January 12, 2018

Q: How Many Players Have Had 11 PA And 5 Hits In a Game?

I was writing something earlier this week and needed a good example of the awesomeness of Baseball Reference and its Play Index.

I decided to search for any batters in the last 105 years (BRef's database for individual games goes back only to 1913) who had a game with two doubles, one single, one walk, and one hit by pitch. It took less than five seconds (!) to generate a list of 27 players (complete with links to the player's page, his team's page, the opposing team's page, and the box score for the game).

But I wanted a search that would likely result in a smaller list. So: How many times has a player come to the plate 11 times in a game and had five hits?

I learned - and am sharing with you now - that it has happened only two times in the last 105 years. And the two players were teammates - in the same game!

On July 10, 1932, the Philadelphia A's beat Cleveland 18-17 in 18 innings. Cleveland's Ed Morgan (5-for-11) and Earl Averill (5-for-9, 2 walks) each had 11 plate appearances and five hits. No other batter in the last 105 years has had a game with those totals. The linescore:
PHI - 201 201 702 000 000 201 - 18 25 1
CLE - 300 311 601 000 000 200 - 17 33 5
But perhaps this was not as amazing as it first seemed. A player has had 11 plate appearances in a single game only 51 times since 1913. (No one has ever done it twice.) And those 51 instances occurred in a total of only 13 games. So if two of those 51 players had five hits, there is a decent chance that they would be playing in the same game. (Also: Cleveland's Johnny Burnett went 9-for-11 in that game.)

The only man ever to go 0-for-11 in a game is Charlie Pick. He wore baseball's largest collar on May 1, 1920, in a 1-1 tie between Brooklyn and Boston that lasted 26 innings, the longest game in major league history. Of the eight players to have gone 0-for-10, two of them played opposite Pick in that game: Brooklyn shortstop Chuck Ward and Brooklyn pitcher Leon Cadore (who pitched a complete game that afternoon).

January 10, 2018

Please Note: No Pitcher Has Ever Had A 6.74 ERA

Grant Brisbee, The ERAs That Have Never Existed In Baseball History:
I'm a huge nerd, and I feel like it is my mission to discover the ERAs that haven't yet been achieved.
While plenty of pitchers have ended a season with a 0.00 ERA, no one has ever had an ERA of 0.01. Or 0.02. Or 0.03. Or 0.04 ...

The lowest ERA in history that is higher than zero is 0.38, achieved by Buck O'Brien in 1911 and Joba Chamberlain in 2007. Brisbee points out that Chamberlain holds the mark because his ERA was rounded up from 0.375 and O'Brien's was 0.378, "which is just a midge higher". 🏆
We've moved into the area of possible ERAs, now. These are the ERAs that could exist, in theory, but don't.
I did not think I needed a list of the non-existant ERAs between 0.00 and 10.00, but I'm now rooting for at least one of the unprecedented numbers to be claimed at the end of next season.

Also: A 6.66 ERA has been posted 21 times, with the most recent being Brad Lincoln in 2010. (The first pitcher on the list was also named Brad! Brad Hogg in 1911. (All-Animal Team.)) The innings pitched range from 174.1 to 24.1 (which was done in seven of the 21 seasons!).

January 8, 2018

Red Sox Reportedly Have Offered J.D. Martinez A Five-Year Deal

On January 3, USA Today's Bob Nightengale wrote: "Outfielder J.D. Martinez has a five-year deal from the Boston Red Sox." Neither the team nor agent Scott Boras have confirmed that report.

Nightengale adds, later in the article: "The Red Sox won't give Martinez a seven-year, $210 million contract, and aren't about to start bidding against themselves."

While Martinez is an elite slugger and turned 30 years old last August, the Red Sox (even if this particular report is not true) would rather not be paying top dollar for what would presumably be Martinez's declining years.

If Boston's 2017 outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts stays intact (JBJ's name has come up in some trade rumours), Martinez, a regular right fielder since 2014, would be a designated hitter, who only sometimes played the field. Is his comfortable with that?

Travis Sawchik, Fangraphs:
Since 2015, Martinez ranks seventh in wRC+ (147). ...

