Facts and whodathunkits from the world of baseball, September 18, 2021.

Home run inflation: Before 1998, no team had ever had ten or more players hit ten-plus home runs in a season; that year, the Orioles and Yankees had exactly that many players do it. Since then, it’s occurred 38 times—with 14 of the instances happening in 2019 alone. Remember the powers that be were adamant that there totally was not a juiced ball that season. The 2019 Yankees hold the record for most players with ten-plus dingers with 14. Get ready, here’s the list: Gleyber Torres (38 home runs), Gary Sanchez (34), Brett Gardner (28), Aaron Judge (27),  DJ LeMahieu (26), Luke Voit (21), Gio Urshela (21), Didi Gregorius (16), Mike Tauchman (13), Edwin Encarnacion (13), Aaron Hicks (12), Clint Frazier (12), Mike Ford (12) and Cameron Maybin (11). The 1952 New York Giants were the first team to feature nine ten-dinger hitters.

Ten game winners: Which team’s pitching staff featured the most ten game winners? It’s a tie between three clubs with seven, each. The 1914 Philadelphia Athletics were the first, with men like future Hall of Famers Eddie Plank and Chief Bender toeing the rubber. They won the AL Pennant that year but lost the World Series to the Boston Braves. The 1939 Yankees, with the likes of Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez among their number, achieved the feat; they beat the Reds in the Fall Classic. The ’76 Reds did it without any future Hall of Famers or anyone winning 15 games. They avenged their 1939 loss to New York, beating them in the World Series.

Shipke hit just .177 against right handers. (Wikipedia).

The power of placebo: Bill Shipke was a weak-hitting third baseman who batted .199 in a career that spanned from 1906 to 1909. At one point in 1908, a fan gave Shipke, then of the Senators, a piece of paper with “magical properties” with instructions to tape it to his bat. Shipke did and had an excellent month after beginning the experiment. No date was specified for when he used the paper, however I surmise it was late May to late June. He rattled off a stretch in which he batted .300 in 42 at-bats.

Just one? The only woman to manage full-time in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was Bonnie Baker. She led the Kalamazoo Lassies to a 36-73 record in 1950. She was a more successful player, earning a couple All-Star selections.

Family affair: The AAGPBL’s Jean Faut pitched for the South Bend Blue Sox from 1946 to 1953. Her manager the final three seasons? Husband Karl Winsch. Faut was one of the best pitchers in the league’s history, tossing two perfect games and two no-hitters. Winsch played in the minors from 1942 to 1944. He managed the Blue Sox through 1954, leading them to a 232-187 record.

Grand slam for the old lady: From the Baseball-Reference.com Bullpen: “On September 14, with Bill Robinson and Ed Ott aboard, John Milner was intentionally walked by Bob Forsch to get to [Phil] Garner, who took him deep to center for a grand slam in the 7th inning. Phil’s wife rarely missed a home game but had not been there and got mad—’How could you hit the only grand slam of your career the one night I don’t come to the game?’ Garner told her he would hit one the next day. On September 15, Omar Moreno, Robinson and Willie Stargell were on base in the first inning, when Garner homered off of Woodie Fryman. It was the first time in 77 years, since Jimmy Sheckard, that a National Leaguer had hit grand slams in consecutive games; Brooks Robinson had done it in the AL in 1962.”

Won the most: The winningest manager in Negro league history was Candy Jim Taylor, who finished with 955 victories, three pennants and two league championships in 27 seasons.

Worst trades in Mets history, #9: Vance Wilson for Anderson Hernandez

This one stung my young Mets fan heart when I was a sprightly and youthful 14 years old. I liked Vance Wilson. As far as backups go, he was a decent option to spell starting catcher Mike Piazza. But, unfortunately, the cold business of baseball doesn’t take the feelings of kids into consideration.

Wilson was taken by New York in the 44th round of the 1993 amateur draft and was one of three men from that round to make the majors leagues, with the others being utility man Bry Nelson and pitcher Ed Yarnall.

Moving up a level per year, his ascension through the minor league system was steady. By 1998, he was in Triple-A. By 1999, he was in the majors for a single game; he didn’t get an at-bat. It was about the same in 2000, as well—four games, four at-bats with the big club.

