December 11, 2013
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Saturday, September 29, 2012
It was 15,000 days ago that a pitcher made one of the greatest debuts in baseball history. And as it happened, the pitcher went on to be a bit more than a one-game wonder, too.
It was a young hurler for the Houston Astros named J.R. Richard.
15,000 days ago was Sept. 5, 1971, and the giant 6-foot8 fastball-throwing Richard took the hill to start against the Giants in San Francisco.
The first inning was a bit rocky for Richard. Leading off, Ken Henderson singled sparking a rally that scored two runs. Even in this inning, Richard showed a flash of what he was capable as he struck out the legendary Willie Mays.
In the second inning, Richard shut the Giants down while striking out his second batter, but he really found his stride in the third. First up, Tito Fuentes. Strikeout. Then the great Mays. Richard struck him out again. Then came Bobby Bonds. He was a great young player in his prime, but the year before, Bonds had set a single-season record with 189 whiffs. Richard got him to complete a striking out of the side.
And Richard was off. He didn’t strike anyone out in the fourth, but he made up for that by getting a pair in the fifth and another pair in the sixth. That was nine punchouts through two-thirds of the game. Meanwhile, Houston’s offense rallied to give him a 5-2 lead.
Richard got his 10th strikeout in the seventh inning. In the eighth, despite allowing an unearned run, Richard got another two strikeouts. That gave him an even dozen heading into the final frame. There, for the second time on the day, Richard struck out the side.
That gave him 15 whiffs in all. Not bad for a guy making his debut. In fact, it was one of the greatest debuts of all time. Richard would become a great strikeout artist, twice leading the league (1978-79), with over 300 Ks in a season each time. Unfortunately, in his prime, tragedy struck and Richard suffered a blood clot that nearly killed him.
But that was in the future. 15,000 days ago, Richard had as good a day as any first-time arm ever had.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things.
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Friday, September 28, 2012
Mets 6, Pirates 5: R.A. Dickey wins his 20th, striking out 13 in the process. I don't care if wins aren't supposed to matter. It's cool. He's old and he struggled for years and he has no freaking ligament in his elbow and he seems like a pretty cool guy and all of that and I am happy as hell that he hit a milestone that, these days, is pretty rare. Also: that Travis Snider catch in case you missed it. Dear God.
Tigers 5, Royals 4: Because of events and things, I am officially no longer allowed to mention the Tigers' starting pitcher's name in print again. But suffice it to say, he did well.
Rays 3, White Sox 2: Rays playing spoiler? Bah, they could still make this dance. They have these games against the White Sox and then three against Baltimore. Meanwhile the Sox have lost three straight to fall two games behind the Tigers in the AL Central. Gettin' crazy.
Giants 7, Diamondbacks 3: Two-run homers for both Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro and another solid start from Barry Zito. It's the most wins Zito has had in a season since he signed his gigantic deal with the Giants. And the Giants have won 10 straight of his starts.
Rockies 7, Cubs 5: Rockies sweep the Cubs behind a lot of hits and homers. I'm sorry, it's Sept. 28 and it's really hard to get it up to say anything even quasi-insightful about a Cubs-Rockies series.
Mariners 9, Angels 4: John Jaso hit a two-run homer and an RBI double and the Angels lost a game they needed to win. Which is basically all of them now, of course, but still. Oakland lost and all, and it was a chance to gain some ground.
Rangers 9, Athletics 7: Despite Mike Adams' best efforts -- he gave up three homers in two-thirds of an inning -- the Rangers prevail, splitting the series with the A's. Jumping out to an early 5-0 lead helps matters.
Reds 2, Brewers 1: John Axford couldn't hold a 1-0 lead in the ninth despite getting the first two outs. That's not some colossal failure or anything, but dudes, if the bullpen held half of the number of leads a typical bullpen holds throughout the season the Brewers would be playoff bound.
