Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 19, 2021.

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: With another hit today, Cabrera is now 21 away from 3,000 for his career. The Tigers have 12 games left.

Max Scherzer 200 win watch: It’s not possible for him to reach the milestone this season, but put him on your radar for next year: He won number 190 against Cincinnati yesterday and is now just 10 away. Both the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw (184 wins) and Cardinals Adam Wainwright (183) could feasibly reach the mark in 2022, as well.

Mets victories bring no joy: New York beat Philadelphia 3-2 today on Jeff McNeil‘s decisive, tie-breaking, 7th inning home run off starter Kyle Gibson. Oh, but what joy is there in a victory as meaningless as this? For lo, we Mets fans have ridden the highs and lows of this season for these few months and can no longer take the soul crushing lows we are burdened with not just now, but year-in and year-out. I weep at the thought of another disappointing September, knowing we came this far just to lose it all in the end. The forlorn, melancholic chill of the shortening autumn days brings with it the unbearable sadness of the closing of yet another baseball season where redemption is no longer possible and even miracles can no longer save us. Yea, October for Mets fans seems a decade, a lifetime, an eternity away, the light at the end of a tunnel that only gets longer as we trek further and further into it. Why, why, why must the hands of fate wrap their icy, bony, fingers around our hearts and squeeze them until they can no longer beat, wringing us of any hope or optimism? I cry knowing the children of this year shall not see their heroes deGrom and Conforto and Stroman bring them postseason heroics. Oh, isn’t that what the Mets need now, a hero? Can’t anyone here play this game? Or do they not care for victory, just their paychecks? Give us something, anything. 1986 seems so long ago … and it was.

…alright, that was a little over the top, but these Mets, man, what a let down. Every single year it’s the same thing. A great start and they tank toward the end of the campaign. It never ends.

Here comes Kelenic: Mariners top prospect Jarred Kelenic has struggled mightily this season, carrying a .099 average through his first 111 at-bats. But it looks like the sixth-overall pick of the 2018 draft is beginning to put it all together: Since September 7, he has slashed .257/.333/.657 with 4 home runs, 9 RBI and 8 runs scored in 35 at-bats. Ranked by Baseball America as the fourth-best prospect in the game going into 2021, the 21-year-old outfielder tore up Triple-A with a .320 batting average, 9 home runs and 28 RBI in 30 games. His power-speed potential cannot be underestimated—he had 23 home runs and 20 stolen bases between three minor league stops in 2019; between the majors and minors this year, he has 21 dingers and 11 steals.

Dalbec coming into his own: Another highly regarded prospect, corner infielder Bobby Dalbec of the Red Sox, is also turning the corner. After struggling to elevate his average above the .210s for much the campaign, the slugger has slashed .324/.419/.797 with 9 home runs and 23 RBI over the past month. Now 26, he has twice been named by Baseball America as one of the game’s top-100 prospects—and he played like one last year in his big league debut, slugging .600 with a 149 OPS+ in 80 at-bats. Dalbec strikes out frequently, with 145 Ks in 389 at-batsnthis season, but he has the power that could get him to 500 career home runs one day—in 455 ABs between two minor league stops in 2018, he slugged 32 dingers.

A nice run for Lyles: Rangers pitcher Jordan Lyles, who owns a career 5.22 ERA and 82 OPS+ and who has somehow lasted 11 seasons in the major leagues despite being no better than mediocre the entire time, looks like he might finally, belatedly, be living up to his first round billing. Since August 21, he is 4-1 with a 3.73 ERA in 31 1/3 innings; he’s surrendered just 26 hits and struck out as many batters. He owns a 3-0 record and a 1.74 ERA over his last three appearances, spanning 20 2/3 frames. Better late than never—the Rockies took him as a first round, supplemental pick in 2008 after losing reliever Trever Miller to free agency. The Rangers signed him as a free agent in 2019.

