Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 26, 2021.

The Mayor of Ding Dong City. (Wikipedia).

Shaw still impressing: Red Sox first baseman Travis Shaw returned to the majors after a couple months away on August 17 and on the 23rd, walloped a grand slam. He’s kept the parade going by hitting a solo shot the next day and a double yesterday. Despite his recent hot streak, his season batting average is still below .200.

Phillips is just grand: You wouldn’t it know it by looking at his line over the past 30 days, but Rays outfielder Brett Phillips has had one heck of a month. In 41 at-bats, he’s had just 9 hits for a .220 average—but 5 of those knocks left the yard and 2 of them were doubles. That gives him a .634 slugging percentage. And about those dingers? Three were grand slams, two of which came two games in a row. He added 15 RBI and 12 runs to his ledger and now has 10 home runs on the year.

Keep going, Alex: Dodgers reliever Alex Vesia has allowed just one run over his past 20 appearances going back to late May. No one has scored on him since July 30. He has a 2.40 ERA in 28 games on the year.

Doing what he Wantz: Andrew Wantz, a relief pitcher for the Angels, debuted on July 4. Since then, he’s made 7 appearances and has at least one strikeout in each of them—for a total of 17 in 9 2/3 innings. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he averaged 18.4 K/9 IP in the minors in 2018.

In the Loup: The Mets swoon makes it hard to see the positive in anything, but it is difficult to ignore the incredible performance of relief pitcher Aaron Loup. He has made 50 appearances this year, with a tiny ERA of 1.06 and a superhuman ERA+ of 378. Loup has always been a good pitcher, but this season is his best yet. That’s refreshing, a pitcher having his career year with the Mets, not the season or two after he escapes New York (ahem, Scott Atchison).

One is enough: Barring any of the hurlers make another appearance, the Mets are on pace to have eleven pitchers toss just a single game this year.  That would be the most ever, beating the previous record of nine set by the Baltimore Orioles—the old Baltimore Orioles—back in 1886.

He’s still playing? Every once in a while, I see a name on an active roster that I haven’t thought about in a while and it makes me think, he’s still playing? Such is the case with Tigers starter Drew Hutchison, who debuted with Toronto way back in 2012 and has yet to stick anywhere. He won 13 games for the Blue Jays in 2015, but had a 5.57 ERA; this year, with Detroit, he’s made 2 starts without a victory.

Put me in, coach! Utilityman Bill Collins appeared in parts of five seasons for four teams in the 1880s and 1890s—and played just one game in four of them. In 1891, the Ireland native caught his big break when he appeared in two games for the Cleveland Spiders.

Hughie Jennings was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945. (Wikipedia).

Happens to Hall of Famers, too: Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings did something similar. As manager of the Tigers after his playing days were over, he would occasionally insert himself into the lineup. He played a single game for Detroit in 1907, 1910, 1912 and 1918; he did it twice in 1909. When he did it in 1918, he was 49 years old.

Nick, too: Pitcher Nick Altrock holds the record for most seasons with just a single appearance, with eight. Much like Jennings, he would make occasional showings on the field after joining the Washington Senators coaching staff. He first did it in 1912 at age 35; his last appearance, as a pitcher at least, was in 1924 at 47 (he also hit a triple in that game). He then played in the outfield once in 1929, pinch hit in 1931 and did so again in 1933 at age 56.

Forty and you’re gone: Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo cranked 47 home runs in 2016 and was out of the majors after 2019. It’s actually not super rare, a man hitting 40-plus homers in his fourth-to-last campaign. But only twice has a player hit 40 or more home runs one season, just to play his last the next: In 2016, the Brewers Chris Carter had 41 home runs and 94 RBI; with the Yankees in 2017, he hit .201 with 8 dingers and that was it. In 1946, Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg belted 44 homers for Detroit; though he hit 25 with Pittsburgh the next year, 1947 was his final campaign.

