Stats & Info: Dusty Baker

Bud Black of the San Diego Padres was named National League Manager of the Year Wednesday, beating the Cincinnati Reds’ Dusty Baker by one point. The Padres went 90-72 this season, missing out on the playoffs by one game, and just two games behind the World Series winning San Francisco Giants.

Although the Padres sputtered to the finish, it’s the most games the Padres have won since 1998, the last time they went to the World Series. Black’s teams have had at least a 12-win increase in each of the last two seasons.

The Reds finished one game better than the Padres at 91-71 this season and Baker just missed out on his fourth Manager of the Year award, which would have tied him with Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa for the all-time record.

Cincinnati led the league in hitting, runs and OPS and were second, and they’ve also increased their win total every year that Baker has been there. But their 13-win increase this season was second in all of baseball to the Padres, who won 15 more games than they did last year.

Lou Piniella by the numbers

August, 22, 2010
The Chicago Cubs' Lou Piniella managed the 3,548th and final game of his career Sunday, a 16-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Piniella finishes with 1,835 wins as a manager, 14th on the all-time list. The only eligible manager with more wins who is not in the Hall of Fame is Gene Mauch (12th with 1,902 wins).
As a manager, Piniella is one of:
• Two men (Dick Williams being the other) to win at least 90 games in a season with four different teams. Piniella did it with the Yankees, Reds, Mariners and Cubs.

• Three Cubs managers to make consecutive playoff appearances (2007-08).

• Four to win Manager of the Year honors in both the American and National leagues (La Russa, Cox and Leyland are the others).

• Five to be named Manager of the Year at least three times, along with Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox (4 each), and Dusty Baker and Jim Leyland (3 each).

• In Piniella’s final game in the dugout, the Braves' Mike Minor became the second pitcher this season with at least 12 strikeouts within the first three games of his career (the Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg being the other). Minor's 12 K’s ties the franchise record for the most in a start by a rookie.

• FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: Atlanta's lead-off hitter Omar Infante and No. 2 hitter Jason Heyward each hit two home runs against the Cubs. It's the first time in since 1900 that the top two hitters in the Braves' lineup each had a multi-HR game in the same game.
• With his win at home over the Nationals, the Philadelphia Phillies Roy Oswalt remains perfect in seven starts at Citizens Bank Park (7-0, 2.03 ERA). Oswalt is now 31-7 in 48 career starts in the month of August. That’s a win percentage of .816, the best among active pitchers who have made at least 45 starts.

• The St. Louis Cardinals' Jaime Garcia shut out the San Francisco Giants, 9-0. He's the first left-handed Cardinals rookie to throw a shutout since Bud Smith's no-hitter against the Padres in September of 2001.

• The San Diego Padres' Adrian Gonzalez has now hit at least 25 home runs in each of the last four seasons. The only other player with such a streak in team history is the late Ken Caminiti. Gonzalez is on the verge of also becoming the Padres’ all-time leader in home runs. He now has 155, one shy of Phil Nevin for second in franchise history and is eight shy of Nate Colbert’s team record of 163.

• In the Chicago White Sox's 3-2 loss in 10 innings to the Royals, Bobby Jenks pitched the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. It’s the third time in Jenks’ career that he pitched three innings of relief and the first since Sept. 9, 2005.

• Dallas Braden allowed three earned runs in six innings in the Oakland Athletics' 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the 15th straight quality start by an A’s pitcher, extending the longest streak in Oakland history.

1st Pitch: Wednesday is all about Favre …

August, 18, 2010
Today’s Trivia:
Brett Favre seems to be on the brain and on the lips of the sports world, so let’s keep his name there for baseball. Over the last 50 years, there have been five players (including one who’s a Hall-of-Famer) named Brett to be an All-Star. Who are they? Note: Brett can be either their first or last name, and it can be spelled with either one “T” or two.

