Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 9, 2021.

Another late-night edition. The vagaries of real life get in the way sometimes.

Estrada’s power surge might be short-lived, as he owns a career slugging mark of .406. (Wikipedia).

Gotta love Estrada: Giants utilityman Thairo Estrada is making his presence known, slugging .727 with 3 home runs and 6 RBI over the past week. On September 6 at Colorado, he went 3-for-5 with a couple dingers and 3 RBI. He was a .214 career hitter before this season; he’s hitting .277 this year.

Yoshi’s cranking: The Pirates’ Yoshi Tsutsugo was a slugger in Japan, smashing 45 homers for the Yokohama Bay Stars in 2016 and 38 in 2018. His time stateside hasn’t worked out so well, as he owns a .199/.301/.396 slash line in 111 games over two years here. He started 2021 with a .120 average in 25 at-bats for the Dodgers, who released him August 14. Perhaps a change of scenery is all he needed—since joining Pittsburgh on August 16, he has 7 home runs, 15 RBI and a .286/.349/.768 line.

 A.J. is A-OK: Diamondbacks rookie hurler A.J. Alexy has started off on the right foot, allowing just two hits and no runs in 11 frames over two starts so far. His 5 walks are a little disconcerting, but not unexpected—he averaged 4.4 per 9 frames in the minor leagues.

Effross is a winner: Relief pitchers usually don’t rack up too many decisions, but that didn’t stop Cubs rookie Scott Effross from winning 2 of his first 4 outings with Chicago. In 5 2/3 frames in his short career, he has 7 strikeouts and no walks allowed.

The ballad of Matt Harvey: It astonishes me how far current Orioles pitcher Matt Harvey has fallen. He was nicknamed “The Dark Knight of Gotham” and (most gallingly) “the Real Deal.” In his first full season, 2013, he had a 2.27 ERA and 157 ERA+, while averaging 9.6 strikeouts per 9 innings. After missing 2014 to injury, he returned in 2015 and posted a 2.71 mark in 29 starts. Ahh, his glory years with the Mets. Look at him now: In 28 starts this year, he is 6-14 with a 6.27 ERA; he averages about 4 2/3 innings per outing. Since 2017, he is 21-38 with a 6.15 ERA.

Keuchel has underwhelmed: The rise of current White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel was swift, and so was his decline. In the three years prior to his Cy Young Award-winning 2015 campaign, when he went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA in 33 starts for Houston, he was 21-27 with a 4.16 ERA. Since that excellent season, he’s posted a 3.74 ERA and this year, he’s 8-9 with a mark of 5.33.

Losing All-Star: The last time a pitcher made the All-Star team the same year he led his league in losses was 2019. That season, the Marlins Sandy Alcantara lost 14 games for that 57-105 club. On the bright side, he led the league in complete games and shutouts, with 2 each.

Mikolas spent 2014 to 2017 in Japan, going 31-16 with a 2.34 ERA in the Land of the Rising Sun. (Wikipedia).

Winner, loser: And the last hurler to lead the league in wins one year then losses the next? Miles Mikolas. After pacing the NL with 18 victories in 2018, he went the opposite direction and led the loop with 14 losses the next year. It wasn’t a horrible season, as he walked less than 2 batters per 9 innings, on average, and posted a higher strikeout rate than the previous campaign, but it was no 2018. That year, he finished 6th in Cy Young voting.

Wore two legendary numbers: Babe Ruth wore number 3, Mickey Mantle wore number 7. Which Yankee wore both? Outfielder Cliff Mapes. He wore the Bambino’s number in 1948 and the Mick’s number from 1949 to 1951.

That’s a lot of ejections: You think umpires eject too many players nowadays? On July 19, 1946, the White Sox were playing Boston at Fenway Park when umpire Red Jones kicked all fourteen Chicago players and coaches from the bench. Jones was known for having a short fuse, leading American League umpires in ejections in both 1946 and 1948.

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 6, 2021.

Vogelbach hit just .208 in his All-Star 2019 campaign. (Wikipedia).

