Tagged: Milwaukee Brewers

Game 2- Cincinnati Red

Game 2 took us to Cincinnati for the Reds vs Brewers at Great American Ball Park. We have driven 746 miles so far. The Reds game was more fun the the Cardinals and gave us plenty of firsts for the trip. Kevin has taken a 2 to 0 lead in our predictions of the winner of each game, as the home team is still searching for their first victory. Leaving early for our next game in Philadelphia. 30 in 30 continues.

DJ

United States of Baseball- Minnesota

Minnesota has had its share of baseball glory. The Twins have put the Land of 10,000 Lakes on the baseball map with players like Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, and Joe Mauer. The fear of contraction is gone. On the field the state of Minnesota has been well represented. The greatest pitcher born in Minnesota is Jerry Koosman. His 56.96 career WAR ranks 24th highest among state and territory leaders. Paul Molitor is the greatest Minnesota born position player. His 75.71 career WAR ranks 23rd highest. Minnesota’s combined 132.67 WAR ranks 24th highest among all states and territories.

Jerry Koosman would have been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam if not for a military dentist transferring him to Texas and the son of a Mets usher pointing a scout in the right direction. The Lefty from Appleton pitched 19 seasons in the Majors with four teams: New York Mets (1967-1978), Minnesota Twins (1979-1981), Chicago White Sox (1981-1983), and Philadelphia Phillies (1984-1985). Koosman pitched in 612 career Games, made 527 Starts, Finished 43 Games, threw 140 Complete Games, including 33 Shutouts, collected 17 Saves, Pitched 3,839.1 Innings, allowed 3,635 Hits, 1,608 Runs, 1,433 Earned Runs, 290 Home Runs, 1,198 Walks, 2,556 Strikeouts, posted a 222-209 record, 3.36 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, and 110 ERA+. He was a two time All Star. Koosman is the last pitcher to win 20 Games one season and then lose 20 the next. In 1991 he failed to receive 5% of the vote for the Hall of Fame and was removed from the ballot. 

Jerry Koosman was a key figure in the Mets winning the 1969 World Series. (Getty Images)

Koosman helped build the Mets into a winner. He pitched behind Tom Seaver and helped lead the Amazin’s to the World Series in 1969 and 1973. In the Fall Classics, Koosman made 4 Starts, threw 1 Complete Game, Pitched 26.1 Innings, allowed 16 Hits, 7 Runs, 7 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 11 Walks, 17 Strikeouts, posted a 3-0 record, 2.39 ERA, and 1.025 WHIP. He was on the mound when the Miracle Mets of 1969 brought a World Series title to Queens. 

The best season of Koosman’s career was the year of the pitcher. In 1968 he pitched in 35 Games for the Mets, made 34 Starts, threw 17 Complete Games, including 7 Shutouts, Pitched 263.2 Innings, allowed 221 Hits, 72 Runs, 61 Earned Runs, 16 Home Runs, 69 Walks, 178 Strikeouts, posted a 19-12 record, 2.08 ERA, 1.100 WHIP, and 145 ERA+. Koosman’s 7 Shutouts set the then Mets record. He was an All Star and finished second for the National League Rookie of the Year, one vote behind Johnny Bench. He also finished 13th for the MVP. In the Year of the Pitcher, Koosman was not strongly considered for the Cy Young despite having an outstanding season. 

Paul Molitor’s Hall of Fame career almost did not happen. Injuries and a cocaine habit nearly derailed the St. Paul native. Molitor played 21 seasons with three teams: Milwaukee Brewers (1978-1992), Toronto Blue Jays (1993-1995), and Minnesota Twins (1996-1998). He played all over the field, but primarily Third and Second Base. In 2,683 career Games, Molitor collected 3,319 Hits, 605 Doubles, 114 Triples, 234 Home Runs, 1,307 RBI, scored 1,782 Runs, 504 Stolen Bases, 1,094 Walks, 1,244 Strikeouts, .306 BA, .367 OBP, .444 SLG, .817 OPS, and 122 OPS+. He was a seven time All Star and four time Silver Slugger. Molitor was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004 on the first ballot. After his playing career, Molitor returned to the Twins as their manager for four seasons, winning the 2017 American League Manager of the Year award

Paul Molitor could play everywhere on the diamond and was always dangerous with the bat. (Ron Vesely/ MLB Photos)

Molitor played in two World Series. His 1982 Brewers lost to the Cardinals, while his 1993 Blue Jays defeated the Phillies. Molitor played in 13 World Series Games, collected 23 Hits, 2 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 11 RBI, scored 15 Runs, 2 Stolen Bases, 5 Walks, 4 Strikeouts, .418 BA, .475 OBP, .636 SLG, and 1.112 OPS. He was the 1993 World Series MVP after hitting .500 in 24 At Bats. Many thought Molitor’s best years were behind him, but they were wrong.