Urena’s bouncing back: Tigers hurler Jose Urena has never been an All-Star, but he showed promise as a youngster in the Marlins system in the late 2010s. Between 2017 and 2018, while in his mid-20s, he tossed 343 2/3 innings and surrendered just 307 hits; he maintained a .548 winning percentage on those poor Marlins teams that went a combined 140-183. He had the best ERA among the team’s starters both years. Since then, however, he has gone 8-21 with a 5.45 mark in 203 innings; this year, now with Detroit, he is 4-8, 5.68 in 95 frames. His numbers could have been worse, but over his past 18 innings dating back to July, he has posted a 2.50 ERA with just 3 walks. His WHIP is a disastrous 1.611 this season; he got it down to 1.278 during this stretch.

Notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 18, 2021.

Isbel rose through the minor league ranks quickly, making his professional debut in 2018. (Wikipedia).

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: How many times have I said it’s going to be close? Well, I’ll say it again. Cabrera’s chase for 3,000 hits is going to come down to the wire this season. I’d love to see him make it, but I’d say he has about a 20 percent chance of actually doing so. He had two hits last night, to bring him to 2,978 for his career or 22 away from 3,000, but he went 0-for-4 today … 0-fers are a no-no right now. The Tigers have 13 games left.

Give it up for Isbel: Royals rookie outfielder Kyle Isbel debuted on Opening Day with a 3-for-5, 2 RBI showing, then he went 2-for-4 with 2 runs a couple days later. Then he hit .160 in his next 25 at-bats and was sent to the minor leagues. Kansas City recalled him earlier this month and he has hit .313/.353/.563 with a home runs and 3 RBI in 16 at-bats since. Shades of the Isbel of old.

Hays giving hope: The Baltimore Orioles are the laughingstock of the major leagues. They have been since 2018, at least. However, no one is laughing at Austin Hays’ performance of late—in 109 at-bats over the past month, he has hit .297/.330/.634 with 8 home runs, 22 RBI and 17 runs scored in 101 at-bats. He has struggled for most of the year, carrying a .236 batting average through August 25, but his recent hot streak has brought that number up to .253 with 21 home runs and 65 RBI. With Hays, Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle leading the charge, Baltimore could have a potent offense next year. But about that pitching …

Smooth as silk: Rangers pitcher Jharel Cotton, once upon a time, was a top prospect. In his one somewhat complete season, 2017, he was 9-10 with a 5.58 ERA and 75 ERA+ in 24 starts for Oakland. That impressed no one, so he went to the minor leagues and didn’t resurface in the majors until this season, with Texas. Looks like he’s trying to rebuild his reputation … as a relief pitcher. In his past 15 2/3 appearances, spread over 11 appearances, he has 16 strikeouts and a 1.72 ERA, while batters have hit just .172 against him.

Cool as Colome: To be frank, Twins closer Alex Colome is not the kind of pitcher I would like to have on my team. Too inconsistent. The way he bounces between otherworldly seasons and letdown campaigns reminds me of Fernando Rodney. 2021 began disappointingly, but he has rebounded nicely, saving 4 games, posting a 1.08 ERA and striking out 11 batters over 8 1/3 innings over the past couple weeks. He still has a 3.81 mark on the year.

Wainwright is 183-105 with a 3.34 ERA in his 16-year career. (Wikipedia).

Wainwright’s rebound: Adam Wainwright’s excellent rebound this season has been phenomenal. With a 16-7 record, 2.88 ERA and 134 ERA+, he is pitching like the pre-injury Cy Young candidate of the early and mid-2010s. This resurgence is sure to spark some Hall of Fame talk regarding Waino. Sounds crazy? Not so much. Just as there is a contingent of fans who support (or at the least, “wouldn’t complain” if they got in) the likes of David Cone, Kevin Brown—heck, even the name Kevin Appier has been bandied about—there will, in time, develop a core of supporters for Wainwright. Some Cardinals fans already back him, I’m sure. He’s buried behind the likes of Greinke, Verlander and Scherzer for now, but once they get the call to Cooperstown, Wainwright, and B-and C-grade pitchers like him (C.C. Sabathia might be considered “B” grade) will earn their backers. Should Wainwright somehow reach 200 wins (he’s at 183 now), the milestone-minded crowd will be more likely to jump on his bandwagon.

