Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 14, 2021.

Perez ties record: The Royals Salvador Perez clobbered his 43rd home run of the season tonight, tying Javy Lopez’s 18-year-old record for most home runs in a campaign by a catcher. Perez had sat on number 42 since September 8.

Braun spent his entire career with the Brewers. (Wikipedia).

Ryan Braun retires: Milwaukee Brewers legend Ryan Braun has retired after 14 seasons. The 2007 Rookie of the Year winner made six All-Star teams, won five Silver Sluggers and took home the 2011 National League MVP. He finishes with a .296/.358/.532 line, 352 home runs, 216 stolen bases and a 134 OPS+.

Silence of the Lamb: Call me optimistic, but new Blue Jays third baseman Jake Lamb has been quietly effective since joining the club on September 3, despite his .167 batting average. In seven games since September 6, the 2017 All-Star has managed 5 walks, 5 runs, 5 RBI, 2 sacrifice flies, a hit by pitch and a .360 on-base percentage. Sounds like he’s mastered small ball, since nothing else has worked for him. He’s still batting just .206 on the year.

Urias on the rise: Speaking of small ball, check out what the Orioles’ Ramon Urias has accomplished in the past month. He’s clobbered just 2 home runs and had 6 doubles, but he’s managed 11 runs, 12 RBI and a .391 on-base percentage on the backs of 21 hits and 11 walks. Quite a rebound for a man who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk in mid-May due to his anemic play.

Lopez still crushing it: Some time ago, I complimented White Sox hurler Reynaldo Lopez on his excellent campaign, but said that as it was a small sample size, it might not last. Well, he’s proven me wrong. He still holds a 2.05 ERA and 163 ERA+ on the year and has a 2.63 mark over the past month.

Don’t underestimate Floro: Marlins reliever Dylan Floro doesn’t get all the headlines, but he is an effective pitcher. Since June 19, he has a 1.93 ERA in 28 appearances; his mark is 2.89 this season and it was 2.59 in 25 games last year. In 2018, he had an ERA of 2.25. Quietly, Floro has become one of baseball’s more reliable relievers.

Stick a fork in ‘em: Well, my bipolar view of the 2021 Mets has drifted into the pessimistic, yet again. They lost a heartbreaker tonight, 7-6 in 11 innings. What a let down. But that’s just one game. What also doesn’t bode well for the club is the returns of all those players supposedly coming back from injuries keep getting pushed back. Potentially helpful cogs remain unusable. ‘Til next year.

Then again… While they haven’t activated all their hurt players, they did activate catcher Tomas Nido and reliever Jake Reed. Every little bit counts. I’m still not very hopeful.

That’s a lot of Ks: From July 8 to August 20, 2017, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge had at least one strikeout in every game he played. That’s 37 games … and a record. Pitcher Bill Stoneman also Ked at least once in that many consecutive games, from April 30, 1971 to April 21, 1972.

That’s even worse: For nine-straight games in 2016, Judge had at least two strikeouts; Michael A. Taylor, the Royals outfielder, matched that this year and Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard did it in 2019.

Not the good kind of hat trick: Let’s keep going. The most consecutive games with three or more strikeouts? Five, by Jorge Soler, from August 12 to August 17, 2020. He struck out 15 times in 19 at-bats during that stretch. He’s the only player to manage such a long streak.

Reese didn’t start coaching with the Angels until he was 71. (Wikipedia).

Ryan, Carew and … Reese? The first two individuals to have their numbers retired by the Angels were Nolan Ryan (#30) and Rod Carew (#29). The third man isn’t so well-known—it was Jimmie Reese (#50), who coached for the club for 22 years, right up until his death at 92 in 1994.

Welcome back, Chuck: In 1940, first baseman-turned-actor Chuck Connors broke his finger after just four professional games and didn’t play for nearly two full seasons; in 1941, he was placed on the voluntarily retired list. In 1942, he mounted a comeback that eventually led to a brief, 67-game major league career.

