If it's mid-September, it must be that time again ... yep, time to hit the waiver wire and start desperately trying to remake my fantasy-football roster (my fabulous team name: the Rumblers and Grumblers, of course).
But wait. It's not only that time. It's also time to relaunch one of my favorite September traditions in this blog -- a look at The History Makers of September.
Not all that history is real glorious, though. You realize that, right? But history is history. So there's plenty of more like this to come. But here we go with Episode No. 1 (plus other stuff):
Strike One -- Special K Dept.
Only eight more strikeouts and Mark Reynolds will become the first man in baseball history to whiff 200 times three seasons in a row. Then again, he's also the only man who ever punched out 200 times in any season, so he kind of has this niche all to himself.
But here's an even more unusual rendezvous with history that was caught by loyal reader Zach Brumbaugh: At the moment, Reynolds is on pace for 218 strikeouts. But his batting average is only .206. So has anyone, Brumbaugh wondered, ever had a lower batting average than strikeout total (decimal points aside)?
Now this is what you call an astute reader question -- because the answer is a distinct no.
And here's the incredible part: There has really only been one whiffin' magician who ever came close. To those who pay attention to this sort of thing, it shouldn't shock you to know that guy was Rob Deer in 1991, a season in which he K'd 175 times while hitting .179.
But that was it. I could only find five other seasons in which a hitter even came with 50 points of this feat -- including one by Reynolds just last year. Here's that distinguished list:
By my calculations, if Reynolds gets the same playing time the rest of the way he has gotten all year, he would need to hit .323 from here to the finish line to get his average up to .219. Or, of course, he could always cut down on his strikeouts. But he's heard that song before.
Since he's currently 0 for his last 23, with 10 K's, the odds of him dodging this little slice of history aren't great. But it's one more reason to watch those box scores this month. And that's the whole point.
Strike Two -- Jose Can You See Dept.
It seems clear now that Jose Bautista is about to become our first 50-homer man since 2007 (when Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder both joined the 50-Bomb Club). But that's not the historic part of this feat.
The historic part is that this man hit just 13 homers last year -- in 404 plate appearances. So unless he starts laying down drag bunts every at-bat for the next three weeks, he looks like a lock to make the biggest jump ever into the 50-Homer Club by a man who was at least a semi-regular player in both seasons.
According to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home run historian David Vincent, only three players have ever hit 50 in a season after hitting fewer than 20 the season before.
One is Cecil Fielder in 1988-90. But he's a tricky case. He hit nine home runs in 1988, played in Japan in '89 and then hit 51 for the Tigers in '90. So that pole vault, from nine homers into the 50s, would be the largest ever. But there are two asterisks:
1) He only got 190 plate appearances in the U.S. of A. in '88, so he doesn't qualify as even a "semi-regular."
2) There's also a missing season here ('89) -- not to mention a season in which Fielder hit 38 home runs for those Hanshin Tigers in Japan.
So Fielder kind of holds the "record," but if we draw the cutoff at a minimum of 400 plate appearances in each season, he's disqualified on that count alone.
That leaves two other men who catapulted from the teens to the 50s in back-to-back seasons:
• Brady Anderson: 16 HR in 657 PA in 1995, 50 in 687 PA in '96
• Greg Vaughn: 18 HR in 422 PA in 1997, 50 in 661 PA in '98.
So Bautista, who has 46 homers, also needs one more home run to tie Anderson's record for largest single-season increase ever (34) by a player who got at least 400 plate appearances in both seasons. And, for you mathematicians, he needs four to break Anderson's record for most mammoth leap into the 50-Homer Club.
You can make whatever you want of all this. I'm not offering it with any commentary whatsoever. Just trying to help put this stuff in historical perspective, as always. All I know is, Jose Bautista has had himself an eye-popping year.
Strike Three -- Useless Info. Dept.
We'll have more September History Watches coming up in future blogs. But in other news ...
• This will shock you: The Rockies are 30-14 from Sept. 1 on over the last two seasons -- and that's not the best record in baseball in that span. The Twins are 30-13.
• That Twins winning percentage the last two September/Octobers is an unconscious .698, while the Rockies are at .682. Last team to play .680 (or better) baseball in back-to-back September/Octobers before this year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: the 2005-06 Angels (40-18, .690).
• The Rockies are now 22-6 at home after Sept. 1 the last two seasons. Last team to match or beat that in back-to-back years: the magical 2004-05 Astros, who finished 24-6 on their way to two straight improbable Octobers.
• One more on the Rockies: Over the last seven seasons, there have only been two double-digit September winning streaks by any team. Both have been by the Rockies: 11 in a row in September 2007 and 10 in a row this September. Last franchise to have two September double-digit winning streaks that close together: Earl Weaver's 1970-71 Orioles.
• Meanwhile, for all those wondering, Monday was the first time in their 49 seasons of co-existence that the Yankees and Mets ever played games on the same day that were 0-0 after nine innings. The only other times any two New York teams did that on the same day (while not playing each other), according to Elias: July 7, 1915, and Sept. 19, 1913 -- both involving the Dodgers and Giants.
• But hold on. There's more. Elias also reports Monday was just the second time in Yankees history they got shut out and lost on a walkoff homer in the same game. The other: May 26, 1970, when the Tigers' Willie Horton launched a walkoff against Mel Stottlemyre.
• But wait. There's still more. The Rays and Yankees played 11 innings Monday and only got four hits apiece. Loyal reader Eric Orns reports it was just the second game that long in the last 30 seasons in which neither team got more than four hits. The other: a Roger Clemens-Kazuhisa Ishii Astros-Mets tussle on April 13, 2005.
• Brett Myers is now up to 30 straight starts of six innings or more. Bet you didn't know only two active pitchers ever even had a longer streak covering multiple seasons: Mark Buehrle (49 in a row in 2004-05) and Roy Halladay (32 in a row in 2008-09). Myers has two more years of this ahead of him, though, if he wants to beat the longest streak of the live-ball era. That's 78 straight, by Bob Gibson over four seasons, from 1967-70.
• If the Rangers and Yankees meet in the postseason, you should know that the Yankees have been swept eight times in the wild-card era, in a regular-season series of three games or more, by teams they wound up playing in October. According to Elias, they turned around and beat that team in the postseason six of those eight times. The only losses: The '95 Mariners swept a three-game series in May and then beat the Yankees in a five-game ALDS, and the 2004 Red Sox swept a three-gamer that April and beat the Yankees in a seven-game ALCS you may recall.
• Last team to sweep the Yankees in a September series and meet them again in the postseason: the 1999 Red Sox. A lot of good that did them. They then lost to the Yankees that year in the ALCS, 4 games to 1.
• And, finally, loyal reader Eric Orns chips in one more time with a big development -- the Double Switch of the Day. It came in Monday's Mets game, when they double-switched one Feliciano (Jesus) for another (Pedro). And how historic was that? Well, it's the first-ever double-switch involving those two. And they're the only two Felicianos ever to play in the big leagues. So there you go -- the first dueling-Feliciano double-switch of all time. And you heard it here first!