Baseball postsWednesday August 15, 2018
‘One of the Best Things We’ll See All Year'
“In baseball's odd parlance, we say that Laureano has a hose on him. In less euphemistic terms, we dub that a cannon. Either way, it's an absurd throw—321 feet on the fly, perfectly on target, dumbfounding everyone involved. It's not just the best thing you or I or anyone else saw this week; it's one of the best things we‘ll see all year. It makes you want to rush home and tell your friends.”
SI’s Jon Tayler on rookie Ramon Laureano's throw from center field that doubled up Eric Young Saturday night. I like the little cap tip Young gives him afterward. I assumed Laureano had been up all year and I just hadn't heard of him but it's only his fifth game in the Majors. No matter. We'll be talking about it for years.
Frank Quilici (1939-2018)
Frank Quilici and my brother Chris on Camera Day, 1970.
When I was a kid, and time went slowly, second baseman Frank Quilici seemed a mainstay on the Minnesota Twins. If you'd asked me last week how long he'd played for them, I would‘ve guessed seven years. Something like ’67 to ‘73. Maybe longer.
Nope. He was a semi-regular for only three seasons: ’68-‘70. His last game was the third game of the 1970 ALCS—a few months after the above photo was taken. The Orioles, who had swept the Twins in the ALCS the previous year, were already up two games to none, and were beating my boys soundly 5-1 in the top of the sixth when Rich Reese drew a two-out walk against starter Jim Palmer. Twins manager Bill Rigney, hoping to get something going, subbed in former star Bob Allison for light-hitting second baseman Danny Thompson. Allison popped to short. Now Rigney needed a new second baseman, so Quilici came in. (Why not Rod Carew? He had been injured halfway through the ’70 season and was used only twice in the ALCS—both times as a pinch-hitter.) Later, when it was Quilici's turn at bat, in the top of the ninth with one out and Rich Reese again on first, Rigney brought in Danny Alyea as a pinch-hitter. He struck out. Then another pinch-hitter, Rick Renick, grounded out and there went the season.
That was Quilici's last appearance as a player on a Major League field: as a defensive sub who was subbed for a pinch-hitter.
I also assumed Quilici was fairly solid but his career numbers are as follows: .214/.281/.287 hitter. That's why he only lasted parts of three seasons. But I have fond memories. The above photo was taken on Camera Day, 1970, at Met Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota. The kid with him is my older brother, Chris, who was wearing a Camp Kichi Yapi t-shirt. Apparently Quilici's son went there? That's in my head anyway. They spoke, and it led to this great photo.
Two years later, in the summer of ‘72, I was at a different camp, Cathedral of the Pines, when I heard Quilici was replacing Bill Rigney as the Twins manager. That made me happy. Rigney was grumpy-looking and at the helm when the Twins began their downhill slide, so I blamed him. I thought Quilici would turn things around. He didn’t. In 3+ years, the Twins went 280-287 under his leadership. That's actually not bad, considering the core of our team was dropping like flies: Killebrew old, Tony-O injured, Tovar traded. Only Rodney Cline kept coming through.
3,000 for Albert
32nd to 3,000
I'm an idiot. I'm such an idiot I deserve the Peter Lorre treatment.
Thursday night I knew Albert Pujols was sitting on 2,999 hits but I didn't know where the Angels were heading for their next series. I didn't even bother to check. I found out last night around 7:15. They, and he, were in Seattle, at Safeco Field, 1.5 miles from my home—from where I was sitting. It was the bottom of the 1st inning and Albert had ended the top of the 1st with a lineout to short.
This isn't why I'm an idiot, by the way. It's what I did next. I didn't rush to Safeco Field. Instead I headed to my local watering hole a few blocks away to watch the game on TV.
In baseball history, 31 players have reached 3,000 hits, and Albert, King Albert, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, was about to be the 32nd. A rare event. And there I sat at the bar slowly realizing I'd gone in the wrong direction. True, I'd never seen someone get their 3,000th hit live on TV, either. But live at the game? I doubt I'd ever been in a city where that had happened. And today I had that chance. And I was blowing it.
That's why I began to root against him. Isn't that awful? I hoped he would go oh-fer so I could go to the next game, today's game, with the chance to see baseball history made. Instead, in the top of the 5th, his third time at bat, Albert made baseball history: He lined a 1-0 pitch to the opposite field for No. 3,000. Most people at the bar weren't paying attention, but I applauded, even as, in my head, Peter Lorre cursed me out.
