Studs and duds: August 26 – September 1

Salvador Perez is slipping, but maintains his title. Gerrit Cole had a week for the ages.

Offensive stud: Salvador Perez (C, Royals). The Perez train might be grinding to a halt, as the catcher went 0-for-5 with 3 strikeouts yesterday, but his performance in the early part of this one-week stretch still elevates him above all other players. Since August 26, he has 4 home runs, 12 RBI and 5 runs scored and is still riding high on those two grand slams he hit. Defensively, he had more putouts than anyone other than Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez. He’s just four shy of tying the single season record for home runs by a catcher, 42, currently held by former Braves backstop Javy Lopez.

Honorable mention: Tommy Edman (3B, Cardinals; .407/.452/.852, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 10 R).

In 2013, Iglesias hit .357 in the ALCS. Ah, those were the days … (Wikipedia).

Offensive dud: Jose Iglesias (SS, Angels). It’s been a swift decline for the 2015 All-Star, who, after hitting .373 in 39 games last year, is down to .259 in 2021. He carried a mark over .280 into late July, but since July 27, he’s hit just .178 in 101 at-bats. His August 27 performance against the Padres was especially bad—going 0-for-3 with a strikeout at the dish, he also committed 2 errors, bringing his season total to 16. When he was on, he was on, hammering out a couple four hit games earlier in the year. But Iglesias’ swift slide into mediocrity mirrors his career descent as a whole—after hitting .300 in his lone All-Star season, he’s batted just .272 with an 85 OPS+ since.

Dishonorable mention: Nick Gordon (SS, Twins; 0-for-9, 3 K, 1 E).

Gerrit Cole is statistically similar to Roy Halladay through age 30, per Baseball Reference. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Gerrit Cole (SP, Yankees). With an unbelievable, 15 strikeout performance last night, Cole has reclaimed the American League strikeout lead from Robbie Ray and now sits at 215 on the season. Over his past two starts, he is 2-0 with 24 strikeouts in 13 innings; he’s allowed just 2 walks and 1 earned run for a 0.69 ERA. The star hurler also leads the AL in wins (14), WHIP (0.968), H/9 IP (6.9), K/9 IP (12.5) and K/BB (6.72). Though it might be a bit premature to start making Hall of Fame proclamations, if he continues pitching as he has the past four seasons through his prime and experiences a standard decline, then he might one day have case. After nine seasons, he already has 31.5 WAR—he’s the youngest active pitcher with at least 30.

Honorable mention: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers; 13.2 IP, 19 K, 1 BB, 0 R).

Pitching dud: Joe Smith (RP, Mariners). Smith couldn’t shake the ghost of his past week (2 1/3 IP, 3 ER, 0-2 W-L, 2 BSV), so he holds onto his title. Close on his tail were James Karinchak (0 IP, 3 ER, 1 BSV) and Dillon Tate (1 2/3 IP, 4 ER, 0-2 W-L), but Smith edges them out with the worst performance over the last seven days.

Dishonorable mention: James Karinchak (RP, Indians; 1 G, 0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 ER, 0-1 W-L, 1 BSV).

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).