Played in the wrong era: Gary Jones spent eight seasons in the minor leagues, including two full campaigns at Triple-A. He led the league in bases on balls five times and fashioned an excellent .437 on-base percentage, but never earned a call to the major leagues as a player. He later ascended to that level as a first and third base coach for the Athletics and Cubs, respectively.

Nichols tried his hand at managing. He had an 80-88 record. (Wikipedia).

Happy birthday, Kid: Hall of Fame pitcher Kid Nichols was born on this day. Playing from 1890 to 1901 and from 1904 to 1906, the hurler won 362 games to just 208 losses while completing 532 games. He also batted .226 with 16 home runs and 278 RBI.

I’m new, too: On October 6, 1908, hurlers Andy O’Connor of the New York Highlanders and Doc McMahon of the Boston Red Sox both started the first and only games of their careers. That is the only time in big league history that both starting pitchers made their only career appearance at the same time.  

Worth the read: I would recommend the book The Innocent Man by John Grisham (2006), which details the case of former minor leaguer Ron Williamson. Following his playing career, Williamson became addicted to drugs and alcohol and suffered from mental illness. He was cited in a woman’s death and was sentenced to death himself, but after 11 years, his sentence was overturned due to new DNA evidence.

Finally got around to it: What are the odds. I just recently said it was strange that, despite knowing that former Braves catcher Hal King passed away some time ago, SABR and the baseball intelligentsia hadn’t been able to find anything to confirm it, nor had they updated their records. Well, it’s not on Baseball-Reference.com yet, but according to their most recent newsletter, they finally received the confirmation they were looking for.

Grinder passes away: Scott Grinder, who umpired in the National League in the 1980s, passed away on September 11.

Studs and duds: September 7 – September 13

It was a tight battle for the Offensive Stud, but Gurriel won out.

Offensive stud: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Blue Jays). The outfielder is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak, adding three more knocks last night. That gives him a .444/.543/.889 line with 3 home runs (including a grand slam), 13 RBI and 10 runs scored over the past week.

Despite a weak start to 2021, Gurriel has been steady nearly all season—but he has really cranked it up since late August. In 22 games since August 22, he has hit .395/.472/.697 with 5 home runs, 28 RBI, 15 runs scored and 12 walks, while striking out only 12 times.

Could we see the first Blue Jays World Series appearance since 1993? With Gurriel, Teoscar Hernandez, Marcus Semien and all the club’s hot hitters killing it right now, there is a good possibility.

Honorable mention: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, .548/.622/.871, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 13 R).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). Urshela is the Dud again. With another 0-fer and a strikeout last night, he is 2-for-19 with 10 Ks over the past seven days and is batting .114 since his return from the injured list in late August. He has struck out in each of the past six games. Last night, New York started DJ LeMahieu in his place—at this point, bringing Charlie Hayes back to man the position would be a better option than Urshela.

Dishonorable mention: Amed Rosario (SS, Indians; 2-for-17, 5 K, 2 E).

Alcantara holds a 122 ERA+ thus far in his career. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Sandy Alcantara (SP, Marlins). Alcantara is pitching like a future Cy Young Award winner.

In 17 innings over his past two starts, he has allowed just one earned run on a single walk and five hits, while striking out 21 batters. His September 8 performance against the Mets was a complete game, 14 K showing, and last night, he tossed 8 innings of 1 hit, no walk, no run ball against Washington.

In his past seven starts, the 26-year-old righthander has a 1.55 mark and 64 Ks in 52 1/3 innings. And he has not yet even entered his prime. What the future holds for Alcantara is exciting.

Honorable mention: Eric Lauer (SP, Brewers; 2-0 W-L, 12 1/3 IP, 13 K, 2 BB, 0.73 OBA).

