Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 11, 2021.

Hader took part in two no-hitters in the minor leagues. (Wikipedia).

Brewers no-hitter: As I write this, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader combined for the ninth no-hitter of 2021, blanking the Cleveland Indians. Sixteen Indians struck out, including three men who Ked thrice. This reminds me of that span from 2009 t0 2012 when six perfect games were thrown, including three in 2012 alone—people thought that was the end of the perfect game as a rarity, but there haven’t been any since. I’m thinking this crazy year might be an anomaly rather than the new normal, as well.

Rengifo’s nice run: Angels utilityman Luis Rengifo has had an inauspicious first few seasons in the major leagues, hitting .238 in 2019, posting a 32 OPS+ last year and slashing .180/.219/.280 this season. But everyone has a hot streak eventually. Over the past few days, he’s hit .357 with a home run and a couple runs scored.

Who needs Arenado: Edmundo Sosa, the Cardinals 25-year-old infielder, hit just .242 through the end of July. Since then, he’s batted .364/.433/.584 with 14 runs scored and 14 RBI in 77 at-bats. In the same stretch, St. Louis’ star third baseman Nolan Arenado has hit .212 with a .267 on-base percentage.

Kinley’s killing it: Rockies relief pitcher Tyler Kinley’s season ERA of 4.83 won’t wow anyone, but that he’s gotten it down from his 6.20 mark on August 7 might. Since that date, when he gave up 4 earned runs in 2/3 of an inning against the Marlins, he’s posted a 0.61 ERA in 13 appearances, striking out 19 batters in 14 2/3 innings.

This isn’t the Enn: Rays hurler Dietrich Enns made some headlines when he was in the Yankees system back in the day due to his excellent minor league numbers. From 2o12 to 2017, his season ERAs were, respectively: 2.11, 2.94, 1.42, 0.61, 1.73 and 2.05. He finally reached the majors in 2017 with Minnesota; in 4 innings, he allowed 7 hits and had a 6.75 ERA. And that looked like it for Enns, who struggled in the minors in 2018 and 2019. But the Rays picked him up this year and he returned to the majors on August 7. It’s not much, but among his appearances, he’s had two 3-inning scoreless outings since his return to the show.

 Always a thief: Rickey Henderson holds the record for most consecutive seasons with at least one stolen base at 25. Ty Cobb and Omar Vizquel had a steal in 24 straight campaigns.

Had Gwynn’s number: Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn mastered nearly every pitcher he faced. Against Greg Maddux, he batted .429; against John Smoltz, he hit .462. Who, more than anyone, had Gwynn’s number? Omar Olivares, who went 77-86 with a 4.67 ERA in 12 seasons, held the eight-time batting champ to a .120 mark in 25 at-bats against him.

All singles: On July 10, 1932, against the Athletics, Cleveland’s Johnny Burnett set the record for most hits in a game with 9. It was an 18-inning affair that Philadelphia won 18-17. The most hits in a game where all the knocks were singles is 6; it’s happened 18 times since 1901, with Jean Segura, then of the Brewers, most recently doing it against Minnesota on May 28, 2013.

Three triples: The three players to hit three or more triples in a game since 2000 are Rafael Furcal (April 21, 2002), Denard Span (June 29, 2010) and Yasiel Puig (July 25, 2014). It usually happens a couple times per decade, but no one did it in the 1940s.

Brain led the NL with 10 home runs in 1907. (Wikipedia).

Brain’s legs carried him: England-native Dave Brain is the only player since 1901 to hit three triples in a game twice in his career. What’s more, they came in the same season, 1905.

Shot Heard ‘Round the World: Most baseball fans know about this dinger, when the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson clobbered a walk-off, pennant-winning home run, off the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca on October 3, 1951. We know the main characters in this saga—Thomson, Branca—but who was the Brooklyn leftfielder who watched forlornly as the ball sailed over his head into the stands? Andy Pafko, who spent only a year-and-a-half with the club.

Middle East represent: While playing for the Padres, second baseman Craig Stansberry became the first man born in the Middle East to debut in the major leagues when he pinch hit for Rob Mackowiak on August 25, 2007. Born in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, he spent parts of three years in the big leagues and collected 8 hits in 24 at-bats. Pitcher Jeff Bronkey, born in Afghanistan, debuted in 1993, but Afghanistan is technically not  part of the Middle East.

Mark Reynolds hit .236 for his career. (Wikipedia).