Two-thousand-and-one was his chance to prove his worth. And boy did he. Though he hit just .246 in 65 Triple-A games, he batted .298 in 57 at-bats over 32 appearances behind Piazza after a mid-season promotion. Through his first 32 at-bats of the season, he carried a .406 average. Now you can see why I came to like him so much. To my young mind, this guy was good!

His arrival was especially refreshing, since his predecessor, Todd Pratt, hit just .163 before being traded to Philadelphia in late July for catcher Gary Bennett. After a few solid years in New York, Pratt had flopped. Bennett was a short-timer.

But Wilson was there to stay.

And for a few seasons, he was a reliable, if not headline-grabbing, backup. In 2002, he hit .245 in 163 at-bats, clobbering five home runs, including the first of his career, a shot off Expos pitcher Javier Vazquez on April 13. An adept fielder, he caught 49 percent of potential base stealers to lead the league.

With Piazza hurt much of the 2003 season, he was New York’s primary catcher, hitting .243 with 8 home runs in 268 at-bats. Okay, maybe starting wasn’t for him—his 75 OPS+ was the worst of his career—so the Mets put him back into a reserve role for 2004 and he responded by hitting .274 with 4 home runs and 21 RBI in 157 at-bats. Quite an impressive rebound.

The Mets thought so, too. In fact, with his stock elevated, they shipped him to Detroit for 22-year-old middle infield prospect Anderson Hernandez in January 2005.

Hernandez made the Mets’ postseason roster in 2006, but got into just two games. (Wikipedia).

If Hernandez panned out, the trade would have been a steal for New York. A backup catcher for a defensive wizard, as Hernandez was? It could have been a huge win for the Mets. But things rarely work out that way in Metsdom.

It didn’t look like he would ever play shortstop for the club, as Jose Reyes was the heir apparent for the position. But he could also play second base.

New York had a revolving door of second basemen in the early and mid-2000s, after Edgardo Alfonzo shifted to third base and, eventually, departed. Roberto Alomar, Kaz Matsui, Miguel Cairo and Jose Valentin all came and went.

Rated alongside Lastings Milledge, Mike Pelfrey and Carlos Gomez as a Mets top prospect, New York was counting on Hernandez to develop into something. But his bat never caught up to major league pitching. He had three cups of coffee with New York from 2005 to 2007, hitting .138 in 87 games.

In August 2008, he was sent to Washington as the player-to-be-named later in a deal for reliever Luis Ayala. Not surprisingly, Hernandez hit .333 with a .407 on-base percentage upon escaping New York.

A couple weeks shy of a year later, feeling sellers remorse, the Mets sent minor league infielder Greg Veloz to Washington to recoup Hernandez to help shore up that injury-ravaged 2009 squad.

With starting shortstop Jose Reyes hurt and his replacement, Alex Cora, tearing ligaments in both his thumbs and needing surgery, New York called on Hernandez to start the rest of the year. He underwhelmed to the tune of a .251 batting average. He fielded just .955 at short.

The Mets left him unprotected and Cleveland claimed him off waivers in March 2010. He spent one more year in the majors, hitting .220 in 54 games between the Indians and Astros, before being sent away for good.

Though Hernandez’s big league career was done, his professional career was not. After a couple seasons in Triple-A, he became a voyager, playing in Mexico, Japan and the Dominican Republic. As recently as 2019-20, he was still going in the Dominican Winter League.

As for Wilson, he collapsed to a .197 average in 152 at-bats for Detroit in 2006 but rebounded to a .283 mark with 5 dingers and 18 RBI in the same number of ABs the next year. Meanwhile, the Mets’ backup that season, Ramon Castro, hit .238 with an 83 OPS+.*

*Granted, Castro himself was an effective backup and I was not enthused when they traded him to the White Sox partway through 2009 for pitcher Lance Broadway, of all people. Broadway had a 6.75 ERA in 8 relief appearances for New York.

’06 proved to be Wilson’s final big league campaign. Injuries limited him to three games at Triple-A in 2007 and he missed all of 2008. He played in the Royals system in 2009—at Double-A—but was released in April 2010, before the season began. He chose to retire.

Wilson was an effective reserve who gave the Mets four solid years of service. In return, they received promise and potential that didn’t work out.

Promise and potential. That defines the Mets of the past, oh, 35 years. But when it comes to production … it rarely manifests itself into anything meaningful.

Not unlike Anderson Hernandez.