How many times can we say “til next year?” Well, the Mets lost last night, and as of this writing, they are losing again. To division rival Philadelphia. Who they are competing with for second place in the National League East. Stick a fork in ‘em folks. On the bright side, pitcher Jordan Yamamoto is off the injured list.

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 16, 2021.

A short one today, without the fun facts and did-you-knows. In fact, I might start splitting them into two different pieces each day.

Lester 200 win watch: Cardinals pitcher Jon Lester can hardly buy a win this year, with just six victories—and 12 total decision—in his 25 starts. However, he did win a very important game last night against the Mets, his 199th,   when he went 6 innings, struck out 7 batters and allowed just 2 earned runs. He’s been on a roll since August 25, posting a 2.12 ERA in 29 2/3 innings; however, he still managed just two victories in those five starts. With 189 under his belt, Max Scherzer is nearly 200 wins, as well.

Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: Uh oh. The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is very close to 3,000 hits with 2,976 for his career, but he didn’t make reaching that mark this season any easier by going 0-for-4 against Tampa Bay tonight. He’s 24 away. Detroit has 15 games left.

Valera is heating up: The Blue Jays backup Breyvic Valera, who has one of the coolest names in baseball, has given the club 6 hits, 2 doubles and 8 RBI in 15 at-bats over the past week. Everyone on Toronto’s roster, it seems, appears to be raking right now. I’d love to see the Blue Jays win the World Series.

Don’t worry if I can’t hit: Pirates outfielder Ben Gamel, who has been a complete nonfactor with the bat this past month, managing a measly .224 batting average in 76 at-bats, has still worked a .359 on-base percentage and 11 runs scored thanks to 15 walks. He is hitting .248 on the year, but .257 since joining Pittsburgh in May.

Nabil nails it: Padres reliever Nabil Crismatt, who also has an awesome name, has been one of the best relievers in baseball in the second half. Since July 3, he’s managed a 1.55 ERA in 29 innings over 17 appearances, walking just 5 batters and K-ing 26. The former Mets prospect has a 2.93 ERA in 37 games this season and a 2.97 mark in 43 career appearances.

Reasons for optimism? Slowly, very slowly, the Mets are getting some of their pieces back from the injured list. Utility man Jose Peraza was activated yesterday, while backup catcher Tomas Nido and pitcher Jake Reed rejoined the club on the 14th. They’re all minor cogs on the club, but New York can use any help it can get. They’re 5.5 games out in the NL East and 5 back in the wild card. Everything has to go right from here on out.

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 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.

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 notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 12, 2021.

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hits watch: With a hit yesterday and another one today, the Tigers Miguel Cabrera edges a little closer to 3,000 hits for his career and is now just 25 away. He is determined to get there: Hitting .481 this month and .326 since July 24, Cabrera is absolutely raking. He even has a .553 slugging percentage since then. What a throwback.

Nick Gordon was the 5th overall pick in 2014. (Wikipedia).

Another great Gordon: Twins second baseman Nick Gordon, the son of former pitcher Tom Gordon and brother of Dee Strange-Gordon, looks poised to continue the family legacy of excellence. Debuting May 6 of this year, the 2014 first round pick hit .303 through July 1 and is carrying a .357/.438/.714 line over the past week. Father Tom was a three-time All-Star and 1998 Rolaids Relief Award winner; brother Dee was twice an All-Star, a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove winner.

Yu are doing fine: Though Yu Chang has never been a high-average hitter, not even in the minors (.253 mark on the farm), when he hits, he hits the ball far. The Indians infielder has a .712 slugging mark with 5 home runs and 11 RBI over the past month. Such power is reminiscent of his 2017 campaign with Double-A Akron, when he slugged 24 home runs in 440 at-bats. Not all is positive, however—he’s hitting just .220 on the year and .207 for his career.

