Studs and duds: September 13 – September 19

O’Neill’s hair looks like the brush I use to shine my nice shoes. (Wikipedia).

Alas, it was a busy day today; one only has time for the Studs and Duds. No fun facts, no autographs, no notes and musings, no random articles (which I haven’t written in a while, come to think of it). What a letdown.

Offensive stud: Tyler O’Neill (OF, Cardinals). The 26-year-old O’Neill isn’t a superstar yet, but he’s working on it. Over the past week, he’s hit .391/.481/.826 with 3 home runs, 10 RBI, 9 runs scored and a couple stolen bases to bring his September line to .333/.405/.712.

Thrice a Baseball America top 100 prospect, the slugger showed big power in the minors, but hadn’t yet shown it on the major league stage—until this season. He slugged at least 25 home runs three times on the farm, with another campaign of 24; in just 64 games at Triple-A in 2018, he had 26 dingers. From his major league debut in 2018 to 2020, he slugged just .422 in 410 at-bats. This season, he has 28 home runs and a .536 mark in 429 ABs—plus, he’s shown respectable speed, tacking on 13 steals.

In terms of performance, his rank on the team is right up there with (potential) future Hall of Famers Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Goldschmidt’s WAR and home run totals are 5.5 and 26, respectively; O’Neill’s are 5.3 and 28, while Arenado’s are 4.1 and 32.

Honorable mention: Jose Ramirez (3B, Indians; .500/.560/.900, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 10 R).

Offensive dud: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds). Aquino hasn’t improved upon his 0-for-7, 6 strikeout performance over the past week, so here he remains. His position is hard to shed mostly due to his showing on September 14 against Pittsburgh, when he went 0-for-4 with 3 Ks; prior to that game, he hadn’t whiffed in 10 at-bats (quite impressive, as he has averaged one every 2.4 ABs this season), but of course, that was the exception rather than the rule. From August 20 to August 30, he struck out in seven straight games, with two in four of them.

Dishonorable mention: Andrew Young (2B, Diamondbacks; 1-for-9, 4 Ks, 1 E).

Gilbert’s signing bonus was nearly $4 million. I think the Mariners got a steal. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Logan Gilbert (SP, Mariners). Seattle’s long awaited-return to the playoffs probably won’t be this season, but if the likes of Gilbert and fellow former first rounder Jarred Kelenic continue to blossom, the trip might happen sooner than we think. Gilbert was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 14 Ks and just two walks allowed in 13 innings over his past two starts, bringing the rookie’s season ERA down to 4.74; it was 5.44 less than a month ago.

The 14th overall pick of the 2018 draft, Gilbert rose through the minor leagues swiftly, playing just a single game at Triple-A this year and splitting 2019 between three levels. His totals in his brief minor league career are promising—11-5 W-L, 2.12 ERA, 140 IP, 99 H, 170 K—and that bodes well for the Mariners’ future playoff aspirations. They haven’t reached the postseason since 2001, when that 116-46 club was vanquished by the eventual-pennant winning Yankees.

Honorable mention: Sandy Alcantara (SP, Marlins; 2-0 W-L, 14 IP, 11 K, 1 BB, 0.64 ERA).

Pitching dud: Kyle Finnegan (RP, Nationals). It just hasn’t been Finnegan’s week. On September 15, he gave up 4 hits and 4 earned runs against Miami—the Marlins of all teams!—to blow a save and take a loss. A couple days later, on September 17, he surrendered 3 hits and 2 earned runs against Colorado, again blowing a save, again taking a loss. Despite tossing an inning, K-ing a batter, allowing no runs and earning a save last night, also against the Rockies, he still owns a 16.20 ERA these past seven days and is the Dud, again. C’est la vie.

Dishonorable mention: Brandyn Sittinger (RP, Diamondbacks; 1 L, 2 BSV, 13.50 ERA, 2 IP, 3 H, 2 HR).

Studs and duds: September 12 – September 18

The Offensive Stud is a revolving door of Blue Jays at this point.

Offensive stud: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays). After a few days away, Hernandez is back on top.

The outfielder has continued his electric September by hitting .409/.480/.727 with 2 home runs, 9 RBI and 7 runs scored over the past week. He is slashing .371/.473/.726 with 6 home runs and 20 RBI this month and .304/.355/.527 with 28 dingers and 104 RBI on the year.