As he noted in conversation with with FanGraphs this past March, Martinez transformed himself by avoiding "fucking ground balls", becoming one of the truly elite offensive forces in the game as a result.

While the slugging numbers are loud, his peripherals are also encouraging: last season he posted the highest walk percentage of his career (10.6%) and the lowest out-of-zone-swing rate (32.1%).
A commenter on that article points out that if you add another year and look at Martinez's 2014-17 performance, his wRC+ is the 5th-highest in the majors, behind only Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryce Harper.

Sawchik posted a very attractive graphic of Martinez's line drives and fly balls from the 2015-17 seasons overlayed on Fenway Park:

January 6, 2018

NESN: Hire This Man. Now.

I complain a lot about NESN's presentation of Red Sox games.

That is because there is a lot to complain about.

But today I offer a solution: Hire Ray Hudson. The magic starts at 0:13.
Hudson really likes Lionel Messi, and his reaction here actually matches Messi's otherworldly play:
Watch this hesitation – right there. Three players inside a telephone box and he don't care. He emasculates them individually, collectively. He literally disperses his atoms inside of his body on one side of this defender, and then collects them on the other.
In some alternate universe, this guy called David Ortiz's 2004 heroics (and Flo's many subsequent walkoff glories). Spending eternity in that universe would not be bad.

January 5, 2018

Daniel Bard Announces Retirement

Former Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard has retired from professional baseball, almost five seasons after he threw his last pitch in a Boston uniform.

When he arrived on 2010, Bard was a hard-throwing set-up man, posting a superb 1.93 ERA and striking out 76 batters in 74.2 innings. But he struggled in September 2011, walking nine batters in 11 innings. Over the winter, the Red Sox decided to make him a starter. It did not go well, though there is no evidence that the move to the rotation contributed to his decline.

In his second start of 2012, Bard walked seven batters in 6.2 innings. In six starts in May, he walked 21 and hit five in 34 innings. On June 3, Bard walked six of the 13 batters he faced in Toronto. He did not appear in another game for almost three months.

Bard pitched only twice for the 2013 Red Sox. His final game came on April 27 against Houston. He faced two batters and walked them both, on nine pitches. That will now also stand as his final major league appearance.

Bard tried for years to regain his control and make his way back to the majors, but nothing worked. He spent time with the Cubs, Rangers, Cubs (again), Pirates, Cardinals, and Mets. His minor and winter league numbers are beyond sad.
          IP    H    R   BB    K   WP
2013     15.1  14   13   27    9   11
2013-14   0.1   0    8    9    0    4
2014      0.2   0   13    9    1    0
2016      3.0   3    8   13    1    6
2017      9.1   6   14   24    7    7
         28.2  23   56   82   18   28
Bard spoke at length to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation:
It's a strange phenomenon, and the crazy thing is, with the more people I talk to, is how little people know about it. People can explain it to you, like telling you what's happening in your brain and why it happens to some people and doesn't happen to other people. They can explain what's happening, but no one has a reliable way of saying how to make things better.
Alex Speier, 108 Stitches: "Bard's pursuit of a return was a lonely one – a Red Sox pitcher once told me that he never talked to the pitcher about his control struggles because the mere idea of them was too terrifying to contemplate."

Bard, who turned 32 last summer: "I was able to pitch in the big leagues for almost four years. Would I have loved for it to be 15? Yeah, that would be great. But I got four years. Four years more than a lot of really good players get."

Jon Tayler, Sports Illustrated:
Watch that [August 9, 2010] pitch to Swisher: a 99-mph fastball with changeup movement, like a reverse slider on full tilt. You and I have both seen swings that come up empty, swings that never had a chance to connect, swings that were misguided disasters. But Swisher's whiff is futility made flesh (or at least maple); he was so overmatched and flummoxed that he might as well have turned around and taken a cut in the other direction. It's a pitch so ludicrous, so hard to understand that the only explanation for it is some kind of magic.
You know what makes those pitches even more amazing? The Red Sox were ahead 2-0, but the Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh against Jon Lester. Bard faced Derek Jeter: called strike, foul, swinging strike. Bard faced Nick Swisher: called strike, foul, swinging strike. End of threat, with the final pitch being 100% pure filth.