May 2011


Holy smokes. Stop the presses. Get ESPN on the line. I actually agree with Jeff Passan for once in my life. His story is here on the whole Buster Posey, home plate collisions rules.

He makes the point that if it had been Giants backup catcher Eli Whiteside to have his ankle get crushed, everyone would say that sucks and move on. Fact fact fact. Just because it’s San Francisco’s golden boy who suffered this difficult injury and is lost for the season, that’s why people are flipping out over it. This is the typical over-reaction from Giants fans and other baseball people. Like this joke of an article by an “attorney and political consultant.”

The rule should not be changed. These plays are few and far between to merit a rule change. It’s a runner and a catcher making split-second decisions at home plate with the game on the line.

People argue that Posey missed the ball and never had it when he went for the tag of Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins. You think Cousins knew that? He’s running in full speed trying to score a run to win the game and sees Posey reach over at the last second for the tag. He is taught to run the catcher over and separate him from the ball to score that run. It’s part of the game, and it’s a clean play the whole way. Injuries are also a part of a game and this one is a tough one, but it should not be changing the competition and the way the game is played.

As Mike Krukow would say during a Giants broadcast: “Grab some pine, meat.”

Interleague play is suddenly upon us again. You can read my thoughts on the entire thing here. Like it or not though, it’s back for one series at least this weekend.

One of the matchups I actually look forward to is the Pirates-Tigers, which is slowly becoming an annual rematch of the classic 1909 World Series! Yes, that was the year that Honus Wagner bested Ty Cobb’s Tigers 4-games-to-3 for the Pirates first championship.

With the Tigers in town, I will be at PNC Park all weekend for the festivities. The Pirates already got a leg up in the series with a 10-1 victory Friday night thanks to Neil Walker’s two-run double and three-run home run to lead the way. Can Walker duplicate his efforts tonight during his bobblehead giveaway?

Royals reliever Vin Mazzaro didn’t do much relieving Monday night against the Indians as he put together a pitching line for the ages…

V. Mazzaro 2.1 11 14 14 3 2 1 3.79 22.74

Yes, that’s 2.1 innings with 11 hits and 14 earned runs. The Indians put up a 10-run fourth inning all against Mazzaro, and the Royals decided to leave him in for the entire disaster of an inning. Plus, they let him come out for the fifth where he promptly gave up another four runs. How do you leave him out there to suffer a line like this?

Now there’s something you don’t see everyday in baseball. If you’re wondering when the last time a reliever gave up 14 earned runs in a single outing, it was during WWII in 1942 when Les McCrabb gave up 14 ER in 4.0 innings of work against Boston while pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics.

Since 1919 there have only been four relievers to give up this many runs in one game:

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Les McCrabb 1942-04-16 PHA BOS L 4-19 4.0 14 14 14 2 0 2 31.50
Carl Doyle 1940-06-08 BRO CIN L 2-23 4.0 16 14 14 4 2 1 31.50
Dutch Schesler 1931-07-11 (1) PHI NYG L 5-23 8.0 22 16 14 0 1 4 15.75
Nelson Greene 1925-06-20 BRO PIT L 5-21 6.2 18 15 15 3 0 3 20.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/16/2011.

Not the kind of list you want to be a part of. And the Indians are up 19-1 at the moment and it’s only the sixth inning. The Tribe could continue to shatter some records tonight…or the Royals for that matter.

It’s official. Jose Bautista‘s 54-home run season last year was no fluke. His three home runs Sunday gives him 16 in less than two months, which is good for first in the majors. He’s doing it again. Actually, he’s only on pace to shatter that mark along with the single-season home run total by a cool eight bombs. Rational thinking would suggest that he won’t get there, but at this point I really cannot doubt this guy and the incredible run he’s been on over the past two years. Oh, plus he’s only hitting .368 this season.

Sure, as a lifelong Pirates fan, I could be bitter. Why? Because the Jose Bautista that played for the Pirates for parts of five seasons was nothing special. In 400 games over five seasons with Pittsburgh, Bautista hit just 43 HR with a slash line of .241/.329/.403. After struggling through another season in 2008, he was dealt to the Blue Jays on Aug. 21, 2008 for Robinzon Diaz. Yes, Robinzon with a Z. The change of scenery didn’t seem to help Bautista in the last month with Toronto or in 2009 where he still hit 13 HR with a .235 average…similar numbers to his years in Pittsburgh.