The Blue Jays are so stacked that his 4.0 WAR ranks just 5th on the club, though he paces the team in RBI and his OPS+ (138) is second behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 176. Since 2018, Hernandez has averaged 34 home runs, 97 RBI and 90 runs scored per 162 games.

Honorable mention: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Blue Jays; .994 OPS, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 3 BB).

Offensive dud: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds). Aquino remains the week’s worst with his 0-for-7, 4 K, one error performance.

When he’s on, he’s on, but the 27-year-old has been plagued by too many cold streaks this season. In one seventeen at-bat stretch in late July and early August, he had just one hit for a .059 batting average; from August 20 to September 3, he had a single hit in 27 ABs for a .037 mark.

While his power potential cannot be denied—he averages 32 home runs per 162 games—his inconsistency cannot be, either. How much of a leash does Cincinnati give him? His defense is middling, his speed is negligible (one steal this year) and his on-base percentage is paltry (.305 for his career). They’re in the thick of the playoff race. It’s amazing they’ve stuck with him so long.

Dishonorable mention: Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Brewers; 0-for-9, 6 K).

Pitching stud: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers). Welcome back Max, we haven’t seen you in what, a couple days?

The 37-year-old Scherzer is pitching like he is in the middle of his prime—he is 2-0 in his past two starts, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 16 batters, in 15 innings of work. He didn’t surrender an earned run, but that’s nothing new—Scherzer hasn’t given one up in five straight starts, meaning he is riding a 37 inning scoreless streak.

It’s a little soon to say, watch out, Orel,” but this run shows just how much the righty has aged like fine wine. He now stands at 15-4 with a league-leading 2.08 ERA in 29 starts this year; he’s tossed 169 innings, but just surrendered his 100th hit on September 12.

With an ERA+ of 195, he is on pace to have the highest full-season mark of any pitcher since 2018 and the highest among pitchers his age or older since 2005, when 42-year-old Roger Clemens had a 226 mark.

Honorable mention: Aaron Nola (SP, Phillies; 11 IP, 19 K, 1 BB, 1 W).

Finnegan debuted with a 2.92 ERA in 25 appearances last year. (Wikipedia).

Pitching dud: Kyle Finnegan (RP, Nationals). Well, Finnegan was having an excellent season before this hiccup.

Prior to September 15, he had a 2.61 ERA in 59 appearances; that number is up to 3.39 now, thanks to a two-game stretch in which he allowed 7 hits, a couple home runs and two walks in 2 1/3 innings of work. He blew two saves and took the same number of losses, bringing his record to 5-8.

Though his campaign has had its ups and downs, he was on the right track until this blip—from August 15 to September 12, he had an 0.68 ERA and .174 OBA in 13 appearances. In just a couple innings, all that progress was undone.

Dishonorable mention: Tyler Wells (RP, Orioles; 1/3 IP, 1 L, 1 BSV, 2 ER).

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 12, 2021.

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hits watch: With a hit yesterday and another one today, the Tigers Miguel Cabrera edges a little closer to 3,000 hits for his career and is now just 25 away. He is determined to get there: Hitting .481 this month and .326 since July 24, Cabrera is absolutely raking. He even has a .553 slugging percentage since then. What a throwback.

Nick Gordon was the 5th overall pick in 2014. (Wikipedia).

Another great Gordon: Twins second baseman Nick Gordon, the son of former pitcher Tom Gordon and brother of Dee Strange-Gordon, looks poised to continue the family legacy of excellence. Debuting May 6 of this year, the 2014 first round pick hit .303 through July 1 and is carrying a .357/.438/.714 line over the past week. Father Tom was a three-time All-Star and 1998 Rolaids Relief Award winner; brother Dee was twice an All-Star, a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove winner.

Yu are doing fine: Though Yu Chang has never been a high-average hitter, not even in the minors (.253 mark on the farm), when he hits, he hits the ball far. The Indians infielder has a .712 slugging mark with 5 home runs and 11 RBI over the past month. Such power is reminiscent of his 2017 campaign with Double-A Akron, when he slugged 24 home runs in 440 at-bats. Not all is positive, however—he’s hitting just .220 on the year and .207 for his career.