The decline of Davies: Cubs pitcher Zach Davies was an effective, if unsung, hurler from 2016 to 2020, posting a 3.80 ERA and 114 ERA+ in that span. In 2017, he won 17 games for the Brewers; last year, he had a 2.73 ERA in 69 1/3 innings for San Diego. Quite a disappointing year 2021 has been, then, as he is just 6-11 with a 5.40 ERA and 78 ERA+ in 30 starts with Chicago. He is leading the National League in walks with 70 and has a BB/9 IP ratio of 4.4. Before this year, it was 2.6.

Finnegan is unheralded: Nationals reliever—and now closer—Kyle Finnegan has a 2.68 ERA and 150 ERA+ in 59 appearances this season; he is the team’s most-used relief pitcher and has the second-lowest ERA of anyone currently on the club (behind the equally unheralded Ryne Harper). Since July 20, he has a 0.79 ERA in 22 games and his 151 ERA+ since 2020 is the 11th-best in the majors among hurlers with at least 80 appearances.

Give it up for Yusmeiro: I’ve spent some time railing against the K culture in baseball, where everyone seems like a strikeout pitcher. Well, not everyone. The Athletics’ Yusmeiro Petit has managed a solid 2021 season with a 3.30 ERA, 127 ERA+ and 8 wins in a league-leading 70 appearances … all while averaging just 4.3 K/9 IP.

Hopeful for 2022: My love-hate attitude toward the 2021 Mets is an emotional roller coaster. But their play has me hopeful for 2022, at least. This season reminds me a bit of 2005, when they had a new star, Carlos Beltran, who underwhelmed, a closer, Braden Looper, who drove us mad, a starting rotation largely carried by one guy, Pedro Martinez, and a cruddy offense. Sounds familiar? Switch Francisco Lindor for Beltran, Edwin Diaz for Looper and Marcus Stroman (sorry Jacob) for Martinez and you have the 2021 Mets. What did the Mets do in 2006? Put it all together and reach the NLCS.

Schacht was the Washington Senators third base coach for more than a decade. (Wikipedia).

Dropped out of school: Al Schacht, who spent three years in the majors and later became the “Clown Prince of Baseball” didn’t make his high school baseball team, so he went and played semi-professional ball, instead. He later returned to the school team, but was barred from playing because of his involvement with the semi-pro club … so he dropped out of school altogether.

Doesn’t translate to the majors: It’s true what they say: Success in the minor leagues doesn’t always mean success in the majors—even if it comes at Triple-A, the level right below the big time. Consider this, for example: The last Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player to eventually reach the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown was Tony Perez, who won the honor in 1964. The last International League MVP to eventually reach Cooperstown was 1993 honoree Jim Thome.

Couldn’t dodge Jaster: Pitcher Larry Jaster isn’t remembered for much. He spent 7 years in the big leagues and won 35 games. But in 1966, twirling for St. Louis, he tossed a league-leading 5 shutouts … all of which were against the pennant winning Dodgers. That is the record for most consecutive shutouts against one team in a single campaign.

Jaster answers another trivia question: Who was the first player to throw a major league regular season pitch in Canada? Larry Jaster on April 14, 1969 at the Expos’ home opener in their inaugural season.

Bibby led the league in won-loss percentage in 1979 an 1980. (Wikipedia).

Speaking of 5 shutouts: In 1974, the Rangers Jim Bibby tossed 5 shutouts and still finished with a middling ERA of 4.74 and an ERA+ of 75 on the season. He scratched out 19 wins, but also lost that many.