For a rare baseball event, 3,000 hits has been happening a lot lately. This is the fourth year in a row a player has reached that plateau. How often has that happened? Four years in a row? It's never happened. The previous record was three years in a row, 1999-2001, although four guys did it in that span: Gwynn, Boggs, Ripken, Henderson.
Put it this way: There was once a 28-year stretch—between Paul Waner in 1942 and Hank Aaron in 1970—when only one guy joined the club: Stan Musial in 1958. The entire decade of the 1980s also saw only one guy enter: Rod Carew, smack dab in the middle, 1985. He's also the midpoint for 3,000 hits. He was 16th to do it and 16 guys have done it since.
As for the players in the recent stretch? They have a few things in common: their first initials are vowels; together, they‘ve hit for the cycle in reverse order (HR, 3B, 2B, 1B); and there’s the Mariners factor:
It's almost as if the gods let Albert get No. 3,000 here in Seattle as a way of making up for the fact that the previous three were all ex-Mariners but didn't reach the mark as Mariners. It was a sop thrown to us. And I missed it. I missed the sop.
Will there be five such players five years in a row? Unlikely. Next on the list is Miguel Cabrera with 2,666. He began the season needing 364 and he hasn't accumulated that many hits two years in a row since 2013-14. He's also on the DL again.
Next in line? Robinson Cano with 2,409. He's signed with the M's for another 5+ years. So maybe I'll get another shot to see No. 3,000 around in, say, 2021.
Opening Day 2018: Your Active Leaders
SLIDESHOW: There's been a lot of big, gladhanding retirements in the last few years that altered the active leaderboard: Mo after 2013, Derek Whatshisface a year later. Both Big Papi and A-Rod bowed out after the 2016 season. So which big names retired after 2017? None, really. It's all gray area. Jose Bautista? Mark Reynolds? Will they be back? Maybe? And how about Bartolo? He's on, then off, then on. That said, the big shift on the active leaderboard is mostly because of one guy, Albert Pujols, who's still playing, of course, and still on top of those counting numbers—like HRs. But his percentage numbers? It‘s the old Springsteen song.
BATTING AVERAGE: Miggy had the worst season of his career last year, hitting just .249, and dropping his career BA four points. But he remains on top. Barely. He’s at .3168, while up-and-comer Jose Altuve, last year's batting champ, is at .3164. Those two are followed by Joey Votto (.313) and Ichiro (.311); then nine guys between .300 and .310. When was the last time the active leader had a lower BA than .317? At the tail-end of the raised-mound era, when Rod Carew was at .316. It's the only other time in baseball history that the active leader in BA was this low.
ON-BASE PERCENTAGE: In 2010, Albert Pujols was the active leader in OBP with a .426 career mark. He's now in the seventh spot with a .386 career mark. His 2017 OBP was actually below .300—at .286. Meanwhile, Joey Votto's numbers keep going up. Last season's .454 raised his career mark to .428. That's 11th best all-time. The only other active player with a .400+ career OBP is Mike Trout at .409.
SLUGGING PERCENTAGE: Speaking of... In 2006, when Trout was a sophomore at Millville Senior High School, the active leader in slugging was King Albert with a .628 mark. How good was that? Fourth best all-time—behind a couple of schlubs named Ruth, Williams and Gehrig. Now he's been dethroned even on the active list—by his own teammate no less. Trout is at .565, Albert is at .561. Giancarlo is third with .554.
OPS: And one more time with feeling. Back in the day, Albert had a 1.049 mark, which was fourth best all-time. At .947, he's still fourth-best ... but on the active list—behind Trout (.975), Joey V (.968) and Miggy (.9477). For someone so close to the 1.000 mark career, it's odd that Trout has only had one 1.000+ season: last year's 1.071. But it's because he's Mr. Consistent. His other marks: .963, .988, .939, .991 and .991. He's 26.
GAMES: Only eight players have ever played in 3,000+ games: Rose, Yaz, Aaron, Rickey, Cobb, Musial, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken. Could Beltre be the ninth? He's 186 away, but that's a steep 186. Last season, for the first time since his rookie year, he played in fewer than 100 games (94). Second on the active list is Ichiro at 2,626, which isn't startling until you realize he didn't play in the Majors until he was 27. He had a whole other career before then. Combine his Japan and U.S. games, and he's at 3,587. The all-time MLB record holder? Rose at 3,562.
HITS: In each of the last three seasons, a former Mariner has joined the 3,000-hit club, and together they‘re a single short of the cycle. A-Rod did it in June 2015 with a homer; Ichiro, the current active leader (3,080), followed in August 2016 with a triple; last July Adrian Beltre joined with a double. This year, King Albert starts the season at 2,968. So ... a single in May or June? Or is he not part of the cycle since he’s not a former Mariner? Quick trivia: When was the last time four guys joined the 3,000-hit club in four consecutive seasons? Answer: It's never happened.
