erik lundegaard

Baseball posts

Friday October 20, 2017

The Last Time the Dodgers Won the Pennant

The last time the Dodgers won the pennant, in 1988, the year of Kirk Gibsons's Roy Hobbes-ish homerun and Orel Hershiser's dominance, they had more pennants than any NL team: 18. Now, with 19, they're tied for second with the Cardinals and one behind the Giants.

DodgersHere are the teams who've won the NL pennant since the Dodgers last won the pennant:

  • Giants (5)
  • Braves (5)
  • Cardinals (4)
  • Phillies (3)
  • Mets (2)
  • Marlins (2)
  • Cubs
  • Reds
  • Padres
  • Diamondbacks
  • Astros
  • Rockies

The only NL teams to not win a pennant since the Dodgers last did it are the Pirates, who last went in 1979, the Brewers, who went as an AL team in 1982, and the Expos/Nationals, who have never been at all.

In terms of postseason appearances, the Dodgers, with 31, are second only to the Yankees (who have 53). For pennants, as mentioned, the Dodgers are tied for third (19). With World Series titles, they're fifth (6). The farther they get into the postseason, the more they're screwed.

I had no real dogs in this NLCS hunt. I wouldn't have minded the Cubs going back-to-back, to make up for the century-long drought; but the Dodgers, per above, have had a real dry spell. Plus Clayton Kerhsaw needs to go. We should only have so many Ken Griffey Jrs and King Felixes and Rod Carews.

Last night's pennant-clincher at Wrigley Field was a blowout. The Dodgers scored one in the first, one in the second, one in the third and had the bases loaded with on one out. That's when Cubs' manager Joe Maddon went to his bullpen. I don't really follow the Cubs but when relief pitcher Hector Rondon came in, and they flashed his season ERA, 4.24, I was taken aback. Was that the best they had for this situation? With the season on the line? At first it seemed a pretty smart move: Rondon struck out Logan Forsythe on three pitches. Then it didn't: Enrique Hernandez, who hit a homer to left in the 2nd inning, hit one to right. At first I thought: double in the gap. Then it sneaked over the fence for a grand slam. Hernandez added a two-run job in the 9th to add his name to list of (now 10) guys who've hit three HRs in a postseason game—beginning with Babe Ruth in the 1926 World Series, and ending with Jose Altuve in Game 1 of the 2017 ALDS. Ruth is the only one to do it twice. 

I watched all of this at the Quarter Lounge, surrounded by Cubs fans, whose hopes dimmed then darkened. On the plus side they had last year; and they still have a good young team; and they're not Pirates fans.

Two years ago I wrote a post about LA's postseason futility entitled “Dodgers Dodge Another World Series.” Wait 'til this year, I guess. 

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Posted at 08:41 AM on Oct 20, 2017 in category Baseball
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Saturday October 07, 2017

And the Best Baseball Team of the 21st Century is...

Here's one take anyway.

Caveats: The chart below is just about the postseason. Regular season, schmegular season. The first column (PS) includes this year's postseason appearances, but there's no 2017 additions for the rest since we haven't gotten there yet. Soon, soon. (Maybe tomorrow, Cleveland?) It also includes the year 2000. I'm not one of those sticklers.

Here's the key I used to reach the total on the right:

  • Postseason = 1 point
  • LCS = 2 points
  • Pennant = 3 points
  • World Series title = 5 points
St. Louis Cardinals 12 9 4 2 52
New York Yankees 14 7 4 2 50
Boston Red Sox 9 5 3 3 43
San Francisco Giants 7 4 4 3 42
Philadelphia Phillies 5 3 2 1 22
California Angels 7 3 1 1 21
Chicago Cubs 6 3 1 1 20
Detroit Tigers 5 4 2   19
Arizona Diamondbacks 5 2 1 1 17
Los Angeles Dodgers 9 4     17
Kansas City Royals 2 2 2 1 17
New York Mets 4 3 2   16
Texas Rangers 5 2 2   15
Chicago White Sox 3 1 1 1 13
Houston Astros 5 2 1   12
Cleveland Indians 5 2 1   12
Atlanta Braves 9 1     11
Miami Marlins 1 1 1 1 11
Oakland A's 8 1     10
Tampa Bay Rays 4 1 1   9
Minnesota Twins 7 1     9
Colorado Rockies 3 1 1   8
Toronto Blue Jays 2 2     6
Seattle Mariners 2 2     6
Baltimore Orioles 3 1     5
Milwaukee Brewers 2 1     4
Washington Nationals 4       4
Pittsburgh Pirates 3       3
Cincinnati Reds 3       3
San Diego Padres 2       2

You might want to weigh things differently. Originally I thought, “A pennant should mean way more than an LCS, and a title way more than that,” so had something like a 1/3/5/10 point scheme. But under that, you'd have one-time wonders like the Marlins beating perennials like the Dodgers and that didn't seem right to me. So I opted for this. 

But in either point scheme, or almost any you come up with, four teams dominate: Cards, Yanks, Giants, BoSox. Then a big drop.

