances, in 1911 and 1914, and finished among the league leaders in homers seven times.

According to the now-defunct BaseballLibrary.com, “Magee was one of the great players of the dead-ball era, 1900-1919. He could hit, run, field, and throw with the best, and played intelligently and aggressively,” and according to the also-defunct TheBaseballPage.com, “he had no real weaknesses…” The Baseball Reference Bullpen says, “[he] was one of the top players of his time.”

So, what is a player who had “no real weaknesses,” who could, “hit, run, field, and throw with the best” and who was “one of the top players of his time” not doing in the Hall of Fame? Your guess is as good as mine. Even Hall of Fame voters didn’t give him much love, as he received support in eight regular elections but peaked at one percent of the vote. Granted, he was competing with men like Babe Ruth, Cy Young and Pete Alexander* for attention, so it is understandable how he was overlooked.

*It wasn’t even easy for Alexander to earn induction. He received less than 25% of the vote his first time around and didn’t get elected until his third try.

But inexcusable is that even during the years of Hall of Fame inflation, the 1960s and 1970s, Magee was still ignored. During that time, under the guidance of Hall of Fame infielder and Veterans Committee Chairman Frankie Frisch, such names as Rube Marquard, Jesse Haines and George Kelly were selected for Cooperstown.

Yet Magee remained on the outside looking in. Heck, the last time he was even considered was by the Veterans Committee in 2009, the year Joe Gordon was elected; he received 25% of the vote.

From 1904 to 1919—the span of his career—Magee appeared in more games, had more plate appearances, more at-bats, more runs, more doubles, more triples, more RBI, more total bases, more extra base hits and was on base more than anyone in the National League. Number two in each of those categories was Honus Wagner.

Wagner received 95.1% of the vote in his first try on the Hall of Fame ballot.

The ghost of Magee is still waiting for the call.

Three milestones indicate greatness for major league catchers.

No catcher has hit more home runs than Mike Piazza. (Wikipedia).

Recently, I covered the 300-300 club and the 50-20 club, each of which has at least one unusual member. The former, for example, featured Steve Finley and Reggie Sanders, who hit over 300 home runs and stole at least 300 bases each.

The 50-20 club, likewise, is laced with legends like Willie Mays—and also includes Brady Anderson among its number.

But here’s one collection of milestones that has only ever been achieved by the best of the best, the most elite catchers of all-time:

2,000 hits, 300 home runs, 1,000 RBI.

Only six backstops have reached all three and there is no questioning their greatness:

Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter and Ivan Rodriguez.

Piazza leads the pack with 427 homers and added 2,127 hits and 1,335 RBI for good measure. Rodriguez managed the most hits at 2,844, and had 311 home runs and 1,332 RBI to boot.

The RBI champ was Yogi Berra, who finished with 1,430—which makes sense. He played on Yankees teams that featured names like Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Hank Bauer. With all that star power getting on base around him, he had ample opportunity to drive guys in.  

Carter had 324 home runs, 2,092 hits and 1,225 RBI. Fisk, 376, 2,356 and 1,330, respectively. Bench clobbered 389 homers with 2,048 knocks and 1,376 RBI.

They’re the only catchers who reached the hit and home run milestones and scored 1,000 runs, as well.

What if we eliminate one of those markers, say RBI. Is the club any less illustrious without ribbies?

No. No outliers to complicate things yet.

How about 2,000 hits and 1,000 RBI, minus the home runs? Still no.

Phew, this really is an elite club, no need to ask any further—

What about 300 home runs and 1,000 RBI, who cares about the hits?

Well, hold onto your seats: Outlier alert.

In fact, the 300 HR/1,000 RBI catcher cabal does have one unexpected member. See if you can guess who it is:

From 1977 to 1995, this backstop played 1,988 games, hitting .252 with 324 home runs and 1,070 RBI. He had just 1,782 hits, but made 8 All-Star teams, won 6 Silver Sluggers and 3 Gold Gloves, and owns a World Series ring. He spent most of his career with the Tigers.

Got it yet?

It’s Lance Parrish.

And while all those other guys were elected to the Hall of Fame in their first few tries (Carter took the longest, appearing on the ballot six times before he made it), Parrish received a resounding 1.7 percent of the vote in 2001 and dropped off the ballot.

I’ve said in the past that being a member of elite clubs does not necessarily make a player elite, or a Hall of Famer.

But with Parrish right up there with the absolute greatest catchers of all-time, well …

Maybe we need to make an exception.

***

The 2000/300/1000 club contains only two second baseman, Robinson Cano and Jeff Kent, and, incredibly, there’s a strong possibility neither will be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Two shortstops reached those marks as well: Cal Ripken, Jr. and Miguel Tejada. Tejada is not a Hall of Famer and likely will never be one, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him get in.

Among third basemen, the club has a few more members. The Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers: Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Adrian Beltre, Chipper Jones, Ron Santo and Scott Rolen. The unexpected: Graig Nettles, Aramis Ramirez and Gary Gaetti.

Jorge Posada: Is former New York Yankees catcher Hall of Fame worthy?

Jorge Posada is most similar to Brian McCann, per Baseball-Reference.com’s similarity scores. (Wikipedia).

