Three Sundays ago, the answer to this column’s weekly quiz was Carlos Santana. The question was, “Which player has appeared in the most regular-season games over the past 10 seasons?” and the now-Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman had played in 1,440 — 13 more than Paul Goldschmidt and 40 more than Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo.
Santana professed not to be aware of the distinction when I mentioned it to him earlier this week. He did seem pleased to hear it, and “humbly prideful” might be the best way to describe his reaction.
“I prepare,” said Santana, who celebrated his 37th birthday yesterday. “I prepare my body. I prepare mentally. I also try to enjoy the game every day. That’s why I can play a lot. The game is my passion. This is my 14th year and I want to play two more. Or maybe three more. Whatever God tells me, and what my body says I can do.”
Count Andrew McCutchen among those who are impressed by his teammate’s reliability and durability over the years.
“It’s really good, to be honest,” said McCutchen, who was likewise unaware of Santana’s distinction. “To be able to do it how he’s done it — he’s in [the lineup] more times than not —shows that he’s stayed healthy, which is a key to doing that. You have to be good enough to do it, too. You’ve got a whole lot of variables to be able to do what he’s done.”
McCutchen has been every bit as durable. The 15-year-veteran has played in 1,902 games since breaking into the big leagues in 2009, the second highest total over that span, behind only Elvis Andrus (1,955). He is likewise proud of what he’s been able to accomplish.
“For me to be able to keep doing it, and to still be out there in the outfield… I mean, there aren’t too many 36-year-old outfielders in the game,” said McCutchen. “To me, it speaks volumes. It’s a little harder for a person my age to be an outfielder — there’s a lot of running around out there — so I definitely don’t take it lightly.”
McCutchen has played in 150 or more games in eight different seasons. Santana has played in 150 or more in 10 different seasons. Both have appeared in all nine games the Pirates have played this year.
The pitch clock impacts more than just the players on the field. It also affects broadcasters, who now have less time to tell stories, and to otherwise provide information, between pitches. That includes giving out-of-town scores. Long a staple of baseball broadcasts, particularly on the radio, the practice is becoming less convenient — and it had already become less necessary. In today’s world, scores are readily available with a few simple clicks on the smartphone, laptop, or tablet that you’re reading this on.
That said, do fans still like to periodically hear out-of-town scores on a radio broadcast? Based on a Twitter poll I ran this week, the answer is a definite “yes.” Of the 1,436 people who contributed to the poll, only 9.9% voted “no.” An overwhelming 90.1% voted in the affirmative.
The handful of broadcasters I queried on the subject shared varying views. Some prefer to focus solely on the game they’re calling and only give out-of-town scores when something notable is occurring, or if a pennant race is paramount in people’s minds. Other believe that giving out-of-town scores remains a viable, if not valuable, part of the broadcast. Based on the poll results, the latter group is on solid footing with that belief.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
The Miami Marlins made a pair of great trades in 2017. In December, they dealt Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen, Magneuris Sierra, and Daniel Castano. Earlier that summer, they’d acquired Pablo López and three other players from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for David Phelps.
According to Marc DelPiano, who was Miami’s VP of Player Development at the time, Jim Cuthbert played a key role in those acquisitions.
“Jim was running the pro [scouting] department for the Marlins,” recalled DelPiano, who is now a professional scout for the New York Yankees. “He was hunting starter arm actions and deliveries — guys he felt could be one, two and three starters, who could be up-and-comers for the Marlins rotation — and that’s how Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Zac Gallen came about. To get those guys… I don’t know if I’ve seen deals like that in my lifetime: three starters that good for David Phelps and Marcel Ozuna in a [few months] time. Those deals came while Michael Hill was the President of Baseball Operations, and really, Jim Cuthbert deserves a lot of the credit.”
Cuthbert is currently scouting for the Kansas City Royals.
The Minnesota Twins franchise record for hits is held by Sam Rice, who had 2,889 with the Washington Senators from 1915-1933. Which player has the most hits since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961?
The answer can be found below.
SABR announced that White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti will deliver the keynote address at this year’s annual convention, which will be held in Chicago from July 5-9. More information can be found here.
