Opening Day 2013
I'm not a fan of starting the baseball season Sunday night on ESPN. Sorry. Opening Day for me is the Cincinnati Reds playing on a Monday and everyone playing a day later. But history and tradition are things we lose when they get in the way of revenue, so ... poof. Instead we get the game everyone's itching to watch, the Rangers vs. the Astros, tonight at 5 PM PST. Easter dinner in Texas, April Fools for the rest. Smart, Bud.
The AL West gets the Houston Astros this year. They and their $25 million payroll are in our division. Unrelated suggestion? The Angels should not be allowed to be called “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.” It's the “Artist formerly known as Prince” of baseball names. Suggestions welcome. California Angels, maybe?
Our season ticket group, led by a personal friend of Raquel Welch, divvied up the M's baseball tickets Tuesday night. I only have six, which seems plenty. Seeing Baltimore in May, the Yankees in June, Angels and Twins in July, Texas in August and Houston in September. August is my favorite month to go to games in Seattle. It's when you can get a hint of the summer swelter melting everyone else. April can be awful, weatherwise, which is why I skipped it. And if it's not? Just walk down and buy some. The perks of 10 years of losing teams and dwindling attendance.
OK, time to check out the active leaders (career ranking in parentheses).
- Games: Derek Jeter, NYY: 2,585 (40th)
- At-Bats: Derek Jeter, NYY: 10,551 (16th)
- Hits: Derek Jeter, NYY: 3,304 (11th)
- Doubles: Todd Helton, Col: 570 (22nd)
- Triples: Carl Crawford, Bos.: 114 (T-110th)
Three of the top four in at-bats are Yankees: Jeter, A-Rod, Ichiro. Only Ichiro is healthy. In hits, A-Rod is 99 away from 3,000. Don't think he's not thinking it. Ichiro is 394 away. Don't think he's not thinking it, either.
Jose Reyes, meanwhile, is within three of Crawford in triples. Reyes still hits them, too: 38 over the last three years. Crawford is slowing down: overburned with moola. The two now meet up in the same division.
Other retirees since last Opening Day: Ivan Rodriguez (April 2012) and Johnny Damon (maybe).
Jeter, looking for another single. Once he's off the DL in June. Or August.
- Home Runs: Alex Rodriguez, NYY: 647 (5th)
- RBIs: Alex Rodriguez, NYY: 1.,950 (7th)
- Runs: Alex Rodriguez, NYY: 1,898 (10th)
A-Rod is gone for at least half the season but he's only 47 RBIs from moving past Musial, Gehrig and Bonds for 4th place all-time. Runs scored is more difficult. Plus he's got Jeter on his ass: only 30 behind. Could Jeter pass him this year? If Jeter's in scoring position with A-Rod up, does A-Rod pause? Poor A-Rod. Front page of the NY Times today is all about him: “Hitched to an Aging Star: Anatomy of a Deal, and Doubts.” More to come, I'm sure.
- Walks: Jason Giambi, Cle., 1,334 (34th)
- Strikeouts: Alex Rodriguez, NYY: 2,032 (4th)
This means Jim Thome, 42, has retired. Or hasn't. But he hit only 8 HRs last year, for 612 career. Eighteen shy of Junior. Hey, if it's truly over, he wound up only 50 strikeouts from breaking Reggie Jackson's once invincible record. No worries. Here comes Adam Dunn (2,031 and counting).
Interesting seeing Giambi atop the active career walks, with A-Rod third. Fun fact: Willie Randolph, the light-hitting second-baseman with the Bronx Zoo Yankees of the 1970s, had more career walks than A-Rod has: 1,243 to 1,217. Another fun fact: Jason Giambi is with Cleveland now. Missed that story, too.
- Stolen Bases: Juan Pierre, Mia.: 591 (19th)
- Caught Stealing: Juan Pierre, Mia.: 197 (7th)
The Juan Pierre experiment didn't quite work out in Philly, did it? But he improved his SB ratio greatly. Batting less often, he stole 10 more bases (37 to 27) and got caught 10 fewer times (17 to 7). Maybe, as I suggested last year, Chase Utley helped.
- Batting Average: Albert Pujols, Ana: .324 (T-41st)
- On-Base Percentage: Todd Helton, Col.: .418 (20th)
- Slugging Percentage: Albert Pujols, Ana: .607 (5th)
- On-Base-Plus Slugging: Albert Pujols, Ana: 1.022 (6th)
Albert may be a Prince but his percentage numbers are dropping like rocks. Since last year, he's lost four points in batting average, 10 in slugging, 14 in OPS. And he's signed thru when again? 2050? Talk about hitched to an aging star.
Helton is dropping, too. If he drops a bit further, Edgar, Our Man Edgar, currently 21st all time in OBP, will move into 20th place. Something to cheer for. M's fans have so little these days. Well, perfect games aside. I'll keep you posted.