Always overshadowed by bigger names like Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez during his career, one still has to wonder—did Jorge Posada do enough to earn eventual Hall of Fame induction? His performance on the ballot (3.8% in 2018) suggests he didn’t, but there’s always two sides to every story …

I debate myself to find out.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Over the course of his career, Posada hit 275 home runs, drove in 1,065 runs and made five All-Star teams. He won five Silver Sluggers and even finished in the top-ten in MVP voting twice, placing as high as third in the balloting.

His 275 home runs are eighth-most among catchers all-time, while his 1,065 RBI are 11th.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

While his home run and RBI totals are impressive, there are other catchers who had greater totals who are not yet in the Hall of Fame. Lance Parrish, for example, hit 324 home runs and had 1,070 RBI and he received only 1.7% of the vote in his only year of eligibility.

And Brian McCann, he finished with 289 home runs and only slightly fewer RBI, at 1,018. Even with his seven All-Star selections and six Silver Sluggers, is anyone clamoring for his induction?

Ted Simmons had slightly fewer home runs with 248, but he had over 300 more RBI—and he eclipsed the 2,000 hit milestone, which is something Posada never did. Yet Simmons received less than 4% of the vote in his lone year on the ballot. Though he was was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee in 2020, his long wait indicates Posada and Posada-esque backstops are pushed to the back of the line in Hall of Fame circles.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

That may be true, but every other catcher with at least 275 career home runs is in the Hall of Fame. The club includes Ivan Rodriguez (311 home runs), Gary Carter (324), Yogi Berra (358), Carlton Fisk (376), Johnny Bench (389) and Mike Piazza (427).

And outside of Parrish and Simmons, every other catcher with at least 1,065 RBI is in the Hall, or will be heading there, too. That club includes all the aforementioned catchers, plus Gabby Hartnett (1,179 RBI) and Bill Dickey (1,209 RBI).

In addition, Posada has the accolades to his name. Five All-Star selections and five Silver Sluggers is nothing to sneeze at.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

Good point, however you might notice one thing about all those home run hitting catchers you just mentioned—they each eclipsed 300 home runs, which Posada did not do.

I know in this advanced world of sabermetrics, milestones don’t mean as much, but there are still milestone-minded voters out there and not reaching a mark like 300 home runs (or 2,000 hits) will hurt Posada’s chances of election.

To counter another point, I’m going to invoke the “if X is not in the Hall, then Posada should not be in the Hall, either” argument again.

You mentioned that Posada was an All-Star five times. That’s very good. But what if I said that Elston Howard was an All-Star 12 times and is not in the Hall? Or that Bill Freehan and Del Crandall were All-Stars 11 times each, and have yet to be enshrined?

Fellow Yankee catcher Elston Howard made 12 All-Star Games and isn’t in the Hall of Fame. (Wikipedia).

And, I might add, Lance Parrish won six Silver Sluggers, one-upping Posada.

Yes! Posada Is a Hall of Famer!

Pardon my multi-faceted response here, see if you can keep up. I recognize that Posada never reached any major milestones, however like you said—we are in a more sabermetric era, rightly or wrongly, which means milestones seem to have less and less bearing. By the time Posada is eligible for the Veterans Committee, they may be lent even less credence than they are now.

And in regards to Howard, Freehan and Crandall—while they were All-Stars frequently, they were never the offensive force Posada was. Each of them had offensive Wins Above Replacement less than Posada, per Baseball-Reference.com.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

What about the point about Lance Parrish? I’ll rebut the rest in a moment.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

You bring up Lance Parrish again—I recognize that Parrish was a great player, but even though he had total statistics higher than Posada, does that necessarily make him better than Posada? Or did Parrish just acquire those extra counting numbers because he played longer than the Yankees catcher?

Look at their 162-game averages. Posada averaged 24 home runs and 94 RBI per 162 games, while Parrish averaged 26 home runs and 87 RBI. Plus Posada had a better batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. And OPS. And OPS+.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

All right, all right. This isn’t an argument about whether Posada is better or worse than Lance Parrish, it’s an argument about whether Posada is a Hall of Fame-caliber player.

Let’s look at Posada through a sabermetric lens, real quick, since you brought that point up earlier. You said that Posada had higher offensive WARs than Howard, Freehan and Crandall, which is true.

Posada’s total WAR, per Baseball-Reference, is 42.7—a number that is relatively low … and that is bested by fellow catcher Gene Tenace, someone I have rarely seen on anyone’s Hall of Fame radar.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

First, Gene Tenace spent almost half his career at first base.

More to the point: Yes, his WAR would be relatively low if he hadn’t spent his career as a catcher. But among catchers, his WAR is the 14th best all-time. And once again, while he is bested by a few non-Hall of Famers, all the rest of the players than are better than him are in the Hall of Fame.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

You keep using Posada’s career statistics as the baseline, the bottom limit, that catchers have to meet to be “Hall of Fame worthy.” But unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean Posada is a Hall of Famer—it just makes him the worst of the best.

Which basically means that if Posada were to be elected, he would be among the bottom-rung of Hall of Fame catchers, with guys like Rick Ferrell (who, by the way, was an All-Star two more times than Posada).

Would Posada be any better a choice than, say, Rick Ferrell—often considered the worst catcher in the Hall? (Wikipedia).

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Going by raw counting stats that may appear to be the case, but looking at more sabermetric values like WAR and OPS+, that is clearly not so. (Plus, Posada was a better power hitter than Ferrell and also bested Ferrell in slugging percentage and OPS).

