Archive for June 2012

They Like Their Players Seasoned in Toronto

June 27, 2012

A couple of interesting pieces of news out of Toronto today.

Back up shortstop Omar Vizquel says he’s 51% leaning toward retirement at the end of this season.  Omar is 45 this year, and he’s currently hitting .224 with a .486 OPS.

My guess is that there’s about a 99% chance that MLB’s general managers will decide that Omar’s “retired” next off-season, no matter what Omar decides he wants to do.  Hey Omar, if you still want to play baseball, there’s always the Venezuelan Winter League.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have also reportedly signed 49 year old Jamie Moyer to a minor league deal.

Moyer started the year in Denver, which is the toughest place in the major leagues to be a pitcher.  Not surprisingly, he got hit pretty hard, although his 5.70 ERA as a Rockie was actually better than five of the nine pitchers to make at least four starts for the Rockies so far this year.  Juan Nicasio has a 5.28 ERA in 11 starts, making him the staff ace, unless you want to consider rookie Drew Pomeranz, who has a 4.70 ERA after five starts.

Anyway, after the Rockies released Moyer, he quickly signed a minor league deal with the Orioles, and made three starts at AAA Norfolk, where he pitched extremely well.  In 16 IP, Moyer had a 1.69 ERA, allowed only 11 hits, one home run, no walks and struck out 16.  The Orioles wanted Moyer to stay in the minors for at least one more start, so Moyer elected to become a free agent, as his contract provided.

Moyer will make two starts at AAA Las Vegas.  Las Vegas is almost certainly a much tougher place to pitch than Norfolk, and as such will provide a better idea of whether Moyer still has enough left to help a major league team.

Drew Hutchinson just joined Kyle Drabek on the 60-day disabled list; and while Brandon Morrow is still on the 15-day DL, he is expected to miss about two months due to an oblique strain.  Finally, yet another starter Henderson Alvarez is suffering from “mild elbow inflammation.”  While Alvarez isn’t expected to miss a start, pitching through elbow inflammation is always a cause for concern.

In short, the Blue Jays desperately need another starting pitcher, and if Moyer can hold his own through two starts in the Pacific Coast League, he’s certain to get a shot in Toronto.

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The Best and Worst Hitters’ Parks in MLB

June 27, 2012

I recently discovered that espn.com now provides stats for what it calls “park factor,” that is, the ratio between runs scored per game in each park divided by the runs scored in the home team’s away games.

Espn.com provides “park factor” for each season going back to 2001.  However, individual seasons don’t mean all that much, because like individual players, ball parks are subject to wild swings from one year to the next in terms of whether more or less runs are scored at home than away.  For all but the best (Coors Field) and the worst (Petco Park) parks, it’s only over a period of years that you can determine which parks are really the best and worst for offense.

I used a five-year sample (2007 through 2011), which still may not be enough, but it’s certainly more meaningful than one or two seasons.  Here are the best to worst hitters’ parks in terms of runs scored for the period from 2007 through 2011:

1.  Coors Field (Rockies)  1.245

2.  The Ballpark at Arlington (Rangers)  1.141

3.  Chase Field (Diamondbacks)  1.127

4.  Fenway Park (Red Sox)  1.116

5.  Wrigley Field (Cubs)  1.098

6.  New Yankee Stadium (Yankees)  1.091  [Old Yankee Stadium, 2004-2008,  1.002]

7.  U.S. Cellular Park (White Sox)  1.079

8.  Camden Yards (Orioles)  1.061

9.  Great American Ballpark (Reds)  1.046

10.  Comerica Park (Tigers)  1.039

11.  Sun Life Stadium (Marlins) 1.038  [Marlins Park,which opened this year, has a whopping 1.271 park factor so far in 2012.]