The best season of Molitor’s career was 1993 with Toronto. He played in 160 Games, collected 211 Hits, 37 Doubles, 5 Triples, 22 Home Runs, 111 RBI, scored 121 Runs, 22 Stolen Bases, 77 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, .332 BA, .402 OBP, .509 SLG, .911 OPS, and 143 OPS+. Molitor led the Junior Circuit in Hits and Plate Appearances (725). He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger award. He finished second in the American League MVP voting behind Frank Thomas.

Minnesota has plenty of baseball history. The state is represented in Cooperstown by four players: Chief Bender, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, and Dave Winfield. The Land of 10,000 Lakes continues building upon its great baseball legacy. The United States of Baseball is taking a break as The Winning Run prepares for our 30 in 30 road trip. When we return we will head south to the Magnolia State. Mississippi is next. 

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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AL Wild CardRaysYankeesJaysRaysWhite SoxTwins
TwinsSouthsidersRaysTwinklesBlue JaysRays

National League Wild Card

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MetsGnatsPadresMarlinsDodgersPadres
PadresThe over hyped LA teamMetsPadresMetsBrewers

American League Divisional Series 

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RaysWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesAthleticsYankees
Black SoxSouthsidersSoxRaysWhite SoxRays
YankeesTwinkiesAsA’sYankeesA’s
MoneyballGod’s Waiting RoomJaysChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox

National League Divisional Series

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DodgersBravosDodgersDodgersBravosDodgers
PadresGnatsCincyPadresDodgersPadres
BravesCincy…..why not?PadresBravesCardinalsBraves
CardinalsYou want a hot apple pie with that?CardsMiller TimePadresCardinals

American League Championship Series

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Black SoxWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxWhite SoxWhite Sox

National League Championship Series

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BravesBravosDodgersBravesCardinalsBraves
PadresYou want a hot apple pie with that?PadresPadresBravesPadres

World Series

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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

The United States of Baseball- Alabama

United States of Baseball

After an abbreviated 2020 season, hopefully a normal 2021 season lies ahead of us. The loss of normalcy due to Covid has made us all appreciate the good in our lives and what brings us together. In this effort The Winning Run will examine the greatest players from every state of the United States. Each Wednesday we will examine each state’s best pitcher and position player based on career WAR. 

This is not to diminish the contributions of non-American born players. They will have their own spotlight later. We hope you enjoy this journey through the United States of Baseball.

Alabama

Alabama does not have a Major League team, but it has produced 341 Major League players. Success on the field has led 11 players from the Yellowhammer state to Cooperstown. The greatest Alabama pitcher is Don Sutton and the greatest position player is Willie Mays. Both players are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Their combined 224.51 WAR, gives Alabama the sixth highest WAR. 

Born in Clio, Alabama, Don Sutton is the town’s only Major Leaguer. He compiled 68.29 career WAR in 23 seasons pitching primarily for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has the 18th highest WAR among pitching state leaders. Sutton made at least 31 starts in 20 seasons, with his best season coming in 1972. In 33 Starts, he went 19-9 with 18 Complete Games, 9 Shutouts, throwing 272.2 Innings, with a 2.08 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, and 162 ERA+. He was an All Star and finished fifth in National League Cy Young voting.

The 1972 season began five seasons of dominance. Sutton went 93-51, with a 2.73 ERA, 1.054 WHIP, and 125 ERA+ during his peak. He finished in the top five of Cy Young voting in each season. 

Don Sutton was both dominant and had a long healthy career on the way to Cooperstown. (Focus on Sport/Getty Image)

The five seasons of dominance coupled with a long and healthy career enabled Sutton to join the illustrious 300 Win club. His 324 Wins are tied with Nolan Ryan for 14th most. He started 756 Games, threw 178 Complete Games, 58 Shutouts, in 5,282.1 Innings, with a 3.26 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, and 108 ERA+. Sutton won the 1980 National League ERA title with a 2.20 ERA. 

Sutton retired after the 1988 season. He finished his career with the Dodgers following stints with the Angels, Brewers, Astros, and Athletics. He was elected to Cooperstown in 1998 with 81.6% of the vote in his fifth year of eligibility. 