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

You also mentioned earlier that Posada was a better offensive force than Freehan, Crandall and Howard, but that point can easily be countered by the fact that those three were better defensively than Posada. Combined, they won 11 Gold Gloves. Posada won zero. And catcher has historically been a defense-first position.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Accolades, while helpful, don’t mean everything. You must also take into consideration Posada’s postseason performance. He appeared in 125 playoff games and won four World Series rings. He hit .333 or better in five series and hit 11 home runs in his postseason career.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

World Series victories are very team-dependent—while the number of rings looks nice, it really isn’t a great way of determining someone’s Hall of Fame worthiness.

And, as a whole, Posada hit only .248 and slugged .387 in his postseason career.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Okay, well, Posada also has the benefit of playing for one team his entire career—and what a team it was! The New York Yankees! It’s not often a player sticks around with a single team anymore, and to play so long for the Yankees helps his case too—there is something of an allure to the “Yankees mystique.”

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

Is that all? He played for a popular team? While a pro-Yankee bias might have helped players earn election into Cooperstown, it doesn’t mean they were good enough for the Hall, it’s just that the writers had an affinity for them that extended beyond those guys’ playing abilities. The voters’ inability to judge past players unobjectively shouldn’t effect whether a player should get into the Hall of Fame.

Therefore, I can say with certainty now:

NO! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 30, 2021.

Miguel Cabrera’s run for 3,000 has been as protracted as his run for 500 homers. (Wikipedia).

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: With a single yesterday, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is just 39 hits away from 3,000 for his career. It’s not out of the question he could get there this season. Assuming he manages no more hits in August, he would need to have his best month since late 2014 to reach the milestone.

Swing and a miss: Rockies outfielder Sam Hilliard has struck out 57 times in 135 at-bats this season—that would translate to 253 in a 600 at-bat campaign. And that’s not even the worst rate among players with 100 or more ABs. Mariners outfielder Taylor Trammell has 75 Ks in 156 of them—meaning he strikes out nearly half the time.

You go, Tsutsugo: Yoshi Tsutsugo has played for three teams this season. With the Rays, he hit .167 in 78 at-bats and with the Dodgers, .120 in 25 at-bats. But things are looking up with team number three. Since joining the Pirates on August 16, he’s batted .333 with 9 hits, 6 runs and 11 RBI. Five of his nine knocks were dingers. Three of his 4 hits this past week left the yard.

The strikeout meme is getting old: Strikeout pitchers were cool once, but not anymore, now that they’re everywhere. The Indians’ Trevor Stephan, as mediocre as they come, had 9 Ks in his past 4 2/3 innings. He has a 4.50 ERA and 101 ERA+ on the year.

Hard to keep ‘em straight: There are three Luis Garcias active in the majors as we speak. The Cardinals Luis Garcia, a veteran relief pitcher, hasn’t allowed an earned run in 19 innings. The Astros Luis Garcia, a young hurler, is 10-6 with a 3.21 ERA this year.  The Nationals Luis Garcia, a top prospect infielder, is hitting .208 in 40 games. A Luis Garcia also played in 1999, and another appeared in 2002.

It seems like just yesterday we celebrated Cal McVey turning a century old. But it was actually almost a century ago. (Wikipedia).

Happy birthday, (really) old guy: Cal McVey, one of the top stars in the old National Association, turns 172 today. Happy birthday, Cal! (He was born in 1849).

A splendid day: It’s also Ted Williams’ birthday. A veritable legend, Williams made 19 All-Star Games; the last man to make that many was Cal Ripken Jr., who retired in 2001. The active player with the most is Miguel Cabrera, with 11.

THAT’S how you pronounce it? Have you ever pronounced a ballplayers surname one way your entire life, just to realize you’ve been saying it wrong the whole time? I recently found out former closer Troy Percival’s surname is pronounced PURR-siv-ull, emphasis on the Purr. I always pronounced it Purr-siv-ALL. Huh.

I’m going to be petty: The Mets have a pitcher named Tylor Megill. No, you don’t pronounce it like “Tyler,” you dummy, it’s “Ty-LOR.” Some clever parents there, weren’t they? This modern trend of slightly altering common names with ridiculous spellings or pronunciations is worse than the one of boys names all ending with “-den” (Aiden, Brayden, etc.). If you’re going to get creative, get creative. Think of something new, or at least combine some words cleverly. I’m going to name my child Albalog, after this blog.

Ramon’s rough year: In 1998, the Devil Rays let pitcher Ramon Tatis take the mound 22 times—despite his atrocious 13.89 ERA. With the fourth-best mark in the league, the club had solid pitching, and the bullpen was especially good—so they had other options. Tatis later posted a 10.72 ERA for the Triple A Columbus Clippers and a 54.00 mark for Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters in 2000, then a 15.43 ERA for the Mexican League’s Tecolotes in 2003.

Some teams never learn: In 2002, the Devil Rays trotted Jesus Colome out there 32 times … despite his 8.27 ERA. In 2007, Jon Switzer’s 8.05 mark didn’t stop them from using him 21 times, nor did Dana Eveland’s ERA of 9.00 dissuade the Rays from giving him 33 appearances in 2016.

It still happens to this day: The 2021 Cardinals feature star pitcher Tyler Webb (22 G, 13.22 ERA) and the Rockies have Yency Almonte (39 G, 8.36 ERA).

