Thursday Morning Cram Session, 7/5

We didn’t have anything for you yesterday, mostly because the odds are you wouldn’t have been here to read it, but if we had, we certainly would’ve talked a bit about Chipper Jones, who went 5-for-5 on Tuesday with two doubles, four RBI, and his only stolen base of the season. His Independence Day wasn’t quite as exciting as all that, though he did go 2-for-4 to raise his overall season line to .317/.392/.485, good for a stellar .381 wOBA and approximately .310 TAv. Each of those numbers are his best since his brilliant, batting-title-winning 2008, and his 143 wRC+ and approximately 137 OPS+ are right in line with the average of his undoubtedly Hall of Fame-caliber career.

By now, you probably know that this is Chipper’s last season. (If you hadn’t yet, you’ll have had your fill of that little fact by the end of next week’s All-Star Game, to which Jones was named as a replacement.) And despite that performance, it’s easy to see why he’s hanging it up; he turned 40 early this year, and has four kids. He’s played in only 47 of the Braves’ 80 games, with one significant DL stint and a lot of other time off here and there. Once, Jones was actually kind of an ironman, missing fewer than ten team games in every year from 1995 to 2003. That’s hard to remember, now that for he’s been held to 143 games or fewer (often much fewer) in each of the last eight years. One imagines that the act of playing itself kind of hurts.

I really hope he keeps it up, though. This is a list of best OPS+es in a player’s final season, minimum 150 PA. Jones isn’t on it, because there’s no way to get him on while keeping off everyone else whose “last year” is currently 2012 (Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen, etc.), but he’d fit somewhere around Benny Kauff at #21. It’s an interesting list. There are a handful of guys whose career ended in tragedy or controversy (Ed Delahanty, Barry Bonds, Joe Jackson, Roberto Clemente) and some apparent small sample size flukes (Joe Adcock, Ken Williams, Jim Thorpe). There’s Dick Dietz, who seems like he was too much of a personal problem and too bad a catcher, and there’s Dave Nilsson, who left in his prime to qualify for the Olympics and that sort of thing. And there are a few deadball era types whose endings have been lost to history (or at least to me).

And then, once you’ve peeled all that away, you’re left with a handful of the really lucky ones — guys who were still getting it done, but left because it had started to hurt a bit, or because they weren’t quite what they once were, or just didn’t have anything left to prove or to hang around for. Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle seem to fall into that category, and so, oddly enough, do Lefty O’Doul and Brian Downing. 

And that’s what I’d like to see for Chipper, who’s going to retire as probably the fourth or fifth greatest third baseman of all time and somehow has never quite gotten his due. A strong final season and a few months of overwrought fairwells on roadtrips and on ESPN might at least help even the score a bit.

Pitcher of the Night: Justin Verlander, 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 7 K, 1 BB

Verlander set down the first nine Twins in order and didn’t slow down much from there, his lone blemish being a solo home run served up to Chris Parmelee. In Verlander’s first 18 starts this year, he’s thrown three fewer innings and racked up two fewer strikeouts and one fewer walk while permitting one fewer home run than he did through 18 starts last year; the only differences between this Verlander and last year’s MVP are run support (he’s 9-5 rather than 12-6) and a little bit of missing luck and/or defense (2.58 ERA to 2,32).

Hitter of the Night: Miguel Cabrera, 3-3, 2 HR, 2B, BB, 3 R, 3 RBI

It was a good night for Tigers, apparently. If you’re into counting stats, Cabrera’s going to get interesting in a few years. He’s currently 29 and sitting at 295 homers, 1703 hits, 902 runs and 1052 RBI.

Play of the Night: Alfonso Soriano

Plenty to choose from tonight, but I’m partial to the ol’ laser throw. Plus, it’s got Chipper Jones in it. Nobody should be running on Alfonso Soriano anymore, but especially not 40 year old guys with no knees who weren’t exactly Michael Bourn to begin with. 

