Posts Tagged ‘Barry Codell’

Close to Opening!

April 1, 2010

For Hayden Sidd and his amazing stats

With each batter’s swing, baseball comes closer to that real spring ensuing with Opening Day.  Leaving behind the artificial stimulation of computer simulation (so as not to promote endless fantasy over incomparable reality), presently we will not need to warily open each day to a sentence of gaudily flawed diamond numerals.  For baseball begins yet again, destroying the finalities of its soothsayers with its annual renewal.

This foolhardy day seems the perfect time to reveal the formula that, by its pedigree of unerring accuracy, is guaranteed to assure the name of this year’s World Champion, while rightfully giving the game back to its real players for the usual miraculous unfolding of the season.

Now, when herds of unsheepish fans are rooting for themselves (and the authenticity of their baseball expertise) in the guise of player projections and win predictions, it may be time to appropriately reappropriate a misused, maligned seer brought forth only to justify that imposter Predictability.  But first, a bit of history is chomping at the bit.

 “Rejoice for the Good”

Pythagoras

Early in Base-Out history, simple run translations led naturally to speculative idylls, conjecturing runs and wins that I seasoned with more than a few grains of salt.  Baseball Graphics pioneer professor John Davenport was especially enthusiastic about my defensive BOP — against totals, which I often enthusiastically countered.  Nonetheless, this morning, over 30 years later, I can notice the simple “offensive bases” accumulated (TB + BB + HBP + SB + S.O.E.) model divided by 4, combined with a “defensive bases” allowed model (H + BB + HP + S.O.E. + SB – CS) translate almost perfectly for the World Champion 2009 Yankees’ dominance of 915 Runs Scored (915 on Offensive Model), 753 Runs Allowed (756 on Defensive Model).

Presaging perhaps Pythagorean W/L (but armed realistically with theoretical runs, rather than actual runs), to get theoretical wins, I played with concepts of “managerial luck” and “optimum opportunism” to account for differences in Winning and Scoring Percentages before abandoning this toy and other “childhood things” in order to salute the sanctity of the pending season’s tabula rasa.  It was time to return purposefully to stats for the original purpose of revelatory review rather than presumptuous preview, time to re-respect a world of anti-prognostication!

While eschewing both the spirit and letter of pre-analyzing Baseball Future, I also looked to that pithy Pythagoras to find his extolling of the good the basis of the GOOD (Games Outscoring Opponents Differential).  This is what we have been awaiting, that surefire figure of our rational pastime that enables us to patiently await and enjoy the full sensorium of upcoming, ongoing games without subjection to the projectionists’ premature ejaculations.

The GOOD knows that actual play on the playing fields can never be anomaly, establishing the following formula:

 GOOD = W – L

Rejoice!  The highest regular season GOOD assures post-season play.  The highest world series GOOD wins it all — every year!  So simmer down, fantasizers!  Let’em play ball—and let it all be played out, as was meant to be ever since Pythagoras of Samo walked upon what he would call “this base ball,” or what I like to call “the earth.”

 Last Year or When Worlds Collide or Why Space Ends on Closing Day

Soon, as we approach the closing day of spring training, the most recent of official games in our baseball consciousness will no longer be of the 2009 variety.  Although its mental space will be supplanted with the 2010 season, the memory of last year still has just enough room and recency to connect exhibition game participants like Jim Edmonds (who did not play in ’09) or absentees like Jermaine Dye (who did).  And just what is their currency for our embattled attention?  Another beckoning list, as they may in the next few days join those players with 20 or more homers in their final season–a powerful swansong barely avoided by free agent signers such as Jim Thome, Hank Blalock, and Johnny Gomes in the days (post-season 2009) when the sacred end of the off-season seemed so far away.

Where will Edmonds and Dye be on the fateful April 4, when the off-season and new season numbers contest for our mind’s eye?  For on that Sunday is when worlds collide:  the final Cactus League tilt between the Giants and Padres in the afternoon, the season opener that night featuring the Yanks vs. Red Sox!  Only then, will we know with alacrity and assurance whether our former All Star outfielders will be primed for destiny’s latest ledger.

Let’s recount the names of a dozen sluggers who went out in such style, with appreciation for any additions from Barry Coders.  I forecast only that The Don will be right on it with a “Last Season” link on the Barry Code to make it official.

