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.

Hey, you don’t belong there! The unexpected members of two elite clubs.

Willie Mays led the league in stolen bases four times and home runs thrice. (Wikipedia).

In baseball, a player can get by with just one standout offensive skill. Dave Kingman hit lots of home runs … and didn’t do much else. Juan Pierre stole a lot of bases … and that was about it.

So when a man combines multiple talents into one package, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

Power-speed guys aren’t necessarily hard to come by. There have been 431 instances of a player hitting at least 20 home runs and stealing at least 20 bases in a season, and quite a few men have racked up substantial career totals in both categories. Though later known primarily as a slugger, Barry Bonds was the best at doing it, stealing 514 bags to complement his 762 home runs.

In fact, many players remembered as home run hitters were multi-skilled athletes, with the likes of Hank Aaron stealing 240 bases, Willie Mays swiping 338 and Sammy Sosa pilfering 234.

Frank Robinson. Gary Sheffield. Reggie Jackson. All speedsters at one point in their careers.

But to manage a truly substantial total of each statistic, that’s difficult. Only eight players have reached 300 home runs and 300 steals, for example. Try to name them.

Let’s start with the easy ones: Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez (696 HR, 329 SB) and Willie Mays (660 HR, 338 SB) did it. But then it gets a little more challenging. Hall of Famer Andre Dawson (438 HR, 314 SB) got there, and so did future Hall of Famer Carlos Beltran (435 HR, 312 SB).

Bobby Bonds, Barry’s dad, had 332 home runs and 461 steals, and is one of just two members with more swipes than dingers. Okay, so it’s getting tougher.

Now for the last two. If anyone illustrates why being a member of an illustrious group is not a surefire indicator of Hall of Fame worthiness, it is them.

Steve Finley only had one 20-20 season. (Wikipedia).

Steve Finley was a speedster early in his career, swiping 136 bases before ever hitting 10 home runs in a season. From 1996 to the end of his career, he found his power stroke and pulled off six 25 home run campaigns to just one 20-steal season.

Three hundred home runs was never a given, even after he became a slugger, and he only got there by dragging his career into his 40s and smacking 7 homers over his final two campaigns. He finished with 304 home runs and 320 steals.

*An argument for Cooperstown could reasonably be made for Steve Finley, and his being a member of the 300-300 club would be a major part of it. For most it would be tenuous at best, though those with a “big Hall” mentality might be swayed.

And then there’s Reggie Sanders. Never a star and a name largely forgotten today, he had less than 1,700 hits, made just one All-Star team, and received nary a vote in his one try on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Granted, he rattled off nearly 15 seasons of impressive consistency.

Though he hit 30-plus home runs and stole 30 or more bases just twice each, he crawled his way into the 300-300 club by hitting no less than 11 home runs and swiping no fewer than 14 bags per season from 1992 to 2005. He had four 20-20 seasons but, interestingly, never led the league in power-speed number.

More so than career HR-SB clubs, those of the single season variety get a bit more attention. The 40-40 club is known for its rarity, having been established by Jose Canseco in 1988 and since joined by Barry Bonds (1996, 42 HR, 40 SB), Alex Rodriguez (1998, 42, 46) and Alfonso Soriano (2006, 46, 41).

The 30-30 club has 41 members; it is to power and speed what 50 dingers is to home runs. It’s the hallmark of an excellent season. (40-40, then, could be considered analogous to a 60 home run campaign).

Then there’s the 50-20 club. It’s as rare as its 40-40 counterpart but receives no press.

It has four members:

In 1955, Willie Mays smashed 51 home runs and totaled 382 bases to lead the league in both categories. He added 24 stolen bases—one of his lowest totals at that point in his career—and finished fourth in Most Valuable Player voting.

From 1997 to 1999, Ken Griffey Jr. was the yearly home run champion. In 1997, he socked 56 and in 1998, he walloped the same amount—and swiped exactly 20 bases.  Welcome aboard, Ken. Like Mays, he was fourth in MVP balloting, one year after winning the award. He nearly joined the 50-20 club again in 1999, falling just two home runs short.

And in 2007—how can anyone forget this historic campaign?—Alex Rodriguez launched 54 dingers and stole 24 bases, pacing the loop in home runs, runs scored (143), RBI (156), slugging (.645), OPS (1.067), OPS+ (176) and total bases (376) to bring the MVP home. In one of the most sparkling careers in big league history, it was perhaps Rodriguez’s greatest showing.

And that should be all of ‘em—hold on, 1-2-3- … we’re missing one here.

Oh, wait a minute, who let this guy in?

In 1996, Brady Anderson joined the fraternity when he hit 50 home runs and stole 21 bases in one of the most unexpected seasons ever. Give credit where it is due, Anderson had a great year. A career year. About a quarter of the home runs he hit in his 15 seasons were mashed in ’96 alone.

But it wasn’t a season for the ages. Mays, Griffey, Rodriguez—their campaigns were for the record books. Anderson’s, well, hey, he joined the 50 home run club and stole a bunch of bases. That’s cool.

While the other members led the league in at least one major category, Anderson paced the loop in … hit by pitches.

While the other guys scored and drove in at least 120 runs, Anderson’s totals were 117 and 110, respectively, a bit more pedestrian.

Rodriguez and Griffey each won a Silver Slugger. Mays and Griffey each finished fourth in MVP voting; Rodriguez won the dang thing.

Anderson finished ninth.

For three of the four men, the feat was a cherry on top of a Hall of Fame-quality career. For Anderson, it was an interesting historical footnote.

But that’s the way it goes. Unless a club is itself a marker of greatness—500 home runs, 3,000 hits, 300 wins—it often, if not usually, has at least one member that’s a head scratcher, one that does not quite belong. Even the 40-40 club has Soriano, who, though excellent, was no Bonds, or Rodriguez, or even Canseco.

Baseball, ain’t it grand. It allows a man to rank among a pantheon of greats—even when he, himself, is but a mere mortal.