Mark Trumbo hit 218 home runs in his career. (Wikipedia).

Counting is tough: Hey Mets fans, remember when Benny Agbayani forgot the number of outs?

Born at sea: Multiple countries have had just one representative play major league baseball: Belgium had Brian Lesher, Peru has Jesus Luzardo, Greece had Al Campanis. But only one player, that we are aware of, doesn’t have a country of origin. That’s Al Porray, who is listed as “born at sea,” on the Atlantic Ocean, in 1888. The starting pitcher made three appearances for the Buffalo Buffeds of the Federal League in 1914.

More autograph reminiscing: Most baseball players sign relatively fast through the mail. Less than one hundred days is the norm, I’d say. But some, well, they drag their feet—in 2013, I received former Athletics outfielder Jeremy Giambi in 2,423 days … that’s more than six-and-a-half years! But 1990s relief pitcher Kevin Campbell even beat that, taking over seven years to return my card. Brandon Wood, the slugging former Angels prospect, took four-and-a-half years. I didn’t receive many big names that year, because I was mostly sending to retired former minor leaguers. But I did get current Red Sox star J.D. Martinez, back when he was a lowly no-name with Houston. (Also, speaking of former minor leaguers, my other website, MiLB Addresses, is a database of addresses for those guys—and every one has had a success reported from it).

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 24, 2021.

Travis Shaw was drafted by the Red Sox in 2008 and 2011. (Wikipedia).

Welcome back, Travis: You might not remember, but current Red Sox infielder Travis Shaw once had back-to-back 30-home run seasons with the Brewers in 2017 and 2018. Since then, he’s hit just .191 with 20 dingers in 195 games—but the old Travis might be back. Last night, he slugged a grand slam in just his third game with the Red Sox. It was his first home run since May 25.

Seby watch: Maybe I dig White Sox catcher Seby Zavala because he has such a cool name. Or perhaps it’s because he’s been such a blessing for the White Sox, despite his low batting average. He’s still among the team’s best sluggers over the past month, clobbering 5 home runs with 14 RBI and 13 runs scored. He hit 20 or more home runs twice in the minor leagues.

Don’t discount Ahmed: Despite slugging 19 home runs in 2019, Diamondbacks’ shortstop Nick Ahmed has never done much with the bat—he has a .236 career average, a .221 mark this year and a .205 average over the past month. But Ahmed is a throwback to the days of the defense-first shortstop, when guys like Mark Belanger (.228 career hitter) and Ed Brinkman (.224) could put together 15 or 20 year careers. In eight seasons, Ahmed has two Gold Gloves and his .978 fielding percentage is 23rd-best all-time. And about that offense—he has 8 doubles over the past month, the same as phenom Wander Franco and more than fellow shortstops Brandon Crawford and Jean Segura.

Alexander the Decent: Tigers pitcher Tyler Alexander has been nothing short of decent this year, which isn’t quite a ringing endorsement—however, his past few outings show promise. In his last start on August 20, he went 7 1/3 innings and surrendered just one run; two starts before that, he didn’t let a single runner score over 5 1/3 frames. Though he hasn’t put it altogether yet, he has the tools to be an effective hurler down the line. He averaged only 1.5 walks per nine innings in the minors, and his rate in the big leagues isn’t much worse at 1.8. He averaged nearly a strikeout per frame with the Tigers last year, and nearly 10 K/9 IP at Triple A in 2019. Keep an eye on Alexander.

Deolis back from the dead: Athletics hurler Deolis Guerra is only 32, yet he’s been playing professionally since 2006; he signed his first contract with the Mets in July 2005. He was traded to the Twins with three others for starter Johan Santana in 2008 and is the only member of that trade who’s still playing. He didn’t make his big league debut until 2015 and has variously had season ERAs of 4.68, 6.48, 8.59 and 54.00 since then. But things are looking up. With Oakland this year, he has a mark of 3.71 and, despite averaging just 7.6 per nine innings for his career, he has averaged more than a K per inning since July 1.

