Tagged: Year of the Pitcher

The Year of the Pitcher II continues!

Holy. Crap. That’s all I can say right now. Much like 1917, 2010 started with a lot of no-hitters and slowed down as the season wore on, with the final regular season no-hitter being thrown in July–I joked in the end of August that we were running out of time to fit one in for the month.

By the way, I’m just now learning that MLBlogs employs censorship…and that they aren’t exactly restricting it to actual curse words. My only guess for what the starred-out word in that entry is would be “w.h.o.p.p.i.n.g”, which means “really big” and is…oh, wait, I think I understand, the first syllable is phonetically identical to an antiquated slur against some sort of ethnicity, I’m not even sure what because it’s so outdated, though the spelling is different if I’m not mistaken–no “h”.

Which, of course, brings us back to the point of our post, which is no “H”, as in the abbreviation for “hits”, as in what the Cincinnati Reds were lacking in Game 1 of the NLDS. That’s six official ones on the year, which combined with Armando Galarraga’s imperfect game would make the seven needed to tie 1991’s modern record. And the author of this latest no-hitter? No “one-hit wonder”, pardon the pun. Harry Leroy Halladay III, in his postseason debut, pitched just the second postseason no-hitter in playoff history and his second no-hitter this year, becoming the first pitcher to pull off this feat since the immortal Nolan Ryan back in 1973. (If I heard correctly, the TBS announcers forgot about Ryan, incorrectly attributing Virgil Trucks’ 1952 double as the most recent instance. The only other two besides Halladay, Ryan, and Trucks were Allie Reynolds in 1951 and, of course, Johnny Vander Meer in back-to-back starts in 1938). Also, ESPN Stats Bureau notes that Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game was in the 53rd World Series to be played, and this year’s World Series will be the 106th–as in, the 53rd postseason since Larsen’s perfecto, the only other postseason no-hitter.

The presence of Nolan Ryan in the previous paragraph also provides for a convenient segue to the other topic of note, which is his Texas Rangers. They, like the Reds, made their 21st century postseason debut today, and they picked up a win, 5-1, over the Tampa Bay Rays. Previously, the Rangers had gone to the playoffs just 3 times, in 1996, 1998, and 1999, losing to the Yankees in the ALDS each time. The 2-run second inning that started the scoring was the first multi-run postseason inning the Rangers had had since Game 4 of the 1996 Division Series (in which they led 4-0 but lost 6-4 to lose the series three games to one); in fact, it equaled their entire scoring output for the 1998 and 1999 American League Division Series combined, as they got swept both years, getting shut out in Games 1 and 3 and scoring just one run in Game 2 both times. Um…yeah, I guess the Yankees’ pitchers were that dominant back then. The Rangers have historically been a high-scoring ballclub, so for them to be held to just one run in a three-game series two years in a row is really something. Congrats on the big win, boys.

The green and the marine

Remember this game? I’m sure you do. It was Dice-K’s Fenway Park debut, so ESPN was televising it nationally. And King Felix stole the show and used it as a platform to announce his own arrival on the AL pitching scene. Even I was disappointed when J.D. Drew broke up the no-hitter–although with the low score, I immediately started thinking about how the Sox could still win once it happened. Last night, it looked like King Felix was finally going to get that no-hitter. But…I’m seriously sensing a pattern here. Seriously, note to all AL teams: Stop allowing Nelson Cruz to lead off innings. It never ends well for you. Congrats to King Felix on another great pitching performance, but it looks like the Year of the Pitcher II has finally run out of magic. Did you realize that August was the first calendar month this year without a no-hitter? And September’s half-over with none so far as well.

Elsewhere, Manny Ramirez finally hit another home run, his first XBH and first RBI in a White Sox uniform. The only question is, is this really a White Sox uniform? Ladies and gentlemen, your Chicago Green Sox!

Splamitovich

Even retired, Kevin Millar makes the game of baseball more amusing. Last year he was with the Blue Jays, and they brought up a pitcher from the minors named Mark Rzepczynski, one of those great unpronounceable names you see occasionally in sports. (For the record, it’s pronounced zep-CHIN-skee.) Asked on the radio how that name was pronounced, he replied, “We just call him ‘Ski’.” However, with Rzepczynski making his first start of the year, Millar, now working for MLB Network, revealed that he and Bryan Butterfield gave the pitcher a different nickname: Splamitovich. Which Rzepczynski now has on his glove. Kevin, man, I love you. Don’t ever disappear from the spotlight.

On another note, yesterday looked like an anomaly for the Year of The Pitcher II. 47 home runs were hit yesterday, including 3 by Adam Dunn, two each by Casey Kotchman, Martin Prado, and Buster Posey, and an inside-the-park homer by Jose Bautista, whose 22 homers lead the majors. The only game without a home run was the Angels-White Sox game. But back to Bautista: Where’s all of this power coming from? Bautista never had more than 16 home runs in a year prior to this year, and suddenly he’s the biggest bomber in the league. Do you remember what we used to assume when players set new career highs for home runs by the end of May? Yeah, exactly–“Must be juicing.” (Okay, so Bautista was only tied for his career high at the end of May–and, of course, my example had already set a new career high by the end of April. Still valid.) I want to believe that the game is really completely clean now, but…when there are still players putting up anomalous numbers like this, I can’t be sure.

