Archive for May 2013

College Pitcher Jason Hoppe Sets Single Season Scoreless Inning Record

May 31, 2013

Jason Hoppe, a right-hander for NCAA Division II Minnesota State, just set the NCAA record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched in a season at 55.1, breaking the record of SIU-Edwardsville right-hander Kyle Jones, who threw 54 scoreless innings in 2006.  The overall scoreless innings record of 60 was set over two seasons by Vermont’s George Plender in 1954-5.

St. Edwards scored off Hoppe in the fourth inning of yesterday’s game ending Hoppe’s streak.  However, Minnesota State won the game 6-5 to advance to the team’s first ever Division II National Championship game.

Hoppe finishes the season, his junior year campaign, with an 8-1 record, a 1.26 ERA, and a pitching line of 92.2 IP, 67 hits, zero HRs and 24 walks allowed and 99 Ks.  With numbers like those, you would expect him to be drafted by a major league organization next month.

Not necessarily.  George Plender never played professional baseball, at least according to baseballreference.com’s records, and Kyle Jones’ professional career was limited to six relief appearances in the Independent A Frontier League, just about the lowest level of professional baseball, in 2010.

Also, working against Hoppe is the fact that his body (he’s listed by Minnesota State as 6’1″ and 165 lbs — an article yesterday says he currently weighs 170 and hopes to put on an additional 15 pounds for his senior season) isn’t what major league organizations look for in their right-handed pitchers.  However, reports are that Hoppe’s fastball can hit 92 mph and has “impeccable control” of his curveball and change-up.  Needless to say, Hoppe has big league dreams.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find all of Hoppe’s stats from his freshman or sophomore seasons.  However, Hoppe went 8-1 in 2012 and pitched extremely well in three post-season tournament games — three complete games in which he allowed a total of three runs and struck out 36), including a complete game shutout in which he struck out 10 in the 2012 NCAA Division II National Championship Tournament.

If I had to guess and based on the information above, I’d say Hoppe will be drafted somewhere between the 5th and 15th rounds in this June’s draft.  Then, he’ll have to decide whether or not to sign or return to Minnesota State for his senior season.

For what it’s worth, four Minnesota State alums have played in the major leagues: Bob Will, Jerry Terrell, Gary Mielke, and Todd Revenig.  Not exactly great ballplayers, but they all managed to get their mugs on Topps baseball cards, which are shown on Minnesota State’s baseball website.

In another semi-related tidbit, the all-time single season record for scoreless innings pitched in NCAA Division I baseball is held by Todd Helton, when he pitched 47 consecutive scoreless innings, mostly as a closer for Tennessee back in 1994.

Clearly, the Rockies made the right decision when they took Helton with the 8th pick of the 1995 draft and developed him exclusively as a slugging 1Bman.  However, I find it disappointing that Helton has not pitched in even one game in his professional career.  It just seems like a waste of an exceptional baseball talent.

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Remembering Pat Seerey

May 31, 2013

Yesterday’s post on three home run games inevitably led me to think of Pat Seerey, a tremendous slugger and strike out artist (wrong kind) of the World War II and slightly after years.  Here’s a SABR biography of the man’s career.

Pat was a slightly larger version of Hack Wilson — Seerey was 5’9″ tall and weighed between 195 lbs and 220 lbs during his playing career, usually much closer to the latter than the former.  Seerey was extremely popular despite never developing into a major star, because his home runs and strike outs were both prodigious and his body looked like those of a lot of his fans.  He was known in his playing days as both the “People’s Choice” and “Fat Pat.”

Seerey was clearly a man ahead of his time, the kind of player common in today’s sabermetrically informed game (Rob Deer, Mark Reynolds, and Adam Dunn all spring to mind, and I could come up with a lot more if I really stopped and thought about it).  However, he played in an era and for a manager (the Indians’ Lou Boudreau) where his skills were not fully appreciated.

