Archive for June, 2009

This Day in Baseball History: June 30th, 1961

June 30, 2009
Beneficiary of all those home runs. Now, if they had only done that in 1958.

On June 30, 1961:

Whitey Ford wins for the 8th time in the month.

When New York Yankee fans think of 1961, they think of the home run battle between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford‘s season is often overlooked. Named for his extremely blond hair, Ford debuted in 1950 as a 21-year old, but he left baseball for two years to serve in the Korean War. He came back in 1953 and won 18 games. Ford continued his winning ways through the next few seasons, winning 16, 18 again, and 19. His best season was 1958, but he only won 14 games. Casey Stengel wanted him to pitch big games, so he was infrequently used, often only making around 30 starts a season. Ralph Houk became manager in 1961 and let Ford loose on the American League, regardless of the opponent.

Ford responded with a league and career-best 25 wins and a 3.21 ERA, which wasn’t all that good actually. The Chairman of the Board made 8 starts in the month and won every single one of them. His ERA for the month was 2.94, but he didn’t always pitch that way. After 3 outstanding starts, he ran into some difficulty on the 14th when he gave up 5 in an 11-5 win (Maris hit his 22nd). Two good starts later, he made a worse start than the 14th on the 26th as he gave up 6 runs in an 8-6 win (Mantle hit his 23rd). Ford, however, came back with a vengeance in the final game of the month, going all 9, striking out 8, and allowing only 1 run (Mantle hit his 25th).

As stated above, Whitey went on to win 25 games during that season at the ripe age of 32. Including his 8 wins in June, he nailed down 9 more in a row for 17 straight. Rube Waddell holds the AL record for most wins in a month with 10, but John Clarkson won 15 in June of 1885. Carl Hubbell holds the record for most consecutive wins with 24, but in one season, Tim Keefe and Rube Marquard hold the record with 19. Anyway, Ford went on to win his only Cy Young Award of his career that season, even though it wasn’t his best.

Trivia Time
Cy Young holds the record for most 20-win seasons with 15, but Warren Spahn is second and had one as well in 1961. How many 20-win seasons did he have overall?

Yesterday’s Answer –> 1917. On May 2nd, Chicago’s Jim Vaughn and Cincinnati’s Fred Toney each did it.

AL All-Stars According to Me

June 29, 2009
I wish I could go.

I am going to go through each position and tell you who should be in the game, at least who I think should be, based on their first-half performance. I don’t necessarily think players should be rewarded for hot starts to the season, but because that’s the way convention does it, I’ll go along with it.

Catcher
Joe Mauer (3.9 WAR)
Victor Martinez (3.1), Mike Napoli (1.7)

I don’t think anyone needs any reason why Mauer is the starter. Martinez is a bit misplaced as he’s played more games (39) at first than at catcher (36), but he’s raked and is better than any of the other choices and deserves to be in the game. The last spot came down to Napoli and Jorge Posada, but Napoli has the better average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

First Baseman
Kevin Youkilis (3.0 WAR)
Russell Branyan (2.8 WAR), Mark Teixeira (2.4 WAR)

Loads of good candidates here, but some have to be left out. Youk isn’t a surprise here, but Branyan (1.009 OPS) really is the second-best choice here even though few realize the season he’s having. After those two, it was a three-way battle between Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, and Justin Morneau. You really can’t go wrong with any of them. But Cabrera is somehow positive defensively (+3.6 runs) while Tex is costing the Yankees (-2.0 runs). I’m not sure that’s right, and I’ll give Tex the benefit of the doubt. As for Morneau, he’s just the third-best choice in the group (don’t kill me Bill).

Second Baseman
Ian Kinsler (3.1 WAR)
Aaron Hill (2.7 WAR), Brian Roberts (1.9 WAR)

Kinsler is quietly putting up another spectacular season. Maybe it’s in an offensive park, but he steals lots of bases (16 to 3 over Hill) and plays great defense (already saving 6 runs). Hill’s done well but just not enough to start. Finishing it off, Roberts nabs the Orioles’ spot in the game, but honestly, he’s been better than Pedroia, who’s not having that MVP season.

Third Baseman
Evan Longoria (3.8 WAR)
Brandon Inge (3.1 WAR), Scott Rolen (2.4 WAR)

No qualms with Longoria, I’m sure. Inge is quietly a big reason the Tigers are in first place. Michael Young has had a good offensive season, but it’s not as good as Rolen’s and he’s playing poor defense. Chone Figgins deserves an honorable mention, but I’m not sure the stolen bases make up for the 80 points in OPS.