Milestone of the Night: There’s no embed code yet, so click here to see David Ortiz hit homer number 400.

I guess I get why the fans are excited — mini-milestones like 400 has become are more about celebrating a player than the accomplishment at issue — but I’m much more interested in the fact that he’s on pace for 40 this year, something he hasn’t approached in six seasons. Also: Edgar was better.

Billy Ray Cyrus sings God Bless America at Dodger Stadium of the Night: Yep.

It’s actually not even bad, until the final note, which he misses so badly it might finally just do us all in. I just object on principle. 

Injuries of Note

Dee Gordon dislocated a thumb. MRI pending, but he’ll likely be out past the All-Star Break. Which, sad to say, seems like good news for Dodgers fans at this point.

While Verlander and Cabrera were busy dismantling the Twins, starting pitcher Brian Duensing took a hard line drive off his ankle. It was diagnosed as a bruise, and he’ll be out past the break, but probably not too long beyond that.

Miguel Montero was pulled with what the Mariners are calling a “very mild” concussion. I’d still be a bit concerned.

And that’s it, I think? Jason Giambi and Scott Rolen are dealing with nagging issues, but it’d be news if they weren’t. Dustin Pedroia and Andrew Cashner suffered notable injuries on Tuesday. 

Ephemera

Yankees: Derek Jeter, 2-4, 2B, K

Since peaking on May 6, Jeter had hit .248/.300/.304 from May 8 through Tuesday.

Rays: Kyle Farnsworth, 0.1 IP, 0 H, 4 BB, K, 3 R

The Professor entered in the 8th after a David Price gem, up 3-1, and couldn’t find the plate. That was just his second appearance this season, and he’s faced 10 batters. He’s walked five of them, given up a hit to one more, and recorded just four outs (but three on strikeouts!).

Angels: Ervin Santana, 1.1 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 8 R

And against Cleveland. There are actually 23 guys who have been permitted to give up 9 or more runs this season (that seems absurdly high to me), but Santana’s only the ninth (still high!) to have given up eight or more without getting out of the second inning.

Indians: Casey Kotchman, 2-3, HR, BB, 2 R, 3 RBI

Still at just .231/.299/.355 (79 wRC+) on the year. 2007 and 2011 were cute and all, but.

Red Sox: Nick Punto, 0-3, BB

I’m going to end up feeling dumb about this one. I thought Punto was a shrewd signing for the Sox, and that he would be a capable starter at 2B or SS for them. I guess I still think that should have been true…but in 107 PA he’s at .180/.295/.247, shades of his really dismal 2007 (the difference being that back then, the Twins had to keep starting him). 

Athletics: Brendan Moss, 3-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, RBI

I was going to make this more generally about how the Sox’ castoffs were doing them in (Moss and Josh Reddick) but holy Brendan Moss! In just 86 PA, he’s homered ten times and is hitting .282/.349/.718 (187 wRC+). He’s got 24 HR for the year between AAA and the bigs.

Orioles: Chris Tillman, 8.1 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 R (0 ER)

In his first big-league appearance of the year, Tillman probably could justifiably have been pitcher of the night. The Orioles are going to need a lot more of that sort of thing to keep up their current pace.

Mariners: Ichiro!, 0-4, K.

.262/.290/.356, 78 wRC+. You do whatever you want, man, but if you want to stop soon, that’d be cool. I don’t want to remember you this way. (Oddly, every system thinks he’s been brilliant defensively, making him a not-terrible player. But “not terrible” isn’t nearly good enough for Ichiro.) 

Twins: Chris Parmelee, 1-3, HR, R, RBI

Not much to report here, though I guess it’s worth noting that Parmelee has homers in his last two games (Saturday and last night), after none — and almost nothing else — in his first 108 PA of 2012.

Tigers: Austin Jackson, 3-3, 3B, BB, R

Jackson stands out as probably the biggest All-Star snub of 2012, and might be the biggest not to even make it to the Final Vote list. 

