Saintly Sox Second Sacker Succumbs, Survives Still

He was playing his first season with the White Sox, which would be his last in major league baseball.  With but one home run entering the early June games that 1974 season against the Red Sox, his unexpected and unprecedented slugging surge made what is until now forgotten history.

To continue with the Taylor Spink’s Sporting News spirit of today’s title, our hero would deserve a Jerry Holtzman “doff of the fedora” for his unique Comiskey Park home run “hat trick” nestled within the two box scores to which he so mightily contributed that Saturday night game of June 8, followed by the Sunday afternoon June 9 finale against Boston.

For within a span of less than 24 hours, Chicago’s new scrappy second baseman had not only hit homers in consecutive games and consecutive at-bats, but had registered a solo shot, an inside-the-park home run, and a grand slammer!  All told, his two errorless, multiple hit-and-run games added, in less than a day, to these astounding totals:  3HR, 5R, 5H, 7RBI!  The second of his consecutive homers, off Bill Lee, proved to be the penultimate round-tripper of his career (his final of 342 career homers came later in the month).  While falling short of the Barry Code’s Batters Hall of Fame (with more outs than bases), he certainly deserves to join other Sox keystoners like Johnny Evers, Eddie Collins and Nellie Fox in Cooperstown immediately, yet too late.

So what else should the Barry Code say about him on this sad day?  Perhaps that he led all of baseball with a 200 EBOD (Essential Base-Out Differential–see Decoder) in 1964, beating out runners-up Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in that most significant category, or that Mr. Ron Santo also played some third base for the Chicago Cubs?

And also what a courageous athlete and humanitarian he was, inspiring and entertaining us all!  Rest in peace, Ronnie, you will remain in baseball’s memory as long as the game itself is remembered . . . .

Auld Acquaintances

The recent passing of Gil McDougald and Danny McDevitt must also regretfully be noted, as that wonderful diamond of the 1950’s passes brightly before our eyes.  In 1951, Gil McDougald became the first rookie to hit a grand slam home run in a World Series game.  His great 10-year career ended the moment Bill Mazeraski homered for the Pirates legendary game 7, 9th inning triumph over the Yankees in 1960.  He had made the All Star team 5 times, the only man ever selected as a third baseman, shortstop and second baseman.

The next year, the Bombers began the season with a new pitcher, former Dodger Danny McDevitt and, after trading him in June, went on to win the ’61 World Series, making the little lefty the only player to play with both the Yankees and the Dodgers during Championship seasons.  But it was his “super quality” complete game 2-0 shutout of the Pirates on September 24, 1957, in the last Brooklyn game at Ebbets Field, which secured his place in the game’s history.

We fellow followers resolutely salute these two Irish gentlemen who made their mark so gloriously in the Big Apple just yesterday, so long ago.

Let the No-Games Begin!

The off-season somehow beckons beyond reason or will.  As the bard says, “Seeming time speeds upward” (does anyone remember Uribe the Giant?), yet for a while the stats stay still.  Bliss is now that “baseball lack” for one looking forward to looking back.  Upon our furthest inspection, the seasons and off-seasons of the diamond create a game, not unlike baseball, of action and reflection.

Upon hearing words from Pedro Martinez that he was working out in the Dominican Republic while pondering a possible comeback, I think the Code’s first order of business this off-season is to capture the singularity of his astounding seasonal and career figures before he endangers them!

What better way to express Pedro’s uniqueness than to compare his dominance over all of history’s pitchers to the parallel preeminence of the Babe himself over all hitters?  And though they exhibited such necessarily dissimilar skills in striking out batters (like Martinez) and striking the baseball (like Ruth), there exists in all recordkeeping no such striking similarity of historical domination.

It takes, of course, your trusty Barry Code Decoder to see this clearly.  So let’s look first at a summation of Ruth and Martinez together:  each, against other hitters and hurlers, respectively, is the only man ever to top two Code categories, while being the sole player with a positive reading in both for his entire career.  Further, the Babe and Pedro had the top two all-time seasons (consecutively for both) in both these stats.

