December 11, 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!
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Thursday, April 18, 2013
Reds 1, Phillies 0: CONTINUED FROM TUESDAY NIGHT: Nine minutes, a quick score and then the whole thing was over. About as good a night as you coulda hoped for when you were 17, but for the Phillies this had to be disappointing.
Reds 11, Phillies 2: Well, maybe not as disappointing as this. The Reds complete their first sweep of Philly in 17 years. John Lannan was pummeled. So too were the rest of the Phillies pitchers. Heck, Mike Leake had three hits, including a triple. The Phillies scored only four runs in the series.
Royals 1, Braves 0: I was tempted to say that Doug Eddings and Wade Davis combined on a shutout, but that's just petty I suppose. There were A LOT of bad ball and strike calls, sure. But watching Dan Uggla swing at everything from the dirt to the bill of his cap in the ninth inning made me think, well, some days it's just not your day. Game's lone RBI goes to Jeff Francouer. Which I presume will lead to some Francouer fans down in Georgia to start up that "we never shoulda gotten rid of him" chatter they're prone to down there. Doesn't matter who's in the Braves' outfield. There's always a group of dead-enders who pine for Jeffy.
Pirates 5, Cardinals 0: A.J. Burnett allowed one hit, taking the no-no into the seventh. He also notched his 2,000th career strikeout. Not a bad night for Shelby Miller either, but tough luck is part of the game, yo.
Nationals 6, Marlins 1: Bryce Harper went 4 for 5 and Ross Detwiler allowed only one run in seven innings. And the Marlins went back to remembering that they are, in fact, the Marlins.
White Sox 7, Blue Jays 0: Jose Quintana tamed the Jays. Tyler Flowers hit a three-run homer. Old friend Alex Rios hit one too.
Rays 6, Orioles 2: Tampa Bay snaps its four-game losing streak. Matt Moore got the win. He has three on the season. The entire Rays team has five.
Red Sox 6, Indians 3: Five straight wins for the Bosox. Alfredo Aceves, pressed into service as a starter, took a shutout into the sixth, but then he hit a wall. After three solid starts Justin Masterson hit a wall of his own, surrendering 11 hits.
Yankees 4, Diamondbacks 3: Down 3-0 entering the bottom of the seventh, the Yankees tied it up and then Travis Hafner hit a pinch-hit homer in the eighth to cap off a four-run rally. New York has won seven of eight, which is really messing with a lot of predictions of doom out there. Pretty inconsiderate, you guys.
Athletics 7, Astros 5: Six runs in the first was a less than gracious homecoming for Marin County's Bud Norris, but such is life for the Astros. Meanwhile, the A's have played approximately 193 games against Houston so far this year. I think it's time they move up a level.
Padres 7, Dodgers 2: Clayton Kershaw gave up three homers in three innings. Because baseball. Even the best ones get rocked on random Wednesday nights.
Tigers 2, Mariners 1: 14 innings. Batters combined for 40 strikeouts. Prince Fielder led the pack with five. The only runs in the game scored on a couple of fielder's choices and an RBI single. But there was some goodness here in the starting pitching. Indeed, it's a shame neither starter could win this one, with Max Scherzer striking out 12 while allowing only one run in eight innings and Felix Hernandez striking out 12 while allowing only an unearned run in his eight.
Brewers 4, Giants 3: Pinch hitter Blake Lalli -- who has a name that I'd sooner place on some actress in her early '20s who stars in some new show that is decidedly not aimed at my demographic -- hit the first pitch he saw for the game-winning single in the ninth. Runners hit second and third just before that thanks to a Brandon Crawford throwing error.
Angels vs. Twins: POSTPONED: Three, four: Hey mr. rain. Ain't you follow me down. Hey mr. rain. Ain't you follow me down. I've been working baby oh! so hard. Stayin up in the sky. Hey mr. rain. Ain't you follow me down
Rangers vs. Cubs: POSTPONED: See the sky about to rain, broken clouds and rain. Locomotive, pull the train, whistle blowing through my brain. Signals curling on an open plain, rolling down the track again. See the sky about to rain.
Mets vs. Rockies: POSTPONED: Dreamed I was an eskimo. Frozen wind began to blow. Under my boots and around my toes. The frost that bit the ground below. It was a hundred degrees below zero...
Twenty-five years ago today, Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt engaged in an impressive bit of heads-up baserunning, scoring all the way from first base on a wild pitch.
On April 18, 1988, Schmidt and his Phillies compadres took on the New York Mets. In the top of the eighth, the Phillies held a comfortable 9-6 lead but were looking for an extra insurance run.
Schmidt led off the inning against a young David Cone. Cone, at the beginning of his big league career, was still a reliever, though he’d earn his slot in the starting rotation in a few weeks. Today, however, he didn’t quite have his command, and he promptly walked Schmidt.
Then Cone's command got quite a bit worse. With Von Hayes at the plate, Cone threw an offering that was off the mark—well off the mark. Mets catcher Gary Carter couldn’t get to it, and the offering sailed to the backstop. Schmidt naturally enough moved into second.
However, the ball kept ricocheting around and bounced all the way to near the Phillies dugout. Seeing this, Schmidt didn’t let up and galloped over to third. Carter kept having trouble corralling the ball, and that’s when Schmidt made his move.
Schmidt looked to the plate and saw a wonderful sight—there was no one covering home. That should be Cone’s responsibility, but he forgot. After all, how often do you hear of a playing trying to score from first on a wild pitch? But when Schmidt moved into third, he should’ve stayed one base ahead.
