December 8, 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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Monday, July 15, 2013
Another year, another Home Run Derby. One of baseball’s oldest exhibitions isolates, singles out and puts on display one of the most entertaining aspects of the game: the long ball.
In the “post” steroid era, home runs league wide have not been as prodigious as they were 15 years ago. The 40-home run hitter is not a common thing these days. Let us not forget that Barry Bonds led the major leagues only twice in total home runs in a single season during his 21-year career (1986-2007) despite owning eight seasons of 40 or more home runs.
However, the first half of 2013 has seen a renaissance of sorts in home runs. This year, 2,804 home runs were hit in the first “half” of the season. Last year, that number was 2,592. In 2011 it was 2,428, and in 2010 it was 2,500. The number of first half home runs in 2013 is 12 percent higher than it was between 2010 and 2012.
Heading into the break, 14 players have 20 or more home runs. Two have 30 or more, and four have 25 or more. Last year, 12 players crossed the 20 home run threshold by the All-Star break. None had 30. (Josh Hamilton came the closest, with 27.) In 2011, there were even fewer 20 home run hitters at the All-Star break—only 10. One, Jose Bautista, had 30 or more (31 to be exact). In 2010, the year Bautista hit 54 home runs, nobody had even 25 at the All-Star break. Only 11 had 20 or more homers in the first half that year.
So 2013 is not quite a return to the glory days—in 2000, there were 3,311 first half home runs and as recently as 2009 there were 2,707— but it is nice to see an uptick in four baggers in the renewed “era” (pun intended) of the pitcher—the “post-Jermaine Dye era,” if you will.
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These were the last baseball games that count—despite the claim about the All-Star Game counting, which it certainly does not in any real sense—until Friday. That's some b.s. right there. Why don't they play the All-Star Game with only 25 guys on a team and let the rest of the league play regular games with each team a player or two shorthanded at most? Fine, you say that's unfair? Well, so is deciding home field advantage in the World Series based on a dumb exhibition game, but we do that. Don't tell me about fair.
Anyway, I'm in New York. I took in the Futures Game yesterday. More about that later, as well as some posts from on the scene at the All-Star Game. For now, though, here's what went on in places where the games actually mattered:
Tigers 5, Rangers 0: A good reason not to hang around press boxes: When Justin Verlander had a no-hitter into the seventh yesterday, a bunch of baseball writers at the Futures Game openly hoped he wouldn't get a no-hitter because that would require them to do more work or different work or something. That's just kind of depressing, even if it's understandable in a very narrow way.
Phillies 4, White Sox 3: John Mayberry hit the game-winning single in the 10th and with it the Phillies won their ninth in their past 13. Like half the teams that played yesterday, someone gave quotes about how maybe this one will give them momentum going into the second half. Assignment desk: someone look at the second half records of teams that won the final game before the All-Star break over the past, I dunno, decade. Let's see if this momentum is real!
Nationals 5, Marlins 2: A three-run 10th wins it for the Nats, and with it ends a three-game losing streak and averts the sweep by the Marlins. Many teams are worse than the Nationals. Not many are more happy to see the first half end. Expectations are a hell of a thing.
Indians 6, Royals 4: Can't kill this Cleveland thing. Detroit beat the tar out of them last weekend and then they come back and win two of three from the Jays and sweep the Royals. One and a half back somehow.
Reds 8, Braves 4: Jay Bruce with three hits including a two-run homer. Freddie Freeman sat out because of a jammed thumb that will keep him out of the All-Star Game. Guess that Final Vote was a whole lot of wasted effort, eh? Just a total bloodbath series for the Braves. Freeman, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and B.J. Upton were all injured during this series.
Twins 10, Yankees 4: Thus endeth the ugliest half season (and then some) of baseball in the Bronx in a long time. Errors and ineffectiveness gave the Twins their first win over CC Sabathia in six years.
Mets 4, Pirates 2: Dillon Gee allowed one unearned run in six and two-thirds. Three runs for the Mets in the first ended up being enough. They kept showing highlights of this on the jumbotron at Citi Field during the Futures Game. It got bigger cheers than a lot of what went on at the Futures Game.
Orioles 7, Blue Jays 4: Lots of people are parroting the fact that Chris Davis set a record by tying the AL mark for most homers prior to the All-Star break. Not many are pointing out that the Orioles have played 96 games before the All-Star break, which is an awful lot and which can in no technically accurate way be referred to as the first "half." Still, he's hit a lot of homers and that's cool.
