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.
Scherzer 3,000 K watch: Facing Atlanta last night, the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer recorded another 9 strikeouts, bringing his season total to 197 and his career total to 2,981. Of course, now that he’s just 19 away from a historic milestone, there’s a hiccup—he was removed from the game due to hamstring tightness.
Can Cabrera do it? With 2 hits, including a home run, against Oakland last night, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is now just 37 away from 3,000. He has to stay hot all month, but 37 more knocks this season isn’t unimaginable.
200 wins? Easy, lest Lester lose: Cardinals hurler Jon Lester now stands just two wins away from 200, which should be easy to achieve with nearly a whole month left in the season. Should be. He began the year just 7 victories short, but has won only 5 of his 22 starts.
Jose is crushing it: Give any batter a short enough time frame and he can do great things. Such is the case with Rangers catcher Jose Trevino, a career .243 hitter in the majors and a .259 hitter in the minors. Over the past week, he’s gone 7-for-19—that’s a .368 batting average—with 4 doubles and a .579 slugging mark.
No brakes for this Jake: Astros rookie outfielder Jake Meyers has been unstoppable since his debut on August 1. In 25 games, he’s hit .313 with 3 home runs and 5 doubles, after slashing .343/.408/.598 at Triple-A. The downside: In 80 at-bats, he’s walked just twice.
Resurgent Treinen: Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen had a rough and tumble start to 2021, posting a 3.41 ERA through June 23. Since then, he’s been among the best in the league: In 30 1/3 innings over 29 games, he’s allowed 2 runs on 11 hits and 9 walks for a 0.59 ERA. He didn’t surrender a single earned run from June 25 to August 19.
Chafin’s killing it, too: After beginning 2021 with a 5.00 ERA through April 24, Athletics reliever Andrew Chafin has posted a tiny 1.15 mark in 49 appearances since. Batters have slashed .147/.202/.212 against him in that span. From May 8 to July 21, he didn’t allow a single earned run and since July 28, he’s surrendered just 2.
#1 pick update: Henry Davis, taken by the Pirates as this year’s #1 overall draft pick, began his professional career with a .308/.387/.808 line with 3 home runs and 7 RBI in 8 games. He’s now on the 7-day injured list, but that start is promising.
#1 pick update #2: Mark Appel, who the Astros selected at #1 in 2013 then traded to Philadelphia in 2015, left baseball for a few years but decided to mount a comeback this season. Back with the Phillies, he began the year at Double-A and had a 5.84 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, but was promoted to Triple-A anyway. Though he started off pretty well, he’s slipped bigly and now owns a 6.05 mark at that level. Hey, Tim Tebow got try after try, so Appel might, too. But right now, it’s not looking good for the 30-year-old hurler.
#1 pick update #3: The Astros took Brady Aiken #1 overall in 2014, but he did not sign and re-entered the draft the next year. He was then taken by Cleveland with the 17th pick. Though still in their system, he hasn’t played at all this year and has thrown just 2/3 of an inning since 2017.
2014 draft was rough: The #2 pick in the 2014 draft, Tyler Kolek, taken by Miami, flunked out of the minors after 2019. He never played above A-ball.
Growing hopeful about the Mets: I was getting really nervous about the Mets as they started to tumble, but perhaps my worries were premature. If I did my math correctly, their magic number to overtake first-place Atlanta is 36. They each have 32 games left—if the Mets win 20 and the Braves lose 16, New York could, feasibly, win the division … assuming Philadelphia doesn’t surge. They recently recalled Khalil Lee from Triple-A; I think he can help New York, as he worked an excellent .450 OBP down there.
At least I tried: Catcher Russ Nixon attempted 7 stolen bases in his 906-game career, which spanned 1957 to 1968. He was never successful. That is the longest career a non-pitcher managed without stealing a base.
I think I’ll stay put: Former Braves catcher Johnny Estrada, who played from 2001 to 2008, didn’t even attempt a stolen base in 612 games. That is also a record.
But my ERA was perfect! Oh, 1870s baseball, you provide us with so many wonders. Rynie Wolters pitched a single game in 1873 and went the whole nine innings, as hurlers were wont to do then. He surrendered 23 runs on 13 hits, a walk and what must have been a boatload of hit by pitches (we don’t know how many, they weren’t recorded then) … but didn’t surrender a single earned run. That was his last season, so he could say he finished his career on a high note, posting a 0.00 ERA in his final year. *Though, honestly, one wonders if his line is accurate or if it was entered into the record books incorrectly and has never been fixed).
Swaziland represent: The small landlocked African nation of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has produced a professional baseball player. Steve Martin, born in the capital of Mbabne, played in the Astros system in 2011. He had a 6.00 ERA in 16 rookie ball games.
Giving props to The Baseball Cube: Most folks’ go-to source for baseball data is Baseball-Reference.com. But I have to give it to The Baseball Cube, as well. They offer a LOT that Baseball Reference doesn’t, like information on scouts, detailed Baseball America rankings and more in-depth college coverage, like records for coaches. It really is a great resource that I don’t think earns enough praise. (I didn’t get paid to say this).
