Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 19, 2021.

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: With another hit today, Cabrera is now 21 away from 3,000 for his career. The Tigers have 12 games left.

Max Scherzer 200 win watch: It’s not possible for him to reach the milestone this season, but put him on your radar for next year: He won number 190 against Cincinnati yesterday and is now just 10 away. Both the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw (184 wins) and Cardinals Adam Wainwright (183) could feasibly reach the mark in 2022, as well.

Mets victories bring no joy: New York beat Philadelphia 3-2 today on Jeff McNeil‘s decisive, tie-breaking, 7th inning home run off starter Kyle Gibson. Oh, but what joy is there in a victory as meaningless as this? For lo, we Mets fans have ridden the highs and lows of this season for these few months and can no longer take the soul crushing lows we are burdened with not just now, but year-in and year-out. I weep at the thought of another disappointing September, knowing we came this far just to lose it all in the end. The forlorn, melancholic chill of the shortening autumn days brings with it the unbearable sadness of the closing of yet another baseball season where redemption is no longer possible and even miracles can no longer save us. Yea, October for Mets fans seems a decade, a lifetime, an eternity away, the light at the end of a tunnel that only gets longer as we trek further and further into it. Why, why, why must the hands of fate wrap their icy, bony, fingers around our hearts and squeeze them until they can no longer beat, wringing us of any hope or optimism? I cry knowing the children of this year shall not see their heroes deGrom and Conforto and Stroman bring them postseason heroics. Oh, isn’t that what the Mets need now, a hero? Can’t anyone here play this game? Or do they not care for victory, just their paychecks? Give us something, anything. 1986 seems so long ago … and it was.

…alright, that was a little over the top, but these Mets, man, what a let down. Every single year it’s the same thing. A great start and they tank toward the end of the campaign. It never ends.

Here comes Kelenic: Mariners top prospect Jarred Kelenic has struggled mightily this season, carrying a .099 average through his first 111 at-bats. But it looks like the sixth-overall pick of the 2018 draft is beginning to put it all together: Since September 7, he has slashed .257/.333/.657 with 4 home runs, 9 RBI and 8 runs scored in 35 at-bats. Ranked by Baseball America as the fourth-best prospect in the game going into 2021, the 21-year-old outfielder tore up Triple-A with a .320 batting average, 9 home runs and 28 RBI in 30 games. His power-speed potential cannot be underestimated—he had 23 home runs and 20 stolen bases between three minor league stops in 2019; between the majors and minors this year, he has 21 dingers and 11 steals.

Dalbec coming into his own: Another highly regarded prospect, corner infielder Bobby Dalbec of the Red Sox, is also turning the corner. After struggling to elevate his average above the .210s for much the campaign, the slugger has slashed .324/.419/.797 with 9 home runs and 23 RBI over the past month. Now 26, he has twice been named by Baseball America as one of the game’s top-100 prospects—and he played like one last year in his big league debut, slugging .600 with a 149 OPS+ in 80 at-bats. Dalbec strikes out frequently, with 145 Ks in 389 at-batsnthis season, but he has the power that could get him to 500 career home runs one day—in 455 ABs between two minor league stops in 2018, he slugged 32 dingers.

A nice run for Lyles: Rangers pitcher Jordan Lyles, who owns a career 5.22 ERA and 82 OPS+ and who has somehow lasted 11 seasons in the major leagues despite being no better than mediocre the entire time, looks like he might finally, belatedly, be living up to his first round billing. Since August 21, he is 4-1 with a 3.73 ERA in 31 1/3 innings; he’s surrendered just 26 hits and struck out as many batters. He owns a 3-0 record and a 1.74 ERA over his last three appearances, spanning 20 2/3 frames. Better late than never—the Rockies took him as a first round, supplemental pick in 2008 after losing reliever Trever Miller to free agency. The Rangers signed him as a free agent in 2019.

