Archive for October, 2010

Coming to a Series Near You — Mariners vs. Nationals?

October 27, 2010

That unparalleled, yet parallel, four-year rise of both the latest “World Serious” suitors (from last place season to losing season to winning season to pennant season!) may prompt Barry Coders to look back at history’s similarly inexperienced October opponents.

The Texas Rangers, never having been in a World Series, will face the San Francisco Giants, never having won one, after each dethroned their pennant predecessors, the Yankees and Phillies, respectively, in well earned upsets.  Thirty years before, the then championshipless Phils, led by Mike Schmidt, faced and finally defeated a World Series adversary, the novice Kansas City Royals, starring George Brett.  This was the first such structured encounter since 60 years before, in 1920, when player-manager Tris Speaker’s Cleveland Indians won their Series debut against old Wilbert Robinson’s boys, his Brooklyn Robins, playing in their second Classic.

The last pairing of two Series newcomers was the “Windy City World Series” of 1906 when those hitless, wondrous White Sox shocked Frank Chance’s “unbeatable” but suddenly chancy Cubs, four games to two.  With the Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners now the only current clubs never to have won a pennant, perhaps somehow buoyed by those fatefully promising last place finishes in 2010 (given the above Ranger-Giant precedent), get ready, albeit slowly, for that perfect 2013 match-up–Seattle vs. Washington.

For now, let’s quickly prepare to savor this diamond week’s guaranteed historical tricks and treats, starting, and perhaps ending, with Lee vs. Lincecum.  As the wily right-hander Israel Gershowitz queried the year George Earnshaw and Lefty Grove each beat the Cardinals twice to win the World Championship for Connie Mack’s Athletics, “Who could ask for anything more?”

“Son of the Year of the Pitcher” – Still Growing into Post-Season!

Those ever-younger pundits who proclaim 2010 the “Year of the Pitcher” have not “forgotten to remember” (to lightly paraphrase one Israel Baline, composer of “Jake, Jake the Yiddish Ballplayer” *) the year 1968, but rather, being such earnestly youthful observers of this latest craze, baseball, have sadly had no chance to even recall that season when the A.L. boasted a 30-game winner, 5 sub-2.00 ERA’s, and one .300 batter, while the N.L. had a 1.12 ERA champ and a hurler with 6 straight shutouts!

Being born too late, they will be held almost entirely blameless.  And this year’s terrific twirlers indeed have proven to be worthy heirs to those slingers of the sixties.  Some stunning recent post-season starts have added two hurling heroes to a new and nostalgic list in Barry Code pitching annals.

Here is a (Home Run) baker’s dozen “group of games” (totaling 50) that pitchers past and present have thrown that should stand the “many tests of many times!”

2 games of 20 strikeouts during career Roger Clemens
2 consecutive no-hitters Johnny Vandermeer
2 shutouts, one day Ed Ruelbach
2 shutouts, more than 10Ks, first  2 career games Karl Spooner
2 no hitters, same year, one regular, one post-season Roy Halliday
3 games facing 27 batters Mark Buerhrle
3 shutouts in one World Series Christy Mathewson
4 straight years with no-hit games Sandy Koufax
4 World Series wins with 10 SO, O BB Cliff Lee
5 straight shutouts vs. pennant-winning team Larry Jaster
6 straight shutouts Don Drysdale
7 no-hitters in career Nolan Ryan
8 straight games, 10 or more strikeouts Pedro Martinez

All in all, 50 games that still shake the pitching world!

*And speaking of songs and baseball, what tune could top “I Wonder What My Stomach Thinks of Me,” music by White Sox lefthander Doc White, words by Hall of Fame baseball writer Ring Lardner?

P.S. Still pitching pitching–speaking of the ‘60s, I believe it’s time to break the Gordian knot of stats–the MLB shutout championship 9-way tie of 1966.  In the tradition of (Grover) Alexander the Great, we’ll solve it simply and quickly!  How about bringing those shutouts into the SHOP (Shutout Percentage), dividing shutouts by starts?  (Use that “You Choose” button on the Code Super Calculator!)  And the standings are (44 years later) as follows:

1. L. Tiant 5 16 .313
2. L. Jaster 5 21 .238
3. S. McDowell 5 28 .179
4. J. Maloney 5 32 .156
5. L. Jackson 5 33 .152
6. T. John 5 33 .152
7. B. Gibson 5 35 .143
8. J. Bunning 5 41 .122
9. S. Koufax 5 41 .122

Belated congrats to El Tiante!