Shortstop
Jason Bartlett (3.2 WAR)
Marco Scutaro (3.0 WAR), Derek Jeter (2.9 WAR)

Clearly the best 3 shortstops in the AL. As for the starter, Bartlett has come out of nowhere to have a great offensive season to add to his stellar defense. The other two are good, but Bartlett’s offense is much better than Scutaro or Jeter’s while posting solid defense. Scutaro rounds out what has been an awesome infield so far. Too bad Vernon Wells and Alex Rios are stinking up the joint.

Outfield
Ben Zobrist (4.0 WAR), Ichiro Suzuki (3.0 WAR), Torii Hunter (2.8 WAR)
Carl Crawford (2.8 WAR), Nelson Cruz (2.4 WAR), Curtis Granderson (2.5 WAR)

Who is the only person with a better WAR than Zobrist? Yep, Albert Pujols. He deserves in this game, but Kinsler was better than Ichiro and the other outfielders. So, Kinsler gets to stay in the lineup. Ichiro’s .375 average (.391 BABIP to his career .357) is a bit fluky, but he still plays great defense and he’s always hit well. Hunter nudges out Crawford to get a center fielder and because his OPS is 160 points better. Crawford gets in based on his defense and stolen bases (as well as a solid offensive start). Cruz has hit well, and his defense is vastly underrated. Granderson has played his typically good defense along with 18 bombs that hold up his OPS. Surprisingly, Brett Gardner and Juan Rivera narrowly missed out. I thought about putting Jason Bay in there because of his excellent offense, but his 69 RBI’s aren’t enough for me to ignore his horrid defense in a small left field.

Starting Pitching
Zack Greinke (5.4 WAR)
Roy Halladay (4.0 WAR), Justin Verlander (3.7 WAR), Felix Hernandez (3.3 WAR), Cliff Lee (3.1 WAR), Edwin Jackson (3.1 WAR), Josh Beckett (3.0 WAR)

This may have been the easiest choice outside of shortstop. Greinke is far and away the best pitcher in the first half. Halladay is the best pitcher in the game, and the others are simply having very good seasons. CC Sabathia, James Shields, and Dallas Braden all sit well under Beckett.

Relief Pitching
Andrew Bailey (1.3 WAR), JP Howell (1.3 WAR), Joe Nathan (1.1 WAR), DJ Carrasco (1.0 WAR)

We needed an Athletic, so Bailey gets in. We needed a White Sock, so Carrasco gets in. Nathan should always get in. Howell has had a really good season, and he’s forced the normally nomadic Joe Maddon to use him as the closer. Mariano Rivera and David Aardsma are honorable mentions, and I wouldn’t complain if either made it on the team.

Flexibility

There may need to be more pitchers. 7 starters (all much more valuable than relievers) are on the team, and 3 should be able to go a measly 2 innings if needed. But we like lots of pitchers just in case another 2002 happens. If so, Brian Roberts can’t be touched, and Napoli needs to stay as a third catcher. That means that Nelson Cruz, Scott Rolen, or Mark Teixeira would be next. Out of those, Rolen is probably first to go with Cruz coming next because I think Teixeira is better than the other two.

Obviously, I weighed WAR pretty heavily, but it’s the easiest stat to use that combines offense and defense. I did look at other stats while taking all this into consideration. Teixeira, for example, moved up even though Cabrera had a better WAR. Nathan leapfrogging Aardsma is another. Anyway, any gripes? Any guesses on who (Zobrist) will be left off the actual team?

All-Star Voting

June 29, 2009
Well, I thought it was clever.

If you haven’t filed your on-line ballots for the All-Star Game, you have until Thursday. I have filed 3 so far while at Cincinnati Reds games, so I’ll get to vote a collective 28 times. For on-line ballots, I always wait until a week before the deadline to start voting. If you do it before, you’re either going to vote in a guy with 2 hot months (which is worse than voting in a guy for having a hot half) or you’re voting based on reputation (more acceptable, but this still doesn’t help get you the best 32 players). By waiting until now, you get a better view of who actually deserves to be in the All-Star Game based on their first-half performance. Some guys have cooled off while others have heated up. So go vote, if you haven’t, but don’t Vote for Manny. Please. Anyway, on to a quick history of All-Star voting (more All-Star stuff is on the way for the days leading up to the game) before I tell you who should be voted into this year’s game tonight and tomorrow night.