Dan is Vogel-back: Big Daniel Vogelbach never quite established himself at the major league level, despite hitting 30 home runs with Seattle in 2019 and making the All-Star squad that year. Now in a reserve role with Milwaukee, the slugger returned with a bang after missing all of July and August due to injury—in just his fourth game back, he clobbered a pinch hit, walk-off grand slam off Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes last night.

The new Kemp: He’s no Matt, yet, but Athletics outfielder Tony Kemp is getting there. Over the past month, he’s hit a solid .291 with a .371 on-base percentage, adding 3 doubles and a couple home runs for good measure. It’s been an up-and-down year for the former 5th round draft pick, who began the campaign with a .208 mark through mid-May, then was into the .290s by late June, and is down to .259 now.

Better than nothing: When you’re the 45-93 Diamondbacks, you have to take what you can get—and hurler Taylor Widener is worth taking. Since August 7, the righthander has a 2.57 ERA with 22 Ks and just 13 hits allowed in 21 innings. Not one to go deep into games, he pitched exactly 5 innings four starts in a row, from August 7 to August 27.

Salvador’s *this* close: After another dinger last night, Royals catcher Salvador Perez now sits at 41 on the season and is just two away from tying the season record for most dingers by a catcher with 43. He is firing on all cylinders right now, hitting .353 with 6 home runs and 16 RBI since August 27.

Every time you get your hopes up: Sunday, September 5: the Mets wallop the Nationals, 13-6; Javier Baez goes 4-for-4, Kevin Pillar smacks a grand slam, life is good. Monday, September 6: Mets face Nats starter Patrick Corbin, owner of a 6.26 ERA and 33 home runs surrendered this year. Mets are leading, closer Edwin Diaz blows the save, Mets lose 4-3. That’s the essence of being a Mets fan.

When he was with the Mets, J.J. was such a … well, you know. (Wikipedia).

This is also how the Mets do: J.J. Putz’s career ERA before joining New York: 3.07. His ERA with New York: 5.22. His ERA after leaving New York: 2.81.

No love for Durham: Jacque Jones and Armando Benitez both earned a vote for the Hall of Fame in 2014, but not Ray Durham. He had 2,000-plus hits, 1,249 runs scored, two All-Star selections and excellent power-speed skills (his 225.4 power-speed number is 69th all-time). The BBWAA writers are a mystery.

Naval Academy representation: For nearly a century, the only man from the United States Naval Academy to play major league baseball was pitcher Nemo Gaines, who spent four games with the Washington Senators in 1921. In 2015, two alumni joined the ranks, with pitcher Mitch Harris spending a season with St. Louis and hurler Oliver Drake debuting with Baltimore. Drake, though injured, is still playing.

Besting a Hall of Famer: Fifteen-year major league veteran Jose Hernandez won’t oft be mentioned in the same breath as any Hall of Famers, however he did break one Cooperstowner’s record: In the 1997-98 Puerto Rican League (now known as the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League), he clobbered 20 dingers, breaking the league’s single-season mark for most home runs by a native Puerto Rican. It was previously held by Orlando Cepeda.

Props to Bob: Bob Thurman, who played for the Reds from 1955 to 1959, holds the Puerto Rican League’s career home run record with 120.

Pete Rose, the prequel: The top 24 vote-getters in the initial Hall of Fame election in 1936 have been inducted into Cooperstown—and so have numbers 26 and 27. Former Yankees first baseman Hal Chase, who spent 15 years in the big leagues, finished 25th in the balloting with 4.9 percent of the vote and has yet to be enshrined. But it makes sense—he was de facto banned from baseball for gambling and such shenanigans.

Another olde stadium: Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field are major league baseball’s two oldest stadiums, opening in 1912 and 1914, respectively. But which is number three? Dodger Stadium is now a geriatric 59 years old, having opened in 1962.

Speed demons: Among those who debuted 1900 or after, the only players who were primarily pitchers with 20 or more career steals are Christy Mathewson, Chief Bender, Jack Coombs, Ray Caldwell, Johnny Lush and Doc White.