Then something seemed to just click, but it started before the 2010 season. I traced the date back to Sept. 7, 2009 when things all changed for Joey Bats and whatever change he made began paying off. From Sept. 7 to the end of the 2009 season, Bautista hit 10 home runs in 98 at-bats over his last 21 games to close out the season. This was after he only had three home runs on the year prior to Sept. 7.

Since then he has become the man, the myth and the legend in Toronto. He’s gone from the bottom of the order throw in to the premier hitter in the Blue Jays lineup and the guy opposing teams worry about and put a game plan together on how to pitch to him. He’s quickly becoming a household name. Just consider these ridiculous numbers:

Through his career until 2009 he hit 59 home runs total in 1,638 at-bats. A rate of one home run every 27.7 at-bats (nothing special). The past two seasons, he’s belted 70 home runs in 683 at-bats…a rate of just 9.75 at-bats per homer. That’s a dramatic difference. That’s Babe Ruth type home run numbers. Add in those last 21 games of 2009 when things started to click and he has 80 dingers in 781 at-bats or a rate of 9.76. Here’s the breakdown with his slash line added in…

Career until the end of 2009: HR every 27.7 AB w/ .238/.329/.400
WAR (Wins above replacement): -1.7

2010 and 2011 seasons: HR every 9.75 AB w/ .276/.402/.646
WAR: 11.1

What a ridiculous improvement. Teams and players alike fantasize about sluggers suddenly turning into this kind of legit power hitter. Look at the difference in the slash lines. His average went up about 40 points, his OBP skyrocketed 70+ points and his slugging percentage goes up about .250 in production. It’s absolutely remarkable.

Those lines tell me these are two completely different players. So what changed? It wasn’t playing time because he played full seasons in Pittsburgh with even one year of 600 plus plate appearances. It wasn’t a change of scenery because the old Jose Bautista showed up for at least a year in Toronto before he started launching the ball at an unreal rate.

Is it steroids? I’m sure there will always be people who wonder that his sudden power is because of the juice, but he plays in a league that now tests for steroids throughout the year. If he’s never been suspended for testing positive then you can’t use steroids as the easy answer for his turnaround.

I’m no scout, but he obviously made adjustments with new coaches in Toronto, he started pulling the ball more and he started gaining confidence, which can make any hitter dangerous. I honestly don’t think he would have ever been this new player if the Pirates had held onto him. He had his chances and didn’t take advantage of it. Plus, the Pirates just aren’t that lucky ever. Simply put to me, he just looks like a completely different ball player than when he was in Pittsburgh, and the Blue Jays are reaping the benefits.

The Tigers are the hottest team in baseball right now winning their past 10 of 11 games, and there’s one main reason for it. Detroit’s starting pitching is on a torrid pace¬† the past two weeks.

In the past 10 wins, Tigers starters are 9-0 with a 1.29 ERA (69.1ip/10er). That total doesn’t hurt when it includes a no-hitter by ace Justin Verlander. But even bigger than JV has been for this team, the streak has been helped by the turnaround by Brad Penny. Penny has been exceptionally strong after struggling in April. He’s 3-0 with a miniscule 0.83 ERA in his last three starts. Not bad for a pitcher who started the season allowing 20 runs in his first four starts with his new team to sport an ERA well over 8.00 for most of April.

Max Scherzer has been another stud for the Tigers this year, including his past two starts (2-0, 1.38). He’s 6-0 on the year for the longest winning streak to start a season in Detroit since Jeremy Bonderman won eight straight in 2007. Scherzer and Trevor Cahill of the A’s are the only two pitchers this season who are 6-0 to this point and both are slated to start Sunday afternoon. Ever since making his debut with the D-Backs in 2008, I thought Scherzer could developed into a legitimate ace…and not just because I have him in a keeper league. I still can’t believe Arizona dealt him and now the Tigers have a great chance for a ridiculous 1-2 combo for years with JV and Max.

Scherzer looks to continue the Tigers winning streak when he starts against the Royals Sunday at Comerica Park. And the way he’s pitched against the Royals over his career (2.52 ERA), the Tigers stellar starting pitching numbers in their last 10 wins could actually improve following his start.