Cleveland Indians-era Francisco Lindor might’ve helped get New York track. The current version, not so much. (Wikipedia).

It’s too late: The Mets recently activated star infielders Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez off the disabled list. Slugging utilityman Jose Martinez, who was supposed to help the club off the bench but has missed the whole year to injury, is on a rehab assignment. In the past few games, first baseman Pete Alonso and outfielder Brandon Nimmo are surging. But, I fear, it’s too late for New York, formerly in first place and now under .500, to make a playoff push. Maybe next year.

How’s he still got a job? ERA+ is a weighted measure of a pitcher’s performance that takes things like park factors into account. A mark of 100 is considered average. Tommy Milone, who recently signed with Cincinnati, has posted a mark over 75 only once since 2015.

Homegrown, not store bought: Fans often complain that the Yankees “bought” all their World Series rings in the 1990s and 2000s, that all they did was open their checkbooks and pay whatever they needed to get the best free agents. Well, they didn’t shy away from bringing help on board as needed, but do recall: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez—well-nigh the core of those teams—were all either drafted or initially signed by New York. Not plucked off the free agent market.

Swing and a miss, voters: What do Tim Salmon (299 career home runs), Mark Reynolds (298 HR) and Pat Burrell (292 HR) have in common? They have the most home runs of anyone from the All-Star Game era to never make a team. Salmon was a Rookie of the Year, won a Silver Slugger and once finished seventh in MVP voting, so he’s particularly egregious. Burrell and Reynolds’ best seasons received MVP votes, as well.

Other All Star snubs: Orlando Cabrera owns the most hits of anyone (from the All-Star era) never selected to an All-Star game, with 2,055. Jose Cardenal has the most stolen bases (329), Tony Phillips played the most games (2,161) and Barney McCosky has the best average (.312; min. 3000 PA). For pitchers, Mike Torrez has the most wins (185) and innings (3,043), Gene Garber has the most saves (218), Bobby Witt has the most strikeouts (1,955), Mike Timlin has the most appearances (1,058) and Ron Perranoski has the best ERA (2.79; min. 1,000 IP).

Not a party at this 1,999: Oof, he was that close to reaching a big career milestone. Ian Kinsler finished his career after 2019 with 1,999 hits, just one shy of the tidy 2,000 hit mark. Hall of Fame third baseman Jimmy Collins, who played at the turn of the century, also finished with that many.

Sam Rice batted .322 in 20 seasons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963. (Wikipedia).

He had no idea: Another Hall of Famer, outfielder Sam Rice, finished at 2,987 hits, just 13 shy of the big three-zero-zero-zero. This is what he said later on: “The truth of the matter is I did not even know how many hits I had. A couple of years after I quit, Clark Griffith told me about it, and asked me if I’d care to have a comeback with the Senators and pick up those 13 hits. But I was out of shape and didn’t want to go through all that would have been necessary to make the effort. Nowadays, with radio and television announcers spouting records every time a player comes to bat, I would have known about my hits and probably would have stayed to make 3,000 of them.”

Didn’t see clearly: Pitcher Joe Cleary made one career appearance, with the Washington Senators in 1945. Something must have been in his eyes that day, since he couldn’t find the plate and threw a wild pitch. And surrendered 3 walks. And 5 hits. And 7 earned runs. All in one-third of an inning. That gave him a career ERA of 189.00.

What a way to go: In his final season, 1929, Negro leaguer Pythias Russ batted .369 in 64 games for the Chicago American Giants. On August 9, 1930, he died from tuberculosis at just 26 years old.

It’s a big club: According to Baseball Reference, 22,504 players have donned a big league uniform. Per Stathead, 8,897 of them—including pitchers—have hit at least one home run. Over 7,000 have hit two or more, and more than 4,000 have hit at least 10.