12.  Citizens Bank Park (Phillies)  1.016

13.  Kauffman Stadium (Royals)  1.015

14.  Rogers Center (Blue Jays) 1.010

15.  Minute Maid Park (Astros)  0.996

16.  Nationals Park (Nationals)  0.992  [RFK Stadium, where the Nats played 2005-2007, 0.892]

17.  Miller Park (Brewers) 0.978

18.  Progressive Field (Indians)  0.972

19.  PNC Park (Pirates)  0.970

20.  Turner Field (Braves) 0.966

21.  Angels Stadium (Angels)  0.964

22.  AT&T Park (Giants) 0.953

22.  Target Field (Twins) 0.953  [Mall of America Field (the Metrodome), 2005-2009, 0.966]

24.  Busch Stadium (Cardinals)  0.926

25.  Dodger Stadium (Dodgers) 0.925

25.  Oakland Coliseum (A’s)  0.925

27.  Citi Field (Mets)  0.914  [Shea Stadium,  2004-2008, 0.886]

28.  Safeco Field (Mariners)  0.899

29.  Tropicana Field (Rays) 0.892

30.  Petco Park (Padres)  0.799

Not many surprises among the five best and five worst places to hit, although I personally was a bit surprised that Tropicana Field is the second-worst park to hit in over the last five years, excluding the now demolished Shea Stadium.

(No sadness about Shea’s destruction from these quarters — of the seven ballparks in which I’ve watched major league baseball games, Shea was the worst, easily beating out Candlestick Park, the Oakland Coliseum and the Vet in Philadelphia for that dubious distinction.  What made Shea the worst was that the sight lines were terrible: the lower deck seats were too flat, making it hard to see over the person in front of you; and the upper deck seats were too steep, making you feel like you were watching the game from outer space.  That said, I saw some good baseball there, including a Darryl Strawberry walk-off home run off John Franco in 1988 that may have been the hardest hit ball I’ve ever seen in person.)

The biggest surprises in my mind are that neither Minute Maid Park or Turner Field were higher on the list.  I remember the early days of Minute Maid, when it was named Enron Field and commonly referred to as Ten-Run Field because of all the scoring there.  Similarly, Atlanta has always been a good place to hit, regardless of the ballpark played in, due to the hot summer weather and the 1,000+ feet of elevation at which the city sits.

From 2002 through 2006, the previous five year period, Minute Maid Park had a park factor of 1.031, which would be 12th on the list above, a good, but not great, place to hit.  Turner Field, however, was a terrible place to hit from 2002 through 2006, coming in at 0.866.  Actually, Turner Field was a good place to hit in 2001 and in 2004 through 2006 (on average), but was absolutely horrendous (0.655 and 0.651) in 2002 and 2003.

As mentioned above, parks vary greatly from year to year, so perhaps ten-year averages would be more meaningful than five year averages.  Of course, ballparks also change over time (five new parks have opened since the start of the 2008 season), which means that parks rise and fall somewhat depending on whether or not the new parks are good places to hit.

Of the five new parks noted above, all except for Target Field appear to be better hitters’ parks than the ball parks they replaced, and Target Field so far looks to be only a little bit worse than the Metrodome.

This isn’t particularly surprising: baseball fans like offense, so new parks presumably are constructed with offense in mind.  Also, the new parks are generally baseball-only and are much cozier than the multi-use stadiums that were constructed between 1960 and 1985, the previous generation of baseball stadiums.  Less foul territory means fewer foul-outs and thus higher batting averages and more runs scored.

Early Aces Candy Cummings, Bobby Mathews and A Few Others: Part II

June 22, 2012

Although dominant pitchers in the National Association, both Bobby Mathews and Candy Cummings (who went 124-72 in the N.A., fifth best in wins behind Spalding, McBride, Mathews and George “Charmer” Zettlein (125-90)) quickly flamed out in the new National League.

Cummings was likely feeling the effects of his heavy workload by the 1875 season.  Although he went a terrific 35-12 for the second place Hartford Dark Blues, 39 of the Dark Blues’ 86 games were started by promising youngster Tommy Bond.

Cummings taught Bond his curveball, and Bond quickly developed into the best pitcher in baseball.  While both pitchers remained with Hartford for the National League’s inaugural 1876 season, Bond went 31-13 in 45 starts, while Cummings went 16-8 in only 24 starts.

Although Hartford went 47-21 that season, neither Bond nor Cummings returned to the team in 1877.  Bond moved on to Boston, where he was the National League’s dominant pitcher for the next three seasons, leading the league in wins (40 both seasons), winning percentage and strikeouts in each of 1877 and 1878, and going 43-19 in 1879 and leading the league in ERA as he had also done in 1877.