Random autograph of the day: Zach Duke

The career of Zach Duke was an interesting trek, one that started in his debut 2005 campaign and ran to 2019 (yes, astonishingly, he was still pitching).

He gave Pirates fans hope with his stupendous rookie campaign, going 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts; he finished 5th in Rookie of the Year voting, despite his truncated season. Those hopes were dashed by the next year, however, as he lost 15 games and led the league in hits allowed, then went 3-8 and 5-14 the next two campaigns, respectively.

In 2009, he made the All-Star team, despite going 11-16, leading the league in losses and allowing 231 hits in 213 innings. In fact, he did not post a winning record from 2006 to 2011, breaking that run with a 1-0, 8 appearance campaign with Washington in 2012.

But that brief stint with Washington, in which he had a 1.32 ERA, was a hint of things to come. From that point to 2016, he posted a 3.12 ERA, a 126 ERA+ and a 9.4 K/9 IP ratio in 260 games as an effective left-handed relief pitcher for five teams. That ERA is deceptively high, too—it would be lower if not for a clunker campaign (2012, 6.03 ERA) thrown in. The veteran with nine big league teams under his belt might have pitched his last pitch, as he is currently a free agent.

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.

Studs and duds: September 11 – September 17

Offensive stud: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Blue Jays). With another hit and a run last night, Toronto’s hot hitting Gurriel stays the stud for one more day.

In the past week, the outfielder has hit .391/.481/.826 with 3 home runs, 12 RBI and 8 runs scored. In the week ending September 10, he hit .346/.419/.692. This is an extended run of excellence for the slugger, who is one of six Blue Jays with at least 80 RBI and who is third on the club in doubles with 26, behind Marcus Semien (37) and Teoscar Hernandez (27).

Gurriel was signed by the Blue Jays in November 2016 and by 2018, was in the majors. Little minor league conditioning was necessary—he hit .281 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 65 games his rookie season and has only gotten better each year. 2021 has been his first full campaign, as he has never played more than 84 games in a big league season before this.

Honorable mention: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays; .500/.552/.846, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 11 R).

Offensive dud: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds). Aquino has been the dud before, and here he is again, this time with a 0-for-7, 4 strikeout, one error showing since August 11.

This whole season has been a struggle for the outfielder, who hasn’t hit over .200 since August 21 and who has batted .111 with 24 strikeouts in his past 63 at-bats. In his past 42 ABs, he has hit .095 with 17 Ks. Though he doesn’t hit well anywhere, being away from Great American Ball Park, the Reds home turf, really hurts him. In 86 at-bats on the road, he has slashed .140/.232/.291; at home, his line is 233/.364/.534 in 73 ABs.

Aquino excited Reds fans with 19 home runs and 47 RBI in 56 games as rookie in 2019. The excitement has faded: Since 2020, he has batted .180 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI in 97 games.

Dishonorable mention: Andrew Young (2B, Diamondbacks; 2-for-13, 5 K, 2 E).

Castillo owns a career 9.8 K/9 IP ratio. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Luis Castillo (SP, Reds). It hasn’t been an optimal year for Castillo, who leads the National League with 15 losses and carries a 4.08 ERA through 31 starts.

However, it is never too late to right the ship, and that’s what he has done his past two appearances: In 13 1/3 innings, he allowed just 3 walks and 4 runs, while striking out 15 batters. His 2.70 ERA brought his season mark down a little further—it was 4.53 as recently as August 9.

The 28-year-old was an All-Star in 2019 and has been bubbling under superstardom his whole career. In his rookie season, 2017, he finished 8th in Rookie of the Year voting after posting a 3.12 ERA, 144 ERA+ and 9.9 K/9 IP ratio in 89 1/3 innings. In 2019, he was 15-8, 3.40 with 226 strikeouts in 190 2/3 frames and last year, he had a 3.12 mark, 154 ERA+ and 89 Ks in 70 innings. To fully blossom, he needs a shift to a consistently winning team. The Reds are not it.

Honorable mention: Zack Wheeler (SP, Phillies; 2-0 W-L, 11 2/3 IP, 3 BB, 14 K, 1.54 ERA).

Pitching dud: Tyler Wells (RP, Orioles). Nothing’s changed for Wells. He’s still the dud. His past week (0-2 W-L, 6 ER, 2 BSV, 1 2/3 IP) still stunk. He hasn’t pitched since the 15th. I wonder why.

