Tagged: Marlins

Game 4- Washington Nationals

Game 4 recap a few days late. We were in Washington DC for the Nationals vs Marlins at Nationals Park. We have driven 1,524 miles so far. The Nationals blew out the Marlins 18 to 1. The home team is finally winning games. A day to relax in DC before driving south to Atlanta. 30 Games in 30 Days continues.

DJ

Game 3- Philadelphia Phillies

Game 3 in Philadelphia for the Phillies vs Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. We have driven 1,318 miles so far. The Phillies gave Kevin a commanding 3 to 0 lead in our predictions. Home team finally won a game. A day to relax in DC ahead of the Nationals game. 30 in 30 continues.

DJ

The 30 in 30 Schedule

The baseball schedule is a grind. Day after day, game after game. 162 games is no easy feat. Neither is 30 games in 30 days. We have our schedule for seeing all 30 teams in 30 days. It is not for the faint of heart. 

After much time and research, here is the schedule we will follow for our 30 in 30 baseball road trip. 

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
July 16July 17
St. Louis
Cardinals
Cincinnati
Reds
July 18July 19July 20July 21July 22July 23July 24
Philadelphia PhilliesWashington NationalsAtlanta
Braves
Tampa Bay RaysMiami
Marlins
Houston
Astros
Kansas City Royals
July 25July 26July 27July 28July 29July 30July 31
Minnesota
Twins
Chicago
Cubs
Cleveland SpidersBaltimore OriolesBoston
Red Sox
Buffalo
Blue Jays
Pittsburgh
Pirates
August 1August 2August 3August 4August 5August 6August 7
New York
Mets
New York YankeesDetroit
Tigers
Milwaukee BrewersChicago White SoxColorado
Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers
August 8August 9August 10August 11August 12August 13August 14
Oakland AthleticsSan Diego
Padres
Los Angeles AngelsSeattle
Mariners
San Francisco GiantsArizona DiamondbacksTexas
Rangers

In 30 days we will drive 15,611 miles and roughly 237 hours. We have 11 drives over 500 miles. This includes three drives over 500 miles, three over 700 miles, and five over 1,000 miles. We will be driving a rental car, no sense destroying our own cars. There will be long days where we do not want to drive. However, it will be worth it in the end. 

This is one of the truly great baseball road trips. The most common reaction from people has been shock at the enormity of the trip and the amount of driving. Kevin and I both understand and are thankful Bernie will be joining us later in the trip to be our third driver. Hopefully knowing the end is in sight energizes us. 

There are two types of challenging drives. Difficulty because of game start time and distance. The two drives that are difficult because of start times are early in the journey. Our third game is the Phillies with a 1:05 PM start time. It is 576 miles and almost 9 hours from Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The easy solution would be to drive some after the Reds game. However, I live in Cincinnati so it makes more sense to sleep in my own bed before leaving. This means we will hit the road around 3 AM. Rise and drive. The second challenging start time is in Tampa. We will be coming from Atlanta, 493 miles and almost 8 hours away. The Rays game starts at 12:10 PM. Again the easy solution is to start driving the night before, but finances play a role. I am from Atlanta so we will stay with my family, plus hang out with Jesse and John. You cannot pass up free lodging. Kevin and I will have another 3 AM departure. Great for beating traffic, but no one wants to wake up that early. 

We are hoping for nothing but blue skies, green grass, and baseball. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The second category of difficult drives is the distance between teams. Try as we might, some teams are isolated or at dead ends. The Marlins and Rays present a problem. The Braves are the only close team so we knew there would be a long drive to or from Florida. We will have a mostly free day in Miami, and free lodging thanks to our friend Jason, so we should be rested for the drive to Houston. The Astros are 1,186 miles and 17 hours away. Unfortunately Miami has a night game, so another short night before setting off around 2 AM. The change from Eastern to Central Time helps, but a 17 hour drive is tough. Miami to Houston is our longest drive of the trip. 

The West Coast could make or break the trip. Our limited window and the schedule gave us limited options. The trip west begins after seeing the White Sox. We will drive 1,004 miles and 14 and a half hours to Denver. The time zones again help. After the Rockies game we have to keep moving, our next game is in Los Angeles. Dodger Stadium is 1,022 miles and almost 15 hours away. Back to back 1,000 mile days will be brutal, but our baseball guardian angel, Bernie, joins us at the perfect time. After a few days driving up and down California we face a drive from Anaheim to Seattle. The Mariners are 1,163 miles and 18 hours north. While it is a few miles shorter than Miami to Houston, California traffic can be a nightmare. The key is simply getting out of Los Angeles.  The final long drive is to our final game. We head 1,047 miles and 15 hours east from Phoenix to Arlington for the Rangers game. The time zones will work against us. The final leg will either have us completely spent or we will be hyped as we complete the most ridiculous trip of our lives. The only thing that will matter is watching our 30th game in 30 days. 

There will be plenty of difficult drives along the way, but we know these are the ones that will test our commitment to completing 30 in 30. Having an off day in Miami and New York should reenergize us. The short drives between Milwaukee and Chicago as well as San Diego and Los Angeles will give one of us a day off. This is our schedule to see 30 games in 30 days. Hopefully we hit minimal traffic and avoid rain delays and rain outs. 

DJ

30 Teams in 30 Days

There will be moments where we question why we are doing this. Why would two people subject themselves to endless hours of driving just to watch baseball? The goal is simple, see all 30 MLB teams, in their home ballparks, in 30 days. All done by driving, no flying. It is crazy and I have wanted to do it for years. Others have done the ultimate baseball road trip, but I wanted my own adventure. 

The first task was to find someone to go with me. It is physically impossible to do this trip solo. Everyone needs a break from driving. If I could not convince someone to join me, the trip was over before it began. I began talking about the trip with friends. Most were shocked by the idea and several wanted to join, but could not take 30 days off work. I am a teacher, so my summers are relatively free, other than umpiring baseball. Success came when I talked to Kevin. He has the ability to work from the road and can take some time off. Copilot secured, now the real nightmare begins. 