Nationals 7, Phillies 3: Gio gets his 21st win. Two homers for Michael Morse. One for Bryce Harper.
Blue Jays 6, Yankees 0: More like Ivan NoGOOD, am I right? Anyone? Eh, ok. Maybe not (4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER). Brandon Morrow, in contrast, pitched seven shutout innings. Three runs driven in for Edwin Encarnacion. The Yankees lead is back down to 1.
Braves 6, Marlins 2: Miami continues to sleepwalk to the end of the season. Dan Uggla drove in three.
Dodgers 8, Padres 4: L.A. is now three games back of the Cardinals, but as is the case with everyone else in that boat, you basically gotta win every game left and hope the other guys lose every game and that's just not happening.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
So I'm sitting here working on the Hardball Times Annual 2013 (which is, alas, not yet ready for order) and editing a great article by Chris Jaffe on the history of major league umpires and their balls/strikes calling. Meanwhile, over at Bill James Online, Bill posts an article (for subscribers only) that compares the strikeouts and walks issued by umps working behind the plate when Ted Williams was at bat. And that creates instant sabermetric synergy.
Here is a list of the umpires who umped the most games when Ted Williams batted (courtesy of Bill) and the number of at-bats and walks given out by those umps (also courtesy of Bill). I've divided walks by (walks plus at-bats) as a crude measure of each ump's walk rate. Next to that is the umpire's career walk rate, regardless of who was batting:
Ump AB BB % Career Bill Summers 605 172 22% 9.9% Eddie Rommel 581 127 18% 9.9% Bill Grieve 475 120 20% 9.5% Joe Paparella 400 112 22% 9.4% Bill McGowan 409 113 22% 9.3% Charlie Berry 406 98 19% 9.1% Cal Hubbard 359 100 22% 9.5% Bill McKinley 339 89 21% 9.7% Eddie Hurley 328 110 25% 11.1% Johnny Stevens 337 80 19% 9.5%See anything in the data? Yeah, I don't either. Eddie Hurley posted the highest walk rate, but he also deserves a special resting place in hitter heaven (or pitcher hell, depending on your perspective) for his small strike zone. Hurley was friendly to all batters, not just Williams.
Every umpire basically doubled his walk rate when Williams was at the bat. You can find some minor differences between the specific umpire rates, but you'll have a hard time proving the differences are anything other than random variances. The idea that Williams received preferential treatment from umpires doesn't appear to hold up—if that were true, you'd expect that some umpires wouldn't treat him as well. That is Bill's conclusion, too.
Keep an eye out for the Hardball Times Annual in late October. We'll be self-publishing it this year, and it will be available as an e-book too.
Orioles 12, Blue Jays 2: Bombs away. Chris Davis and Manny Machado each had two homers and the O's hit seven in all, keeping pace with the Yankees, who maintain their one and a half game lead.
Yankees 8, Twins 2: CC Sabathia looks to be back on his game, and that will be huge for the Yankees in the playoffs. The big guy struck out 10 over eight innings.
Tigers 5, Royals 4: Andy Dirks broke up what would have been an inning-ending double play in the eighth inning, which allowed Don Kelly to score. Little things can make all the difference between winning the division and sitting at home in October.
Nationals 8, Phillies 4: Bryce Harper became only the second teenager to hit 20 homers in a season. Tony Conigliaro was the other. Ryan Howard got booed. Jayson Werth got booed. Lotta booing in Philly last night.
Astros 2, Cardinals 0: Norris. Bud Norris. He gave up two hits over seven and a third.
Dodgers 8, Padres 2: Matt Kemp was 4 for 5 with four driven in. Too little too late, of course.
Mets 6, Pirates 0: Jeremy Hefner shuts out the Pirates for seven innings and Ruben Tejada has four hits, eliminating Pittsburgh from playoff contention. Nice run for a while Buccos, but now ...