Urena’s bouncing back: Tigers hurler Jose Urena has never been an All-Star, but he showed promise as a youngster in the Marlins system in the late 2010s. Between 2017 and 2018, while in his mid-20s, he tossed 343 2/3 innings and surrendered just 307 hits; he maintained a .548 winning percentage on those poor Marlins teams that went a combined 140-183. He had the best ERA among the team’s starters both years. Since then, however, he has gone 8-21 with a 5.45 mark in 203 innings; this year, now with Detroit, he is 4-8, 5.68 in 95 frames. His numbers could have been worse, but over his past 18 innings dating back to July, he has posted a 2.50 ERA with just 3 walks. His WHIP is a disastrous 1.611 this season; he got it down to 1.278 during this stretch.

Worst trades in Mets history, #9: Vance Wilson for Anderson Hernandez

This one stung my young Mets fan heart when I was a sprightly and youthful 14 years old. I liked Vance Wilson. As far as backups go, he was a decent option to spell starting catcher Mike Piazza. But, unfortunately, the cold business of baseball doesn’t take the feelings of kids into consideration.

Wilson was taken by New York in the 44th round of the 1993 amateur draft and was one of three men from that round to make the majors leagues, with the others being utility man Bry Nelson and pitcher Ed Yarnall.

Moving up a level per year, his ascension through the minor league system was steady. By 1998, he was in Triple-A. By 1999, he was in the majors for a single game; he didn’t get an at-bat. It was about the same in 2000, as well—four games, four at-bats with the big club.

Two-thousand-and-one was his chance to prove his worth. And boy did he. Though he hit just .246 in 65 Triple-A games, he batted .298 in 57 at-bats over 32 appearances behind Piazza after a mid-season promotion. Through his first 32 at-bats of the season, he carried a .406 average. Now you can see why I came to like him so much. To my young mind, this guy was good!

His arrival was especially refreshing, since his predecessor, Todd Pratt, hit just .163 before being traded to Philadelphia in late July for catcher Gary Bennett. After a few solid years in New York, Pratt had flopped. Bennett was a short-timer.

But Wilson was there to stay.

And for a few seasons, he was a reliable, if not headline-grabbing, backup. In 2002, he hit .245 in 163 at-bats, clobbering five home runs, including the first of his career, a shot off Expos pitcher Javier Vazquez on April 13. An adept fielder, he caught 49 percent of potential base stealers to lead the league.

With Piazza hurt much of the 2003 season, he was New York’s primary catcher, hitting .243 with 8 home runs in 268 at-bats. Okay, maybe starting wasn’t for him—his 75 OPS+ was the worst of his career—so the Mets put him back into a reserve role for 2004 and he responded by hitting .274 with 4 home runs and 21 RBI in 157 at-bats. Quite an impressive rebound.

The Mets thought so, too. In fact, with his stock elevated, they shipped him to Detroit for 22-year-old middle infield prospect Anderson Hernandez in January 2005.

Hernandez made the Mets’ postseason roster in 2006, but got into just two games. (Wikipedia).

If Hernandez panned out, the trade would have been a steal for New York. A backup catcher for a defensive wizard, as Hernandez was? It could have been a huge win for the Mets. But things rarely work out that way in Metsdom.

It didn’t look like he would ever play shortstop for the club, as Jose Reyes was the heir apparent for the position. But he could also play second base.

New York had a revolving door of second basemen in the early and mid-2000s, after Edgardo Alfonzo shifted to third base and, eventually, departed. Roberto Alomar, Kaz Matsui, Miguel Cairo and Jose Valentin all came and went.

Rated alongside Lastings Milledge, Mike Pelfrey and Carlos Gomez as a Mets top prospect, New York was counting on Hernandez to develop into something. But his bat never caught up to major league pitching. He had three cups of coffee with New York from 2005 to 2007, hitting .138 in 87 games.

In August 2008, he was sent to Washington as the player-to-be-named later in a deal for reliever Luis Ayala. Not surprisingly, Hernandez hit .333 with a .407 on-base percentage upon escaping New York.

A couple weeks shy of a year later, feeling sellers remorse, the Mets sent minor league infielder Greg Veloz to Washington to recoup Hernandez to help shore up that injury-ravaged 2009 squad.

