Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 31, 2021.

DJ Stewart was a first round pick in 2015. (Wikipedia).

Stellar Stewart: Demetrius Jerome “D.J.” Stewart, presently of the Baltimore Orioles, has always had power. It’s just that little else accompanies it. Over the past week, however, he’s put it all together, going 4-for-9 with a dinger, 4 RBI, 5 walks and 3 runs scored. Stewart has smashed 25 home runs in 497 career at-bats, but he needs to get his strikeouts (156) under control and his average (.215) up a bit.

In the fast lane: Nationals outfielder Lane Thomas hit .111 in 36 at-bats for the Cardinals last year and began 2021 with a .107 mark in 48 trips to the plate. But a trade to the Nationals—in exchange for struggling starter Jon Lester—has changed his fortunes. In 42 ABs with his new club, he’s hitting .310. In his rookie season, 2018, he slashed .316/.409/.684.

Chargois chugging along: Rays reliever J.T. Chargois has had a great 2021 campaign, but since July, he’s been lights-out. In 20 1/3 innings, he’s allowed just 4 earned runs for a 1.77 ERA. Since being traded from the Mariners on July 29, his mark is 0.71 in 12 games. His number is 2.32 in 43 games on the year.

Diamond in the rough: Though he was a third round pick in 2014, Chris Ellis has never been much of a prospect. In 2017, while pitching in the Cardinals system, he was 7-12 with a 5.29 ERA in 30 games (22 starts). But the 28-year-old rookie turned heads with his first and only appearance with the Rays this season, striking out 7 and earning the win in a 4 inning relief appearance against Baltimore on August 17. Now an Oriole himself, he surrendered just 1 run in 4 2/3 innings yesterday.

Worth the wait: On August 26, Ervin Santana recorded his 150th career win. He had been sitting at 149 since September 23, 2017.

Even 150 wins is tough these days: The 150-win club isn’t particularly exclusive, with 266 total members. The next-closest active pitcher? Johnny Cueto, with 135 victories.

Another call for Khalil? Outfielder Khalil Lee, a former top prospect acquired by the Mets in February, had just 1 hit in 18 at-bats in his first try with New York. But it might be worth giving him another shot—with Triple A Syracuse this year, his on-base percentage is .442, the 4th-best mark in the International League (it will always be the International League to me!).

Hat tip to a former Met (prospect): And guess who’s leading the Interna …okay, okay … Triple-A East in home runs? Former Mets third base prospect Aderlin Rodriguez, who played in their system from 2009 to 2015. Playing in the Tigers chain, he has 25 dingers this year, as well as a .304 average, with Toledo. Should he reach the majors, which he has yet to do, it will have been a long, winding path that took him through five big league systems and over to Japan.

Rob Deer hit .220 with 230 home runs in his career. (Wikipedia).

It’s a modern trend: Before 2010, only three players had ever had 20 or more home runs in a season in which they batted .200 or worse: Rob Deer (1991, 25 HR, .179 BA), Ruben Rivera (1999, 23, .195) and Mark McGwire (2001, 29, .187). From 2010 on, it’s happened 12 times—by Mark Reynolds twice.

Pettitte was a workhorse: Andy Pettitte has had trouble gaining traction on the Hall of Fame ballot. But say what you will about him, he was a workhorse, tossing 175 or more innings fourteen times. No active pitcher has done that, with Justin Verlander the closest at 13 instances. Only five pitchers who debuted after 1990 managed it that many times—Pettitte, Mark Buehrle, C.C. Sabathia, Mike Mussina and, most surprisingly, Livan Hernandez.

Relief pitchers can’t hit—oh, wait: On July 19, 1955, Tigers relief pitcher Babe Birrer clobbered two home runs against the Baltimore Orioles. Both were three run shots, giving him 6 RBI on the day. They represented 2 of his 7 career hits and all 6 of his ribbies. A few years later, in 1958, he hit .571 (4-for-7).

Ryan Madson owns two World Series rings. (Wikipedia).

Not easy to guess: Mariano Rivera holds the record for most postseason appearances, with 96. It makes sense—he pitched during the Yankees’ glory years, when they were making the playoffs time and again. Who pitched the second-most games in playoff history? It was Ryan Madson, with 57 (mostly for the Phillies) from 2003 to 2018.

No 300 game winners: No pitcher who debuted in the 1990s won 300 games—Mike Mussina, who arrived in 1991, came the closest with 270. Likewise, the 1950s did not produce any future 300 game winners. 1959 debut Jim Kaat was the closest, with 283 victories. The ‘70s were devoid of such hurlers, as well, with 287-game winner Bert Blyleven, who debuted in 1970, narrowly missing the mark.

Who needs strikeouts: The last pitcher to win at least 20 games in a season with less than 100 strikeouts was Bill Gullickson in 1991. Pitching for the Detroit Tigers that year, he went 20-9 with just 91 Ks. It’s actually rarer for a pitcher to lose 20 games without 100 Ks—since 1950, that’s happened just six times, with the most recent instance being Mike Maroth in 2003 (21 L, 87 K). Twenty-plus victories and fewer than 100 Ks has happened 14 times since 1950.

How’d he win so many? In 1929, the Negro league New York Lincoln Giants’ Connie Rector led the league in earned runs, home runs allowed and hit by pitches. He surrendered more hits than innings pitched and walked more batters than he struck out. He also went 18-1, leading the league in victories and winning percentage. He accounted for nearly half his team’s 40 wins.

That’s a lot of games: The single-season professional record for most games played, as far as we know, belongs to William Devereaux. Playing for the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks in 1904, he appeared in 228. In 777 at-bats, he collected 180 hits for a .232 average.

Not X-actly easy:  Major league baseball has never had a player with a surname beginning with the letter X, and it looks like they won’t for a while. There are no active minor leaguers with such a name.