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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lou Gehrig was a decent ballplayer. (Wikipedia).

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

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

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

Studs and duds: August 26 – September 1

Salvador Perez is slipping, but maintains his title. Gerrit Cole had a week for the ages.

Offensive stud: Salvador Perez (C, Royals). The Perez train might be grinding to a halt, as the catcher went 0-for-5 with 3 strikeouts yesterday, but his performance in the early part of this one-week stretch still elevates him above all other players. Since August 26, he has 4 home runs, 12 RBI and 5 runs scored and is still riding high on those two grand slams he hit. Defensively, he had more putouts than anyone other than Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez. He’s just four shy of tying the single season record for home runs by a catcher, 42, currently held by former Braves backstop Javy Lopez.

Honorable mention: Tommy Edman (3B, Cardinals; .407/.452/.852, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 10 R).

In 2013, Iglesias hit .357 in the ALCS. Ah, those were the days … (Wikipedia).

Offensive dud: Jose Iglesias (SS, Angels). It’s been a swift decline for the 2015 All-Star, who, after hitting .373 in 39 games last year, is down to .259 in 2021. He carried a mark over .280 into late July, but since July 27, he’s hit just .178 in 101 at-bats. His August 27 performance against the Padres was especially bad—going 0-for-3 with a strikeout at the dish, he also committed 2 errors, bringing his season total to 16. When he was on, he was on, hammering out a couple four hit games earlier in the year. But Iglesias’ swift slide into mediocrity mirrors his career descent as a whole—after hitting .300 in his lone All-Star season, he’s batted just .272 with an 85 OPS+ since.

Dishonorable mention: Nick Gordon (SS, Twins; 0-for-9, 3 K, 1 E).

Gerrit Cole is statistically similar to Roy Halladay through age 30, per Baseball Reference. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Gerrit Cole (SP, Yankees). With an unbelievable, 15 strikeout performance last night, Cole has reclaimed the American League strikeout lead from Robbie Ray and now sits at 215 on the season. Over his past two starts, he is 2-0 with 24 strikeouts in 13 innings; he’s allowed just 2 walks and 1 earned run for a 0.69 ERA. The star hurler also leads the AL in wins (14), WHIP (0.968), H/9 IP (6.9), K/9 IP (12.5) and K/BB (6.72). Though it might be a bit premature to start making Hall of Fame proclamations, if he continues pitching as he has the past four seasons through his prime and experiences a standard decline, then he might one day have case. After nine seasons, he already has 31.5 WAR—he’s the youngest active pitcher with at least 30.

Honorable mention: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers; 13.2 IP, 19 K, 1 BB, 0 R).

Pitching dud: Joe Smith (RP, Mariners). Smith couldn’t shake the ghost of his past week (2 1/3 IP, 3 ER, 0-2 W-L, 2 BSV), so he holds onto his title. Close on his tail were James Karinchak (0 IP, 3 ER, 1 BSV) and Dillon Tate (1 2/3 IP, 4 ER, 0-2 W-L), but Smith edges them out with the worst performance over the last seven days.

Dishonorable mention: James Karinchak (RP, Indians; 1 G, 0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 ER, 0-1 W-L, 1 BSV).

Studs and duds: August 25 – August 31

Salvy and Ray appear here to stay.

Offensive stud: Salvador Perez (C, Royals). Hunker down, Perez might own this title for a while. Though he went hitless yesterday, he helped his team by getting on base with a hit by pitch and scoring a run.

It’s not a great single-game performance, but still, over the past week, his line is .333/.429/.958 with 5 home runs, 13 RBI and 6 runs scored. And slugging dingers is almost all he’s done: He’s managed no other extra base hits since August 13, smashing 9 dingers since that date.

He might be insulted if you call him this, but Perez is a ball magnet—with 10 HBPs on the year, he currently ranks seventh in the American League in that category.

Honorable mention: Bryce Harper (OF, Phillies; .519/.576/1.074, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 6 2B).