Fred Klages, a right-handed pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in 1966 and 1967, died on March 30 at age 79. A native of Ambridge, Pennsylvania, Klages appeared in 14 games and went 5-4 with a 3.28 ERA over 60-and-a-third innings. His first strikeout victim was Frank “Hondo” Howard, and his first gopher came off the bat of George “Boomer” Scott.
The idea of having a catcher set up down the middle has gained a certain amount of traction. The reasoning is twofold. More strikes will be thrown — long a recipe for success — and the movement, often paired with plus velocity, will be enough to limit solid contact. Given the power arsenals that many pitchers now possess, it makes sense that aggressively attacking the strike zone makes more sense than attempting to dot corners.
Count Chicago Cubs catcher Tucker Barnhart among those on board with the strategy — albeit only when a specific segment of hurlers are on the bump.
“Each guy is different; each guy works well with seeing certain things from the catcher behind the plate,” Barnhart replied when I broached the subject during spring training. “I know Tampa is big on just having the catcher sit down the middle and letting the movement work. Organizations that I’ve personally been in have maybe thought a little bit differently — or they’ve thought of it as a pitcher-to-pitcher thing, a pitcher-to-pitcher mindset — versus an organizational philosophy..
“I do think our young relievers would benefit from that,” continued Barnhart. “There’s not necessarily one guy that comes to mind, but I think a lot of younger guys get to the big leagues and think that they have to pitch on the edges to have success. Quite frankly, that’s not the case. A lot more times than not, it puts them in situations where they get in trouble. That’s why it’s super important for guys to come up and dominate the strike zone. Hitting is hard. When you’re behind in the count, as a hitter, it’s exponentially harder. The one way to make hitting easier is to fall behind.”
The Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks have each won five of their first six games. The Hokkaido The Tokyo Yakult Swallows have won six of their first eight games and have NPB’s best record. The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters have lost six of their first eight games and have NPB’s worst record.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto has thrown 13 scoreless innings while allowing just four hits and a pair of walks over two starts. The 24-year-old Orix Buffaloes right-hander — NPB’s top pitcher in each of the past two seasons — is rumored to be coming to MLB next year.
Roki Sasaki allowed two hits over six scoreless innings in his first start of the season as the Chiba Lotte Marines beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 6-1. The 21-year-old right-hander walked none and fanned 11.
Yuki Matsui became the youngest player to record 200 saves in NPB. The 27-year-old Rakuten Eagles southpaw has allowed 399 hits and logged 792 strikeouts in 605-and-third innings.
Masahiro Tanaka recorded his 1,500th NPB strikeout. The Rakuten right-hander had 991 K’s in MLB, plus 10 in the minors, giving him 2,507 as a professional.
Erick Fedde has thrown 13 scoreless innings, with 16 strikeouts, over two starts for the KBO’s NC Dinos. The 30-year-old right-hander went 21-33 with a 5.41 ERA for the Washington Nationals from 2017-2022.
Per Statcast, Drey Jameson has thrown 49 sliders out of 130 total pitches so far this season. On the surface. that means the Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander has delivered his most-prevelent pitch 37.7% of the time. Digging deeper — albeit with no numerical breakdown available — there is diversity within that number. As the talented 25-year-old explained this spring, he throws three different sliders.
“It’s about situations and locations,” Jameson told me. “If I set my slider up with a fastball down, it’s usually going to be more horizontal, rather than depth-y, so it stays at the bottom of the zone. It’s almost a freeze pitch. I also have the one that’s hard, for 0-2, 1-2, 2-2 [counts], which is my put-away. It’s fastball the whole way, then it dives down. And then there are the ones for a strike. If you hit it, you hit it; I’m not walking you.”
Along with the intensity with which he delivers the pitch, the placement of his ring finger on the ball is what differentiates one from the other. Depending on the action he wants, his finger is either — in his words — either “tucked more, higher on the ball, or halfway on the ball.”
The reasoning behind throwing three variations?
“The slider is my best pitch,” said Jameson. “I thought that if I can make my best pitch three different pitches, why wouldn’t I?”