DOUBLES: Albert and Adrian are first and second on the active list (619 and 613), and they‘re 12th and 13th on the all-time list. They’re sputtering, though. Last season, Albert managed 17, Adrian 22. After them it's Miggy at 545, then Robinson Cano at 512. Only four guys have ever smoked 700+ doubles lifetime: Speaker, Rose, Musial, Cobb.
TRIPLES: Last year, his age-34 season, Jose Reyes hit more triples (7) than in the previous three seasons combined (6) to raise his career total to 128. Second on the active list? Ichiro at 96. Reyes is a throwback. The last time the active leader had more career triples? Brett Butler, who retired with 131 in 1997. Before him, Willie Wilson, who retired with 147 in 1994. Before that? Robert Clemente, who ended his career with 166 in 1972. It's a lost art. Keep practicing it, Jose.
HOMERUNS: Career OBP and OPS may drop, but you can't undo a man's homeruns. King Albert crushed his 600th last June—a grand slam—and now stands at 614: seventh all-time. Second place on the active list is a tie between Miggy and Beltre: 462 each. Behind them? Edwin Encarnacion at 348. Enjoy Albert's big career numbers while you can.
RBIs: For all his problems last season (negative WAR, sub .300 OBP), King Albert still drove ‘em in, adding another 101 to bring his career RBI total to 1,918. That’s 10th all-time. And if he can get to 2,000, he'd be only the fifth man to cross that rubicon. Cap Anson was the first, in 1896, then Babe Ruth in 1932. Forty years later, Hank Aaron joined them; 43 years after that, A-Rod did it. So not something you see every day. Closest active players to Albert? Beltre (1642), Miggy (1613), and, of all players, Robinson Cano (1183).
RUNS: Pujols on top again, with 1,723. At the same time, it's a different list than RBIs: Ichiro is third, Jose Reyes fifth, Ian Kinsler sixth. So who's on the top 10 active list for both RBIs and Runs Scored? Five guys: Pujols, Beltre, Miggy, Cano and Chase Utley.
BASES ON BALLS: For all the “Moneyball” talk, only two active players have north of 1,000 career walks—Albert (1,251) and Miggy (1,065)—and both are pretty far back in the all-time charts: 53rd/94th. Third among actives is Joey Votto (996), followed by Joe Mauer (888). When was the last time the active BBs leader had fewer than Pujols' 1,251? In 1969: Willie Mays with 1,186. When was the last time the active leader in this category had less than 1,000? Donnie Bush's 932 in 1918.
STRIKEOUTS: Ryan Howard would‘ve been last year’s active leader but he couldn't catch on with anyone, so stayed stuck at 1,843, 13th all-time. Ditto this year's active leader, Mark Reynolds, stuck at 1,806 (18th all-time). I might see Reynolds catching on—he had a better season last year than Howard‘s in 2016—but in the meantime our active leader is Curtis Granderson, now with the Toronto Blue Jays, with 1,712 career Ks (31st all-time). He’s followed by Beltre (1,636), Miggy (1,626), Justin Upton (1,544) and Chris Davis coming up on the outside (1,504).
GROUNDED INTO DOUBLE PLAYS: Last season, Albert led the league (26) and became the all-time leader (362), crushing Ripken's career mark of 350. Cal Who? Albert's got another four more years to pad his record, too. Behind him? Usual suspects: Miggy (294), Beltre (266), Cano (252).
STOLEN BASES: A year ago, Ichiro was on top with 508, followed by Jose Reyes with 488. During the season, Reyes stole 24 bases, Ichiro ... one. So now it's Reyes by three. They‘re the only two actives above 500. Or 400. Anyone want to guess third place? Rajai Davis with 394. Then Jacoby Ellsbury with 343. Two guys moving up fast? Dee Gordon, 278, and Billy Hamilton, 243.
DEFENSIVE WAR: Here’s what I don't buy about WAR. I't's not Beltre's career 28.4 defensive WAR, which is 12th all-time. Sure, why not? It's the viritual tie between No. 2 on the active list, Yadier Molina, at 23.9 after 14 years of catching, and Andrelton Simmons, at 22.1 after six years at shortstop. WAR has always dissed the catcher position, and this is the lastest example. No disrespect to Andrelton, but no way is his six years of fielding 5-6 ground balls per game worth 14 years of Yadier being involved in every single pitch. Do over.
