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Thursday February 23, 2017

National Chili Day

Earlier this morning, J. Daniel, with whom I shoot the shit on Twitter about baseball, tweeted that today is National Chil Day (it is), and he included a photo of Chili Davis during his San Francisco Giants days. Made me think of the foul ball I caught off Chili in September 1995. Also made me think of that great Chili Davis story that Kirby Puckett told in his 1993 autobiography “I Love This Game!”

On a roaddtrip to Seattle, Kirby, Al Newman and Shane Mack went to their favorite seafood joint, and Mack ordered the Cajun Chicken Fettucine, which comes garnished with a large jalapeno pepper. Kirby had eaten the dish before but never the pepper. He didn't think anyone would be fool enough to eat it.

I warned Shane about this jalapeno but he said, “These things aren't hot. These aren't anything compared to the ones where I come from.” He grew up in Southern California. So he popped the entire pepper in his mouth and started chewing. His eyes exploded! He gulped his water, my water, Al's water, then signaled for more water. He was still on fire. He dranks some soda, ate some ice cream, nothing helped. ...

Now Chili Davis and the rest of the guys finally show up. We tell them the story of the pepper—Shane still can't talk—and Chili says, “Man, I'm used to hot food, bring me a bowl of those peppers.” Newman and I glance at each other. But then Chili eats the whole bowl. No problem. Doesn't even need water. Eats them like I eat oysters. Just amazing. They must have hot food in Jamaica, where Chili's from. Maybe his name is the tip-off. 

Happy National Chili Day.

Chili Davis

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Posted at 12:13 PM on Feb 23, 2017 in category Baseball
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Saturday February 11, 2017

Carew v. Ryan Express

I've been re-reading some of Joe Posnanski's thoughts on his top 100 baseball players of all time (he stopped at No. 32, Grover Cleveland Alexander, but promises to get back to it some day: right), and I came across this nice little stat about his No. 54 pick, Rod Carew, who is just ahead of Ernie Banks and just behind Steve Carlton on his list:

Twenty five batters got 75-plus plate appearances against Nolan Ryan. Only one hit .300. Yeah. Rod Carew.

Carew hit .301/.398/.441 off Ryan. The next three in the 75+ group are: Pete Rose (.296), Steven Braun, also of the Twins (also .296) and George Brett (.287). Not a bad group of hitters. 

We get some good background on Carew in the mini-bio. I knew about the train birth, didn't know it was a segregated train, knew about the doctor but not the nurse. I didn't know about the abusive father, nor the high school baseball coach. I knew about the seven batting titles, of course. No mention of Rod Carew trying on my glove. Geez, Poz, dig deeper next time.  

Rod Carew tries on my glove

Camera Day, Met Stadium, 1970

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Posted at 01:29 PM on Feb 11, 2017 in category Baseball
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Thursday January 12, 2017

Poz Redux

Joe Posnanski has begun archiving some of this stuff over on Medium.com and I spent a late lunch hour (or, really, a late snack 15 minutes) reading his piece on Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, the Freese/Cruz game, and I came across this gem, mentioned in passing during a graf on the Rangers' closer. It's about a better closer:

Part of the magic of Mariano Rivera is the placid look, the slumped shoulders, as if this is all just a formality, as if he had already saved the game a few hours before and is only performing it once more for those people who missed it.

God, that's nice. Nice to read Joe, on a day, and a week, and a month, and a year, that will continually enrage me as Republicans pretend that the 2016 election wasn't fixed by Russians and the director of the FBI, and thus work at sawing away at our already frayed social safety net. 

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Posted at 03:31 PM on Jan 12, 2017 in category Baseball
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Sunday December 18, 2016

The Last of the .360 Hitters

For the last few weeks, Joe Posnanski has been counting down all 34 guys on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, giving thoughts, stats, whether they'll get in the Hall this year or eventually, etc. It's been fun. Yesterday, he was at No. 20 on the list, Magglio Ordonez. Halfway through, Poz writes:

We should talk about that batting title for a minute; in 2007, Ordóñez hit .363 with a league-leading 54 doubles, 28 homers, 117 runs and 139 RBIs. He finished second in the MVP balloting to A-Rod, who mashed 54 homers.

It's that .363 average that stands out, of course — it's the second-highest average for any player over the last decade (behind Joe Mauer's .365 in 2009).

That inspired this: the last player to hit in the ...

  • .350s: Josh Hamilton, Texas: .359 in 2010
  • .360s: Joe Mauer, Minnesota: .365 in 2009
  • .370s: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle: .372 in 2004
  • .380s: Rod Carew, Minnesota: .388 in 1977 *
  • .390s: Tony Gwynn, San Diego: .394 in 1994 **
  • .400s: Ted Williams, Boston: .406 in 1941

* Two guys have hit greater than Carew's .388 since then: Brett in '80 and Gwynn in '94. But no one else has hit in the .380s. *** 

** If you want a non-strike year, you'd have to go Brett in '80. But even with the '94 season ending on Aug. 11, Gwynn had almost as many plate appearances (475) as Brett in '80 (515). 