However, after three seasons in which he pitched 1603 National League innings, plus non-league exhibition games, Bond had a subpar year in 1880 going 26-29, and he won only 13 more major league games, all in the upstart and underwhelming Union Association in 1884.

Meanwhile, Cummings left the Hartford Dark Blues to play for the Lynn (Massachusetts) Live Oaks in the new International Association, a player-run league.  However, he left the Live Oaks in late June to sign with the National League’s weak-sister Cincinnati Reds, although he apparently remained the International Association’s president.

On a team that went 15-42, Cummings went 5-14 with an ERA a run and half above the league average (bear in mind that pitchers were more dependent on the team behind them in those days than they are today).  That was the end of Cummings’ major league career, although he pitched again in the International Association in 1878.

Cummings eventually had success in the painting and wallpapering business and stridently defended his claim to have been the pitcher to invent the curveball during the rest of his long life.

Meanwhile, Bobby Mathews went 21-34 for bad New York Mutuals team in 1876.  The Mutuals were losing money in the new league and refused to make their final western road trip, causing the National League to expel them during the off-season.

Mathews caught on with the same Cincinnati Reds team that Candy Cummings pitched on, but Mathews had no more success, going 3-12 with an ERA over 4.00.  In fact, Cummings was brought in after Mathews left the team because the Reds were not making payroll on time.  Matthews bounced around for the next season and a half pitching in Brooklyn, Columbus, Worchester, Baltimore and Janesville, Wisconsin.

In 1879, Mathews returned to the National League as the back-up pitcher for the first place Providence Grays.  While primary pitcher John Montgomery Ward went 47-19, Mathews went 12-6.  Ward finished ten of Mathews’ 25 starts, and Mathews finished two of Ward’s 60 starts.

In 1880, Mathews pitched for the San Francisco Stars in the three-team Pacific League until the league folded in July.  Mathews returned to Providence in 1881, but went only 4-8 before being released for excessive drinking in mid-July.  However, he caught on with the Boston Red Stockings late in the season and re-signed with the team for 1882.

1882 was the beginning of Mathews’ comeback as a major league pitcher.  He went 19-15 that year for a Boston team that finished in 3rd place, roughly splitting the pitching duties with Grasshopper Jim Whitney.

Things really turned around for Bobby, however, when he jumped to the young American Association in 1883.  Playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, not far from his home town of Baltimore, Mathews became the ace pitcher he had been in the National Association almost a decade before.

Mathews went 30-13 for the Athletics, helping them win the 1883 A.A. pennant, and he won 30 games each of the next two seasons.  The 1883 Athletics also featured George “Grin” Bradley, another pitcher having a come-back season, although on a smaller scale than Matthews.  Bradley had had two fine seasons for St. Louis in 1875 and 1876, but then had fallen on hard times likely due to arm fatigue.  He went 16-7 for the 1883 Athletics.

One of the last great hurrahs in Mathews’ career occurred on September 30, 1885, when he struck out 4 batters in an inning for the second time in his career.

Mathews went 13-9 in 1886 at age 34, which was old for a player in those days, particularly one who had lived as hard as Bobby.  He also had pay disputes with the Athletics and was gaining success as a pitching coach for college pitchers at the University of Pennsylvania.  He held out in the spring of 1887 and later in the year filed a lawsuit against the Athletics.

Mathews pitched sporadically and ineffectively that year, finishing with a 3-4 record but a 6.67 ERA and never pitched in the majors again.

After his playing career, Mathews did some coaching and also worked as an umpire off and on in the American Association and the Players’ League but wasn’t able to make a career of it due to his unreliability.  For example, he lost his position as an umpire in the Players’ League in 1890 when he missed a game to visit a sick friend.

By the middle of 1895, Mathews was virtually penniless and living and working at a road house outside Providence owned by former teammate Joe Start.  Mathews’ mind and body rapidly began to fail, and he died on April 17, 1898 at the age of 46.

Does Bobby Mathews deserve to be in the Hall of Fame with Candy Cummings?  In my mind it’s a close call.  One thing is for certain, however.  Bobby Mathews was a colorful player who played an important role in the development of major league pitching, and he deserves to be remembered today.