WAR FOR POSITION PLAYERS: In 2016, Albert finally climbed over triple-digit WAR with a 101.2 tally. Last season, he climbed right back down again. The Master of WAR in the 2000s actually had a negative WAR last season, -1.8, so he starts this season at 99.4. That's still 21st-best of all-time, but it's heading in the wrong direction. His nearest active rival, Beltre, missed a good chunk of season but pulled in another 3.7 to raise his total to 93.9—tied with Cap Anson for 27th-best. BTW: Seventh on the active list? Mike Trout with 55.2. Meaning, according to WAR, seven years of Mike Trout has been worth more than the entire careers of every active position player save six guys. Hmm...
WINS: Bartolo Colon has won an amazing 69 games since turning 40 in 2013. In the same period, C.C. Sabathia—seven years younger, and pitching for the always-winning Yankees—has managed only 46. That's why Bartolo's on top: 240 to 236. They‘re the only actives above 200. Third place is Justin Verlander, 35, who wins all the time, and who still has only 188. Can anyone get to 300 again? The way to do it, it seems, is to pull a late-career Big Sexy. Those are rare.
ERA: Madison Bumgarner, third on the active list (3.01), ranks 176th all-time. Chris Sale, second on the active list (2.98), ranks 167th all-time. And No. 1 Clayton Kershaw? His 2.36 ERA ranks 24th all-time. The only pitcher from the modern era ahead of Kershaw is Mariano Rivera, who is 13th with a 2.20 ERA. The only starter from the modern era ahead of Kershaw? None. Everyone else is a deadball-era pitcher. He’s up there with the ghosts.
WIN-LOSS %: Meanwhile, his 69% win-loss percentage (144-64) is third all-time—behind only Albert Goodwill Spalding, who pitched between 1871 and 1877 and won 79% of his games (going 54-5 in 1875 helped); and Spud Chandler, winner of 72% of his games for the ‘30s/’40s Yanks. Again: Kershaw's up there with the ghosts. No. 2 on the active list is a statistical dead-heat between Max Scherzer (.6528), David Price (.6513) and Stephen Strasberg (.6512).
STRIKEOUTS: Could C.C. become the 17th man in baseball history to reach 3,000 strikeouts? He's at 2,846. Last season he struck out 120, the year before 152. The 3,000-strikeout boys go in bunches. For 100 years it was just Walter Johnson until Bob Gibson joined him in 1974. Then between 1978 and 1986, 10 guys barged in: Gaylord, Nolan, Tom, Steve, Fergie, Don, Phil, Bert. Then nothing until 1998-2008 when we got six more: Roger, Randy, Greg, Curt, Pedro, John. Nothing since Schmoltzie. But here are the actives who have between 2100 and 2500 Ks: Clayton, Max, Cole, Zack, Felix, Justin. Expect more barging.
BASES ON BALLS: C.C.'s the only guy with more than 1,000 career walks, and just barely: 1,009. He joined that group on August 31 against Boston: a first-inning walk to Andrew Benintendi. Did they stop the game? Flash it on the screen? Give him a standing o? Probably not. And in the scheme of things, it's not much: CC ranks 112th all-time here. Second active is Bartolo with 923, followed by Justin Verlander at 771.
INNINGS PITCHED: I wish these guys would make up their minds. At the start of ‘16, the active leader was C.C. by 8 IP; at the start of ’17 it was Bartolo by 4. Now it's C.C. again ... by 1 2/3 IP. After them, it goes Justin, Felix, Zack. All-time, C.C.'s 3,317 IP is 89th, just behind Vida Blue.
COMPLETE GAMES: Every year of the 20th century some pitcher threw double-digit CGs. Every year. Even strike-shortened ‘94 when Greg Maddux threw 10. Even ’99 when Randy threw 12. And then it was as if the lights went out. The calendar flipped and the CGs disappeared. In the 21st, only two pitchers have thrown double-digit CGs: C.C. in 2008 (10) and James Shields in 2011 (11). Last season, only 59 CGs were thrown in all of baseball, and the team leader was Cleveland with 7. It's a disappearing stat. Among our top three, it's been stasis since 2016, when it went CC (38), Bartolo (36) and Felix (25). Last year, we finally got movement—and from Bartolo, of all people. The blessed event occurred Aug. 4th vs. Texas.
SHUTOUTS: No movement in the top 3: It's Kershaw with 15, Bartolo 13, C.C. 12. But last season Ervin Santana tied Corey Kluber for the league lead with 3, vaulting him into a tie for fourth on the active chart with Felix: 11. No one's thrown more than 3 in a season since 2012, when King Felix threw 5. Last guy to throw double-digit shutouts in a season? John Tudor, ‘85, with 10. Before him, Jim Palmer, ’75, also 10. If you discount the deadball era and raised-mound era (‘62-’68), 10 is the record, also accomplished by Carl Hubbell (‘33), Mort Cooper (’42), Bob Feller (‘46), Bob Lemon (’48).