Pulling off 30 teams in 30 days is a logistical nightmare. First you have to figure out the schedule so you can hit every team within a 30 day window. If one team is not at home or has an off day the entire schedule is ruined. The east coast is fairly easy, teams are close enough together to skip around and still hit every stadium without too much hassle. Florida presents a challenge as Atlanta is the only team close enough to reach Tampa or Miami without a long drive. The west coast is the most difficult portion of the trip to plan. Seattle is off by itself and Colorado is in a no man’s land between teams. The trip requires the ability to string together isolated cities. If one team is not home on a certain day, the chain is broken and the entire schedule must be reworked.

Bernie will be joining Kevin and Derek for different sections of their journey to all 30 ball parks in 30 days. (The Winning Run/ BL)

Connecting teams creates the second challenge of the trip. What teams can you feasibly drive to each day and still arrive in time for first pitch? The grind of a month on the road will wear down even the most excited baseball fan. Planning has to account for the realities of exhaustion and the desire to not drive all day, every day. Connecting two teams with a short drive is critical for maintaining energy and sanity. Even better is if both teams in Los Angeles, Chicago, and/or New York are home at the same time. A glorious day out of the car. Your body and mind will thank you. 

The logistical nightmares are not confined to the baseball schedule. You have to plan where you will sleep each night. Always staying in a hotel is financially impossible. Creativity and personal relationships are key. We will stay in a hotel some nights. However, the majority of the nights will be spent crashing with friends and family or camping under the stars. Sleep is critical to safely pulling this off. 

Doing 30 in 30 this year is made a little more difficult because of limited tickets due to Covid protocols. Normally we would have bought tickets to every game by now. Instead we are left waiting. Everything is falling into place, yet so far we only have tickets to the Cincinnati Reds. We have also had to create two routes as it is unclear where the Blue Jays’s home will be during our trip. 

There are many moving parts to this trip. The logistical nightmares will continue throughout the trip. The best plans rarely hold up once they meet reality. Traffic, weather, exhaustion, and other unknown factors could derail or alter the trip. Time will tell how 30 in 30 comes together. We have already put months of work into the trip. We will start the trip the Friday after the All Star game. The summer heat will follow us around the country as we watch baseball in all 30 MLB ballparks. I have long dreamed of this trip. There is still work to be done. At times I question why I ever wanted to do this, but in the end it will be something that will always bring a smile to my face. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Hawaii

Baseball may not be the top priority for visitors to Hawaii. However, the game is alive and well on the islands. The Aloha State has produced 47 Major League players, but it is still waiting for its first Hall of Famer. Despite no representation in Cooperstown, Hawaii has produced several great players. Charlie Hough is the greatest pitcher born in Hawaii. His 39.03 career WAR ranks as the 40th highest among all state and territory leaders. Shane Victorino is the greatest position player born in Hawaii. His 31.46 career WAR is the 46th highest among position player leaders. Their combined 70.49 WAR ranks Hawaii 43rd among all states and territories. 

Charlie Hough was born in Honolulu and pitched for 25 seasons in the Majors. The Right Handed knuckleballer pitched for four teams: Los Angeles Dodgers (1970-1980), Texas Rangers (1980-1990), Chicago White Sox (1991-1992), and Florida Marlins (1993-1994). In his quarter century on a Major League mound, Hough pitched in 858 Games, made 440 Starts, Finished 240 Games, threw 107 Complete Games, including 13 Shutouts, 61 Saves, pitched 3,801.1 Innings, allowed 3,282 Hits, 1,807 Runs, 1,582 Earned Runs, 383 Home Runs, 1,665 Walks, 2,362 Strikeouts, posting a 216-216 record, 3.75 ERA, 1.302 WHIP, and 106 ERA+. His lone All Star selection was in 1986. 

1984 was the best season of Hough’s career. In 36 Starts for the Rangers, he threw 17 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, pitching 266 Innings, allowing 260 Hits, 127 Runs, 111 Earned Runs, 26 Home Runs, 94 Walks, 164 Strikeouts, posting a 16-14 record, 3.76 ERA, 1.331 WHIP, and 110 ERA+.  He led the American League in Starts, Complete Games, and Hits allowed. While his season was not eye popping, Hough’s knuckleball kept batting guessing every time he took the mound. 

Charlie Hough’s knuckleball could confuse batters and catcher alike. (Fpcus on Sports/ Getty Images)

Catching a knuckleball can be impossible on certain days. It flutters, dips, and dives. Geno Petralli can attest to his own personal disdain for Charlie Hough’s knuckleball. Hough’s career was prolonged by throwing the knuckleball and expansion. His final two seasons were spent in south Florida, a climate not all too different from his native Hawaii. Hough took the mound for the inaugural game in Marlins history on April 5, 1993 in a 6-3 win over the Dodgers. The Marlins began their history as Hough wound down his career as baseball’s last active player born in the 1940’s. 

Not every career lasts a quarter century. Shane Victorino played 12 seasons for five teams: San Diego Padres (2003), Philadelphia Phillies (2005-2012), Los Angeles Dodgers (2012), Boston Red Sox (2013-2015), and Los Angeles Angels (2015). The Wailuku born outfielder was a switch hitter until injuries forced him to bat only from the right side in the last few seasons of his career. Victorino was twice a Rule 5 Draft pick. The Padres took him in the Rule 5 Draft from the Dodgers in 2002. He made his debut with San Diego, but was returned to Los Angeles in late May as he struggled with the Padres. Two years later the Phillies took Victorino in the Rule 5 Draft. He did not make the Philadelphia roster and was offered back to Los Angeles. The Dodgers declined, so he reported to the Phillies’ Triple A team. Philadelphia would love the results. 