 Here are my top 12 last-season larrupers:

  Player Team Year Total Comment
1. Dave Kingman Athletics 1986 35 No takers, many HRs
2. Ted Williams Red Sox 1960 29 SA .645
3. Mark McGwire Cardinals 2001 29 BA .187
4. Barry Bonds Giants 2007 28 Steroid bust, no trust
5. Hank Greenberg Pirates 1947 25 Greenberg Gardens gone, too
6. Roy Cullenbine Tigers 1947 25 Easily career high
7. Kirby Puckett Twins 1995 23 Tragic ending of career, life
8. Albert Belle Orioles 2000 23 Bad hip, worse attitude
9. Dave Nilsson Brewers 1999 21 Off to Australia Olympian
10. Sammy Sosa Rangers 2008 21 “Comeback year” finale
11. Will Clark Orioles/Cardinals 2000 21 Only two-teamer
12. Paul O’Neill Yankees 2001 21 20/20 treasure

 No No-Hitter ‘til 1940?  No Way!

My father’s long, tweed coat, worn with his protestations against Chicago’s winters, had its historic moment in the cold sun on April 16, 1940.  Seymour put the day’s events just behind December 7, 1941, on his amazing “I was there” list, evidently watching the first opening day no-hitter in big league history, as Bob Feller shut down the White Sox 1-0 at Comiskey Park.  Ray Mack’s game-ending, no-hit saving play “could barely be seen through the snowflakes,” Dad recalled.

Upon the 70th anniversary of the storied feat, I am not casting aspersions (in this case) on Seymour Codell’s credibility.  But (pardoning the punishing pun) I now see more:  this April is also the 110th anniversary of, let me say (contrasting respectfully the Feller claim), perhaps the very first opening day no-hitter in big league history.

             “The act will never be forgotten as long as baseball lives.  The performance of Southpaw Amole with go on record as one of the seven wonders of the national game.”

Detroit Free Press, April 20, 1900

Yet it has been forgotten, until now.  Twenty-one-year-old Doc Amole’s 8-0 whitewashing of the Detroit Tigers shocked the celebratory home crowd of nearly 5,000 as Buffalo easily prevailed in the season opener.  Amole, using “all sorts of curves and speed” went on to win 22 games for the seventh place Bisons in 1900.

Morris George Amole never pitched in another big league game after that season, dying in 1912 at the age of 33 of pulmonary arrest.  Per my previous blog mention that equated the 1900 American League’s level of play with the universally accepted 1914-15 Federal League campaigns, the 1900 American League is here and hereby recognized as a major league season.  MLB erroneously, I believe, at the time and ever since gives the 1901 A.L. its first official big league status.

Therefore, let’s stick around to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the literal White Sox opening day in Chicago.  It was April 21, 1900, and we are there (dudes) when Connie Mack’s Milwaukee Brewers beat Charles Comiskey’s White Stockings 5-4 at boisterous South Side Park.  The rest, including a World Championship against the “invincible” Cubs (formerly White Stockings) six years later in that same stadium, is history, and it all counts — on the Barry Code!

 Who’ll Win the 2010 Hitting Title—And What is That?

HA!  Hitting Average has it all over Batting Average!  Easy to compute, easy to memorize, Hitting Average was an early way to remind fans about tracking outs, while considering the type of base hits a hitter produces.  Today the HA is nothing to laugh at, playing an essential part of the base-out game we call baseball:  TB/(AB-H) does the trick!

Last season, N.L. batting champ Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins (.342 BA, .647 HA) was trounced by St. Louis Albert Pujols (.332 BA, .979 HA) for the N.L. hitting crown.  In the A.L., Joe Mauer of the Twins (.332 BA, .925 HA) was the man in both departments.

The best Hitting Average brings forth the Hitting Champion.  It’s that simple!  HA history says it all:  Tony Gwynn, with but a .693 career HA, had 8 more batting titles than hitting titles (eight to none).  Babe Ruth, with a career-leading HA of 1.049 captured 8 more hitting titles than batting titles (nine to one).  A first Ichiro Hitting Championship in the offing?  With a .650 lifetime HA, highly unlikely—but keep going, Barry Coders, there is still so much to look backward to!

 Post Scripting:

The blog is indebted to researcher Gary Velich for continuing to share his favorite Barry Code stats with other sites.  Recently, Gary asked whether I would publicly acknowledge his findings that my Runs Recounted formula (RR) correlated to actual runs better than the Runs Created and Point System totals of Bill James and Steve Mann, respectively.  Thanks, Gary, for linking me to these old acquaintances.