WILD PITCHES: Of all the categories to find King Felix leading. And not by a little, either. He's got 140, tied with Sudden Sam McDowell for 45th all-time. Second among actives is Tim Lincecum with 107. They‘re the only dudes above 100.
SAVES: If Francisco Rodriguez catches on with someone, this stat is his. Seems unlikely, though, after his horrible, truncated 2017 season (2-5, six blown saves, 7.32 ERA), and a late spring 2018 release by the Phillies. That’s why the unlikelier F-Rod, Fernando Rodney, the man with the invisible arrows and skewed cap, is on top here. He's got 300 career saves and a two-year deal with the Twins that's making M's fans do a double take. Roaring up behind? Craig Kimbrel with 291. I'm guessing Kimbrel overtakes Rodney in June. And where he stops nobody knows.
WAR FOR PITCHERS: At some point this season, Kershaw will take over. C.C. is at 59.8, Kershaw is at 58.8. There are a few dudes nipping at both their heels: Verlander at 57.6, Zack at 57.4, Felix at 52. 2. For the record, only nine pitchers have career WARs over 100: Cy, Kid, Walter, Grover, Lefty, Tom, Roger, Greg and Randy.
EXIT MUSIC (FOR A SLIDESHOW): ABY. *FIN*
The Short, Consequential Career of Pee Wee Wanninger
My father is fond of the following baseball trivia question:
Who did Lou Gehrig replace to begin his 2,130 consecutive-games-played streak?
It’s a famous baseball story—if partially apocryphal. On June 2, 1925, Wally Pipp, the Yankees longtime first baseman, complained of a headache and asked manager Miller Huggins if he could sit out a game. Huggins sent in Gehrig ... who stayed at the position for 14 years.
The apocryphal bit is the headache. If there was a headache, it was Huggins’, since the Yankees started the season poorly: 15-26, seventh in the A.L. And they’d just lost five in a row—three to the Athletics, one to Boston, and one to the Washington Senators, who were, remember, 1924 World Champions, and who at this point had as many titles as the Yanks: one. So Huggins was doing what he could to change things around. Pipp, a career .300 hitter, was down to .244. His replacement, Gehrig, wound up going 3-5, with a double, a run, and an RBI, in a 8-5 Yankee victory. The rest is history. Certainly for Pipp: In the off-season the Yanks sold him to the Cincinnati Reds for $7500. Three years later, he was out of baseball.
Anyway, that’s the famous story but it’s not the answer to the trivia question—which is why my father likes it. Because the day before this game, on June 1, 1925, Gehrig came in as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 8th inning for shortstop Pee-Wee Wanninger.
And that’s the answer: Pee-Wee Wanninger.
Dad and I were talking about this again on the phone last week, and afterwards, curious, I did a dive into Baseball Reference stats and came away with some interesting tidbits my father didn’t know.
The first game of the streak was a 5-3 loss to the Senators. The last game of the streak was a 3-2 loss to the Senators. Oh, and guess who Gehrig faced in that first game? Walter Johnson, the Big Train, one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Talk about your deep ends. He flew out to left.
But here’s the part that amazed me most.
Before Gehrig, the record-holder for consecutive games played was a shortstop named Everett Scott, who was part of that late '10s/early ‘20s migration of Red Sox players to the Yankees. His streak, 1,307 games—still the third-longest ever—began in 1916 in Boston and ended on May 5, 1925 with the Yanks. It was part of another Miller Huggins shake-up. Scott was hitting just .208, so, streak or no streak, on May 6, Huggins replaced him.
With Pee-Wee Wanninger.
Isn’t that amazing? Wanninger replaced the guy with the longest consecutive-games streak, and then, less than a month later, was replaced by the guy starting the new consecutive-games streak. Life doesn’t give us this kind of symmetry often. We need to appreciate it when we find it.
For all the baseball history he made, Wanninger didn’t last long. He was hitting .316 on June 6, but by the end of the month he was down to .291 and kept falling. End of July: .264. August: .243. He played sparsely in September, and that off-season was dealt to the St. Paul Saints of the American Association. A year later, the Saints traded him to Boston. He ended his Major League career that same season in Cincinnati. Lifetime, he hit .234/.266./295. He has negative career WAR. But he could close a bar with the stories he could tell.
Boxscore, June 1, 1925