Just needed a year away: Mariners pitcher Chris Flexen disappointed with the Mets from 2017 to 2019, going 3-11 with an 8.07 ERA. In 68 innings, he allowed 91 hits and 54 walks, while striking out just 49 batters. After a year in Korea in which he went 8-4 with a 3.01 ERA and 10.2 K/9 IP in 21 starts, he returned to the majors this year and is a whole new man. With Seattle, he is 11-5 with a 3.54 mark in 24 starts. (I’m also aware I could have worked a “Flexen/Flexin’” pun in there somewhere).
Take what you can get: Marlins fans have little to celebrate this year; catcher Jorge Alfaro included. Until recently. Over the past month, he’s hitting .284 with 7 doubles and 10 RBI, bringing his season average up over 20 points from .214 on July 23. It’s about time he starts paying off—the Marlins traded All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies for him.
Name checks out: Rays reliever Shawn Armstrong hasn’t had much to brag about this year, posting an 8.55 ERA during his time with the Orioles and a 7.20 ERA overall. Since being purchased by Tampa Bay, however, his fortunes have changed: In 3 appearances this past week—his first since early June—the hurler has tossed 5 innings, Ked 8 batters and posted a 1.80 ERA. Through mid-May, he had a season ERA over 10.
Garcia’s got it: Cardinals relief pitcher Luis Garcia, who is one of those guys you don’t realize has been around nearly a decade, is pitching just as well now as he ever did. Like Armstrong, his campaign started off poorly—not making his season debut until July 9, he had an ERA over 10 through his first 5 games. Since July 28, he hasn’t allowed a single run in 15 1/3 innings, surrendering just 1 walk and 7 hits. Hitters have batted an anemic .135/.151/.173 during that stretch. He had an All-Star quality campaign in 2017, when he posted a 2.66 ERA and 163 ERA+ in 66 appearances for Philadelphia.
Rookie of the Week? Over the past seven days, Royals rookie third baseman Emmanuel Rivera has slashed .353/.450/.588 with 5 runs. It’s a tidy line for the 25-year-old, who also slugged his first career home run, a solo shot off Cubs pitcher Zach Davies. Rivera was drafted by Kansas City in 2015 and had a good year with Single A Lexington in 2017, hitting 12 home runs, 27 doubles and driving 72 runs home.
Bernie better than we thought: For seven years, Bernie Williams was incredible. From 1995 to 2002, he slashed .321/.406/.531, while averaging 24 home runs, 102 RBI and 105 runs scored per campaign. From 1993 to 2006, he averaged 156 hits, 20 home runs and 92 runs scored per season, while batting an even .300; he had double digit home runs each year and reached 100 runs and RBI eight and five times, respectively. He was no slouch in the postseason, hitting 22 home runs with 80 RBI in 465 at-bats; he batted .321 in 162 ALCS ABs, winning the Series MVP in 1996. It’s unlikely he’ll be elected any time soon, but Williams wouldn’t hurt the Hall of Fame if he got in.
Off to a great start: Relief pitcher Indigo Diaz was drafted by the Braves in the 27th round in 2019 and is in his first full professional season this year. He’s already making a name for himself. In 40 innings over 29 appearances, he has allowed just 16 hits and struck out 77 batters—that’s 17.3 per nine innings. He averaged exactly 2 per frame at Single A; in 11 games at Double A, he has a 0.00 ERA. His mark is 0.68 overall.
Give him a call: With Rhode Island College this year, pitcher Shaun Gamelin struck out 42 batters in 18 2/3 innings—that’s more than 20 per nine frames — then he went to play summer ball with the New England Collegiate League’s Ocean State Waves … and had 32 Ks in 15 innings. In case you’re counting, that’s 74 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings overall, or 19.8 per nine frames, or more than two per inning, on average. In 2020, he had 7 strikeouts in 3 innings and in 2019, 64 strikeouts in 37 innings between two teams. The 5’ 9” hurler never played for baseball powerhouses—his schools, Rhode Island College and Fitchburg State University have produced just one major leaguer (Jim Siwy) between them—and he went undrafted, but a big league club better give him a call. I think they’re missing out.
Welcome to the century club: George Elder, an outfielder who spent 41 games with the St. Louis Browns in 1949, turned 100 on March 10. He’s not even the oldest living former big leaguer—Eddie Robinson, who played from 1942 to 1957, was born a few months earlier and will be turning 101 in December.
The fading ‘40s: Just ten men who played in the 1940s are still alive: Eddie Robinson (debuted in 1942), Chris Haughey (1943), Eddie Basinski (1944), Tommy Brown (1944), Curt Simmons (1947), Carl Erskine (1948), Larry Miggins (1948), Cloyd Boyer (1949), George Elder (1949) and Bobby Shantz (1949). Some are so obscure, they might have already passed away and the news just never reached the public.
Just four remain: The St. Louis Browns, the precursors to the Baltimore Orioles, have just four living representatives: George Elder, Billy Hunter, Ed Mickelson and Frank Saucier. The youngest, Hunter, was born in 1928.
Saltala—what? Ever wonder what former catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s last name actually means? It’s Italian for “jump over” (salta) “the thicket” (la macchia). La macchia also translates to “the spot.” At 14 characters, his surname is the longest ever; fifteen men had surnames of 13 characters—relatively modern names like Todd Hollandsworth, Tim Spooneybarger and John Van Benschoten among them.
Noe what that means: There’s been two Noes in big league history, pitcher Noe Ramirez and catcher Noe Munoz. It’s not a common name, but it derives from one. Its root is noach—whence Noah arises—which is Hebrew and means rest or comfort.
Not a one at-bat wonder: Speaking of Noe Munoz—he spent just two years in affiliated baseball, playing in the Dodgers system in 1994 and 1995, and had just one big league at-bat. He went hitless. Returning to the Mexican League, he played another 19 years there, giving him a career total of 25 seasons. He played until he was 46.
You got the wrong guy: Joe Torre played professionally on-and-off from 2012 to 2020. Oh, not that one. This Joe Torre, an infielder, played 28 games over four seasons in some obscure independent leagues—the Pacific Association, the Pecos League and the one-off Yinzer Baseball Academy—and hit just .152 … just a bit short of his namesake. And who can forget reliever Mike Piazza, no relation to the Hall of Fame catcher, who played in the minors from 2009 to 2014.
Desperate times: With coronavirus upending the baseball world in 2020—seasons were shortened and, frequently, cancelled—a bunch of new independent circuits cropped up to give guys a place to play and leagues for established teams to join. Among them were the Liberation League (which featured teams like the California Dogecoin), the City of Champions Cup (with teams like the Nerd Herd), the All-American Baseball Challenge, the Constellation Energy League and the aforementioned Yinzer Baseball Academy.