BTW, as a Mariners fan, it's hard to imagine five teams having worse centuries than the M's, but the numbers don't lie.  

My rooting interests this year, from fave to least, for the eight teams remaining:

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Washington Nationals
  3. Houston Astros
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. Chicago Cubs
  6. Boston Red Sox
  7. Arizona Diamondbacks
  8. Lima beans
  9. The cut I got on my right index finger while washing Jellybean's food can the other day
  10. The stain on the sofa that won't come out
  11. Steve Inskeep
  12. “Transformers 2”
  13. That bout with the stomach flu I had after Christmas 2006
  14. Steve Bannon
  15. The NRA
  16. Mitch McConnell
  17. Donald Trump
  18. New York Yankees

Actually, that's unfair. I'd totally root for the Yankees over those last four.  

Note: If the Indians win it all, which they haven't done since '48, the “longest title drought” title will, for the first time, enter the expansion era (1961-today). And the title holder will be the Texas Rangers, who came into existence as the second Washington Senators in 1961, the same year as the California Angels (who won it all in 2002), then moved to Texas in '72. After that, it's 'Stros, who arrived in '62 with the Mets (who have two titles), then three of the four '69 teams: Padres, Brewers, Expos/Nats. The fourth '69er, the Royals, long considered hapless, are actually, along with the Mets, the second-most successful expansion team in baseball history. 

David Freese World Series home run

David Freese forces a Game 7, Oct. 2011

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Posted at 08:15 AM on Oct 07, 2017 in category Baseball
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Sunday October 01, 2017

Good-bye To My Favorite Team of the 21st Century

It's the last day of the 2017 MLB regular season and Joe Posnanski has a nice piece on the final game together for three foundational members of the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals—Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain—all of whom will become free agents, and all of whom helped the Royals, the sad-sackiest team of the 1990s and 2000s, to two pennants and a world championship. These grafs in particular:

Then the Royals drafted Moustakas and Hosmer in back-to-back years, not only because they both had the precious talent that Kansas City lacked (power) but because they seemed confident, cocky even. That cockiness was what Royals general manager Dayton Moore wanted more than anything. He wanted players who would not be drowned by the overwhelming weight of the Royals' longtime awfulness.

“Guys,” Moore told them after they were drafted, “this is YOUR team. I don't want to put pressure on you, but that's how it is. The Royals will go as far as you carry us.”

I recently rewatched the game that really began it all, the 2014 wild card match with the Oakland A's, when the Royals were down by four in the 8th inning, 7-3, then made it 7-6 with runners in scoring position but couldn't tie it. Until the 9th inning when they did. In the 12th the A's went ahead 8-7 but the Royals came back again, scoring two to win it and go on. And on. And on. Sometimes with more insane come-from-behind victories. Sorry, 'Stros. 

Watching that wild-card game again, the thing that struck me was the way Hosmer scored the tying run in the bottom of the 12th—sprawling across the plate ahead of the throw on Christian Colon's high chopper. It looked so much like that iconic moment a year and a month later, when, in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, Hosmer made his mad dash home to tie the game against the Mets and send it to extras, where the Royals won it all. The Royals' back-to-backs are bookended by these Hosmer mad dashes and sprawling slides.

Is this Royals team my favorite team of the 21st century? I certainly give props to the 2004 Boston Red Sox for their humiliation of the New York Yankees, coming back in unprecedented fashion with an almost carefree manner. M's teams? I always liked the 2000 squad and their surprise run, while the 2001 club, with all of those wins but nothing to show for it, is a little too heart-achey. I've liked the M's the past two years, too, the Robinson Cano/Nelson Cruz-led M's. They've been about as fun as a team who hasn't gotten anywhere could be.

But this Royals team? Man. Speed, defense, the sturdiest bullpen in the world. Forever putting the ball in play. Forever coming from behind. When I was a kid and read about how the St. Louis Cardinals won the 1946 World Series—Enos “Country” Slaughter scoring from first on a single—I could never wrap my head around it. How does anyone score from first on a single? Well, Lorenzo Cain did it twice during the 2015 postseason—including what would be the winning run in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the ALCS to send the Royals to the World Series again, this time against the Mets, the one they would win.

That's all over. It was over before, as Joe mentions, with the depatures of Wade Davis and Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist and Jarrod Dyson. But now there's no doubt. 

Godspeed, guys. Just don't sign with the fucking Yankees.

Lorenzo Cain scores from first on a single by Eric Hosmer  

The mark of Cain: 1st to home on a single. 

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Posted at 08:48 PM on Oct 01, 2017 in category Baseball
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Friday September 15, 2017

50+ Homeruns in a Season: By Decade

Giancarlo Stanton

Giancarlo: 54 and counting.

Giancarlo Stanton's pursuit of 60+ homeruns had me looking at the 50+ club all over again.

When I was growing up, it was a magical number that nobody could touch. Killebrew kept hitting 49. Hank Aaron's high was 48. The last guy to do it was Willie Mays in '65, and it seemed like no one would ever do it again—particularly when the Major League high in 1974 was Mike Schmidt's 36. But then George Foster did it in '77 (an expansion year) and ... that was it. Until Cecil Fielder in 1990. For a quarter-century, it was just one guy: George Foster.