Who needs a high average: Most total bases in a season by a batter with an average of less than .200? 216, by Mark Reynolds in 2010. That year, he hit .198.

What a nickname: Manuel Garcia was a Negro league pitcher of the 1920s and 1930s who had the unusual nickname of Cocaina (cocaine). Supposedly, batters seemed almost drugged by his pitches and unable to concentrate on the baseball. According the legendary Buck O’Neil, “he had a wicked curve ball which made all us hitters go numb.” Despite what O’Neil says, the story behind his moniker sounds almost apocryphal, but it’s an interesting tale, nevertheless.

What a deal: You might recall the tale of John Odom, the independent league pitcher was who was traded for ten new baseball bats in 2008. That’s not the first oddball trade in indy league history. In 1996, first baseman Andre Keene was traded partway through the year for cash … and a Muddy Waters album.

8 wins, 4 days: In 1953, minor league hurler Eddie Locke pitched complete games in both ends of a doubleheader four times … and won each game. Though he never played in the major leagues, he was an excellent pitcher, winning twenty-plus games 3 times and 176 for his career.

Perfect baseball name: Tommy Toledo might be the perfect baseball name. It belonged to a relief pitcher who played in the Brewers system from 2011 to 2014. He peaked at Double-A.

Fly-by-nighters: Relievers who had one great season, part three—Jim Austin.

Jim Austin pitched three seasons, posting a 3.06 ERA in 83 games. (Wikipedia).

You’ve probably never heard of Jim Austin or, if you have, he’s a memory deep in the back of your mind, a name you vaguely recall but are not sure where from.

That’s reasonable. He spent just three seasons in the majors in the early 1990s, playing for the Brewers—a team bouncing between mediocrity, excellence, and being downright awful—from 1991 to 1993.

His first season, he pitched just five games, walking 11 batters in 8 2/3 innings. His last, he threw just 33 frames, posting a 3.82 ERA. A fair mark, but not one to turn any heads.

In the minors, back when he was a Padres farmhand, he was a decent pitcher, but gave San Diego no reason to expedite him to the majors. In his first professional season, 1986, he had a 2.26 ERA. The next year, he threw 20 wild pitches.

Traded to Milwaukee in February 1989, he flubbed his first year in their system, but tore up Double A in 1990, going 11-3 with a 2.44 ERA. At Triple A in 1991, his mark was 2.45 in 44 innings. On Independence Day he made his debut; a couple weeks later, he was back in the minors.

The 1992 Brewers featured a few excellent performances by relievers who otherwise underwhelmed in their careers. Mike Fetters had a 1.87 ERA in 50 games; he had a career mark of 3.86.  Darren Holmes had a 2.55 mark in 41 games; for his career, he had a 4.25 ERA.

Austin did his part, too. In 58 1/3 innings over 47 games, he went 5-2 with a 1.85 ERA, allowing just 38 hits. Behind Cal Eldred’s 1.79, his ERA was the best on the team. He rarely surrendered the longball, just 0.3 per nine innings.

It was the type of season that any team hoping to compete would ask for. Every cog who could perform to that level, no matter how unknown, would be fostered and utilized, because individual success breeds a successful whole.

Austin helped the Brewers win 92 games that year.

But his WHIP, that’s walks and hits allowed per inning pitched, was alarmingly high at 1.200. Though he allowed just 5.9 hits per nine innings, he also walked about that many. In fact, he had more walks than strikeouts, 32 to 30.

An issue though that might’ve been, the Brewers put him in their bullpen for 1993 and, after a rough patch early on, he finished the season with a 2.45 ERA over his final 29 games. The baseball encyclopedias, nevertheless, show his mark rose nearly two points over the year before.

But whatever momentum Austin had, it was forced to a halt by that killer of so many major league careers, an arm injury. He pitched his final game for the Brewers on July 20, 1993.

And didn’t play at all in 1994. He pitched three innings in the Indians system in 1995, allowing four earned runs. He made 10 appearances in the Red Sox system in 1996 and had a 9.00 ERA.

After spending 1997 in Mexico and Taiwan—where he did well, with a 3.04 mark in 77 innings—his professional career was over.

He’s an interesting bit of trivia, Jim Austin is. Who owns the shortest career of any pitcher with an ERA below 2 in his second season, minimum 40 games pitched?

Someone might guess 1870s star Jim Devlin, who won 72 games in three seasons before being banned for gambling. But he spent a few years as a first baseman before taking the mound.

Jim Austin, that’s the answer.

Maybe you’ll remember him now.