The $64,000 question: Who holds the record for most appearances in a season with an ERA over 8? Believe it or not, it’s happened three times and twice in one year. In 1999, the Marlins Vic Darensbourg and Colorado’s Mike DeJean each pitched 56 games and had marks of 8.83 and 8.41, respectively. In 1995, Bryan Hickerson—who spent part of the year with the Rockies (there seems to be a trend here)—had an 8.57 ERA in as many games.

Tyler Olson is one of only three pitchers with 20 or more innings and a 0.00 ERA in the same year, as well. (Wikipedia).

Enough high-ERA talk: Let’s talk low ERAs. The best mark in a season among pitchers with 20-plus appearances is … 0. In 2017, the Indians’ Tyler Olson didn’t allow a single run in 30 games … then he had a 4.66 ERA in 82 appearances between 2018 and 2019 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since. Earl Moore, a solid Dead Ball Era pitcher, holds the season mark for most innings with an ERA of 0.00, tossing 26 scoreless frames for the Phillies in 1908. He was 163-154 with a 2.78 ERA overall.

The Hall hasn’t called yet, either: From 1904 to 1919 – the span of his career – outfielder Sherry Magee appeared in more games, had more plate appearances, more at-bats, more runs, more doubles, more triples, more RBI, more total bases, more extra base hits and was on base more than anyone in the National League. Second behind him in all those categories? Honus Wagner. Now THAT is impressive.

Greatest fielding pitcher ever? Per Baseball-Reference.com, reliever Luis Vizcaino, who appeared in 543 games from 1999 to 2009, is the only qualifying pitcher with a career of 10 seasons or more to never commit an error. (To qualify, a hurler needs 500+ innings pitched).

Lamenting that deal: You know, I didn’t think the Athletics’ Matt Olson would’ve kept up his hot hitting all year long. In my fantasy league, I traded him with catcher Jacob Stallings and infielder Joshua Fuentes for first baseman Pavin Smith and starting pitchers Zach Eflin and Mike Minor. I’m also 11th out of 20 teams.

He died: I’ve said I don’t want to make this a death blog, so I’m adamant about only announcing the deaths of the most famous players in the game. Also Wang Kuang-hui, who played a few years in Taiwan’s major league, died today.

Aroldis Chapman saves 300th game.

Aroldis Chapman‘s 300th save ties him with Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter and Jason Isringhausen for 29th all-time. (Wikipedia).

In this whirlwind season of milestones, with Miguel Cabrera walloping his 500th home run and nearing 3,000 hits, with Max Scherzer nearing 3,000 Ks and Jon Lester drawing closer and closer to 200 wins, a pretty incredible feat slipped by and I didn’t even note it.

On August 26, fireballing Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman earned his 300th career save.

Against the Athletics that night, with less than 9,000 fans in attendance, Chapman faced four batters and, after a few hiccups, managed to sit the necessary three of them down to preserve a 7-6 victory.

Number nine hitter Elvis Andrus flew out to start the bottom of the ninth inning, then Mark Canha whiffed. How apropos, Chapman K-ing someone in this historic game. Starling Marte singled, then stole second. It became a little dicey, as Matt Olson, a Most Valuable Player candidate, was the next man up. No worries, he grounded out to second base.

The crowd thundered uproariously at Chapman’s majestic feat—in his dreams that night, I imagine—as he joined a club of now 31 men, headed by the likes of Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.

It was a milestone that Chapman seemed almost destined to reach from the day he defected from Cuba in 2009. As far as defections go, it was pretty bland. Playing in the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands, he walked out the front door of his team’s hotel into a waiting car—and away he went.

Hardly an unknown, he had wowed the baseball world during his years under communist rule and fetched a pretty penny once major league teams came knocking. The Reds inked him to a contract worth more than $30 million; his bonuses alone totaled more than $10 million.

And from there, it was gravy. Before even playing a professional game, Baseball America ranked him the sport’s 22nd-best prospect going into the 2010 season. The Reds sent him straight to Triple A—as a starter—and he responded by striking out 125 batters in 95 2/3 innings. By year’s end, he was in the majors as a reliever, striking out 19 batters in 13 1/3 frames.

Going into 2011, Baseball America elevated him to #7 on their top prospects list—ahead of Manny Machado, Chris Sale, Freddie Freeman, Nolan Arenado and fellow future star finisher Craig Kimbrel.  

With Francisco Cordero holding down the closer’s job, Chapman made 54 relief appearances in 2011, surrendering just 24 hits and striking out nearly 13 batters per nine innings. That K rate would be his lowest total until 2017.

On April 11, he threw a pitch of 106 miles per hour. Aroldis Chapman had arrived.

Seizing the closing role in 2012, Chapman embarked on a—dare I say—legendary run that lasted until 2016. Saving 181 games, he had a 1.84 ERA and 217 ERA+ in those five years. In 313 2/3 innings, he allowed just 168 hits—and had 546 strikeouts. That’s 15.7 per nine innings. In 2014 alone, he averaged nearly two per frame. He was an All-Star each year from 2012 to 2015; in 2012, he finished 8th in Cy Young voting and earned MVP support.

2015 was his final season with Cincinnati. On December 28, they traded him to the Yankees for infielder Eric Jagielo (never reached the majors), pitcher Caleb Cotham (7.40 ERA with the Reds), pitcher Rookie Davis (8.63 ERA with the Reds) and utilityman Tony Renda (.183 average with the Reds).

Cincinnati has been around since the dawn of major league baseball; that still has to be one of the worst trades they ever made.