Odor stinks! (Get it?) (Wikipedia).

Offensive dud: Rougned Odor (IF, Yankees). Once upon a time, going on a decade ago, Odor was a top prospect in the Rangers system. He hammered out three 30-plus home run seasons and played all 162 games in 2017.

Ahh, reminiscing. Since 2019, he’s hit .201/.276/.423 with an OPS+ of 81.

For his career, he’s been in the top five in errors committed by a second baseman each year since 2015 and has led the league five times.

In the past week, he added another error and went 0-for-5 with 3 strikeouts at the plate; on the year, he’s batting just .211 with 90 Ks in 299 at-bats.

The only Odor here is a stinky one.

Dishonorable mention: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds; 0-for-15, 7 K).

Pitching stud: Robbie Ray (SP, Blue Jays). No pitcher matched Ray’s recent performance (14 IP, 24 K, 1.93 ERA)—and that will be difficult to do—so he’s the Stud for another day.

With modern batters swinging wildly and Ray the best at getting them to do it, he now ranks #1 all-time in career strikeouts per nine innings ratio at 11.18. The next-closest hurler is the Red Sox Chris Sale at 11.10. In fact, the top five in that category are all active (as are seven of the top ten), so leadership might fluctuate day to day and month to month.

Honorable mention: Blake Snell (SP, Padres; 14.2 IP, 20 K, 2 BB, 0.61 ERA).

Smith is one of only a handful of players who debuted in 2007 that are still playing. (Wikipedia).

Pitching dud: Joe Smith (RP, Mariners). Smith also retains his title, having taken two losses, blown two saves and posted an 11.57 ERA over his last few games. It is a rough tumble for the hurler who, despite his misstep, still ranks among the best non-closing relief pitchers ever. He leads active hurlers with 823 career appearances and is 48th all-time in that category, one spot ahead of a starter, Nolan Ryan.

Dishonorable mention: Edgar Garcia (RP, Twins; 1 2/3 IP, 7 ER, 3 BB. 4 H, 1 WP).

Studs and duds: August 24 – August 30

Salvador Perez and Robbie Ray—we’ve been seeing these guys a lot lately, haven’t we?

Offensive stud: Salvador Perez (C, Royals). He didn’t even play yesterday and still outpaces anyone else. In the last week, Perez has 5 home runs, 13 RBI and 5 runs scored; he’s tied with the Cubs’ Patrick Wisdom for most home runs and holds the lead in RBI over the past seven days. His slash line is .323/.393/.920—that OBP is especially stunning, as his career mark is barely .300. The catcher is currently riding a tidy five-game hitting streak and has 12 home runs, 28 RBI and a 1.022 OPS since the beginning of August.

Tommy Edman leads the NL with 35 doubles and 512 at-bats. (Wikipedia).

There’s not much to say outside of what’s already been said at this point besides, perhaps, let’s go Salvador!

Honorable mention: Tommy Edman (3B, Cardinals; .414 BA, 2 HR, 3 2B, 10 RBI, 8 R).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). Urshela continued his slide last night, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout. That unsavory line puts him at 1-for-17 with 4 Ks and a tiny OPS of .059 since his return to New York’s lineup on August 26. Though usually adept defensively, he also committed a couple errors, bringing his season total to 8. Sounds like a case of return-from-the-IL jitters, if you ask me.

Dishonorable mention: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds; 0-for-17, 8 K).

Pitching stud: Robbie Ray (SP, Blue Jays). While Perez keeps cranking on offense, Ray is dropping stellar start after stellar start on the mound. With 10 strikeouts yesterday, he passed Gerrit Cole for the American League lead with 202 Ks on the season. It is his fourth-career 200 strikeout campaign and first since 2019.

Over his past two games, Ray has 24 Ks in 14 innings, allowing only 9 hits, 3 walks and 3 earned runs, to give him a 1.93 ERA. His season mark has gone down with each start since July 28 and now stands at 2.71—and is 1.72 in that stretch.