The details make for staggering case studies.  Babe Ruth’s lifetime Hitting Differential (HD) stands at +.032.  The HD is the difference between Slugging Average and Out Average (Batting Average reversed).  The next highest HD career is a negative number, -.022, attained by the great Ted Williams.  Ruth’s two unsurpassed HD seasons are the only +.200 campaigns ever (.225, 1920; and .224, 1921).

HD, from the Decoder Dropdown, is a measured stat, a decimal determined by denominator.  Its accountable components (TB, AB and Hits) can be presented in a very illuminating differential, TB – (AB-H) or Total Bases minus At Bat Outs (TBABO), found on the Barry Code “You Choose” button.  TBABO is a cumulative stat (equally telling in a different perspective, noting players’ attempts to accumulate Total Bases while avoiding Outs Batting), a differential showing again solely Ruth in a positive career setting (+268, followed by Williams at -168, with single-season list-toppers at +221 (1921) and +101 (1920).

Incredibly, Martinez perfectly duplicates this pattern on the pitching side.  It is revealing that his stats, like Ruth’s, come first from the Decoder Dropdown, Strikeout to Allowed Runners Differential (SOAR), and then from the You Choose, Strikeout minus Allowed Runners per Innings (KARI).  Pedro’s 2000 (110 SOAR) and 1999 (107 SOAR) soar above any seasons in pitching history, and his career +32 is its only positive number.  His 2000 .507 and 1999 .502 KARI figures are the only +.500 years ever, while his lifetime .011 KARI again tops the ledger as the only career “in the black.”  Like Ruth being pursued in career digits by Hall of Fame batsman Williams, Martinez was most closely challenged by immortal moundsman Randy Johnson in lifetime SOAR (-158) and KARI (- .038).

Measured or cumulative, that “mighty mite” Pedro Martinez’s statistics seem as overpowering from the mound as the mighty Babe’s do from the batter’s box.  Of course, the similarities do not end there.  Remarkably, as Boston pitchers, each had a season being both the toughest to hit safely against or score against in the American League (see Code pitching stats HERO and RIP).  So here’s hoping Pedro enjoys retirement, stays positive, and stays put–in the Barry Code Record Book!

Are Outlandish Speculators Again Fueling Hot Stove?

Interviewer: How come you think you’d hit only .300 against today’s pitchers, Mr. Cobb?

Ty Cobb: Well, I am 70 years old!

Speculative dealings finalized at the Winter Meetings by general managers may have, by nature, more impact on the game than the annual wild conjurings of the fans, which somehow help sustain it.  Together, however, these two forces are fueling the Hot Stove league as never before, for better or worse.  Can anyone recall Reality Baseball?  (In breaking news, the Phillies have signed prize free agent pitcher Cliff Lee to a five-year $120 million contract.  “Prognosticating projectionists” are already predicting a Philadelphia dynasty, conveniently forgetting the Phils have not once in their well-over-a-century history ever had even one season winning a World Series and having the best record in their league–speaking of Reality!)

What kind of dreamful purchasing has Washington G.M. Mike Rizzo embarked upon by signing of Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract (thereby upping the ante in all subsequent dealings), while allowing the White Sox to sign the half-year-younger Adam Dunn to a four-year $56 million pact?  Rizzo characterized Werth as “a young 31.”  What spectacular speculation!  His words evoke that baseball infamy from yesteryear when Reds’ owner Bill DeWitt called Frank Robinson “an old 30” before trading him to Baltimore after the 1965 season.

Four Robinson-led pennants, two World Champions, a triple crown and MVP later, F. Robby had made (not mincing words) total mincemeat out of the Cincinnati Redlegs.  How much, given the economy-defying figures thrown at free agents, would Frank Robinson command today?  Perhaps only $100 million, but in deference to Ty Cobb’s wisdom, he is 75 years old, after all!

Thanks again, Barry Coders, for reading, righting and recounting . . . .

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