Jameson has made three appearances out of the D-Backs bullpen and is 2-0 with one save and a 2.16 ERA over eight-and-a-third innings.
The Chattanooga Lookouts beat the Rocket City Trash Pandas 7-5 yesterday despite being held without a hit. Cincinnati’s Double-A affiliate scored all of its runs in the seventh inning on five walks, four HBPs, and an error.
Maikel Garcia is slashing .400/.543/.640 in 35 plate appearances for the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers. The 23-year-old shortstop made his MLB debut with the Kansas City Royals last year and logged seven hits in 22 at-bats.
The Cincinnati Reds opened the season by winning two out of three games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a series in which their starters combined to fan 23 batters while allowing six runs over 15-and-a-third innings. Not surprisingly, the arms are what Derek Shelton cited when I asked him what stood out about his club’s NL Central rival.
“Their pitching,” the Pittsburgh manager told me this week in Boston. “The guys we saw are going to be really, really good pitchers. That’s probably about as good of young arms you’re going to see in the game. Yeah. All three are really good. That’s what stood out.”
Many fans of baseball history know that Virgil Trucks threw two no-hitters for the Detroit Tigers in 1952, a season in which the right-hander had a record of 5-19. Not as well known is that he nearly had a third no-hitter. On July 22nd of that year, Trucks surrendered a single to the first batter he faced — Washington Senators third baseman Eddie Yost — but allowed no hits thereafter. The final score of all three games was 1-0.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Longtime broadcaster Glenn Geffner’s View from the Bleachers provides us with a detailed, inside look at big-league travel, from the planes to the buses to the hotels, and more.
MLB is testing a new “enhanced-grip” baseball in the Double-A Southern League this season. Hannah Keyser shared the specifics at Yahoo Sports.
At MLB.com, the great Sarah Langs gave us 10 great stats from the first week of the 2023 season.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
The Baltimore Orioles lead MLB with 13 stolen bases — they’ve been caught once — while the Chicago White Sox are a perfect 9-for-9 in steal attempts. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals have each gone 1-for-4. (Stats through Friday.)
The Tampa Bay Rays 18 home runs, the most of any team. The Nationals and Chicago Cubs have four home runs, the fewest of any team. (Stats through Friday.)
Ike Boone had 323 hits, including 55 home runs, and a .407 batting average for the Pacific Coast League’s Mission Reds in 1929. A defensively-challenged outfielder, Boone batted .321 with 372 hits in 356 big-league games, and .370 with 2,311 hits in 1,691 minor-league games.
Freddie Fitzsimmons hurled four shutouts in 1940 while going 16-2 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Five years earlier, he had thrown four shutouts while going 4-8 with the New York Giants. Fitzsimmons allowed 42 earned runs in each of those seasons.
On today’s date in 1980, Mike Parrott was the winning pitcher on Opening Day as the Seattle Mariners outscored the Toronto Blue Jays 8-6. It was the right-hander’s only W that year. Parrott went on to finish with a record of 1-16.
The Cleveland Indians traded Sad Sam Jones and Fred Thomas to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Tris Speaker on today’s date in 1916. Speaker went on to slash .386/.470/.502 with a 182 wRC+ in his first Cleveland season.
Players born on today’s date include Ryan O’Malley, whose big-league career comprised two outings for the Chicago Cubs in 2006. The lefty threw eight scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Houston Astros in his MLB debut, then allowed three runs over four-and-two-thirds innings against the Philadelphia Phillies six days later.
Also born on today’s date was Dizzy Sutherland, who appeared in one game and pitched one-plus inning for the Washington Senators in 1949. The southpaw issued six free passes, surrendered two hits and five runs, and was tagged with the loss. The St. Louis Browns won 15-6 in front of 1,817 fans at Griffith Stadium.
Luke Easter made his MLB debut at age 34 with the Cleveland Indians in August 1949 — this after playing in the Negro Leagues — and proceeded to homer 55 times while driving in 210 runs over the next two seasons. His short time in Cleveland — his last game was in May 1954 — was then followed by a long stint in the minor leagues. Playing primarily with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, Easter finally called it a career in 1964 at age 48.