Then suddenly it seemed like any old player could do it. By decade:

  • 1920s (4): Babe Ruth (4)
  • 1930s (4): Hack Wilson, Jimmie Foxx (2), Hank Greenberg
  • 1940s (3): Ralph Kiner (2), Johnny Mize
  • 1950s (2): Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle
  • 1960s (3): Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Willie Mays
  • 1970s (1): George Foster
  • 1980s (0):
  • 1990s (12): Cecil Fielder, Albert Belle, Mark McGwire (4), Brady Anderson, Ken Griffey Jr. (2), Sammy Sosa (2), Greg Vaughn
  • 2000s (12): Sammy Sosa (2), Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez (3), Luis Gonzalez, Jim Thome, Andruw Jones, David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder
  • 2010s (3): Jose Bautista, Chris Davis, Giancarlo Stanton

You know what's fascinating? The first eight guys to hit 50+ HRs in a season—all of whom did it before the leagues expanded in 1961—are in the Hall of Fame: Ruth, Hack Wilson, Foxx, Greenberg, Kiner, Mize, Mays, Mantle. 

Since then, 29 other players have hit 50+ HRs in a season. You know how many of those 29 are in the Hall of Fame? One. Ken Griffey Jr.  

Either they're career stats weren't good enough (Maris, Foster), or they're tainted by PEDs (McGwire, Bonds), or both (Greg Vaughn). 

Other points of interest:

  • The fewest career HRs were a 50-HR guy? No surprise: Brady Anderson with 210. A quarter of the homers in his 15-year career were in 1996. His next-highest single-season total is 24 in 1999.
  • The Fielders bookended the great flurry of 50+ HR seasons: Cecil began it in 1990, Prince, his son, kinda/sorta ended it in 2007.
  • The Fielders retired with the exact same number of career HRs: 319.
  • Mickey Mantle is the only homegrown Yankee to hit 50+ HRs. The other three (Ruth, Maris, A-Rod) were acquired via trade.

Ironically, I now view the 50+ HR season the exact opposite of the way I did as a kid. I don't want to see them. I certainly don't want to see a string of them. I'll worry it's the bullshit of the '90s and '00s all over again.

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Posted at 05:52 AM on Sep 15, 2017 in category Baseball
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Saturday August 12, 2017

No. 11

Edgar Martinez

Our man Edgar: patient at the plate and in life.

On Saturday the Seattle Mariners are finally retiring the number of Edgar Martinez, our beloved 3B/DH, now hitting coach, a future Hall of Famer and a .300/.400/.500 man who knew only one team: us. I've written about him many times. I've also urged the organization to do this very thing for years. There was no reason not to. We treated him shitty, he never left us, he left his mark in the record books. But the Mariners are the Mariners. They keep doing the wrong thing. 

Tonight they'll finally get it right. 

I was going to go to the game, bought tickets, 300-level behind homeplate, but life intervenes. But thoughts go out.

Edgar will be only the second Mariner to have his number retired (after Junior last year), and I'd encourage the team that never listens to someday retire a few others: #51 for both Ichiro and Randy, #34 for Felix, and maybe #19 for Jay Buhner. Others? Moyers' #50?

This is a relatively new phenomenon, by the way. Teams didn't put numbers on players' backs until 1929 (Indians, Yankees), and originally the number was the order in which they batted. That's why #3 for Babe Ruth, #4 for Lou Gehrig. It was to let the fans in the stands know who was who. Since lineups change often, it probably became too difficult to maintain this conceit and things morphed into what they are.

The first retired number was announced on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Day, Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth day, when, with Gehrig suddenly dying of the disease that would bear his name, the Yankees basically announced: “No one is fit to wear this uniform again.” For some reason, the New York Giants retired Carl Hubbel's #11 in 1944, and four years later, Babe Ruth's #3, which seven other Yankees wore after Ruth was cut from the team in '35, was retired on the silver anniversary of Yankee Stadium. A month later, the Giants' retired Mel Ott's #4.

In general, particularly in the early days, retired numbers were reserved for either great players (DiMaggio in '52) or men dying young (Fred Hutchinson of the Reds in '64, Jim Umbricht of the Astros in '65). Don't see much of the latter anymore.

The '70s were the decade when the phenomenon really took off:

  • 1930s: 1
  • 1940s: 3
  • 1950s: 4
  • 1960s: 8
  • 1970s: 29

The last year when no numbers were retired? 1981. That awful strike-shortened, dual season year. The year I graduated high school.

This year, the following numbers have already been retired: #20 for the Indians (Frank Robinson), #34 for the Red Sox (David Ortiz), #56 for the White Sox (Mark Buehrle), and #2 for the Yankees (Derek Somethingorother). Now add Edgar. About time. He's been patient. He's been as patient with the Mariners as he was with every pitcher he ever saw.

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Posted at 05:20 AM on Aug 12, 2017 in category Baseball
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