Seerey was an all or nothing hitter, and he had two of the greatest games in baseball history.  On July 13, 1945, Seerey hit three home runs and a triple against the New York Yankees.  On June 18, 1948, after having been traded to the White Sox, Seerey hit four HRs in a ten inning game against the Philadelphia Athletics.  Seerey’s 31 total bases in his best two games have only been matched by Shawn Green and Willie Mays.  However, he also led the American League in strikeouts each of the four seasons in which he managed to get between 365 and 485 plate appearances, and he hit only 86 HRs total in his major league career.

How good a player Seerey really was is hard to say.  Most likely, in the right time and place, he could have had a major league career approximately twice as long as the one he actually had.  On the other hand, his career .224 batting average was terrible, particularly when you take into account the fact that three of his four seasons as a semi-regular were 1944 through 1946 — two war years and the year when most of the big stars came back after many years away and were rusty.

That being said, Seerey probably would have hit more HRs in a different era.  The baseballs used during the latter war years didn’t carry well, limiting HR run totals.  Seerey finished 8th, 6th, 4th and 9th in the AL in home runs in the four years he played semi-regularly (1944-1946 and 1948).  In today’s game, that would be enough to keep him on a major league roster despite the low batting average and strikeouts.

Three Home Runs in One Game – 2013 Update

May 30, 2013

The Cubs’ Dioner Navarro and the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman have each hit three home runs today, with Zimmerman still playing as I write this.  Almost three years ago I wrote a piece about three HR games, which needs some updating, in part because some crumbum deleted the wikipedia article which listed all players to have hit three in one game.  Here is baseballreference.com’s list of the players to hit three in one game since 1951.

You will note that three home run games have been particularly common in the last 20 years, when the PED-fueled offensive barrage reached its peak.

The original “Big Cat” Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa are the all-time leaders with six different three home run games each. Joe Carter, Dave Kingman, Mark McGwire and Carlos Delgado each hit three or more in five different games.

Babe Ruth is still the only player to have two three home run games in the World Series, but as of October 22, 2011, Albert Pujols has joined the Babe with two three HR post-season games. On October 24, 2012, Pablo “Kung-fu Pando” Sandoval joined the Sultan of Swat, Reggie Jackson in 1977 and Prince Albert as the only other players to hit three in a World Series game.

Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Aramis Ramirez are the active leaders with four 3-HR games.  Mark Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano have each had three such games. [As of July 25, 2015, ARod is now the active leader with five 3-HR games, although Prince Albert hit three dingers in a now rare doubleheader on July 21, 2015.]

In the Dead Ball Era between 1900 and 1920, not one player hit three home runs in a major league game.

Interestingly, Babe Ruth did not have a three home run game in any of the four years (1919, 1920, 1921 and 1927) in which he set the single season HR record.  Nor did Roger Maris (or for that matter Mickey Mantle) in 1961.

Mark McGwire did it twice and Sammy Sosa once in 1998, the year they decimated the old HR record.  Barry Bonds did it twice in 2001, and Sosa three more times that same year.  The feat was accomplished a ridiculous 22 times in 2001, the year with the most three home run games.

George Bell (1988), Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005) had their big days on Opening Day.

Now’s a good time for some trivia questions, the first from my original 2010 post and the second a new one.

(1)  who are the only two major league players to hit five home runs in a double-header?  This is a record that will probably never be matched again, since MLB teams no longer schedule double-headers.

(2) who hit the fewest career home runs for any player to hit three HRs in one game?

Answer (1): Stan “The Man” Musial for the Cardinals against the New York Giants on May 2, 1954; and Nate Colbert for the Padres against the Atlanta Braves on August 1, 1972.  Colbert was from St. Louis and claims to have personally attended the game in which Musial first accomplished the feat.   Whether or not he actually did, it’s a great story.

Answer (2): Since 1951, Bill Glynn, who hit three dingers on July 5, 1954, but finished his major league career with only ten.  Here’s a list of the players with the fewest career home runs to hit three in one game since 1951.  However, the actual correct answer appears to be Merv Connors, who hit three on September 17, 1938, but hit a total of only eight in his major league career.

