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: 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.