The decline of Davies: Cubs pitcher Zach Davies was an effective, if unsung, hurler from 2016 to 2020, posting a 3.80 ERA and 114 ERA+ in that span. In 2017, he won 17 games for the Brewers; last year, he had a 2.73 ERA in 69 1/3 innings for San Diego. Quite a disappointing year 2021 has been, then, as he is just 6-11 with a 5.40 ERA and 78 ERA+ in 30 starts with Chicago. He is leading the National League in walks with 70 and has a BB/9 IP ratio of 4.4. Before this year, it was 2.6.

Finnegan is unheralded: Nationals reliever—and now closer—Kyle Finnegan has a 2.68 ERA and 150 ERA+ in 59 appearances this season; he is the team’s most-used relief pitcher and has the second-lowest ERA of anyone currently on the club (behind the equally unheralded Ryne Harper). Since July 20, he has a 0.79 ERA in 22 games and his 151 ERA+ since 2020 is the 11th-best in the majors among hurlers with at least 80 appearances.

Give it up for Yusmeiro: I’ve spent some time railing against the K culture in baseball, where everyone seems like a strikeout pitcher. Well, not everyone. The Athletics’ Yusmeiro Petit has managed a solid 2021 season with a 3.30 ERA, 127 ERA+ and 8 wins in a league-leading 70 appearances … all while averaging just 4.3 K/9 IP.

Hopeful for 2022: My love-hate attitude toward the 2021 Mets is an emotional roller coaster. But their play has me hopeful for 2022, at least. This season reminds me a bit of 2005, when they had a new star, Carlos Beltran, who underwhelmed, a closer, Braden Looper, who drove us mad, a starting rotation largely carried by one guy, Pedro Martinez, and a cruddy offense. Sounds familiar? Switch Francisco Lindor for Beltran, Edwin Diaz for Looper and Marcus Stroman (sorry Jacob) for Martinez and you have the 2021 Mets. What did the Mets do in 2006? Put it all together and reach the NLCS.

Schacht was the Washington Senators third base coach for more than a decade. (Wikipedia).

Dropped out of school: Al Schacht, who spent three years in the majors and later became the “Clown Prince of Baseball” didn’t make his high school baseball team, so he went and played semi-professional ball, instead. He later returned to the school team, but was barred from playing because of his involvement with the semi-pro club … so he dropped out of school altogether.

Doesn’t translate to the majors: It’s true what they say: Success in the minor leagues doesn’t always mean success in the majors—even if it comes at Triple-A, the level right below the big time. Consider this, for example: The last Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player to eventually reach the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown was Tony Perez, who won the honor in 1964. The last International League MVP to eventually reach Cooperstown was 1993 honoree Jim Thome.

Couldn’t dodge Jaster: Pitcher Larry Jaster isn’t remembered for much. He spent 7 years in the big leagues and won 35 games. But in 1966, twirling for St. Louis, he tossed a league-leading 5 shutouts … all of which were against the pennant winning Dodgers. That is the record for most consecutive shutouts against one team in a single campaign.

Jaster answers another trivia question: Who was the first player to throw a major league regular season pitch in Canada? Larry Jaster on April 14, 1969 at the Expos’ home opener in their inaugural season.

Bibby led the league in won-loss percentage in 1979 an 1980. (Wikipedia).

Speaking of 5 shutouts: In 1974, the Rangers Jim Bibby tossed 5 shutouts and still finished with a middling ERA of 4.74 and an ERA+ of 75 on the season. He scratched out 19 wins, but also lost that many.

Blue Moon outdid him: If you think Bibby’s performance is bad, check out what Blue Moon Odom managed in 1964, his first campaign. He tossed 17 frames, which included a 9-inning shutout in his second start. Yet, he finished the season with a 10.06 ERA, surrendering no less than 4 earned runs and pitching no more than 4 2/3 innings in any of the other 4 starts he made that year. He lasted 1/3 of an inning in one, 1 inning in another, 2 innings in a third and 4 2/3 frames in the last. That’s the worst ERA among pitchers with campaigns with at least one shutout. More recently, Mariners pitcher Jeff Weaver tossed 2 shutouts in 2007 … and had a 6.20 ERA on the year.

Picked the wrong gig: Negro league pitcher Half Pint Allen (so-called, I imagine, because he weighed 128 pounds) was just 6-7 with a 7.20 ERA in his brief career. But at the plate, he was 11-for-28 (.393 average) with a .469 on-base percentage. In 1932, he had the worst ERA (6.95) on the Baltimore Black Sox among pitchers with more than one appearance and the best batting average (.429) among all players. Looks like he misidentified his calling card.