Archive for December, 2009

Encoding Essentia, Beyond Baseball’s Dementia . . . .

December 14, 2009

 Did You Not Know That?

In 1960, sitting on the bench of baseball’s worst team, the woeful 58-96 Kansas City A’s, was a second-string outfield that one day would ascend to a victorious Valhalla while remaining in danger only of unsplendid splinters. Did you not know that Dick Williams, Whitey Herzog and Hank Bauer would all one day manage World Champions? Upon announcement of Herzog’s entrance into the Hall of Fame this week, it’s a reminder to keep your eyes from the stars and look to the dugout once in a while, to conjure the improbable futures of current benchwarmers who may, like our unlikely immortals, wind up commanders in charge, winning the crown jewel of baseball bling–a World Series ring!

Speaking further of “unreckoned threes” (without resorting to Stengelese), if the pending trade of Boston’s Mike Lowell to Texas for Max Ramirez is finally approved, it would mean for the third time “Max Being Max” has been traded for a former All Star, without yet completing one major league season! Did you not know that in addition to ’07 W.S. MVP Lowell, Ramirez has already been traded for ex-big league stars Kenny Lofton and Bob Wickman? With three such transactions by the tender age of 25, Mr. M.R. has somehow, though benched in the bigs, with very little playing time, become a bastion of baseball essentia (by explanation, to be convivial, all that is not trivial!).

The recent unveiling of fascinating footage proving the National Anthem was first played during the seventh inning of Game #1 of the 1918 World Series between the visiting BoSox and the Cubs went without an essential bit of truth! Did you not know that the game was played at Comiskey Park? I thought so!

Switching to Pitching

Two Faves among Four-Inning Saves

July 19, 1955 – “Babe” Birrer earns nickname! Detroit rookie reliever Werner Joseph Birrer homers in consecutive at-bats, while hurling four shutout innings for his first big-league save, ensuring Frank Lary’s victory over the Orioles and becoming the only relief pitcher ever to save a game while hitting two home runs. Two years later, Millard Fillmore “Dixie” Howell of the White Sox (like Hank Bauer, a WW II hero) becomes the only reliever in history to win a game while hitting two homers.   Howell’s power display at Comiskey Park on June 16, 1957, is linked forever in my diamond mind with another favorite two-homer day for a ‘50s Sox left-handed hitter, all four landing in the distant right-field stands. On June 24, 1956, Hall of Fame centerfielder Larry Doby hit three-run homers in the first inning of each game of a White Sox double-header sweep over those Damn Yankees! And is this day, the anniversary of L.D.’s birth, December 13, 1925, not the right one to remember a slugging feat of that classy, history-making man?)

July 13, 1963 – Cleveland’s Jerry Walker pitches four scoreless frames to save the coveted 300th (and final) career win of the great, late Early Wynn!  Early’s precious 7-4 win over K.C. was his sole victory in 1963, and Jerry’s razor-sharp rescue was his lone save of the year, as well as the last of his career.  Historically, as AL All Star teammates in 1959, Wynn and Walker had already made their mark together.  Through the two All Star games of that year, starters Wynn of the White Sox and Walker of the Orioles proceeded to become, respectively, the oldest (Early,game 1) and youngest (Jerry,game 2) players ever to be in starting All Star Game lineups.  Ironically, in game 2, “Old Gus” relieved for youngest ever winning pitcher Walker in preparation, it seems, for their milestone win-and-save high-wire act!

What ties together these two historic saves and humbles even the most casual box score scanner (which I do not claim to be) are the pitching lines for the two games for the four aforementioned righties, perfectly mirroring each other, all 24 numerical entries in place!

Game No. 1 IP H R ER BB SO
Lary 5 6 4 4 3 3
Birrer 4 3 0 0 2 2
Game No. 2 IP H R ER BB SO
Wynn 5 6 4 4 3 3
Walker 4 3 0 0 2 2

Raves for “More Than Four Innings” Saves

June 1, 1920 – Hank “Lefty” Thormahlen pitches five relief innings in the Yankees 14-7 win over the Senators, saving the victory for George Herman Ruth (4IP, 4R, 2ER). The Babe’s only pitching appearance during his phenomenal 54-homer 1920 campaign is historically significant to this day, as he is the only pitcher (minimum 10 seasons pitched) to have had a winning season each year for each team he pitched for, a tribute to his underrated moundsmanship and the strange official scoring of that fateful June afternoon.

The man who is tied with Early Wynn at exactly 300 career wins, Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove is credited with the longest save in World Series annals. On October 9, 1929, in Chicago’s Wrigley Field, young Moses rescued “Swarthmore Smoothie” George Earnshaw, to preserve Game 2 laurels for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia crew, tossing 4-1/3 shutout innings following Earnshaw’s 4-2/3 IP, 3ER showing during the A’s 8-3 besting of the cursed Cubs.

Orioles Succumb to Two Strange Saves, But Prevent the Strangest

September 3, 2002Joaquin Benoit pitches seven innings of one-run ball to secure history’s longest save vs. the Birds.

August 22, 2007 – The highest scoring total by any team in one game saw the Rangers beat the Orioles 30-3 (after spotting Baltimore a 3-run lead), yet requiring a 3-inning save by Wes Littleton.

May 18, 1957 – With one minute to go before curfew ends the game in Baltimore, White Sox reliever Paul LaPalme does not hold the ball (or throw it to the screen!) but instead yields a homer to none other than Mr. Dick Williams, losing a save and 4-3 Sox win with a misguided pitch.

Two Cinch Series Saves

October 1, 1959Gerry Staley saves it for Early Wynn (11-0 White Sox over Dodgers) with 2 IP.

