Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 28, 2021.

Michael Chavis has hit just .220 since his 2020. (Wikipedia).

Chavis chugging along: Former Red Sox first rounder Michael Chavis hit 18 home runs with 58 RBI his first year, 2019, but hasn’t done much since. It seems a change of scenery has helped him get going, however: Since joining the Pirates on August 23, he is hitting .381 with a .619 slugging percentage. Included in that was a 4-for-5 showing on August 26.

Get Otto here: Rangers rookie pitcher Glenn Otto had a killer debut against Houston yesterday, tossing 5 scoreless innings with 7 strikeouts, just 2 hits and no walks allowed … then the Rangers killed the vibe by losing 5-4 anyway. The hurler had been traded to Texas in the deal that sent outfielder Joey Gallo to the Yankees and was 9-4 with a 3.20 ERA and 12.6 K/9 on the farm this year. In 2019, he went 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in the Arizona Fall League.

Struggling Jose: Jose Iglesias, the Angels shortstop, was a top prospect a decade ago, an All-Star in 2015, and is thoroughly struggling right now. Through July 26, he was hitting .285, but has a paltry .179/.240/.284 line over the past month. If there is a silver lining in this rough patch, it’s that he’s shown decent extra base skill when he makes contact, with 7 of his 17 hits going for doubles; he’s also scored 15 times.

Gilbert’s still going strong: Diamondback’s starter Tyler Gilbert has tossed just 22 2/3 innings this year and has surrendered 6 earned runs in his past 10. But he didn’t allow a single one in his first 12 2/3 frames—including his no-hitter on August 14—and so his season ERA is still just 2.38 despite his middling recent starts.

Chris Heston’s ERA after 2015, the year he tossed a no-no: 13.91. (Wikipedia).

On Gilbert’s no-no: The only no-hitter in my memory than I would have expected less than Gilbert’s was Bud Smith’s on September 3, 2001. Smith, a rookie, was in just his 11th career start when he blanked Tony Gwynn, Phil Nevin, Ryan Klesko and the rest of the Padres. He pitched just 11 more games in 2002, and that was it for his career. Giants pitcher Chris Heston’s no-no against the Mets on June 9, 2015, also came out of nowhere. Playing in his first full season, he surrendered 5 or more earned runs in 4 of his 6 starts prior to his big game.

Reconsidering Votto: I’ve never been big on Joey Votto’s Hall of Fame chances, but only two other active players have at least 300 home runs, 2,000 hits and 1,000 runs scored in their careers: Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols. Ninety-four men total have reached all three marks and 50 are in Cooperstown. If it’s not a perfect measure of greatness, it at least helps recognize those who qualify for the Hall of Very Good—guys like Raul Ibanez, Carlos Lee and Don Baylor.

You had your chance: The Mets demoted catcher Chance Sisco to Triple A to make room for backup catcher Tomas Nido. The way the latter has performed offensively this year, the move doesn’t offer much of an improvement, but he has thrown out 53% of baserunners trying to steal. Sisco was 1-for-4 in his short time with New York.

Sacrificed himself to second: Did you know Robinson Cano once bunted himself a double? The feat has actually happened quite a few times.

Still waiting for the first: The only three teams that have never had a man win the Most Valuable Player honor while wearing their uniform are the New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays. They’ve been around since 1962, 1998 and 1998, respectively.

Rockies makes sense: The only three teams who have never featured a Cy Young Award winner are the Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies and Florida/Miami Marlins. Named the Washington Senators then, the Rangers have been around since 1962, while Colorado and Miami’s first year was 1993. Dodgers pitchers have won twelve CYAs. Clayton Kershaw was the most recent, in 2014.

George Brett was no match for the Phillies in the 1980 Fall Classic. (Wikipedia).

Rockies, Marlins again? There’s a trend here: The Rockies and Marlins also have never won their division, and the Pirates haven’t won theirs either, at least since moving to the NL Central in 1994.

Gotta go back 40 years: The last time a World Series featured two teams who had never previously won a championship was in 1980. That year, the 91-71 Phillies, featuring 48-home run hitter Mike Schmidt and 24-game winner Steve Carlton, faced off against the 97-65 Royals, who were powered by George Brett’s .390 average and Willie Wilson’s 230 hits. Philadelphia won, 4 games to 2.

Nice hitting! Get on the mound: In 2001, former Pirates pitcher John Van Benschoten led NCAA Division I hitters in home runs and slugging percentage, while batting .440. Baseball America called him the country’s top power hitter. So when the Pirates took him 8th overall in the 2001 draft, what did they do? Convert him to pitching, of course. In the minors he had a career 3.84 ERA; in 26 big league games (19 starts), he went 2-13 with a mark of 9.20.