Who really discovered Mantle? Yankees scout Tom Greenwade is credited with signing the legendary Mickey Mantle, but Johnny Sturm, who played for the club in 1941, actually discovered the slugger. While managing the minor league Joplin Miners in the late ‘40s, he witnessed the young Mantle playing for a local semi-pro team and gave him a tryout. At his instigation, the Yankees sent area scout Greenwade to check the ballplayer out and, well, the rest, they say, is history.

Lou Gehrig was a decent ballplayer. (Wikipedia).

Is there anything Lou couldn’t do? The only player with five seasons of 400-plus total bases is Lou Gehrig, who led the league four times in that category and finished with 5,060 for his career. That’s 20th-best all-time.

Good at hitting home runs, not driving runs home: The player with the fewest RBI in a season with 20 or more home runs is catcher Chris Hoiles, who clocked 20 dingers and had just 40 RBI for Baltimore in 1992. A couple seasons earlier in 1990, the Yankees’ Kevin Maas had 21 home runs and 41 RBI and as recently as 2016, the Yanks’ Gary Sanchez clobbered 20 homers with 42 RBI. Thus far in 2021, the Giants’ Brandon Belt has 21 home runs and just 42 RBI.

The value of forums and message boards: It seems a majority of online baseball discussion has meandered to websites like Reddit and Twitter, but there is still great value in forums like Baseball-Fever.com. Social media and such frivolities is too-in-the-moment; after a day or two, posts, thoughts and discussions are shoved down the memory hole, never to be seen again. With forums, you can track discussions and watch as they develop. There is more permanence to them.

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 3, 2021.

Familia has spent his whole career with New York, save for a 30 game stint with Oakland in 2018. (Wikipedia).

Familia territory: Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia saved 43 games with a 1.85 ERA in 2015 and had a league-leading 51 saves in an All-Star 2016. Since then, he’s slipped to a 4.07 ERA, but his recent stretch resembles the Familia of old. He’s struck out 6 batters in his last 3 innings of work, 30 in his last 21 1/3 frames and 61 in 48 2/3 innings on the year as a whole.

Hunter’s no longer stricken: Brewers hurler Hunter Strickland was one of the game’s better relievers in the mid-2010s, but was stricken with a rapid decline in performance from 2018 to 2020. He seems to have gotten over it: Since joining Milwaukee—his third team this year—on June 14, he has a 1.30 ERA in 25 games; over the past month, that mark is 0.73 in 11 games. He’s 3-1 with a 2.52 ERA is 47 appearances overall.

Marchan marchin’ on: 22-year-old Phillies catcher Rafael Marchan has been a pleasant surprise these past few games, carrying a .333/.412/.667 line with a home run and 3 RBI since August 29. He debuted with a bang last year, going 4-for-8 with a dinger and 3 RBI in a cup of coffee with Philadelphia.

Bryan’s cruisin’ along: If the Marlins’ youngsters can coalesce at the same time, Miami might actually have a decent club in the near future. One such factor in it might be 24-year-old rookie outfielder Bryan De La Cruz, who has hit .340 in 100 at-bats with the club this year and .367/.400/.506 over the past month. He arrived with pitcher Austin Pruitt in a July 28 trade with Houston for reliever Yimi Garcia.

Milestone watch: Kevin Pillar recently played his 1,000th career game, while Anthony Rizzo eclipsed 5,000 at-bats, Josh Donaldson reached 5,000 plate appearances, Nelson Cruz scored his 1,000th run, Asdrubal Cabrera knocked his 400th double, Justin Upton collected his 1,000th RBI, Eric Hosmer and Donaldson clobbered their 500th extra base hits, Jose Abreu was clocked by his 100th pitch (and Salvador Perez by his 50th) and fearsome Freddie Freeman drew his 100th intentional walk.