Blue Moon outdid him: If you think Bibby’s performance is bad, check out what Blue Moon Odom managed in 1964, his first campaign. He tossed 17 frames, which included a 9-inning shutout in his second start. Yet, he finished the season with a 10.06 ERA, surrendering no less than 4 earned runs and pitching no more than 4 2/3 innings in any of the other 4 starts he made that year. He lasted 1/3 of an inning in one, 1 inning in another, 2 innings in a third and 4 2/3 frames in the last. That’s the worst ERA among pitchers with campaigns with at least one shutout. More recently, Mariners pitcher Jeff Weaver tossed 2 shutouts in 2007 … and had a 6.20 ERA on the year.

Picked the wrong gig: Negro league pitcher Half Pint Allen (so-called, I imagine, because he weighed 128 pounds) was just 6-7 with a 7.20 ERA in his brief career. But at the plate, he was 11-for-28 (.393 average) with a .469 on-base percentage. In 1932, he had the worst ERA (6.95) on the Baltimore Black Sox among pitchers with more than one appearance and the best batting average (.429) among all players. Looks like he misidentified his calling card.

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 11, 2021.

Hader took part in two no-hitters in the minor leagues. (Wikipedia).

Brewers no-hitter: As I write this, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader combined for the ninth no-hitter of 2021, blanking the Cleveland Indians. Sixteen Indians struck out, including three men who Ked thrice. This reminds me of that span from 2009 t0 2012 when six perfect games were thrown, including three in 2012 alone—people thought that was the end of the perfect game as a rarity, but there haven’t been any since. I’m thinking this crazy year might be an anomaly rather than the new normal, as well.

Rengifo’s nice run: Angels utilityman Luis Rengifo has had an inauspicious first few seasons in the major leagues, hitting .238 in 2019, posting a 32 OPS+ last year and slashing .180/.219/.280 this season. But everyone has a hot streak eventually. Over the past few days, he’s hit .357 with a home run and a couple runs scored.

Who needs Arenado: Edmundo Sosa, the Cardinals 25-year-old infielder, hit just .242 through the end of July. Since then, he’s batted .364/.433/.584 with 14 runs scored and 14 RBI in 77 at-bats. In the same stretch, St. Louis’ star third baseman Nolan Arenado has hit .212 with a .267 on-base percentage.

Kinley’s killing it: Rockies relief pitcher Tyler Kinley’s season ERA of 4.83 won’t wow anyone, but that he’s gotten it down from his 6.20 mark on August 7 might. Since that date, when he gave up 4 earned runs in 2/3 of an inning against the Marlins, he’s posted a 0.61 ERA in 13 appearances, striking out 19 batters in 14 2/3 innings.

This isn’t the Enn: Rays hurler Dietrich Enns made some headlines when he was in the Yankees system back in the day due to his excellent minor league numbers. From 2o12 to 2017, his season ERAs were, respectively: 2.11, 2.94, 1.42, 0.61, 1.73 and 2.05. He finally reached the majors in 2017 with Minnesota; in 4 innings, he allowed 7 hits and had a 6.75 ERA. And that looked like it for Enns, who struggled in the minors in 2018 and 2019. But the Rays picked him up this year and he returned to the majors on August 7. It’s not much, but among his appearances, he’s had two 3-inning scoreless outings since his return to the show.

 Always a thief: Rickey Henderson holds the record for most consecutive seasons with at least one stolen base at 25. Ty Cobb and Omar Vizquel had a steal in 24 straight campaigns.

Had Gwynn’s number: Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn mastered nearly every pitcher he faced. Against Greg Maddux, he batted .429; against John Smoltz, he hit .462. Who, more than anyone, had Gwynn’s number? Omar Olivares, who went 77-86 with a 4.67 ERA in 12 seasons, held the eight-time batting champ to a .120 mark in 25 at-bats against him.

All singles: On July 10, 1932, against the Athletics, Cleveland’s Johnny Burnett set the record for most hits in a game with 9. It was an 18-inning affair that Philadelphia won 18-17. The most hits in a game where all the knocks were singles is 6; it’s happened 18 times since 1901, with Jean Segura, then of the Brewers, most recently doing it against Minnesota on May 28, 2013.