With starting shortstop Jose Reyes hurt and his replacement, Alex Cora, tearing ligaments in both his thumbs and needing surgery, New York called on Hernandez to start the rest of the year. He underwhelmed to the tune of a .251 batting average. He fielded just .955 at short.

The Mets left him unprotected and Cleveland claimed him off waivers in March 2010. He spent one more year in the majors, hitting .220 in 54 games between the Indians and Astros, before being sent away for good.

Though Hernandez’s big league career was done, his professional career was not. After a couple seasons in Triple-A, he became a voyager, playing in Mexico, Japan and the Dominican Republic. As recently as 2019-20, he was still going in the Dominican Winter League.

As for Wilson, he collapsed to a .197 average in 152 at-bats for Detroit in 2006 but rebounded to a .283 mark with 5 dingers and 18 RBI in the same number of ABs the next year. Meanwhile, the Mets’ backup that season, Ramon Castro, hit .238 with an 83 OPS+.*

*Granted, Castro himself was an effective backup and I was not enthused when they traded him to the White Sox partway through 2009 for pitcher Lance Broadway, of all people. Broadway had a 6.75 ERA in 8 relief appearances for New York.

’06 proved to be Wilson’s final big league campaign. Injuries limited him to three games at Triple-A in 2007 and he missed all of 2008. He played in the Royals system in 2009—at Double-A—but was released in April 2010, before the season began. He chose to retire.

Wilson was an effective reserve who gave the Mets four solid years of service. In return, they received promise and potential that didn’t work out.

Promise and potential. That defines the Mets of the past, oh, 35 years. But when it comes to production … it rarely manifests itself into anything meaningful.

Not unlike Anderson Hernandez.

Notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 18, 2021.

Isbel rose through the minor league ranks quickly, making his professional debut in 2018. (Wikipedia).

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: How many times have I said it’s going to be close? Well, I’ll say it again. Cabrera’s chase for 3,000 hits is going to come down to the wire this season. I’d love to see him make it, but I’d say he has about a 20 percent chance of actually doing so. He had two hits last night, to bring him to 2,978 for his career or 22 away from 3,000, but he went 0-for-4 today … 0-fers are a no-no right now. The Tigers have 13 games left.

Give it up for Isbel: Royals rookie outfielder Kyle Isbel debuted on Opening Day with a 3-for-5, 2 RBI showing, then he went 2-for-4 with 2 runs a couple days later. Then he hit .160 in his next 25 at-bats and was sent to the minor leagues. Kansas City recalled him earlier this month and he has hit .313/.353/.563 with a home runs and 3 RBI in 16 at-bats since. Shades of the Isbel of old.

Hays giving hope: The Baltimore Orioles are the laughingstock of the major leagues. They have been since 2018, at least. However, no one is laughing at Austin Hays’ performance of late—in 109 at-bats over the past month, he has hit .297/.330/.634 with 8 home runs, 22 RBI and 17 runs scored in 101 at-bats. He has struggled for most of the year, carrying a .236 batting average through August 25, but his recent hot streak has brought that number up to .253 with 21 home runs and 65 RBI. With Hays, Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle leading the charge, Baltimore could have a potent offense next year. But about that pitching …

Smooth as silk: Rangers pitcher Jharel Cotton, once upon a time, was a top prospect. In his one somewhat complete season, 2017, he was 9-10 with a 5.58 ERA and 75 ERA+ in 24 starts for Oakland. That impressed no one, so he went to the minor leagues and didn’t resurface in the majors until this season, with Texas. Looks like he’s trying to rebuild his reputation … as a relief pitcher. In his past 15 2/3 appearances, spread over 11 appearances, he has 16 strikeouts and a 1.72 ERA, while batters have hit just .172 against him.

Cool as Colome: To be frank, Twins closer Alex Colome is not the kind of pitcher I would like to have on my team. Too inconsistent. The way he bounces between otherworldly seasons and letdown campaigns reminds me of Fernando Rodney. 2021 began disappointingly, but he has rebounded nicely, saving 4 games, posting a 1.08 ERA and striking out 11 batters over 8 1/3 innings over the past couple weeks. He still has a 3.81 mark on the year.