Pitching dud: Alberto Baldonado (RP, Nationals). Baldonado’s position remains unchanged. Though he tossed just 1 1/3 innings over the past week, it was enough for opposing teams to inflict plenty of damage: He blew a save, took a loss, surrendered three walks and posted a 10.80 ERA in that brief run. The 28-year-old rookie’s ascension to the majors was rocky, as just as recently as 2018, he had a 4.88 ERA at Triple-A.

Dishonorable mention: Jose Cisnero (RP, Brewers; 2 IP, 5 H, 7 ER, 4 BB, 2 BSV). His saving grace was in all that mess, he scratched out a win.

Random notes and musings: September 13, 2021.

Andrus has hit just .224 since 2020. (Wikipedia).

Took long enough: 2021 has not been a great year for Athletics shortstop Elvis Andrus, who has hit just .231/.278/.309 in 135 games. Every time he puts together a decent run, he enters another cold streak, ruining any progress made. Perhaps not this time: Over the past week, he has hit .353 with 6 hits in 17 at-bats. It’s not much, but he’ll take anything at this point.

Give it up for Duffy: The Cubs aren’t going anywhere this year, but infielder Matt Duffy is going places right now. After beginning the season with a .226 mark through August 1, he has hit .294 with 16 runs scored and 8 RBI since to bring his season average up to .259. He began the year with a .309 mark through May 8.

Middling Mitch: Pirates starter Mitch Keller was a second round draft pick in 2014, taken alongside the likes of Alex Verdugo and Spencer Turnbull. While they’ve begun crafting fine careers, Keller has gone in the opposite direction: He is 4-11 with a 6.29 ERA this year and 6-17, 6.07 in 35 career starts. His career ERA+ of 71 is the second-worst among active pitchers with at least 150 innings, behind Burch Smith’s 69.

Coonrod’s cooking: 2021 has been quite the rebound campaign for Phillies reliever Sam Coonrod, who had a 9.82 ERA in 18 games with San Francisco last season. In 35 appearances this year, he has a 3.68 mark and 10.6 K/9 IP ratio. Since August 28, those numbers are 1.29 and 15.4, respectively.

Almost won it: Adam Wainwright has the most Cy Young Award shares among pitchers to never actually win the award, with 1.97. He finished second and third twice each, but never took the honor home. Eddie Murray has the most MVP shares among those who never won it at 3.33. He finished in the top-five five years in a row and six times overall; he also finished second twice in a row. The active player with the most MVP shares to never win is Robinson Cano, at 2.14. He’s finished in the top-10 six times, peaking at third place.

He doubted Ichiro: Not everyone thought Ichiro Suzuki was going to be a star. When he was starting out with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Orix BlueWave in 1992 and 1993, his manager, Shozo Doi, refused to give him regular playing time. In addition to criticizing the young outfielder’s batting stance, he once said Ichiro had “come too far too fast…a player has to know hardship if he’s going to reach his full potential.” In 1994, his first full season, Suzuki hit .385 with 210 hits in 130 games at 20 years old.

Minor league home run leader: Royals prospect MJ Melendez has smashed 37 dingers in just 390 at-bats this season, his first above A-ball, to lead the affiliated minor leagues. Nine of them came in 29 Triple-A games, his first stint at that level.

Steals base Easley: Keep an eye on Rangers prospect Jayce Easley, the son of former major leaguer Damion. The speedster has swiped 69 bases in 93 Single-A games this season, and though his average is a middling .247, he has still managed a .406 on-base percentage. The former 5th-round pick has 91 stolen bases and a .255/.401/.309 line in 139 games in the low-minors.

Far from the Wurtz: Outfielder Gabe Wurtz slashed .382/.511/.588 at University of Virginia’s College at Wise in 2020, then .344/.519/.811 in 33 games in 2021. After going undrafted, he promptly hit .414/.487/.841 with 22 home runs and 86 RBI in 54 games for the independent Tucson Saguaros of the high-flying Pecos League. He also spent 13 less-than-stellar games with the indy Houston Apollos, batting .382/.461/.764 with 24 dingers and 98 RBI overall.