Just four days after Liriano’s no-hitter, Tigers ace Justin Verlander fired the second no-hitter of his career Saturday night in a masterpiece over the Blue Jays in Toronto. Verlander faced the minimum 27 batters with a double play erasing the only walk he allowed of the game. He struck out four batters and finished with an efficient 108 pitches.

It’s been just about four years since Verlander threw his first no-no in interleague play against the Brewers back in June of 2007. Not much has changed since then. Verlander is still the ace of the Tigers staff and he’s still a dominant pitcher that can throw in the high 90s deep into games. Though he has seen the rotation changed around him completely in Detroit since ’07 when Nate Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman, Chad Durbin, Mike Maroth and Andrew Miller each made 13 or more starts. None of those five pitchers are anywhere near Detroit’s roster today. It doesn’t seem like four years is an incredible amount of time for a franchise, but there sure has been a lot of change around him. Today, Verlander is surrounded with the likes of Max Scherzer, Brad Penny, Rick Porcello and Phil Coke.

Getting back to Verlander and his second no-hitter…he becomes the 24th player since 1919 to throw multiple no-hitters. Nolan Ryan of course leads with seven! Sandy Koufax tossed four of them and Feller recorded three while the rest of the list all put together two. Out of the entire list, six of the players are already in the Hall of Fame (Ryan, Koufax, Feller, Walter Johnson, Warren Spahn and Jim Bunning). Randy Johnson is another on the list, who will be in the Hall the first year he’s eligible. Then you have Roy Halladay, who is pretty much a lock for the Hall once his playing days are over. Halladay and Mark Buehrle are also the only two active players along with Verlander to accomplish this feat.

So eight of the players who have thrown multiple no-hitters will be in the Hall soon enough. Will Verlander join them down the road? It’s entirely too early to wonder about that as JV is just in his sixth full ML season, but his start hasn’t been too shabby to date.

No power outage
Can you name the batter who leads the Yankees in home runs this year? It’s not A-Rod, it’s not Teixeira and it’s not Robinson Cano, Russell Martin or Posada. Believe it or not, it’s former Tiger Curtis Granderson. Granderson ripped another two home runs in a 4-1 Yankees win in Texas Friday night. It looks like the Yankees lineup is a perfect fit for Granderson, who now has 10 homers through 30 games of 2011. Also, dating back to August 14, 2010, the only player who has hit more home runs than Granderson is Jose Bautista (who’s on his own planet right now) with 27. Granderson has 24 since last Aug. 14.

Ton of strikeouts and a big ol’ L
Phillies starter Cliff Lee struck out 16 against the Braves, but was tagged the loss after his offense managed just two hits off of Derek Lowe and the Braves bullpen in a 5-0 loss. According to B&R’s Play Index, there have been 287 games since 1919 where the starter struck out 12+ batters and took the loss. Lee’s performance Friday night was the first one of 2011. It happened five times last year: Josh Johnson (12k), Jhoulys Chacin (12k), Jon Lester (13k), Adam Wainwright (12k) and Jared Weaver (12k).

The most strikeouts for a starter who took the loss over the years at least since 1919? Randy Johnson (1997), Nolan Ryan (1974) and Steve Carlton (1969) all struck out 19 batters in a game where they were the losing pitcher. Ryan’s performance was an 11-inning pitched 1-0 complete game loss. Talk about a wasted effort.

Red Sox pitching routed again
Just when you thought the Red Sox were starting to turn it around, they drop three straight including a 9-2 beat down at home to the Twins. And I just wrote about the anemic Twins offense yesterday only to see them break out for nine runs in Fenway. This time the culprit was Tim Wakefield, who allowed eight runs (six earned) in just 4.1 innings of work. Besides Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, the Sox rotation has been a disappointment. This loss leaves Wakefield with a 5.73 ERA while John Lackey currently sits with a 7.16 ERA after his latest implosion. Meanwhile Dice K and Clay Buchholz are hovering in the mid-4 ERA. The Sox dropped to 14-18 and in last place of the AL East. That is not a misprint. Despite all the offensive improvement and signings in the offseason, Boston needs to find more consistency from its rotation if they are to compete for a pennant this summer.

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