Random autograph of the day: Colin Dixon

Colin Dixon was taken in the same round as future notable names Brian Giles and Mark Grudzielanek, but did not achieve similar success. His minor league career was one of few highlights, however his 1994 campaign stands out. Having never before hit more than 4 home runs in a season, he walloped 19 dingers with 79 RBI for the unaffiliated San Bernardino Spirit that year. That convinced the Rockies to sign him, though he lasted just one season in their system before being let go. He later became a financial planner and baseball coach. 

Random autograph of the day: Brad Cresse

Brad Cresse had a stunning initial professional campaign, 2005, posting a .312/.398/.600 slash line in 63 games between two teams; His 18 home runs were a career high, and his 66 RBI were his second-highest mark. Though a step down, his sophomore year was anything but a slump — he walloped 39 doubles with 14 home home runs in 118 games. Not bad for a catcher!

But two statistical points truly stand out: He had almost no speed on the base paths and he only rarely drew walks. In 539 games over seven seasons, he stole just one base; in 2,123 plate appearances, he drew just 172 walks. To put it in perspective, Mark McGwire hit home runs more frequently than Cresse managed a base on balls. 

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 26, 2021.

The Mayor of Ding Dong City. (Wikipedia).

Shaw still impressing: Red Sox first baseman Travis Shaw returned to the majors after a couple months away on August 17 and on the 23rd, walloped a grand slam. He’s kept the parade going by hitting a solo shot the next day and a double yesterday. Despite his recent hot streak, his season batting average is still below .200.

Phillips is just grand: You wouldn’t it know it by looking at his line over the past 30 days, but Rays outfielder Brett Phillips has had one heck of a month. In 41 at-bats, he’s had just 9 hits for a .220 average—but 5 of those knocks left the yard and 2 of them were doubles. That gives him a .634 slugging percentage. And about those dingers? Three were grand slams, two of which came two games in a row. He added 15 RBI and 12 runs to his ledger and now has 10 home runs on the year.

Keep going, Alex: Dodgers reliever Alex Vesia has allowed just one run over his past 20 appearances going back to late May. No one has scored on him since July 30. He has a 2.40 ERA in 28 games on the year.

Doing what he Wantz: Andrew Wantz, a relief pitcher for the Angels, debuted on July 4. Since then, he’s made 7 appearances and has at least one strikeout in each of them—for a total of 17 in 9 2/3 innings. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he averaged 18.4 K/9 IP in the minors in 2018.

In the Loup: The Mets swoon makes it hard to see the positive in anything, but it is difficult to ignore the incredible performance of relief pitcher Aaron Loup. He has made 50 appearances this year, with a tiny ERA of 1.06 and a superhuman ERA+ of 378. Loup has always been a good pitcher, but this season is his best yet. That’s refreshing, a pitcher having his career year with the Mets, not the season or two after he escapes New York (ahem, Scott Atchison).

One is enough: Barring any of the hurlers make another appearance, the Mets are on pace to have eleven pitchers toss just a single game this year.  That would be the most ever, beating the previous record of nine set by the Baltimore Orioles—the old Baltimore Orioles—back in 1886.

He’s still playing? Every once in a while, I see a name on an active roster that I haven’t thought about in a while and it makes me think, he’s still playing? Such is the case with Tigers starter Drew Hutchison, who debuted with Toronto way back in 2012 and has yet to stick anywhere. He won 13 games for the Blue Jays in 2015, but had a 5.57 ERA; this year, with Detroit, he’s made 2 starts without a victory.

Put me in, coach! Utilityman Bill Collins appeared in parts of five seasons for four teams in the 1880s and 1890s—and played just one game in four of them. In 1891, the Ireland native caught his big break when he appeared in two games for the Cleveland Spiders.

Hughie Jennings was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945. (Wikipedia).

Happens to Hall of Famers, too: Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings did something similar. As manager of the Tigers after his playing days were over, he would occasionally insert himself into the lineup. He played a single game for Detroit in 1907, 1910, 1912 and 1918; he did it twice in 1909. When he did it in 1918, he was 49 years old.

Nick, too: Pitcher Nick Altrock holds the record for most seasons with just a single appearance, with eight. Much like Jennings, he would make occasional showings on the field after joining the Washington Senators coaching staff. He first did it in 1912 at age 35; his last appearance, as a pitcher at least, was in 1924 at 47 (he also hit a triple in that game). He then played in the outfield once in 1929, pinch hit in 1931 and did so again in 1933 at age 56.