Dishonorable mention: Kyle Finnegan (RP, Nationals; 4 IP, 7 H, 2 HR, 6 ER, 0-2 W-L, 2 BSV).

Facts and whodathunkits from the world of baseball, September 17, 2021.

Cameron was a decent slugger, hitting 278 home runs in 17 seasons. (Wikipedia).

I’m going solo: There have been 18 four-home run games in major league history. Only one man clobbered all solo shots when he did it—Seattle’s Mike Cameron on May 2, 2002 against the White Sox. He victimized Sox hurler Jim Parque thrice and reliever Jon Rauch for one. It was a slugfest that day—second baseman Bret Boone walloped two homers, while Jeff Cirillo added one of his own.

Hit for the career cycle: The only player to finish his career with one single, one double, one triple and one home run was Jerry Brooks, who played briefly for the Dodgers and Marlins in 1993 and 1996, respectively. In 1993, he had a double and a home run and in 1996, he had a single and a triple.

Fear my mighty power? Bob Didier, a catcher who played from 1969 to 1974, didn’t hit a single home run in 751 career at-bats. That didn’t stop opposing pitchers from intentionally walking the .229 career hitter 16 times, the most ever among batsmen without a dinger. Thirteen of those instances came when he was batting eighth in the lineup. The pitchers behind him must have been really, really awful hitters … even for moundsmen.

Couldn’t get an out: The last time neither starter managed to get a single batter out before being yanked from the game was September 21, 1989. The Reds’ Jack Armstrong gave up a single, a walk, a run scoring-double, a two-run home run and a walk, in that order, before being replaced by reliever Tim Birtsas. The Padres Dennis Rasmussen allowed a single, a single, a three-run home run, a single and a double before relief pitcher Mark Grant took over. The Padres ended up winning 11-7. What’s especially odd about the game is both Armstrong and Rasmussen were good pitchers. Armstrong would be an All-Star the next year and Rasmussen won 16 games with a 3.43 ERA the year before.

Got carried away: The White Sox Pat Caraway was a hard luck pitcher. On July 23, 1931, he surrendered 11 runs against Boston, then allowed 13 against the Yankees in his next start, July 26. And after that—9 runs against New York the next day. Though he carried an ERA under 3 into June, he finished the year with a league-leading 24 losses and a 6.22 ERA.

Black was out of the major leagues by the time he was 33. (Wikipedia).

Leave well enough alone: Joe Black was an excellent pitcher who, in his rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952, went 15-4 with a 2.15 ERA, 171 ERA+ and league-leading 41 games finished. He won the Rookie of the Year Award and finished third in MVP voting. But he was a two-pitch pitcher and manager Chuck Dressen wanted him to learn a changeup. Bad idea—Black messed up his mechanics (and mindset) in the process. After 1952, he had a 4.84 ERA in 116 games.

That’s a lot of hits: On May 13, 1958, against Los Angeles, the Giants had five players collect four or more hits: Orlando Cepeda, Bob Schmidt, Daryl Spencer and Danny O’Connell had four each, while Willie Mays had five. The Giants won 16-9. Since 1901, no other team has had that many batters with four-plus hits in a game; the last time a team had four players with that many knocks was July 13, 2019. Facing the Rockies, the Reds’ Nick Senzel, Yasiel Puig and Jose Peraza whacked four hits each, while Phil Ervin had six. Cincinnati won, 17-9.

World leader in sacrifice hits: Who holds the record for most sacrifice hits among all major professional baseball leagues? Japan’s Masahiro Kawai, who had 533 in 23 seasons from 1984 to 2006. The Major League Baseball leader is Hall of Famer Eddie Collins with 512; the active major leaguer is Clayton Kershaw with 110. He has a way to go.

Article from the archives—2011 Baseball Hall of Fame election results: Alomar, Blyleven elected; Larkin, Morris close

Let’s take a look back on the 2011 Hall of Fame election and what my surely genius and insightful thoughts on it were.

***

Another year of Hall of Fame voting and excitement is in the books, and so begins another round of review, second-guessing and ridicule about who was elected—and who was not.

Roberto Alomar made 12 All-Star teams and won 10 Gold Gloves. (Wikipedia).