In his career, Victorino played in 1,299 Games, collected 1,274 Hits, 231 Doubles, 70 Triples, 108 Home Runs, 489 RBI, scored 731 Runs, 231 Stolen Bases, 381 Walks, 626 Strikeouts, .275 BA, .340 OBP, .425 SLG, .765 OPS, and 102 OPS+. Victorino primarily patrolled Centerfield. In 1,219 Games, he played 10,026.1 Innings, had 2,704 Chances, 2,613 Putouts, 76 Assists, committed 15 Errors, and turned 23 Double Plays. His .994 FLD% was well above the league average .986 FLD%, which combined with his above average Range (2.41 RF9 vs 2.20 lgRF9), resulted in a 34 Rtot. Victorino helped his team score and prevented the opposition from scoring. His relentless effort on the diamond earned him two All Star games (2009 and 2011), two World Series rings (2008 Phillies and 2013 Red Sox), and four Gold Gloves (2008-2010, 2013).

Shane Victorino was a key part of the Phillies 2008 World Series victory. (Ron Cortes/ Staff Photographer- Philadelphia Inquirer)

Victorino’s best season was his 2009 campaign with the Phillies. In 156 Games, he collected 181 Hits, 39 Doubles, 13 Triples, 10 Home Runs, 62 RBI, scored 102 Runs, 25 Stolen Bases, 60 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, .292 BA, .358 OBP, .445 SLG, .803 OPS, and 110 OPS+. He led the National League in Triples, was an All Star, won his second Gold Glove, and finished 18th in MVP voting. 

Victorino was a great player on and off the field. He won the 2008 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. The annual award is given by the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity to honor the MLB player who best exemplifies the spirit and character of Lou Gehrig on and off the field. Victorino also won the 2011 Branch Rickey Award, which was given annually to a member of a MLB organization in recognition of their exceptional community service. Victorino appeared on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. While he did not receive any votes, it is still an honor to have your name on the ballot. 

Hawaii is more than a tropical paradise, it produces solid Major League players. The Aloha State is critical to baseball’s success. Next week the United States of Baseball returns to the mainland. The Gem State is next, Idaho. 

DJ

Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 7.0

Baseball is back. The 162 game Regular Season grind is back. So too is the unpredictability of the season. No single player can dominate so completely that they carry their team to a World Series title. Baseball is different, the best player does not always come to bat with the game on the line. The Angels would love to send Mike Trout to the plate in every big moment, but that is not how baseball works. The game is back to normal and if we know anything our predictions will foretell what will not happen this season. Your guess is as good as ours for the 2021 season.

American League East

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
YankeesGod’s Waiting RoomYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysSpankiesDudein JaysRaysPoutineRays
Snow BirdsSorrysDevil RaysFlorida BirdsRaysBlue Jays
Red SoxBaltimoreSad BirdsRed SuxRacistsRed Sox
Dead BirdSoxFenwaysBmoreOh DearOrioles

The American League East is the Yankees to lose. Gerrit Cole makes any team better, but New York signed him to be the workhorse in October. If the training staff can keep the pinstripes healthy the rest of the division is in trouble. The Tampa Bay Rays seemed to get worse by trading away Blake Snell. However, it is hard to count the Rays out as they seem to find underrated players who exceed expectations and put Tampa in the thick of the Postseason race. The biggest question for Tampa is will they have a World Series hangover. The Toronto Blue Jays could be snow birds for the entire season. There has been no official word on when the team can return to Canada. They will play their home games in Dunedin, Florida for the foreseeable future. Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will provide plenty of excitement wherever they play. The Red Sox traded away Andrew Benintendi and lost Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Brewers in free agency to complete the teardown of one of the most exciting outfields in recent memory. Boston fans are still excited about the financial flexibility the Mookie Betts trade gave them. Baltimore is a great baseball town. The Orioles are in the middle of a painful rebuild. They will not contend this season, but Baltimore is on the rise…finally.

American League Central

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox
TwinkiesSouth SidersTwinkletittesTwinklesWhite SoxTwins
MonarchsTeam to be named laterQuarter PoundersClevelandRoyalsRoyals
SpidersTigersCleveland Footbal teamRoyalsSpidersSpiders
Motor City KittiesMonarchsDetroit Why Am I HeresTigersTigersTigers

The South Side of Chicago will have plenty of fireworks. The reigning American League MVP in Jose Abreu. The always exciting Tim Anderson. A pitching staff that can compete with any team in baseball. Can Tony La Russa harness Chicago’s potential or will a clash between old school and new school derail the White Sox. The Minnesota Twins continue to be a great Regular Season team. Their signing of Andrelton Simmons might be the most underrated free agent move of the offseason. Can they figure out a winning formula in October? Kansas City has quietly built a solid team on a budget. Signing and trading for Mike Minor, Andrew Benintendi, and Carlos Santana with Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez already on the roster will create plenty of wins for the Royals. Is it enough to compete with the White Sox and Twins for the division? Cleveland could be a very good team, but in a tough division good is not good enough. They still have Jose Ramirez and Shane Bieber, but the team needs more if they want to contend. The Detroit Tigers continue rebuilding. Miguel Cabrera’s continued ascent up the record books will draw fans. Wins will be difficult to come by, but the Tigers have a bright future ahead, but Detroit should not expect a trip to the Postseason in 2021.

Tim Anderson is never boring on the diamond. (www.si.com)

American League West

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
MoneyballWhite ElephantsLA’s other teamA’sBeane BallersAthletics
TroutHouston Astr-hosMoneyballTrash CansAngelsAngels
Trash CansAngelsCheatersAngelsCheatersAstros
Ranger DangerNolan Ryan Hot DogsSea hagsStarbucksMarinersMariners
MarinersGriffey Used to Play HereAgent ZerosChuck NorrisRangersRangers

Could this be the year the Astros lose their grip on the division? George Springer is gone and Justin Verlander is out with Tommy John surgery. Houston is still a competitive team, but the division is catching up. Bang the trash can slowly. Oakland has a dynamic duo in Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. The young and hungry A’s are built to compete and the team is posed to deliver. Mike Trout deserves better. The best player in baseball for almost a decade has been stuck in Los Angeles as the Angels keep turning potential into disappointment. Shohei Ohtani is healthy and Albert Pujols can still hit. The Angels owe it to Mike Trout to finally deliver him to the Postseason, but he cannot do it alone. This was not the offseason Seattle wanted. The ire of an entire sport focused on the stupidity spewed by their now former President and CEO about the team’s young talent has not set the team up for success. The Mariners have not played in October since 2001. Seattle has drafted and signed prospects that appear set to be the future stars for the Mariners. The Robinson Cano signing told Seattle it cannot rely on a single player with a monster contract. Lesson learned, they are a few seasons away from winning. It will be a long hot summer in Texas. The Rangers have some good pieces, but not enough to matter. At least their new stadium has a roof so the players and fans do not cook in the Texas heat. 