- Offensive WAR: Alex Rodriguez, NYY: 112.2 (T-13th)
- Defensive WAR: Adrian Beltre: 22.1 (33rd)
- WAR for Position Players: Alex Rodriguez, NYY: 115.5 (12th)
Despite a bad year, or a vastly mediocre one, A-Rod's offensive WAR still went up. And the guy he's tied with? Lou Gehrig. But Lou went out a different way than A-Rod is going out. Unless there was a “Hitched to an Aging Star” NY Times headline in 1939 that we don't know about.
I still have a problem with WAR. There's no standard yet. Baseball Reference has their version of WAR, others have others. It's like they're still working on the formula. It's New Coke. Fans are wondering what was wrong with Classic Coke.
In 2012, both the Angels and SI said “Albert.” Did SI then say “Jinx”? For April, Albert had a .217 batting average, with no homeruns and 4 RBIs. He kinda turned it around, but not in Albert fashion. For the first time, he's not the best player on his team.
These categories are now wide open with the retirement, in every sense but the official announcement, of Jamie Moyer, who last year played for the Colorado Rockies (released June 1), the Orioles (three starts with its Triple A squad with a 1.69 ERA, released June 28), and Toronto (two starts with its Triple A squad, 8.18 ERA, released July 5). Dude surely has a coaching future ahead. Doesn't he?
- Games Started: Andy Pettitte, NYY: 491 (49th)
- Innings Pitched: Andy Pettitte, NYY: 3,130.2 (113th)
- Wins: Andy Pettitte, NYY: 245 (T-51st)
- Losses: Derek Lowe, Tex: 157 (T-131st)
Milestone alert! Roy Halladay is one win away from 200. Tim Hudson is three wins away from 200. I remember seeing Hudson in Triple A as a youngster. Yes, it was a long time ago.
Here's an indicator of how hard it is to win 300 games these days. C.C. Sabathia has 191. Johan Santana 139. Cliff Lee 125. Justin Verlander 124. And King Felix of Seattle? 98.
- Strikeouts: Andy Pettitte, NYY: 2,320 (44th)
- Walks: Barry Zito, SF: 1,004 (T-109th)
- Homeruns Allowed: Mark Buehrle, Tor: 300 (48th)
Give this to Andy Pettitte: He's career leader in the categories you want (wins, strikeouts), and not the categories you don't (losses, walks). Yeah, he played for the 21st-century Yankees, which made it easier to win and tougher to lose; but none of that had to do with his strikeout-walk ratio.
P.S. Apparently Javier Vasquez retired. Or not. But he's out for the season anyway.
Pettitte, ready to pitch another 50 innings; 75 tops.
- Complete Games: Roy Halladay, Phi: 66 (T-644th)
- Shutouts: Roy Halladay, Phi: 20 (T-244th)
- WAR for Pitchers: Roy Halladay, Phi.: 66.6 (40th)
Again, anyone who doesn't think complete games is the lifetime record least likely to be broken needs to look at the parentheses above. Halladay, the active leader, is 644th on the lifetime list. And he's not moving anywhere. Last year, he completed no games and threw no shutouts. So how about second in active CGs? That would be C.C. Sabathia ... with 35. Which is off the charts. The bottom of. C.C. would need three more complete games just to make the top 1,000 in this category. After a time, we won't even count these things. “Daddy, what does that mean—a complete game?” “Well, son, in olden times...”
Now to the Mo categories:
- Games: Mariano Rivera, NYY: 1051 (8th)
- Saves: Mariano Rivera, NYY: 608 (1st)
- WHIP (Walks/Hits per Inning Pitched): Mariano Rivera, NYY: 0.9978 (2nd)
- ERA (5 yrs. minimum): Mariano Rivera, NYY: 2.214 (13th)
- Adjusted ERA: Mariano Rivera, NYY: 206 (1st)
Trivia questions. Who is second on the active saves list to Mo's 608? Answer: Joe Nathan, Tex., with 298. Who is second in active ERA to Mo's 2.21? Adam Wainwright, 3.15. There's no one close to Mo. Whatever adjusted ERA is, he's No. 1 by far (second: Pedro Martinez, 154). He's second all-time in WHIP (to Addie Joss), and my favorite, being old school, is the career ERA thing. Everyone ahead of him was mostly a 19th century pitcher (Jim Devlin, Jack Pfiester) or the best of the early 20th century pitchers (Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson). The closest post-WWII guy is Hoyt Wilhelm in 45th place. The closest active player is the aforementined Wainwright in 228th. Again, the question isn't whether Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time. The question is how far up do you want to place him among the greatest pitchers of all time?
Even so, it says something about how old these Yankees are. Of the 34 categories above, 18 are owned by Yankees. The Age of the Yankees has been replaced by the age of the Yankees.
Addie Joss of Cleveland is the only pitcher with a lower career WHIP than Mariano Rivera. This card, part of the Leonard Brecher Tobacco & Chewing Gum Card series, is also interesting for the words that are still compound words at the time: not only “base ball” but “team mates.” “Perfect game” was also not yet part of the vernacular. Via the Kentucky Digital Library.
Twitter: @ErikLundegaardTweets by @ErikLundegaard