He wasn’t long for New York, spending about half a season there before being shipped to the Cubs on July 25 to help in Chicago’s playoff push and eventual World Series run. And boy did he help—in 28 regular season games, he had a 1.01 ERA and 418 ERA+, then he had 22 Ks in 15 2/3 postseason innings.

The Yankees re-signed Chapman on December 15, 2016, thereby recouping their losses from the trade to Chicago (with infielder Gleyber Torres to show for it, as well, as he was part of the initial deal).

Since rejoining New York, Chapman has stepped down from superhuman to merely superb. Admittedly, his numbers have taken a dip.

But it’s kind of like a fire dropping from 10,000 degrees to 8,000 degrees—it’s still really freakin’ hot.

From 2017 to 2020, he posted a 2.64 ERA and a 168 ERA+, making two more All-Star teams and averaging over 14 strikeouts per nine innings.

Even this year, with his walk rate double what it was in 2020 and his ERA sitting at 3.77, his numbers are still downright killer. 15.1 K/9 IP. 6.3 H/9 IP. Through May 21—that’s 18 games—he hadn’t allowed a single run. He was stung by three particularly abhorrent appearances, two of which he surrendered 4 and 3 runs, respectively, without recording a single out. Since his last bad showing on July 6, his ERA is 1.88. Remove those three appearances, in which he allowed a combined 11 earned runs in 1/3 of an inning, and his season mark is 1.48.

And it is his hot pitching, not just for most of this year but for his whole career, that has gotten Chapman to the 300 save mark.

He joins a club that now has 31 members—one less than the 3,000 hit club, just three more than the 500 home run club, and seven more than the 300 win club.

But it’s not as illustrious as it sounds. The evolution of the game was such that the conditions for 300-save closers to even exist didn’t begin coalescing until the late 1970s and early 1980s.

So, once every season or two, a new member is added. Kenley Jansen joined in 2019, Craig Kimbrel in 2018, Fernando Rodney in 2017.

While the other clubs are represented by only the very best, Chapman’s less distinguished group contains among the legends and the greats some goods, some decents, a couple mediocres.

Yes, Chapman now stands among Rivera and Hoffman, Fingers and Gossage and Sutter, Wilhelm and Eckersley and Smith. But right there with him, as well, are Jason Isringhausen and Jose Mesa, Todd Jones and his former teammate, Francisco Cordero.

But Chapman is no Isringhausen.

When all is said and done, his face might be carved into a plaque hanging in Cooperstown. He has a way to go—it’s hard to get behind someone with less than 600 career innings pitched—but if he keeps throwing gas and closing games and K-ing batters at rates we might never see again, who knows.

Chapman, that flamethrowing kid who walked out of a hotel into superstardom, might one day, after he retires, get to hear his name called once more.

Not to the mound, but to the Hall of Fame.

***

Chapman might be the last man to reach 300 saves for a few years. Mark Melancon is the next closest at 239, but he is 36 and coming off a decent but underwhelming 2017-2020 run. Joakim Soria (229) and Greg Holland (219) haven’t managed a 20 save season since 2015 and 2017, respectively, so their chances are slim. Edwin Diaz is fourth-closest at 167, and though he’s just 27, he’s been wildly inconsistent since his breakout 2018 campaign. Who knows what the future holds for him.

The next closest are Zach Britton (154 saves), Alex Colome (147), John Axford (144), Wade Davis (141), David Robertson (137) and Sergio Romo (135).

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 29, 2021

Max Scherzer began his transformation from a decent hurler to a Hall of Famer with Detroit. (Wikipedia).

Scherzer 3,000 K watch: With 10 strikeouts on the 26th, Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer put himself just 28 away from 3,000 for his career. He also needs just 12 for 200 on the year; when he reaches that milestone, he will have done it eight times in his career. Upon eclipsing 3,000 Ks, he will all but seal his chances for Cooperstown. But even if he suffers a catastrophic, career-ending injury in his next start …

Scherzer’s a sure lock: With his statistics (187 W, 2,972 K, 3.17 ERA, 65.4 WAR, 10.7 K/9) being what they are, one can comfortably say Max Scherzer is a future Hall of Famer right now, at this point in his career. Maybe not a first ballot guy, maybe he’d have to wait until the veteran’s committee put him in, but he ranks among the best of this generation, and in this era of high-strikeout pitchers, Scherzer has been among the best the longest.

Can Cabrera collect ‘em all? As the world turned its attention to Miguel Cabrera’s chase for 500 home runs, his quest for 3,000 hits took a backseat. But right now, he’s only 40 away with two games left to play in August. He had 37 hits in a month as recently as September/October 2016 and 41 hits in May 2014. He’ll have to perform as well as he did in his prime, but Cabrera could, feasibly, reach the fabled hits milestone this year.

Ibanez rocks: Royals rookie second baseman Andy Ibanez just recently concluded an eleven-game hitting streak in which he hit .488 with 6 doubles and 2 home runs. Over the past week, he’s hit .458 and raised his season average to .260, up from .200 on August 14. He recently got a boo-boo, however, and is currently day-to-day.

Mercadoubt: Oscar Mercado, a 26-year-old outfielder for Cleveland, made waves as a rookie in 2019 when he hit 19 home runs with 54 RBI and 15 stolen bases, to earn some Rookie of the Year support. Since then, he’s hit just .194 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI in 82 games, casting doubt on whether he’ll ever live up to his first-year promise.