Read Part I of this two-part Series here.

Early Aces Candy Cummings, Bobby Mathews and a Few Others: Part I

June 22, 2012

I was looking at the list of all-time wins leaders on baseball-reference.com yesterday for a possible post about the active pitchers most likely to win 300 games, and I noticed that in 25th place with 297 wins is 1870’s and 1880’s ace Bobby Mathews.  This was more wins than I remembered Mathews having, so I investigated.

Turns out that Baseball Reference gives Mathews credit for his National Association wins between 1871 and 1875.  As I’m sure you know (but for those who don’t), the National Association was the first all-professional baseball league and contained the best players of that era, and by those two criteria was the major league of its day.

Matthews won 132 games (and lost 111) in the five years of the National Association, finishing behind only Al Spalding of sporting goods fame (207-56) and Dick McBride (152-76) for most wins in the Association’s brief history.

Spalding was the top pitcher in the National League’s first year in 1876, going 47-13 to lead the new league in wins and winning percentage, but appeared in only four games for the Chicago White Stockings in 1877 before moving into a management role for the team now known as the Cubs.  Dick McBride made four starts in 1876, went 0-4, and never pitched in the National League (or any other league now considered a major league) again.

Pitchers routinely pitched 500 innings a season against National Association opponents, which doesn’t count probably an equal number of innings pitched in games against non-league opponents.  Not surprisingly pitchers’ arms burned out even faster than they do today.

McBride was either 29 or 31 in 1877 (Baseball Reference says he was born in 1847, but the 1993 ed. of the Baseball Encyclopedia and 2001 ed. of Total Baseball say he was born in 1845), and his arm was likely done.  Spalding was only 26 when he ceased pitching, but he was a very bright young man who saw that the future for a player like himself was in management rather than on the playing field.

Anyway, I saw that baseball reference linked their Bobby Mathews page to a SABR biography.  SABR credits Mathews as the second pitcher to master to the curveball, after William Arthur “Candy” Cummings.  (Here’s the SABR biography on Cummings.)

Because Cummings is the pitcher credited with “inventing” the curveball, he is in the Hall of Fame, while Matthews, who was actually the better professional pitcher, is not.  Them’s the breaks.

It’s unknown if Cummings was really the first pitcher to ever throw a curveball.  However, SABR gives him credit for being the first pitcher to master the pitch and throw it successfully in competitive play.

The story goes that as a young teenager in 1863, Cummings and his friends were at the beach in Brooklyn (Coney Island or Brighton Beach?) winging clam shells into the ocean.  The shells could easily be made to curve in flight, which inspired Cummings to try to do the same with a baseball.

Over the next several years, Cummings diligently practiced his underhand pitching (pitchers were required to “pitch” the ball underhanded in those days, rather than “throwing” it overhand) and experimented to find a way to make a baseball curve consistently.  After graduating from what we would call high school in 1865, Cummings quickly became a top amateur and then semi-pro pitcher, even before he developed a successful curveball.

In 1867, Cummings finally developed a motion and release that enabled him to consistently cause his pitches to break.  He debuted the new pitch in a game between Cummings’ Brooklyn Excelsiors again Harvard College.  To batters who had never seen a true curve before (baseball’s first great pitching ace Jim Creighton famously pitched the ball with a quick jerk of the wrist in 1861 and 1862, before his untimely death at age 21 in the latter year, which gave his pitches movement although almost certainly more in the form of a rising fastball) Cummings’ new pitch was unhittable.

Cummings quickly became the most highly regarded pitcher in the country, so much so that early baseball’s premier sportswriter Henry Chadwick named Cummings the sport’s outstanding player in 1871.

For years, Cummings was the only pitcher in baseball who had mastered the curveball, which made it extremely difficult for hitters to develop a familiarity with the pitch.  While Cummings stood 5’9″ tall, which was not short for a pitcher in those days, he was very thin, never weighing more than about 120 pounds.  He did not throw nearly as hard as Al Spalding, who at 6’1″ and 170 lbs was the largest of the pitchers discussed in this article.  It is doubtful that he would have remained a star once the professional game took over without his signature pitch.