Wainwright is 183-105 with a 3.34 ERA in his 16-year career. (Wikipedia).

Wainwright’s rebound: Adam Wainwright’s excellent rebound this season has been phenomenal. With a 16-7 record, 2.88 ERA and 134 ERA+, he is pitching like the pre-injury Cy Young candidate of the early and mid-2010s. This resurgence is sure to spark some Hall of Fame talk regarding Waino. Sounds crazy? Not so much. Just as there is a contingent of fans who support (or at the least, “wouldn’t complain” if they got in) the likes of David Cone, Kevin Brown—heck, even the name Kevin Appier has been bandied about—there will, in time, develop a core of supporters for Wainwright. Some Cardinals fans already back him, I’m sure. He’s buried behind the likes of Greinke, Verlander and Scherzer for now, but once they get the call to Cooperstown, Wainwright, and B-and C-grade pitchers like him (C.C. Sabathia might be considered “B” grade) will earn their backers. Should Wainwright somehow reach 200 wins (he’s at 183 now), the milestone-minded crowd will be more likely to jump on his bandwagon.

How many times can we say “til next year?” Well, the Mets lost last night, and as of this writing, they are losing again. To division rival Philadelphia. Who they are competing with for second place in the National League East. Stick a fork in ‘em folks. On the bright side, pitcher Jordan Yamamoto is off the injured list.

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 16, 2021.

A short one today, without the fun facts and did-you-knows. In fact, I might start splitting them into two different pieces each day.

Lester 200 win watch: Cardinals pitcher Jon Lester can hardly buy a win this year, with just six victories—and 12 total decision—in his 25 starts. However, he did win a very important game last night against the Mets, his 199th,   when he went 6 innings, struck out 7 batters and allowed just 2 earned runs. He’s been on a roll since August 25, posting a 2.12 ERA in 29 2/3 innings; however, he still managed just two victories in those five starts. With 189 under his belt, Max Scherzer is nearly 200 wins, as well.

Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: Uh oh. The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is very close to 3,000 hits with 2,976 for his career, but he didn’t make reaching that mark this season any easier by going 0-for-4 against Tampa Bay tonight. He’s 24 away. Detroit has 15 games left.

Valera is heating up: The Blue Jays backup Breyvic Valera, who has one of the coolest names in baseball, has given the club 6 hits, 2 doubles and 8 RBI in 15 at-bats over the past week. Everyone on Toronto’s roster, it seems, appears to be raking right now. I’d love to see the Blue Jays win the World Series.

Don’t worry if I can’t hit: Pirates outfielder Ben Gamel, who has been a complete nonfactor with the bat this past month, managing a measly .224 batting average in 76 at-bats, has still worked a .359 on-base percentage and 11 runs scored thanks to 15 walks. He is hitting .248 on the year, but .257 since joining Pittsburgh in May.

Nabil nails it: Padres reliever Nabil Crismatt, who also has an awesome name, has been one of the best relievers in baseball in the second half. Since July 3, he’s managed a 1.55 ERA in 29 innings over 17 appearances, walking just 5 batters and K-ing 26. The former Mets prospect has a 2.93 ERA in 37 games this season and a 2.97 mark in 43 career appearances.

Reasons for optimism? Slowly, very slowly, the Mets are getting some of their pieces back from the injured list. Utility man Jose Peraza was activated yesterday, while backup catcher Tomas Nido and pitcher Jake Reed rejoined the club on the 14th. They’re all minor cogs on the club, but New York can use any help it can get. They’re 5.5 games out in the NL East and 5 back in the wild card. Everything has to go right from here on out.

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.

Random autograph of the day: Mike Devaney

Mike Devaney holds a special place in my heart, because he’s a former Mets prospect, and I, of course, am a Mets fan.

He showed great potential in the early going, posting a 5-0 mark with 1.95 ERA in 14 starts his first professional season, 2004, and going 10-4, 3.88, while averaging just 7 hits allowed per 9 innings, in his second campaign. In 2006, he was 12-5 with a 2.13 mark, an excellent year indeed, before slipping to 6-9, 4.85 in his fourth and final season.