Three triples: The three players to hit three or more triples in a game since 2000 are Rafael Furcal (April 21, 2002), Denard Span (June 29, 2010) and Yasiel Puig (July 25, 2014). It usually happens a couple times per decade, but no one did it in the 1940s.

Brain led the NL with 10 home runs in 1907. (Wikipedia).

Brain’s legs carried him: England-native Dave Brain is the only player since 1901 to hit three triples in a game twice in his career. What’s more, they came in the same season, 1905.

Shot Heard ‘Round the World: Most baseball fans know about this dinger, when the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson clobbered a walk-off, pennant-winning home run, off the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca on October 3, 1951. We know the main characters in this saga—Thomson, Branca—but who was the Brooklyn leftfielder who watched forlornly as the ball sailed over his head into the stands? Andy Pafko, who spent only a year-and-a-half with the club.

Middle East represent: While playing for the Padres, second baseman Craig Stansberry became the first man born in the Middle East to debut in the major leagues when he pinch hit for Rob Mackowiak on August 25, 2007. Born in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, he spent parts of three years in the big leagues and collected 8 hits in 24 at-bats. Pitcher Jeff Bronkey, born in Afghanistan, debuted in 1993, but Afghanistan is technically not  part of the Middle East.

Mark Reynolds hit .236 for his career. (Wikipedia).

Who needs a high average: Most total bases in a season by a batter with an average of less than .200? 216, by Mark Reynolds in 2010. That year, he hit .198.

What a nickname: Manuel Garcia was a Negro league pitcher of the 1920s and 1930s who had the unusual nickname of Cocaina (cocaine). Supposedly, batters seemed almost drugged by his pitches and unable to concentrate on the baseball. According the legendary Buck O’Neil, “he had a wicked curve ball which made all us hitters go numb.” Despite what O’Neil says, the story behind his moniker sounds almost apocryphal, but it’s an interesting tale, nevertheless.

What a deal: You might recall the tale of John Odom, the independent league pitcher was who was traded for ten new baseball bats in 2008. That’s not the first oddball trade in indy league history. In 1996, first baseman Andre Keene was traded partway through the year for cash … and a Muddy Waters album.

8 wins, 4 days: In 1953, minor league hurler Eddie Locke pitched complete games in both ends of a doubleheader four times … and won each game. Though he never played in the major leagues, he was an excellent pitcher, winning twenty-plus games 3 times and 176 for his career.

Perfect baseball name: Tommy Toledo might be the perfect baseball name. It belonged to a relief pitcher who played in the Brewers system from 2011 to 2014. He peaked at Double-A.

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 10, 2021.

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: As I write this, the Tigers have already played today and Miguel Cabrera managed a couple more hits. He now has 2,973 on the year and is just 27 away from 3,000 for his career. Detroit has 20 games left. It’ll be close.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Adell baseball’s #2 prospect in 2019 and 2020. (Wikipedia).

Here comes Adell: Angels phenom Jo Adell impressed no one in his first big league stint in 2020, when he batted just .161 in 124 at-bats. Call them rookie jitters. Over the past week, the top prospect is hitting .450 with 3 home runs, 8 RBI and 4 runs scored. Los Angeles has not impressed this season, posting a 69-71 record thus far … but Adell gives them hope for the future.

Pillar of success: Every time the Mets seem like they are done, something—or someone—crops up that gives me a little more hope. This time, it’s outfielder Kevin Pillar. Since August 28, he’s slashed .355/.444/.806 with 4 home runs, 10 RBI and 8 runs scored. Its been a rough season for Pillar, who’s hitting just .222 overall and who was clocked in the face by a pitch earlier this year.

Don’t mess with Nestor: Yankees hurler Nestor Cortes Jr. has worked in the shadow of Cy Young candidate Gerrit Cole this year, but his performance has been excellent. His season began in relief on June 4 and through July 9, he worked a 1.05 ERA in 22 innings; since then he has started all but one game and posted a mark of 3.59, but that is under control—over his past 5 starts, his ERA is 2.70.