Westfield, Alabama has one Major Leaguer, the legendary Willie Mays. In 22 seasons, Mays compiled 156.22 career WAR for the Giants and Mets. He has the third highest WAR among position player state leaders. Nearly 50 years after his final game, Mays is still considered by many the greatest player ever.

Choosing the greatest season of Willie Mays’ career is impossible. His two MVP seasons are the easy choices, but 1955 was equally impressive. Mays’ first MVP season was 1954. In 151 Games, he collected 195 Hits, including 33 Doubles, 13 Triples, 41 Home Runs, 110 RBI, 119 Runs scored, with 8 Stolen Bases, 66 Walks, 57 Strikeouts, .345 BA, .411 OBP, .667 SLG, 1.078 OPS, and 175 OPS+. He led the league in Triples, BA, SLG, OBP, OPS, and OPS+. In 1955, Mays played 152 Games, collected 185 Hits, including 18 Doubles, 13 Triples, 51 Home Runs, 127 RBI, 123 Runs scored, 24 Stolen Bases, 79 Walks, 60 Strikeouts, .319 BA, .400 OBP, .659 SLG, 1.059 OPS, and 174 OPS+. He led the league in Triples, Home Runs, SLG, OPS, and OPS+ to finish fourth in MVP voting. A decade later, with the Giants now in San Francisco, Mays won his second MVP. He dominated in 1965, playing 157 Games, collecting 177 Hits, 21 Doubles, 3 Triples, 52 Home Runs, 112 RBI, 118 Runs scored, 9 Stolen Bases, 76 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, .317 BA, .398 OBP, .645 SLG, 1.043 OPS, and 185 OPS+. He led the league in Home Runs, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. In the ten seasons between MVPs, Mays finished outside of the top six in MVP voting once. 

Few, if any, players have ever played baseball better than Willie Mays. (AP Photo)

A Hall of Fame career is not built in a few good seasons, it requires consistent and sustained success. In 22 seasons, Mays collected 3,283 Hits, 523 Doubles, 140 Triples, 660 Home Runs, 1,903 RBI, 2,062 Runs scored, 338 Stolen Bases, 1,464 Walks, 1,526 Strikeouts, .304 BA, .384 OBP, .557 SLG, .941 OPS, and 156 OPS+. In addition to his MVPs, Mays won the 1951 National League Rookie of the Year, the 1954 World Series, the 1954 National League Batting title, 12 consecutive Gold Gloves, and was a 24 time All Star. In 1979, Mays was elected to Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility with 94.7% of the vote

Beyond Sutton and Mays, 10 more Hall of Famers were born in Alabama: Hank Aaron, Monte Irvin, Heinie Manush, Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Joe Sewell, Ozzie Smith, Mule Suttles, Billy Williams, and Early Wynn. Alabama’s rich baseball history continues. 

The next stop for the United States of Baseball is The Last Frontier, Alaska.

DJ

The Sixth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas

On the Sixth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas the baseball gods sent to me: the most times Caught Stealing without a Stolen Base, the most Hits without an RBI, the most Innings Pitched without a Win or Save, the most Games Managed without finishing first, the most Home Runs without a Triple, and the most Complete Games without a Shutout.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again. Failure is part of baseball. Successful batters fail seven out of ten times. Pitchers do not always throw strikes. Umpires miss calls. It is part of the game. When a runner fails on the bases, they can kill a rally. The undisputed Stolen Base king, Rickey Henderson, is also the Caught Stealing king. Success comes with risk. Unfortunately for Oscar Robles, he took the risk without any reward. He was Caught Stealing the most times without a successful Stolen Base, 0 for 8. 

Robles split his time between Shortstop and Third Base in three seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers (2005-2006) and San Diego Padres (2007). 2005 was his best season, playing 110 Games, hitting .272, collecting 99 Hits, including his 5 career Home Runs, and 8 Stolen Base attempts. 

Oscar Robles tried to help the Dodgers by stealing a base, but was out every time. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Success comes to those who try and Robles tried. On June 4th against the Milwaukee Brewers, Robles Singled off Victor Santos. The Dodgers tried to hit and run with Antonio Perez, but Perez struckout and Damian Miller threw Robles out at Second. Two weeks later in Chicago against the White Sox, Robles walked in the 2nd Inning. He then tried to steal Second against Freddy Garcia, but A.J. Pierzynski’s arm was faster than Robles’ legs. Out at Second. In the 9th Inning Cliff Politte walked Robles, who tried to steal again. Pierzynski’s throw beat Robles. Tadahito Iguchi caught the ball and ran Robles back to First, tossing the ball to Paul Konerko for the tag. 0 for 2 on the day. 