Rockies 3, Dodgers 1: Nothing to do with this game but on the media shuttle bus on the way back to the city yesterday I heard a lot of good stories about Vin Scully. Behind the scenes stories that would make you laugh given how Scully has sort of been made into a demi-god over the past several years. Nothing that undermines all that is good about him or makes him a bad person in any way, shape or form, but stories that humanize the guy a bit and remind one that he is, after all, a human being with a sense of humor and some real world foibles and things. One in which he dropped an F-bomb, which is absolutely hilarious to me. Though I'm sure it was the most melodically dropped F-bomb ever. Michael Cuddyer hit a homer here. Guess I get to live the lifelong dream of seeing Michael Cuddyer hit in the Home Run Derby tomorrow.
Rays 5, Astros 0: The Rays won for the 14th time in their last 16 behind Chris Archer's five-hit shutout. The Rays are 2.5 back of the Red Sox and probably didn't want the All-Star break to arrive.
Padres 10, Giants 1: Get no-hit on Saturday, rap out 12 hits on Sunday in the course of scoring 10. Barry Zito lasted only two innings. Carlos Quentin drove in three.
Athletics 3, Red Sox 2: Brandon Workman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his first big league start. Ended up with a no-decision as Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer off him. Donaldson added the game-winning RBI single in the 11th. Dude is sitting at .310/.379/.522 with 16 homers but isn't an All-Star. Remember that the next time someone complains about life being unfair.
Brewers 5, Diamondbacks 1: Wily Peralta allowed only one run in seven and the Brewers snapped their four-game losing streak. They can now spend the break thinking about all the new losing streaks they'll start in the second half.
Mariners 4, Angels 3: Seattle sweeps the Angels. Correction about the Nats and their expectations ruining their first half. The Angels have 'em beat by a mile in this regard.
Cardinals, 10, Cubs 6: A four-spot in the ninth by the Cardinals—including a three-run homer from Yadier Molina—officially ends the first half. Or two thirds. Or whatever we want to call it. For those of you keeping score at home, Allen Craig actually put them ahead with an RBI single before the homer. He did so even for those of you not keeping score at home.
Forty years ago today, Nolan Ryan had an utterly dominant performance, even by his standards. On July 15, 1973, he threw a no-hitter.
Now, as I’m sure everyone out there in reader-land knows, Ryan kind of had a thing for throwing no-hitters. While no one else in baseball history had more than four, Ryan had seven. True, but even for a Ryan no-hitter, this was a dominant performance. He fanned 17 batters on the day, more than in any of his other no-hitters.
Also, it was special because it was Ryan’s second no-hitter of the season. Few pitchers have had two in a year. Johnny Vander Meer famously threw back-to-back no-hitters in 1938. In the 1950s, Allie Reynolds and Virgil Trucks each had a pair of no-nos in one campaign.
In the 1960s, Reds ace Jim Maloney sort of did it. He twice allowed no hits in nine innings, but one game went into extra frames, when he allowed a hit (and thus lost the no-hitter). Since then, the only man to join the club is Roy Halladay, and there’s a quirk there, too, as his second gem came in the postseason.
Ryan's game was against Detroit in Tiger Stadium, and he set the tone early, fanning two batters in the first and then striking out the side in the second. A few guys did get on base, because—Ryan being Ryan—he missed the strike zone. He issues walks in the first, fourth, fifth, and seventh innings.
But Ryan didn’t just get them out, he kept fanning them. He so dominated the lineup that at one point Tigers star Norm Cash came to the plate with a table leg. No bat was going to get him on base. Home plate umpire Ron Luciano later recalled that after he called strike three on guys, they told him, “Thank you!” and retreated back to the dugout. They knew what they were up against was impossible.
As impressive as 17 punchouts was, they happened despite Ryan tiring as the game went on. In the first five innings, Ryan fanned 12, including at least a pair in each frame. After seven innings, he had 16 and seemed destined to set a new single-game record.
However, it was not to be. Ryan fanned Ed Brinkman for the second out in the eighth but then had to rely on his defense the rest of the way as Jim Northrup, Mike Stanley, Gates Brown, and Cash all made contact with the ball, but all they could manage was a fly to center, a routine grounder to short, a line out to short, and then finally a pop-up to short.
At no point in the game did Ryan need left fielder Vada Pinson, and second baseman Sandy Alomar, third baseman Al Gallagher, and right fielder Tommy McCraw each had just one chance in the game.
In all, it was an amazingly great game, and it was 40 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.
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