No thanks, affiliated ranks: Centerfielder Jay Davis spent eight campaign in the affiliated ranks, from 1989 to 1996, and never hit more than 5 home runs in a season. In 1997, he joined the independent Texas-Louisiana League and smashed 15, starting a run in which he walloped twenty or more dingers in seven of his final nine campaigns—none of which came in affiliated ball. Most of them were over in Korea; he has one of the longest, if not the longest, careers of any foreigner to play over there. He finished with 241 long flies in his professional career. Side note: In 1997, he pitched a single inning and struck out the side.

Football was more his game: 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams spent four seasons as an outfielder in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He never played above A ball and hit just .211 for his career, but he did steal as many as 17 bases in a season. He later rushed for over 10,000 yards and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame (Canton, if it ever happens, still awaits).

It pays to study: Sean Holub, ever heard of him? He was a 40th round draft pick by the Brewers in 1992 and spent just 2 games in rookie ball. Oh yeah, he also went to Johns Hopkins University and is now the head of trading at Alight Capital Management in New York City. Baseball didn’t pay off for him, but his education did. (He also had his own baseball card, despite his super short career).

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 19, 2021.

Clayton Kershaw hasn’t started more than 30 games since 2015. (Wikipedia)

Kershaw’s greatness is past: Clayton Kershaw remains one of the greatest pitchers of the past fifty years—but Kershaw the superhuman is no more. Granted, pound for pound he’s still among the best in the game, when he pitches. But he hasn’t tossed more than 180 innings in a season since 2015 and has averaged just 138 innings in the six succeeding campaigns. To be among the best, a player has to play. And Kershaw hasn’t done enough of that in recent years.

Chirinos is killing it: Catcher Robinson Chirinos, a career .232 batter, is hitting the cover off the ball. Over the past week, he’s slashed .471/.591/.824 with 3 doubles and a home run. On the year, he has a stellar 166 OPS+.

Giving Zavala some love, too: Catcher Seby Zavala isn’t a household name, and his 2021 season likely won’t make him one, but give credit where credit is due. Over the past month, he’s hit 4 home runs with 13 RBI and scored 12 runs on just 11 hits. The White Sox other catching options, Zack Collins and Yasmani Grandal, have disappointed—but Zavala is cranking along.

Littell is making a name for himself: Reliever Zack Littell is one of the reasons the Giants’ pitching staff is among the best in the league. He has a 2.74 ERA in 44 appearances this year, and didn’t allow a run, while striking out 10 batters, in a recent 6 game, 8 2/3 inning stretch. Two years ago, with Minnesota, he had a 2.68 ERA in 29 games.

Head-ing for greatness? Maybe not, but Rays reliever Louis Head has been an unsung hero on that first place club. In 19 appearances this year, he has a 2.49 ERA; this past month, he’s averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

Fargas designated for assignment: Johneshwy Fargas, who the Mets let walk earlier this year, has been DFA’d by the Cubs. Here’s hoping a return to New York is imminent—he hit .286 in his brief showing with the Mets and has stolen 50-plus bags in the minors twice. He could be an asset.

Parra reaches 1, 500 games played: While Joey Votto was stealing the spotlight with his 2,000th career hit, Nationals outfielder Gerardo Parra recently reached 1,500 games played. Cesar Hernandez passed 1,000 this past week, as well.

Milestones galore: Bryce Harper recently blasted his 250th home run, Jose Ramirez eclipsed 500 RBI, Marcus Semien knocked his 200th double, Elvis Andrus reached 50 triples, Freddie Freeman drew his 100th intentional walk (and J.D. Martinez reached 50), Nolan Arenado and Jean Segura passed 5,000 plate appearances and Yadier Molina reached 3,000 total bases.

Jumbo Diaz averaged more than a strikeout per inning for his career. (Wikipedia)

Jumbo earned the nickname: Remember Reds reliever Jumbo Diaz? At the end of 2013, he weighed an astonishing 348 pounds! He managed to drop nearly 70 pounds for 2014, quite an impressive feat. But still, during his time in the majors, he had a listed playing weight of 315.

Moye is a cautionary tale: I’m sure few people remember him, but Andy Moye is a cautionary tale for players drafted by big league clubs. The starting pitcher was taken by the New York Mets in the 11th round of the 2006 draft, but did not sign a contract. Bad choice. His stock fell so much that the next time he was drafted, 2009, it was in the 50th round — the very last round in the draft. He was the seventh to last player taken overall. Ouch. He forged a four-year pro career, but never advanced beyond Double-A.

Garritano dies: I don’t want this to become a death blog, but the baseball fraternity lost another member just a couple weeks ago.  Catcher Arnie Garritano never played professionally, but was drafted by the Tigers in 1983. He died August 8 at 57 years old.