In his first 13 starts, the hurler had a 3.50 ERA; in the 13 games since, it’s been 2.02. With numbers like this, fans of the future will be scratching their heads looking at his line and wondering why he didn’t even make the All-Star team.

Honorable mention: Dylan Cease (SP, White Sox; 2-0, 1.38 ERA, 18 K, 13 IP).

From 2011 to 2014, Joe Smith had a 2.25 ERA in 289 games. (Wikipedia).

Pitching dud: Joe Smith (RP, Mariners). Well, it seems the steady, reliable, sidearming relief pitcher Joe Smith is no more. We’ve been left with a shoddy simulacrum who’s pitched to the tune of a 5.79 ERA in 41 appearances this year.

His past few have been especially horrid: In 3 games, he’s tossed 1 2/3 innings and allowed 5 hits and 3 earned runs for an 11.57 ERA. Relative to past duds, that performance is downright excellent, but his 2 losses and 2 blown saves really bring him down.

Smith began the year with a 7.48 ERA in 27 games with Houston, but was traded to Seattle on July 27. And with the Mariners he’s performed well—a 2.45 ERA in 14 games, despite his rough patch—and looks more like the Smith of old. Before this year, he had a 2.98 ERA in 782 career games. This campaign has raised it to 3.10.

Dishonorable mention: Jake Petricka (RP, Angels; 1 IP, 5 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 0-1, 1 BSV).

Studs and duds: August 23 – August 29

Offensive stud: Salvador Perez (C, Royals). There’s no stopping Salvy. After clobbering another home run last night—that’s five games in a row now, if anyone’s counting—Perez is up to 6 in the past week and 38 on the year. But dingers aren’t all he’s hitting. He’s hitting, period, with a .357/.455/1.000 line, 14 RBI and 6 runs scored over his last seven games. He even has 5 walks, accounting for one-quarter of his season’s total. At this point, all we can do is sit back and watch. If this train ever stops remains to be seen—and it doesn’t look like it will.

Honorable mention: Whit Merrifield (2B, Royals; .323/.382/.710, 4 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI).

Urshela in the minor leagues—where his performance might one day land him again. (Wikipedia).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). Looks like he’s still getting back into the groove of things. Urshela, who missed most of the past month with a hamstring strain, went 1-for-13 with 3 strikeouts and 2 errors in four games since his return.

In terms of production, the slump brings the infielder closer to the Urshela of old—this season, he has 11 home runs, 41 RBI, a .266 average and a 99 OPS+; from 2015 to 2018, he hit 8 dingers with 39 RBI, a .225 mark and a 57 OPS+.

If his downward trend continues, Urshela’s 2019-2020 run will prove to be an aberration, as his offense spiked to a combined .310/.358/.523 line with 27 home runs and 104 RBI over that stretch. Even in the minor leagues, he was never much of a hitter, holding a .275/.306/.400 line in 12 seasons there.

Dishonorable mention: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds; 0-for-14, 8 K).

Pitching stud: Dylan Cease (SP, White Sox). Dylan is back.

After cranking to the tune of a 2.41 ERA through his first 8 starts, then falling to a 4.82 mark over his next 17, the hurler has killed it of late. Over his past 13 innings, he allowed just 8 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 18 batters. His performance resulted in a 1.38 ERA, his best two-game mark of the year, and brings his 2021 line to 11-7 with a 3.82 ERA in a league-leading 27 starts. In 143 2/3 innings, he has 188 strikeouts, which is third in the American League.

Cease was acquired—with Eloy Jimenez, no less—in a 2017 deal with the Cubs for pitcher Jose Quintana. Quintana spent a few years with the Cubs, posting a 4.24 ERA in 439 2/3 frames. If Cease keeps pitching like this, he’ll give the Sox something they can rub in their crosstown rivals’ faces for a long time.

Daniel Bard‘s best years were with the Red Sox … a decade ago. (Wikipedia).