There’s a lot more to the story than this, however.  Merv Connors was one of the all-time great minor league sluggers.  He hit 400 HRs in his minor league career, placing him fourth all-time.

In the year he hit three home runs in one game for the Chicago White Sox, Connors hit three other HRs and in only 24 games, he batted .355 with a 1.146 OPS.  He was only 24 years old that season, but he never played in the major leagues again.

No matter how bad his defense may have been, there’s no way a team doesn’t keep a player who hit like Connors did in his 1938 trial.  By way of comparison, no other player on that White Sox team had an OPS higher than .854.

My guess is that an injury was involved.  At any rate, he was sent back to Shreveport in the Texas League in 1939 and had a bad year, batting only .229.  He was even worse in 1940, another season in which he was almost certainly battling injuries.

That poor year got Connors sent down to the low minors in 1941.  He bounced back that year and also had a great 1942 campaign back in the Texas League, but he was now going on age 29.  1943 appears to be another season in which he battled injuries, and he was then drafted for the last two years of the War.

When Connors returned to professional baseball, he was 32 years old.  He spent most of the remaining eight years of his career playing in B and C leagues in Texas.  For what it’s worth, Merv Connors was born and died in Berkeley, California, the location in which I’m writing this post.  Needless to say, he attended Berkeley High School.

The 2016 update for this post is here.

Mariners Floundering

May 27, 2013

With the demotion of 2Bman Dustin Ackley to AAA Tacoma today, along with the demotion earlier this week of young catcher Jesus Montero, the Mariners appear to be adrift as they try to build a line-up that can get them back into contention.

As you are probably aware, Dustin Ackley was the second player selected in the 2009 draft, behind only Stephen Strasburg, and was generally regarded as the best hitting college prospect in that draft class.  However, Dustin Ackley is now 25 years old, and except for a fine 2011 season split between AAA Tacoma and the Mariners, Ackley has done precious little to show that he’s the hitter he appeared to be in college.

At least with Ackley, the Mariners have a ready replacement at hand.  They are promoting 22 year old Nick Franklin, the 27th pick of the 2009 Draft, who was hitting .324 with a .912 OPS after 39 games at Tacoma.

With Jesus Montero, there is no immediate replacement.  Mike Zunino, the 3rd pick of the 2012 draft out of the University of Florida, may be the Mariners’ catcher of the future, but he needs more time at AAA Tacoma, mainly to improve his plate discipline.  Zunino currently has 21 extra base hits in only 138 at-bats for the Rainiers, but he’s also batting .232 with 4.5 strikeouts for each walk in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

I didn’t think the Montero demotion made any sense until I read an article stating that the M’s have basically given up on Montero as a catcher because his defense is so poor.  He is apparently very bad at framing pitches, and he’s thrown out only one base runner in 24 attempts this season and has now thrown out less than 14% (13 for 94) in his major league career.

The M’s thinking is reportedly that Montero needs to change positions, most likely to 1B, and that he needs to do so in the minors because he hasn’t played a single game in the field during his professional career at a position other than catcher.  This, of course, invites that question that if Montero’s defense at catcher is really so bad, why didn’t the Yankees or the Mariners ever give him at least a little playing time at another position.

In fact, Montero’s true position at the major league level may be as slugging DH, who backs up at catcher when the starter needs a rest.  Right now, Montero is a DH who isn’t hitting (.208/.264/.327), so sending him down to the minors to regain his stroke makes sense.  Montero is still only 23 this year, so he’s got time to work out the bugs in his swing.

It also looks like just a matter of time before the Mariners give up on 1Bman Justin Smoak, another player who fourteen months ago seemed like a cornerstone of the M’s future.  Smoak, now age 26 and the 11th player selected in 2008, a draft loaded with highly regarded slugging college 1Bmen, is currently batting .242/.352/.346.  Even his high on-base percentage probably isn’t helping the M’s a whole lot, since Smoak appears to be dead-slow (no triples and only two stolen bases in a 400 game major league career to date).

In his fourth major league season, Smoak has yet to have a season in which he’s hit even remotely like a major league 1Bman.  I can’t believe the Mariners have much patience left with him.