Arch Ward began the All-Star Game in 1933 as part of the World’s Fair that was to be held in Chicago. The game’s players were selected from the game’s stars by Ward and some advisors. Due to the game’s success, it became an annual event, and in 1935, the manager of the All-Star Game began choosing all the players that would be in the game. However, this caused some problems. In 1939, Joe McCarthy used 6 of his New York Yankees in the starting lineup. Not that all of them didn’t deserve to be there, but the idea of favoritism forced the commissioner’s hand.

In 1947, Happy Chandler changed the selection process slightly. The fans could now vote for the eight starters other than the pitcher. Other than the starters, the managers chose the rest of the team. This could still lead to favoritism, but at least the fans could choose the starters, presumably to make things more fair. Well, that didn’t exactly work out. Ten years later, Cincinnati Reds fans stuffed the ballot box and elected 7 Reds to be starters with only Stan Musial able to withstand such a travesty of justice. Commissioner Ford Frick was ticked, and he immediately took away the voting from the fans, giving it back to managers.

As is want to happen in history, you make one decision to correct something, and then, an unintended consequence forces another reaction. Without input and then two All-Star Games from 1959 to 1962, the enthusiasm surrounding the game waned. It was no longer new and exciting, and it soon became trite and bothersome. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, in 1970, gave fans the right to vote again in order to create more enthusiasm and to drive marketing for the game and baseball in general. The reserves and pitchers were still selected by mangers, but the game had been saved. Another interesting fact that occurred around the same time, the distinction between outfielders was dropped. No longer did you pick a center fielder, left fielder, and right fielder. Fans complained that they had to choose Hank Aaron or Roberto Clemente, and that wasn’t right if they were the best players in the game. So, now you vote for 3 outfielders.

Everything moved along fine over the next 30 years or so, but the original problem of All-Star selection was still partly evident. The starters were now free of managerial favoritism, but reserves weren’t. Managers were often accused of picking their own players instead of other “worthier” players. In 2003, the process was tweaked again. Players and other coaches are now part of the selection process. Their votes don’t necessarily count as official (obviously, the every team must have a player requirement keeps this from really working), but the managers usually stick to the votes (though, we are never really told what the results are).

A year earlier, the Final Vote began in order to increase fan enthusiasm. At the time, there were only 30 players, but that would be the infamous game. Rosters expanded to 32 the next season. Five players from each league are selected, and the fans vote on the player from each league that they think should play. The NL has seen no winners on repeated teams, but the Boston Red Sox (3) and Chicago White Sox (2) have won 5 of the 7.

Other fun facts:
– The first game had roster sizes of 17 and 18. The 1939 Game had 25 and 26 players. Now, 32 players are chosen.
– The first DH to appear in an All-Star Game was 1989.
– For injuries or other reasons, players can decline their invitations, and they will be replaced by the Commissioner.
– Managers are the managers from the previous season’s World Series. 1964 was complete chaos, however, as Yogi Berra and Johnny Keane left their teams and went to the other league. In 1995, the managers of the teams with the best records by the time of the strike were the manager of the All-Star Game.

I like the All-Star Game, and I watch it every year. But there are some things I would like to see changed.

First, why can we vote for the position players but not the pitchers? It has never made any sense to me. Yes, fans might choose a pitcher who pitched on the Sunday before and the team may not want him to pitch, but they choose injured players all the time. Put in a sub if that’s the case. And yes, I would be okay with a reliever starting the game.

Second, no selections of DH’s as starters. Full-time DH’s should be allowed in the game, and they can be able to start as the DH. But in AL parks, choose the reserves and let the fans choose from them who should start as the DH in the same manner as the Final Vote. That way, it’s a little more even between leagues, and the fans aren’t cheated out of an NL starter.

Third, no more “One Team, One Person” nonsense. If your team doesn’t have a great player, complain to the GM. Otherwise, Mark Redman gets in the game, and that’s just ridiculous. Throw the non-represented teams a bone and bring a coach on board.

This Day in Baseball History: June 29th, 1990

June 29, 2009
Would Fernandomania have lasted longer with Nolan Ryan as his coach/vice president of operations?