National League East

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
BravesBravosAtlanta BallclubBravesBravosBravos
MetsGnatsCohensMarlinsMetsMets
NatsFishFlorida FishMetsMarlinsMarlins
MarlinsAmazins2019 ChampsNatsNationalsNats
PhanaticsPholliesSad HarpersPhilliesPhilliesPhillies

The National League East is the toughest division in baseball. Atlanta was 1 game away from the World Series last year. Instead of hoping for better results the Braves got better by signing Charlie Morton and will get Mike Soroka back from his torn Achilles. Their offense is led by reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman and future MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. The Amazin’s are a force to reckon with, especially after adding Francisco Lindor, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker. The question is can the Mets win enough. The Marlins have finally built a team internally. Miami bought two World Series championships but those were short term successes followed by fire sales and long rebuilds. The young Marlins will be fun to watch and are building towards October. The Nationals may have the best rotation in baseball. The keys for Washington are keeping everyone healthy and can the offense, besides Juan Soto, keep up with the pitching. Philadelphia has Bryce Harper, but one player cannot put an entire team on his back. The Phillies will be good, but in a deep division they could be the best last place team in baseball. 

National League Central

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Red BirdsCincy…..why not?ArenadosMiller TimeCardinalsCardinals
Red LegsCardsDrink pretty goodCardinalsBrewersBrewers
Brew CrewBrewcroodsShitcagoRedsCubsReds
Teddy BearsBuccarooniesCincincincin…..CubbiesRedsCubs
Burn the ShipsNorthsidersNice stadiumsBonds’ ex-gfJack SparrowsPirates

Yadier Molina is an ageless wonder. 17 seasons behind the plate for the Cardinals and he is still among the best catchers in baseball. St. Louis is set at the corners with Paul Goldschmidt and the nearly acquired Nolan Arenado. The Central crown runs through St. Louis. Milwaukee got better by signing Kolten Wong away from their divisional rival Cardinals. The Brewers are one of the more underrated teams in baseball and have a real chance at the Postseason in an already tight division. Cincinnati made it back to the Postseason in the shortened 2020 season. The Reds have the pitching and offense to return this season. The division may be too difficult to win, but the Wild Card is within reach. This could be the final season of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez at Wrigley. Looming free agency makes it nearly impossible for Chicago to retain all three players long term. The Cubs will be good, but change is coming. The Pirates are barely a Major League team. It was a little surprising MLB did not cull them with the other Minor League teams this winter. They have a projected team payroll of $46 million, with nearly a quarter of it tied to Gregory Polanco. Ke’Bryan Hayes provides hope for the future but the Postseason is out of the question.

Traded to St. Louis with $50 million, Nolan Arenado will finally play for a winning team. (Getty Images)

National League West

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
DodgersYou want a hot apple pie with that?BettsDodgersPadresDodgers
DaddyThe over hyped LA teamPadresPadresScullysPadres
SnakesSILVER BULLET!!!!!!!!GentsGiantsRattlersGiants
Jolly GreensScam Fram BricsoQuarterbacksDbacksGiantsDiamonbacks
Rockie Mt HighI’m a snakeIt Smoke Pretty GoodRockiesRock BottomsRockies

The reigning and defending World Series champions will return to October, but can they fend off the Padres. The championship team is back and will continue racking up wins. Clayton Kershaw is no longer the only pitcher Los Angeles can depend on in the Postseason, the Dodgers should make a deep run to defend their crown. San Diego is built for success now and in the future. Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado, and Chris Paddack are tough to beat every time they take the field. The race for the West will be fun to watch. The gap between the top and bottom of the division is huge. Few teams were as high as the Giants a decade ago, but that is the past now. The rebuild continues in the back end of Buster Posey’s career. How long will he continue playing is unknown, but he is already a San Francisco legend. Arizona is not a bad team, but can they compete with the titans on the coast? The Diamondbacks have plenty of good players, including an underrated Ketel Marte, but they lack a superstar to compete in October. The Rockies managed to enrage their entire fanbase with a single move, trading away Nolan Arenado. Every team makes tough roster decisions, but Colorado decided it was best to rid themselves of the best Third Baseman in baseball and keep a General Manager that has not shown any ability to put a winning team on the field. Yes Trevor Story is still on the team, but his impending free agency will see him shipped out before the season is over. Once Story is gone what is left to build around? Get ready for a long and brutal rebuild Colorado fans.  

Postseason

The Poseseason is a roll of the dice. A team can come in hot and suddenly turn cold and be gone. A team struggling can suddenly find their footing and go on a tear. The beauty of October baseball is that it is more unpredictable than the Regular Season.

American League Wild Card

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
AL Wild CardRaysYankeesJaysRaysWhite SoxTwins
TwinsSouthsidersRaysTwinklesBlue JaysRays

National League Wild Card

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MetsGnatsPadresMarlinsDodgersPadres
PadresThe over hyped LA teamMetsPadresMetsBrewers

American League Divisional Series 

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
RaysWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesAthleticsYankees
Black SoxSouthsidersSoxRaysWhite SoxRays
YankeesTwinkiesAsA’sYankeesA’s
MoneyballGod’s Waiting RoomJaysChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox

National League Divisional Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
DodgersBravosDodgersDodgersBravosDodgers
PadresGnatsCincyPadresDodgersPadres
BravesCincy…..why not?PadresBravesCardinalsBraves
CardinalsYou want a hot apple pie with that?CardsMiller TimePadresCardinals

American League Championship Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxWhite SoxWhite Sox

National League Championship Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
BravesBravosDodgersBravesCardinalsBraves
PadresYou want a hot apple pie with that?PadresPadresBravesPadres

World Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves
BravesTwinkiesDodgersBravesYankeesYankees
BravesBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves

Congratulations to the 2021 World Series Champions, the Atlanta Braves. We will find out just how wrong our predictions were in October. None of us have high hopes that we were right. Happy Opening Day!

Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies will lead the Braves to the World Series. (New York Times)

DJ, JJ, JB, BL, and KB

United States of Baseball- Georgia

Major League Baseball continues to see a steady stream of players from Georgia. The warm weather for much of the year combined with the Braves dynasty in the 1990’s and early 2000’s created a generation of baseball crazed players and fans. The Peach State has sent 390 players to MLB. The Hall of Fame has welcomed six Georgia natives: Ty Cobb, Josh Gibson, Johnny Mize, Jackie Robinson, Bill Terry, and Frank Thomas. Kevin Brown is the greatest pitcher from the Peach State. His career 68.21 WAR ranks 20th among all state and territory leaders. Ty Cobb is the greatest position player. His career 151.02 WAR is the 4th highest among position players. Brown and Cobb’s combined 219.23 WAR ranks Georgia 9th highest among all states and territories.

Kevin Brown was born in Milledgeville. He played 19 seasons in the Majors for six teams: Texas Rangers (1986, 1988-1994), Baltimore Orioles (1995), Florida Marlins (1996-1997), San Diego Padres (1998), Los Angeles Dodgers (1999-2003), and New York Yankees (2004-2005). On the mound, Brown pitched in 486 Games, making 476 Starts, throwing 72 Complete Games, 17 Shutouts, pitching 3,256.1 Innings, allowing 3,079 Hits, 1,357 Runs, 1,185 Earned Runs, 208 Home Runs, 901 Walks, 2,397 Strikeouts, posting a 211-144 record, 3.28 ERA, 1.222 WHIP, and 127 ERA+. Opposing hitters knew they were in for a rough day with Brown pitching. 

Kevin Brown throws the ball to San Francisco batter William VanLandingham during his No Hitter against the Giants. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Brown’s elite pitching earned him six All Star selections, the 1997 World Series, and two ERA titles (1996 and 2000). He finished sixth in the 1989 National League Rookie of the Year voting. He finished in the top six for Cy Young voting five times (1992- 6th, 1996- 2nd, 1998- 3rd, 1999- 6th, and 2000- 6th). He threw a No Hitter against the Giants in 1997. A year later, Brown’s success on the mound saw him rewarded with the then largest contract in MLB history. He signed a seven year free agent contract with the Dodgers for $105 million. It was baseball’s first $100+ million contract. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2011. He received 2.1% of the vote, failing to reach the minimum 5% to remain on the ballot. 

Unquestionably, Brown’s best season was in 1996 with the Florida Marlins. In 32 Starts, he threw 5 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 233 Innings, allowed 187 Hits, 60 Runs, 49 Earned Runs, 8 Home Runs, 33 Walks, 159 Strikeouts, posted a 17-11 record, 1.89 ERA, 0.944 WHIP, and 215 ERA+.  Brown led the National League in ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. He was an All Star, finished second for the Cy Young award, and 22nd for the MVP. Kevin Brown was outstanding and was among the National League’s best in 1996. 

No player was ever more fanatical about baseball than Ty Cobb. He was born in Narrows and played 24 seasons for the Detroit Tigers (1905-1926) and Philadelphia Athletics (1927-1928). In 3,034 career Games he collected 4,189 Hits, 724 Doubles, 295 Triples, 117 Home Runs, 1,944 RBI, scored 2,245 Runs, 897 Stolen Bases, 1,249 Walks, 680 Strikeouts, .366 BA, .433 OBP, .512 SLG, .944 OPS, 168 OPS+, and 5,854 Total Bases. When he retired, Cobb held the record for most Hits, Stolen Bases, and BA. Both Hits and Stolen Bases have since been surpassed, but his record .366 BA seems untouchable.

Ty Cobb was a ferocious competitor, who would do anything to win. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Cobb is perhaps the greatest hitter of all time. He hit over .400 three times. He won 12 Batting Titles in 13 seasons, including nine straight. He led the American League in Hits eight times and collected at least 200 Hits nine times. He led the league in Doubles three times. He hit at least 30 Doubles in 15 seasons and at least 40 Doubles in four seasons. Cobb led the league in Triples four times, legging out at least 10 Triples in 17 seasons, and at least 20 in four seasons. He had seven 100 RBI seasons, leading the American League four times. He led the Junior Circuit in Stolen Bases six times with nine seasons of at least 50 Steals. Cobb was the premier player of his era, winning the 1909 Triple Crown (9 HR, 107 RBI, .377 BA). In 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its first class: Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb. It was Cobb, not Ruth, who received the most votes, with 98.2% for induction into Cooperstown.

Selecting the greatest individual season of Cobb’s career is nearly impossible. He was consistently brilliant. Examining his MVP 1911 season with the Tigers seems the most appropriate. In 146 Games, he collected 248 Hits, 47 Doubles, 24 Triples, 8 Home Runs, 127 RBI, scored 148 Runs, 83 Stolen Bases, 44 Walks, 42 Strikeouts, .419 BA, .466 OBP, .620 SLG, 1.086 OPS, 196 OPS+, and 367 Total Bases. Cobb led the league in Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, Triples, RBI, Stolen Bases, BA, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and Total Bases. He won the first American League MVP award. He finished 7th in 1912, 20th in 1913, and 14th in 1914 after which the award was discontinued. The MVP returned to the Junior Circuit in 1922, but previous winners were ineligible to win again. It is not difficult to imagine the Georgia Peach winning at least five MVP awards if he was eligible. 

Georgia continues to send great players to the Majors every year. The state shows no sign of slowing down. Next week the United States of Baseball goes west, really far west to the  Land of the Chamorro. Guam is next. 