Odd Hall of Fame choice: Shortstop Jack Wilson was elected to the Lancaster JetHawks Hall of Fame in 2006, despite never playing for the team. The closest he got was when he played with the winter league Lancaster Stealth in 1999, with whom he won a championship.

48-year-old Colon was 6-2 with a 4.55 ERA in 11 Mexican League starts this season. (Wikipedia).

Colon reminiscing: Hey Mets fans, remember when Bartolo Colon clobbered an improbable home run?

A lot of seasons, not hits: Catcher Rick Dempsey spent 24 years in the major leagues and played over 100 games in 8 of them. He had 100-plus hits just once, in 1978.

Double Crown: Pitcher Mike Birkbeck was *this* close to winning two pitching Triple Crowns … in the minor leagues. In 1984, while with the Single-A Beloit Brewers, he finished third in victories (3 behind the leader), second in strikeouts (2 behind the leader) and second in ERA (0.22 behind the leader). In 1993, with the Triple-A Richmond Braves, he paced the International League in victories and tied for the lead in strikeouts but was just 0.02 points short of the ERA title. He again got pretty close again in 1994, also with Richmond. That year, he finished two wins and 17 strikeouts short; his ERA missed by 0.31 points.

Three other Millions have played professionally: Robert, Doug and Mike. (Wikipedia).

Not-so-famous first: Who was the first Latin American player in major league history? Cuban infielder Estavo B. “Steve” Bellan, who played for the Troy Haymakers and New York Mutuals in the National Association from 1871 to 1873. The next Cuban—and Latin American—didn’t appear in the majors until outfielder Chick Pedroes in 1902; some consider Luis Castro to be the second Latin American, however his birthplace is disputed. He might have been born in New York City.

He was million-to-one: One of the strangest names in baseball has to belong to 1910s minor league outfielder Ten Million, so named at the behest of his grandmother, who wanted his name to stand out. She also convinced Million to name his daughter Decillian, with the help of a $50 bribe. She went by Dixie later in life.

Stuck in Japan: In 2005, Japanese outfielder Tatsuya Ozeki was signed to a minor league contract by the Brewers but immigration issues—specifically, Milwaukee used up all its work visas—kept him from appearing stateside. He later tried out with Colorado, but they didn’t sign him.

Studs and duds: September 6 – September 12

We haven’t seen Teoscar Hernandez in a while; we welcome back a familiar one as the Pitching Stud.

What a difference a few years makes: In his time with Houston, Hernandez hit just .230. (Wikipedia).

Offensive stud: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays). It was a nice run for Marcus Semien, but a new face has taken his place.

Hernandez has hit .448/.556/.862 with 3 home runs, including a grand slam, 10 RBI, 13 runs scored, 2 stolen bases and 5 walks in the past week—but let’s not kid ourselves, he’s been one of the game’s hottest hitters since August. In 33 games since August 8, Hernandez has hit .323/.389/.608 with 10 home runs, 33 RBI and 31 runs scored.

And his performance couldn’t have come at a better time. With Hernandez and Semien surging, the Blue Jays currently lead in the American League wild card race, barely, and need all their cylinders firing right now. Hernandez is doing his best to make that happen.

Honorable mention: Marcus Semien (2B, Blue Jays; .364/.462/.818, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 8 R).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). Despite going 1-for-4 at the plate, Urshela continued his struggles yesterday by striking out two more times and committing an error in the field. He has had two strikeouts in four of the past five games—and a single K in the fifth one—making him 3-for-21 with nine strikeouts over the past week. Since his return to the Yankees lineup in late August, he is 5-for-43 (.116) with 15 Ks and no walks.

Dishonorable mention: Amed Rosario (SS, Indians; 3-for-21, 7 K, 2 E).

Pitching stud: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers). Scherzer seems to be getting better. In 16 innings over his past two starts, he has amassed 22 strikeouts—including the 3,000th of his career—without walking a single batter. Just seven of batsmen have even managed hits off him.