Of course, it could just be that Bautista is having a breakout season. The aforementioned Brian Roberts had only played more than 100 games in a season twice prior to 2005, when he set a new career high for home runs by the end of April, but he tailed off and ended that season with fewer than 20 home runs, and while it’s still a career high, he has reached double digits three more times. The performances you really have to worry about are when players can’t replicate them afterwards–think Brady Anderson, whose only season with at least 25 home runs was 1996, when he hit 50. Only time will tell which is the case for Bautista.

Final note: The Cardinals blew a five-run lead to the Rockies, their first time blowing leads of at least 5 runs in back-to-back games since 1930. Chris Iannetta hit a walkoff home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth off of Evan MacLane, who was making his major league debut and now currently has a career opponent’s slugging percentage of 4.000 (not that they keep track of these things) and an infinite ERA (1 earned run in 0 IP) as well as an 0-1 record. Not the best start.

Golden boys

Absolutely loved the story that boy GM Jon Daniels had to put gold highlights in his hair as the result of a bet with shortstop Elvis Andrus–thanks to the Rangers’ winning streak reaching double digits. It’s hardly the first performance-related dye job–think Lou Piniella and the 70-91 fourth-place 2004 Devil Rays, the first time Tampa had ever finished out of last place. (Contrast the current Rays, who considered last year’s 84-78 performance a disappointment.) Still, funny stuff.

On the subject of old Devil Rays vs. new Rays, we’re now up to three no-hitters thrown against the mighty Rays in under 2

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½ years of existence, whereas the cellar-dwelling D-Rays were no-hit just once in their 10 years of pitiful existence. At least this one wasn’t a perfect game–far from it, with 10 baserunners on 8 walks, one hit batsman, and one error. It took a ******** 149 pitches for former Devil Ray (and modern-era Ray) Edwin Jackson to finish the game, which is nothing to old-time pitchers but would normally get current managers shot. If it weren’t for the no-hitter, there’s no way he’d have been allowed to last that long. Remarkably, that isn’t even the record for walks in a no-hitter this century–A.J. Burnett had 9 walks in his 2003 no-hitter, and amazingly didn’t even show up on SportsCenter’s list of highest pitch totals in a no-hitter since 1988 (when pitch counts were first recorded.)

But regardless, here we are, not even halfway through the season, and we officially have four (and unofficially, five) no-hitters, two (three) of which were perfect games. Not even the original “Year of the Pitcher” could claim that many that quickly–in fact, 1968 only had five no-hitters total, two of them on back-to-back days (at the same park with the same pair of teams, but for opposite sides) in September. The last season to even have four (this year’s official total) was 1991, when a total of 7 no-hitters were thrown–but five of those were in July or later. (Also, two were combined no-hitters). The last time four or more no-hitters were thrown by the end of June? You’ll have to go all the way back to the dead-ball era and 1917, when Eddie Cicotte of the White Sox no-hit the Browns on April 14, George Mogridge of the Yankees no-hit the Red Sox April 24, Fred Toney of the Reds pitched a 10-inning no-hitter against the Cubs on May 2 (formerly known as the “double no-hitter” as the Reds were also held hitless through nine innings against the Cubs’ Hippo Vaughn before finally breaking through in the 10th), the White Sox were held hitless on back-to-back days by Ernie Koob and Bob Groom of the Browns May 5-6 (not back-to-back games, though; the May 6 no-hitter was game 2 of a doubleheader), and Ernie Shore of the Red Sox had nine innings of perfect relief against the Senators after Babe Ruth got ejected for arguing balls and strikes after issuing a walk to the first batter of the game–long credited as a perfect game for Shore (especially as the leadoff walk was caught stealing, making it a 27-batter game in which one pitcher recorded all 27 outs and did not allow a baserunner) but later changed to a regular no-hitter, the first combined no-hitter in MLB history–on June 23. 6 no-hitters (and, by the definition of the time, seven), all before the end of June. But how many total no-hitters were there in 1917? Just the six. No team was held hitless for the rest of the year after Shore’s perfect relief stint. The modern record? That would be the 7 in 1991 (though the all-time record is 8, way back in 1884). We could be approaching a historic season, folks. The Year of the Pitcher II is officially on.

Other note: Edwin Jackson is the first NL pitcher to have a complete-game no-hitter against an AL team. It’s the fifth no-hitter between teams from opposite leagues, following Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game in 1956, David Cone’s perfect game in 1999, the Houston Astros’ combined no-hitter in 2003, and Justin Verlander’s no-hitter in 2007.