October 6, 1960 Bobby Shantz 2/3 inning preserves 16-3 win for Bob Turley, Yankees over Pirates.

In closing, thanks to Don Sevcik, my W-L differential (a simple significance) listings are on the Barry Code Boards, showing Randy Johnson and Jack Chesbro winning major league titles, pitching in both leagues, and Grover Cleveland Alexander capturing three straight. And speaking for all the other otherwise unacknowledged leaders, thanks to all for checking it out!

For Nathan Thurm and Johnny Sturm,Barry Codell…..

Greinke, Lincecum Win Cy Young, But Not Cy Falkenberg!

December 6, 2009

 The silken seasons spun by those (Cy) Young Gunslingers Zack Greinke of the Royals and Tim Lincecum of the Giants may indeed have been well deserving of the handsome hardware that handful of select scriveners deigned to hand them, despite the two twirlers’ respective victory totals of 16 and 15.

 Certainly, in the interest of fueling hot stove interest, as with Hall of Fame and MVP honors, the shared wealth of ever-newer statistical subjectivity is not (despite the attempted hypnotism) injurious to the health of our little “pastime past Time.”  But lost in baseball’s bustle of nouveau numbering designed to completely discredit pitching win totals, it might be worth remembering that a game’s opposing pitchers are facing each other as well as opposing hitters — with individual and team victory going most often to the one starter allowing fewer runs than the other — and that a pitcher’s won-lost record is that one individual statistic perfectly mirroring team won-lost.

 Which brings me to 25-game winner Cy Falkenberg and his “Marichal Year” (MY) and today’s most salient questions:  who is the former and what is the latter?

 Chicago-born Cy Falkenberg, after going 23-10 with a 2.22 ERA in 1913 for the Indians, jumped to a 25-16 year with Indianapolis of the Federal League in 1914, with another sparkling 2.22 ERA.  (The Chicago Federal League connection culminates with that historic ember of memory, i.e., Chicago sore spot, of the only major league championship won in Wrigley Field—by the 1915 Chicago Whales!)  That year, Cy paced the majors (yes, the Barry Code absolutely recognizes the Federal League as major league, further acknowledging 1900 as the first A.L. season) in both recorded outs (IP x 3) and strikeouts, with 1132 RO and 236 SO, edging Walter Johnson, who garnered 1115 RO and 225 SO.  The most forgotten of any pitcher accomplishing this previously unfeted feat, Cy Falkenberg most deserves the pub, hence the Cy Falkenberg Award, won but 27 times by 18 pitchers in baseball history.

 The most recent awardee is 2009 19-game winner Justin Verlander of the Tigers, out of the A.L., running for the less rare, but more coveted Cy Young award (remember the three Cy Young Awards in ’69 going to Tom Seaver, Mike Cuellar and Denny McLain, whose 1968 31-victory season is so aptly compared by the venerable Barry V. Codell to the Zach-Tim total of 31 in ’09?)  The comparative out and win declensions of Verlander (720, 19), Greinke (688, 16) and Lincecum (676, 15) indicate both Cy Young winners (and their teams) would ultimately be more relieved were they less relieved!

 Win totals of 25 or more like old Cy Falkenberg’s may be a thing of the past (Bob Welch’s 27 W in 1990 perhaps the last), and even the 20-game winning species endangered (although Brandon Webb’s and Cliff Lee’s 22 victories apiece in ‘08 may belie this), let’s give Greinke and Lincecum a real goal to attain, using additional traditional stats:  more than 20 wins, higher than .600 W/L, greater than 200 strikeouts and lower than 2.50 ERA–a combination cracked most miraculously by the “Juanderful” Juan Marichal, who had six such “surpassing seasons” (no Cy Youngs!) with “Li’l Tim’s” Giants!

 And who trailed most closely in Marichal years?  None other than The Big Train and Big Six immortals Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson, with 5 and 4 similar campaigns, respectively, among the 31 hurlers who cumulatively “surpassed superiority” 56 times (sorry Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan, Warren Spahn, Lefty Grove and, yes, Cy Young!), including personal favorite Wilbur Wood (see Respect the Wood below).

 The lists of “Cy Falkenberg Awards” and “Juan Marichal Years” will be found on the Barry Code’s “Super Lists” link.  And a final word about these “scrolls unsung” (featuring a Ford not Whitey, and a Cy not Young):  the pitchers themselves voted with their own numbers to make the roll call.  Not to worry, baseball writers (and SABR righters), quite a few Cy Young Award winners are there, too–so keep pitching!



Respect the Wood – Going beyond the Marichal Years by lowering the ERA component to less than 2.00 and adding a 1000 RO requirement shows only three lively ball era (1920-2009) pitchers left standing as “five star flingers.”  In order of ERA, they are:

Pitcher Year Wins Pct. SO ERA RO
Wilbur Wood 1971 22 .629 210 1.91 1002
Denny McLain 1968 31 .838 280 1.96 1008
Steve Carlton 1972 27 .730 310 1.97 1039


Further into the WoodsWith Wilbur Wood’s singular sensation of 1971 now established; the lefty went on to forge a three-year streak of seasons above both 20 wins and 1000 recorded outs, the first (and, so far, the last) lively ball moundsman to do so!  Now we can quickly reveal the uniqueness of two other Woods, Smoky Joe and Kerry.  In 1912, the great Joe Wood became (and remains) the only pitcher ever to attain an overall (regular season plus post-season) won-lost differential over 30 (37W, 6L).  And in 1998, Kerry Wood’s “super game” against the Astros is still the only one in history in which a pitcher struck out more than two-thirds of his batters faced (20 of 29, for a .690 KBF – see “Super List” link for all .300 pitchers)!  Knuckleballs, curveballs, fastballs – straight from the Woods and into baseball immortality . . . .