Quick Hits:
The Minnesota Twins' Jim Thome hit his 12th career walk-off home run Tuesday. That ties five players (Foxx, Mantle, Musial, Robinson, Ruth) for most in MLB history. It also gives us a great chance to look at some fun walk-off home run notes:

• Dusty Baker hit plenty as a player and has seen his seen his fair share as a manager. Baker hit eight walk-off home runs in his career, twice as many as current managers Terry Francona and Joe Torre.

• Aaron Boone hit more walk-off home runs (6) than Willie Mays (5).

• Three players share the all-time mark for most walk-off HR in a come-from-behind situation: Babe Ruth, Frank Robinson and Fred McGriff.

• You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Gates Brown. He hit .257 with 84 career home runs from 1963-75 with the Detroit Tigers. But it's funny how the baseball gods look down on some players. Brown hit three pinch-hit walk-off home runs, the most of any player in MLB history.

• Harold Baines has the distinction of hitting the latest walk-off home run in history. His came in the 25th inning of a game against the Brewers in 1984.

• Anyone up for a 13-pitch walk-off shot? Garret Anderson did it in 1997, taking Rick Aguilera deep to beat the Twins.

• Finally, let’s circle back to Thome. His first career walk-off home run came on June 15, 1994, in a game where he did three things you haven’t likely seen from him much in recent years: played third base, batted 8th in the order and finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Wednesday Matchups:
If the Boston Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia struggles tonight against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Scott Kazmir, you’ll know something is wrong. Pedroia has hammered Kazmir in his career to the tune of a .526 BA and 1.433 OPS. Pedroia has 16 hits and six extra-base hits off Kazmir, the most against any pitcher.

The Twins Francisco Liriano has a career 5.22 ERA against the Chicago White Sox, almost a point and-a-half higher than his ERA against all other teams. Look to two main culprits for his lack of success against the Sox, but maybe not the ones you’d think: Alexei Ramirez and A.J. Pierzynski. Of the 72 batters who Liriano has faced at least 10 times in his career, Liriano is allowing a batting average above .400 to seven of them, and Ramirez (.500 BA) and Pierzynski (.417 BA) are two of them.

When the San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain tries to suppress the Phillies lineup tonight (7 ET on ESPN), there’s one recently activated player he might want to avoid.

Trivia Answer: The Hall-of-Famer is George Brett. The other players are Bret Boone, Ken Brett, Brett Butler and Bret Saberhagen.

Ralph Houk career retrospective

July, 21, 2010
The Boston Red Sox have said that former manager Ralph Houk has died at 90 years old.

Houk appeared in just 91 games for the New York Yankees over a span of eight seasons from 1947-54. But he made his name known over the course of 3,157 career games as a big-league manager (1,619-1,531 overall record). His 1,619 wins are 15th most in MLB history, just 1 spot behind Lou Piniella.

His first year as a manager was in 1961 with Yankees which was a pretty special season in its own right as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris staged their historic home run chase that season. He went on to win the World Series with the Yankees in each of his first two seasons ('61-62) and another pennant in his third. He wouldn't win another pennant after that in his subsequent 17 seasons.

He holds a unique place in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry since he's one of four men to manage both the teams(along with Frank Chance, Bucky Harris and Joe McCarthy). On September 30, 1973 Houk resigned from the Yankees, becoming the first of 20 manager changes that owner George Steinbrenner would make through 1995.

In between his two stints on both sides of that well-known rivalry, Houk managed the Detroit Tigers for five seasons, never finishing above 4th place in the AL East standings. This began a stretch when you could argue that Houk was always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Houk managed the Tigers in 1975 when the Red Sox advanced to the World Series. He was still with the Tigers in 1977 and 1978 when the Yankees won back-to-back titles. Houk then managed the Red Sox from 1981 to 1984 as the Yankees advanced to the World Series in 1981 and the Tigers won the title in 1984.

But he'll always be remembered for that historic 1961 season in which he set an MLB record with 109 wins in his first MLB season as a manager. He also is on a list with people like Joe Torre, Bob Lemon, Casey Stengel and Bucky Harris as managers who won a World Series in their first year with the Yankees.