With 90.0 percent of the vote, Roberto Alomar was selected to the Hall of Fame in his second go-around on the ballot, jumping from 73.7% last year. Blyleven, in his 14th year of eligibility, received 79.7% of the vote.

Both are worthy inductees. Alomar hit .300 with 2,724 hits, 210 home runs and 474 stolen bases in 17 major league seasons, earning a spot on 12 All-Star teams, as well as 10 Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Sluggers. In the playoffs he flourished as well, batting .313 in 230 post-season at-bats.

Blyleven does not have the accolades to his name (only two All-Star selections), but he has the numbers to back up his election. With 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts and 242 complete games, Blyleven compiled a career that, though it did not scream “Hall of Fame” while he was playing, developed into a Cooperstown-worthy career nonetheless.

Two other players received at least 50% as well, Barry Larkin and Jack Morris, indicating that they too will one day be elected—especially considering they both received a higher percentage of the votes this year than last. Their Hall of Fame chances increase even more considering the lackluster crop of newcomers arriving next year, with the best player being, perhaps, Bernie Williams.

There were a few newcomers whose performances, or lack thereof, were relatively surprising. John Franco, who had 424 saves and a 2.89 ERA in his 21-year career, received only 4.6% of the vote, meaning he won’t be on the ballot again next year. Even though the cloud of steroids hangs over his head, Rafael Palmeiro’s 11% of the vote is quite low—especially considering fellow alleged ‘roider Mark McGwire received 23.5% of the vote in his first year. Jeff Bagwell actually did surprisingly well, garnering 41.1% of the vote.

Now, it is time to compare my predicted results to the actual voting results. The following are the players I said were going to be elected: Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar. I was correct (most people probably guessed those two, so there is not much to brag about).

I claimed there would be 19 holdovers from this election to next year’s, with that list including Barry Larkin, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Walker, Don Mattingly, John Franco, John Olerud, Kevin Brown, Dale Murphy, Juan Gonzalez, Harold Baines and Tino Martinez. I was off by five—there are only 14 holdovers, with Harold Baines, John Franco, Kevin Brown, Tino Martinez and John Olerud falling off the ballot.

When looking at the actual percentages, I was off by a bit, as well. For example, I said Fred McGriff was going to get 40.9% of the vote—he really received only 17.9%. I said Rafael Palmeiro was going to receive 23.5% of the vote, while he garnered only 11%. Perhaps most egregiously of all, I said John Olerud was going to receive 13.5% of the vote, when he actually received 0.7%.

Olerud, who finished with 58.2 WAR in 17 seasons, does have a small group of Hall of Fame supporters. (Wikipedia).

I was close on a few, however. For example, I claimed Dale Murphy would get 12.5% of the vote and he actually received 12.6%. As well, I said Larry Walker was going to garner 19.5% of the vote and he received 20.3%. On average, I was about 4.34% off on each person. Now, the percentage difference is a bit more glaring—the average percentage difference between my projected vote totals and the actual vote totals is about 47.21%—that will happen when one predicts John Olerud will get over 10% of the vote and he receives less than 1%.

Finally, to wrap this up, I am going to post who I would have voted for if I were a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. These are in no particular order.

Roberto Alomar
Bert Blyleven
Jeff Bagwell
Barry Larkin
Tim Raines
Lee Smith
Larry Walker
Rafael Palmeiro
Fred McGriff
Dave Parker

I also would have voted for Mark McGwire, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell and potentially Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly and John Franco but a Hall of Fame voter can select a maximum of 10 players. I voted for Palmeiro and not McGwire because the latter already has his cabal of voters, while Palmeiro does not—I wanted to help give Palmeiro a bit of support in his first year of eligibility.

That wraps up another round of Hall of Fame speculation, surprise and—maybe for some—despair. Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will join the already-inducted Pat Gillick at the Hall of Fame induction this summer at Cooperstown.

***

I have since revamped my method for predicting Hall of Fame numbers. Back then, I considered how well statistically similar players performed in the voting, however that obviously does not produce an accurate number. Now I look more at how the player performed in recent elections and how well other players with similar vote totals did in their elections, as well. That produces less wonky results.

Studs and duds: September 10 – September 16

Teoscar Hernandez’s reign ends, but he was just replaced by another Blue Jay.

Offensive stud: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Blue Jays). Oh my Lourde, I cannot get over how well the Blue Jays are doing.