The second player recognized to have developed a curve was Bobby Mathews.  Like Cummings, Mathews was a small man (5′ 5.5″ and 140 lbs) who did not throw hard, even of his day, but succeeded based on his ability to “pitch” — i.e., command, changing speed and location, and the ability to deceive the hitter.

Mathews developed his curve sometime in the early 1870’s.  He claimed that he developed the pitch by watching Cummings throw his. Mathews also spent time during one off-season working out with star catcher Nat Hicks who had once caught for Cummings.

At any rate, as late as the 1873 season Cummings and Mathews were the only pitchers in the National Association regularly throwing a curveball. Mathews is also credited with having introduced the slow raise (a rising change-up) in 1872.

By his peak season in 1874, when he went 42-22 for the second place New York Mutuals, Mathews was likely throwing at least four different pitches (fastball, curve, change up and spitball).  Despite the fact that he did not throw hard, he was the National Association’s leading strikeout pitcher.  Cummings was also a top strikeout pitcher in the N.A., suggesting that both Cummings and Mathews used their curves as their strikeout pitches.  In fact, Mathews referred to the pitch as his “out-curve.”

Matthews had excellent command and knew how to pitch inside, either jamming hitters with the inside fastball or throwing waste pitches over the batters’ heads.  Matthews was notably adroit at hiding the ball from the hitter, both to prevent the batter from seeing his grip on the ball and to disguise his release point.

Matthews was also noted for his focus on the mound and his ability to remember hitters’ strengths and weaknesses.  Finally, he was exceptionally good at adopting techniques he saw other pitchers use successfully.  In other words, Mathews had all the skills of a modern ace, like, for example, Greg Maddux.

Mathews also had a few less savory qualities, however.  Like many players of his era, he was a heavy drinker.  His drinking was so heavy in fact, that later in his career when arm problems had limited his effectiveness, he was fired from teams for drunkenness.

Further, after his baseball career ended at age 35, Mathews suffered a rapid mental decline and died at age 46, likely caused by his history of heavy drinking and the long-term effects of syphilis.  Another great 19th century star Pete “The Gladiator” Browning, the original Louisville Slugger, likely died of the same causes at age 44.  (SABR’s bio for Pete Browning is here.)

Mathews’ New York Mutuals were also at the center of a number of game-fixing allegations during his years with the team.  One involving Mathews centered around his leaving a game in Chicago in August of 1874 with a groin injury which the Mutuals subsequently lost.

However, in July 1876, Mathews unilaterally turned over a suspicious telegram sent to him by a known gambler to the National League, which led to a sting operation resulting in numerous additional incriminating telegrams the League then published in the New York Herald to discourage future game-fixing.  This incident, along with the permanent banishment of four players from the Louisville Grays in 1877, did much to discourage game-fixing in the National League.

Read Part II of this two-part series here.

New Draft Rules Working Great for MLB

June 16, 2012

The teams have to be extremely happy with the way the new draft bonus pool rules are working out.  Aside from the obvious decline in the amount of signing bonuses, amateur players are getting signed right away, giving most of the top picks an extra half season of professional baseball.

So far, 39 of the top 60 selections have signed or agreed to terms with the teams that drafted them.  The Northwest League is the only short-season minor league to have begun play, and its season started only yesterday.  The upshot is that many top draft picks who previously would have waited to sign until the mid-August deadline are already under contract and will get couple of extra months on their professional development compared to the old system.

It’s not at all surprising the Players’ Association agreed to the new rules.  The Players’ Association only represents players with major league service time, which obviously none of the draftees have.

The union recognizes that teams will spend X-amount of dollars to build winning, or at least competitive, teams, and that to the extent the teams save a few bucks on draft picks and foreign amateur signings, the savings are more likely than not going to be spent on major league free agents and locking in young major league players to long-term contracts before they can become free agents.  As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, the union also got a nice bump in the major league minimum salary, from $414,000 in 2011 to $480,000 in 2012 (and on up to $500,000 in 2014).

For these reasons, it’s a little surprising the MLBPA didn’t agree to these rule changes sooner.

All the amateur players will, of course, get smaller bonuses than in the past.  It’s a bit hard to feel too sorry for them, given that they haven’t done anything professionally yet, and the slot amounts are still substantial.