Abreu had a 20.25 ERA in 2 games with New York in 2020. (Wikipedia).

Just one bad game: Yankees reliever Albert Abreu had a 1.88 ERA and .091 OBA through his first 14 1/3 innings of the season, then on July 29, he surrendered 3 dingers and 6 earned runs without getting an out, raising his 2021 mark all the way to 5.65. Since then, he has a 2.51 ERA, again in 14 1/3 innings—but still carries a 4.08 ERA overall.

The same ol’ Nolin: Prior to 2021, Nationals hurler Sean Nolin hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2015; he missed all of 2016 and 2017 and then bounced around the minors, indy ball, even the Mexican Pacific Winter League and Japan. In his first three stints from 2013 to 2015, he had a 6.89 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. The time away didn’t help: Since returning to the majors, he’s posted a 6.57 mark in 3 starts. His last outing was decent, however, as he allowed just 2 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Mets on August 28.

Mets could do it: The Mets defeated the Nationals handily this afternoon, 9-4, and have now won two-in-a-row, they’re longest winning streak since … who knows how long, my memory isn’t that good (it was actually August 10-12). Baseball Reference says they still have a 0.4% chance of making the postseason. They’re facing some weak teams over the final stretch of the season, so what if …

It’s been a while: The last time a rookie pitcher had 5 or more shutouts was in 1983, when Orioles hurler Mike Boddicker had exactly that many and led the league. The last time a rookie even had three shutouts in a campaign was 1995, when Hideo Nomo did it for the Dodgers; he also led the league. And when did a rookie last lead the league in shutouts at all? 2019. The Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara had two.

Complete games are a rarity, too: Boddicker and the Rangers’ Mike Smithson were the last rookie hurlers with 10-plus complete games in a season, achieving the feat in 1983. In an indictment on today’s game, the last rookie pitcher to complete even five games in a season was the Dodgers’ Ismael Valdez in 1995; even worse, J.A. Happ was the last rookie to manage 3 CGs, doing so in 2009.

Rarer than no-hitters? Since 2019, only eight pitchers have thrown more than one shutout in a season. There’s been that many no-hitters this year alone.

Got ‘em all in one year: Shortstop/outfielder Eric Yelding spent five years in the major leagues in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, playing for Astros and Cubs. He stole 89 bases in his career—in 1990 with Houston, he swiped 64 of them.

Willy kept going: Speaking of speedsters with short careers, Willy Taveras—who stole 68 bags for the Rockies in 2008—was playing independent ball for the Sugar Land Skeeters as recently at 2019. Who knew. He last played in the majors in 2010.

A home for the washed-up: That 2019 Skeeters team featured myriad players who you thought were long since retired. James Loney, who last played in the majors in 2016, spent time with them, as did Mitch Talbot (2011), Denis Phipps (2012), Daniel Schlereth (2012), Josh Prince (2013), Felipe Paulino (2014), Cesar Cabral (2015), Dallas Beeler (2015), Matt West (2015), Ryan Jackson (2015), Rico Noel (2015) and Cody Stanley (2015), among others.

With the minor league August Browns in 1886, Suck hit .091 in 88 at-bats. (Wikipedia).

How many did he have to hit? Moe Hill spent 15 years in professional baseball, including nine seasons in the Twins system. From 1971 to 1978, he played for the Single A Wisconsin Rapids Twins—which, in itself, was an impressive feat, since by his last season with them, he was 31 and almost a full decade older than the average man in the Midwest League. Even more amazingly: He won four home run titles in a row, from 1974 to 1977. Despite hitting 267 career home runs, he peaked at Double A and never earned a big league call.

He lived up to the name: Tony Suck, a utilityman in 1883 and 1884, hit .151/.205/.161 in 205 career at-bats, for an OPS+ of 24. He was born Charles Anthony Zuck—shoulda kept the original name.

 No camping under that one: Remember when Braves pitcher Rick Camp, then a .060 hitter, hit an 18th-inning, game-tying home run … at 3 in the morning?  

Article from the archives—Adrian Beltre: What 1,000 runs scored means for Rangers third baseman

On April 14, 2011, Adrian Beltre—a future Hall of Famer who was anything but a sure thing at that point—scored his 1,000th career run. It’s not a huge feat, as mentioned in this article, but I decided to memorialize it with some prose anyway. Usually I wouldn’t post something like this, because really all it does is announce something (that happened 10 years ago), but there were enough fun facts and trivial information throughout that I thought you’d enjoy reading it.

***

Adrian Beltre turned it on in his 30s after slashing just .271/.327/.459 in his teens and 20s. (Wikipedia).

Just the other day, on April 14, Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre scored his 1,000th career run. Oh, you didn’t hear about it? Well, that’s to be expected—the feat wasn’t particularly well-publicized and run milestones don’t seem to garner much attention anyway.

What, then, makes the 33-year-old Beltre’s 1,000th crossing of home plate meaningful, or worth noting, or so valuable that one should put metaphorical quill to parchment and expound upon the landmark?

First, it’s a pretty impressive feat, even if it’s not particularly rare—he joins a club with 29 other active members and over 300 members overall. The active crew is riddled with greats like Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki—that’s a pretty good fraternity to be in.

Most importantly, however, it signals that the Dominican third sacker could be quietly putting together a Hall of Fame career.