A lot of the Mariners’ problems in developing young position players that can hit has to do with their ballpark.  Safeco Field entered the 2013 season as the second-worst ballpark in MLB, behind only San Diego’s Petco Park (if you add the Oakland Coliseum, which is now officially known as the “O.co Coliseum” after sponsor overstock.com, it appears that placing “co” at the end of a ballpark’s name automatically curses hitters).  Just as the Rockies and Rangers have a hard time developing young pitchers, the Mariners and Padres have a tough time developing young hitters.

Even so, a fair share of the blame has to go to the Mariners’ scouting department.  The Padres have had success developing Chase Headley and seem to be succeeding in developing Yonder Alonso.  The M’s also appear to be finding success with former 3rd round draft pick Kyle Seager.  Meanwhile, the M’s failure to develop any of Ackley, Montero or Smoak suggests that the M’s scouting department needs some fresh blood.

Mexico’s Home Run King Hector Espino

May 22, 2013

I read this great article by Eric Nusbaum on http://www.sbnation.com about Mexican slugger Hector Espino today.  Most American baseball fans have heard of Espino, if at all, as the answer to the trivia question “who hit the most home runs in minor league history?”  Since the Mexican summer league is today categorized as a AAA minor league, Espino’s exploits south of the border technically set the record.

The two questions that arise in anyone familiar with Espino’s career are (1) why didn’t he ever play in the major leagues; and (2) could he have been a major league star?

The article linked above suggests that there is some mystery as to why Espino never played in the major leagues.  However, the article, which references a detailed Spanish language biography of Espino written by Horacio Ibarra Alvarez, gives plenty of legitimate-sounding reasons why Espino elected to remain in Mexico.

As background, Espino’s entire United States career consisted of 32 games played late in the season for the 1964 Jacksonville Suns, the team that won the AAA International League pennant that year.  Espino was then 25 years old and had just finished off a Mexican League season in which he had led the league with 46 HRs and a .371 batting average.

Espino didn’t hit a lot of home runs in Jacksonville, a tough home run park, and the reports indicate his defense wasn’t very good.  However, he still hit .300 with an .838 OPS for a team that as a whole batted .244 with a .677 OPS.  [1964 was a tough year for hitters throughout professional baseball.]

Espino’s Mexican League team sold his contract to the St. Louis Cardinals for $30,000 prior to the 1965 season.  However, Espino insisted that he receive a portion of the purchase price if he was going to leave his homeland to play in the U.S., where at least at first he wasn’t likely to make as much money as he was already making in Mexico.  [In 1965, as a rookie, it’s unlikely he would have been payed any more than $6,000, the then minimum — young players didn’t start to make the big bucks until the players’ union came in and began to bargain a year or two later.]

Espino reached an agreement with Monterrey Sultanes owner Anuar Canavati that Espino would receive 10% of the purchase price — i.e., $3,000.  However, when the time came for Espino to report to Florida for Spring Training in 1965, Canavati had not paid the promised money, and Espino returned to Mexico.  [Six years later, Mexico passed a law providing that any athlete sold to an international team had to receive 25% of the purchase price.]

In 1967, Espino reached a verbal agreement to join the California Angels, who hoped a Mexican star would appeal to Southern California’s large Chicano population, but on the eve of Spring Training, Angels manager Bill Rigney announced that he didn’t want any of the team’s Mexican players crossing the border during Spring Training (the Angels were training in Palm Springs that year).  According to Nusbaum, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported the matter in a article entitled, “Rigney Puts Check on Angel Wetbacks.”

Espino lived in Northern Mexico, and he was a proud man, so he decided not to report.  Nusbaum writes that Angels assistant general manager Marvin Milkes then wrote Espino an angry letter accusing Espino of being scared, of wasting an opportunity, and of “wanting to be a one-eyed man in the land of the blind.”  If accurate, and this kind of arrogant attitude was typical of MLB executives of this era, it’s no wonder Espino told the Angels to pound sand.  Unlike American players, Espino had options — he could stay at home in Mexico, where he was the country’s biggest baseball star and was making a good living.