Scherzer hasn’t allowed more than 200 hits in a season since 2011. (Wikipedia).

Having not allowed an earned run since August 21, the hurler is now 6-0 with 72 strikeouts, 5 walks allowed and a 0.88 ERA in 51 innings since joining Los Angeles in July; he is 14-4 with 219 strikeouts, a league-leading 0.821 WHIP, a league-leading 2.17 ERA and a 186 ERA+ on the year. Baseball Reference’s similarity scores say the pitcher second-most similar to him through age 36 is Randy Johnson. Sounds about right.

Honorable mention: Kevin Gausman (SP, Giants; 2-0 W-L, 13 IP, 18 K, 1 BB, 2 QS).

Pitching dud: Alberto Baldonado (RP, Nationals). It was a rough week for the 28-year-old rookie, who debuted on September 2.

On September 10, he gave up a hit and blew a save, then on the 11th, he walked 2 and allowed 2 earned runs in one-third of an inning for the loss. For those counting at home: He has a 10.80 ERA in 1 2/3 innings over the past seven days, spread over 3 appearances.

It was the first real rough patch of the hurler’s short career, as he allowed just one walk and a hit in 4 2/3 frames over 4 appearances initially. That he is in the majors at all is pretty amazing—he was signed by the Mets in 2009 and didn’t even reach Triple-A until 2017—and he had a 6.65 ERA in 39 appearances when he did.

Dishonorable mention: JT Chargois (RP, 0-1 W-L, 3 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 BSV).

Max Scherzer joins the 3,000 K club.

Scherzer is the third pitcher since 2019 to reach 3,000 Ks—Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia did it that year. (Wikipedia).

Max Scherzer has joined the immortals.

When Scherzer got the Padres Eric Hosmer swinging in the fifth inning yesterday, he became just the 19th pitcher with 3,000 or more career strikeouts.

And he did it quickly, in just 14 seasons.

Having developed into one of the game’s best strikeout pitchers as he entered his prime in his late 20s, he hasn’t averaged less than 10 Ks per nine innings pitched since 2012, when he was with Detroit.

Since then, he has won three strikeout titles—in 2016, 2017 and 2018—and K-ed 200-plus batters nine times and 250 or more five times—including 300 with Washington in 2018. He has thrice led the league in K/9 IP ratio and is fifth all-time in that category, with a career 10.73 mark. Because he has excellent control, having walked 70 batters in a season just once, the hurler has paced the loop in K/BB ratio four times, as well.

And his control is impeccable. He has never led the league in BB/9 IP, however he has placed in the top ten five times. He is third in the National League this year. He was second in 2015.

To say, then, that Scherzer is merely a strikeout pitcher is an insult to his body of work. He’s an artist, an expert, a workhorse and a winner. And what a winner he is. In this age of low victory totals, he’s led the league in that category four times, with as many as 21 in a season. At the doorstep of 200 with 189 for his career, he is nearing another impressive milestone, one only two active pitchers have reached. He has just 97 losses; that’s a career .661 winning percentage.

And a workhorse? Well, that might be an understatement. He’s led the league in games started, innings pitched and batters faced twice, each. Three times he has paced the loop in complete games and twice in shutouts.

But all those pitches, all those innings don’t affect his performance. They don’t hurt his ability to nibble the corners. To keep men off base. To throw with precision, pitch after pitch.

In 2,519 1/3 innings—the fifth-highest total among active hurlers—he’s surrendered just 2,053 hits, or a mere 7.3 per nine frames. He’s led the league in that category three times. And, since he doesn’t walk anyone, he’s paced the loop in WHIP five times, as well. His 1.082 mark is 15th-best ever. Better than Juan Marichal. Better than Sandy Koufax.

And fans, writers and baseball intelligentsia recognize his dominance. Selected to eight All-Star teams, he has won three Cy Young Awards—in 2013, 2016 and 2017—and finished second and third in voting once each. He finished fifth twice. In MVP balloting, usually dedicated to the very best hitters, he placed tenth three years in a row, from 2016 to 2018.