On June 29, 1990:

Dave Stewart and Fernando Valenzuela throw no-hitters.

By 1990, Fernando Valenzuela had passed the prime of his career, and he would not be very effective during that season or any following seasons. Dave Stewart, on the other hand, was in the prime of his career and in the midst of 4 consecutive seasons in which he won at least 20 games, but he would never win a Cy Young Award. These two pitchers, on separate career paths, would cross historical paths on the same day.

Up first was Stewart in a meeting with the Toronto Blue Jays. Stewart was flat-out dominant. He struck out 12 in 9 innings while walking 3, though it started a little shaky. In the first inning, he walked the first two batters he faced, but he would go on to retire the next 25 straight before walking the penultimate batter of the game. Because the lead-off man tried to steal second, Stewart only faced 29 batters while throwing 115 pitches. The Athletics went on to win the game 5-0.

Minutes later, it was Valenzuela’s turn, facing the St. Louis Cardinals. The 29-year old Dodger lefty was facing a bad Cardinals team, one that would lost 92 games, and he took complete advantage. Other than consecutive walks to Pedro Guerrero and Todd Zeile, the Cardinals never threatened. Valenzuela went the whole way, striking out 7 and walking 3. The Dodgers would commit an error, but the Cardinals would make 3 in a game they just didn’t do anything right in. 119 pitches and 30 batters after the game started, Valenzuela had a no-no, and the Dodgers had a 6-0 victory.

Even cooler (though don’t read until after you’ve answered the trivia question), ESPN showed the two games back-to-back on national television that night. That would have been awesome to have watched both of those games.

Trivia Time
Two no-hitters in the same day had only happened one other time in baseball history. Name the other year.

Yesterday’s Answer –> Dr. James Andrews, of course. Who else?

Rounding the Bases

June 29, 2009
Why does this happen?

Went to the lake on Wednesday, and I got sunburned and sore from trying to tube and water ski. Got back and did some running around. Good fun. Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation are pretty good, entertaining but ultimately without any significance to them. Anyway, today’s post was going to go up last weekend, but it was Father’s Day. Tomorrow and Tuesday, be on the look-out for a couple of posts telling you who you should be voting for in the All-Star Game.

Bill James and Joe Posnanski took on pitch counts last week, and while they’re brilliant, I couldn’t help but think they missed the point. Then, Rob Neyer came along and made the point I was going to make.

I think James and Posnanski are right on when they talk about how pitch counts came to be. Money and the consequent fear of getting pitchers hurt did drive the move toward pitch counts. And James nails it on the head when he states, “It is my view that, once conventional wisdom about leaving pitchers in the game stampeded into a full-fledged retreat, it ran right past the point of reason”. People got scared, tried something new, it seemed to work, and everyone made it a rule. But when we make hard and fast rules, there’s usually some wiggle room that needs to be applied.

I don’t know why 100 pitches came to be the standard. It’s a nice round number that’s pretty close what a pitcher would throw in a game. When you try to get scientific, you try for exact numbers, and somehow, people decided 100 was it. Was it misguided? Probably. It’s as misguided as saying someone with 20 wins is better than one with 17. The numbers are there, but you forget take other aspects into account. With the 100 pitch limit, we’ve forgotten how to take things into account.

Take today’s Red Sox-Braves game. It’s hot and humid. Hanson has flu-like (sore throat) symptoms. After 6 innings, he had launched 97 pitches. It was time to take him out, and I knew without knowing his pitch count. 100 pitches is a guideline. Hanson was laboring, doing the best he could against a lineup fouling off good pitches and leaving borderline pitches alone. Everything pointed to taking him out. But what happens if he goes 120 like Ryan wants? Does he get hurt? Probably not. But he probably would have been less effective than usual. 100 pitches worked that time.

But what about a guy cruising who’s gone 7 and has 95 pitches? You could probably get another inning or two out of him without doing much damage. The 7 completed innings tells me that he’s been effective, and if his arm is in that slot, he’s probably going okay. And if he’s got that movement and location, he can take the slight decrease in effectiveness (which is probably heightened from normal) and still win the game. You let him go. In both of these situations, you have to look past the 100 pitches, but that doesn’t mean that 100 pitches is useless. 100 pitches is a signal. When you get to that point, you should start making assessments (actually around 85 you should probably start, but you get my point).

