December 9, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
And here's the full roster.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012
We may as well officially declare this R. A. Dickey Day at The Hardball Times. Troy Patterson tops the homepage with his article examining Dickey's remarkable strikeout totals with his knuckleball. Patterson may have thought it was well-timed, coming soon after Dickey's 12-strikeout one-hitter on June 13 against the Rays. Little did he know—okay, by this time he could reasonably have guessed—that Dickey would beat that Monday night, putting up a 13-punchout one-hitter against the Orioles.
That's consecutive one-hitters for Dickey, which has to be pretty rare. Thanks to the modern marvel that is Baseball-Reference, we can see just how rare. From 1918 through last week, there had been exactly nine pitchers who threw consecutive games of one hit or fewer. Dickey is No. 10. I'll figure out eventually how to embed the appropriate tables without crashing the site, but for now, here's this lovingly hand-crafted list (total hits for the two games in parentheses):
Howard Ehmke, 1923 (1)
Dazzy Vance, 1925 (1)
Lon Warneke, 1934 (2)
Johnny Vander Meer, 1938 (0)
Mort Cooper, 1943 (2)
Jim Tobin, 1944 (1)
Whitey Ford, 1955 (2)
Sam McDowell, 1966 (2)
Dave Stieb, 1988 (2)
R. A. Dickey, 2012 (2)
Three of those pitchers threw a no-hitter as part of the string. A fourth threw two. (Show-off.) Stieb's games were where he famously lost consecutive no-hit bids with two outs in the ninth.
Dickey beats all these fellows in one category: strikeouts. With 25 for the two games, he's well ahead of Sam McDowell and Lon Warneke with 18. One can argue that Warneke's feat, in a lower-strikeout environment, was a greater show of excellence. But I won't hear that—not on R. A. Dickey Day. His two walks for the two games is second-best on the list, tied with Ehmke and just behind Vance's one.
Another thing I won't hear is how Dickey gave up a run in the first game, which seems to spoil the awesomeness. Not only was it unearned, but even the harshest detractors of the unfairness of earned and unearned runs would have to admit this run was not the pitcher's fault: error, passed ball, passed ball, groundout. What's that? Knucklers produce a lot of passed balls? Nope, still not listening. (Besides, three of the other pitchers gave up runs in their strings. Two of them were even earned.)
Still not convinced? Time to bring out the heavy artillery. Dickey's performance against Baltimore yesterday produced a Game Score of 96. His previous one-hitter came in at 95. (Yep, he's getting better.) I still haven't figured out the embedding thing, so here is my personalized, artisanal, locally-produced list of all the other pitchers since 1918 to pitch consecutive starts with Game Scores of 95 or better:
Bob Veale (97 & 95)
And the bizarre thing there is, Veale did it over two years: September 30, 1964, and April 12, 1965. And there was an intervening relief appearance in the last days of the 1964 season. So if we're going to be fair on R. A. Dickey Day, we have to discount Veale's accomplishment and acknowledge that R. A Dickey stands alone in this regard. (At least since 1918. Maybe ever.)
Besides, Bob Veale, while a decent enough pitcher, doesn't quite have the historical gravitas to stand in the same company as R. A. Dickey. Why, equating the two might imply that Dickey's wonderful run might not win him eternal fame and glory. Or that it might not last forever, and that we should just be thankful for every great game he can put on this string, however long he can keep it going.
I certainly wouldn't do that. Not on R. A. Dickey Day.
And isn't that just so much fun to say? R. A. Dickey Day, R. A. Dickey Day, R. A. Dickey Day ...
Seventy years ago today, one of baseball’s great milestones was attained.
On June 19, 1942, longtime National League star Paul Waner singled for career hit No. 3,000. He was just the seventh man to join the 3,000 hit club, and the first in nearly 20 years.
He’d been a star for the Pirates for nearly all that time, but they traded him away the year before. However, rather fittingly, that 3,000th hit came against Pittsburgh, so his old teammates were on hand for it. It was in Boston, though, so the fans that cheered for Waner for years missed it.
This was actually one of the first major milestones people paid attention to at the time it happened. Bill James noted in his original Historical Abstract that people only really started fussing about career milestones with the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1939. That created a greater sense of permanent legacy and history for the game, hence more attention to things like milestones.
It sounds strange to talk about baseball without its sense of history. Nowadays it’s history and tradition are what set it apart from many of the other sports. But a game isn’t born with legacy, it has to be developed, and around 70 years ago was the tipping point in that process of awareness of what had gone before.
Previously, it was not a big deal if Sam Rice decided to quit playing with 2,987 career hits. Who paid attention to that anyway? But in 1941 Lefty Grove won his 300th game, and now Paul Waner collected 3,000 hits, and those accomplishments were notable. Thus, not only was Waner the seventh member of the 3,000-hit club, his entry helped create that club in the popular mind.
The first guy to reach the mark was Cap Anson in the 19th century. Then, in 1914, a pair of players joined the club: Honus Wagner and Nap Lajoie. Ty Cobb joined them in 1921. Four years later, two more players got his No. 3,000: Eddie Collins and Tris Speaker. Then came a long, dry period without anyone.
In fact, after Waner did it, another desert happened with no one hitting 3,000. After Waner, no one else reached the mark until Stan Musial in 1958. And after Musial, no one else until 1970, when Willie Mays and Hank Aaron both joined. All those guys were NL players. It wasn’t until 1974 that Al Kaline became the first AL player to get 3,000 hits.
So not only is today the 70th anniversary of Paul Waner getting his 3,000th hit, but he was the only person in a 30-plus year period to join, and one of only two over 45 years.
In part, it was something of a fluke that no one would get to 3,000 hits for so long. There are other reasons, too. As the level of competition increased, it became harder for the standouts to dominate. Thus while a handful of players from the 1900-20 generation could get in, almost none in the next could. For that matter, the rise of the home run cut into batting averages. Now you could be a star without concentrating exclusively on getting hits.
Also, World War II shortened a few careers. It helped keep Ted Williams out. There was a fluky element to it, too. For example, star first baseman George Sisler developed eye trouble that hurt his chances. He ended his career with over 2,900 hits, so he would’ve made it otherwise. Even more tragically, Lou Gehrig was on pace for 3,000 career hits before falling to his fatal illness.
But Waner did it. And he did it 70 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things:
Click for more...