Between his Cy Young campaigns of 2013 and 2016, there was 2015, a magical year in itself. In addition to striking out 276 batters and posting a 2.79 ERA, he led the league with four complete games and three shutouts.

Scherzer’s black and grey ink are 57 and 202, respectively. The average Hall of Famer’s are 50 and 185. (Wikipedia).

Two of which were no-hitters. And both nearly perfect.

On June 20, facing the Pirates, Scherzer went 8 2/3 innings without allowing a man on base. To that point, he had 10 strikeouts. Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen had K-ed twice.

Just one out shy of perfection, with the crowd on its feet, Scherzer … plunked pinch hitter Jose Tabata. The next batter, Josh Harrison, flied out. So close. A no-hitter is quite the consolation prize.

Incredibly, he was coming off a one-hit, one-walk 16-strikeout shutout against Milwaukee on June 14 in which he was perfect through the first six innings. In his following start, he was perfect through his first five.

A few months later, in his last start of the season, he made history again in a performance that was greater than his near-perfect game.

Facing Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey at the rest of the New York Mets, Scherzer walked not a soul as Mets batsmen went hitless. In fact, he himself didn’t allow any baserunners. The only man to reach was gifted his chance by way of a sixth inning throwing error by third baseman Yunel Escobar.

And he struck out 17 Mets, including, at one point, nine in a row. Shortstop Ruben Tejada and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis whiffed three times each. Three other men K-ed twice.

He wasn’t able carry the dominance of that game into the postseason; Washington missed it, winning just 83 games on the year.

But the playoffs haven’t been elusive for Scherzer in his 14 seasons—he’s pitched in them seven times. In his first series, with Detroit back in 2011, he tossed 7 1/3 innings, K-ed 7 batters, posted a 1.23 ERA and won a game. In 2012, he made his first World Series appearance. It wasn’t his best performance—in 6 1/3 innings, he allowed 3  earned runs on 7 hits and a walk. He walked away with the no-decision, but the Tigers lost the series.

Skip to nearly a decade later, in 2019, with Washington. Scherzer won a game in the NLDS and NLCS, throwing seven innings of scoreless, one-hit, 11-strikeout ball in the latter.

Propelled to the Fall Classic for the first time in franchise history, Washington had Scherzer take the mound twice against Houston in that nail-biting, seven-game series. Starting Game One, he went five innings, allowed two earned runs and struck out seven Astros for the win. He didn’t pitch in Games Two through Six. But he was called upon to seal the deal in Game Seven.

Scherzer is 7-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 22 postseason appearances. (Wikipedia).

By Scherzer’s standards, it was a rough outing. Granted, he again surrendered just two earned runs, but he also allowed seven hits and four walks in five innings of work. He left the game with the Nationals trailing, 2-0. The uninspiring Patrick Corbin took over and tossed 3 scoreless innings. Daniel Hudson didn’t allow a run his inning, either. The Nationals offense came alive in the seventh with two home runs. They beat Houston, 6-2 and won the World Series in seven games.

Scherzer got his ring, icing on the cake of what has become a legendary career.

But he wasn’t always a shoo-in for greatness. Though he was the Diamondbacks’ first round pick in 2006—taken in the same round as Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum—his big league career began a little … disappointingly. Despite a 151 ERA+ his first season, 2008, he was 0-4 in 56 innings. The next year, he again posted a losing record of 9-11, with a 4.12 ERA. In 2010, he was solid but not spectacular at 12-11, 3.50 and in 2011, despite winning 15 games, he had a mediocre campaign with a 4.43 ERA and 93 ERA+. By then, he was already 27 years old.

That, however, was the old Scherzer. In 2013, everything clicked and he hasn’t looked back since. In those nine years, he’s gone 137-55 with a 2.80 ERA and 150 ERA+. In 1,714 2/3 innings, he’s struck out 2,174 batters (over 11 per nine innings) and posted a tiny WHIP of 0.982.