Brewers 8, Reds 1: Ryan Braun hit a homer -- he leads the National League -- keeping the Brewers on life support for another day. Cincinnati falls a game back of Washington for the best record in the NL and home field advantage in the NLCS, should the Reds make it there.
Braves 3, Marlins 0: Martin Prado homered and drove in another run with a single. Dan Uggla stole home (what?) and Paul Maholm was sharp. The Marlins, of course, have given up, so whatever.
Rays 4, Reds Sox 2: Know what? The White Sox have to play four games against the hot-and-spoiling-to-spoil Rays this weekend. That seems like it bodes poorly.
Athletics 9, Rangers 3: Oakland jumped out to a 5-0 lead before the Rangers even got to bat and Martin Perez couldn't even make it out of the inning.
Indians 6, White Sox 4: And the Sox fall out of first place for the first time since July 23. They had a 3-1 lead after the first, but Hector Santiago couldn't make it out of the fourth inning.
Giants 6, Diamondbacks 0: Matt Cain shut 'em out for seven innings and worked out of a couple of jams. He hasn't lost in nine starts.
Rockies 6, Cubs 0: Drew Pomeranz looked sharp and the Rockies won their third in a row.
Angels 4, Mariners 3: L.A. just has to keep winning and hope that the Rangers take care of the A's over the next week. The Angels did their part at least, and remain two back in the Wild Card. Torii Hunter tied it with an RBI single in the seventh and won it with a walkoff RBI single in the ninth.
Twenty years ago today marked an end to three careers, and all three ended very appropriately.
The best came in Montreal, where future Hall of Famer Gary Carter laced up his spikes for the final time. He’d first come to prominence as a star catcher the Expos in the 1970s. The team traded him to the Mets in the mid-1980s, but in 1992 the 38-year-old Carter returned to the town that welcomed him into the league.
As is typically the case for a player at the end of his days, Carter was just a shell of his former self, hitting .218 in part time duty that year. But he sure came through one last time 20 years ago today.
Sept. 27, 1992 was the Expos' last home game of the year, and it was widely known that this was going to be it for Carter. He made an out in each of his first two times up, but had a wonderful opportunity when he came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh.
The Expos-Cubs game was a pitcher's duel, tied 0-0. When Carter came up, young Larry Walker stood on first with two outs. With the crowd of 41,802 French-Canadians cheered him on, Carter fouled off the first two pitches to fall into an 0-2 hole.
On the third try, Carter’s aim was true. He launched one into the outfield that the Chicago defenders couldn’t get to. Walker scampered around the bases for the game’s first run while Carter ended up on second with a double. With the fans screaming at the top of their lungs, the Expos pulled Carter for a pinch runner. His day—and entire career—ended with the adoring fans cheering him on loudly and proudly. Few great players ever get a great sendoff like that, but Carter did. Oh – and that proved to be the game’s only run in a 1-0 Expos win. Yeah, that’s a nice touch.
The other retirements weren’t that dramatic, but still notable. On Sept. 27, 1992 in Baltimore, the Orioles were also playing their last home game of the season. They also wanted to have the fans see an old fan favorite in the season’s last home game—only Baltimore had a pair of players to offer.
Catcher Rick Dempsey and pitcher Mike Flanagan had both played for the Orioles in their glory years in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Both had sojourned elsewhere but where back in 1992, for the last season of each of their careers.
In the top of the eighth, with Baltimore trailing the visiting Boston Red Sox, 6-1, manager Johnny Oates inserted Dempsey and Flanagan as his battery for the last two innings. The two men had played with each other for many years, and now could end their careers together in front of the fans that had long cheered them both on.
There was no great glory shot like Carter’s double, but they did handle the Red Sox for two innings without allowing a run. And then they, like Gary Carter elsewhere on that day, could walk off into the sunset.
And that sun set upon them on Sept. 27, 1992—20 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary) which is something that happened X-thousand days ago. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.
Click for more...