Growing hopeful about the Mets: New York has won four straight games and are now just a game under .500. They’re 5 back in the Wild Card. Pete Alonso has been cranking the past month. Pitcher Carlos Carrasco might be turning a corner and Marcus Stroman is still throwing like an ace. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over …

Don’t do well in the majors: Lee Gronkiewicz, who had a 2.43 ERA and 159 saves in eight seasons on the farm pitched a single game with the Blue Jays in 2007. Bobby Korecky had a 3.10 ERA and 186 saves in 14 minor league seasons, but posted a 7.39 mark in 24 big league games over 4 seasons. Kevin Quackenbush owns a 2.19 ERA and 127 saves in the minors; he has a 4.41 mark and 87 ERA+ in the bigs. Successful minor league relief pitchers often don’t well at the major league level, or get much of a chance.

Weiss wasn’t much of a hitter, finishing with a career OPS+ of 78. (Wikipedia).

Exactly the same: 1990s shortstop and former Rockies manager Walt Weiss owns the highest career strikeout and walk totals of anyone who finished with the exact same amount (658) of each.

Sharing a name with the stars: Jimmy Stewart was one of the most famous actors of the 20th century. Jimmy Stewart—a different one—was a utilityman who spent 10 years in the majors in the 1960s and 1970s, playing for the Cubs, Reds and others. He’s not the first or only ballplayer to share names with a more famous counterpart—Mike Tyson is a notorious boxer; his baseball pairing was an infielder who played mostly for the Cardinals in the 1970s and early ‘80s. And don’t forget 1980s pitcher Bob Gibson (not to be confused with the Hall of Famer) or ‘80s Mariners outfielder Ricky Nelson (not to be confused with the more famous singer).

Hurlers can hit ‘em, too: Facing the Cubs on May 13, 1942, Braves pitcher Jim Tobin became the only pitcher in modern baseball history to hit three home runs in a single game. With a .230 career average, he was a great hitting pitcher and was often asked to pinch hit.

It was against the Mets: Former Rays pitcher Esteban Yan was the first American League pitcher since the introduction of the designated hitter rule in 1973 to homer in his first career at-bat. Facing the Mets’ Bobby Jones on June 4, 2000, he clobbered an inconsequential solo shot in a game Tampa Bay won 15-5. He also collected a hit in his only other career at-bat.

Unknown member of 60 dinger club: Wladimir Balentien was a fairly well-touted prospect in the 2000s, having set the Arizona League season record for home runs with 16 in 2003. He never found his stroke in the major leagues, but sure did when he went to Japan: In 2013, he hammered 60 big flies for the Yakult Swallows, setting a Nippon Professional Baseball record. He’s still playing over there to this day and has 494 career home runs between all levels.

Hate to say this about him, but: Roger Maris was the ultimate two-year wonder. Before his arrival with the Yankees in 1960, he slashed just .249/.329/.434 with 58 home runs and 203 RBI in 388 games. Then he set the baseball world ablaze by winning two straight MVP awards in 1960 and 1961 and, of course, breaking Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record with 61 the latter year. But after that, he was decent, but nothing to write home about: He averaged just 111 games per year over the rest of his career, slashing .259/.343/.446. He earned over 40% of the vote on the Hall of Fame ballot, but two great years does not a Hall of Fame career make … no matter how legendary one of the campaigns might have been.

Maris and Mantle combined for 115 home runs in 1961. The Kansas City Athletics had 90 as a team that year. (Wikipedia).

We’ll try our luck: Most home runs in a season without drawing an intentional walk? Roger Maris in his record-setting 61 home run, 1961 campaign. He batted in front of Mickey Mantle; pitchers preferred to try their hand with the superstar, not the legend. The career record for dingers without an IBB, among players for whom we have complete data, is 107, presently held by Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman.

Records haven’t updated: With the Society for American Baseball Research keeping an eye on things, you’d think they’d catch and verify whenever a former big leaguer passes away. However, such is not the case—it’s fairly well-known that former Braves catcher Hal King died some time ago (even they recognize that) but there has been no official confirmation or article to validate the claim, so they cannot mark him down as “deceased.” And so, he remains alive, per official records at least.