P.P.S. And in case you haven’t heard it, “There’s a long drive, it’s gonna be, I believe . . . The Giants win the pennant!  The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!  Juan Uribe has homered into the first row of the right field stands, and the Giants win the pennant!  And they’re going crazy, they’re going crazy . . . !”

Mr. K, Pitcher Perfect—The One, The Only, The Genuine Article!

“Yom Koufax” (named by Mickey Mantle himself) is that holiday we observe each October 2, commemorating Sandy’s World Series record-breaking 15-strikeout Game 4 performance against the Yankees on October 2, 1963.  Reminding those “keeping score at home” that while “K” commonly signifies strikeout, the verb “to koufax” (meaning striking out the batter while making him look completely over-matched, e.g., “Sandy koufaxed Mantle his first two times up on that 2nd of October” or “Cliff Lee is koufaxing those hitters again”) can be abbreviated, for scoring purposes, to SK, meaning super-strikeout or, equivalently and fittingly, Sandy Koufax!

The span from October 2, 1965 to October 2, 1966, shows collectors and recollectors alike why both this special day and person must be remembered.  During this time, the inestimably estimable Mr. Koufax threw two pennant-clinching victories and one World Series clincher–with each of those three impossibly dramatic games on two days’ rest!

And there is more!  Koufax’s three starts were all, to use the Barry Code’s correctly exacting system, super-quality starts, i.e., shutouts permitting one runner or less per inning, or complete game wins allowing three runs or less, while permitting less than one baserunner per inning (traditional quality starts being the 6-inning, 3-earned-runs-allowed-or-less model, while the Code’s “higher quality starts” are defined as at least seven innings pitched, allowing three runs or less by a winning pitcher).

Super-quality starts were a Koufax specialty, rarely seen this century (most memorably, the White Sox’ four consecutive super-quality starts thrown by their four starters to win the 2005 ALCS, a sure “never before or after” feat!), when complete games themselves are the most endangered species of baseball stats.  Within this symmetry of these two more October 2nds, is the co-genesis, along with the preciously few pitches he threw at the astounding peak of his shortened career, of his genuine legend:  his refusal to pitch on the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur, October 7, 1965, for the Dodgers’ first game of the series against Minnesota, thereby forcing him to an eventual deciding seventh-game triumph facing the Twins that cloudy, chilly afternoon of October 14 in Minnesota.

Beyond earning “The Day of Koufax,” here are six additional feats (covering durations of one to six years), each still seeming unmatchable let alone unbreakable, that set Sanford Koufax, now so much a part of baseball history, apart from all others!

1. Only pitcher to have a strikeout-walk-hit batsmen differential (see NCDA, Codell pitching) over 300 in one season
2. Only pitcher to surpass both 25 wins and 300 strikeouts in two seasons consecutively
3. Only pitcher to have Major League “Pitching Triple Crowns” (leading MLB in W, SO, and ERA) in three seasons
4. Only pitcher to throw a no-hitter in four seasons consecutively  (As Vin Scully said, “And he capped it all with a perfect game!” following Harvey Kuenn’s 1965 final-out strikeout.  One more “and” should be added:  And that very strikeout makes it the best of any perfect game ever pitched—the only one with the pitcher striking out more than half (14) of his batters faced (27)!
5. Only pitcher to have led his league in ERA in five seasons consecutively.
6. Only pitcher to have led his league in lowest Opponent Batting Average in six seasons

Bittersweetly, SK holds all possible records for Final Year Pitching (see Decoder).  Suddenly finding his remarkable rhythm at age 25, with each remaining delivery literally the most real deal, and forced to retire to save his arm at age 30, the Koufax luster, 44 years later, will still shine through each October inning in this Jewish year of 5771, reminding fans to reflect a while upon the living legacy of the nonpareil lefty from Brooklyn.