Honorable mention: Jose Berrios (SP, Blue Jays; 10 IP, 17 K, 1 W).

Pitching dud: Daniel Bard (RP, Rockies). Bard retains his crown from yesterday, as no pitcher has done worse than his 0-2, 43.20 line over the past week. Jake Petricka (1 IP, 5 ER), Lou Trivino (1 1/3 IP, 4 ER, 0-2 W-L) and Edgar Garcia (1 2/3 IP, 7 ER) were close, but none matched Daniel’s futility. The Bard had a mastery over the written word; this Bard, well, batters have a mastery over him.

Dishonorable mention: Jake Petricka (RP, Angels; 0-1, 1 BSV, 1 IP, 5 ER, 2 BB).

Studs and duds: August 22 – August 28

Salvador Perez has already topped his previous high of 27 home runs. (Wikipedia).

Salvador Perez’s power barrage continues and Sandy Alcantara shows he might be breaking out as one of the game’s top young stars.

Offensive stud: Salvador Perez (C, Royals). Perez keeps cranking in what has been a historic season for the star catcher, as he hit another home run last night to bring him to 5 in the past week, 11 in August and 37 on the year. The slugger—more a slugger now than any time in his career—also has 12 RBI and 5 walks, giving him a .382 on-base percentage over the past seven days.

This power surge has been accompanied by a rise in production in other departments, as well.  He has already set career highs in runs scored (62, previous high: 57) and RBI (92, 80), and is on pace to best his previous mark in walks (not a great accomplishment, as he still might not break 30 for the year). His career slugging mark has jumped 11 points because of this season alone.

Honorable mention: Whit Merrifield (2B, Royals; .387 BA, 4 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI).

Offensive dud: Jose Barrero (IF, Reds). Barrero reclaims his title, going 0-for-6 with 4 strikeouts and an error in a rough showing. The speedy middle infielder is young and still working out the kinks, but his future might be brighter than his recent performance suggests: Baseball America ranked him the number 79 prospect going into 2021, and the 23-year-old has hit over .300 in the minors this year. And that’s where the Reds just sent him, back to Triple A to get him some more conditioning.

Dishonorable mention: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds; 0-for-11, 7 K).

Shows how bad the Marlins are: In his All-Star 2019 season, Sandy Alcantara led the league with 14 losses. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Sandy Alcantara (SP, Marlins). If the Marlins have any reason to believe brighter days are ahead, Alcantara is it. The hurler tossed 14 innings his past two starts, posting a 1.93 ERA while allowing just 3 runs and 3 walks, and striking out 23 batters.  There’s something about that number 3. Outside of a terrible 10 run game on August 6, he hasn’t allowed more than 2 runs in an appearance since July 27, and has a 1.24 mark since that rough outing.

Still only 25 years old, Alcantara already has an All-Star selection under his belt and owns a career 118 ERA+—and he has yet to reach his prime. The Marlins acquired him with three other decent names in a deal with St. Louis, surrendering only outfielder Marcell Ozuna to get them. Ozuna had two ho-hum seasons with the Cardinals; Alcantara is making the transaction look like a steal for Miami.

Honorable mention: Adam Wainwright (SP, Cardinals; 2-0 W-L, 15 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB).

Pitching dud: Daniel Bard (RP, Rockies). Bard returned to the majors last year after not pitching there since 2013, and in that stunted campaign with Colorado, he did pretty well. In 23 appearances, he posted a 3.65 ERA and 143 ERA+—shades of his glory days with Boston, when he had a 2.88 mark in 192 games from 2009 to 2011. He had an All-Star worthy 2010, posting a 1.93 ERA and 227 ERA+ in 73 games.