Espino reportedly had later offers from other major league teams, including the Yankees in 1970, but nothing ever came of it.  Of course, after 1967, Espino was no longer young, greatly reducing his desirability to major league teams.

Could Espino have been a successful major league player if he had joined the Cardinals in 1965 or the Angels in 1967?  Very likely.

While Espino appears to have missed half of the Mexican League season in 1965, following a long hold-out that ended only with the death of Sultanes owner Canavati, who fell of his horse during a polo match in Texas, in the four years from 1966 through 1969, Espino batted .369, .379, .365 and .304 and slugged 31, 34, 27 and 37 HRs, leading his league in batting average the first three years and in HRs the last two.

After slumping in 1970 and 1971 (he still hit .311 and .319 with power those years), he returned to form in 1972 and 1973, batting .356 and .377 and hitting 37 and 22 HRs, leading his league in the latter category the first year and the former category the next.

According to my 1984 edition of SABR’s Minor League Baseball Stars, Vol. I, Espino finished his Mexican summer leagues (and brief International League) career with 484 HRs, a .337 batting average, 2,898 hits, 1,597 runs scored and 1,678 RBIs.  He led the Mexican League in batting average five times, HRs and runs scored four times each and in RBIs twice. Aside from being the all-time minor league home run leader, his RBI total is 8th best all-time.

Espino slowed down considerably as he got older, but still managed to play until he was about 45 years old.  Espino also played Mexican winter league ball every year, usually with and against a large number of American players, and, according to Nusbaum, hit nearly 300 more career HRs there.

Hector Espino will never be well known in the United States.  However, just because a player never played in the major leagues, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t a great player in his own right.

Contemporary Minor League Aces

May 18, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a two-part series on contemporary minor league stars, who I defined as players with at least 4,000 career plate appearances in the high minors (the AAA and AA levels).  The two parts are here and here.

I thought it would also be fun to identify any recent pitchers who have had long and successful minor league careers.  Deciding on 1,200 career innings pitched in the high minors as a cut-off (which limits the list to starters and seems to be about the equivalent of my 4,000 plate appearances cut-off for position players), I was able to find only six contemporary pitchers who have accomplished this feat.  However, I was able to find an additional half a dozen or so pitchers who have come awfully close.

One final note before getting on with the list — for purposes of AA and AAA performance, pitching in the Mexican League counts, but pitching in other foreign leagues (Japan’s NPB, South Korea’s KBO, Taiwan, Italy, etc.) does not.  While this is somewhat arbitrary, it makes it easier to use baseball reference to find the qualifying pitchers, and what I am interested in doing is identifying American minor league stars, rather than Americans who have starred in Asia.  Without further ado:

1.  Nelson Figueroa (1,470 AAA innings pitched, 266.2 AA, 499 MLB).  Leading the list of contemporary minor league aces, Figueroa is a smallish right-hander (listed as 6’1″ and 185 lbs), who has a career minor league record of 141-95, by far the most wins and best winning percentage of any recent minor leaguer I could find.  He has a career 3.70 minor league ERA with nearly three strikeouts for every walk allowed.

Nelson was originally drafted by the Mets in the 30th round of the 1995 Draft, and he was only just released in late April of this year by the Diamondbacks after getting off to a brutally bad start for the AAA Reno Aces a month shy of his 39th birthday.

Figueroa pitched in parts of nine major league seasons for six different teams mostly as a spot starter/long reliever.  While his career major league record of 20-35 is pretty bad, his career 4.55 ERA is hardly terrible.

2.  Andrew Lorraine (1,613 AAA, 7.1 AA, 175 MLB).  Once a 4th round draft pick out of Stanford, Lorraine has thrown more innings at the AAA level than any other recent pitcher.  His minor league career record was 110-89 with a 4.15 ERA.

A left-hander, Andrew pitched in parts of seven major league seasons for seven different teams and invariably got hit hard (career MLB ERA of 6.53).  He just didn’t have the stuff to have a successful major league career, but he clearly knew enough about pitching to excel at the AAA level.  His career ended in 2009 at age 36 playing in the now-defunct independent-A Golden Baseball League.