But James and Posnanski are right. No real research went into 100, and it’s not clear that 100 pitches saves arms. However, Neyer’s right — 100 doesn’t necessarily not work. It’s the “Well, you can’t prove God exists, so he doesn’t” argument. The fact is that no one knows why pitchers get hurt. This is just another random trial and error in the natural evolution of baseball. Why do pitchers get hurt? One, pitching is unnatural. Two, they throw a lot of pitches from an unnatural position. Three, they may do it too much, or starts are too spaced out. I don’t know how you’d figure it out, but I’d like to know the average lifespan of a pitcher from the 1900-1920 era, the 1950-1970 era, and the 1990-2010 era. Maybe limits of 4.70 ERA and 500 innings and then average the number of career seasons and/or innings pitched.

The last reason for pitcher injuries is the most frustrating — physical makeup. Some guys, like Nolan Ryan, can handle 140 pitches an outing without hurting themselves too badly. Some guys, like Mark Prior, throw that many and end up out of baseball after 3 or 4 seasons. Explain the difference. Was Prior babied more than Ryan? Ryan threw 200 innings in the minors in 1966, but Prior threw a lot of innings in college as well (Prior didn’t stay long in the minors). Scouts talk about mechanics and how they put stress on certain joints and how someone’s mechanics will hurt them. The problem is that they probably have their reasons why they say that, and I’m sure science backs them up. But they probably still won’t be able to explain why Pedro Martinez and Tim Lincecum (knock on wood) can handle tough workloads.

We can talk about these reasons all day, and we’ll get nowhere. Who knows which of reasons 1, 2, 3, and 4 is the most important, if all of them are equal, or if there is (are) another (other) reason(s) entirely and these reasons are crap. The truth is that we don’t know why pitchers get hurt. Eventually, we might find out. Some brilliant guy will be able to detect ligament strength in joints and know whose shoulder will hold and whose won’t. Until then, we’ll just keep using trial and error and see what we come up with. It’s not a bad plan. It’s just the one we have to work with.

But I admire Nolan Ryan. He’s taking baseball orthodoxy, throwing into a blender, and seeing what sticks, and it may very well help us get closer to the answer. Maybe he’s right. Maybe pitchers can throw 120-130 pitches without flinching or getting hurt. But it’s also likely that he’s wrong and that his new strategy, which seems to be working, is about to bust in the next year or two when a young pitcher’s shoulder is thrashed. The worst part? When that happens, we won’t even know if his theory is what caused the injury or just poor biology or something else entirely.

Maybe God really does exist. Maybe he doesn’t. Honestly, we won’t know until we’re dead. But that doesn’t mean that I hope we stop looking. I’m glad we’re looking and trying things. It’s just that the answers are always frustratingly inconclusive.

Sunday Frivolities

June 28, 2009
There wasn’t a lot of smiling going on that season.

One of the most overrated, yet celebrated accomplishments in baseball is the 20-win season. It was the one knock on Mike Mussina’s career, which is a complete joke, and it’s almost a Hall of Fame requirement for pitchers. But I am not all that interested in success. I find failure so much more interesting. So what about 20-loss seasons?

There are exactly 500 in professional baseball history, but only 483 belong to Major League Baseball history (post-1876). Only 204 of those belong to post-1899 baseball. This isn’t surprising. Pitchers pitched deeper into games (thus giving them the chance at getting a decision), and they pitched more times a season (thus giving them the chance at getting a decision). In fact, 153 of the 500 20-loss seasons were also 20-win seasons, and Guy Hecker went 52-20 for the Louisville Colonels in 1884. Out of those 153, only 2 have been post-1905. Phil Niekro went 21-20 in 1979, and Wilbur Wood went 24-20 in 1973.

113 of the 204 of modern-era baseball belong to the 1900-1920 time period. Obviously, we still haven’t gotten out of the time period where 20-loss seasons aren’t really that bad.

But the numbers continue to dwindle. The next 20 years only see 36 20-loss seasons. The 20 after that (1941-1960) only see 23.

What’s weird, however, is that the numbers go back up for the years between 1961-1980. 31 players had 20-loss seasons. From a cursory glance (not scientific), it seems as though the innings pitched in the time also went up. Did pitchers try to start pitching more during that time before the Bullpen Era came on the scene? Anyway, just a neat anamoly.