It’s odd the Mets didn’t give him another campaign to redeem himself, with 2007 being his first real struggle. Sure, he was 24 in 2007, but that is far from old. One wonders if injuries did him I’m, of that I’m not sure. Either way, he was 33-18 with a 3.24 ERA overall, a great line for someone who never made the majors. 

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.

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).

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 5, 2021.

Something about those catchers: These past couple days, I’ve noted impressive runs by some otherwise unimpressive catchers—Philadelphia’s Rafael Marchan and Detroit’s Dustin Garneau, for example. Here’s one more: the Blue Jays’ Danny Jansen. In his past 14 at-bats going back to July 11, he’s hitting .500/.533/1.571 with 4 home runs, 3 doubles, 4 RBI and 4 runs scored. That’s right, each of his last 7 hits went for extra bases. He added another dinger yesterday.

Barnhart has won two Gold Gloves. (Wikipedia).

How about one more: Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart has been solid this past month, hitting .294 with a couple home runs, 4 doubles, 11 RBI and 6 runs scored. He’s no Salvador Perez, but any team would take numbers like that.

Found a Holme: Yankees reliever Clay Holmes began the year poorly with Pittsburgh, posting a 5.13 ERA through July 20. A trade to New York changed his fortunes: With his new club, he is 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA in 12 games; in 13 2/3 innings, he’s surrendered just 7 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 16 batters.

Blake’s doing great: It’s the less-known pieces that have helped the Astros to first place in the American League West, reliever Blake Taylor among them. Since July 18, he has a 2.40 ERA in 19 appearances; he hasn’t surrendered a run since August 21. Ryan Pressly is the bullpen’s All-Star, but Taylor, and guys like him, are just as valuable.

Appreciating the Mets’ little guys: Each year, the Mets seem to find at least one diamond in the rough—a guy or two who unexpectedly perform far beyond anyone’s expectations. Brandon Drury, a career .249 hitter, is batting .274 with a .476 slugging mark in 51 games. Pitcher Trevor Williams, acquired from the Cubs in the Javier Baez trade, began the season with a 5.06 ERA, but has a 0.69 mark in 13 innings so far with New York. Even reliever Aaron Loup, who had a 3.38 ERA going into the year, has stunned Metsdom with a 1.16 mark in 55 appearances. Not bad, guys.

Jayson Werth-less: Former Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth signed with the club in December 2010 for seven years and $126 million dollars and hit .263 with 109 home runs, 162 doubles and 393 RBI for the duration of the deal. In other words, each home run cost $1.156 million, each double cost $777,778 and each RBI cost $320,611.

Mr. Consistent: From 2009 to 2019, a span of 11 seasons, former outfielder Adam Jones averaged 162 hits, 25 home runs, 80 RBI and 82 runs scored per year. His season numbers never fell below 126, 15, 63 or 54, respectively.

Winning runs in the family: Former second baseman Chuck Knoblauch won four World Series rings in the 1990s—one with the Twins and three with the Yankees. His father, Ray, was also a champion. He coached Bellaire High School in Texas to four state titles.

Nomo he wasn’t: Before there were Daisuke Matsuzaka and Masahiro Tanaka, there were Hideo Nomo and Katsuhiro Maeda. Never heard of Maeda? In the wake of Nomomania, he was signed by the Yankees in 1996 after a bidding war with the Giants and White Sox. He spent five years in their system and went just 18-21 with a 4.69 ERA, peaking at Triple-A.

More to the Maeda story: After he flunked out of the minor leagues, Maeda continued his baseball journey—but initially not back in Japan. After failing to make a Nippon Professional Baseball team’s roster, he went to Taiwan, where he played in 2002, then Italy, where he spent 2003. In 2004, he signed with the Shanghai Eagles, becoming China’s first Japanese player. As recently as 2008, he was still going in the minor Shikoku-Kyūshū Island League in Japan.

Very first Marlin: He never played in the major leagues, but pitcher Clemente Nunez was the first player ever signed by the Florida Marlins. Inked to a contract on December 16, 1991, he spent five seasons in their system. Included in that run was a 12-6, 2.48 line with Single-A Brevard County in 1995. He was 29-26, 3.51 overall.