That is the Scherzer history will remember. That is the Scherzer who will get into Cooperstown. That is the Scherzer who reached 3,000 strikeouts.

And became immortal.

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.

Random autograph of the day: Kevin Mulvey

Kevin Mulvey is a former Mets prospect, a 2nd round pick later traded with others for star hurler Johan Santana.

Though he posted some decent numbers on the farm, Mulvey never pitched in a big league uniform for the Mets—and, in the long run, he barely pitched in the big leagues, at all.

New York shipped him to the Twins in February 2008, and by July 2009, he was on a major league mound. He spent 27 1/3 unsuccessful innings there, including just 1 1/3 with Minnesota, going 0-3 with a 7.90 ERA overall. The Twins shipped him to Arizona as the player to be named later in a deal for relief pitcher Jon Rauch in September 2009 and after a few more rocky appearances, he was back in the minors for good.

He ended his professional career in 2012 where it all began, in the Mets system. 

Studs and duds: September 5 — September 11

Marcus Semien, Gio Urshela and Edwin Diaz appear for another day, but there is a new face here, as well.

Offensive stud: Marcus Semien (2B, Blue Jays). Is there an echo in here? Marcus Semien is on the hottest of streaks and is, yet again, the Offensive Stud.

With another home run and 3 RBI yesterday, he is batting .387/.500/.968 with 5 dingers and 13 ribbies over the past week—that puts him at 39 home runs and 94 RBI on the year.

Should he reach 40 big flies, and it is unlikely that he won’t, he will be just the 5th second baseman to achieve that mark, with the others being Rogers Hornsby (42 in 1922), Davey Johnson (43, 1973), Ryne Sandberg (40, 1990) and Brian Dozier (42, 2016).

If he reaches 100 RBI—another strong possibility—he’ll be just the second second sacker to reach 40 homers and 100 RBI since Sandberg; he had exactly 100 ribbies in 1990. The 100 RBI mark itself is a rarity for second basemen, with the last to reach it being Jonathan Schoop, then of the Orioles, in 2017.  

Baez has 30 home runs and 17 stolen bases on the year. (Wikipedia).

Honorable mention: Javier Baez (IF, Mets; .519/.581/.926, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 10 R, 4 SB).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). Oh my goodness, it’s a train wreck! 0-for-3 with 2 more strikeouts yesterday—that makes him 2-for-18 with 7 Ks since September 5! What in the world is going on!

Who knows, but the Yankees can’t be pleased. They’re in a tight race for second place in the American League East with Boston and Toronto and cannot afford any clunkers right now. Urshela’s WAR for the season is 0.6—a thoroughly mediocre number—and his line is now .255/.293/.404. That OBP is an eyesore, especially.

It will be interesting to see what the Yankees will do should they reach the playoffs with Urshela struggling. He owns a .205 postseason batting average, so one wonders if he’d be worth the risk of utilizing at all.

Dishonorable mention: Ryan Lavarnway (C, Indians; 0-for-6, 3 K, 2 E).

Prior to 2021, Gausman was 50-66 with a 4.26 ERA. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Kevin Gausman (SP, Giants). What an incredible season this has been for Gausman—especially so, since he had never even posted a winning record before this year (the best he did was .500 in 2014 and 2020).

He boosted his line further this past week, going 2-0 with 18 strikeouts and just one walk allowed in 13 innings. Though his ERA was an elevated 4.15, his season mark still stands at 2.65, good for 5th-best in the National League. He has even helped himself with the bat this season, with his .188 average the best among the team’s starters.

Though he has some stiff competition, ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor says he has the 3rd-best chance of winning the honor, behind only Walker Buehler and Julio Urias.

Honorable mention: Corbin Burnes (SP, Brewers; 13 IP, 21 K, 3 BB, 6 H, 2.08 ERA). I guess he should be the stud due to recent events, but I think I’m jaded against no-hitters now.