DJ

Chasing Milestones

Miguel Cabrera is one of the greatest Right Handed Hitters of all time. The future first ballot Hall of Famer has never possessed great speed. He rarely legs out infield hits, rather he drives pitches into the alleys. As Cabrera prepares for his 19th Major League season, the soon to be 38 year old is within reach of several career milestones. While the Tigers are poised for another summer of rebuilding, Cabrera’s career accomplishments should not be lost within the losing.

The man can still hit. The last four seasons have been trying, as Cabrera dealt with injuries. Despite these challenges, he has averaged 156 Hits, 27 Doubles, 19 Home Runs, 80 RBI, 62 Runs scores, 67 Walks, 133 Strikeouts, .267 BA, .342 OBP, .406 SLG, .740 OPS, and 100 OPS+ per 162 Games played since 2017. Even an injured and aging Cabrera is league average with little protection in the Detroit lineup. 

Lest we forget the threat was in his prime. In his first nine seasons with the Tigers, 2008 to 2016, Cabrera averaged 198 Hits, 41 Doubles, 37 Home Runs, 122 RBI, 103 Runs scored, 82 Walks, 110 Strikeouts, .325 BA, .404 OBP, .573 SLG, .977 OPS, and 161 OPS+ per 162 games played. He added five more Silver Slugger awards to the two he won with the Florida Marlins. Cabrera won four American League Batting Titles (2011-2013, 2015), back to back MVP awards (2012-2013), and the Triple Crown in 2012. Players like Cabrera are rare, and few peak as high and long as he did.

Detroit fans have at least three years left with Cabrera. He could remain a Tiger through 2025 if his vesting options kick in by finishing in the top ten of MVP voting in 2023 and 2024. Regardless, fans should enjoy watching him reach milestones beginning this season. He enters 2021 with 2,866 Hits, 581 Doubles, 487 Home Runs, 1,729 RBI, 1,457 Runs scored, 1,159 Walks, 1,812 Strikeouts, .313 BA, .391 OBP, .540 SLG, .931 OPS, and 147 OPS+. 

If Cabrera stays healthy he will climb higher in the all time rankings in several categories. His .313 BA is 74th highest all time, a .002 rise to .315 would place him in the top 70. Cabrera has scored 1,457 Runs, 80th all time, if he has another post-2017 average season he would reach the top 65. His 79.0 career oWAR is 40th all time, a 2.0 oWAR season would move him to 35th place. Cabrera is ever so close to the magical 3,000 Hit mark, needing just 134 more to seal his induction into Cooperstown. He would also move from 46th to the top 30. Cabrera is just 13 long balls away from joining the 500 Home Run club. If he can connect with 20 dingers, he would move into the top 25. He is 24th all time with 1,729 RBI, a good season will move him into the top 20. Less celebrated, but Miguel Cabrera is just 58 bases away from 5,000 career Total Bases. He should sail into the top 20 with a pedestrian season. Cabrera could collect his 600th Double in 2021, he sits just 19 shy at 581. 

Some of these milestones are more exciting than others. They all tell the same story, Miguel Cabrera can hit and has his entire career. Cabrera is an elite hitter, his peak was amazing and it has placed him among the game’s all time greats. He is heading for the Hall of Fame, but for now we should enjoy every Miguel Cabrera At Bat we can. 

DJ

Awards Season

The 2020 season was undoubtedly the most unusual in MLB history. The regular season was played in empty stadiums. Several teams had games postponed due to positive Covid tests, forcing them to play numerous makeup doubleheaders. The sense that games could be postponed at any moment always lurked around the corner. Even the Dodgers celebrating their World Series victory was not seamless, as Justin Turner returned to the field despite a positive Covid test. Despite all of these hurdles, plus the usual injury issues, the 2020 season was a success. 

Completing the season and entering the offseason means recognizing the season’s best players. The awards voters are not always right, however this season the best players won. The condensed season allowed the elite players, enjoying long hot streaks to rise to the top. These players have built solid careers and are reaching their peaks.

Manager of the Year

The Manager of the Year award often goes to the managers who make deep runs in October. Despite Dave Roberts leading the Dodgers to their first World Series title since 1988, he did not win his second Manager of the Year award (2016). Instead, Don Mattingly won the 2020 National League Manager of the Year award after guiding the Marlins to the National League Divisional Series. Coming off back to back 98+ lose seasons Mattingly guided Miami to a 31-29 record. The Marlins dealt with a Covid outbreak, which required them to play multiple double headers. Despite the challenges, Mattingly guided his young team through trials and tribulations no other team has faced before.

Don Mattingly has seen it all as the Marlins manager. From the death of Jose Fernandez to Covid Mattingly has led Miami through the storms (Jeff Roberson/ AP)

Kevin Cash led the Tampa Bay Rays to the American League pennant and the best record in the Junior Circuit, 40-20. Tampa easily won the American League East by seven games over the Yankees with baseball’s fourth lowest payroll. People will focus on Cash’s handling of Blake Snell in the World Series, but he pushed all the right buttons to set Tampa up for October success. The Rays responded to Cash and excelled throughout the shortened 2020 season.

Rookie of the Year

Devin Williams won the National League Rookie of the Year award. He is the first pitcher to win the award without making a start or recording a save. Williams appeared in 22 Games for the Brewers, 4-1 record, pitched 27 innings, allowed 8 Hits, 1 Earned Run (solo Home Run to Colin Moran), 9 Walks, 53 Strikeouts, 0.33 ERA, 0.630 WHIP, and 1,375 ERA+ (not a typo). He allowed more than one hit in an appearance once, his last appearance of the season. Williams pitched two innings and both hits were erased by double plays. Devin Williams was simply dominated. 