Baines was a controversial Hall of Fame pick and his numbers play that out. (Wikipedia).

Just a phantom: Bruce Dostal, a centerfielder who spent four years at Triple-A, was this close to becoming a major leaguer. On the Orioles active roster for four games in June 1994, the ballplayer was twice told by late manager Johnny Oates that he would pinch run for future Hall of Famer Harold Baines if Baines reached base … he didn’t and Dostal was soon sent packing. Despite being with the team, he does not count as a major leaguer because he never appeared in a game. Rather, he became a phantom major leaguer.

Lot of games, but not hits: Speaking of Baines, he has the third-fewest career hits of anyone who played as many games as he did (2,830) with 2,866. Only Brooks Robinson, who had 2,848 knocks, and Rusty Staub, who had 2,716, did worse.

The first youngster: Who was the youngest player in the National Association’s first year, 1871? 17-year-old Joe Battin, who appeared in a single game for the Cleveland Forest Citys. He went hitless.

Battin led the league with 98 games played in 1883, despite batting just .214. (Wikipedia).

Battin worst: Joe Battin’s name is a misnomer … he couldn’t bat well at all. In 10 seasons, he slashed just .225/.241/.281 in 480 games. He holds one of the lowest on-base percentages of anyone with at least 400 games.

No-no not enough: While playing in Japan in 2006, former Padres prospect Rick Guttormson tossed a no-hitter … and was sent down to their version of the minor leagues the next day. Nippon Professional Baseball limits how many foreign players a team can hold and his club, the Yakult Swallows, had recently brought former Mets and Devil Rays hurler Dicky Gonzalez on board. Needing to make room, they cast Guttormson aside.

A different kind of senator: In 1913, minor league first baseman Scott Lucas hit .349 in 95 games, including .462 in 34 showings with the Class-D Pekin Celestials. After a couple more seasons, the Illinois native realized baseball wasn’t for him and chose a career in politics. Serving in the United States House of Representatives from 1935 to 1939, he later became a Senator, remaining in that capacity for over a decade. From 1949 to 1951, he was the Senate Majority Leader.

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 4, 2021.

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: Last night, Miguel Cabrera recorded one hit, bringing him to 2,964 for his career and 36 away from 3,000. The Tigers have 26 games left to play.

Cruz has made 7 All-Star teams and won 4 Silver Sluggers in 17 seasons. (Wikipedia).

Not hopeful about Cruz: 41-year-old Nelson Cruz has 26 home runs on the year and 443 for his career. He’s a slugger and could feasibly reach 500 one day, but his performance with Tampa Bay casts doubt on those prospects. Since joining the club in July, he’s batting just .205 with a 90 OPS+. If his hitting doesn’t recover, I can’t imagine a team signing him next year, putting his run at history in jeopardy.

Going gone Garneau: Backup catcher Dustin Garneau doesn’t have much of a bat and his power has always been lackluster. In 400 ABs over 7 seasons, he has just 12 home runs … and 3 of them came in the past week. Last night, the Tigers backstop had 2 hits—both dingers— and added 3 RBI against Cincinnati; in his previous game, his lone hit was also a home run. Since August 22, he is hitting .333 with a .944 slugging mark.

He’s a winner: Tigers outfielder Victor Reyes was batting .183 through August 1, but has really turned it on over the past month or so. In his last 64 at-bats, the 26-year-old has 23 hits for a .359 average. Of his knocks, 4 were doubles, 3 were triples and 2 were dingers.

Hoffman coming around: Though he had a rough outing against Detroit last night (1 2/3 IP, 4 ER), Reds pitcher Jeff Hoffman still holds a 3.24 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 16 2/3 frames over the past month. He began the year well through April, but saw his ERA rise to 5.20 by July 21. His mark is 2.75 since.

Pumped for Payamps: Royals reliever Joel Payamps hasn’t allowed an earned run in his past four appearances, continuing a streak of excellent pitching that extends back to June 14. Since then, his ERA is just 1.54 in 10 appearances (he didn’t play at all in July). His ERA on the year is 2.68 in 29 appearances.