Royals: Eric Hosmer, 0-4, 3 K

A new wrinkle! Until now, it’s been a BABIP issue with Hosmer, now hitting .230/.297/.378. Can’t start striking out all the time now, too.

Blue Jays: Carlos Villanueva, 6 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K, 0 R

Kept to only 85 pitches, because he’s being transitioned into the rotation. I’d say it’s going well.

White Sox: Kevin Youkilis, 2-4, RBI, BB, walk-off hit in 10th

Not exactly setting the world on fire in Chicago — and that walk was the first for the Greek God, in nine games with the team — but I bet they’re pretty happy with him there this morning. 

Rangers: Josh Hamilton, 2-4, HR, BB, 2 R, RBI

Hamilton had gone through a cold spell after the early-May homer binge, managing just four in 35 games from May 13 to last week. This was his fourth in just nine games since June 25, though, so maybe the Rangers can finally be good now.

Giants: Pablo Sandoval, 3-4, HR, 2B, R, 3 RBI

This was the first time I’d gotten to watch Panda hit in quite a while. I should make a point to do that more often. Makes me happy.

Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman, 2-5, HR, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI, K

Zimmerman has really struggled (coming in with an 83 OPS+), and is kind of the forgotten man among your Harpers and Strasburgs. Really hoping this is the beginning of a rest-of-the-season-long turnaround.

Mets: Bullpen (Batista, Byrdak and Hefner), 2 IP, 7 H, BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 6 R

The Mets entered the 7th with a 2-0 lead; Chris Young gave up three in the third, and the bullpen proceeded to duplicate the feat in both the eighth and ninth.

Phillies: Cliff Lee, 8 IP, 7 H, BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 2 R

Typically excellent performance by Lee, who picked up his first “win” of the year in fourteen tries. He has a 3.01 FIP.

Astros: Scott Moore, 2-4, R

Just a pair of singles, but there’s nothing interesting about the Astros (aside from Altuve, who wasn’t interesting yesterday). The 29-year-old journeyman is hitting .368/.368/.632 in his first 19 PA of ’12.

Pirates: Jason Grilli, IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K

Noteworthy because of how awesome Grilli has been. This lowered his strikeout rate, to 14.05, across 32.2 innings, as his ERA fell to 1.93. 

Marlins: Justin Ruggiano, 2-4, HR, BB, SB, R, RBI

Yep, TCM just picked him yesterday, but he’s just been that good. He filled in nicely for Giancarlo Stanton in the Marlins’ cleanup spot, and now sits at .409/.487/.818 in his 80 2012 PA.

Brewers: Ryan Braun, 1-3, 2B, 2 BB, RBI

Surprising how little of a story he’s been, after that crazy offseason; I’ll assume that the people who would normally be talking are just disappointed that it turns out he’s still great. Now at .309/.392/.605 (168 wRC+), right around where he was last year.

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, 2-4, HR, R, RBI

.323/.344/.710. Cue the freakouts and the vaguely offensive ethnicity-based t-shirts. 

Braves: Michael Bourn, 3-4, 2B, 3B, R

Actually, maybe Bourn is the biggest All-Star snub (if he doesn’t make it via Final Vote). Depending on how much value you can put on his defense, he’s been either a top-five or top-ten player in the NL this season.

Rockies: Dexter Fowler, 0-5, 4 K

I do love the golden sombrero. It was a rare misstep for Fowler this season (though he does strike out a ton), who’s hitting .281/.373/.528. 

Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, 6 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 R

He needed that after a five-inning, seven-run showing his last time out. He’s now gone exactly 7 innings and given up either one or two runs in four of his last five starts, and seems to very much be back

Reds: Mike Leake, 7 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 3 R (2 ER)

Really nice outing for Leake, wasted when the Reds managed just three hits and one walk against the Dodgers. 