At any rate, showing heads up baserunning, Schmidt took off for home. By now Carter finally had managed to corral the runaway ball, but he had no one to throw it to. He ran a few steps toward home, but that was a fruitless effort. Mike Schmidt had done it—running 270 feet on a wild pitch.
Though best remembered as a slugger, and beyond that as a great fielding third baseman, Schmidt had his moments on the bases as well. Perhaps none of those moments was as oddly impressive as his extended dash on Cone’s wild pitch, 25 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.
Click for more...
On April 18, 1950, in the New York Yankees' season opener at Boston, Billy Martin made his major-league debut. He entered in the sixth inning to play second, replacing pinch-hitter Dick Wakefield, who had struck out to help snuff out a New York rally that still left them trailing the Red Sox, 9-4. Martin did better. He doubled and singled in the eighth, driving home three runs during a nine-run onslaught that put his Yankees ahead to stay, eventually winning 15-10.
That was the beginning of Martin's career, 63 years ago today. Martin would become well known as one of the most fiery competitors in the history of a game that has had an ample share of such men. (How's that for understatement?) In a baseball lifetime covered with glories and shames, Martin took some of his greatest pride in how he measured up against another notably fierce, if better controlled, player: Jackie Robinson.
In his biography, Number 1, Martin recalled a lawyer back in his hometown of Berkeley, California, who worked with both his family and Robinson's. Always eager to find a challenge, Martin took his four World Series appearances against Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers as the opportunity to show this mutual acquaintance who was the better player. "And always I outhit, and always I outplayed [Robinson]," Martin (and Peter Golenbock) wrote. "Every Series we played in."
Rob Neyer put this story under his magnifying glass for the book Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends. Neyer looked over the batting averages and some other components of play, and concluded, "Martin undoubtedly was right: he did outplay Robinson every time they met."
I've been busy of late delving into the career of Robinson and decided a little more research wouldn't hurt me. Using the comprehensive statistical resources of Baseball-Reference, I compared the performances of Martin and Robinson in the World Series of 1952, '53, '55, and '56.
I used Win Percentage Added as my guide and made sure to count base running, as well as defense, as much as that was possible. (I can't give out points for great defense, not from standard play-by-plays, but I can debit for errors. Or sometimes not, as you'll see.)
The bald historical fact is, Robinson didn't do all that well in the Fall Classic. He posted an uninspiring .234/.335/.343 line in 38 games. Martin, for his part, had a spectacular 1953 Series that would have won him World Series MVP honors if the award had yet existed. Looking pretty good for Martin so far, but let's look at this the way Martin posed it. Did he outplay Robinson in every World Series they played in?
1952 World Series
Martin: -0.387 WPA Robinson: -0.102 WPA
Ouch. Both men batted poorly (save for a Martin home run), but Robinson drew seven walks to Martin's two. Jackie had two stolen bases and advanced on a wild pickoff throw against Martin getting caught stealing in Game Three. Martin also had an error in Game Four.
Martin's most memorable play that year was his last-second dashing catch of a Robinson infield pop-up that, had it dropped, would have tied Game Seven in the seventh. It was an exciting moment but not really spectacular defense. Someone should have caught that high pop. Nobody would remember it if Martin of Joe Collins or Bob Kuzava had settled under it, as all of them could have. I can't give Martin special credit for what should have been an ordinary play, especially since Robinson already gets the debit for hitting the pop fly.
1953 World Series
Martin: +0.689 WPA Robinson: -0.028 WPA
This one's almost a walkover. Martin went .500/.520/.958, including two homers, two triples, and the Series-winning RBI. Going one-for-three in steal attempts dings the record, but not by much. Robinson batted .320, but with one walk and slight power.
1955 World Series
Martin: +0.056 WPA Robinson: -0.060 WPA
A fact not often remembered about Robinson's fabled steal of home in Game One is that it came an inning and a half after Martin tried stealing home himself. Martin was out, his second caught-stealing of the day. It's almost as though Jackie was answering Billy, that he was the one gauging himself against the other. Who knows: if he had heard about Martin's chosen mission, his own competitive will might have concentrated on the task.
However, it didn't sustain him. Robinson's batting lagged behind Martin's, who also had timeliness on his side in Games Two and Four. Robinson's fielding also let him down. He made two errors at third base, both times allowing Martin to reach base. I don't count those errors against Robinson's total, since they already count for Martin's. If I did it the other way, their WPA numbers would be different, but the margin would stay the same.
1956 World Series
Martin: -0.062 WPA Robinson: +0.083 WPA
Robinson stole this one on timely hitting. It was his two-out single in the 10th inning of Game Six that drove home the only run of the contest. He racked up 0.39 WPA on that hit alone, more than making up for a -0.15 in the rest of the game. Martin had a better WPA in five of the seven games—and better overall batting and slugging averages—but didn't exploit a huge opportunity the way Robinson did.
So, in two Series Martin came out ahead, and in two others Robinson did. Is this a disproof of Martin's claim? Perhaps not entirely. Martin's definition of "outhitting" may not have included drawing walks, where Robinson had the advantage. One can also argue whether WPA is a fair assessment of an individual's play, contingent as it often is on whether one gets high-leverage situations to magnify a single success or failure.
But there's no saying that Martin was "undoubtedly" right. Not now.
P.S. This item marks the end of my latest Jackie Robinson kick, and also the start of a brief absence from THT. I won't have my regular article next week, but the week after that I should be making up for it, with interest. Hopefully yours.