Broxton has 396 strikeouts in 905 at-bats. (Wikipedia).

Brewers scraping the bottom: The Brewers recently signed outfielder Keon Broxton and pitcher Zach Lee to minor league contracts. Broxton hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2019, when he had a .167 average in 100 games between the Mets, Orioles and Mariners. Lee last played in 2017; he has an 8.53 ERA in 12 2/3 big league innings.

And he never even led the league: Who had the most saves in the majors from 2007 to 2011? Not Mariano Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez or Jonathan Papelbon. Not even quirky player du jour Brian Wilson. It was Francisco Cordero, with 194. Number two on the list is also surprising: Jose Valverde had 191.

Not much from the land down under: Australia has produced some great relief pitchers, like Grant Balfour, Liam Hendriks and Peter Moylan. But starters … not so much. Perhaps the best was Damian Moss, who spent four years in the majors from 2001 to 2004, going 22-19 with a 4.50 ERA for four teams. His 2002 campaign was solid, as he went 12-6 with a 3.42 mark for Atlanta, finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year balloting.

Hope grows daily: With the Mets riding a seven-game winning streak, the club is now back over .500 and just 3.5 games out in the division. Their magic number is down to 32. Starting catcher James McCann—disappointment that he’s been—is off the injured list. In 1973, the Mets were 65-73 on September 4, and they made the World Series …

Perhaps I spoke too soon: Well, I wrote that before this afternoon’s game. The Mets were up 9-0, just to blow the lead against Washington with abominable fielding and poor pitching. They ended up winning, 11-9, but such performances are not becoming of a playoff team.

Lots of Mets born today: Mothers must love conceiving future Mets on September 4. Luis Lopez, Joe DePastino, Andres Gimenez, Chris Beck and—most notably—Mike Piazza, New Yorkers all, were born on this day.

Star in his own mind: Pitcher Mark Redman was an All-Star in 2006, despite going 11-10 with a 5.71 ERA on the year—but he might not be the worst selection ever. Frankie Zak, a backup shortstop, had just 160 at-bats in 87 games for Pittsburgh in 1944 … yet made the All-Star team. Shortstop Eddie Miller was originally chosen to play but was injured; because World War II travel restrictions made it difficult to bring another player in on short notice, Zak was given the nod since he was in town. The Midsummer Classic was held in Pittsburgh that year.  

.217 average; twice an MVP: Cliff Brumbaugh had a .217 batting average in his brief MLB career, spent between the Rangers and Rockies in 2001. Back before he became a historical footnote, however, he did something pretty historical: In 1995, while at the University of Delaware, he hit .442 with 32 doubles and 68 runs scored to earn Player of the Year honors. The Rangers then drafted him and placed him at Single-A Hudson Valley, with whom he batted .358 with 101 hits in 74 games to win the New York-Pennsylvania League MVP.

Brumbaugh could hit: Though his big league career fizzled, Cliff Brumbaugh was an excellent hitter … in Japan and Korea. He hit .343 with 33 home runs for the Hyundai Unicorns of the Korea Baseball Organization in 2004, then had two more years of 25-plus dingers across the (other) pond, to boot. In his final pro campaign, back in North America with the independent Edmonton Capitals, he hit .383 with 23 homers and 90 RBI in 74 games. He finished with 1,978 hits and 279 dingers in his 16-year professional career.

Malarcher played from 1916 to 1934. (Wikipedia).

A change in careers: Before Randy “Macho Man” Savage became a world-famous wrestler, he was a professional baseball player. Then known as Randy Poffo, he played in the minor leagues from 1971 to 1974 and wasn’t awful, posting an average as high as .286 in 1971. But it looks like he made the right career decision.

Malarcher wasn’t nervous: Dave Malarcher, a Negro league manager who headed the Chicago American Giants from 1926 to 1934 (save for 1930), took the helm under unusual circumstances. Future Hall of Famer Rube Foster previously led the club, but suffered a nervous breakdown partway through the year. Malarcher took over, guiding them to a 30-7 record under his tutelage and a 57-23 finish overall.