Dodgers: Ronald Belisario, 1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K

Belisario lowers his ERA to 0.99. Still just a 1.67 K/BB, though, so it’s probably nothing.

Padres: Yasmani Grandal, 1-1, HR, R, 2 RBI

It was a pinch-hit homer that broke a tie and ultimately gave the Padres an 8-6 win. It was also the fourth homer of Grandal’s major league career, which is six games and twenty plate appearances old.

Diamondbacks: Jason Kubel, 1-3, HR, BB, 1 R, 3 RBI

Kubel’s line even before last night was eerily similar to his career best 2009, and the homer was his 14th, while the guy he was supposed to be replacing (Gerardo Parra) has been playing basically full-time anyway, thanks to the injuries. They’ve got a long way to go to justify that bizarre signing, but it’s a good start.

Bill

About Bill

Bill is an employment lawyer and baseball geek. Also a comedy geek, and just a geek generally.

Thursday Morning Cram Session

Gaaaah!  The Common Man’s computer was a common piece of crap this morning and ate all of his work on the Thursday Morning Cram Session. And on such a historic night too!  TCM is livid.  Anyway, here’s an abbreviated version, since The Common Man has an 8:00 meeting this morning:

Pitcher of the Night: Matt Cain, Perfect Game, 14 Ks

What a terrific performance.  You can slag on the Astros all you want, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Matt Cain.  Nor does TCM buy the notion that no-hitters and perfect games are becoming less special today.  It’s essentially the pinnacle a pitcher can reach in any given game; it’s impossible for them to do better, so the relatively few guys who achieve it deserve to, and will continue to be celebrated.  As TCM wrote in his guide to perfect games after the Humber perfecto, this relative explosion of no-hitters and perfect games is due to an increase in opportunity (there are more teams, and more games than there were for much of baseball history), a downturn in offense (which is cyclical, and will eventually reverse itself) and more strikeouts and better defense around the league.  But all that doesn’t change the fact that Matt Cain is an absolute beast.

Hitter of the Night: Michael Cuddyer, 4-4, 1 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI

Ho-hum, who cares about this?  Let’s get back to the Perfect Game

Defensive play of the night: Gregor Blanco

Matt Cain should buy Gregor Blanco something nice.  Like maybe a house:

(h/t to our friends at Bay City Ball for the .gif)

Injuries of Note:

Yoenis Cespedes – Strained Hamstring

Kyle Drabek – Ominous Elbow Popping

PJ Walters – Sudden Shoulder Stiffness

The Common Man’s laptop – Acute Being Thrown Across the Room

Vin Scully-ism of the Night

You really had to be there to listen to Vincent rattle off everything he knows about CJ Wilson, from his interest in racing and photography, to his “straight edge” lifestyle and tattoo (which he got on the spot it would hurt the most).  Apparently Wilson’s writing a novel about a minor leaguer who dies, and his family finds his journal.  He’s into martial arts.  And he’s “the only player in the Major Leagues who follows the Dalai Llama.”  At this point, TCM thinks that Vin Scullly knows more about CJ Wilson than CJ Wilson does.

Ephemera

Mets – RA Dickey pitched a one-hitter and got upstaged.  His 12 strikeouts fell one short of the single-game record for knuckleballers held by Phil Niekro (of course)

Twins – Trevor Plouffe has now hit 7 homers in 12 games, and 4 in his last 5.

Nationals – Minor league veteran Tyler Moore hit two homers.  He’s not a guy though.

Orioles – All it took to get Jake Arrieta (7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9K) on the right track again was facing the Pirates, apparently.

Red Sox – Is anyone else noticing that Felix Doubront (7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 9 K) is suddenly really good at baseball?

Phillies – Jim Thome can still hit a baseball about a billion feet.

Indians – Johnny Damon goes 0-4 with 2 Ks, is now hitting .178/.267/.271.  How much longer can they keep going to him?

Again, sorry for the short post this morning. We (the computer and TCM) are going to have a talk this afternoon.

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