 In 2010 I vow to search mainly, however, for the numbers of Carlos Slim and Grigori Perelman!

 As for the estimable Mr. Velich, I became a big fan of his when, overcoming Sabermetric presuppositions by recognizing RR, Gary also confirmed that (1) the man who tripled with the bases loaded and then scored had indeed hit a more valuable three-bagger than the poor fellow who tripled with nobody on base and was stranded, and (2) the two players, while equal in individual accomplishment were, per Code Stats, unequal in team contribution.

For Gary and all Code Talkers, thanks for realizing “mere counting stats” (including ball-strike counts, scores of games, and amounts of wins) have all along contained the magical recounting stats comprising the diamond present that the past gives us to this very opening day!

 Have a great season (no fooling)!

 Barry Codell

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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!

Note:

 

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 . . . . 

 

Deep in the Diamond Mine

November 10, 2009

November 9 – Now, then Then . . . .

The obvious headline of the November Classic is rightly, “Yanks Beat Phils, Capture 27th Title,” but the more interesting, hidden headline from future Arcane Archives is written, “Phils Beat Yanks, Giving Sox Distinction,” for with Philadelphia’s opening game victory over New York, those 2005 Sox arose once more as the Chicago gift that keeps giving! And I’m not referring to ex-Sox not-so-great Damaso Marte’s 0.00 post-season ERA, following his 9.45
regular season–an unprecedented difference.

For when at last Cliff Lee’s masterpiece was fully spun, the White Sox prevailed as the only 21st century, first decade team to have won a true traditional pennant (more victories than any team in its league) preceding a World Series sweep, a nearly invisible yet not small accomplishment.

But with the glorious opening day of the off-season giving baseball reflection the hardwon edge over baseball action, at last stilling those moveable numbers for six months, we seize the opportunity to more fully cement the past with a breaking story from the “It’s never too late to celebrate too early a diamond golden anniversary newsroom!”

Sticking with the Sox, that baseball bromide urging to wait a few years before judging a trade grants me a chance to finally analyze (a mere nearly 50 years later!) a transaction that supposedly ruined the budding dynasty the ’59 White Sox had begun. The December 1, 1959 deal that lives in franchise front office infamy featured Sox owner Bill Veeck’s sending young outfielder Johnny Callison to the Philadelphia Phillies for journeyman third baseman Gene Freese.

Callison’s play the next two years is both forgettable and forgotten. Freese’s better-than-Callison ’60 season for the third place Sox, and the abundant ’60-’61 production of outfield stars Minnie Minoso, Al Smith, Jim Landis and Floyd Robinson, made Callison’s possible impact at that time a moot (or, as a nameless Sox announcer would say, “mute”) point. Then Johnny truly blossomed: four excellent years followed, including three All Star selections, propelling the fine all-around right fielder to an outstanding 226-homer, .264 BA career that ended with the Yankees in 1973.

Gene Freese’s trade to the Redlegs before the ’61 season (where he starred for the N.L. champs) brought 10-13 veteran Cal McLish to Chicago, along with, without fanfare, the first two-headed lefthanded pitcher in baseball history, the great Wilbur Pizarro!

Somehow not even listed in the Baseball Encyclopedia, this fast-baller-turnedknuckleballer brought 238 wins and 64 saves to the Sox over a span of 18 years, with 5 All Star appearances and 4 20-game seasons from 1961 through 1978.

Of course, we could divide this hurling hydra into the more familiar names of Juan Pizarro, history’s top Puerto Rican pitching conquistador, and Wilbur Wood, that tireless, wondrous workhorse–the former obtained in the Sox-Reds Freese swap, the latter going to Chicago from Pittsburgh for Pizarro in 1966.

What winning pitching for winning (if not championship*) White Sox teams in the ‘60s and ’70s! Now looking back, it makes the Callison trade for Freese, with Gene bringing Juan who brought Wilbur, not only not one-sided but arguably beneficial for the Sox (if not quite crediting foresight over hindsight). Moral (as the Sox have just traded Chris Getz and Josh Fields for Mark Teahen): give a trade time, before you give it some more!

Barry Codell

*The most unique of these is the 1964 White Sox who won the highest percentage of games played that year of any major league team, yet missed the post-season, strongly competing now for our attention with those aforementioned, irrepressible 2005 Pale Hose and perhaps the 2009 World Champs, your (and Hideki Matsui’s) New York Yankees!