3.  Jared Fernandez (1,293.1 AAA, 504.1 AA, 108.2 MLB).  A big right-hander, Fernandez pitched more innings in the high minors than anyone else on my list.  He finished his minor league career in 2007 at age 35 with a 105-100 record and a 4.34 ERA.

Jared didn’t break through to the majors until age 29, and even though he pitched effectively for the Reds in 2002 and the Astros in 2003, he was already past age 30 both of those seasons.  Fernandez’s career ended with the Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s NPB.

4.  Chris George (1,244.1 AAA, 97.1 AA, 237.1 MLB).  The 31st overall pick in the 1998 Draft out of high school, George got numerous opportunities while in his early twenties between 2001 and 2004 to establish himself as a starter for the Royals.  However, he didn’t have major league command, and he was also hit hard, posting a career major league 6.48 ERA with awful numbers at every pitching category.

Chris then settled in as a journeyman AAA starter.  He finished his minor league career in 2012 with an 85-87 record and a 4.70 ERA.

5.  Shane Loux (1,143.1 and counting AAA, 157.2 AA, 144 MLB).  Still pitching effectively, but unspectacularly, for the AAA Fresno Grizzlies this season at age 33, Loux is now 106-109 with a 4.46 ERA for his minor league career. He was once a second round draft pick.

Shane pitched in the majors in 2002-2003 for the Tigers, 2008-2009 for the Angels and last season for the Giants.  Last year’s performance, in which he posted a 4.97 ERA in 19 relief appearances, was probably his best at the major league level.

6.  Chris Seddon (907 AAA, 311 AA, 74 MLB).  A big left-hander, Seddon has a career minor league record of 104-93 with a 4.55 ERA.  He pitched briefly but effectively for the Indians last year (3.67 ERA in 34.1 IP) and is one of the top starters in South Korea’s KBO this year.

7.  Andy Van Hekken (740.1 AAA, 460.2 AA, 30 MLB).  A former 3rd round draft pick, Van Hekken’s only major league experience came in 2002 at the age of 22 when he went 1-3 in five starts for the Tigers.  His 3.00 ERA looked pretty good, but his other numbers suggested he wasn’t major league ready.

Andy returned to AAA and never made it back to the Show.  His career minor league record of 122-86 and 3.94 ERA look pretty good, but he never had any big years at AAA and had to use the independent-A Atlantic League several times to keep himself in professional baseball.

Andy went to South Korea to pitch in 2012, where he has established himself as one of the KBO’s top starters.  He currently has one of the five best ERAs in the young 2013 KBO season.

8.  R. A. Dickey (1,079 AAA, 108.2 AA, 1,113.1 MLB).  Undoubtedly the best pitcher on this list, Dickey’s career story is well known.  He makes this list with more than 1,000 AAA innings pitched because he has had essentially two professional pitching careers, the first as a regular pitcher and the second as a knuckleballer.

9.  Chris Michalak (1,048.2 AAA, 78 AA, 191.1 MLB).  A lefty, Michalak finished his professional career with the AAA Las Vegas 51’s in 2009 at age 38.  He finished with a minor league career record of 93-90 and a 4.14 ERA.

Michalak pitched fairly well for the Blue Jays and Rangers in 2001 and 2002, but he was already over 30 years old in 2001.

10.  Randy Keisler (1,027.1 AAA, 116 AA, 150.2 MLB).  Another lefty, Keisler has gone 99-77 with a 3.95 ERA in his minor league career.  He pitched last year in the Atlantic League at age 36.  Keisler pitched parts of six major league seasons for five different teams and almost always got hit hard, posting a career MLB ERA of 6.63 with lots of hits, home runs and walks allowed.

11.  Brandon Duckworth (1,014 AAA, 167 AA, 511 MLB).  Other than Nelson Figueroa and R. A. Dickey, the only pitcher on this list with a substantial major league career, Duckworth pitched eight seasons in the Show, going 23-34 with a 5.28 ERA mostly as a fifth and spot starter/long reliever.  As a minor leaguer, Brandon has a career 110-74 record with a 3.80 ERA.

