Presenting my Five Astounding Facts of the Week -- plus a special Johan Santana bonus section!
1 Is Carlos Zambrano in the right line of work? He is up to 24 career homers at the plate. But that's not all. Zambrano actually has a better career home run ratio (one every 28.4 AB) than all these guys whom we've regarded, at some point or another, as sluggers: Jason Heyward, Michael Cuddyer, one-time Home Run Derby champ Bobby Abreu, Victor Martinez, Shin-Soo Choo, David Freese, Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch. Not to mention hundreds of others.
1A But hang on. We're not done with Zambrano. He has now hit at least one home run in 10 seasons in a row. That's something only four other pitchers in history have done. The others, courtesy of Lee Sinins' Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, are Warren Spahn (17), Red Ruffing (15), Bob Lemon (12) and Dizzy Trout (11).
2 When the Mets called up 6-foot-10 Chris Young this week to join his new partner in altitude, 6-11 Jon Rauch, loyal reader Willie Weinbaum couldn't help but wonder: Are these the two tallest teammates in history? The correct answer: Well, they're tied, anyway -- with Rauch and Randy Johnson (also 6-10). Those two played together on the 2008 Diamondbacks.
3 Loyal reader Julian McCracken noticed something cool about the 15 games played Sunday: In every darned one of them, the two starting pitchers got both the win and the loss. How rare is that? Glad you asked. It was the first day in more than five years, since May 11, 2007, in which both starters got a decision in all 15 games, according to The Elias Sports Bureau. That's more than 900 days of baseball ago.
4 It sure was disappointing to see Henry Rodriguez land on the Nationals' disabled list this week -- because it interrupted his march to Wild Pitch History. Even though he is a relief pitcher, that didn't stop Rodriguez from unfurling nine -- count 'em, nine -- wild pitches in his first 21 innings on the mound this year. That leaves him just six shy of the record for most wild pitches by any reliever in a full season since 1900.
The four pitchers who threw 15 in relief are Stu Flythe in 1936, Dennis Higgins in 1969, Hector Carrasco in 1999 and Jason Grimsley in 2000. Rodriguez was on pace to become just the third pitcher since 1900 (starters included) to fire at least 27 wild pitches in a season. The others: Red Ames (30) in 1905 and Tony Cloninger (27) in 1966. Let's hope Ohhhh Henry's stay on the DL is as short as possible.
5 Joe Blanton once made a little Home Run History by whomping a home run in the 2008 World Series. Now he is working on a different sort of Home Run History. He has managed to serve up a home run to a pitcher (Jeremy Hefner on May 29 and Zambrano on Sunday) in two straight starts. Here's what you need to know about that, according to baseball-reference.com's handy-dandy Play List:
Don't file that last tidbit away for future reference -- because there won't be any pitchers hitting in Blanton's next start. It's Friday night, in DH Land (aka Baltimore).
And as a special bonus, this week only:
Five Astounding Johan Santana No-Hitter Facts
1 Jamie Dato was the first of a bunch of loyal readers to pose this: Santana and Philip Humber, who were once traded for each other, have thrown no-hitters this year. How could we not try to determine if that's ever happened before? Closest I could find was this: In 1990, Randy Johnson and Mark Langston, who had been traded for each other the year before, both started no-hitters. Langston pitched the first seven innings of his. But what the heck. Close enough!
2 The final out of Santana's no-no was made by the reigning World Series MVP, David Freese -- a guy who has had a little recent success with two outs in the ninth inning, by the way. So how rare is that? This was the eighth no-hitter thrown against the defending World Series champ but just the second in which the World Series MVP made the final out. The other: Gene Tenace against Jim Bibby in 1973.
3 The Mets may have been the first team to go 50 years before their first no-hitter, but they weren't the first team in modern history to go through a 50-year period without a no-hitter. The Phillies once had a 58-year no-hitter drought, which lasted from 1908 (after a Hooks Wiltse no-hitter) to 1964 (Jim Bunning's perfect game). Guess which team helped the Phillies end that drought? The Mets, naturally, by hosting Bunning's perfecto at Shea.
4 As my friend John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press reports, it takes a special pitcher to no-hit the Cardinals. They have been no-hit four times in the past 50 years -- all four of them by a Cy Young Award winner: Santana, Fernando Valenzuela in 1990, Tom Seaver (as a Red, of course) in 1978 and Gaylord Perry in 1968. The Cardinals' only other no-hitter in the past 90 years was thrown by Don Cardwell of the Cubs -- in his first start after being traded to Chicago.
5 Finally, it sure is hard to believe that the Mets had 18 no-hit bids broken up in the eighth or ninth innings and 42 in the seventh or later they were no-hit themselves six times while throwing zero no-hitters the Astros/Colt-45s, who came into existence in the same year as the Mets (1962), threw 10 no-hitters while the Mets were throwing zero and all the other teams threw 133 no-hitters in the half-century in which the Mets had zilch.
So let's all ask one more time: How'd that happen?