Robles was not deterred. On July 10th in Houston Brad Ausmus threw Robles out. In his final three Stolen Base attempts his teammates failed to protect him. Robles was part of a Strike Out Throw Out Double Play on July 15th against the Giants with Mike Matheny catching. On August 12th against the Mets, Jeff Kent struckout and Mike Piazza completed the Double Play. Danny Ardoin threw Robles out on August 23rd after Hee-Seop Choi whiffed against Colorado’s Jamey Wright. Oscar Robles’ final attempt was on September 5th against the Giants. Mike Edwards struckout and Yamid Haad threw Robles out. 

Half of Robles’ Caught Stealings were part of Strike Out Throw Out Double Plays. His teammates failed him. Unfortunately, Oscar Robles is saddled with the record for most Stolen Base attempts without success. His futility on the bases demonstrates how difficult baseball is to play. Some players are just dealt bad hands.

Happy Sixth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas.

DJ

The Second Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas

On the Twelfth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas the baseball gods sent to me: the most Home Runs without a Triple, and the most Complete Games without a Shutout.

All power and no speed. Plenty of baseball players fit this description, yet only one is king. Ryon Healy has the most career Home Runs without hitting a Triple. His reign began when Matt Olson, and his 99 Home Runs, Tripled off Chris Paddack in 2020. The throne is securely Healy’s for now, after he signed a one year contract with the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization. He cannot add to his record, nor can he accidentally hit a Triple.

In five seasons for the Oakland Athletics (2016-2017), Seattle Mariners (2018-2019), and Milwaukee Brewers (2020), Healy has launched 69 Home Runs and 0 Triples. This is not just by happenstance, Healy does not possess speed. He has 0 Stolen Bases and 1 Caught Stealing. He provides the power and leaves the speed to his teammates. Unfortunately, injuries have hampered Ryon Healy’s career, reducing him to a part time player the last few seasons.

Ryon Healy enjoys his Home Run trot, why race all the way to Third? (Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

Every career has its ups and downs. Ryon Healy’s best season was 2017 with the Athletics. In 149 Games, he collected 156 Hits, including 29 Doubles and 25 Home Runs, with a .271 BA, .302 OBP, .451 SLG, .754 OPS, and 103 OPS+. Healy hit two Home Runs in a game four times, including three times in June (June 3, June 5, and June 17). After an offseason trade to Seattle, Healy’s power continued where it left off. In 133 Games for the Mariners he collected 116 hits, 15 Doubles, and 24 Home Runs. He hit two Home Runs in three different games. His hitting did not move north, as he posted a .235 BA, .277 OBP, .412 SLG, .688 OPS, and 91 OPS+. While not terrible, injuries limited his playing time. He played just 47 games in 2019 before becoming a free agent. Healy tried to start over in Milwaukee. However, he played just four Games for the Brewers with one hit, a Single. 

Careers are made with talent and health. Ryon Healy has the talent, but the health has eluded him. In 405 career Games, he has 495 Hits, including 80 Doubles, 69 Home Runs, a .261 BA, .298 OBP, .450 SLG, .748 OPS, and 103 OPS+. Hopefully his injury woes do not continue in the KBO. Healy has had a solid career, despite the time lost due to injury, as sitting on the throne for most Home Runs without a Triple can attest. It is no small feat.

Happy Second Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas. 

DJ

The First Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas

As 2020 comes to a close, we pause to reflect on this lousy year. There were a few peaks and plenty of valleys along the way. Every year people focus on what they achieved and look forward to what the new year holds. There is no sugar coating it, 2020 was rough. Realizing that life is not always perfect, we celebrate the 2020 version of the 12 Day of Christmas with a baseball twist. 

The Twelve Lousy Days of Baseball Christmas highlights some of the struggles players have experienced on the field. A single game, a season, or a career marked by futility. This list is meant as a light hearted reflection on the game we love. These highlights are simply shining a light on the futility that can be had in baseball. The 12 days are not listed in any particular order. Enjoy a trip down futility lane.

Santa knows if you deserve a brush back pitch this year. (www.writeonnewjersey.com)

On the First Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas the baseball gods sent to me: the most Complete Games without a Shutout.

There are some dubious leaders in baseball. Truly terrible performances and careers forever in the history books. Jim Hughey is not one of them, he is an oddity, having the most Complete Games without pitching a Shutout. Strange for a pitcher with 100 Complete Games.