Devin Williams was nearly unhittable out of the Brewers bullpen all season. (Jeff Haynes/ Associated Press)

Kyle Lewis was the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year. He hit .262, .364 OBP, .437 SLG, .801 OPS, and 126 OPS+. Lewis had 54 Hits, 3 Doubles, 11 Home Runs, 28 RBI, scored 37 Runs, 5 Stolen Bases, 34 Walks, and 71 Strikeouts. He skipped AAA going straight to Seattle in 2019, appearing in 18 Games for the Mariners. In 2020, Lewis saw 4.06 pitches per plate appearance, higher than the 3.94 league average. Lewis’ talent will show through at the plate as he sees more pitches and he solidifies Centerfield in Seattle for the foreseeable future. 

Cy Young Award

Trevor Bauer is not afraid to operate outside the box. He only cares about being the best pitcher he can possibly be, as chronicled in The MVP Machine. Bauer enters free agency winning his first Cy Young Award (27 of 30 first place votes). He went 5-4 with a league leading 1.73 ERA. In 11 starts, Bauer threw 2 Complete Games, 2 Shutouts in 73 innings, allowing 41 Hits, 14 Earned Runs, 9 Home Runs, 17 Walks, 100 Strikeouts, 0.795 WHIP (led league), and 276 ERA+. Bauer helped propel the Reds back to the Postseason for the first time since 2013. Trevor Bauer was going to command a king’s ransom in free agency, winning the Cy Young Award only raises his price.

Shane Bieber dominated on his way to winning the Pitching Triple Crown. (Paul Sancya/ Associated Press)

Shane Bieber was the unanimous American League Cy Young Award winner. No other American League pitcher could have won the award. Bieber led the league in Wins, Strikeouts, and ERA to win the pitching Triple Crown. Overall in 12 starts he went 8-1, throwing 77.1 innings, allowing 46 Hits, 14 Earned Runs, 7 Home Runs, 21 Walks, 122 Strikeouts, a 0.866 WHIP, and a 281 ERA+. He dominated opposing hitters, striking out at least 10 batters 8 times. Bieber pitched masterfully despite the constant uncertainty throughout the season.

Most Valuable Player

Freddie Freeman has been in the Most Valuable Player conversation for several seasons, finishing in the top 10 three times. He finished second to teammate Craig Kimbrel for the 2011 National League Rookie of the Year. Freeman is a two time Silver Slugger and has a Gold Glove on his resume. In 2020, Freeman collected 73 hits 23 Doubles (led league), 1 Triple, 13 Home Runs, 53 RBI, scored 51 Runs (led league), 45 Walks, 37 Strikeouts, hit .341, .462 OBP, .640 SLG, 1.102 OPS, and a 186 OPS+. He is the clear leader of the Braves. Freeman’s elite bat often overshadows his elite defense. He is arguably the best first baseman in baseball, a career .995 Fld%, making just one Error in 460 Chances in 2020. Freeman now has the hardware to prove he is among baseball’s elite.

Freddie Freeman is now officially recognized as among the elite players in baseball. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Jose Abreu is a three time All Star, three time Silver Slugger, and 2014 American League Rookie of the Year. His talent was never questioned, as his rise to stardom has been long and steady. Abreu displayed his talents in 2020 winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Playing in all 60 games, Abreu was the clear choice. He collected 76 Hits (led league), 15 Doubles, 19 Home Runs, 60 RBI (led league), scored 43 Runs, 18 Walks, 59 Strikeouts, hit .317, .370 OBP, .617 SLG (led league), .987 OPS, and a 166 OPS+. He is the leader of the White Sox need to contend every season for the American League Pennant. Abreu is only 33 years old, he has several more peak seasons ahead. 

The 2020 season was wild. Covid, no fans, divisional schedules. MLB managed to successfully navigate the season when many, including myself, thought they would fail. Recognizing the best in the game shines a light on the players and managers who rose to the top because of their skill and drive to be their best. Hopefully Covid is under control when baseball returns in the Spring and 2021 is closer to normal. Despite all the challenges, 2020 was a season to remember, especially for these winners. 

DJ

Error of Their Ways

Putting the ball in play puts pressure on the defense. A fielder can drop a fly ball, boot a grounder, or throw the ball away. Even the most routine play is not automatic. However, are all Errors bad? Are they the mark of a poor defender? Could they be a sign of a good defender?

Herman Long holds the record for most career Errors, 1,096. The logical assumption is he was a terrible defender. However, there is a reason he played 16 seasons in the Major Leagues. Long played Shortstop from 1889 to 1904 for the Kansas City Cowboys, Boston Beaneaters, New York Highlanders, Detroit Tigers, and Philadelphia Phillies posting a 16.8 dWAR, 83rd highest all time. In 11,881 Chances, he made 4,450 Putouts with 6,335 Assists, and turned 785 Double Plays. Long had a career .908 Fielding % (Fld%), 5.86 Range Factor per 9 Innings (RF9), and a 5.73 Range Factor per Game (RFG). Range Factor is the number of plays a player is involved in per game or per 9 innings. It is especially useful when comparing players from the same era. Herman Long’s contemporaries at Shortstops posted a .904 Fld%, 5.67 lgRF9, and 5.50 lgRFG. Long was better by .004 Fld%, 0.19 RF9, and 0.23 RFG. These differences are a few plays over a long season, but they can alter a tight pennant race. 

Herman Long received just one Hall of Fame vote, others have entered team hall of fames or Cooperstown due to their skill with the glove. The Human Vacuum, the Wizard, and the Blade are among the best defensive infielders ever. Brooks Robinson spent his entire 23 season career in Baltimore stationed at third base for the Orioles. The Human Vacuum committed 264 Errors, compiled the third highest career dWAR, 39.1, and won 16 Gold Gloves. Robinson was an institution at the hot corner. In 9,196 Chances, he made 2,712 Putouts with 6,220 Assists, and turned 621 Double Plays. He had a career .971 Fld%, 3.20 RF9, 3.08 RFG, and 293 Total Zone Total Fielding (Rtot). Rtot is the number of runs above or below average a player is worth based on the number of plays made. The other third basemen of Robinson’s era had a .953 Fld%, 3.09 lgRF9, and 3.10 lgRFG. Robinson surpassed his contemporaries by .018 Fld% and 0.11 RF9, but had a -0.02 RFG. 