Told you so: I recently did a piece predicting the downfall of Mets ace Jacob deGrom. He has all the makings of a pitcher who will decline soon and fall fast. Well, guess who just got transferred to the 60-day injured list with right forearm tightness? You guessed it: Jacob deGrom.
Not making it easy: Cardinals pitcher Jon Lester started the season just 7 wins away from 200 for his career. It’s been a tough road to the milestone, as he’s gone just 4-6 with a 5.46 ERA in 20 starts this year, putting him still 3 wins away. When (if?) he gets there, he’ll join Justin Verlander (226) and Zack Greinke (219) as the only two active pitchers with 200 or more victories. Max Scherzer is 15 away.
Maybe it’s not so bad: Ervin Santana has been one win away from 150 … since 2017!
Power on hold: Brewers outfielder Tyrone Taylor doesn’t hit for a high average and he strikes out a lot, but he is a nice player to have around. In the past month, he’s slugged .523 and on the year, he has 10 home runs in just 212 at-bats. Before 2019, his debut season, he was more of a speedster than a slugger, having never hit more than 9 homers in a minor league campaign, while stealing as many as 23 bags. But the Taylor power surge is on hold, for the time being at least, as he’s heading to the injured list with an oblique injury. He might be out a month.
Vesia’s turning heads: Dodgers reliever Alex Vesia impressed no one in his 2020 cup of coffee with the Marlins, posting an 18.69 ERA in 4 1/3 innings. That’s all water under the bridge now. In 28 innings this season, he’s struck out 37 batters and allowed just 9 hits, to the tune of a 2.57 ERA. Over the past month, he has a 0.71 ERA in 12 games; the Dodgers won 8 of those in which he appeared.
Gardner’s got it: Outfielder Brett Gardner hasn’t been too effective this year and has largely been a disappointment since his resurgent 2019, but he’s managed a tidy 5-for-18 line with 4 walks and just 2 strikeouts in his past few games. Every little bit helps as the Yankees vie for the wild card and, perhaps, first place in the AL East.
Watching White: As reported yesterday, pitcher Mitch White was demoted to the minor leagues to make roster space for Victor Gonzalez. Let’s see how long it takes for the Dodgers to regret that decision—he owns a 2.25 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 24 Triple A innings this year. He might be back sooner than we think.
A nifty feat: Relievers Jake McGee and Andrew Miller each recently passed 600 career relief appearances. It’s an especially positive achievement for Miller—after being one of the game’s top relief pitchers from 2013 to 2017, he hasn’t had much to celebrate since. His ERA during his peak: 1.82. Since: 4.26.
K kings: Kyle Gibson and Craig Kimbrel each recently passed 1,000 career strikeouts. Kimbrel averages nearly 15 strikeouts per nine innings pitched; Gibson … half that. If Kimbrel pitched as many innings as Nolan Ryan, he’d have nearly 9,000 for his career!
Other milestones: Carlos Carrasco recently started his 200th career game, while Kenley Jansen recorded his 500th game finished. And, yeah, they keep track of these things: Max Scherzer faced his 10,000th batter.
Mets claim Hembree: Now they’re getting desperate. The Mets claimed relief pitcher Heath Hembree off waivers from the Reds. Five years ago, this would have been a decent move, but the pitcher has a 6.38 ERA in 45 appearances this season, and, worse still, his mark was 9.00 in 22 games in 2020. Hembree was once a solid hurler, posting a 3.25 ERA and 138 ERA+ for the Red Sox from 2015 to 2017, but the Mets have a knack for signing relieversonce their best seasons are past—see Dellin Betances, Trevor Hildenberger and Jacob Barnes this year as examples. The silver lining: Hembree’s been a strikeout ace, K-ing 68 batters in 42 1/3 innings—that’s 14.5 per 9 frames—in 2021.
A weird claim to fame: In 1993, Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Erik Plantenberg made 20 appearances—and threw only 9 2/3 innings. In fact, he holds the record for most games in a season with less than 10 frames tossed. He also holds the dubious record of having the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio of any post World War II pitcher (min. 20 appearances). He walked 12 batters and struck out only 3, for a K/BB ratio of 0.25. Before him, the last hurler to have a mark that bad was Walt Masterson in 1939. If you go back to 1927, you’ll find Ted Wingfield, who had 27 walks … to just 1 strikeout … in 74 2/3 innings!
Not a modern invention: From 1947 to 1952, there existed a minor league team in Enterprise, Ala. nicknamed the Boll Weevils. Actually, multiple clubs have shared that nickname: Kannapolis, N.C., Dothan, Ala., Temple, Texas and Graceville, Fla. each fielded a team so named. And you thought weird team nicknames were a product of the modern age (don’t get me started on the one from Canon City, Colorado).
They don’t sign like they used to: For the autograph collectors out there, let’s go back in time. In 2009, I received through-the-mail autographs from names like Billy Wagner, Adam Wainwright and Joey Votto. Granted, Votto might have been a secretarial signature, but the point remains the same: Nowadays, you can barely get anyone—let alone stars like that!