Forty and you’re gone: Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo cranked 47 home runs in 2016 and was out of the majors after 2019. It’s actually not super rare, a man hitting 40-plus homers in his fourth-to-last campaign. But only twice has a player hit 40 or more home runs one season, just to play his last the next: In 2016, the Brewers Chris Carter had 41 home runs and 94 RBI; with the Yankees in 2017, he hit .201 with 8 dingers and that was it. In 1946, Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg belted 44 homers for Detroit; though he hit 25 with Pittsburgh the next year, 1947 was his final campaign.

Mark Trumbo hit 218 home runs in his career. (Wikipedia).

Counting is tough: Hey Mets fans, remember when Benny Agbayani forgot the number of outs?

Born at sea: Multiple countries have had just one representative play major league baseball: Belgium had Brian Lesher, Peru has Jesus Luzardo, Greece had Al Campanis. But only one player, that we are aware of, doesn’t have a country of origin. That’s Al Porray, who is listed as “born at sea,” on the Atlantic Ocean, in 1888. The starting pitcher made three appearances for the Buffalo Buffeds of the Federal League in 1914.

More autograph reminiscing: Most baseball players sign relatively fast through the mail. Less than one hundred days is the norm, I’d say. But some, well, they drag their feet—in 2013, I received former Athletics outfielder Jeremy Giambi in 2,423 days … that’s more than six-and-a-half years! But 1990s relief pitcher Kevin Campbell even beat that, taking over seven years to return my card. Brandon Wood, the slugging former Angels prospect, took four-and-a-half years. I didn’t receive many big names that year, because I was mostly sending to retired former minor leaguers. But I did get current Red Sox star J.D. Martinez, back when he was a lowly no-name with Houston. (Also, speaking of former minor leaguers, my other website, MiLB Addresses, is a database of addresses for those guys—and every one has had a success reported from it).

Random autograph of the day: Brandon Cromer

You might be more familiar with Cromer’s brothers, Tripp and D.T., both of whom reached the major leagues. However, Brandon had a strong baseball pedigree in his own right, being taken as a supplemental pick by the Blue Jays in the 1st round of the 1992 amateur draft. His 1994 season stands out for a negative reason — in 80 games and 259 at-bats in Single A, he hit just .135. That’s with a ‘1’. Astonishingly, the Blue Jays moved him up a level the next year anyway, where his averaged improved over 100 points to a still meager .237. Cromer never put it all together, so — though he hit 24 home runs his first and only full year at Triple A — he never reached the majors. A fourth brother, Burke, played a couple years in the minors, as well. 

Random autograph of the day: Ray Aguilar

Pitcher Ray Aguilar started off with such incredible promise, moving up the low- and mid-minors with ease.

Between his first three professional seasons, he went 16-7 with a 1.99 ERA in 81 games (21 starts). In 248 2/3 innings, he allowed just 191 hits, 61 walks and 11 home runs, while striking out 268 batters. He even won his first Triple A appearance. Granted, he was usually pitching at levels below his age group, however the numbers speak for themselves.

During his first extended stay at Triple A, in 2004, things began to go south — he had a 6.21 ERA in 9 starts, with diminished strikeout totals. Like many studs-turned-duds before him, he couldn’t recover, and though he went 12-7 in his final pro season, he never reached the major leagues. 

Random autograph of the day: Darrel Deak

Darrel Deak was drafted in the same round as Bobby Higginson, Mike Cameron and Kirk Rueter, but didn’t experience the same level of professional success—in fact, he never reached the majors. He had decent pop (as many as 18 home runs in a season) and, early on, showed a good eye at the plate (.423 OBP his first pro campaign), but he couldn’t make the jump to the bigs. The poor guy spent three full years at Triple A, but never earned a promotion. 

Random autograph of the day: Dan Cholowsky

Dan Cholowsky had a relatively long professional career, eight seasons, but most of his success was had in the low minors. In his second campaign, at Single A, he had 48 steals and a .307 average. Fast forward to his first trial at Triple A three years later, when he hit .218 in 76 games — quite a difference. The mid-minors didn’t do him well either, as he hit just .240 at Double A. He later became a scout.