Ozzie Smith is possibly the greatest defensive Shortstop in baseball history. He won 13 Gold Gloves while creating the highest dWAR ever, 44.2. During the Wizard’s 19 season career, he had 12,905 Chances, made 4,249 Putouts with 8,375 Assists, turned 1,590 Double Plays, and committed 281 Errors, 285th most all time. It is easy to assert a player’s greatest, but do the numbers back up your opinion. Smith had a career .978 Fld%, 5.22 RF9, 5.03 RFG, and 239 Rtot. The other Shortstops had a .966 lgFld%, 4.78 lgRF9, and 4.77 lgRFG. Smith outpaced his contemporaries by .022 Fld%, 0.44 RF9, and 0.26 RFG. The Wizard of Oz was more than backflips. If he could not make a play it was probably impossible.

Ozzie Smith flipped the baseball world upside down with his defense. (Post-Dispatch/ Gary Bohn)

Less heralded than Robinson and Smith, Mark Belanger was a defensive master. He won 8 Gold Gloves and his 39.5 dWAR is second behind Ozzie Smith. In 18 seasons, Belanger had 9,082 Chances, made 3,040 Putouts with 5,831 Assists, and turned 1,061 Double Plays, against just 211 Errors. His defensive excellence ranks him outside the top 400 in career Errors. Belanger’s career .977 Fld%, 5.16 RF9, 4.50 RFG, and 241 Rtot far outpaced his competition. Other Shortstops had a .964 Fld%, 4.93 lgRF9, and 4.92 lgRFG. The Blade was better, .013 Fld%, 0.23 RF9, and -0.43 RFG. Belanger’s long and productive career with the glove did not however take him to Cooperstown like Robinson and Smith, receiving 3.7% of the vote in 1988, his only year on the ballot. 

Baseball teams rely on their defense to make routine plays every time and incredible plays whenever possible. Players do occasionally boot routine plays or try to do too much. Baseball history is littered with examples. Currently Starlin Castro and Elvis Andrus are locked in a fight for most Errors among active players. Both have quietly built strong careers, but have taken different paths to this point.

Elvis Andrus arrived in Texas as part of the Mark Teixeira trade with Atlanta. In 12 seasons with the Rangers, Andrus has had 7,210 Chances, made 2,529 Putouts with 4,487 Assists, turned 1,064 Double Plays, and committed 194 Errors. He has a career .973 Fld%, 4.47 RF9, 4.31 RFG, and 52 Rtot. Other Shortstops have a .973 Fld%, 4.17 lgRF9, and 4.14 lgRFG. The Fld% is identical, but Andrus has a higher RF9 and RFG, 0.30 and 0.17 respectively. This greater Range has produced a 10.7 dWAR, 211th all time. Elvis Andrus has helped Texas defensively by creating more Chances and thus more outs.

Elvis Andrus has been an elite defender for the Rangers with his terrific Range at Shortstop. (Richard Rodriguez/ Getty Images)

Starlin Castro broke in with the Chicago Cubs as a 20 year old, playing 123 games his first season. He has played 11 seasons for the Cubs, Yankees, Marlins, and Nationals. Castro has not enjoyed the same defensive success as Elvis Andrus as they approach 200 career Errors. In 6,170 Chances, Castro has 2,197 Putouts with 3,778 Assists, turned 757 Double Plays, and committed 195 Errors. He has career .968 Fld%, 4.22 RF9, 4.05 RFG, and -32 Rtot. Compared to his contemporaries at Short and Second, Castro has not fared well against their .976 Fld%, 4.29 lgRF9, and 4.26 lgRFG. He is behind in all three measurements, -.008 Fld%, -0.07 RF9, and -0.04 RFG. Castro transitioned from Shortstop to Second Base after spending roughly 60% of his career games at Short. The move to Second has hidden some of his lack of range. However, Castro is barely an above defender, posting a 1.2 career dWAR. His first four seasons in the Majors saw him commit 27, 29, 27, and 22 Errors. While Castro has improved, at best he is league average. 

Fielding statistics are not simply counting Errors. Fielding must be compared against other players from the same era. Baseball Reference lists the top 500 single seasons for Errors. Only 14 of the top 500 seasons occurred since 1920, and none since 1941. Resting atop this dubious leaderboard are Herman Long (1889) and Billy Shindle (1890), each committing 122 Errors. 

Starlin Castro is not the best with the glove, but his bat has kept him in the Majors. (Chris Humphreys- US PRESSWIRE)

In 1889, Long set the record with 122 Errors. He had 983 Chances, made 355 Putouts with 506 Assists, and turned 59 Double Plays. Despite his apparent struggles, Long was an above average Shortstop. He had a .874 Fld%, 6.60 RF9, and 6.36 RFG against the league’s .873 Fld%, 5.32 lgRF9, and 5.13 lgRFG. Long had a .001 Fld%, 1.28 RF9, and 1.23 RFG advantage. Long, like Andrus, made plays at a league average rate but created more Chances due to his greater Range. The following season Billy Shindle also committed 122 Errors. He had 834 Chances, made 268 Putouts with 444 Assists while turning 67 Double Plays. Shindle posted a .862 Fld%, 5.62 RF9, and 5.45 RFG, whereas his opponents posted a .868 Fld%, 5.27 lgRF9, and 5.13 lgRFG. Shindle converted Chances into outs below the league average, -.006 Fld%, but he fielded more balls in play, 0.35 RF9 and 0.32 RFG. Creating Chances improves a team’s likelihood of winning by limiting their opponent’s scoring opportunities.

Players can commit Errors on Chances that others watch go by for hits. Simply counting Errors does not provide a complete picture of a player’s defensive abilities. Their Range is equally important to their Fielding %. Players must field a ball before they can convert Chances into outs. Errors can happen from bad bounces or throws, but the real value of a defender is can they create more Chances and outs in support of their pitcher and team. Errors are part of baseball, but they are not entirely bad, there is more than meets the eye.

DJ