Whirled Series

October 27, 2009

October 27, 2009 . . . .

 That perfect Yankee-Phillie World Series matchup is the final chapter of the 60 storied seasons that began the year those same two teams first played each other for keeps in the 1950 World Series, swept by the New Yorkers.  Yet astoundingly, these six amazingly full decades have not in the least altered two facts astonishingly frozen in baseball history, whether written adverbially in 1950 or 2009:  The Bronx Bombers continue to have won the most undisputed (league’s best regular season record, i.e., true pennant, and majors’ best post-season record, i.e., World Champs) major league championships, and the “Fightin’ Phils” still have never won a one!  (See “Futility Streaks,” Art of the Article link.)  Even an inspired Philadelphia victory over the New Yorkers would not give them and their fans, at long last, their first ever, clear-cut, unchallengeable triumph.

 Let’s use and peruse that ’50 series, the “closest sweep” in fall classic annals (until the White Sox whitewash of the Astros in 2005) to return to Chicago for a worthwhile reminiscence:  the, if not infamous, famously unknown “Meeting of the Casimirs.”  The N.L. MVP in 1950 was none other than Phillie reliever supreme, major league save leader Casimir James “Jim” Konstanty (whom his future team Yankees edged 1-0 in his surprise Series opening start).  On July 11 in Comiskey Park that same season, former White Sox All Star Casimir Eugene “Cass” Michaels, now a Senator, doubled and scored for the A.L. as a pinch hitter, while Konstanty hurled a hitless, two-strikeout inning for the N.L. stars, marking the only time the only Casimirs in baseball history played (flawlessly, to boot) in the same All Star Game!

 Digressing again from that fortuitous digression just brought to us by MLB, we must return to New York City and the matter at hand.  The Phillies, coming full circle to avenge their 1950 “Whiz Kids” defeat, would bring home a second significant, if smaller success:  they can become the first team since the Yankees of the ’90s to repeat in the three-tier playoff era (and the first in the 21st century) and, in beating the posh Pinstripers head-to-head in 2009, would definitely deserve justifiable kudos, proper props and heavy hat-tipping for turning it all around, as well as continued encouragement for their now nearly Sisyphean task to really (and finally) “win it all”–next year!

Part II – New York Rites to Free Mason from Oblivion–
and A Fond Grim Reminder . . . .

 The Brian Doyles and Buddy Biancalanas of the world (I wouldn’t even mention Dusty Rhodes and Chuck Essegian but for the fact I just did), despite their unfathomable World Series numbers, have to stand (or lie) statistically with Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson et al. when it comes to unfailing success in October.

 That 1.000 BA, 5.000 OPS that stares back at us from the Classic’s ledger was first achieved by a defensive replacement who homered in his only career World Series at bat.  Jim Mason’s third-game 1976 Yankee Stadium home run against Cincinnati was a rare bright spot for the Yanks, who were summarily swept by the Big Red Machine.

 This perhaps doubtable achievement became Halloweenly redoubtable when it was eerily matched 29 years later by another defensive replacement in game 3 of a World Series sweep, when Geoff Blum shockingly homered in his one at-bat for the altogether shocking White Sox champs (see Ghosts of Octobers Past)!

 Jim (“Don’t Call Him James”) Mason, however, remains as the only man in baseball mystery to have homered in a World Series in his only post-season plate appearance, at once a perfect autumn opening and closing act . . . .

*          *          *          *          *

 Remembering another Yankee this October who in not making a World Series mark made his mark.  For can you imagine a Yankee All Star in the ’50s playing in five seasons for the Bombers but never in a winning World Series?  Highly mathematically improbable, to say the most!  But Bob Grim, after winning 20 games for the winningest Casey Stengel team of all (which, equally improbably, despite winning 103 games, missed the Series entirely, finishing in second place to the ready-to-be-swept 1954 Indians), pitched in the losing New York series of ’55 and ’57 and did not appear in the ’56 and ’58 victory runs.  So how should we remember fondly Grim?  Only as the only pitcher ever to both win 20 games his first season (1954) and be a major league save leader (1957) over the course of his career.  Who could ask for a more select company than our long-forgotten October star-crossed star, Robert Anton Grim.