Jim Hughey pitched for six teams across seven seasons. He began his career with the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association in 1891. He moved to the National League’s Chicago Colts two years later before establishing himself with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1896. After a second season with the Pirates, Hughey bounced from the St. Louis Browns (1898) to the Cleveland Spiders (1899) and St. Louis Cardinals (1900) to finish his career. 

Pitchers’ are dependent on their team to score, unfortunately Hughey pitched for some horrendous teams. Beginning with the 1896 Pirates, Hughey’s teams averaged a 50-91 record, never finishing above fifth place. These teams threw fewer than five Complete Games each season. A pitcher cannot save a team if they do not hit.

The 1896 Pttsburgh Pirates. Jim Hughey is sitting in the middle, second from the left. (Pittsburgh Pirates)

The 1898 St. Louis Browns were awful. They finished 39-111, last in the National League. Despite their inability to play baseball, Hughey enjoyed his best season. He made 33 Starts, threw 31 Complete Games, and posted a 7-24 record. In 283.2 Innings, Hughey had a 3.93 ERA, 1.396 WHIP, and 96 ERA+; each the best of his career. 

After a good year with a bad team, Hughey moved to the Cleveland Spiders where he had a terrible year with an inept team. The 1899 Spiders finished 20-134 with Hughey accounting for 20% of their victories while he led the National League in Losses. He pitched 32 Complete Games in 34 Starts, going 4-30, throwing 283 Innings, with a 5.41 ERA, 1.735 WHIP, and 68 ERA+; each the worst of his career. The Spiders were an other worldly bad team, even a phenomenal season from Hughey would not save Cleveland.

Baseball is a team game. It takes nine players to win and Jim Hughey never received the support to win. In 113 career Starts, he pitched 100 Complete Games but no Shutouts. He posted a 29-80 record, throwing 1,007.2 Innings, with 250 Strikeouts, 317 Walks, a 4.87 ERA, 1.576 WHIP, and 80 ERA+. He was a decent pitcher for some horrifying teams. Every player leaves their mark on the game. Jim Hughey did not change baseball, nor is he enshrined in Cooperstown. He does however hold the record for most Complete Games without a Shutout. There are worse records to hold.

Happy First Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas

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

East Meets West

MLB expanded the Postseason from 10 to 16 teams this season. Gone, temporarily, is the one game Wild Card Playoff. Winning the World Series in 2020 requires teams to win four series, 14 games total. The longer Postseason is beginning to mimic the playoffs for the NBA and NHL, which seem to last as long as their regular seasons. October this season feels like a tournament not a playoff. March Madness has come to the Fall. 

After a protracted fight over how and if to play the 2020 season, MLB had no choice but to change the Postseason. Separating the pretenders from the contenders in just 60 games is nearly impossible. In a normal 162 game schedule every team expects to win 40 games and lose 40 games. What happens in the other 82 games separates the pretenders from the contenders. 

The Tampa Bay Rays once again are defying all expectations in October. (Mary Holt, USA TODAY Sports)

The Wild Card and Divisional rounds of the Postseason should allow the best rise to the top. MLB does not need a repeat of 2006 when the St. Louis Cardinals squeaked into October with a 83-78 record. The National League Central was a truly terrible division, as the Cardinals and Astros, 82-80, were the only teams above .500. Only division winners and one Wild Card team made the Postseason in 2006, meaning the 85 win Philadelphia Phillies watched October from home because the 88 win Dodgers won the Wild Card. The 2006 Cardinals have the worst Regular Season record for a World Series Champion in the Expansion Era. No one wants a terrible team to squeak into the Postseason, get hot, and win the World Series. The Houston Astros and their below .500 record would fit the bill this season, not to mention their lack of humility in the aftermath of their cheating scandal and avoidance of any punishment, but I digress. 

The divide between the haves and have nots in baseball can be monumental. On paper the National League Central looked strong in 2020, sending four teams to the Postseason. However, reality soon set in as the Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds were all knocked out in the Wild Card round. Likewise, the American League Central saw all three of its teams head home early after the White Sox, Twins, and Spiders all lost. 2020 is a battle for baseball supremacy between the coasts. The love affair with teams on either coast is another iteration of coastal bias in America, yet this year there is no bias as there is no other option. Eight teams remain in the hunt for the World Series. The crowning achievement will happen at a neutral site in Texas to conclude a historically strange season. Hopefully we can return to normal in 2021.

DJ