Third basemen with 1,000 runs, 2,000 hits and 300 home runs are a pretty rare breed—only four have posted those numbers since 1980, with Beltre and Cooperstown shoo-in Chipper Jones amongst the flock. Compare that to first basemen: In that span, more than twice as many initial sackers have posted those types of numbers. Clearly, third sackers with even decent power and hit-ability—by first base’s standards, at least—are hard to come by.

And Adrian Beltre is one of them, placing him in an elite group.

Of course, that is not to say that if Beltre were to retire today he would be a Hall of Famer—sure, among his positional peers he is in a supreme cabal, but to the untrained eye, he is still only decent.

Since third basemen don’t often reach the “milestone” numbers like 500 home runs and 3,000 hits with regularity, they are often underappreciated and even considered inferior to players at other positions on the diamond. They are somewhere between the historically uber-defensive shortstop and second base positions and the uber-offensive first base and right field positions. Being caught in that in-between segment of the baseball spectrum is one of the reasons why third base is an underrepresented position in the Hall of Fame.

And that’s why Beltre needs to keep adding to his career totals and accolades before he can rightfully claim a spot in Cooperstown.

Yes, he has three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers, but a couple more of each wouldn’t hurt. Sure, he’s been an All-Star twice and, though All-Star appearances aren’t always a huge indicator of a Hall of Fame career—Robin Yount was only selected to three and Bert Blyleven to two—it wouldn’t hurt for him to tack on a couple more to his resume, lest he toil on the ballot for over a decade as 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Blyleven did.

And while accolades are nice, they don’t mean nearly as much if statistics aren’t there to back them up. Yes, 2,000 hits and 300 home runs are good—fantastic, even, for third basemen—but they don’t jump out at voters and the layperson. Fellow hot corner specialist Gary Gaetti had over 2,200 knocks and 360 longballs to boot and, though he is fondly remembered, no one is clamoring for his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Because of the position he mans, it is hard to say what Beltre needs to do to gain Cooperstown membership. Mike Schmidt earned election after hitting 548 home runs and playing great defense, yet Ron Santo entered the Hall, albeit after a long wait, with 342 dingers and defense that was only slightly above average, according to Defensive WAR. It’s a variable position with variable “rules” for induction.

Instead, let’s look at what he is on pace to achieve, according to famed Sabermatrician Bill James’ projection system called the “Favorite Toy,” and see if those numbers are enough to earn him the most prestigious call in all of baseball.

Chipper Jones finished with 468 home runs and 2,726 hits. (Wikipedia).

Using the tool, we find that Beltre is projected to hit 403 home runs and finish with 2,765 hits. He’s heading towards nearly 1,500 RBI and over 1,300 runs. Now those are Hall of Fame numbers and notably, they are not digits constructed from fantasy—they are what he is on pace to achieve per the extrapolation system.

In the history of the game ever, only four third basemen have hit over 400 home runs. Only three have collected at least 2,700 hits. Yet not one has combined such power numbers with those hit totals—something Beltre is statistically projected to do.

Chipper might be the first to join that club—he stands only 80 hits away from 2,700 and he already has over 450 moonshots—but Beltre, being half of that guild of two, would be a no-doubter for the Hall if he reached those numbers.

Now, that’s not saying he has to reach those marks to be a Hall of Famer. He could as easily collect 2,400 hits and whack 350 home runs and one day earn election, but he’d have to wait a few years, just as Ron Santo did. (Coincidentally, Beltre is most statistically similar to Santo through age 32, according to Baseball-Reference.com).

However Beltre’s career turns out, it’s hard to believe I’m talking about his blooming Hall of Fame prospects. To think: This was a guy people thought was washed up in 2005!

***

Beltre went on to score a lot more than 1,000 runs in his career and beat the projections set forth in the article handily. He is the only third baseman, and just one of 11 players, to finish with over 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. Having done so, he ranks among names like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial.

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 25, 2021.

Just needed a year away: Mariners pitcher Chris Flexen disappointed with the Mets from 2017 to 2019, going 3-11 with an 8.07 ERA. In 68 innings, he allowed 91 hits and 54 walks, while striking out just 49 batters. After a year in Korea in which he went 8-4 with a 3.01 ERA and 10.2 K/9 IP in 21 starts, he returned to the majors this year and is a whole new man. With Seattle, he is 11-5 with a 3.54 mark in 24 starts. (I’m also aware I could have worked a “Flexen/Flexin’” pun in there somewhere).

Baseball America ranked Jorge Alfaro the 41st-best prospect going into 2017. (Wikipedia).

Take what you can get: Marlins fans have little to celebrate this year; catcher Jorge Alfaro included. Until recently. Over the past month, he’s hitting .284 with 7 doubles and 10  RBI, bringing his season average up over 20 points from .214 on July 23. It’s about time he starts paying off—the Marlins traded All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies for him.

Name checks out: Rays reliever Shawn Armstrong hasn’t had much to brag about this year, posting an 8.55 ERA during his time with the Orioles and a 7.20 ERA overall. Since being purchased by Tampa Bay, however, his fortunes have changed: In 3 appearances this past week—his first since early June—the hurler has tossed 5 innings, Ked 8 batters and posted a 1.80 ERA. Through mid-May, he had a season ERA over 10.