Well, this year, things have not been so sunny. His season-long struggles, which saw his ERA hover into the mid-4s as recently as August 16, culminated in an atrocious line of 1 2/3 innings pitched and 8 earned runs allowed—that’s an ERA of 43.20—over the past week. He blew a save, lost two games and saw his season ERA rise nearly a point, to 5.61. Over his last four appearances, he surrendered less than 2 earned runs just once and didn’t manage a single out in his last go-round against the Dodgers on August 28. It was nice having you back, Daniel, I hope you enjoyed your stay—because it won’t be too much longer.

Dishonorable mention: Jake Petricka (RP, Angels; 1 IP, 5 ER, 1 L, 1 BSV, 45.00 ERA).

Studs and duds: August 21 – August 27

Salvador Perez has 188 home runs in his ten-year career. (Wikipedia).

Salvador Perez and Joe Musgrove played like Hall of Famers this past week; Trevor Story and Lou Trivino … didn’t.

Offensive stud: Salvador Perez (C, Royals). At this point, Salvador, the Hall of Fame has you on their watch list. With 4 home runs in the past week, Perez sits at 36 on the season—and is all but a shoo-in for breaking the nearly twenty-year-old record of 42 dingers in a campaign by a catcher, set by the Atlanta Braves’ Javy Lopez in 2003. With his knock last night, a grand slam (his second in two games), he broke Ivan Rodriguez’s 22-year-old American League mark of 35, set in 1999 with Texas. The seven-time All-Star also has 10 RBI, a .704 slugging percentage and a 1.059 OPS over the past seven days. He might not be ready for Cooperstown, yet, but he’s building a case.

Honorable mention: Whit Merrifield (2B, Royals; .419 BA; 13 H, 9 RBI, 8 R, 2 SB).

Offensive dud: Trevor Story (SS, Rockies). I don’t like this story, Trevor. Mired in an 0-for-17 slump since August 21, Story has cooled off enormously since rattling off an 11-game hitting streak in late July and early August. With 108 strikeouts in 411 at-bats on the year, his free-swinging ways might not be an issue when he’s making contact—but when things go cold, they become a problem. He has 6 Ks over the past week, equivalent to more than 200 in a 600 at-bat season, which is actually only slightly worse than his career pace of 189 per 162 games. Twice an All-Star, Story is in the middle of his prime, so this slump is likely an aberration. But with free-swingers, you never know.

Dishonorable mention: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds; 0-for-13, 8 K).

Joe Musgrove leads the league with two shutouts this year. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Joe Musgrove (SP, Padres). Musgrove, formerly a first round compensation pick who Baseball America once ranked a top-100 prospect, never really lived up to the hype. Until this year. After flopping with Houston and Pittsburgh, he found a new home with San Diego and has been nothing short of excellent: In 25 starts, he has 9 wins, a 2.85 ERA, a 133 ERA+, a 0.991 WHIP and a 10.3 K/9 rate. His past two starts, especially his stunning performance last night, helped improve each of those numbers. Tossing a 3-hit, 2-walk complete game shutout against the Angels yesterday, Musgrove is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA in his past 15 frames; he’s allowed just 6 hits and 4 walks, and just one of those hits left the yard.

Honorable mention: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers; 2-0 W-L, 12 2/3 IP, 18 K, 2 BB, 7 H, 0.71 ERA).

Pitching dud: Lou Trivino (RP, Athletics). The bright side: Trivino’s season ERA is still just 2.55 and his ERA+ is still 160. He’s averaged less than 7 hits allowed per 9 innings and he still ranks among American League leaders in saves. The downside: Since August 21, Trivino has blown 2 saves and taken the loss in 3 straight appearances. Opposing hitters have slashed .462/.533/1.000 against him and his ERA is 23.14. Presently, his 7 losses on the season rank third on the team and are 5 more than any other relief pitcher. His recent struggles aren’t unprecedented, as just in 2019, his ERA was 5.25 in 61 games. And they are especially unwelcome in Oakland right now, as there are vying for the postseason. Just remember the bright side, just remember the bright side …

Dishonorable mention: Genesis Cabrera (RP, Cardinals; 2 L, 2 BSV, 2 IP, 10 H, 9 R).