 Speaking of missing World Series, I suddenly am thinking of a great player (and guy) who, while never playing in one, literally made Series history!  Do you know this bit of baseball essentia?  By dint of hint:  in 1929, seven of the top eight A.L. batting leaders were future Hall of Famers, but the man who led them all was not!  Who was he?  He co-starred with Joe E. Brown in the baseball film, “Slide, Kelly, Slide” (he was a classically trained singer), learning all the angles of the camera and eventually creating the official World Series film anthology we still so treasure today.  Of course, the answer is the great batting coach (and a champion at .369, alas, without playing in a championship game) Lew Fonseca.  A unique individual on and off the field, there can be none in lieu of Lew.

 Thanks for the World Series memories . . . .

Taking Note

October 14, 2009

O, that 163rd game–among the greatest wins for those Twins, and the Metrodome was never louder! And when were there ever two well-deserved, inadvertent standing ovations in the same game? Let me explain . . . .

With one out in the top of the eleventh, Minnesota called upon their recently acquired veteran, lefty Ron Mahay, to try to reserve the 5-5 tie, facing Tiger centerfielder Curtis Granderson, the man who, by the way, became in 2007 the only player in the history of baseball to surpass 100R, 20 2Bs, 20 3Bs, 20 HRs and a .300 BA in a season–but allow me to resume our session of more apropos digression.

When Mahay struck out the left-handed-hitting Granderson swinging, and was dutifully replaced by manager Ron Gardenhire, the crowd wildly cheered the southpaw as he strolled off the mound with his job very well done.

But what Mahay had secretly accomplished in this moment was an unimaginable attainment, a 13-year accumulation of obscured moments, unmatchable, I venture, for at least the rest of baseball eternity: By avoiding a loss in this last regular season game of 2009, Mahay had pitched for eight different big league teams, with a 1.000 W/L pct. season for each of them! His 1-0 mark for the Twins capped an amazing run that started in his first year pitching for Boston in 1997, carrying through his entire nomadic career since: Oakland, Florida, Chicago, Texas, Atlanta, Kansas City and Minnesota! His total of nine 1.000 seasons included three 1-0’s, three 2-0’s, two 3-0’s, and one 5-0.

Does Ron Mahay, heading for his first post-season appearance, belong with the immortals? Does this incidence of some skill fueling much coincidence, making, at best, the most meaningful of mostly meaningless figures possible, while ending a simmering symmetry unsought, entitle the reliever a trip to Cooperstown without buying a ticket? Of course not, yet is not that what makes the unfolding of such successes even more pleasurable to observe? And upon further review, in another sense, maybe it does . . . .

In 1995, a young centerfielder named Ron Mahay made his major league debut for the Red Sox, playing five games as an outfielder. By the time he returned to the majors in ’97, Mahay had been converted–to a pitcher. Have any other Red Sox outfielders also pitched for them? Only Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper, so to paraphrase Groucho, any such club that would have Ron Mahay as a member, he’d be honored to join!

And on this “Mahay Day,” a second “unbeknownst” had the overflow crowd still standing, wildly waving their Homer Hankies. For Alex Casilla’s season-long (and seemingly hopeless) battle to cross that dreaded “Mendoza Line” of a .200 BA, after his .281 ‘08 campaign dramatically ended with his game-winning bouncer into right field that not only sent the Twins and their fans into the playoffs and the accompanying appropriate delirium, but raised Casilla’s batting average, on this last at-bat of the year, from an embarrassingly forgettable .199 to a never-to-be forgotten .202! It was no wonder that they could not stop cheering . . . .

The ensuing chatter concerning the “fatigued” Twins’ disadvantage in heading to New York for Game #1 of the LDS presupposed the Twins couldn’t lose to the Yanks on their own merits. For inspiration, they could recall the “absolutely drained” NY Giants going into Yankee Stadium the next day following Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard round the world” and beating the Bombers 5-1.

And, to further note the interconnectedness of all things baseball (and the 10-fold tenuousness comprising its indestructible history), only Jackie Robinson’s last regular season game heroics, combining his 9th inning, game-saving impossible diving catch and 14th inning game-winning homer that forced, ironically, Brooklyn’s lasting heartache in the 1951 Giant-Dodger playoff, made not only The Flying Scotsman’s equally implausible heroics but, more or less importantly, this paragraph about the “winning 2009 one game one less than the losing 2008” Twins (who had one player, Orlando Cabrera, become the only man ever to be on the winning team two consecutive years in a deciding game #163, and another, Joe Crede, the only one disabled for both) possible! And now, back to the playoffs . . . .