Pitching dud: Edwin Diaz (RP, Mets). The hurler has lost 2 games, blown a save and owns a WHIP of 5 over the past week. As one of Diaz’s primary skills is blowing saves, here is a compilation of him ruining games. And here’s one of his “2019 lowlights”.

Diaz owns a career .318 winning percentage, the 3rd-worst among active pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched. If any player is proof teams should not be wooed by one amazing standout campaign, Diaz is that man.

Dishonorable mention: JT Chargois (RP, Rays; 2 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 ER, 1 L, 1 BSV).

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.

Studs and duds: September 4 – September 10

Edwin Diaz draws my ire again, while Marcus Semien is putting together an MVP argument.

Offensive stud: Marcus Semien (2B, Blue Jays). After a 2-for-4 showing last night, Semien is now 11-for-27 over the past week for a .407/.529/.926 line. He has 4 home runs, 10 RBI, 6 runs scored and 6 walks, which are especially impressive since his season on-base percentage is .344 and his career mark is .325.

Semien is in Most Valuable Player territory, as he leads the American League in Wins Above Replacement (6.5), is second in total bases (307), third in doubles (36) and fourth in home runs (38). Don’t forget the accolades: An All-Star, he was also the May Player of the Month, after he hit .368 with 8 home runs and 22 RBI.

2021 has been an excellent rebound campaign for the former shortstop, who hit just .223/.305/.374 in 53 games last season.

Honorable mention: Nelson Cruz (DH, Rays; .429 BA, .929 SLG, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 10 R).

I don’t know the result of this play, but Urshela was probably out. (Wikipedia).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). Urshela continued his reign of futility with an 0-for-3 performance with a strike out yesterday, making him 2-for-15 with 5 Ks and 2 errors over the past week and 4-for-36 with 11 strikeouts since his return to the field in late August. Since his batting average peaked at .303 on May 16, he’s hit just .233/.266/.370 with 64 Ks and 9 walks in 227 at-bats. Urshela is signed through 2021; with the way he’s performing, I’m not sure New York will bring him back.

Dishonorable mention: Daniel Johnson (OF, Indians; 1-for-11, 5 Ks).  

Of course it is: Houser’s nickname is “Doogy.” (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Adrian Houser (SP, Brewers). It’s good to see a fresh—and unexpected—face in this position every once in a while.

After pitching a complete game shutout against St. Louis on September 4, the righthander followed up with a 6-inning, 1-hit, 0-earned run performance against Cleveland yesterday. Though the latter wasn’t a perfect showing—he walked 5 batters—it elevated him to this heralded title.

Between the two appearances, he tossed 15 innings and allowed just 4 hits, while striking out 12 batters. It has been a great season for the hurler, who is 9-6 with a 3.25 mark in 25 games (23 starts) after going 1-6, 5.30 in 2020.

The former 2nd round pick was acquired from Houston with reliever Josh Hader and outfielders Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips for pitcher Mike Fiers and outfielder Carlos Gomez in 2015. Milwaukee got the better of that deal.

Honorable mention: Jose Berrios (SP, Blue Jays; 2-0 W-L, 13 1/3 IP, 15 K, 2 BB).

Pitching dud: Edwin Diaz (RP, Mets). I just got done railing against Diaz yesterday and wouldn’t you know, here he is again. After blowing a save and taking 2 losses over the past week, Diaz has proven he cannot close in New York and that his stunning 2018 with Seattle (1.96 ERA, 57 saves, 15.2 K/9) was the exception and not the norm.

Though he still strikes batters out with great frequency (12.9 K/9 this year, 17.5 K/9 last season), that ability has become nothing more than a novelty since he flunks at every other facet of his job—most importantly, saving games and ensuring victories. He’s signed through the end of 2021. It might be time to say goodbye.

Pitching dud: JT Chargois (RP, Rays; 2 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 L, 1 BSV).