Garcia’s got it: Cardinals relief pitcher Luis Garcia, who is one of those guys you don’t realize has been around nearly a decade, is pitching just as well now as he ever did. Like Armstrong, his campaign started off poorly—not making his season debut until July 9, he had an ERA over 10 through his first 5 games. Since July 28, he hasn’t allowed a single run in 15 1/3 innings, surrendering just 1 walk and 7 hits. Hitters have batted an anemic .135/.151/.173 during that stretch. He had an All-Star quality campaign in 2017, when he posted a 2.66 ERA and 163 ERA+ in 66 appearances for Philadelphia.

Rookie of the Week? Over the past seven days, Royals rookie third baseman Emmanuel Rivera has slashed .353/.450/.588 with 5 runs. It’s a tidy line for the 25-year-old, who also slugged his first career home run, a solo shot off Cubs pitcher Zach Davies. Rivera was drafted by Kansas City in 2015 and had a good year with Single A Lexington in 2017, hitting 12 home runs, 27 doubles and driving 72 runs home.

Bernie Williams lasted two years on the Hall of Fame ballot. (Wikipedia).

Bernie better than we thought: For seven years, Bernie Williams was incredible. From 1995 to 2002, he slashed .321/.406/.531, while averaging 24 home runs, 102 RBI and 105 runs scored per campaign. From 1993 to 2006, he averaged 156 hits, 20 home runs and 92 runs scored per season, while batting an even .300; he had double digit home runs each year and reached 100 runs and RBI eight and five times, respectively. He was no slouch in the postseason, hitting 22 home runs with 80 RBI in 465 at-bats; he batted .321 in 162 ALCS ABs, winning the Series MVP in 1996. It’s unlikely he’ll be elected any time soon, but Williams wouldn’t hurt the Hall of Fame if he got in.

Off to a great start: Relief pitcher Indigo Diaz was drafted by the Braves in the 27th round in 2019 and is in his first full professional season this year. He’s already making a name for himself. In 40 innings over 29 appearances, he has allowed just 16 hits and struck out 77 batters—that’s 17.3 per nine innings. He averaged exactly 2 per frame at Single A; in 11 games at Double A, he has a 0.00 ERA. His mark is 0.68 overall.

Give him a call: With Rhode Island College this year, pitcher Shaun Gamelin struck out 42 batters in 18 2/3 innings—that’s more than 20 per nine frames — then he went to play summer ball with the New England Collegiate League’s Ocean State Waves … and had 32 Ks in 15 innings. In case you’re counting, that’s 74 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings overall, or 19.8 per nine frames, or more than two per inning, on average. In 2020, he had 7 strikeouts in 3 innings and in 2019, 64 strikeouts in 37 innings between two teams. The 5’ 9” hurler never played for baseball powerhouses—his schools, Rhode Island College and Fitchburg State University have produced just one major leaguer (Jim Siwy) between them—and he went undrafted, but a big league club better give him a call. I think they’re missing out.

Welcome to the century club: George Elder, an outfielder who spent 41 games with the St. Louis Browns in 1949, turned 100 on March 10. He’s not even the oldest living former big leaguer—Eddie Robinson, who played from 1942 to 1957, was born a few months earlier and will be turning 101 in December.

The fading ‘40s: Just ten men who played in the 1940s are still alive: Eddie Robinson (debuted in 1942), Chris Haughey (1943), Eddie Basinski (1944), Tommy Brown (1944), Curt Simmons (1947), Carl Erskine (1948), Larry Miggins (1948), Cloyd Boyer (1949), George Elder (1949) and Bobby Shantz (1949). Some are so obscure, they might have already passed away and the news just never reached the public.

Just four remain: The St. Louis Browns, the precursors to the Baltimore Orioles, have just four living representatives: George Elder, Billy Hunter, Ed Mickelson and Frank Saucier. The youngest, Hunter, was born in 1928.

Let’s just call him by his nickname, Salty. (Wikipedia).

Saltala—what? Ever wonder what former catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s last name actually means? It’s Italian for “jump over” (salta) “the thicket” (la macchia). La macchia also translates to “the spot.” At 14 characters, his surname is the longest ever; fifteen men had surnames of 13 characters—relatively modern names like Todd Hollandsworth, Tim Spooneybarger and John Van Benschoten among them.

Noe what that means: There’s been two Noes in big league history, pitcher Noe Ramirez and catcher Noe Munoz. It’s not a common name, but it derives from one. Its root is noach—whence Noah arises—which is Hebrew and means rest or comfort.

Not a one at-bat wonder: Speaking of Noe Munoz—he spent just two years in affiliated baseball, playing in the Dodgers system in 1994 and 1995, and had just one big league at-bat. He went hitless. Returning to the Mexican League, he played another 19 years there, giving him a career total of 25 seasons. He played until he was 46.

You got the wrong guy: Joe Torre played professionally on-and-off from 2012 to 2020. Oh, not that one. This Joe Torre, an infielder, played 28 games over four seasons in some obscure independent leagues—the Pacific Association, the Pecos League and the one-off Yinzer Baseball Academy—and hit just .152 … just a bit short of his namesake. And who can forget reliever Mike Piazza, no relation to the Hall of Fame catcher, who played in the minors from 2009 to 2014.

Desperate times: With coronavirus upending the baseball world in 2020—seasons were shortened and, frequently, cancelled—a bunch of new independent circuits cropped up to give guys a place to play and leagues for established teams to join. Among them were the Liberation League (which featured teams like the California Dogecoin), the City of Champions Cup (with teams like the Nerd Herd), the All-American Baseball Challenge, the Constellation Energy League and the aforementioned Yinzer Baseball Academy.

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.