As we all know, it all started in Washington for Mr. Smith. But the professional journey that began when Seth Smith was playing in Pasco, Washington in the Northwest League and continues, as with the aforementioned Mahay, with a playoff guest spot, is more interesting than you (or he!) would think, if we set the way-back machine merely to 2007. Talk about his unduplicatable feat: .500 or better batting average in result season, division playoff, league
championship and World Series, all thanks to the miracle of small statistical sampling or, less alliteratively, data dearth!

Barry Codell

P.S. Time for “Name that BAM (right before “The BOP is right”) on the Barry Code Network!  How closely, how correctly have you observed the 2009 season? Here are 10 names to determine 5 who had more averaged bases batting than at-bat outs (BAM over 1.000).  Separate them from the 5 who had more outs than bases (BAM under 1.000):

1. Troy Tulowitzki
2. Matt Holliday
3. Joey Votto
4. Evan Longoria
5. Carlos Pena
6. Adam Dunn
7. Ben Zobrist
8. Derrek Lee
9. Hanley Ramirez
10. Chase Utley

The answer will be found in the latest entry on the Barry Code’s “Art of the Article” link—and thanks to all for playing!

Taking Note

October 1, 2009

September 29, 2009

To all my baseball-speaking friends, I write from Chicago, the center of the baseball universe, the only city where teams from both leagues have played since 1900 (that makes 220 seasons, exactly half of which I’ve been privileged to see unfold), home of the White Sox (formerly the White Stockings), the Cubs (formerly the White Stockings!), and Don Sevcik’s Barry Code.

At the Don’s gracious invitation (see Michael Coreolone, Godfather III” “They keep pulling me back” scene), I will share a note-taking of what I take note, beginning here with herewith an ample example from today’s games, which I call “A Tale of Two Homers” . . . .

As Chris Iannetta’s thrilling pinch-hit 11th-inning home run cleared the right field fence to ensure Colorado’s 7-5 win over the Brewers (an hour after Huston Street nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory for the Rockies, and two hours following the season’s most unnerving “Go Cubs Go” denial rendition by the usual capacity Wrigley Field crowd), I realized that a formerly unimaginable feat of futility touching two centuries had come to pass:  those wriggly cubbies were ensured of finishing a tenth straight full decade without a World Series triumph, today being clinched away from playoff play!  (Conjure the 1909 Cub fan, disappointed his team could not repeat their title run!  Who could know the non-title streak could and would grow to over 100 years?)

Another case of a non-Chicago game being drawn back to the equator of Chicago baseball history was the Twins-Tiger division showdown this afternoon in Detroit.  Chicagoan Curtis Granderson unwittingly made sure Hall of Fame Soxer Hoyt Wilhelm’s unnoticed relief record streak of 5 straight under 2.00 ERA seasons was safe when his seemingly futile homer settled in the seats against the great Joe Nathan, consigning the Minnesota right-hander to no more than 3 such consecutive years, despite saving the 3-2 win.

How all baseball roads lead to Chicago!  How about this bit of essentia (opposite of trivia!)?  Two All Star sluggers, homer and RBI leaders during AL careers, playing their penultimate seasons in Chicago, both with a 1.000 W/L pct. and ERA under 2.00, pitching in their final big league seasons.  Hint:  Each had a previous season pitching with ERA of 0.00!  Answer:  Jimmie Foxx and Rocky Colavito (Foxx played for Cubs, Colavito for Sox).

Speaking of the Sox, this current and last week of baseball’s latest season and decade has, of course, both 20th and 21st century Chicago written all over it.  Hearing the season-ending fascination with Yankee and Angel offensive juggernauts reminds me to remind you that the top scoring team of this decade–and the only one to score more than 6 runs per game (unless the Yanks average 20 runs per game their last 4)–was indeed the Frank Thomas-led 2000 Chicago White Sox.  And (too strangely) coincidentally, the highest scoring team of the first 10 years of the 1900s was a White Sox club also playing in their first year of that decade, averaging nearly 6 runs per game!  (A good springboard to peruse the Don’s BarryCode.com “Team Stats” comparisons, with similar BOPs and BAMs, despite a nearly 200-homer difference between the 100-year-apart Sox sockers!)

Another high comedy highlight from the West Coast night:  ex-Sox and Cub David Aardsma (first in baseball history’s alphabet–move over, Henry!) closing out Seattle’s 6-4 victory over Oakland, assuring both a losing season and last place finish for the movie-minded Moneyball A’s of guru Billy Beane!

Thanks all, for all!