The biggest loser so far is Stanford RHP Mark Appel (and his “advisor” Scott Boras), who everyone thought the Astros would take with the No. 1 pick.  According to mlbtraderumors.com,  Appel would not agree in advance to the $6 million bonus the Astros wanted to pay (the slot amount was $7.2 million), so the Astros instead selected 17 year old Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa, who almost immediately agreed to a $4.8 million signing bonus.

Appel fell all the way down to 8th, the slot for which is only $2.9 million.  Presumably, the Pirates will try to sign their remaining picks below slot, and use any savings to sweeten their final offer to Appel.  However, it’s extremely unlikely the available pot will reach $6 million, even assuming that that the Pirates will go up to 5% over their overall draft bonus pool to sign Appel, in light of the fact that the Pirates’ total pot of the first ten rounds is only a hair over $6.5 million.

The rules are that teams spending (1) up to 5% over the total pool amount will be hit with a 75% tax on the overage; (2) between 5% and 10% over is subject to a 75% tax on the overage and loss of the 1st round pick in the next draft; (3) 10% to 15% overage is 100% tax on the overage on the overage and lost of 1st and 2nd round picks in the next draft; and (4) over 15% is 100% tax on the overage and loss of 1st round picks in next two drafts.

While the overage tax strikes me as fairly meaningless, the loss of future draft picks is not.  That being said, there is at least a possibility that the Pirates will decide that Mark Appel is worth the two first round picks they would receive next year if they do not sign Appel.

If the Pirates do not sign Appel, they will receive the 9th pick in the 2013 Draft and, based on current 2012 standings, no worse than the 17th pick also.  A team might consider that a fair price to pay for a player who almost all sources regard as at least one of the top five amateurs available in this year’s draft.

However, I personally would rather have to two top-20 picks in next year’s draft, particularly if I were running a small-market team like the Pirates, which can turn a profit as a result of revenue-sharing if it simply keeps its expenses down.

It appears that the Pirates have all the bargaining leverage, and that all Appel can do is go back to Stanford of his senior year and hope he is selected in the top five in the 2013 Draft.  Given that he’ll be a year older and a proven tough sign, that seems pretty unlikely.

Boras may well challenge the new rules in court, but he would be up against the three prior Supreme Court rulings between 1922 and 1971 upholding MLB’s anti-trust exemption.  The Supreme Court has consistently said that it’s up to Congress to take away MLB’s anti-trust exemption, and it’s something that Congress has never had the votes to do.

Matt Cain Throws Perfect Game

June 14, 2012

Matt Cain threw the 22nd perfect game in major league history tonight against the Astros.  Matt tied Sandy Koufax with 14 strikeouts for most in a perfect game.

On that criteria, one could reasonably rank Matt’s perfect game as the second best game ever pitched, after Koufax’s perfecto on September 9, 1965 against the Cubs, because Koufax did it on 113 pitches, while Matt had to throw a whopping 125 to record a perfect game with 14 Ks.  Matt now holds the record for most pitches thrown in a perfect, with David Wells’ 120 perfect game (11 Ks) on May 17, 1998 coming in second.

The fewest pitches used to throw a perfect game were Addie Joss’s 74 on October 2, 1908 against the White Sox.  He only struck out three.  Joss died less than three years later at age 31 of tubucular meningitus.  He throw another no hitter in 1910, also against the White Sox, becoming the only pitcher ever to no-hit the same team twice.

More recently, David Cone threw only 88 pitches while striking out ten Montreal Expos on July 18, 1999.

Cain’s Perfecto is the second of the year, following Phil Humber’s 96 pitch masterpiece against the Mariners on April 21st.

As you are probably aware, the Mets are contesting a ruling on a weak grounder down third base which was ruled a hit against R. A. Dickey, who allowed no other hits in a complete game win against the Rays tonight.  The Mets say David Wright made an error.  If the ruling is changed, it will be the sixth no-hitter of the young season, including the perfectos, Jared Weaver’s no-no, Johan Santana’s blown call no-hitter, and Kevin Millwood and five Seattle relievers’ combined no-hitter against the Dodgers.

