Friday, September 28, 2012
Long balls and passed balls
By Jayson Stark
Maybe we're easily astounded around here. But we never seem to run out of astounding facts for your reading enjoyment. So once again, our Useless Information Department now proudly presents the Five Astounding Facts of the Week:
An amazing thing happened Wednesday in Baltimore: In the fifth inning that night, the Orioles had a 20-year-old guy (Manny Machado) and a 42-year-old guy (Jim Thome) hit a home run in the same inning.
So how often have a 20-year-old and a 40-something-year-old homered in the same inning, you ask? Well, you can count all those times on one hand, according to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home-run historian David Vincent. And we're talking some pretty cool names:
• April 19, 1958 (Giants): Orlando Cepeda (20) and Hank Sauer (41)
• May 14, 1971 (Giants): Chris Speier (20) and Willie Mays (40)
• May 26, 1971 (Giants): Speier (20) and Mays (40) again
• Sept. 14, 1990 (Mariners): Ken Griffey Jr. (20) and Sr. (40)
Thanks to loyal reader Aaron Cummins for spotting an error in the first edition of this opus -- by recalling the most magical instance of this ever, when those Griffeys went back-to-back.
Speaking of amazing home run feats, those never-a-dull-moment Oakland A's did something Saturday that we couldn't recall ever seeing: They hit three home runs in the 13th inning at Yankee Stadium -- and still lost.
Well, there's a good reason we couldn't recall ever seeing it. According to the Sultan, it's the first time in the history of baseball that any team had ever launched three home runs in any extra inning and not gotten a win out of it.
In fact, only 10 other teams have ever hit even two homers in an extra inning on the road and not won.
Another week, another astounding Astros feat coming right up. So here goes.
Despite the fact that the 2012 Astros have a better record in September (12-14) than the Pirates or White Sox -- and we salute them for that -- we regret to announce that their only shot of avoiding more dubious history is, basically, to run the table over the next week.
As you might recall, last year's Astros lost 106 games. Meanwhile, this year's Astros are already up to 106 themselves. So they seem almost certain to do something only three teams in history have ever done:
Lose 106 games one season -- then lose even more games the next year.
Here come the three teams that have pulled off that nearly impossible trick:
- Bobby Higginson's 2002-03 Tigers (106, then 119)
- Ed Kranepool's 1964-65 Mets (109, then 112)
- Stuffy McInnis' 1915-16 A's (109, then 117)
One addendum: Other than the legendary 1962-63-64-65 Mets, no National League team has lost 106-plus in two straight seasons, in any order, since Pinky May's 1941-42 Phillies (111 losses, then a mere 109).
Rookie Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario has had a heck of a year -- with the bat. But when he has strapped those shin guards on, he has carved out a whole different sort of history for himself.
In case you missed it, Rosario has also done a lot of missing it this season, with the glove anyway. He has now joined the rarefied 20-20 club: He has hit 27 home runs -- and had 20 passed balls.
So how tough is that? Well, over the last 50 years, only four other catchers have joined that 20-20 club -- and just two of them were guys who, like Rosario, didn't have the excuse of having a knuckleball pitcher on their staff. Here they are:
- Jody Davis, 1983 Cubs (24 HR, 21 PB)
- Dick Dietz, 1970 Giants (22 HR, 25 PB)
- Jason Varitek, 1999 Red Sox (20 HR, 25 PB)
- Earl Williams, 1972 Braves (28 HR, 28 PB)
Ah, fortunately for Rosario's future earning power, history shows us that chicks dig the long ball a lot more than they dig the passed ball.
Finally, it's time for two Astounding Box Score Lines of the Week, because it was impossible to pick just one:
• First, there's the mathematically impossible line of the week -- from always-entertaining Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, on Wednesday in Miami:
1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
What's up with that: Kimbrel became only the fifth reliever ever to have a four-up, four-down, four-whiff inning (thanks to a strike-three wild pitch), and only the third to earn a save out of it. The others: Kazuhiro Sasaki (April 4, 2004) and Mark Wohlers (June 7, 1995).
• And then there's Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner. On the surface, his start Wednesday against the Pirates wouldn't seem to qualify for any award:
7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
But now it's time to pair it with the start that preceded it, six days earlier against the Phillies:
0 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
Got that? In back-to-back starts, this guy had zero innings and seven runs and seven innings and zero runs. Think about it.
What's up with that: According to Baseball-Reference.com's fabulous Play Index, Hefner was the 22nd starting pitcher in the live-ball era to allow at least seven runs in a start in which he forgot to get an out. But he's the second in that group to go out in his next start that year and throw at least seven shutout innings. The other:
Ed Halicki of the 1976 Giants. On July 6 in St. Louis, he unfurled one of those attractive 0-5-7-7-2-0 lines -- but he followed it five days later by spinning a two-hit shutout at Wrigley Field.
It's the beautiful thing about baseball, right? There's always another game -- not to mention another Astounding Fact.