Props to Woodford: Cardinals pitcher Jake Woodford didn’t have an effective first part of the season, carrying a 5.08 ERA through July 31. Demoted to Triple-A Memphis in early August, the righthander returned earlier this month and has performed like an ace. In two starts since returning, he has 8 strikeouts and just 2 walks allowed in 9 1/3 innings of work; his ERA was 0.96 and batters hit .161 against him.

Flick was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963. (Wikipedia).

Two triples, twice in a row: Since 1901, the only player to hit 2 or more triples in a game twice in a row was Hall of Famer Elmer Flick. He did it with the Indians on July 6 and 7, 1903. The record for most consecutives games with at least one triple belongs to the Pirates Owen Wilson, who had 6 in 5 games from June 17 to June 20, 1912. He had 36 that year, a record. The Red Sox Nomar Garciaparra worked a triple 4 games in a row from May 31 to June 4, 2003; he was the most recent player to do that.

A single, a double and a triple: Instances of players hitting a single, double, and triple in consecutive games aren’t exceptionally rare. Since 1901, it has happened 27 times. But since 2000, it’s occurred just twice: By Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki on May 12 and 13, 2001—his rookie year!—and by the Brewers Alex Sanchez on April 13 and 14, 2003. For a while there, it was a feat of the elites: from 1949 to 1967, the only players to do it were Stan Musial (1949), Brooks Robinson (1960), Roberto Clemente (1965) and Pete Rose (1967).

The feared men: Not surprisingly, Barry Bonds holds the record for most games in a row with at least one intentional walk, with 6. In that span, which ran from April 28 to May 7, 2004, he had the wonky totals of 13 at-bats, 15 walks, a .231 batting average and a .643 on-base percentage. Four players have drawn IBBs five games in a row—Tim Raines in 1987, Will Clark in 1988, Bonds in 2002 and Juan Soto last year. Bonds drew an intentional walk four games in a row nine times.

Led in everything, but … Ty Cobb led the league in just about everything at least once. Major categories he never paced the loop in: Games played, plate appearances, walks, strikeouts, hit by pitches and sacrifice flies. He had over 700 plate appearances twice, in 1915 and 1924, but finished second in the league both times.

Not even once: The all-time leader in sacrifice hits is Hall of Famer Eddie Collins, who had 512 in his career—120 more than anyone else. Yet, he never led the league in that category and placed second just once, in 1923.

It’s fitting: Babe Ruth’s first home run, hit on May 6, 1915 when he was with the Red Sox, came against hurler Jack Warhop, a career Yankee. Warhop also surrendered Ruth’s second home run less than a month later.

Gibson managed the Diamondbacks from 2010 to 2014, leading them to the postseason in 2011. (Wikipedia).

MVP, but not an All-Star: 1988 National League Most Valuable Player Kirk Gibson never made an All-Star team—in 1988 or otherwise. That’s quite astonishing, as he earned MVP votes three other times and finished with five 20-20 campaigns.

In common: What do Mickey Lolich, Tris Speaker and Max Lanier have in common? All three were natural right-handers, but switched to being lefties after suffering childhood injuries like broken arms.

Football hero: Dutch Meyer spent six years in the big leagues, mostly in the ‘40s, hitting .264 in 286 games. Though he later became a successful minor league manager, leading his clubs to two league championships, he is largely forgotten. Expect, perhaps, to Texas Christian University football fans. As their kicker in the 1936 Sugar Bowl, he kicked the winning field goal, helping the school best Louisiana State University with a baseball-esque score of 3-2.

Move over, Joe: In 1894, Chicago Colts shortstop/third baseman Bill Dahlen hit safely in 70 of 71 games. He ran a streak of 42 straight, then went hitless in game 43, then hammered out another run of 28 games with hits.

Moncallo passes away: Bernie Moncallo, who managed in the Brewers minor league system in the mid-1990s despite never playing professionally, passed away September 3 at 65.