The most famous combined no-hitter is, of course, the Babe Ruth/Ernie Shore effort on June 23, 1917.  Ruth walked the game’s first batter and was thrown out for arguing the umpire’s call.  Shore came in, Ruth’s base runner was caught stealing, and Shore retired the next 26 batters in a row.

The Mariner’s six pitcher no-hitter ties the mark set by Roy Oswalt and five Astros relievers on June 11, 2003.  Most of you probably don’t remember this, but it was a big, big deal when Vida Blue and three Oakland A’s relievers combined for a no-hitter on September 28, 1975.  Shows how much the game  has changed in one generation.

The only two perfect games of the 19th century were thrown by Lee Richmond and John Montgomery Ward five days apart around this part of June in 1880.  What is most amazing about the 1880 perfectos is that the Worchester Ruby Legs and Providence Grays made no errors.  Each team probably had at least several players who still were not using fielding gloves.  The Ruby Legs average 4.18 errors per game played that year, and the Grays averaged 4.10 per game.

San Francisco Giants Minor League Update: Augusta GreenJackets

June 11, 2012

The Class A Augusta GreenJackets are currently 27-34, the result of weak hitting and underwhelming pitching.

The top two prospects are 19 year old right-handed starters Clayton Blackburn and Kyle Crick.  Blackburn has a 3.04 ERA and a pitching line of 53.1 IP, 49 hits and 10 walks allowed and 62 Ks.  Crick has a 3.45 ERA with a line of 47 IP, 34 hits and 27 walks allowed and 61Ks.

While Blackburn has pitched better so far this year, Crick is still the better prospect, based on the fact that Crick was a sandwich pick last year (49th overall), has a better hits-to-IP rate and a slightly higher Ks-to-IP rate.  Blackburn was a 16th round pick last year and looks to be the steal of the 2011 Draft for the Giants.

Anyway you slice it, both Blackburn and Crick look terrific for 19 year olds in their first year of full-season A ball.

22 year old right-handed starter Christopher “Thousand Ships” Marlowe has also pitched well, with a 3.20 ERA and 39 K’s (but 27 walks) in 45 IP.  Marlowe was the Giants’ 5th round pick (177th overall) in the 2011 draft.

Last year’s 4th round pick (148th overall), 22 year old lefty Bryce Bandilla got off to a fairly good start, posting a 2.18 ERA (but a 5.22 run average) with a pitching line of 20.2 IP, 15 hits and 16 walks allowed and 28 Ks, before being re-assigned to extended Spring Training on May 16th.

I haven’t been able to find out why the move was made, although Bandilla’s control appears to be an issue.  On May 11, he struck out 10 batters in 4.2 IP but allowed five runs, all unearned.  My guess is that the Giants want to have him start over at Salem-Keizer in the short-season Northwest League, when that season starts this month.

22 year old RHP Derek Law (9th round, 2011) and 24 year old RHP Cody Hall (19th round, 2011) have been the top pitchers out of Augusta’s bullpen.  Each has an ERA below 2.50 with strong ratios.

Among the position players, the best hitter by far in 2012 has been 22 year old outfielder Shawn Payne.  He’s hitting .289 with a .793 OPS and .398 OBP.  He has also stolen 19 bases in 19 attempts.  He was a 35th round pick last year (although he was drafted twice previously, once higher and once lower) out of Georgia Southern University, and looks like another steal.

23 year old catcher Joe Staley is hitting .273 with a .769 OPS and .365 OBP in 32 games.  He was the Giants’ 8th round pick in 2010.  He hit well the last two seasons at the Giants’ two short-season A leagues, but has only this year been promoted to the Giants’ lowest full-season team.

22 year old 3Bman Garrett Buechele is hitting .298 with a .742 OPS in 22 games.  He was a 14th round pick last year.

Last year’s 12th round pick 22 year old SS Kelby Tomlinson is hitting only .243 with a .628 OPS, but has a decent .333 OBP.

The GreenJackets rank 12th in the 14-team Sally League in run scored (and they’re closer to 14th than they are to 11th), but have allowed the fourth fewest runs in the league.   Augusta continues to be an extremely difficult place to hit.

P.S.  If you can tell me what “Thousand Ships” refers to, you will be immortalized in the annals of Burly’s Baseball Musings.