And Gurriel is a big part of it—in the past week, he’s slashed .435/.536/.870 with 3 home runs, 12 RBI and 5 walks in 23 at-bats. The Cuban defector has been a steady, consistent performer since joining Toronto at 24 years old in 2018, hitting .283 with 19 home runs and 80 RBI this year and .285 with 61 home runs and 198 RBI for his career.

The slugger has really ratcheted it up over the past couple months, however, batting .361/.431/.639 with 7 home runs and 36 RBI in 33 games since August 10; the excellent on-base percentage is incredible, as he owns a mediocre .327 mark on the year and for his career. His average is .385 this month and .321 in the second half.

Not bad, not bad. Also not too shabby: His brother. The elder Yuli, of the Astros, is hitting .315 this season after clobbering 31 home runs with 104 RBI in 2019.

Honorable mention: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays; .481/.533/.815, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 11 R)

Anderson has batted .319 in 282 games since 2019. (Wikipedia).

Offensive dud: Tim Anderson (SS, White Sox). Uh, this is the same Tim Anderson that was an All-Star this year, right? And the one who won a batting crown in 2019? And a Silver Slugger in 2020? Like Gio Urshela before him, the return from the injured list hasn’t been pleasant for Anderson, who in two games has committed 3 errors, while going 2-for-10 with 5 strikeouts at the plate.

Unlike previous duds, this poor sampling is just a blip—Anderson is still batting .300 on the year—and he’ll likely return to his usual self soon. Last month, he hit .315 with a .543 slugging mark.

Dishonorable mention: Andrew Young (2B, Diamondbacks; 2-for-16, 6 K, 2 E).

Pitching stud: Robbie Ray (SP, Blue Jays). Ray stays on top after striking out 21 batters to just 2 walks in 11 1/3 innings over his past two starts.

I’ve gone on about Ray plenty in the past, but I have to be cautious. He has all the makings of a one-year wonder: 6.8 of his 15.2 career WAR have come this season alone, while before 2021, he was 49-51 with a 4.26 ERA and 103 ERA+.; this year, he is 12-5 with a 2.64 ERA and 167 ERA+. He’s always been a master of the strikeout, however, as prior to this campaign he averaged 11.1 per nine innings, while his number is 11.8 this year.

I’m not confident Ray will ever duplicate this season. His trajectory is looking a bit like Dallas Keuchel’s—an underwhelming first few years, a Cy Young season in his prime, then a slide into good-very good territory.

Honorable mention: Julio Urias (SP, Dodgers; 2-0 W-L, 12 IP, 12 K, 3 BB, 1.50 ERA).

Pitching dud: Tyler Wells (RP, Orioles). It is going to be a while before anyone worsts this hurler’s 2 blown saves, 2 losses, 5 hits, 2 walks, 1 home run and 6 runs allowed in 1 2/3 innings over the past week.

Despite his recent cold streak, Wells, a 2020 Rule V Draft pick taken from the Twins, has been one of the Orioles’ most-used relievers this season. Appearing in 40 games (fifth-most on the club), he has—despite his 4.17 ERA—been one of its best pitchers, as well. His 112 ERA+ is second among active relief pitchers on the club, behind only Cole Sulser’s 157.

He’s not what I would call a bright spot, but at least he doesn’t make Baltimore fans groan in agony every time he takes the field … unlike the majority of the team.

Dishonorable mention: Alberto Baldonado (RP, 2 2/3 IP, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 BSV, 1 L).

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 autograph of the day: Jason LaRue

Jason LaRue was a Reds fixture for many years, spending eight of his 12 major league seasons with the club; He spent 12 of his 16 professional campaigns in their system.

Though blessed with some pop—he hit as many as 16 home runs in a campaign —LaRue was a defense-first backstop. Leading the league in caught stealing percentage and runners caught stealing in 2001, with 60.9 and 42, respectively, his .991 career fielding percentage ranks 88th all-time among catchers, and he four times finished in the top 10 in catcher assists. Twice he was among the top 10 in double plays turned. But he wasn’t without his pitfalls back there— he paced the loop in passed balls thrice and finished second once and third once in errors committed.

He had some defensive versatility, too: He played 8 games at first, 5 in the outfield and 4 at third base; among those 17 non-catcher appearances, 4 were starts. He wrapped up his career with the Cardinals in 2010.