After 1980, there has only been one pitcher in the last 29 years with a 20-loss season. That belongs to the 2003 version of Mike Maroth. Maroth was horrible that season, but the Tigers did him absolutely no favors. That Tigers team is the same one who lost 119 games, so no one won any games. Almost joining him were Jeremy Bonderman (19 losses) and Nate Cornejo (17 games). Maroth was really only slightly worse than those two, but he was plenty terrible. He gave up a league-high 123 earned runs and 34 homers. His 4.1 K/9 was pretty bad, and other than not missing bats, those bats hit him really hard. 13 of his 33 starts saw Maroth give up at least 5 earned runs. 11 of the other 20 saw Maroth give up 2 earned runs or less. From May 23rd to June 30th, he was actually pretty good, netting 7 consecutive starts with 3 earned runs or less (though one of those only last 1.1 innings).

I think we will see another such pitcher, but I find it incredibly interesting that only one pitcher in the past 30 seasons has accomplished this. Why do you think it has changed so much? Does the 30 fewer innings address it? The five-man rotation, which doesn’t really account for the 80’s? Teams being less-willing to let pitchers be so bad if there are cheaper options in the minors?

In my opinion, it’s because there really haven’t been that many 20-loss seasons in baseball history. As I mentioned, a lot of the previous 20-loss seasons were at least close to being .500 seasons. Only 247 were below .400 seasons. In other words, they weren’t that bad. Maroth’s percentage was .300. Major League Baseball has only seen 108 seasons like that. I think that makes more sense. There’s bound to be at least one historically bad season a season.

8 pitchers are tied with 8 losses so far. Will any of them make it?

This Day in Baseball History: June 28th, 1978

June 28, 2009
Rest in peace.

On June 28, 1978:

Mark Fidrych convinces the ball to do what he wants.

Mark Fidrych is one of the most interesting people in baseball history. Known for his on-mound antics, he was worth watching purely from that standpoint, let alone his outstanding pitching. Fidrych would manicure the mound if he thought the cleat marks were too deep. He talked to himself. He had to have a personal catcher, Bruce Kimm, because he was so superstitious. He strutted after getting an out. He made the umpire replace balls that had “too many hits in them”. His most ardent supporters, “the Bird Watchers”, came to the stadium and would often chant for a curtain call (not normal protocol in the day) after his start.

But perhaps his most famous performance was his June 28th start against the New York Yankees. The Tigers hadn’t been particularly good in recent years, and they were on their way to a fifth-place finish for 1978. There weren’t too many reasons to watch the Tigers, meaning there weren’t many people who would know Fidrych. However, that night’s game was the Monday Night Game, and against the Yankees, he was sure to get some attention. And attention he received, but it wasn’t necessarily directed toward his complete-game, 1-run performance. It was mainly because he talked to the ball while on his recently-groomed mound. The audience, both the national audience and the nearly 50,000 at Tiger Stadium, were enthralled and maybe even entoxicated with the 21-year old, and he became a celebrity.

Fidrych went on to play in the All-Star Game, win the Rookie of the Year Award, and finish second for the Cy Young Award. He had won 19 games along with a league-best 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games. Though not a strikeout pitcher (only 3.5 per 9), he was effective and had impeccable control (1.9 BB/9). The following season, he hurt his knee while fooling around in the outfield, and when he came back, he tore his rotator cuff (though it remained undiagnosed for 8 years). Maybe his knee injury forced him to compensate, thereby hurting his shoulder, or maybe not having a start until May 15th and still throwing 250 innings did him in. Either way, he was out of baseball by 1984, and when his shoulder was finally diagnosed, it was too late for a baseball career.

Trivia Time
Who diagnosed his rotator cuff injury?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Ian guessed it — Benito Santiago.

This Day in Baseball History: June 27th, 1987

June 27, 2009
Even as a “little guy”, he still had plenty of pop.

On June 27, 1987:

Mark McGwire hits 3 home runs and drives in 5 runs.

1987 was Mark McGwire’s rookie season, and what a rookie season it was. Big Mac would go on to take the Rookie of the Year Award unanimously. In 151 games, he hit .289/.370/.618 for a 164 OPS+. He nailed a rookie-record 49 home runs and drove in 118 along with a career-high 28 doubles. Interesting story around the 49 home runs. McGwire hit his 49th on September 29th, and he had 5 more games to accomplish his 50th. On the very last day of the season, his wife went into labor, and without hesitating, he rushed to her side, forgoing the chance at 50 home runs.