*** Unless you don't round up, that is. Then it's Brett with .3898 in '80.

Poz adds:

Batting average, as a statistic, has taken a beating over the last few years — and rightfully so because it is illogical. Batting average refuses to acknowledge pretty important things like walks. And it calculates capriciously. If you hit a ball that probably should have been caught, batting average gives you an out even though you didn't make an out. If you bunt a runner from first to second, batting average will let you slide on the out you made, but if you dribble a grounder that moves a runner from first to second, that out goes on your permanent record. And so on.

Still, there's something nostalgic about high-average seasons like Ordóñez's 2007 season ... because they're basically gone.

Decades with .360-plus batting average.

  • 1970s: 4
  • 1980s: 6
  • 1990s: 10
  • 2000s: 8
  • 2010s: 0

The main reason is those strikeouts. Everybody, even the very best players (ESPECIALLY the very best players) strikes out a lot. And no player who has ever hit .360 or better has had 100 strikeouts. It's basic math — it's POSSIBLE to hit .360 with 100 strikeouts, but it would be very hard because you give away too many free outs.

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Posted at 08:35 AM on Dec 18, 2016 in category Baseball
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Sunday December 04, 2016

Washington Nationals on Verge of Breaking Dubious Record (M's Aren't Far Behind)

This isn't a well-known stat but the Washington Nationals are on the verge of breaking it.

That franchise (Expos/Nats) has played 48 seasons, and spring training '17 will be its 49th. The record for the longest it's taken a franchise to get to the World Series is 50 seasons: the Senators/Rangers, which were born in 1961 and didn't win a pennant until 2010. So if the Nats don't go next year, they'll have tied the record. And if they don't go in 2018? New record-holder!

Of course, my Mariners aren't far behind. And right now we're the only two teams still in the running:

TEAM Years to World Series Year of 1st World Series
Pirates 1 1903
Red Sox 1 1903
Athletics 3* 1905
Giants 3 1905
Cubs 4 1906
White Sox 4 1906
D-backs (1998) 4 2001
Tigers 5 1907
Marlins (1993) 5 1997
Mets (1962) 8 1969
Rays (1998) 11 2008
Braves 12 1914
Royals (1969) 12 1980
Phillies 13 1915
Dodgers 14 1916
Pilots/Brewers (1969) 14 1982
Rockies (1993) 15 2007
Padres (1969) 16 1984
Blue Jays (1977) 16 1992
Reds 17 1919
Indians 18 1920
Yankees 19 1921
Senators/Twins 22 1924
Cardinals 24 1926
Mariners (1977) 40** ??
Browns/Orioles 42 1944
Angels (1961) 42 2002
Astros (1962) 44 2005
Expos/Nationals (1969) 48** ??
Senators/Rangers (1961) 50 2010

* I include 1904 and 1994, years in which we didn't have a World Series. Just easier that way. 

** And counting

Interesting to note that, of the original 16 teams, the two teams that took the longest to make it to the Series were both St. Louis franchises: the Cardinals in 1926, and the hapless Browns in '44. St. Louis was also the southernmost city during this time, so not sure if the heat got to them over the course of long seasons or if it was just general incompetence. Since the Cards bounced back in such a big way under Branch Rickey, and have since become by most measures the winningest team in the National League, I assume the latter.

Also interesting to note: the Yankees, which became the winningest franchise in sports history, took 4th-longest to finally win a pennant. 

Here's the chart sorted by the last column: year of first World Series:

TEAM Years to World Series Year of 1st World Series
Pirates 1 1903
Red Sox 1 1903
Athletics 3 1905
Giants 3 1905
Cubs 4 1906
White Sox 4 1906
Tigers 5 1907
Braves 12 1914
Phillies 13 1915
Dodgers 14 1916
Reds 17 1919
Indians 18 1920
Yankees 19 1921
Senators/Twins 22 1924
Cardinals 24 1926
Browns/Orioles 42 1944
Mets (1962) 8 1969
Royals (1969) 12 1980
Pilots/Brewers (1969) 14 1982
Padres (1969) 16 1984
Blue Jays (1977) 16 1992
Marlins (1993) 5 1997
D-backs (1998) 4 2001
Angels (1961) 42 2002
Astros (1962) 44 2005
Rockies (1993) 15 2007
Rays (1998) 11 2008
Senators/Rangers (1961) 50 2010
Expos/Nationals (1969) 48 ??
Mariners (1977) 40 ??

Again, interesting to note that gap between 1907 and 1914 when there was no new blood in the Series. By this point, eight teams had gone, and the next six years they kept recycling in and out: Cubs, Tigers, Pirates, Athletics, Giants, Red Sox. Then the Braves snuck in. 

Oh, and the record for the longest time it's taken a franchise to win a World Series? That's still 78 years and it belongs to the Philadelphia Phillies (1903 to 1980). Nine teams still have a shot at that dubious record but no one is within 20 years. Look for an update in 18 or so years. 

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Posted at 10:17 AM on Dec 04, 2016 in category Baseball
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