Duckworth went to Japan late last season and pitched well enough in six starts to return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles this year at age 37.  After seven starts this year, he is 2-3 with a 4.30 ERA, not good enough for a highly paid foreigner in the pitching-dominated NPB.

12.  Brian Cooper (877 AAA, 319.2 AA, 167.2 MLB).  A small right-hander whose professional career ended in 2006 at age 31, Cooper appeared in a total of 13 games for the 2004 and 2005 Giants.  Given that the Giants are the team I follow, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I don’t really remember Cooper.

Cooper finished his minor league career with an 87-80 record and a 4.61 ERA.  He went 15-9 for the 2003 AAA Charlotte Knights, which is a lot of wins for AAA — none of the players higher on this list managed to win 15 games in a single year at AAA.

13.  Adam Pettyjohn (788.1 AAA, 367.1 AA, 69 MLB).  Once a second round draft pick, Pettyjohn had a career minor league record of 85-74 with a 4.23 ERA.  He went 15-6 for the 2008 AAA Louisville Bats.

Pettyjohn pitched briefly for the 2001 Detroit Tigers and the 2008 Cincinnati Reds.  His last season was 2010 for the AAA Buffalo Bisons.

14.  Derek Lee (450.2 AAA, 732.2 AA, 0 MLB).  Last and certainly least on this list, Derek Lee is the only player on this list to pitch more innings at AA than AAA.  He never pitched in the majors, which likely also prevented him from making some real money playing in Asia.  He finished his minor league career in the Mexican League in 2008 at age 33 with a final record of 81-84 and 3.61 ERA.

Lee played twelve years of professional baseball and probably never made more than $50,000 a year, if that.  He’s also unlikely to get a pension in any amount, unlike almost all the other players on this list, who had major league careers just long enough to get some kind of a pension.  Somehow, it doesn’t seem fair.

If I’ve missed any pitchers who should be included in my list, please let me know.

George Kontos Needs to Pick It Up

May 15, 2013

The Giants lost 10-6 to the Blue Jays with eight of the runs scored off of Barry Zito and the last two off second-year pitcher George Kontos.  Kontos now has a 4.71 ERA, which is just not good enough for a reliever pitching his home games at AT&T Park on one of the best, if not the best, top-to-bottom staffs in major league baseball.

In fairness to Kontos, he has pitched better than his ERA, at least until today, when he gave up two runs on five hits and a walk in 1.1 innings pitched.  Kontos has struck out 20 batters in 21 IP while allowing only seven walks and three fewer hits than innings pitched.

I like Kontos.  The Giants got him from the Yankees for back-up catcher Chris Stewart, which in my mind (and given the Giants’ current strength at catcher) was little more than a box of cracker jack.  In fairness to the Yankees, they’ve gotten 77 games and counting out of Stewart, and fangraphs values his contribution to the Bombers to date at $3.8 million, a lot more than Stewart is likely being paid (fangraphs likes Stewart’s defense).  Suffice it to say the trade was one that was good for both ballclubs.

Kontos has a good arm and finally broke out in a relief role, after starting his professional career as a starter, at AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre at age 26 two seasons ago.  He was terrific out of the bullpen for both the AAA Fresno Grizzlies and the Giants last year.  I was hoping he’d be a solid middle reliever for the Giants at least through age 31.

That might have been too much to hope for.  Kontos was 27 last year, the age at which the largest number of major leaguers have their peak season. Kontos is 28 this year, and he may already be on the decline.

Meanwhile, Heath Hembree, who is three and a half years younger than Kontos, is blowing them away pitching for AAA Fresno.  He currently has a 1.89 ERA with 20 Ks in 19 IP and a WHIP just below 1.00.

If Kontos doesn’t pick it up and Hembree keeps pitching the way he’s been pitching at Fresno, expect the two players to trade places well before the All-Star Break.