On his way to such an awesome season, June 27th was a memorable moment, but not for Ken Schrom. Schrom only lasted 3.2 innings in the 13-3 drubbing, but he would only give up one home run to McGwire. In the 1st, 5th, and 9th (nice spacing), McGwire would hit his three home runs for the day. Reggie Jackson, in his second stint in Oakland, and Carney Lansford added their own home runs. The other bash brother, Jose Canseco, went 3-for-5 with an RBI but no home run.

McGwire had belted two home runs in three different previous games, but this was McGwire’s first three-homer performance. Somewhat surprisingly (at least to me), McGwire only did this 5 times in his career. However, in the Retrosheet Era (1954-present), only Sammy Sosa has more 3-homer games in his career with 6. Dave Kingman and Joe Carter each tied McGwire’s five. Barry Bonds had 4. Hank Aaron only had one. Albert Pujols already has 3, so he might be able to beat that record. I guess this is harder to do than I thought.

Trivia Time
Who was the other unanimous Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1987?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Tris Speaker. Well done boys.

This Day in Baseball History: June 26th, 2003

June 26, 2009
Yes, third base is not a typo. He didn’t become a full-time DH until 1995.

On June 26, 2003:

Edgar Martinez knocks in two runs.

When people think of great Seattle Mariners, the first guys that come to mind are Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson. Edgar Martinez falls farther down on the list, but I guess that’s okay. The other 3 are Hall of Fame-bound, and Martinez is borderline due to his career as an almost exclusive DH. Martinez, however, was an offensive force. For his career, he hit .312/.418/.515 (147 OPS+) with 309 HR and 1261 RBI while being one of the few guys with more walks (1283) than strikeouts (1202) in his career.

As for Mariners history, Martinez tops the list in a lot of categories — games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, total bases, walks, and on-base percentage. Most of those are pretty secure. Ichiro could possibly take the runs and hits categories away from him, but Martinez was too good and played his entire career in Seattle, all 18 seasons. On June 26, 2003, Martinez took over one more category — runs batted in. He knocked in two runs to give him 1176 RBI’s, just edging Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1175. Martinez went on to knock in 1261 runs, so Griffey won’t likely break that unless he can weasel another year out of the Mariners.

But here’s the question about Martinez — is he Hall of Fame worthy? According to Baseball-Reference, both Black Ink and Grey Ink say he’s pretty far away from being in the Hall of Fame, but the Hall of Fame Monitor has him in pretty easily. The Hall of Fame Monitor assesses how likely it is that he will get in and not necessarily how deserving, and Martinez’s 131 is rated as a cinch. So which is it? Hall or no Hall? Will his role as a DH kill his chances, or will people look at him as one of the great all-time DHs and put him in? Should he be in? Decision time starts next year, so start thinking about it.

Trivia Time
Edgar Martinez is 39th on the all-time list in doubles. Who is first?

Wednesday’s Answer –> Willie Stargell

Historical Musings

June 24, 2009
This could be yours. With your name on it, of course.

I’m off to Barren River Lake for a few days, and there probably won’t be anything until Friday unless I get back early on Thursday for some reason. Because I won’t be doing anything, I’ll link to some really good stuff being written by others on baseball history. I don’t link to a lot of other posts. It’s not really my style of blogging, but there’s been a lot of really good posts done lately that I think people should read.

DMB World Series Replay has a trivia contest with a prize that is more than just pride. I admire him, though don’t expect me to be giving things away. I am a college student without a job, so I have zero money to spend on you people. Anyway, scroll through, see a mustache fetish, and learn about 19th century baseball while getting your story time in.

The Daily Something has become a must morning read for me lately, and it should be for you as well. The post on Dickie Thon and ugly players are worthwhile reads. Since you have to learn something every day, you might as well get it out of the way early over there.

Wezen-ball always has good stuff up, like this post on Tropicana Field. Go back in time and remember all the dumb stuff people said back in the day that we can criticize using hindsight. Isn’t the internet (and old handbooks and magazines) wonderful?

– Last but not least in my heart, check out Baseball Over Here and the interview of me. No, I’m not narcissistic. I just want to love me. And you should, damn it. I’m wonderful.